Banjos in the void
Is anybody really outraged anymore? It’s a different time. I feel like in my parents’ generation there was still room for outrage, there was still room for stigmatization. […] At the end of the day, it’s like “so you used a banjo in a black metal band, that’s novel, but is it good?”
For G. W. F. Hegel, “negative” human freedom—freedom understood as a mere lack of restriction—is socially dangerous. As an indiscriminate revolution against structure, it has no positive ambition, no act other than destruction. This “freedom of the void” manifested itself in history as the giddy nihilism of France’s Reign of Terror. Friedrich Nietzsche, however, considered the void to be a space of infinite possibility. After humanity rebels against order, it finds that “the sea […] lies open again”, that human drive is unlimited. The void is the stage for humanity’s greatest performance: the heroic, tragic and aimless assertion of the will, which creates new values from nothing.
In an interview with Gothamist earlier this year, composer Tyondai Braxton opined that art no longer has any boundaries—structures, stigmas—left to deconstruct. In other words, the long modern project of rebellion has, finally, transformed art into an “open sea” where everything is permitted. But Nietzsche misjudged humanity’s power to create without rules: Hegel was correct that negative freedom is expressed only as destruction and debasement. Today, installations of cellophane-wrapped candy are displayed in museums; and unaccompanied feedback is sold as music. Yet, Braxton suggests that the void is also a gift. In its silence, we may once again hear the primordial question that our structures arose to answer: anything may be made—but what is good?
Still Eating Oranges