The poetics of the multiverse are, appropriately, myriad. Some argue it is another capitalist machine of endless reproduction—an assembly line of universes—and a theory perpetuating need, consumed in abundance like goods. Others find it humbling, a relief from an anthropocentric view of consciousness on Earth.
The idea that there are several universes, the multiverse is inaccessible and possibly equally lifelike, has returned to contemporary discourse in the recent decade, post-Marx, post-internet, post-extinction. It is not a new concept: it has been around since ancient oral storytelling, since Democritus and Buddhism, Shakespeare and Byron. The multiverse may even exist within this universe, inside each atom, which even after six million years, seems to have an infinite capacity for divisibility.
Laura Buckley, Installation. Photo: Sylvain Deleu
With these dialectics in mind, I traveled to Cambridge for the close of Wysing Art Centre's “Multiverse”-themed summer. For its closing event to be a festival of performances—particularly music—and for these to be distributed across three stages, seemed consistent. The three venues spanned performative installations, experimental electronic garage noise drone, and deconstructed indie post-everything parodic pop. But attempting to classify genres and performances is both reductive and sardonic, symptomatic of society’s evasion of the complex and language's own containment of plurality.
The festival attracted London's hippest: the singular multiple. Those who—I am implicated in all of this—are both on the ideological periphery of the city and have been subsumed within the spirals of capital, in the paraphernalia that accompanies gender fluidity, social mobility, and anti-nationalism.
This particular London also made up the artists: this is where the abstract philosophy and science of multiverse theory itself melted into the reality of the socio-economic, political, and ecological concerns, the implications of living here and perhaps dreaming up an elsewhere.
A performance of “EEA:(PR) Version 07/2015 Application for a document certifying permanent residence or permanent residence card under the EEA Regulations,” by Ain Bailey, Holly Ingleton, and Johnny Pavlatos parodied the bureaucratic jargon of immigration in a globalized world.
Of the largely haunting performances, the two that bookended the day, the first starting at noon, the last ending midnight, left a particularly deep impression. Squares and Triangles began as a cacophony of musicians switching between instruments, chanting, “Pythagoras! A circle in a square man's world / Three points.” Geometry quickly became a metaphor for impossible problems (squaring the circle), the place of women (the isosceles triangle), and the break in duality (three points), the beginning of Plato's third man argument, an infinite regression.
Ectopia. Photo: Sylvain Deleu
Ectopia ended the abnormally cold summer night. A stark white light illuminated a partially to heavily intoxicated audience, while the artists, comprised of gripping cellist, Vicky Steiri, Jack Brennen on synth, and the formidable performer Adam Christensen, played in the twilight residue of those that watched them. In this atmosphere of ghosts and spirits, the lyrics echoed in repetition, a tale of unrequited love, screaming out behind them, deluded, elusive, ineffable, phantom. The screech of the cello became agonizing. The drone of the synth, endlessly waiting. Each piece melded into the other, there was no silence, no relief for an hour. The mystery assumed a life of its own, entering us as mediums and leaving as they pleased.
DKUK Salon. Photo: Sylvain Deleu
In between, there were art book booths, GoGo Gogi Gui burgers, and haircuts. The girl with red bangs who cut my hair, radio host of Alien Jams, felt right out of a post-punk Fifth Element. I felt like a sailor or a horticulturalist.
Walter Pater said music is the highest form of art because its form is inextricable from its content. While this is arguable now, it suggests that the multiverse is in fact, a universe. In all these diversities, there was also a sense that everything is intimately connected, and also, that either way and/or in many ways, we'll never know.
On the way back, a single moon, a celestial object more earthly than so much on earth, hung in indifference.
(Image at top: Lonelady. Photo: Photo: Sylvain Deleu)