Dawn of the Techno Sapien
January 11, 2022 / Andrea Mauri
What Aphex Twin taught me about Stonehenge.
I’d like to take you through the tunnel. There, in the ever-rumbling belly of a gentrifying Austin, lies a small nest of homicidal parasites. Squirming and writhing from a permafrost slate of sleep, the pathogenic deity of ecstasy dribbles an ancient sublimity. Narcan rains upon the aisle as the hypnotic growling of this man-made cave begins to shake the forest awake in the wee hours after midnight. Tonight, there will be a marriage. The lamb will take the machine, in sickness and in health, an unbreakable vow: Enter cybernetica.
In Germany, they do it in the mountains. In Italy, they do it in the ruins. In Austin, we do it under the freeway. Techno finds a way. The ancient rave was an exercise in the epicurean mode of thought: that pleasure of the entire mind should lead to the highest good. The hedons, maenads, and lunatics chased the north star of the global rave as the ensuing euphoria bore many a shaman, sometimes a god.
This summer in Austin, the scene exploded. Walk through the woods, follow the call of gabber, cross a stream, and there you’d find us: a hidden, sweltering Cronenberg-mass of humanity packed into a pounding acid house. The tunnel beckons us forward into the dark. Parceling out my oxygen, I weave through the cigarette smoke, graffiti fumes, and the suffocating masses. Our body is being thrown against the siding as we near the mosh pit. We push back and suddenly we’re in it, the throbbing gristly heart of the rave. The punches fly, and I eat a few. The lights are off for longer now as the indiscriminate swings are all we can feel. Here we are, strangers in a homeland, swapping kisses and blood and body heat. Here is Austin, finally getting to know its organs.
Before I found the rave, I was sure Austin was unsalvageable. I vas born to be a Berliner, I taut. At least in Berlin, a walkable public is typical, existing beyond slim, slivering sidewalks. Our United States has been restructured for the wheel-fall of the car, resigning leisure to the body mechanics of privatization. There is no public gathering space here. Only the sorry-excuse bourgeois public of a park comes to mind. The recent trend in charcuterie finally saw the complete manifestation of communal Marie-Antoinette types experiencing the park in the architectural outcry it was born as. Heavily and covertly monitored, these spaces can barely muster a speck of communal color. The high regulation of these areas is meant to stave off a certain criminal unity. We have no space we can truly say the community plays captain, a real public forum. The deprivation of this local leisure public from the human will see a slow dissolution of local culture, exchanging itself for commercialized cyberscape cloning. The underground rave has begun to reverse this trend, offering a space where revelers might engage in the strange, but most importantly, with one another. Austin’s recent submissions to the demands of the consumer-driven, internet-ruling Californian elite have otherwise made nightlife a virtual Chernobyl of culture, devoid of all the banging of shoes a public culture would instinctively entail.
Many an academic has compared the rave scene of the ’90s to the ancestral Incan practice of the shamanic journey. A party-goer will consume a point of MDMA and enter the dark, thumping, pulsating clamor of unidentifiable bodies, letting the rhythm and sporadic flashes of light guide their movement. The future shaman will drink a dark, swirling ayahuasca brew. They will enter the dark, swirling mountain path to the end of the tunnel, as glimpses of sunlight and panpipe flutes outside clear the way to epiphany. To dance out the other side: a successfully battled rejection of the darkest of one’s internal demons, an affirmation of life and communion on Earth.
At Stonehenge, pagans have long petitioned to reclaim the site as an area of ancestral worship. Wanting to engage in the all-devouring practice of veneration-pleasure that is the rave, they organized parties at or near the site. Shuddering at the thought of losing the physical evidence of the site's mystery, archaeologists shut down the raucous worshippers, arguing a protection of heritage surpassed the need for pagan rituals. Pagans pleaded with archaeologists, begging them to consider the ancestral intentions for the site. A sacred landmark dog-eared by forefathers should not remain fallow; rather, an engagement in the continual consecration of hallowed values would carry the torch that their legacies meant to pass downwards. Legal protections be damned. Peace, love, unity, and respect (PLUR) would sustain Stonehenge.
The techno rave invites us to play in this interspace between the cyber and the present, the present and the past, removing the power of cyber as colonizer. We graduate from tools of the internet to the internet as embodied entity, as breathing mass made flesh and bone. If the only public space left after the commercialization death march exists in the internet, then our only hope is to plug in the present and induce cyberia. The very concept of a community is beginning to elude us. The days of submitting to rapture seem to be gone as we sing a soft dirge for village life in the quiet manner acceptable of an American individual.
Björk says techno is nature. Technology has inarguably played a key role in our evolution as a species. We grew smarter and techno grew with us. From stone tools to cyberspace, we have techno to thank. As our lives online expand, however, when do we name the cyber as invader of the present? Too often, it seems as though we're still online even when we’re offline. We even think and speak algorithmically, listing our traits in terms of the consumable, letting the AI move our minds in the direction of desire. But perhaps the demonization of cyber is only critique of the satanic offspring of techno and capital.
Design, for that matter, has lost its roots in the divine. The man-made human begins to function, programmed for automation in the death drive industrial complex of capital. Terrestrial reality sets course for the post-biological transglobal movement. Zeroes and ones scrap at each other for our sun and moon astrological assignments. It’s clear that all cyber oppression will occur under the beating sun in human evolution’s bleak outcome where our communal need has been Darwin-ed out of us. Why bother with transhumanism?
In the tunnel though, perhaps in our naive youth, we swear to live forever, sharing everything we have with everyone we love. Introductions are virtually unnecessary as we flow into one. Fame, status, and money mean nothing here. All the strangeness of a public scheduled for execution tamps the soft earth before curling in for the night. As evolving cybernauts, we have no choice but to enter the techno evolution. Will you take the tunnel or the freeway? ■
by: Andrea Claudia Mauri
layout: Jennifer Jimenez
photographer: Leah Blom
stylist: Jackson Quinn
hmua: Yeonsoo Jung, Emma Brey, & Lily Rosenstein
models: Laurence Nguyen-Thai, Mikaela Medina, & Blaire Young