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r-n shop @ e-flux project space, new york, on artforum.
THIS IS A GOOD PLACE TO DRINK BEER.” “Yeah, they already trashed the place.” As the overheard exchange suggests, the Lower East Side digs of online enterprise e-flux are among the least fussed over in the city. So, already gussied up in “cocktail attire” for MoMA’s annual Party in the Garden, I felt a little overdressed for the Tuesday-evening opening of Raster Noton’s “The Shop.” But since the intimate space was already full to capacity (about sixty souls) when I arrived at a minute past the event’s advertised 7 PM start, fading into the background seemed likely to prove impossible. Trusting the crowd to be more decorous drinkers than their conversation might imply, I squeezed into the former laundry and edged my way toward the back. There, an active sound system suggested the presence of Carsten Nicolai and Olaf Bender, founders of the German record label and scheduled special performers.
Given Raster Noton’s reputation for pushing electronica of the most rigorous and antispectacular variety, perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised to discover a pair of sleek laptops “performing” entirely without human intervention. “I love noise!” enthused a neighbor, but the unmanned machines’ output was hardly the blaring mess that the word ordinarily denotes. Pursuing “minimal, modular, and concrete approaches to the structure of sound,” Nicolai and Bender’s plugged-in stand-ins produced something measured and often rather subtle, even hushed. At one point, I worried that my cell phone was producing interference, but the unsettling crackle emanating from the closest speaker proved to be all part of the minimal plan. Only later did the programmers themselves step up, intensifying the music to a more club-friendly pulse. Downstairs, the cold flicker of a sound-responsive neon tube illuminated an archive of tastefully designed CDs and publications—the “Shop” of the installation’s title. Naturally, none of it was for sale.