Ten Questions: Goodiepal

“Wikipedia art” erodes the imagination. New knowledge must be created or emerge; otherwise the thing being created has no real legitimacy, says Goodiepal.

Goodiepal med cyclen Kommunal Klon Komputer 2.
Goodiepal with the bicycle Kommunal Klon Komputer 2.

On the art scene Goodiepal – AKA GÆOUDJIPARL or SYGNOK – is best known for his performances/lectures/concerts in which he explains, lectures, raps, and sings – sometimes for hours on end – about his (life’s) project, which is most of all about the relationship between man and machine – and about the concept of intelligence.

Over the course of the last 18 months Goodiepal has been on a long journey conducted on a special bicycle that was built by Goodiepal himself and fitted with a roof and built-in dynamos capable of generating electricity. His journey has taken him to Norway, Sweden, Greenland, Iceland, Siberia, and the USA, and he most recently brought his mother along for a bicycle ride to Amsterdam, where he also performed a concert. The bicycle, which he calls Kommunal Klon Komputer 2 (“Municipal Clone Computer 2”), and his journey on it are depicted in Goodiepal’s new book, El Camino del Hardcore, which has been described as “an autobiographical travelogue”. But the book is far more than that. It is a kind of summary of “project Goodiepal” so far. The book and the bicycle journeys themselves form the basis for the artist’s exhibition at Andersen’s Contemporary in Copenhagen.

Cyklen Kommunal Komputer Klon 2.
The bicycle Kommunal Komputer Klon 2.

Goodiepal works explicitly with introducing the word “maybe” as a factor in modern interaction between man and machine. In this endeavour he employs many different aliases, forcing his audience members’ brains to activate fully in order to make sense of the many ambiguous statements. Since Goodiepal was fired from his position as a teacher at the Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus in 2008 he has continued to present and express his concept of Radical Computer Music (which he believes is the reason why he was fired) via countless performances, exhibitions actions, and media stunts. The book that launched Radical Computer Music, the “text book” Mort Aux Vaches Ekstra Extra, invites readers to create a collective composition together with Goodiepal. The book consists mainly of blank pages, and the challenge was to create a composition that makes a break with linear time from A to B. Radical Computer Music is about striving to break away from the linear approach to writing scores. The concept incorporates an entirely philosophy about demanding greater reflection and poetry from each individual; we should no longer be creative in accordance with the usual (or scannable) patterns. If we just work like that we stagnate, evolution stops, and we end up subjecting ourselves to the machine instead of insisting on progress. Goodiepal’s work aims at prompting a deeper awareness and intelligence – perhaps even inviting a dialogue with an alternative or artificial intelligence?

The invitation for the exhibition opening at Andersen’s this Friday shows you and your homemade bicycle and the El Camino del Hardcore – Journey to the Centre of the North. You have spent the last couple of years biking around the world. Does the journey end here?

Nope, for all the audio_replies are not finished yet, so there is a long, long way to go yet … and this is not about being big and clever, it is about riding the bike every day even after the hype around my bicycle trips has died down.  

In the autumn of 2012 you published the book El Camino del Hardcore, which you have described as “an autobiographical travelogue”. In what way is this book featured in the exhibition?

Gæoudjiparl, El Camino Del Hardcore - Rejsen til Nordens Indre, Andersen's, Copenhagen 2013.
Gæoudjiparl, El Camino Del Hardcore – Rejsen til Nordens Indre, Andersen’s, Copenhagen 2013.

In a manner of speaking the entire book is exhibited … and it is the only real work at the exhibition. But here at Andersen’s we have summoned the entire fleet to Copenhagen, so the complete Battlefleet Gothic is in the house!

Can you describe the book – what it is about?

The book is divided into three parts. It begins with a countdown; 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and then the first part is a score, a solution to Mort Aux Vaches; a printed version of my solution which only existed as a single hand-written manuscript before this. Presenting it in a printed format allows others to discuss it. The original intention was for Roc (Jiménez de Cisneros, composer, artist, and co-founder of EVOL, ed.) to create a score that would be featured on the other side of my score, but then he began interviewing me instead, and then he said that that was a score. Then I got angry, and we continued our correspondence like that for several years, and so it ended up being my book rather than our book.  That correspondence took place over the course of four years. He writes on a computer, I write by hand, and there are quite a lot of spelling mistakes in the book. This has something to do with me having a problem with much of the text published these days. I accuse a lot of artists of being what I call Wikipedia artists. I don’t particularly wish to put Jakob Boeskov on the spot, but if you look at Jakob Boeskov’s works many of them will say e.g. “Cybertron” executed in oil pastels, and below it will say what that is.  I think that sort of thing is a load of crap, for why should I know that he can access Wikipedia? A lot of artists haven’t grasped the fact that we have Google now, and that is why Google should be ignored.  There’s also a poet like Amalie Smith, whom I’ve been giving a bit of a hard time lately, for I actually think she’s good, but she is awful when she offers up those swotty replies about quantum physics with x2 etc.; stuff she only knows about from the Internet. So she has looked up some information, great, but if you’re writing a book and simply quote Wikipedia I think you have a huge problem. I think that if you want to write something, you need to take the opposite approach and write something that isn’t already online. So all the images and all the texts in this book have not been available online before; it is all new information, new knowledge. That is why I am stumbling a little as far as some of the facts are concerned; some of the years are bound to be wrong, some things have been misspelt, etc.  I argue that when we got the Internet we had this notion that NOW we’d get every facet of the truth, but in fact we just all get the same information – all of us. It erodes our imagination. I am sick of that whole thing where texts are simply being copied off the Internet. It is a huge problem. New knowledge must be generated; otherwise the thing has no legitimacy. There has to be some sort of revolt.

The book El Camino del Hardcore , Alku, 2012.
The book El Camino del Hardcore , Alku, 2012.

Your revolt has very much centred on the concept of Radical Computer Music. The book begins with your own “solution” to the challenge presented by the concept: creating non-linear scores, dissolving timelines and the habitual A to B approach. Why did you choose to have this particular solution printed in the book?

It is a somewhat speculative work, yes. But I chose to print it because I was not sure that it was a good solution. Then we could discuss it. It was based on this idea of creating a snapshot of an event. If we imagine that we have a range of different points and we link up these points, then we end up with a grid, a complex network. People who do research on artificial intelligence say that if the links between the various points are sufficiently sophisticated, such a grid might potentially give rise to alternative or artificial intelligence. That is why I thought it would be fun to try creating such a grid. And if you could capture an event between the pages, this might form such an energy field. So for example we see Henrik Plenge Jakobsen and yours truly sucking up opium into some glass vessels in London. That is why the work is called Mort Aux Vaches Ekstra Extra – Henrik Plenge Jakobsen & SYGNOK in a round of Control System dedicated to Mornus. The work consist of pages my students have created, and which I have bartered for. Of course you can discuss whether it is possible to capture that event between all these pages. It is all somewhat speculative, but it certainly doesn’t move from A to B, for all the pages were spread out on the floor.

Your solution to Radikal Computer Music has been printed in this book. Does this mark the culmination of the concept of Radical Computer Music?

Goodiepal foran forskellige løsninger af  Radikal Computermusik, Overgaden 2011. Foto: Maria Kjær Themsen.
Goodiepal in front of various solutions to Radical Computer Music, Overgaden, Copenhagen 2011. Photo: Maria Kjær Themsen.

In Radical Computer Music & Fantastisk Mediemanipulation (a transcript of an audio file explaining the concept of Radical Computer Music and a manual for Mort Aux Vaches Ekstra Extra, both published by Pork Salad Press, ed.) I promised to publish 45 attempts at creating unscannable music, and I stand by my word. The new book begins with me being thrown out of the Academy, so it continues on from that. But there is also stuff in there about my childhood, about my family and things like that. And there will certainly be some factual errors in there. Then there is something about me building my bicycle, and about me getting death threats and all that, and then I run off and tell Roc that I will send him a conclusion to Radical Computer Music. That then led to A MESSAGE TO THE INTERNATIONAL HACKER COMMUNITY, which is also printed in the book and which is an encrypted text! For I believe that texts must live before they work at all. So this text is intended to be performed, and in order to get through it you actually have to perform it; you have to read it aloud to yourself along with the audio file. You cannot cheat, you cannot simply scan it, you have to perform the entire text, and if you miss something you have to start over. That is actually my revolt! Here I say that I do not believe that we will enter into a dialogue with an alternative or artificial intelligence in the future; I think we will keep pushing what we perceive as intelligence further and further ahead. That is the conclusion I have arrived at. I do not believe that mankind entertains any thoughts about having such an encounter in the near future. We will keep saying that it is still not intelligent and so on. The same applies to animals. Even if a dolphin joined us for dinner at the table we would say, but it’s just an animal! I think this has something to do with a rather sad frame of mind. I am very interested in a guy called George R. Price and R. A. Fisher’s theory about natural selection, which states that in reality we are only interested in doing things for our own kind – i.e. for our own children and blood lines. And so I don’t think that we are at all interested in entering into a dialogue with an alternative or artificial intelligence. I think that is sad, for if you were to meet an alien creature from space it would be a challenge to even accept it as an independent being in its own right, and I think that we – and our human curiosity – have a duty to think like that. But most people would prefer to disengage and say that no, it isn’t.  

Forskellige løsninger på Radikal Computermusik, udstillet på Overgaden, Maj 2011.
Various solutions to Radical Computer Music, exhibited at Overgaden, Copenhagen 2011.

From this point on we move on to the final part, which features the audio_replies. But before that there are two blank pages. Here it would be great to include some pictures of people eating and of people sleeping, pasting them in on those pages. That is because I have never wanted to speak about food, I have never wanted to speak about sleep, and you could also put in a picture of sex, but I really don’t dare put that in; it would feel somewhat transgressive to me.

Why insert the body there, between the interview and the audio_replies? And what is the connection between the bicycle journeys and the book?

It’s just to shake myself up a bit. But also because my life has been filled with a lot of body recently – believe it or not. I mean a lot of biking. It is all about biking from now on, and then things get wild, for now we get to the audio_replies.

The audio_replies are on this key, and that is the only place they are. But then they are also uploaded onto the Internet when I hack a website, e.g. the Distortion website (an annual music festival in Copenhagen, ed.), and upload them there. When they find it they delete the link again. But I hope that people begin to realise that they exist. Anyway, they are copied onto this key, which has a battery that I charge with my bicycle. That is the first stage, and then I hand over a hard disk drive to Jacob Fabricius with all the audio_replies on. Anyone can borrow that from Jacob whenever they want. The drive comes with a battery that allows you to access it via your computer, but when it runs out of power you have to recharge it, and then I need to pick it up from Jacob and go for a ride in order to recharge it. Then the person who borrowed it will probably have copied the material that was on there, and in that way more and more people will gradually have the audio_replies. This introduces an aspect of social interaction around these audio_replies, much more so than simply having them online for anyone to find. So that is the way it works. Of course some of the audio_replies haven’t been made yet; for example if you have questions for the Goodiepal, maybe about something in the book, you can get your answer in an audio_reply. For example Amalie Smith has received an audio_reply explaining why I call her a swot. The reason why she comes up for discussion is the fact that she represents a certain way of relating to materials that have been collected, but you cannot write a book that just references how good you are at reading.  It just gives rise to a sense of emptiness if you simply say how good you are. So here you can get an audio_reply.

What are these audio_replies specifically about?

Mort Aux Vaches
Mort Aux Vaches

With the audio_replies I try to teach others everything I know. That is what this project is all about. I don’t make fully finished works, but works that interact and prompt dialogue, and that includes the audio_replies. For I have arrived at the conclusion that real awareness is collective: you can read your way to knowledge, but you cannot read your way to wisdom. In order to understand Nietzsche you have to live Nietzsche and not just read Nietzsche, and that is where things go wrong for most people. People often have this idea that they are saying something that is infinitely more clever than what the person next to them is saying, but what they are saying is really only interesting because they present that knowledge together with that person – things only really happen in the field of interaction created between the two. But it took me a long time to realise and understand this. For it is only knowledge that is used, and which we share, that is interesting. There is a lot of talk about what intelligence is, but I actually believe that most of my intelligence depends on you – it wouldn’t even exist if you weren’t here. So awareness is a social thing, and in that context we cannot use Wikipedia information for anything. And that is when things get scary, for if awareness is no longer an individual thing, but a social thing, then we are suddenly in very different territory, and that is quite a jagged pill to swallow for a practicing artist, for then you are much more dependent on your surroundings. That is scary knowledge, for that marks the end of feeling like a chosen one in the usual sense of the term. You simply serve a function.

Given that it is all about sound and composition, why not publish it all as an e-book? What is so special about the book format?

E-books don’t cut it! What I can do that others can’t is to make people interested in what I do. That also requires effort on my part, and a sense of responsibility. A book is far more interesting than anything that happens online, because the book must be passed on from one hand to the next. And the book can live longer than the Internet. Websites disappear; and the book doesn’t in the same way. But the audio_replies, the Internet, is an equally big part of the book. Several of the replies are just shown as drawings in the book, as physical incarnations that are simply a reference to the audio_replies, but which are nevertheless physically present in the book. In a book you store knowledge and awareness in the object itself. I realised that when I began to give my things away. I felt how I lost the knowledge from the books and objects I gave away (Goodiepal has on several occasions held garage sales of his collections of books, records, and art, or he has given his possessions away, ed.). That is why a library, for example, cannot be replaced; it is a special force field generated by the knowledge embedded in the object.

Goodiepal, skolebogen Mort Aux Vaches Ekstra Extra, Pork Salad Press, 2008
Goodiepal, the textbook Mort Aux Vaches Ekstra Extra, Pork Salad Press, 2008.

Before your latest book you published the “white book” Mort Aux Vaches Ekstra Exstra (2008), which could be read as a continuation of certain 1960s artist’s books, which include quite a lot of white papers, and also as a continuation of e.g. Henning Christiansen’s scores, which also sought to dissolve the time aspect and to introduce drawings and events into the scores. How do you view your books and your project within the context of these older things?  

I am often told that my work is reminiscent of Fluxus art, but I haven’t read up on the subject. So perhaps I am Fluxus-like out of necessity rather than out of direct inspiration. Having said that, however, I have created an homage to Henning Christiansen. After World War I the individual began to be removed from the act of composing, e.g. with Schönberg, and after World War II the act of composing began to be infused by computer music – calculated music, mind you, for if we can establish some formulas for music that can only be a good thing. And then, juuust before it all went computerised in the late sixties, Fluxus art may have been the last spasm of revolt before the computer took over. I do not fight the path of the computer as such; I am just saying that there has to be other pathways too, for otherwise we get stuck. So you could say that I pick up the mantle from e.g. Fluxus.

If we get right to the centre of things: what is your mission as Goodiepal?

That is a good question, but I can’t answer it, for it changes all the time. Goodiepal interacts; he engages in a dialogue with his surroundings. So it changes a bit. At one point I wanted to be a Jean Michel Jarre-like character: living in the countryside, releasing an album a year, having my own studio, a let-my-record-company-deal-with-things-type. But things did not end up like that. So perhaps there is no Goodiepal at all. Goodiepal is meant to be used. You can just use him. For Goodiepal has a much narrower range of interests than most others; Goodiepal has no children, Goodiepal has no home, Goodiepal … and so on and so forth. Goodiepal likes to go where a Goodiepal is needed for however many hours, and then he gets gently ushered on his way – that is my lot in life. It’s always been like that. If I stay too long in one place I start to get a lot of “he’s a bit over the top, isn’t he”…

Gæoudjiparl, El Camino Del Hardcore - Rejsen til Nordens Indre, Andersen's, Copenhagen 2013.
Gæoudjiparl, El Camino Del Hardcore – Rejsen til Nordens Indre, Andersen’s, Copenhagen 2013.