The Tower

poetry, the-tower

Months ago I consulted the Tarot to help me determine what my next writing project ought to be.  I pulled the Tower. This is a frightening card.  It is a card of rupture and disruption. The interpretation that resonated with me, was that I should write about something that will forever change my life -that will provide a rupture. So I started working on a chapbook on eros and as it manifested in a particular period of my life.

I have transcribed all my journals, poems, and notecards related to this project into a Scrivner document and I’m now editing.

I feel like a painter and having just laid down the underwash of ultramarine blue I am now ready to mix my paints.

I have a few aesthetic goals here. First my experience of poetry is as world building, it is the rupture that creates or elucidates a new experience that other people can share and inhabit.  What do I value in poetry, and in my particular project on eros?

I identified

rhythm to create the topology of the world

metaphor as a method of creating new contexts and perspectives

language as a way to introduce surprise and to create new languages

lineage (not the perfect term) as a way to situate this piece as a dialogue with other creative works

There are many other things I could include here such as ideas, inventiveness, multimedia, and so forth but these 4 items are what I am focusing on. Truly focus on 1 would be enough.

As I am working through my material I am coming up with different processes (the scaffolding, jigs or apparatus) to help refine the work in each of these areas. This is coming in the form of traditional writing exercises, but also in the guise of creating computer program, and musical pieces. What other scaffolding can I use? Perhaps games or dance!  Part of my experience in writing this chap book is the process through which I am refining the material into a finished piece and what that means.  This is alchemy, a personal process as well as an external process.

Aside from the scaffolding, I am also reading a ton of poetry with an eye for these 4 aspects: rhythm, metaphor, language, lineage.   The first poet I took a deep dive was Lisa Roberson and I will probably write more about her in a future post.


Kant Vs Hegel Vs the blockchain and Voldemort


I am going to write this blog post before I forget about the subject matter.

This past week, a few of us braved the rain to discuss some responses to Reza Negarestani’s intelligence and spirit. I am going to put it out there and say that I think all critical theory, theory fiction, diagrams that obfuscate rather than elucidate, and long works that are challenging in the peculiar vein that contemporary thought is challenging is doing something like alchemy. It is using an obscure or perhaps hermetic language that the reader(s) have to struggle through in order to arrive at a personal transformation.  Someone in the reading group did also mention that Reza is a sorcerer.

Well on to it. What is the difference between Kant and Hegel? I was always hung up on the categories. For Kant there are categories of though, for Hegel there is just the dialectic. In our group this week H made the great point that no – Kant (and transcendental idealism) vs Hegel (and Absolute idealism) – noumena vs phenomena.

Yes! tell me more. So for Kant, phenomena is the world of sensation that we humans (perceivers) have access to – our experience. Noumena is the thing in itself that we do not have access to through sense perception – and constitutes REALITY.  (whatever that is). For Hegel, there is no distinction between noumena and phenomena- everything becomes encompassed by noumena (Geist/Spirit).

This led us to a discussion of Voldemort (ie Nick Land) and his idea that the blockchain is the philosophy / the end of philosophy /or something like that – via Vincent Le’s review of I&S.   How can that be possible – that the blockchain is philosophy? Well if philosophy is the activity of determining what is true or what is reality, the something like the blockchain which removes uncertainty from interaction, history, and judgement, becomes truth and reality.

Why is this? Well, the blockchain needs no judge, all transactions (ie facts), are determined by a decentralized consensus algorithm.  These facts (transactions) exist for all time in a public decentralized immutable ledger, not open to interpretation or revision.  The blockchain is truth, it is reality, it also destroys the distinction between ought and is. Might is right in this case. What ought to be done, is what is done, via the consensus algorithm (and perhaps smart contracts programmed on the blockchain).

Reza’s I & S offers an alternative to this because it is a rethinking of philosophy.  Philosophy is the activity of intelligence, it is how intelligence becomes intelligent or transcends itself.  Intelligence is that, which can among other things, can reinterpret its own history (ie its own blockchain, the blockchain is history). A blockchain in this definition, is not intelligent, since it cannot reinterpret its own story, it just exists. I would rather live in a world of reinterpreted history and change than blockchain stasis.






What are you doing?


I had lunch with a friend today and he asked what am I doing to keep busy on the side.  I have a family and a  lot of interests and I have always had side projects.  This summer has taken it out of me, emotionally and I lack the energy for side projects.  I say I am working on myself, or working on becoming conscious.  I no longer want to work on projects that are fun diversion but lack meaning for me and I am not sure what exactly it means to work on something meaningful.

To this question, I responded that I am trying to figure out what it is I want to work on in my free cycles. For the past few days every morning I write a list of 10 goals. The goals change from day to day, but at the end of the week I am going to go back and look at them. I am lucky to have the luxury to have this issue, since most people struggle just to have enough to eat.  I am in a privileged position to live as conscious a life as possible. At every moment I can make a decision on how I want to live my life.  So I am grateful for that, but also feel pressure to rise to the challenge of this.

So what guides my decision about how to live my life? What brings me pleasure.  Even this is not as easy as it seems. I feel like I have programmed myself to like certain things like le corbusier (sorry Lian I dont).  So I am engaged in a deprogramming of myself so that I can

go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience

Thank you James Joyce. How does one deprogram oneself. I dont want this to be an empirical exercise where I try a bunch of things and slowly realize all the things I do not like. There is a theory in natural medicine that people learned which plants healed what disease by listening to the plants, through a somatic processes and perhaps an extrasensory process. They did not go through an empirical analysis to test out all the plants and all the possible things a plant could cure.

So what is the extrasensory way to determine one’s pleasure. Perhaps it is listening to my unconscious. Perhaps it is paying attention to the synchronicities. What are the ones showing up? Music, Nature, Body Work, Conversation, Painting,  Poetry (reading), Film (watching), Art (writing) — and programming …

Mythos, Logos and Film


Its that time again for computers, robots, and film.  I always read an analysis of Metropolis through the lens of Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment. This is for many reasons. The first is that it view the enlightenment not as a revolution of scientific or rational thought, but a revolution for logistics and planning. The enlightenment is less about the scientific method than about standardization and commodification.  There is a lot of discussion about protocols and the re-enchantment of the world, but this makes me wonder if the re-enchantment of the world is in opposition to protocols. That there is a certain amount of chaos,  or unpredictability that makes something enchanted.

There as also the notion that there is a dialectic between myth (or narrative) and reason (or science), and when reason triumphs it will have nothing dialectical to push against except for its own will to power. Thus reason just becomes another narrative, and in the end reason (and society) collapses under its own weight (this was written during Nazi-ism).

What is film and in particular, what is Metropolis? Film is mythology. It is an apparatus for creating cultural mythologies to use a term from Flusser. The form, the film, creates a mythology with a certain structure – the grammar of film. This is similar to the form of a Homeric epic is in iambic pentameter and uses epithets like grey eyed Athena, or invocations.   We could create a computer program that structures everything like a homeric epic and then we would have a homeric epic apparatus. In our case we have a filmic apparatus. So what sorts of myths does this apparatus give us and what is the dialectic it creates between myth and reason, mythos and logos?

The logic of film is not a syllogism. It is not even a dialectic. It is associative. Two images are placed together, and even if they are unrelated they are connected by the mind in language game sort of way, rather than in causal or rational way. A lexicon is created.  Each film creates its own world with its own language, that perhaps other films can echo or index, like rotwang’s robot hand echoed in star wars and Luke’s robot hand. And in this way universes and sets intersect in a way they cannot in the physical universe or in mathematical set theory.

So the way the film acts on the view is in a non rational way, perhaps it is a mythic way, or perhaps it is some other way.  We should not relegate all that is non-rational to the mythic.  Perhaps there are other categories. The rational is that which can be counted, which proceeds by the laws of cause and effect. The mythic is that which is symbolic, that which proceeds by the hermetic meaning behind the story. The filmic is associative, meaning arises from the juxtaposition of media. It is also somatic, our brain (bodies) spontaneously react to the juxtaposition of media and our minds epiphenomenolgically come up with (perhaps arbitrary) reasons or narratives.

Perhaps there is no reason or meaning for a film behind the somatic triggers that it pulls. In this way it is similar to poetry or music.  But when the filmmaker makes a film, she has a script she is following. The script is a story, it is not an equation. I can take a mythological story of say Prometheus giving humans fire, and turn this into a film. Is the film mythological since the story is mythological? Is the opera Orpheus and Eurydice mythological?  What is the relationship between the material of the thing to the intention behind the arrangement or the organizing principle.

But is the script a story, or is it a model? When I create a film am I creating a narrative or a simulation? The story is just the organizing principle, if we look at it via the interpretation of the Dialectic of Enlightenment, is what the enlightenment gave us. That is -rules. How to order things.

Magic, Habitat, Art and the Guggenheim


Tonight I went to the Guggenheim to listen to Gordon White and D.W. Pasulka talk about Magic, technology, art, UFOS and other things. It was super fun. Some of my main take aways are :

  1. Where do ideas come from?  Answer: not us (maybe aliens, another universe, spirits what have you)

I have been thinking a lot about this lately, since listening to a vox podcast Lian sent me, and reading Alan Moore’s Promethea. And it seems, for Moore, ideas come from idea space, or the immateria. Perhaps we can call it the noosphere. Basically ideas come from something, like gas comes from distilling oil. I am down with this idea.  For me the key is to connect the idea with the body, and for this I have a friend to thank, but I’m not sure if I can link to his blog. We can have all these ideas running around in ideaspace but until they are affirmed by the body and perhaps manifested in physical space who cares. And even more radical, what if the ideas are themselves material, what if material is not even material, but immaterial or ideas. This is all very confusing.

2. Our environment is technology. Gordon sort of mentioned this and I wish this was discussed a bit more, but this is about the whole fake distinction between nature and culture. That there is something pure that is nature, and something artificial that is culture. Well no. We are in a cybernetic relationship with nature and we are using technology to shape nature, shape our environment. We live in tech, we live in praxis. Also there is the idea that we think with objects. Pasulka told a story about someone who visited a friend with some sort of Roswell like object in his backpack and his friend had dreams about this object. There is a relationship about being in proximity to objects (ie habitat) that works on consciousness. The body matters and the material matter.

3. There are protocols for accessing idea space – they are probably related to ascetic practices, but who knows maybe tantra too. In any case, they are antithetical to how most people in the west live life, and they definitely fall along class lines.  My take away- we need to support body practice education so that everyone can access the ideaspace. (This was related to an amazing question and it completely spot on).  In part, that is what RuneSoup is doing – democratizing the protocols for this sort of immateria contact. But there is really a lot more to be done. It is sort of frightening.

4. Art – why and why are we having this discussion in an art museum. There was a notion that artists are at the forefront of these ideas, or that art can put us into a psychic state that helps us absorb these ideas.  This was not fleshed out as much.

There were some art pieces presented during the talk. Most of the art pieces were technological creations and I could not help but think of  Flusser’s Philosophy of Photography book. For him, an imagistic world (world of the cave paintings) works by magic. That is the logic. Symbols have/are power. In the written world, images are demystified and explained through words. Now words have power (codes of laws and so forth, think of performative speech).  In the technological world, images come back but they are part of a discourse created by apparatuses.  We absorb images. Apparatuses (like the iphone) work on us in a sort of somatic/neurochemical way. (I’m taking liberties) The point is to reflect on what the apparatus wants you to experience, and what discourse is the image part of.

I think about this and Gordon’s notion of the campfire’s edge – where the shaman keeps the other world at bay at the edge of the campfire, but that is where the potentially interesting things (the Gnarl in the worlds of Rudy Rucker) are.  The technological image exists at the campfires edge.  The goal of art in the technological age, when all art are products of an apparatus within a discourse (even painting), is to push the boundaries of the edge (of the apparatus and perhaps the discourse). This is sort of depressing for me. I always like to think of art as something beautiful and personally expressive, but perhaps that is just an artistic discourse. And perhaps within that discourse an artist can continue to push the boundaries.

In thinking of my class on Robots, Computers, and Film, I am thinking about why this class is interesting. What can we learn from it? What is the boundary that each film is pushing? What discourse is it creating?


Luxury Kitsch


These are some meditations on readings I am doing for a book group around David Geer’s paper on Luxury Kitsch. The gist – art world people must allow people to create art that is dark and offensive. But let me take you through the whole story.

What is luxury kitsch?  It is artisinal items. The original argument around kitsch was that it was a mass produced replacement object for people who have lost their folk items. That is produces only effect apart from cause and that it is all spectacle. Now there are different interpretations of kitsch, arguments for an against kitsch. But it does exist, e.g., a mass market snowglobe souvenir.

Kitsch is art that has overshot the mark,” writes the artist and writer David Robbins. “Kitsch is marked by an overearnestness, a pretentious overripeness, a sense of creativity gone sentimental on itself, and a complete absence of self-criticality […]

Today we have a new category of kitsch, luxury kitsch. This is for people that have more money, are looking at their objects to designate a status and some sort of value. Think hipsterism or artisinal snowglobes handcrafted by someone.

There is also the problem of pattern and ornament. It is kitsch – unless of course you are pondering higher mathematics like the 4 colorability problem. And the problem of worn textures – think antique finishes.

Luxury kitsch is almost always a humorless art and thus distinct from camp—a knowing kitsch—that revels in transgressing taste. In contrast, luxury kitsch is manifestly paranoid about such transgressions. Its goal is to foreground taste, but it falters in doing so excessively.

There is perhaps a brief notion that kitsch can also be too many historical or theoretical references, which I would wholehardedly agree with. Luxury Kitsch is perhaps the shadow of kitsch. It is the Kitsch that will not revel it its kitschiness.

The goal of luxury kitsch according to Geers is home decor, including (wall) art. But that is really the goal of kitsch in general. According to this, what is called the art market is actually trafficking in luxury kitsch.  Which I would also agree with. But it makes me wonder what is art now? Can there be art in consumerist capitalist society at all.

But the lamentable truth is that not all great art can be lived with; quite the contrary, this is what institutions are and should be for. Certainly, ‘difficult’ art can occupy a prized place on the mantelpiece as a token of prestige, but rarely for its ocular and decorative merits. In the best instances, too, (I think of DADA in particular here) such work is not a palliative, but rather a persistent thorn.

Can art now only be difficult? Is the Sistine Chapel kitsch? Perhaps now but perhaps not in the renaissance.  Difficult art can exist in the living room as an marker or sign as to the ‘good taste’ of the inhabitant.  Does this make it kitsch? Is there any art that is not difficult?  Is art always the shadow of civilization? I have no idea.

I am going to quote the coda in full, since it is beautiful and the point of the essay cum manifesto. Basically we are hiding our shadow, our artistic shadow and we must allow the shadow to flourish until it is able to be expressed to our cultural consciousness.

Ours is a world of Alma-Tademas—a competent painter, perhaps—who imagined the ancient Greeks and Romans much like his bourgeois patrons: shopping and relaxing in an idyll devoid of strife. The world of luxury kitsch is a similar fantasy and the work that increasingly holds sway as the bourgeois ideal of untroubled separation casts all darker visions to the side much like the economically displaced in our cities. But the monsters will perhaps have their day. Consigned to the shadows they might now hold samizdat societies and wait for their time. Our task— that of galleries, collectors, institutions, artists and writers—is to make sure that they can survive until that moment.

I’m going to quickly jot some notes about the other Geers paper – “Neomodern” in OCTOBER 139, Winter 2012.  

Geers makes the observation that art in 2012 was involved in a number of backwards looking practices such as hand made production and  process over product – in a way reminiscent of Action Painting.  He interprets this as a reaction to technological transformation and economic uncertainty.

Thus a work by Josh Smith, Daniel Hesidence, Alex Hubbard, Thomas Haseago, Richard Aldrich, or Gedi Sibony, just to name a few, might juxta- pose a modernist look with a material process, counterbalancing aesthetic delectation with ascetic denial… Incorporating the received values of materialism and context-sensitivity, today’s neo-formalism nevertheless pursues an art of intuitive, aesthetic arrangement that satisfies the need for formal continuities and simple answers during a particularly complex time.

Ouch! Not much different from the earlier essay. However in this case there is the attack of solipsism. That modernism is being reflected through the personal tastes of the artist to create a new work in this echo chamber of inside jokes and personal psychology (I refrain from mythology since mythology is what I consider more universal).

From a structural perspective, this shift in focus from discourse to subjectivity and from representation to thing counters more dematerialized practices such as conceptual and media-based work.


If we consider the formal veneer of the works in question, the structure of today’s art market, and the ornate passivity of its championed prod- ucts, we see a return to a premodern condition, in which the artwork is limited largely to a propagandistic, affirmative, or decorative role, as was the case with eighteenth-century painting. Indeed, one only has to look at Nattier, Fragonard, and Boucher to see the operational horizon and destiny of much of today’s production… it greets a pre-primed spectator, already indoctrinated into the codes and mythologies of the modern, who happily welcomes it as a return to old certainties—an echo of a lost golden age.

Is there any hope? Maybe not in modernism…

Assyrian Art


I am looking for a friend who is an expert in Assyrian art. I have no idea how or why this concept took hold. As a young child I was obsessed with ancient Egypt, but that is really not the same thing now is it.

To realize this dream, I turned duck duck go.  At some point, I got fed up and wet to the metropolitan museum of art website  to see if there is speaker series around Assyrian art (no). But then I was reminded of the incredible trove of open source met books. There are 502.  How much richer my life would be if I was able to absorb everything in those 502 tomes??  One of them is Beyond Babylon Art Trade and Diplomacy in the Second Millenium BC and I plan on reading that first.

I thought what if I read one of these books a day.  A bit over ambitious and I probably would retain very little information, but I would be done in 2 years. I would not really be able to read anything else, even if I were able to read at this pace.  Such a goal reminded me of the time I tried to read an ubu web paper every week. That was  a less ambitious endeavor, but still it lasted only a month. This week I am not reading, or watching tv, or listening to podcasts (unless I am coding).  (If you must know I’m listening to arias on spotify.) So whatever I decide will have to wait till after Labor day.

My main resource of Assyrian art is now Omur Harmansah. He has the most fantastic syllabi about the ancient near east.  His syllabus for the Art and Visual Culture on the Ancient Near East looks fascinating. I mean art as diplomacy – of course! Art/gifting was always used to curry favor and share values/connect. I like the idea of art as part of a (international) gift economy.  Now we just send emojis to people on social media. The courses on  on places of healing, body, performance, and architecture and water also sound fascinating, even if only partially related to Assyrian art.   The concept of a “wet and fluid landscapes” … is so poetic and evocative. I am in a concrete and brittle landscape atop the hollow earth (subway).  This is an amazing art resource, lots of Assyrian Art, I do like cuneiform.

Sometimes I wonder, why can’t I go on a deep dive in an area that is valued by our society – like makeup tutorials on youtube.  But I guess that is just not how my desire is structured.  I also think can I combine my deep dives with something productive. Like write a machine learning engine that generates Assyrian art. That also sounds exhausting and not really how I want to be spending my time.  Is it enough to do just do a deep dive with nothing to show except perhaps a blog post and some journaling. Does everything have to have a product? An object? An external manifestation?


Psychoanalysis and code


Recently I wrote about psychoanalysis and film, but today I am going to write about psychoanalysis and code (or perhaps interactive systems). I  am thinking of this in the schema of Flusser who talks about images as a communication medium (the stone age, magic), writing (the bible, science), and digital systems (endlessly combinatorial systems where the skill is in the production rather than in the writing or the painting).

In psychoanalysis of film, we consider film as the psyche of a culture. So a psychoanalysis of film helps us understand the psychological dimensions of a culture. Does this mean a culture has a mind? Do we need a mind in order to engage in psychoanalysis. Does this mean that an aggregate of minds – that have created a film – are different than an individual mind? All good questions. It ties into the essay I recently read by CS pierce on the generations of ideas, but I will leave that to another post.

So what would it be to analyze the code of a culture, or the technology of a culture? Is there a psychology of code?  What does technology represent versus a film; what does code represent?

Code seems analogous to the ego. It is intentional and follows logic. The bugs and non-linear results (the black stack), is the unconscious and the shadow.  A psychoanalysis of code shows us how we think as a society. It is a blueprint to our cultural logic.  The bugs and our symptoms (ie, how we handle the bugs), show us the kinks in our logic.

Normally we think of the unconscious as presenting alternate options (content) to ego. But in the case of a psychoanalysis of code, the unconscious presents alternate logics or decision making capacities (form).

I detest the old division between form and content.  But different cultural products of our society represent different ways aspects of our thought.  This is a binary:  form and content, but there is perhaps a multitude. It is not just god and devil but a plethora of gods. We have capitalism (or economics) to represent how we relate, we have cooking to represent our sustenance by the earth.   Rather than integrating form and content together, what can we add to the categories of form and content to round out our conception of thought?

Psychoanalysis and Film


I am prepping to teach my class, computers robots and film, and I bought a bunch of discounted short cuts books. Short cuts is a fantastic series – I highly recommend it. One of the books I got focused on psychoanalysis and film.

It begins with a discussion of how mind blowing the invention of motion pictures actually was! For psychoanalysis, film seemed capable of representing mental phenomena in a way that other art forms could not. Since it was both image based and time based it had analogues to dream logic and logic outside .  Art in general is the epiphenomena of the psyche in a way that is perhaps different from all other mediums.  Art is the subjective creation of an individuals mind and does not have to conform to any sort of consensus reality (ie objective thought)

What was interesting to me, on a meta level, was the idea that films represents the psyche of a culture – it is the dream of a culture. Really, we could say art in general could constitute the psyche of a culture, not just film.  That way film or art analysis could proceed from the perspective of psychoanalysis.

What does that mean exactly?  What does it mean to interpret a anything psychologically, instead of perhaps historically, or aesthetically. We can look at a film and examine what items are representation of cultural complexes (something like perhaps fascism in pre ww2 german cinema), what story arcs and dramatic narratives can we considered cultural symptoms of underlying neurosis. For example, in looking at science fiction films we can consider the anti social inventor/programmer as symptom of some sort of cultural neurosis about what it means to be an inventor. What in this is part of an archetype in the collective unconscious and what part of this is symptomatic of the culture.

In my syllabus I say that representations of robots and computers in film are the dreams of society- they represent our unconscious thoughts about robots and computers.  What are the images of our egos? and what are the images of our unconscious?



Sunday night at the Metrograph


I figured if I was in NYC the night of August 18 I would go to my neighborhood theater and see the Eileen Myles short film and selected longer film The Spook Who Sat by the Door.   I am a super film buff and I have not really indulged in this passion since I had kids. It always surprises me when I watch a (good) film and remember how much I love film.  And then I think, well I was a filmmaker for 8ish years.

The Spook who sat by the door is brave and prescient and funny.  It has a crazy backstory involving spys and being pulled from the theatrical release.  As a film, it does all the “wrong things”, abrupt cuts, too much dialog, some weird storyline twists (weird in that it does not fall into Aristotle’s typologies of entertainment).   These, elements, for me, made the film more amazing.

A few months ago I was thinking about what I considered and valued in art, versus those of my primary partner who is an unabashed aesthete.  For me, what touches me in art. or in representation in general, in art is some sort of vulnerability.  I value this most, opposed to some sort of notion of ‘beauty.’ I sometimes have a strange reaction to art, either books, or music, or film and complain that it is not ‘true’.  This is always a confusing reaction, since fiction is not supposed to be true – maybe truer than true, or a deeper truth, but the judging a creative product by the whether or not it is true – seems incorrect to me. Although this is exactly what I do.

What does this idea of truth of an artwork mean to me, what am I really trying to communicate. Perhaps it is this idea of vulnerability of experiencing the subjective experience of another being.  Art is one of the last domains of subjective experience. I create something that is subjective, and then it either speaks to my subjective experience (I like it) or I do not. My knowledge, personality, sensitivities all come into play in my subjective experience of another work of art.  And if it touches me, if it provides a connection between my interface and the interface of a remote autonomous being, than that feels like the truth.

All of this is to say, that if the Spook who sat by the door was a high concept Hollywood film (even an indie film workshopped in film school), it would not have the same impact for me. The way the film breaks from the ‘commodity’ film/the stylized film is part of the meaning of the the film, creates energy and power and makes the film true.