Milieu and Mood

I feel like these are the modes of 21st century philosophy and I might be late to the game.  I figure the last big philosophical revolution was Deleuze and the notion that everything is style (note style is not form and this is my pet theory).

There is also the unnoticed revolution of Flusser and the notion of the techno-image which supplants the SUBJECT-OBJECT distinction with the PROJECT.

My whole problem with the PROJECT is that it is arbitrary. To use another au courant term – it is contingent. Context is contingent. This makes it unstable, or ungrounded, or flimsy.  Since we can no longer rely on truth to figure out what is correct, we need another form of judgement or consensus. Not each project is equal. How are they unequal? And what quality does this unequality exhibit?

There are a few ways we could go with this.  The first being – what is a project. Well, it is a world. Ok what kind of world. We have different worlds. We have simulated worlds that are constructed by rules, and we have environments (moods and milieus ) that are constructed by perception. We probably have other kinds or worlds too, but there are two kinds of people in the world and I am one of them.

I am reading Program Earth -because I owned it for years – and then I had a dream that I had to read it. This book is about the construction of milieus through sensors – like heat sensors and cameras etc to collect data about an ecosystem and present a world.  Creatures are dying or creatures are living or biodiversity is increasing or whatever the story is.

The milieu shifts as the sensors calibrate and the data is pruned and aggregated according to its own algorithms as well.   Both the sensors and the raw data is calibrated into the conscious act of world building or milieu building.

What is the landscape as perceived by the sensors and delineated by the data? It is probably not like Turner’s seascapes? Does it matter for us to aesthetically view these worlds? Are these worlds even for human consumption or are they for machine consumption or policy consumption or capitalist consumption? Is there anything involving pleasure in the creation of a landscape?

This is world building through data collection and calibration.  Calibration has now replaced cybernetics as the feedback loop that regulates a system. The sensors are the way we create the world.  Is every world equally useful?  What is the criterion here for using one world over another?

Mathematics vs Computation

I have been thinking about the difference between a mathematical model and a computational model.   There is something different about the 4 colorability proof (you only need 4 colors to color a map), and like Godel’s incompleteness proof. For the colorability proof you actually have to simulate the problem and find all the results. There is no schema that will give you the answer  – what is this!

I am not sure, but one of the things I was thinking about today is time. For a mathematical model time is not directional, but for a computation it is.   How do you run a neural network backwards in time?

The end of the scientific method

I originally titled this post Robots and Aliens but I ended up discussing something completely different. That happens a lot.

I have been teaching a class this past semester on Computers and Robots in Film. We have fantastic discussions about consciousness, time, and reality. This past week we watched The Matrix, and one of the students brought up the concept of the simulation hypothesis.  This is the notion that from probabilistic standpoint we are living in a simulation created by a race of hyper intelligent aliens.

Another student mentioned that the simulation hypothesis postdates The Matrix by a few years so the philosophical inspiration is probably Descartes (and Plato, but I am not going to talk about him). Descartes problem is, how can we trust our perceptions. How do we know we are living in a world, and not in a computer simulation created by aliens (or in Descartes case, the Devil).  Descartes proposes that the most basic thing we can trust is that we thinks. When you are having a doubt that world is a fiction – you are afterall thinking –   I think therefore I am.  Whether or not this is a a correct assumption we could further discuss, but what I think is interesting is the notion of proof. How do I know that the world is real.

There is a distinction between these two approaches that mirrors a shift from scientific method to data science, and I do think that historians looking back will not place computer simulations in the same category as physical experiments and hypothesis testing.

With Descartes the question is what is true, or what is real? It is a binary question, either something is true or it is not, either something is real or it is not, the cat is alive or the cat is dead (that was a trick :).

With the simulation hypothesis, we model all of human existence and select the answer with the greatest possibility.  The simulation hypothesis, is itself, the product of simulation thinking. If we run a simulation on the question of whether or not we live in a simulation, it is most likely that we live in a simulation.

The simulation hypothesis does not resort to experimental data, but to probabilisitic data. With the scientific method there is an appeal to epistemology –  what do we know, how do we know something.  The answer from science, is through experimental data and the creation of falsifiable theories.  With the simulation hypothesis there is no notion of epistemology.  We are not asking how do we know we are in a simulation, we are making a judgement that we are probably in a simulation. The question is metaphysical. – what is reality, and its proof is numerical.

I also have an intuition that this is probably related to mereology, the relation of parts to a whole that is used mostly in set theory, how that is I have not quite worked out.

Drawing, Writing, and Modelling

I am reading The Alphabet Versus the Goddess by Leonard Schlain. It many ways it reminds me of the work of  Flusser, one of my current obsessions. It is about how reading and writing we wires the mind in a certain way and influences our social dynamics, and most significantly our consciousness.   Essentially, writing and reading creates the conditions in consciousness, and favors certain activities in society, that subjugate women. Whether correct or not, I definitely believe that our systems of expression have profound impacts upon our methods of actions.

We are in a new language scheme. I first thought of this as programming, but that is too limited.  The new world we are in is that we are no longer about writing sentences but building frameworks, and mainly building performative frameworks – frameworks that do something.  If I write a sentence, or a legal code, it is up to someone else to execute it. If I write a computer program it executes itself.  If I paint a picture, it is upto another person to interpret it.

In the future, as neural networks write write computer programs, it is up to me to set the parameters for the system, the error tolerance, and other tolerances.   This is a different mode of communication. What are the social structures, the belief structures, and even the epistemological structures that this way of communicating will create. I do have some thoughts on this? I think the proliferation of genders is one way that this way of thinking is expressing itself.

When I think about gender transformation I think about interface.  To change into a gender other than one assigned by birth either through surgery, hormones, or dress and action is to remap interfaces. This is different from a tattoo for example, which is adorning or decorating the interface.  To see everything as pliable, including gender, is an outgrowth of the age of modelling,  where in order to act a certain way (as a particular gender) we need to get our inputs and outputs correct.

Mycelium Network Society

I saw this in one of the daily eflux emails.  I am in general obsessed with mycelium – that is the root system of mushrooms – but really much more. It is the nerve centre of nature itself.

The title of this show is “Post-Nature—A Museum as an Ecosystem ” and it is from the 2018 Taipei Biennial.

This is interesting – museum as ecosystem- because from the avant garde the museum is well – a museum – it is a closed institution and all that is left is to reference within that closed institution.

What does it mean for a museum to be an ecosystem? What is an ecosystem anyway? What is a system vs an ecosystem?

Lets say a system is an internconnected network. It is a PRO-JECT and not a SUB-JECT/OBJ-JECT – to use Flusser’s language.  A system is an assemblage, bricolage. It has a context.

So what is an ecosystem? If a system is all about context, then we must predicate the type of system it is. In this case as eco. Eco comes from the greek Oikos – house. And is related to the terms, economics, ecology. Economics are the Laws of the House, Ecology is the logic of the house. System also comes from ancient greek – the universe/the whole made out of parts.  Ecosystem is the universe of the house – it is the habitable universe.

This changes the domain of the museum (seat of the muses) to the domain of the house, of the hearth. The logic of the oikos is not the logic of the muse.  The universe of the house is not the system of the muse.  What happens when we make this transformation – when we aestheticize the house, the oikos.

Mandalas and Mazes 2

Back to thoughts about Mandalas and Mazes.

I cannot imagine drawing daily mandalas about my mental states. But I can imagine drawing daily mazes. Mazes have been used as tools for meditation and contemplation for ages.

What am I meditating on today? What does the path feel like? How can I find my way. The mandala is the map of the unconscious and the maze is the journey through it.  Mazes like Mandalas are often drawn as circles.  The Maze is interactive, the Mandala is a projection or representation – it is not interactive.  The Mandala is a snapshot, perhaps a snapshot of a journey through a maze.  As we go through the maze what we see changes, and the representation of the mandala changes.

In thinking about the mandala and the maze, I also think of that other device for contemplation – the memory palace.  There was originally an ethical dimension to the memory palace, what you select to place in your palace or where you place it has metaphysical consequence. You are what you remember.

Virtual Altars

I have been thinking a lot about ritual objects, and then yesterday a friend out of the blue wanted to work on a virtual altar project.

I personally have a poor relation with objects. I attribute this to my experience in manufacturing — all objects have become disenchanted. I cannot seem to re-enchant them.

What does it mean to have a physical or a virtual alter? It is an imaginal embodiment of your desire. How is this different from say a new years resolution or a list of goals? Well I think it is the triggering of visual thinking versus written thinking  – so this is a different type of logic.  Writing follows the rules of prepositional logic, wishes and desires dont. Perhaps it is more correct to express desires as images rather than in words.

But then what about drawing images versus making alters with physical items? Again there is something about the embodiment of a thing, even if it is a virtual embodiment. I think it helps, psychologically, to imagine how this item fits within the world in a way that maybe a drawing does not.

But the caves of lascaux were probably early alters. They are no less powerful for their drawing rather than physical offerings, so perhaps it does not matter.

Joyce and Words

I am reading an excellent biography of Joyce by one of his friends and contemporaries. The author talks a lot about Joyce and his relationship to language.   He mentions Joyce has a relationship to language that most people don’t have. For him there is a plasticity and a physicality to words themselves.  He knows his own novels and stories backwards and forwards.

I do not have this relationship to language. Some words, give me pleasure, but words in general do not. I do not delight in puns, or word play.  I love poetry, but I love the images and the metaphors, the rhythm and yes the language. But this seems to be beyond the materiality of language and more about ability of language to evoke or create meaning.

Hopefully this makes send.  The distinction between the materiality or medium and what is expressed. I am not sure if this is an important distinction, but to me there should be something of material fetish for the artist involved in creating in a medium. What this says for mixed media artists or conceptual artists I have no idea.

I have been thinking of what medium I have a special relationship with and I would have to say it is computer code. The materiality of code is something that I have a fetishtic relationship with.  I love the materiality of code itself, how different languages express concepts and processes.  The product of code is something that I struggle with  since there is no necessary relationship between code and the expression of a code.

When Joyce creates a sentence, there are perhaps many ways to interpret it but there is one way to render it – as a sentence. With computer code, there are many ways to interpret and render the code, or perhaps there is one way to interpret it and may ways to render it.  Is the role of the reader or audience inverted? Are there two audiences?

There are two levels of appreciation: the code and the expression of the code. Is this similar to the appreciation of text as word and as a meaning or of anything with multiple levels of interpretation?  I am not sure.



The Art Singularity

I have been thinking about the avant garde and how all art post the avant garde is just about newness – whether this is radical newness or newness in interpretation (such as Lacan’s interpretation of Freud). It is like the artistic singularity.  By singularity I am considering that every historical step into the future represents a phase transition or change in conceptual schema, so that the context is different than it was for the last whatever – a piece of art work, robotic consciousness, whatever.

First off, this untethers the singularity from science and computer science, and refers to a world, where the rules of the game change with every move of the game.   This is not necessarily form divorced from content, or some sort of hylomorphism, but even something like the category of art (and this could be aesthetic, economic, cultural) changes with every new work of art – so that the very concept just refers to a certain trajectory or rate of change.

So lets talk historical avant garde vs neo avant garde (ie contemporary art) as discussed in Foster’s “What’s Neo about the Neo-Avant-Garde.”  This is all about repetition (counter to my singularity thesis), and the idea is that the neo avant garde actually completes the project of the historical avant garde.  It is a repetition. Its creative interpretation (or deconstruction) is in contrast to the nihilism or negation of the avant garde, and that it is here that we can actually define the institutions of art, rather than with the manifestos of the historical avant garde. This all sort of smacks of accelerationism but whatever.

What the neo avant-garde did was a sort of second digestion of the historical avant garde to turn it into a capitalist category, which is what everything is these days anyway.  Capitaalism is the symbolic system that has a place for everything, although it is on capitalisms terms. There is no outside capitalism. In the words of Parmenides it is the IS -there is no IS NOT.

As mentioned in the Foster article, the avant garde did not destroy art, or the categories of art, but made art indestructible. But an avant garde only exists if it has a neo-avant garde like Freud only exists if he has Lacan.   We we are witnessing in all contemporary artforms is the dissolution of the symbol from its meaning -the classic Lacanian Schizophrenic. The tufted couch button is attached to the batting but to nothing else.

Ntozake Shange

I was saddened when I heard that Ntozake Shange died recently (Oct 28, 2018). I remember reading  Sassafrass Cypress and Indigo  over 20 years ago.  My most vivid memory of the book is when one of the main characters gets her period and her mother celebrates it with a ritual bath.  It was  so affirming and uplifting, and still speaks to me after all these years.

I am going to go back and re-read it now, although with For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide /When the Rainbow is Enuf. What we need now is art like this that uplifts people and connects people in the highest expression of their spirit.