Culture Art Criticism and Politics – reading back issues of partisan review

In this week’s reading of back issues of partisan review, one of the pieces I read was 10 propositions on the War. How this applies to art, at first I had no idea, but I came to some conclusions.  However it was a thought provoking piece with notions I had not considered. I will not go over each thesis but will discuss my over all impressions.

A Democratic Society cannot beat a Fascist Society. This is interesting. Here “Society” is treated as a technology, perhaps as a techne.  Perhaps,  when everything is a techne then everything becomes art.  In the past how would we judge a ‘society’? This is a good question and I, for one, am not too sure.

The notion of war versus revolution.  The idea here is that world war 2 is not a war (or a continuation of ww 1), but a revolution. And you fight wars and revolutions differently. What is a war versus revolution? Revolution is a revolution in civilization and therefore CULTURE. So yes, art would be affected. If your culture changes, your values change, and yes art will change as well, since art is an expression of culture.

I don’t necessarily see art critics today engaging with the major issues of the day like climate change, or #metoo.  This is a failure of criticism. Most of these news events  -or perhaps pseudo-events, to use Boorstein’s phrase, make no sense when you apply logic (legal logic or rhetorical logic). They unfold like a performance, and traditional categories of judgement do not seem applicable, relevant or impactful. Instead of a meeting of global leaders to draft up accords, instead we should have an art symposium.

Logic and The Blockchain

I have been thinking about different proof protocols in the blockchain. So different systems have different methods of verification. With the blockchain, we want to verify that a digital currency is not spent twice, so we need to have some consensus algorithm to determine who has the correct digital currency transaction (or list of transactions).

There are a bunch off different types of consensus proofs. Proof of Work, that who ever does some work first has the proof, because who would do all that hard work if they were a bad actor (this is simplistic), Proof of Stake, people that have the most verify the transactions, because they have the most at stake in the system so they have the most at stake in having correct transactions (and no fraud), and then proof of authority, that is one person  or node decides what the right transaction is. This is also called a private blockchain.

There are some very interesting parallels to this sort of thinking and the sort of thinking involved in judging an argument, judging data, judging a scientific theory, judging a post of facebook.

It is different from the Aristotelean syllogism where the proof was itself in the argument.  In this case the proof stands outside the system. There is a judge and the judge abides by certain rules.

My Haul From NYABF

I have been making my way through the books I took home from nyabf. Print All Over Me ( does the tees and the totes for nyabf and we have a small table where we sell some books from our collaborators that have book practices.

One of my favorite publishers is Autonomedia, they make an amazing calendar as well, where every day features the birthday of an artist/writer.

So today, in the bath, it was Placing Space, Picturing Time. A book by poet Charles Stein (readings) about artist Terry Winters. Really I did not know anything about either of these figures, but I love Autonomedia and this book was a)  not expensive b) short! Also I have been trying to read more art criticism. So I was delighted to learn that there are many points of intersection between both these figures and my own: Jung. Computation, Space, Topology, Charles Olsen,  and poetry in general.


How does an image emerge? Stein talks about the pre-presentational realm and the emergent picture as following a path similar to that of a developing organism. This also somewhat makes me think of Bergson and the uni-directionality of creation or creative activity.

This activity is laid out in contrast to traditional ‘Demiurgic’ creation, which is creation according to a plan. If there is no path the creation will be random. Winters calls his method,  chreod (following a necessary path). Stein makes the analogy to the expression of DNA. There is a plan or a blue print, but we don’t know how this will be represented.

How different is this sort of emergent system from an agent based system (something like John Cage composing music from the I Ching. In one case you have the complex expression of an initial rule set, in another you have autonomous agents with their own rules and creating something through their interaction. Both things tho are creation via system design.  Only by implementing the system can you uncover the creation, to phenotype from the genotype.

In Stein’s discussion of Winter’s artwork, there is the notion that the creative processes itself, through intuition is itself creative, not merely rule following, but constrained by the rules.

If the frame is no longer the window, as Stein writes, what is it? We do not have to look at the painting as a window into another world, but we can experience the work by an extension as experience creating the work. I will add to this that the work is constantly in creation as it leaves the chemical or material intuition of the artist and engages in an experiential way with the viewer.

The study for a Winters’ painting is a diagram. What is a diagram versus a study? Or a diagram versus a picture? This is discussed with various solutions – my favorite is that hold the abstraction of the image while providing a place for the image.

In thinking about diagram vs picture, I think about my own interest in transduction, or translation. How does a data turn into visualization. What is this visualization? Is it necessary, the translation from data to visualization? Is this the right question. I a diagram is a point of view on an object.  Perhaps we could call it a phenomenological representation. What happens when we use it as a study for a painting? Does this even make sense? It reminds me of Simondon and concretizing – the becoming of a technical artifact.

Does not the diagram turn the object being diagramed into a tool, into a technological apparatus. In painting or rendering the diagram actualized we are concretizing in a way perhaps different than Simondon anticipated, but I am thinking that this avenue is worth exploring.

Votive Objects at Bard Graduate Center

I was on the upper west side today so I stopped by the Bard Graduate Center to see the Agents of Faith: Votive Objects exhibition, an exploration of votive offerings across different cultures. While I would not necessarily classify all these objects as votive offerings, it was interesting to think about creation in this context.

A votive offering is a gift, made to the gods, god, saints, or for some religious significance.  I would say that the Yizkor light could count as a votive offering, although I am not sure if we should call this ancestor worship.

What I found most interesting about these items is that they were folk art religious artifacts. We normally think of religious art as this rarified thing, only practiced by a small group of professional artists. But this is intensely personal religious art fused with folk magical practices to create a very personal offering.

A book associated with this exhibition is Ex  Voto – from the latin meaning from a vow. This artwork is performative, it is created as a result of a prayer reminding us of the old Roman prayer Do ut Des – I give so that you may give.  It this case altered slightly I am giving this to you because I said I would honor you.

I wonder, in this exhibition, what is a created because of some sort of spiritual inspiration and what is fulfillment of a vow? For those items that are obviously votive there is a logic to their creation, or a template, as if one was satisfying a legal contract. What what are the requirements of a votive, is it so different from the requirements of a painting destined for the bourgeois living room wall? Or for a church. These are all purpose driven art works.

I wonder what would it be like to personally give thanks or votives as a piece of visual material art, what would my votives be? What promises or contracts with the divine am i making?


Whenever I think of a mentor I think of Mentok the Mind Taker from Harvey Birdman.

When did mentoring become a job, probably around the time networking became a verb.

I am currently ‘mentoring’ at New Inc, but as I mentioned to someone, these people at New Inc are all super accomplished, they could mentor me.

When you read Da Vinci’s notebooks, it shows when he wants to go learn something he goes and finds an expert and talks with them. Is this a mentor mentee relationship? I dont think so.  We have framed human to human communication, learning, and knowledge exchange into this value exchange hierarchical.

Today I met with the folks I am supposed to ‘Mentor.’ And I said, I am not a mentor, but you can bounce ideas off me, if I can help I will help, but mostly I am just a third party, a sort of therapist, for you to work out your issues through. And then I said, here this is what I am working on, maybe you can mentor me? And so there rather than this unidirectional relationship of givers and takers we have a bidirectional relationship. Because really we all are mentors and mentees, and just like theater is really for the actors, and teaching is for the teachers, mentoring is for the mentor. So if the mentee becomes the mentor, then I think I have done my job,

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Hidden Figures

“In June 1932, without advance warning of any kinder any conscious association that might have made an explanation possible, Millet’s Angelus appeared before my mind’s eye. The image was very clear and colourful. It made its appearance practically instantaneously, displacing all other images. It made a deep impression on me, indeed devastated me; because, although everything in my vision of the picture precisely ‘matched’ the reproductions I have seen of it, it nonetheless seemed totally transformed, fraught with so powerful a latent intent that Millet’s Angelus suddenly struck me as the most bewildering, enigmatic, compact picture, the richest in unconscious ideas, that had ever been painted.” – Dali The Tragic Myth of Millet’s Angelus

I was reading a book on Dali this morning, and came across his interpretation of Millet’s Angelus and his painting inspired by it – Atavism at Twilight.

How magical and mysterious that at Dali seemed to suspect there was originally another figure in Millet’s canvas, that of a coffin.  It made me think about the nature of painting the and medium of art. We cannot have this hidden object in the same way in a photograph that we do in a painting.

This obviously touches on notions of the unconscious, on intuition, on materiality. What matters in any art is the matter in which it is made.  An artifact is made in history, it has historicity and a history.

Ritual Tech and The Blockchain

I have been thinking about some sort of intervention in crypto currency. First I was thinking about the different proofs for validity – proof of work, proof of stake, and my favorite, proof of authority.  I was thinking about a project where validity is no longer logical coherence but some sort of consensus algorithm, and what are the implications for this.  So for example I could write a poetic statement or a statement in general and it could be persisted to the blockchain based on some sort of consensus algorithm  – this is an interesting idea of ponder. What if we have the metaphoric algorithm, the rhythm algorithm, we only accept statements in iambic pentameter or something. hmmm

I was also thinking about the structure of the blockchain, the genesis block and the onto-theological implications.

For many years I have thought about prayer wheels, and prayer tech in particular. I guess you could call this ritual tech: leaving notes at the western wall, tefillin, rosaries, votives. These are some ways or methods that people pray or amplify their prayers.  I have read The Power of Eight by Lynn McTaggart and ways people today are approaching prayer differently. I am also interested in the relationship between prayer and poetry: Prayer as a sort of performative poetry, or performative speech act.

I am also taken with the idea of Ethereum as the world computer, this sort of echos the world soul, the animus mundi.  What would it mean to have your prayers read or performed by the world computer. So first I imagine a smart contract, it has a prayer associated with it, and the prayer is executed perhaps every time some action occurs – it could be linked to solar or stellar events, it could be linked to human interaction, it could run on a private blockchain and runs whenever a new blockchain is added. What are the actions of the prayer, these too could be specified by a smart contract.  The prayer could generate sound, or be connected to some actuator, the prayer could donate money, the prayer could just add a transaction to the blockchain – prayed.

I really like this, I feel the simplest thing would be to just have an interface where people can either write a prayer or empower another prayer (powers of eight style).  The simplest way to do this would be to use ethereum or some sort of token, Maybe the more people that pray the more coin is generated and that this coin is freely given to whomever asks for it.