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.

 

 

https://www.guggenheim.org/event/technology-is-habitat-an-evening-of-magic-and-ufos

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.

and

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…