Meditations on Pollock

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https://www.nga.gov/audio-video/audio/collection-highlights-east-building-verbal-description/number-1-1950-lavender-mist-pollock.html

This is Lavender Mist by Jackson Pollock.

I sort of like this video about Pollock on youtube. This is also a great essay.

Jackson Pollock painted this with his entire body. People call it a dance – he danced his paintings. When I think about what that is like I imagine something like he is truly witness of his body, the vehicle. that this painting is an expression of his physical body. There is no inside and outside – no self and the world – all is the world and all is the self.

Is this the art singularity, the true avant-garde, where every mode of expression in painting must be accompanied by a technical innovation.

I wonder if this technique is can only be used by Pollock. Could someone else paint a painting like this and if they were successful would it look like this or would it look different, would it look like the expression of this other painter’s soul. What I am wondering is – is this painting technique like programming – where all end results converge on one truth – one representation.

Pollock they say was inspired by sand paintings of Native Americans.

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/593912269593135695/

But Pollock’s technique was much more removed. He was not in contact with the surface of the canvas. This sand painting is much more intimate. I think of the chance operations of people like John Cage. I read this really interesting article about how Pollock’s technique works with the fluid dynamics of the paint. Pollock is sort of an alchemist in this way he is able to manipulate the chemical and material qualities of paint by his body and by the tools he uses to apply the paint.

Pollock’s father was a surveyor and would take young Jackson with him on site which is where he first came into contact with these paintings. I think of the symbols of the unconscious and of more literal symbolic work of Pollock. Like She wolf – a painting of the wolf that suckled Romulus and Remus the mythological founders of Rome (and Siena). This is the literal content of the unconscious. The drip paintings are the actual structure of the unconscious – they are the embodiment of the unconscious.

What are the symbols of my unconscious? What are my sand paintings? What are my surveyor trips? I would write this – but one of my sons wants me to come and watch the olympics

How to talk about Software

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In my last job the executive sponsor I worked with the most often one said, get everyone aligned on the talking points.

Spoken language is a kind of code.

When you give a demo of a particular feature you need to structure it as you would a unit test or a CI/CD pipeline.

Of course in software development you can do anything. BUT that is never an acceptable answer. People dont want to do anything, they want to do something. Software development is not about doing anything it is about doing something.

When we talk about software we need to focus on specific parts of software that we want to get feedback on. We can collect general feedback, but software feedback is not an opportunity for a free for all.

I am listening to an audio book at 2x and it is quite possible what I just wrote made no sense.

Doing and Being

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I remember being young – in my early and mid twenties and working at companies thinking I could do the work of management.

What were they doing anyway.

I was, then, a gifted developer. I still have that gift – although my desire to stay rooted to my computer competes with other desires, like watching Aliens with my family.

I was an excellent doer – in the realm of software development.

What was the management actually doing.

These days I find myself more in management. This is hard for someone who so identified with doing things and also enjoyed doing things. I like the measurement aspect of doing. At the beginning there is nothing and you do something and there is something. In software you do something and it works or it doesn’t work or it works x% of the time and you can increasingly get it to work more of the time.

What do people in management actually do?

Well these days when I am doing my job I am not actually doing anything. I am being.

I am like the stable family that allows the child to go out and explore the world.

I maintain the arena that allows different team members to hash out a battle plan.

When I just be, it is like giving my team a super power. They are no longer held down by gravity… by the laws of physics. They have more freedom.

This hard for me to do. I want to do and I still do. And perhaps my super power is that I can use doing to increase my capacity to be. I do for myself, not for the world, and in building myself I build my ability to be.

This all sounds super nebulous.

I do think there is a relationship between this being state and the notion of weight from family constellations. That some people have more weight than others often associated with their age and then status. So like an 80 year old has more weight than a 20 year old, but the pope has more weight than a VP at a bank. But is it that a pope has more weight because he is the pope, or that he has weight and is then made the pope?

How do we get this weight? I think it is related to our ability to change and integrate those changes – to go through phase transitions in life and be transformed by them, to integrate the light and the shadow.

There is no way to hack your way to being. It is possible that a 30 year old cannot be, that a 20 year old cannot be. It is somewhat sad perhaps that all these tech leaders are doing all their management under the age of say 50. What sort of nourishing ground can exist when you have leadership that is say 80. The elders. This is what we lose in our culture when we silo our elders.

Coding the Archive (there is a repo at the end – spoiler)

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Martha Graham Dance Company at VPAC - Los Angeles dance ...
https://www.artsbeatla.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Martha-Graham-2.jpg

Anything can be inspirational.

Last night for some reason I ended up down a rabbit hole that brought me to this quote on wikipedia about Martha Graham, the dancer and choreographer, written by Agnes De Mille.

The greatest thing [Graham] ever said to me was in 1943 after the opening of Oklahoma!, when I suddenly had unexpected, flamboyant success for a work I thought was only fairly good, after years of neglect for work I thought was fine. I was bewildered and worried that my entire scale of values was untrustworthy. I talked to Martha. I remember the conversation well. It was in a Schrafft’s restaurant over a soda. I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be. Martha said to me, very quietly: “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”[39]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martha_Graham

At the moment I am thinking a lot of about somatics and what it is that we each uniquely give to the world, and that this is bound with our physical bodies. And then I come across this quote, which speaks to what I am thinking about, maybe it inspires something in me (I did buy DeMille’s book).

Anything can be a source of inspiration. Or something that is a source of inspiration to one person falls flat for another.

I have a ton of pdfs and journals. The journals especially I never look at. My friend Nitzan suggested that I write a script to pull out snippits from the pdfs. I did just that and then I put in them in a directory that I use as a screensaver. So now throughout the day pieces of my archive are brought before my awareness, like notes in the street, and whatever catches my eye can serve as a spark of inspiration, curiosity, enjoyment, or frustration.

Anyway here is the repository of the code I wrote. You need to know your way around terminal and have osx, but it is a way for you too to bring the archive into everyday life.

Cultivating boredom

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(https://www.vanityfair.com/culture/photos/2014/05/jean-michel-basquiat-drawings-herbert-lenore-schorr – Basquiat – because I am interested in oil sticks)

A friend of mine the other day suggested that I cultivate boredom. This is a skill that I am unpracticed at. Even if I have nothing to do, I am very adapt at spinning out fantasy worlds to live in – heck even if I do have something to do I do this.

So I was having difficulty figuring out how to be bored. Yes this is a privileged problem. Maybe I should be figuring out how to be helpful. But maybe if I am bored that idea will come to me.

I am abstaining from a bunch of communities – as I write this I have fear that I will lose touch with people and they wont want to hang out with me. This reveals the motive of fear that drives my community involvement – that is kinda messed up.

Back to boredom ….

As it turns out I do get bored. Running bores me…. for example, but more importantly every time I procrastinate I am procrastinating something that is boring to me.

When people talk about creating a schedule, to sit before a blank page every morning or something – perhaps they are talking about cultivating boredom

Induction

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This morning I woke up sort of in a lazy and sad mood. I had a little munchkin snuggled next to me and I heard the soft patter of rain outside and I thought what is better than this I am just going to lie in bed.

Eventually I did get up, because of work, but I still felt that lazy feeling…

I thought of all the things I had to do today and it was hard to get motivated…

I made coffee

I did jumping jacks

Everyone was asleep

Then I listened to a podcast (actually Youtube video) with Dr Martin Shaw recommended by Aya.

Immediately I felt better and was like oh yeah this is what I have to do.

But is it?

I wonder how these things that I do to feel better are like self hypnosis. It is an induction to feeling better. It is the psychic equivalent to taking a shot of tequila.

Maybe this is what I DONT need to do. It feels so good tho.

Awakening and the Self

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Fra Angelico Burial of the Virgin and The Reception of Her Soul in. Heaven

I am spending a lot of time in meditation these days. What this really means is that when I have a free moment instead of watching tv, or readings something online, I meditate.

I want to awake. I am not really sure what this means and my friend Addy says that maybe I am already awake but I just dont know it – maybe !

Someone I meditate with told me that we meditate in order to learn who we are. What we is this? Is it the personality, some universal eternal, our highest self, some notion of a unique soul… do any of these things even exist outside of the language we use to describe them (ie concepts).

The personality I imagine, at this moment while I write this, is fleeting. I took my enneagram and I am an enneagram 7, lots of interests, doing lots of things, to distract myself from feeling pain and boredom. Inside I feel like a 5, an introvert, accumulating knowledge, existing in my own head. And in fact there is an idea that the child soul of a 7 is a 5. I have no idea what this means – but for me I feel like my child self felt like a 5 maybe my interior is a 5 or that my heart is a 5.

When I meditate am I getting to know myself as a 7 or a 7 with a child soul 5. Or Is this just the personality, the cloak I am wearing on this journey to earth. Is my eternal soul, should that exist, something else. Is this what the Jungian process of individuation is supposed to bring out. As I write this I imagine that the eternal soul while perhaps eternal is not static and to know the eternal soul is to know something like its contours and movements, the way it changes and grows to experience it like we experience the squash growing in the garden. What is knowledge here? It is not scientific knowledge of prediction, but appreciation, knowledge of a piece of music so I can appreciate it greater depth. I meditate so that I can get to know myself and deep myself.

I was listening to a podcast that said the blue cloak that the Virgin Mary wears in paintings is a representation of her etheric body, I imagine myself at night, if I feel alone, wrapping myself in my own blue cloak of my etheric body.

Syllabi and the role of order

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Cage’s  Atlas eclipticalis which is based on  Antonín Bečvář‘s sky atlases (Becvar shares my birthday – June 10)

I had a discussion about order last week, the different meanings of the word order. the order of numbers, the order of elements, the order of the garter, a meal order. Cosmos (κόσμῳ), in ancient greek, means order. I think of all the things we order to make a cosmos – we order the stars into galaxies, constellations, brightness, distance from us, light cones, color. The cosmos may also be one of many cosmoses in the multiverse, in another cosmos I am perhaps writing about something different or perhaps I am an allegator (this is a loki reference).

I was reading an article about a new Lorraine Hansberry book. Hansberry was a writer, famously of A Raisin the Sun. Anyway, the author of the article had her self written a book about Hansberry, but she talked about the role of the author as curator and as bringing order. How to organize elements, what to include and what to leave out. This shapes the story as much as a narrative. In what sense is the narrative just an order and the inclusion or exclusion of certain elements?

The author of the article made a passing remark about Syllabi. That there is an art to the Syllabi and it is a similar sort of thing, how to order things what to include and what to leave out.

I struggle with making Syllabi. I struggle with making bibliographies. Historically it has been hard for me to order things and select things. I wonder what is stream of conscious narrative or autofiction. What is being ordered and what is being selected? There is a metaquestion at play behind stories and narratives and anti narratives and that is the organizing principle between ordering and selection. Ordering by being an order is selecting some elements and leaving others out.

Creating order is a property of discrete mathematics. To create order we need to create discrete elements that have an order or that are in an order (a category). We could even say that this is the law of computation. Computation is about ordering and moving through the order, it is order with a purpose or a function.

A syllabi is an order with the purpose of learning something. This is what I thought as I examined the Pirate Syllabus and how to make a syllabus this morning and began thinking about the syllabus for my fall class on Computers, Robots and Film.

Rules and Art

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There are two things alive in me right now…. what is art and what is knowledge. And you thought I was sitting here binge watching Ru Paul’s drag race… Well maybe later

Here is Manet’s painting the street singer from 1862.

I was having a discussion this morning and everyone was saying how difficult it was for them to use these colors in their own paintings. Manet was a painter of modern life, of boating and prostitutes, I guess that was modern life in France in the mid 1800s. Before that painters painted kings and popes and wealth patrons and of course biblical scenes. But they really were not painting prostitutes. After all, were prostitutes going to pay for the paintings -well maybe who knows.

Anyway this was a shift in art. Baudelaire, a friend of Manet, was also at that time writing about prostitutes and all sorts of things going on in Paris. He elevated the daily life of the seedy urban underbelly to art. Previously these topics were not considered poetic, that one could write poetry about them. Similarly one could not paint paintings about them, like Manet did.

I am reminded of contemporary-ish poets like Bernadette Mayer who elevated things like motherhood to poetry and wonder where is the painter doing that…

In any case what Manet does here, is also elevate the colors of street life to art. Paint is about color. Abstraction, which I paint, is about color and composition. What does a painting like this say to me? It says that these colors of urban life can be beautiful.

Manet broke the rules. But it is not like he sat down and was like, ok let me learn the rules and then let me break them. This is what you hear a lot these days… learn the rules before you break them. It is my impression that Manet actually saw beauty in the city, in these colors and was able to express that. Baudelaire heard poetry in urban life and wrote that.

It was not a cynical or calculated move to innovate. The innovation was that someone saw differently or experienced the world differently saw beauty and revealed the beauty of life that no one had seen before.

This is different from avant-garde art.

What has this to do with knowledge? Well knowledge is about the rules. I play guitar. I love it. I love not knowing a piece then practicing and then knowing it. This also sounds beautiful to me, as it does to generations of people, which is why these compositions still exist and people still learn and play them. This is also following the rules. I could then intentionally break the rules, mistune my strings or play out of order or something.But this is not what Manet is doing.

Maybe I hear something beautiful that I have never heard in a composition before maybe I want to play that, or maybe I am noodling around on the guitar and discover something beautiful. What do I have to know to create this? I don’t know

Rembrandt, Shakespeare, and Spinoza

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The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis, 1661 by Rembrandt

I was looking at this painting last week. This image is from the following article. Originally this painting was 5 meters (16ft) by 5 meters. Massive. It was scaled down maybe to 5 feet by 5 feet. The painting was rejected by the people who commissioned it.

I have no idea why this painting captures my imagination. The quality of light is exquisite in Rembrandt. Immediately looking at his paintings I thought of computer graphics today and the desire to create ever more ‘realistic’ light. But what is realistic light. Truly this is not realisitic, it is not reaching for verisimilitude, but it is more true than reality. I watch the scene and I feel a light shine within me, the same light that shines within these heroic figures. (The scene is of a rebellion by the Dutch again Roman rule). What is light? Let there be light. The first line of the hebrew bible. It is something noteworthy.

The light of a computer graphics program is created in a different way than Rembrandt’s light. When I write a computer program I have an idea in my head of what I want the light to be and I have a series of calculations – linear algebra, or maybe I will use a machine learning algorithm (also linear algebra). And then there will be a resultant painting and I will say ah yes that works, or no that does not – and I will write the program or execute the ML algorithm again. With painting, the artist is reacting with his body and his senses against every brush stroke. He is seeing the parts as they are coming together and judging them, rather than judging them at the end. If I am running an optimized ML algorithm this runs on a GPU (a graphical processing unit). GPU execute commands in parallel. All the strokes are layed at once, the painter is executing in serial.

I also think about cinematography – that other art form I used to be involved with. Cinematography is referred to painting with light. I actually think that is the name of a book. Here light is the medium not the subject. Can I paint light with light or can I paint scenes with light, what happens when I paint with light. Cinematography and photography (the analog version) is about capturing something with tools and then judging the result – It is perhaps akin to etching. It is an oblique way of creating – it is indirect and subtle – opposed to painting that is direct and immediate.

What is Rembrandt painting? He painted a ton of portraits- I am just going to note #selfie. He also painted a bunch of philosophers in meditation. I meditate a ton. That is how I spend a lot of time these days… in meditation. That is also what I love to do most of all these days (now I feel like a bad mother because I should say something like playing with my children).

You know who else was in Amsterdam when Rembrandt was painting? Spinoza, the philosopher, also the glass grinder. Spinoza was also playing with optics although from a different perspective. Spinoza was a philosopher in meditation.

You know who was across the water from Rembrandt – Shakespeare (a bit earlier). When I look at this scene above I imagine a shakespearean drama. Shakespeare is the writer who many think invented or described the modern human with all her psychological complexity and character. Rembrandt is perhaps painting the modern human full of emotion and affect and inner light.