eugenio tisselli

Reading Code – Week 1

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The main prompt asks a bunch of questions that examines the different way we can look at code. We can question the functionality, the aesthetics, the representation, within the context of other work by the artist, relationship with the user, role of the user in generating the art (interactivity), the longevity of the code (preservation and documentation), the content of the piece (deforestation).

These questions vaguely remind me of Aristotle’s four causes. In reality it is no different than looking at a piece of literature or a piece of art. The difference is what are those questions that are particular to software. Looking at a piece of work within the corpus of all works by the artist is something we can do with every artist. Looking functionality is perhaps particular to software studies (or most salient)

I am going to do an ontology now.

*Commentary – this is the same as with other art forms. What does this work say about the subject matter that inspires it.

*Context within artist corpus/historical corpus  – basically the same across all creative works

*Reproduction/Archive/Preservation – pertinent across most creative works, most similar to performance base works like dance and music, but slightly different because a machine is performing the work rather than a perhaps professional musician/dancer/etc.

*Interactivity – Role of the audience – pertinent across most creative works, most similar to performance, again slightly different because the user is sometimes/often running the work as opposed to a (perhaps) professional performing the work.

*Aesthetics – most pertinent across other creative fields. There is not really an aesthetics of code practice, but this could develop.  There is also the aesthetics of the generated work.

*Form of representation – this is only relevant to software and data, since software can be represented in different ways.  It is like the relationship between a genotype and a phenotype. It is relevant to art forms that use signs and symbols.

*Function – this is also perhaps only relevant to software.  We can judge software by how well it accomplishes its task.

 

The most interesting question  to me is about the form of representation or what I call transduction. To quote Mark C. Marino and Jeremy Douglass,  “We could question its form of representation and related idioms (ASCII art, helicopter and satellite photography, et cetera).”  To me this is interesting because it is what makes code different from other forms of expression. By necessity there has to be a layer of mediation or interpretation for code and this layer is a machine not an artist. It is similar to the relationship maybe between a screenplay and a movie, or a score and a musical performance, but the intermediary is a machine itself. And beyond that there is a  multiplicity of options in the form of representation. A score must be a piece of music. But code does not have to be one thing. It is one-to-many mapping.

One of the interesting things that happened in the discussion of this piece of work is that people started to comment on it by remixing it.  Code is one of the few artforms that is so easy to remix, that is probably the mode of work native to code.

https://dev.to/samsha1/getting-started-in-cicd-for-begineers-1lp8

Musing on creative CI/CD

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This week I am doing a dojo (ie workshop) on git and CI/CD. CI/CD is a term in programming and devops that means continuous delivery continuous integration.

There are different tools to implement CI/CD such as jenkins. In this dojo, however, we are using GitLab. GitLab is a platform that implements a git repository as well as a CI/CD system. A git repository, is a place that keeps track of file changes in accordance with the git protocol. The git protocol is amazing and I’ll discuss it someplace else. Here I am going to discuss CI/CD.

So in GitLab, there is a file in the root of your repo – a .gitlab-ci.yml file. This file specifies CI/CD pipeline, that is all the different jobs that run on your project after you commit the code to the repo. These can be unit tests, linters, packagers, deployments to servers, etc.

Thinking in terms of CI/CD is new. Now it is no longer a matter of building your code, but treating your code as an atomic unit and then processing actions on top of your code. We can have instrumentation or code sanitation jobs that run on our CI/CD pipeline.

I often think of the world as a computer program. What if we think of the world as a CI/CD pipeline? A CI/CD pipeline is a computer program, but it is a particular type of computer program. It is a meta-program in a sense, or maybe meta-computation.

What are some creative things we can put in a CI/CD pipeline. What are different types of CI/CD pipelines. I am working on a poetry project right now – the tower – and I have been working on different types of tooling to help write the program. The poetry is not the tooling but it is an integral part in my process. What these toolings run as jobs on the poetry pipeline? What if I have different types of pipelines, a visualization pipeline a musical pipeline.

One of the things I think about is transduction – the change in energy from one form to another. I think about this in terms of data, for example, that we can experience in different ways as different visualizations for example. Pipelines are transduction pipelines. Here we can define the different metaphoric transformations on the energy of a computer program. We can also think of pipelines as worlds perhaps that unfold in different ways.

lucien

From Lucien Letinois

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Todays poetic exegesis is from a poem by Paul Verlaine. It is homoerotic but not classical in content. There was a Lucian, though, who was a greco roman satirist.

The other day I was having a conversation about the Paris Commune. I don’t know much about the Paris Commune other than the fact that one of my favorite poets, Rimbaud, was there. I love poetry of Rimbaud, but really I like the life of Rimbaud.  He gave up poetry and moved to Africa to become a trader. That is sort of poetic.

Anyway, Rimbaud was Verlaine’s lover. They had a very tumultuous affair in which Verlaine shot Rimbaud. Read the poetry of Rimbaud, but also, read a (few) biography(ies) on Rimbaud. Anyway, this post is about the poetry of Verlaine (which I is not as great as Rimbaud’s IMHO), but here we are and let us begin!

Lucien Letinois VVIX (24)

fyi Lucien was one of Verlaine’s lovers…

Stanza one – Lucien’s Voice.

Who does not love a velvet analogy?I love one. The voice is grave, low, and soft. I would not use the word grave it reminds me of gravel which is not soft. But perhaps the word in french is different. I don’t know what word Verlaine uses here, so I cannot say.

‘Trembling over moss’ I am personally smitten by moss. It is through the work of Robin Wall Kimmerer, who wrote Gathering Moss, and Braiding Sweetgrass, that I first fell in love with moss.  I love moss, they are like tiny forests. Is moss a fungus or a plant? It is a plant, a non-vascular plant. I just finished reading a book about how reason is related to our skeleton, perhaps I should write about about how reason is based on plant morphology.  But, I find moss fascinating, there are so many different kinds! I go on hikes with my children and continuously force them to look at different kinds of moss.  Droplets of water do tremble there.

A voice like velvety dewy moss – delicious!

Stanza two – Lucien’s Laughter.

Sparkles –  I think this is Cara Delevingne’s pet name for Ashley Benson. I do think bird songs as metaphor for laughter creates a new language.  This stanza does not do it for me.

Stanza three – Verlaine’s memories of these qualities – voice and laughter. I guess because the love affair is over and all we have now are memories.  What I (Verlaine) remember of you (Lucien) is your voice and laughter, not say, your chiseled jaw. “Like the ringing glory of holy martyrs”  – sort of over the top. There are many ways we can talk about memory, I would like to workshop this paragraph.

Stanza four – How Verlaine feels. I can tell you this one – SAD.  And in fact that is the first line of stanza four, “The sadness you leave” . It is more like Lucien leaves sadness not that the poet feel sadness. This is where the poem really starts to get going.

Scatters – scatters like what – perhaps like Lucien’s ashes.  Scatters with these murmurs (murmurs are sort of like gurgles like water, like Lucien’s voice). The murmurs are “courage!” again I don’t really feel an exclamation point jives with murmur – but lets go with it.  The murmurs urge courage to a heart in tumult filled with fluttering fluttering and such sad anxiety. I think the translator has done a good job here with alliteration (‘s’, ‘f’), also I like the phrase ‘sad anxiety’ I like the rhythm and s and x, and the anxiety is that is sad, not jittery or some other anxiety.  Nice work!

Stanza five – Anger! the poet/Verlaine is angry that lucien is gone (dead probably). Storm, still your rage. The poet is not himself. The poet is a storm. It is jungian – I am possessed by my complex. Still your rage so I “can speak with my friend who seems asleep but only rests in ancient wisdom…” This is very cryptic and mystical. I really love it.  I must calm my self, I must heal myself so I can commune with my dead lover ..

What I love most about this poem is the structure. I love the organization and flow: things i miss/love about my lover my lover’s voice, laughter, feelings, hearing the lover, how to speak with my lover.  Some of the descriptions/stanza  I love- they create a new feeling for me, the particulars of the lover’s laughter, the attempt to talk to my dead lover. Some don’t resonate however, like stanza 2.

The whole poem is interesting as a snapshot of the state of the mind of the poet – Verlaine. What we have are particular details about Lucien, Verlaine’s particular way of missing him, of how the poet/Verlaine is trying to move on, how the poet is trying to communicate with Lucien -perhaps through this very poem …

 

 

 

Binge Reading &&& (Three essays)

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I’m trying to write something about science fiction and film which is related to the class I teach at fordham. Today, tech can refer to something like pranayama breathing or my smart phone. Should we use this in the same way? We can look at the etymology of technology – from the greek -techne + logos: the reason or plan of craft. We can consider yoga, craft of caring for the body, so there definitely is a technology to that. Likewise there is a craft of making communication devices. The difference between other ologies and technology (like perhaps psychology and anthropology and sociology), is that these other areas represent a practice, while technology can be both a practice and a subject. We talk about buying technology and using technology, and developing technology in a way that we do not talk about other ologies. So what is technology as a subject and not a process. Technology is the process of technology, a recursive statement perhaps or tautological statement perhaps.

 

But I digress – since really what I am doing is binge reading &&&.

CRYPTOPHASIA & THE QUESTION OF DATABASE: by EKIN ERKAN: Examines the filn Poto and Cabengo with reference to database logic (see manovich, galloway and a bunch of other peeps) and many continental thinkers. The TLDR is that rethinking film in terms of database logic does not subvert traditional power structures, but expresses a “Deleuzian” power structure” The power is in its momentary incomprehensibility and the ability to apprehend database logic (of images) only in recollection (ie memory). The goal of the author is to -show that “the metaphor of “radical cryptophasia” destabilizes the enumerative, cybernetic condition of control society’s database logic.” So I guess the project is to jailbreak the control structure of database images that themselves where theoretically a jail break of hierarchical images (authorial).
Cryptophasia, the made up language that some twins create to communicate, is interpreted interms of autosurveillence, and an example of self optimization. Merleau-Ponty is referenced – with crytophasia as some sort of body knowledge – affect as sensation, also as Laurellian- truly missing (instead of seen). This is all very interesting.

However I kept thinking about homomorphic encryption and cryptography as a personal practice (see past blog posts). This is a much more radical =radical interpretation and I would be interested to explore implications of this sort of knowledge – mic drop!

Geneology of a conflation by Sarah McKenna. This is an analysis of Pasquinelli’s eflux article on algorithms that I have yet to read.  The essay is really well written! The crux of the article takes aim at Pasquinelli neglect of the political dimension analysis of algorithms. McKenna provides an excellent summary of Stiegler’s position- that meta data, data mining et al are “capitalist proletarianization by exteriorizing human experience onto digital platforms” – ie a form of alienation. I completely agree. McKenna brings up predictive coding – or recursion of recursion as an explicit example of an algorithm that is NOT an extension of an organ. Via Negarestani, she explains that machines are Janus-faced and that machineology studies of machines that “traversing between the abstract and concrete” are janus faced, rather than extensions or even material practices. What is meant by Janus faced here? I believe it is a dual nature. But what to me would be more interesting would be to look at where Janus resides- the threshold. The algorithm is really an interface, it is a transduction engine or a mapping engine to transfer one thing into another. And this is what Janus is the translation point rather than the duality or as Pasquinelli would put it – the instruction set.  The algorithm (especially recursive/dynamic algorithms) unlike the syllogism are in the only method to explicitly create new knowledge.

Beyond Nano-Monadology: Exorcizing the leibnizian ghost from the philosophy of Nanotechnolgy by Jaimie Boyd.  This is a critique of Nick Land’s analysis of  nanotechnology.  Land’s critique is that nanotechnology dissolves the nature/culture distinction as nanotechnology dissolves everything into equal singularities. How is this related to the Leibnizian monad, posits Boyd. What kind of Leibnizian is Land and how does this relation break down? Boyd states, “Land’s is a kind of Nietzschean-Kantian monadology, an exilic monadology that retains the divine as a programmer despite the loss of vitalism and compatibilism.” I would completely agree with this.  I would go a step further and posit that Land is an an alienated monadology, or a non anthroposophic monadology.  Where as monads form the world of human experience, Lands noumenal nanomachine form the world beyond or ex human experience perhaps anti-human experience.  The evolution of the monad through Kant to Deleuze and finally to Land, is as sort of apology for the noumenal or a subject that which is in accessible to humans.  For Land, it is not longer a subject that is in accessible but a processes that is contrary to the process of nature and the process of culture.
 

Kant Vs Hegel Vs the blockchain and Voldemort

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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?

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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

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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

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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

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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…

Assyrian Art

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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?