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?


Psychoanalysis and code


Recently I wrote about psychoanalysis and film, but today I am going to write about psychoanalysis and code (or perhaps interactive systems). I  am thinking of this in the schema of Flusser who talks about images as a communication medium (the stone age, magic), writing (the bible, science), and digital systems (endlessly combinatorial systems where the skill is in the production rather than in the writing or the painting).

In psychoanalysis of film, we consider film as the psyche of a culture. So a psychoanalysis of film helps us understand the psychological dimensions of a culture. Does this mean a culture has a mind? Do we need a mind in order to engage in psychoanalysis. Does this mean that an aggregate of minds – that have created a film – are different than an individual mind? All good questions. It ties into the essay I recently read by CS pierce on the generations of ideas, but I will leave that to another post.

So what would it be to analyze the code of a culture, or the technology of a culture? Is there a psychology of code?  What does technology represent versus a film; what does code represent?

Code seems analogous to the ego. It is intentional and follows logic. The bugs and non-linear results (the black stack), is the unconscious and the shadow.  A psychoanalysis of code shows us how we think as a society. It is a blueprint to our cultural logic.  The bugs and our symptoms (ie, how we handle the bugs), show us the kinks in our logic.

Normally we think of the unconscious as presenting alternate options (content) to ego. But in the case of a psychoanalysis of code, the unconscious presents alternate logics or decision making capacities (form).

I detest the old division between form and content.  But different cultural products of our society represent different ways aspects of our thought.  This is a binary:  form and content, but there is perhaps a multitude. It is not just god and devil but a plethora of gods. We have capitalism (or economics) to represent how we relate, we have cooking to represent our sustenance by the earth.   Rather than integrating form and content together, what can we add to the categories of form and content to round out our conception of thought?