Wednesday, April 8, 2015

redefining conceptual parameters

1- food isn't about nutrition 
2- talk isn't about info  
3- charity isn't about helping 
4- art isn't about beauty 
5- medicine isn't about health 
6- consulting isn't about advice 
7- school isn't about learning 
8- research isn't about discovery 
9- politics isn't about policy

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

depression, mass murder and the absurd

 how innocuous he looks (but it's only an appearance)

psychiatrist anne skomorowsky from columbia university writing for slate magazine. 
Was Andreas Lubitz depressed? We don’t know; a torn-up doctor’s note and bottles of pills don’t tell us much. Most people who commit suicide suffer from a mental illness, most commonly depression. But calling his actions suicidal is misleading. Lubitz did not die quietly at home. He maliciously engineered a spectacular plane crash and killed 150 people. Suicidal thoughts can be a hallmark of depression, but mass murder is another beast entirely. 
skomorowski separates mass murder and depression at the expense of sparing lubitz from depression, which is questionable. though smoking is not sufficient for lung cancer, smokers keep dying from lung cancer. my point: a depressive person can indeed be a mass murderer if he happens to be andreas lubitz. 

what's "depression" anyway? here is a provisional(?) definition:
Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depression, major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and depression may make you feel as if life isn't worth living.
the definition seems to mix the symptom with the cause. so, if X is "persistently sad" is X then --necessarily-- depressed? what if a person is depressed without showing sadness? (mental states and behavioral dispositions are often asynchronous).

to complicate matters, take a look at the broad spectrum of possible causes for depression: 
1. Abuse, past physical, sexual, or emotional abuse can cause depression later in life.
2. Certain medications.
3. Conflict. Depression in someone who has the biological vulnerability to develop depression may result from personal conflicts or disputes with family members or friends.
4. Death or a loss. Sadness or grief from the death or loss of a loved one.
5. Genetics. A family history of depression may increase the risk.
6. Major events. Even good events such as starting a new job, graduating, or getting married can lead to depression. So can moving, losing a job or income, getting divorced, or retiring.
7. Personal problems. Such as social isolation due to other mental illnesses or being cast out of a family or social group can lead to depression.
8. Serious illnesses. Sometimes depression co-exists with a major illness or is a reaction to the illness.
9. Substance abuse. Nearly 30% of people with substance abuse problems also have major or clinical depression.
major events! (it makes you wonder why psychology is a soft science).

at first sight, lubitz can check for at least #2, #3, #4, #6, #7, making him an optimal candidate.

(update: lubitz exhibited suicidal tendencies)

the elephant in the room is --not mass murder-- but lubitz's responsibility. if depression is severe and  becomes a serious illness, could not one entertain that lubitz actually may not have intended to kill those 150 people on the plane?

a proven serious illness can constitute a minimizing factor in human responsibility. however, the analysis becomes irrelevant from the angle of justice:150 lives demand a reparation margin that lubitz will never pay back.

it is at this point that we come face-to-face with the absurd.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

heisenberg, kelvin, hubble and hegel discuss "order"

werner heisenberg, lord kelvin, edwin hubble, and friedrich hegel's souls simultaneously happen in an odorless, noiseless spherical chamber in heaven (especially designed for legendary minds). after hoped-for and counted-on de rigueur salutations, the illustrious assemblage decides that a proper subject of discussion would be the idea of order.

heisenberg succinctly dispatches "order" to be expressed by nanoscale regularity-to-irregularity in physical observations and principles. lord kelvin carefully affirms said idea to consist of deviations from the uniform featureless state of thermodynamic equilibrium toward which all physical systems are tending. hubble pauses and points to the orderly structure of the cosmos --not without adding the kevin's misgivings about the decay of order apparently not applying to self-gravitating systems. finally, hegel parsimoniously declares his colleagues' conclusions potentially valid but disparate. the point is not to choose this over that but AUFHEBEN i.e., to bring order to the idea of "order."  

do you agree?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

can "anti-art" be (a form of) art?

i read an interview on magazine of germanologist frederick beiser. he makes an interesting point for those pursuing aesthetics as a topic of research.

i really like this:
The aporias of the present is that there really is no aesthetic criticism anymore, and that there are really no standards about art. Anything goes, and anything is good or excellent “in its own kind”.
not so much this:
We got here because some aestheticians and philosophers took the avant-garde too seriously, and held that even snow shovels, urinals and soup cans can be works of art. I think that the avant-garde was making all kinds of interesting and valid points; but one it was not making is that these kinds of things are works of art.
much less this:
I think that the avant-garde was making all kinds of interesting and valid points; but one it was not making is that these kinds of things are works of art. They were not intended to be works of art but, for all kinds of complicated philosophical social and political reasons, works of anti-art.
there is a lot being said in these two lines above, but i need more info to understand where beiser is coming from. he definitely looks like a good read.  

Friday, March 13, 2015

is tania bruguera cuba's weiwei?

aLfRedO tRifF

more perturbing news concerning performance artist tania brugera:
On Wednesday, March 11, artist Tania Bruguera revealed the existence of a secret media campaign against her orchestrated by Cuba's Culture Ministry with the aid of the regime's intelligence services. The purpose of this campaign, say the artist and her supporters, is to build an “institutional case" against her and brand her a “counterrevolutionary." A criminal charge akin to treason in the U.S., conviction for this crime in Cuba carries a minimum sentence of three years in jail.
is tania freaking out?

she should. she knows how the cuban repressive machine works. at some point a bruguera dossier will appear so as to present her as an "agent" of a foreign power (the US being de rigueur).

the basic document would look like this, only more byzantine. 

the process against bruguera develops within the typical notes of cuba's twisted jurisprudence. in yo tambiénexijo, (bruguera's facebook page) we learn that the cuban ministry of interior has edited a defamatory video of bruguera and handed it (!) to the ministry of culture for internal consumption. 
The video has been presented on separate occasions at the Ministry of Culture, the University of Arts of Cuba, the country's premiere art school, and the Wifredo Lam Center, the headquarters of the Havana Biennial (see Why Is the Havana Biennial Afraid of Tania Bruguera and Is She the Cuban Ai Weiwei?). Chaired by Ruben del Valle, president of the Havana Biennial organizing committee, and Fernando Rojas, Cuba's vice minister of culture, the meetings are invitation-only. Reportedly, both men appear in the video alongside the logo of the state news channel.
what's in the video? nobody knows (which is the point). in the trial, joseph k. never quite understands the nature of the charges imputed against him.
On Wednesday, Bruguera posted a letter on her #YoTambieExijo Facebook page addressed to Vice Minister Rojas asking for access to the video. That access was denied earlier last week when Bruguera visited del Valle's offices, provoking the artist's immediate expulsion from the premises. 
bruguera's letter to the minister of culture, her request was rejected (?)

why would the minister of culture help with the smearing campaign against bruguera, instead of defending her?

my question seems naive, but i'm trying to make a point: the ministry of culture should've applauded bruguera's whisper for december 30 in havana. after all,  qua cultural event, bruguera's whisper in havana #2 is in synch with performative mass actions defended by raul castro in a recent speech:
I hope to see ... the popular movements and NGOs which fight for nuclear disarmament, ecologists, occupy wall street, los indignados, university students, farmers, sindicates, defenders of immigrants' rights [...]  
ditto: why would the minister of culture help with the smearing campaign against bruguera, instead of defending her?

because the ministry of culture is a proxy of the ministry of interior. 

cuba's government is a two-face: a progressive front for international consumption and a repressive state against its own people.   

a side note: many of bruguera's artists friends in the island have simply disappeared (supporting her would automatically risk job security and possible loss of institutional support).

even as bruguera is well-known outside cuba, after her detention and subsequent release, not many voices have come out in her defense, with the exemption of  coco fusco's article for e-flux.  

so, is tania bruguera cuba's weiwei?

let's wait and see.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Evan Thompson's Waking, Dreaming, Being

Antonio Correa Inglesias

How is the self a changing process? How can it express itself in the remembered past or anticipated future? Evan Thompson, a renowned philosopher of mind answers these questions in his new book: Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy (November 2014).

The focus of Thomson's work is at the intersection between Western and Eastern culture, i.e, the fields of cognitive science, philosophy of mind, phenomenology, and Eastern philosophy. Particularly contemporary Buddhist philosophy in dialogue with Western philosophy and science.

Waking, Dreaming, Being presents an interaction between two levels of understanding: the meaning of self (soul, entity and identity) and the significance of self in contemporary philosophy. It suggests three parallel and irreconcilable differences: one’s epistemological approach of self, the experience of self in Buddhist philosophy and its empirical understanding in science.

Self-process has been the focus of some of the most important works by philosophers such as Hayward, Varela, Watson, Wallece, Damasio and others, working at the intersection between cognitive science and Buddhist philosophy for the last twenty years.

Thompson aims at reconciling these seeming disparate disciplines, which is behind the interdisciplinary idea of Complexity. As we know, Complexity has grown as a field in philosophy over the last twenty years. After being presented with "irreconcilable differences" the reader may come to the conclusion that "contemplative traditions" cannot say anything new today.

Weaving neuroscience, philosophy, and personal narrative to depict these transformations, Thompson’s book adds uncommon depth to life’s deeper questions. Contemplative experience  illuminates scientific findings, and scientific evidence enriches the vast knowledge acquired by contemplation.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

bad induction and the loss of faith (in music?)

aLfReDo tRifF

i read oliver rudland's article for standpoint entitled "the loss of faith made music mute."

in the good tradition of english criticism, rudland opens contentiously:
It is a mystery to many people why so few contemporary classical composers seem capable of writing "a good tune". Surely, given the number of students who pursue composition in our universities and conservatoires, and the hugely increased access which technologies such as music-notation software give to prospective composers, we should expect to find at least one or two capable of making a popular impact?
he connects "good tune" and "popular impact" as if comparing popular against classical music, while keeping the latter in a slightly higher conceptual plateau(?)

i wonder, 1- what's the connection between the number of students of composition in our universities and being capable of writing a "good tune" ("good" already bracketed by the author, which screams for further clarification) and 2- is a good tune a sufficient condition for popular impact?

this is what rudland is really after:
Why is it that, with more people than ever engaged in the activity of composing, our culture still seems incapable of fostering a contemporary Verdi or Stravinsky, with the celebrity and popular recognition that such great figures once garnered?
well, pharrell williams is as popular as verdi was in his heyday. and daft punk is as célèbre if not more than stravinsky. in fact, the russian composer was not that popular amongst classical music lovers in early and mid 20th century. regardless, rudland wouldn't accept my analogy if he's looking for a "contemporary" verdi, and pharrell williams is no verdi, though he is, ahem, contemporary.

rudland sees himself uncovering an enigma:
To understand the deficit of successful contemporary classical music, what we need to uncover are the feelings which motivated the artistic instincts of the great composers of the past, but which are now absent in the minds of modern composers... 
no small endeavor to uncover mental states of composers of the past, but let's proceed, what is next? nationalism, a definitely a potent cultural glue.

rudland adds christianity to his recipe. he brings examples from opera, a popular genre of 19th century music (though after mid-19th century opera becomes increasingly elite and more popular genres emerge from the social cauldron, such as vaudeville, "variétés," zarzuela, "wiener operette," etc). if "popular" is an important category, i don't understand how rudland doesn't pursue these finer developments.

going off on a tangent, why is it that nowadays, when critics discuss history, they prefer to bring their own cutlery?

next slice? modernism. but first a potage of history, theology and sociology:  
To gain a proper and complete understanding of what we call "classical" music is to appreciate that it was all written within the context of societies which were predominantly Christian in nature, and where celebrations of traditional national attributes were not seen as old-fashioned or backward-looking as they often are today. This all changed, however, in the 1960s, with the old moral authority of Christianity and nationalism brought into question by two World Wars which had slain "half the seed of Europe one by one", and the dawning of the sexual revolution.
the fragment in red above is as nugacious as tap water. yeah, traditions generally subside compared to, "today." the second paragraph (in yellow) takes us for a sky/diver ride. one feels seized by rudland's bombardment of events: two world wars (and, i imagine, all the lots in between), plus the downing of the sexual revolution(?) why not throwing some cool names like marx, freud and elvis into the mix?    
Musical modernism is what was left behind after the feelings which motivated the great classical composers had dissipated.
a poetic sentence (the kind i wished i could come up with if it only was true). the aftertaste betrays a sugary nostalgic ethos.
What you are hearing in the dysfunctional harmony... once natural authority and faith resided. This is what "atonal" music really is: a loss of faith, and this is why anyone who counteracts its dominance is quickly condemned as "naive", in just the same manner as those who continue to hold religious convictions in a scientific age. 
what is "functional" in harmony other than a redundant polyphonic representation within a given music grammar? c'mon, where does western harmony begin? rameau's traité de l'harmonie? the tonary? 

if i listen to webern's 5 geistliche lieder (a sacred song cycle by the most abstract of 12-tone music composers) am i receiving webern's loss of faith?

i find rudland's heavy-handed, reductionist style more entertaining than his actual argument. he tries hard to connect the dots at the expense of killing generalizations like this:
I would be the first to acknowledge the dramatic talents of Alban Berg, the brilliant textural instrumentation of György Ligeti or the accomplished musicianship of Thomas Adès, but what all these composers have in common—despite the stylistic differences and time which separate their work—is that lack of inspiration within the musical material itself which began with Schoenberg and persists to this day.  
i get it. what all the planets in the solar systems have in common (despite their difference in mass, and material composition, etc) is that they rotate around the sun.

the critic doesn't stop:
Things might be about to change, however, and I think I can suggest a few reasons why this might be: popular music has run out of steam. The young know this (several students of mine have testified to its truth); they admit that even the best that is on offer these days—the chilly sounds of Coldplay or the Arctic Monkeys—cannot compete with the energetic exuberance of, say, Abba, and that so much that is pumped out of the radio is now empty commercialism.
can one not say about any time whatsoever that "things might be about to change"?

rudland's inductive rigor: "the young know this." who? "several students of mine."

it's difficult to cogitate as sloppily as this:
This decline, I suspect, relates back to the ongoing liberalisation of societies which began in the 1960s. The overthrowing of Christian chastity and discrediting of nationalism went hand in hand with the rights revolutions, which improved the freedoms of non-white races, homosexuals and women, and these causes were also reflected in popular music: hence, "[It doesn't matter if you're] Black or White" by Michael Jackson, "I want to break free" by Queen, or "Eleanor Rigby" by the Beatles. 
rudland haphazard thesis doesn't make me lose faith in modern --or contemporary-- music. what he makes me lose faith is in people's inductive competence. is this a generalized trend? i don't rule out the possibility that he's a smart lad who just wrote this piece while listening to schoenberg's moses und aron. in fact, i'm curious to listen to his compositions.

(if it's true what they say that what one lacks in one occupation one plentily makes up for in another, rudland should be a decent composer). i'll keep you posted.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

what is cockroach-like like?

aLfReDo tRifF

let's bring forth the following conjecture:
Being signifies on the basis of the one-for-the-other of substitution of the same for the other.*
why not apply this result to the dictyopteran entity in the photo above?

a cockroach is not a "who" according to a phenomenologist like levinas: he simply never examines the question. heidegger comes a bit closer, but he declares the animal kingdom as weltarm, i.e., poor in world.

but insects got to have being. the question, by definition, cannot be meaningless or superfluous:

what's the cockroach's being?

to get at the bottom of it we must make an entity -the inquirer in the traditional case - transparent in its own being. but the question of being is not up to the cockroach. it's up to us.   

can one bridge the seemingly incommensurable man/insect gap? why not?

(with about 1,000,000 brain cells cockroaches may have a tiny rudimentary proto-consciousness!)

paired structures called mushroom bodies in a cockroach brain play a key role in navigation.

getting "close" to the insect means using whatever intentionalität available to find sameness in difference. franz kafka's man-to-insect transformation in metamorphosis is an interesting exercise, but kafka was not really interested in the phenomenological side of the insect as much as presenting a "human insect" literary prototype.

brazilian writer clarice lispector offers a deeper phenomenological analysis in her novel the passion according to HG:
The cockroach, with its dangling white matter, kept looking at me, but I do not know if it really saw me (I do not know how a cockroach sees). But she and I looked at each other (and I do not know how a woman sees).
in lispector's metaphysical comparison (human) mental-states are as intractable a problem as the cockroach's hypothetical gaze.
... in the eyes of the cockroach I could see my own existence. In the world we were meeting there are several ways of looking: you look the other without seeing it; one has the other; one eats the other; one is just in the corner and the other is there too. The cockroach was not looking at me with its eyes but with its body.
cockroaches have 360º vision, which make up for the flatness of their bodies. each eye contains about 2,000 lenses, which means that their reality is not static. they assimilate a dizzying multiplicity at any given time. lispector's conclusion is quite advanced. in the phenomenology of merleau ponty the gaze has fundamental properties. why? seeing means being drawn into a particular dimension of being, let's say, a slice of being to which the perceiving body is not foreign. is that why lispector concludes the cockroach sees with its body?

was lispector aware of phenomenologists insistence on the importance of the gaze? i dunno. what's important is that she cares for the insect's gaze. she echoes merleau-ponty's advice:

... "with the first vision ... there is initiation, ... the opening of a dimension that can never again be closed."** yet, that first vision is not exempt from horror (human's and the cockroach's too, i bet).

lispector finds common ground in our shared prehistory.
What I saw was life looking back at me. How to name that horrible, raw matter, that dry plasma. While I recoiled inward, I felt a dry nausea, I was falling into the very roots of my identity. Centuries and centuries in the mud --wet mud, filled with life; moving with excruciating slowness.
a shared fate with insects (in the permian primordial mud).

if there are eyes there is a face. what a coincidence! according to levinas the encounter between self and other is given by the face.

do cockroaches have faces?

in violence and metaphysics, jacques derrida belabors levinas' idea of the encounter with the other:
What then is this encounter...? Neither representation, nor limitation, nor conceptual relation to the same. The ego and the other do not permit themselves to be dominated or made into totalities by a concept of relationship.  
derrida doesn't have a non-human being in mind. a face-to-face encounter is always a human encounter. yet lispector's analysis addresses the insect's otherness via its face.

now, is there any other way to access the insect's being?

distance human/insect is not without a riddle:  we fall for the illusion of approaching difference to reach sameness, but that's a circular trap. can we abstract both insect and human likeness to seek a more hierarchical animal likeness?

even if the heuristics may look a bit fuzzy, positing the problem already hints @ solution.  

when do we start?

(to be continued)
* Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise than Being (Duquesne University Press, 2009), p. 26. **Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible (Northwestern University Press, 1979), p. 151.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

wrestling predictability from the demon's determinist clutches

do you know laplace's demon?

it's a classic determinist presentation by mathematician and physicist pierre simon laplace, in his philosophical essays on probabilities:
We may regard the present state of the Universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the Universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.
let's suggest it as: ∀s ∈U, η su 

i.e., every state "s" in the Universe is necessary (i.e., determined by a set of initial conditions plus the laws of physics). 

a terse conclusion, but there is a problem. theorems apply to mathematical objects*, not to reality. though we have reasons to believe that the universe is structurally mathematical, not all our representations of the the universe are, well, mathematical. for instance, the existence of solutions to some equations that represent physical laws does not imply physical existence (see my previous post).

laplace's demon is incompatible with quantum mechanics. said differently physical phenomena cannot be -completely- reduced to strict deterministic laws. 

*what is a mathematical object? o is mathematical if it exhibits mathematical properties, i.e., nullity, identity, commutativity, associativity, distributivity, etc.

Friday, February 20, 2015

the iffity of reducibility

alFreDo tRifF

lately, i've been dealing with the idea of irreducibility. 

what does it mean?

p is irreducible in system S when one cannot fully explain p from the set of principles given in S

there are several examples of this:

1- in mathematics, gödel's famous incompleteness theorem.

2- in computer science, stephen wolfram's computational irreducibility principle.

3- intentionalität in the philosophy of mind.

i'm no physicist, but i'd like to advance a general idea about irreducibility in physics.

we have different systems to explain different physical phenomena: newtonian mechanics to explain macro phenomena in general, einstein (general) relativity being a definite refinement to newton's classical mechanics, and quantum mechanics, a refinement to einstein's theory (now to explain the micro phenomena), and then the various string theories to reconcile einstein's general relativity with quantum mechanics, etc.
let's suppose in some future we have S the set of all systems (S1, S2, Si...Sn), to explain physical phenomena. 

  (a trivial question): will S ever explain all of physical phenomena? 

lets ask the question differently. is physical phenomena completely reducible to physics? 

(if it did, there would be nothing new, deeper or different to explain,

yet, what vouchsafes such possibility --of closure-- could only come from within S, since any Si is precisely defined within S

but nothing in the already existing set (S1, S2, Si...Sn) prevents a new Sj from revising Si and so forth...  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

are algorithms people?

the question is presented by computer scientist and writer jaron lenier in a video.

my answer is yes (my "yes" is not tensed)

personhood requires reason, autonomy, sentience (free choice?). let's call these person-properties P. if so, an algorithm is a person if it's P-realizable.

why not?

P-realizability is conceivable & it doesn't violate any physical laws. 


Thursday, February 12, 2015

mathematicians vs. physicists

aLfReDo tRifF

this is a cool video. dr. richard feynman, one of the most important physicists of the 20th century, was a great speaker. as a professor, he communicated a passion for physics that it's difficult to emulate. here he improvises (to an audience of freshmen at cornell university) the difference between mathematics and physics.

i take issue with feynman's presentation of mathematics:
... the mathematicians only are dealing with the structure of the reasoning and they don't care what they're talking of (0.23) ... they don't even need to know what they're talking about... 

mathematicians don't believe their hypotheses are beyond falsification (nothing is better at destroying a hypothesis than a valid counter). i have no idea of what dr. feynman means when he explains: 
... if you state the axioms ... if you say such and such are so, and such and such are so, what then? (0.38) then the logic can be carried out without knowing what the words such and such mean... (0:45)
what words is he referring to? 

first, axioms can be, 1) logical and 2) non-logical.
1) ∃x ∀y ∼(y∈x), zermelo frank's empty set.
2) (xy)z=x(yz) = xyz (for any x, y, z), (associative property in algebra).

second, mathematicians deal with symbols, not words (unless feynman means words=symbols). that doesn't suggest mathematicians don't have an "idea" of what they're doing.

what's an "idea" in mathematics? i don't know exactly, but for sure, an "idea" doesn't have to have a string of words in it. here are some examples: 1- a music phrase, 2- an image (not an idea?), 3- a potential ingredient for my soup (i intend it as flavor), 4- a strategy of reductio for a particular logical problem.

then dr. feynman adds: "... if the statements about the axiom a carefully formulated and complete enough... it's not necessary to known the meaning of these words."

is dr. feynman protesting the truth-preserving qualities of deduction?

all men are immortal
socrates is a man
therefore, socrates is immortal.

granted, the internal structure of deduction is what makes the unsound argument above valid. it isn't a problem of mathematics that deduction is isolated from physical laws. feynman should applaud that deduction is protected from the ebb & flow of reality!

i take issue with this characterization of mathematicians:
... mathematicians prepare abstract reasoning that's ready to be used if you only had a set of axioms about the real world... (1:26)
without axiomatics you would not have mathematics. are we not in agreement that math is deductive? is so, where do you expect math to mine from?

it is as if feynman resents mathematics's deductive exceptionality, a sort of independence from the "real world" (it's not true that all math is strictly insulated from reality. math begins as a practical science):
... you have to have a sense of the connection of the words (he definitely means symbols) with the real world (1:51) ... into english??
what about quantum mechanics? i don't believe one needs to translate schröedinger's equation into into --never mind english-- any language. math's symbolic language is universal. 

at some point feynman realizes that he's bending the discussion too much towards physics (by 3:37):
... and later on always turns out that the poor physicist has to come by, excuse me, when you wanted to tell me about the four dimensions ... (audience laughs).
i love feynman. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

moi a plagiarist? lies, lies, i only appropriately appropriate! (part two)

smiley jeff (as usual)

aLfrEdO tRifF

poor jeff, he now faces a second charge of plagiarism:
The wife of photographer Jean-François Bauret has accused Jeff Koons of copying one of her husband's works for the sculpture Naked (1988). Bauret died in January 2014 and was particularly known for his nudes. The sculpture is an edition of three and part of Koons's "Banality" series. It is included in the catalogue for his current retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. However, according to the museum, it was not placed on view in the show due to slight damage it experienced during transport.
koons' naked (1988):

beuret's photo (from his enfant series)

in all fairness, let's hear jeff's side:

indeed, jeff. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

moi a plagiarist?

you mean appropriationist?
i don't get it. what's the big deal? i only appropriately appropriate! i mean, there are few similarities, but look at all the differences: the NAF NAF ad has the girl wearing a jacket in the snow; in my piece it's summertime, the girl lies in the sand and has goggles on her head. and the pig wears a festive floral wreath, and there's a penguin sidekick, who looks pretty shocked with whatever is going on. don't you get it? i'm punning man, i'm punning! 

jeff koons' fait d'hiver 
when an artwork is oversimplified to fit a particular framework (the mass media) the artwork suffers the very kind of populist "dumbing down" that I have spent my entire career fighting. Through my artwork ... I have consistently endeavoured to promote knowledge and expertise over ignorance. *
(point taken. luc is more articulated than jeff).

* tuymans' defense against the charge of plagiarism in a belgian court.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

luc's true "parody" is the market's nose of wax

i'd like to pursue the idea of "parody" in luc tuymans' scandal from a different angle. 
"Of course they will now say it’s a parody, since that is the only way to escape judgement," said Van Giel’s lawyer, Dieter Delarue. "To my knowledge, Luc Tuymans is not really best known for his humorous works. This defense is more of a parody than the work itself."
not so fast:

is tuymans' "a belgian politician" in Erik Lefkovsky's collection? (checkmark)
is "a belgian politician" an appropriation of a fellow artist? (checkmark)
is "a belgian politician" part of the commerce of global art commodities? (checkmark)
has "a belgian politician" increased in (market) value after the scandal? (checkmark)
could tuymans' lawsuit (and koons' pending lawsuit) be seen as the market's "correction" of an established trend? (checkmark)

then, luc's true "parody" is the market's nose of wax. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

poor luc

the guardian went ballistic over the recent tuymans affair.
That he reused Van Giel’s photograph of a rightwing Belgian politician, taken in 2010, is not in doubt. Tuymans’s painting is both a portrait of a politician, and a painting of Van Giel’s photograph. Yet there is an enormous difference between the photograph and the painting. Scale is different. Colour is different. Shadows and highlights are shifted, recast, added to and emphasised, abbreviated and deleted.
all the spiel about scale and color and parody misses a crucial point. this is not a painting of van giel's photo,  it's rather a painting from the photo. katrin van giel has the right to question tuymans' appropriation of her work. is she not an artist as well?

(you would do the same if you were in her position).

i feel no pity for luc.

Friday, January 23, 2015

will i be this sharp when i'm eighty? (i wish)

nytimes jane gross' piece on donald hall essays after eighty. 

much to my surprise, i didn't know of hall (my usual bad, which i'm fixing).

this excerpt from thank you thank you (2012), for the new yorker:
In a question period I launched into my familiar rant about dead metaphors, asserting that when “I am glued to the chair” equals “I am anchored to the spot,” we claim that a tugboat is Elmer’s glue. This afternoon, I was obsessed with dead metaphors of disability: the crippled economy, blind ambition, deaf to entreaties, the paralysis of industry, and…
how true.

Monday, January 19, 2015

pope francis' sad contribution to freedom of expression

aLfrEdO tRifF

en route to the philippines (addressing the charlie hebdo affair) pope francis made clear that freedom of expression has limits! 
... if Dr. [Alberto] Gasbarri here, a great friend, were to say something insulting against my mother, a punch awaits him.
so, if you feel insulted, punch back

is this supposedly blasphemous caricature enough reason to kill people? 

what needs limits is not freedom of expression but islamic fundamentalism's cult of death and violence.

Friday, January 9, 2015

how do you write a poem

as to 
“how do you write a poem” 
you don’t 
you come to go to hell 
by stormy seas in a boat 
losing all companions even 
losing the shirt upon yr. back 
& darker still it is with some 
just a matter of bad blood.

percy johnston (1930–1993).

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

je suis charlie

byzantine declaration of the president of the cuban association of artists against tania bruguera is out of borat

this is the declaration of the president of the cuban association of artists UNEAC:
The famous artist Tania Bruguera has called decided to keep her course to perform this December 30 in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana. All this has happened at the margin of any Cuban institution and, as it is usually the case, the initiative has been widely disseminated by counterrevolutionary means, especially for the libel journal Diario de Cuba, which was against the statements of Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama last December 17. We've spent years in this battle against the enemies of the Revolution. We are not naive, the significance of this performance is not to be construed in any way as an artistic work. It is a political provocation, oriented in the same direction of the thesis which have spread. This action does not pursue other purpose than to stand against negotiations that give hope to many humans first eleven million Cubans. (...) Cuban writers and artists deserve to know this new maneuver and not let confused by an operation that aims to present this performance as a project of pure artistic creation. Its obvious political intent stated in the message itself an artist who does not seek anything other than an incidental role. (...) We reject any opportunistic action to try to overshadow this historic moment.

happy new year!

illustration ben sack via juxtapoz

happy new year to you all!

lately, i've posted less than usual. the reason is that i'm finishing a book of essays on aesthetics and a feuilleton (on argumentation) for my philosophy classes.

but i got the itch.

in the interim, i leave you with a cipher from robert linsley @ abstract art in the era of global conceptualism:

today all genuine art is blasphemy.

true, though not for the obvious reasons (more of this later).

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Ferguson, Missouri: Mia Leonin

Ferguson, you’re the Missouri I’ve always known,
the Missouri I was white enough to see from a safe distance –
Michael Brown shot and left for dead.
Missouri, your are the mid-west with a southern twang, home of Jim
the slave and his author Mark Twain, the betwixt and between of you,
the border-state brutality of you lives on.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

could satan be forgiven? (a mind experiment)

alFreDo tRifF

first, i count on god's omnibenevolence!

1. repentance implies change (regret of past wrongs), which is implicit in the notion of being. being is not what it is and it is what it is not (a sartrean lemma). satan hasn't changed, presumably, because he chooses not to. his "fall" rests on this premise.

2. as sartre puts it, "l'existence précède l'essence" (existence precedes essence), identity is what one finds as one lives. existence happens in time and time is change.

as we know satan is (what else?) satanic. but one cannot invoke satan's "nature" to cause satan's identity because that begs the question on satan's nature. if as it seems one's identity is what one finds as one lives, then identity cannot be transparent to itself (that why we make such poor judges of our own character), instead, identity brings forth a constant perplexity (yes, satan was as astonished at his fall as any repenting petty criminal).

let's keep in mind that satan has a prehistory: lucifer. & this prehistory would have to be rejected to rule out the above possibility (for this prehistory is what precedes his nature).

3. satan's prehistory includes lucifer's life up to the moment of the fall. what follows is satan's --still ongoing-- life. though lucifer and satan are qualitatively different, they are, numerically, one and the same.

so, if the change from lucifer to satan is possible, a change from satan into what-comes-next is possible. change is unavoidable. 

4. even in the heart-of-evil there's space for guilt (implied by satan's free will). guilt is a prelinguistic fact, it lies between advisability & obligation.

5. surely, satan's willful avoidance of the good seems to perpetuate his nature. in a sense, he constantly negates his old self (lucifer). why? i venture: out of contempt (his plan was defeated) and self-destruction (the memory of that second of lucidity before the fall must weigh heavily on him).

nonetheless, satan could entertain a different future for himself.

6. a possible repentance takes a "reversal" from his primeval rebellious act. although satan cannot become lucifer, since time & history cannot be undone, one can only speculate that this repentant angel who-was-once-satan wishes no more of his past. he's content with god's forgiveness ... even in oblivion.

7. it's not god's business to meddle into one's retraction as long as it is genuine. this is principled since the beginning of time. one may dispute satan's capacity for change, but if he is free, no one can rule out the possibility of satan's repentance.  

note: this mind experiment does not necessarily reflect the beliefs of the author.

Friday, October 31, 2014

last night's panel

photo adrienne vonmlates
the panel was on fire. i wished i'd been a panelist. being a moderator is like having your hands tied (smilet).

Monday, October 27, 2014

What are the limits of ownership? This Thursday @ 7pm @ MDC Wolfson Campus

As moderator of this panel discussion, I’d like to explore Weiwei’s smashing of an ancient urn in a performance (and Caminero’s subsequent smashing of Weiwei’s property @ PAMM).

It harks back to Weiwei’s own performativity principle: “... by shattering it we can create a new way to look at what is valuable.” Weiwei is on to something: The Western aesthetic tradition defended by Kant, Schiller, Hegel, the Romantics, and then performance art, allows for “actions” which call attention to broader political issues.

However, Maximo Caminero’s “action” @PAMM wasn’t considered as valid as Weiwei’s. Does ownership supervenes cultural patrimony? Is it public perception? i.e., Weiwei’s entitlement as political “enfant terrible” of Chinese’s contemporary art? Is there not a cultural-patrimony argument to be made against Weiwei? Recently, theorist Boris Groys suggests that art activism is a way out of what he calls “total aesthetization.” 

Is Weiwei’s “action” a form of art activism? Is it a blatant form of political anarchism? Or is it a bombastic bluff?

Panelists: Nina Johnson Milewski (Gallery Diet), Babacar M'Bow (director of MOCA), Maximo Caminero (artist). 


Monday, October 13, 2014

boris groys: in times of total aestheticization art is useless, so, become an art activist

aLfRedO tRifF

professor boris groys' warm defense of art activism for e-flux. 
The phenomenon of art activism is central to our time because it is a new phenomenon—quite different from the phenomenon of critical art that became familiar to us during recent decades. Art activists do not want to merely criticize the art system or the general political and social conditions under which this system functions. Rather, they want to change these conditions by means of art—not so much inside the art system but outside it, in reality itself. 
the sentence is red is the kind one tries to avoid writing (if one can). "central" and "new" are as close as day and night.

art activism has gotten a lot of rap from curators recently. why? in times of political crisis it can be arthoodicated as art's next great white hope. this is precisely groys' thesis. he does his best: this is a long piece with interesting detours here and there. the general argument could be sketched as a simple syllogism:

1- things need to be changed. 2- activists like to change things, 3-artists can be also activists, so, art activists can change things.

but some artists could care less for activism and surely some activists don't particularly care for art.
Art activists try to change living conditions in economically underdeveloped areas, raise ecological concerns, offer access to culture and education for the populations of poor countries and regions, attract attention to the plight of illegal immigrants, improve the conditions of people working in art institutions, and so forth. 
commendable paragraph, but see that it really belongs in the activist department.

(groys' "useful"/"useless" gaffe)

let's move to groys' art department:
Art activists do want to be useful, to change the world, to make the world a better place—but at the same time, they do not want to cease being artists. And this is the point where theoretical, political, and even purely practical problems arise. 
be "useful"? how lame. from the paragraph one sort of get this implication that artists cannot "change the world," but groys doesn't make it look as if he actually believes it. the idea is to present it as a received misconception:
In our society, art is traditionally seen as useless. So it seems that this quasi-ontological uselessness infects art activism and dooms it to failure. At the same time, art is seen as ultimately celebrating and aestheticizing the status quo—and thus undermining our will to change it.
whose "tradition"? modernity? if this was true, why is art so important for the pre- and post-revolutionary european nobility --and ruling classes of early 20th century?

1- as per groys' "quasi-ontological" point (in red) above, a reference to kantian aesthetics, it's is as obscure as xenu. kant's hypothesis is not about art being "useless" but purposeless.

2- this characterization of art as "useless" makes me think of an old reductive reading of marx's base/superstructure hierarchy in his contribution to the critique of political economy. that is to say, that art, religion, etc, are simply byproducts of any society's economic base.

3- what celebrates the status quo is not art, but the art market.

((what definition of "useless" groys refers to, we'll never know))

4- how about this oversimplified presentation of french aesthetics?
Our contemporary notion of art and art aestheticization has its roots in the French Revolution—in the decisions that were made by the French revolutionary government concerning the objects that this government inherited from the Old Regime.
if groys is right, what to make of diderot's pre-revolutionary critical writings from 1759-1769 against french rococo? or jean baptiste du bos' highly influential treatise attempting to grasp the entire enterprise of western art? groys assumes he can "cut" history's continuum with a clean theorist/knife, as if historic causation begins at the moment of the cut.

 and he needs a "clean" cut circa 1789, if his "aestheticization" is to have a revolutionary flavor to it.
There is no doubt that we are living in a time of total aestheticization. This fact is often interpreted as a sign that we have reached a state after the end of history, or a state of total exhaustion.
indeed, there's exhaustion (of over-theorizing!).

& how will the feeble masses of the world get out of this "state of total exhaustion"?
Using the lessons of modern and contemporary art, we are able to totally aestheticize the world—i.e., to see it as being already a corpse—without being necessarily situated at the end of history or at the end of our vital forces. One can aestheticize the world—and at the same time act within it.
first, "total aestheticization" is claptrap. groys' hegelian impulsion falls short of empirical evidence (theoretical meanderings can set the best theorist an unexpected trap).

what jumps for attention here is how theoretically convenient it is for groys to simultaneously totalize and exceptionalize.

i'm sorry to spoil professor groys' well-intended show:  one doesn't pretend to "change the world" by making art installations and then hoping to get collected by the very people you condemn or by cheering the art-troop base of curators and artists (who else reads e-flux? the sans-papiers? wall street investors?).

groys' exhortation is as bland as farmed tilapia.

which brings me to the beginning: if art is useless why are global billionaires running to art basel?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

quentin meillassoux's dicey theocracy

aLfrEdo tRifF

i found this sentence is an essay entitled "Potentiality and Virtuality," by french philosopher quentin meillassoux*:
... It is possible rationally to envisage that the constants (of nature) could effectively change for no reason whatsoever.
rationally? sure, but not everything that is rational needs to be possible. anyhow,

meillassoux is referring to david hume's so-called "problem,"i.e., our knowledge of contingent truths can only be grounded in our experience, but the principle of the uniformity of nature is buttressed in by inductive evidence, and the only way to justify our inductive apparatus rests on empty redundant uniformity: things have been this way so far. once you free coercion from necessity, anything can happen. meillassoux is excited with the prospect: "(it) leads us to envisage a contingency so radical that it would incorporate all the conceivable futures of the present laws." basically, anything can happen in the next 5 hours.    

so, meillassoux 1- presents his view of hume's problem, (above, in red) which amounts to dropping real necessity in favor of logical necessity. 2- leibniz's Principle of Sufficient Reason is turned upside down, vacated of its "metaphysical exigency of persistence." instead of the principle offering the best reason for the actual world, it only plays by the rules of logical possibilities (in leibnizian: anything is possible, provided that is not self-contradictory).

next, meillassoux uses the mallarmean metaphor coup de dés, to suggest that universal laws are equivalent to a loaded universal die (the implication is that laws obey a "hidden necessity"). suppose a set of possibilities where a throw of a die settles the issue: "face" means that laws are contingent. since the result is always the same, the die must be loaded. then, he uses cantor's theorem to suggest that there is no way to choose from a supposed set of stable constants vs. a set of contingencies.

there are 2 options: 1- a weak version, that is unable to demonstrate real necessity but that such presupposition of necessity is of no use to support the stability of the world. 2- a strong speculative version that maintains the contingency of such laws. this meillassoux calls the NON-ALL. 

how does it work?

not by proof, but axiomatically! you cannot do science with deduction alone, induction is essential for scientific hypotheses, which is already limited (rationally) from meillassoux's doxa. it's like he's calling the shots --like a theós-- positing (what he refers to as) "detotalizing the possible" or "... liberating time from all legal subordination" --whatever that means.

from these super-decisions we get "potentiality" ("non-actualized cases of an indexed set of possibilities under the condition of a given law") and "virtuality" ("the property of every set of cases of emerging within a becoming which is not dominated by any pre-constituted totality of possibles").**

big words, posited with theocratic authority --all, in the name of rational conceivability.

but wait, laws don't change every instant.

why not? according to meillassoux, if laws don't change capriciously, this is a proof that "the persistence of the universe seems consequentially to break all laws of probability."

is this kosher? leibniz again: something cannot both be and not be at the same time. besides, probabilities don't happen in a vacuum. probabilities are in the universe, not outside it. if physical laws seem permanent it is because permanence (i.e., order, centrality, objectivity, explanation, prediction, necessity or counterfactuality) is also a condition of this set of ALL probabilities.

as alfred whitehead tried so hard to argue against hume, maybe the reason there is such a persistence in things is a proof of at least one law: causation.

true, leibniz's Principle of Sufficient Reason has been attacked in numerous ways, which we cannot explain here. meillasoux wants the principle to support the "logical exigency of consistency." In other words, logical possibility. so, the only support of causality in philosophy is reason. but this deflationary view of reality leaves us frailly svelte: reason and only reason.

what is real if reality cannot limit reason in any way?

here is another meillassouxianism: "The refusal of the Principle of Sufficient Reason is not a refusal of reason, but the discovery of the power of chaos." but what is chaos exactly? a definition of chaos appears in After Finitude, p. 64: "... nothing would seem impossible, not even unthinkable." meillassoux is sort of going back to the cartesian mistake on conceivability, i.e., everything that is conceivable is possible (by the way, meillassoux has hinted at the idea of creation ex nihilo).

are there any limits against this meillassouxian futuristic chaos?

i propose a few prospects: noether’s theorem, pauli’s exclusion principle, einstein’s relativity, lorentz transformations.

none of which may be of interest for meillassoux; he has hinted at a devaluations of the empirical sciences (a style of neo-rationalism also proposed by his teacher badiou).
The persistence of the laws of the universe seems consequently to break all laws of probability: for if the laws are effectively contingent, it seems that they must frequently manifest such contingencies.
i take meillassoux coup de dés to suggest that there is a first throw all throws have to measure against, i.e., the big bang.

let's take an alternative route: suppose that in 2514 water turns into waTTer (i.e., a yellowish piss-like liquid that needs to be purified for human use). the bizarre shift brings the world economy to the brink of collapse. suddenly, in 2516 it all goes back to pre-waTTer status: h20! since the w-shift (as they call it) happens every two years, physicists suddenly make room for hypotheses in super-string theory, accommodating w-shift as -so far- hidden properties in dark matter, which by now are quite paradigmatic (this is more or less goodman's "grue" paradox).

(to be continued)

* laws are connected with lots of other things, such as counterfactual conditionals, causality, generality and necessity, etc. first, a law cannot be just a regularity because some regularities are accidental. so, whether something is a law cannot be an feature of it. rather, something is a law when it is part of a systematic account of the world. laws must be comprehensive, not detached members, dangling alone, unrelated to the rest of the laws. systematicity points to elegance, order, universality, centrality, objectivity, explanation and prediction, necessity or counterfactuality. ** are you a humean? then your universe is composed of discrete events, which are not connected to one another. imagine we cut a sausage into endless discrete bits. a consequence is that the idea of necessity is in the head. how? force of habit. on the other hand, science is only interested in phenomena. this means that science is interested in regularities of observable phenomena. the humean retorts that there are no laws behind the regularities. from meillassoux's essay, one gathers he agrees with hume that the fact that there are no necessary connections imply there are no laws.