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

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)

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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

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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? 

in the secular societies of the west there is a space for blasphemy and organized protests and condemnation. that's modernity's contribution to freedom and tolerance. these are the values that pope francis should defend.

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

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

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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. too reductive.

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

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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.

Monday, September 29, 2014

david carrier's faux pas on readymades

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david carrier, on jeff koons, for art critical.  

 carrier enters the stage defining readymades:
A ready-made sculpture has an essentially ambiguous, philosophically fascinating double identity: It is a work of art; it is a functional artifact, a tool. 
now he asks, how can they also be works or art?
Because ready-mades literally consist of commonplace objects, understanding why the artist selected them, when—after all—there are so many artifacts available– provokes commentary. And because our styles of toolmaking have changed drastically, the history of the ready-made provides an historical perspective on our culture.
wait, putin's personality, dog grooming and alien abduction also provoke commentary. & the history of the ready made is not why readymades have a history.

readymades are not EZ, the reason being that they thrive precisely at the limit of the made/non-made distinction --so valuable for art and art history. but that has nothing to do with why they make it to the class of art/objects (& this is not the moment to settle the issue).  

sometimes one writes as disjointed as geiger noise pouring from a radioactive box. i value carrier as a writer, having enjoyed his principles of art history writing (professor alan goldman at UM introduced me to it) and his better book on poussin.

the reason of why art is art can withstand loads of (generally redundant) deductions, however, carrier's brief cogitation on kuns & readymades is pure bunk.

Friday, September 19, 2014

the facebookian oxymoron: how to avoid self-surveillance

social media self-surveillance, 
mixed economy of uncontrolled data release, 
meta-techniques of analysis, display and presentation, 
a new form of secrecy?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

have you met the facebookian?

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did you know about this facebook experiment?
But the new era has brought some controversy with it. Professor Hancock was a co-author of the Facebook study in which the social network quietly manipulated the news feeds of nearly 700,000 people to learn how the changes affected their emotions. When the research was published in June, the outrage was immediate.
here's the study.
In an academic paper published in conjunction with two university researchers, the company reported that, for one week in January 2012, it had altered the number of positive and negative posts in the news feeds of 689,003 randomly selected users to see what effect the changes had on the tone of the posts the recipients then wrote.
the findings? 
(...) moods were contagious. The people who saw more positive posts responded by writing more positive posts. Similarly, seeing more negative content prompted the viewers to be more negative in their own posts.
this is nothing new. ortega y gasset makes a ditto point in his 1930 socio-political treatise revolt of the masses.

to simplify it for our epoch, let's introduce the facebookian, a new social species. paraphrasing ortega-gasset:
...his/her perfection is not substantial to himself/herself, he/she has a fictitious character... that's why he/she needs of others, seeking in them the confirmation of the idea he/she has of him/herself.
facebookians, in so far as they dwell the facebook/bubble, lack purpose, they --how to put it?-- drift along, which means their interaction emerges as massive thumbs-up enthused threadings, easily teased with whatever gewgwas. facebookians are average but insist in having their opinions considered. however, they're generally unwilling to accept the presumptions that underlie the marketplace of opinions.

their cogitations are like word-appetites.

let's add this caveat: not all facebook users are facebookians. some may use the platform to serve particular interests and resist (even subvert) its intended flow (but even this notion can be slippery).

don't take ortega as putting down facebookians' intellectual abilities, they are not simpleminded at all!
he/she has more intellectual capacity than in any previous epoch, but that capacity works for little, for in reality, they simply close in and refuse to use it. only he/she is capable of putting together such mix of banalities with an audacity that can only be described as ingenuous... it's not that the average person thinks to be exceptional, on the contrary, the average person imposes his/her right to averageness to all! (chapter 8)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

work hard to win the front, just before losing the rear

aLfRedO tRifF

i have to admit i'm a fan of yves klein's art. there is something unique about his messed up theology, his outlandish cerebration, his ability to reinterpret, reinvent and re-appropriate avant-garde mannerisms that's very telling of his time.

i also enjoy klein's perverted sense of humor. true, he may have pursued his art with an obliged dose of [avant-garde] "seriousness", but one would surely miss a great deal in klein's "actions" if one is looking for a pellucid correspondence between what he said and what he did -or what he did and what he meant.

so, i was baffled when, in recapping some of the existing literature on klein, i found benjamin buchloh's Klein and Poses, an article for artforum international (Vol. 33, Summer 1995). buchloh’s tone betrays ideological ressentiment:
The property claim and the administrative, legalistic approach are a measure both of his mania and of the misery to which the neo-avant-garde would advance in postwar Paris (and by no means would he be the last in the decrepitude of his art).
according to buchloh, there is a moment, after WWII, when the avant-garde could've (as in the munchausen paradox) pulled itself from its straps out of the swamp of late-capitalism: the neo-avant-garde was born!

buchloh's discussion conflates “ought” with “is” in matters of art-making. art history (as well as capitalism) has its black swans, no matter how much one milks that 20th century epochal seism known as the sacred cow, revising and reinterpreting it, in order to accommodate one's ideological paraphernalia. 
The dubious distinction of having claimed a natural phenomenon (the blue chroma of pigment, or of the sky) as private property, a brand name, and of legalizing this preposterous pretense by a signature or by the quest for a patent, is Yves Klein's. The property claim and the administrative, legalistic approach are a measure both of his mania and of the misery to which the neo-avant-garde would advance in postwar Paris (and by no means would he be the last in the decrepitude of his art). 
precisely! "inventing" certain chroma of blue pigment makes perfect sense in post world-war-two, when capitalism and technology was being driven by a new manic administrative, legalistic approach and incipient shortermism.

klein's gesture is akin to manzoni's merda d'artista:

As with Marcel Duchamp (whose legacy Klein pilfered freely, with no concern at all for the property rights of earlier avant-garde paradigms), it has sometimes been difficult not to resent the messenger for delivering the message (…) While Duchamp announced his decision to abandon art in favor of chess only late in his career (while clandestinely elaborating one of the most important works of the postwar period), Klein would from the start insist on an alternate public persona, identifying himself with a non-artistic activity.
who? duchamp, Mr. appropriator, inventor of the objet trouvé?

in which art-constitution (of a development as manifold as the avant-garde) is buchloh's "breach of morals" stipulated? 

buchloh's "who-copies-who" account reminds me of the derrida/searle debate, over the nature of "serious/unserious." so, duchamp's public-"serious" announcement of abandoning art for chess gets the german critic's blessing; not so klein's "unserious" announcement after -as buchloh puts it- "his plans for a career in judo failed."

& who cares?

i do however agree with buchloh here:
Klein is the quintessential disenfranchised European male artist of the postwar period: images of him (accompanied by a pompier) searing a "virgin" canvas with a giant gas-torch, or harassing nude models as they smear themselves with blue paint to become "living brushes" before a gaping audience, secure him a place in an art history of protagonists desperate to resuscitate the lost tools and torments of artistic virility.
and here:
For they had in mind the needs of a specific segment of France's postwar reconstruction culture: the art world's elitist bourgeois consumers, whose political leanings seem to have oscillated between a nostalgic royalism and authoritarian, antidemocratic impulses eventually absorbed by Gaullism.
and isn't "oscillation," the art-making predicament par excellence during much of the twentieth and early-twenty-first century?

i get it, buchloh is mad about klein's style of "not pretending to pretend."
Klein's ostentatious association with Rosicrucianism and with the writings of its 19th-century popularizer Max Heindel (which he acquired by mail order from the Rosicrucian headquarters in Oceanside, California), as well as his subsequent induction as a knight in the order of Saint Sebastian, have an analogue in Beuys' alignment with the anthropasophy of Rudolf Steiner.
as if symbolists, expressionists and other twentieth-century avant-garde avatars (like mondrian) did not?
Klein as haunted by a paranoid fear of the predecessor: wherever evidence of continuity or contact between his work and some earlier example was irrefutable, he effaced his traces, renewing claims for originality and authenticity that manifestly contradicted the actual conditions of his painterly practice as production and as design. Duchamp's rotoreliefs, Jean Dubuffet's eponges, Man Ray's rayo-grams, Ellsworth Kelly's monochrome paintings, Robert Rauschenberg's blueprints from 1949-51, all resurface in Klein’s opus, covered in a homogenizing layer of IKB, and with an average delay of about ten years. 

buchloh's detailed account of klein's ethical/aesthetic violations misses the point. without "sampling" there would be no hip-hop (are the DJ's from the hood to blame for recording companies' ponderous "legalistic and administrative" system?).

buchloh, the rigorous and superb critic of the neo-avantgarde cannot understand that art is an endless playing of inventions and reinventions, appropriations and re-appropriations?
Klein’s shrill claims of originality are almost a standard condition in the responses of the neo-avant-garde to its predecessors. He is almost unique, however, in his capacity to reinvest strategies and concepts of the historical avant-garde, from Duchamp through Ray to Rodchenko, with irrationality, a dimension of metaphysics, and a rabidly affirmed claim for the validity of cult and ritual, be it that of the genius artist or of the spectatorial experience.
what is to be learned from klein according to buchloh?
Among the lessons to be learned from Klein is that not a single semiotic “revolution” of the avant-garde - neither the readymade nor the monochrome, neither non-compositionality nor the indexical procedure - is secured by its own radicality, or protected against subsequent operations of recoding and reinvestment with myth. 

paradoxically, the german critic now gives klein more than any poseur would've  expected: how can a charlatan teach the avant-garde on revolutionary issues such as "radicality" or "reinvestment of myths"?

buchloh's veiled ambivalence with klein only reveals ressentiment, which at this point can be defined as theory's pyrrhic drive:

work hard to win the front, just before losing the rear

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Fountain is, and is not, a urinal

alfRedO tRifF

I've been reading Robert Hopkins' essay "Speaking Through Silence," on conceptual art.* I take issue with this paragraph:

While I might appreciate, say the audacity of Fountain on seeing it, my experience is not altered by my awareness of that feature. The urinal looks the same whether I'm engaging with audacity or not (...) The idea is that for other art, sense experience plays the role of medium of appreciation; whereas for conceptual art it provides nothing more than means of access to the work.
I take the last sentence. So, according to Hopkins, whereas my sense of horror is the medium of appreciation to Caravaggio's Judith Beheading Holofernes,

 the same feeling cannot apply in the case of Puto (2007), by Michael Rees.

Why is the "means to access(ing)" my horror NOT a sort of "medium of appreciation"?

Hopkins obsesses too much with the urinal and overlooks Fountain. He takes them to be exactly the same. They are not: Fountain is, and is not, a urinal.

My statement in red is not a logical proposition. Take it as aesthetic amplification. Ready-making automatically turns something into something else.** This act of investing instant "artness" (on urinals, or anything for that matter) is described in this letter sent to the Blind Man by Duchamp himself:
Whether Mr. Mutt with his own hands made the fountain or not has no importance. He CHOSE it. He took an ordinary article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under a new title and point of view – created a new thought for that object.
For Hopkins Caravaggio makes you feel more, instead of just, differently than Duchamp.*** For example, in A Propos of Readymades, Duchamp's goes for elimination of the experience (i.e., the dissolving of aesthetic sense):
(...) I want very much to establish is that the choice of these "readymades" was never dictated by aesthetic delectation.This choice was based on a reaction of visual indifference with at the same time a total absence of good or bad taste – in fact a complete anesthesia.
I don't know about Hopkins, but I when see Fountain I don't see a urinal. I see instant coffee. 
*"Speaking Through Silence," in Philosophy and Conceptual Art, by Peter Goldie, Elisabeth Schellekens (Oxford University Press: 2007). p. 56-58. **Remember Russell's famous 5 Minutes Hypothesis?  ***Keep in mind that different styles may demand different analyses. The ways in which we apprehend objects though conceptual cerebration is different from that of more traditional forms of representation. Piero Manzoni's Merda d'artista is not apprehended in the same way than Monet's Déjeuner sur l'herbe.

Monday, August 18, 2014

why pamela druckerman (a native miamian) still deserves credit for her inane article about miami for the new york times

alFreDo tRiFf

from the ny times, written by ex-patriate miamian pamela druckerman:
MIAMI even has a homegrown dialect. Young Latinos — regardless of whether they even know Spanish — speak English with a Spanish twang. To non-Miamians, they sound like extremely fluent immigrants. Phillip M. Carter, a linguist at Florida International University, says that when young born-and-bred Miamians visit the rest of America, or even Boca Raton, people often ask them what country they’re from. “Miami English” is also proof that a city can be international but not cosmopolitan. People typically don’t realize they’re speaking a dialect unless they leave Miami, Mr. Carter says.
are young latinos to blame for speaking english with a spanish twang?

does druckerman know that english is considered a pluricentric language. i.e., that language and ethnic identity are essentially divergent? if so, english is more like a heterogeneous socio-phonetic universe.

what is the english language if not an amazing pottage of germanic, french, latin, greek, and whatnot?

and what, if not ethnic bias, would predispose an american from elsewhere, listening to a native miamian speaker, to assume that she/he is from a different country?

druckerman is happy to cash in an appeal to authority by a linguist at FIU by the name of phillip carter, whose pseudo-academic dictum is as thin as air:
“Miami English” is also proof that a city can be international but not cosmopolitan.
here's the meaning of "cosmopolitan":
1. Pertinent or common to the whole world: an issue of cosmopolitan import.
2. Having constituent elements from all over the world or from many different parts of the world: the ancient and cosmopolitan societies of Syria and Egypt.
3. So sophisticated as to be at home in all parts of the world or conversant with many spheres of interest: a cosmopolitan traveler.
would you expect modigliani, picasso, kandinsky, rilke, max ernst & joyce (all foreigners) to speak french in the 1920's with a piccardian twang?

oh, but 1920's paris is, in fact, the paradigm of "cosmopolitan."

what is this distinction between "international" and "cosmopolitan" that doesn't beg the question on ethnicity?

& with "cosmopolitan" & "international" being so close, why is miami not "cosmopolitan"?

i bet druckerman favors definition #3. above: miami lacks sophistication.


at this point, druckerman offers a no-brainer: miami's unequality.
Most locals also don’t seem bothered that Miami is one of America’s most unequal cities, with lots of very poor people living close to rich ones. Miami’s have-nots are easy to ignore, since — if they’re not cleaning your house or parking your car — you just drive past them.
it's clear that in most cosmopolitan cities, reach and poor live pretty close, next, i'll gloss over druckerman's unwarranted inferences & vapid satire. however, she has a point: miami has lots of poor people.

but that nothing to do with cosmopolitanism. for instance, oxnard-thousand oaks-ventura, california, population 822,000 (with a 72% of well-to-do whites), is the sixth most affluent city in america, but does that make it a cosmopolitan destination?

since druckerman cannot successfully establish the rich/cosmopolitan connection, she is left with an even worse conjecture:

miami is --generally-- stupid.
And while there are some thinkers scattered around town, Miami is overrun with lawyers, jewelry designers and personal trainers, all trying to sell services to one another.
while druckerman conveys very little cogitation in her article, we should marvel that this native miamian can write such a goofy piece for one of the best newspapers in the world and get away with it.

go girl! 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

if being a young farmer in america makes no sense, my diet automatically becomes a political issue


being a young farmer in america makes no sense. that's bern smith's conclusion in his article for the nytimes. 
The dirty secret of the food movement is that the much-celebrated small-scale farmer isn’t making a living. After the tools are put away, we head out to second and third jobs to keep our farms afloat. Ninety-one percent of all farm households rely on multiple sources of income.
a sobering statistics. when over dinner, people praise the merits of organic or slow food, rarely the discussion veers from the aesthetic merits & flavor & nutrition of the food to who grows the food.  
On top of that, we’re now competing with nonprofit farms. Released from the yoke of profit, farms like Growing Power in Milwaukee and Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., are doing some of the most innovative work in the farming sector, but neither is subject to the iron heel of the free market. Growing Power alone received over $6.8 million in grants over the last five years, and its produce is now available in Walgreens stores. Stone Barns was started with a $30 million grant from David Rockefeller. How’s a young farmer to compete with that?
we're generally blind to our food provenance. is it ignorance, bad faith or both?
... in urban areas, supporting your local farmer may actually mean buying produce from former hedge fund managers or tax lawyers who have quit the rat race to get some dirt under their fingernails. We call it hobby farming, where recreational “farms” are allowed to sell their products at the same farmers’ markets as commercial farms. It’s all about property taxes, not food production. As Forbes magazine suggested to its readers in its 2012 Investment Guide, now is the time to “farm like a billionaire,” because even a small amount of retail sales — as low as $500 a year in New Jersey — allows landowners to harvest more tax breaks than tomatoes.
(forbes' suggestion makes my skin crawl)
It’s not the food movement’s fault that we’ve been left behind. It has turned food into one of the defining issues of our generation. But now it’s time for farmers to shape our own agenda. We need to fight for loan forgiveness for college grads who pursue agriculture; programs to turn farmers from tenants into landowners; guaranteed affordable health care; and shifting subsidies from factory farms to family farms. 
if what smith discusses is true, we have a big problem. we need not just good food, but more sustainable farming. food production should not destroy the very planet we're trying to feed. of course we understand the adaptability of the market, a three-pointed vector that includes agribusiness, factory farming & the so called intensive crop farming (and the problems associated with water conservation, pollution, food prices, government subsidies, etc).

smith's article hits me with its factual force. i feel i've lowered my guard & once you lower your guard you become an accomplice (incidentally, complicity is more widespread than we're prepared to accept: see it as a befuddlement between seudo-enlightenment and social anomie).

what's the meaning of "slow" or "organic" if it's produced from the top down & financed by big farm?

in the last few years our food has gotten better, people are changing eating habits, but the food message is coming from the wrong source. 90% of independent farmers don't have the means to underwrite the the food publicity ads we urbanites read.

this is the picture: america's urban poor are hooked to junk, which leaves the dwindling middle class and the rich full access to "better" food (let's assume now that some of our better food comes from big farm and their interests posing as "sustainable"). by the way, the mantra that better food is not necessarily more expensive is a discussion the poor will not understand as long as they are socially conditioned to eat poorly. the asymmetry in food consumption reflects the chronic dysfunction of our system.

so, i'm prepared to connect two apparently disparate vectors: if being a young farmer in america makes no sense anymore, my diet automatically becomes a political issue.