Sunday, December 26, 2010

Emoticolor chart

Red --excitement, strength, sex, passion, speed, danger.
Blue -- (listed as the most popular color) trust, reliability, belonging, coolness.
Yellow --warmth, sunshine, cheer, happiness
Orange -- playfulness, warmth, vibrant
Green -- nature, fresh, cool, growth, abundance
Purple --royal, spirituality, dignity
Pink -- soft, sweet, nurture, security
White --pure, virginal, clean, youthful, mild.
Black --sophistication, elegant, seductive, mystery
Gold -- prestige, expensive
Silver -- prestige, cold, scientific

erotic fantasy

Duncan Quinn Suit-for-Men Ad, (2009).

i.e., the viewer "safely" looks for a fantasy which may function as a personally acceptable diversion.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Product analysis of media-commodities (post-Art Basel)

The position that an epoch occupies in the historical process can be
determined more strikingly from an analysis of its inconspicuous
surface-level expressions than from that epoch's judgments about
itself.-- Sigfried Kracauer, The Mass Ornament, (1927).

  • commodity fetishism (check mark)
  • marketability (check mark)
  • infoaesthetic saturation (3.25), 
  • metaphoric reification (implicit)
  • mcdonaldization index (7.8)
  • conceptual layering (2.3)
  • prank index (unsaturated)
  • infotainment index (9.6)
  • celebutante factor (9.5)
  • branding potential (8.2)
  • commodity fetishism (check mark)
  • marketability (check mark)
  • infoaesthetic saturation (3.8)
  • metaphoric reification (obvious)
  • mcdonaldization index (4.2)
  • conceptual layering (2.5)
  • prank index (saturated)
  • infotainment index (3.35)
  • celebutante factor (2.7)
  • branding potential (3.6)
In a world which really is topsy-turvy, the true is a moment of the false.-- Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle (1967).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wiki-leaks and the empty archives

From Yoani Sánchez, the laureate Cuban blogger, about Wiki-leaks:
What has happened in the last days (with Wiki-leaks) will significantly change the way governments manage and process information (and also the ways us citizens deal with it). Make no mistake, authoritarians from all over the world are taking notice. They are thinking how to better obliterate their orders to silence, suppress or kill. On the other hand, they've always being ahead of the game. If not, where is the "declassified" Cuban file with the name of the individual who gave the order to shoot three men who hijacked a Cuban ship in 2003 to emigrate to the United States? Where is the memo authorizing the psychological torture directed against poet Heberto Padilla, which still weighs on the conscience of many? Which drawer, shelf or file of the Cuban Interior Ministry has the signature of the person who ordered the sinking of the "13th of March" Tugboat where 70 people (including women and children) died, capsized by a Cuban Coast Guard?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hacktivists of cyberspace: Unite!

Europeans criticize fierce American reaction to the leaks.

The hackivists threatens more attacks!

Operation "Payback" against MasterCard and Visa.

 Who is Anon? Seemingly:
There is no real command structure in the group, the London-based spokesman said, while most of its members are teenagers who are "trying to make an impact on what happens with the limited knowledge they have". But others are parents, IT professionals and people who happen to have time – and resources – on their hands.
From the Internet, a fragment of Anon manifesto:
Anonymous must work as one. Anonymous is everyone and none. You are. I am. Everyone is. Anonymous is humanity when the gloves come off. Anonymous is legion and its deeds are legend. Anonymous is infinity divided by 0 = Syntax error. Anonymous is not a person, nor is it a group, movement or cause: Anonymous is a collective of people with too much time on their hands, a commune of human thought and useless imagery. A gathering of sheep and fools, assholes and trolls, and normal everyday netizens. An anonymous collective, left to its own devices, quickly builds its own society out of rage hate.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Julian Assange detained in Britain for state sex offenses

The article in the New York Times: "Officers from the Metropolitan Police extradition unit have this morning arrested Julian Assange on behalf of the Swedish authorities on suspicion of rape."

Secrets of the state make for a body (which has been violated).
The state presses charges against the raper.
Hence, sex becomes a matter of the state.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Update: Wiki-leaks hacked: comedy or tragedy?

Alfredo Triff

If the government knows that the willingness of people to give up rights in order to fight terrorism is proportional to their level of fear, then it’s obvious that we should expect more fear.-- Hans Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations, 1954

Wiki-leaks has delivered another digital coup. Yet, compared with the previous Iraq Log,1 these memos -with detailed characterizations of world leaders' behaviors- seem out of a libretto from la commedia dell'arte. We learn that Libya's Qaddafi has vertigo and "cannot travel" without his "voluptuous blonde" nurse from Ukraine. Mr. Putin, is an "alpha dog" who behaves like "Batman," while Medvedev "plays Robin." Sarkozy is referred to as an "emperor with no clothes," "thin-skinned" and "authoritarian." Germany's Angela "teflon" Merkel "avoids risks and is rarely creative," and so on. American diplomats are running for cover (there's much foreign trepidation and Schadenfreude).

 Honoré Daumier, At the Theater, (1860-64). 

Public reactions to the leak are as faithful to the script as you may expect: Politicians of all persuasions portray Wiki-leaks as the monster. Republicans like Palin want to hunt Asange "with the same urgency we pursue Taliban leaders." Fox personality O'Reilly wishes the leakers were executed. Congressman Peter King avers that the website should be declared a foreign terrorist organization (shouldn't these libertarian conservatives distrust government's reach and defend the people's freedom of expression?).

Then, Hilary Clinton's response is -predictably?- surprisingly conservative! Our government feels betrayed, ridiculed. Even some progressive thinkers question Wiki-leaks' ulterior motives. A liberal commentator declares on the radio that "America has lost its credibility." In contrast, journalists all over the world support the mission of the website. They agree that the most insidious effect of our present political and economic crisis is the undermining of public opinion (the press is dying by slow strangulation).2

Keep in mind that politics is a constant struggle among different actors (groups) pursuing conflicting desires on public issues. Then there is power. And right now our military power has become one dimensional. This hegemony is the greatest danger. The paradox of American power is that it is too great to be challenged by any other state, yet not great enough to solve problems such as global terrorism and nuclear proliferation. It is as if due to a society forcefully laid open by the pressure of globalizing forces, power and politics drift ever further in opposite directions. By overreaching itself, the system's resources become over-extended and it declines as a result.

The Pentagon, Washington, DC.

Politics as "morals"

The individuals portrayed in these cables recall Northrop Frye's Theory of Comedy.3 We're not dealing with heroes, but rather defeated, stereotyped characters. We live in a skewed, absurd world filled with unforeseen danger, social apprehension and hypocrisy, where unscrupulous characters win and the honest lose. Yet, one doesn't get a sense of impending doom but instead, an ordinary this-is-the-way-it-is media debriefing. Is this not a bit manipulative? 4  

What's going on? Politics is "presented" by politicians as guided by morals, but it's actually a realm of means-to-end, which is why Machiavelli counsels that in politics, one must suspend what's right for what's expedient.5 

Politics as Law
Legal experts weigh in: Wiki-leaks has stolen documents, which constitute a criminal act (as if legal arguments cannot be overridden by moral considerations, such as transparency to the public and coherence in foreign policy). As Norman Solomon suggests, "the recent mega-leaks are especially jarring because of the extreme contrasts between the U.S. government's public pretenses and real-life actions." Of course the legal reach gets intractably complicated: there is anonymity, tracking down violations, locating the offender, claiming jurisdiction over such offender (which brings forth geography, problem with mirror siting, etc, etc.).

Is Wiki-leaks not a counterbalance in an environment where the media plays an "opiates of the masses" role, subsidized by political interests? 

Politics as comedy

One should resist looking at this as a showdown between good and evil. It's too simple. True, at one local level, some people feel they have to oppose an unjust and secretive system -while others feel betrayed by it. At a more systemic level, Wiki-leaks transcends the issue of freedom of expression vs. national security.6 Like any organism, whatever comes its way, the system tries to adapt. In this case, the balance lies between two opposite hypothesis: The Slippery Slope and the Weimar Hypothesis. In the first scenario, the government trims some rights, which raises little alarm at the time (e.g., Guantanamo and torture under G.W. Bush's reign). Then a few other rights are curtailed (wiretapping, public coercion against opposing the wars, etc). Soon, more rights are lost and gradually the entire institutional structure on which democracy rests tumbles down the slope with nobody able to stop it. In the second hypothesis, we resemble the Weimar Republic of the 1920's, which lost its legitimacy and opened the door to a tyrannical government due to its woefully insufficient responses to major public needs.

Let's not ignore that Internet technology offers the potential for more liberating forms of social organization. Capitalism and Marxism are predicated on the belief in technological progress and its potential for social improvement (unfortunately, far from fostering social change, technological developments are generally absorbed by the system and actually reinforce existing social structures). Communication and information have two sides. They provide a collection of "facts" but at the same time they become a tool for social management.

Isn't information a form of cultural and political domination?

Facebook Ad. Facebook is a patent tool of social management. It already has the potential to be used as a form of commerce!

Wiki-leaks presents a way for the system to purge itself in order to find an ideal equilibrium between its internal and external pressures. First, the leak is received as an unexpected, undesired event. Then we get all sort of reactions: surprise, incongruity, conflict, and the aftereffect of opposite expectations. A comedy of errors, all in synch with the part!

What if the leak's unmitigated public attention works in favor of the American policies the leak denounces?

Some have already observed that, compared with their American counterparts, the tone of the Arab leaders on the Iran problem (as it appears in the memos) "seems pretty jingoistic." David Rothkopf writes in The Financial Times that the Wiki-leaks information shows "the formidable courage and capabilities of many US diplomats." As you may expect from comedy's ethos, the memos already have the redeeming effect of producing more happiness than suffering. The endless repetition of the cables in all the major papers of the world ensure the desired mirroring didactic effect.

This recent development about Chinese hacking of US intelligence and China's Communist Party's obsession with Google proves my point. The leaks are "out there," re-processed, regurgitated and ultimately re-assimilated by the system (and its omnipresent media) in the form of analysis, predictions, forecasts, etc, etc, etc.

Or these recent "Middle East cables," which cannot be more favorable to the system. As fear-sounding bites, they justify the system's entrenchment. It looks legitimate, because fear is generated not from within the system (as an excuse), but from its nemesis (as a veracious source).

Thanks to Wiki-leaks, fear sounds not appallingly alarming, but truthful.7

Let's wait and see how the initial shock gives way to more stable, optimistic, assessments. The system will end up in a better place than it started at. Whether that's "really" better is another thing.
1Actually, this dump is no Pentagon Papers either. What's different is the new technology. At the moment of publishing this post, one cannot access the Wiki-leaks link. Has the site been hacked? The New York Times seems the best second choice. 2 The inference is not that citizens ought to refuse to sacrifice individual freedom on behalf of measures proposed in the name of national security, but rather that any sacrifice should be made knowingly, with full consciousness of what is being given up, and why. It should always be necessary to make a positive case for any limitation upon individual freedom, and also for the specific method to be employed in administering the limitation. By viewing these dangerous possibilities in advance, we can reasonably hope to prevent or mitigate their occurrence. The picture projected is what might happen, not what must happen.  3Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism, Four Essays (Princeton University Press, 2000).  4 Spanish El País follows the New York Times style of parading the different memos on its global front page. French Le Monde (in French style) presents a photo-series ridiculing world leaders. Wiki-leaks can be seen as a unique phenomenon of the digital era. Wiki-leaks most dramatic moment so far is when the site revealed the so called Iraq War Logs, detailing information that the American people didn't know: 109,032 deaths in Iraq (comprised of 66,081 'civilians'; 23,984 'enemy' (those labeled as insurgents); 15,196 'host nation' (Iraqi government forces) and 3,771 'friendly' (coalition forces). 5In other words, "moral pathos resides in a situation, not where the end justifies the means, but where the end dictates means of a type which renders both the wholly good and the wholly evil superfluous."  Sheldon Wolin, Politics and Vision, (Princeton University Press, 2004) p. 87. 6 Most intelligence experts agree that these memos are not "NOT DIS" information, which would be really compromising.  7 From the NYTimes article cited above: "The documents are filled with secret government intelligence on possible terrorist-financing plots, like the case of a Somali preacher who was reportedly touring Sweden, Finland and Norway last year to look for money and recruits for the Shabab, a militant group in Somalia, or that of a Pakistani driver caught with about $240,000 worth of Saudi riyals stuffed behind his seat. One memo even reported on a possible plot by the Iranians to launder $5 billion to $10 billion in cash through the Emirates' banks as part of a broader effort to "stir up trouble" among the Persian Gulf states, though it was not clear how much of the money might be channeled to militants." See that the New York Times is publishing information which -independently of their veracity- justifies the policies of the system.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The star of the art firmament market (fill-in the blanks)

More art is made across the world, by many more people than ever before. The state of contemporary art has become a phenomenon of global scale.-- Okwui Enwezor's interview (April, 2009).
Alfredo Triff

Without a doubt, the _____ is our new hero. A glib, fast, committed, skillful character of the art firmament uniquely trained to unravel the most intricate conceptual codes and aesthetic paradoxes. He or she can bring together east, west, north and south, within a single cultural bubble. This new global translator is autarchic, idealistic and heroic. Behold, the ______!

At the same time, the presentation of art is more dependent on the _______ than ever. There seems to be a consensus that when art from one culture is shown in another, it cannot speak for itself.*

Brenson's idea of culture, above, suffers from what I will call "Broodthaers' symptom,"1 an obsessive/compulsive behavior exhibited by ______ -as well as museum directors- to theorize and produce strategies to control what Enwezor calls "the state of contemporary art."2  Notice Brenson's vague ethnological drift, as if "contemporary art" had a mission to propagate and become assimilated by the diverse ethnic groups of world (in Hollywood parlance, think of the curator as a post-modern, globe-trotter, smartly-dressed Indiana Jones Jr.).

The 21st-century ______ works in a supremely globalized reality.-- Hans Ulrich Olbrist, interview for The Telegraph, October 2010).

The increasing centrality of the _______ has also been reinforced by the emergence of installation as the standard form in which contemporary artists around the world are working. By so doing, however, they implicitly acknowledge the _______'s inescapable authority.

Installation, for example, is a unique "cultural" product of the West,3 an ideal medium for late-Twentieth Century art market. How come? Installation contains the right opacity (i.e., "it turns human subjectivity into 3-D commodities"4), it helps build conspicuous urban mystique and is as big as the house containing it.  So, Brenson's ______ is not translating much "between cultures," as between audiences and institutions.

Installations involve selecting and arranging in a space often shared by visitors. But the apparent complexity of labor is a red herring as far as presentation goes. Installations are always pre-presented, presupposed within a conceptual transitive framework:

translation ---> legitimation ---> acquisition

To which extent is the increasing "opacity" of contemporary art a means to enhance contemporary art's translatability thus rendering it more marketable?

Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev: You want to punish me because I'm a famous _______... who cares about that?  A "performance" with Nedko Solakov.

And the inevitable solitude of the________ throughout the development of their exhibitions, despite the teams they assemble, suggests to me that their situations are not unlike those of many of the most significant artists of the twentieth century, whose abilities to bring something necessary into the world required not only vision but also an inexhaustible supply of belief, focus, resilience, and nerve.

Sorry to spoil the picture. This heroic image of the lonesome "artist/_____," existing without others, -as in Christov-Bakargiev's video performance, above- looks like a serious case of Broodthaers' symptom disguised as (barely tolerable) performative publicity stunt.
*All red quotes taken from "The Curator's Moment", by Michael Brenson, (Art Journal, Vol. 57, Issue 4. Winter, 1998). 1 In the fall of 1968, Marcel Broodthaers opened his Museum of Modern Art, Department of Eagles, Section of the Nineteenth Century on the ground floor of his house:

 Marcel Broodthaers' Museum of Modern Art, (1968).

"The Museum opened with a press conference and a party of art-world dignitaries and friends, at which Broodthaers gave the inaugural speech. In what can be considered a 'conceptual performance,' he not only usurped the role of museum director and curator but that of press agent and caterer as well. His art, then, was a parody of artistic packaging." Irving Sandler, Art of the Postmodern Era: From the Late 1960s to the Early 1990s, (Icon Editions, 1996) p. 95.  2 From the point of view of the market, it's obvious that exhibiting culture is a form of market control.

Photo op from the Department of Eagles: Jeffrey Deitch and Jeff Koons, (2009).

Art consultant/promoter/curator/ubergallerist Jeffrey Deitch discloses: "The market place has become so dynamic, and the media coverage of the market place is now getting so good, that the market place itself is creating the critical consensus ...You have now ten thousand people following these auction results very closely, even artists. The market place is now communicating in a broader, more specific way than art magazines and art critics (my red italics)." Gilda Williams, "Interviews with Jeffrey Deitch", Flash Art (Summer 1990) p. 169. Deitch's bombastic and candid declaration reveals why the market owns the present consensus about art.  3Late 1960's-early 1970's installation art, as well as body art and minimal art were assimilated by the market. The proof is James Monte and Marcia Tucker's first museum show of postminimal art (as early as 1969), Anti-Illusion: Procedures/Materials, at the Whitney Museum. Because postminimal works were not objects, they were generally ephemeral. For many artists with countercultural sympathies the documentation of these ephemera did not constitute art per se, (this is why they had turned to "process", earth art, installation, etc). They did not want to create art commodities. Irving Sandler makes an interesting point of how -even- postminimal art became marketable:
Lucy Lippard observed, that their refusal to produce salable objects would subvert the art market (although she later acknowledged that this attempt had failed). In the end the documentation was accorded the status of art object. Indeed, much of impermanent postminimal art seemed to have been made because of the documentation it yielded: It was made to be photographed. As Nancy Foote wrote: "It's ironic that an art whose generating impulse was the urge to break away from the collectible object (and hence the gallery/collector/artbook syndrome) might through an obsession with the extent and quality of its documentation, have come full circle.
Irving Sandler, p. 24.  4 Giacinto di Pietrantonio, "Images, Things and Participation," Parkett 50/51, 1997.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Aesthetic therapy

In a recent study, 70% of people said they like a painting better if they see it presented at a prestigious gallery.

If they think they like them, they possibly like them. Statistically speaking, people who like a given painting presented at a prestigious gallery are more likely to be committed in a relationship.

Are you aesthetically challenged? Improve your deficiency in three steps:

1. Go out on a Wynwood Art Walk night.
2. Visit a prestigious gallery and tell yourself: "I like these paintings."
3. Share your positive feelings with someone next to you.

You'll feel immediately -aesthetically- gratified!

Art resistance

Three Models for Resisting the Capitalist Art System, by Gene Ray, at Scurvy Tunes.

Miroslav Tichy

MT, Untitled.

MT, Untitled.

MT, Untitled.

MT, Untitled.

Miroslav Tichy: A photographer who from the 1960s to 1985 took thousands of surreptitious pictures of women in his hometown of Kyjov in the Czech Republic, using homemade cameras constructed of cardboard tubes, tin cans and other at-hand materials. Most of his subjects were unaware they are being photographed. A few struck beauty-pageant poses when they sighted him, perhaps not realizing that the parody of a camera he carried was real (taken from Wikipedia).

This is MT's self-made camera.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

What Obama?

Geandy Pavón, Folding Obama, 2010.

A Lincolnesque figure who would bring national unity -without a civil war?

A Clinton, who campaigned to "put people first" -as he had put it- but failed to take bold steps and ended up triangulating political differences?

A Kennedy, who inspired millions but got dragged down by conventional assumptions about American power in the world, as evidenced by the Vietnam War and Bay of Pigs?

An FDR running a conservative campaign but responding to the times with dramatic reforms?

A one-term president?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

attitudes on the move (armonia cronometrica)

anti vitali
di putride sonnolenze.
svolazzare a spirali -terra terra-
come farfalloni che si disfanno.
sacrifici d'insetti.
armonia cronometrica
della decomposizione.
bollore d'accoppiamenti profondi
come un ronzar febbrile di falene.
le lune piene -le lune galleggianti
sull' erbe scapigliate-
come pallon volanti
su su pel cielo sono montate-
vuote -senza splendore-

vital cloaks
of putrid somnolence.
flying around in spirals -near the ground-
like butterflies demolishing themselves.
insect sacrifices.
chronometric harmony
of decomposition.
excitement of intense couplings
like a feverish whirring of moths.
full moons -moons floating
above the rumpled grass-
like flying balloons
they have climbed up in the sky-
without splendor.-- Bino San Miniatelli (circa 1929).
Bino San Miniatelli ( 1896-1984 ) was a prolific poet, novelist, and short story writer who founded the review Noi. Of mixed Dada and Futurist tendencies, the journal -published in Rome- featured numerous contributions by the Zurich group. This is an excerpt from his poem "Concime" ("Manure").

Monday, November 1, 2010

Knowledge surplus?

Alfredo Triff

What is the problem of knowledge? Not that we don't know. But that we know too much. The recent financial crisis happened not because of ignorance, but because a surplus in knowledge (example: deregulation and its banking instruments, such as derivatives, being applied to the economy with insufficient data).

The received idea is that knowledge goes hand in hand with the problems and challenges of the present (i.e., the Theory of Relativity was discovered against the background of Maxwell's electromagnetic equations). In a sense knowledge is context-bounded.

Welcome to the hall-of-mirrors of knowledge!

Given a problem, we figure we need "new" knowledge to deal with it. It follows that the "new" knowledge ignores the context of the "old" knowledge (a structural and political fault): A battle of survival, a sort of tectonic struggle between both knowledge/versions. For a time the prevailing knowledge works fine, then something falters. The breakthrough is that the "new" knowledge actually didn't stand up to the problem. We loose faith, and look back. Now the "old" knowledge seems to make sense, only the context has shifted (did it really?). We try to re-revise our knowledge, but there's no way back. What we've missed is not about knowledge. Yet, there's only piled up neglected knowledge to come back to.* We have no choice but to produce more "new" knowledge. 

Isn't it obvious that we have accumulated enough?

Moreover, being that "problem" itself is a knowledge/category, what if there was no  "problem" to begin with? 
*Kurt Gödel's undecidability theorem starts from a similar paradox. Gödel constructed a formula that proved that no system (including explanatory systems) can be both comprehensive and consistent, for in striving to be comprehensive it would have to account for itself, and it cannot do that and be consistent.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

You rely on us to deliver quality food, and we take that responsibility seriously

(Harry Whopper, via Arte callejero).

Whopperation McDonalds: Self-service is cost efficient. You (the customer) pick up your order and many clear up afterwards. The layout of the restaurant emphasizes your role. Prominent bins for disposal signal what is expected of you. The system choreographs your behavior and ensures the scripted interactions with staff. Consumer expectation of satisfaction is lowered as the system delivers predictable quality at a standardized level of acceptability. Quantity gets conflated with quantity. Choice is narrowed, despite the appearance of variety.

Have a nice day!

Sunday, October 17, 2010


A system of established auTHOrity can be characterized by the disproportion of the results obtained with the personal authority of the men who operate it. Indeed, I shall have occasion to note that the AUThority required to work one's way up within the system is not only much less than that which would be necessary for direct compliance, but also may be different in kind. A system of well-established authority can be run by men of mediocre authorITY: indeed, I would be tempted to stress that it requires such men, because its multiplier effect is so great as to make it very dangerous in the hands of a man with huge personal autHORrity. It is therefore not unreasonable that there should be a tendency to recruit, into anciently established systems of aUTHority, individuals with decreasing ability to move people on their own account. But in time this slowly rots the collective authORIty of the system, while on the other hand competing AuthotiTY rears its head outside the system: these combined phenomena finally result in a violent change.

Friday, October 15, 2010

now, i wanna be your dog

In the United States of this day the first procedure consists of calling upon the President, or upon Senators and Congressmen, and putting the case for the decision. The second procedure consists of mobilizing people who 'have the ear' of these important people and may bring up the matter. The same methods can be practiced in a despotic regime. The despot is seldom inaccessible: the case can be put to him; also he lives surrounded by courtiers, and these may mention the request at favorable moments. Of course some requests have no chance at all of being listened to by the despot: but the same is true in any regime.--The Pure Theory of Politics, Bertrand Juvenel.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Is Theory the key to everything?

I. I will publish nothing, favorable or unfavorable, about books or articles I have not read through at least once.
II. I will try to publish nothing about any book or article until I have understood it, which is to say, until I have reason to think that I can give an account of it that the author himself will recognize as just.
III. I will take no critic's word, when he discusses other critics, unless he can convince me that he has abided by the first two ordinances. I will assume, until a critic proves otherwise, that what he says against the playing style of other critics is useful, at best, as a clue to his own game. I will be almost as suspicious when he presents a "neutral" summary and even when he praises.
IV. I will not undertake any project that by its very nature requires me to violate Ordinances I-III.
V. I will not judge my own inevitable violations of the first four ordinances more leniently than those I find in other critics.
Wayne Booth, Hippocratic Oath for the Pluralist, Theory's Empire.

"Part of me suspects I'm a loser, and the other part of me thinks I'm God Almighty"

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Donald Duck discovers Glenn Beck in "Right Wing Radio Duck"

Via Boing Boing.

definitions are hazardous, things modified by human understanding, subject to varieties of complications and changeable, as experiences advances knowledge or accidents influences caprice

And I will venture to lay it down, as the first Maxim and Cornerstone of this our Art, that whoever would excel therein must studiously avoid detest and turn his head from all the ideas, ways and workings of that pestilent Foe to Wit and Destroyer of Figures, which is known by the name of Common Sense. His business must be to contrast the true Gôut de travers, and to acquire a most happy, uncommon, unaccountable Way of Thinking.

Alexander Pope, "Peri Bathous."

Thursday, September 30, 2010

I know the deafness of white ears

I am sambo, the shine,
In the St. Regis Iridium,
The Cotton Club,
The Terrace Room of the New Yorker.

I am the nigger, the black son of a bitch,
From the Florida Keys to Caribou, Maine;
From the Golden Gate
To the Statue of Liberty.

I know the deafness of white ears,
The hate of white faces,
The venom of white tongues,
The torture of white hands.

Melvin Tolson, A Gallery of Harlem Portraits (University of Missouri Press, 1979).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Is the near-absence of capitalism in the realm of artistic creation justified?

Jeff Koons, Michael Jackson and Bubbles, 1988.

Could there be an incompatibility in principle between the accumulation of capital and artistic creation?

Sweatshop, Mexico, 2000's.

Oliver Tinland ponders:
In literature, the observation scarcely changes: if companies emerge on the literary scene at all, it is most often in the guise of exotic caricature. Distorted by hyperbole or allegory, reduced to the level of stage decor, the world of capitalism has a hard time earning its stripes as literary subject matter, as most writers cheerfully hand over to social scientists the task of raising the opaque and overwhelming presence of Das Kapital to a level of transparent meaning. Could there be an incompatibility in principle between the accumulation of capital and artistic creation? -- Queen's Quarterly. Volume: 114. Issue # 3, 2007.
Why are factories, companies, and stock exchanges not worthy candidates of artistic transfiguration?

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, The Burj Dubai (finished 2010).

Is art's mission to "aestheticize" capital, or become its critical reflection?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Limits of terror

Nuanced post on revolution from Scurvy Tunes:
Today renewed debates over communism are flaring on the edges of academe; these at least throw into relief once again the wager and stakes of a serious and strategic anti-capitalism. The hypothetical return to communism may work as a provocation and stimulus to thought, but whether this tarnished legacy really offers a vector of leftist renewal is more dubious. The Communist Parties of the early Third International – before the self-mutilating corruptions of Stalinism and the decimating attacks of fascism – constituted a credible challenge to capitalist power.

But these organizations in the event did not suffice: the world revolution had stalled by 1923, and the Parties discredited themselves to the point that, fifty years on, the exploited had abandoned them and their marginalized splinter formations in decisive exodus. The collapse of Soviet-style ‘really existing socialism’ helped to fuel a decade of neo-liberal triumphalism and encouraged gloating post histoire pronouncements about the death of revolution. The reasons for the demise of Soviet imperialism are complex and debatable, and the subsequent resurgence of Russian imperialism and the rapid rise of Chinese state capitalism do not make the task of critical interpretation any easier. What these restructurings portend in the long run for other models of socialism remains to be seen. But the defeat, over the course of the last century, of the revolutionary hopes released by the Russian Revolution at the very least puts in question the conception of revolution that took the Bolshevik vanguard as its model.
Though Ray’s analysis, above, is historical, he tries to escape historicism with this pronouncement: "The idea of revolution, however, is not bound to this historical model and is not compromised by its defeat."  If not historically, can revolution be redeeming at all?  

Saturday, September 18, 2010

MOMO's ingenious art feat

The pink geometric path zigzagging the map of lower Manhattan is a 2006 pavement graffiti by MOMO, first brought to notice by Best Roof Talk Ever and published today in the New York Times.

This seemingly simple, yet puzzlingly complex feat gives one faith in the possibility of art. Not art as mimicry, event and self-aggrandizement, but art as a form of ingenuity, originality, anonymity and conceptual savvy. 

How did MOMO do it? BRTE explains:
After requesting a meetup, MOMO told my friend that he accomplished this task by fixing 5 gallon paint buckets to the back of his bike, poking a hole in the bottom of the containers, and riding though the West Village, SoHo, Greenwich Village, East Village, and Alphabet City. Momo made the tag in 2006. Some parts of the line have been covered up by roadwork and redone sidewalks but most of the line is still visible.
What does it mean? BRTE puts it well:
Essentially, most graffiti writers enjoy seeing their name on things. The bigger they can paint it and the more visible their tag is, the more people will notice their conquering of the city. MOMO created the largest tag in New York, yet the scale of his work here, so massive that it can’t all be viewed at once, means that thousands of people will walk on it each day and never even notice it. It’s simultaneously the biggest and smallest artistic statement I have seen in my time here.
Without sucking up to New York, let me bring the point home: When one sees the boring, sophomoric, pseudo-art that populates many of the walls of (soon-to-become-a-tourist-trap) Wynwood's galleries and compares it with MOMO's urban intervention, one wishes we had more MOMOs in Miami.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Aesthetics is a bloodless formalism. Let's drop it.

affect aesthetics,
queer aesthetics,
kitsch aesthetics,
dentistry aesthetics,
Nazi aesthetics,
sex aesthetics,
medical aesthetics,
food aesthetics,
body aesthetics,
the aesthetics of Buffy the Vampire,
the aesthetics of the every day,
the aesthetics of sport,
aesthetics of skin,
aesthetics of sentimentality,
sniff, sniff

 Nike ad, 2010.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Miles Davis: Walkin'

Spawn of fantasies
Sifting the appraisable
Pig Cupid his rosy snout
Rooting erotic garbage
"Once upon a time"
Pulls a weed white and star-topped
Among wild oats sewn in mucous-membrane

I would an eye in a Bengal light
Eternity in a sky-rocket
Constellations in an ocean
Whose rivers run no fresher
Than a trickle of saliva

These are suspect places

I must live in my lantern
Trimming subliminal flicker
Virginal to the bellows
Of Experience
Coloured glass

 Mirna Loy, Love Songs.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

packing, unpacking

my fellow bourbakians: moving is a sort of sacrifice. i think of all my books, packed in a hurry, their delicate tails and spines vulnerably exposed against all sort of intrusive hardness. it's been two weeks of constant packing and unpacking. now everything is almost back to normal. there are new corners and cabinets and little spaces for dreaming and dwelling.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

the future is separated from the present by an unbridgeable abyss

George Lucas THX 1138, (1971).
I too, therefore, believe that I must understand the future not as something to be judged but something rather that sits in judgment on the present. Thus, such a future is neither utopian nor hell and cannot become an object of curiosity. And even if this society is developed to a far larger degree than the present one, it only occasions suffering in the eyes of those entombed in their microscopic sense of a continuing, predictable present.-- Kobo Abé, Inter Ice Age 4, (1970).