Tuesday, December 18, 2012

a short vacation. join!

art by phlegm

miami bourbaki is taking a much needed week off.

by the way, you ciphers & shibboleths of all types & extractions:

cyber & bio-punks,

join miamibourbaki!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? -- Anthony Scalia

more scalia-style reductio ad absurdum:

a homophobe can have moral feelings against homosexuality & no moral feelings against murder.
a (closeted) homosexual may have moral feelings against homosexuality and moral feelings against murder.
a murderer can have moral feelings against murder and no moral feelings against homosexuality.
a murderer can have moral feelings against homosexuality and no moral feelings against murder.
a high magistrate (& closeted homosexual) can have moral feelings against homosexuality and moral feelings against murder.  


Thursday, November 22, 2012

dave hickey is out of the closet (too late?)


dave hickey is out of the closet! (this closet courtesy of the artmarket).

why now?

"hickey's outburst comes as a number of contemporary art curators at world famous museums and galleries have complained..." (and if a curator complains, we have reasons to believe it's cosmetic). there's just too much interjection by helmore & gallagher in this observer piece. let's sift through & find some meaningful hickeyean bits:

It's time to start shorting some of this shit, (my favorite).

They're (collectors) in the hedge fund business, so they drop their windfall profits into art. It's just not serious,

Art editors and critics –people like me– have become a courtier class. All we do is wander around the palace and advise very rich people. It's not worth my time.

Is that elitist? Yes. Winners win, losers lose. Shoot the wounded, save yourself. Those are the rules, 

hickey's coming out is good news, his bitterly narcissistic declarations notwithstanding. picture the critic (ex-dealer, ex-professor & curator) disappointed with the establishment he was a part of, and help legitimized. now that he's redundant, now that the struggling artists he defended "live like the collectors I used to sell to (...) they have a house, a place in the country and a BMW."  isn't this a shocking admission for a staunch defender of "supply-side aesthetics"?

what's going on? plain frustration with the 21st-century diminished critic next to the rowdy parade of indifferent collectors, dealers, celebrities & art socialites attracted by the cultural spectacle of biennials and art-fairs. after the debacle of wall street the old arbiter of taste suddenly is exposed as arthoodicator of artlibor.

hickey feels betrayed, fooled by history. the past can play an inconvenient witness: the buoyant nineties and hickey's tautological defense of beauty,1 which arthur danto was right to suspect was not really about beauty, but "beauty as a proxy for something else" (and let's add, "beauty" at the service of the market).2 we need a bit of perspective.

what was hickey thinking in the early 1990's when he spoke so enthusiastically (& ambiguously) about beauty? (which reminds one of kant's quote, "the beautiful is the symbol of the morally good"). are not "beauty" and "democracy" two of hickey's favorite terms? he confidently writes in air guitar: "the good works of art that reside in our museums reside there not because they are good but because we love them." then,  close by (p. 202) good is linked to a "political fiction" that belongs in a "texture of the world." which texture? what hickey loosely calls "democracy."

here's the hickeyean aesthetic metonym for democracy: "the art world is no more a community than congress is a community." (p. 204). works of art are "candidates aspiring to represent complex constituencies" (?) (p. 205). looking at the last 20 years in our history (whether democracy or capitalism), how can one not suspect "art-as-hedge-fund"? or "democracy-as-corporation"? don't bother. you won't find any of this in hickey's writing. he declares: "art is not a commodity." really?  

can a "critic" be so disconnected? how about this? "art and money never touch: they exist in parallel universes" (p. 108).

mr. hickey: art today is for the ultra high net worth individuals, and their economy (unlike ours) is booming. beauty is a proxy for the fate of the superrich themselves.

this is the critic who in the 1990's argued (in context, it sounds romneyan) that the NEA had "transformed the institutional art world into a government-regulated industry."3 hickey is blind. during the decade of unrestrained wall street derivatives he openly defended the market side of aesthetics: "i am a consumer. i am arguing for the consumer side of the transaction."4 hickey felt so optimistic about his epoch and his role as critic that he bids farewell in air guitar with this late-romantic salvo:

"it is going to happen... is already beginning to happen" (p. 209 air guitar's last paragraph)

careful what you wish for.

there's a bit of bad faith: now that it's time to start shorting some of this $hit called contemporary art, hickey decides to throw the towel.

1 "beauty [is] the agency that cause[s] visual pleasure in the beholder." Dave Hickey, The Invisible Dragon: Four essays on Beauty, (Art Issues Press, 1993) p. 11. 2Arthur Danto, The Abuse of Beauty: Aesthetics and the Concept of Art, (Open Court, Chicago, 2003), p. 8. one couldn't pretend to write about such art/beauty binity and not carry unwanted (enlightened) baggage along. in the last chapter of air guitar, hickey defends an idea of joy ("joy" is an important word in f. schiller's 18th century letters of man which subsequently influences kant's idea of pleasure, which is tied to the morally good which  informs the american critic's idea of beauty). 3 Dave Hickey, "An Address Regarding the Consequences of Supply-Side Aesthetics," Art Issues (Summer 1998) p. 13. 4 Grant Kester's Dave Hickey's Beauty.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

a racist map of the united states

how can you tell a racist state? racist tweets.

a group of geography experts analyzed 365 tweets (calling the president "monkey" and other racial epithets) and laid them over a color-coded map of the united states to analyze the frequency of hate tweets compared to the frequency of election-related tweets in that state.

the winners: mississippi and alabama (isn't that a surprise!) had the highest ratio of racist tweets, followed by georgia, louisiana & tennessee (the now "distinctive cluster in the southeast" of online-hate-speech). the study revealed that north dakota, utah, and missouri also had a high prevalence of racist tweets.

should we conclude that florida is doing better?

Friday, November 9, 2012

pseudoracist logorrhea

after the defeat we get pseudo-racist fluxion of hyperbolic logorrhea: this is what an andrew c. mccarthy publishes in the national review online. the cliche conclusion is that hispanics and islamists are plotting to "vanquish" (kinda sauron aulicism?)... "the case for freedom" (cryptographic for lordship of leukorrhea):
In point of fact, Islamists, like many Hispanic political activists (think: La Raza), are statists. As I’ve detailed in The Grand Jihad and, more recently, Spring Fever, their thoroughgoing alliance with the American Left is ideologically based — it is not a product of insensitive messaging or “Islamophobia.” Islamists revile finance capitalism, favor redistributionist economic policies, and endorse nanny state regulatory suffocation as well as an ever-expanding welfare state. This is not because Leftists made inroads while conservatives idled. It is because — though this often seems unimaginable to the Journal — Islamists, like many Hispanic activists, are the vanguard of a different culture that they passionately believe is superior to the culture of individual liberty.
so, here's the trick. present your jihad-leftist-hispanic-islamist-activist hasty pudding of xenophobic half-truths & generalizations as if to unmask an enemy conspiracy  & sell it cheap to a brainwashed, eager audience.

mccarthy, are you on foo-foo dust?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

phallocentric power twice

this late 19th century poster illustrates phallocentric power @ the height of the struggle for women's suffrage in the U.S. take a look at the role of "men." a policeman hold the woman down (his reddish nose a sign of having been roughed up by a "masculine woman" epithet used against the suffragettes at the time).

a dapper mustached man vexingly steps on the woman's chest while force-feeding her through a funnel (an apt symbol of repressed desires). we're dealing with man's resentment. women's claim for political equality is presented as victimization. predictably, the "victims" become the tormentors, punishing the effrontery to challenge undisputed phallocentric power.

who said punishing cannot be both exemplary and fun?

meanings multiply with contexts: a little more than a century later force-feeding becomes water-boarding, a policy of the phallocentric state (instead of women, now we got terrorists). both suffrage and terror are subversive acts.

who typifies the well-dressed man?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

who should you vote for?


a fine article by professor gary gutting for the new york times. this one is for you undecided voters.

careful with what gutting calls the fallacy of the most recent information:
... you can’t make your decision through an assessment of the candidates’ competence in governing.  If their past records and actions over the long campaign haven’t convinced you that one will be more competent, deciding the question from what happens between now and the election will commit the fallacy of the most recent information.
for gutting this is an election deciding the fate of the new deal:
In response to the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt introduced the New Deal as a system of governmental activism to achieve social and economic goods. After the Second World War this system gained wide acceptance. Even Republicans like Eisenhower and Nixon initiated programs (the federal highway system, the Environmental Protection Agency) in the spirit of the New Deal.
republicans intend to achieve the same goals in a different way. through the private $phere instead of government action. but there is a caveat:
(...) the status quo is not, as Romney suggests, merely the policies of the Obama administration. A vote for Obama endorses what has been the governing structure of our society since the New Deal: a free-market system balanced with government regulations, tax-funded social programs and legislative and judicial guarantees of civil rights — all to protect citizens from the excesses of the private sphere.
we've seen romney at the debates repeating ad nauseam: "government is not the answer" (while running for the top job in government). his plan is that the private $phere regulates itself while solving our mounting social problems through increased production and wealth. thus, for gutting, "a vote for Romney may well be a vote for a major change in the longstanding role of government in our society. this is the new american revolution urged by the tea party."

& now the surprise:
Those who are conservative in the traditional sense of resisting abrupt major changes in established institutions should vote for Obama. Those who support a fundamental change should vote for Romney.  Oddly enough, Obama’s hopes for a second term may turn on the support of conservative voters.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

pregnancy from rape... "is something that god intended to happen" (?)

richard mourdock's statement is not a slip of a tongue. it's the core philosophy of the republican party.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

the perfect frontman for wall street's greed revolution

excellent article by matt taibbi for rollingstone magazine:
Everyone knows that he is fantastically rich, having scored great success, the legend goes, as a "turnaround specialist," a shrewd financial operator who revived moribund companies as a high-priced consultant for a storied Wall Street private equity firm. But what most voters don't know is the way Mitt Romney actually made his fortune: by borrowing vast sums of money that other people were forced to pay back. This is the plain, stark reality that has somehow eluded America's top political journalists for two consecutive presidential campaigns: Mitt Romney is one of the greatest and most irresponsible debt creators of all time. In the past few decades, in fact, Romney has piled more debt onto more unsuspecting companies, written more gigantic checks that other people have to cover, than perhaps all but a handful of people on planet Earth.
after reading the piece one wonders the obvious: why would romney, the presidential candidate & role model for the country, fight for loopholes for the rich while having shelters in switzerland, bermuda, caiman & luxembourg? the answer is as deplorable as it is scary: because he can.

join miami bourbaki

you either join mbourbaki or not join mbourbaki 
once you've entertained mbourbaki's reveling in the absurd, not joining mbourbaki becomes a weaker possibility
though the likelihood of the absurd happening seems stronger once you've entertained mbourbaki's reveling in it, you actually don't mind it
suddenly, joining mbourbaki and not join mbourbaki seems possibly absurd, not joining becoming a non-choice
therefore, join mbourbaki!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

could satan be forgiven? (a mind experiment)

alFreDo tRifF

... yes, methinks. 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 one is and it is what one is not (a favorite sartrean lemma). satan hasn't changed, presumably, because he's chosen not to, i.e., his "fall" rests on this premise.

2. satan is (what else?) satanic. but one cannot invoke satan's "nature" causing satan's being because that would beg the question on satan's nature. again if l'existence précède l'essence" (existence precedes essence), being is what one finds and defines as one lives. existence happens in time and time is change.

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

3. satan's being cannot be self-ruled. being is what one finds as one exists. being is not self-presence to itself, instead it's a kind of constant perplexity (yes, satan may have been as surprised of his fall as any repenting petty criminal).

4. satan's being is given to the very exclusion of goodness from satan's nature, his avoidance of reasoning & weighing the good. but even in the heart-of-evil there must be a space for guilt (it comes built with satan's free will).

5. this willful avoidance of the good perpetuates satan's nature. in a way, he constantly negates his old self (so, in a sense, satan is not what he is). being satan means to constantly reject goodness.

there is always more or less to being than itself: the unpredictability of the future. & satan's "being," as stereotyped and beleaguered as it is, is no exception.

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

will it be time for another proud & inexperienced angel to take his place? only if the bane-&-boon moral state of the universe demands it.

is good wine in the eye of the beholder?


following kant one could start with this principle. 

1- scientific judgments explain the nature of reality.
2- moral judgments evaluate human actions (intentions).
3- aesthetic judgments are about taste.

we briefly touched upon 2 & 3.

i wanted to stress the salience of these judgments by talking about food, then about art. let's take a look a these two statements: 

1- "i hate this wine." 2- "this wine tastes awful."  

1- is a subjective judgment. with 2- one is implicitly making an objective judgment about the juice.  

suppose john, a person who doesn't know much about wine makes a judgment of type 2- about this malbec from argentina (the consensus of wine experts is that this is a pretty good malbec for the price).

if you get a sip of catena malbec you get a nuanced complexity of spice, tobacco and plum, all balanced with a soft finish of supple tannins and good length. 

how are we to treat john's 2- judgment? 

i have no problem advancing that john is wrong. he doesn't know enough about wines to make the call in 2-. he mistakes his subjective impression for an objective property in the juice.  they are different. 

i think one could make the same case in art. obviously, the discussion is more complicated. suppose paul has no knowledge of modern art. he visits MoMA, stands in front of picasso's famous 1907 painting les demoiselles d'avignon. paul reacts: "this painting sucks!"

pablo picasso's demoiselles d'avignon, 1907

there's a difference between,

a- "i hate this painting" 
b- "this painting (by picasso) sucks"

let's agree that catena malbec 2010 can be experienced in a substantially different manner than picasso's painting. nonetheless, there is a way to apply a similar criteria to the one used above.

a- is totally ok.
b- needs more explaining. 

it's not a prerequisite that i have to know cubism to properly understand it, but it so happens that cubism is a convention. it seems that understanding the convention makes the aesthetic appreciation more fitting. this is not your regular realist rendition of a 1907 paris whorehouse. paul doesn't understand these conventions. he is missing that picasso deliberately depicts within a "modern" conceptual grid. then, there is the general consensus of art historians, critics, artists is that the painting is a landmark. 

i'm suggesting that to examine demoiselles d'avignon properly one has to wear cubist glasses. why? because there is a shift in perspective here. this is an earlier (more realist) picasso:  

yo, picasso, 1901

the young painter was absorbing influences. this 1901 piece has a kind of spanish post impressionist flavor quite different from the 1907 painting.  

it's not only about consensus. we need an additional "harder" criteria, i.e, the painting's properties.   

of course, there is always the question, what if art historians are wrong? could they not be?

they could. but it's more difficult to disregard the consensus' slow development than paul's quick & uninformed claim. don't you think? 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

criticism sails against the wind


@ mbourbaki we've discussed the review vs. critique distinction, which is precisely jeremy baker's topic in his "don't confuse reviews with criticism" for the nytimes. let's take a look:
For professional arts criticism to survive the challenges presented by the technology-driven democratization of media platforms, it’s essential that critics leave behind the role of "arbiter of taste" or "hit-maker," and instead serve as engaged, accessible writers, whose work helps audiences navigate the intersection of art, culture, politics and economics.
sorry to spoil the opening. baker is clueless on navigation & geometry. the problem is that everybody is helping audiences navigate intersectionsaccessibility means what? this?  TMZ one-liners? theory du-jour? whether engaged and accessible, unengaged and accessible, inaccessible and super-engaged, that doesn't guarantee help. isn't technology driven self-help democratization? why would anybody need x-tra help from an "arbiter of taste"?

the irony is that for eschewing the role of arbiter, baker's sentence admonitions ("it's essential that... and instead") read as self-appointed as it gets, which brings to mind someone with an inferiority complex in self-defense mode. mind you, baker is no exception. many so-called critics throw the towel to become facilitators, seeking "convergences" (i.e., baker's intersections).

i disagree: criticism should stimulate the body with itching, mucous discharge, indigestion and other ailments necessary for the well-functioning of the soul.

baker et. al. fall for a false dilemma promoted by the artmarket and its minions. you are to choose between criticism or "democracy" (why when everybody is in trouble they always bring up that word?). so, the critic (baker is one after all) now feels he should play a role (which is exactly the arbiter role he so hates) between the disconnected (let's say dictatorial) "professional critic" & the emergent (democratic) art-twitter audience. the whole thing reminds me of this dictator proving to a journalist that what he did for almost two decades in power was good for his country's democracy.

in this new scheme "passing judgement" is opposed to "work's excellence" & the first looses: 
Even if we believe that professional critics are more qualified to pass judgment on a work’s excellence, readers who are just looking for entertainment advice will turn to their peers. 
what sort of wrong-headed arm-chair inference concludes that passing-judgment cannot be entertaining or be (to complicate matters a bit) as good, if not more, than the work being critiqued?

here's baker in non-arbiter guise:
As professional critics continue to play the "arbiter of taste" card, they’re failing both the readers most interested in their beats, who don’t get much from reviews written to attract casual consumers, and the artists they cover, most of whom are desperate for deeper engagement.
being an expert makes baker really uncomfortable. is it artblicity that makes the critic feel guilty? the twitter/masses of the world have no patience for self-professed arbitration. so, in keeping with the times' trends, one better avoids playing the expert (while hopelessly sounding like one?).

here is the market strategy baker falls for: buying into an inferiority complex that's really a superiority complex posing as "democratic." let's propose the following quadrant:  

art: aesthetic of enjoyment, entertainment: market of services for passive enjoyment, culture: massive consumption of enjoyment/commodities. democracy: social order of legitimation and preservation of consumption values. 

we have:
during a stage of post-capitalism art becomes a bubble of itself: art --> entertainment.
passive satisfaction of needs becomes massive: entertainment --> culture
as the political process is hijacked by corporate interests presented as the massive enjoyment of needs:  culture --> democracyby transitive character, as the net value of what passes as culture,
entertainment --> democracy

given that, it's no wonder that even when baker makes sense, he sounds flat:
Reviewing serves its purposes. But it shouldn’t be mistaken for criticism, thoughtful work that explores cultural endeavors and grapples with history, trends, ideas, formal developments in the arts and the relationship of the arts to the broader culture. If professional critics really are the experts they’re supposed to be, then surely they have something more to offer on this front than advice on how best to spend one's Friday night.
experts? critics are turfed out people. reviewing is selling! but this is not the purpo$e of criticism, which is to problematize issues. criticism needs to do exactly the opposite.


you think you are an expert? i don't. i'm just MAD.  criticism doesn't have to offer advice, much less help.

criticism sails against the wind. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

are critics still relevant?

fresh from the nytimes: in the era of twitter are critics still relevant?

of all the articles in the opinion page, i found this exchange between two artists very entertaining (see that almost every sentence ends with "!")
Jen: What we really need are more critics that speculate on the importance of hangly-dangly existential pieces of art. The five percent of America that can actually afford the luxury to buy art really needs to know what to buy! This is important. I'm actually shocked that there aren't more people out there trying to start a professional blog about art, or produce or get onto an art reality show to criticize some crafty artwork!

Paul: I mean there is no chance that critics would just write things to hear themselves talk about something they know a little bit about in order to hear themselves sound smarter than someone who has spent a lot of time on the subject and has invested a great deal of sweat, time, and energy into it, right? That would never happen! It must be relevant for the greater good or else no one would invest the time and money into starting a blog. That's a lot of work!
what exactly does hangly-dangly existential pieces of art mean? this or this? paul sounds as if he had a weird feeling that critics do exactly what he claims there is no chance they would do (which explains his obsessive sentential emphasis).

jen drops this one:
Of course criticism is relevant! While we disregard any criticism that doesn't pertain directly to us and doesn't shower us with well-deserved compliments on our artistic brilliance, more mediocre blogs means more mediocre press for us all!
true, but who cares? jen doesn't say that mediocrity is institutionalized, with artlibor and arthoodication runing the show.

who is to blame for "more mediocre blogs and more mediocre press"?
If there is something that needs some changing, perhaps it's the regurgitated one-liners and copy-and-paste pieces that some critics are passing off as reviews. I know, it's hard to believe, but some "critics" seem to be more of a TMZ of art instead of actually offering some intensive insight. But maybe that's the world we live in!
i like paul's TMZ-of-art comparison, but the fact is that TMZ-of-art does quite well with one-liners. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

a possible future

(in this possible post-apocalyptic world, humans and non-humans alike are valued for their meat).

who's then, at the top of the food chain?

the posthuman? 
the hyperhuman? 
the unhuman?

heeeere's the unfake

what does this face communicate? 
can this face "fake" concentration, interest, sadness, disgust or mental focus? 
amidst con tricks and political trompe-l'oeil, this face appears as counterfeit, but of what?
people don't understand. this botulistic face is expressing a new core that's unable to fake 
this face actually is the unfake

Saturday, September 29, 2012

when a joke becomes serious seriously


the nytimes published this update on 9/28/12:
Last Update, 3:17 p.m. Apparently unaware of the unwritten rules of both ethical journalism and satire, an Iranian news agency published an edited copy of a report from The Onion on Friday, without crediting the original or acknowledging that it was fiction.
what this means is that fars news agency took onion's joke seriously. why do i stress joke?

because the reason fars falls for the onion's joke is not a joke. thus, the new york times' "seriously" explains:
The episode might also reflect how it is increasingly easy to come across information online that has been intentionally or accidentally denatured through copying as it is passed along from one site to another, or one social media user to another.
the issue is online information susceptible of becoming either natured or "denatured" (where natured rules out "denatured," or accident and/or misinformation).  

oddly, the new york times also "falls" when it quotes fars' onion quote (that is to say, the context of fars' taking the onion seriously plus the nytimes' "update").

unless information and misinformation are not as cleanly separate as the new york times make them appear. we need a hand from a serious joker, jacques derrida:
either the contextual difference changes everything because it determines what it determines from within: in this case, it can hardly be bracketed, even provisionally. or it leaves certain aspects intact, and this signifies that these aspects can always separate themselves from the allegedly "original" context in order to export or to graft themselves elsewhere while continuing to function in one way or another... (limited inc. p. 78, derrida's own italics)
let's interrogate the quoting sequence to try to get something out of it:

1- is the onion's quote really a joke? which is something the new york times problematically glosses over. it reads: "rural whites prefer ahmadinejad to obama," its subtext conveying  -between joke and serious- the likely stereotypical white-rural tea-party's truism, i.e., "anything is better than a N... as president").
2- is fars' quote serious? perhaps, but our reading, as presented by the nytimes, isn't. yet, as mere iterability, isn't fars' quote (merely by "seriously" quoting the onion's double entendre) putting us on? 
3- how about the nytimes' quoting of fars'? it's meant as a joke on fars', the latter's falling for the onion's "joke" presented as a "serious" instance of denaturing information. yet, surprisingly, the nytimes' ("serious") explanation becomes now a joke.
4- finally, is my own quoting 1-, 2- and 3- "serious" or "joke" or both? am i not "falling" as they fall, their brackets tottering a-la-dérive?

so, what's left?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

for an open minded secularism


we know the story: 1- a mediocre film (laughable?), financed by an individual (who happens to be an egyptian coptic christian), finds its way through You Tube. the film vilifies, distorts sacred tenets of the muslim faith. this is a fact.  2- caveat: if a desecrator knows he can get you, that's exactly what he/she'll do over and over (this french satirical magazine just published cartoons mocking the prophet mohammed). 3- the film achieves its goal of enraging believers throughout the muslim world.

in a situation like this one could expect a vicious cycle of guilt-by-association misperceptions. so, coptic christians have become targets. in pakistan violent protests have left 23 dead and hundreds injured, a christian church burned; even a minister puts a bounty on the film director's head! on the other hand, muslims are presented by the western media as violent, intransigent and dogmatic people. not all protesters have the same goals and motivations. not all protesters are fundamentalists.

 is this newsweek cover telling the truth or hiding it?

these events happen at a moment of perceived denigrations of muslims and their faith by the US's military, which are detailed extensively in the arab news media: the invasion of iraq on a discredited pretext, the images of abuse from the abu ghraib prison, the burning or desecrations of the koran by troops in afghanistan and a pastor in Florida; detentions without trial at guantánamo, the deaths of muslim civilians as collateral damage in drone strikes, etc, which justifies this comment:
“We want these countries to understand that they need to take into consideration the people, and not just the governments,” said Ismail Mohamed, 42, a religious scholar who once was an imam in Germany. “We don’t think that depictions of the prophets are freedom of expression. We think it is an offense against our rights,” he said, adding, “The West has to understand the ideology of the people.”
granted. but killing people & destroying property on the grounds that the film is blasphemous -or that it was made in america- becomes as obtuse as the film itself. the counterargument to this is: "you don't understand our anger" which self-defeats (denying me, a westerner, the understanding such muslim has of me, us). is there a middle point? (more of this later).

blasphemy is as old as human civilization. when will we learn to live with it?

writer salman rushdie

in iran the bounty for salman rushdie's head rose to $3.3 million (though rushdie has nothing to do with the film). this is the statement from the ayatollah hassan saneii:
As long as the exalted Imam Khomeini's historical fatwa against apostate Rushdie is not carried out, it won't be the last insult. If the fatwa had been carried out, later insults in the form of caricature, articles and films that have continued would have not happened.
in case you're interested, here is rushdie's answer.  what sort of religious argument that is not redundant and self-defeating would condemn rushdie to death (again?) over a film produced by someone with no connection with the writer. rushdie and his books have already been a target of bombings (this is before 9/11, before the word "terrorism," as we use it today, was coined). he survived an attack on his life when a bomb exploded prematurely, killing the perpetrator (this site identifies a mostafah mazeh &amp justifies his action).

the dogmatic side of religion is nothing new.

the unforgivable insult is related to heresy (any belief "outside" the authorized limits). blasphemy is already "outside," the unequivocal force of religious dogma (those "untouchable," "unalterable," core truths). historically, dogmas are constantly challenged, provoking the big religious schisms: mahayana vs. vajrayana (in buddhism), catholics vs. protestants (in christianity), sunnis vs. shia (in islam).

for a neutral observer outside of the fray the question is: how could a self-avowed christian -or muslim- be a "heretic" for another christian -or muslim- unless someone is setting incontestable theological limits?  time and again these factions end up persecuting and killing each other. the sad state of sunni/shia relations in countries like iraq & pakistan reminds one of europe's thirty years' war, though one shouldn't rule out other factors besides religion, as marx would point out, such as class struggle, political equality, etc. even as they seem antipodes, the lesson is that religion (against the received view) has never been far removed from people's political aspirations.

in fact, the possibility of an alliance between powers that be is always forthcoming, which makes the more difficult to know whether religion -as it describes and defends "the nation" as a whole- is a freestanding and well integrated body of belief and practice, or merely a rhetorical dimension of the polity. it's hard to know whether one is dealing with the religious aspects of the political system or the political aspects of the religious system. 

an open minded secularism

let's propose this lemma: once a principle becomes sacred, "enforceable by law," it opens up the  possibility of its desecration. the sacred would not have to be incontestable unless there was a possibility of challenging it. looked at it this way, desecration is immanent to the absolute sacred.  

being that the multiple tensions between different religions over matters of doctrine and blasphemy, desecration, etc, are ideologically and metaphysically unavoidable, the limit beyond which nothing is permissible becomes automatically up for transgression.

take the case of new york artist andrés serrano's desecration of christian symbols with his piss christ (late 1980's). one even could make the broader point that his desecration helped us have an important discussion about the limits of freedom of expression vs. institutionalized religion & politics. the tension is ongoing, which is a good sign.
secularism asserts the right of people to be free from religious rule and interference, and the right to freedom from government's imposition of religion upon the people. the state is neutral on matters of belief. having said that, to construe religion and secularism as total opposites, is to be blind to the very metaphysical tenets that i have already suggested above. secularism sets limits which, metaphysically speaking, are meant to be challenged by religious rule.

is there a more interesting way of being religious and/or secular? let's think of religion and secularism as an economy, an ongoing process of exchange. 

so, how do you deal with this loony by the name of terry jones (above) who has attracted some attention by burning korans in his backyard in florida? that one disagrees with his bigoted views doesn't mean that he deserves to be imprisoned or to die.

is this my view as a non-muslim "westerner"? that's ridiculous. there are pro-secular muslims that agree with me.  imagine now a muslim imam burning bibles at the entrance of a mosque in the US. would the imam be granted the same leeway we defend for mr. jones?  if terry jones got killed by an avenging muslim fundamentalist, his killer would be as bad a bigot, plus a murderer. one cannot claim to have a right he/she denies the other.

we must protect the other's rights to ensure that mine -and yours- have a space, which means we'd have to protect the right of the imam to burn bibles as much as we protect jones' right to burn korans. this symmetric -childish- tit-for-tat must be guaranteed. 

can so-called freedom of speech be changed a little? erich bleik writes in al-jazeera:
Freedom of speech is a core liberal democratic value. It must be upheld even when words cause offense. And no amount of violence should intimidate the United States into changing its laws. But it is vital to recognize that America is a dramatic outlier when it comes to the freedom to express inflammatory, hatemongering, racist speech. In this regard, we are different from virtually every other liberal democracy; we are different from what we used to be; and we are different from what many Americans want us to be.
the problem here is that tweaking free speech is already suppression of speech.

racist speech cannot carry the day. who believes in hate speech? the community of hatemongers, which is why KKK has so many fans? we already lived through hate speech during slavery and a good part of the 20th century in america! the problem back then was that discrimination against blacks was encouraged by the status quo. discrimination & freedom of speech are not the same. the first denies what the second defends (which is not to reject that discrimination exists and the more reasons to fight it).

this is the proof. who would think the ACLU would take the side of the KKK? in a secular atmosphere, even an enemy may deserve the space he denied others, which guarantees the symmetry of a perfectible justice. 

and so,         

Thursday, September 13, 2012

"we need to keep a balance." -- tony goldman r.i.p.


We want to create a community development corporation that is designed to create a balanced vision between experimental, low-cost commercial facilities as well as housing and studio space. Tony Goldman

here's my interview with tony goldman for the miami new times back in 2005.

tony cared for sustained, incremental development & had the right view for wynwood. here is an excerpt (still to be fulfilled).
How's the future?

TG: We need to keep a balance. The development is good insofar as it promotes and enriches the interaction of the protagonists in situ. Development needs to go in the direction of "gentlefication." We don't want the national chains coming and taking over. There must be a judicious diversity. I'm in favor of heterogeneity as opposed to homogeneity. We need more Bakehouses [the Bakehouse Art Complex], more artists' housing as live-work studio space that ensures the artistic community prospers -- this together with the blue-collar community and the service community that will work to support it. The area should maintain an edge. It doesn't have to be perfect. I think it has to be unpredictable, with an air of danger, so you don't become complacent.
can tony's dream still happen for wynwood?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

who c___ for whom?


art's most recent fad spills onto the world. it is presented as a symptomatic cultural matter, but the presentation reveals exactly what it hides. npr correspondent scott simon writes this piece & opens thus,
How do I love thee? Let me curate the ways...
as verb, word, cipher, "curate" did not just "hit the spot." it had to happen at a time when art has lost its aura and becomes as redundant as information. the public must be guided through the art noise. only he/she who has the expertise can "heal" art by giving it an aesthetic order ("curate" comes from curare, "to take care of") .  

art is materia prima. huge quantities of generic artfair art, supplied without qualitative differentiation is just artstatic. aesthetic commodities need to be processed, cogitated, conceptualized & publicized. art needs arthoodication (a complex task performed by art experts). at this juncture, to curate means to make something better than it was (artmaking is secondary to its presentation).

on this point, übercurator hans ulrich obrist is very clear:
exhibitions have become the medium through which art becomes known (...) exhibitions are the primary site of exchange in the political economy of art, where signification is constructed. (a brief history of curating, p. 6)
curators present an "order," i.e., the exhibition: the embodiment of the curator's deferred presence. they produce cultural spectacles (not unlike the phenomenon of the human voice, a kind of medium for a non-present subject). not really present and yet, the curator's exudation becomes -the more- manifest: a disembodied "order of things" given in absentia. in an age of virtuality, who doesn't want a part of that?

simon quotes a john mcwhorter, who gets it backward:
John McWhorter, the distinguished linguist, told us he thinks curate abuse is "part of the rejection of elitist categorization in American life ... one can claim to 'curate' the mundane and take on the implied prestige of the art expert.
only that this "rejection of elitist categorization in American life" is exactly the campaign's goal! elitism (i.e., arthoodication) is sold to the masses as a democratic (repressed) desire. said differently, you end up "loving" what you really (hate) want & cannot have.

one last but crucial point: though he plays as the artist's ventriloquist, the curator is another puppet. there is always someone behind, pulling the strings. this ventriloquist really is camera-shy. guess who? 

curators of the world, curate!* (while the market rules). 

* let's abuse (instead of avoid) the c__ metaphor. the best way to get rid of a bad metaphor is to wear it out.   

issue #2 of the miami rail

check it out!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

animals without faces

what's behind this face?

my previous post brings forth a different conversation that needs to happen. after the cambridge declaration a carnivore pet owner cannot say "i love animals" without a moral contradiction.

modern cities exclude all animals except for pets, which are kept confined. there is a possibility that as human animals ourselves, we seek non-human animal company. what does it mean to love animals? i don't mean love as ego-projection. for instance, pet-rearing in america, which boils down to a social practice of ornamental narcissism (thus the resemblance between pet and owner).

but there's an important difference: our faces are different. the metaphor is used by emmanuel levinas: a face for levinas, brings a more basic, essential connection. the face-to-face encounter means 1- the possibility of bridging a friendship, 2- the encounter opens up all sort of ethical possibilities.

levinas didn't really think of animals as "faces" (more of this later). for now, i'd like to stretch levinas' idea to fit non-human animals. the more human the animal looks, the easier the human projection. here, walt disney is a model. the legend goes that he loved animals & introduced a legion to the masses: goofy, donald, ronno, roger, minnie, goofy, bambi. though mammal face-to-face is easier. then there is jiminy cricket. later we have kaa (a python), ursula (a sort of octopus), sebastian (a crab) & aladar (a dino!).

what am i getting at?

disney, not levinas, tackles the problem. language is the divide of human/animal face-to-face. the animal cannot protest the treatment imposed on it nor articulate its environment, which is why heidegger thought animals are poor in world. this is why levinas doesn't walk the walk with bobby (the only animal in the prisoner camp where he spent the war years). jiminy cricket talks and acts smart, loyal & generous. of course, crickets don't talk, but by imagining they could, we can speculate a face all the way down to hexapoda.

the whole idea of face-to-face is that it should presuppose otherness unqualified. if i choose my other face all i'm doing is projecting myself-as-other.

jiminy has a cute face, only too human-like

on the other hand, disney's anthropocentrism reinforces animal bias: big bad wolf is, well, bad. his goal is to eat the three little pigs. so animal-empathy ends up building animal-prejudice. how?

we hate bad wolf because we're competing with bad wolf for three little pigs' meat!

in disney's dinosaur the evil carnotaurus is a carnivore. aladar, the protagonist is an iguanadon (an hervibore). a preselected view of the animal other: hervibores are good; carnivore predators are evil. yet, we don't see that we are the top carnivores! (this is a human blind spot we need to come back to).

disney's thought experiment can be improved. being aware of the animal-as-imagined-by-a-human hermeneutic circle, let's get rid of moral simplifications of animality: animals are neither "good" nor "bad." animals are not moral beings in the sense we understand the term (how about these moments of moral convergence even sacrifice?). the received idea is that animals are not moral because they lack freedom (the question of animal -or human- freedom is too complicated to be pursued here). 

but wait, are we really moral?

is the systematization of suffering upon animals brought up by modern factory farming moral?  twentieth-century biotechnological revolution has turned against animals & the environment. can one really say that this breeding/killing race cycle is about food?  capitalist biotechnology produces cheap commodities for global trade. the intense breeding/killing cycle carries a dangerous trade off of environmental pollution and pandemics
meat eating uses about three-fifths of the world's agricultural land yet produces less than 5% of its protein and less than 2% of its calories. meat production causes global warming through its effects on deforestation, both directly through pasture and indirectly through its use of feed and forage, and also because of the methane, which comes from the stomachs and manure of cattle.

the more animals we kill, the more demand there is and the more animals we breed. as meat consumption increases our environment gets more depleted, thus, producing more need for meat. can we stop this vicious cycle? not anytime soon. in spite of the millions upon millions of animals that are killed each year, they never die. we end up having more of them.

where do they go? packaging does the trick!

it absorbs brutal suffering and waste & turns it into a clean artificial display. packaging reminds one of standard anatomical representations of the human body with insets of representations of the male or female reproductive system: a lactating breast, a vagina, ovaries; body-fragments. they appear isolated, fragmented, in a way that reminds one of pornographic magazines, fragments to be consumed, devoured a bit at a time.

the label details what's valuable: processing company, weight, price, cut, calories, fat, safe handling instructions, etc. what is missing here is the animal's life. but, is a life designed to confinement & suffering really a life? the animal becomes a meat-tasting experience: we discuss cuts, flavor, tenderness, cooking method, etc. if the animal's fate or suffering is brought up, it's considered unpolite.

wolf man reinforces the unbridgeable duality of the "animal" in us. but we can turn the metaphor on its head: wolf man is the pressing to fact coming from the inside (the "other side", our truer? face): the expression of our self-destruction 

the moment the animal face shows up we confront our bad faith. we hate the idea that our meat comes from a vicious cycle of suffering of our own design, but make no mistake, this suffering is narcissistic, i.e., briefly us-as-them in the slaughterhouse (right before the 300 volt electric shock of the captive bolt pistol). nah, what we hate the most is ourselves: our weakness at suffering their suffering.

a defense mechanism suddenly kicks in: now we wished we were animals (i.e., we want to have it both ways: as animals, eating each other in a state of necessity; as humans, enjoying the taste of meat at the restaurant). this second order of hate best expresses why human language doesn't necessarily precludes a face: having language doesn't make us any better.

is there a way out of this impasse? perhaps animals don't need language to have faces (as we conceive of language, anyhow).  
we'll try to tackle the issue in a forthcoming post.