Thursday, October 8, 2015

Monday, September 21, 2015

viva da freaks!

Let's excuse BF's lack of historical acumen at not mentioning provenance. 

My problem is that BF takes for granted that these "monsters" did not exist. Really?

Take a look at this (some amongst these "freaks" belong in a prominent list! (via the human marvels)*

Josephine Clofullia (the so-called "bearded lady of Geneva")
It boils down to a distorted representation of the past, or better, an blidspot for our present. It happens by design, i.e., our "present" antiseptic idea of "normality."

The Swiss manuscript presents a rational treatment of the issue,

Switzerland, 1557
The title reads "Chronicle of Omens and Portents from the beginning of the world up to these our present times," (Switzerland, 1557). The Chronicon is dramatic & naive in its quasi-scientific approach. We are looking at early anthropology! The shift in perception of how to understand these human types changes from 16th century "portents" to 19th century "freaks" (i.e, we find them as curiosities in the circuses of Europe and America). Today's political correctness works in a perverse way: nowadays we don't call these people "freaks" (in fact, we don't have a word for them). And yet, we think that 16th century illustrators were, as Buzzfeed calls them, "fucked up".   
*Thanks to J. Tithonus Pednaud's The Human Marvels, a formidable research/site!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Acculturation is a circular faith-process:The advertising claim that a certain sauce contains "no benzoate of soda or other preservative" assumes the acceptance of the statement itself as true, and assumes the belief that benzoate of soda is harmful.

Let a band of artists and craftsmen associate together, and ... make to themselves and all whom it may concern things of beauty and utility.- Walter Crane

Walter Crane's poster, International Solidarity Of Labour, 1889

Not Making is a form of name usurpation

Do you care that Koons did not make the Balloon Dog (Magenta), 1995-2000? 

You probably don't. But you should.

In The Art of Not Making, artist/curator Michael Petry makes the following observation:
If the intentions of context of the actual maker are irrelevant to a work's meaning, then why get your hands dirty with the making? Anyone can produce the work for you; its authorship lies elsewhere. Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and Takashi Murakami clearly fit this category, with their hundreds of assistants producing the work of "the artist" in factory-like conditions. (Intro, p. 11)
Not making is a Post Fordist assembly-line mode of production with a star artist producing artworks made by hundreds of (anonymous) assistants in glorified artsy sweatshops.

Petry purposefully forgets that authorship is a form of reference, as in:

"Balloon Dog is a Koons masterpiece," which is false. 

"Koons" refers to "Balloon Dog" as much as CO2 refers to "Water."

Petry doesn't understand that reference can not be arbitrary before it stops referring altogether. Thus, for the purposes of our discussion, Petry's not making is an omission, a suppression of the unnamed (the craftspersons whose names have been crossed out in the name of "the signature").

We wish to defend proper naming and fair compensation.

We hope you do too.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Give Them What They Want (It's Really Very Simple)

1. Analyze and understand what people are feeling (empathize).
2. Identify key movements and trends that are impacting the world (contextualize).
3. Think about what these feelings + world events are causing people to need and desire (hypothesize).
4. Brainstorm what the brand can do to inspire consumers to action and fulfill their desires. (visualize).
5. Bring ideas to life for consumers to react to and experience (realize).
(From Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies)

SAPERE AUDE: Futurity is the non-quondam, the power of one's faith in unhampered advance

THE SIGNATURE that rules contemporary art

Signed by Damien Hirst. Done by Anonymous Craftsmen. 

Is this image ostensive enough? As per craft: top-notch fabrication. As per design: cheap.

Who made it? Anonymous craftspeople. 

Who designed it? Damien Hirst.

Who owns the show? They who deliver THE SIGNATURE.

Only the signature can bring together the technical excellence of a masterpiece with the design of an amusement park! 

Monday, July 13, 2015

William Morris' curated dictionary (in progress)

William Morris, 1883

Art education: (...) general capability in dealing with the arts. (TLA).
... I do not want art for a few, any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few. (TLA).

Art: (...) the human pleasure of life is what I mean by art.  (A&L).
(...) It is the art of the people: the art produced by the daily labour of all kinds of men for the daily use of all kinds of men. (Idem.)

Art and labor: (...) I understand by real art ... the expression by man of his pleasure in labour. (AOP).

Art price: ... the providing of a handicraftsman who shall put his own individual intelligence and enthusiasm into the goods he fashions. (MB).

Art justice: ... so that we may adorn life with the pleasure of cheerfully buying goods at their due price; with the pleasure of selling goods that we could be proud of both for fair price and fair workmanship: with the pleasure of working soundly and without haste at making goods that we could be proud of? (TLA).

Aesthetic simplicity:  All art starts from this simplicity; and the higher the art rises, the greater the simplicity. (BOL).
(...) have nothing in your houses which you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. (TBL).

Beauty: ...everything made by man's hands has a form, which must be either beautiful or ugly; beautiful if it is in accord with Nature, and helps her; ugly if it is discordant with Nature, and thwarts her. (TLA).

Beauty of life: that beauty ... is what is meant by art. (BOL).

The handicraft question: ...have we not good reason for wishing, if it might be, that handicraft should once more step into the place of machine-production? (The Revival of Handicraft)

Ugly: I have said that the produce of man's labour must be ugly if art be not applied to it. (ACT)

Form: ... forms and intricacies that do not necessarily imitate nature, but in which the hand of the craftsman is guided to work in the way that she does, till the web, the cup, or the knife, look as natural, nay as lovely, as the green field, the river bank, or the mountain flint. (TLA).

Purpose of artwork: To give people pleasure in the things they must perforce use, that is one great office of decoration; to give people pleasure in the things they must perforce make, that is the other use of it. (TLA).
(...) art will make our streets as beautiful as the woods, as elevating as the mountain-sides: it will be a pleasure and a rest, and not a weight upon the spirits to come... (TLA).
(...) art made by the people and for the people as a joy to the maker and the user. (TLA).

Originality: (...) the essence of the art is that the decorator's art cannot be imitative even to the limited extent that the picture-painter's art is... (MB).
(...) your convention must be your own, and not borrowed from other times and peoples; or, at the least, that you must make it your own by thoroughly understanding both the nature and the art you are dealing with. (Idem.)

Tradition: It is no longer tradition if it is servilely copied, without change, the token of life. (MB).

Profit: (...) for profit the workman has been robbed of one pleasure which as long as he is a workman is perhaps his most important one: pleasure in his daily work: he is now only part of a machine. (A&L).

Art ownership: He must be allowed to think of what he is doing, and to vary his work as the circumstances of it vary, and his own moods. He must be for ever striving to make the piece he is at work at better than the last. (MB).

Craftsperson's "due": Money enough to keep him from fear of want or degradation ... leisure enough from bread-earning work to give him time to read and think ... work enough of the kind aforesaid ... and lastly, his own due share of art, a dwelling that ... does not lack beauty. (MB).

Machines: (...) chiefly machines for carrying on the competition in buying and selling, called falsely commerce; and machines for the violent destruction of life (...) men's work shall be fit for free men and not for machines. (AOP).
(...) we should be the masters of our machines and not their slaves, as we are now. It is not this machine which we want to get rid of, but the great intangible machine of commercial tyranny, which oppresses the lives of all of us. (AP).
(...) why is he (Man) the slave to machinery? Because he is the slave to the system for whose existence the invention of machinery was necessary. (SC).

Medieval labor ideals: (...) the work of all handicrafts in the Middle Ages produced beauty as a necessary part of the goods. (A&L).

Mammon-worship: Four more churches are to be sacrificed to the Mammon-worship and want of taste of this great city. (DCC)

Industrial evil: ... by far the most part of their lives in work, which at the best cannot interest them, or develop their best faculties, and at the worst is mere unmitigated slavish toil, only to be wrung out of them by the sternest compulsion. (TBL).

Simplicity of life: Simplicity of life, begetting simplicity of taste, that is, a love for sweet and lofty things, is of all matters most necessary for the birth of the new and better art we crave for; simplicity everywhere, in the palace as well as in the cottage. (TLA).
(...) is the absence of encumbering gew-gaws. (TBL).
(...) simplicity of life, even the barest, is not a misery, but the very foundation of refinement. (PAC).
(...) Simplicity of life, begetting simplicity of taste, that is, a love for sweet and lofty things, is of all matters most necessary for the birth of the new and better art we crave for; simplicity everywhere, in the palace as well as in the cottage. (TLA).

Commerce: (...) all Society rests on a gigantic system of usury, pitiless and implacable, which is prepared to crush out of existence all peoples and communities that cannot adapt themselves to its laws. (OOA).
(...) commercialism has crushed the power of combination out of the lower classes, the Trades Unions, founded for the advancement of the working class as a class, have already become conservative and obstructive bodies, wielded by the middle-class politicians for party purposes. (AuP).
(...) The present position of the workers is that of the machinery of commerce, or in plainer words its slaves. (SC).
(...) That system, which I have called Competitive Commerce, is distinctly a system of war; that is of waste and destruction. (AS).

List of cited Morris Essays
AS, Arts and Socialism
AC, The Arts and Crafts of Today
SC, Sign Of the Change
AP, Arts and Its Producers
A&L, Art and Labour
DCC, Destruction of City Churches
PAC, The Prospects of Architecture in Civilization
MB, Making The Best Of It
AuP, Art Under Plutocrary
AOP, The Art of The People
TLA, The Lesser Arts of Life
TBL, The Beauty of Life
OOAOrigins of Ornamental Art

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Ruskin's curated dictionary (in progress)

Ruskin, 1863

Beauty: I wholly deny that that the impressions of beauty are in any way sensual ; they are neither sensual nor intellectual, but moral. (MP, Vol 1, Chapter 2).
(... ) it is evident that the sensation of beauty is not sensual on the one hand, nor is it intellectual on the other ; but is dependent on a pure, right, and open state of the heart. (Ibid, 40).
(...) By the term Beauty, then, properly are signified two things. First, that external quality of bodies already so often spoken of, and which, whether it occur in a stone, flower, beast, or man, is absolutely identical: which, as I have already asserted, may be shown to be in some sort typical of the Divine attributes, and which, therefore, I shall, for distinction’s sake, call Typical Beauty. (MP Vol. 1).
(...) man cannot advance in the invention of beauty, without directly imitating natural form. (SL, Lamp of Beauty).
(...) Must not beauty, then, it will be asked be sought for in the forms which we associate with our every-day life ? (SL, Lamp of Life).
(...) The essential characters of Beauty depended on the expression of vital energy in organic things... (SL, Lamp of Life).
(...) These sources of beauty, however, are not presented by any very great work of art in a form of pure transcript. They invariably receive the reflection of the mind under whose influence they have passed, and are modified or coloured by its image. This modification is the work of Imagination. (MP, Vol. 2, para. 1).

Vital Beauty: (...) the appearance of felicitous fulfillment of function in living things, more especially of the joyful and right exertion of perfect life in man ; and this kind of beauty I shall call Vital Beauty. (MP, Vol. 1, para. 16).
(...)  the first state of vital beauty is defined to be Happiness, perceived with sympathy ; the second, ... Moral intention, perceived with praise. Hence the first aphorism of the Laws of Fesole: "All great art is prune." (MP, Vol. 1, Chapter 1).
(...) We think we love it (art) for its beauty, but really we love it for its vitality. (SV, Intro.).

Of truth and beauty: (...) that is to say, truth first, and beauty afterwards. High art differs from low art in possessing an excess of beauty in addition to its truth, not in possessing an excess of beauty inconsistent with truth. (MP, para. 34).

Enjoyment: (...) I believe the right question to ask, respecting all ornament, is simply this: Was it done with enjoyment—was the carver happy while he was about it? It may be the hardest work possible, and the harder because so much pleasure was taken in it; but it must have been happy too, or it will not be living. (MP, Chapter 5, para. 24).

Nature: Great art accepts Nature as she is, but directs the eyes and thoughts to what is most perfect in her; false art saves itself the trouble of direction by removing or altering whatever it thinks objectionable. (MP, Vol. 2, Chapter 3, para.13).
(...) The more a painter accepts nature as he finds it, the more unexpected beauty he discovers in what he at first despised (Ibid.)
(...) High art, therefore, consists neither in altering, nor in improving nature (Ibid.)
Nature ... keeps whatever she has done best, close sealed, until it is regarded with reverence (Ibid).
(...) He who is closest to Nature is best. (Ibid, Chapter 10, para. 5).
take pleasure at last in every aspect of age and desolation which emancipates the objects of nature from the government of men. (Ibid, Chapter 16, para. 5).
(...) Observe: the whole force of education, until very lately, has been directed in every possible way to the destruction of the love of nature. (Ibid, Chapter 17, para. 31).
(...) Instead of supposing the love of nature necessarily connected with the faithlessness of the age, I believe it is connected properly with the benevolence and liberty of the age. (Ibid, Chapter 17, para. 34).

Ruskin's aesthetics: (...) For as (1) the choice of the high subject involves all conditions of right moral choicer and as (2) the love of beauty involves all conditions of right admiration, and as (3) the grasp of truth involves all strength of sense, evenness of judgment, and honesty of purpose, and as (4) the poetical power involves all swiftness of invention, and accuracy of historical memory, the sum of all these powers is the sum of the human soul. (MP, para. 42).

Rules: (...) The great men ... have no rules; cannot comprehend the nature of rules;—do not, usually, even know, in what they do, what is best or what is worst: to them it is all the same; something they cannot help saying or doing,—one piece of it as good as another, and none of it (it seems to them) worth much. The moment any man begins to talk about rules, in whatsoever art, you may know him for a second-rate man; and, if he talks about them much, he is a third-rate, or not an artist at all. To this rule there is no exception in any art. (MP, Vol. 3, para. 84).

Style: (...) The style is greater or less in exact proportion to the nobleness of the interests and passions involved in the subject. (MP, Vol. 3, para. 5).

Truth: (...) There is never vulgarity in a whole truth, however commonplace. It may be unimportant or painful. It cannot be vulgar. Vulgarity is only in concealment of truth, or in affectation. (MP, Vol. 3, para. 83).
(...) Every duty which we omit obscures some truth which we should have known; and the guilt of a life spent in the pursuit of pleasure is twofold, partly consisting in the perversion of action, and partly in the dissemination of falsehood. (SV, Chapter 3, para. 28).
(...) so far as the truth is seen by the imagination in its wholeness and quietness, the vision is sublime. (SV, Idem, para. 62).

Loving enthusiasm: (...) this loving enthusiasm, which seeks for a beauty fit to be the object of eternal love; this inventive skill, which kindly displays what exists around us in the world; and this playful energy of thought which delights in various conditions of the impossible (MP, Vol. 3, 71).

Ugly: I would fain be allowed to assume also the converse of this, namely, that forms which are not taken from natural objects must be ugly. (SL, Chapter 4)

List of works by Ruskin cited here 
SV: The Stones of Venice, in 3 Volumes, by Project Gutenberg. Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3.
MP: Modern Painters, in 5 Volumes, by Project Gutenberg.  Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3, Vol. 4, Vol. 5.
SL: The Seven Lamps of Architecture, by Project Gutenberg

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

havana biennial, art or politics? thursday july 2, 7:30pm at MCD wolfson campus

The panel explores issues of artistic freedom & the global market in the context of CUBA/US détente, the Twelfth Havana Biennial and the affair Tania Bruguera. 

Panelists: Ariana Hernández-Reguant (anthropologist, writer, activist), Gean Moreno, (artist, curator, editor).

Moderator: Alfredo Triff (critic, professor, MDC Wolfson Campus).

300 NE 2nd Ave. #7128, first floor, building 7
7:30pm:free admission, parking in garage/building 7

Sunday, May 24, 2015

circularity is vicious (unless it is virtuous)


logician graham priest takes leibniz's principle of sufficient reason in "infinite parts" p. 33 of his beyond the limits of thought. 
The fundamental principle of reasoning is that there is nothing without a reason; or to explain the matter more distinctly that there is no truth for which reason does not subsist.
and here is priest's answer to dispatch PSR, i.e., Leibniz's Principle of Sufficient Reason):
By the PSR we can apply the operator to this to produce a reason for σ. Assuming that nothing can be a reason for itself, this reason cannot be a member of σ  (Transcendence). But the cause of σ  is exactly one of the things generated by applying the operator into the prescribed fashion. Hence it is in σ  (Closure) and hence we have a contradiction at the limit of the iterable. 
priest thinks he dispatches what he calls "weaker" version of PSR by appealing to quantum mechanics's transitions, as "completely spontaneous." but i don't see why leibniz would have a problem with stochastic events.
Leibniz's PSR states is that no state of affairs (facts) can hold which is not completely accounted for and made fully explicable by reference to something else, i.e., random events explained by quantum mechanics.

let's take priest's idea of "iterable".

1- indeed any reason generated within PSR is iterable. priest suggests:

...  the reason of σ  is exactly one of the things generated by applying the operator... 

alas! σ (as operator) has to be inside PSR to be! (if it was outside it would not be an σ-perator).

now leibniz bites the bullet: invoking any σ inside PSR is guilty of circularity?


in a perverse way, priest is prevented from employing PSR to debunk PSR.

2- further, leibniz wouldn't mind circularity as long as it's virtuous!

(which is precisely the secret of the baroque)

stairs @ palazzo barberini, by franciscus borromini

by leibniz's own admission, any operator inside PSR is, itself, implicitly "operated."

PSR is a super-operator.

can supervinience be retrofitted?  aber natürlich!  

Thursday, May 14, 2015

does zombie art rule the art world?

aLfRedO tRiFf

in this article for vulture, entitled Zombies on the Walls: Why Does So Much New Abstraction Look the Same? übercritic jerry saltz seems absorbed with the idea of "form."*
Now something’s gone terribly awry with that artistic morphology. An inversion has occurred. In today’s greatly expanded art world and art market, artists making diluted art have the upper hand.
what saltz means by "inversion" is that instead of driving new movements (as their counterparts did in the early Twentieth Century), artists now simply seek how to fit within a "global style catalog" --courtesy of the art market. the received notion inherent to postmodernism is that all has already been tried (but all this is blasé).

why this averment?    
A large swath of the art being made today is being driven by the market, and specifically by not very sophisticated speculator-collectors who prey on their wealthy friends and their friends’ wealthy friends, getting them to buy the same look-­alike art.
i'm surprised by saltz' sluggish tempo: contemporary art is precisely the business of "not very sophisticated speculators-collectors." who is naive enough to refrain from investing in trendy artworks just because the prototypes seem cacophonous?

saltz is discussing (not the exception, but) the rule.
The artists themselves are only part of the problem here. Many of them are acting in good faith, making what they want to make and then selling it. But at least some of them are complicit, catering to a new breed of hungry, high-yield risk-averse buyers, eager to be part of a rapidly widening niche industry.
c'mon jerry, artists want recognition & buyers normally buy actual trends. they are both concomitant elements in a market field, but not the cause.  
Galleries everywhere are awash in these brand-name reductivist canvases, all more or less handsome, harmless, supposedly metacritical, and just “new” or “dangerous”-looking enough not to violate anyone’s sense of what “new” or “dangerous” really is, all of it impersonal, mimicking a set of pre-approved influences.
let's come back to "pre-approved influences," which i call arthoodication. 

the rubells' arthoodication of oscar murillo, for example, is not a mere whim of über-collectors. there is a whole apparatus at work here: critics, exhibition spaces, magazines, curators etc. it takes time and effort to arthoodicate art. and not all arthoodication works the same way,

let's follow the logic. according to saltz, "galleries everywhere are awashed in brand-name reductivist canvases." but zombie formalism is just one drop in the bucket. with contemporary art one could use wittgenstein's idea of Familienähnlichkeit.

suddenly, contemporary art is plagued with "gender variants" of different pseudo families. suddenly, the unbeseeming prospect that zombie art may rule the art world becomes reality.

* a point i don't want to pursue here is saltz's use of form, which he takes for granted. the easy way out is to use form as a crutch. what is the "content" of these paintings above? too easy to just assume that content here is, well, "abstraction." that won't do because the old form/content begs the question on the very thing saltz would like to define. someone could retort that the paintings have to look similar since they belong in the same form-field. saltz is left with a mere assumption of abstraction (as form) which he uses to demote this (zombiesque) form as derivative. does it make sense?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

redefining conceptual parameters

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

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

depression, mass murder and the absurd

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

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

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

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

lubitz checks at least #2, #3, #4, #6, #7, making him an optimal candidate.

(update: lubitz exhibited suicidal tendencies)

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

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

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

Sunday, March 15, 2015

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

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

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

Friday, March 13, 2015

is tania bruguera cuba's weiwei?

aLfRedO tRifF

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

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

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

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

why would the minister of culture help with the smearing campaign against bruguera, instead of defending her? (my question is deliberately naïve).

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

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

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

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

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

so, is tania bruguera cuba's weiwei?

let's wait and see.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Evan Thompson's Waking, Dreaming, Being

Antonio Correa Inglesias

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

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

aLfReDo tRifF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

wrestling predictability from the demon's determinist clutches

do you know laplace's demon?

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 20, 2015

the iffity of reducibility

alFreDo tRifF

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

what does it mean?

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

there are several examples of this:

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

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

3- intentionalität in the philosophy of mind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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