Saturday, June 23, 2018

the world is a mess? it's true. stop whining

this is our natural processual mess (with all of us in it)

aLfreDo tRifF

The world is a mess (or so they make us think).

I have news: If the world was a mess, it is clearly a necessary mess.

Let's entertain the most stressful concept in our encyclopedia of contemporary miseries: Global Warming. What causes Global Warming? The best consensus points to us, humans, which promptly brings forth the unpalatable choice that we become the cause of our own demise. 

How come?

We never intended it that way. Global Warming is a recipe of human fallibility plus unintended consequences. If we go back in time to the explosion of Modernity we see faith in human science and technology and entrepreneurship and development and commerce. The world is a tool of progress and enlightenment. If you & I were living in the Eighteenth Century, chances are we'd gladly and ignorantly- contribute to our actual Global Warming.

If this is our doing, we become automatically responsible for it. Not so fast.

Our responsibility gets canceled once we factor in Global Warming's actual inevitability, since every step of the process leading to this critical moment is outcome of a previous event, caused by  a previous one and so on. In the end, this Global Warming becomes just another natural process, like the Siberian Traps Eruption or the Influenza Pandemic of 1914.

Are we not part of this supervening system called NATURE? Is this Global Warming less of a natural process than, say, the last warming cycle, 10,000 years ago?

Now the expert climatologist retorts: "... the difference is that this one is human-made."

So what? Are humans outside of natural processes?

Unless the climatologist believes we are somehow a breed out of the system, she has to agree that we are all as "natural" as petroleum.

That our Global Warming is perfect, doesn't mean I don't wish for a different world with less trash and clean air and pristine oceans, but that's is not the actual world I live in. Isn't it a bizarre paradox of Global Warming that so many unrelated ideas and discoveries and unwitting actors long gone from earth become as responsible for it as we are? 

I leave you with my lemma for our warming days: Amor Fati.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

A brief discussion of Tom Scicluna's 6319 NW 2nd Avenue at Nina Johnson Gallery


aLfrEdo tRIFf

Miami artist Tom Sicluna's recent show, 6329 NW 2nd Ave, at Nina Johnson Gallery may provoke the following reactions:

1. "I like the show."
2. "I don't know what to think of the show." Scicluna hasn't done much here, e.g., if anything, the artist just set up "found" grills on the gallery wall.  Is that art?
3. "I hate the show."

1. & 3. need no help from me. Aesthetics has a noble line of emotivist critics defending the idea that value judgments are really emotive states clothed as rational cogitations (I disagree, and will discuss precisely this point later). 

I was at the Scicluna's vernissage and did my DIY anthropological field study. Conclusion: Of those present at the gallery, very few actually got close to the pieces (and thus, missed important notes). They seemed oblivious, puzzled or both, more into talking-mode than seeing-mode.

Coming back to 2: True, Scicluna hasn't done much (the reason is that there is not much to do).

On the other hand, Scicluna knows what he is doing and wants to do it. One has to be crazy to do this sort of art precisely because of stereotypes associated with 2. (in case 2. was a legitimate point against Scicluna's art).

We need a little background info. The following excerpt appears in the notes to the show:
The artist looked to ongoing renovation of Nina Johnson gallery... he removed the iron security grills from the property’s external façades and installed them in the gallery itself ... mounted on the walls ... while these grills have a rough industrial presence, closer inspection reveals them to be individualized and possessing almost poignant details.
Let's not sugar-coat the fact: These are oxidized iron grilles ready for metal scrapping. Only that Scicluna finds a higher purpose for these things.

Is this art? Forget about art for a second. Scicluna is not fighting anything, nor trying to prove anything art-related. The time for art fights is gone. Neither is he playing within "binaries" as the notes to the show predictably announce (in poor Derridean). He just loves the beat up, oxidized quality of these wrought iron windows.*

To the people in 2.: If you were the artist, would you have a show of iron grilles just out of the factory at Nina Johnson? Negative. Scicluna is an artist, not a window/grille salesman. The materials point to time, because time is change. And time, as it were, joins forces with beauty.

Scicluna shows how time opens up the thinghood of the thing. How oxygen and water and iron mass converge and eventually become rust. Yes, there's beauty on the surface of these oxidized bars.

Look at this detail:



Surface rust is flaky and friable. When it happens, the iron's inner forces have given up. There's no more protection from the underlying iron res, as the the white paint only defers the inevitable a bit more. Rust is Real.

Let's magnify this baby:

Rusting up close. A marvel of nature.

FYI: This is nor art.

This is chemistry! Perchance you may agree with me that there's beauty in the rust. If you don't, stop reading. This is not for you.

You still here?

Rust is beautiful because it is inevitable. Scicluna presents an actual world that has all of us as members. The oxidation below are you and me, a process going on right now in our blood and gut and bones.


There was certainly beauty before we ever learned to value it (was there not beauty in the sunsets of the late Cambrian?). If so, beauty is not perforce a human value. 

I just hope that the people in 2. have different notes with which to better judge Scicluna's art.


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* Clearly these are not the only aesthetic notes to explore here. I just think they are more relevant than other notes, such as psychological or urban/social intersections, in that they are primary, e.g., they address the thing itself, independently of our value judgments.