Posts Tagged ‘Criticism’

Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Hoarder

September 3, 2017

Recently this writer had the opportunity to interact with an installation occupying the fullness of a gallery dedicated to art (Pan:ic! Interactive Art Space by Al DiLorenzo). The installation itself was a super saturation of imagery and stimulation, one on top of another on top of another with the overabundance marked primarily by a complete and absolute lack of any style, voice or directive connection. It was akin to a hoarder’s domocile with visual/spatial imagery being compulsively warehoused, unable to be discarded. This installation took collection art to its next logical incarnation – hoarding. This “viewer” reminisced about the first installations experienced, as well as those only glimpsed through history archives (Duchamp would probably be one of the earliest, if not the earliest). Then there was the “sky light” structures of the 1970 where the “viewer” looked up to an opening that simply showed the sky. Many artists played with this in different manifestations. The 80’s found installations to be reproductions of intricately detailed everyday tableaux’s. Eventually the format expanded to whatever cohesive inclusion the installation artist desired (real or imagined) until the current one just witnessed. Following the installed trail of installation (the residue, the trace) one finds the earlier work exhibiting “direction” on the part of the installation organizer, to reproduction of experience, to self-conscious production or generation of experience, to the final abdication of any kind of control (the ability to discriminate and discard experience). Not surprising is this chronology and progression of development. Folks like Ranciere were consciously (or unconsciously) affected by the rather acerbic estimation of Arthur, “Beyond the Brillo Box,” Danto. From his “After the end of art”: “Art began with an “era of imitation, followed by an era of ideology, followed by our post-historical era in which, with qualification, anything goes… In our narrative, at first only mimesis was art, then several things were art but each tried to extinguish its competitors, and then, finally, it became apparent that there were no stylistic or philosophical constraints. There is no special way works of art have to be. And that is the present and, I should say, the final moment in the master narrative. It is the end of the story.” Today’s art (and that includes installation), is often affectionately referred to as art after the end of art (Ranciere’s Art regime). Fair enough this art historical thread of narration for what is/has been. Not to be quibbled with. But there is another insight for why and how installation became hoarding. One a bit more “Lacanian,” in a sense. To address this more anthropological take, we need to go way back in the way back machine of western culture to classical Greece. In spite of our blasé and passé belief that all there has been defined and redefined, much of its own contemporary “why” of art is not. Indeed, the Greeks themselves spent surplus energy just trying to define simple things, like “the good” (see Plato or Aristotle). One of the myths addressing this was that of Orpheus. Homer may have been real but the story of Orpheus embodied what to Plato was reality – the form of art (though Plato denigrated both). Especially in the story of Orpheus and Eurydice we find the repetition of Orpheus’ art in relation to task. Indeed, art follows this thread all the way to the present, though the present stresses the task as that of capitalist entrepreneur. With installation, from Duchamp on, we find some task involved with the experience of the installation. The installation originator formulated the experience for some specific “viewer” experience (How does an art gallery show differ from a wholesale coal repository? Take the time to appreciate the splendor of the eternally changing sky. Etc.). Amongst the art entrepreneur’s, Disney would have been most notorious. Art after the end of art finds not only a shift in what is presented, but a shift in the artist herself. No longer addressing a task in terms of relationship to those experiencing the work (social or otherwise) but rather a totally un-tasked “shared experience” (the culture of a shared economy?). We all know the art snob diatribe that now everyone is an artist. And in actual deed many institutions, both of art and social service, rely on this maxim to equivocate what is produced and its interpretation. Evidence from Pan:ic! shows that the artist is no longer engaged in terms of a task like Orpheus, but something else is on display. True, true, true that one of the cutting critiques of art in the late 90’s was that so much of it looked like homework. The artists felt tasked to produce it; evidence of the “post modern” position of the artist “solving” an art “problem” (there is such a thing?). With Pan:ic! we find the artist no longer bothering a task of what ever sort or relationship. Rather, we find the artist as one burdened with continuous art stimulation and experience (everyone is an artist implies everything is art). The “art show” itself becomes a way of “sharing” (the new, shared art economy?). In a “Lacanian” sense, the burden is the artist, what makes the artist an artist. The artist no longer interacts with the world for some or any purpose (art up to Brillo). After all, it is an “interactive” art space. Rather, as Pan:ic shows, the artist is now someone existentially burdened by a continuous stream of sensual, intellectual and visual stimulation – objects, and light, and texture, oh my! Much as junk mail, or spam, the hits just keep on coming. And we all know, it is such a task to sort, define, and chose to deal with this inundation of valuable stuff. Hoarding is just too convenient.

The Great Pretender

March 11, 2015

The last thing political rivalry admits to is identity; that there is no difference. Differentiating grounds, no, founds political discourse in the US, grants it legitimacy. Currently, it is to the extent of deep polarization (civil war is being insinuated/rumored to be OK). The relationship/necessity of politics to govern, and whether these are good or bad, are precluded by the interests of this blog. Ditto the relationship/necessity of governance to society (who speaks of society without governance?). Making pretensions to difference seems to permeate the popular news coverage of late, especially that of politics and government. In an ancient tome entitled “The Imaginary Institution of Society” (original French 1975) Cornelius Castoriadis identifies “legein” and “teukhein”, with their intimate entwining, as integral to the institution of society. Crassly and coarsely put “legein” is determining or designating (language) while “teukhein” is making or doing. Immediately their interconnection jumps out in that designating is a making or doing through differentiating/identity (What Castoriadis describes as ensemblist-indentity logic or thinking; i.e. designating this grouping of a set as same, ditto it will differentiate the designated grouping from the rest of the set, thereby in turn determining an “other” than the same). Language determines. Yet since it is all we’ve got, it also can be used to conceal or deny (itself a kind of making or doing). One example of this elision or denial of instituting (while actually actively doing just that) can be found in the ostensible differentiation of the two major parties in US national governance, the culture wars, the future of America as we know it (and maybe civilization itself!), etc. The US President Barack Obama is chastised for being unwilling to determine or designate religious based violence/terrorism by describing it as, well, religious, and the Governor of Florida, Rick Scott, authorizes state agencies to not utilize or reference the designation or determination of “climate change” (Science being considered as “secular.” And you always thought religion and science were different, didn’t you?). Religious grounds for making or doing are separated/differentiated from secular ones through the designation/determination of language. During the years of bloodshed in Northern Ireland, the IRA was never referenced as Roman Catholic terrorism. Such differentiation, the originally all too human institution of both (that which creates identity), is conveniently hidden, denied, elided or mystified. By actively attempting to “make” or “do” a differentiation of governing as human instituting and science being about something “not so” (humanly instituted) Governor Scott maintains the hidden, denied, elided or mystified aspect (of science, that it is humanly instituted). In “Pandora’s Hope” (1995) Bruno Latour repeatedly recounts and specifies the political intrigue and machinations of Louis Pasteur’s designation/determination of bacteria. That is, the science was a human institution. Like the US President, the Florida Governor wants to keep something hidden and unsaid while promoting a making or doing through identity with what can be said or revealed. The President elides the very human institution of religion through his determination/designation of terrorism (No Roman Catholic terrorists for him! Through his making or doing he affirms the mystifying aspect of religion’s political influence). The Governor elides admitting the very human institution of science through his designation/determination of state agency protocol (wherebye in actuality his making or doing affirms what Latour pointed out as the politics involved with the institution of science). This elision by both political rivals indicates identity, not difference.

Honeybees Are Integral To American Agriculture

June 22, 2014

“Here Are the Threats Honeybees Face—and What’s Helping Them Survive” (By Lauren Wade, June 20, 2014) is another one of those say nothing, hand wringing articles that masquerade as concerned, environmentally conscious online (land) fill. When the line “Honeybees are integral to American agriculture, pollinating more than a third of the crops we grow.” appears in an article followed immediately by graphic descriptions of bumps, bruises and lacerations suffered by apis mellifera, you know the writer hasn’t a clue, let alone knows how to be critical about what she is covering. To say that a partner or spouse is integral to a relationship or marriage and then discuss relationships or marriage is one thing. But to say a battered partner or spouse is integral to a relationship or marriage, and then write about what the battered spouse or partner is suffering without involving or critiquing the rest of the marriage or relationship is to show intellectual sloth at best, ignorance at worst. When a politician uses that line, you know they’re painting a Warner Bros. picture of farming, talking about Porky’s little friend Buzzy Bee not feeling very well (“Poor Buzzy. What can we do to help?”). If “Honeybees are integral to American agriculture,” then maybe we ought to look at what the other integral parts of agriculture are doing, to the bees as well as the rest of us. We shouldn’t let the politicians, as well as writers, get away with such drivel when discussing abusive relationships and battered (integral) partners. “Ain’t nobody’s business but my own” doesn’t cut it anymore.

Dewey And Da Bees

May 18, 2013

Pragmatism and Diversity: Dewey in the Context of Late Twentieth Century Debates is a collection of 8 essays, an introduction and a concluding conversation amongst the various authors edited by Judith M. Green, Stefan Neubert, and Kersten Reich (2011). The writings and philosophy of American John Dewey are pretty much de rigueur for undergraduates of private liberal arts colleges. Indeed, the entire philosophy of pragmatism is pretty much embodied within many of these institutions. My bookshelf finds no “Dewey” between “Deleuze” and Freire”. This book did much to help me understand the myth-conception I’ve had about graduates of small, private liberal arts colleges being celebrated for landing their first job with the American Lung Association or R.J. Reynolds. It doesn’t matter which, they would be equally competent, committed and enthusiastic at either. But I guess I was wrong. Interesting insights about cosmopolitanism, pragmatism, and how they are viewed through the perspective of democracy (and education) accompany this reading.

But it ain’t all a bed of roses. Dewey seems to leave that small private liberal arts college enthusiasm slathered all over the place, even second hand, on those reading about him though not directly. Two essays addressed this: William J. Gavin’s The Context of Diversity versus the Problem of Diversity and Jim Garrison’s Dewey and Levinas on Pluralism, the Other, and Democracy. Gavin’s essay substantiates the existence of tragedy and Kafkaesque type scenario’s (a variation of which would be Heller’s Catch 22 scenarios). No amount of “problem solving” or reductionism to help address a problem eliminates these because, quite frankly, they just are, and won’t disappear from life as we know it or be lessened no matter how earnestly we apply pragmatic organization (hence the disjunct of the student gushing over their new job representing the American Lung Association, or R.J. Reynolds. It doesn’t matter which, pragmatism prevails). Garrison’s essay was the more vexing. Admirably, he does take the time to associate Levinas with Dewey primarily on their interest and commitment to diversity and pluralism. Though Levinas is presented accurately enough (good enough is an adequate standard in the comparison of ideas, authors and applications for this writer), Garrison fails to reconstruct his outlook as earnestly and conscientiously as he does Dewey’s. Reconstruction is a cornerstone of Dewey’s pragmatism but applying it with such bias undermines any benefits to be had from this aspect of pragmatism and democracy. It has been said that art is impossible after the Holocaust, or poetry for that matter (or God for some), but what about Dewey’s pragmatism? Reconstructing Levinas within the context of the post-holocaust civilized world (the latter part of the “later” Dewey), would have created a better understanding of inadequacies. Which brings us to – the bees.

Levinas centers on the Other which Garrison translates (or expands) to implicate the Same. One description of Dewey’s pragmatism has it stressing democracy as a way of life made operational through continuing education all founded on the fundamentals of nature, possibility, experience and community. These last four are pretty descriptive of the bees and could be considered almost as a template. An important part of contemporary existence is the place and importance of programming, software, in today’s world. These methodologies (outlooks, dispositions, organizations, whatever) function much as templates in that, like our student with her first job, it doesn’t matter what the application (or “context”). Dewey’s pragmatism can also be considered as a template. But the bees find themselves having to fly, be free and “work” the environment of, sometimes, up to three miles from their hive. Unlike livestock, totally managed and determined, for the bees no freedom means no production. Here Levinas’ Other can be reconstructed much more effectively and informatively than Dewey’s problem solving pragmatism. What the bees encounter in their necessity to be bees, is more like the Other of Levinas than some “problem” able to be solved if we just employ reductionist applications. It is planting time hereabouts , and not wishing to dispel wonderful myths of plowing and seeding most of it is done with a giant tanker truck coming in and spraying herbicide (akin to agent orange) on the field. After everything has died (including the dandelions the bees got drenched working while the spray was being applied), another huge, complicated piece of machinery (with attached tanks for liquid application) comes to inject seed and pesticide into the brown dead field. A couple of weeks from now, perfect rows of corn or beans will appear in this by design wasteland. For the bees, this certainly is the Face. This Monsanto-type methodology is a program, a template for how farming is done/to be done today (with all the protections of intellectual property). But what of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling and now, within our democracy, having to sit down at the table with Lloyd Blankfein? Will he be just an individual or is he, like our student, there as a representative of Goldman Sachs? Dewey is said to be promoting that there are three at the table. Me, Lloyd and our work. But the Supreme Court says there are really now four (or five, depends how you count). There is me, Lloyd, Goldman Sachs and our work. The corporate structure, much as software, functions as a template, insisting on a specific disposition, outlook and precedence. Stressing education of individuals for the sake of a full and healthy democracy begins to unravel when one notices that the little me is outnumbered two (or three) to one: the corporation, its representative (and its representative as an individual standing to gain enormously if he doesn’t vary from the template). Like the bees who must fly out into an environment that is committed to a specific modus operandi (trespassing insects must be eliminated), our individual at the table finds themselves in a situation better addressed by Levinas than Dewey.

Playing Ball

October 28, 2012

“NEIL BAROFSKY: Well, what I saw when I was in Washington was this real pressure on myself, on other regulators to essentially keep their tone down. And I was told point blank by Assistant Secretary of the Treasury that, this is about in 2010.

And he said to me, he said, “Neil, you’re a smart guy. You’re a young guy. You’re a talented guy. You got your whole future in front of you. You’ve got a young family that’s starting out. But you’re doing yourself real harm.” And the reason why you’re doing yourself real harm is the harsh tone that I had towards the government as well as to Wall Street, based on what I was seeing down in Washington. And he told me that if I wanted to get a job out on the Street afterwards, it was going to really be hard for me.

BILL MOYERS: You mean on Wall Street?

NEIL BAROFSKY: Yes. And I explained to him that I wasn’t really interested in that. And he said, “Well, maybe a judgeship. Maybe an appointment from the Obama administration for a federal judgeship.” And I said, “Well, again, that would be great. But I don’t really think that’s going to happen with my criticisms.” And he said it didn’t have to be that way. “If all you do is soften your tone, be a little bit more upbeat, all this stuff can happen for you.”

And that’s what I meant by playing ball. I was essentially told, play ball, soften your tone, and all of these good things can happen to you. But if you stay harsh that was going to cause me real harm in those words.” (From the transcript of the October 26, 2012 Bill Moyer’s interview with Neil Barofsky, former special inspector general for the TARP program under Presidents Bush and Obama)

I was very fortunate this past week to have a lengthy conversation with a professional arts educator. Part of our conversation centered around a recent show by one of her colleagues. I mentioned how difficult it was, if not impossible, to critique something like that. Quite frankly, I didn’t have a clue as to what was going on, nor a handle on how to critique it. Criticism simply is no longer acceptable within what is espoused as art today, at least not within our contemporary popular culture. She agreed that criticism was not, having been replaced by positive and supportive constructive insights instead, and that she originally had the same impression regarding the show. Attending the artist’s talk alleviated her sense of obfuscation.

“Claes Oldenburg once said, “Anybody who listens to an artist talking about his work should have his eyes examined.” Groucho Marx put it better when he said, “Who do you want to believe, me or your own eyes?” [“actually Chico, dressed as Groucho, made this remark in Duck Soup”]” (Robert Morris The Idle Idol, or Why Abstract Art Ended up Looking Like a Chinese Room, Critical Inquiry Vol. 34, No. 3 pg. 444)

Dispelling the need to critique after having witnessed it with my very own eyes was rather unsatisfying, if not downright unethical. Maybe there was a Chico, speaking in the guise of Groucho, within this professional academic’s solo show. But what could it be? And how to find it since it certainly was right there before my very eyes? In a totally unrelated text (The Parallax View), on a totally unrelated matter (the distinction between approaches to the obscene supplement of violence within the notion of sovereignty) Slavoj Zizek writes: “And this brings us back to where we began: perhaps we should assert this attitude of passive aggression as a proper radical political gesture, in contrast to aggressive passivity, the standard “interpassive” mode of our participation in socio-ideological life in which we are active all the time in order to make sure that nothing will happen, that nothing will really change.” (pg. 342)

Part of the lack of critique or dispute within contemporary art today is that so much of it exists within this “interpassive mode of our participation” (both the artist creator as well as the viewer/spectator). The artist (as well as the viewer) exerts so much creative and material investment to be “active all the time in order to make sure that nothing will happen, that nothing will really change.”  This is primarily to keep the opportunities of career, networking, and earnings always open and available. Stay positive and supportive in your tone and presentation. “And that’s what I meant by playing ball. I was essentially told, play ball, soften your tone, and all of these good things can happen to you.”

The Managers Have Failed, Long Live Management

May 20, 2012

            In the past weeks Jamie Dimon made a preemptive announcement of failure, and kept his job. The rhetorical move exemplified the brilliance of management that makes Dimon the model of emulation for folks like Scott Walker, John Kasich, Mitch Daniels and other state governors across America.

            “These processes manifest themselves in an increasing concentration in NPM [New Public Management] on the supervision and regulation of the public sector through mechanisms such as audits and inspections. The emphasis on control brings to light the first hidden substantial aspect of NPM managerialism that is reminiscent of state Communism. Like Communism, NPM is totalitarian because it leaves no institutionalized room for criticism, which it always sees as subversive:

            Because managerialism sees itself as the antidote to chaos, irrationality, disorder,            and incompleteness, there are no spaces within such a social order in which           autonomy can be contested legitimately. Managerial definitions of quality,             efficiency, improved productivity or self management, construct a particular        version of autonomy. Those who do not desire these managerial constructs of           autonomy are simply defined as absurd, as under managerialism, these notions     appear as self-evident “good”


            The German sociologist Ulrich Beck recently coined the term McKinsey Stalinism in this context.

            The introduction of permanent control over faculty – which is unprecedented at least in the history of universities in democracies worthy of the name – is nothing other than the introduction of a culture of permanent mistrust. That is the second attribute that NPM shares with state Communism.

            The qualispeak of NPM exploits the indisputable fact that in Europe, North America, and Australia higher education is largely financed by public funds and founded on the idea that taxpayers – the shareholders in the state – are entitled to know that their money is being spent efficiently and transparently. NPM is VFM [Value for Money] and thus the best of all possible worlds. In this respect NPM is the privatized heir of state Communism. Managers who make higher education “efficient” and “transparent” by exercising constant control over the faculty are represented as the form that “accountability” to taxpayers and consumers takes in the former public domain. “Accounting,” that is, the dual process of counting and being required to account for what one does, is central to this process (“MU,” p. 325). The management itself in NPM, just like the party in state Communism, is outside all control and accountability because the management by definition represents both efficiency and accountability. That is the third attribute that NPM shares with state Communism. The question of whether managers really do spend taxpayers’ money more efficiently and whether they are more reliable than faculty cannot be asked in NPM. Nor may one ask whether the cost of the management controls are less than the money saved on inefficient academic personnel. The fact that there is not a shred of evidence for these two crucial assumptions of NPM – rather the opposite – makes abundantly clear where the blind spots lie in NPM. That all the recent economic scandals – from Enron, WorldCom, and Barings to the Lehman Brothers – happened despite constant audits furnishes some extra empirical food for critical thought on both management and audits.

            This brings us up against a fourth interesting similarity between neo-liberal managerialism and state Communism: just as the Party by definition represents the interests of those who are led by the Party, so according to NPM management represents the interests of those who are managed. That is why NPM management models allow no place for representative bodies, which are only seen as a hindrance to administrative efficiency. And were undeniable irregularities in management practices to occur, then an individual manager eventually may be criticized or dismissed, but management itself can never be challenged. Neither the NPM nor the state Communist discourse will accept any criticism of their core practices and key personnel as legitimate because criticism is identified with lack of loyalty to the organization and so is seen as fundamentally subversive.” (pgs. 608-610, Critical Inquiry Spring 2012, essay entitled If You’re So Smart, Why Are You Under Surveillance? Universities, Neoliberalism, and New Public Management by Chris Lorenz)

How Occupy Changes Everything

May 4, 2012

            On the morning of May 2nd, NPR Morning Edition ran Steve Inskeep’s short interview with Jonah Goldberg promoting the release of his latest book Do Liberals Live Under A ‘Tyranny Of Clichés’? : How liberals cheat in the war of ideas. Mr. Goldberg writes when “he gets annoyed”, hence the book. Annoyance also leads to argument. Jonah is quite passionate about argument, wanting a debate about ideas, the foundations of ideology (“All I want is an argument.”). Ideologies are at the heart, the core of politics for Goldberg. “Our country, if you read the Federalist Papers, is about disagreement. It’s about pitting faction against faction, divided government, checks and balances.” Political debate revolves around this, and that’s what makes this country great for Jonah Goldberg. Liberals are slackers, attending to these arguments with unearned clichés, unsubstantiated generalities that appeal to something other than the rules of the game, the paradigm of democracy as spelled out by the founding fathers. He exemplifies this by chastising the president for his use of “Social Darwinism” which is nowhere to be found according to Jonah. Elsewhere he says “We are a species that must try to impose and find systems — systems of thought, ways of organizing and categorizing reality,” Of course, this is not to be taken as a generality or cliché because Mr. Goldberg has pronounced it not to be so. Bruno Latour would beg to differ in his Making Things Public, saying it is precisely the role of a democracy, an assembly of people to determine if “we are a species that must try to impose and find systems”. Unearned cliché?

            As a laborer I once was obligated to sit through a lunch time debate of whether John Deere or International Harvester made the better tractor. My co workers passionately defended the different features and histories though today advertisers just reference the difference in color. In like manner Goldberg is on fire over the difference of liberals and conservatives. It is the love of the fight, the war, “pitting factions against factions” that enamors Goldberg. However, this doesn’t solve problems (not a concern for a lover of rhetoric). Global finance and irrevocable climate change are only possible thanks to their being systemic. We are in what some geologist are calling the “anthropocene”, earth formed by the actions of man. Financial systems play no small part in this. These systems are only possible due to newer and more powerful, more efficient technologies. Man landing on the moon was only possible thanks to calculations impossible for any single person, or collective of persons to do on their own. “Too big to fail” and “tipping” point” may be clichés, but they also express the actuality that problems involved are not comprehendible, let alone solvable by any one person, or even system. Then again, as Latour pointed out (in Making Things Public), identifying a problem (as a problem) is a matter of democracy. Identifying and solving what ails society is what democracy addresses so very well. On this Occupy gets it, Goldberg doesn’t.

            The second thing that Occupy grasps and Jonah elides is the foundations of the paradigm Goldberg so passionately embraces. His criticality doesn’t extend to the actuality that the writers of the Federalist Papers, the founders of our country had no problem with people owning people, as property (along with land, buildings, livestock and machinery). No clichés please about how our founding fathers recognized the inherent evil but in their great wisdom preferred the expediency of adhering to the supremacy of the rights of private property, of ownership. His paradigm of democracy is based on this overriding priority of ownership, founded on the assumed righteousness of disenfranchisement (the exclusion of non owners). Women were not fully equal to the owners of democracy who could govern, nor were Native Americans, immigrants (not possessing Engand as their motherland), the indentured, or the unschooled property-less (schooling at least gave one a claim to entitlement). Current economic data suggests that 40% of Americans have no net worth. In Goldberg’s democracy, these folks have no say.

            Thoreau asks “what makes for ownership?” Who takes ownership of global finance creating economic crisis and climate change? After Occupy, “pitting factions against factions” in an outdated paradigm is a totally inadequate and futile approach to solving the problems and challenges facing us all. Consensus generating action is preferable, not the continuous “war of ideas” and “a country…about disagreement” that Goldberg thrives on.

The Most Varied Things May Happen

December 8, 2011

“Create great holiday memories.” So tout all the current ads for electronics and travel destinations (hard to tell them apart). Going through the mountains the fuel gauge showed E. It was at a quarter when I passed the last civilized outpost of motels and truck stops. Oh well, whatever comes up here in the wilderness will have to do since I also need to go. The only gas station in this desolation had a restroom with a flooded floor where one literally needed to roll up one’s pants to “access” it. A memory I’d love to permanently delete if I could, certainly not re-create. “if I say, rightly, ‘I remember it’ the most varied things may happen; perhaps just that I say it.” (Wittgenstein Philosophical Grammar courtesy Mark Seltzer/The Official World, Critical Inquiry Summer 2011 pg.746). But I digress.

Oh yes, I was thinking of an author, someone who wrote a half century ago regarding colonialism. I remembered what he wrote about, his description of colonialism from the colonist’s standpoint. It had to do with Algeria under the French; the memory of descriptions of how the colonizer, by definition, is in all intent and action focused on deriving the greatest wealth from the colonized without necessarily consuming the colonized in total. The colonizer always must remember to allocate some residual vestige of wealth for the colonized to maintain the semblance of existence and autonomy in order to simultaneously facilitate the colonial process (much as one remembers to feed the horse that enables transit); all for the one, with only the least bit of the one for the all. So the colonizer recognizes the need for hospitals, institutions of learning, orphanages and charitable institutions to be maintained. The colonized are given the autonomy and authority amongst themselves to maintain and manage these from the residual resources allowed them for their everyday continuance (though the colonizers always retain the memory of all the wealth that has passed through their fingers and emphasize that it is their wealth that makes these charities possible).  I remembered the years this covered and the writer having been a doctor or psychiatrist, but I couldn’t remember the author’s name, only vague vocalizations of phonetic association.

I forgot to mention that all this was precipitated by recent criticism of Occupy, that it is misdirected and ineffective. That it would be better positioned to utilize its energy in actually doing “good” through some social or charitable work, like a walk for diabetes, or canned food drive, or maybe some colored ribbons of support. That these activities better reflect solving problems than the occupation of critical expression through performance; something more in line with Newt Gingrich’s “Take a shower and get a job”, maybe at Walmarts, thereby enabling that company to continue to be the number one business donor in America. All this created memories of Empire. I had forgotten that I actually owned a copy (instead of using the library’s as I am want). Certainly Hardt and Negri would have remembered to reference this 20th century African writer. My phonetic pronunciations proved pertinent. There it was in the index.

The titles of his work had escaped my memory but having the name allowed me to search the online interlibrary resources.  My memory of Franz Fanon’s work was of his writings being readily available, with little interest except for the marginal few. Now I noticed that a number of the volumes were listed as missing or checked out.  Truly “the most varied things may happen”.

Art After The Holocaust

October 1, 2011

            That was a long time ago.

Don’t be irreverent.

            In one short page?

There have to be points of reference.

            That was a definite relevant occurrence.

            It deserves reference.

Things did change.

            Not so much in the US.

Why not?  

           America seems to have gravitated towards the Warhol interpretation of surface and uncomplicated, positive cultural creations.

There’s always Steven King, gangsta rap and antique heavy metal if you want to visit the dark side.

            Yeah, separate the dark from the shiny.

            Maybe Larry Flint is on to something with his indiscretion bounty on politicians.

Do you think?

America is entangled in the economic crisis happening in Europe and could be deeply affected by any collapse.

            How is it that European cultural endeavors can be described as “complicated” while in the US to be described as such is to receive the kiss of death?

            The Lion King was the top box office draw over the weekend out grossing all others.

Be reverent now, just because we didn’t experience it doesn’t mean we can’t learn from it.

Don’t want it to be repeated.

            Hard time talking about racial issues in the US.

            Elision fields.

Latest census info has more whites.

            Attributed to Hispanics marking that box for affiliation.

Spanish is still a language, isn’t it?

            Why a box?

If we keep the light side light and the dark side dark, our cultural creations will reflect the light side since the dark only makes for shadow.

            Simple enough that anyone can do it.

We are all artists, especially with the latest tablets and apps available.

            Categories and boxes.

Ones and zeros.

            Zero or one?

Just take your place on the train so we can communicate more efficiently.

            Greater efficiency, that’s the solution!

Ascetic Aesthetic Utopia

September 11, 2011

            The previous post (Yart Sale) considered a “trifecta of art credibility”, the stuff of art (the actual thing itself), the theory of art, and integration into actual community. It suggested why today it is next to impossible to achieve. The speculation was centered primarily on the ever changing definition and nature of community. It is highly possible to indicate the art object or event though many are chameleon like in their intent to be mistaken for everyday reality. Even more so is it to define the theory or critique which usually appears as text. But actual community is taken to be slippery, eluding the grasp. Hereabouts in Ohio, an environment of blue green toxic algae has stained summer fun at many local lakes and beaches this year, even on Lake Erie. A recent headline/article reported that local leaders/officials blame it for the decrease in tourism related commercial activity. No mention is made of the crappy economic environment inhibiting people’s ability to spend discretionary income on summer outings. In like manner, focusing on the ephemeral nature of community when considering the trifecta of art credibility misses the greater role theory plays within this wager.

            Many times in previous posts we have considered the enormous impact of the thought of Jacques Ranciere on contemporary art and art/cultural theory. Ranciere relies on a rearrangement of the art historical perspective, introducing regimes of art, how art making/perception were organized over the passage of time. These don’t rely so much on evolution, tracing one regime growing out of another, but more on the direction and emphasis of a civilization’s culture. With Ranciere it would be the European culture. The recent regime, that of Art, the aesthetic regime, originated less than 250 years ago and runs concurrent with the upheavals of democracy and social organizations of equality (rather than hierarchy). Ranciere stimulates this direction by arguing for the aesthetic experience, the establishment of the art experience (sensually as well as theoretically) separate from other experiences with the rise of the romantic period of the 19th century (Why Madame Bovary must die). The aesthetic became legitimate on its own terms as individual experience/event whereas previously it supplemented a religious, ethical or political (monarchic) priority. Now the aesthetic is the priority. Various historic “headlines” evidence the feasibility of this approach – Art for art’s sake, Abstract art critiques of the 1950’s and 60’s that insisted the work had to justify itself, Danto’s art after the end of art, etc.

            With Ranciere’s aesthetic regime and the shifting of art to Art, a worm slips in unnoticed; one that is slipperier than the current definitions of community. It is presumed that Art and the aesthetic experience is akin to the experience of sky diving or wilderness camping. Involvement with the activity is exclusive by definition of the activity. If I jump out of a plane or plunge into the woods without the need for accommodation reservations, the experience produced will be one of free falling or sleeping in whatever weather/terrain is found. However, the worm begs to differ. This is not the current condition of the art (or Art) experience. The aesthetic regime described by Ranciere is not. Whether it ever was is a totally other consideration.

            Today, the art experience (or Art) is simultaneous with many experiences. It does not occur exclusively, nor is it sought out exclusively. Previous posts of this blog have considered the current definition of art as a social activity involving circulation and exchange (indeed reflective of late term capitalism). It has been questioned whether it is at all possible without the dialogic of others, in experience, interpretation or execution. Today’s undergrads have never experienced educational opportunities without video, audio or other artistic resources occurring simultaneously.  Name me an art (Art) experience that is exclusive as such. Movies? Folks get Netflix and enjoy them at home with all the interactions/distractions that provides. The opera? Now simulcast at your local cinema or available on DVD or as a download. Art gallery, with attendant coffee shop/children’s interactive area? Sculpture in public places shared by buskers, hot dog and T shirt vendors? No, art (Art) is experienced in conjunction with, is preferred alongside other experiences simultaneously. To isolate the art experience, to be motivated in art production by the inspiration that “someone will appreciate this particular endeavor” is to not live within our culture. Academy award winning films are experienced in the back seat of distinguished designer SUV’s by kids with iPod buds stuck in their ears downing Schweddy Balls ice cream being chauffeured by mothers texting about the latest episode of Hollywood Hausfraus on their Droids while gulping gourmet cappuccino on the way to soccer practice.

            The difficulty with achieving the trifecta of art credibility lies not with actual community but rather with the theory/critique. Current theory/critique self justifies by withdrawing art to a like exclusivity as itself. To speak/write of art as an activity or experience separate from that of other elements of culture is to promote an ascetic aesthetic utopia.