Working under the aesthetic premise that it is the context of some physical thing that charges it with meaning, I would like to say a few words about music.  It’s actually quite simple and not that profound at all, but frequently looked over by musicians and other artists.  Music is simply a way for cultures to communicate with one another.  Any other discussion about music is merely talking about taste in some ungrounded theoretical way.  The context of a song at a particular venue is what charges the tune with cultural power, similarly to the way the context of a symbol can charge it with meaning, like in natural languages.  It is the language of inter-cultural discourse.  In a phrase, tone or rhythm, musical histories that extend into socio-political histories are summoned to the venue.  It doesn’t matter if you’re playing Metal or Punk-Classical.  You are inevitably continuing the historical inter-cultural dialectic, either through an embrace or rejection of musical sensibilities throughout history.  If you accept the premise and follow it through, as a musician, you are the voice of a people in a vast history of cultural dialectics.  Musical traditionalists that adhere to strict tonal, rhythmic and emotional limitations are as mute to cultural discourse as a Cubist painting hanging on a white wall in a museum. Image

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My music

June 20, 2011

Here’s a link to some music I make with a trio in my apartment.  I’m on piano.

http://www.myspace.com/saltwaterandthefunky24bits

My Paintings

October 21, 2010

www.workingpaint.wordpress.com

I Heart Huckabees “head banging scene”

By using a jejune experiment, I think Smithson is pointing out the obvious in relation to the absurd, as usual through his subtle satire. By saying “prove” in the use of a jejune experiment, he is commenting on the fetishes of culture (of his time), by saying, in essence, a child playing in a sandbox does not need a probability equation to make him/her believe that he cannot make the sand reverse back into pure black and white. I think you need to read Smithson with a bit of a sense of humour, sometimes. It’s pretty funny, considering that an unenculturated, unknowledgeable child might believe in the irreversability of entropy (via a sandbox) moreso than some adults may believe so because of the probabilistic “conclusions” and methods of the sciences. In doing this, he is most certainly not berating the Sciences at all, but most likely pointing out the absurdity of believing otherwise.

It’s a mockery. This is what happens when people believe in certain highly probable things, like entropy or an external world.

Smithson might attribute the fetishes for “proof” and lack of belief to a very fundemental misunderstanding of language due to “the mania for literacy”. He continues in the essay to write, “References are often reversed so that the “object” takes the place of the “word”. A is A is never A is A, but rather X is A. The misunderstood notion of a metaphor has it that A is X – that is wrong.” The word is not the object, yet this might be the fundamental misconception of language that extends outward into our cultural biases about “art movements”, rather than our more acute cultural biases about art and the artist, or an idea and its creator. The fetish for literacy, to paraphrase Smithson, is due to language fears. These language fears are a cultural phenomenon, where the size of your vocabulary might be an expression of your language fear. The labels of “art movements” are curiously long-winded and innacurate, which is why some artists, and historians put quotes around them. They have become a convention where categorical limits are necessary, but the meaning of the term brings to mind something completely different than what it’s referring to. It might be more appropriate, for convention’s sake, to name periods in art history from one artists name to the next, or one artpiece to the last. So, “conceptual art” might better be called “Duchamp onward”, or “Fountain onward”.

But, why the misleading terms? I think we can look to the fetishes of capitalism for this answer. The illusory hierarchies that are a development of the “territory struggle”, where the illusion becomes a “concrete” cell, and the dreamy “power-structures” that are upheld by the powerful, are considered real. The powerful could be considered wardons of the powerless. The nightmare of a “prison” becomes all too real. The physical language involved in political, and social discourse is misleading in some cases, I think. They’re not “territories” or “structures” but mirages, fantasies, and illusions. They don’t take up space the way a building does, but destroy actual space through the power of abusing metaphor. Their abuse of metaphors creates hallucinatory delusions of “territory” and “structures.” These delusions, I think, create a reversed belief in metaphor that extends into the misconceptions, and thus mislabels that are prevelaent in movements throughout history.

If you don’t believe in entropy, Smithson might say, “find a child and ask them.”  Or, if you don’t believe in existence, the writers of I Heart Huckabees might say, “bash your head against something.”

Robert Smithson, (digitally “preserved”) photograph of a partially buried woodshed

woodshed

“I should now like to prove the irreversability of eternity by using a jejune experiment for proving entropy. Picture in your mind’s eye the sandbox divided in half with lack sand on one side and white sand on the other. We take a child and have him run hundreds of times around clockwise in the box until the sand gets mixed and begins to turn grey; after that, we have we have him run anti-clockwise, but the result will not be a restoration of the original division, but a greater degree of greyness and an increase of entropy.

Of course, if we filmed such an experiment we could prove the reversability of eternity by showing the film backwards, but then sooner or later the film itself would crumble or get lost and enter the state of irreversibility. Somehow this suggests that the cinema offers an illusive or temporary escape from physical dissolution. The false immortality of the film gives the viewer an illusion of control over eternity – but “the superstars” are fading.”

– Robert Smithson, “A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic , New Jersey” (1967)

The importance of jejune, I think, lies in the regression to a childlike state of a lack of enculturated knowledge. The jejune is a possibility-space free from the illusionistic confines of the predominant cultural biases and attitudes. Before the abuse of power enculturates a child through inversions of metaphors, calling illusions “structures”, fantasies “concrete”, etc., the child is allowed to roam free from the biased cultural confines. Sure, they lack knowledge – but this is where the play and vividness of imagination comes from. Without social responsibilities, or cultural confinement, the child’s unenculturated imagination takes control of it’s experience. It is that powerful. Haven’t you ever seen a child run around in a “rampage” interacting with apparitions of thier own imaginations, almost to the point of mentaly transforming the architecture underneath a table, into the underside of a mountain? Scale, to the child is no longer a restriction. Tables can be mountains. Mountains can be tables. The concept of a “structure” to the child is interchangeable with “illusion”. There are no fantasies of “concreteness”, or “stasis” masquerading as real. The child is closer to the entropic realities, than some adults might think themselves to be. Some children have no mania for preservation, not because they have a concept of it, but because they lack the concept of it. They evolve along with cultural attitudes, and once the threshold of free inversion and interchangeability is passed into “locked” illusionistic metaphors determined scales, they slowly die out in a cultural dreamscape, they think is a landscape. We all do.

The jejune, then – regardless if this experiment still holds true with servers, and hard-drives today – is a telling expression of the power of both the imagination, and the cultural sublimation of it through metaphorical magic tricks.

Dialectics-As-Process

February 3, 2009

dinosaur-fossil-scelidotherium_leptocephalum_side

The context that postmodern aesthetics takes into account, traced back to Frederick Law Olmsted’s creation of parks in New York City in the 19’th Century, developed into a massive dialectical relationship of the landscape to human activities, be it social, political, and natural. The vastness of the context, for some post modernists, spans all the way back to the paleolithic era encased in permeable glass in museums – the bones of a triceratops still undergoing the culturally emergent notion of entropy – to the extrapolated second law of thermodynamics, that says, in the future, the universe will become an all-encompassing sameness, all the way to the irreversability of eternity. The context encompasses our (biased) epistemic evolution along with the actual landscape in a dialectic-as-process that is never finished.

mayan-ruins1

I think dialectical relationships need to be specific. For instace, a dialectic between a landscape and a map must consider a broad contextual range, meaning that the physical sciences must be employed to establish the “side” of the landscape in the dialectic and its relation to the “side” of the map. Physical history, like geological time, of a particular landscape (site) is in a continual relationship with the human activities (social, political and natural). The primordial eras are entombed in permeable glass cases, where heat can escape the fossils of dinosaurs. We have a relationship with the primordial era through the archeological digs that brought up the fossils from rock layers in the earth. They are now entombed in museums. The entropic geological time, then, might be said to be in a relationship with the social, political and natural human (cultural) activites manifested in the “landscape” of the architecture, and design of a history museum. The preserved history is what some postmodern artists were interested in, as they could use a physical landscape of a museum to establish a dialectic with the maps. The social, political, and natural (i.e. biological evolution) histories are found in ruins like pompey, cathedrals in europe, Mayan Pyramids, and even the deteriorating archtecture of today. History proper, is a fiction to some. The people that hold this view become interested in the ruined landscapes of past civilizations, fossils found in the rocks, hieroglyphs, language entombed in books – all real stuff – even the buildings erected today that “rise into ruin, rather than erected for the future.” (paraphrasing Smithson) The future becomes forgotten in the past – meaning in the instant a brick is layed, it is already in ruin. The future is remembered through the past.  The history museums are an actual landscape undergoing physical processes alongside cultural processes. This way, a map of the past can be developed from a transitory landscape evolving along with human cultural activities.

In simpler terms, All of the physical Sciences, aesthetics, semiology, architecture, and art are employed on actual landscapes to make maps of history. It is a deconstruction of Idealistic historical dialectics, through the belief in material reality. Alot of artists were reading Borges, Merleau Ponty, Levi-Strauss, Olmsted, physicists, biologists, chemists, geologists, etc., which reconstructed this deconstruction of history-as-an-idea.

All of these sciences are themselves an historically contingent cultural emergence that change alongside with the landscape. The landscape is no longer a “thing-in-itself” but a “thing-for-us”.

(Al)Readymade Shit

February 3, 2009

Piero Manzoni’s Shit:

canned-shit

There is alot of shit that passes for art. The thing, in particular, that makes Piero Manzoni’s readymade shit art, is that it is a cultural, and historical reaction to modernism. It is anti-modernist shit-art. It is a rather violent attack against the more recent movements in modernist art, like surrealism and cubism. These are, in many ways, decorative illustrations of the unconscious and theories (like Freud and relativity), repectively. They are illustrations, insofar as they synaesthetically render a provisional theory into a decorative format where it only buries the senses further into the abstractions and fictions of the mind. They are overwhelmingly cerebral, while, at the same time, annhialate all context in the museum through thier isolated illustrations. The cultural dialectic is compacted into a single point in a museum, where it drains all of its power. There is no context in this art. It is rather a mute illustration of a concept. They are decorative collages, growing from a German Ideal of the sublime or beautiful. Though, the “beauty” in it is an intersubjective cultural emergence without accounting for the dialectics-as-process of the evolution of beautiful. They are mute, immoble tombs of ideas that don’t shift. This is the modern art museum – tombs that preserve and drain art of its power, by neglecting the dialectic.

I wonder why there is a prevading “monumental” mystery about the explosive contextual scope of postmodern art. In any case, I think it is this “monumental” myth about postmodern art that allows illustrations of the supernatural to pass as art (like Alex Grey). “Art” (illustrations called art) is powerful in a misinformed culture, only because of the cloak of mystery it is shrouded in. Art is valued all to highly because there isn’t even a consensus cultural interpretation of it that even remotely comes close to understanding it. So now, decoritive illustrations of the supernatural pass as art because of the prevalent and powerful cultural myths about it.

The canned-shit of Piero Manzoni is art because of the account of the cultural context in which it is placed. It is powerful, both historically as a path to postmodernism, and culturally, because it is electrified with the power of the historical and cultural context in which it is placed. It was the beginning of an explosively explicit dialectic of many histories.

Alex Grey’s illustrations as art are (al)readymade shit.

obama

Some Material on Dialectics

February 2, 2009

Some material on Dialectics:

Robert Smithson, nonsite
nonsitecontained
“The side of a smooth green hill, torn by floods, may at first be properly called deformed, and on the same principle, though not with the same impression, as a gash on a living animal. When a rawness of such a gash in the ground is softened, and in part concealed and ornamented by the effects of time, and the progress of vegitation, deformity, by this usual process, is converted into picturesqueness; and this is the case with quarries, gravel pits, etc., which at first are deformities, and which in their most picturesque state, are often considered as such by a levelling improver.”

– Uvedale Price, Three Essays on the Picturesque, (1810)

“Burkes notion of “beautiful” and “sublime” functions as a thesis of smoothness, gentle curves, and delicacy of nature, and as an antithesis of terror, solitude, and vastness of nature, both of which are rooted in the real world, rather than a Hegelian Ideal… We cannot take a one-sided view of the landscape within this dialectic. A park can no longer be seen as a “thing-in-itself”, but rather as a process of ongoing relationships existing in a physical region – the park becomes a “thing-for-us”… dialectics of this type are a way of seeing things as a manifold of relations, not as isolated objects. Nature, for the dialectician is indifferent to any formal ideal… Olmsted’s parks exist before they are finished, which means in fact they are never finished; they remain carriers of the unexpected and of contradictions on all levels of human activity, be it social, political, or natural.”

– Robert Smithson, “Frederick Law Olmsted and the Dialectical Landscape”, (1973)

“Both sides [of the dialectic] are present and absent at the same time. The land, or ground is placed in the art, rather than the art placed on the ground… Large scale becomes small. Small scale becomes large. A point on a map extends to the size of a landmass. A landmass contracts to a point… The rules of this network of signs are discovered as you go along uncertain trails both mental and physical.

– Robert Smithson, “The Spiral Jetty”, (1972)

If cultural means, “social, political, or natural human activity” then I would say dialectics are the result of cultural relations with the landscape. The material landscape becomes mapped my the mental, as the landscapes shift from entropy to different mapped “states” (mobility) of Picturesque to deformed. The material shits in relation to the mental interpretative evaluations of it. The landscape is never finished, and our maps are never finished. The maps are continually revised in a dialectical relationship with the entropic lanscape. Human activity (culture) effects our evaluative and interpretive maps of the landscape. The development of the dialectic is an entropic phenomenon, both in the material and in our maps. They do converge as “a point on a map extends to the size of a landmass [, and] a landmass contracts to a point [on a map].”

The Surreal Undermining the Real

“[The trumpet] sounds human. It sounds like a voice. Sometimes I can get it to sound like a… another voice.” – Miles Davis (60 Minutes Interview)

Some of you might find this five part youtube series of Miles playing live with Wayne Shorter, Jack De Johnette, Chick Corea and Dave Holland fairly interesting. I particularly like the exchanges between Chick (on Keys) and Miles, beginning about halfway through 3 of 6. They are speaking to each other in notes, but mostly phrases. The conversations begin with an exchange of some notes, maybe roughly equivilant to a greeting – meeting each other in a harmony, where the mutual compassion for one another is asking “where are you?”, rather than “how are you?” The location of Chick and Miles in the soundscape is a compassionate, humble questioning. The development of conversation becomes a transcendence of Miles from himself, and Chick from himself, where these spatial entities become distinct from the person Blowing, or tapping out the notes. It is “another voice”, that is not Miles’ nor Chick’s, but an evolving conversation spawing from the asking of “where are you?” to the exchange of phrases that develop into a textural, colorful, spatial conversation of the textural, colorful, spatial play itself. They leave thier bodies, not to enter the others body, but to enter the dissonances and resonances of their creative soundscape, where the self, nor the body can seem to reach the complexity of the creative soundscape. In other words, it could be said that their bodies of experience are transformed entirely into sound (texture, color, line, space). It reaches heights of soundplay where even the body is forgotten. It reminds me of a quote by Einstein where he writes, “To really live, is to live outside of oneself.” For Miles, I think, living was living outside of his body, into the body of sound.

In these recordings, there is something surreal going on that is more real than the verbal interactions of talking. The surreal displaces the real into dreamlike status. The alternate undermines the primary, where the roles are exchanged.