Saturday, 22 September 2012

An open question on art dualities and how they might be broken.


Below is a part of an email I wrote this morning, so it's an open question now.

I think there is something interesting in the blurred boundaries between what is marked as art and what is effectively the same thing but not marked as such. About a year or so ago I was really hooked on seeing the "art object" (even if that were an intangible thing) as least problematic when it was simply the by-product of a creative action that had another ends. So doing something with paint on canvas in order to understand something about space would result in something called art, or digging a trench in the earth to resolve a practical problem of drainage would also be called art. Whether it was good or bad art was another issue, neither wholly relativist nor objective. Some "works" having much more going on in them generally, a lot more movement and difference, but a subjective response still being vital.

I still hang onto some of this definition of art objects, but I've realised a bit more about how problematic it is in itself. There is a bit of the old heroic individualism in it, because it implies artists as people who just go an engage with the world and all we see are the relics of where they have been. I think this is a problem because it becomes primarily about that narrative, or the artist (images of an shirtless and ancient Picasso in his studio, self mythologising quotes becoming truisms). So the conflict I'm stuck on now is that on one hand I still don't want to present itself direct to an audience, but on the other I want the artist to be open for dialogue, and to make a statement on what they believe in and be prepared to discuss (and potentially defend or even alter) their position.

I think perhaps it is a pair of defence mechanisms that make it hard for us to have both. If we do something personal we try to avoid discussing it, and if we have to discuss something we try to avoid it being personal. The mode of modern art (and society?) also works very well to enforce a bifurcation between these two modes Artist/Critic Subjective/Objective Image/object feeling/thinking emotion/politic painter/sculptor. I don't think these distinctions exist in actuality any more than I think there is a split in the universe which divides me from everything else. However, there still remains the question for me of how to have art which we can think about in terms of the Deleuze & Guattari / Spinozan Plane of Immanence (everything as one overall ontological field, self included with degrees of intensity in different areas rather than hard edged idealised distinctions).

So not art for a rarefied generality of society and an Ideology, but equally not the rarefied narrative of an angry and emotional young white man who is somehow elevated above everyone else (which itself another Ideology)!

I think this does occur, work that avoids getting trapped in one of the two channels. I think some of it is a matter of perception but some of it is a matter of the work and the artist. I don't there there is a system for making more of this occur either but there might be situations that could encourage it and that's something I have been starting to think about, including perhaps the role collaboration strategies or “non-art agendas” might have to play in this.

This is a bit of a rant, but it would be great to know what you think about any of these ideas, where the gaps are or whether there is something else going on that I'm overlooking.

All the best

Friday, 14 September 2012

dark matter

X so we start with the void. The continual space between forms. Ether. Drunk.

Y This is the dark material, the dark matter.

X Dark because it is hidden yet present. Dark because that's what things are of themselves, without the attack of photons. Dark because that's what things are of themselves, withdrawn and holding all manner of expressions in reserve.

Y Material is the source of everything. Material is what is certain, regardless of whether we have access to it or knowledge of it. Material is the situation we find ourselves in and the knowledge that other situations exist which are equally material but within which we will never find ourselves.

X So material is itself dark.

Y With a linguistic turn it seems prudent to ask if dark is itself material?

X But with turning one adjective into a noun and one noun into an adjective we have arrived at an equation that bares no relation to the previous one. So the answer is no, dark is not material. Dark is just a resting state of things.


Doctor's text

The resources are perhaps not here for the realisation of things that might be suggested.

What is it to receive orders?

To be unable to respond?

Written text is always the enemy, it is always authority.

In place what could be try? Oral history perhaps? The history of Mouth?

Yet more words on the Blindness of Borges which allowed language to reveal itself in an undoctored state. 

Language is internally fluid, it is externally fluid but we are able to deceive ourselves because as we look at yesterdays newspaper.
We can pretend the words are the same as those we read previously while we waited for our meeting, and also those which we glanced down at while waiting for our meeting to end.
Language spoken is almost unbearably fluid, it is only stabilised by the text that we imagine as we hear it.

I'm not here talking about a duality with Logos on one side and a hydra on the other. 

I doubt Borges would approve of that either because for him the monster was always within the landscape, a part of the building, a function of the body or a habit of culture. The Borgesian monster is only ever a point within a field, and the same as Lovecraft this is what leaves us in horror. The monster is not simply an Oedipian/Chandlerian revelation that we are the beast but that we are immanent too all. There are no categories, no distinction, no separations, no distance. Nothing allows us to rise above anything else. We thought we were breathing but we are in fact drowning and this is our only state. The horror is more than the encounter with the meaningless. It is slow stretched throb. 
The spoken language offers hints at this horror, if we are able to listen.
And if we listen, we might also let go of what keeps us from this horror.
The ghost stories of both Marx and Nietzsche, which orbit their texts, are really keys to rapture through blood. Through soil. Through mountains and the spoken sounds of words. 
I doubt that anything can be written that is not a restraint on the human spirit.
So perhaps try that now, quietly under your breath. Outline an oral history of a republic defined not by state topography, but by amplification of expression. An expression defined by you.

Imagine that I now stand next to you.

There might be people in this place, you will have to forgive my being unable to see, feel, hear, smell or touch them. 

I want you to speak to me, tell me the history of this formless country, defined not by impassable rivers or ravines but a non-euclidean locality.
To define this space with a key concept would be madness. No oral history was ever reducible to anything smaller than its telling. So simply start from the first point and move from there. Not radial or linear but skipping and frothing, drying and cracking.

Talk about revulsion, which is a response to the proximity of the unstable formless. Expand this to cities and nations.
Talk about rot within the state.
Not the linguistic rot of corruption but civic senility, the putrification of systems. This is not the slow dynamics of bureaucratic life or of Stasi evolution. Those growing pains still retain the integrity of the organism and that would be the waltz of the institution and dissidence. Dissidence may lead but the institution grows larger with every step crushing everything against the walls of the dance hall. Grinding it into nothing in the inevitable endlessness of three four time.

No, the story I would like to hear is about the national putrification (see how easily this text itself has become demanding?). Whereas the dancing growth retains the state as the centre, the bloom of rot folds space around itself with no respect or prejudice. The wheels of colour establish new multiplicities, new quasi-bullseyes which drift and fold. These disrupt all reason, leave identity in tatters and the brain incomplete. Harmony is replaced by a wriggling granular cacophony.

In the final sounds of your horror story, tell me about the negation of a conquering viral narrative. Make it clear to me that the withering, splitting collapse of say, Palestine is not rot, but rather statehood labelled as rot. Make it clear that rot is the utter horizon and without identity. Make it clear that the irregular, multidimensional destruction is flagless and approaches not a utopian skyline but a snowstorm. A churning fertile sea of life moving too fast for anything to be named save its infinite ancient nonself. A restructured permanent revolution known not my characters and symbols but a cracked and oscillating vowel from an open mouth.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

First notes on Heterotopias

I wrote some things on Foucault's concept of the Heterotopia for a friend of mine so he could get a second opinion on how he was interpreting what is (for Foucault) a fairly scrappy and fuzzy bunch of ideas.

Here's the original text.

And this is my notes:

Heterotopia: Difference Space

For Foucault a Heterotopia is detached from time and space and “republic-like” it has a distinct culture. (I'd say that there's no definite distinction between places that aren't Heterotopias and places that are. I think it's more a matter of degrees and also relational to the individual encountering them. I haven't read more than the abstract but this essay seems to say the same thing while connecting it to Structuralism. I'm not that up on Structuralism myself but in principle it makes sense, Foucault is trying to say “there are these spaces, they are a distinct category, end of”. However, stuff doesn't really work like that, distinct categories don't exist, things are local and changing all of the time and reality is far more messy and complicated that the Ideal of a “category” which can only pretend to function by excluding everything else that doesn't fit. Anyway, here's that essay

Entrance to space is significant, exclusive, makes requirements of those that wish access and potentially denies such access.

Distinct from Utopia in that it is actual. Foucault is a bit fuzzy on the relationship between Heterotopia and utopia, he really only says that both exist and I don't think he opposes one to the other. They perhaps have similar qualities. I think there is more than a little of the latter in the former. The retaining of an impossible, Idealised and different space in the way we might carry an image of Utopia around in our heads is similar to what is inacted in a Heterotopia. I'd also say Heterotopia isn't so much a place as a behaviour or relation, I think we enact it more than we visit it.

A heterotopia is an individual (see also Manuel Delanda talk about Deleuze's Machinic Assemblages)
A heterotopia changes within itself (it is a composite of the actors of which it is constituted) but also in its relation to the exterior to which is has a definite relation (see Foucault discussion of changing status of madness through last 500 years, society exerts pressure on the asylum form the outside and makes it change shape from a place where we put these exotic divine people to a place where we attempt to “normalize” them)

Can be levels of intensity to heterotopias. Foucault doesn't actually say this, but putting my Deleuzian reading on it I'd say there are degrees of this quality. There are some points at which a full separation occurs and all actors that enter are re-coded as are the relations between them (say in a Carnival) and then others where it's more a slight dislocated feeling of having one's perception and behaviour modified. I think there's an argument to say that this is present to some degree in most places (a geographic or temporal space that has it's own identity)

Foucault sees distinction between time and space. I would suggest that duration is important in all (a prison is built in a place that did not have them, the carnival is in place under the surface in people's minds all year round) and that geography is the same in both cases, a fluid and cultural geography that is more to do with the cultural emplacement of “beating the bounds” than that the hard extensive geography of “there is a river on one side and a mountain on the other”. If that fuzzy image makes any sense at all.

I think it's a matter of intensities rather than a duality of space and time. I don't agree that musuem has a different relation to time than the fair just because it contains things from different periods (so does the fair, some attractions might both be and also be presented as historic and traditional, while others will be obviously from newer times. The mish-mash of cultural icons that make up funfairs seems a good indicator of this, even in 2012 I wouldn't be surprised to see a Cristopher Lee Dracula painted next to a Thriller Michael Jackson and that guy from Saw). I think this is more a Phenomenological issue, we are out of time when we enter the space. I don't believe that we are transported through time by each encounter with an artefact in the museum because I think first and foremost our experience is always of the museum. This is an experience of which a facet my be the temporal flutter of seeing stuff from ancient Carthage or the Paris Commune, but first of all the modifying experience is that of the museum itself. Of entering this secular sacred place.

Emplaced meaning. An increased intensity of the ritual and symbolic. Signs increase in evidence. We are aware of coding being more important, and the meaning of own actions being under observation. Like that cinematic trope of a character entering prison and standing as straight as possible and looking everyone in the eye to show they are not scared whilest also being hyper aware that the posture and eye movements of the other inmates. Makes me think of that TV show Oz, did you ever watch that?

The maintenance of a heterotopia is a conservative act. This is utterly my reading. A Heterotopia whether a brothel or a boarding school is exclusive and fights to maintain it's identity even while that identity is changing. It seeks to avoid entropy with the exterior and frequently develops a simulicrum-ish state, tending to the image of another culture/time/place that does not exist and might not ever had. I've never taken part in any obviously but from what I've heard there's a sort of odd mix of classical Greek, Italian monastic and British imperial about some of the rituals at your university.

Disjoint with space and time because the heterotopia is enclosed. Again, my reading. It has a border, and though this might be permeable physically, it is such that it is “psychologically” more solid. The borders of the space become the borders of thought, until perhaps the time comes to leave. I'm thinking here about a few scenes, including the final one in Werner Herzogs Aguire Wrath of God. The creation of a Heterotopia is a colonial act, it is the marking out of a territory and claiming it. The final scene of Aguire were Klaus Kinski is alone on a raft floating along a South American river really shows this idea of the mental borders, as if whilst on this flat square of wood there is a sort of forcefield surrounding him that makes his space different from the chaos of the jungle. It's a bit like royal litters or the sovereign soil of a foreign embassy.

A Heterotopia is state creation. (me again, but I think there is a lot of stuff out there relating Foucault's heterotopia to Deleuze and Guttari's Striation) The opposite is Nomad life. A boat is a point at which these two potentially converge. The boat is an attempt at a solid institution in defiance of it's surroundings (the water). It is also an liberation of space, I moves around, often in harmony with other forces (resisting the water with a sail boat allows us to embrace the meteorological intensities of the wind more easily). The boat itself is a unit that must be maintained, if it loses a part, it's likely to collapse (just like if bars were removed from the prison or the wrong music played at the fair).

Worth having a look at Deleuze and Guttari's chapter in Thousand Plateaus on multiplicities called “one of several wolves” about distinction between a pack/band and a mass. These aren't opposites, just parts of what is always a combination. Anyway, they are different kinds of multiplicity, and might be worth looking at in relation to the internal multiplicity of a Heterotopia as well as the external multiplicity of one heterotopia in relation to others and other structures all together. Just a thought.

Even though all Heterotopias are different, they exert a powerful “sameness” within. You either assimilate immediately, or they expell you. This obviously harks back to Foucault on Benthams Panopticon. Psychic restraint rather than material restraint.

I don't think these are space of resistance, I think think they are microcosms of dominance in themselves and a denial of the outside. I think they are a reductive fascism rather than a liberation through difference. Carnival is always about a release of pressure to ensure the status quo. It is always state sanctioned because the alternative to the mock revolution is the threat of a real one.

It is an attempt to think differently about, and
uncouple the grip of, power relations: to overcome the dilemma of every

form of resistance becoming entangled with or sustaining power. ”

The disorder provokes a space in which ‘fragments of a large
number of possible orders glitter separately’. Foucault’s overall concern in
The Order of Things is to establish the ground from which we produce clas-sifications and order, the foundational ‘codes of a culture’.

Final thoughts. This whole thing really made me think of the work of artist Mike Nelson, who has pretty much made his career from building these kind of spaces. He published an amazing book which is just an anthology of writing form different sources relating to this stuff, mainly from fiction, including people like Lovecraft, Borges and Conrad. In that book is a bit of an essay my another person who this really reminds me of and thats Hakim Bey with his famous essay on Pirate Utopias. The Temporary Autonomous Zone is a lot like a Heterotopia. There's a bit here

Anyway, this is all a bit of a jumble still and I'm really interested in the whole thing and how you might be using this stuff so please email if you'd like to talk more and think I could be of some help or just try and clear up some of the stuff I've garbled here. I'm going to stick these notes on my blog because there's some interesting stuff in here I think.


Fascism is a phenomenon that took place elsewhere, something that could only happen to others, but not to us; it's their problem." Is it though? Is fascism really a problem for others to deal with? Even revolutionary groups deal gingerly with the fascisizing elements we all carry deep with in us, and yet they often possess a rarely analyzed but overriding group 'superego' that leads them to state, much like Nietzsche's man of ressentiment, that the other is evil (the Fascist! The Capitalist! The Communist!), and hence that they themselves are good. ~Michel Foucault's preface to Anti-Oedipus

Saturday, 8 September 2012


Back to work.

Back to non-verbal Practical Ontology.

Back to non-academic study, the ocean of the Real.

Back to the lumpen Praxis of direct politics.