Tuesday, October 26, 2010

ARTSpeak on AM1690 and Burnaway - RLand

I had the great pleasure of meeting with Jeremy Abernathy, Editor in Chief of the Atlanta-based arts criticism blog, Burnaway, to talk about a local artist we like named R. Land.

You can hear our conversation over here.

We wanted to have a Halloween-y type-show because AM1690 is sponsoring a showing of Hitchcock's Psycho at the Plaza Theater around the corner on Ponce.

Of course, R. Land has a special relationship with that corner there: last year he hosted the screening of the 70s bizarro horror flick, Zaat. Promotional materials for the screening included appropriating the local Re/Max agent, Zac (also on the corner there) so that they then stated:

But also, mysteriously paintings from an unknown "Royce Riley" showed up at the Righteous Room (also on the corner with the Plaza Theater and Zac's realty). No big thing that the Righteous Room would have paintings, but look at them:
It's hard not to think that Royce Riley is R. Land's doppelganger, how unheimlich. So there's this spooky double out there, also involved in painting, also hangin' out on Land's block, but if we look at many of the characters that Land creates they seem to be in perpetual shudder or trembling. These involuntary movements, called dystonia, is a strong indicator of neurodegenerative diseases in both Parkinson's and Huntington's Diseases. Spooky.

But I also wanted to talk about R. Land as a painter that seems to capture a lot of the bizarre charm of being from the Southeast and also being in these times.

Though a longtime Atlantan, he's from Jacksonville, Florida. When we look at some of his contemporary paintings, like Itchitucknee Songbook (2008) that I mentioned in the talk with Jeremy, we begin to suss some of that Southern-ness out.

When I look at Itchitucknee Songbook (right) I see something quintessentially lowcountry. The lowcountry is a term used primarily to describe the coastal regions of South Carolina but the geography is fairly consistent from Wilmington to Jacksonville/St. Augustine. It's called the Coastal Empire in Georgia and it's called the First Coast in northeast Florida.

What's consistent in the region are the marshes. But also, a fascinating group called the Geechee-Gullah. These folks are thought to be descended from the earliest African slaves brought to Charleston, South Carolina via Brazil. Because the lowcountry and coastal empire region shares a semitropical environment, yellow fever out breaks were frequent and often the white slave owners would leave the slaves for extended periods of time to work. This physical distance in turn allowed a growing cultural difference between the Gullah and the mainland African slaves. While Gullah communities are largely isolated still, contact can be achieved via folkstories that some children are taught in the region. The folkways of the region have developed, of course, in tandem. While the Wren's Nest talks about Joel Chandler Harris and his popularizing of Uncle Remus, those of us from the Gullah region also learned about Bruh Rabbit (not Br'er Rabbit like in Disney's Song of the South).
Silhouette by Carew Rice to illustrate a collection of Gullah poetry called Dusky Land (1942)

From the Gullah we get also the spiritual, "Michael Row Your Boat Ashore" and the Itchitucknee Songbook also evokes for us the old-timey "Swanee River" that Gershwin made famous via Al Jolson - the Ichetucknee River flows into the Suwanee on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. The source of the Suwanee is that incredible Okefenokee Swamp. Which is, of course, the home of that lovable comic strip by Walt Kelly, Pogo.

from the Pogo Primer for Parents, a U.S. Government document, 1961
It's easy to say that the animal figures in Land's work tends toward the abject and remains always surreal:
But have you seen some of the wildlife in the region?
catfish - they get enormous!
mermaid fishing in Rainbow Springs, Florida (where Zaat was filmed)
are you telling me these manatees are not kinda abject and surreal
The color palette that R. Land uses is fairly typical of comic books, such as the Walt Kelly I've already mentioned but also the ubiquitous Bazooka Joe comics that we read as kids when walking to the Circle K.
But these colors are also found in the early maps of the First Coast region as well:
map of St. Augustine, British East Florida. Thomas Jeffrey (1763)
The map below I think is really interesting - what's the deal with that monstrous fish on the left side of the ships?
Sir Francis Drake lays siege to St. Augustine. Baptista Boazio (1589)
Of course, R. Land also evokes some of his contemporaries such as Reverend Howard Finster (outsider/folk artist par excellence here in Atlanta):
Coke Bottle. Howard Finster (2001)
or Keith Haring:
Untitled. Mural in Pisa, Italy. Keith Haring (1987)
Haring is certainly an influence in a Land piece like Giants of the New Wave (2008):
And this influence can't be played down as we see the repetition of iconic figures in something like "Lacoste Landfill" (Izod), 2008:
Yes, it's a funny appropriation of a global capital icon. But, if we look back to the image records of the region where R. Land is from we see that there is also an historical precedent for seeing in this way that is no less surreal (if we mean it in the Breton manner of becoming "scientists of sleep"):
Crocodile Hunt. Jacques Le Moyne (16th century)
Crocodile Hunt. Jacques Le Moyne (16th century)
Anyone that lives in the U.S. has to at some point come to terms with the fact that we are not the indigenous people of the continent. Of course, so few of the indigenous people live in the region that their cultures are tenuously maintained and their ways so systematically forgotten that it's fascinating to view how the Europeans viewed them.
Chief Saturiwa. Theodor de Bry (engraving based on Jacques Le Moyne), 16th century
Timucua owl totem. Pre-Columbian era
The Timucua were a group living in the First Coast region of Florida when the Spanish and British began their conquest of the peninsula. If we click the above image of Chief Saturiwa we see the intricate tattoo work. Tattoos, especially of the "Sailor Jerry" or "Ed Hardy" style are commonly exploited and exploded in R. Land's work. The effect is to now look at these sixteenth century engravings and wonder by what mechanism did these Jersey Shore-types get stranded, back in time, in the early days of colonial North America? That is to say, that R.Land's work allows me, now on the tail end of the Modern era to look back at the beginnings of the Modern era and wonder how we get outta here?
Untitled (Owls) R.Land (2008)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Manning/Massumi Day 4

NOTE: As with all my notes from the European Graduate School, there will likely be mistakes because I did not record the lectures, I made notes as they spoke, so I am perhaps interpreting what they are saying as I am writing.

Manning & Massumi together offered two classes with us, “Emergent Space(-times)” and “The Choreographic Object – or, How movement moves us.” They were taught together and it created a fantastic experience for me.

We spent some time discussing Manning and Massumi's evening lectures from the previous two nights.

Moshé Feldenkrais, mid-20th century scientist, developed techniques for investigating how the body learns without cognition (the Feldenkrais Method). In our movements we largely operate within our idiosyncratic movement habits. Feldenkrais used, among other things, distraction to overcome these habitual movements.

Jamie Burke, a typing autist.
Spinoza's joy is a kind of affirmation that relies on an ecology.

Manning wants to foreground the craft of autistic thinking.

On this day we had to develop techniques. Our assignment was to develop a clear, concise, precise that can be shared in a 15 minute meeting with another group. Our aim is modulation, exodus, disruption, transduction of the event. How do we move the relation?

We needed to develop a transduction of these technicities, a platform for relating.

What is the representation(demonstration?) of affective tonality?

Our technique was incorporated a group being intertwined in a sheet such that if one member went in a direction the others would also have to respond to their subtle movements. The question stands, how do we transduce the sheet experience to a non-sheet experience so that the lesson can be appropriated?

Consider Gilbert Simondon. His theory of individuation holds that as we develop we alter our trajectories. In the attuning of the direction we realize that the individual points along the way are not moments of stoppage but a metastability that is always on the verge of falling apart, a precarious equilibrium.

This precariousness creates a de-phasing, what propels the transduction, a shifting of the system itself?
The choreographic object catalyzes the relationship and activates other possible interactions.

We have to develop a technique dealing with water; propositional such that it's not in an active/passive dichotomy. The key to ethics is the loss of self/ground.

The dance of attention includes human attentiveness but is not limited to the human. How does the environment attend to the unfolding of the event?

"The Thinking-Feeling of What Happens - A Semblance of a Conversation"
Brian Massumi (2008) Inflexions, no.1.
What is central to interactive art is not so much the aesthetic form in which a work presents itself to an audience [...] but the behaviour the work triggers in the viewer. [....] First, since an interactive work aims to evoke a behaviour in the audience, can it really do without a form that is “interesting”, and therefore in some way aesthetic? Is putting a sign up saying  "You may touch the work" or "You may interact with the work" enough? When is the interaction “interesting” enough to keep the audience interacting? Can or should this interaction generate the sort of aesthetic experience that we associate with the phenomenon of art? Or is interactive art about a different kind or type of experiences, compared to more traditional art forms?
Brian Massumi: If “please interact” were enough to define a category, it would be gaming, not art. Beyond gaming in the strict sense, there is a gaming paradigm that has moved into other domains. You see it massively in communications, but also in marketing, design, training, education. Places where it becomes serious and useful. Interactivity can make the useful less boring and the serious more engaging. It is performance-enhancing.
Immediately the question of form comes forward, and the assumption that vision is passive rather than active.

Technology that is supposed to be interactive has to act as a lure (from Whitehead) that announces its relevance in shifting our interrelationality.
How do you speak of form when there is the kind of openness of outcome that you see in a lot of new media art, where participant response determines what exactly happens? When the artwork doesn’t exist, because each time that it operates the interaction produces a variation, and the variations are in principle infinite? When the artwork proliferates? Or when it disseminates, as it does when the work is networked, so that the interaction is distributed in time and space and never ties back together in one particular form? To begin with, you have to get past the idea that form is ever fixed [....] The idea that there is such a thing as fixed form is actually as much an assumption about perception as it is an assumption about art. It assumes that vision is not dynamic – that it is a passive, transparent registering of something that is just there, simply and inertly. If vision is stable, then to make art dynamic you have to add movement. But if vision is already dynamic, the question changes. It’s not an issue of movement or no movement. The movement is always there in any case. So you have to make distinctions between kinds of movement, kinds of experiential dynamics, and then ask what difference they make.
Hardt & Negri's "common" is pointing-out that the tragedy of the commons occurs when we assume that the commons is a resource "out there" only and can be appropriated. The Commons he (who?, I suspect it's Massumi, Hardt, Manning, and Negri) promotes is the surplus always being produced in the multiplicity.
Langer reminds us that we see things we don’t actually see. We all know it, but we tend to brush it off by calling it an illusion, as if something is happening that isn’t real, and doesn’t have anything important to say about experience. But isn’t something happening the very definition of real? The question is: what exactly does the inconvenient reality that we see things we don’t actually see say about the nature of perception? Well, it changes everything. [...]That could be another definition of real: what we can’t not experience when we’re faced with it. Instead of calling it an illusion – this movement we can’t actually see but can’t not see either – why not just call it abstract? Real and abstract. The reality of this abstraction doesn’t replace what’s actually there. It supplements it. We see it with and through the actual form. It takes off from the actual form. The actual form is like a launching pad for it. [...] The actual form and the abstract dynamic are two sides of the same experiential coin. They’re inseparable; they’re fused, like two dimensions of the same reality.
The virtual and the abstract are capable of making effects felt in the world without re-dichotomizing the real and the abstract: the virtual cannot be known as such, the virtual can only be known in reference to the actual.
For example, to see an object is to see volume. We don’t infer volume. We see the voluminousness of an object, directly and immediately, without having to think about it. [...]
We see the “backedness” of it without actually seeing around to the other side. That’s precisely what makes it a perception of an object, rather than a deduction about a surface. We are really but implicitly – abstractly – seeing the object’s voluminousness. The perceived shape of an object is this abstract experience of volume. [...]
For example, We see weightiness through texture. Voluminousness and weightiness are not in themselves visible. But we can’t not see them when we see an object. In fact, we see them in the form of the object. Form is full of all sorts of things that it actually isn’t -- and that actually aren’t visible. Basically, it’s full of potential. When we see an object’s shape we are not seeing around to the other side, but what we are seeing, in a real way, is our capacity to see the other side. We’re seeing, in the form of the object, the potential our body holds to walk around, take another look, extend a hand and touch. [...]
The potential we see in the object is a way our body has of being able to relate to the part of the world it happens to find itself in at this particular life’s moment. What we abstractly see when we directly and immediately see an object is lived relation – a life dynamic. [...]
That’s the doubleness: if you’re not qualitatively seeing what isn’t actually visible, you’re not seeing an object, you’re not seeing objectively.
Baudrillard's thought is still in the logic of representation and as such requires the injection of difference.
When people talk about the visual, what they are actually talking about is almost always a certain mode of what in perception studies is called a cross-modal transfer – a certain way different senses inter-operate. How, for example, does classical perspective painting create an experience of depth? By composing lines and colors in such a way as to trigger a direct experience of the potential I was talking about in relation to object awareness in so-called natural perception: the potential to advance, move around, bring backsides into view, and touch. This is a direct visual experience. [...]
Perspective painting doesn’t “trick” object-perception. It activates it otherwise. The experience of depth is not an optical “illusion.” It’s a real experience of depth, minus the depth. The experience of depth has been made to take off from its usual experiential framing and enter a different frame. [...]
When you are experiencing painted depth, you aren’t looking at a canvas, you are seeing a scene. You’re seeing through the canvas into an abstraction that it has taken off from it, and is a qualitatively different perceptual event. Your perception has been siphoned into the semblance, the canvas’s ghostly perceptual double. The semblance can’t happen without a perch in objecthood. But when it happens, it is in uncanny excess of actual objectivity. [...]
A semblance isn’t just like a force. Its “likeness” is a force, an abstract force of life. Lumière’s moving images were literally capable of launching live bodies into flight.
What we perceive is an act of faith - we trust that there is water in the cup in front of us (even if we can't see the water in front of us). Deleuze calls it a belief in the world - putting faith into the world -  contra theology, where faith is from without.

If the virtual can maintain its form in the abstract and never appears in the real, then what is the point of that concept?

The virtual shifts and molds itself in response to the actual, a dynamic conceptual tool that is constantly reinvigorated  and retooled in the shifting of its affects in the real.

The mountains of Saas-Fee seem flat and fake in the absence of clouds; we have to have the relational perception to understand their forms.

Habit holds the world up - there is no "it's just" habit.

We see, in vision, something that can't be seen without being felt - vision never just sees. There is some form of judgment in perception.

In memory we can bring out a detail that we weren't aware of in the actual experience. We can't say "we only see what we want" because we haven't been constituted by the experience yet so we can't yet put volition into the equation.

Priming in experimental psychology is preparing the following moment; our perception modulates or transitions throughout the day and we cross thresholds always being tangentially-oriented by perception as it primes our habitual action.

[The uncanny valley - how might that be part of our proprioceptive discussion?]

Perception for Massumi isn't a perception but all modes of perceiving together.


Brian Massumi Evening Lecture

NOTE: As with all my notes from the EGS, there will likely be mistakes because I did not record the lectures, I made notes as they spoke, so I am perhaps interpreting what they are saying as I am writing.

The students are required to attend evening lectures given by the faculty each evening as part of our curriculum. Brian Massumi was the fourth person to give an evening lecture during the August sessions.

[I must apologize for the quality of my notes for this talk: I was very sick during these several days and my ability to write what I heard was very much compromised.]

This paper has a long and checkered history: exploring ritual action and not employing the symbolic but an ontogenetic force.

Thinking of ritual action also gets us reflecting on artistic practice - how art and ethical action are a force. Radical empiricism holds that everything real is felt

Walter Benjamin discussed the difference between how our ancestors danced as clouds is different from how we think of semblance today. "What is this semblance that paradoxically represents nothing?" Benjamin states, "It is relation."

What we feel in the billiard balls is the continued movement, the momentum. Semblance can't be found in snapshots - the relationship of movement is felt rather than composed of discrete units, these units exist, but the dynamism is expressed in relation to their affective tonality - the quality of movement.

The yoking of diverse moments can bring an extreme diversity because it is an expression of nonsensuous linkage (similarity?)

Being nonsensuous, activation contours are a-modal and can jump across orders. Cross-modal transference is inferior to a-modal because [....]

The body is on a life path, a worldline in movement, they are a-modal and present the opportunity to yoking a diversity of potential experience.

To this point, we've been operating with the assumption of a given subject-object relationship. Affect brings form qualitatively to life.

The emergent parent form is an a-modal emergent yoking of diversification. The child will learn to separate-out the sensuous and the objective separation of relationality.

Each new event retraces the historic unfolding traces, even as they advance the worldine. Every body stands for a potential expansion of the universe and are an archive of the shared relationship. Language is where skipping intermediaries is possible.

The autonomy of the qualitative ordering of life [....]

It's not that the world and world order are lost in thought, but language takes up these orders and moves forward the worlding. Language is the potential for movement nonsensuously [....]

Language presents worldlines in advance, language can return us to the sensuous; it's not that the world is lost in language but that we are lost in the delusions of language-speculation.

The constructive truth is pragmactic.
[thinking-feeling (xin 心)]
Through the activity of language (the coming non-local activation, aggregate relation potential), the affective is directly experienced.

Nonsensuous semblance has nothing to do with metaphor or allegory

Thought can be a force toward composition of the world operating on these relational potentialities.

Is the political in need of redefining?

Semblance - ritual action reorders the worlding in its doubling of the event; the [....]

The political needs to avoid reintroducing the content of one locality and imposing it onto another context. A bare activity that animates the other contexts as part of an expansive yoking.


[NOTES TO SELF: ritual propriety (li 禮) requires radical pedagogy which is informed by the transmission of radical empiricism as it teaches the generation of novelty, not aberrance.

Why is peut-être both "maybe" and "perhaps" because this is an event that is activated.

Look at Deleuze's "The Exhausted" about Beckett. Also Benjamin's "On the Mimetic Faculty"

The problem with politics as a term for relationality is like the problem of pharmacy - in both concepts there is this exclusion of the pharmakoi for the purpose of maintaining an economy of what can be yoked in the City's life.

The logic of peut-être both "maybe" and "perhaps" is relationality; it's magical in that it is the allowance of expansive possibility.

Whitehead uses the term penumbra, like a cloud of gnats (from Process and Reality):
Thus, in our actual world of today there is a penumbra of eternal objects, constituted by relevance to the Battle of Waterloo. Some people do admit elements from this penumbral complex into effective feeling, and others wholly exclude them. [...] The elements of this penumbra are propositional prehensions, and not pure conceptual prehensions; for their implication of the particular nexus which is the Battle of Waterloo is an essential factor. Thus an element in this penumbral complex is what is termed a 'proposition.'(185)
Whitehead's is a philosophy of novelty generation so is ritual propriety (li 禮), Ames and Hall use Whitehead in their translations, necessary to avoid aberrance, or is aberrance even possible?]

Erin Manning Evening Lecture

NOTE: As with all my notes from the EGS, there will likely be mistakes because I did not record the lectures, I made notes as they spoke, so I am perhaps interpreting what they are saying as I am writing.

The students are required to attend evening lectures given by the faculty each evening as part of our curriculum. Erin Manning was the third person to give an evening lecture during the August sessions.

This talk comes from the last chapter of her forthcoming book Ethics of Language in the Making and is built from quotes from autists and those with characterized as having low-functioning autism.

The talk is particularly inspired by the work of Amanda Baggs and her amazing video, In My Language:

Mindblindness - an inability to understand what is in the mind of another. Autists don't necessarily only remain attuned to humans, but to everything else in the "theater of individuation."

What is sidestepped in the clinical model of autism is the presupposition that object relations are typical or are normative and naturally interhuman, not that they are socially-prescribed.

Metaphor as a mobility of relationality, not of representation -- they move across strata of intelligibility.

Let's also look at Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay

The milieu of individuation should not mean that which is not multiple. We are multiple. The challenge is exacerbated for autists because there is this issue of translating the lived experience into language.

Pure experience doesn't exist without thought, rather language seems to privilege a modality of time and the autist's experience of time is difficult to put into our language - verbal and nonverbal in expression.

Many voices from the neurotypical communities discuss a "descent into autism" such that the trope hovers around ideas of subhuman, retarded, and a simple (false) dichotomy of human relating and ignores the possibility that neurodiversity and radical difference might inform our own lived experiences.

Language activates fields of relation; it is eminently relational and a collective individuation of sense: between words, with the words. Language acts presuppose collective activity.

Ethics are the immanent expression of the infinite potentiality in the limits of the emergent.

Language-making is the bringing-into-the-act.

[NOTE TO SELF: Psychasthenia still presupposes an essentialism that misleads us in our thinking about relationality. This talk has me rethinking. There is this problem of understanding the co-generative nature of language to communicate our loss of self]

Could the real problem be in the deliberating in order to find consensual terms; might it be that our task is to increase the attempts at communicating?

The neurotypical communities tend to underestimate the rich contributions that the autistic community can contribute to our understanding ourselves.