Wednesday, December 18, 2013

we don't really teach, we train & incorporate students into a devalued economy of substandard degrees

check out this recently found 8th grade exam from 1912. here are some of the questions:
Through which waters would a vessel pass in going from England through the Suez Canal to Manila?
How does the liver compare in size with other glands in the human body?
How long of a rope is required to reach from the top of a building 40 feet high to the ground 30 feet from the base of a building?
Compare arteries and veins as to function. Where is the blood carried to be purified?
During which wars were the following battles fought: Brandywine, Great Meadows, Lundy’s Lane, Antietam, Buena Vista?
(a good number of my college students would be clueless). it's not their fault. we don't teach. we merely train & incorporate students into a devalued economy of substandard degrees.

via Bullit County History Museum (for an enlarged rendition of the photograph)

Friday, December 6, 2013

if art can walk the viewer through a desire, the purchase of the product, and the satisfaction of the desire in the use of the product, art (automatically) becomes advertising

A general view of atmosphere at Elle Decor Modern Life Concept House 
Opening Night Event on Art Basel December 3, 2013
Artworks and artists are increasingly becoming elements of advertising campaigns, not only for products and services aimed at the types of older, affluent consumers who have traditionally been patrons of the arts, but also for products and services seeking to reach consumers in their 20s and 30s who are already making art part of their lives. Among the brands and companies getting arty are American Apparel, Chanel, Condé Nast, Dom Pérignon, Gap, Hearst Magazines, Ketel One, Jaguar, Lincoln, Maserati, Red Bull, Samsung, StyleCaster, Vionnet, Louis Vuitton, David Webb and a number of hotels and lodging chains.
artmarket inc.!

new york times (in marketing, art is the thing).

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

“You basically have to treat Art Basel Miami Beach like Vegas”

nate freeman comments artvapity in this article for the new york times.

not to appear pecksniffian at this early stage: art and parties are siblings.

only that,
... the sheer volume of events (dinners, cocktails and blowout parties) not related to art this year is deafening. Sure, the art fairs still display paintings at gobsmacking prices during the day, but the serious art folk are getting sick of the nighttime excess.
serious artfolk?

this is when one needs the right artglasses to properly take pleasure in the spectacle. coming to art basel (an art fair known for its delirium factor) and pretend to brush off its cultural excess is decidedly amateurish. art today is in company of the market. being together, closely supporting each other's goals.

freeman elaborates a bit on the nature of "the company":
But they pale in comparison this year to the flood of parties not related to art but with tie-ins to luxury brands, alcohol sponsors, fashion labels and boutiques. One public relations firm has compiled a party calendar that runs 14 pages and includes 27 events on Tuesday alone, including a fashion show, a brunch for a pop-up store and a dinner for a new furniture line.
27 non-art events on tuesday alone! who doubts that art is a company of the market?

artmarket inc.

so, partygoers of the world, here is a curated list of some of the best art basel's soirees, shindigs and fete champetre:

1- White Cube’s poolside party at the Soho Beach House, 2- Aby Rosen’s A-list dinner at the Dutch and 3- the opening and V.I.P. dinner for the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami’s winter exhibition (this time, for Tracy Emin). 4- The Pérez Art Museum Miami opening, with a series of private brunches, V.I.P. previews and dinners. and this one for celeb hunters: 5-  a performance of Kanye West & artist Vanessa Beecroft @ Mana Wynwood, a sprawling production village in the Miami Art District.

one may ask why are parties so crucial to the miami art basel mystique? parties are catalysts for artmarket inc., that is to say art being the spiritual veneer of the duality (scaffolded by the market).  parties are to the artmarket what enzymes are to organisms: their function is to increase & speed up chemical reactions. 

but let's not stereotype artbasel-party-goers as decadent souls. they are just regular joes who feel as if they are basking in this experience of spectacle conventions we refer to as culture. & what's wrong with that? nothing, except that these conventions are the very stage of operations of artmarket inc.: a socially-induced form of massive self-blinding.

for instance, a leandra medine is quoted in the piece --as candid and oblivious as when these species  utter opinions: "I don't have a relationship with the art world in any profound capacity, so for me it's just a way for me to unwind."

sure, let's unwind. viva the market!

Monday, December 2, 2013

missing the disease for the symptom

demian hirst in his moment of market glory (hirst is not the devil, he's just a cog in the system)

"contemporary art" is a cipher for a system which produces & legitimizes art/commodities whose function is publicized as "aesthetic."

the system presents art/commodity consumption as cultural spectacle  

what we call "culture" today is really an institution of exchange of art/commodities for mon€y.

the art/commodity//money binity is:

*normative: prescribing stylistic & cultural values.
*inconspicuous: i.e., in your face, but it never appears as such.
*redundant: i.e., "normative" and "inconspicuous" mirror each other.
*non-regulated: i.e., free market for the sake of culture.

this dynamic between contemporary art & the market we call arthoodication.

Friday, November 22, 2013


alfredo triff

francis bacon's famous triptych sold for 142 million!

never mind the bloomberg article's babbling. most of the reasons offered beg the question:

artauction is A1,
arthing is A2,

1- A1 functions as a symbolic mediation. a pivot of trading & exchange: $ for commodities.
2- A2 & A1, are presently co-dependent. yes, arthings can function as art (whatever that received notion of art was is of no importance now) but they play as Wertform, i.e., imponderables on the surface (what curators and other art connoisseurs of today refer to as aesthetics, culture & whatnot).
3- behind the scenes, A2 functions as A1's screen of arthoodication.
4- without A1's presentation, A2 lacks valueability (what traders generally refer to as "market price"). as such, arthings don't mean a thing without A1's public awe-inducing sell-offs.
5- arthings are not "usable," yet they remain abracadabraistically "autonomous."

how come?    

here aesthetics makes an entrance by the hand of the art establishment. the received narrative is that arthings refer to themselves. they are "intrinsic" in that they don't satisfy a "real" but a "spiritual" need. A2 satisfies -not a biological but- a cultural need. arthings can be seen as sophisticated ciphers, i.e., objects with a Familienähnlichkeit of cultural status & dominance. it's a cliche to observe that for men cars are power objects, symbols of virility, strength, achievement and coolness, and that they may use cars to project this image to compensate for feelings of inadequacy.

same with collectors and arthings. A2 is ostentatiously presented and consumed & talked about primarily for their cultural valueability. yet, it's of the essence that valueability becomes veiled or disappears altogether.

why? as in magic, valueability's question-begging power must be preserved and nurtured as an "ideal," for its own sake. but then, why are the armies of curators and art personnel ready to arthoodicate it?

perhaps arthings are supposed to express and inhere something they basically lack.  

Thursday, October 31, 2013

steven a. cohen and art libor

richter's a.b. courbet is for sale

for those of you interested in the ups and downs of artlibor (@miami bourbaki we keep up with current banking and financial terminology).

billionaire steven a. cohen is selling art assets. hooray!!

up or down? let's see.

a richter, cohen paid $20M in a fit of egomania (more than it was worth it)
a matthew barney, (chances are cohen will break even). will it be the another cremaster? a photoshopped photo?
some warhols, ▲ (warhol is always market friendly: about $40 M)
cy twombly, (▲or ▼ depending whether the year is odd or even)
brice marden's "the unattended" has investors' hopes up ($7-10 M? hard to tell)
a nice looking joan mitchell ($5-7 M)
and so on...

why selling now? we have an ebullient market! also, cohen is in deep shit.

shit comes in three colors: financial, legal & criminal. as we speak, cohen's colors are fluctuating.

until the next,

Monday, October 14, 2013

duck or rabbit?

you call the shots. but chances are you won't bother because you think the world is as oblivious as the empty set.

is it duck or rabbit? 

why not both at the same time?

"a blindfolded monkey throwing darts at a newspaper’s financial pages could select a portfolio that would do just as well as one carefully selected by experts"

taken from the nytimes this morning, discussing professor eugene f. fama's being awarded the nobel prize for economics.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

does this statue promote child pornography?

let's take one side of the controversy:
The Overland Park City Council approved and installed an inappropriate sculpture in the Overland Park Arboretum. The sculpture (called "Choice" by Yu Chang) is of a headless naked woman with her breasts exposed, taking a picture of herself. The message this piece sends to the children and young adults in our community has the potential to be destructive. With all the problems we are having with sexting in our youth culture, do we really want to be encouraging children and teenagers to take nude photos of themselves? In addition, there is no warning of the sculpture's offensive nature for parents, teachers, and adults wishing to avoid something like this.
the section in red is factual, not so the following sentence. what is the "message" of the sculpture? why is it potentially "destructive"?

according to this group, the statue "promotes child pornography."  

do you agree?

Monday, October 7, 2013

scarlett johansson's fall & internet appropriation

the original
dolphin-riding johansson's seafari 
johansson, the ambulatory percussionist 
johansson's live PA
a wounded johansson
for more visit via sad and useless.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Ai Weiwei's performativity principle

(...) by shattering it we can create a new form, a new way to look at what is valuable— how we decide what is valuable.*
*Ai Weiwei and Larry Warsh, Weiwei-isms (Princeton University Press, 2012), p. 37.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

ahimsa & the R_E_S_P_E_C_T principle in nature

vladimir kushin

i open with this plea. R_E_S_P_E_C_T = ahimsa.

ahimsa is ecology before ecology. how? let's consider the folowing argument:

all jiva are sentient
we (jiva) are all ONE
himsa-ing jiva is hima-ing ONEself, i.e., all. THUS, himsa-ing is wrong.

in the cosmology of jainism there's a balance between jiva (human & non-human animalia & plant life, fungi & protista & non cellular life) & ajiva, i.e., our idea of matter. both jiva/ajiva are manifestations of ONE (we don't have time to pursue this point here).

what brings jiva/ajiva together? karma. in a sense karma's "duty" is to preserve a cosmic balance with ahimsa becoming a regulating principle of co-existence. ahimsa can be approached as a conclusion of jainist metaphysics, a global egalitarism of all sentient beings (admittedly, it gets more complicated).  

to address the idea of jiva balance let's take a look at emmanuel kant's categorical imperative. though they seem far apart, let's try to explain the former in terms of the latter.

for kant, an action is right if it can be made universal and reversible. he grounds morals in the following simple question: was soll ich tun? (what ought i to do?), which implicitly goes back to the ancient golden rule. any reversible action can be made universalizable. how? for kant it becomes a law. the law is a product (i think) of transitivity. there's a set X, with each member being in it because of a particular faculty (vermögen), i.e., reason (vernunft). if reversibility works locally between any a&b it has to work globally. vernunft is the universal moral voucher (what is revolutionary here is that kant is grounding morals in our ability to reason).**

kant comes close to the jaina argument above, the only problem is he makes his vernunft standard too narrow. in the so-called second formulation of the categorical imperative he gets closer:

Handle so, dass du die Menschheit sowohl in deiner Person, als in der Person eines jeden anderen jederzeit zugleich als Zweck, niemals bloß als Mittel brauchst.

treat people as ends never as means to an end (this is aretha's R&B plead).

why only (Menschheit)? a jainist would retort.

"universalizability" does not obtain exclusively amongst "Menschen." true universalizability must include all jiva i.e., by definition all sentient beings (including non-human animals). would kant agree? not insofar as he remains a product of the enlightenment. we're jiva insofar as we have vernunft ("... der Wille ist ein Vermögen, nur dasjenige zu wählen, was die Vernunft unabhängig...").

non-human animals don't partake of the moral compact. instead of vernunft why not apply a broader standard? all jiva kingdom has sentience (the british utilitarians had a better intuition).

jainism finds kantian's ethics way too anthropocentric. jainas defend a universal jiva-centered democracy! is kant's view limited? its human-centeredness discounts lesser-conscious jiva, i.e., non-human animals.

how about ajiva? again, jainism is naturally closer to ajiva than other systems. a centerpiece of jainECO is we're all ONE. it's easier to extend ahimsa to ajiva (as far as jiva permits, i.e., jiva has to eat in order to survive), and to extend ahimsa via aparigraha (non-possessiveness), i.e., nature is not ours to possess.   
let's problematize our conclusion. we cannot stop interacting with nature. human technology (an evolutive trait) presupposes a constant messing with and fixing nature. so, aside from the formulations, i.e., practically speaking, how could we extend kant's second formulation to all jiva?

(to be continued)
* i.e.: let X be a transitive set such that any x∈X has the property that any proper transitive subset of x is an element of x. then X has the same property. each x's reason for being in X is vernunft. **we know kant's rule has been challenged, my point here is historic. *** for jainism sentience has different levels of conscious / semi-conscious / almost unconscious / existence, from its more developed form in adult human beings to, say, invisible embryonic modes at 'lower' animal and plant levels. sentience is not merely pain-pleasure bounded. as some psychical activity may continue to occur subconsciously or at unconscious levels. jiva subsists in a contingent relation to the quantity of karma it has accumulated through its activity, volitional and non-volitional. each sentient being has to act in accordance within its relative level of bondage and limited freedom (think of baruch spinoza's conatus).

Sunday, September 8, 2013

why is a dna molecule (politically) more worth it than a molecule of phosphorus?


i'm almost done with levi r. bryant democracy of objects, which i'll review in the days ahead. after reading bryant, i've been thinking about objects politics. are wholes better forms than parts? is a RNA molecule in the same bill of rights as bucksminsterfullerene (C60)?

i don't think so (for sure aristotle, a hero for bryant and this writer, would vote against democracy in favor of an aristocracy of objects).

i'd like to start with this paragraph (DO, p. 52), where bryant he addresses possible objections to his argument. (i expected to find real objections).
A second line of argument holds that it is impossible to intelligently think a world without men because, in the very act of thinking such a world, we are picturing ourselves present to this world. 
this is misleading. of course we can (intelligently) think of a world without humans! 

take this formula:

Σ(Fi − miai) ⋅δri= 0

the lagrange/d'alembert's principle (my picking an 18th century scientist is deliberate, the apex of rationalism, i.e., correlationism?). now, each letter here symbolizes what bryant, following philosopher of science roy bhaskar calls "intransitive objects".

F is the total force,
mi is the mass, (locke, a correlationist in bryant's book, would agree that "mass" is independent of correlations. he would have call it "primary", i.e., independent-of-sense-experience).
ai is the acceleration, 
δri is the displacement of the particle (particle is a "body", not a thought one). obviously, it cannot be thought by necessity, the formula dispenses an interrelation between physical parameters

particles are part of a bigger system, i.e., the universe. from his entrance in the encyclopedie:
It is undeniable that all the bodies of which this universe is made up form a single system, whose parts are interdependent and whose interrelations derive from the harmony of the whole.1
d'alembert would agree with bhaskar's idea (stressed by bryant in this argument) of "open systems," as long as by open we understand not observed yet.
(...) the universe is only a vast ocean on whose surface we perceive a few more or less large islands whose connexion with the continent is hidden from us.2
if there is more science to be discovered, it's because there is more to know of science. i.e., more future experiments to be performed, more (better) theories to be proposed, more (stronger) relations between theories (i.e., evolution now vs. evolution in 1900). 3

this is not what bryant necessarily has in mind. by "open" he means "... those where the powers of objects are either not acting or are disguised or hidden by virtue of the intervention of other causes." (DO, p. 48).

i have a problem with this characterization. let's take it bit by bit:

"powers of objects are either not acting." a power has to always act. power is acting. a non-acting power is acting! by presenting the object as not acting, we liberate the object from the constraint of possible (thought?)
The thesis here is that every picture of the world includes ourselves in the picture. However Quentin Mellissoux has convincingly argued such a line of argument leads to a conclusion that the thought of our own death is unintelligible or that we are necessarily immortal.  For if it is true that we cannot think the world without thinking our presence to the world, then it follows that even the thought of our own death requires the presence of our thinking, thereby undermining the possibility of dying.
wait. thinking a world without me in it is logically & causally possible. i.e., a sunset view next to the slimy ocean around the cambrian era, an endless swarming mass of arthropoda mat along the coastline. true, it's a thought, my thought. but so what? my thought refers to a fact (regardless of whether "cambrian" and "arthropoda" could be named differently, i.e., our conceptual scheme to refer to it).

thinking my death (or after-death) is precisely decartes' move in his sixth meditation, i.e., conceiving a mind independently of the body. in the end, our bodies are as "res extensa." descartes would laugh at the idea that from the fact that the thought of our death requires the presence of our thinking, thinking it undermines the possibility of dying. the reason is that "dying" for descartes 
(...) [T]he difference between the body of a living man and that of a dead man is just like the difference between, on the one hand, a machine or other automaton (that is, a self-moving machine) when it is wound-up... and, on the other hand, the same watch or machine when it is broken.4
normally, when i die my brain stops functioning and my thoughts --sort of-- cease ("sort of" because i could in principle survive my death, just as descartes envisioned, but for different reasons, say, the future possibility of uploading my thoughts onto a supercomputer). so much for bryant questionable conclusion. 

the motions of a particle or of a rigid body may be either "free" or "constrained"; that is, it may be at liberty to move in any manner in obedience to the applied forces or torques, or there may be present material barriers which limit its linear motion to a certain path or surface, or its rotation to a certain axis. this is the world of physics, a sort of non-correlationist world. 

imagine this scenario. since anything i will ever experiment is a correlation. how can we get to the objects of science of not by observation? and who says that my eye observing (nervous bits of data) and my mental states (neural macroactivity) are not in a sense object-independent?

coming back to dna and politics. i propose @@:

¨¨dna molecule contains phosphorus as part of its skeleton.
¨¨dna molecule is functionally more complex (as emergence) than phosphorus taken as a part.
¨¨dna is politically more worth it than P15.

i think @@ makes sense from our (human) point of view. but even going down to non-human stuf.5 dna is structurally more complex than phosphorous.

c'mon: is a planet on the same political footing as cosmic dust? a neuron at a par with a mind?

when it comes to objects, i'm more in favor of a meritocracy, but more of this would have to come later.

(to be continued)
1Jean d'Alembert, Ronald Grimsley, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1963 (p. 223). 2 idem, (p. 224). 3 my use of "better" may prove problematic for many a reader who may prefer a less intensional description of science's development. i understand that "is there development in science?" is a loaded question. 4 R. S. Woolhous, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz: The Concept of Substance in Seventeenth-Century Metaphysics p. 159. 5 basically, this is my tentative picture: 1- of course there is a human-independent world it's presented and described by physics! and it works better than any philosopher's ontology, 2- human ontologies are important, educated constructions, 3- not all objects can be treated the same way because of @@@. 4- "correlationism" is inescapable.

go on constructing ontologies!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

hume's lesson to the critic

is this a "distorted" portrait of david hume? does it matter?

it's hard to emulate hume's free spirit and honest inquiry, which is perhaps why the great emmanuel kant acknowledged that hume had awoken him from his "dogmatic slumber". a humean insight for the critic is the pervasive & lurking possibility of self-delusion (his worst fear). what follows is not "aesthetics" in that german sense of the eighteenth century tradition. hume is engaging in a broader philosophical discussion about human nature and criticism is an important part of this discussion (in that it pertains a select group of pleasures). here, i casually revise some of hume's advice for the critic (as he elaborates a sort of critic's manifesto).

of the standards of taste.
#12. It appears then, that, amidst all the variety and caprice of taste, there are certain general principles of approbation or blame, whose influence a careful eye may trace in all operations of the mind.
"caprice of taste"? let's separate matters of fact from opinion. "taste" --in humean-- is not an objective property of the world, like, say "solidity." taste is subjective but a matter of agreement between like-minded people (cultural habits grounded in common sense). there are two kinds of common sense: one relativistic, which defends the premise that "all sentiment is right," from which "the proverb has justly determined it to be fruitless to dispute concerning tastes," and the other, (cautiously pluralist), holding that "some tastes are sounder than others." 
 #14. One obvious cause, why many feel not the proper sentiment of beauty, is the want of that delicacy of imagination, which is requisite to convey a sensibility of those finer emotions. This delicacy every one pretends to: Every one talks of it; and would reduce every kind of taste or sentiment to its standard. But as our intention in this essay is to mingle some light of the understanding with the feelings of sentiment, it will be proper to give a more accurate definition of delicacy, than has hitherto been attempted.
what is this delicacy? hume reiterates,
Where the organs are so fine, as to allow nothing to escape them; and at the same time so exact as to perceive every ingredient in the composition...
can these "organs" be developed? sure. but here's the problem:
To produce these general rules or avowed patterns of composition is like finding the key with the leathern thong; which justified the verdict of Sancho's kinsmen, and confounded those pretended judges who had condemned them. Though the hogshead had never been emptied, the taste of the one was still equally delicate, and that of the other equally dull and languid: But it would have been more difficult to have proved the superiority of the former, to the conviction of every by-stander. In like manner, though the beauties of writing had never been methodized, or reduced to general principles; though no excellent models had ever been acknowledged; the different degrees of taste would still have subsisted, and the judgment of one man had been preferable to that of another; but it would not have been so easy to silence the bad critic, who might always insist upon his particular sentiment, and refuse to submit to his antagonist.
though "the judgment of one man is "preferable to that of another," my blue above suggests that standards of taste cannot be demonstrated (though hume is precisely doing that?). unless hume goes the kantian route of sensus communis. a dispute of taste can have at the other end a "bad critic" not easy to silence.  hume doesn't say impossible to silence. but isn't that the case with most things concerning value? one cannot pretend to settle moral issues with "all-right-angles-are-congruent" kind of statements. if the bad critic can be silenced it means not that he gives up, but that the other side has a better argument. is bad wine bad? better, it the badness in the juice? hume doesn't budge here. validity in taste (if one can speak of such a thing) is not out-there in the world, but within a community of taste-holders (is it an intersubjective property?)

is objectivity (of the critic) possible?
#21. But to enable a critic the more fully to execute this undertaking, he must preserve his mind free from all prejudice, and allow nothing to enter into his consideration, but the very object which is submitted to his examination.
this is interesting. objects --for hume-- can only elicit expressions of taste, which are not direct impressions on the senses but instead responses to "sensory impressions."
We may observe, that every work of art, in order to produce its due effect on the mind, must be surveyed in a certain point of view, and not be fully relished by persons, whose situation, real or imaginary, is not conformable to that which is required by the performance. An orator addresses himself to a particular audience, and must have a regard to their particular genius, interests, opinions, passions, and prejudices; otherwise he hopes in vain to govern their resolutions, and inflame their affections.
my green above points to hume's explicit regard for context, i.e., an epochal social convention.
Should they even have entertained some prepossessions against him, however unreasonable, he must not overlook this disadvantage; but, before he enters upon the subject, must endeavour to conciliate their affection, and acquire their good graces. 
from #23 it seems that taste depends of an informed negotiation (hume doesn't believe that taste reflects on facts on the world, but more a sort of ability to approve or disapprove). if so, how should the critic address her own biases?
A critic (...) when any work is addressed to the public, though I should have a friendship or enmity with the author, I must depart from this situation; and considering myself as a man in general, forget, if possible, my individual being and my peculiar circumstances
we know that hume's brand of emotivism will not allow him to put facts and sentiments in the same order.
Thus, though the principles of taste be universal, and, nearly, if not entirely the same in all men; yet few are qualified to give judgment on any work of art, or establish their own sentiment as the standard of beauty. The organs of internal sensation are seldom so perfect as to allow the general principles their full play, and produce a feeling correspondent to those principles. They either labour under some defect, or are vitiated by some disorder; and by that means, excite a sentiment, which may be pronounced erroneous.
hume suggests five qualities to fight "erroneous judgement": 1- delicacy: "When the critic has no delicacy, he judges without any distinction, and is only affected by the grosser and more palpable qualities of the object: The finer touches pass unnoticed and disregarded." delicacy is a sort of fine-tuning of the senses. hume believed that senses can be modified through "habit," an important cipher in humean epistemology. education will not merely "convince us, that the mind is not altogether stubborn and inflexible, but will admit of many alterations from its original make and structure."

2- practice: "Where he is not aided by practice, his verdict is attended with confusion and hesitation."
practice shows a commitment to experience. let's recall that hume believes that that the ideas of cause and effect are distinct from each other, and thus there can be no "absolute contradiction and impossibility of conceiving" the occurrence of one without that of the other. if inferences from cause to effect are not grounded in any purely deductive reasoning, they need to be guided by experience.

3- comparison: "Where no comparison has been employed, the most frivolous beauties, such as rather merit the name of defects., are the object of his admiration."

4- prejudice: "Where he lies under the influence of prejudice, all his natural sentiments are perverted." this is the problem of bias. in his treatise hume makes a distinction between rational or probable beliefs, adequately supported by experience, and irrational beliefs based merely on prejudice or hasty generalisations. hume is as johnsonian as he can be.

5- finally good sense: "Where good sense is wanting, he is not qualified to discern the beauties of design and reasoning, which are the highest and most excellent."  having a propensity is having a certain disposition. for hume not every psychological statement is such that its truth requires the existence of actual perceptions in the mind. so, if a person is not in a state such that, when he gets a certain belief he will be led to act in a certain way, mere belief alone will not suffice to lead him to act in that way. but there is still a perfectly "good sense" in which without the desire or propensity the belief would never lead to action. so,
Under some or other of these imperfections, the generality of men labour; and hence a true judge in the finer arts is observed, even during the most polished ages, to be so rare a character; Strong sense, united to delicate sentiment, improved by practice, perfected by comparison, and cleared of all prejudice, can alone entitle critics to this valuable character; and the joint verdict of such, wherever they are to be found, is the true standard of taste and beauty. 
#30. One person is more pleased with the sublime; another with the tender; a third with raillery (i love this word). One has a strong sensibility to blemishes, and is extremely studious of correctness: Another has a more lively feeling of beauties, and pardons twenty absurdities and defects for one elevated or pathetic stroke. The ear of this man is entirely turned towards conciseness and energy; that man is delighted with a copious, rich, and harmonious expression. Simplicity is affected by one; ornament by another. Comedy, tragedy, satire, odes, have each its partisans, who prefer that particular species of writing to all others.

so far so good. now this paragraph:
It is plainly an error in a critic, to confine his approbation to one species or style of writing, and condemn all the rest. But it is almost impossible not to feel a predilection for that which suits our particular turn and disposition. Such preferences are innocent and unavoidable, and can never reasonably be the object of dispute, because there is no standard, by which they can be decided. 
(one more proof of hume's pluralism, which is informed by his epistemological skepticism) though i agree with the red, what is he really saying in blue? what is the place for "our particular turn" once one realizes one's own bias?

(to be continued...)

removed from the human? atavistic regression to the evolutionarily primitive? overtly distanced from the human?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

not everything that is conceivable is possible


sorry, friend, friends, whomever out there following this little spec of ranting stunts. i've been caught up with other priorities.

i found a really attractive paragraph in quentin meillassoux's after finitude (p. 54). here, he tries very hard to break out of what he calls the "correlationist circle," (i.e. the position that talking about the world amounts always to talking about the world as it is for us).

how to wrestle with an existing realm unbeknownst to us? imagine what meillassoux calls "unreason in itself" (after kant's infamous ding an sich).
Accordingly the correlationist circle undermines the thesis of the absolute contingency of everything just as effectively just as it undermined the necessity of the thesis of the supreme being --for how would one know that the apparent unreason of the world is an unreason in-itself-- i.e. the real possibility of everything becoming other without reason -- rather than just an unreason for-us -- i.e. simply a function of our inability to discover the true necessary reason for everything behind the veil of phenomena? 
one thing is the apparent unreason of a world without a supreme being (we've been in that predicament pretty much since the end of 19th century). another is unreason in-itself, a much heavier metaphysical mark.

i share meillassoux's speculative desire of breaking free, but here is the catch:

can unreason be thought? never mind you try to shuffle it with quick rhetoric as when he writes (in parenthesis, i've ordered after finitude in french, this poetic philosophical morsels call for gallic delectation):
(...) We must grasp how the ultimate absence of reason, which we will refer to as 'unreason' is an absolute ontological property, and not the mark of the finitude of our knowledge.
first, it's common place that he noumenon can be thought of.  one could even make the case that the thing in-itself is a sort of poetic suspension (the aesthetic punctum, levinasian abeyance, etc). now i'd like to bring leibniz. he built his ontological edifice on the same shaky foundation: 
So God alone, or the Necessary Being has this privilege, that He must exist if he is possible. And since nothing can inhibit the possibility of what has no limits and no negation and so no contradiction, this by itself is enough to secure the existence of God a priori.  (monadology #45).
leibinz thought G was in-itself (keep in mind, this is early 1700's).  but #45 is easily defeated by a scottish philosopher born 3 years before leibniz's monadology was published. hume's response to leibniz can be written as such:

not everything that is conceivable is possible.

you may retort: but G is possible. of course! and so is the man of steel (this is just an example, we're not debating G now).

how about unreason in-itself?

you really want to go beyond finitude?  there are two buses: REASON & UNREASON.

if you ride on REASON you are within the realm of thought. and don't try to play dirty with the unthought. we fully accept that the unthought is not yet until someone thinks it. but this is not "unreason" as defined by meillassoux, above, in aqua.  let's make clear that thinking of a world before reason (meillasoux's "ancestral") as existent is not thinking "unreason". also , calling "unreason" "absolute" --as if some kind of hegelian invocation, will not bring it closer to reason. that was leibniz's faux pas.

so, what is it like riding on UNREASON?

wait. if i did it's because i was riding on REASON all along, wouldn't i?*

*what is surprising is that meillassoux seems to respect the principle of non-contradiction
coming back to a quite literal version of my bus example: can you ride two buses at the same time?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

urs fischer's ae$thetic impunity

portrait of a single drop, 2003

swiss artist urs fischer has finally reached the aesthetic abode of $taR*tist. his credentials are impeccable: a post-conceptualist (in its bland global version) + a (post) neo-dadaist ("post" stands for  mainstreamization). this is a unique moment of art/stasis of history whereby a booming art market constitutes fischer's context and ticket to glory.

& fischer's art is quite legible. to put it in platonic: fischer's ascension to art-heaven requires aesthetic signs already arthoodicated by the market.
i'd like to discuss some clear $taR*tist features: 1- $tarject production, 2- dramartization,  3- fetishism & 4-impunity.

1-  $tar*tist-art is a processing/industry. to make art in this case means to turn raw & barely processed materials (pigments, metals, wood, marble, metal, raw canvases, paper, etc) into finished $tar* objects, or $tarjects, i.e., *paintings*, *sculptures*, *installations*, etc. the midwife of this art/parturition is the quinary sector of the art industry complex: art + de$ing = art-without-artists, i.e., de$igned by $tar*tists & realized by subcontracted specialists.

$tarject 1
$tarject 2
$tarject 3

art, as the autarchic practice that dominated the aesthetic discourse & practice of the last four hundred years in the west, is no more. instead, we have contemporary art, a new division of labor between unskilled $tar*tists and skilled artisans.

$tar*tists don't make art. they de$ign $tarjects.

non-making has nothing to do with art-phobia. as opposed to the unskilled global artisans of today,  $tar*tists take advantage of a reverse form of alienation. being separated from the manufacture process of art/making is essential for $tar*tists to bask in the glory of ae$theticity. why? craft work is a form of intense labor supported & sublated by de$ign! imagine the proud pre-capitalist artisan on the guild (now disinvested & withdrawn from the rights & privileges of authorship) whose labor becomes the very ground upon which the $tartist builds ae$theticity (i.e., de$ing, production and selling of $tarjects). 

all $tar*tists are de$igners.

what about de$ign? first, forget about the "idea" behind the art --as if $arjects were that ideological. what's unique about de$ign is the process of $upply to finance the production of $tarjects. we're not in the 1960's. conceptual interventions can help build prestige, but not ae$theticity. 

de$ign is a new form of artproduction with a visible trademark. let's take a look at this process:1- de$ign, as blueprint, whereby the $tartist suggests a certain "X." 2- manufacture, the artisan proceeds to make raw materials into finished "Xs" under the "guidance" of the $tartist. what's interesting about the manufacture is that (a) the $tartist actually is not qualified (nor needs) to make/do "X," (b) the artisan's work IS the work, (c) the artisan's input remains invisible. 3- ae$thetiticy, "X" is exhibited but not as "X."  at the end of the process "X" ----> $tarject (the trademark of the ottoniels, pardos, weiweis, hirsts & koons of the world). 

let's come back to (c) above. the reason "X" doesn't qualify as $tarject (though there are no real differences between them) is --precisely-- the mark of the artisan's input.  the division between them reflects the very tenets of the culture:

"X" is material, "$tarject" is symbolic.

$tarjects are extraordinary products (no matter how massively produced). they are conspicuously exhibited, bought & sold, collected by museums and finally arthoodicated by the artmarket. $tarjects's functional value is to be what they are (this redundancy points to their void).

$tar*tists have achieved the impossible: they are überdisciplinary! whether wood carver, carpenter, tailor, furrier, blacksmith, glassblower, furniture maker, even architect. next time you see an $tarject don't forget, it's the work of underpaid artisans --"underpaid" means that the subcontracted work IS the work, everything else is a quanary import of $tarjects.

2- dramartization: since 2011 fischer makes (appropriated + meltable) sculptures. the meltable and appropriated is, conceptually speaking, part of the drama. an empty fold that we label ae$tethicity.

for example, untitled of the YES series (MOCA 2011) reproduces giambologna's the rape of the sabine women in silvery wax. fischer's copy is --as giambologna's-- 20 feet tall, with little candles at the fingertips of the female, a process of liquefaction begins @ the opening and ends @ the close of the show. the piece's destruction is thus programmed, its materiality conceived as a hypermyriorama for the sake of art history's canon. 


a symbolic fold of its own void. take for instance its equivalent in "live" news. "live" means "useless" as when reporting is done from the scene after everyone involved has gone home. what's the value? entertainment. how so? "live" punches up the newscast. wear the right kind of news glasses.  
untitled, 2011

fischer's dramartization has very little to do with art history and/or its imminent irrelevance --as untitled obliquely seems to suggest. untitled's mise-en-scène points at its own idle redundancy.  


3- fetishi$m: for duchamp objects are trouvé (found) but fischer's $tarjects require a fetishi$tic manipulation. the difference between feti$hism and the old marxist fetishism is that the former --as opposed to the latter-- hides nothing. oddly, feti$hism shamelessly points to its own pleonastic void. said differently, $tarjects don't "mask" arthoodication, on the contrary! one can paraphrase leibniz's identity law as such:

$tarjects & arthoodication are a binity. 
take fischer's necrophonia, where a naked model as part of the installation. what is the relation of part-to-whole of this $tarject? is the model a "part" of the whole just as a handle is a part of the mug? one cannot ignore the issue of "presence" here & how this gerrymandered manipulation presents itself as that which is not. $tarjects play at suggesting remainders --in this case a symbolic adjunction for ae$theticity's sake, which is obviously desirable-- but banana, pencil, tic-tac hide nothing.  we take them at face value --even though we think we don't. how so? the market hands the glasses for free at the entrance of the show! which is why fischer and his audience are aware that we've passed the point of presenting a banana as a banana (the old metonymic paradigm of a warhol, when irony was the prevalent category). with post-conceptualism, the arthoodicated banana ("X") IS the $tarject. you shouldn't need more than that.


one would retort that there is nothing about fischer's banana that's so unique (other than we happen to know it's a $tarject © fischer. granted, but then one is not wearing post-conceptualist glasses).

4- impunity: why are we having this discussion? because of fischer's "impunity," which lies in his optimal manipulation of ae$theticity.

"impunity" means immunity from omission and oblivion, i.e., the market's vouching for its candidate's suitability. it means guaranteed inclusion & legitimation (of urs fischer as $tar*tist).

fischer's optimal ae$theticity is sufficient for impunity.

so, we advance the following associative property as conclusion: contemporary art is an art of impunity. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

oliver nelson's stolen moments

composer and arranger oliver nelson was so right to entitle this album the blues and the abstract truth (1961). for indeed the blues is pure abstraction of life into congealed suffering. TBAAT produces exquisite music & great improvisations. first, the brooding lyricism of hubbard on trumpet, followed by eric dolphy's highly imaginative intervention on flute. nelson's solo is a rare gem of modal lyricism within the jazz vocabulary of the early 1960's. bill evans' groovy short musical cerebration is as abstract as nelson would have wanted. the magic ends too soon.  

Friday, May 10, 2013

alain badiou's "three amigos"


coming back to badiou's Logic of Worlds. i'm revising a number of badiou's redundancies. this post is forthcoming. i'd like to take a look at this one:

p 220.  under the heading "definition of an object", badiou declares (I):
Appearing is nothing else, for a being --initially conceived in its being as multiple-- than a becoming object.
let's suspend all the metaphysical problems in the history of recent philosophy associated with such a problematic term as "becoming," which badiou takes for granted here.

he writes: "But object is also a fully ontological category in that it only composes its atoms of appearing in accordance with the mathematical law of belonging, or pure presentation."

that's 1, 2, 3: the three amigos of appearance! "appearing" hangs on to "belonging," and both to "pure presentation" (keep in mind that "to belong," an atom, by definition, has to "appear" as a "part" of something else). as per "presentation" (let's leave "pure" aside for now), "to present" is a first cousin of "to (make) appear".  so, appearing features the three compadres. 

"appearing" is a "becoming" of, well, appearance. we're back to where we started. but for whom? badiou always addresses these conundrums from an axiomatic mathematical voice, which promulgates absolute truths from a platonic valhalla (the unspoken secret is that "the One," this mysterious cipher all over LoW).

do you buy it?

of the three amigos, "appearing" is the trademark of redundance, badiou's definition of object rest-ing on it. 

let's go back to (I):

appearing is... a becoming. and isn't "becoming" a form of "appearing"?

badiou has a way of getting out of the quicksands of ontological redundancy. @ the end of this section he writes with characteristic rodomontade:
The only inflexible truth regarding the intimate decomposition of the worldy fiction of being there is that of being-qua-being. The object objects to the transcendental fiction, which it nevertheless is, the 'fixion' of the One in being. 
badiou now puts the pleonastic hat on the ontological mannequin: the object objects! who would expect any less?

do you buy it?