2 days and counting

The night is only a sort of carbon paper,
Blueblack, with the much-poked periods of stars
Letting in the light, peephole after peephole -
A bonewhite light, like death, behind all things.
Under the eyes of the stars and the moon's rictus
He suffers his desert pillow, sleeplessness
Stretching its fine, irritating sand in all directions.


Weegee, kids on fire escape

Weegee, kids see Brooklyn murder

from nature

Kohei Yoshiyuki’s Park series, photos taken between 1971-79, which documented sexual encounters in Tokyo’s Shinjuku, Yoyogi, and Aoyama parks with infrared film.

Indeed the state of all who are preoccupied is wretched, but the most wretched are those who are toiling not even at their own preoccupations, but must regulate their sleep by another’s, and their walk by another’s pace, and obey orders in those freest of all things, loving and hating. If such people want to know how short their lives are, let them reflect how small a portion is their own.

All cruelty springs from weakness.

Seneca, Epistulae ad Lucilium

Knowledge, Tools and Awareness

15 simple uncoupled pendulums of monotonically increased lengths. I love this kind of stuff; I also think this is the kind of video that would have made me more interested in physics class. It's visual mathematics. Imagine if this kind of thing was used as an introduction to motion. It is also strange to think that wishing I had access to this kind of thing when I was in high school is hindered by one fundamental factor (other than time), that youtube wasn't around when I was in high school. It didn't start to become popular until about mid 2006, the year after I left. It is strange to think of the world without the habitual technological accessories that we have today. I often think that we grow into knowledge, seeing the world through varying conceptual frameworks depending on what we direct our attention to, whether it be physics, politics, literature, art etc.. I think it is increasingly necessary to integrate the factor of technology into our personal histories, in terms of the way we are able to direct ourselves or apply ourselves to our interests via these tools. I didn't use computers much at boarding school. Mine was dedicated to occasional email, typing up essays and listening to music burned from CDs, my own and those of others. Myspace and Facebook were invented (2003, 2004) but not popular (2006, 2009) youtube didn't exist etc...

"Ambient awareness" is a term coined by social scientists referring to constant use of social networking sites/devices, which according to Clive Thomas of the New York Times, is "very much like being physically near someone and picking up on [their] mood through the little things [they do, such as] body language, sighs, [and] stray comments...".
Therefore, in effect two friends who regularly follow one another's digital information can already be aware of each other's lives without actually being physically present to have a conversation.

Tool use changes the brain's representation of the body, extending it to incorporate the tool . Similarly, techno-tool use changes the brain's conceptual relationship to the world and technology becomes an extension of ourselves (some people would argue that we become an extension of technology).

I was sitting in my chemistry class the other day and a guy in front of me was flicking constantly between facebook and the lecture, news sites and the lecture, back to facebook ad infinitum or absurdum; I left before I could work out which. We no longer have temporal or spatial barriers in accessing our social worlds, nor our informational ones. I heard a professor anecdotally say that the knowledge he specialises in is de-specialised when he stands up and asks a question and his students google the answer before he can say it. What do we actually possess when we can possess almost anything via our tools? Is it knowledge? Possible knowledge? 

Paul Virilio, a french theorist, talks of dromological violence insofar as speed destabilises time and space; "if one can move fast enough one is concurrently everywhere bringing about a speed-induced flux so far-reaching and totalising as to be static." Speed, according to Virilio, makes potentiality or possibility actuality - what may appear is given equal standing to what does appear. I think this is so important and I do find this to be a major problem in my life. I could research forever without actually writing anything or doing anything with it. I find it very hard to say, ok, enough information, now I will do something with it. And that is partly a good thing; it means no work is ever finished and everything is work in progress. It is a nice way to look at the world and allows experimentation and a degree of freedom. But it also means that I am liable to fall into the trap of consuming without ever properly producing. What I could write or put into words was conceptually sufficient for me and because I knew I could access information at whim, it became easier to retain a scanty interest rather than a deeper knowledge. I also think that it promotes less active thought process and more passive gathering of information. 

Weird connections, strange tangents and experimental theories used to be the mainstay for a lot of my conversation. Now instead of trying to work theories, rework them, "hmmm... what about... mmmm.... no... or..?" that could go on for hours, someone just pulls out their iThing and Gaggles it. It's not even about knowledge in that case, because it is good to have the right answer, but about the recourse to another source immediately, before even considering it. Now of course there is not much point in arguing for hours over whether such-and-such happened in 1948 or 1949. Or is there? I mean, what kind of workout would your brain get if you had to try and piece together all the information you had to work out when such and such happened?  It is a different way of using the brain. It is not merely time-consuming, or maybe it is, but what is time except movement? What are we storing all of our precious, well-spent hours worth of knowledge for (and why does all our vocabulary reduce to expenditure)? Are we simply saving time to spend it working more, earning more, being productive? If so, are we actually producing anything tangible? 

I think this is important for us and I genuinely worry about it, because often it is dismissed as a waste of time, or a luddite aversion to progress. When we could just "know" the answer, why bother? Yet I'm not sure we even know what knowledge is, or progress, or technology, beyond a standard definition on Wikipedia, that bastion of quick-access facts. And isn't this precisely the problem? We can get information but that doesn't mean that we know what to do with it, that we have understanding. 

etymology of dromological violence: from dromos, the greek word to run/to race.

Amazing Electronic Communication with the Dead

Breakthrough: An Amazing Experiment in Electronic Communication with the Dead
Konstantin Raudive, 1971

A summary of six years research by scientist Konstantin Raudive who has documented the speech of dead people. The communications are captured on playbacks of recordings - at the time of recording no audible voices were heard. The voices state their names (among them Goethe, Tolstoy, Nietzsche and Hitler) and talk at a much faster speed than normal and in very short sentences. Jung doesn't seem to make much sense from the Other Side: 'We are here, good day.' 'You belong probably to the cucumbers.' 'Koste, here is Jung. Telephone with restraint, comrade.'

Svetlana Boym and the Off Modern

Svetlana Boym is definitely one of my favourite contemporary theorists. Her book The Future of Nostalgia really got me. She is also an artist so she steers her theories and histories in that direction and I'm alright on her art, but it's not always my cup of tea. She started the off modern movement, a non -ism that acts as "a prism of vision and a mode of acting and creating in the world that tries to remap the contemporary landscape filled with the ruins of spectacular real estate development and the construction sites of the newly rediscovered national heritage....it is a performance-in-progress, a rehearsal of possible forms and common places...It explores interstices, disjunctures, and gaps in the present in order to co-create the future."

From The Off-Modern Mirror:

"Instead of fast-changing prefixes—“post,” “anti,” “neo,” “trans,” and “sub”—that suggest an implacable movement forward, against or beyond, and try desperately to be “in,” I propose to go off: “off” as in “off kilter,” “off Broadway,” “off the map,” or “way off,” “off-brand,” “off the wall,” and occasionally “off-color.” “Off modern” is a detour into the unexplored potentials of the modern project. It recovers unforeseen pasts and ventures into the side alleys of modern history at the margins of error of major philosophical, economic, and technological narratives of modernization and progress. Critic and writer Viktor Shklovsky proposes the figure of the knight’s move in chess that follows “the tortured road of the brave,” preferring it to the master-slave dialectics of “dutiful pawns and kings.”


The term “off modern” came to me by accident, as I was dueling with my computer printer, turning it on and off, violating its instructions in the hopes of performing an unpredictable knight’s move in a battle with so-called artificial intelligence. I didn’t have a new black-ink cartridge and wanted to see how my cheap printer would cope with the situation of technical scarcity. It continued working, letting its psychedelic unconscious spill out and yielding a few photographic prints that were unrepeatable and unpredictable. Images without black (without melancholia?) led to a project about nostalgic technologies that involved even more battles with the printer. In a series of “ruined prints” showing our decaying modern landscapes, I pulled the photographs prematurely from the printer, leaving the lines of passages. This error made each print unrepeatable and uniquely imperfect. The process is not Luddite but ludic, not destructive but experimental. An error has an aura."


Leaving New York (Ruined Prints) 2002-2004

Leaving Sarajevo (Ruined Prints) 2002-2004

Svetlana Boym - The Off-Modern Mirror, here

E-Flux Issue 25

Surprisingly few people have flinched at the way Osama bin Laden was disposed of. Even for the most wanted man in the world, one imagines that it would have been both ethically and politically more expedient to stage a trial before his execution, similar to the way it was done in the case of Saddam Hussein. But such an expectation would risk overlooking the degree to which, for states and individuals alike, much political activity now takes place outside of official channels and beyond the jurisdiction of formal legal bodies.

This does not only concern CIA "black sites," but an array of secretive and extraterritorial practices that have become the accepted, yet exceptional, channels for bypassing the accountability of democratic, public, or transparent decision-making processes. For better or worse, the privilege to secure one's private interests in the gray area between state jurisdictions now becomes available not only to offshore banks and tax havens, but to private armies, pirates, terrorists, mercenaries, journalists, and politicians alike. And it is interesting to note how these extrajudicial practices threaten to bring things full circle back to tribalism—the nightmare of postwar internationalist hopes for universal ethics embodied by organizations such as the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, which were founded primarily to stand as a collective conscience against large-scale street justice.

But it now seems increasingly impossible to resort to universal ethics when these objective bodies have themselves become highly suspect political commodities. (Who gives a Nobel Peace Prize to an American President conducting a war on foreign soil?) Yet, at the same time, fascinating new forms of checks and balances have emerged to counterbalance the impunity of state-level opportunism. Beyond the anti-regime demonstrations in the Middle East, the most notable transnational phenomenon by far has been WikiLeaks, and in this issue we are honored to have the first part of Hans Ulrich Obrist’s extensive interview with Julian Assange, in which Assange articulates the fascinating theory of political movement that underpins WikiLeaks' philosophy of forging accountability.

Taken from the geopolitical level down to street-level, the same mandate to informal negotiation translates to another figure familiar to many millennial cities: the creative worker. With some structural similarities to the mercenary, the pirate, or the private militia, the cultured flexible workers of the creative class comprise a target demographic with which the neoliberal metropolis advertises its cosmopolitan character. But, in Martha Rosler's conclusion to her ambitious three-part series, a class-conscious reading of the figure of the creative worker reveals a clear and somewhat inflexible manual for marketing postindustrial economic gloom (also known as poverty) through a logic of cultural renovation and do-it-yourself innovation—tailored for artists and other socioeconomic groups that can afford to be up to the task.

Key to the sanitized, creative city is a notorious evacuation of class-conscious political awareness, replaced by the narcissism of self-promotion. In this issue, Diedrich Diederichsen considers the resulting fetish for radicalism in the form of Oedipal patricide, for the grand gesture of defaming one’s master as the marker of freedom. But if one is self-employed, or chooses one’s own masters, as many do, the "hollow intensifier" of radicality becomes increasingly problematic as a criterion for art, and we find that even the narcissistic production of one’s own self may contain far more progressive potential than performed ruptures against projected or fictitious forefathers.

Finally, Suely Rolnik articulates how an "anthropophagic subjectivity" can function simultaneously within and against the fluid, flexible, and hybrid nature of cognitive capitalism. More commonly understood as cannibalism, the practice of anthropophagy can be related to the Tupinambá, one of the indigenous groups who inhabited today's Brazil, who were known to devour their enemies in a long and rigorous ritual in which the executor would carve the name of the devoured enemy into his skin, as well as change his own name. Having been invoked more recently as a micropolitical model of cultural absorption in which otherness is consumed, but also allowed to recreate the consumer, the fluidity of the concept that once promised movement has now been itself absorbed into the logic of neoliberalism. How do we then go "through the elaboration of the wound in the potency of creation" to reactivate a poetic-political vitality?

—Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle

E-Flux website

"I don’t want to express alienation. It isn’t what I feel.
I’m interested in various kinds of passionate engagement.
All my work says be serious, be passionate, wake up."


On Time, On Memory, On Being

"I cannot stroll around the outskirts of my neighbourhood in the solitude of night without thinking that night is pleasing to us because, like memory, it erases idle details."


L'eclisse (1962) Michelangelo Antonioni

Sedmikrásky, Dada, the Bland, the Banal

Awesome Czech new wave film (1966). Absurdist, dadaist, a comestibles carousal and an ode to 'being bad'. Directed by Věra Chytilová.
I recently read an article on artnet about Dada. I had always thought of Dadaism as the wonderful Tzara and the Ball/Hemmings cabaret fanfare, an interesting moment in history, based on an unrepeatable, unsustainable philosophy, a calling on nihilism. It was something that came into existence to challenge the whole, to simultaneously say no and yes to everything, to hover and rage, to be static and surging, to call on everything and call on nothing. Complete negation, or is it? In Berlin I found a book by Francois Jullien, professor at Université Paris Diderot, on chinese philosophy, called In Praise of Blandness. It speaks of the difference between the Western and Eastern conception of the bland, for us an absence of flavour. In Daoist and Confucianist ideas, the "dan" is the infinite ability of all things, it is the centre, the undifferentiated. It is flavourless because it is infinite and unfixed; unable be characterised or systematised. We would perhaps classify this as "nothing" or complete negation, but the opposite is true; it is complete becoming. Perhaps Dada was an instance of this - not nihilism but complete becoming. The idea of this little movement was to be suggestible to everything, to be completely spontaneous in the face of mechanisation, to not be "nothing", but to live in undifferentiated freedom to become. As a matter of point, Tzara said Dada was finished as soon as it "is", in the sense that once classified, once "known" and understood, the it no longer exists except as an historical fact.
And what of Arendt?

"Evil is never "radical",… it is only extreme, and… it possesses neither depth nor any demonic dimension… It is "thought-defying"… because thought tried to reach some depth, to go to the roots, and the moment it concerns itself with evil, it is frustrated because there is nothing. That is its "banality"." (1964)

Is the bland the same as the banal? Can these two ideas ever co-exist, or must they be relegated to differing modes of thought, one of "becoming" and the other of negation, the "without".
I have just, on the recommendation of a Nihon Otaku, started reading "Heidegger's Hidden Sources; East Asian Influences on his Work". It shows Heidegger's debt to Daoist and Zen Buddhist philosophies; especially in his conception of Nothing, which comes as radically different to the Western understandings before it. Being, nothing, emptiness. Oh the joy. Actually, I am only up to the first chapter, but I am convinced. I wonder if Jullien has read this?

Etymology Club:
Bland comes from the latin blandus "soft, smooth". First from late Middle English in the sense "gentle in manner"

Banal has Germanic origin, relates to the contemporary English ban and the French ban "a proclamation or call to arms", originally referring to feudal service and having the sense of being compulsory for all.

Donald Kuspit's A Critical History of 20th Century Art, here. The article focuses on the connection between spiritualism and nihilism and argues they are not quite so far away as we often think.

The Clock

Nabokov's character Van Veen, in his novel Ada, was "an amateur of Time, an epicure of duration." It is Nabokov's own exploration of the texture of time, not as the mechanical splicing of clocks, or the linear movement that gives us the then of the past and takes away the now of the present, but the experience of time in time, "in its stuff and spread, in the fall of its folds, in the very impalpability of its grayish gauze, in the coolness of its continuum."
Nabokov said of his character, "Van's greatest discovery is his perception of Time as the dim hollow between two rhythmic beats, the narrow and bottomless silence between the beats, not the beats themselves, which only embar Time."

Christian Marclay's The Clock, a 24 hour video artwork, explores a strange formulation of both the gauze and the tick, the hollow and the beat. It is made of thousands of excerpts of films that work by both parading in the present minute as an accurate yet unconventional timepiece and spasming through filmic eras and genres that embody a rather different experience of time. Filmic cuts and sound give us the flow, tell us how to experience the story. We linger just as long as we are allowed and are flashed back and pushed forward at someone else's will, not our own. Marclay's work is a cataloguing both historical and mechanical, but also an experience of the experience of time, an epicurism of the automated that begs an entirely different question.