November 12, 2019
- Aesthetics, Necropolitics and Environmental Struggle – Critical Art Ensemble
Anthropocentrism is not necessarily the enemy, and has in fact enabled
healthier forms of necropolitics as well as environmental consciousness
itself. Historically, it has been a key element in the persuasive rhetoric of
those who truly care for the environment, and it has helped their arguments resonate with potential allies. Anthropocentrism and anthropomorphism are the foundation of empathy, connectedness, and investment
in the natural world. To be sure, they are not useful concepts for scientific
study, but they are of great use in poetics and aesthetics. Much of ecological struggle is being fought in this nonrational territory—which leads us
next to ask: Is there a human tendency toward the nonrational?
- In Praise of Shadows – Junichiro Tanizaki (A 1930’s era essay regarding Japanese aesthetics…with heavy emphasis on the preference for the dimly lit).
September 17, 2019
I recently returned from a week long Art+Science symposium at École Polytechnique outside of Paris that was held in conjunction with faculty from UC Davis. Working in a lab for a week with physicists Jean Marc-Chomaz (of the Polytechnique) and Prof. Steward Dalziel (Cambridge University) as well as other graduate fellows and assistants we considered how to use art and science to respond to the prompt of “A Microclimate of One.”
Making any finished art project in such a compressed period of time is quite a task, but we ultimately ended with using Dalziel’s invention of synthetic Schlieren Photography that images heat radiating off of a person’s skin was a fascinating start. Without getting too much into detail, we created a photo-booth style set up that would let people be imaged in a way where the boundaries of their body aren’t hard set anymore, which has a lot of metaphorical potential. Here’s to hoping we can refine the work over the course of time. We’ll see.
Also, so much good new music as of late:
August 9, 2019
- Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime – Bruno Latour
I’ve been going through a lot of writing about the political climate surrounding climate change over the past few years. This work is maybe the most impactful thus far. It’s a cogent argument for reorienting global left/right politics and argues (as other writers have emphasized) to consider our actions as part of one terrestrial body. There is an inherent difficulty in declaring something like “we ARE nature” without it sounding alienating, because it is so normal for so many of us to think of nature as a separate entity. The dichotomy of nature over there is even reinforced by the idea of nature as something you go to visit to get relief from your urban/suburban dwelling.
But to give a very concrete example, if we can’t, as a culture, conceptualize something like the destruction of a mountain thousands of miles away for extractive purposes as the destruction of part of ourselves, we run the very real of continuing to self-destruct. That doesn’t have to be a left-right political issue because no traditional political contingent has a monopoly on appreciating something about nature.
July 23, 2019
I’ve tried to keep tabs on the discussions related to the trend of existential dread related to actual climate change + the discussion of climate change.
- Kaiser Health News: Climate Grief
In addition, discussions of identity proliferate today. Kwame Anthony Appiah’s The Lies that Bind is a good resource for the curious.
For me, music continues to help.
July 12, 2019
- The Misinformation Age: A thorough breakdown of how bad information spreads with a particularly compelling dissection of propaganda and how it is used in the current scientific and political environments.
June 18, 2019
Shoot. It has been a minute. My research has slowed for the summer, I recently completed my graduate degree and have been traveling (Maine, Chicago, Tennessee), avoiding books for a few weeks but still ingesting as much music (and podcasts) as I can.
- Steve Hauschildt: Dissolvi
- Blanck Mass: House vs. House
- Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising
- Tennger: Spiritual 2 (some context for this one – I first put it on while driving on a 2 lane backroad in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The rain was pouring, it was about 2 pm and I’d only had half a cup of coffee for the day what had seemed like an eternity ago. Wanting to power straight through the 5 hour drive I was on and running on fumes already from a meager breakfast, the music put me in an almost trance-like state as soon as it started. I almost had to pull over, my head felt a good 2 feet above my body. I don’t know if it was the possible caffeine withdrawal, the empty stomach, rain storm, constantly changing altitude – none of these things normally would effect me. I’ve since listened to the album with no physiological effects, but for a minute I wasn’t sure if I could play it again.)
Look (at a few of my favorite NC based painters):
February 10, 2019
January 22, 2019
James Blake: Assume Form
January 16, 2019
Aaron Rothman Signal Noise
December 22, 2018
One is grateful for The Pond because we are in trouble, and because irony which focuses on the ugliness of man-made juxtapositions does not at this point, by itself, help. Americans are the audience (and the protagonists) late in a tragedy; we are not wholly ignorant of our crimes anymore, but we have not yet fully paid for them, and we carry a burden of pity for other and fear for ourselves. And though these emotions are appropriate to the events, they threaten an inappropriate exhaustion. If, as may be the case, we are not to experience the coherence of the end of Act Five in our lifetimes, our effort must be to live with the tragedy unresolved – unjustified, and not fully explained. And for this endurance we need to do something more than rehearse the crimes of the early acts.
December 18, 2018
December 6, 2018
December 2, 2018
“Urban photography is valued for its characteristic of combining the practices ofart and research. In this article, urban photography is also understood as an affectual encounter.However, for urban photography to be seen as a creative medium, it has to be acknowledged asnot merely making aesthetic representations of the world but also opening a landscape in orderto see it differently and ask new questions
Listen: James Blake – The Colour in Anything
November 21, 2018
Ariella Azoulay: Unlearning Imperial Sovereignties
“In the final part of the series Unlearning Decisive Moments of Photography, Ariella Azoulay argues that photography can only challenge such imperial practices if photographers pursue their profession out of affectionate proximity to their own community, and not as members of the international media.”
October 31, 2018
Benoit Maire Turns Philosophy Into Art
October 26, 2018
Latour believes that if scientists were transparent about how science really functions — as a process in which people, politics, institutions, peer review and so forth all play their parts — they would be in a stronger position to convince people of their claims. Climatologists, he says, must recognize that, as nature’s designated representatives, they have always been political actors, and that they are now combatants in a war whose outcome will have planetary ramifications. We would be in a much better situation, he has told scientists, if they stopped pretending that “the others” — the climate-change deniers — “are the ones engaged in politics and that you are engaged ‘only in science.’ ”
October 12, 2018
Harper’s Magazine / Garret Keizer – Labor’s Last Stand
Michel de Certeau Walking in the City
Ben Frost – All That You Love Will Be Eviscerated
Virginia Wing – Ecstatic Arrow
September 17, 2018
My argument, in brief, is that Anthropocene rhetoric – joining images and texts – frequently acts as a mechanism of universalization, albeit complexly mediated and distributed among various agents, which enables the military-state-corporate apparatus to disavow responsibility for the differentiated impacts of climate change, effectively obscuring the accountability behind the mounting eco-catastrophe and inadvertently making us all complicit in its destructive project”
September 15, 2018
Edited and Compiled by Wolfgang Tillmans, Brigitte Oetker
This book is a compilation of previously written articles and interviews, along with original work that meditates on the way that “truth” is both communicated and received. The title refers to the questioning of why far-right nationalism appears to be on the rise now, versus prior years when there has always been a contingent of those aligned with such causes.
From the Intro:
Numerous studies show compellingly that we perceive facts, as well as other people and their concerns, only partially and in accordance with our own political beliefs. … That we operate in a highly emotional manner in the political realm is not something that someone taking part in a panel discussion would ever care to admit, and yet it is not a questions if admitting, of showing weakness. It is a question of collectively acknowledging that factors other than those that have just been articulated verbally in the room also play a role. (pg 11)
The quest to find our own blindness should always resonate. (pg 11)
From How Facts Backfire, by Joe Keohane
A 2006 study by Charles Taber and Milton Lodge at Stony Brook University showed that politically sophisticated thinkers were even less open to new information than less sophisticated types. These people may be factually right about 90 percent of things, but their confidence makes it nearly impossible to correct the 10 percent on which they’re totally wrong. Taber and Lodge found this alarming, because engaged, sophisticated thinkers are “the very folks on whom democratic theory relies most heavily.” (Pg 16)
From Interview with Stephan Lewandowsky
SL: Bizarre things are being believed by people because of polarization….There’s nothing that is so absurd that you wouldn’t find others somewhere in the world who believe it…
We know for example in Australia that the number of people who deny climate change is actually very small. It’s only in the order of 6 to 8 percent of the population. But those 6 or 8 percent think that their opinion is shared by half the population. That vast discrepancy between the actual prevalence of a belief and what these people think others are thinking makes their belief resistant to change (pg 25)
SL: There are very few people who say “I’m greedy, and I like being greedy.” Instead they will say: “I’m a libertarian and I believe that society is best served if free individuals pursue their own interests.” (discussion of Ayn Rand follows…) (pg 31)
SL: She has created a very thin, and in my view grotesque ideology that justifies greed and self-interest by claiming that somehow this serves the greater good. All on the basis of flimsy thinking and no evidence at all. But she has turned into the hero of the American libertarian movement and in my view she is extremely important in this regard. (pg 32)
From Interview with Lionel Barber
LB: Now “entitlement culture” has taken a 180-degree turn. The rich feel entitled to tax-cuts. Since the 1990’s, the pattern of redistribution has been from poor to rich. (pg 36)
From Interview with Brendan Nyhan
BN: I fear that we have not done enough to promote the shared values that make liberal democracy possible. In the US, for instance, younger Americans do not attribute so much importance to living in a democracy as older generations. (pg 46)
September 7, 2018
Q: Thinking about that link between urbanism and music, how has the built environment changed, and how is that impacting on the music that’s being made? Does the link still exist?
A: (James Ginzburg) I imagine, like it or not, that that’s the inevitable evolution of urbanism. Cities become gated communities, and people get pushed further and further outside. It becomes more difficult to actually meet. That’s the wonderful thing historically about the urban situation—it’s a meeting point, or a point of intersection. But if that physical possibility isn’t there, that point of intersection is going to be digital. In a sense we’re very lucky to have had these experiences to interact with the physical spaces, with present audiences…
August 23, 2018
I can’t keep up with all of the electronic music being released. I delve into an album, it leaves a mark. It’s quite possible I forget about it a few weeks later – not because I don’t find it fascinating, but because the pace of releases simply buries it in my mental rolodex. Some albums persist for awhile. Trying to keep a list if only for my own reference. I feel that these works all have some relevance to the art I am researching and making.
August 8, 2018
Overwhelming show that I wish I could visit a few times. Lots of fascinating work but so much temporal stuff that appreciating all of the video pieces would be unreasonable in a visit, so I focused on what I’m mostly into – the 2-d.
Highlights from the show – showing my bias towards 2-D work of course…
Petra Cortright’s Digital Paintings on aluminum
Sophia Al-Maria: Black Friday (The only installation piece I’m listing here but the visual impact of the phones on the floor is striking, to say nothing of the accompanying video)
Stan Douglas: A66A
Constant Dullaart – pieces from “Jennifer in Photoshop”
Amalia Ulman’s Instagram update large prints
Joel Holmberg’s genre paintings of internet screens
Mendi + Keith Obadike’s “Blackness for Sale” internet performance/monitor installation
Erin Hayden’s “Reading” 2015 painting
Douglas Coupland’s Delaware + Texas A+M paintings
Jon Rafman’s 9 eyes / google earth prints
July 30, 2018
In the recent book The Map and the Territory which collects various projects of Luigi Ghirri’s, we get to read in his own words how he thinks about making pictures out in the world. Below are some noteworthy excerpts.
“I have never been interested in what is commonly referred to as style. Style is a coded reading, and I believe photography to be a codeless language, and rather than a kind of restriction, it is a broadening and an expansion of communication.
Photographic ‘style’ is inherent in the very choice of photography as a language, and its way of seeing the world is inevitably limited by horizontal and vertical lines, i.e. what is caught within the frame. In this sense, photography always implies subtraction, or a sense of something missing, something outside of the frame.”
“My focus on the destruction of direct experience – the invasion of images into our living environments – begins here. In the work, I wanted to offer an analysis of truth and falsehood, of the gap between what we are, and the image of what we’re supposed to be – and ultimately to think critically about the denial and concealment of truth. This distinction between true and false is increasingly difficult to make, and it seems progressively impossible to get beyond the immediately visible.”
F/11, 1/125, Natural Light
“While on the one hand I reject Cartier-Bresson’s ideology, I also find the arguments against the famous ‘decisive moment’ just as sterile and unenlightening. From a practical point of view, if these criticisms were theoretically sound, the images of the new American photography – from Friedlander through Winogrand to Meyerowitz, and the portraits and other work by Mulas – would be impossible to read. Photography always expresses itself in that coincidence between the moment of the photograph – real time – and a simultaneous inner moment chosen by the photographer, even when dealing with aspects that are not directly related to the passing of time. Planning the work does not cancel out the decisive moment, because it is impossible to eliminate chance happenings, even within well-defined choices and projects…”
“I’ve never liked ‘nature’ photographs. This applies to all kinds of nature photographs, from those in which nature is portrayed in all its most mysterious or metaphysical aspects, to the abstract coercion of meaning into sheer blocks of colour or signs. In these images and in the desperate attempt to capture ‘natural moments’, I’ve always felt I was encountering an enormous paradox that runs to the very heart of photographic language itself. The Renaissance discovery of the camera obscura – which took place in urban intellectual circles – revealed that ‘natural’ vision was a construct; the image, they discovered, was formed upside down within an enclosed space, when the scope of the outside world passed through a tiny hole. This discovery negated the prospect of ever representing or knowing ‘nature’.
Even though there are wonderful cases in the history of photograhy that seem to contradict my conviction, it’s also true that these episodes are only partial examples, or ‘captured moments’ that lead back to aesthetic phenomena, and to the visual languages of painting, engraving rather than epiphanies or illuminations.”
June 25, 2018
DJ Richard – Dies Iræ Xerox
Nine Inch Nails – Bad Witch
Angélique Kidjo – Remain in Light
Paleontologist Peter Ward – Are We Headed Into Another Mass Extinction?
RAZ: So how are humans different from, you know, all these other species that have gone extinct in the past?
WARD: Oh, humans – come on. We have the golden ticket. We’re able to put a coat on if it gets cold. And we’re able to build air conditioners if it’s too hot. So I think we are essentially extinction-proof. And I fight this concept that we are endangered.
I think we are the least-endangered species on the planet in many respects simply because we have not just the experience but the intelligence to deal with so many of these challenges. And I just think we are going to be the long-term survivals. Now, happiness might be something else.
RAZ: Yeah. I mean, what kind of planet will we survive on, right?
WARD: Well, there’s that. I mean, you certainly see all the post-apocalyptic thrillers and the depressing sort of looks into the future. But it really doesn’t need to be that way. I think we’re just going to see an increasingly manicured planet, an increasingly ordered planet where the wild becomes not wild at all. It’s managed wild.
Human civilization – there’s no reason that we just can’t continue for millions of years into the present with just a modicum of civilization and technology. You can get around this stuff through intelligence.
June 18, 2018
Skee Mask – Compro
“A white, male, German artist, deceased in 2010, who came of age in the years of European Pop, Polke was known for his combining of materials and mediums—photographic, digital, textile, draughtsmanly, printerly and painterly—under the larger medium-umbrella of painting. But what does it mean to say that? The answer lies, still, within the institutional definition of painting, as well as in painting’s recent history. Which is to say that “painting” is still considered the primary medium in art museums and art schools, the one under whose heading large, ambitious work is made, and in which what we might call “material thought” of the first order is understood to take place—in which facture and techne are put to the service, not of craft alone or technique per se, but of some kind of thinking. Which also means that hybridity of this kind has now come to be seen as painting’s, rather than photography’s, province.“
June 4, 2018
“Every song is an opportunity to freak somebody out,” Mr. Lopatin said during an interview in one of Empac’s conference rooms while his band got set up.
“Generally my response to seeing something really symmetrical and perfect is … it’s the scene with Jack Nicholson’s Joker in the first ‘Batman,’ the museum scene,” Mr. Lopatin said. “Him just spray-painting the Mona Lisa, and whatever, with his goons. It is really the most satisfying thing you could do, is to just put a little scratch in something that thinks it — that has the arrogance of knowing what it is. But it is sort of funny that I just do that over and over. It’s very bratty.”
At the same time, he added, “It also works well in the inverse. I also like to take chaos and structure it so it has a kind of comprehensible pulsation.”
May 12, 2018
“The essence of Modernism lies, as I see it, in the use of characteristic methods of a discipline to criticize the discipline itself, not in order to subvert it but in order to entrench it more firmly in its area of competence. Kant used logic to establish the limits of logic, and while he withdrew much from its old jurisdiction, logic was left all the more secure in what there remained to it.”
May 9, 2018
A Crisis of Bigness (from Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist) – Paul Kingsnorth
Kohr’s claim was that society’s problems were not caused by particular forms of social or economic organisation, but by their size. Socialism, anarchism, capitalism, democracy, monarchy – all could work well on what he called “the human scale”: a scale at which people could play a part in the systems that governed their lives. But once scaled up to the level of modern states, all systems became oppressors. Changing the system, or the ideology that it claimed inspiration from, would not prevent that oppression – as any number of revolutions have shown – because “the problem is not the thing that is big, but bigness itself”.
April 25, 2018
Ecology Without Nature – Timothy Morton
“We start by thinking that we can “save” something called “the world”
“over there, ” but end up realizing we ourselves are implicated. This is the solution to the beautiful soul syndrome: reframing our field of activity as one for which we ourselves are formally responsible, even guilty. It is a kind of “action,” but a theoretical one.” Dark ecology undermines the naturalness of the stories we tell about how we are involved in nature. It preserves the dark, depressive qualities of life in the shadow of the ecological catastrophe. Instead of whistling in the dark, insisting we’re part of Gaia, why not stay with the darkness?” (p187)
April 22, 2018
On the Chaos of Bodies: David Grubbs and John Sparagana in Conversation h/t Julie Thompson
April 5, 2018
“Clasen says, “It just dawned on me how much work [ad agency] Leo Burnett and the various photographers…had put into this campaign.” He shot his ad assignments on film, following real cowboys who had been selected and cast for the ads, and spent long days shooting on location. He explains, “I thought of all the pride the cowboys, the agency, the photographers put into this, and then for someone to sit in their living room and take a picture of it, crop part of it out and sell it for a million dollars, finally sort of got to me. I thought: If this isn’t morally, ethically and legally wrong, what is?””
- Photographer of images still not even named in headline. Prince has taken Clasen’s images, but also his likeness as an artist in a way.
- Interesting for Clasen to speak about the morality of “taking” a photograph and recontextualizing it (as well as materially altering the composition) without speaking about the morality of the situation under which the photograph was commissioned. Is a picture using the likeness of cowboys made to sell cigarettes really to be treated so preciously? Does the labor of the photographer (which he emphasizes) involved justify the work as valid? I noticed this a lot while working in photojournalism – equating the physical effort and time spent making the images, getting access etc as justification for ownership/publishing.
March 28, 2018
March 26, 2018
The work of Nina Chanel-Abney
“The art that I’m drawn to and find the most impactful has a certain level of ambiguity that forces me to answer many questions for myself”
On a personal note, seeing her work in person (Royal Flush at the Nasher in 2017) was one of those experiences that changed how I thought about my own work. I was lucky enough to have her visit my studio last week, and I’m even more of a fan after that.
March 22, 2018
“Ecological impact seems to be an abstract scientific fact that is measurable though not necessarily palpable; something discussed by experts and not felt by ordinary people on a daily basis. When a city tree is felled, hardly anyone considers the annual loss of cubic meters of oxygen. Yet on a sunny day, many inhabitants will definitely regret the disappearance of its refreshing shade. Second, appreciating green spaces for their ecological significance is risky because it amounts to considering solely their instrumental value, which may result in appreciating them in terms of efficiency. From this perspective, one might rationalize replacing a tree with some equally effective “ecological device.” For now, nature stands protected but only because it is less expensive than its ersatz counterparts. Were costs to reverse, it could become extremely difficult to persuade technocratic societies to protect nature for its productive potential alone.”
March 21, 2018
“Referencing the ways that landscapes have been politicized through historical events—from the violent expansion of the American West, colonialism, war, and abolition, through to more recent race riots and social protests—Mehretu began by combining photographs from these events with nineteenth-century landscape paintings. Abstracting and digitizing the blended forms, she printed the resulting images on two monumental canvases, each spanning more than eight hundred square feet. Over these underpaintings, Mehretu adds gestural, calligraphic brush strokes before screen printing an additional, complicating layer of pixelated images.”
March 18, 2018
“For the last two hundred years, just about one tenth of one percent of human existence, most of our energy has come not from direct photosynthesis but from stored carbon energy in fossil fuels. Switching from a photosynthetic-based energy economy to a carbon-based energy economy increased human wealth beyond what anyone could have possibly imagined, raising the overall standard of living across the world through such technologies as diesel-fueled tractors, Haber-process nitrogen-fixed fertilizer, Bessemer steel, railroads, steamships, airplanes, electric power plants, plastics, the internal combustion engine, and the automobile. It also began a massive transformation of the physical systems regulating life on Earth.”
March 16, 2018
“What most disturbed him, and seemed symptomatic of a larger malaise, was the government-fueled drive toward land-grabbing and wilderness-taming at any cost. Virtually from his Catskill front porch he could see forests being rapidly and randomly leveled. For Cole, who identified personally, emotionally, with every living element in a landscape, such sights were an assault.”
Conditions of Visuality Under the Anthropocene and Images of the Anthropocene to Come / Reflections on Cy Twombly
March 14, 2018
“The Anthropocene has meant not a new image of the world, but rather a radical change in the conditions of visuality and the subsequent transformation of the world into images. These developments have had epistemological as well as phenomenological consequences: while images now participate in forming worlds, they have become forms of thought constituting a new kind of knowledge—one that is grounded in visual communication, and thereby dependent on perception, demanding the development of the optical mind.”
“With a sloppy style of vacuous vicissitudes, Cy Twombly reversed what the avant-gardes of the prewar era held as a given: the view of history as a burden. There is a marvelously sprightly, loose and intuitive feel about Twombly’s operatic paintings that manages to merge mythic, classical intellectualism with a Dionysian sensual immoderation that verges on shit. By this playful amalgam of semiotics with scatology, Twombly redevised history painting into palimpsest poop.”
March 11, 2018
“‘Capitalists in a small corner of the Western world invested in steam, laying the foundation of the fossil economy; at no moment did the species … exercise any sort of shared authority over its own destiny and that of the earth system.’ Nor in the time since has the species en bloc become ecologically sovereign: ‘In the early 21st century, the poorest 45 per cent of humanity generated 7 per cent of CO2 emissions, while the richest 7 per cent produced 50 per cent.’ For both Malm and Moore, capitalism must be recognised as the overriding determinant of humanity’s recent ecological career if the present era of natural history is to become a useful object of analysis, not merely of handwringing.”
“Although it is difficult to estimate the prevalence of photo manipulation, a recent global survey of photojournalists found that 76% regard photo manipulation as a serious problem, 51% claim to always or often enhance in-camera or RAW (i.e., unprocessed) files, and 25% admit that they, at least sometimes, alter the content of photos (Hadland, Campbell, & Lambert, 2015). Together these findings suggest that we are regularly exposed to a mix of real and fake images.”
March 9, 2018
” ‘Environment’ literally signifies material nature; this connotation, in its own turn, informs the other side of ‘environment,’ the ‘environment’ metaphor.”
“The mediated effect physical nature has on communication is reflected back to it by the negotiating and tranformative power of environmental communication. Symbols, informed by nature, have the power to shape human minds, which, in their turn, act directly upon it.”
“Only phenomenology, in our case represented by Arnold Berleant’s reflections upon phenomenology, art and nature, had a tendency to challenge anthropological views about nature and to claim for instituting an equilibrated, nonhierarchical relation between humans and nature, thus “stitching the human back into the fabric of the Earth.”
March 1, 2018
Recently returned from Prospect 4 in New Orleans
Artists whose installed work I made particular note of, but in no particular order:
February 3, 2018
At Linville Gorge in Western North Carolina.
A historical placard indicates that many colonial hunters trespassed on Native American hunting grounds in the area. The plexiglass overlaying the text is scratched – specifically on top of the word “trespassed.” You can still clearly make out the word out. The Linville Gorge is named after John and William Linville, who were killed by the Shawnee in the area.