5.30.2001

But up in his room by artificial light
My father paints the summer
- Richard Purdy Wilbur

Today my father sent in his thoughts on some of my writings, which serves to remind me of who I am by surprising me, yet again, with who he is. Posted his comments, under dialogues, but here is an excerpt:
....I have always been fascinated by the moment of sublimity myself, as you know. Numbers do it for me. I cannot ever forget, not the circumstances, but the emotion (?) of the epiphany when I first heard it said that one needed no numbers beyond 3 because 3 meant multiplicity and therefore included all higher numbers. Space disappeared and time stopped for me as I read that sentence. How clear, how truthful, how simple, how--efficient was the idea. Do you know how some sentences/expressions one realizes take far longer to say anything, sort of like a mouthful of bubbles or cotton candy, or a 10-lb bag of packing material with only a small item inside. But this sentence matched container with contents perfectly--the perfect expressive analog for the substance of the idea, hence immensely powerful because instantly revealing. Concepts of writing as a "clear window" or a pure mechanism come to mind--not the thing itself but the enabler of the thing....
An unconventional man, my dad - an Army officer, but taught english/writing at West Point, with a masters specializing in Old-English Lit. from Duke U.... after 26 years of service went to nursing school, residency in an oncology unit.... as of late has been working as an information architect (!) with computer systems for some sort of major health-care "data management" corporation... My favorite thing, though: HE ONCE WENT TO CLOWN SCHOOL. When my brother and I were younger he would do magic tricks at our birthday parties; Halloween meant we could raid his clown kit and fight over who got to wear the big clown shoes (we would eventually tire of that, whining at the suggestion, preferring to dress as cowboys, or as "hoboes," in those innocent days of childhood when the vagabond was a romantic hero and homelessness was not a disquieting social dilemma).

Does he still know any magic tricks?

5.29.2001

design a piece that harnesses the time lost sitting, waiting for pages to update, sites to load. (keep a stopwatch by the keyboard to make a record of delay)

from Marcel Duchamp:
...a transformer designed to utilize the slight wasted energies such as:
the excess of pressure on an electric switch.
the exhalation of tobacco smoke.
the growth of a head of hair, of other body hair and of the nails.
the fall of urine and excrement.
movements of fear, astonishment, boredom, anger.
laughter.
dropping of tears.
demonstrative gestures of hands, feet, nervous tics.
forbidding glances.
falling over with surprise.
stretching, yawning, sneezing.
ordinary spitting, and of blood.
vomiting.
ejaculation.
unruly hair, cowlicks.
the sound of nose-blowing, snoring.
fainting.
whistling, singing.
sighs, etc. . . .
Anthologie de l'humour noir,under "Duchamp"
(via The Writings of Marcel Duchamped. Michel Sanouillet + Elmer Peterson)

I've started posting ongoing dialogues regarding the no longer | not yet lecture notes. If you do send me anything, just let me know if you'd like to remain a non-ymous. Oh - and I leave off e-mail addresses regardless.

5.26.2001

Finally completed a first attempt at posting lecture notes (see side bar). i'd love any comments or further thoughts anyone may have to offer. Feel free to tell me I'm full of shit. I love to argue. It's in bullet form, and I don't have images up for it yet, but the ideas are there....
................I think
wooo hooo! sorry if you have been unable to access this site all week. blogspot got blogged down, it appears. most frustrating. thanks for checking back, though....

I've been thinking about the shape and sound of people's writing - I don't know if this happens to anyone else, but when I read something and then fall asleep, I quite often dream in the voice of the author I was just reading, their short staccato sentence forms, or their rounded, interwoven imagery and alliteration. It doesn't matter if it's fiction or non-fiction, any shape will do, they all seem to imprint themselves in some way. I can't figure out if the words in my dreams come from any direct memories of things read - I don't think they do. The dreams involve new subject matter, but the word choices, the language, the rhythms and patterns and shape of sounds will be those of the text. My brain, through the act of reading, must be working in certain configurations for each author's voice, and continues in that configuration in my sleeping state. It's very strange, as if possessed by their breath.

in any writing, the voice of the author has a very distinct shape and sound - you could say personality, except it is more abstract and sensory than that. I've been thinking how each online log has a certain tone, like a piece of music, and each successive post is a different permutation of that log's tone, rising or falling, pausing, repeating for emphasis. I heard an interview on KUT last week with the producer of the show "The West Wing" (which I have only seen a couple of times). He talked about how he thinks about each episode as a piece of music, with crescendos and diminuations, and that certain "instruments" (characters) will rise out of the orchestration for the provocative solo, in the same way a clarinet might emerge so sweet and mournful, or how a cello might provide a vibration, a bass undertone.

and so, each log. The more "personal" diary forms, of course, have more of a personal voice, but every writing has its tone. It's shape. Quiet whispering ones here (nick drake?), chirpy pop music there (Solex? Cibo Matto?), some with long, delicate, but increasing breaths (mozart's Serenade for Winds K.361?), some insistent, persistent (P.J. Harvey?). Some of the logs I read are nocturnes, like birchlane, delicate and light, quietly swelling and then sustaining notes long past memory. What shape, I wonder, is mine? What is my breath?


A related thought - I often use sounds to describe the shape of a space, or the feeling of a wall...

but that is another post for another day....

5.22.2001

a site - five movements - well worth reading, sporting a similar approach to "research" logging. I can't wait for the chance to read further. Write to him and let him know if you appreciate it as well.

In one post, under art/film, he writes on genre distinctions in art, specifically regarding high art and low art and the propensity for schools of thought to champion one over the other.
"But while some cultural studies proponents claim that they reject "high" culture and favor "low" culture as a sort of anti-elitist move, what's interesting to me is the way that they often unwittingly and implicitly end up repeating the same artworld value systems as the critical schools which came before them.

How so? By focusing on the marginal, the unique, the defamiliarized, the overtly political, and the fragmented within mass culture rather than focusing on average works of pop culture. Thus, one can open a book by a cultural studies thinker and find essays on the Simpsons, Madonna, Riot Grrl, or politicized hip-hop performers. Or, coming from the other direction, one can find critiques of overtly race and gender-themed pop culture artifacts.

But what you don't find is a focus on the absolutely average, unoriginal, and boring works of mass culture. Nobody writes about Home Improvement, Garth Brooks, Green Day, or the Dave Matthews Band...."

There is also a follow up entry (including a post on Gilles Deleuze that is interesting). Some of his readers responded that, in fact, there are people dealing with the average, the mainstream. My problem with much of that work is that it is often done tongue-in-cheek, or with great high-art pretension, with nudges of "isn't this ironic?" or "how socially aware am I for doing an in-depth study of the phenomenon of the fanny-pack?" I am tired of work that looks at the mundane and appropriates it for profound (high-art) cultural commmentary.

I think it is difficult for critics (and artists) to discuss mainstream culture for what it is, for its "concrete reality," without tugging it into the realm of pop art or social criticism. Dave Hickey comes closest to being able to examine a cultural phenomenon based on its merits, or lack thereof, alone, with sincerity and without irony. Now Dave Hickey can be a pompous ass in his own right (I think he knows it and, in fact, enjoys his moments of pompous-assosity). But his is the first writing on art and culture that makes me sit up and pay attention because he speaks in specific, concrete terms about ordinary passions like rock-and-roll and hot-roddin' cars and Hank Williams, and is able to place art in those everyday contexts, not the other way around. To talk about art like you talk about rock-and-roll. It doesn't get any sexier than that.

In one particular essay, he looks at artists like Jackson Pollack and Stan Brackhage and Andy Warhol, at their evolution and the evolution of jazz and rock, at high-art and low-art and everything in-between. It ends with:
"...And you can thank the wanking eighties, if you wish, and digital sequencers, too, for proving to everyone that technologically "perfect" rock - like free jazz - sucks rockets. Because order sucks. I mean, look at the Stones. Keith Richards is ALWAYS on top of the beat, and Bill Wyman, until he quit, was always behind it, because Richard is leading the band and Charlie Watts is listening to him and Wyman is listening to Watts. So the beat is sliding on those tiny neural lapses, not so you can tell, of course, but you can feel it in your stomach. And the intonation is wavering, too, with the pulse in the finger on the amplified string. This is the delicacy of rock-and-roll, the bodily rhetoric of tiny increments, necessary imperfections, and contingent community. And it has its virtues, because jazz only works if we're trying to be free and are, in fact, together. Rock-and-roll works because we're all a bunch of flakes. That's something you can depend on, and a good thing, too, because in the twentieth century, that's all there is: jazz and rock-an-roll. The rest is term papers and advertising."

"The Delicacy of Rock-and-Roll"
from AIR GUITAR by Dave Hickey
By the way, no one could ever say Dave Hickey wasn't opinionated. He has made a living off of being opinionated. Thank goodness someone is.

And I have to add that today's "technological music" has come a long way from the synthesized sounds of the eighties that Hickey criticizes so vehemently. Much of electronica/techno and other forms of music today could fall under the jazz heading of "being free while, in fact, being together" while other forms, including drum and bass, hip-hop, house music fall under the rock-and-roll realm, allowing the beat to slip and slide.

5.20.2001

things - MAY2001:
projected spaces - Helen Maurer
modular systems
photos as sculptural material (Rebekah Modrak)
block printing + wire diagrams
fishtank as charged void
flicker film festival

Hilary Brougher
"The Sticky Fingers of Time" 1998?
"Hilary Brougher's conceit is that time has five fingers. In addition to past, present and future, there is also "that which might have been and that which yet could be." These two realms, which literary theorists term the subjunctive, are where desire and imagination meet."

Line Describing a Cone by Anthony McCall
1973 unpredictable length
Film as performance
"... the image is three dimensional, contained in the light-beam from the projector itself. A point of light from the black film, when viewed from beside the projector beam, is seen as a line, in space, running outwards from the projector lens. During thirty minutes the point on the film surface extends to become the circumference of a circle, so that the line from the projector consequently describes the surface of a cone--a time sculpture using 'solid' light."
(.... a perfect thing... Kudos to Austin Cinemaker Coop and
Rude Mechanicals for bringing this to Austin)
NY Times article on "digitizing" Line Describing a Cone

Cari Carmean - bedhead as a scientific property (upward gravity)
the pogo stick (more upward gravity... states of suspension)
sequin landscapes


and some more things - DEC2000:
sleeved fabric on two parallel vertical poles that could be slid down and softly gathered. the hand causing a v-shape in the center of the fabric. the folds variable in density and light.

video projection on ceiling: boy and girl attempting to stay a-hovering?
(yet more upward gravity)
damien hearst dot paintings and colored pom-pon's of man's hat


quilted windows
grass and mirrors in an elevator
orange balloons yearning to get in and blue balloons peering out
graphite lines on mylar. graphite dates on mylar.
browny-bronzy metal frames w/ black/charcoal photographs
a cardboard man with folded cardboard skin

half+half paint chip cards
fluttery half-light of fluorescent tube engaging
green/white/yellow soothing panels of pure light
repetition and assymetry in "A Scene at the Sea" (by Takeshi Kitano)
railroad caboose and train with desert sunset glow
rabbits whispering

old men and their women dancing


5.17.2001

more on Adolph Loos and his philosophy regarding the separation of art and architecture.... while I'm not sure that I completely understand his thinking, it is interesting to look at his writings and work given the context of his time, and to look at it given the context of ours.

Especially curious is his idea, outlined previously, that art begins with issues of "visibility" (the image), then moves through function and form, and that architecture begins with issues of finality (purpose, then space and structure), then proceeds to satisfy a perceptual image or idea in its final form. In the early 1900's this was an extremely radical idea, given that for centuries great architecture was required to be awe-inspiring and majestic and very much full of image and idea (usually the idea had something to do with religion). The great shift that allowed the modernist "form follows function" thinking was a result of a very complex web of influences, from the increased understanding of science and technology to the resultant increasing doubt in religion, from the rise of the common "man" due to education and travel to the decline and distrust of the secular "religions" of empires and absolute monarchist rule. So-called common things such as the intellect and houses and issues of everyday living were the new champions, and with that came the desire for a new architecture where life told art what to do, not the other way around.

Of course, that was then, and this, as they say, is a completely different can of worms. After believing that form followed function for a number of decades, (and after that philosophy was twisted in service of certain socialist parties and turned into facism) the architects became skeptical and wondered - what happened to all of the beauty and delight? Along came the post-modernists who began to bring the human component of emotion back to the table, including aspects of humor and symbol and reference and identity, and, yes, of form. But this would eventually be questioned again and, after a few decades of image and frivolity, we seem to have moved away from such symbolically formal issues and into a realm of the body and structure, of physicality and tectonics, of surface and skin.

What I think is happening through all of this evolution and shifting of priorities is a sort of shell-game of the notions of architecture set forth by Vitruvius, forever and ever ago (1st century BC):
firmness, commodity, and delight

Each movement has championed one element over the other, with great huffing and puffing and proclamations of the spirit. There is a pretty good outline of the history of this shell-game in an article by Brittanica. The following addresses the position of the shells in Loos' time:
So, thanks to Corbusier (and Loos), the world was reminded to consider structure and proportion as beautiful. BUT, thanks to the art of Duchamp, and the cubists, and James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, the world was free to also consider sublimity and ugliness as part of the notion of beauty, or delight.. A revolution was occurring, especially in the art world, and it would follow, more slowly, in architecture. And architecture today has been picking up on the minimalist approaches in art to perception and materiality, combining it with the conceptualist approaches of meaning and interrogation. Architecture often seems to follow its more radical friends in art, who also are playing their own shell-game of firmness, commodity and delight. The division of art and architecture is not what Loos once thought it to be.

Mitsu, of synthetic zero, has his own reflection on Loos' separation of art and architecture:
...I think that this dichotomy is not quite what it seems. The implication of Loos' notion is that we know, in advance, what it is that makes us comfortable, that we know the function or functions that our architecture will serve. In fact, however, I believe that architecture at its best enables us to find precisely that which we had not necessarily expected --- not necessarily expected either from our individual life, or our life in the context of a community.
I like to think of this in terms of the following: I do not think an architect can directly create the sublime, but I think the architect can (and should) create the opportunity for the sublime. It is this approach to what could be called "delight" that architecture shares, unequivocably, with art.

5.11.2001

(I'm gearing up to post the beginnings of the lecture/demo work that I'm determined to be the true focus of this log, but in the meantime.....)

I've been thinking lately about how leaving the rat race doesn't mean you aren't still a rat. You're just a self-employed rat who gets to talk to clients while still in your pajamas and can take a nap at 2 in the afternoon if you want to. Sure, you've gotten rid of the stress of running round and round on the same wheel day in and day out, but you can't eliminate the fact the you're still in a cage............ And those damn whiskers keep getting in your way.

So what is it that makes the cage go away, if only in our tiny little rat minds? A good friend of D.'s supposedly once said something that might just be brilliant:
"without conviction and belief we are left having to amuse ourselves minute by minute in the lapses that reality has to offer."
A perfect description of rat-ness.


And another rather humbling thought for the day:
"The architect is a builder who has learned Latin."
Adolf Loos
Loos is a confusing architect to understand - he wrote famously of the need for a strong division of art and architecture:
The house has to please everyone, contrary to the work of art which does not. The work is a private matter for the artist. The house is not. The work of art is brought into the world without there being a need for it. The house satisfies a requirement. The work of art is responsible to none; the house is responsible to everyone. The work of art wants to draw people out of their state of comfort. The house has to serve comfort. The work of art is revolutionary; the house is conservative. The work of art shows people new directions and thinks of the future. The house thinks of the present. Man loves everything that satisfies his comfort. He hates everything that wants to draw him out of his acquired and secured position and that disturbs him. Thus he loves the house and hates art. Does it follow that the house has nothing in common with art and is architecture not to be included in the arts? That is so. Only a very small part of architecture belongs to art: the tomb and the monument. Everything else that fulfills a function is to be excluded from the domain of art.
It is important to remember the context of his work (early 1900's, when architecture was swept up in the Art Nouveau movement). He was one of the first "modernists," seeking a rationalist approach to architecture, in the footsteps of Louis Sullivan's dictum "form follows function." Here is an excerpt from a paper (that I hope she doesn't mind my referencing?) by Anneke Hackman:
....................................................

....................................................

I am most interested in this issue of the functional object also fulfilling perceptual ideas, which ties into an earlier post about retinal-art. And I am curious about what Loos would have to say about the current state of architecture, which seems to be engaged in a revolution of "materialism." I am swept up in this movement myself, which is sort of architecture's next variation upon the work of so-called minimalist artists like Donald Judd (see also The Chinati Foundation), and a reaction to the sometimes arbitrary or symbol-laden ornamentation of post-modernism. Much of the new architecture today involves the exploration of skin and material, in a stange combination of minimalist and conceptualist applications, embracing or exploiting either the inherent qualities of a material, or its meanings and implications. The best work incorporates both - the most notable architects doing this sort of work range from Herzog+De Meuron to Frank Gehry (see also the Salon article), with the lesser-known office dA a personal favorite of mine. How would Loos feel about the fetishization of the skin vs. structure and fabric vs. frame - something I feel shares strong ties to similar movements in the world of fashion. It seems important to address the question: how can this issue of materiality be grounded in functionality?

A related thought - I am reminded of something my friend Rick said (he used to work for Gehry). He told me that Gehry believed himself to be a classicist, and that there was a strong historical lineage for his work. I haven't found any readings to support that yet (actually I haven't tried) but I do believe it, just as I believe Michelangelo to be one of the most radical architects ever. All you have to do is visit the great stairway entrance of the Laurentian Library in Florence (which keeps very strange hours and is somewhat of a challenge, but worth it) and realize how he stretched and molded the architecture as if it was plastic - liquid. At the same time, the space feels grounded and graceful. His mannerist architecture, as it is known, seems to explore this very issue of materiality while still satisfying function and even formal convention............ The space is one of the more dynamic spaces I have ever been in, and built in the 1500's.

Speaking of materiality and skin and surface - look at the work of Andreas Gursky (up for only a few more days at MoMA) ......................

5.08.2001

just looked at lists posted yesterday - so serious. so very thoughtful. Where's the Nicholson Baker? Raymond Carver? Hell, where's David Sedaris? Dorothy Parker? Vonnegut? -----------------------NABOKOV! when asked what influences us, what about the small shifts in course caused by the nudges of sarcasm, the wink-winks and wry grins, the snorts of milk through my nose when I least expect it, the innuendo, the tease? the perfect line, the jaw dropper? Can you even imagine writing the first lines of a book as Vladimir Nabokov did, with:
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth.
Lo. Lee. Ta.
posted some lists of readings... I've linked to amazon, like a good little consumer, for descriptions about them, but I hate how they offer the latest printings, with new "designer" covers all slick and fancified. The books I know so well have older covers (in those perfectly awkward fonts and supergraphics), the faces of lovers, of family. I recommend finding the older dog-eared copies at the local version of Half Price Books.

I'm looking for some new fiction these days....

5.06.2001

I saw today that Mitsu has been writing about issues of visual aesthetics vs. technology and the role of art and its mediums...I won't take it out of context, as you have to read the whole entry to see where he is going with it, but it brought up a few thoughts of my own...

Marcel Duchamp and the artists of his time were interested in subverting what they termed "retinal art," that is, art that was purely about visual composition and aesthetics, without involving the mind. They (from the cubists to the dadaists on into the conceptual and minimal artists of later years) were interested in making art that engaged ideas, partially due to the enormous discoveries in the world of science at the time (x-ray technology, the chronophotographs of Marey and Muybridge). But the interesting thing about Duchamp's particular contribution to putting art "at the service of the mind" is that he opened up our minds to the visual beauty of the object at the same time. The first "readymade" he submitted, the urinal, signed "R. Mutt" challenged the concept of art and subject and certainly did not adhere to the visual aesthetics of the time - even the radical cubists thought it an outrage. But those who defended it saw not only the multiple conceptual strengths of its position (as common object elevated to art status, as sexual receptor, as social commentary) but also the possibility of seeing the line and surface of a urinal as something to be deemed "beautiful."

The reason I put this forth is that in this age of similarly enormous technological expansion, the dynamic leaps forward in thought and art will be made right under our eyes, but that they will not be made purely on intellect and technology alone. The beauty of a line, the sensuality of a surface is inherently human, though its incarnations will take many forms. And the great leaps of our civilization are often made by seeing beauty where others did not. But it is the involvement of both the intellect and the senses that seems to produce the most provoking work.


A side thought to this comes from a conversation with D. regarding the fetishism of the Flash design software so prevalent in our web culture today. Boy, it is beautiful, and so seductive. But is it merely our technology's version of "retinal art?" D.'s students eat Flash up and spit it out like so many creative directors eager to get back to their computer games. It makes D. very nervous. No one seems to be questioning the template that Flash is forcing them into, because the template is so beautiful. The seduction continues....

related texts:
Duchamp in Context
and Duchamp by Calvin Tomkins is THE biography to read, which I just found in hardcover for 9 bucks at Half Price Books this weekend!

and Picturing Time the work of Etienne Jules Marey
(this is the most comprehensive source I've ever seen for the history of the chronophotograph, and Muybridge's photos of the movement of humans and animals)



Subject: xrays
Date: Thu, 04 Jan 2001 17:57:06 -0600
From: sam
Organization: circa
To: Heather Anne Halpert

hey heather anne -
I just read your link regarding xray hair removal - and just earlier today was reading about (Madame) Marie Curie who, with hubby Pierre was responsible for most of the research into radium and the development of xray technology. She and Pierre would carry vials of radioactive radium to dinner parties and show how it glowed in the dark. Marie would keep some by her bed at night as a night light. They would press it to their skin to see how it would burn the cells, and were the first to propose that it could be used to cure cancer. Needless to say, she died of cancer and he would have if he hadn't been hit by a horse and carriage first. They both complained of dizziness and blurred vision and chronic fatigue that they thought was caused by overwork.

Marie Curie, after Pierre's death, went around to soldiers in the field during WW2 with an xray carriage to help doctors with the wounded....

They were both awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 (though the Nobel committee originally offered it only to Pierre. He insisted that she be included, and persuaded them that it would be more "artistic" to acknowledge them as a couple)...

...and she was awarded another in 1911 for Chemistry, though it was almost not awarded because there was some press going around that she had been involved with a married man, her colleague. The Nobel committee asked her to telegram them declining the prize, and she telegrammed that as she understood it the prize had been awarded for her discovery and research of radium, which had nothing to do with her personal life.

(I've been reading Jacob Brownowski's book The Ascent of Man which looks at how life and science and culture have interwoven across the millenia. A photo of all of the scientists during Einstein's reign had Mdme. Curie quietly sitting on the back row, unbelievably present among a field of over 50 men.)

It always shocks me how short the documented lineage is of the voice of women in most fields and I am forever intrigued when I come across someone who was breaking the rules...

oh - and in the same text, a bit about Arab countries and how their ornamentation of intricate patterns and geometries evolved because the Muslim culture forbids any representation of the human body - male or female. So while other cultures were decorating their palaces and shrines with odalisques and cherubs, the Muslims resorted to geometry and the inherent sensuality of shape and line...

there - just some thoughts while procrastinating from the work I've got to get done - looking forward to seeing you next week!
sam

5.02.2001

0 = number of posts lately
8 = number of people who have chastised me for lack of posts
5,729,384 = number of excuses I have for not posting

0 = actual, legitimate reasons for not posting

so....some things I've been cutting and pasting and bookmarking over the past few weeks that I finally get a chance to stick in here. Sorry if any of it is old news...
Pigeons wear sequins to prevent attacks

____ and
from words mean things:
"Learning biology with The Simpsons"

Homer: Marge, it's uter-US, not uter-YOU.
(trying to convince Marge to become a surrogate mother to solve their financial problems.)

____ and
Robert German, columnist
You cannot do right
You cannot do wrong
Remember what you know
Question what you do
Let go

____ and
"You have to be cynical, you have to question things. You can't take someone named Belle LaBelle on face value. What's her angle, huh? Who's payroll is she on? You find out the answers to those things, and then you start movin' fast and crooked. You go through doorways sideways and low, at odd angles. You look for the big lie, question everything." Jim Rockford, The Rockford Files.....
(can't remember where I got this from. apologies)

____ and
finally, something I have to have
the anatomy of melancholy (thanks to metascene)