Archive for the ‘form’ Category

Hirst’ Shark and Perec’s Room

June 8, 2008

The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living

Damien Hirst, 1991

Some banal questions before some even more banal ones:

Is it a shark or a work-of-art? It’s both, no? it’s “a shark placed inside a work”, and it’s “a work placed inside a museum” that makes this shark in a work in a museum a work-of-art. Like Duchamp’s fountain.

Major changes to the object’s native territory provoke shifts in meaning; it’s the re-territorialization into a different topology that reincarnates the object as a different semantic object.

But what about minor changes within the same territory – so minor we can hardly notice?

When, in a given bedroom, you change the position of the bed, can you say you are changing rooms, or else what? (cf. topological analysis)

Georges Perec, Species of Spaces

Barton Fink’s room perpetual metamorphosis

Or in the case of Hirst’ Shark – The Shark began to disintegrate (poor preservation) and so Hirst was hired to replace it with a brand new shark, making sure this time the materials used in the preservation process will beat Time for a little longer.

A philosophical question was acknowledged by Hirst, as to whether the replacement shark meant that the result could still be considered the same artwork. He observed:

“It’s a big dilemma. Artists and conservators have different opinions about what’s important: the original artwork or the original intention. I come from a conceptual art background, so I think it should be the intention. It’s the same piece. But the jury will be out for a long time to come.”

Let alone, our language.

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Our Lady of the Tombs

May 18, 2008

Nothomb‘s novel Acide Sulfurique is trying hard to be as close as possible to abstraction, leaving almost any concrete description of events behind the curtain. The reader’s imagination is not supposed to complete the missing parts, for the abstraction is the essence here, a skeleton to be perceived and experienced in its bear form.

The story is, therefore, deliberately simple: a reality show named “Concentration”, representing a Nazi concentration camp. The Kapos are elected in an American Idol style of filtering, while the prisoners are randomly abducted from the streets. From this point on it’s a chain of almost pure concepts: animals’ wagons stuffed with people of all ages; numbers tattooed on the prisoners’ hands; dehumanization; starvation; rape; death. Added to these concepts are omni-present cameras that capture every possible audio-visual signals. Materials are edited, and then there’s the daily night show. In the society of the spectacle the rating is great, but when it starts to stagnate “interactivity” is introduced into the show, the audience being asked to participate in the daily “death selections” (performed so far by the Kapos) by means of sending SMSes with the prisoners’ alpha-numeric IDs whose life are to be taken. Remind you – anything in this camp, on this show, is real.

And although intuition warns that this kind of book is about to fall into the banality trap, the opposite happens. Because no description – but the evocation of the above concepts – is provided, banality is avoided. Moreover, the fact that the book is mainly structure, allows Nothomb to introduce a surprisingly powerful technique – an effectively shocking one – which turns you, the reader, into as hideous collaborator as those disgusting-yet-all-human audience of the concentration show.

Our lady of the tombs gives you, reader, a choice: you can restore your human simulacra by closing the book and not reading it further, the equivalent of shutting down the TV set. Or you could keep on reading and see yourself turning, in real-time, into a disgusting voyeur of a hideous reality. And as she’s aware of the weakness of the human nature, she gives not one but two chances for redemption.

Personally, I obeyed the 2nd call, closed the book and intended to not reading it further. Personally, I failed, the cheap curiosity taking over my previous act of honor. Just like anyone else in Nothomb’s book, I couldn’t resist watching.

Rest some of the questions raised by the form:

Can this really happen? (Of course it can – it already did!)

Yes, but can it really happen today? Well, ask yourself the following questions:

1. If such a show exist, how many people will watch it? [“unfortunately many will“]
2. In our “participation age”, with all its technological mediums of mass collaboration and of induced transparency – how many will actively participate in the executions by sending SMSes, or by Twittering their candidates for the daily death selections? [Many will. Some others will think about it, but will refrain from actively pushing the voting buttons]

But wait! There’s no need to actively push the buttons any longer! They no longer need your vote; they can do with your twittered thought! All you need is to think the alpha-numeric IDs of your candidates and your thought will be automatically encoded then transmitted into the show’s Twitter channel.

That’s a great solution, for after all even God blames no one for just thinking!

Acide sulfurique (Sulphuric Acid) by Amélie Nothomb

Philosophy in Four Hands

February 18, 2007

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Click image to see full size

Four philosophers, four realities, four hands.

Philosophy in Four Hands

Plato playing “Form”
Aristotle playing “Matter”
Roland Barthes playing “Text”
Michel Foucault playing “Power”

Methods and Black Squares – The Logo?

January 2, 2007

A proposal.

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Bill Laswell’s Undocument

January 1, 2007

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Photo by Michael Hoefner

If you look for it, you find it.

DJ Spooky that subliminal kid, was the first musician I encountered (over the virtualosphere) whose music is derived from deep philosophical strucutres. I first read DJ Spooky’s essays, then I listened to his music. DJ Spooky is a great philosophical mediator.

This is to say that I had my initiation. While searching for Hakim Bey, I stumbled upon a joint venture between Bey and Laswell (Chaos from T.A.Z). Then I checked out Laswell to whom I listened in those great acne days but not in the last decade or so, and I found this artwork named undocument.

Now, if you follow my other blogs, you know my sympathy to Dave Winer’s language tweaks, i.e. uncoference. The un- prefix has become, through Winer, a way to describe the matter and its anti-matter in a single word: it is a conference, but it is not what you would expect from a conference (it is a deconstructioned word).

And here’s what Laswell is saying about the music in undocument:

Realizations achieved in Bill Laswell’s domain are decontextualized and prepared for release into the world of chaos and chance. […]

These are source materials for the creation of modern music. Assimilate them, reprocess them, recombine them – the original intent of the sounds on this CD-ROM will disintegrate, as new meanings – your meanings – emerge intact.

It is fantastic: a form-less music; pure content kept in autonomous zones, to which anyone can apply a meaning. And still, like most of the paradoxial truisms, this formless matter is packed (i.e. subject to a form) in an undocument, which is and at the same time is not a documentation of all those matters. Probably, the meaning of undocument is that the packaging nevertheless keeps the autonomic nature of its embeddded content.

You can listen to a great sample, named dance at the bottom of this page.

Second Life – More Real

November 28, 2006

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In some eras human neglected his soul; in others – his mind; nowadays – it’s the body. It is of no wonder that in an era that exalts the aesthetics of the body, the body would be the thing finally neglected and abandoned in favor of a cloned image, a virtual avatar that will look so perfect – “a real more real than the real”. We are post-modern “AND” type of creatures and we should be modern in cultivating both of our Gardens.

The School of Athens

November 25, 2006

Plato (left) and Aristotle (right), a detail of The School of Athens, a fresco by Raphael. Aristotle gestures to the earth, representing his belief in knowledge through empirical observation and experience, whilst Plato gestures to the heavens, representing his belief in The Forms. from Wikipedia.

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Black Square

November 16, 2006

Black Square

Malevich, 1913

“To the Suprematist the visual phenomena of the objective world are, in themselves, meaningless; the significant thing is feeling.” Malevich, The Non-Objective World

Malevich’s feelings are not to be confused with sensual perception, which he defines as meaningless. Meaning comes from the soul, from feelings.

This is a Platonic concept, of course. The unpermutable soul holding the truth. And as we (now) know, the truth is the pure form.

Hence, Black Square.

At least this gives some philosophical depth to the incomprehensible paintings of modern art.