occasional more or less in/coherent fragments from my so-called life and work.
"Art, like God or The People, is fine for as long as you can believe in it," Chris Kraus wrote in I Love Dick. (or as Amazon insists on referring to it, I Love Dick the cult feminist novel now a major TV series starring Kevin Bacon... I wonder if that line made it into the TV series...)
And when you stop believing in it, it's time for something else. I realised that more than ten years ago. After a good part of a life of being an artist, teaching art and doing a doctorate in fine arts practice, albeit at an obscure university in the Australian outback, I had to swallow hard.
What comes after? The affordances of being free of art and God and The People... this has been the subject of my ongoing practice and research ever since.
When Terra Critica asked me for something for an exhibition at Casco - Office for Art, Design and Theory in Utrecht, I gave them this, a page from a paper by Natasha Myers called Becoming Sensor in Sentient Worlds in which I'd highlighted the line "we might need to forget everything we thought we knew about non-human lives and worlds.“
The believers might say, it's art, you are an artist! but I say, no it's not and no I'm not nd you can't make me - but in the end it matters little either way...
and now, in between bursts
of song, chiffchaffs
or zilpzalps, as the germans, who have
a different word for everything!
say, are making soft
hiccuping sounds and
no one knows why.
Many people have heard of entanglement, an idea from quantum physics where two particles are connected in such a way that affecting one affects the other instantly, no matter where in the universe it is located. (Entanglement probably deserves to be called more than an idea since it has been tested over and over again to plug loopholes that might show the particles are actually interacting on a local level in some way, in spite of what seem to be vast distances.) But what if causality could be shown to work retrospectively somehow? Imagine if a particle could carry the effect backwards in time to when it was in very close proximity to its partner. No faster-than-light messages across the universe would be needed. Just backwards in time is all. Say hello to retrocausality!
PS If anyone from a time to come where time travel is possible is reading this please consider attending the time traveller convention in 2005.
Gilles Deleuze in Negotiations (1985):
We’re riddled with pointless talk, insane quantities of words and images. Stupidity’s never blind or mute. So it’s not a problem of getting people to express themselves but of providing little gaps of solitude and silence in which they might eventually find something to say. Repressive forces don’t stop people expressing themselves but rather force them to express themselves; what a relief to have nothing to say, the right to say nothing, because only then is there a chance of framing the rare, and ever rarer, thing that might be worth saying.
(via Jenny Odell)
great hairy willow herb! you
are not the first to make an appearance
in damp ditches - that would be
your cursed sister who grows at the foot of walls
and invades the flower borders of gardens.
In “After Virtue,” (1981) the Scottish philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre argued that Western civilization has lost its ability to think coherently about moral life. The problem was the Enlightenment, which put individuals in charge of deciding for themselves what was right and wrong. This, MacIntyre thought, rendered moral language meaningless. Try to say that something is “good,” and you end up saying only that it’s “good (to me)”—whatever that means. It becomes impossible to settle moral questions or to enforce moral rules; the best we can do is agree to disagree. Such a world falls into the hands of managers and technocrats, who excel at the perfection of means but lack the tools with which to think deeply about ends.
Prophetic words indeed. But how do we survive this new age of darkness, he asks. And this is where I part ways with MacIntyre. What 'we' (by which I mean those of us that are cognizant of the profound ethical crisis in which humanity finds itself) must do is to find and learn how to use tools to think deeply and critically about what it means to be and whether, and if so how, it is possible to be in the world in a radically different way.
And to put these ideas into practice.
That is the work.
Textures of the Anthropocene: Grain Vapor Ray
A four-volume set of writings that examine the era of human-controlled nature from a variety of perspectives.
An excerpt from an interview with the editors:
The world of the Anthropocene exhibits a mundane gravity. The news, the feed, the live stream, the status update, the flow of bits and bytes, the push notifications, our constant information flows, all bearing the quality of finitude, immediacy, and disharmony. Today, planes crash or disappear off the radar, epidemic diseases are merely managed instead of cured, methane gas erupts due to global warming, mud volcanoes are flowing, unstoppable, after drilling accidents, genocidal wars are fought, occupations continue, barbarism abounds, the weather, indeed, is strange, kids, clubbing, dance all weekend high on horse tranquilizers, toxic fluids are shared body between body in the nighttime capitals of Southeast Asia, yoga workshops in California offer Paleolithic snacks, and every Monday it is business-as-usual, back-to-work, as if the nineteenth century never ended. Work, capital, play.
As of tomorrow, we shall need a new art named by its true appellation — gaia scienza — the Science of the Earth. It is rooted in history, but not the “universalist” history we know all too well, with a bulldozing that mercilessly moves forward, seeking a conclusion, making a point, arguing a thesis, aiming at synthesis. The gaia scienza searches the creative, the material output of all times, those matters that have contributed to form the history of imagination. Heinrich Heine hit the nail: “all configurations that have previously existed on this earth must yet meet, attract, repulse, kiss, and corrupt each other again.” In this cultivated sensitivity for flows and its ruptures, finally, the Anthropocene can rid us of the Enlightenment project, for, as Woodbine put it, “in the Anthropocene, the critical gesture is finished. It’s so liberating [...] everything is to be reinvented.” We can embark on an Aesthetic Project, a practice of anamnesis, of remembering to remember not to forget.
Everything that happens is not really about objects moving, it's about interactive relationships. The illusion of space and time which continues around us is a blurred vision of the swarming of elementary processes.
Space is 'granular' — it is made of tiny 'quanta', a billion billion times smaller than the smallest atomic nuclei — just as every thing consists of atoms and, beyond that, quarks, electrons and so on. These quanta are not in space, they are space. They are loops because they are linked together like woven fabric.
This is how, in Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, Carlo Rovelli explains Loop Quantum Gravity which is an attempt to combine Einstein's theory of general relativity and quantum mechanics - and represents a profound reimagining of thinking about the structure of reality.
Hacked from a somewhat gushy article in today's Sunday Times Magazine (behind a paywall but archived here: https://joh.net/2sgzQ2x) about Carlo Rovelli.
Ik dacht aan het verhaal van Adriaan Morriën die toen in de Ruyschstraat woonde, een bijna compleet Joods buurt. Hij wist nog goed wat er gebeurde toen de enveloppen kwamen op zijn trap. Men moest gepakt en gezakt zich komen melden voor transport. 'Het trappenhuis rook naar de kapper,' zei Adriaan. 'Alle vrouwen waren bij de kapper geweest, ze wilden netjes op reis gaan.'
(I thought about Adrien Morriën's story who lived in the Ruyschstraat at the time, a nearly completely Jewish neighbourhood. He still remembers what happened when the envelopes arrived on the stairs. They had to to report for transport with whatever possessions they could carry. 'The stairwell smelled of the hairdresser,' Adriaan said. 'All the women had been to the hairdresser, they wanted to look nice for the journey.')
Apologies for my poor translation.
Not that I'm complaining but it would be hard to overstate how exhausting it is to do this work. Each session is like an individually calibrated two hour performance for one person. Three sessions today, two yesterday and a talk. One on Wednesday and the journey to Folkestone. A day off Tuesday. (Thanks Freud Museum!) Monday : one session and the journey from Liverpool. Sunday : Five sessions including a double. Saturday : Three sessions. Friday : the journey to Liverpool and a talk.
Tomorrow: Two sessions and a panel. Monday: Three sessions. Tuesday: Three sessions. And I could do more.
Still, all sessions are hard but some are harder than others. A really tough one on Wednesday in London and I felt sad all day. One tough one today. For once I didn't say, make your 'self' as small as a grain of sand. I said, paint a picture of a rock.
I guess a grain of sand is a very small rock.
I was saying to someone last night, I'm going to be authentically tired when I arrive in Liverpool. They thought it was hilarious.
What do you mean!?
-I'll be authentically tired because I will have covered every kilometre between here and where I need to be in real time and real space on the same day as arriving. The travel is part of the real work I have to do to be able to be there and to do the work I need to do when I am there.
Oh. OK. I think I get it…
Here's hoping I won't be completely incoherent.
Reading Kathrin Thiele's Quantum Physics and/as Philosophy: Immanence, Diffraction, and the Ethics of Mattering in Rhizomes #30 (2016).
Thiele explains Karen Barad's relational ontology as "an ontology in which individualized things and objects are no longer presupposed as simply 'there', in which even the world itself is not simply 'given' and 'out there', but in which every-thing is accounted for as an enactment of the entangled nature of nature."
“Must not forget to commit suicide,” the poet Alejandra Pizarnik wrote in her diary. A decade later, she died of a barbiturate overdose. “She was known for working long and obsessively on a little chalkboard, typically on a single poem at a time, exhausting its possibilities before moving on, erasing a word one day, replacing it the next, rearranging the lines (about a dozen at most, presumably all that would fit on the slate) of her small, lapidary poems with an obsessive care that has been obscured by their obvious debts to surrealism and automatic writing … Nothing has colored the reception of Pizarnik’s work more than her death by her own hand.”
'Extracting the Stone of Madness: Poems 1962-1972' by Alejandra Pizarnik Published 05.17.2016 by New Directions
Good to be reminded of this from Camus before my imminent journey to England, by aleatory operations in a journal entry from 2006. An occasion for 'spiritual' testing indeed, and perhaps of others as well me.
What gives value to travel is fear. It is the fact that, at a certain moment, when we are so far from our own country a French newspaper acquires incalculable value. And those evenings when, in cafes, you try to get close to other men just to touch them with your elbow, we are seized by a vague fear, and an instinctive desire to go back to the protection of old habits. This is the most obvious benefit of travel. At that moment we are feverish but also porous, so that the slightest touch makes us quiver to the depths of our being. We come across a cascade of light, and there is eternity. This is why we should not say that we travel for pleasures. There is no pleasure in travelling, and I look upon it more as an occasion for spiritual testing. If we understand by culture the exercise of our most intimate self - that of eternity - then we travel for culture. Pleasure takes us away from our selves in the same way as distraction, in Pascal's use of the word, takes us away from god. Travel, which is like a greater and a graver science, brings us back to ourselves.
Any idea anyone may have had that John Martyn was a loveable rogue went out the window with the documentary Johnny Too Bad. And when he lets loose in his music, it only rarely sounds right to me. But at his delicate best, and at his most restrained, his playing and singing was for a number of years, without equal. Inside Out was the record which introduced me to him in 1975 and it remains the one I love most. A recent posthumous release of unreleased songs, alternate versions and live tracks called Head and Heart doesn't offer anything of much more than passing interest - except... the opening few minutes of the version of Go Down Easy. This is note for note how he played it at Regent's Park, in the amphitheatre, on a summer evening.
It's 1976. Kasia, I am still there.
Interesting that so many people are buying Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and now, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. Carl Peeters in Vrij Nederland has a go at him, calling him misanthropic, but Peeters's critique is altogether too humanist for mine. I haven't read Harari and his work on the exploitation of animals is admirable but this kind of shallow thinking (in from his article in the Guardian) is a turn off:
The meaning we ascribe to what we see is generated by our own minds. It is not really “out there”. To the best of our scientific knowledge, human life has no meaning. The meaning of life is always a fictional story created by us humans.
Of course meaning is not 'out there'. Colour is not 'out there' either. And sInce when has science been about meaning?
Eind jaren 70 werkte cineast Frans Bromet aan een film over holocaustoverlever en kunstschilder Sieg Maandag. Hij was het jongetje van de beroemde foto in het Amerikaanse tijdschrift LIFE dat vlak na de bevrijding van concentratiekamp Bergen-Belsen zijn vrijheid tegemoetliep. De film 'Life's Picture' werd destijds niet afgemaakt door een conflict tussen Bromet en de producent die een heroïsche film over de Tweede Wereldoorlog voor ogen stond, terwijl Bromet het juist klein en persoonlijk wilde houden. De film moest antwoord geven op de vraag hoe je verder kunt leven na het trauma van een concentratiekamp.
For unknown reasons, in this extraordinary film which is replete with sadness, one short scene moves me to tears. Sieg (played by his son) takes his daughter into the garden and digs a shallow hole to bury the food she didn't want to eat. He explains how, if you do that, it doesn't go to waste because there are all kinds of animals that live under the ground who will be able to eat it.
'This is who you are.' The long term effects of being on anti depressants.
Donald Hoffman on what reality is and how evolution and quantum physics can let us experience other realities than we think.
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond's forthcoming memoir, “Home Sick,” probes caregiving, dying, the medical-industrial complex, Islamophobia and the commodification of (human and nonhuman) animals.
A holloway is an ancient path.
Inspiral Carpets drummer Craig Gill killed himself last November. He'd been suffering from "debilitating tinnitus" for 20 years. It led to sleep deprivation and anxiety and became unbearable.
The OED Word of the Day is nixie:
U.S. Post which cannot be forwarded by the postal services because it is illegibly or incorrectly addressed.
The first citation, an entry in the Century Dictionary, dates from 1890.
- via Orange Crate Art by Michael Leddy
That annoying art critic in The Times is having a go at Joseph Beuys today for saying “Jeder Mensch ist ein Künstler” (“Everybody is an artist.”)
In 1662 a London haberdasher with an eye for numbers published the first quantitative account of death. John Graunt tallied causes such as “the King’s Evil”, a tubercular disease believed to be cured by the monarch’s touch. Others seem uncanny, even poetic: In 1632, 15 Londoners “made away themselves”, 11 died of “grief” and a pair fell to “lethargy”.
Don't bother reading the rest of the article. It is pig shit.
Natasha Myers: *We might need to forget everything we thought we knew about nonhuman lives and worlds (...) to forget what we thought “nature” was; to forget how we thought life “worked". *
Alison Croggan on John Berger : You listen to stones.
To Leeuwarden by windpowered train to buy someone's old iPhone6+. I like buying my machines from people who don't want them any more. This is last year's model - proverbially speaking that is. I'd like a phone I can read on.
By 09:16 I am an hour from Zwolle. The carriage smells of old people. They seem to be all talking at once. Before long we will all be decaying together. It has begun already. Phil Elverum is here, on repeat, to keep me company - or maybe I am here to keep him company? He doesn't even know I'm here, but I will stay with him all the same.
Leeuwarden is bizarrely empty. There are some beautiful old ships and a leaning tower from 1500 which leans more than the leaning tower of Pisa and it still hasn't fallen over either. It is a sparkling day and I sit in the sun for a while.
There is a truly shocking and depressing documentary on TV about what is being done to gay people in Russia. This is followed by a show called Amazing Hotels. And that's what it's about. An English couple on their honeymoon arrives.
She: It feels like a jungle.
That would be because it is a fucking jungle. They have to repaint the hotel every three weeks because of the mould that grows on everything and rich people don't like to see mould growing on things. (You say mold and I say mould.)
So A. went to Canada today. I'll be alone for a week. I was reminded of this : On Hal and Eve Sedgwick
There is someone who can make me a simple vegetarian Pad Thai. I call them. It will take half an hour. This gives me time to walk in what remains of the sun. To be in and of the world, in sufficient measure.
Everyone and their dog (oh wait - no dogs allowed) is going to see the Ed van der Elsken show at the Stedelijk Museum but I am watching De Erfenis, a film about Daan van der Elsken. His father didn't teach him how to be in the world and he has still hasn't found a way to individuate from his father's ghost. And now he is burdening his daughter with his ghost.
Last night I said to the cat: You’ve been very important to me. You’ve been here the whole time. You are a good cat, a great cat. You’re the best cat I’ve ever known. I’ll miss you, but you won’t miss me. And that’s OK.
She began purring even louder and looked at me in a meaningful way - that is, it was meaningful to me.
Someone was telling me about ‘the dog of dogs’, the best dog you’ve ever had and that you will ever have. I’m not sure you can ‘have’ a cat but if you can, she was (and is, for another two weeks) the cat of cats. Or maybe she will always be.