From Aesthesis to Poiesis: very rough draft

Poiesis is etymologically derived from the ancient Greek term, which means “to make”.

Aesthetics is to artists as ornithology is to birds. Barnett Newman

… before a much older, a hundred times more demanding, but by no means colder eye which has not become a stranger to the task which this audacious book dared to tackle for the first time: to look at science in the perspective of the artist, but at art in that of life. Friedrich Nietzsche

After the decline of the idealistic systems there is no point in artificially trying to resuscitate aesthetics as a branch of philosophy. A valid, if difficult, approach for a future aesthetics would be to find the right combination of production-oriented experience and philosophical reflection. Such an aesthetics would transcend the level of a phenomenology of art works, linking it to the medium of conceptualization. Theodore Adorno

What is the distinction between aesthesis and poiesis? And what constitutes their difference?

Poiesis is etymologically derived from the ancient Greek term ποιεῖν, which means “to make”. Aesthesis, αἰσθήσεις, on the other hand, refers to anything the ‘senses suffer’, not in the Christian sense of suffering. It refers to any impact on the senses, therefore, on perception, to what is phenomenological, to the way things appear, to the senses as opposed to the mind. So the entire history of art is still predicated on the mind-body distinction; on the distinction between what is sensed and therefore aesthetic, and what is made, produced, the action of the body, and therefore poetic.

As long as art is only aesthetically judged, interpreted, historicized, then, it’s poetic aspects, how it gets made, will never be philosophically, or art historically, significant.

In other words, the idealist tradition of the philosophy of art is only phenomenological, as Adorno comments, and therefore never accounts for the conceptual and material aspects of how art actually gets made, in practice, or, in concept. So, art can never be, philosophically, epistemological, knowledge making. Art, aesthetically conceived, is only that which is sensed, and not that which is made. This aesthetic tradition subtends the entire and long standing influence of Plato, and of Ancient Greece in general; of an idealism that interpreted everything physical as base, on the one hand; and on the other, therefore, as subservient to the ‘medium’ of the mind, language.

For Plato, for example, Praxiteles, the great sculpture of the Parthenon, was literally a slave and devoid of intelligence. He was merely a workman who did what he did through ‘divine inspiration’ but had no concept of what he was doing. He was a mere conduit of the divine. That’s the philosophy of art as imitation Plato recounted in his famous dialogue, ION.

The entire history of western intellectual history has been riven by that distinction: that only those who were literate and were capable of philosophical discourse, in language, in dialogue, in writing, were far superior to those who had to do physical labor. Marx, who was a Greek scholar and wrote his dissertation on Democritus who was the first to pose the theory that matter was made of atoms, was well aware of this class driven division of labor – between those who could use language, and those who physically labored to make things – and that this historical distinction that had marched down the avenues of history, was one origin of his entire philosophical agenda codified in his theory of class distinctions. Theoretical labor was owned by those who controlled language; which dominated the practical labor of those who physically labored to produce the material world.

The Platonic view that considered linguistic labor superior to material labor, is the historical basis for the suppression of the value of making things, of labor in general, of poesis. and this accounts for the dominance of language over non-linguistic culture like art, today. Thus it’s ignorantly thought that everything can be ‘read’. i.e., what i call semiocentrism. ‘Knowledge’ can only be determined by language, including mathematics. Therefore, the unconscious cultural logic is that art cannot produce knowledge, only stuff, only material things.

This dichotomous Platonic idealism shifted a bit during the Renaissance with Michaelangelo, De Vinci, Alberti, and other artists of the time, but not by much. This is why the Renaissance artists, particularly De Vinci as explicitly recounted in his Notebooks, began to organize their work mathematically, because then they could upscale or gentrify their social status as determined by their use of mathematics in their compositions. Their use of mathematics proved that their intelligence was equal to their humanist, language-oriented betters, and indicated their desire to increase their social status beyond being ‘mere artisans’. This is why perspective became so widely used; not because it was, as art historical accounts have it, merely visually innovative. The use of perspective demonstrated that their knowledge was equal to their linguistically, socially dominant peers. It allowed them to be included in the Medici Neo-Platonic Academy with a social status similar to the humanists, particularly to that of Ficino. In other words, art developed it’s mathematical penchant for mathematics for social rather than visual reasons. It was sort of an intelligence race.

However, the attempt of Renaissance artists never got very far, and with Kant and Hegel, their slight progress was suppressed all over again. So artists could not be interpreted as epistemologists. This social and historical climate is why Adorno said it would be so difficult to abandon idealist aesthetics and create a philosophy of art on the basis of not phenomenology, but, art’s conceptual origins.

The only near exception to the Platonic rule of idealism today, is science, and even that is even riven with a division of the labor problem. This takes the form of the division of labor between the ‘theoretical scientist’, and, the ‘applied scientist’ – the same Platonic dominance of ‘theory’ over ‘practice’. It’s the theoretical scientist who is most valued; while the applied scientist is he/she who ‘only’ proves that some scientific theory is true. The latter has less social status than the former, because the latter is merely a worker who has no epistemological thought of his or her own.

In Marx’s terms, theory is bourgeois, and practice is proletarian. Just as art is proletarian, while art historians and art theorists are bourgeois.

So, to replace the idealist tradition of ‘aesthetics’ with ‘poetics’, the theory of language production as it has come to be conceived historically, and therefore of higher social value than aesthetics because it’s allied with language, and to begin to use that as way to ‘theorize’ art production, would be revolutionary…. and, very difficult, because it goes against thousands of years of history…

From Aesthesis to Poiesis: very rough draft

repost, not riposte… from stein to cage to cunningham, an excerpt. for the longer version, scroll down and down… if you do that, you’ll find images etc. [i have my reasons for reposting]

From Stein to Cage to Cunningham

In the “Forward” to Silence we read:

As I look back, I realize that a concern with poetry was early with me. At Pomona College, in response to questions about the Lake poets, I wrote in the manner of Gertrude Stein, irrelevantly and repetitiously. I got an A. The second time I did it I failed.[i]

In between “Part II: Indeterminacy” and “Part III: Communication of Composition as Process,” Cage inserts the following story:

An Indian lady invited me to dinner and said Dr. Suzuki would be there. He was. Before dinner I mentioned Gertrude Stein. Suzuki had never heard of her. I described aspects of her work, which he said sounded very interesting. Stimulated, I mentioned James Joyce, whose name was also new to him.[ii]

In “Part I: Changes of Composition as Process,” Cage tells the story of a lecture Suzuki gave at Columbia that was continually interrupted by planes passing overhead as they headed west from La Guardia. Cage comments that Suzuki, “never paused, and never informed his listeners of what they missed.” Suzuki’s lecture was on the meaning of a difficult and apparently unexplainable Chinese character. Cage ends this story by attributing to Suzuki this comment: “Isn’t it strange that having come all the way from Japan I spend my time explaining to you that which is not to be explained?”[iii]

There seems little doubt of Stein’s significant impact on Cage. The story of his encounter with Suzuki at Columbia is a model for interpreting his second Suzuki story; Cage tells us that he “described aspects of her work,” to Suzuki, which the latter found “very interesting.” But we learn nothing about what aspects of Stein’s work Cage described, just as we learned nothing about the Chinese character that was the subject of Suzuki’s lecture.

Not only is the title of Cage’s Darmstadt talk, “Composition as Process,” very probably an allusion to Stein’s talk, “Composition as Explanation,” but the aesthetic of immediacy that Cage refers to, often conveyed by the Zen terms of presentness of experience, the lived, material moment, is akin to Stein’s concept of the “continuous present.” In “Part III: Communication,” which consists largely of a flow of unanswered questions, interrupted with quotations from other of Cage’s writings and some self-reflexive glosses on the talk itself, an important section consists of very short sentence-questions prefaced by some lines from another Cage text that reads:



The text continues (I cite discontinuous fragments simply to give the flavor):

Is it high?

Is it low?

Is it in middle?

Is it soft?

Is it loud?

Are there two?

Are there more than two?

Is it a piano?

Why isn’t it?

Was it an airplane?

Is it a noise?

Is it music?


Is sound enough?

What more do I need:

Don’t I get it whether I need it or not?

Is it a sound?

Then, again, is it music?

Is music – the word, I mean – is that a sound?

If it is, is music music?

Is the word “music” music?

Does it communicate anything?

Must it?


This section ends with another, much quoted, self-referential text:



(Silence, pp. 49-51)

We must read Stein in Cage here. As he put it so prominently in the “Foreword:” “As I look back, I realize that a concern with poetry was early with me.” The reference is not to Joyce, but to Stein. But as he also says there, his first imitation of Stein was rewarded with an A, the second with a failure. Cage himself appears to approve of this. He was awarded an A for his recognition of her significance, but an F for not pursuing his own original investigations that stem from the recognition.[iv] Thus we should interpret the “poetry” above, not only as a manifesto about the very ontology of music, in which Suzuki’s “airplane” again features prominently as relentlessly artifactual in its contextualism (bring forth “the sounds themselves, independent even of their musical relationality”), but also as positivist insistence on observable physicality of present time.[v] “We are passing through time and space. And our ears are in excellent condition.” And if you don’t believe that silence is non-existent, the scientific limit experience of the anechoic chamber provides proof. We may say that this positivist elementalism is expressed forcibly by the phrase:


But we can also understand that as a Steinian “sentence”, and not as poetry, but as itself instructions for making music. In other words, this “sentence” is itself a “composition” in musical terms, that marks out a musical work in the “time and space” between sound (Is sound enough?), music (Then, again, is it music?), language (Is music – the word, I mean – is that a sound?) and significance (Does it communicate anything?).

The famous line with which this fragment ends, “I have nothing to say and I am saying it.”, is not only, as is usually thought, a Zen koan, but also an homage to Stein. It is not a paradox; it is as factual a description of Cage’s concept of composition, as proof of the non-being of silence provided by the anechoic chamber. As an epistemological proposition, it couldn’t have been better said by Adorno himself. “For in this new music nothing takes place but sound…”[vi]

Cunningham’s equivalent epistemological proposition is expressed in this way:

I am no more philosophical than my legs, but from them I sense this fact: that they are infused with energy that can be released in movement… that the shape the movement takes is beyond the fathoming of my mind’s analysis but clear to my eyes and rich to my imagination. In other words, a man is a two-legged creature – more basically and more intimately than he is anything else. And his legs speak more than they “know” – and so does all nature.[vii]

We find further confirmation for Stein’s influence in Cage’s essay, “History of Experimental Music in the United States.” This essay is in large part an effort to define the term, experimental.” Cage asks:

What is the nature of an experimental action? It is simply an action the outcome of which is not foreseen.[viii]

Later, he makes it clear that by experimental he means much more than “the introduction of novel elements into one’s music.” He goes on:

Actually America has an intellectual climate suitable for radical experimentation. We are, as Gertrude Stein said, the oldest country of the Twentieth century. And I like to add: in our air way of knowing nowness.[ix]

What is most significant about this statement is the clarity with which he aligns himself with Stein’s concept of “radical experimentation.” What is it that he adds to her Americaness? The phrase, “knowing nowness,” is a clear reference to Stein’s “continuous present.” Cage augments the epistemology of the present with the very Steinian phrase, “our air way.” Though what is not at all Steinian is the technological determinism Cage refers to with this poetic idiom. Using Fuller’s broad-brushed world history, in which America is the convergence of the Eurocentric, machine driven and anti-nature “progress,” and the “oriental” philosophies formed by human-nature harmony; Cage suggests that the intersections of these binaries in America cause “a movement into the air, not bound to the past, traditions, or whatever.”[x] In the context of a rare comment on the political-economy of music in America, Cage elaborates just a bit. He says:

…by “native” I mean that resource which distinguished it from Europe and Asia – its capacity to easily break with tradition, to move easily into the air, its capacity for the unforeseen, its capacity of experimentation…

It would be wrong to read Cage’s comments as merely another modernist manifesto for media purification and formalism. Cage’s radicalism, especially when paired with Stein, go some distance in explaining the ill fit of both radicals with the periodizations of modernism or postmodernism.[xi]

My approach to Cunningham is based less on the event of the live dance than on the “residue” of his process, to what I refer to as the MC field. The “meaning” of dance runs the risk of falling prey, not to its insistence on foregrounding the performed event, but because it does so, it neglects other aspects of the production that have much to contribute. Obviously, the “live performance” is crucial, is, both everything and “nothing.” Nothing because it is not repeatable; but also because to a large degree it is not “knowable,” or even “experienceable.” The “historical” problem becomes, from the point-of-view of the writer, how to deal with this “ephemeral-before and eternal-after;” a problem as much for the writer who witnessed the “present;” as the dancer who danced it.

There is no “dance,” only choreography

My thesis here is that chance is far less important to the production of Cunningham’s work than is generally assumed. I contend that Cunningham is far closer to the scientific tradition of positivism, then to the anti-intellectualist stance typical to modernism generally ascribed to him. Through an analysis of four key texts written by Cunningham, of the role that various “technologies” have played in his work, and through an analysis of the “toss logics” which determine his movement-form charts that reveal not only Cunningham’s indeterminate processes, but, the objects of his interest, I have found “governing concepts,” or metaconcepts, which drive the categories he then, and only then, subjects to indeterminate solutions. These metaconcepts reveal the logics to which chance operations are subservient. The analysis that follows will demonstrate that, contrary to current Cunningham scholarship, chance operations play a minor, though important, role in his dance making processes. Chance operations function in Cunningham’s method, only to create “problems” that then must be solved deterministically. This claim demands an explanation of what, then, are the primary operations.

This said, indeterminancy is still significant. The live performance of dance is an “impossible object,” not because it didn’t happen, but because not only can it not be preconceived, it cannot be postconceived. It is in this philosophical sense that Cunningham’s works are products of “chance;” prediction, or determinancy, plays no role in reception, only in genesis. In order to address this point, we must distinguish chance as operational method from chance as an ontological category. The problematic here is similar to Barthe’s distinction between work and text, in addition to the problem that the models of “text” available to us are inadequate to choreography. The live performance is at risk of being essentialized in dance theory and criticism in an analogous sense to the privileging of speech over writing. But once Cunningham, understood not as author, but as a “performative field” of inquiry, becomes the focus, then “dance” becomes “choreography” as inflected by the “life of objects” that manifest choreography. It may be that there is no “dance,” only “choreography” in this sense: spectators choreograph, dancers choreograph, film choreographs, photography, video, computer software, books, texts, etc. are all part of a choreographic field designated by “Cunningham.” At this point, I want to briefly intervene in the semantic field that has kept the Cunningham discourse constrained.

In, “Expressivism and Chance Procedure,” Mark Franko comments:

Cunningham accomplished this (separation of music and dance) by applying John Cage’s ideas on chance procedure to his choreographic vocabulary. Chance procedure involves the charting of all possible movement options prior to their arrangement. Thus chance dictates the combinations of known variables, each of whose possible appearances has been foreseen. What is unforeseen, and still left to chance, is the sequence of the combinations. (RES, p. 144)

Franko makes a subtle and compressed distinction here that I will elaborate on. He gives a generally accurate account of Cunningham’s “procedure.” However, since my account will look in some detail at his choreographical methods, I want to be very clear about the terms, elevating them from “generally understood,” to technically and theoretically specific. A confusion could arise here if Franko’s language is not read carefully. He says, “Chance procedure involves … charting….” The danger of obscuring other aspects of Cunningham’s methods enters in through qualifying, as is the historically accepted tradition, “procedure” with “chance.” This statement inscribes in the term “procedure” both determined analysis, and chance. But Franko goes on to point out that chance is applied only to the sequence of pre-determined movement “options.” He asks, just how is chance delimited. In his words, then, chance falls on, and only on, two choreographic elements, combination (of dance elements) and (their) sequence. We must ask, how much of Cunningham’s choreographical practice is encompassed by these two elements? The short answer is, very little.

It is clear that the historically re-iterated term, “chance procedure,” has been used in the service of de-anthropomorphizing, de-authoring, removing intentionality to a distance, in order to generate, again in Franko’s vocabulary, the “unforeseen.” The unforeseen in this case, derives from an extra-human source, to articulate human activity with other-than-human activity. No doubt this is accurate. But its other, unfortunate effect, is to elevate chance over procedure to a degree that the material conditions of existence that give rise to Cunningham’s works are overlooked, resulting in an occultation of other aspects of his performances, and disassociating him from other artistic and scientific practices that would reveal a very different Cunningham. To further complicate this predicament, another terminological difficulty arises in the assumed synonymity between “chance procedure” and “chance operation.” A little investigation demonstrates that “procedure” and “operation” determine quickly divergent interpretive possibilities. Procedure signifies only a single chain in the discourse network generated by an operation’s far greater performative potential. It signifies an established method or way to doing something; in other words, a procedure is a type of protocol, carrying the implication of continued repetition, that by design is meant to proscribe variation. Clearly, the aim of deploying chance is to subvert protocols of established methods of choreography. Thus, the term chance procedure conveys a sense opposite to the intended practice.

On the other hand, “operation” commands a great deal of attention in several fields: we find it deployed with great intensity in political science (power), economics (market performance), medicine (surgery), mathematics (logical foundations), military studies (strategy/tactics), philosophy (operationalism), computer science (algorithm development), administration (organizational agency). It is, therefore, a far more powerful term, one that could illuminate Cunningham’s epistemological practices which, in turn, determine his choreographical practices. It will turn out that these variations are useful in constructing a rich appreciation for Cunningham as an “investigator,” and at the same time in constructing both a periodization and a genealogy of his work. For instance, the medical definition — a procedure carried out on a living body usually with instruments especially for the repair of damage or the restoration of health — could describe Cunningham’s training of the dancer body for TV/video productions, and later in his career, through the application of the software program, Lifeforms, whereby he adapts the dancer’s body to software-produced forms of movement. Or, the mathematical sense of operation — processes of deriving one expression from others according to a rule — could as well describe Cunningham’s method of determining movement combinations and sequences, in every period, though the rules varied from dance to dance, and period to period. For instance, Cunningham’s choreographical techniques developed from sketches on paper, to use of the video camera, to his use of Lifeforms. As we will see in the sequel, these three technological moments correspond to three periods of his work, while also demonstrating his versatility of “operational” strategies.

[i] Silence, “Foreword,” p. X

[ii] Silence, p. 40

[iii] Silence, p. 32

[iv] For his comments on originality, see p. 75: “History is the story of original actions…”

[v] For Cage’s positivism and technological determinism see Silence, p. 70: “Counting is no longer necessary for magnetic tape music (where so many inches or centimeters equal so many seconds): magnetic tape music makes it clear that we are in time itself, not in measures of two, three, or four or any other number. And so instead of counting we use watches if we want to know where in time we are, or rather where in time a sound is to be. All this can be summed up by saying each aspect of sound (frequency, amplitude, timbre, duration) is to be seen as a continuum, not as a series of discrete steps favored by conventions…”

[vi] Silence, p. 7

[vii] “The Impermanent art,” Seven Arts (Indian Hills CO, 1955)

[viii] Silence, p. 69.

[ix] Ibid., p. 73

[x] Ibid., p. 73)

[xi] See “Commentary,” p. 61, particularly it’s question: What has been composed?

repost, not riposte… from stein to cage to cunningham, an excerpt. for the longer version, scroll down and down… if you do that, you’ll find images etc. [i have my reasons for reposting]

addendum to a previous post: Stan VanDerBeek excerpts: Aesthetic Thought: Draft, with typos

anyone who reads this ‘blog’, i hope, knows that it is not a thematic blog, but my journal made public, for good and bad. just a reminder that what i post here is always in draft form.

so, the addendum i record here is thanks to Paul DeMarinis, to whom i sent for comment an excerpt from section V of the previous post, where i commented on Kluver, EAT, etc. Paul was both a student of the period, an eyewitness, and a co-equal participant/artist/collaborator with his mentors.

Thus, Paul’s corrective of my mis-reading below, is essential. I’ll tentatively call Paul’s corrective: the problem of the antithesis between the Kluver, big lab/industry scale of the EAT expert model of the art-tech/science collaboration, and, the ‘inexpert’ model of a DIY art-tech/science production, whether collaborative or solo, but independent of the EAT model, represented by the other great cultural formation of the time – PUNK, autonomy from institutions, communes, radical movements of ‘drop-out’ cultures = DIY. anarchy not necessarily as a political philosophy a la Bakunin, but, definitely a philosophy of being self schooled, going it alone, learning from the then off the shelve potentials of technologies, hacking them, re-purposing them, or, re-inventing them for entirely other ends. And ultimately, producing completely ‘other’ art-sci/tech works that don’t conform to any model at all, but their own. [this is a very tentative paragraph, but getting there]

so, to Paul’s critique of my overly Kluver-only-dominated reading below:

first, i don’t think that Billy Kluver’s program failed – EAT was immensely successful in locating a group of artists who were working outside both the artistic norms of the times and outside of academia, among which to engage an unapologetic and unestheticized view of technology qua culture. In my view, however, it marked the end of an era where advanced technologies were tied up in military-industrial corporations like bell labs, and required experts to deploy it…  i must say also that I don’t think that EAT was the end all of Billy’s vision, and so much came out of it in so many ways that it is truly a major historical point of reference… It is just that the EAT model of engineers being technical experts to realize artists visions doesn’t apply to anyone of my creative generation or younger. We learned to do it ourselves, and I don’t think the results were ‘precious’ – rather we took a critical stance toward the mil-ind machine by engaging the technologies in sometimes passionate, sometimes political and often contradictory but striking ways.

Paul DeMarinis, email,



addendum to a previous post: Stan VanDerBeek excerpts: Aesthetic Thought: Draft, with typos

Stan VanDerBeek excerpts: Aesthetic Thought: Draft, with typos


VanDerBeek, The Male/Female Ex-perential-information “Bill of Rights” Suit…, 1970


To be means to communicate.

Bakhtin, “Toward a Reworking of the Dostoevsky Book.”

If communication possessed several meanings and if this plurality should prove to be irreducible, it would not be justifiable to define communication a priori as the transmission of a meaning… For one characteristic of the semantic field of the word communication is that it designates nonsemantic movements as well.

Derrida, Limited Inc


I           From “Film” to “Computing”: an Emergent Moment Lost

It will become clear only after some pages just how the epigraphs above, which cite two of the last century’s most acclaimed (literary?) theorists, relate to the epiicon “sighting” that same century’s most forgotten (kinematic?) artist. Ahorita, I wish to put the reader in the state of suspended dis/belief. This is a necessary precondition and antidote not only to the specific case of Stan Vanderbeek, but to the particularly sedimented cultural history from which he has been systematically excluded at worst, and systematically disfigured at best. My aim in this essay is twofold: to refigure his importance as both practitioner and thought-maker; and, by so doing, to contribute something toward the critique of modernity’s great wasteland. For Vanderbeek’s project aimed to compel through a specifically “socialist, performative” imaginary, a recognition that the technocultural forces of the period constituted not only a sociopolitical crisis of global proportions, but an imminence for social change that was exceedingly fragile, and the outcome of which would be decided very rapidly, with little chance of recuperation should a positive outcome fail.

More important, inter-culturally, art and life

must do something about the future; the world is hanging

by a thread of verbs and nouns.


I see that certain films, made in a certain way and presented

in a certain way, will help us and will be used as a technique

to understand and balance the senses.


The development of a nonverbal international picture

language that makes use of cinema and other image-

transmission systems is of utmost importance in the

consistent crises of world peace.[i]

In this statement from 1966, we see many of the themes and sensibilities which ran though Vanderbeek’s entire career: tensions between art/life and visuality/language, a concern for the intercultural, recognition of global crises and the need for urgency, a tentative mix of the visionary and the pragmatic, and an agonistic combination of optimism and skepticism. But we can also witness in these poetically structured lines, his commitment to a project for social change predicated on “certain ways” of working and knowing, which aim to “understand and balance the senses.” In what way his project was “socialist” will be developed below. The failure to recognize the importance of his project suggests a lacuna of self-understanding, or a resistance to a particular species of radicalism, within cultural modernism itself as it emerged in the US of the 1960’s and 1970’s. At the same time, this lacuna requires us to question the motives of the historiographical forces, both during and since that period, that have colluded in constructing his exclusion and disfigurement.[ii] “Stan Vanderbeek,” then, is the proper name for a chiasmus in North American cultural history of the “Sixties,” and a diagnostic lens through which a series of doggedly persistent problems of pouvior-savoir, may be perceived as problems of savior-pouvior.[iii]

Vanderbeek’s figure in the epiicon above clearly demonstrates the necessity for a continuous alternation around this particular hyphen-axis. If we have learned anything from the thought that David Hoy recently re-nominated post-critique, it is that all attempts to resolve the theory-practice problem within the neat closure of a term like praxis, are pure fantasy. Hoy points out that a central problematic of post-critical analysis is the “…especially Nietzschean feature that is found in [their] interest in the body rather than in self-consciousness as the source of resistance.” By Nietzschean he means specifically “that much of what we do is conditioned by embodied social background practices that we do not and perhaps cannot bring fully to consciousness.”[iv] This tension, between embodied practices and consciousness of them, is the central motif in “The Male/Female Experiential-Information ‘Bill of Rights’ Suit…” Vanderbeek is hyperbolically, humorously, seriously and thoroughly aware that the technocultural stakes operate within a matrix of the discursive and nondiscursive, of the semantic and nonsemantic, between language and body, philosophy and history, and that the strategic problems of social change, of resistance to social normativity, lies in the social ontologies determined by technologies of pouvior-savoir. This is, as we will see, what he meant by the need to “understand and balance the senses.”

The conundrum of “non-literary languages,” as we know, is at the heart of the 20th century’s obsessions with the “linguistic turn,” and shows little sign of abating. This is another reason to turn our attention to Vanderbeek’s pouvoir-savoir of communication, as it offers us a view of a road not taken, albeit a ghostly one which requires a particular kind of forensic approach to a body of work that intentionally constructed itself as fragmentary and self-iteratively processual, technically and figuratively self-cannibalistic, but must be encountered by us in the early 21st century as a struggle against the ‘other’ pouvoir-savoir of capital, that is now either about to explode “spaceship earth,” or, itself. This historical choice was announced loudly and clearly by a remarkable set of thinkers, also largely forgotten or considered quaint forebears of our now more sophisticated present, such as Buckminster Fuller, Barry Commoner, and Kenneth Boulding in particular. Vanderbeek shared the stage with many of these “prophets of a threshold,” as we might call them, and he saw himself in that light out of ethical necessity. We must measure his work and thought more against that context, than against the far narrower discourse and practice of the US-Euro “aesthetic” avant-garde, and the art histories that maintain its hegemony, often even when critical. This is another way to designate the chiasmus of “Stan Vanderbeek.”[v]

Vanderbeek’s drawing is a visual/textual manifesto that insists on a strategic, agonistic-integration of gender, embodiment, and law, though he perceives this “integration” as always historically and culturally shifting and perpetually on the move, perpetually invented on the fly, so to speak, or in Spivak’s language, as a practice enabled only in its moment of being known. He opposes the universalizing of Platonic forms in Leonardo’s famous ‘proportional man’ drawing, to which his critically stands in relation, and to the persistence of Renaissance techniques of visuality generally. His drawing is not merely a clever reflection, but the critical recognition that the forces of Platonism are ever present in technological development in its essentializing drive to reify media-forms, such as the telephone, TV, the portapac video camera, and of course, the computer. The analogy he poses here is that technologies idealize, normalize, embodiment as much as social ideologies, of beauty for instance, do; but they could, and do, also perform oppositely – if, communication operates on cycles of feedback, on multi-directional ‘communication’ between the body’s sensory systems and technological systems, if they are “made in a certain way and presented/ in a certain way, [they] will help us and will be used as a technique/ to understand and balance the senses.” Vanderbeek’s work must be understood, along with the cultural lacuna of modernism for which he is proxy, in the context of this conditionality.

In 1969, he posited that the only social ontology possible for an art commensurate with the time must assume the form of approximation.

What I want to also talk about is a very nice idea, I think, and it’s a terribly significant one… I don’t know what art is: art [has] kept coming up as well as biography [has] kept coming up, as though there was some special reference to both these ideas in our lives, as though living our life had a particular design or model that we were achieving, like the Renaissance man which Scott refers to, and I think we may all even halfway infer it in much of our thinking about where we are in our life and what this particular of life and time is. Now, I think that’s a very curious epoch to go through. I think we’re in a period of what I’d like to call APPROXIMATE ART and I may even say that none of this stuff is art but this may all be, as Nathan Lyons has said it before me, simply “A MODEL OF PERCEPTION.”[vi]

Approximate art is then, a necessary response to the chiasmus of the Sixties as Vanderbeek understood the epoch – a response, as he put it to: “the dilemma that I think every one of us deals with a sense that we all deal with what we might also qualify as APPROXIMATE LIFE because… the parts are all always very interesting but whether the sum is larger than the parts I’m waiting yet to see.” Vanderbeek, with a Steinian talent for deceptive oversimplification and syntactical eccentricity, with his recognition of the terrible implications of linking conceptions of “art” to conceptions of “identity” without examination, without contextualizing such conceptions with the historical exigencies and particularities of the life and the times that produce them, demands that all epistemologies of totality, of the sum, of metaphorically representation, be subordinated to epistemologies of the part, to the particularlism of metonymic relations. In other words, pouvoir-savoir for Vanderbeek was an attempt to construct – through iterative approximations, through an interminable mode of working, through a techno-figurative self-cannibalism that fluctuates between language and visual productions –a methodology with which to contend and to contest the historical materialism of the Sixties, as actualized on the ground, in technologies in relation to the body’s freedoms then emerging through the cultural side of the “Movement.”[vii] Pouvoir-savoir, in Vanderbeek’s epistemological view, must always alternate with savoir-pouvoir in order to measure the two forms of approximation against each other – approximate art is a social response to the conditions of approximate life, just as knowledge and power, demonstration and construction, continuously and reciprocally co-constitute each other.[viii] This formulation explicitly restates in general form the condition of suspended disbelief I invoked above. The hyphenation of savoir-pouvoir requires suspended belief as the condition of its methodological possibility; as much as pouvoir-savoir requires suspended disbelief as the condition of its methodological impossibility.

[i] Vanderbeek, Stan. “Re:Vision.” The American Scholar 35.2 (1966): 335-340.

[ii] Cite Vanderbeek’s reply to Mekas

[iii] Spivak takes this hyphenated doublet up in a way the helps us understand what is at politically and epistemologically at stake for Vanderbeek: “It is a pity that there is no word in English corresponding to pouvoir as there is “knowing” for savoir. Pouvoir is of course “power.” But there is also a sense of “can-do”-ness in “pouvoir,” if only because, in its various conjugations, it is the commonest way of say “can” in the French language. If power/knowledge is seen as the only translation of “pouvoir/savoir,” it monumentalizes Foucault unnecessarily. The French language possesses quite a number of these doublets. In their different ways, “laissez-faire and “vouloir-dire” are perhaps best know to us. The trick is to get some of the homely verbiness of savoir in savoir-faire, savoir-vivre into pouvoir, and you might come up with something like this: if the lines of making sense of something are laid down in a certain way, then you are able to do only those things with that something which are possible within and by the arrangement of those lines. Pouvoir-savoir – being able to do something – only as you are able to make sense of it. This everyday sense of that doublet seems to me indispensable to a crucial aspect of Foucault’s work.” Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “More on Power/Knowledge.” Outside in the Teaching Machine. New York: Routledge, 1993. 34. Spivak’s note to this passage comments that this “homely verbiness” is simply assumed by native French speakers and readers, and this is as equally important in our “reading” of Vanderbeek as it would be of Foucault. It’s necessarily chiasmatic structure should be obvious here, and if not, will become clear in what ensues.

[iv] Hoy, David Couzens. Critical Resistance: From Postructuralism to Post-Critique. The MIT Press, 2004. 12.

[v] See: economist Kenneth Boulding’s: Boulding, Kenneth. Human Values on the Spaceship Earth. New York : Council Press for Commission on Church & Economic Life, National Council of Churches, 1966.; Commoner, Barry. Science and Survival New York: Viking Press 1966, and Commoner, Barry. The Closing Circle; Nature, Man, and Technology. New York: Knopf, 1972 [c1971]. Vanderbeek participated in many national conference and think tanks such The Design-In, Central Park, May 1967 the agenda of which was to urgently rethink urban planning in the face of what was already then conceived as the environmental crisis; and the Aspen Design Conference in June of 1967. His first Rockerfeller Grant was specifically for research in “Non-verbal Communication Film Studies,” 1965-66, which went at least in part toward the construction of his Movie-Drome, and a second for the work he carried out at WGBH Experimental Artist in Television in 1969-70, which carried on that work, resulting in new techniques of color production. He received a third Rockerfeller Grant in 1974 for similar research in video, also at WGBH. Of note is an unpublished, and unfunded proposal to the Rockerfeller Foundation for creating an “Artists-in-Residence to the World Program,” that would created the infrastructure for global, collaborative artist-technician teams to travel the world for six months at a time to engage with local artist-technician teams for the purpose of visual language research, and to catalog already existing art and technical practices.

[vi] From unpublished transcript of Vanderbeek’s talk at the conference Autobiography and the American Cinema, organized by Gerry O’Grady, Center for Medis Study, State University of New York, Buffalo, 1969.

[vii] It should be noted here that these freedoms are the source of the virulent ultra-rightism that dominates today.

[viii] This a far more complex operation than that now enshrined in the Oldenbrug/Kaprow genealogies of art/life. There’s must be seen, in comparison, in its libertarian form – certain, authorial art to approximate life – it is still the production of art-for, and not art-with.

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VanDerBeek, TV-Information Jacket, 1970


V          Aesthetic Thought

Epistemology of “Approximate Art”

Pourvoir-savoir in Vanderbeek’s work must be conceived as the chiasmus of the two forms of voir. This is clear from the titles and vocabulary of many of his writings and visual works, such as “Oh, I “see” what you mean” is what you say when you sing “Oh say can you see.”[i] And the specifically socialist, political commentary and critique is always present, as it is here, in his comic/serious linking of the quadruple, interrelated problematics of nationalism, seeing/saying, identity and communication. These are the themes we’ve traced throughout this essay. His critical method is necessarily described as an alternation of technologies of voir between power and knowledge. The aim of his work was to demonstrate the uses and limits of their relations, in terms of modes of communication. Approximate art for an approximate life is his manifesto writ small, that determined the epistemological course of his aesthetic thought.

Spivak derives her reading of pouvoir-savoir from the following passage from Foucault’s “Ethics of Care of the Self As a Practice of Freedom:”

The care of the self is ethically prior [éthiquement premier] in the measure that the relationship to the self is ontologically prior.”

She glosses this with further Foucault quotes:

This is pouvoir-savoir at ground level,, “the working of thought upon itself…as critical activity,” not a degree zero. [Ethics of Care, p. 256] This is “the soil that can nourish,” the “the general form of problematization.” [Rabinow Reader, p. 389] “Liberty is the ontological condition of ethics. But ethics is the deliberate [refléche] from take by liberty.”

This is the ethical form of the chiasmus we found above in Vanderbeek’s comment that he introduced himself, at a national conference on autobiography and American cinema, as a “we.” Liberty means freedom from self as much as it means freedom of self. His aesthetic thought is coextensive with his ethical thought. He continuously put himself, as well as others, communications systems and specific media forms under continuous critical activity. We may say that critique is the fundamental form of his work. Chiasmus is a critical methodology with which to maintain that position because it suspends the belief in savoir, just at it suspends the disbelief in pouvoir. In terms of agency, or care fof the self, this means that liberty of self also requires liberty from self. “Oh say can you see?” requires the preface, “Oh, I ‘see’ what you mean.” This sociopolitical, ethical, and aesthetic principle determines the technological vision, the sequence, and the titles of the epiicons of the first three sections of this essay. And they should be interpreted as visual manifestos carried out in Poemfields, Violence Sonata, and Cine Dreams. Vanderbeek’s “we” signifies an ethic of subjectivity that is fundamentally at odds with cultural modernism’s libertarian identitarianism, demonstrated most explicated in the race and gender components of Violence Sonata. He was tireless in his critique of exactly that species of identity politics; on that basis, he was opposed to modernist claims to authorship and originality, and to the consciousness raising and its personal-is-political motif of much of the identity politics of the social movements of period. And it is both the fundamental reason for his vanishing from the canon, and the fundamental condition that has produced modernity’s visual blindness to anything that did not meet the dual conditions of formalism and media specificity. Modernity has failed in sociopolitical terms because it cannot sing – “say can you see” in the form of “oh, I ‘see’ what you mean” – in the form of pouvoir-savoir chiasmus traced above.

[i] “RE: LOOK COMPPUTERIZED GRAPHICS, “Light Brings us News of the Universe,’” Film Culture, no. 48-49, Winter-Spring 1970

Another historiographical problem that plagues a re-visioning of the social matrix that determined the Vanderbeek chiasmus is the retroactive attribution to him of the “utopian” or “visionary” in light of the perceived naiveté and failures of the period. Because Vanderbeek was well aware that his term, expanded cinema, had been co-opted by Le Grice and Youngblood, it is important to foreground the formers concept against the background of formalist-aestheticist and techno-determinist and psychedelic genealogies that branch from the latter.[i] Licklider’s “all” is our benchmark here. Commenting in 1968 on the techno-utopian saddleback on which Vanderbeek sat, Enzensberger put it succinctly:

“…utopian thinking seemed to meet the material conditions for its own realization. Liberation had ceased to be a mere wishful thought. It appeared to be a real possibility.”[ii]

Enzensberger’s assessment is not only confirmed in a 1967 statement by E.A.T.’s Billy Kluver, but is given an institutional and programmatic form:

If professional engineering is not made available to artists on a large scale, the technical elements that do appear in works of art run the risk of becoming precious, if not ridiculous. We have established a foundation called Experiments in Art and Technology which will attempt to provide a link between the engineering world and interested artists. It is apparent to us that ultimately the problems of the artist must be handled by industrial laboratories and that the development of the problems must be paid for by industry itself. It is the purpose of EAT to convince industry to accept problems posed by artists. Simultaneously, a file of interested consulting engineers will be established who can take care of simple problems directly. It is hoped that EAT will become an efficient service organization that will deal only with the technical aspects of the artists’ problems.[iii] [my emphasis]

Kluver’s statement is particularly important for two reasons: its risk assessment, and its non-instrumental magnanimity. The danger of preciousness and ridiculousness levels the charge and challenge of seriousness against the threat of, what exactly? Preciousness translates into a love of techno-effects for their own sake, of aesthetisization, which makes them ridiculous from the point of view of engineering conditions of existence and pragmatic standards of impact and success. However, Kluver is well aware of a deeper social problem, which E.A.T. was created to mitigate – the enormous knowledge-divide, the problem of pouvoir-savoir, between the arts and the sciences. His politically savvy magnanimity is indicated by his putting industrial scale resources, both economic and epistemological, in the service of “only” the “technical aspects of artists’ problems.” The impact of this program is to put the artist on par with the engineer as an actor with the capacity to effect mass, concrete, social formation. E.A.T.’s concept of an “efficient service organization” is nothing less than revolutionary, funded by industry, and should be understood as itself a social movement which set out to establish a new form of social agency on a par with that of engineer.[iv] E.A.T. was established to maintain the autonomy of the artist and artistic knowledge and epistemological practices, as such, as a form or pouvoir-savoir indigenous to practices found “only” among the problem-solving expertise that artists have. This is the enormous significance of that small word, “only,” in Kluver’s statement. It is in this specific sense that he confirms Enzensberger’s assessment of the concurrence of utopian aspirations and technical means, which has the effect, generally not understood, of transforming mere utopianism into actual pragmatism.

With this background in mind, it is possible to invert, entirely, the usual paradigm: it is not that new technologies finally made possible “socialist” dreams, but that the social values that emerged alongside, “the movement,” that crossed all social movement boundaries, and that extended to everyone, including E.A.T.; constituted a socio-political-psychological imaginary that allowed the pro-social construction of technology to emerge. Technological devices like portapak video cameras were pressed into the service of revolutionary zeal NOT because of some democratizing capacity inherent to the “media,” but because, as spectacle, “media” had already established the conditions for what could even be imagined as “revolutionary.” This is the crux of the Vanderbeek chiasmus, the point on the curve when the trajectory toward the maximum shifts toward the minimum – the break point. And it is this perspective that fueled the urgency that drove him.

Movie-making was for long the most revolutionary art form of our time. Now television touches the nerve-ends of all the world; the visual revolution sits in just about every living room across America. The image revolution that movies represented has now been overhauled by the television evolution, and is approaching the next visual stage – to computer graphics to computer controls of the environment to a new cybernetic “movie art.”[i]

[i] “New Talent – the Computer,” Art in America, v. 58, Jan-June, 1970

[i] Sheldon Renan describes the American formation of expanded cinema in this way:

A whole new area of film and film-like art has appeared in the sixties: expanded cinema.

Expanded cinema is not the name of a particular style of film-making. It is a name for a spirit of inquiry that is leading in many different directions. It is cinema expanded to include many different projectors in the showing of one work. It is cinema expanded to include computer-generated images and the electronic manipulation of images on television. It is cinema expanded to the point at which the effect of film may be produced without the use of film at all.

Its work is more spectacular, more technological, and more diverse in form than that of the avant-garde, experimental, underground film so far. But is less personal.

That it was less personal, did not lead to its becoming more social. Though Renan insightfully realized that expansion led to the “film-like,” to the degree that “the effect of film may be produced without the use of film at all,” he failed to develop that thought, and therefore failed to account for the full significance of Vanderbeek’s writings and work. (Renan, 1967, 227) This lesser conception was reinforced in 1970 by Gene Youngblood’s Expanded Cinema, (New York: Dutton, 1970) which referred mainly to the exploration of new technologies for the more conventional methods of exhibiting moving image works and to the formalist experiments of John Whitney, for example, and those related to new age spiritualism, political quietism, and psychedelia of the West Coast counterculture. The other definition of expanded cinema, pursued mainly in England between 1967 and 1980, was described by Malcolm Le Grice. He characterized the European tradition by a concern for bringing the cinematic experience consciously into the space of the spectator through performed action and installation, as concerned only with formalism, and as remaining safely within the context of traditional art and film venues. He simply assimilates in passing both Vanderbeek’s “total visual environment” approach to the Youngblood lineage, and Weibel’s use of the term, to his conception of the European ‘school’ of expanded cinema. (Le Grice, 1977, pp. 121-122.)

We find Renan and LeGrice’s film historical narratives reiterated much more recently by Rosalind Krauss, as part of the art historical account of modernist formalism. Her version is this:

Into this situation [Greenberg’s construction of formalism] there entered the portapak, and its televisual effect was to shatter the modernist dream. In the beginning, as artists began to make video works, they used video as a technologically updated continuation of the mode of address organized by the new attention to the phenomenological, although it was a perverse version of this since the form took was decidedly narcissistic: artists endless talking to themselves. To my knowledge only Serra himself immediately acknowledged that video was in fact television, which means a broadcast medium, one that splinters spatial continuity into remote sites of transmission and receptions.”

Krauss, Voyage to the North Sea, seems to endorse Le Grice’s description of both European and American lineages, with her reference to the “phenomenological;” and, she is completely unaware of Vanderbeek’s approach. Again, a much weaker conception is promulgated as the singular and unprecedented moment which “shatter[ed] the modernist dream.” Krauss cites Richard Serra’s Television Delivers People, 1973, as the particular work to accomplish this. [ ] Its commentary, as Krauss had demonstrated with regard to Serra’s early sculptures (Castings, 1969-91), is strictly limited to formalist aesthetic analysis, still modernist in its “opticality,” while abandoning “…the materialist, purely reductive notion of the medium.” This shift is considered by her, enough to constitute the radical deconstruction of what she doesn’t, but we must, call, medium essentialism. The question that arises here is whether the shift from reductive materialism, to an “expanded” notion of medium performativity, or, performance within the medium that isn’t tied strictly to physical attributes of its materiality, is a sufficient basis on which to lay claims to a “post-media condition.”

This tiresome avant-garde history was reinforced once again at the SCMS 2007 panels on “Cinema by Other Means.”

However, this is not the place to critique Krauss’ essay. Only out of necessity, in the pursuit of the significance of Vanderbeek’s experimentalism, do I raise these issues, in order to point to the places in film and art historical accounts where their historiographic and theoretical limits are revealed, so that, exactly at these loci, Vanderbeek’s work and terms may be recovered and re-inserted into those discourses, so that we may move beyond them, as his work demands. Vanderbeek’s conception, as we have begun to see, was radically different, and constitutes a third, far more radical definition, based on a conception that moved through phases, from computer graphics, to TV, to Planetaria.

[ii] Enzensberger, Hans. “Television and the Politics of Liberation.” Douglas Davis and Alison Simmons (Eds.). The New Television: A Public/Private Art. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1977. 263. Quoted in Chris Hill’s excellent essay, “Attention! Production! Audience!: Performing Video in its First Decade.” Hill, Chris (Ed.). Rewind: Video Art and Alternative Media in the United States 1968-1980. Chicago: Video Data Bank, 1996.

[iii] Kluver, Billy, “”Theater and Engineering – An Experiment: Notes by an Engineer,” Artforum 5.6 (February 1967): 31-32. Collected in Stiles, Kristine and Peter Selz (Eds.). Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists’ Writings. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1996. 412-415.

“Artists and the art community responded enthusiastically to E.A.T. By 1969, given early efforts to attract engineers, the group had over 2,000 artist members as well as 2,000 engineer members willing to work with artists. Expressions of interest and requests for technical assistance came from all over the United States and Canada and from Europe, Japan, South America and elsewhere. People were encouraged to start local E.A.T. groups and about 15 to 20 were formed. ”Langlois Foundation, Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.), Archive of published documents,

[iv] This is made perfectly apparent when contrasted to the practices of telecom labs which exploit artistic knowledge “only” for their own epistemological and economic benefit, which they then sell back to the cultures from which such benefits have been derived, in the form of consumer goods such as Illustrator or Photoshop.

Stan VanDerBeek excerpts: Aesthetic Thought: Draft, with typos

musical consciousness across borders

Casiopea, also known today as Casiopea 3rd (カシオペア Kashiopea, derived from the name of the constellation Cassiopeia), is a Japanese jazz fusion band formed in 1976 by guitarist Issei Noro, bassist Tetsuo Sakurai and keyboardist Hidehiko Koike. In 1977, keyboardist Minoru Mukaiya and drummer Takashi Sasaki joined the group, leaving Hidehiko out of the band.

thanks as always, to GUN.

musical consciousness across borders

music of consciousness: a philosophy lesson par excellence: whether or not one likes dexter gordon, or whether or not one likes any of the interpretations of his quickly scribbled composition, Milano; the brilliance of music and musicians, and their commitment to playing and interpreting, to experimenting and giving music a chance to be richly expansive and negotiable: to the necessity of giving every interpretation and performance new life: the following is an profound example of all the above: in philosophical and technical detail; and so rich because it’s all said and explained and performed within the scope of a mere fragment.

this post goes back to the problem of ‘covers’, authorship, translation, and ‘originality’. 🙂

Hear a Never-Before-Seen 1986 Dexter Gordon Piece, Played by 8 Different Artists
May 18, 2017 by Soundfly Team

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In November 2016, Peter Pillitteri, an aspiring composer and one of the students in Ian Davis’ popular Orchestration for Strings course, emailed us out of the blue to tell us this incredible story:

“‘Round Midnight is a 1986 film by Bertrand Tavernier about a fictitious jazzman, Dale Turner, who was played by the great jazz saxophonist, Dexter Gordon. Dexter arrived in Malpensa Airport, Milan, Italy, on an overnight Alitalia flight in November 1986 to debut the film at the Venice Film Festival.

“I, too, had flown all night, and I recognized him as he exited the plane with his saxophone in hand. During our bus ride to customs, I asked him what he was doing in Italy. In a tired and hungover voice, he said, ‘I’ve become an actor and I’m going to the Venice Film Festival.’ After such a long flight, I wanted to give him his space. I left him seated alone in the baggage claim area as his female companion scurried about collecting his luggage.

“After a long while, I could not resist asking him for an autograph and opened my music manuscript notebook to a blank page. With eyes closed and face facing downwards, I waited — what seemed an eternity — for him to sign an autograph. I thought for a moment that he had fallen asleep sitting up on the bench when suddenly he began to write what was to become a manuscript. He finished it by saying in a gravelly voice, ‘I don’t know how it sounds, but you’ll have to try it out.’

“Exhausted after flying all night, he wrote a manuscript, and to my disbelief, he gave it back to me. I told him that I could not accept his manuscript but he reassured me that it was OK. I asked him if he was ‘going to sign it’ and he signed it with a big, bold signature and finished by entitling it Milano. I thanked him and walked off in a daze, not believing what had just happened.

“I searched out his companion and told her what Dexter had done and that I couldn’t accept an original manuscript from him. She told me not to worry and shrugged it off implying that, perhaps, he did this type of thing all of the time.

Here, for the first time ever seen or heard is Dexter Gordon’s 1986 autographed manuscript, “Milano.” Below, you’ll hear brand new interpretations of this piece by eight different artists who have shared their thoughts about the experience of performing a chart that nobody has ever seen, and which Dexter himself hasn’t even played!

Participating artists include: guitarist and instrument inventor Elliott Sharp; violin duo String Noise (Conrad Harris and Pauline Kim Harris); producer and composer, Charles Burchell a.k.a. BLVK Samurai; guitarist Nick Millevoi and bassist Matt Stein; guitarist and electronic producer Mikael Tobias; pianist Adam Daudrich; classical guitarist and sound artist Leonie Roessler; and finally, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and bandleader of Tredici Bacci, Simon Hanes.


dextor’s ‘autograph’ IS of course, as much a political statement as an artistic fragment. “I am my work. I give it freely. Don’t reduce me to being a black star. I’m a composer and musician. If you want my ‘autograph’, listen to this! Then you might know me.’ It was an Ali-esque moment.  pearodox/provacateur


music of consciousness: a philosophy lesson par excellence: whether or not one likes dexter gordon, or whether or not one likes any of the interpretations of his quickly scribbled composition, Milano; the brilliance of music and musicians, and their commitment to playing and interpreting, to experimenting and giving music a chance to be richly expansive and negotiable: to the necessity of giving every interpretation and performance new life: the following is an profound example of all the above: in philosophical and technical detail; and so rich because it’s all said and explained and performed within the scope of a mere fragment.

Stein and A. N. Whitehead and William James: some repetition, some expansion: further to establishing the ground for ‘chronotopology’: as ‘music’ of consciousness’

It is perfectly clear by now, no doubt, that translations of Stein are little more transparent than the original. This problem is itself a necessary consequence of her use of language. Stein is not merely interested in expressing what is generally referred to as the “continuous present,” but philosophically committed to doing so. This chronotope, the stepping stone responsible for the greatest amount of deflection in Stein scholarship, will be examined in detail below. However, to continue to facilitate the reader’s entry into Stein’s garden, it is useful here to recall briefly James’ concept of the “stream of thought.” In The Principles of Psychology, he gives the phenomenological example of the aural stream of thunder: “thunder-breaking-upon-silence-and-contrasting-with-it.”[i] James is interested in perceptual continuity, with presentness, or immediacy.[ii] Perceptual events are, according to James, extended in spacetime and opposed by language: “…language,” he tells us, “works against our perception of the truth…”[iii] Whitehead’s position derives from James: “language is not the essence of thought, (p. 35), nor is “…understanding… primarily based on inference. Understanding is self-evidence.” (p.50) Whatever the truth of these claims may ultimately be, Stein’s concept of perception and its relation to language is equivalent to them, and precisely aligned with some all of whom pursue “I am” as the most certain route to knowledge, rather than, “I think.” I used hyphens below (feeling-in-believing-in-thinking) in order to draw the comparison to James of Stein’s stream of epistemological (not merely perceptual) thought. The paragraph from Stein’s portrait of Duncan we have just analyzed consists of only three sentences, the first two of which are contained by the first line. The movement Stein attempts to capture with the third, paragraph-long sentence is the movement of artistic-thought; she describes this thought while simultaneously “doing” or performing it. This doubling of her work is one of the reasons she can be so impenetrable; though, the difficulty one encounters in reading her is more a matter of practice in an alien grammar and syntax on the one hand, and on the other, in expecting the conventions of literature when a particular species of philosophy is being performed.

Whitehead’s philosophy demands an hyphenated, “full-blooded” world with which thought and its expressions are inextricably interdependent: “Thought is the outcome of its own concurrent activities; and having thus arrived upon the scene, it modifies and adapts them.”[iv] Stein’s work is in agreement if Whitehead’s proposition is taken in converse form. The “scene” is another of Stein’s technical terms as already hinted at below: her writings may be interpreted as expressions of scenes of thought’s concurrent activities – “plays” – which, unconcerned with thought’s adaptations or modifications, are pre-thought (premeditated) performances of knowledges that will inevitably “arrive upon the thought,” making thought what it is. Given the close, personal understanding and relationship between Whitehead and Stein, and given that Modes of Thought was written in 1938, twenty-five years after Stein’s “Orta,” (and 2 years after her philosophical treatise, The Geographical History of America)[v] there is every reason to speculate that Whitehead was thinking of Stein in his many references to literature throughout that work, and particularly here, in this discipline smashing line:


I suggest to you that the analogy between aesthetics and logic is one of the undeveloped topics of philosophy.[vi]


If Stein is read philosophically, if her voluminous work is understood as a restless search for experimental expressions for non-rationalist knowledges, and if we are willing to learn new grammars and syntaxes, new vocabularies and forensic attitudes, then we will find that Whitehead’s proposal already stood in a highly developed if intermittent state in Stein’s peculiarly nonchronological oeuvre.[vii] Whitehead interposed “analogy” between aesthetics and logic in order to maintain their separate but equal kingdoms; the difference between them, he tells us, consists in their polar relation to abstraction. Nonetheless, that he meant that logic and aesthetics perform in similar ways is not in question: both are “concerned with the enjoyment of a composition,[viii] as derived from the interconnection of its factors.” A whole object is the consequence of the “interplay of many details.” What gives this whole importance is the “vividness” with which it comprehends one of the oldest of philosophical problems, the Parmenidian classification paradox of quantification – the-one-and-the-many that fuels much of the Whitehead-Russell Principia Mathematica. Logic and aesthetics are absolutely polarized modes of thought eternally fated to contemplate, in Whitehead’s own fabulously vivid phrase, “the dilemma of the finite mentality in its partial penetration of the infinite.” But their vivifying powers operate, like vectors, in a single direction: logic moves from the details to the whole, while aesthetics begins with the whole and moves toward the details. Whitehead is willing to make logic and aesthetics complimentary, but goes no further; “if either side of this antithesis sinks into the background, there is trivialization of experience, logical and aesthetic.” Both have a co-present claim on “experience,” but only through their absolute and mutually exclusive frames of reference. This binaristic epistemology (Kantian in structure) is surprisingly at odds with his demand for a hyphenated, full-blooded world in which thought and its concurrent activities are interdependent and interpenetrate, and with the very task of philosophy as he defines it: “philosophy is the understanding of the interfusion of the modes of existence.”[ix] This would seem to demand that the space and time intuitions of understanding have direct access to the abstract categories of reason, and vice versa, and therefore for an aesthetics not as a merely mediating form of judgment, but a dynamic part interior to logic, while logic is a dynamic part of aesthetics, a consequence of interfusions of the modes of existence themselves. A closer look at James’s Principles of Psychology will help make good on this demand.

Stein’s epistemology emerges from her rejection of dualism in all of its manifestations. Her methodological moving through philosophy is a philosophical rejection of the dualism between epistemology and ontology. Her rejection of Whitehead’s merely analogic relation between logic and aesthetics is based, however, on a principle with which they both agree:


In the full concrete connection of things, the characterizations of the things connected enter into the character of the connectivity which was there.[x]


If, as we must, interpret this principle as what might be called the “strong form” of metonymy, strong because it goes far beyond mere assemblage of parts at connective points with its claim of a contagious connectivity, (contact), then we must conclude that the character-characterization dualism is not absolute but overridden through the existing connectedness (“which was there”), producing a hybrid object that is more than the sum of parts. This same principle may be translated in terms of identity thus:


Who owns the last self owns the self before the last, for what possesses the possessor possesses the possessed.[xi]


It may come as a surprise that principle one is Whitehead’s, and principle two is James’; unless one is very familiar with Stein, either statement might be mistaken as hers. Each statement is of added interest because of the way in which the content demands a complex form of expression – the objects (ownership, connectivity) because they are understood as dynamic, relational events or acts, require a language of transitivity. Both Whitehead and James struggle, even against their own dualist commitments,[xii] to describe very subtle orders of things that lie outside the philosophical traditions of their respective disciplines. James’ principle may be interpreted as another variant of Parmenides’ paradox, here in terms of subjectivity, and is remarkable for it late 19th century, socio-political, deconstruction.[xiii]

In its widest possible sense, however, a man’s Self is the sum total of all that he CAN call his, not only his body and his psychic powers, but his clothes and his house, his wife and children, his ancestors and friends, his reputation and works, his lands and horses, and yacht and bank account. All these things give him the same emotions.[xiv]

This makes it perfectly clear that the objects which are of interest to both philosophers are complexes that do not conform to nominalist versions of realism. Both agree that “namelessness is compatible with existence.”[xv] The last sentence of the above citation is particularly germane because of its emphasis on the emotional causality of identity, and because it understands the cause itself as a plurality – in other words, “identity” is not a singularity but a multiplicity. But a multiplicity of what? Both propositions may be interpreted, accurately though informally, as variants of the logical law of transitivity: if a = b, and b = c, than a = c. For the first principle requires that connectivity is transmitted along the series of things and their connections; just as, in the second principle, moving in reverse direction from the conclusion to the origin, demonstrates that ownership is transmitted over the three subject states of possession indicated by the principle.[xvi] “Ownership” then is a distributed, dynamic, temporal state that consists of multiple arrays of connections.[xvii]

James is quite clear that though dualism underlies the popular distinction between emotion and thought, which pairs the former with bodily sensation, the later with intellectual conceptions and judgments, there is really no basis for distinction between them. When we reflect on our own “past states of mind,” their character is uniquely different from our reflections on those of others, not simply because they are memories, but because of the quality they have for us; they “appear to us endowed with a sort of warmth and intimacy that makes the perception of them seem more like a process of sensation than like a thought.”[xviii] Not only do we recognize here the origin of Whitehead’s understanding of “importance” as a philosophical concept, but again, the slip of dualism at the site of introjection – clear and distinct thought fades into bodily sensation. The “owner” that passes, temporally, through possessor-states is emotionally retroflective on the one hand, and completely, serially unique on the other:

…Nothing can be conceived twice over without being conceived in entirely different states of mind.”[xix]

James thus concludes:

“The passing Thought then seems to be the Thinker.”[xx]

This “Thinker” is the character Stein assumes in her own plays; it is the character that passes through philosophy to the chronotope of the “scene” in which thought itself performs in all its concurrent activities. James’ conception of the “stream of thought,” de-nominalized, de-substantiated, a flow of relations, allows him to be very specific about what these concurrent activities are, and makes both of Whitehead’s synonymous terms, contagious “connectivity” and the “interfusion of the modes of existence,” materially and functionally more concrete. To arrive at this stage of performative realism, we must first shift our attention from a world of “false concreteness,” one falsely supposed to consist of well-defined objects (nouns) arranged against an equally well-defined ground, to a world comprised of fleeting, peripheral perception and conception, a non-substantial yet no less materially definite world comprised solely of relations.

Every definite image in the mind is steeped and dyed in the free water that flows round it. With it goes the sense of its relations, near and remote, the dying echo of whence it came to us, the dawning sense of whither it is to lead. The significance, the value, of the image is all in this halo or penumbra that surrounds and escorts it….[xxi]

James ascribes to these “halos,” “feelings of tendency,” a term that designates no less than the raison d’etre of his psychological studies – “the re-instatement of the vague to its proper place in our mental life.” Measured against the scientism of his own time, such a statement couldn’t be more at odds with the predominant attitude of positivism. And yet, upon this announcement follows another which he considers even more “sweeping and radical:”

What must be admitted is that definite images of traditional psychology form but the very smallest part of our minds as they actually live. The traditional psychology talks like one who should say a river consists of nothing but pailfulls, spoonfuls, quart-potfuls, barrelfuls, and other moulded forms of water.[xxii]

In effect, James replaces a depth-model of psychology with one of a lateral, serial, diachronic relationality, an interpretation that once again recalls Nietzsche, particularly his ironic challenge, “dare to be superficial.” In effect, he reverses the dominance of the mind over body, raising affect, feeling, to a state of thought more significant than rational ideas. His justification of this justifies the radicality of his work. His version of Freud’s paradox of “unconscious thought” is radically opposed to psychoanalysis. Thought is inherently unconscious; just as some schools of physics have abandoned all remnants of “hidden-variable hypotheses,” and assume the material world to consist, in large part, of unresolvable, inherently indeterminate forces, so James abandoned the fantasy of a state of complete and perfectly determinant consciousness.[xxiii]


Let us use the words psychic overtones, suffusion, or fringe, to designate the influence of a faint brain-process upon our thought, as it makes it aware of relations and objects but dimly perceived.[xxiv]


James’ psychic “vagueness” consists in rhythms, patterns, motions of relational “tones” of “affinity” and “discord” that make up the largest and most significant part of psychic life that he calls the “fringe.” Perceptual and linguistic images both, taken as discrete, nominative objects, derive their “meaning” only from the far more important, palpable tones of affinity and discord attributed to them by the sensorial stream through which they swim. “True,” full-blooded “knowledge” consists, for James, of a “knowledge of relations.” And relations are felt only in the psychic fringe suffused (Whitehead’s “interfused”) with felt overtones. The verbal analogy to music in the word, overtones, is not accidental; but neither is it merely analogic. James gives an example of three successive thoughts physiologically determined by “brain-tracks” a, b, and c. Brain track a is impressed first, followed by b and then by c. A fades but is still concurrent with b, and similarly with c. James states: “If we want to represent the brain-process we must write it thus:





three different processes coexisting, and correlated with them a thought which is no one of the three thoughts which they would have produced had each of them occurred alone.”[xxv]


The “analogy” to a musical chord is apparent here, and it is well understood that, conceived as vibrations of air, these three “notes” make not only a fourth, but may resonate at an infinity of frequencies between and beyond their absolute values. These supplementary frequencies are the overtones which suffuse the fringes of consciousness and materially comprise its stream. For what are nerve “impulses” but “vibrations” along the “brain-tracks.” Whether or not nerve impulses are transferences of electromagnetic charges along sodium and potassium molecules, or vibrations of pulses of compression or transverse waves, a belief that matter is continuous[xxvi] (and not composed of discrete quanta or corpuscles or particles or bucketfuls) requires that relations exists because the stream consists of coexistent and co-determinant events that produce collective results.[xxvii]

Throughout Principles, James comments on language. His view on first reading seems to suggest the conventional negative reply to the question of whether thought without language is possible. But, as with most of his theory, this appearance is deceptive; the stream of thought is not entirely linguistic; “between all their substantive elements there is ‘transitive’ consciousness, and the words and images are ‘fringed,’ and not as discrete as to a careless view they seem.”[xxviii] Transitive consciousness does, however, have a linguistic correlate. James believed that relations “in the world” were reflected in relations in language. The following passage is remarkable on its own terms, and because of its enormous impact on Stein:

If there be such things as feelings at all, then so surely as relations between objects exist in rerum natura, so surely, and more surely, do feelings exist to which these relations are known. There is not a conjunction or a preposition, and hardly an adverbial phrase, syntactic form, or inflection of voice, in human speech, that does not express some shading or other of relation which we at some moment actually feel to exist between the larger objects of our thought. If we speak objectively, it is the real relations that appear revealed; if we speak subjectively, it is the stream of consciousness that matches each of them by an inward coloring of its own. In either case, the relations are numberless, and no existing language is capable of doing justice to all their shades.

We ought to say a feeling of and, a feeling of if, a feeling of but, and a feeling of by, quite as readily as we say a feeling of blue or a feeling of cold. Yet we do not: so inveterate has our habit become of recognizing the existence of the substantive parts alone, that language almost refuses to lend itself to any other use.[xxix]


Transitive consciousness is, then, reflected in language through prepositions and conjunctions; or, to put this more functionally, through what in analytic as opposed to synthetic languages are called the dative, genitive and ablative cases. James concludes: “The truth is that large tracts of human speech are nothing but signs of direction in thought…” Stein’s grammar and syntax are completely predicated upon this relationality between material world and material subjectivity as mediated by language. She constructs a language to embody “thought” in spacetime continua in which language “dissolves,” or “cross-fades,” coevally, in opposite directions: first toward language and “signification,” and secondly, toward its negation through an emphasis on its performative transitivity, to its re-embodiment and restoration of knowledge of the “vague” corporeal fringe. Her language is a language of, a language and, a language if, a language but and by; it is a language on the move as much as a language of movement. It is a language of overtones that attempts to reduce the mediation of language to its diminishing, ever evanescing limit. It is a language of transitive consciousness, in which the transitivity moves is both directions. She makes this, and her alliance with James, perfectly clear:

Beside being able to be mistaken and to make mistakes verbs can change to look like themselves or to look like something else, they are, so to speak on the move and adverbs move with them and each of them find themselves not at all annoying but very often very much mistaken. That is the reason any one can like what verbs can do. Then comes the thing that can of all things be most mistaken and they are prepositions. Prepositions can live one long life being really being nothing but absolutely nothing but mistaken and that makes them irritating if you feel that way about mistakes but certainly something that you can be continuously using and everlastingly enjoying. I like prepositions the best of all…[xxx]

We may now see exactly just how Stein differs from James. For the latter, “the important thing about a train of thought is its conclusion. That is the meaning…” Conversely, “The parts of the stream that precede these substantive conclusions are but the means of the latter’s attainment.”[xxxi] Their difference lies specifically in Stein’s reversal of the significance of the train and the conclusion of thought, of the resting places and flights, of the streams “substantive parts,” and its “transitive parts.”[xxxii] It is not the conclusion that counts most, but the reciprocal passage between them. As with Whitehead, James is in the final analysis in contradiction; transitive consciousness, knowledge of the vague transitions that are inherent to consciousness, are suddenly demoted to the status of “means” to achieve the more important conclusions. Stein, however, is not interested merely in expanding the concept of “thought” and increasing the complexity of the mind-body dichotomy, as James is; as with her rejection of the logic-aesthetics dualism, she rejects James’ notion that feeling plays a far more important role in consciousness than idealist thought has allowed, that the “body” is in fact more important than “mind.” She departs altogether from epistemo-ontological models of synthesis and replaces them with an analytic model whose elements are radical reconceptions of identity and time.

Stein the dancer, as we have seen, reserves the epistemological right to move in any direction, in every direction, AND, in a direction. While concurring that “both logic and aesthetics concentrate on the closed fact,”[xxxiii] her philosophical task, in fact, is to open fact to its interfused, interconnecting, interpenetrating and interchangeable existence; but, not through explanatory modes of thought, and without binarizing logic and aesthetics, the one and the many, the whole and the detail. The vividness she seeks is that of the “one.” When she says of Duncan; “She was one. She went on being one.”; Stein is making a nonreferential, philosophical claim. Stein does not mean that Duncan was a member of a species, one of many, an example of a type, or a unified, singular subject; she meant that Duncan was and went on being unified in refusing to act as though the mind and body were dichotomies. Stein’s meaning becomes clearer in the following passage from The Geographical History of America.


Autobiography number V


When I was at college I studied philosophy that was

it they did not know what they saw because they said

they saw what they knew, and if they saw it they no

longer knew it because then they were two.[xxxiv]

It is just as necessary as that and that is why a young

one knows it too, he knows he is through not because he

is young but because he is through.

Of course he is through with philosophy because just

then he is not yet two.

The minute you are two it is not philosophy that is

through it is you.

But when you are one you are through with philoso-

phy, because philosophy has to talk to itself about it,

anything but a master-piece does that and if it does then

it is not one but two.[xxxv]


The first paragraph of this fabulous analysis condemns the philosophy of idealism which subordinates observations to ideas presumed true a priori. But she condemns it in a very specific way: even “if they saw it” it could not be known to them, could not be seen, because their observations already proceed from a perspective of dichotomy: “they were two.” The observation would necessarily have been prejudged and predetermined as something other than the pure observation indicated. The second paragraph is a humorous, and if we understand “he” to refer to Stein, autobiographically accurate flesh-and-blood example of the epistemological scene of the first paragraph. A priori knowledge has no more status than the accidental, secondary, adjectival quality of youth, a fact the third paragraph verifies with the proposition that our young observer is through with philosophy because he is still “one;” seeing and knowledge are not divided. The fourth paragraph makes a still bolder claim. Idealism destroys the integrity of the knower, and Stein allows that knowledge (philosophy) is still possible and perhaps necessary. The final paragraph must be interpreted with the literalness of a radical empiricist. When one attempts to know something while denying dichotomy, denying having to talk to itself about what it thinks it knows or doesn’t, then one is “through” with (Cartesian) philosophy. In such a state, knowledge is present and as Whitehead said, free of the indignity of proof, of having to talk to itself and convince through its self-evidence. Stein’s comments are not a complete rejection of philosophy, but only make the Whiteheadian claim that philosophy is secondary; to be through is meant more in the sense of having passed through, having kicked out the ladder from beneath because it is no longer necessary, at that moment. Stein’s work offers us actual, direct, experience in which objectivity and subjectivity are coincident.

“Autobiography number V” concludes with the comparison of a “master-piece” to what “religion means when it says two in one and three in one.”[xxxvi] Religion, however, can never be “one” because that state is achievable only after death; “it is not yet or ever begun.” But in the case of the “human mind and in master-pieces oh yes oh yes…” – it is not only begun but achieved. Master-pieces, taken literally, are works of the “human mind” which achieve oneness in the sense of knowledge achieved without dichotomy (mind-body, subject-object), like the young observer, without talking to itself about itself, in other words, without explanation, without proof, but with something greater than self-evidence. In order to remove any last vestiges of skepticism that Stein intends her work as a passage, a movement, through philosophy, but against Cartesian rationalism, we need only interpret “Autobiography one again,” which follows (“one” also = once and won, as well as, whole, first, singular) immediately upon “Autobiography number V.”


It is not I who doubt what it is all about but she says

clearly, human nature is not only uninteresting it is

painful but I it is not I who doubt what it is all about

but naturally what it is is what it is not.


Stein does not doubt everything, as does Descartes, yet, she speaks clearly (and distinctly as suddenly “she” brings attention to the gendering of knowledge). “Human nature” means, approximately, all aspects of corporeal existence, most easily represented metonymically by the “body.”[xxxvii] Her comment on corporeality has all the understatement and undertones of Nietzsche. The body is “not only uninteresting it is painful.” Stein’s irony is palpable here, her vehement, anti-idealist stance flares forth in the condemning obvious “fact” that the body feels pain, implying, by the insistent tone of contradiction struck three times by the conjunction/preposition, “but,” that pain is indeed very interesting. What she does doubt, however, is the logical principle known as the law of the excluded middle, or the law of non-contradiction, that is foundational to rationalism. She doubts that “what it is” cannot also be “what it is not,” namely, that the mind is in fact what Cartesianism claims it is not – the body. She has no doubt whatsoever that what is and what is not may, (naturally), be conjoined, combined in being, (by the copula – is), in an elusive, chronotopicity of self-evidence. Stein’s mode of aesthetic thought is succinctly encapsulated here in the forceful, secondary meaning of, “I it is not I,” which must also be read in the clear light of the counter-equation, “I-it, is, not-I,” where I is de-personalized by means of the distinct correlate and/or substitution, “it,” indicating that “I” is always also other than itself. It, the body moving in any direction, thinks and feels pain. That is what it is all about. Naturally. Finally, Stein, in these few deceptively simply lines, forces us to pass through a rupture in language, if we are willing; both readings – I-it, is, not-I – and – I, it is not I – are logical, linguistic moments that taken independently are inadequate to deny the mind-body dualism; only when conjoined do these phrases bracket a nonlinguistic portal into another, empirical, concrete, chronotopic, self-evident dimension. The human mind both is and is not human nature, the body. Sustaining existing within this bracketed chronotopicity is being existing in the mode of aesthetic thought.

Stein, in effect, pluralizes I, and we must read these lines through the combination of perspectives unified in the assemblage of pronouns it presents – I, not-I, it, she, and, human nature. We recognize here again the Stein-Whitehead epistemological axis of disagreement, and Stein’s solution to it – to the Parmenidian classification paradox of quantification – the-one-and-the-many problem. “Autobiography one again” continues:


Time and identity and what is it that the human

mind does and if it does it what does it do it about.



If the relation between logic and aesthetics in Stein’s work is not merely analogic, if she is able to develop this overlooked philosophical field and solve actual philosophical problems, she must radically re-envision conceptions of identity. Stein thus relentlessly asks epistemological questions: Not, what does the human mind do; nor, what does the human mind do what it does, about; but, what is the nature of the conjunction between these two epistemological questions. The first question address both time and identity; while the second question addresses identity alone: this conjunction has the chronotopic structure of dissolve in which identity and the world cross-fade from serial moment to serial moment, in a process of co-construction, co-imagination. The I-it and the not-I coalesce in a fundamentally, form-seeking, content-yielding, aesthetic mode of thought. In working out Stein’s epistemology, we must proceed as she does – by analyzing her solutions to the performances of the human mind in terms of time and identity, and at the same time, her solutions to processes of identification that take place when the human mind performs in relation to the conditions of existing, in time, in other words, through chronotopicity.

[i] Stein (1995:155-56)

[ii] This immediacy is the naïve immediacy or realism that Derrida’s work critiques. I will discuss this below.

[iii] The significance of this for epistemology is enormous, and runs counter the dominance of what I have come to call the semiocentrism of critical theory of the last half century.

[iv] Whitehead (1938: 36)

[v] The subtitle of this remarkable work is: Or the Relation of Human Nature to the Human Mind. As an aside, that won’t be discussed here, Picasso, written in 1938, is only superficially a work about the painter; it is, in my view, a sequel to The Geographical History of America.

[vi] Whitehead (1938: 60)

[vii] I say peculiarly nonchronological as a rough gauge of “development” of her work over her life time. Her work literally begins again and again and again, and she comments on this often, with such phrases as: “to know one always has to go back;”

[viii] The term, composition, is too strongly allied to Stein not to be interpreted as an allusion to her, and strongly suggesting that Whitehead’s understanding of aesthetics derives, at least in part, from his understanding of her work.

[ix] Whitehead (1938: 71)

[x] Whitehead (1957: 58)

[xi] James (1990: 219)

[xii] “The dualism of Object and Subject and their pre-established harmony are what the psychologist as such must assume, whatever ulterior monistic philosophy he may, as an individual who has the right also to be a metaphysician, have in reserve.” Ibid.:143.

[xiii] We have already noted Nietzsche’s revaluation of the ego. The earliest Eurocentric devaluation of the integrity of the ego happen shortly after its mercantilist inception; that is, with Hume, in his Treatise On Human Nature. James’ revaluation here is all the more remarkable for it’s “socio-political,” ethical interpretation in term of “power.” “CAN,” (italics and capitalization are James’ emphasis) in effect, carries the ethical burden of a few hundred years of enlightenment domination. And Stein was perfectly aware of this, as demonstrated in Melanctha, in which she assumed the character of a black woman, partly as a cover for her lesbianism. Toward the end of her life, after several years of correspondence, Richard Wright was able to emigrate to Paris and escape the double discrimination of communism and racism, because Stein was able to arrange a visa for him despite the block against it issued by the US Department of Justice.

[xiv] James (1990: 188) The emphasis is James’.

[xv] Ibid.: 163

[xvi] The concept of “ownership” is used in a very interesting and eccentric way in James’ work as exemplified here: “It seems as if the elementary psychic fact were not thought or this thought or that thought, by my thought, every thought being owned. Ibid.:147. James’ emphasis.

[xvii] It would not be too bold to claim that James’s notion of subjectivity is the precursor of the rhizomatic metaphor of Deleuze and Guattari.

[xviii] James (1990: 145)

[xix] Ibid.: 313

[xx] ibid.: 220

[xxi] ibid.: 165

[xxii] ibid.: 165

[xxiii] I overstate the case a bit to make the point that in spite of Freud’s concepts of physiological permanent unconscious instincts and interminable psychoses, ego psychology could, if taken to it’s theoretical limit, attain complete transparency. Social forces are such that this would in fact never be achieved, but there is nothing constitutively, materially standing in the way of such an achievement. James put is thus (emphasis is his): “A permanently existing ‘idea’ or ‘Vorstellung’ which makes its appearance before the footlights of consciousness at periodical intervals is as mythological an entity as the jack of Spades.” Ibid.: 153

[xxiv] ibid.: 167. Emphasis is James’.

[xxv] Ibid.: 157

[xxvi] James no doubt accepted the view that matter is continuous and not corpuscular. “The transition between the thought of one object and the thought of another is no more a break in the thought than a joint in a bamboo is a break in the wood. It is a part of the consciousness as much as the joint is a part of the bamboo.” (James’ emphasis.) Ibid.: 156. See Charles Sanders Peirce’s essay, “The Logic of Continuity,” for the view James would have held, “Lecture Eight” of Reason and the Logic of Things, edited by Kenneth Laine Ketner, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1992.

[xxvii] It is just like the “overtones” in music. Different instruments give the “same note, but each in a different voice, because each gives more than that note, namely, various upper harmonics of it which differ from one instrument to another. They are not heard separately by the ear; they blend with the fundamental note, and suffuse it, and alter it; and even so do the waxing and waning brain-processes at every moment blend with and suffuse and alter the psychic effect of the processes which are at their culminating point.” Ibid.: 167.

[xxviii] Ibid.: 176

[xxix] ibid.: 159

[xxx] Stein (1957: 212) from “Poetry and Grammar.” For another view of the Stein/James relationship, see Lyn Hejinian (2003: 159)

[xxxi] Stein (1957: 168)

[xxxii] Ibid.:158

[xxxiii] Ibid.: 62

[xxxiv] This passage should also be understood a reference to her days in medical school at Johns Hopkins, where she was less a medical student per se than a researcher in neurophysiology. She hated the standard courses required of medical students, and simply didn’t do well in them. Stein was denied her degree after spending two additional years of research, in which she attempted to construct a model of the medulla and midbrain of a 6 month old human, because her model did not conform to that of Florence Sabin, on Sabin’s word, whose model had been accepted and was already circulating in every text book on the subject. Stein appears here to be expressing her disagreement with the decision against her. For a full account of this, see chapter two of Steven Meyer’s Irresistible Dictation, particularly pages 73-103.

[xxxv] Stein (1995: 178)

[xxxvi] Ibid.: 179

[xxxvii] I put it this way to suggest both the complications of what Stein means by “human nature,” and also of the contemporary discourses from bodies that matter to all matter of cyborgs and beyond.

Stein and A. N. Whitehead and William James: some repetition, some expansion: further to establishing the ground for ‘chronotopology’: as ‘music’ of consciousness’