An attempt at a clarification of my view of history and historiography: a response to B

from Hayden White’s essay, “The Burden of History,” of 1966:

Such a conception of historical inquiry [in which the historian and scientist organize facts through tentative metaphoric approximations] and representation would open up the possibility of using contemporary scientific and artistic insights in history without leading to radical relativism… It would permit the plunder of psychoanalysis, cybernetics, game theory, and the rest…. And it would permit historians to conceive of the possibility of using impressionistic, expressionistic, surrealistic, and (perhaps) even actionist modes of representations for dramatizing the significance of data…. [p. 47]


stylistic difference.001

‘historiography’ is the philosophical study of how history is written, constructed, told, assembled, in short: it’s the study of the often unconscious assumptions historians make in producing their histories. it’s important to note that historians don’t exactly ‘make history’. people ‘make’ history, but it’s not only people who make it, in fact; though humans do have considerable impact on history making. it is possible, or is it? to write history that reflects only on human activity. but any such history would be woefully incomplete because it would give no account of very important historical events that have made humans human. For example, the now deceased anthopologist, Paul Sheppard, wrote a book entitled: The Others: how animals made us human. Some of those ‘animals’, would include Neanderthals, our direct ancestors, who it turns out were making art long before humans were, and with whom homo sapiens interbred. One of Sheppard’s examples is while it’s true to a degree that human’s domesticated the dog, he shows that dogs also helped to domesticate humans because they co-evolved together, co-determining each others behaviors. It doesn’t take much analysis to recognized that purely environmental factors have had considerable impact on human history; climate change is doing that as i write, and geologists have named a new period of history to describe this feedback loop: the anthropocene dates to the beginning of the industrial revolution, when humans began to pump CO2 in the atmosphere in enormous quantities. the examples of human-animal-forest collaborations are too many to list: nomadism was dependent on animal migrations and seasonal changes that effected agriculture. We only have to look at the last hurricane season to see just how much impact the environment can have on human history on texas, florida or the caribbean.

but even ignoring the impact of the histories of the non-human world, of non-human ‘actors’, we must consider that what is typically thought of ‘history’, itself has a history and therefore must be considered not something ‘natural’ like air or water, but like everything human, a human invention that over time has taken many different forms. history as it’s typically taught and thought of today, is largely an invention of the 19th century. It’s true that many historians cite the early precedents of classical greece, Herodotus and Thucidedes, or for biograhical histories, Plutarch’s Lives. And there are of course many other examples. But they lack many of the criteria by which ‘modern’ history has been written. Specifically, they lack the criteria of ‘modern’ science, rules for determining what is or isn’t a ‘fact’, what constitutes a ‘document’, generally, what constitutes ‘evidence’. ‘modern’ history also requires a particular form of writing style, of what might be called a style/voice of ‘objectivity’. It requires the production of ‘proof’ through the making of ‘arguments’. It requires the ‘art of persuasion’, which ‘art’ in classical times was called, rhetoric. It requires ‘logic’ and combining logic with various forms of evidence.

To step back, historically, a bit, history as we think of it today, was made possible by the mechanization of language and images with the printing press. this made illustrated pamphlets and books possible for the first time. it made record keeping reproducible and able to be disseminated. It made libraries and archives possible on a widely available scale. Sure, there were libraries full of handwritten or hand-printed books before 1462. And such books are now part of ‘history’s ‘archive’. But such books were every expensive, and their availability very limited. And in the West, there were written only in Latin. So they were only available to a very small class of aristocratic scholars and priests, to in fact, scholar-priests; because to be educated in the early universities, was to be educated in what today would be considered a very narrow range of subjects designated by the categories of the Trivium [grammar, logic, and rhetoric] and Quadrivium [astronomy, arithmetic, .geometry, and music], and a fluent knowledge of the ONLY language in which was generally written, Latin. [Classical Greek came much later, after the Medici founded the Platonic Academy for the teaching of Greek and Arabic during the Renaissance so after the Arabic scholars fled to Italy to avoid being murdered, for the translation of long lost works of the Greek and Arab scholars]. But there was another catch for being able to study at Cambridge or Oxford or University of Paris or Heidelberg or Padua; a scholar was required to become a christian theologian. Thus the scottish philosopher and historian, David Hume, was barred from teaching in the university because he was an self-proclaimed atheist.

Another important ‘fact’ in this history of history relates to my earlier claim, that ‘modern’ history would not be possible without a particular form of written style, that included argument, logic, and evidence, of a voice of ‘objectivity’. This did not exist as we today understand ‘objectivity’. The ‘style of objectivity’ arose only in the 16th and 17th centuries with a small group of ‘scientific’ writers, then called ‘natural philosophers’. [the term ‘scientist’ wasn’t coined until 1840 by the polymath William Whewell in England.] What we today think of the ‘essay’ was invented first by 3 writers: Galileo, Descartes, and Hume. Others contributed to the ‘genre’, like Montesque and Pascal and later, Newton and Leibniz and, particularly important to the history of history, Giambattista Vico. these scholars, as stylists, crafted the first time, the ‘essay’ as a form of presentation of scholarly knowledge, that developed into the style of academic writing in general, and the scholarly ‘treatise’. As importantly, these authors were the first scholars to write in their vernacular languages, suddenly opening up their work to a more ‘popular’ readership and breaking the hold on ‘knowledge’ by the aristocratic, educated, elite. [Galileo even gave highly popular lectures in Italian about his scientific investigations. Later, in France, the first proponents of the Enlightenment, the Philosophes, Voltare, D’Lambert and others, would write and publish, in French, the first, highly illustrated, Encyclopedia to make ‘all’ knowledge available to everyone.] This is not by a long shot a complete history of the ‘essay’, but it hits some main points.


Okay… I need to mention two more seminal authors in order to restate my account of history and historiography so that i can clarify for B what i said insufficiently previously. The foregoing brief cultural history of history is meant only to roughly demonstrate my claim that there is in fact, a history of history that means, because history in fact has a history, it’s not some kind of ‘natural’ thing like air or water. I haven’t described the other can of worms, ‘oral history’… like that of the native hawaiians, who ‘sing’ their histories in the form of chants, that are so specific and detailed that they are able to guide voyagers in small canoes well enough that they can make the 12000 mile trip between hawaii and new zealand…

There are two works about history and historiography without which, Hayden’s work, and my orientation to them, would be impossible, probably. At least not in the terms that have become so contentious since White wrote some of his highly influential essays beginning in the mid-1960s. The first is a series of lectures Hegel gave at the University of Berlin in 1822, 1828, and 1830, since complied in a book called, The Philosophy of History. This is the book that has had profound influence specifically on how art history has been written, since his lectures recounted his philosophy though recounting a ‘history of art’ since Homeric times in ancient Greece, through the Roman Period, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Baroque. This history was based on Hegel’s more general philosophical, systematic account of human development of consciousness in general, in his Phenomenology of the Spirit. In this work, Hegel developed a ‘historical’ philosophy based on what he called ‘dialectics’. Dialectics is complicated, more complicated than the popular accounts of that art history subsequently absorbed. But i will use that over-simplified version here simply so i can get to B’s question… Hegel was a christian, so he thought that ‘god’ was the ‘spirit’ that drove historical development in time. Since ‘god’ was both omniscient and infinite, his spirit could never be manifest within the paltry limits of human perception or even within the physical constraints of the ‘phenomenologically’ determined world human’s ‘experience’. He was reacting to Kant’s equally influential treatises, the 3 Critiques: The Critique of Reason, the Critique of Morals, and the Critique of Judgment; which collectively argued that the ‘world’ was irreparably dived into two pieces: the ‘noumenal’ [the world as it ‘actually’ is], and the ‘phenomenal’ [the world as it appears [to humans]. According to Kant, the noumenal world can never be known/perceived, ‘in and of itself’, because it is always filtered through the structures of the human mind and perception. the human mind/perceptual apparatus, projected itself on the world, and constructed it in terms of it’s innate biological and moral and judgmental systems/structures. This is why Hegel titled his philosophical treatise, the Phenomenology of the Spirit. We can never know anything about ‘god’ directly; we can only know how he partially, appears, phenomenologically, manifests his spirit in the world.

The way god does that for Hegel, is through an evolutionary process through which human consciousness grows over time ‘progressively’ more enlightened. To attempt to cut to the chase here, this happens according to him, through the process of ‘dialectic’, which moves through 3 stages he called: affirmation, negation, and synthesis.  [again, this is oversimplified] the spirit of history, god, first manifests in one form affirmatively – during the homeric, geometric period of early greek art; but the greeks eventually come to consciousness that that expression of human form is inadequate, doesn’t account sufficiently for what humans are, so the reject it, negate it, and develop a new aesthetic style, high attic greek style; but that under the romans comes to be seen as equally inadequate, so the hellenistic style develops that synthesizes aspects of the homeric with aspects of the attic period, in a ‘supercession’ of both previous stylistic forms. He goes on to ‘demonstrate’ this same triadic, evolutionary process during the middle ages, the renaissance, and Baroque. This version of art history becomes entrenched as what has been taught since hegel as the ‘early’, ‘middle’, and ‘late’ periods. to give one example, early renaissance [Giotto’s Assisi Chapel], to middle renaissance [Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel], to late renaissance [Pontormo’s The Deposition from the Cross]. ETC…ETC…ETC… Affirmation-Negation-Synthesis…


Most of the major art history surveys, like Jansen’s, etc. present art history as an evolutionary, progressive development of early, middle, late periods. Which carries the very unfortunate result that has the spirit of history progresses through time, human consciousness becomes more and more enlightened; with the unfortunate corollary that the humans of the renaissance are more enlightened and therefore ‘higher’, ‘better’, humans than the humans of the middle ages and the greco-roman period. Not to mention how far superior the Greeks were than the Egyptians and the sub-sarahan Africans. ETC ETC ETC. the history of modern art essentially follows the same hegelian dialectical ‘logic’ – Manet to Picasso to Malevich…. you can see how wobbly this gets and quickly. but the general scheme is maintained – naturalism, to quasi-realism, to complete abstraction = modernism. minimalism to conceptualism to materialist formalism = postmodernism… pretty wobbly too, but these art historical narratives are very common. [i fall into this same trap in some of my brief cultural history diagrams below… hegel goes as deep as freud’s concepts of the ego-id-superego… ]



the second book of importance, written in opposition to Hegel in part, as well as against Kant, as well as against what he saw as an ‘unhealthy’ 19th century obsession with capital “H” history, was Nietzsche’s early essay,  sometimes translated as, ‘The Use and Abuse of History’, but more recently better translated as ‘On the Advantage and Disadvantage of History for Life; written and delivered at the University of Basel shortly after obtaining a professorship there at the ripe age of 24. This essay has become a very important work for the ‘poststructural’, ‘postmodern’ phase of philosophy, cultural theory, art history, and the like, since the late 60s in France, and because everything is so delayed in the US, there, since the 1980s.

Nietzsche argument is of course complex, and i will not attempt to do it justice here. I will only quote it’s opening paragraph to give a pale flavor of its brilliance.

it begins:

“Moreover I hate everything which merely instructs me without increasing or directly quickening my activity.” These are Goethe’s words with which, as with a boldly expressed certerum censeo [I am of the opinion], we may begin our consideration of the worth and worthlessness of history. Our aim will be to show why instruction which fails to quicken activity, why knowledge which enfeebles activity, why history as a costly intellectual excess and luxury must, in the spirit of Goethe’s words, be seriously hated; for we still lack what is most necessary, and superfluous excess is the enemy of the necessary. Certainly we need history. But our need for history is quite different from that of the spoiled idler in the garden of knowledge, even if he in his refinement looks down on our rude and graceless requirements and needs. That is, we require history for life and action, not for the smug avoiding of life and action, or even to whitewash a selfish life and cowardly, bad acts. Only so far as history serves life will we serve it: but there is a degree of doing history and an estimation of it which brings with it a withering and degenerating of life: a phenomenon which is now as necessary as it may be painful to bring to consciousness through some remarkable symptoms of our age.

i cite this articular passage in order to give some context for the white citation with which this post begins. and i mean of course, only ‘some’ context. white suggests that some types of science, and some types of art, are perhaps the best models for history that serves life by quickening its activities. unlike hegelian history which only enfeebles it. as does that type of art history which only accounts for those artists who have conquered the art market.

it’s my view that paul demarinis accomplishes White’s type of Nietzschean history in exactly its articulation of science, art, music, sound, performance, and technologies. his work is as humorous as it is erudite, as ironic as it is romantic, as comic as it is tragic, as ‘pop’ as it is ‘high’ culture. it’s as self-critical as it’s arrogant. i’ll remind readers here of all these false dichotomies with one example:

Screen Shot 2018-03-14 at 1.54.18 AM

paul discovered through very sophisticated research that he could play a hologram of a vinyl record or recreated edison wax cylinders using a directed laser beam instead of a diamond needle. that’s hilarious, as well as profoundly challenging to our ‘hegelian’ belief in the ideology of scientific and technological progress. his work forces us, once we engage it on it’s own terms, which are ‘our’ own terms, in historical terms, to face both the, ‘what might have been’, as well as, ‘what might be’. and well, also and perhaps most importantly, what should be called the deep history of our own ‘present’. while i’m deeply critical of hegel, one can only respect to a degree his brilliance no matter how wrong he may have been: and one of his philosophy of history adages was, to paraphrase: the depths of the past are contained in the present. paul’s work is definitely and demonstrably, non-heglian, by political commitment. it shows us a way to think about ‘history’ in a non-progressive way. in a non-linear way. it breaks open our ‘present’ to reveal the depths of history. and in so doing, it invigorates life rather than enfeebling it. some of his work is as challenging as hegel himself was; but some of his work is entirely ‘superficial’, as nietzsche suggested ‘life’ should be: by which he meant, directly active, performative, present, and, profound. like shooting a laser beam into a goldfish bowl, with practically speaking, zero possibility of hitting it, to the tune of polka.

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So that is hopefully clarification #1… in historiographical terms.

Clarification #2: Art history is not unlike the quip: history is written by the conquerors…

that is: artists who fits the hegelian dialectical pattern get into major museums and make a lot of money… those who don’t, don’t. modernism linked to capitalism, to market forces, once the two forms of early patronage, the church then the wealthy early mercantilists like the medici, lost power, when a middle class developed and became less religious and interested in worldly mundane everyday life, as was first the case in Holland. When the middle class had enough money and the patronage of the aristocracy and the church no longer support artists, artists were like everyone else, thrown into the market place. thus artists like rubens who ran essentially a painting factory staffed with assistants who specialized in painting fur or skin or drapery… ETC ETC ETC…

art history is written by hegelian art historians who become linked to the art market: galleries or repute, art magazine reviews, major museums, through the intercession of curators. that is obviously oversimplified, but not by that much. art history as produced by most academics tends to reinforce the hegelian/market/1% dialectic…

the 8th edition… blockbuster art history

Davies, Hofrichter, Jacobs, Simon, Roberts & Janson ...

It became the holy grail for any blockbuster curator: a cultural event that grips the public imagination. As Engels reported to Marx: “Everyone up here is an art lover just now and the talk is all of the pictures at the exhibition.”

Blockbuster, a highly explosive word not usually associated with art, has now entered the lexicon as a term applied to art exhibitions. By 1996 so-called blockbuster exhibitions–big, popular, moneymaking showcases that delivered a powerful impact–had become important sources of direct and indirect revenue, visibility, and prestige for museums worldwide.





An attempt at a clarification of my view of history and historiography: a response to B

alvin lucier, i am sitting in a room: history of the voice, continuation, along with derek jarman’s, blue

one of the great works of the sixties, 1969.

January 20, 2015  |  Artists, Behind the Scenes, Collection & Exhibitions, NYMOMA

Collecting Alvin Lucier’s I Am Sitting in a Room

Posted by Martha Joseph, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Media and Performance Art

In 1969 American composer Alvin Lucier first performed his landmark work I Am Sitting in a Room, conceived for voice and electromagnetic tape. Lucier read a text into a microphone. Attempting to smooth out his stutter, he began with the lines, “I am sitting in a room, the same one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice.” As described in the text, his voice was recorded, then played back into the room. This process was repeated, and with each iteration Lucier’s recorded speech grew muddled, sounding distant, and specific sonic frequencies started to dominate the recorded sound. These tones that began to overwhelm the text and abstract the sonic landscape are the room’s resonant frequencies and are entirely specific to the architectural particularity of a given space. As these frequencies grew, reinforced with each playback, the result was an erasure of the human performer and the dominance of an environmental music.

[pearodox note: DeMarinis studied not only with riley, ashley, and tudor, but also with lucier. he was part of tudor’s group at Mill’s center for experimental music and helped compose, and play, tudor’s work, Rainforest, performed with Merce Cunningham’s dance of the same name, though there were several versions, and i’m not sure which Paul contributed to. but i did see him perform it as part of the ensemble at Zellerbach Hall, U of C, Berkley: i’m pretty sure it was there…]

Alvin Lucier recording I Am Sitting in a Room at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, on Saturday, December 20, 2014. Assisted by James Fei and accompanied by his wife Wendy Stokes. Photo: Amanda Lucier. © 2015 Amanda Lucier

to be sequentially experienced, optimally, in a single setting with lucier’s piece above. for several years, i taught a graduate class called, Power and Poetics: Scanning the AudioVisual Archive, at the California College of Art, in San Francisco, sometimes co-taught with my then grad student, David Goldberg, who went on to develop this course with his own students [see below]

Jarman’s Blue, 1993

Derek Jarman: no characterisation, no narrative, no poetry ...

A montage of poetry and music as Derek Jarman meditates on metaphysics and death in his contemplation of the colour blue and his own experience of living with AIDS.

The film was his last testament as a film-maker, and consists of a single shot of saturated blue colour filling the screen, as background to a soundtrack where Jarman’s and some of his long-time collaborators’ narration describes his life and vision.

On its premiere, on 19 September 1993,[1] Channel 4 and BBC Radio 3 collaborated on a simultaneous broadcast so viewers could enjoy a stereo soundtrack. not available on youtube.

Rough Syllabus David and I taught:


mark bartlett and david goldberg

Graduate Seminar


The Arch-ive

Pre-Archival Archives

Blue, Derek Jarmon, the film

Audium field trip

Derrida, “pages 1-5”, Archive Fever, plus you should get a jump                              start on the readings for the next two weeks because it’s heavy.

Vilem Flusser, Toward a Philosophy of Photography

The Poetics Archive

Poetic Knowledge I

Jarmon          Blue, text of film

Artaud              “The Theater of Cruelty (First Manifesto),” “The Theater of Cruelty                           (Second Manifesto),” Letters On Cruelty”

Valery            “Poetry and Abstract Thought, The Art of Poetry

Poetic Knowledge II

Stein               “Sentences and Paragraphs,” How to Write (Los Angeles: Sun and Moon Press, 1995), Tender Buttons, (Los Angeles: Sun and Moon Press, 1991), Stanzas in Meditation, (Los Angeles: Sun and Moon Press, 1994)

Hejinian         “The Rejection of Closure,” “Two Stein Talks,” “Line,” “Strangeness,” “A Common Sense,” all from The Language of Inquiry, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000)

Zorn                Treatment for a Film in Fifteen Scenes, Arcana

FILMWORKS III: with Marclay on some tracks, audio

The Power Archive

2.11                Power Diagram I

Artaud                        “To Have Done With the Judgement of God,” text and audio,

Foucault:       “The Eye of Power”, and “The Confession of the Flesh”

Lucier             “I am Sitting in a Room,” audio

Power Diagram II

Jabes             “At the Threshold of the Book,” “And You Shall Be in the Book,” The Book of Questions, “The Pre-Existence of the Last Book,” The Ineffaceable   The Unperceived, “The Question of Subversion,” The Little Book of Subversion Above Suspicion

Derrida,         “pages 1-5”, “Exergue”, p. 7-23, “Preamble,” pp. 25-31, Archive Fever

______                      “Outcry: the Chicago Stock Exchange”

The HipHop Archive

Hip-hop vocal archive 1

Michel de Certeau, “Story Time,” in The Practice of Everyday Life

Jacques Attali,          “Repeating,” and “Repetition, Silence and the End of Sacrifice and Repetitive Society,” in Noise: the Political Economy of Music

James A. Snead      “Repetition as a Figure of Black Culture,” The Jazz Cadence of American Culture, Robert G. O’Meally ed.

Hip-hop vocal archive 2

Paul Garon, “Blues and the Poetic Spirit,”

  1. Appendix: “Surrealism and Black Music,”
  2. “Notes on the Psychology of Enjoyment,”
  3. “Work,”

Norman Stolzoff       Wake the Town and Tell the People: Dancehall Culture in Jamaica

  1. Talking Blues: The Rise of the Sound System,”
  2. “Run Come Inna the Dance: the Dancehall Performance,”

Tricia Rose,              “Soul Sonic Forces,” in Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America

Digital Archive I

Chris Brown             “Pidgen Musics,” and presentation


Delueze         “Cinema, body and brain, thought,” , Ch. 8, pp. 189- 215 Cinema 2

“The components of the image,” Ch. 9, 225-261, Cinema 2

Steven Feld, “From Schizophonia to Schismogeniesis: On the Discourses and Commodification Practices of ‘World Music’ and ‘World Beat,’” in Music Groves, Feld and Keil

Leary, T.         “L.S.D., Dr. Timothy Leary PH. D.,” audio

DeMarinas    The Edison Effect: A Listener’s Companion, audio

Digital Archive II

Interview with Pamela Z, by mark bartlett and john roloff

Pamela Z      parts of speech, audio


Hark               “Time and Tide”

Deleuze         “The Crystals of Time, Ch. 4, pp. 68-83, Cinema 2

“Thought and Cinema,” pp. 156-168, Ch. 7, Cinema

20th Century Time Capsule, Buddha Records, 1999


Presentations at Betalounge: David Goldberg’s Studio/Lab/Experimental Exhibition Space

Betalounge A/V Archive student presentations : the students were expected to create their own A/V Archive for their final project, and present them at David’s venue.




alvin lucier, i am sitting in a room: history of the voice, continuation, along with derek jarman’s, blue

robert ashley and paul demarinis: history of the voice part ‘continuation’

the following work is one of my all time favorite works, and i include it here as part of my exploration of the ‘history of the voice’. it demonstrates that ‘music’ has many latitudes and longitudes, and falls sometimes into the intersections between them. next up will be alvin lucier’s, i am sitting in a room, another very important, little recognized, work.

robert ashley and paul demarinis: history of the voice part ‘continuation’

paul demarinis: excursus: draft: there are media problems below to be corrected: and a continuation of my brief cultural histories, below. though paul’s take is completely his own. he ‘tells’ a cultural history through his own means that includes the history of science/technology/sound/experimentation/art, and much else

Scanning the Frequencies: The Ironic Occult in the Work of Paul DeMarinis

Modernism, Occultism, and Evolutionism: a day-long panel of 8 scholars, convened by Linda Henderson and Fae Brauer. Association of Art Historians Conference, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK. 9-11 April, 2015.


My paper will discuss the work of the contemporary, American artist and electronic music composer, Paul DeMarinis, whose sculptures and installations use computer programming, bespoke electronics, sound, and communication devices. Profoundly mining the 19th and early 20th century histories of scientific and technological concepts and inventions, his works are media archaeologies of great wit, irony, philosophical and political critique. Currently a professor of art at Stanford University, DeMarinis’s work has developed from two quite different cultural traditions; first, from the popular tradition, almost a folk tradition, of what in the US is called the ‘boy mechanic,’ based on a DIY manual of that name that began publishing at the turn of the 20th century, and the magazine, Popular Mechanics still in circulation today.


The second is that of experimental film and electronic music traditions of the American avant-garde of the 1960’s and 70’s; DeMarinis, unusually, studied in the late 60s and early 70s with important members of both east and west coast avant-gardes, at east coast Antioch University with filmmaker Paul Sharits and composer John Ronsheim; and Robert Ashely and Terry Riley at the well known Center for Experimental Music at Mills College in Oakland, California. While there, he also worked with David Tudor on the development of the watershed work, Rainforest. Another significant influence on DaMarinis was participation in the artist-in-residence program, which paired artists with physicists, engineers, computer sciences, biologists and the like at San Francisco’s Exploratorium, a science museum devoted specifically to the sciences of perception, founded by theoretical physicist Frank Oppenheimer, [brother of Robert], in 1972. Paul was an early resident of that program, where he learned a great deal of the science and technological knowledge that has been foundational to all his subsequent work. He also found there a political kinship with the Exploratorium’s socialist spirit of engaging the general public in hands-on pedagogical experiences with science and technology.


DeMarinis’s complexly exquisite ‘works,’ therefore are the result of the contradictions between those three lineages – the boy mechanic, high art avant-gardism, and popularism. They are best understood not in terms of aesthetics form, but as ‘thought experiments,’ or rather, as an increasingly refined, though nonlinear, series of ‘critical investigations’ into one central problem – the techno-evolutionary displacements of, and substitutions for, the pre-industrial human body and its biologically historical sensory ‘meanings,’ and lack/loss there of. The results of his investigations, his specific ‘works,’ are uncategorizable. They have an uneasy home, if any home at all, in any traditional narratives of early or late, modern, or postmodern, art histories. Even his most influential teachers – Cage, Tudor, Riley, Ashley – might not comprehend him as part of their lineage because they were modernists who were driven by uncritically riding the wave, and each new subsequent wave, of techno-possibility. As suggested in Mechanization Takes Command, a performance based on Siegfried’s Gideon’s book of the same title, DeMarinis aims to bring critical attention to what Jean-Luc Nancy has called in his book, Corpus, the ecotechnical, the fundamental condition of modernity, an operational or functional world comprised of technical apparatuses that link our bodies to their networked ecologies. Erik Davis expands on what Nancy refers to as our vain search for the spirit; Davis, in more psychological than spiritualist terms suggests this vain search is driven by a “secret history of mystical impulses that continues to spark and sustain the Western world’s obsession with technology.” Taken together, Nancy and Davis define the territory that runs through all of DeMarinis’s work.


My talk today will negotiate three themes that drive DeMarinis. 1. He took the Cage/Tudor tradition of the music of technical re-invention of sound to their still unrecognized ends. 2. To achieve that, he immersed himself in the pragmatics of technicity – electronics, physics, chemistry, computer programming, music, and language – with the very sophisticated ability of the ‘amateur’ popular applied mechanic, engineer and scientist, emblemized by the figure of the boy mechanic. 3. He is both a social historian and political philosopher of science and technology, in the German art historical tradition of Bildwissenschaft that derives from the work on symbolism and iconology of Aby Warburg.

Though for the rich and various German term Bild – image, illustration, picture, photo, scene, metaphor – we must substitute the term, Ton – sound, tone, note, intonation – and speak instead of a Tonwissenschaft. But because that term is too restrictive for DeMarinis’s musicological avant-gardism, we need to supplement Ton with, Geräusch – noise – understood both in its common, vernacular sense, but also in its information science sense – random, incomprehensible electronic fluctuation. Thus, we must imagine a Geräuschwissenschaft. This way of framing his work is critical to understanding the role that the occult, ironically, plays in it – noise in its informational sense IS occult because it is scientifically and mathematically, while perhaps containable, essentially incomprehensible and impossible to completely eliminate. It is a transmission of ‘something’ beyond reason, and therefore irrational.



Warburg specifically cites Benjamin Franklyn and the Wright Brothers as early modern Prometheans, as ‘destroyers of the sense of distance, who threaten to lead the planet back into chaos’; while linking them directly to the telegraph and telephone, which in his view, sever ‘the spiritual bonds between humanity and the surrounding world,’ by means of the ‘instantaneous electric connection.’ DeMarinis’s view is more nuanced than Warburgs, as we can see in his early work, The Pygmy Gamelan, designed to play the 5-tone scale of Indonesian gamelan music, but also so that it’s circuitry, it’s instantaneous electronic connections, are susceptible to, sensitive to, fluctuating, ambient electrical fields generated by everything from human motion to radio transmissions, to the birth of galaxies, which continuously and randomly alter the melodies programmed into The Pygmy Gamelan’s circuits. The work at least diminishes the distance Warburg so apocalyptically describes. But it also clearly illustrates that we must approach DeMarinis’s work as a tension between Tonwissenschaft and Geräuschwissenschaf, between sound-science and noise-science. Additionally, it condenses the three themes I mentioned above: made of inexpensive components used in consumer products, it adheres to the tradition of the boy mechanic, it’s minimalist electronic music style to the avant-garde, while philosophically commenting of Warburg’s worry over the instantaneous electric connection by physically and sonically relinking humanity to the cosmos, literally enabling us to hear the music of the spheres. Though DeMarinis was not aware of Warburg’s comments on Edison,


comparing electrical wires to Pueblo snake-lightning, the recognition of the important juxtaposition between pre-modern cultures and modernity’s ecotechnical condition is common to both.

Before turning to the main works I’ll discuss in detail, I want first, by briefly showing two more early works, to reinforce the articulation in them between the occult, modernity, and technology, and my three themes. Here,


we see that the Kim-1 Computer, as popular with hobbyists, is a digital extension of the analog period of the Boy Mechanic ethos, while the avant-garde aesthetic is found in the ‘slowly shifting composition made of filtered white noise, and historically and philosophically, light in terms of Newton’s spectrum, is the analogy for the spectrum of sonic frequencies derived from the ‘interstation noise of a police-band radio.’ Newton’s term derives from the spectral, the ghosts of the spirit world which he certainly believed in, not unlike his conceptions of gravity, an action-at-a-distance, as an occult force because he lacked a mechanism by which to explain it. Demarinis transfers this form of the occult in Sounds and Shadows of Sounds to its 36 bandpass resonate filters of radio transmissions conceived as acoustic channels able to pick up communications from another world.


Similarly, Voice Creatures uses voice recognition software to ‘translate’ museum visitors’ voices into the those of the spirits, Ted, Bud, and Ramon who, respectively, inhabit two radios and a kitchen sink, all of whom speak in parapsychological codes.

In an essay on his friend and comrade-in-arms, artist Jim Pomery, DeMarinis comments on the cultural political significance of the Boy Mechanic not only in American culture, but for the technocultural aspects of modernity, generally.


He wrote:

The Boy Mechanic has his origins in stock characters of American historical folklore: Benjamin Franklin (printer’s devil, researcher, tinkerer, lover, patriot, statesman); Thomas Alva Edison (telegrapher’s assistant, inventor, entrepreneur, industrialist, icon of genius); and David Packard (boy mechanic, engineer, inventor, industrialist, secretary of defense). The contemporary exemplar might be Bill Gates, whose progress from nerd to corporate magnate is crowned by a consuming desire to own the electronic rights to every major work of Western art. The evolvement of the mythical Boy Mechanic is clearly laid out here: curious child, boy mechanic, inventor, entrepreneur, industrialist, potentate of the ruling taste. In the end, the Boy Mechanic becomes iconic, a trademark himself. Pomeroy used the various stages and images that constitute these personae as points of departure in his performances, subverting them into a set of social and aesthetic criticisms.

“The Boy Mechanic – Mechanical Personae in the works of Jim Pomeroy,” 1993, Paul DeMarinis

What DeMarinis says of Pomeroy, is equally attributable to him. As we will see, he too uses the various stages, images, and particularly, sound and noise as departure points for his own subversive social and aesthetic criticisms. Elsewhere is the same essay, he elaborates this point relative to technology: “The Boy Mechanics,” he comments, “were artist-tinkerers who bypassed or defied the intended uses of technology, who disrupted the hierarchy of the messaging apparatus.” Nowhere is the artist-tinkerer disruption made more clearly than the series of works the make up The Edison Effect, to which I now turn to analyze what DeMarinis means by the messaging apparatus. At this point, rather than continuing to read, I’ll rely on a series of slides to explicate them in terms of my third theme: his Tonwissenschaft and Geräuschwissenschaft. or, sound-science and noise-science.





In his, ‘Essay in Lieu of a Sonata,’ 1993, DeMarinis describes three specific ways in which we should understand the Edison Effect, but what he says about that work can be said about all his work.

First, he tells us,

it refers to the profound and irreversible effect the invention of sound recording has had upon music, the soundscape, upon the time and place of our memory and sense of belonging.


It should call to mind Thomas Alva Edison’s illicit claim to the invention of the light bulb, and his general propensity for copying and appropriation as an emblem of the inherently uncertain authorship of all recorded works.

And lastly,

it invokes a metaphorical allusion to the physical phenomenon known as the ‘Edison Effect,’ wherein atoms from a glowing filament are deposited on the inner surface of light bulbs causing them to darken… [and that] made possible the invention of the ‘audion’ or vacuum tube… to sound amplification as well as radio, television and the earliest digital computers.

Each of these three effects specifies a type of ecotechnical disembodiment. All of his work critically addresses aspects of telecommunications, by taking the occult as a reference point with which to invert the consequences, on modernity, of these effects.


One genealogical origin of DeMarinis’s work is obviously traced to the 19th century concept that “the invention of the telegraph in 1844 led spiritualists to claim that an unseen “spiritual telegraph” to the dead also existed…” A second genealogical line is figured by the 19th century automatist cited by Roger Luckhurst – “When [British journalist] William Stead described the body of the automatist as a ‘two-legged telephone’, he was borrowing from an established conjuncture of electricity, technology, and the occult.”, the very same conjuncture we’ve seen operating in DeMarinis’s works. The automatist so vividly described is the paradigm for the telepathist. But if, as Lockhurst has demonstrated, “Telepathy was coined as a strategy to protect a terrain of scientific legitimacy.”, (because it framed it as an object of scientific study), then DeMarinis subverts that legitimacy by demonstrating that the scientific, in the form of the ecotechnical, delegitimizes the human body and its sensory organs, by occulting them. And therein lies his ironic use of the occult, about which more in a moment. DeMarinis in effect combines the figures of the telepathist and the telegraph, the ‘subject’ and the ‘device’, the messenger and the messaging apparatus, but by inverting the significance of their roles in the hierarchy of communication processes and systems. The three Edison Effects have resulted in the occultation of the human sensory organs, leading to the general condition of modernity, disembodiment.


DeMarinis makes this aspect of his work explicit in his description of Gray Matter, a work I don’t have time to discuss. He comments:

Our electronic media may be regarded, in large part, as the outgrowths of nineteenth century laboratory apparatuses designed to isolate & investigate the functioning of human sensory organs. Viewed thus, they fracture the wholeness of sensation in an effort to preserve, replay or transmit over distance the specters of our sensory experiences…


The ‘irony’ of the occult is that its anti-rationalist use in DADA and Surrealism, for example, has become completely rationalized with digital productive and reproductive technologies. Whereas Breton’s 1933 essay, ‘The Automatic Message,’ defined a fundamental surrealist tactic, DeMarinis’s The Messenger, understood as a follow on of the Edison Effects, establishes that recording technologies make the occult an empirical, ecotechnical fact. But more than that, DeMarinis radically refigures the occult as pure automaton; his ‘messenger’ eradicates not only the surrealist unconscious, but subjectivity altogether. In effect, the messenger transmits only noise to non-human receivers. Only the network of technical linkages, mediated by the internet, are capable of sending or receiving messages, and humans become irrelevant to the automaton’s ecology. This is a tragic view of technology. The ironic occult has a another meaning; relative to the systems of ecotechnicity, it is humanity itself that has become occult. Humanity has been relegated to the shadows, to a lived existence that paradoxically is simultaneously an afterlife. We are literally ghosts in the machine.

In his “Theses against Occultism,” Adorno notes: ‘The hypnotic power exerted by things occult resembles totalitarian terror.’ [Minima Moralis, 240]. Adorno was of course thinking of early modern occultism and not Nancy’s world completely subjugated by ecotechnicity. My interpretation of DeMarinis’s messaging apparatuses as having completely succumbed to automatism suggests that humanity is now in the grip of technicity’s totalitarian, hypnotic power, that the ironic occult offers only a tragic world view.


This seems born about by his 2004 work, Firebirds, in with “‘oracular flames’ kept captive in birdcages, enchanted prison cells in the afterlife of voices that wielded enormous political power during their lifetimes,” those of Stalin, Hitler, Roosevelt, and Mussolini.

But DeMarinis does not ascribe, completely, to the pessimism of my interpretation; he continues to resist such an extreme dualism, as is apparent in the comedy found throughout his work. Even the danse macabre of his jumping telegraphic skeletons makes us laugh. Isolation does not entirely preclude solidarity; equality is not entirely eradicated by totalitarian oppressive forces; life is uncertain and precarious, but it remains rich.


IF the ironic occult does not hold sway absolutely, it’s because for DeMarinis, we can escape the closure of the automaton’s codes through adding noise to the iron-clad dictates of their circuits, codes, and algorithms. He completely concurs with Avital Ronell when she comments in the introduction to The Telephone Book:

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to learn how to read with your ears. In addition to listening for the telephone, you are being asked to tune your ears to noise frequencies, to anticoding, to the inflated reserves of random indeterminateness—in a word, you are expected to stay open to the static and interference that will occupy these lines. We have attempted to install a switchboard which, vibrating a continuous current of electricity, also replicates the effects of scrambling. Ronell, “A User’s Manual” in The Telephone Book, pg.xv.

The ironic occult, then, has a third potentially liberating sense: it’s the static in the lines, the clicks of the Geiger counter, the indeterminate transmissions of email to three different receivers, the effect of birthing galaxies on the tones of The Pygmy Gamelan, the effects of scrambling fundamentally part of every DeMarinis work, that offers us a strategy for countering the complete closure of ecotechnicity’s automaton. As long as the Messenger operates with the principles, with the dice, of Geräuschwissenschaft, then no message can be completely determined. And as receivers and decoders of noise, we might escape the Edison Effects of the occult forces of the messaging apparatus, of the telepathist/telegraph and become something other than a two-legged telephone.







paul demarinis: excursus: draft: there are media problems below to be corrected: and a continuation of my brief cultural histories, below. though paul’s take is completely his own. he ‘tells’ a cultural history through his own means that includes the history of science/technology/sound/experimentation/art, and much else

karen schiff, who works in the intersections of language, stein among others, and agnes martin… in the in-betweens. karen is part of my counter-art-history. terry riley and shazad dawood. next up will be paul demarinis, who will connect back to my previous posts on the history of the voice

more on the philosopher/cultural historian’s dilemma:

“Fields of space generated by connecting the endpoints of handwritten “#” signs.”

Spatial Fields:

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karen caught my eye because of her work between ‘visual’ and ‘linguistic’ signs. well, that’s not quite accurate. my london friend, shezad dawood, introduced us because he spotted the love both K and I have for gertrude stein. beyond that, i have recognized in k’s work, a rare artist who has taken as her theme, that the main compositional device of modernism has been odd: the grid, the very emblem and mark and sign, of modernity, because of its ultra-rationalism. K’s work, even while in keeping with the work of agnes martin and others, has decided to generate a body of work that subverts the grid, driving it toward the irrationality that in fact, underlies it. what is wonderfully subverted in her work, and purposely ‘confused’, is the relations of language and text, as in, text and ‘sub’-text; and, this is coequal with her ‘sub’versions, image and text, and, text and image… her ‘works’, i won’t demean them by designating them as either texts or images, because they are simultaneously both – her works are ‘about’, the strained to say the least, relations between image and text today. one has to simultaneously ‘experience’ them through two ‘subs’ – subtexts AND, though it has no currently acceptable meaning, sub-images, meant analogously to sub-texts – images that are the unconscious of texts, just as texts can be the unconscious of images. but were it so easy! her work, therefore suggests and embodies the following propositions: 1. just as texts have subtexts, so, 2. images have sub-images… 3. texts have images as ‘sub-texts’; 4. as images have sub-texts. but these four propositions are too limited to capture her works because they are so theoretically contrived. but that is of necessity, i’m afraid, because we are not ready to imagine what is really going on in karen’s work: subimaginal images, or, subimaginal textual images, subtextual imaginal texts, and the like…

but we need such a complex hybridized vocabulary in order to begin to apprehend the collusion and conflation of image and text in the Audio/Visual culture that inhabits us, and in which we reside, today. VanDerBeek predicted this as long ago as 1965…

a similar question needs to be intelligently asked of minimalist music. thanks again, to GUN, for alerting me to this particular piece by riley.

aspects of conversations and encounters: the work of shezad dawood, not necessarily representative\but not unrepresentative either:

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karen schiff, who works in the intersections of language, stein among others, and agnes martin… in the in-betweens. karen is part of my counter-art-history. terry riley and shazad dawood. next up will be paul demarinis, who will connect back to my previous posts on the history of the voice

in preparation for a dinner at B & M’s #2 [and a continuation of my brief cultural history posts below…]

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in many ways, cultural historians, like all historians, don’t exactly get to chose their subjects. well, that is not exactly true. it’s better to say that they don’t exactly ‘invent’ their subjects. but that too comes with complications. historians can only ‘select’ their subjects from what culture and time have produced. so in one way or another, historians are limited to commenting on what preexists what they select to write about. neither commentary nor selection, however, are innocent. ‘writing’ is not transparently ‘truthful’, and since history is written, neither is it a form of guaranteed, factual, ‘truth’. yet, like science, its reference points are fact and truth; but because it’s grounded in language, imagery, sound and the like, ‘documents’ of one sort or another that today can even take the form of digital data like websites, all of which are interpreted and interpretable; and, because ‘history’ can never be complete, it can never gather ALL the ‘facts’; it is inevitably partial, incomplete, and therefore inevitably partially blind. one of my teachers, hayden white, who died a few days ago, made this case in everything he wrote: his great book, Metahistory, demonstrated that every history is inseparable from ‘narration’, storytelling, and that every narration will conform to one of four of the deeply embedded, linguistic rhetorical figures: tragedy, comedy, irony, or, romanticism. and possibly some combination of those figures. but history can never escape that, is inevitably ‘hermenuetic’, interpretive, and therefore can never achieve capital ‘T’ ‘truth’. He elaborated on these problems in a very important book entitled, The Form of Content. No ‘content’, not even the chronicle’, a mere list of events, can escape interpretation because it ‘selects’ what it lists, and as importantly, does not list. all historians conscious of this situation, of these hermeneutic limitations to historical truth, can do, is to make the principles and figures of their storytelling, explicit to readers. for example, were i to write a history of the T-rump administration, would it be ironic, comedic, tragic, or some combination of those tropes? if i were someone like Bannon writing this history, it would inevitably be romantic… a romance of white suprematism…

historians from various disciplines who attempt to escape from White’s dilemma, since around 2000, have attempted to write what they call a ‘materialist’ history: histories based on the practices and methods of their subject. Peter Gallison, a historian of science, for example, has written a book called, Image and Logic, attempting to write a history of nuclear physics based on how post-world war II physics developed through various forms of visualization practices and methods like cloud chambers and later, various forms of nuclear particle accelerators that smashed subatomic particles together to find their constituents parts, quarks and like. but the ‘evidence’ from these accelerators is entirely ‘visual’, ‘images’ in the forms of maps of the subatomic particles’ trajectories in extraordinarily small scales of spacetime. Based on these ‘image-maps’, a ‘logic’ is constructed through measurements, that takes the form of mathematical formulae. my  point being, that ‘image’ and ‘logic’ are essentially inseparable in both the production of nuclear physics, and its history.

okay, enough of that.

as a philosopher and cultural historian who writes about art and other cultural formations, i write about how art ‘gets made’, about it’s practices and methods, about what Foucault called ‘discursive practices’, the various forms of ideas and materials, the cultural assumptions, the techniques used, and the historical reference points the artist relies upon. this approach is something of a radical departure from standard, traditional approaches to ‘art history’, based as it is on market forces and a still hegelian historical sense of evolution and progress, which i reject. that approach only adheres to capitalism’s sense of the art market: the galleries and art magazines that determine ‘value’, which then the museums take up and exhibit. but as with every ‘market’, the art markets is based on limited production in order to ensure that the supply-and-demand ratio is weighed in the favor of the suppliers – the galleries and art magazines, and museums – and against the 99% of artists in the world who are deliberately excluded from the art market.

it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the now globalized art market, from new york to bogata, from london to new dehli, from sao paulo to lagos, produces work that looks pretty much the same everywhere. but what of the artists and art that continues to exist outside the art market? how might a historian account for it? that is a very complex question which i will not attempt to address in this post. but because i’m currently working and living in merida, mexico, and because i’m going to dinner tomorrow night with very serious artists who have made art all their lives independently of the global art market, as many i’ve written about do, i will include below some reference points that influence them. i do this in order to challenge the standard art history protocols that judge this work, this artist, as better than others, and, therefore more ‘valuable’, in market terms. the market isn’t always, by any means, ‘wrong’, but nor is it ‘right’. and it does skew history in a very problematic way.

L is a well know mexican artist, a writer, and lacanian psychoanalyst who studied with lacan. she’s now 76, a ‘fact’ i include here only to situate her in the history of modernism:

these works were created in the last few days, in clay and watercolor drawings:

doors of the moon: L is currently writing a series of ‘prosepoems’ from a psychoanalytic POV, about the moon:



some of M’s work has been inspired by Byzantine art. I happened to visit Ravenna, Italy last december and january, which i had wanted to do for decades, but got there only recently. for those who are not familiar with the history the Byzantine, which i won’t recount here, one of the places it had huge impact was in several churches built around 500 C.E., in Ravenna, a UN designated World Heritage site. i don’t have to say that photos can in no way do justice to the mosaics there… they are impossible to capture by an amateur photographer like myself. i include here some of my amateur photos, nonetheless. i mostly only tried to capture details, and a few contextualizing shots. i’m a ‘devout’ atheist, so it’s not the religious content that i find inspiring, but the aesthetic forms, which are truly brilliant. and remember, the material is made out of brittle, carefully shaped tiles. you’ll have to imagine their luminosity.

the best, in my opinion was the small and intimate mausoleum, Galla Placidia:




and san vitale





relating to some of B’s carved reliefs, are these images from san vitale:


and i can’t help but include some of the ‘decorative’ architectural elements from san vitale: ‘slices’ through stone used in the enormous pillars that hold the roof up… apologies for the very poor photographic quality – it was  impossible to take pics there because of the gorgeous low light conditions… :


drawing by M:

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see my post below:

in preparation for a dinner at B & M’s




in preparation for a dinner at B & M’s #2 [and a continuation of my brief cultural history posts below…]

Kronos Quartet: as one intra-western model for cultural production that resists capitalism, colonization, and canonization, both open to, and, actively seeking contributions from the global musicscape, without polarizing the 4 cardinal directions… with a cursory nod to it’s limits, for now

the ‘avant-garde’ contemporary ‘classical’ string quartet, Kronos, commissions compositions by composers from all around the world who are not well known in the rest of the world, giving them exposure. a model of cultural production, i think. those with the means supporting those without, and by mixing, defying canons. most of the BIG questions raised first by the so called poststructurlist philosophers in France in the 60s and 70s, which caused a cultural upheaval in the rest of Europe, the US, and throughout the world, which led to what since then became the troubled territory of ‘cultural studies’, multiculturalism, identity politics, and the like. several lines of thought from that critical philosophical tradition converge in kronos, intentionally: authorship, translation, and collaboration, even networks and who mobilizes them, and how, and why. yet, while the troubled territories named above have been systematically erased in universities under neoliberalism in the US, the UK and the EU, though ID politics continues to take various problematic forms that has led according to some to ‘tribalism’, and many of the proponents of the british school of marxist cultural studies have rejected the academic study they founded [stuart hall, gayatri spivak and others], because in the US it became depoliticized – somehow, Kronos has never been blighted and has continued to operate in the absolute best sense of an ‘enlightened’ pan-cultural, globalization through it’s patronage and commissioning practices. perhaps that’s because their medium is non-linguistic… they would be the first to suggest that this is because of the influence of terry riley, and they do suggest that below, on their own world musical views. in the following performance, no qualitative difference is made between composer/musicians from different countries, styles, time periods, or identity formations. there is no tribalism.

Escalay, composed by the Sudanese musician, Hamza el Din, 1989, one of my personal all time favorite pieces of music, has all the same or similar attributes of ‘greatness’ as Piazzolla or Bach, or a work by Lori Anderson, or a classical work by the Russian/German composer, Alfred Schnittke, or Mexican composer Gabriella Ortiz (Altar de Muertos, 1997), or even, Jimmy Hendrix (though not their best cover… sometimes stripping the ‘voice’ out to make it an instrumental simply bastardizes a work… not to mention the performative ‘habitus’ of a time period)

Gabriella Ortiz, Altar de Muertos, beyond Kronos

and, just to put things in perspective: a model for what? a track from the cult band, The Residents, whom i’ve interviewed, even though they had a 40 year career wearing masks on stage in order to keep themselves anonymous, which they are, mostly, to this day. would Kronos cover the Residents? Why Hendrix but not them? [yes, that is tom waits singing/performing in the skull mask on the first video below]

one of the first bands to ‘mask’ themselves in what is now a dominant visual paradigm: animation that represents not princesses and other royalty, a la disney, but the poor:

the political:

well, take your pick:

uno mas

Kronos Quartet: as one intra-western model for cultural production that resists capitalism, colonization, and canonization, both open to, and, actively seeking contributions from the global musicscape, without polarizing the 4 cardinal directions… with a cursory nod to it’s limits, for now

international women’s day: feminist strikes link to labor protest as anti-capitalist: this post is a continuation of my ‘brief cultural history’ posts below

while many, including this writer, are skeptical of the pragmatic significance of often single-issue mass protests, specifically those in the ‘west’, [the ‘arab spring’ protests cannot be lumped in with those of the west], today’s feminist protests are qualitatively a very different animal. they self-consciously, articulately, and loudly link the oppression of women directly to the systemic oppression of capitalism, which of course, means, capital’s oppression of the laboring classes in general. of particularly note: the successful protest of teachers in West Virginia, where 70% of teachers are women, was successful specifically because they defied their own union which encouraged them to settle last weak without achieving their demands. which is to say: the position of men and women in the labor movements and organizations like unions, are far from ‘equal’. sexism reigns in unions as it does everywhere else.

as usual, the only place where these issues are extensively discussed, is on Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now program. The first video below offers and account of what took place in Spain.

the second interview on DN today was with Tithi Bhattacharya, associate professor of South Asian history at Purdue University. She is one of the national organizers of the International Women’s Strike in the US.


international women’s day: feminist strikes link to labor protest as anti-capitalist: this post is a continuation of my ‘brief cultural history’ posts below

the sunset/rise of…

by GUN, UK.

the only image with such profound depth that i can imagine posting it after my last my 10 posts, as a single representative image – they are all condensed here. from late 19th C romanticism to futuristic post-apocalypse… pure beauty with a profound, biting, question: where the fuck are ‘we’/?


a rare ‘image’, in any medium, fit to represent the end of the second decade of the 21st century.

my former 10 posts make the argument for this claim, collectively.

the sunset/rise of…