draft at work here: in part as a response to my brilliant friend, benjamin. it seems to me that there are only two types of people… [that’s preposterous of course… but it’s a very good rhetorical ploy]… the historian and the philosopher. benjamin is, predominantly the former; and i’m predominantly, the latter. so this is pearodox-worthy because history and philosophy cannot be separated from each other, philosophically speaking. historically speaking, they all too often have been. so, historically speaking, philosophy is as historically determined as any other intellectual pursuit, and therefore, just as conditional and suspect as any other. from that pov, then, history trumps philosophy. and i agree with that, but only to a certain degree. ‘history’, judged by common sense, is certainly not the equivalent of ‘truth’. history is as manufactured by ideology as any other scholastic field, including philosophy. there is no ‘true’ history: only, at best, a variety of near-true histories. just as, ideally, there is no ‘true philosophy’; only, at best, a variety of near-true philosophies. therefore… the only intellectual domain on offer that attempts, but of course inevitably fails, to address this pearodoxical dilemma, is the field that attempts to bridge these two supra-science fields of inquiry – the philosophy of history and the history of philosophy – that is – ‘historiography’. specifically, the historiography of intersections between history, philosophy, science, and art. and well, personally, i’d throw in politics. but that isn’t necessary. historically and philosophically speaking, politics come and go… but historically and philosophically, life goes on nonetheless. while, history and the human tendency to make ‘value judgments’ [philosophy] go on regardless of political vagaries. ‘art’, at it’s best, is sometimes the equivalent of historiography as i’ve denominated here. and by ‘art’ – i mean art as practiced, not theorized, under the philosophical rubric of ‘aesthetics’.
this particular stake for a very specific reason: lost on most. no fault or theirs. at all. a bit of acoustic lore in the register of ‘pop’. i have no intention of privileging pop. just examples close at hand at the moment. the difference between Bach and Couperin would have done as well. or, that between miles davis and chuck berry… or, between david byrne and tina weymouth, the superlative bass player that made the THs.
because i maintain a few different blogs sporadically, some public, some not, one of the most important of which, is not public, and so maintained far more frequently; because of the multi-focused blog world that i use as a way to write free of academic ‘rigor’; i sometimes loose track of what i’ve post where, and to whom. apologies en avance.
this post is a bit of an ‘apologia‘ for that. this, is not a blog, after all, but a notebook. a keeping of thoughts never meant to be made public. a notebook is, after all, something private, akin to a diary. a ‘thinking out loud’, but privately. unedited. or well, to be honest, sometime edited, and sometimes, not.
my point being: nothing in these pages that go on and on and on… has anything to do with ‘truth’. it’s all pure speculation, with enough logical argument in tact to give my post some credibility. but never, more than some.
par exemple, it’s always somehow painful to write more than a few paragraphs without the overpowering need to include some imagery or sound in order relieve the dire straits of a page filled with nothing but words. to counter modernity’s obsession with language, with what theoretically i’ve termed, semiocentrism – a centrism based on an obsession, biblical in scale, with interpretation. and yet, and yet, i remain ethically, a deconstructionist. just not one who over-privileges, language or interpretation. for, there are ‘languages’ that seek to avoid any possibility of interpretation, and therefore, misinterpretation. well, there are only two, or three, really possible ‘languages’ that aim for eliminating the problem of semiocentrism and interpretation – mathematics and philosophical logic. both entirely hubristic once one focuses on the problem, philosophically, and, historically.
right: historically… it’s only on the outer edge of interpretive possibilities that one begins to realize how utterly bankrupt any system of interpretation is, precisely because it has not ‘factual’ basis by which it might justify it’s claims. this view of thing leads only to one place, dire straights…
okay, not the best of R&R, by a long shot. but they do have ‘something’ difficult to name. and here we are back already at the problem of interpretation. and pearodox.
one can hear, and see, for example, david byrne and talking heads here.
maybe one of the greatest of 80’s music videos.
i mean, really, even if one only ever listens to classical music, how can even such a narrowly prescribed listener, not recognize, in some way, what’s truly great about this performance? who could not be moved by it?
that’s not a difficult to answer.
only the ‘un-listeners ‘ only the ‘un-readers’ of lyrics.
and right, i’m in big trouble here: are ‘un-readers’ and ‘un-listeners’ somehow bad or deficient by nature? no, no way, in no way. it is a sacrosanct right of such ‘un’s’ to judge as they wish. their hatred and complete dismissal of david byrne is completely justified. hands down, no argument. just as it is for ‘unbelievers’ to dismiss the entire trajectory and concrete productive history of modernity and modernism as the downfall of the ‘human race’. that is a valid hypothesis. and to not accept that hypothesis as valid is a sign of the closure of the human, historical mind. or, to put this claim in worse straights – what is it at work, culturally and socially and politically, etc. – that causes a culture and a people to burn people at the stake, or hang them from trees, or, threaten them with death by the most horrible means, via social media?
in other words, from whence does such intolerance, derive?
from many complicated, irrational, sources operating simultaneously, no doubt.
including the source of ‘rationalism’ itself.
so… to state the ‘un’ – obvious: and to throw us back into the conundrum of pearodox:
were one able to stand on the event horizon, then, because the laws of physics as we generally experience it break down, and one would there and then be able to see the back of ones own head: well, then, what then?
whether or not one loves only classical music.
and i don’t mean here to elevate the Talking Head beyond their ‘worth’. but who’s to judge that? to judge their ‘worth’?
so let’s that as a limiting case: what are the criteria by which one could ‘prove’ that the Talking Heads produce ‘bad’ music?
there are no such criteria, i surmise. none at all.
but that doesn’t mean that anyone has to like them.
only that no one has the ‘right’ to judge them.
without simultaneously eliminating their own criteria for what they like.
and so here we arrive at the theoretical fantasy of what we’ve all been hopelessly inculcated in:
democracy, that utopian place where all ‘opinions’ are equal.
this mode an philosophical analysis could continue. in fact, pursuing along these same line would lead to one of the greatest philosophical conundrums of all time:
the conundrum [pearodox] of infinite regression.
put differently: the problem of proving ‘proof’ – which is the conundrum generally referred to a ‘science kitted out with the unassailable court of judgement, mathematics – is itself impossible and a conundrum and pearodox.
i challenge you. present alternatives musically. but, once you do, you have to ‘make’ and/or, ‘prove’ your case.
so, the question then is: what do we do in the face of our impossible choices to reconcile values that make us judge as we do?
At the event horizon, light is bent in a perfect loop around the black hole, meaning if you stood there you would be able to see the back of your own head.
Hannah Devlin, The Guardian, 10 April, 2019
Black hole picture captured for first time in space breakthrough
Network of eight radio telescopes around the world records revolutionary image.
The picture shows a halo of dust and gas, tracing the outline of a colossal black hole, at the heart of the Messier 87 galaxy, 55m light years from Earth. The breakthrough image was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), a network of eight radio telescopes spanning locations from Antarctica to Spain and Chile, in an effort involving more than 200 scientists. The EHT picks up radiation emitted by particles within the disc that are heated to billions of degrees as they swirl around the black hole at close to the speed of light, before vanishing down the plughole. The halo’s crescent-like appearance in the image is because the particles in the side of the disc rotating towards Earth are flung towards us faster and so appear brighter. The dark shadow within marks the edge of the event horizon, the point of no return, beyond which no light or matter can travel fast enough to escape the inexorable gravitational pull of the black hole.
When observations were launched in 2017, the EHT had two primary targets. First was Sagittarius A*, the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way, which has a mass of about 4m suns. The second target, which yielded the image, was a supermassive black hole in the galaxy M87, into which the equivalent of 6bn suns of light and matter has disappeared.
The EHT achieved the necessary firepower by combining data from eight of the world’s leading radio observatories, including the Atacama Large Millimetre Array (Alma) in Chile and the South Pole Telescope, creating an effective telescope the size of the Earth. Observations at the different sites were coordinated using atomic clocks, called hydrogen masers, accurate to within one second every 100 million years. The sheer volume of data generated was also unprecedented – in one night the EHT generated as much data as the Large Hadron Collider does in a year.
At the event horizon, light is bent in a perfect loop around the black hole, meaning if you stood there you would be able to see the back of your own head. The observations also provide one of the most stringent tests to date of Einstein’s theory of general relativity: this predicts a rounded shape of the black hole’s halo, in line with what EHT has observed.
“The black hole is not the event horizon, it’s something inside. It could be something just inside the event horizon, an exotic object hovering just beneath the surface, or it could be a singularity at the centre … or a ring,” said Younsi. “It doesn’t yet give us an explanation of what’s going on inside.”
Heino Falcke, chair of the EHT science council, who is based at Radboud University in the Netherlands, said: “The big question for me is whether we’ll ever be able to transcend that limit. The answer may be maybe not. That’s frustrating but we’ll have to accept it.”
In 2014, Shezad Dawood curated an exhibtion entitled Black Sun in New Delhi, India. The catalogue was brought into existence by Gerrie van Noord.
Shezad Dawood (Artist)
Black Sun: Alchemy, Diaspora And Heterotopia (Arnolfini Gallery Exhibition Catalogues) January 1, 2014
Black Sun does relate to an exhibition – which opened at the Devi Art Foundation in Delhi, India, in November 2013 – but was explicitly meant to be able to function independently from it, where the book does not present itself as a traditional catalogue. Black Sun can be described as a social network.
Gerrie van Noord, from a book chapter about Black Sun as yet unpublished.
Three walls of the gallery are taken up with shelves of 6,328 books. On 2,700 of the books are the names, printed in gold leaf, of first- and second-generation immigrants to Britain who have made significant contributions to the country’s culture and history.
The diverse list of names ranges from Alan Rickman, who is listed as being of Irish descent, and Alesha Dixon (Jamaican father) to Liam Gallagher (Irish parents) and Lionel Blair (born in Canada) to Zadie Smith (Jamaican mother) and Zane Lowe (born in New Zealand). It is an eclectic mix that also features Dido, Winston Churchill, Mel B, Sid James, Danny Welbeck and Mary I.
There are also books with names of people who have opposed immigration: Oswald Mosley, for example, alongside Norman Tebbit, Paul Nuttall, Patrick Moore, Patricia Skitmore and Richard Littlejohn. Many books have no name – suggesting, the artist said, that the story of British immigration is still unwritten.
the work is oddly too modernist i think. but not uninteresting. and i have to say, the maya lin stratety that was ground breaking at the time, the listing of names, is feeling a bit worn out to me. all that said, i still really like this work… it must be the use of batik… on the upside, despite the quantity and the immense labour that went into it production, it’s gorgeously simple. the book in it’s ‘purest’ form – content-less – ? an entire library that can’t be read… i guess that puts language and text and semocentrism in its place! on the downside, again… stylistically speaking, its all a bit too simple, conceptually. or, is it? i don’t know enough about the work to say. but the question necessary to answer the conceptual question is: is it more than a pretty display of book wrappers? with only a variety of names adorning the binding of books without content that can never be taken off the shelf, let alone, read. so if the names are the key to making it more than a work of minimalist abstraction in the form of the library; yet, the work makes no commentary other than the list of names, then it’s reductive and aestheticizing. so the question remains, and the article doesn’t provide any information about that – what information is on the tablets? the crucial bit of info that might make sense of these questions, that the guardian fails to provide. i’d be pissed off were i yinka. if the tablets provide substantial info about the names, which i imagine they must; then, well, the work puts the gallery-goer in the position of the librarian, archivist, scholar, investigator. well, at least it might make the brits curious enough to pursue those subjective opportunities. in which case, the work-as-library is simple a means by which to turn the public to the medium of choice these days – the tablet… in which case, yinka’s work is deviously clever – ‘content’ is displaced from the library to the tablet and makes the public responsible for it. and, well again, the work also puts the two forms of media into contention in a powerful way.
but… in this speculative scenario, it all comes down to the question – what does the tablet info provide? knowing his work fairly well, I assume the tablet info is rich. in which case, the work poses, or better put, stages, all the questions i’ve raised, but through the decidedly ‘post modern’ conflict of information dissemination: the obsolescence of the analog book and library versus the digital library. IF this is an accurate take on Yinka’s work, then, Tate is spot on to collect it because of what it has staged – the massive historical shift from traditional media to digital media, in the context of knowledge production and dissemination on the one hand; and, and information production and dissemination, on the other.
and well, all my previous speculation might have been put to rest had i revealed the work’s title. but that would have been no fun, would it? “The British Library” tapes into the debates about who that august institution represents; what it has to say about whom; in it’s vast holding. but that’s not quite rightly put, is it? it is about the absence of commentary, about the silence that if one is willing to listen to, is the loudest sound shouting in its vast archives, of those never written about, and, of those who have written but have never been deemed worthy of inclusion
ah… another series of pearodoxes…
shonibare’s work, to raise another issue, uses the book form in a way that is not meant to be read, only viewed. which reminds me that the main thesis of walter benjamin’s essay on the collector is that the collector only buys books that he/she’ll never read… the power for the collector, resides simply in the fact of an object that he-she’ll never consume. which makes the book valuable only as an object of promise of a future possibility.
i wouldn’t have had these thoughts but for Gerrie Van Noord’s chapter 3 in progress. so thanks to her.
some context for those not familiar with Shonebare’s work. he is nigerian-british artist who lives in london. his work is about British colonization of Africa, and many other things. from my point view, his work has little to do with what’s often attributed to him – identity politics. my view is that his work is political, full stop. it’s framed by too many aesthetic commitments to parse here. IF his work has anything to do with identity politics, it’s to critique its narrow register. he uses gorgeous designed batik fabrics based loosely on traditional African clothing patterns and Victorian fashion design, figuration, that alludes to many things, not least of which is the offensive diaramas found in anthropology museum’s around the world. in a manner of polemic condemnation worthy of hogarth and swift, in that they are satires of the British empire in all its colonialist un-glory.
this is a very moving and powerful interview with a highly intelligent and remarkably committed group of activists, rarely seen at work, and from whom much is to be learned. they articulate their personal, political, moral, ethical, and legal reasons and strategies for their actions and legal defense that should be used broadly elsewhere.
Martha Hennessy, Carmen Trotta, Patrick O’Neill, Clare Grady, Liz McAlister, Jesuit priest Stephen Kelly and Mark Colville
And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. Book of Isiah, KJV
A group of peace activists have been jailed for over a year before trial for entering the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia last April to protest U.S. nuclear weapons. The action took place on April 4, 2018—the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination. Armed with hammers, crime scene tape and baby bottles containing their own blood, seven anti-nuclear activists secretly entered Kings Bay—one of the largest nuclear submarine bases in the world—under the cover of night. Their goal was to symbolically disarm the six nuclear ballistic missile submarines kept there. Each submarine carries 20 Trident thermonuclear weapons. One year after this historic action, three of the Plowshares activists remain jailed in Georgia. The other four are out on $50,000 bond with electronic ankle monitors. All seven face up to 25 years in prison for their actions.
AMY GOODMAN: And why did you choose that site to perform this, to engage in this Plowshares action?
PATRICK O’NEILL: Well, it seemed absurd that we would have a shrine to nuclear weapons. In North Carolina, where I live, we’re taking down Confederate monuments. But here we had monuments, literally phallic monuments, that were actually replicas of weapons of mass destruction surrounded by flags, including the U.S. flag. And I thought, “This is the most incredible example of modern-day idolatry we could find, maybe on planet Earth.” And it was it was the responsibility to smash idols. So that’s why we went there.
President Carter who brought Kings Bay Nuclear Submarine Base to Georgia
Prince’s Purple Piano Kiln, as a work of art, has not been realized. But it should be. Were Roloff a Briish artist, it might be. But as an American artist, there is no chance in hell. Meanwhile, UK and EU art production has similarly had it’s potentials cut off with the rest of the culturally nationalist balls. well, unsurprisingly, ‘art’ is as historically usual, waged war upon, defunded, disgraced, and denigrated at every opportunity, by those in power. yet, as has long been established, ‘art’ typically has little political impact on the big picture. yet, it still might. should, ‘art’, get it’s collective ass together. that is, IF, it were to ever be publicaly comprehensible… but that too, requires public acknowledgement and support.
note: what follows is unfair to Niel Forrest, John’s collaborator on the project from which the following images are derived.
Two Sites with a Similar Problem – Niel Forrest/John Roloff
NCECA 2019 / Minneapolis, MN
Architecture Library / Rapson Hall / College of Design / University of Minnesota
usually, i would celebrate collaborations of this type. and in principle i do. that i don’t in this case is only because i know nothing of Forrest’s work. and i know nothing about the collaboration dynamics between the two artists. so, apologies to Niel Forrest.
so the focus in this notebook entry is only on roloff’s contribution to their collaboration.
which, clearly, is only half of the picture, on two sites brought into existence somewhere between Bowie and Prince.
But to being with their collaborative statement about their project:
Our current project, Two Sites with a Similar Problem, examines vestiges of modernist thought in architectural form, problematized and articulated by ceramic elements, embroiled in an archaeological/catastrophic story line. Here we invoke the shamanistic presence of Prince, Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright and other walk-on characters. We put them in complex conundrums vis-a-vis their habitat, designs, ideologies and stardom… I think John and I both liked the problem that Bowie made for himself…. how to construct the ultimate pop idol within the theoretical problematics of modernist architecture underscored by Diderot’s encyclopedic foundations?
So now we both say that collaboration is some kind of labyrinthian game, a series of tunnels like those dug into Tora Bora, or the ones dug in the sides of Gibraltar, which by the way, have everything in common, yet none of the same attitude. As Neil recounted these two thoughts to John mixed with recent ruminations about Ziggy, Purple Haze, Paisley Park, tsunami’s, asteroids, and sea level rise, the conversation for our current work, Two Sites with a Similar Problem, was catalyzed. Although not the monolithic promontory of Gibraltar, ours is a set of fixed interests that we always believe is different but they never are. It’s like reciprocal breathing, one breath, continuous sound, then sleep, somnambulism and one-on-one hoops…
Site B: below, sculpture, conceptual drawings, studio and installation documentation
Roloff, a student of Arneson and many others, has forged his own path through ceramics and beyond, abandoning it, almost, entirely for many years, but never completely. He’s a chemist and a alchemist and a geologist. “Clay” is, after all, a geological substrate. It’s the material of geological records, with which Roloff has long been obsessed.
His first works after his graduate work with Arneson at UCSD in the 1960s, took the form of what he called the “Night Ship Series”. Here are a few examples:
and from there, he radically moved on from works produced ‘in” kilns, to building kilns, as art works:
Roloff is undoubtedly the most important ‘ceramic’ artist in the US in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. To the degree that, the ‘ceramic’ conceptual basis of his works, has sometimes left ‘clay’ materially behind, while at the same time, never abandoning his ceramic roots.
my point being – roloff’s work is absolutely fundamental to reassessing the importance of his work in order to revision alternative histories beyond the tragically limited value judgements impossed by the art market, which has nothing to say about the work that artist do, or, about the thought that artist’s have.
draft: to be continued.