Wednesday, November 30, 2011

[ 1 2 ] r e g a r d i n g t h e p a i n o f o t h e r s

Susan Sontag questions the empathy for which we, notably from this reader's perspective as an American, question the well being of affairs abroad and as so foreign policy. The book highlights importantly how war in nations far away our own, or even close, affect our perceptions of the world and how we should attack them aesthetically. The book makes a sound argument for photography being the strongest representation of humanity maiming one another for causes out of their control and causes directly in the control of their superiors. I personally limit this not just to war itself.. as a possible means of not acknowledging it.. even though it is clearly there. 

But I acknowledge natural disaster and economic woes as well. The latter can be attributed to war (not argument here) but a tsunami on Pacific shores certainly cannot. So how do we treat these then? Even the pain not caused by a firm hand (war) but arguably God's hand (natural disaster) out of control? Where do we feel more empathy than the other? Do we look at pain caused by war with more disgust because we can control it, or ignore it more because its a construct of humanity and we can't 'look at ourselves' that way? Just the same with natural disaster... look firmly with lament because no one is to blame for it or turn away because for the very same reason?

Its hard to look, yes. But its the 21st damn century.
You can write these people 'get well' cards for 5 minutes.
There's no guilt in looking at these images. No one's to blame.

In regard with Susan Sontag's "Regarding the Pain of Others", I notice a strong characteristic of photography (more specifically, the documentative photography witnessed) that removes the artist his/herself from their perception of fantasy and places it in a realm of reality. Even going so far as to give the artist another occupation from the certain techniques these daunting images need to be handled. It could be asked if photographer or documentarian is a blanket term for a certain amount of emotional or social counseling, and thus, having empathy for pain of others.

A quote on page 42. "Perhaps the only people with the right to look at images of suffering of this extreme order are those who could do something to alleviate it- say, the surgeons at the military hospital where the photograph was taken- or those who could learn from it." The more this fermented in my mind, the more being a photographer in this postmodern or 'reality' era entails stepping outside of the self as an artist and accepting alternative occupations for proper rendering of this newfangled reality. 

It could be argued concerning pain for other's through art is a form of being a lawyer… in which one might, against their natural or cosmic self, have to side with an erroneous or painful thought in order to prosper in society. Just as with the surgeon analogy… analyzing the organs which should not be seen by any decent human but themselves.

Surgeons. Artists of the ongoing 21st century?
In a precarious time of growing war and dystopia?

A book read too by this collective panel is "The Railway Journey" by Wolfgang Schievelbusch. In regard to this statement, the book makes a bold claim about the annihilation of time and space in between cities through the development of the steam engine through the 19th century. This is relevant in the 21st century, for with the death of space in between spaces, the idea of taking time to create an artistic or even romantic sense of fantasy is becoming more difficult to attain. Immediacy is key, especially in a precarious world, leaving not just the artist to render but the nearest possible citizen to analyze the proverbial spectacle, or flavor of the month. 

The discerning of the photographer as an occupation from all other occupations becomes more and more difficult as the craft itself is commodified. This could be argued for all art as well, I suppose, in an age of DIY. The question I might pose, that is if photographers (or artists) who want to empathize with the pain of the world, can they accept the ideology or technique of another job's purposes to truly 'feel sorry for' or can they simply be the machine and no more?

This robot clearly doesn't have feelings.
Perhaps its up to the person operating
the robot to give it feelings. Like in that
episode where he was implanted with an
empathy chip and went into the sewers..

In the end, the Marxist's believed that art should not be contained without the self in fantasy (Sontag argues that to be part of the issue) but out in public as art imitating life and sharing a collective whole imagination with society. We could even throw a big part of that aside. It shouldn't even be a question if art should or should not have feelings for humans or even things. Humans always should. Prime rule. For modernists and post-modernists alike. Its hard for either class to go against the grain so vehemently.. as in life.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

[ 1 1 ] r e l a t i o n a l a e s t h e t i c s

Nicolas Bourriaud, author of the recent Radicant (and one of my personal favorite readings), comes across with Relational Aesthetics : this sense of the visual frame or zeitgeist which is shared by near all of humanity in effort to not only share a strong sense of community and coexistence with another but reject the idea of being formatted by a sense of capital game or even social construct. It can be quite a sprinting around in circles, as it is arguable that art has shaped society itself and that ultimately all art is relational. But this discussion is not about art as a whole, but with art as an aesthetic device dealing with (in a way) the collaborative efforts of society at large and having them DIY so the art they search for delivers unto them the most personalized meaning they could possibly attain.

Having a discussion in public on the matter, several artists were come across, and notably Jeff Koons was on the list. Controversial as it seems, Jeff Koons is a poster child for the idea of relational aesthetics (and in the same instance the most ironic at that). He is using a factory set-up of workers and young students/young random people alike to create convoluted work that either references some ridiculously out-of-place aesthetic or self-serving homage to Koons himself, even though he barely placed a finger on the work itself.

This immediately makes me draw allusions to that of a more commodified or 'mainstream' mode of working, not unlike that seen of such locales as a Disney studio or a film set. Its a single director calling the shots while, to a less romantic but true degree, his minions are doing all the technical specialties for him. Is there any evidence Jeff Koons can do any of this himself? It ultimately boils down to 'does it matter?' Well, if I want to like or not like him, yes I think it does matter considerably. In film its easy. We know the director went through digging in the dirt to learn his wares, from the telephoto lens to the 80-foot-high crane shot. He or she would either know these techniques or perish while trying to make a coherent craft. Contemporary art is different. Since it imitates life to dearly around the turn of the 70s, it takes less than a strong imagination combined with technical prowess to accomplish goals but rather a more aware mind of the world outside of themselves. This begs even further the question of if Jeff Koons is capable or not of being 'an artist'.

The contemporary art equivalent of Tommy Wiseau.

All this talk defend Koons (I'll stay on him for a bit) praises him for being able to 'game the system'. Okay. So who outside the art world cares? This is one of those instances where the adolescent cry of "I don't get it" has validity, whether its age 10, 20, or the outsider in their 40s. Art should be designed to alter reality and give beautiful (or just the opposite, with similar poignant effect) perspectives on the world lived in, whether it be modernist or post-modernist (both classifications achieve this in one way or another). It can be considered a masturbatory affair where the worst of both pre-mentioned classifications are taken out and placed into a category : Koonianwerk. You have the self-indulged craft for craft's sake of modernism and the gross meta-art indulgence post-modernism brings. I can understand gaming the system exists in all races of labor in life. The white-collar that cons his company for thousands and gets away with it isn't sung any praises (I should hope so, for his/her sake). And I praise the person who cons the art game... for the BETTER. Rebellion and question of power should come at advance guard to something more productive, and not be fist pumping for fist pumping sake (re: craft for craft's sake). If its only asking questions and while not instigating change, especially while only deconstructing a system, it has no place being a detriment to those who depend on the culture. Change is good, only for the better.

Can you imagine this guy shouting
"war is bad!" but issuing more troops. Well..
for the most part, we don't have to imagine..

To quote the book itself, "If, for a long period of time, the artwork has manage to come across as a luxury, lordly item in this urban setting... the development of the function of the artworks and the way they are shown attest to a growing urbanization of the artistic experiment." All this is saying as we are becoming a participatory spectacle where the idea of D-I-Y has become not just a dream but accessibility. People besides the artist his or her self can experiment whether the artist likes it or not. The weaver of media just needs to in this manner to adapt rather than fall behind in a lightwave of time, becoming the legacy and not the present. The present is in fact 'legacy' and nostalgia for the past is ill advised, since the present is just a simulation of the successes the past gave us. There certainly is a market in relishing in the romantic past and reselling it to the present, but I deem that all too precarious. Even from an interactive viewpoint (re: video games and intellectual properties). The idea of selling 'retro' to the present in all its shifting desires seems like skating on a bridge of ice over the heart of the Arctic. It, strangely enough, would seem even a safer bet to ride not just (or not at all) the wave of the present, but look to the future from the present using experimental tests based on what knowledge we know. Success by bringing the past to the present ignoring relational aesthetics? Miniscule and momentary. Success by bringing the present to the future taking into account a more global viewpoint? You 'are' the bookmark in history, not matter how big or small. You were a part of it, not unlike an historic election or turning on the TV to discover cars are electric.

Only by 2-6 souls will actually step foot on this.
But to be a part of the stream witnessing it and
amplifying it with aesthetic tribute is a positive rush.

[ 1 0 ] h a s m o d e r n i s m f a i l e d ?

Has modernism failed? No shit. But this book, in the contemporary context, isn't asking about 'what ifs'. Its about formulating the backbone and "why is" for why post-modernism is such a predominant force in our culture and art (and for certain people, how it might even allude to post-post modernism, but that's another story). First published in 1984, scribed by the author Suzi Gablik, it begins to suspect to transition from craft for ultimately craft's sake and internal meaning towards witnessing capital defining the craft and meaning becoming extroverted to a mass, societal zeitgeist.

It all starts with Marcel Duchamp, as always does most conversations involving mod/post-mod. The first instance where we see the object becoming alienated from the craft which created it, because it is arguable that there is any craft at all. Yet, the object is altercating meaning in society, so who is one to argue that art must simply be a painting or drawing concealed in the proverbial squared circle? On page 24, the Marxists have something to say along this issue as well, in which "art for art's sake is corrupt". In laymen's terms, as if that weren't simple enough, art simply for the self gain and self exploration is trash, while art that serves the community and collective thought is ideal.

Public enemy number one.

And it is quite easy to get buried within that precariously metaphorical grave of only serving the self. First, one must overcome their own medium and transpire that into relating to the body of knowledge outside of themselves. A name for the medium they must overcome is 'style', which is quite a double edged blade, where in style may detract relational aesthetic it gains in personal strength and message. If you will, a personal emotion the artist has invested in the work versus only being a tool of society. Once that tightrope is walked, then another by the name of 'the self identity' must be crossed, which also relates quite wholesale to style. With just as many ramifications towards investing the self in a piece... The self identity may be relatable to more of a genre of class than we may think, and it may depend wholesale on current societal dys/utopia, but in the end a higher percentage of viewers may 'miss the point' because they are not who the artist is.

King of cinematic stylists. Yet relatable as holy f---.

In such a same instance, one might find it easy to stay clear of a system of the system and just continue to do style and style alone easily because it is a tempting matter. This is very inaccurate. Susan Sontag herself, a photographic theorist, would definitely agree that photographs are a form of capitalistic venure where its constant barrage and flow creates a spectacle out of world events which allows the ruling class to keep surveillance on the world and media. Surveillance is the key word here, where the artist is simply not allowed to retreat inside his or herself like an all-romantic fantasy any longer. Whatever must flow into the machine of knowledge must have relevance to this wide body of knowledge, and such, a larger percentage of the unfamiliar and 'pre-constructed thought' is left, as Kaprow would mention, to die in the gallery once it has been submitted forever for incarceration.

A solution is to begin finding spaces which do not recontextualize the object into a self-serving one (as in, a possible self-serving gallery space), but spaces which ultimately serve the need of a world constantly under surveillance and need for relational aesthetic as opposed to 'original' aesthetic. Which is most everything modernism stood for : the powerful auteur who could only create originality. Not to say nothing anymore is original, but no matter how innovative something in the 21st century looks, it is a reference point back to an original simulation.

Trying to steal from the store of 'indulged fantasy'? Hard these days.

I think about the idea of simulation itself, in regards to modernism/post-modernism, it terms of collecting intellectual property for one's self and not letting that copyright material get into the wrong hands (which are any hands but the own hands). How much of that 'intellectual property' can one person actually call their own? This is where mere intent escapes as a scape goat for the artist because that doesn't work in the world of dollar bills (because everything is commodified right?... we can put price tags on it?...). Everything seems appropriated, and my fear of it is that anything original in this modern age will in turn be 'unoriginal'.. In which there's a 'lack of it'. Whatever will be innovated is just a play off something that existed before. Whatever is new is a re-render of something retro. And whatever that is actually innovative will be in too meager amounts of a more glamourous time... Until the art game (society?) itself is reversed on its polars and has a epiphany of cataclysmic proportions.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

[ 0 9 ] s i m u l a t i o n s

Simulations, by Jean Baudrillard, is a meditation on the fact that it is useless to meditate for there is no origin to be found of the objects of society or our own identities. There was an origin, make no mistake, but beyond that in certain spades and until when the industrial age changed the game, everything has become a reiteration and coded modulation of the lawful, governing body which came before it in order to supposedly make utopia not such a far instance. But like a typical comic book villain or even a naive child who brandishes the paintbrush, not every instance of simulation and image viewing is truthful or righteous.

We want you to believe we're not paying any ta-.. Well that's another story.

This simulation of lifestyles and humans themselves speak volumes about art. I'm thinking less in modes about the originality and postmodern aspects of art, but more closer to the actual inception of craft and difficulty scale in art. The difficulty in art has become simulated through time as we enunciate on the possibilities of its rendering. A fine art drawing, with the right mechanical DNA, can be done in seconds. A movie, with simply a group of friends and the right SLR HD camera, can be simulated on the level equal to or better than Hollywood. Levels of difficulty unknown. Hyperreal standards which is becoming of all mediums in art. I don't know who to trust when it comes to critiquing a film anymore. Was that genius pan shot I just saw some idiot sliding the camera across his kitchen counter?

I'm not against the idea of it... Its just making a spectacle of the institution.
Which is inevitably swallowed itself by the simulation.

It often times requires blood and death to reinvigorate the cycle of power and simulation. Relating back to the CYCLICAL HISTORY of the Debordian spectacle, rebirthing once people realize and start revolution. When the spectacle is at its weakest, so is a simulation. A spectacle is easier to manifold than a simulation. Hence, failing the real, here we must aim at order. And that order may entail some gruesome things when it gets written on paper. Tormenting the dead in order to allign the past into a commodifiable and ductile object for craft. Reutilizing the essence of the 'perfect Indian' for historical romanticism, for example. They used to be quite the savages as far as legitimate historical documents is concerned. But as the book mentions Disney, Disney itself saw to it the Indians were human enough in its own iteration of Pochahontas. As a matter of fact, Disney is the Kong-Kong of simulcara. Disney referenced the not-so-immediate past and made, not a societal mockery of it, but a 'rejuvination' of it by recalling its tale. Its almost as if it were Disney's intellectual property as they recalled it in digital animated form. And we all know how representative 24 fps is... Digitalry is psychoanalyitic like film (Walter Benjamin)… We are the variables this endless code is tested against, resulting in constantly differential outcomes. Past industry, we now modulate what tests do to us and only through extensive recording can tell what is to be simulated as good and truth. It requires a break in history to readjust everything.

But every history is a malleable form, itself. I think about it in terms of legacies, in a certain way, or eras of past civilization which we 'presume' are the originals.  The concept of legacy in itself is arguable, in which it may consist as an element of social construct. Placed within the fine arts context, and most succinctly a post-modern age involving digital aesthetic, the idea of the self contained imagination is no longer of relevance in a world of shorter distances from city to city. This is relevant to the legacy of art, for we see a clashing point between an era where the imagination was cherished versus an era where our lives and common things we to may very well be 'art itself'. Just as importantly, this is relevant to legacies in a global society where we witness a superflous amount of ideas being appropriated from dynasties which emerged prior to our own. The difficulty for individuals to attain their own dynasty is extreme, for probable vectors of origin are now being occupied by past accomplishment. Thus, the challenge for global society, which runs parallel to the art world, in finding its own definite legacy in time is more difficult without either subtracting lucrative material (art imitating life) or simply falling into dystopian themes. In short, legacies of the romantic yesteryear are challenged to take concrete form in modern living, since their ideas are already realized repeatedly by a sort of trial-and-error.  This naive spectacle can be attributed to never finding the origin point of creation lawfully or aesthetically. Are the grand legacies we consider timeless and without peers just a simulation of something which occured beforehand?

To finish with... I found an instance of hyper-hyper realism. Pro wrestling… Is as real as it gets. Some say it is fake, but its just as "real" as any movie, television show, or fiction novel you'll read… And then some. It is the closest to original, as the neanderthal expression of people telling stories with their bodies relate back to the stone age. It is "very" aware of its own simualtion, recording its own history, and becoming its own bubble. The stories are fake. The pain is real. A hyper-hyper simulation.

Gee that sure looked fake. Just as fake as your Harry Potter, you snobby hypocrite.
(Apologies to the reader if they are not a snobby hypocrite.)