Archive for the Art Category

Commercial Philosophy?

Posted in Art, Art and Philosophy, Deleuze, Film with tags on May 17, 2012 by immanentterrain2

In an interview with Cahiers du cinema following the publication of his cinema books, Deleuze describes his experiences in the cinema while studying as a philosophy student and the similarities he found between the two forms. In his studies, he was drawn to philosophers that were interested in introducing “real” movement to thought, so it’s no surprise that he found a commonality in film, an art form of movement. He finds cinema to be highly adept at displaying spiritual life, or as he defines it, “movement of the mind” (Deleuze 366). “The brain is the screen,” thoughts being the construction of molecules linked together in time (Deleuze 366). Deleuze turns to cinema when philosophical problems lead him there looking for answers, but the relationship goes both ways.

The part of this interview that most intrigued me was when the interviewer asks about the crisis of the cinematic auteur. The crisis being the current proposal that everyone is an auteurs, and bad ones at that. Deleuze answers with a discussion of the differences between advertising and art. He notes that advertisers that call their work “the poetry of the modern world,” have failed to realize that no art is created in regards to the public’s expectations. (Deleuze 369). Advertising is most definitely created with the expectations of the public in mind, even when it strives to shock. Art is created from the opposite of this, from unexpected places and thoughts. Here then he says there is no such thing as commercial art. There is art that is wildly popular, that requires financial means, or that is bought and sold, but if it is art, it is not commercial. The term auteur refers to artwork, but not everyone creating film is an auteur for Deleuze. A work of art should ask new questions, probe problems, and create new space and time, exactly what an auteur should be doing through film.

Considering Deleuze sees such similarities between cinema and philosophy, I was wondering what would be considered the commercial opposition of philosophy. Perhaps it is the entire genre of self-help books. In a way they traverse some of the same avenues as philosophy, for instance probing questions about how one should live, but again, we can see how Deleuze makes the distinction between advertising and art. Self-help books are constructed with the expectations of an audience in mind and seek to provide answers, however flimsy they may be, instead of breaking new ground and furthering inquiry into the basis of the questions they ask. Self-help books may become best sellers, but they appeal to a lower level of thinking that craves easy answers just as Deleuze describes poor cinema as appealing to the lower brain circuitry of violence and sexuality.

-HB

Gilles Deleuze, “The Brain is the Screen”, in Gregory Flaxman (ed.), Brain is the Screen:Deleuze and the Philosophy of Cinema (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), pp. 365-373.

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Frieze Weekend 2012

Posted in Art, Art Exhibits, Deleuze and Guattari with tags on May 17, 2012 by immanentterrain2

Last weekend, I took a ferry out to Randall’s Island to visit the Frieze Art Fair, the inaugural New York iteration of the London fair. It’s hard not to have a love/hate relationship with art fairs. On the one hand, they offer the opportunity to view an incredible amount of art from galleries all over the world in one location. On the other, the sheer volume of work makes them an exhausting experience that is not conducive to a truly rewarding experience of art – not to mention the fact that there’s no hiding the intention to move large quantities of product.

The tent, three football fields long and pristinely white, was as beautiful as it was imposing. Holding over 180 galleries from 30 countries, Frieze estimates that visitors numbered in the region of 45,000 (1).

Frieze Art Fair New York 2012

There’s really no comparing the experience of the tent’s interior to other New York art fairs, even the Armory Show, Frieze’s closest competitor. With a high, vaulted ceiling and natural lighting only supplemented by fluorescence, the tent provides gallery conditions not far shy of the country’s best contemporary art institutions.

It is both an insult to museums and a compliment to the fair that the two forms have come to resemble one another to this degree. The fair provides these beautiful open spaces, charges you an exorbitant admission fee ($40/ $25 for students), includes panel discussions and lectures by people like curator and art historian Robert Storr and MoMA Director Glen D. Lowry, produces a “Frame” section of curated galleries displaying solo exhibitions of artists who have yet to display internationally, has multiple restaurants, and a non-profit arm called Frieze Projects that commissioned outdoor work by ten artists displayed surrounding the tent. Frieze even came with a major corporate sponsor, Deutsche Bank, who also sponsors exhibitions at the Guggenheim.

Team Gallery’s booth at the Frieze Art Fair New York 2012

Salon 94’s booth at the Frieze Art Fair New York 2012

So yes, the tent was beautiful, but in the end it still had the feeling of a corporate trade show or market, specifically designed to keep you moving and weed out the buyers from the gawkers.  Without a map, the uniform spaces became a blur. I found myself thinking about smooth and striated spaces while traversing the many halls.  Art Fairs are incredibly nomadic as they take place all over the world in pieces of pop up architecture or temporary exhibition halls. One could reach the Frieze Fair by complimentary ferry, shuttle, or car, with connections to the other fairs around the city capitalizing on the influx of art buyers and professionals. This kind of nomadism is not what Deleuze and Guattari are referring to in reference to smooth spaces in A Thousand Plateaus. This kind of travel and movement is about the destination and is incredibly organized. The experience of Frieze was utterly striated and controlled. There is a hierarchy of access including two levels of VIPs as well as the high-ticket price that deters another level of audience. Galleries purchase territories within the tent with slight differences in placement and size, but for the most part, they are all little white boxes in a line. They are homogeneous, distinct, and ordered.

As I was walked the halls, becoming numb to the quantity of art and lacking a sense of direction, I spotted the art collector and philanthropist Eli Broad (http://www.broadfoundation.org/).  I decided that following his path would be as good as any other direction. It was a completely strange experience because it made me realize that while I was conscious of the fact that everything displayed was for sale, the prices were so wildly out of my price range that this fact became almost completely irrelevant. How different it must be to visit an art fair for shopping and not spectacle.

Eli Broad in front of the Metro Pictures booth at the Frieze Art Fair New York 2012

For all the doom and gloom about it being a celebration of conspicuous consumption and art market value over artistic value, art fairs and galleries are still some of the best opportunities to see work directly out of artists’ studios and even better, works by artists who have yet to be included in museum shows. There wasn’t much of this at Frieze, the expensive gallery fee no doubt motivating the safer display of established artists (riskier choices at NADA or smaller fairs like seven @ SEVEN the same weekend). I will say, though, that I discovered the work of Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff there, when I almost kicked a piece of their installation:

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Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff, “New Media (Cocktails),” 2012 at T293 Naples and Rome, Italy. Photo: http://sb95.com/

And gained a new appreciation for Roger Hiorns, whose sculpture that continuously produced foam, inspired some of the most sustained looking I observed at the fair.

Roger Hiorns at Marc Foxx Gallery’s booth, Frieze Art Fair New York 2012

-HB

(1)  http://friezenewyork.com/press/releases/frieze-new-york-2012-widespread-acclaim-for-inaugural-edition/

Images of Sound

Posted in Art, Art and Philosophy, Art Exhibits, Body and Affect, Deleuze, Film, Theater and Performance with tags , , , , , on May 16, 2012 by immanentterrain2

Applying Deleuze theories on temporarily to sound and music is very interesting. First it is a reminder that image is not only the visual image but any fluctuation within the fabric of the environment that affects our (or any organism’s) perceptual sensors. More importantly the temporal characteristics of sound is different from the moving image. Sound necessarily unfolds through time and a still or snap shot of sound is not imaginable. Music has also been created for thousands of years with primitive tools and without a technological apparatus mediating between creator and the images. One of the first mediation affecting the temporarily of music, at least in terms of its production, was the invention of systems of musical notation. Recording technologies pushed this separation further but at the same time created a reaction to emphasize on the zone of indeterminacy in improvisational music.

Roulette was hosting an opening concert for the 3 day event on ‘Improvisation and Technology’ in conjunction with Department of Music at Colombia University and NYU. The interesting irony about that event was that unlike most of the times that technology, as mentioned above, is being used to decreases virtuality, in this events, it was used to intervene into the regular flow of music to make unexpected happen.

The setup of the stage, with more than 30 computers and different conventional and experimental instruments on the stage, was promising failure to some extent from what had been planned. In many pieces improvising machines were being used to create effects based on what the musician was playing and forcing the musician to change what she was playing, creating a loop of reactions to make the result of the piece completely out of control of the musician. In some other pieces looping machines were recording and looping parts of the performance based on some algorithms creating overlaying and juxtapositions of time.

In overall there were very interesting and state of the art experiments in pushing improvisational music into the extreme to allow the most unexpected to happen. This is also in relation to Deleuze’s idea of desert island that something bold and novel does not happen as a continuation of what had been but as an eruption.

Deleuze, Gilles. Desert islands and other texts, 1953-1974. Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e) ;, 2004. pp. 9-14

Julie Mehretu’s Intensive Cartographies

Posted in Art, Deleuze with tags , , , , on May 15, 2012 by immanentterrain2

Approximately eight by eleven feet, Julie Mehretu’s three separate pieces of her Stadia series seem to emanate, each from a slightly different center, with international flags and corporate logos traveling with packs of gestural lines and marks upon almost invisible renderings of stadium architecture. (see Figures) One can easily understand the metaphor of a stadium as a place where people gather to experience emotional and chaotic spectacles of struggle, often with winners and losers.

Stadia I Mehretu, 2004

Ink and acrylic on canvas 107 x 140 in.

Stadia II Mehretu, 2004

Ink and acrylic on canvas 107 x 140 in.

Stadia III Mehretu, 2004

Ink and acrylic on canvas 107 x 140 in.

Julie Mehretu, an Ethiopian born visual artist, was raised Michigan. While in college she briefly took leave of Kalamazoo College to study batik dying in Senegal which ignited her interest in becoming a professional artist. She had always been gifted at drawing, but it was when she enrolled in the MFA program at the Rhode Island School of Design where she developed her style. (Chua, 27) Given her history one can begin to understand the motivation behind the scintillating tracings of trajectory which have become the focal point of her work.

Julie Mehretu once said of her work in an interview with Laurie Firstenberg in 2002 that her abstract marks on canvases stand for a language for characters—also depicted by marks—that retain a sense of agency. She implies that these marks stand for people and things as they are in a process of becoming with their environment. Mehretu thinks of her work as charting the experience and development of these characters, both living and inanimate. To bring her characters into contexts of time and space he began to include architectural plans and historical drawings to create a metaphoric, intensive view of time. (Firstenberg, p. 93)

Mehretu’s multilayered line drawings compiled of prints, acrylic and ink, produce a sense of how complex landscapes or architectures comprised of multivalent combinations of actors and actions happening simultaneously at multiple sites might be understood both intellectually and affectively. As one spends time with her work, one derives an expansive sense of the time present in making Mehretu’s work as well as the time the artist intends to present through the work. Her canvasses integrate dynamic flows between multiple existences resulting in evocations of potential along with tensions lying unresolved in two dimensions. Mehretu incorporates iconic detritus that serves to give a frame of popular consumer culture, such as distorted logos, graffiti and comic book graphics recalling both the past and the present. (Chua, 26) One can also note numerous echoes of fine art in her work as it is imbued with a history of both traditional Nihonga conventions of Japanese painting and Duchamp’s painting of movement, as well as the abstracted affects of Kandinsky.

Mehretu’s use of visual elements seems very similar to Deleuze’s appraisal of Nietzsche’s use of aphorism in his essay Nomadic Thought. Much as Nietzsche’s work inserts a frame to draw attention to all that lies beyond it, her work reaches beyond this frame and beyond the frame that would be the border of the work to draw on the viewer’s experience that is evoked as one interprets her work. When Deleuze speaks of Nietzsche conjuring the intensive by using aphorisms of and symbolic names of those who mean something in relation to the history of thought, Mehretu does also with visual evocations of styles from aesthetic history. Mehretu’s work can also be related to Deleuze’s intensive as it employs an actualization of suspended virtual potential both in the world and in the work, though remains virtual in possible re-interpretations existing in minds of viewers.

Mehretu’s work could be understood to explain through visual means that space equates to time and movement. In her work, every site is a meshwork or rhizome of actors’ movements, preferring potential and flow to stability. Mehretu’s paintings could be viewed in terms of Deleuze’s crystallized time-image—a form of temporality that accounts for time that splits the present into two trajectories, “one of which is launched towards the future while the other falls into the past. Time consists of this split, and it is … time, that we see in the crystal.”(Deleuze, Cinema II, 81)

In 2005 art essayist Lawerence Chua said of her work “At the heart of Julie Mehretu’s paintings is a question about the ways in which we construct and live in the world. Perhaps that is what makes the work so radical: its willingness to unravel the conventionally given answers about the violent environment we inhabit today.”(Chua, 26) Here one can understand Mehretu to problematize humanity’s interaction with themselves and with their world in a push to re-evaluate how we live, which in Deleuzian thought is one of the most important undertakings with which an artist can engage.

B.Paris

Chua, Lawerence. “Julie Mehretu.” Bomb. New Art Publications, Inc. Vol. 91, Spring 2005.

Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Brian Masumi. University of Minnesota Press, 1987.

Deleuze, Gilles. Cinema II: The Time Image. University of Minnesota Press, 1989.

Firstenberg, Lauri. “Towards Abstraction: Indeterminacy and the Internationalisation of Julie Mehretu’s Painting.” Afterall: A Journal of Art, Context and Enquiry. University of Chicago Press. Issue 14, Autumn/Winter, 2006.

Tomkins, Calvin. “Big Art, Big Money.” The New Yorker,  Volume 86.6. Conde Nast, March 2010.

“Fragile” and some other fragmented bodies

Posted in Art, Art Exhibits, Theater and Performance with tags on May 7, 2012 by immanentterrain2

Eiko & Koma, Fragile, 2012

Eiko & Koma, Fragile, 2012

Things and thoughts advance or grow out from the middle, and that’s where you have to get to work, that’s where everything unfolds.

-Deleuze in Negotiations

In Postproduction, Nicolas Bourriaud discusses how postproduction artists, by making new relations among existing cultural artifacts, erase “the traditional distinction between production and consumption, creation and copy, readymade and original work” building on the Situationist International’s tradition of subversion and appropriation. (Bourriaud 4) In these artworks, the spectacle of images is not for the sake of representations, but the artists are making use of them to reach a network of signs, “a temporary terminal of a network of interconnected elements, like a narrative that extends and reinterprets preceding narrative.” (Bourriaud 19) Isn’t this the perfect way to engage in schizoanalysis? Instead of old family pictures, or a recollection of childhood memories, the cultural artifacts ready at the artist’s disposal for her/his act of choosing, a mixing of codes for new assemblages…

Richard Hawkins, Ankoku series, 2012

At the 2012 Whitney Biennial, Richard Hawkins’ Ankoku collages are exhibited, for which the artist cut out and pasted smaller prints of well-known works such as Picasso’s Guernica, Willem de Kooning’s Woman series, Hans Bellmer’s Dolls and Francis Bacon’s various paintings. These visuals are accompanied by texts from Jean Genet, Lautréamont and Antonin Artaud, as well as Hawkins’ own. The artist states that he was inspired by the scrapbooks of Tatsumi Hijikata, the founder of the Butoh dance. Hawkins adds how in the Western scholarship, the Butoh dance is contextualized within the traumatic history of post-war Japanese culture and how he is not convinced by this common trauma tale. He guesses Hijikata’s intentions for creating Butoh are overlooked, perhaps, because it was something far too challenging and uncontainable for the Western academia. Hawkins adds that he recognized something sexual, something erotic in the journals of Hijikata, who performed under the name of “Tatsumi Genet” in his earlier years. Inspired by his method of making collages, Hawkins makes his own. Perhaps, by cutting and pasting these works by Picasso, de Kooning, Bacon and Bellmer together, he tries to see something else that is left behind, something else that is seen better when they are together. He cuts out and reassembles the pieces of the works of art in which their creators dismantled the body, whether they are painted as fragmented and disfigured or photographed as tied up. The name Hawkins chooses for his collages is “Ankoku”. He refers to the darkness he recognized in Butoh but he is far from being satisfied with the word “darkness.” When asked about the title, he answers, “The darkness, I wish there were another word –“unspeakableness” or “threatening uncontainableness” might do- but perhaps it’s best merely to use Hijikata’s word, ankoku.” (Sussman and Sanders 133)

Over the spring break, I had the chance to see the retrospective exhibition of Eiko & Koma, the Japanese performance/dance duo who began their artistic career when they joined Tatsumi Hijikata’s dance company. For their retrospective show, they performed Fragile, a version of their previous work Naked accompanied by the Kronos Quartet. It is a four-hour long “live installation” that involves the duo, the musicians, a sound collage and set design.  The performance began as they were lying on the floor covered in bushes and feathers. Their bodies were naked and painted white as if they were covered by dust. As the sound collage started, they began moving very slowly; their movements were repetitious, incremental, almost indiscernible. Their performance was hard to define, a blurring of dance and almost, sculpture; hence they called it a living installation. They moved their bodies in such an incremental and slow manner, their bodies looked nonhuman with their twisted limbs in the middle of all dust, bushes and feathers. Their dance wasn’t an expression of ideal movement like the perfect circles of the whirling dervishes of the Islamic Sufi tradition, nor it was a dance that sacrificed the intervals for the sake of the poses. Instead, their movement was the dance of the intervals, constant movement without any poses or ideal routines. No poses, no routines, no representations, but constant movement. The score of the piece was a collage of audio including President Truman’s address on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, an interview with J. Robert Oppenheimer, and reports on the Tohoku tsunami and the Fukushima Daiichi disaster accompanied by the Kronos Quartet. Even though the score of the piece points out to the traumatic history of Japanese culture, contextualizing Eiko & Koma’s performance only in reference to that would be awfully reductive. Their movements were not only the dance of bodies that attempted to recover under radiation, but also, they looked pre-human. I think there is a lot more to the piece: a different perception of time, nonhuman bodies, moving to find new ways of inhabiting the body and relating to each other…

Hawkins, through visual and textual collages, tries to find new relations among existing works, “testifying to a willingness to inscribe the work of art within an network of signs and significations, instead of considering it an autonomous or original form”, as Eiko & Koma moves to find other ways of inhabiting the body and the environment they are on. (Bourriaud 16) Perhaps, new ways of existence emerge mostly after a trauma, an atomic bomb, the Spanish Civil War, or under the terror of fascism, especially in the absence of a collective imagination and some kind of mythology, at a time when Deleuze is “doubtful whether the individual imagination, unaided could raise itself up to such an admirable identity.” (Deleuze “Desert Islands” 11) Nevertheless, it is too reductive to assume a perfect causality. Art by its capacity to affect can create the necessary zones of indetermination where new ways of being emerge without trauma being a prerequisite or the most common trigger. “Schizoanalysis, or pragmatics, has no other meaning: Make a rhizome. But you don’t know what you can make a rhizome with, you don’t know which subterranean stem is effectively going to make a rhizome, or enter a becoming, people your desert. So experiment.” (Deleuze and Guattari 251) Isn’t this what art is for?

Piril Gunduz

References:

Bourriaud, Nicolas. Postproduction. New York: Lukas and Sternberg, 2002.

Deleuze, Gilles. Desert Islands and Other Texts 1953-1974. New York: Semiotext[e], 2004.

Deleuze, Gilles. Negotiations. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus, Capitalism And Schizophrenia. Univ Of Minnesota Press, 1987.

Whitney Biennial 2012 Catalogue. Edited by Elizabeth Sussman and Jay Sanders. New York: The Whitney Museum of American Art, 2012.

Ba lance. Rep it tish ion. Com pose zish ion. Mir rors.

Posted in Art, Deleuze, Immanence, Theater and Performance with tags , , , , , on May 7, 2012 by immanentterrain2

Before The Books called it quits, I was fortunate enough to see them perform live. For those who don’t know, The Books are an experimental duo who make music with found sound, recorded sound, and instruments. As Pitchfork’s Mark Richardson says, “Their music is easy to appreciate immediately because they use pretty sounds – it’s not harsh, noisy, they use space […] Ringing guitars, cello, melodic – but it’s also hard to put a finger on, and there’s an in-between-spaces aspect to The Books that I find really appealing” (qtd. in Ganz). Unlike many other artists who use found sound, The Books only use analog audio (most of which is found in thrift stores or other random places). Instead of taking audio from the Internet, they use old answering machine recordings, self-help audiobook cassettes, ancient exercise tapes, etc.

One of their first songs, “Enjoy Your Worries, You May Never Have Them Again,” will probably give you a good idea of the kind of music that they make:

When they perform live, The Books project videos that they’ve created (with stock footage). Some of these videos, like the one for “Smells Like Content,” are simple but effective:

The album that houses this track, Lost and Safe, is a deviation from their earlier work. Thought for Food and The Lemon of Pink (their first two albums) both used very few vocals and focused mainly on found voices coupled with sparse instrumentation while on the other hand, “Smells Like Content” contains a full set of lyrics. What I like about the songs with vocals is that they’ve put into words what they’re trying to initially express solely with sound. In other words, if you weren’t sure what their agenda was after listening to the first two albums, pick up the third and everything will begin to come together.

For me, The Books are a very philosophical group. After many listens, I have noticed bits of Hume, Nietzsche, Sartre, and (recently) Deleuze in their work. “Smells Like Content” is a song that explores the purpose of life and asks the same question as modern philosophers, “How might one live?” At their show, Nick Zammuto (the half of the duo that provides vocals) said that his brother went on a hike and recorded his stream of consciousness ramblings which were then used as inspiration for the lyrics. In “Literature and Life,” Deleuze says, “Syntax is the set of necessary detours that are created in each case to reveal the life in things” (2). For this song, syntax is very important: each word is placed in a specific way so as to create a rhythm that exists on its own, without the addition of extra sounds. In “Smells Like Content,” the extra sounds that are included act as a form of repetition and as what Deleuze and Guattari would call a refrain.

In “Of the Refrain,” D&G talk about territory, deterritorialization, milieu, and assemblage (among other things). From what I gather, rhythm is the difference created through repetition and repetition is what moves us from milieu to milieu (while simultaneously creating those milieus). D&G say, “A milieu does in fact exist by virtue of a periodic repetition, but one whose only effect is to produce a difference by which the milieu passes into another milieu. It is the difference which is rhythmic, not the repetition, which nevertheless produces it . . . (346). In simpler words, the difference is what creates the rhythm. I don’t feel it’s necessary to summarize the whole essay, but I will say that in the end, D&G basically say that something called “the Cosmos” is the end game (which probably isn’t the right phrase) of music. They say, “[. . . ] modern philosophy tends to elaborate a material of thought in order to capture forces that are not thinkable in themselves. That is Cosmos philosophy, after the manner of Nietzsche” (377-8). So then music (not pop music, but music that D would deem worthy) does the same thing as philosophy, it seems. The Books are one of my favorite experimental duos because I think it’s obvious that they are trying to express that inexpressible through their music.

For me, “Smells Like Content” is a great song, albeit it doesn’t play with space, silence, and sound in the same way as their earlier material. Essentially, the entire song is about process ontology, the idea that the world is always in flux and that all we can do is think about what is coming into existence. The lyrics tell us, “But then again, the world without end is a place where souls are combined,/ but with an overbearing feeling of disparity and disorderliness./To ignore it is impossible without getting oneself into all kinds of trouble,/despite one’s best intentions not to get entangled with it so much.” The world is complicated and it makes sense for people to want to try to understand it; however, it is impossible to know for sure what the world is and why we’re here, etc. Philosophy is often hard to understand because it is an exploration, not an explanation (and it’s easy to get entangled when exploring different ideas). It’s also notable that the words in the video are spelled out phonetically and that some of them change as they are changing (that sounds confusing, but for example, look at “overarching paradigm” as it appears on the screen). By breaking the words up into other words, we are given a visual example of how everything is just a fragment and part of something bigger.

This fragmentation also reminds me of Gertrude Stein’s “Susie Asado.” In this poem, Stein was trying to recapture the rhythm of a flamenco dancer, to paint a portrait of her with words. Stein’s writing uses phrases that almost make sense, but not quite. She forces us to toss away our conventional expectations and accept the open-endedness of her writing. When The Books say, “Meanwhile,/ the statues are bleeding green,” I am reminded of both Stein and Noam Chomsky (and of course, Deleuze). Chomsky’s sentence, “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously,” makes grammatical sense but really means nothing (15). How can ideas be both colorless and green at the same time? Because both “colorless” and “green” have figurative meanings, we interpret them a certain way. Stein’s poem strives to be nonrepresentational, even though the words that she uses also have figurative meanings; the meaning of her poem does not rely on what each of the individual words mean or what they are associated with. There would be no way to paraphrase Stein’s poem. To me, the lyrics of “Smells Like Content” are trying to tell us (with words and music) that conventional categories and ideas aren’t going to work if we’re trying to figure out what life is/what it means to be.

The Books describe how/why we created artificial categories and concepts in order to explain the world. They say, “Then finally, we opened the box, we couldn’t find any rules.” We’re born and never given any guidance about how to live our lives, what life means, what it means to be, etc. There are so many possibilities for what life is and what it could become but because of “faith,” we “decided to go ahead and just ignore them,/despite tremendous pressure to capitulate and fade.” There are so many possibilities that instead of considering them, we usually just fall into the routine/trap of artificial constructions (“So instead, we went ahead to fabricate a catalog/of unstable elements and modicums and particles”). The song ends with, “Expectation -/leads to disappointment. If you don’t expect something big huge and exciting . . ./Usually . . ./I dunno,/just, uh yeah . . .” While these maybe don’t seem like brilliant lyrics at first, I think that they say a lot in very few words. In a world that’s constantly changing, how can we have expectations for anything? As the video progresses, the images trick us. First, it seems like I’m looking at outer space. When I see jellyfish, I now assume I’m looking at the ocean. When the video ends, it is revealed that I was just watching footage from an aquarium the entire time. What if the world is just an aquarium and I’m just a fish? Does it matter?

If anyone is interested, here’s a link to the videos that The Books play at their shows: http://zammutosound.com/videos.cfm

— Kilgore Trout

Chomsky, Noam. Syntactic Structures. Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter, 2002. Print.

Deleuze, Gilles. Essays Critical and Clinical. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1997. Print.

Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. trans. Massumi, B. (1998). 1837: Of the Refrain.
In A Thousand Plateaus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia. London: Continuum.
pp. 342ñ386.

Ganz, Jacob. “The Books: Making Music Through Found Sound.” NPR. NPR, 04 Sept. 2010. Web. 07 May 2012. <http://www.npr.org/2010/09/03/129607098/the-books-making-music-through-found-sound&gt;.

Relations, Folds, Affects, Forms

Posted in Art, Art Exhibits, Body and Affect, Deleuze, Immanence, Process Ontology, Rhizome on May 2, 2012 by immanentterrain2

During the semester I went to the MoMa specifically with the intention of exploring the contemporary galleries on the 2nd floor, and with the hope to eat curry in Rikrit Tiravanija’s Untitled (Free/Still), which unfortunately had closed down by the day I got there.  While I wasn’t able to explore that piece, I engaged with a few pieces that have remained with me for this or that reason since my exploration of the exhibit, and I want to use this as a forum to explore why these pieces struck me and why they have remained with me.

I enjoy going to museums, and the city has some of the best and worst examples of them.  The MoMa, especially on Free Friday, is a perfect example of museums gone commercially wrong.  There are thousands of people shuffling in lines through completely white rooms, absorbing a piece for maybe a few seconds and eventually moving on.  The gift shops on every floor are filled with books, mugs, key chains and more with the stamp of various artists or iconic paintings.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see a candy wrapper from Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ Untitled (Placebo) on a T-shirt. However, in the galleries, every once in a while, someone will remain on a piece for a time for this or that reason. I had a few of these experiences, but only one on the 2nd floor.

I understand the idea behind relational aesthetics, and for me, sublimating the medium to the ideas behind the piece is equally as appealing as it is horrifying, and the emphasis on relations between people is enthralling.  Regardless, there is still some medium in the relational exhibits we’ve been shown, be it wood and curry, candy, or dilapidated huts in ethnic neighborhoods, and my question is if art is about the ends rather than the means, so to speak, as these exhibits, to me, all seem less focused on the experience (relation between person and piece) and more so about the relation between people in regards to the ideas of the piece.  All the Deleuzian thought that we’ve covered so far would lead me to say it is not about conversing about the piece or the experience but the experience itself: the means leading one self to the ends.  I say this knowing my own bias, as the pieces I related with (2 specifically) were all based in a medium, as has almost every art piece I’ve ever engaged with.  The other question brought to my mind is if there is a way to sublimate or remove the medium of cinema in this sense.

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The piece that truly shook the very fiber of my being during my visit was Keith Haring’s masterpiece, Untitled (1982), which occupies nearly 3 walls of a room on the 2nd floor that for some silly reason has a trio of basketballs in the middle, right where the perfect view of the piece is.  Regardless, in my attempt to describe my experience in words, there is no way I can communicate the sublime shock that overcame me when I rounded the corner and saw the room and the piece.  I’ve only seen a few Haring pieces in real life, and still have yet to make it to the exhibit in Brooklyn, but this specific piece is simply incredible. When viewed from right to left, it depicts basically every Haring theme and image in some sort of epic, grand narrative of humankind, and yet every corner of it contains folds within folds so that one can remain within a certain section of the piece for lengthy periods of time.  I spent what felt like an hour going back and forth through this piece, discovering new image after image every time I returned to a section.  I didn’t even see the giant penis the men having sex with each other were riding on, or the Mickey Mouse testicles, until the 2nd or 3rd time around.  The piece is, to say the least, baroque in the sense Deleuze describes in his essay, “The Fold.”

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The other piece that grabbed my attention from another side of the room was Kandinsky’s Panels for Edwin R. Campbell.  Even now looking at these pieces on a computer monitor, they seem to jump out of the screen.  The description reads, “Kandinsky coined the expression ‘nonobjective painting’ to refer to painting that depicted no recognizable objects. Although preliminary studies for one of these paintings suggest that Kandinsky had a landscape in mind when he conceived it, he ultimately envisioned these works as free of descriptive devices. Kandinsky stressed the impact of color and its association with music, explaining that, “color is a means of exerting direct influence upon the soul.”  Whatever Kandinsky was painting, he painted the affects of the pieces in a different way than Cezanne or Bacon, without any descriptors, using the simplest phonemes of formal composition: color and movement.  There is form, but not in the sense that we are used to, and it is painted so masterfully that it exerts a direct visceral response from the beholder upon viewing even on a computer monitor.  What the painting is describing is indescribable in words, as well as in any other medium and digital representation of the painting on a computer, but the affect comes across from piece to viewer without any problem.

Jeff