Thursday, September 29, 2011

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Junk mail art

Would art fiction be more enjoyable to read than actual art history?

(A work of art fiction is a text [or otherwise an information package] which describes art which has not actually been produced and/or artists who do not actually exist as such.)

Ostensibly I feel this is a possibility. There is something very curious about the dynamic between work and diversion and the way something can become so engrossing simply by being a diversion of one's productive energies and thinking.

Banality itself becomes seductive when presented as a game; this is apparent from the habitual playing of desktop Solitaire to the addictive potential of Second Life. (I wonder what the aspect of explicit rules and formulated limitations involved has to do with this seductiveness...)

There is something vital about aesthetics in this dynamic, and I think it is vital to the (sensual/first-hand) experience of the work of art. A viewer does not necessarily need to expect that a work of art will serve an instrumental purpose, providing a neat and clear little lesson they can take away, solving a particular problem, or even being something that can be agreed about. Yet a viewer does at least require an understanding of the rules ordering the work to allow the inexhaustible ineffabilities of the aesthetic to be enacted.

Art fiction I imagine presupposes a set of rules as fiction. The rules of fiction are understood quite naturally and are of course amenable to engrossment as diversion. If art history presupposes rules as history (not even to mention as art history), the complexity and incommensurability is of an altogether different order than that of fiction and, I would argue, holds less potential for aesthetic enjoyment.

A text in either event, however schematic, presupposes fundamentally textual interests, and this presupposition I suspect is inherent and native to the act of reading.

As an art historian/critic/philosopher, I may treat works of art rhetorically. Indeed as an artist, I may produce works of art rhetorically. Doing so will satisfy these fundamentally textual interests I suspect of texts - that is, the work of art is treated ultimately as an instrumental support for some extrinsic bit of information - and yet I don't imagine such a text, as art history, would have the same potential for engrossment as a text of art fiction.

Art fiction is self-substantial/self-substantiating. Art fiction is rhetorical, and its fictional objects are almost certain to be so as well, yet as art itself, no such extrinsic ends need be necessary and so they need not be assumed by its reader.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Aesthetics of mediation and teeth

Teeth whitening is a public act.

One's eyes do not directly see one's teeth.

In less mediated times, one would most often see one's teeth in the reflection of a mirror; it must be assumed, and quite reasonably, that this viewing took place in a private space.

The most effective advertisement for teeth-whitening may be that which takes place completely as a side effect of social networking and the disembodiment of experience entailed by this transubstantiation from the private to the public, from being-as-seeing to being-seen: the avatar.

The experience of the self as an image is no longer limited to private viewing and taken for granted in life outside of these mirrored spaces. The reflection is now public, "iconic," and, further, it is fixed.

Thus the comparative whiteness of teeth is no longer the stuff of subjective oblivion, and, in the hyper-realizing of the moment fixed by a flash, no longer a minor detail overwhelmed by a far greater manifold of minor details in dynamic and lived space.

If "reality" is in some meaningful and even empirical way able to be understood as a product of mediation, is there a qualifiable difference in the aspect of reality between whitening one's teeth with bleach versus whitening one's teeth with photoshop?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Aesthetics of sleeplessness

I couldn't sleep very much last night but when I did I had a weird dream.

The heat is too much I suppose. I woke up at 1 am and drank two glasses of water.

It looked like there was going to be a big storm and I could see flares of lightning somewhere else but then when it rained it lasted for about one minute.

I put on my tape of "gentle rain" and after it had ended I was still awake.

I have gotten two more sounds of nature tapes: one is a "thundering rainstorm" and the other is "the oceans relaxing surf." They are not very good.

I would be pleased to find there were a tape of a rainstorm that didn't sound real.

And I was thinking about what the market for these tapes was like. Someone probably paid something like $14 for these tapes 20 years ago at some music store in a mall. And the tapes were released by actual record labels.

And there was a huge bewildering cultural situation in which all of this happened, and it makes me think of the architecture and design of the mall just to imagine anything about the sounds of nature tapes. The mall was full of burgundy, and people could smoke inside of it. I feel like that little facet makes the time that has passed seem so foreign.

The meaning of things consist in so many little details beyond the thing itself.

"Gentle Rain" is a product of the conditions of its time and place, of the ideology which made it possible as a commodity.

It was another time.

I know that the rain I am listening to is rain from 1987, when the mall was lined with burgundy carpet and burgundy paneling and burgundy benches and people could smoke in it and put their ashes into burgundy ash trays.

The mall seemed so much more personal in its homeliness.

I have been thinking of the title "Sleepless" for an imaginary film, and I think it would have something to do with tapes of nature.

The sound of rain must only work as a sleeping aid if you can stop thinking about what it means that it's on a tape. (But then again, I wonder if its efficacy for the people of 1987 wasn't precisely in the opposite of this? The little details that compose its meaning. And what is the sound of nature anyway? Whatever it is, if it is there, couldn't you not escape it?)

Boredom itself is misunderstood. Boredom itself is engrossing.

When we sleep we experience nothing and when we fail to sleep we experience nothing, ie nothingness. In the former, nothing is a negative state. In the latter, it is a positive. Sleep is an escape and sleeplessness is a pursuit.

What is sought?

More importantly, what is the seeking?

Time itself is institutionalized beyond biology. Sleepless, we are out of time.

It is a desperate pursuit and a desperate fleeing, from anxiety to nothingness.

In banal desperation I turn on the television, hoping to be bored back to sleep as bluish static, like particles sputtering from the screen penetrates the sheet over my head and bores into my skin and my sandy, circled eyes.

Sleeplessness wins in spite of banality and boredom, and so I seek engrossment.

Most infomercials I find are for exercise machines and routines and pills. There are elastic bras and body-shapers, articles conflating containment and clothing. One imagines the bodies. Some are scams preying on these bodies, these desperate bodies, promising the secrets to gaining riches and luxury vacations, all as an unthinking middleman on the real estate market or eBay. Of course there are gadgets. I suppose there would be less market space for music collections, and needless to say, the payers of paid programming aren't actually that interested in providing me with aesthetic reverie, but the splendors of positive boredom Time Life has endowed my life from time to time number many hours.

Infomercials are both meant to be enjoyed and not meant to be enjoyed. They have an aesthetic value entirely in spite of themselves, yet this value is derived from precisely everything that they are. Deceit is given its most honest exposition in these productions.

What one feels, adrift in the negatives that constitute the target audience for infomercials - nonsleeping, underemployed, disenchanted - is dread. This is the sublime dread of the existentialists, when finally the stark wasteland underneath all the distraction is revealed, in its collapse, to be nothing, and to have been nothing all along. The production functions perfectly, and nothing more.

This "nothing more" is the void.

Harsh static set to images.

Smiley-faced demons prodding the smiley-faced damned.

Pulled to sea in the surf of a muzak version of a Jan and Dean song in a broken elevator, never ending.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Hospital aesthetics

I want to say there is no more desperate object than the television over the hospital bed, but then I remember the one in the living room.

And I feel like this is one of those things I want to say but won't because it would sound baffling. But the fact that it would sound baffling is precisely the problem; there doesn't seem to be anything alarming about the idea that one might die in the midst of an episode of "According To Jim." And why? Because nothing else was on?

Friday, June 24, 2011


I have hated the vagueness of the word "interesting" in its most typical use for a long time. This has been so at least since I first went to a painting critique. It is a habitual word, and is surely vague for a reason, though this vagueness is exploited; a painting critique is an instance where the word will be misused for the sake of politeness, whenever someone, having nothing to say about a perfectly dull and unremarkable canvas randomly selects some detail to describe as "interesting."

I wish to speak economically, but I know some statements require qualifications despite the precise correspondence of the literal statement to the speakers own intended meaning.

There must be at least four different ways a person can utter the word "what." And there is a spectrum of subtly different meanings to be derived from this manifold, each of which is likely to be readily and easily understood by any hearing subject.

I think again about the idea that if cigarettes were to become more interesting it would be a disaster for the tobacco industry and I know what I mean. I mean to speak of something like a meta-interest, or an interest of an anthropological sort.

But at the same time, cigarettes already are interesting in themselves because they provide a source of additional detail about one. When I say that each new phenomenon which enters a culture complicates the meanings and values of things already established, this is where the interest of cigarettes inheres. Identity is not entirely given. It is provisionary. One's identity is expanded upon by partaking in the constructed meanings of things like cigarette brands. This aspect of their use -- that is, their meaning -- is the interest which is no threat to the persistence of smoking. It is in fact its greatest aid.

Yet this interest must be bracketed in a blind spot of conscious awareness while plainly manifest, lest it become the threateningly aware interest that it will become if it, too, appears in sight.

But I am always suspicious that distinctions like these two sorts of interest (one in cigarettes and the other about cigarettes) will only become obscured in and by the very light of their being explained.

What else is academia?

Every field of inquiry has advanced over the last century to a level that requires years of study just to become adequately acquainted with its groundwork.

Every thing is complex.

Why expect that understanding won't take any more work than sitting back and drinking a beer and watching an episode of "How I Met Your Mother?"

We think in the midst of gleeful, populistic nihilism -- self-righteous, eagerly indignant, quick to arbitrary moralization, and always absolutely certain.

Our thinking is only wanted to the extent it may further advance the wanting of wanting and the liking of liking.


The notion of smoking cigarettes is inextricable from the notion of a job to me.

I remember having a job where I worked with an old lady who smoked Misty's and everything about it was so depressing.

Isn't Misty's supposed to be like the spunkier version of Virginia Slims?

But how could one even know that?

I have the sense.

Nothing in my reality corroborates that sense, yet the sense is still palpable.

The package does have that pastel rainbow smeared on it.

Why do I think Virginia Slims are so much more stately than Misty's?

I know nothing of the taste of either, and I would doubt any substantial difference would be possible.

It is clear enough that marketing can only psychoanalyze, generalize, and make claims and suggest promises; it washes its hands of the miserable reality in which these claims and implicit promises will be received. And thus, spunkiness and misery go hand in hand.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


We are solicited constantly, if indirectly, for our opinions. And it is seldom that we really ought even have one, given the nature of the objects of these solicitations.

(Even the opinion that a given topic is absurd, once voiced through a prompt, becomes itself too positivistic as an opinion itself to possess the innocence of disinterest or "authenticity.")

Meanwhile, we are conditioned to only suspect those activities where cash is explicitly exchanged (or, more abstractly, produced.)

However, to suggest this conditioning involves no complicity on "our own part," so to speak, is equally naive as supplying an opinion or suspecting only blunt cash transactions.

If you only suspect Facebook is engaged in social control on account of its pointless and easily overlooked advertisements, the truth of technicity has completely eluded you.

If you imagine commercialism is limited to the hundred-or-so seconds between eight minutes of programming on any given television station, you have gravely misunderstood both the nature of commerce as well as that of programming.

The nature of consumer subjectivity, as it is presented, as it is imagined -- the very mode by which consumption is suggested as consumable -- is an anathema to the idea of "the consumer." Rather, it is the "rugged individual" with totally (or ostensibly) autonomous and free desires who is, ironically, courted by industry as a desirer.

But desire itself is so integral to normative socialization that it is too close for recognition, even as we engage in it jaded and ironically. In the same way that to imagine the apocalypse is easier than to imagine even a shift in the presiding economic structure, an evaluation of the nature of desire and desirability as it relates to social relations is a task which requires one to leave behind the horizon. And there are indeed even false horizons...

Deceit may deceive. 

Irony is a slave morality.

Affluence is over in more ways than one.

"The great mass of people naturally have no opinion but—here it comes!—this deficiency is remedied by the journalists who make their living by renting out opinions. Gradually, as more and more people are wrenched free of the condition of innocence in which they were by no means obliged to have an opinion and are forced into the ‘condition of guilt’ … in which they must have an opinion, what can the unfortunate people do? An opinion becomes a necessary item for every member of the enormous public, so the journalist offers his assistance by renting out opinions."

Sunday, May 22, 2011

waiting for goddy

I listened to a guy talk about riding motorcycles with his friends because it was a nice day yesterday.

I find that nice days are too hot sometimes. But it isn't always the heat itself as much as its brightness. The heat of a boiler room does not feel the same as the haptic brightness of the sun.

Despite the sun, I walked around for a while.

I walked the grounds of a massive church. There were at least five air-conditioning units in the back.

I walked behind a plaza. There was a ruined pile of marquee signs in the overgrowth in the back.

I walked to the bar and had some beer.

There was a horse race on the television there, but I couldn't believe in it.

The sound was off anyways; another television was playing a DVD of Eric Clapton.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Someone before a Robert Motherwell painting might say "I don't know anything about art" and they might very well consider art to be primarily (if not entirely) an aesthetic exposition, but they will have no such trouble in front of a scented candle.

"I don't know anything about candles" or "I don't know anything about scents" would seem impossible reactions.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

I feel malaise like a black hole. There is a distinction one must make between a feeling that is felt and marked by the minutes or the hours, versus one that is extensively lived. The shortly terminal feeling that is felt tends to occur for some reason one could name and correspond to one's own model of practicality and reasonability. To feel a feeling is a distraction. The qualitative sense of this classification I accept; a hierarchy is natural to matters of substance, more and less or positive and negative. My malaise is not a feeling then, but rather it seems to be a constituent to life. Specifically, malaise inheres with time

To feel is the struggle for some sort of friction against the living of time. One yearns for the control one believes is so easy, despite all the while finding each metaphor at hand proves to be apt like a hammer for a parachute