Archive for July, 2008

a performer’s story

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

a performer i know shared this story with me:

he and his family moved to nyc from puerto rico when he was in the fourth grade. he was asked by his teacher to memorize and recite a poem to the class. he chose ‘little brown baby‘ – (read the comment below the poem from january 7th).

while he was memorizing the poem his family was happily watching caddy shack in the next room. he decided to recite the poem the way bill murray’s character spoke in caddy shack. he doesn’t really know why he chose to recite the poem that way.

after his recitation his teacher took him by the arm into the hall and told him that what he’d done was horrible, and to never do something like that again. she was visibly upset with him.

his teacher was caucasian, and he had frequently experienced caucasians as unwilling to express their true feelings to someone’s face – and had heard they often seemed nice but then, behind your back, would do mean things. he was amazed that she would be so honest and direct with him about how she felt.

at that moment he decided to become a performer.

“Facts do not create truth, facts create norms…

Friday, July 11th, 2008

but they do not create illuminations”. so says werner herzog in the interview below.

i recall a quote from hofstadter’s Godel, Escher, Bach:

Gödel showed that provability is a weaker notion than truth, no matter what axiom system is involved..

the limits of formalization are interesting to me, and i’m intrigued at how dogmatic some of us seem to be about facts and their related logical structures. their real use to us is in our continued development of them, and their continued evolution with us, not in treating a currently useful arrangement of facts and logical structure as some sort of natural, invariable law.

logical structure’s (in general) mutability, development, and usefulness as a method for understanding the present as clearly as possible is an index of our intellectual evolution.

in speaking with an art student yesterday about her investigations and documentation of specific biologic structures i noticed that she seemed equally passionate about the circumstances surrounding the creation of her images: the people she met along the way, the places she visited, the impulses that lead her to focus her attention on her subject (the oldest living things on this planet), etc.

i recalled another quote from werner herzog:

the poet must not avert his eyes, you have to take a bold look at your environment and see what is around you, even the ugly things, the decadent things, even the dangerous things.

and it occurred to me that what was around her work was more than the photos she had chosen to show me, and i encouraged her to express the complex interaction of fact, impulse and gesture that the images were a part (a fact, a bit).

our experience occurs at the intersection of facts (logical constructions) and impulse. when the artist creates a gesture that contains the interaction of both of those elements in such a way that they permit an experience of what herzog describes as the poet’s gaze, the quality of that moment is aesthetic.

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in the clip above he mentions an incident in the video below, that also contains the quote about the poet’s gaze.

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m v n v m

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

while sitting in an artist’s studio yesterday i noticed how insulated i felt from the forest just yards away, and how pretty the woods looked through the small window cut out of the cinderblock wall, framed by all sorts of chemicals and gizmos.

last month i spent time visiting my father in massachusetts and spent a lot of time in the woods, which i loved. on the return trip i found a deer tick embedded in my leg. i’m still waiting to find out if i have lyme disease or not.

tonight, just after sunset i was looking at the sky and hills across a football field cut into the woods. the humidity began to increase, and i heard a high-pitched, rustling, patter coming toward me from the trees to the west. it was beautiful and i couldn’t figure out what it was.

a moment later i felt rain drops and realized i was hearing the rain coming toward me.

i walked under a tree for cover, saw a rail thin cat scrounging around for food, and was suddenly harassed by a squadron of mosquitoes. i headed indoors.

sitting with the artist we talked about how toxic to the environment concrete is, and how we’ve used it extensively.

i recalled some thoughts of werner herzog regarding nature included in my best fiend:
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i wondered if our aboriginal ancestors (we all have aboriginal ancestors) experienced nature as violent, chaotic, dangerous and agonizing. it occurred to me that if they had, then the recent environmental onslaught that we call industrialized society seems to be a sort embodiment and monument to what i imagine as our ancestor’s wish for control and violence against that great uncontrollable and dominant force that sustained, tormented, toyed with, and killed them. an entire epoch in human development that could be characterized as the ‘fuck you, nature!’ phase.

having temporarily isolated ourselves from much of the chaos and difficulty of living (as opposed to vacationing) close to nature the view through our assorted windows looks pretty and maybe even more healthy and comfortable that our rooms, studios, and offices.

like a lot things we’ve distanced ourselves from we’ve romanticized it.

our built environment may even be causing us more harm, confusion and misery than that view of a tree with a squirrel in it ever could. maybe we’ve gone too far away from nature and should live closer to the earth. why not?

except that our garbage and chemicals seem to be buried everywhere, and like much of our technology the essential stuff (in this case the most nasty and toxic materials and processes) is active but often undetectable except to some select experts.

the causes and effects of our actions are on a global scale and the causes and effects are highly dispersed across space and time, and as i’ve been writing about, our ability to sense relationships and coordinations of distant events is poor to begin with. we’ve set a trap for ourselves.

one could even argue that as our technology caused us to spread further apart we began to require our technology and other intellectual constructions to keep us ‘together’. by privileging the intellectually constructed we find ourselves increasingly clumsy in regard to our instincts. perhaps our instincts, seemingly constant for at least thousands of years, provided a sort of check and balance system for our relationship with the earth. perhaps lately we’ve been blindly building (or digging) ourselves into a toxic hole of our own design.

it seems that many hazardous chemicals that we’ve put down are leached out of the earth by plants that look, feel and taste good to us.

our forays into ‘anti’ biotics may have set the stage for highly virulent, uncontrollable bacteria and viruses.

global warming?

fresh water crisis?

hmmm. nice moves, nature.

Were you not just controlled?

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

Cesar, in response to Richard’s installation, described a difference between the hypnotic and the meditative. (I’m recalling these comments from memory a few hours later):

The hypnotic requires no conscious work from the subject. To me this suggests that the hypnotic is an intellectually effortless act of complacency and submission.

The meditative requires work from whoever wishes to meditate, and suggests a process of adaptation and interaction with one’s environment that directly involves the consciousness and, by extension, the interplay between the body and environment, between environment, body, feeling, and thought.

Cesar went on to say that creating hypnotic work now, in our culture, must be handled carefully and critically.

“now is interesting, new isn’t.”

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

overheard at a crit.


Sunday, July 6th, 2008

during the question and answer period after last week’s talk at MICA someone brought up this post (improved interface design, not instinct), and asked if i knew anything about mirroring as a technique in early education and how it had been, according to the person asking the question, minimized as a technique over the past twenty years, and how some educators are attributing certain undesirable, difficult and minimally empathic behaviors in young people to this lack empathy in the technique of their teachers.


here’s a link describing mirroring from an educator’s point of view.

mirroring is an interactive technique of listening, imitating, and adapting, for both student and teacher that seems to foster a sense of empathy. in brief, the idea seems to be one of implementing a lesson plan by using the vocabulary of a specific student.

take a moment and think about all your gripes about our current young generation.

take another moment and think about what you’ve been attributing those behaviors to: music, drugs, popular culture, ‘the computer’, ‘the internet’, ‘technology’, many, many other factors.

in addition to the lack of mirroring, the past twenty years also featured removal of civics classes from public schools, as well as the removal of art and music whenever the budget got tight.

the person who raised this point also went on to say that educators are concerned that they’ve ‘lost’ (her word) two generations, as the current younger crew will impart their values on their own kids.

mirroring is now becoming popular again in masters of education programs.

i didn’t catch the person’s name who raised these points, but i want to thank her.

predicting the weather by observing clouds

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

i have an umbrella that i hate – it is too big, slightly bowed (so it always falls to the ground whenever i lean it against something), and seems to become inverted if i so much as sneeze while it’s open. i have also tripped over it about fifty times and stabbed countless scores of innocents with its ridiculously long and pointy metal tip, which looks like a mini lightning rod – man i hate that thing. for some reason i’ve managed to keep it around for years, while the nice, compact umbrellas i sometimes buy seem to vanish overnight.

this weekend i ended up toting the dreaded umbrella every day as i couldn’t figure out what was going on with the weather. this morning i did a little research and found this link on how to predict the weather by observing clouds.