Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Yet another hero has arisen from the Youtube generation. We've gotten past the cat videos, past the Flash-pan flame of Australian Partiers, and moved onto the real stuff. This guy, Derek Ashong, is the 21st century american dream, and I will strive to be like him. To summarize: A typical college student's standing outside a convention being activisty, and someone comes up and starts heckling him with penetrating rude-journalistic questions. His response is incredible:
But even better, Derek later has his say on Youtube, bringing a whole new sublime level to the conversation.
Wow. Things are definitely happening. A sense of hope; non-partisan hope, genuine hope, intellectual hope, for the first time in this bittersweet american tango.
long live the internet generation.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
And as you're reading this on a blog, this is more about you than you might think.
Human identity, for the net-using generation, is a creative and selective process like and unlike other forms of 'art-making' people have historically dabbled in. By art making here, I'm going to be referring to a ton of different human endeavors, which can be encompassed by the idea of PUBLICATION.
We'll start with travel and authoring, and with bicycles. Imagine you're virtually kicking around NYC, checking out BikeSnobNYC's latest post incriminating and deriding fixed-gear culture. Said post picks on fixie rider, architect, and general fashonista John Prolly. Prolly's just started representing his new fixie crew, which means he published a series of photos more or less typified by this one:
Now, there's a whole ton going on here, all of it amazing, most of it covered by Bikesnob in his original post
But my main interest here is that this photo, which is being seen at this very moment by thousands of rabid bicyclists either in or out of a slim subculture, is a great example of identity by authorship. By the power of his image, prolly becomes seen by thousands as the consummate geeky/ironic fixed gear jokester that is either portrayed or satired in this picture. I say either because after a certain level of removal (say logging on from SLC, having never even been to Brooklyn) the icon and the individual become the same. Thus net prolly and real John (Prolly) Watson become one. His publication, through the internet, becomes a version of reality.
WHAT DOES ANY OF THIS HAVE TO DO WITH ANYTHING?
Fairly good question. Prolly, and by extension the larger world of fixed-gear hipsterism, and by larger extension hipsterism in general, which is to say those privileged and savvy and caring enough to use the internet daily in any form (whew!), are actually a very good example of image and culture in general. Because, considering the pictures, Prolly actually rides a real bike in the real world. it just translates so tastily into the aesthetic/authored experience that is the internet. Thus people (you and I) are able to create a reality virtually that enhances and idealizes our real selves.
Much in the same way that the art world is grounded in reality yet unrealistic vis-a-vis the real world. Check it out:
The Guggenheim in Bilbao, an international bastion to western art and culture, has only the most cursory of connections to Spain, let alone the Basque region within which it resides. Better, think of Dubai, UAE, where billions of international dollars are being spent on a cultural and touristic network that not only attempts to erase any sense of local culture, but actually creates its own physical space out of the water:
This is the same country that had little or no urban infrastructure 65 years ago. The money makers of Dubai are using their desert environment as a tabula rasa, much in the same way that Russian Constructivists reduced their visual expression back to the black square, or Futurists wanted to burn down museums and start over. But in the case of Dubai or the Bilbao museum the use of art isn't nearly so progressive or radical. More accurately, art has moved to the international space because it provides a clean white institutional ground from which excitement can be generated and money can be made. This has been the nature of museums since the European Enlightenment.
In our modern context, the blank slate of space, whether digital (Prolly), international (Dubai and Bilbao), or simply f*cking empty (Dubai) has become a ground upon which new capitals of money or just plain excitement can be cultivated. It seems to generate naturally into a pattern of consumption: New artists from Pakistan or Iran travel all around the world, from biennale to biennale, becoming the next hot item, the next $100 million Damien Hirst , while Prolly and his friends inadvertently move a bicycling subculture towards a 'look' that one can buy. None of these artists are at fault, it's simply how we do here in the late capitalistic model.
But here's the thing: just because the blank space gets subsumed into advertising and money doesn't mean it isn't a beautiful and glorious thing for us to play with. Our internet identities are crafted compilations of our interests; in the same way we can connect specifically with ideas and people we like, Bikesnob and Prolly being a great example of this functionality. The attention they can generate specifically towards their subculture can transcend branding and advertising, it can create a common ground for ideas and relationships. Need an example more... important than bicycling? Try Stuff White People Like an anonymous and hilarious blog that pokes fun at yuppie/hipster people in general and racializes the views, creating some great conversation in the comments section. People run up and down eachother's cyber-pages, trying to decypher who's coming from where, and sometimes even make a friend or two. Primarily, it gets people thinking.
So my idea is: extend yourself into that space, learn a lot about the world around you, and make it a little more colorful as you go.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
I totally buy the notion that the ability to lead a country dwells deeper than someone's ability to play the political game. We need to be inspired, to be motivated towards a new notion of what America is. I'm beginning to see it in this guy.
The commentary is from Lawence Lessig, a champion of web 2.0 and a great example of a 'nettified public intellectual. Check it check it.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Saturday, February 9, 2008
Something revolutionary is afoot in america.
Picture this: it's a friday night in SLC, it's bitingly cold and the frats are probably buzzing with free booze and racially charged assault cases. In other words, there are plenty of places well-connected students could possibly be.
So showing up at an anti-war film/panel sponsored by the Wasatch Coalition for Peace and Justice should be a pretty standard affair: a dozen well-meaning retirees ashenly milling over issues they've well covered with each other over the last four years of international bloodshed.
And that's how the screening of Meeting Resistance began. I Looked around the audience and was confronted by a mottled sea of wrinkly-grey sincerity. Soon, however, people started trickling in. students, families, professors, hipsters of all ages, arabs, latinos, everyone arrived. And for the first time in my life, I saw an academic theatre in SLC filled with people on a friday night. There was an edge of apprehension and activism in the air.
And what a film. What a film!
Molly Bingham and Steve Connors are two very, very smart war correspondence journalists, who found themselves in Iraq roughly before the capture of Saddam Hussein. Lacking actual media outlets for any stories of objective journalism, they did what any white english-speaking people of eur-american descent would do in their situation: They went out on their own into the heart of angry organizations out for their blood, and sought the truth. In short, they objectively explored the multifaceted and driven world of the Iraqi insurgency, from the mouths of the 'bad guys' themselves.
Somehow, amazingly, these two documentarians not only communicated with extremely angry clandestine warriors and got out alive, but they gathered a wealth of candid and shockingly revealing interviews. They take us into the streets of a specific neighborhood in Baghdad, into teal cafes and smoky shops, ever-punctuating their story with shattering events of incredible violence. It quickly becomes evident throughout their film that —ideologies aside— the Iraqi people have no choice but to fight and rebel against an occupying foreign power. With that simple truth, all the politicized scheming, all the labeling, all the irreconcilable religious truisms that we're used to hearing about Mujahidin fly out of the picture, and the situation seems somehow more solvable.
In a surprising way, Meeting Resistance is a hopeful film, under the condition that we as the occupying power recognize the impossibility of 'winning' a war in Iraq and begin plans for a long and difficult withdrawal. During the Q&A, the filmmakers mapped out several relevant and interesting points about the current Iraqi situation:
1. One aspect of our military strategy is something called 'information operations,' which is basically propaganda imposed by Coalition forces on the occupied people to control their thoughts. In this specific instance, the Iraqi people are informed that their national sentiment towards America is largely one of optimism and thankfulness, and that the people prolonging the war are bad fringe groups, foreign freedom fighters, islamic fundamentalists, people who do not represent the popular feelings. According to Mr. Connors, the idea that Iraq isn't unified against invaders is a myth. The insurgents support this claim, basically saying 'I have no need for ideology, for politics, I must simply fight these invaders in my country. If they leave my duty is fulfilled." The motivation is separate from all the reasons we were fed for going to war in the first place. The filmmakers contend that instead of this information hitting home with the Iraqi people, who know their own country better than we do, American people become the consumers of this propagandistic claim. So we, uninformed, at home, believe that all these irreconcilable sects exist that will blow each other to pieces as soon as we leave.
2. Which isn't necessarily to say there won't be violence when American troops withdraw. We attempt to live in this fantasy world where war doesn't have far-reaching effects. The world reels for decades after such catastrophes, if nothing else the art world tells us this. Look at the art of Binh Danh, who still uses the Cambodian Genocide or the Vietnam War as a touchstone in his work, or the trauma of WW1 creating the Dada movement. War does not go away easily, our generation will be living with this mark on our history for the rest of our lives. We have to own up to our mistakes and move forward. According to Ms. Bingham, Iraq is perfectly capable of governing itself, evidenced in the country's upstartishness in drafting the Code of Hammurabi way, way before we knew how to rig diebold voting machines.
3. The notion of 'winning' or 'losing' is very 19th century. The only way to 'win' this war would be to commit genocide, which fortunately isn't the only option.
Basically, I'm excited and proud to have met filmmakers like Molly Bingham and Steve Connors, who have a puritanical sense of journalism. They strive to understand conflict from all sides of the issue, regardless of where in the world it is happening. It is crucial to remember that you don't understand conflict by having someone describe their enemy. Things will always be more nuanced. But if a theatre full of people on a friday night in a sleepy little mormon town can take the time to examine that nuance, the future doesn't seem so bleak.
Check out the movie's website for more information, and here are various clips
Friday, February 8, 2008
After watching Baraka I continued my thoughts on the perception of time. I have long considered that humans perceive time at a relitivly consistant 'rate'. The idea here is that we evolved to perceive time in relationship to our body. The foot was used as a system of measurment based on the human body, and so the idea of a temporal foot can be used as a system of measurement for time.
Lets do a thought experiment: Lets say your perception of time was 10 times faster. The world would apear in slow motion. You would be constantly waiting for things to happen. Waiting for your arm to move. Or lets say it was 10 times slower. The world would be in time lapse. Everyone would blur around you. You would be constantly trying to keep up. The point here is that we perceive time based on our anatomy, the wiring of our brains, the time it takes for the signal to travel from your brain to the tip of your finger.
Look at a fly. They are irritating because they are so quick. Whenever you try to snatch one up they are gone. This is because their perception of time is so much faster. Of course, they view their own rate as normal, but to them we seem like huge slow monsters who are all too easy to avoid. There are is one reason for their perception of time, their anatomy. Their neural connections in their brain are a thousands of times closer. They can look at our slow approaching hand, predict it's trajectory and avoid it faster than we can even 'see' that they have moved. Their temporal foot is far smaller than ours. In addition to this their brains are a lot simpler, they bypass the troublesome consiousness and rely directly on instinct.
You can change your perception of time. You just need to play a FPS where you can cheat to speed up or slow down the gameplay. Your brain aclimatizes to the change, and when you revert back things are frustratingly fast, or irritatingly slow.
Consider the dream state, one in which we are not tied to the neural network of our body. We can dream hours in the space of minutes (http://uanews.org/node/17028). It would be possible to exist for life-times in a virtual world with a direct brain interface.
My main point here is to outline the differences of perception between systems. A fly, a cat, a human, a house, a city, a world. Each percieve time in relationship to their size, and the movement of their component parts.
next week: Thoughts on Scale
Check out more of inneri's photos Here. I chose her Refugee photos because they're pretty powerful, but all of her stuff makes me feel really good about SLC and Utah. Thanks Inneri!
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
check out >edIT's< remix remix of The Grouch's "Artsy".
great spin on a really refreshingly sardonic rap tune.
Rap needs more humor and wit like this. I think when you combine competitive nature of hip hop with humor rather than egocentric bling, you end up with good stuff.
Monday, February 4, 2008
Ethan Killian's Infrared Shots of the 337 Project are some of the most intense and fresh portrayals I've seen of the exterior building, I really recommend checking his stuff out. He seems to take his IR work very seriously, he also does portraiture, which is downright scary.
(Thanks to >Trent Call< for the photo)
SF writer Snore came through slc recently, leaving a few throws and tags behind. I've excitedly (it's not often we get good bombing like this in salt lake) shown them to a few people, who always think they're crap...
I've yet to come up with an explanation of why its not. I usually end up with something like: "Well if you were a writer you'd understand", which sounds pretentious, and doesn't put to rest any of the viewers doubts as to the artistic or cultural merit of work like Snore's.
I suppose It's like that with any niche or subculture... if you don't live it, parts of it are hard to understand. But still, I want to find a way of summing up why things like this are good to those who don't necessarily have the background knowledge of a writer. I'll let you know how that goes. If you have thoughts as to how one might achieve this, please post a comment.
good selection of snores stuff >here< from outlaworld
Apparently the weird landscape around spiral jetty is under fire from Oil drillers, who want to install a rig within a couple miles of the art piece on the great salt lake. If you think this is a bad idea, forward your concerns to:
firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 801-537-9023.
The permit request, along with maps showing the location of the drilling can be found here.
Here's my open letter to Mr. Jemmings. It's a bit blowy, but there you are...
Dear Mr. Jemming,
I wanted to drop you a quick word concerning the imminent damage threatening the surrounds of Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty, the most famous and emblematic work of art in Utah since 1970. An economic conflict, especially one concerning oil resources and an art object, is especially relevant at the moment and the implications of any decision are very far-reaching and indicative of our national problem-solving skills in the contemporary age.
The Jetty is located in a part of the Utahn landscape that is indicative of the 'great american west,' that free frontier so romanticized and tied closely with our national identity throughout the 19th and 20th century. The desert's vastness, its remote location, and solitude have brought out creativity and inspiration in all formats, from the individual who sees the space as a huge canvas, to a nation that roots its identification of freedom in the landscape, our famous erstwhile concept of 'manifest destiny.' This idea of freedom, of possibility, and of the sanctity of self-expression is a uniquely american ideal that has slowly died away with the buildup of civilization on this once 'wild' land. The Spiral Jetty is one man's articulation of that ideal space, and its existence carries a large and beautiful spiritual weight for all of us who still love the power and solitude of the American west. Building an oil extractor within the sight of such an immense and powerful piece emphasizing the sublime power of solitude and unworldliness would be the equivalent of opening fire during a Vivaldi concert or, more visually and patriotically relevant, emptying a sewage line down the side of Mt. Rushmore. Oil rigs and art is a combination that really screws with my notion of the American Dream.
Smithson's work carries with it an immense amount of social capital, a concept that we, as Americans, strive to articulate in terms of 'freedom' but rarely have to quantify in economic terms except in special situations like this one. Quite simply, there is no monetary reason connected to whomever is planning to drill in the salt lake to preserve this artwork. But it is important, very important, to consider what we're saying as a society if we damage a permanent icon of soul and expression for the pursuit of a few measly temporal dollars.
I do not care how much money stands to be made, nor do I care how minimal or negligible the damage to the spiral jetty may be. The motivation of this oil drilling is based on a sick and dangerous construct, that we must squeeze out every drop of oil regardless of environmental, social, or cultural impact before changing our attitudes and behaviors towards the resources we consume.
It is time to take a step back and realize what a awful eventuality we are headed towards. If Spiral Jetty becomes tainted by construction and oil, there is little left of value and decency in the American west.
Please, do not let something beautiful and indicative of all that is good and soulful in America become a casualty in the battle of mindless consumption.
Great. two questions, no answers. Off to a great start.
I'll begin by copying pages at random out of my Globalism and Visual Culture seminar's notebook. I don't understand the readings much, but I sure get a lot out of them and they set me off on all sorts of interesting tangents.
Is it a concept only for the coddled, for those who haven't suffered the terror of the object evoking such emotion? Or does genuine experience simply deepen the emotion? For who is the experience more sublime, the student gazing out at the tempestuous sea with loss in his eyes or a sailor with a shipwreck in his past? Basically my worry is this: that in creating art or soul with a link to the sublime moments of life we are tourists, partaking in things deep and real with and relating them only metaphorically to our own struggle. IS this the processing of real trauma, or does it cheapen the processing of real trauma?
The US as unsustainable
I suppose I should back up. The basic claim of this idea is that in academia there has been a progressive slide towards the corporatized or compartmentalized intellectual, those who are too busy fundraising and skating political lines to really push new radical ideas, or those who are so disconnected from the real world that their ideas have no weight or play in non-academic society.
If we find it as true that an informed democracy stems from an educated populous, who use the very act of reading as a mode of learning which forces reflection (takes time, doesn't it, to absorb the written word?), then the growing disconnect between a writing academia and the educated masses is just one more symptom of the way our democracy is becoming less informed. In other words, our education system is intellectually unsustainable because, simply put, people aren't taking time to think deeply about relevant things. If you follow the train of logic supported by these humanist writers (Rey Chow, Jeffery Harpham, Henry Giroux, Carol Becker), then the democracy created from education is unsustainable as well.
I live in an age of a sort of utility/nihilism, where I'm uninterested in a career and more interested in base survival. The idea of working from an uprooted reality is more appealing than working within the political system, I'd rather strap boots on and fend for myself than network and research. This allure is simply apathy taking another form, the apathy of the sensitive individual vs. the global. You need to either believe in a sentient, benevolent god or be really good with large numbers, I have neither trait.
Deus Ex Machina? will the blog save us? because if academia can be non-academized, thrown out into the unsheltered realm of public speech, than perhaps it can maintain its link to reality. Perhaps then we can have a new conversation that includes both the starry-eyed student and the shipwreck survivor.
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