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Wednesday
Jun062012

Equilibrium (Prospectus Draft) h.f.

“MOUNTAIN PEAKS DO NOT FLOAT UNSUPPORTED; THEY DO NOT EVEN JUST REST UPON THE EARTH.  THEY ARE THE EARTH IN ONE OF ITS MANIFEST OPERATIONS.”

~John Dewey, Art and Experience.

 

 

When we mediate ourselves (our self-s) we utilize technology.  Not just the technology we think of as metallic structures with towering capacity to fail due to fan functions or heated disagreements within their bodies but the simple things such as glass, language and cursive writing.  We agree upon certain arrangements of our technologies in order to complete circuits of thoughtful discourse.  Without our technologies we are solemnly sworn to resist them. We (human society) exist in networks of resistance. We persist.  And together we move forward through this persistent resistance.  Like worn bodies of life the structure of plants, shrubs, trees, grasses that live on coastal shores carry many traits of resistance.  They are woody, twisted and curved from harsh coastal winds and dry sandy terrains.  They are strong due to the conditions that impact them.  They are responsive and corral the scarcest of resources.

 

“Every need, say hunger for fresh air or food, is a lack that denotes at least a temporary absence of adequate adjustment with surroundings.  But it is also a demand, a reaching out into the environment to make good the lack a to restore adjustment by building at least a temporary equilibrium.” (The Live Creature)

 

A place of constant in/output whose form we can call equilibrium.  It is often through opposition that we come to identify ourselves as autonomous and whole selves.  Dewey describes this opposition as the need or lack of an adjustment within a living being’s environment.  Through a recovery to a harmonious balance there is a growth from which the living being emerges successfully sustained and enriched but in another state.  Resistance  like that of the organsims whose environment such as a tide pool is brought about in the biological form of their adjustments.  But there is another resistance that is mattering.  And by this I mean  “matter” ing.  It is a place of equilibrium that has been disrupted in the role of art in society due to technological advancement.  It is the shift from figurative art to graphic image representations in what Paul Virilio calls “the multimedia REVELATION that surpasses the encyclopaedic REVOLUTION of the Enlightenment; this is it, the ‘illuminism’ of telecommunications that suppresses the pictorial icon…to the exclusive advantage of live coverage of the perceptive field.” (Virilio,pg.15)

What happens when the distance between people is completely reduced to a point in which autonomy can longer be restored to individuals?  Virilio argues that it is precisely this lack of distance that brings forth the need for a new form of art making through a new resistance to technology that has left society imbalanced in healthy opposition.

 

John Dewey speaks at great length of the “task to restore continuity between the refined and intensified forms of experience that are works of art and the everyday events, doings, and sufferings that are universally recognized to constitute experience.”

 

 Through a language of difference we can reconstruct the very necessary components of art and its discourse.  Within this difference, art exists as a symbolic or gestural medium through which discourse takes form.  The form of art exists fully within the sublime experience when a conflict is resolved or at least when an agreement is stabilized.

 

“There is in nature, even below the level of life, something more than mere flux and change.  Form is arrived at whenever a stable, even though moving, equilibrium is reached.  Changes interlock and sustain one another.  Wherever there is this coherence there is endurance.”  (Dewey, pg. 13)

 

These plastic forms of art are well known and now historicized mainly after the technological advancement experienced in the modern era.  This era, defined since the late 19th century and ending within the middle ground of the 20th century witnessing a move from political to pop and post-modern art.  Scientific and technological advances and discovery have been accelerating since mid 19th century and the face of art has changed along with this.  Paul Virilio describes this technological advance an “acceleration of reality” whose capabilities of seeing and experiencing our tellurian existence in ever magnified images and reproductions or simulacra as a call to open our eyes to “what was trampled and buried underfoot!”  He is talking about the ever increasing speed of telecommunications that has left several generations of humans lacking in a simple and humble perception of empathy through the ever increasing globalized images of “violence that has now become customary at every level of society.”  This violence of the modern era was echoed through the creation of art and the responses of a panic of fear brought on through technological warfare by massive machines of destruction whose lack of a soul obliterated the empathy for others as well as the natural environment whose body brings sustenance and life of which John Dewey upholds. 

 

“The first great consideration is that life goes on in an environment; not merely in it but because of it, through interaction with it.” (Dewey, pg. 12)

 

         The break from the experience or forms of art is also described by Jacques Ranciere in The Future of the Image in which he calls forth Adorno’s dialectical reasoning:

 

“The autonomy of artistic forms and the separation between words and forms, music and plastic forms, high art and forms of entertainment then take on a different meaning.  They remove the pure forms of art from the forms of aestheticized everyday, market existence that conceal the fracture.  They thus make it possible for the solitary tension of these autonomous forms to express the original separation that founds them, to disclose the ‘image of the repressed, and remind us of the need for a non-separated existence.” (Ranciere, pg4.0)

 

This call for a cohesive existence is in part what Virilio is seeking with the return to empathetic society through a distancing of ourselves so as to find space in order to understand that which we have lost sight of in our “endlessly revolving broadcast satellites of ‘world vision’…” brought about with in a compressed temporality of the “TELEPRESENCE in the real-time world delivered by the instantaneity of a ubiquity that has now gone global.” (Virilio, pg 27,20)

 

Photography advanced the perception or image of the real with two dimensional representation of an instant in time.  This act of looking at the world has an entire vocabulary built into our language.  What was once experienced and realized through a careful representation through the manipulation of different mediums was replaced with instantaneity.  In harnessing the energy of light to mimic perception the ocularcentric vocabulary witnessed a large paradigm shift.  A two dimensional representation of perceived ‘reality’ broke the tangible and tactile form of artistic expression.  

 

The photograph was not considered an art form. Walter Benjamin and Paul Virilio both address this technological advancement of reproducibility and how both the space between observer and observant and viewer and viewed changed not only artistic practice but societal structures as well.  We see the shift from the autonomous artistic experience that Dewey speaks of and the mechanized destruction occurring through advances of technology. 

 

“Because of changes in industrial conditions the artist has been pushed to one side from the main streams of active interest.  Industry has been mechanized and an artist cannot work mechanically for mass production.” (Dewey, pg.8)

The bridge between society, art and technology is at a very rich crossroads.  The loss of control of mechanized reproduction has brought space closer together but people are farther apart.  The community of art cannot be relegated to the museum any longer for the museum itself is empty.

 

In the attempt to recreate an aesthetic rewire I have been shifting my aesthetic from the form of 2 dimensional works whose experience lie within a type of response to a more conceptual 3 dimensional form whose reconfiguration of larger parcels of information and realities are both politically and holistically challenging.  As an artist my goal is not to persuade the masses but to understand and study them.  Specifically, I am beholden to all things natural.  The term natural has been an area of dispute by many theorists and sociologists as well as within the scientific community.  It has become my goal to understand and mediate a dialectical conversation with the mediums I choose to represent the information with forms that take up space and attempt to reveal very complex ideas in very simple metaphorical forms.  Sometimes these forms are not natural.  Take the cube for example.  Not a natural form.  One does not find cubes in nature, but one does imply or construct them through geometric analysis which is an invisible language to understand abstract ideas about space. When one shifts the celluloid layer of a photograph to a pixelated binary code of information that is accessed through a myriad of interfaces the form changes and is the coded bits of information that is reasonably non-existent able to return the nature of human distance to a state of equilibrium?  Is the experience that Dewey yearns for decidedly dead when the conflict and resistance in space that Virilio suggests is responsible for a failure of technological networks and space through high speed information transfer? 

 

Bibliography

 

Virilio, Paul. Art as Far as the Eye Can See. Berg Publishers, New York, NY. 2005.

 

Dewey, John. Art as Experience. 

 

Ranciere, Jacques. The Future of the Image. Verso. 2007.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments (1)

Notes

In your last paragraph, you raise some interesting philosophical issues (about "nature", the term "natural," and presumably "naturalism")… but these questions are at quite a distance from what you seem to be framing up to that point. (Unless you are saying that technology and nature are in some ways mutually exclusive, so I don't think that you are --)
So I want to start by saying there is an organizational element here that's either missing, or I didn't perceive it and I need help with it. The quotes are extensively about Dewey, but what is the larger conversation into which you'd like Dewey to enter? How do Virilio and Ranciere differ, how do they contribute?
Now, to your opening...

"When we mediate ourselves (our self-s) we utilize technology." 

This is a strange opening statement, at least on first glance. In the next sentence, you seem to be encouraging the broadest possible definition of technology, which is great … but if that's part of what's going on here, then why is it important to imply that all mediation of self is technological? Because your notion of technology is so broad, anything can be a utilization of technology. So why is it important to declare that self-mediation is, declaratively, that pervasively broad thing? The tone of this sentence suggests you'll be pointing out something unexpected about self-mediation, but instead you point out what cannot fail to be true.

"Not just the technology we think of as metallic structures with towering capacity to fail due to fan functions or heated disagreements within their bodies but the simple things such as glass, language and cursive writing.  We agree upon certain arrangements of our technologies in order to complete circuits of thoughtful discourse.  Without our technologies we are solemnly sworn to resist them. We (human society) exist in networks of resistance. We persist.  And together we move forward through this persistent resistance.  Like worn bodies of life the structure of plants, shrubs, trees, grasses that live on coastal shores carry many traits of resistance.  They are woody, twisted and curved from harsh coastal winds and dry sandy terrains.  They are strong due to the conditions that impact them.  They are responsive and corral the scarcest of resources."

I think you'd like Alphonso Lingus' Dangerous Emotions (Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California, 2000). I love the idea of plants and other living things as networks of resistance with circuits that variously close and open. I love the machine conceptualization of what might otherwise seem arbitrary more complex. Very interesting writing. My only complaint is your quasi-epic exaltation of this pervasive thing called technology.

Your second Dewey quote "Every need, say hunger for…" is "dropped in," and would benefit greatly from some sense to the reader (prior to it) of why it's important. And is it important that this quote be isolated thus? Couldn't it be woven in to the words that follow it?

"warfare by massive machines of destruction whose lack of a soul obliterated the empathy for others as well as the natural environment whose body brings sustenance and life of which John Dewey upholds." <-- Your equation of soul with empathy seems theologically / soteriologically narrow … and I find the concept hard to parse in many ways.
(First, the grammar: ok, I can imagine you believing that something without a soul has no empathy, but not in particular that the lack of that soul is somehow an actively destructive force. Second, logic: even in a highly spiritual world view, one does not suppose (does one?) that a shovel or a piece of parchment (both soulless) are inherently destructive of anything (least of all elusive things like empathy) because of their soullessness. Third, content: lots of people don't believe there's such a thing as a soul (for example, the original Buddhists, but also of course within the long intellectual tradition of atheism)… yet surely none of them would argue against the existence of empathy.)
The Dewey quote "There is in nature, even below the level of life, something…" appears to be a restatement of your sentence before it.
And following it, you comment "These plastic forms of art …" but we don't know what "these" are -- why did the plastic arts (colloquially connoting sculpture, architecture, etc., with painting somehow on the margins) come up all the sudden? Or you just mean it in the broader art-theorist-y sense of "all art that is shaped from materials of any kind rather than written"? The latter definition is problematic here because it's not clear why you would exclude poetry and music. And also because digital media tend to transcend the distinction -- films used to be plastic because we cared about the quality of the print, etc., but now they can also be conceived-of as "written" in the sense of "encoded", and also in the sense that their content is portable between a variety of physical circumstances. But I digress… my point is this seems a strange term to introduce here.
"Paul Virilio describes this technological advance an 'acceleration of reality' whose capabilities of seeing and experiencing our tellurian existence in ever magnified images and reproductions or simulacra as a call to open our eyes to 'what was trampled and buried underfoot!' "
It's unlikely that Virilio used the terms "reproduction" and "simulacra" interchangeably…can you be more specific about the kind of magnification he imagines? Magnification of image enhances detail; magnification of a reproduction process enhances the flexibility and the scope of the original, magnification of a simulacra clarifies its flaws … or? And what is it that's buried underfoot? I don't think we can really make use of this quote without coming to a clearer sense of the "trade-off" he is describing. You're only taking his metaphorical words here, not he argument; so you have a few more steps to go before you can really act as a lens or conduit for his ideas. You also did not CITE, particularly where we would find this description or argument.
"Walter Benjamin and Paul Virilio both address this technological advancement of reproducibility and how both the space between observer and observant and viewer and viewed changed not only artistic practice but societal structures as well." <-- I'm not sure they really addressed this in the same way--they're more than a generation apart. The radical historical disjunction between them deserves some commentary or acknowledgement --

Jun 13, 2012 at 6:43 PM | Registered CommenterBen Carson

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