Sunday, March 30, 2014

"Facebook is not a company of grass-roots tech enthusiasts. Facebook is not a game tech company. Facebook has a history of caring about building user numbers, and nothing but building user numbers. People have made games for Facebook platforms before, and while it worked great for a while, they were stuck in a very unfortunate position when Facebook eventually changed the platform to better fit the social experience they were trying to build."

The continuing evolution (or de-evolution, depending on your perspective) of the "Facebook platform," and, in fact, the platforms of most participants in the "social media space" into purpose-built tools for mass surveillance and economic exploitation is one of the dominant themes of this new century.  Neoliberalism on steroids!
Saturday, March 29, 2014

World's Best Touring Band Continues Touring in 2014

Steely Dan had officially broken up when I first heard them, c. 1985 or so.  I naturally assumed I'd never be able them play live, let alone enjoy any new studio albums.  Fifteen shows later & counting...

Favorite tour moment: summer 2013, Boise Idaho, general admission, fifteen feet from the band.  Like seeing thirteen of my favorite musicians playing in the front room at PFB.  The music packed with humor, brilliant improvisation, micro-textures.  And like the Duke Ellington Orchestra, SD's touring incarnation has only improved with age, the antithesis of those dinosaur-rock acts who chug out the same faithful-to-the-studio-version of their Gold Hits album over & over again.

DF and WB are, by all accounts, much like me, shy introverts, & I don't think I'd approach if I ever ran into either one of them in public. (Though I did hit up Penguin Books for a DF phone interview when Eminent Hipsters came out, the only time I have ever leaned on a publisher for a favor.  Penguin PR first ignored me, then put me on a list, and then, at the last minute, a Fagen family emergency cancelled 99% of the phone interviews, mine included).

The fine example of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker's deep integrity, perfectionism, and openness to Black American art -- blues; soul; jazz -- has had a deep and lasting effect on me.  I hope they keep recording and touring for years to come. 

Tove Jansson, View to a Balcony, 1961
Friday, March 28, 2014

Is Photography Over?

"[T]he digital revolution and landscape of ubiquitous image-making has created a situation where curators and critics specializing in photography have to define the field exceedingly narrowly in order to have an ‘object’ of discourse at all. In order to have anything to curate, critique, or discuss, a very small slice of the photographic landscape has to be carved out and isolated for discussion, such as 'fine-art' photography, 'documentary' photography, 'historical' photography, even 'analog' photography. As a consequence of narrowing the objects of inquiry so dramatically, the critical discussion around photography ends up inevitably admitting only a very small range of photographic practices into its purview. Consequently, critical discussions take shape around a small range of photographic images and practices which are extreme exceptions to the rule. Photography theory and criticism has less and less to do with the way photography is actually practiced by most people (and as well will see, most machines) most of the time. The corollary to this narrowing of the field is that traditional conversations and problems of photo theory have become largely exhausted. Simply put, there is probably not much more to say about such problems as 'indexicality,' 'truth claims,' 'the rhetoric of the image,' and other touchstones of classical photography theory. And what remains to be said about these photographic 'problems' seems increasingly extraneous to the larger photographic landscape that we inhabit."
“Invasion of the Data Snatchers” — the American Civil Liberties Union contemplates the Internet of Things

"Ever seen a Rube Goldberg cartoon, where everything including the cuckoo clock and the rocking chair are tied together with long steel wires? Well, the Internet of Things is just like that, except the wires are invisible and owned by somebody incorporated in Liberia."

"He rolls his own - no filters. He keeps his smokes in a novelty box that displays the word 'Outlaw,' embossed in thick, red ink.

When the key is in the ignition, he's not just David Trampier. He's cabby No. 4, and he knows Carbondale better than people who have lived here their entire lives."

D.A.T. was the Walt Kelly of AD&D, regardless of how he might have felt about his contributions later.  Humor; wild invention; beautiful solid drawing.  RIP Tramp.

Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, The Hunter, 2013
Wednesday, March 26, 2014

ACTs (Aesthetically Claimed Things): Tove and her creations
Tuesday, March 25, 2014

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Elaine


Allen, again.  Story of my life:

"Socrates had no wish to be hated.  His service to the god caused him to be hated, and he perceived the fact with grief and pain.  But he still maintained the soldier's station in which the god had placed him.  Brought into court and compelled to abandon his customary form of inquiry by question and answer, he aimed at truth, so far as he could tell it, about his own character and the nature of his mission to Athens.  Because he was, after all, an ignorant man, and yet concerned to persuade his hearers of the truth so far as he could tell it, he used the rhetoric appropriate to a philosopher.  The result appeared as astonishing arrogance."

(R.E. Allen, "Comment on Apology," Dialogues, Vol. 1)
Depression.  Partly my normal temperament, partly unrelenting work-related stress, partly deep aesthetic dissatisfaction with almost every aspect of contemporary art production, including the so-called digital revolution's creation of an inverse relationship between the size of one's audience and the ability to earn a living from one's creative work.  To quote Bill Watterson,  "Anyone can publish now, and there are no restrictions of taste, approach or subject matter. The gatekeepers are gone, so the prospect for new and different voices is exciting. Or at least it will be if anyone reads them. And it will be even more exciting if anyone pays for them. It’s hard to charge admission without a gate."

Self-medicating with 25m pool, R.E. Allen's Dialogues of Plato (Yale UP) and big loving grey cat.

"This demand for a standard is of the essence of Socratic dialectic, which is directed not merely toward abstract understanding, but toward the right ordering of life.  The aim is to grasp the principles of that order, and to be able to identify them in concrete cases.  The Republic claims that it is important to know what is holy and what is just and what is virtuous, because on that knowledge depends the conduct of a life.  In the Charmides, the young Charmides is said to be most temperate; but without knowing what temperance is, he will have no advantage from its presence in his life -- this to a man who later became one of the Thirty Tyrants.  If the aim of dialectic is to define a Form, the practical aim is the discernment of form in things.  Forms are to moral matters what scales are to weight and yardsticks to length -- a basis for sufficient decision." (Allen, "Comment on The Euthyphro," Dialogues, Vol. 1)

Those desert plant pictures? Discernments of forms in things.
"She wasn’t copying the works—at root, a photographic process—but instead repeating them, mastering the actual techniques involved in their creation in order to make works that would look and feel as close as possible to the real thing. 'She adopted style as her medium,' is how MoMA PS1 curator Peter Eleey explained it to us when we called him. 'At least early on, most of her work looks like other people’s work, which makes it very challenging to describe and discuss.'"
Sunday, March 23, 2014

Aloe marlothii, 2014

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Friday, March 21, 2014




Fig. 1

Fig. 2

"[A]s we have seen, copying as a relation in an autographic singular symbol system differs drastically from replication as a relation in an allographic multiple one." (Nelson Goodman, Ways of Worldmaking)
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Self-Scored Beck Depression Inventory

13 = "Mild mood disturbance."

Every evening the toys performed, and every day the pine tree shed more needles on the floor around them until Christmas was gone.  Then the tree was thrown out and the toys were packed off to the attic with the ornaments.  There they lay jumbled in a box together, in the warm, sharp dry smell of the attic beams and the dim light of the clouded, cobwebbed windows.  Through long days and nights they listened to the rain on the roof and the wind in the trees, but the sound of the living room clock striking midnight could not reach them; they never had permission to speak at all, and they lay in silence until another year had passed and they stood once more beneath the tree.
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Spotted towhee at Maplewood Flats Conservation Area, North Vancouver.

Martin Creed, Work No. 851, 2008, revised 2014 by Bill Young and Lisa Markström
Friday, March 14, 2014

Jeff Wall, Monologue, 2013.  Late blue sky.  The streetlight, the chairs, & the figures all put me in mind of Beckett:  "A road.  A tree.  Evening."  The right hand figure is better dressed than any of 2006's waiting men, but his posture belongs with theirs, turned out from immediate circumstances into more generalized contemplation.
Thursday, March 13, 2014

New short film with some useful discussions of method, esp. viz. Volunteer and View From an Apartment.  Also nb. 2:38-2:50.
Monday, March 10, 2014

John Humble, Fire Hydrant, Pico Boulevard, 2013.  The best of his pictures at the Craig Krull Gallery.  This photograph puts photojournalism into play in a curious & understated way; it's kind of a thematic bookend to Joel Sternfeld's Exhausted Renegade Elephant.  The juxtaposition of the fountain with the working class or homeless pedestrian with the cart in the foreground is striking.  In this moment we glimpse the breakdown of one of the "seamless systems"  of the modern city, and the studied indifference of at least one citizen to that breakdown.  What might account for this indifference?  Living with breakdowns on a weekly, daily, or hourly basis.  So for some citizens the picture is photojournalism, a Richard Scarry-esque document of a momentary glitch in Busytown, and the hard-working citizens responsible for fixing it, while for others it's clear evidence of a system that doesn't work for everybody, an ongoing revelation of Busytown's precariousness, a place where everybody is, at least in theory, primed to spectacularly blow.  
Q:  That church?

A:  It's a Ukrainian Orthodox church that looks really old but was actually built by hand, and by reference to photographs of older Orthodox churches, in the early 1950s.  It's now located, through no fault of its own, on the scariest block on the Lower Mainland.  In some sense it's a self-portrait.

Q: New show?

A:  Late 2014 or early 2015.  A mix of color & black and white work.  Right now it looks like this: two cactus pictures, two California pictures, two collages, one Street View or pure appropriation, and Boys Walking.

Eight pieces feels like a lot.  I wish that Haddonfield and the Duel collage were further along, and that they were better than they are.  But maybe one of the benefits of being an obscure artist is not having to produce for the market.  I can just make and show the pictures that I think are the best.

Q:  What will be worst about the new show?

A:  There might be too many black and white pictures without any figures in them.  Of course for me yuccas and cacti and scraggly oaks are figures, but the art world's more conservative.

Q: What will be best?

A:  The kids in Boys Walking.  Some of the spaces in the collages.

Q:  What are you going to make next?

A:  Some color pictures in working-class neighborhoods in Surrey and Los Angeles, and, equipment willing, a portrait of a tree and people sheltering beneath it in Lahaina, Hawaii.  While in LA, I saw a retrospective exhibition by John Humble, mostly large-format color photographs made along Pico Boulevard.  I didn't like many of the pictures, finding their compositions too static and the colors too dialled-up, but I also felt that they exposed a real flaw in my work, making my photographs seem tasteful by comparison, too much like "art photography" and not enough like actual lived experience.  John Humble knows LA and I know Vancouver and maybe the Huntington Desert Garden, but I obviously don't know enough about Hockney's desert intersection or that south Pasadena hedge or the other subjects I've photographed still governed by ideas of what they might mean to me, ideas which, needless to say, haven't materialized in the finished pictures on the level of form.  At least not yet.
Sunday, March 09, 2014

Source & study for Haddonfield, 2012-4

Not Panavision, but pretty close.

Agave americana 'Variegata,' 2014

Some edits, and, I think, improved.
Saturday, March 08, 2014
Some relevant points from that Richard Brody piece, all of it worth your closest attention:

"Godard told the story of when he and Jean-Pierre Gorin, working together sometime in the early nineteen-seventies, attempted an experiment: to imitate a single shot from Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin. He explained that they didn’t manage to do it—that the framing and the angle completely escaped them. I’m not surprised—in exactly the same way as I doubt whether Eisenstein, had he lived longer, could have copied perfectly a shot of Godard’s. The camera operator’s own gestures, the particular equipment that’s available, and—yes—the very carriage of the actor being filmed all determine the nature of a shot.

There’s no such thing as a pure angle or composition, any more than there is such a thing as a pure performance; the life of the creators are embodied in all the actions that bring a movie into being. And those habits of body are no mere accidents of upbringing but the very essence of a zeitgeist, of the spirit of the time as it manifests itself. The angles have been lost for the same reason that people move differently; people move differently because of differences in the way that people are raised and educated and influenced, because of differences in thought and feeling, in essential self-image."
Paul Valéry, no slouch in the thinking department, anticipates and shuts down Ken Johnson in 1928:

"Our fine arts were developed, their types and uses were established, in times very different from the present, by men whose power of action upon things was insignificant in comparison with ours. But the amazing growth of our techniques, the adaptability and precision they have attained, the ideas and habits they are creating, make it a certainty that profound changes are impending in the ancient craft of the Beautiful. In all the arts there is a physical component which can no longer be considered or treated as it used to be, which cannot remain unaffected by our modern knowledge and power. For the last twenty years neither matter nor space nor time has been what it was from time immemorial. We must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts, thereby affecting artistic invention itself and perhaps even bringing about an amazing change in our very notion of art."


"Works of art will acquire a kind of ubiquity. We shall only have to summon them and there they will be…They will not merely exist in themselves but will exist wherever someone with a certain apparatus happens to be. "


"Just as water, gas and electricity are brought into our houses from far off to satisfy our needs in response to a minimal effort, so we shall be supplied with visual or auditory images, which will appear and disappear at a simple movement of the hand, hardly more than a sign."

(Paul Valéry, "The Conquest of Ubiquity," translated by Ralph Manheim.  Collected in Aesthetics, Pantheon Books, New York, 1964, p. 225)

Neither Valéry nor I claim that these technological changes -- ubiquity; reproducibility;  manipulatibility -- are, in and of themselves, aesthetically positive or negative.  Aesthetic judgment and/or satisfaction only transpires in the necessarily subjective experience of an individual work of art.  Contemporary artworks can and will continue to provide the same kind of aesthetic satisfactions as those provided by the best Matisses, Picassos, or  Pollocks.  But it's counterintuitive -- and wrong -- to expect the best contemporary artworks to bear any stylistic resemblance to great art of the past.  I think my repetitions force this point by foregrounding significant stylistic and technical differences between them and the artworks they are blatantly derived from (Wall's view camera or Carpenter & Spielberg's professional film cameras v. my consumer-grade digital camera; Hockney's negatives v. my JPEGs and RAW files; Hockney's scissors and glue v. my digital seams).

Richard Brody has a fascinating essay up at the New Yorker at the moment in which he argues that shot-for-shot recreations of films (eg., Gus Van Sant's Psycho) are impossible because of specific changes in the craft of film acting and because of technological changes in the filmmaking process between source and recreation.

Brody effectively argues that exact recreations [what I would call, with Sturtevant, "copies"] are doomed from the outset; the best a contemporary director can hope for is to produce a repetition, which acknowledges, and in some sense corresponds to its source, while maintaining a critical distance from it.  Repetitions aren't, can't be, exact copies.  They're original works, however much they might stylistically resemble a source.
Friday, March 07, 2014

"Styles may vary in the Modern section, but an idea of what making art involves is shared by most: It should be the expression of one person’s singular vision.

In the Contemporary section, the typical artist is something else: a canny juggler of ready-made signifiers. Everywhere you look, you see artists mixing and matching generic styles, images and devices in the forms of photographs, paintings, high-tech simulations and myriad nontraditional materials, sometimes using all these at once. Almost always, they do so to cerebrally sophisticated ends, as often as not in order to riff on art itself."

This argument, coming from a critic who should know better, and in North America's last remaining paper of record, is specious and embarrassing.  Ken Johnson confuses a singular style with a singular vision, presupposes that a singular style in and of itself is a sign of aesthetic seriousness, and ignores the stylistic plurality of Duchamp, Picasso & many of his other Modern heroes in his rush to condemn their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Johnson may think that "the Contemporary section" is no good, and may well be right, but his isn't an effective, or aesthetically honest, way to prove it.
Thursday, March 06, 2014

Some aesthetic context for Sun Village, below.

Study for 10765 135A St., Surrey BC, 2014

300 W. Palmdale Blvd., Palmdale CA, 26 February - 1 March 2014, 2014.  Production still.  Instant prints courtesy Rite Aid.

Sun Village, 2014

Hillside, San Gabriel Canyon, 2014

Uncaptioned. I'm pretty sure this is Flowering Plant, 2012, previously only in the public domain as a tiny test strip in the background of one of those White Cube videos, which I've wondered about for a while now.  Pipe Opening + the fluorescent, aggressively unnatural colors that only inkjet printing provides. (qv. some of Roy Arden's last pigment prints).  The other new pictures Monologue and Summer Afternoons don't work for me, at least not in reproduction, though I do like SA's slightly differently sized prints and Monologue's darkly looming trees.

(EDIT:  Monologue has possibilities.  The streetlight and the somberly clothed figures make me think of a stage set, maybe a contemporary one for a Beckett play with a back-projected photographic component, and also of Francois Roux's great actual streetlight + video projection installation a few years back at CSA Space).

Surprisingly accurate.  Esp. HIKING, AUTHENTIC CHINESE FOOD, & WISTERIA LANE.  This reminds me of the old placemat map of Canada at the Tomahawk Barbeque in the best possible way.
Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Thought Experiment

Replace the word "Bitcoin" with the words "Beanie Baby." Or, "tulip bulb."


"I am in Japan and have deposited 12.499 million Yen (about USD 122,000) at Mt. Gox from October to December 2013. I currently have 175 Beanie Babies and 13,000 Yen in cash at their exchange. I also have a Premium status account [ROTFL]. Please let me know how to proceed. That was most of my retirement money."

(qv. Benjamin's distinction, emphasized in Arendt's foreward to Illuminations, between producers and agents)

FULL DISCLOSURE:  I read up on Beanie Baby mining after reading a New Yorker article on the mathematics of mining & the Winklevoss twins' involvement with Beanie Babies.   How much did I read?  Enough to fully grasp the mechanics of mining, & also enough to know that I had no personal interest in mining Beanie Babies, or in dealing with the shrill techno-libertarians who had rallied around Beanie Babies like seagulls on a sandwich.

FURTHER FULL DISCLOSURE: One of my most prized possessions is Scat, a little grey Beanie Baby cat (qv. many previous photographs).  But he's family, not a speculative so-called "investment medium."
Sunday, March 02, 2014

CLASS. Props, south Pasadena.  The excellent website where I found this image was a useful resource while on location in Pasadena and Sierra Madre.

"The Bitcoin masses, judging by their behavior on forums, have no actual interest in science, technology or even objective reality when it interferes with their market position. They believe that holding a Bitcoin somehow makes them an active participant in a bold new future, even as they passively get fleeced in the bolder current present. And as if the world does not have enough schmucks with Macbooks who call themselves entrepreneurs, we have the term 'Bitcoin entrepreneurs' used unironically by mainstream media. The community has designated a Nobel leaurate as its nemesis, solely because he asked some inevitable questions every thinking person in his profession ought to ask. As far as I'm concerned, the only winning move is to not play this game. Sure, you may make money, perhaps lots of it, on the inevitable ups and down that are sure to come, but you'll be associating with the wrong kinds of people. If your life goals did not include some amount of pride and self-respect for you and your community, there were tons of other, easier ways of making money fast that you could have taken."

Shadows & Light

Three collages:

Heritage Walk, Huntington Desert Garden, San Marino CA, 2014

300 W. Palmdale Blvd., Palmdale CA, 26 February - 1 March 2014, 2014

300 W. Palmdale Blvd., Palmdale CA, 26 February - 1 March 2014 (Addendum), 2014

One black-and-white diptych:

Haddonfield, 2014

Several exhibitions' worth of black and white landscape photographs of Southern California, including images made in Glendora, San Marino, San Gabriel Canyon, Los Angeles, & the Antelope Valley.

Back now.

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