Our first Astoria Spring has thus far been astoundingly, profoundly, potently beautiful. Many of the notable features of the burgeoning season dent the armor wired media and hardware construct around our contemporary existence. In some facets the natural world here is subtle, and the infusive means by which our consciousness is breached are so unlike, say, the screech of attention-marketing, that one must be seduced by the sunset, rainbow, barking sea lions and such. The senses undergo recalibration, which conforms the impressions of the moment to environmental fluidity. Simultaneously, the animation of many intertwined layers of biomorphic eruption presents itself all-directionally. For instance, a mostly invisible path cuts through the edge of our yard, over which deer, raccoon and other critters transmigrate to other paths toward Astoria proper. The river and ocean, and the skies above them roil in their day to day shifts and ebbs and drifts, but this is not at all like Winter or Fall. To drive through the woodlands that surround us is a revelation. At a certain point, one has to orient the leveling of awareness in conjunction with the infinity of finite occurrence beyond the scope of numbers and names. The artist must admit there is too much to witness. However, the acceptance of reality itself is admonishment against realism, the estimation angle. The recursive solution to insufficient experiential capacity tamps down on one’s longing to immerse oneself in the present, which is clearly miraculous. We must admit that is how things in the world operates, absent our interference. Nature in default encourages Man to harmonize with It.
The Dimensionist perspective is not threatened by the ecological. Philosophy is refuted, at least to the extent that logic is surrendered to Name and Number in the philosophical context. Which is why I find Badiou to be representative of the confusion inherent in name-based equation, especially those that rely on recursion to locate multidimensional fact into binary systems. The virtual and actual aspects of the natural phenomenology refuse to repulse one and the other. The proof of eventual density is repeated in overwhelmingly complex patterns countless times in every instant IRL. Yet each of us witnesses and participates in this unfolding within the parameters of the sensual. Our curiosity about the extra-sensual illustrates life as a sequence of increasingly complex thought, eventually activating in what we call perception, which expands, like our brains, through convolution. We are learning the mechanics of optical, aural and tactile interaction, which are drivers of survival. Taste, in a humorous turn, long ago, via philosophy and Courtly Style, became associated with the whims of the Crown in Civilized modes of entertainment. Taste became the King’s whimsy, reinforced by the arguments of expert thinkers employed to that end. Currently that dynamic is being reestablished, with the return of the antiquated forms of control, conversion and conquest. Imagination is inspired by natural taste. Designing tastefully from the top-down is unnatural, in the extreme. So, you see, the world that exists for you to touch it is endangered by the disharmonious whims of tasteful elites.
It may seem a non sequitur to pop into the art world positioning for AI. It is not, because the artificial and the natural are being reconfigured cynically, not cyclically and the project is a matter appearing in the discourses for novelty, taste, inside the general conversation on technology, in its interactive cultural qualities. The ubiquitous industrial marketing push for permissive (unregulated) and benign environment to “test” new apps is behind the multi-tiered patronage for artistic enterprises that further the narrative of next-gen humanity embodied in machine learning schemes. Structurally it is the same argument for dishwashers, updated. The Internet of Things must at some point conquer art. The toe-dipping experiments of artist-robots follow a script that has been utilized for elephants, apes, children and many other not-human types for the purposes not only of entertainment. The definitions of art and artist must always be sublimated to other societal forces, when the power of Civilization itself is threatened and/or expanding, plus threatened in its progressive inevitability. Reference the buzz around Anna Ridler. The tissue binding the organs collaborating to enforce the dehumanizing of art production and all human production promote a very destructive idea of existential hierarchy. The prime medium for such efforts is connectivity, which co-extends with many questions of value and values, means and meaning, at their countless interchanges. I tend to defer judgment on the rationale of co-optation, for my own mental health. I do however continue to approach the network problem in a Dimensionist manner. I can therefore deflect an urge for immediate solutions toward those that indicate a separate, specific chronological architecture for those problem-solvers possessing extraordinary virtuosity and personal integrity. While I know that I can never grasp the implications of the achievements of great practitioners in other disciplines, I can appreciate (sense) the nature of achievement in the work itself. In other words, one can in some cases apply the same interpretive mode one uses to sensually gather in the natural world to harmonize with mechanistic phenomena designing artificial society. Philosophy adds to the discussion in that endeavor, through the questioning of the machine, society, the artificial and more. Aesthetics can critique the configuration of art and technology, and deconstruct the theories of both tech and art in their value to the object, in its expressive features, if nothing else. If nothing else is the point of design beyond function, we must admit this is a format negation, and that the conversation is drifting away from art into other areas. Minimalism is a juncture for divergence, and there is much to learn from it. Now that we know the world is spherical, not flat, we can move on to the cyclic relationship to the rectangle, which is 4D+ in Nature, and as Heidegger suggested, a radical gift.
One cannot possibly not be disappointed. The affirmation of identity as a societal defining norm may not be extricated from its partner facial recognition. Although technologists in the employ of mad tyrants and obsessive greedy fiends are not often forced to publically argue that progression and adhering to assigned task are defense against ethical science, the gear-head is no more absolved of responsibility than any other operative involved in the scheme. The complicity by proxy tack pushed by advocates of dispersal ethics and aesthetics (I see you Seth Price) do not inure themselves of wrong by avoiding accountability. The corporate anti-morality is not a viable condition for absence of judgment. Monstrous actors (e.g., Apple CEO Tim Cook) who press for boutique social change do not succeed in averting moral cause for the egregious performance and policies of the companies who afford them unimaginable wealth, power and prestige. Apple is a monopolist enterprise that pursues traitorous enterprise with foreign enemies of the United States to improve profits for shareholders, the corporate maxim. Apple is a notorious tax dodger. Apple brutalizes its labor force. Apple practices internal “culture” that denies its employees basic civil rights. Apple is a terrible neighbor, wherever it locates its operations. Apple selectively responds to the technical demands of its core users. Apple crushes or swallows competition that drive innovation and opportunity. Apple cares nothing about democracy, except in the faculty of manipulating “selfish” outcomes. The artificial personhood Apple is a blight on humanity. The material benefits it has provided would be exponentially increased through its eradication, reformation and negation. The Apple brand is an imagination killer. (Full disclosure: I am composing these sentences on an Apple-manufactured device; I am an Apple customer and user for more than three decades; my digital art production has been mainly Mac-based throughout that period; Apple has not produced adequate hardware and software for my creative needs for nearly a decade; I would love to transition to another platform - but that is what monopoly power produces). America should destroy Apple, or at least employ force to destroy its American business. The reality that the global markets and indices have been sustained in large measure by FAANG stocks is not reason enough to permit Apple and the other tech monopolies to continue to “willfully” harm the people, to harm democracy, itself. In fact, the destructive dependence of exchanges on our enemies infects the entire process of representative government in this country and any in which they deign to operate. Will a reckoning come? Only through the mobilization of Americans demanding equitable justice in every facet of our dimensional state. Apple diverts that vital movement into its corrupt and corrosive business model. American citizens owe it to ourselves and our ancestors to identify every player, like Apple, who benefits from the invasive consumption of our daily existence. Once we agree on a few of the worst offenders, we can start to dismantle the apparatus of our demise, one party at a time, by all available means. Art is only one such means.
The field of Media Philosophy, which only eight or ten years ago, appeared to be full of promise, is at this point another destroyed project of value. Geert Lovink and others made powerful arguments for the application of critique and other theoretical techniques should be immensely important to the burgeoning phenomena of media culture. The evolution of moving image and the prospect of commons via social networks were two arenas where MP offered substantive interpretive channels and support. Siting the technological shift to wired to wireless mobile devices within a smart platform for engagement was a cause that the monopolistic forces and monomaniacal individuals driving Big Tech could not afford. Why? At the moment that geekdom captured the global markets and a generation’s attention, calls to slow down the absorption of awareness and activity into a virtual framework controlled by and benefiting a few Superclass whiz kids could not be heard over the hucksterism and bragging. Steve Jobs was hardly a visionary, except in the definition of a “new” tech-powered Manifest Destiny that produced a refurbished Robber Baron scene in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Davos is a node for that scene. The short list of Uberpeople are invited to navigate a grid of secret, provisionally public or extremely exclusive convergence points, where the business of living from the top-down is celebrated and enacted via associations. The art fair/auction house/biennial/gala network is where the global art venture for the >1%ers intersects the other networks and nodes, through the individuals and foundations that carry the message and the juice of world domination. Soft and hard power mesh to the sounds of clinking champagne glasses, the “MWAH” of air kisses, the scratch of pens signing checks and contracts, the bang of the gavel, the simulated whir and click of fake camera gadgetry on smart phones, the roar of private jets, the scattering of gravel on secured roads, turnabouts and drives. The whispers do not broach the subject of radiation poisoning caused by iPhones, or the damage to young minds by poorly monitored screen time and addictive software, or the crisis of reality brought on by the machining of all sectors of human endeavor, and all facets of our perceptual complex. Instead, the conversation spans currency rates, tax havens, shell companies, sexy shoes, amazing Jeff Koons, and the opportunities in privatization of national treasure. Bling, fling, ring, Thing. All is gay, like the gay 90s, the gay 20s. Pay, play, gay.
My friend Joseph Nechvatal has been mounting a marvelous online retrospective of his own work recently. His effective platforms for the enterprise interweave Joseph’s excellent essays for Hyperallergic, plus his social media portals on Facebook and Instagram, and probably others to which he has access or on which his activity is published. To hail the Spring season, Joseph posted an image of Monet’s Bras de Seine de Giverny, Soliel Levant (1897), from the impressive collection at Musée Marmottan Monet. Joseph Nechvatal is defining a very important space for art within the digital + analog interstices, and has been doing so for decades. He is OG D+A, da. His cascading oeuvre ought to be a prerequisite for any wannabe artist open to the marriage of art-humanities and science-technology. Joseph is confronting on every level the conception of the object through the relationships that encircle the creative enterprise, as technical inquiry. The driver of the relational environment, its central energetic, is embodied in artistic imagination, and Nechvatal comprehends this at depth. Joseph is keen to contemporary physicality to an extent that few of his celebrated peers ever achieved. Matched by unfazed empathy, his consciousness of art-tech flow he directs toward significant examples in art and pre-art, which in themselves prove the value of integrated systems for cultural production. The database for his interests is massive, but he selects precisely the project that is sufficiently demonstrative of the moment, past/present/future. I respect his efforts tremendously. It is stupid that media is looking elsewhere, while Joseph sustains output at such a high level. But that is the conundrum for any of us who must by nature be devoted to meaning, to freedom of expression, to values. Enlightenment is not dead yet.
I reference Joseph as an introduction to the concept of French Spring (as in Arab Spring), a convolutionary eruption indicated by Mouvement des gilets jaunes, which now has its own Wikipedia entry. The dimensionist quality of the yellow vest actions is vivid, especially to those of us who participated directly in OWS. The blurry narrative for the event, which is serial, happening in a theatrical context (as Numbered Acts) has obscured the usual managed fictions that are produced by establishment media to minimize the success of the yellow vests. As with OWS the organization is fast, horizontally smart and network/social-tech savvy. The inclusive configuration of the yellow vests ensures that external attempts to reduce the movement to toxic sludge fail. The attempts by opposition power to bracket the yellow vests into a tactically viable fear complexes, for the purpose of pushing movement-debilitating propaganda are proving inadequate. The fortunate history of revolutionary France itself prevents such clumsy measures from dissolving the mechanics of insistence, and resistance. The through-line from Arab Spring to Spanish Anarchists to Occupy to Bernie to Standing Rock to the yellow vests is starkly visible to me. So is the connection to the election of Donald Trump, Brexit and other phenomena. The pressures on a global system pushed to the brink of WW3 are manifest everywhere. One can choose to carry on without remarking on the state of things, broadly speaking, to self-censor, or one can express oneself freely, with or without fear of consequences, and/or consequences. & That is the Crux of It. I re-posted a notification from Laurent Chambert, one of the French artists who participated in Art for Humans Gallery Chinatown, on my Facebook wall. I commented.
One subtext of AFHGC was the objective and public demonstration of beneficial international relations, arising from artistic exchange. At the time (mid-00s) the Bush-led idiocracy was promoting notoriously awful memes like “Freedom Fries” (which also have their own Wikipedia entry). The huge popularity of Myspace (pre-Facebook, y’all) permitted unprecedented, accelerated interaction among wired creative people from across the globe. Shows like Buster at AFHG were in part facilitated by new social media platforms and communications/connectivity networks that were just becoming viable. We took immediate advantage of the opportunity to produce a prototype for art + new technology, with integrated facilities (brick and mortar/virtual), a real local2global endeavor. Emma Gray noted this on Artnet in her L.A. Confidential blog. The point is, we illustrated and represented a sustainable alternative to the incredibly destructive campaigns of Empire undertaken by the globalist elites in the name of the United States, with our collective wherewithal. Those heinous, criminal interventions served as preface and cover for the biggest redistribution of wealth in human history. International war and lawlessness established the necessary conditions for successful top-down Class War. In the current phase of power consolidation, most of us are experiencing a dimensional impairment of means and values. The common method of expression for the despair the situation engenders is the metaphor. Art is a better, more refined and efficient mode of expression than the metaphorical turn, which is why art is assaulted, devalued and debased so ruthlessly, by so many agents of anti-democracy.
There is no need for metaphor, when one considers the case of Assange. A provocateur might call his stay at the Ecuadorian embassy torture, but hyperbole is unnecessary. The situation is an international outrage. There is no need for metaphor to comprehend the gravity of the DoJ report on Alabama prisons. It communicates horrifying travesty on a scope and scale that is a national indictment, because the conditions in Alabama are typical of the hellish US penal state, much of which is now for-profit. There is no need for metaphor with regards the 2020 Presidential election (speaking for myself, here). The Democratic Party is rigged. Good luck, Bernie. I wish you the very best, but I will never vote Democrat until the un-rigging of DNC is done. Relatively little has been changed in the aftermath of the Panama Papers, although some good has come of it. There is no need for metaphor to call out the transnational corporations and supranational individuals who, through a variety of legal and illegal schemes, sap the commonwealth of nations and their masses of people. The corruption post-Citizens United of the electoral process in the USA is not metaphorical. The list of grievances a citizen can muster in any given moment paints a picture of a society that is in short order drifting into anti-social territory. I see a neat, blurry juxtaposition of the gross reconfiguration of what “the social” means, with the fungible definition of art. I don’t need metaphor to do that. I can point to the Sackler/opioid scandal, but is that adequate, really? Especially in a media environment that mitigates damage to Super Rich status quo with propagandistic messaging (see “It's not just the Sackler family: Our greatest museums are built on the backs of billionaires” at the Washington Post, famously owned by Jeff Bezos, of Amazon). Bezos is not known for art philanthropy. Most recently he entered the tabloid pantheon of scandalous high-net-worth marital disarray. Amazon. meanwhile continues to reset American value of labor, one employee, one story at a time. Who will stop him in his megalomaniacal scheme for world domination? This is not metaphorical, not a comedy film by Mike Myers.
The banal New World Order has evaporated. The demise of the NWO myth is as unreal as its original formulation. The structure of the natural world is on balance a fragile thing. Variations of a few degrees temperature produce calamitous extinction rates among a wild range of species. The resonance of the loss of layers in a global ecosystem does not seem properly reflected in the markets. The Fed is populated by men and women in business attire who do not come forth into the square to lament the eradication of trees, insects or mammals. The absence of coordinated activity to reverse the course of ecosystem collapse among the power elites encourages comparison to the appeasement syndromes that preceded World War II. The most surreal characteristics of public discourse result from radical disconnect, separating the forum for voicing valid reporting on a host of humanity-threatening trends from the ridiculous noise emitted through mass media. Petty tyranny has been normalized in the usage of channels previously allotted to PSAs. The erasure of Net Neutrality by the fanatic FCC is indicative of the orientation of Trump-era bureaucracy. The IRS, EPA and other regulatory agencies, to say nothing of the relatively new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, have been in large measure rendered powerless by their long-time enemies in the corporate syndicates and bosses. Efforts to eviscerate the social safety net are exacerbated by fascistic valorization of force, surveillance and police state power, and the promotion of assassination, torture and endless war as settled matters.
Periodically, the most powerful people on earth, like hedge fund master Ray Dalio, have shared misgivings about the way things are going. For every doom and gloomy Super Rich oracle, there are three prepared to equivocate. Avuncular Warren Buffett is the one of the most high profile defenders of capitalism, a Gates Foundation-enabled philanthropist and a cypher. If one believes the research of Thomas Piketty, then Buffett ought to be taxed into obscurity or first in line at the guillotine. To many though Buffett (and Gates) are idols, akin to Sun Gods. People pay huge sums to share a meal with the Oracle of Omaha. Gates, and Michael Bloomberg, etc., are approached repetitively about their interest in occupation of the highest office in the land. Why? The fiction that American government should run more like a business is debased as never before, thanks to Trump. The myth of Reagan is defunct. “Trickle-down” economics has demonstrably no merit or provable basis in fact. The venal persona, the Bushian “compassionate conservative” is Mitch McConnell, who is more loathsome than even Dick Cheney, now. Bill and Hillary Clinton + Obama. WTF, America. All one needs do to witness the effectuated policy of these living and dead Monsters is drive across our nation. It is a sobering, somber experience.
Look, I know where the money goes. I understand why lifelong professional artists like myself have been punched to the margins. If one commences even a cursory macro-analysis of economic policy in America and its impacts on specific types of work or industry (like art), a utile sketch can be drawn to help clarify the status quo. A 4D inventory moves the intentional formula (policy) into a framework of action, which unfolds over time. A study of impact is translatable through a lens of choice + consequence. An American artist over the past half century, like all Americans, has seen a stunning portion of national wealth misspent on a war machine that is failing to produce good results for the country overall. For amplification read this poignant essay by Maj. Danny Sjursen for Truthdig, which uses the draft and AVF as a springboard for a necessary review of military matters, since the Vietnam era. Or revisit the post-2007-8 Crash/Great Recession or whatever splashy media-pushed moniker you prefer to ponder the ugly miscarriage of financial justice that is programmatic Austerity. Think of Greece. The whirlygig of blame distribution performed by those responsible for the most spectacular manmade disasters of the Postwar (WWII) era after Y2K has consistently been weaponized to the benefit of the very people and companies who are the cause of tremendous for-profit suffering, waste, loss, horror, despair and death. So when I notice in my 4D scan that the US Army has made its first purchase order for a new submachinegun system at $2,575,811.76, I can do the math. The entire NEA budget is $152,849,000. The OXFAM report paints the picture in broad strokes. Stories like this one at The Intercept fill in the details. As suggested above, a quick seach with a few choice keywords and a bit of practice yield quick returns on available information. The crunch happens when Joe or Jane Artist bones up on the data and gets a note in the inbox from Americans for the Arts ringing alarm bells that orange POTUS is again introducing a budget that makes NEA and other federal funding for USA culture go the way of the dodo.
To mark the last day of March 2019, I searched for “ART” on Medium. I periodically repeat this exercise to remind myself to not be surprised by the lack of clarity about what I do everyday, and what happens when I do it. The top results of my “art” Medium search are listed below. A few of the articles discuss matters germane to art and artist. The rest, as the reader can see, use “art” to describe stuff that is not artistic at all. Like “Shutting The F**k Up.”
‘The Art of Computer Programming’ by Donald Knuth
The Art of Intimacy
The Simple Art of Not Being Miserable
Advertising: The Art of Manipulating the Masses
The Subtle Art of Connecting With Anyone
The Art of Being Completely Alone
The Art of the Awkward 1:1
Practicing The Subtle Art Of Detachment
Sprezzatura: The Art Of Making Difficult Things Look Simple
How I Became an Artist
Art and Math and Science, Oh My!
The Lost Art of Shutting The F**k Up
The Simple Art of Creating Long-Lasting Habits
The Art of the Error Message
Want Your Children to Survive The Future? Send Them to Art School
The Art of Writing One-Sentence Product Descriptions
Don’t go to art school
Salt & Pepper — The Art of Illustrating Texture
The Simple Art of Getting Anything You Want
How to Sell Anything: Aristotle and the Ancient Art of Persuasion
Ernest Hemingway: The Art of Talented Writing
The Art of Stealing: How to Become a Master Designer
The subtle art that differentiates good designers from great designers
The Art of Making Good Decisions
AVA: The Art and Science of Image Discovery at Netflix
Machine Learning is Fun Part 7: Abusing Generative Adversarial Networks to Make 8-bit Pixel Art
The Art of the Strategic Product Roadmap
The Art of Attraction
The Art of Minimalism in Mobile App UI Design
The Art of Effective Visualization of Multi-dimensional Data
Using Deep Q-Learning in FIFA 18 to perfect the art of free-kicks
Stochastic Weight Averaging — a New Way to Get State of the Art Results in Deep Learning
The Fading Art of Philosophy
The Trailers for Ghostbusters (2016) and the Art of Editing Comedy
The Art of the User Interview
21 days to be a better artist / (even if you’re terrible) / (and it’s ok if you are)
Judgement and The Ghost Ship Tragedy: America Has Abandoned Its Artists
The Gentle Art Of Negotiating And How To Do Exceptionally Well.
The Subtle Art of Getting Your Work Noticed
The Lost Art of Quitting
The Art of Living Deliberately and Designing Your Life
The Artist’s True Path
The art of iterating quickly
To wrap up the AFH April 2019 update, let’s take a moment in silence to commemorate the passing of Dan Robbins, the “inventor” of paint-by-numbers. I enjoy outliving the nemesis, with all due respect this “genius” and his survivors, admirers and the legions of paint-by-number artists and aficionados Robbins spawned, among whom is Andy Warhol. Also not living, now. The moral of the story is perfunctory. Closer to home, Astoria’s 109 years-old Home Baking Company closed its doors for good at the end of March. My family and I had over the past six months made regular visits to Home Bakery, and all of us had favorites. Lauren loved Haystacks. I loved Old-Fashioned Donuts and the Marionberry Pie. Lachlan loved Chocolate-covered Cake with Sprinkles Donuts, then Maple Bars. We loved the nice ladies who worked the counter and register, and already miss our visits. I will resist the urge to fold this bit of (sad) news into the threads weaving through this month’s AFH Update, although I the phenomena as coexisting in a unified field.
[In the Spring of 2010, Joe Merrell approached me about collaborating on a collective project, which manifested eventually as Gramatica Parda (which is now an amazing, unique venture that Joe has realized according to his own vision and inspiration). Our GP was exhibited at ANDlab in LA and featured the work of several other excellent artists, spanning illustration, sculpture, animation, native digital, web-based media, painting, digital prints, photography and more. In the pre-production phase, Joe invited me to visit the LA Natural History Museum, where he worked a day job at the time. The access Joe provided afforded me a tremendous opportunity to interact with and gather visual data for animations and a series of large format prints. I particularly loved the dioramas, which have a remarkable back-story.]