“BIG DATA” = The accelerating accumulation of information systematically designed to reduce accountability; the faster the data compilation occurs the less present cause will be – e.g., with respect to civil liberties (such as 4th Amendment protections of civilian privacy) – in both the “justifiable” circumstance of data-gathering methodology and any derivation action by the data-gathering/centralizing/storing/exploiting party.
One's “data” (bio-) is or must/should be a non-transferable “right,' an inherent quality of actual personhood and designated/treated as such. It is one's only true/fictional property. As such, no government/private entity should ever by any means “possess” this information, except under the auspices of “anonymity” and outside any numeration regime empowered to displace, dissolve or in any way disperse and diminish the actuality of any human being.1
Verification is the prime social organizational principle of all and any legitimate, actual democracy.2 The verifying discourses in such a discourse involve constant consideration of moral performance within the democracy on the individual to collective spectrum for the benefit of all.3
LOST CAUSE: The Matterhorn Project
By Paul McLean
“It is an artificial mountain, a picture corresponding rather with the exaggerated effect it produces on the astonished mind of the artist, than with the real form of the mountain.”4
The Matterhorn Project
The following text and illustrations will present a conceptual art project, “The Matterhorn Project,” for the purpose of illustrating the dimensional quality of art today. It is possible to trace the linkages between art and philosophy from 2015 (the year of this paper's inception) to the Classical Age. The earliest known examples of art5 predate Plato's discussion of art in The Republic by tens of thousands of years. While it is impossible to say with certainty what motivated the painter(s) of, for instance, the “paintings” adorning the Lascaux or Chauvet cave walls, it is not difficult at all to recognize the value of these art works. They are treasures.
But why? To understand the value of art, we may assess art categorically, subjectively, critically, technically, comparatively, contextually, anthropologically, aesthetically, academically, economically, socially and so on. With so may applicable criteria for art, one will be hard-pressed to estimate the value of art conclusively, as a reductive exercise.
Is art worth dying over? [Yes/No] Should a single painting cost $150,000,000? [Yes/No] Does a great painting belong to everyone? [Yes/No] Is an artist only a conduit for art, or is art “making” the artist what she is? [Yes/No]
Art seems to possess a mysterious quality, a gift or talent for evading recursion. Like a mountain, art appears to be a topological phenomenon. Art seems to arise from context. The process by which art is created can be deconstructed, and elements contributing to its creation can be identified. Yet art seems to be more than the sum of its parts. Art has the characteristic of being both distinguishable from its environment and of it.
When art is extracted from its original context, the art undergoes a transformation. Superficially, the change, post-extraction, suggests clarification, or definition. If the art is then placed in a context containing other art “pieces,” art invites generalization. The viewer may attempt to compare one art piece with another, to draw conclusions about art in general.
Art seems to encourage the specialization of the viewer, post-extraction, post-induction into the collection of art, or after art is staged and experienced within a collective scenario, curated, artificially associated among other art pieces (assembled), for the purposes of analysis.
At this stage (post-extraction, or post-ex-) art seems to assume universality. Time,6 as chronology, as context, infuses art with meaning. Looking to the past, art serves society as memory. In the present, art acts as experience. For the future, art becomes projection. All at once, art is dimensional.
By now, the artist is usually an after-thought, an attachment. Art seems to develop its own life, an autonomy from its maker, a separate trajectory.
Art at its inception is a simple thing. As art proceeds, it becomes complex.7 Art enters the domains of form, of the formal. Art can be exchanged, as property. Art may become influential, affecting its discipline, the craft for art. Art may obtain associative characteristics, as style.
At this point, Art belongs to a second “topology.” Art becomes social. In the extreme case, art can emerge as content, even mass media, a meme. Here, art ceases to exist simply as a fundamental type or expression of techne. Art is born again in the sphere of technology as a multi-faceted, dimensionist version of itself. Art is compressed, flattened by the medium, like everything else. Everyone who encounters it “creates” it. The physicality of art becomes an afterthought. Art is free of itself, as data. As such, the idea of art, and art as ideal, are replaced: as art with ID; or art with mathematical, statistical, time-stamped identity, or metadata. In this configuration art is extremely fragile and prone to erasure, on more than one level.
It is worth considering where art begins, and where does it end. Designating art's parameters, when we are talking about painting, can be as simple, one might think, as pointing to the edge of the canvas, or to the frame. A viewer with a background in physics, however, might object to our limit, since his understanding of the thing ruptures at the subatomic, or on a continuum of changing states.
An analyst with a degree in psychology (or sociology, anthropology, or even history, philosophy or critical discourse, etc.) may feel compelled to refute our obvious indication of the painting's boundary. Those qualified to elaborate on the immaterial world of human experience and interaction, the social, the relational, view art as an expansive subject, more than (only) a singular, singularly created and specific kind of object.
Art can provide the means by which we receive our perception of the cosmos in which humanity exists. Art can be utilized further, to suggest how we should exist, how we ought to behave, how we should react to conditions, events, others and so on. Art can be instructive, in short, as a tool in shaping behavior.
This admission of art's potential as a utilitarian device, as a mode of transmission, obliquely engages the art object in a dimensional conversation, not only with communication itself, but also with setting, scenario, and the location of the discussion in time, space, and relative space (place).
It is precisely the universal that unhinges art from itself, and situates art beyond the visual phenomenon into the realm of vision, which has spiritual connotations. Drawing an imaginary line between “contemporary art” and ancient pictographs is not possible without one's acknowledgement of art's peculiar constitution.
Art serves people, and the nature of its service is unique. For humankind, especially the artist, art can engender a reciprocal orientation to service. Hence, the consciousness of the gift attaches to our various notions of what art is, isn't, should and/or shouldn't be.
Art's morality is both a component of art, an architectural layer in its structural design, if you will, as well as a fundamental aspect of art, inherent to it. The predisposition of art thereby confuses reason, and tends to leave art irreducible in terms of language. We can see how art might provoke (sometimes extreme) reactions among those of us for whom irrationality, contradiction and/or the Spirit(-ual) are problematic.
Representation and art seem to revolve around each other as in a helix. Adjacent to representation for art is the mirror-like operation art can offer its viewer. Consciousness of oneself and consciousness of the appearances of the world and the things in the world (including people) – art seems empowered to affect such perceptual apparatuses in the viewer during the viewing experience, and sometimes long after the initial encounter of viewer with art.
Here the artist re-emerges as both mediator and originator. The art and viewer are acting together in a triangulating formation in the art experience. The artist functions as a mediator, a translator, of the cosmos, for the viewer, by way of the art.
Representation in art historically has been progressive. The desire for the art as image to realistically represent externality has driven significant innovation over time. The camera, for instance, as a device for capturing the visible at a point in time – producing a “still” image – or over a length of time – producing a “moving” image – within a rectangular (2D) framework, has proven to be an important invention for representation. Another valuable innovation for technical representation consists of an array of tools and practices that facilitate the generation of “3-point perspective.” One of the most recent inventions revolutionary for the purposes of representation is the 3D printer and the array of tools (hardware, software, peripherals, etc.) involved in 3D printing, which included the specialized materials for the production of the output, the “end product.”
It should be noted insofar as representation is concerned, the mechanical devices for representation are not, clearly, only for art. Cameras are ubiquitous in much of the world. Millions of still- and moving-images are produced and shared across a variety of (non-art) networks daily. Perspective-drawings of impressive accuracy are employed in any number of design and engineering fields. The 3D printer can be used to “print” a gun. Representation is one area where art and science overlap and intersect. The value of an accurate sketch is great in many practical applications.
Backtracking a moment to the simple triangulation model described above:
The dynamic relationship represented in this simple sketch can be additively enhanced to illustrate directional exchange:
Figure 1.2 conveys exchange complexity in the triangulating configuration (art-artist-viewer). For example, we can deduce that art and artist compose a quasi-autonomous relationship. This is true with all parties in this model. However, the sketch does not in its simplicity describe the differences between and among the three parties. The relationship between art and artist is not identical to the relationships between art and viewer, artist and viewer, and so on. Our model, thanks to its fundamental simplicity, can subsequently give rise to derivative models of expanding complexity. As a second-order for our ruminations on the relationship(s) among art, artist and art-viewer, we simply pluralize the configuration, adding variables that can enhance our understanding of art, artist and art-viewer [R], by supplying particularizing data for each participant of R. For instance:
The points of our triangle model's corners become data sets. We might add a picture of the paint at A1, the poem Turner attached to his presentation of the painting to his peers and the public, and Ruskin's response to the painting, and so on.8 Conceivably, we could follow the same protocol to create a database to include all paintings, adding any number of relational layers among the string of entries. Thus:
...Which would not preclude us from further consideration of complexity expansions for our original model. For example, we might consider how the artist views the relationship between art and art viewer, and how that view evolves over time. A model to describe this facet of R might be represented as a hyper-triangle, expanding (with each catalog entry recording the artist view of A1 + V) over time.
...Noting that we can share in the artist's evolving analysis (+1 plane in the dimensional model), perhaps adding an analysis of the artist's analysis (+1 plane) and maybe adding space in the form for the viewer to react to the artist's perspective on V's relationship to A1 (+1 plane). The Base of the pyramid model in Figure 1.5 acknowledges that the phenomenon we are (in part) examining constitutes a platform, a platform that is social, technical, perceptual, intellectual and so on. As with our particularized 2D model, this one can be serialized and substantially expanding, with additional relational layers connecting each cell:9
...As one might infer from Figure 1.6, the directionals indicate a consequent derivative order of complexity. From here, we are moving into 4D territory. In some measures, we have reached the limits of binaries, simple abstraction, the sketch and many other tools for apprehension at our disposal. We enter a new sphere, an imaginary one essentially, wherein our original simple model, representing an urge to understand a phenomenon, really, begets a project.
Returning to our original model, we might represent our derivation project in this fashion:
...With R, being an original model, R2 being a dataset containing all possible iterations of R1, and R3 containing or indicating (representing) all possible relational quantities and qualities pertaining and connecting to R1, in time (effects, associations, contingencies, perspectives, meanings, values, histories, techniques, modes, metrics, analyses, applications, causalities, and so on). Then:10
...Figure 1.8 demonstrates the generational complexities of our project R1>R4. The derivative project naturally can be serialized infinitely, with each plane, intersection point, derivative shape (obverse, and so on)... affording the user the opportunity to add layers of supplementals, ad infinitum.
The “imaginary” quality of the project (derived from a simple model) might lead one to believe that the program outlined above has no relevance “in the real world.” Not true. Take, for example, the NSA project, “Total Information Awareness,” or the financial sector's “project(s)” involving derivatives constituting a shadow market whose valuations are rising into the quadrillions of dollars (an ever-rising figure that encompasses and surpasses the actual economic value of everything on earth, and conceivably could surpass the unimaginable monetized valuation of the planet itself). Both projects are facilitated by mechanical means, employ complex and sophisticated networks monitored and utilized by armies of agents, generate massive quantities of information, collect and apply massive data sets, have fairly obvious objectives. Both, we can assume, originated from simple premises. Neither project seems on the surface to be especially benign.11 To know everything about everyone; to own the world and everything in it – something about the promise of 4D awareness tempts man to play god. We perhaps should proceed with caution.
Practicing 4D in art might be safer than doing so in the domains of spying or speculation. In a slower, saner reality, perhaps society would assign artists the task of experimenting with new perceptual toys/tools, then monitor and evaluate the results. In such a scenario, the artist serves as “canary in the coal mine,” which in other meaningful ways, appears to be part of the artist's “job description,” or vocation/“calling” in the Social.
In Section 1.712, we initiated a discussion of vision pertinent to art dimensionally. Obviously, the subsets of this discussion, and the matter of vision itself, on its own terms, are essential in any examination of art. The literature of art includes many valuable contributions on “seeing.” These may be instructional manuals on how to see, view, or look at art, so as to maximize the viewer experience and understanding of art. Art-centric storytelling may take form as personalized chronicle, an accumulation of anecdotes or impressions. This second mode has some characteristics of “witnessing” (and “testifying”). Art stories can over time be aggregated, so as to “paint a picture” of the picture (over time and populations). Again, we should note art's urge to the general, toward shared and/or social experience. This trend is important to note, because it is suggestive of the value of art's context, access, mode of presentation. How, where and when art is presented significantly impacts how it its received and perceived.
Further, visions encompass an aspect of human experience that can be described in terms of the extraordinary, as in “the visionary.” Vision, then, can have the quality of intensifying some “normal” state of the senses, opening one's faculties to a “heightened” awareness. Art has a profound position to occupy, with respect to vision, that it must share with tribal people, religious folk, thinkers, scientists, etc., since “visionary” (n.) has come to mean, more or less, anyone who realizes something or invents something that proves to be important over time (before any- and/or everyone else “gets it”). Powerful vision can also entail one's seeing the world not only exactly as it is, but also as it could be, or should be. Or even (still referring to visionary/n.) perceiving alternate realities vividly.
Addressing painting once more, art as a visionary tool or device can function like vision-window. It is not surprising that the magical as an attribute is assigned to art, nor is it surprising that skepticism attaches to art. Art's skeptics regard it as little more than “snake oil,” a grift or a con, playing on the gullibility of the dullard and the bias of the predisposed fool. Vision indeed is a battleground, in practice, as forces in conflict struggle for territory in the domain (of vision-projection). Why? Because the mediator of the human “heart” and mind is vision, which arises from the visual and visible, but is more; vision is accompanied by narrative and faith, and the status of being for those of us “chosen” to receive it. Vision can be a bridge to the divine (the sublime), for a believer. Prophets have visions. Saints and holy people have visions. (so do schizophrenics, the psychiatrist of the 20th and 21st centuries might point out).
Here, we ought to probably again note the power of vision to mobilize people to collective action. It is safe to say that those among us who, for whatever reasons, fear collective mobilization and action13 (effects) display a certain caution towards visionaries, artistic or otherwise.
Another interesting quality of Vision, applicable to our introductory rumination on art, is the common urge to assess and qualify vision in terms of the binary (“true” or “false,” for example). Is the vision “pure?” Or less than that – and so we range into the scope of the Oracle, and prediction, or in a current vernacular, “future-tripping.” The magical ability to forecast the future brings together the palm reader and the meteorologist, in the imagination complex of humanity, touching us on a deep level, at our hotspot for insecurity. Whether “I,” “mine” or “we” will be OK tomorrow is a primary existential concern for most of us. It makes sense the Drama utilizes vision, the Oracle, and the fulfillment (or disruption or destruction) of plans (patterned or predetermined outcomes), and the foibles of prophecy, as valuable tools for dramatic plot development.
Drama, itself, might be thought of as a kind of vision, or at least a Vision Channel Device (VCD). Following on our discussion of Vision in the preceding paragraph, the binary feature of Vision as concept or even precept points to a condition of drama that for our purposes can be reduced to the question, “Is it fiction or non-fiction?” Or even more to the point, “Is it true or not?”
In a way, this line of inquiry gets to the crux of digital imaging, the virtual, and by extension, the mechanical image, such as the photograph. Before arriving at that destination, however, a discussion of the mechanics of vision – optics - is necessary. We will cover this topic in more depth later in the text. For now, it is sufficient to acknowledge a subject that forms parallel to vision and art in the digital and mechanical eras, namely artificiality and machine sentience. Tensions exist between “real” and “pure” vision and the image produced by mechanical means. Epistemic analysis seems under-equipped to resolve these tensions satisfactorily. In part, this incapacity for the epistemological to provide synthetic satisfaction in the presently unsettled (and sometimes unsettling) sphere of the visionary image that is status quo might be a symptom of deeper and broader conflicts, such as the divergence(s) between user and code(r), and the “owner” of the “intellectual property” in use/encoded.
Speaking universally, spirituality resists being “set in stone,” and resists the command, which might for our ends be reduced to “right” and wrong.”14 In fact, not all peoples adhere to any notion that separates the spiritual, the mind and the body. Not all societies evolved under the auspices of command. Truth, fiction and the literary are alien in some human formations, although imperialism, colonialism, evangelism, etc., have to a remarkable degree reduced such societies. We might group the movements listed above (imperialism, etc.) in a set of actions:
We could nominate this set of actions as “The Arc of Civilization.” Further we might see how our topics have been, indeed, are, employed in the process of civilization. Art, vision, topology or mapping, the machine, representation, drama, prediction, imagination, analysis, techne/episteme, tension, spirit-mind-body models, command, true-or-false binaries, social configurations, etc.: all have been (and are) employed by and for the purposes or cause, of Civilization, which is a time-based phenomenon.
The question of external and internal and by extension, eternal, as types/states, is critically linked in human experience, to the question of true-or-false, and by extension, right and wrong. Fundamentally, the issue is survival, which is why the stakes are high.15 As suggested above, the role of the artist and/or visionary (supplemented by the wisdom of philosophers, the tools of science, the lessons of the historian, etc.) is mediator; to serve as faithful transmitter (as in representation) of the cosmic situation, encompassing reality (“on-the-ground” in which we find ourselves now), in order to provide the qualified interpreters with the data they require to make sound judgments, to create new technologies for changing or different circumstances to recall past experience of value in extant conditions and so on.
This model for artistic and/or visionary utility can be describe diagrammatically:
This particular model of artistic and/or visionary utility can give rise to an extensive exploration of social formations, the structures of societies and social networks, with dimensional implications. Some examples:
Figure 2.2 (somewhat cryptically) describes a social formation fundamentally reliant on the dynamics of the visionary. This model is also vitally enabled by sonic dynamics in its lines communication, which compose a matrix that resembles a moving wheel (in space, place and time). To summarize, a “chief” is (s)elected and centrally positioned in the formation. Imagine her on an elevated platform on wheels, directing collective action, based on input transmitted external-to-internal and vice-versa. Information also cycles circularly, among the people from the middle point outwards. This model abstracts tribal social formations well-suited for small bands situated in large open spaces, a circumstance that generally rewards cohesion.
Figure 2.3 describes a social formation well suited to command and control orders (as in the phalanx and modern classroom or theater). Because of its ubiquity, we can assume the reader's familiarity with its general functions and dynamics, and variations in application. However, it may be worthwhile to point out the effectiveness of this formation, as a military16 application, for decimating the model described in Figure 2.1.
Finally, for a third example, the text introduces a social network design originally produced for Occupy Wall Street technological operations (Tech-Ops). This model was offered as a schematic to solve complex problems (dimensional), involving integrity of network communications, social hierarchy, access, transparency, applied aesthetics (as in Graphical User Interface, or GUI), programmatic utility, systematic responsiveness, and more:
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