Whether independence and freedom are equivalent or facets of the same immaterial "thing" is an open, 4D+ question, here, today. We Americans are deep in the thrall of Trump and his MAGA meme, and the world is reeling in the venomous recoil, the shock of unpredictability, precipitated by President Donald's clash with, well, most everybody, one moment to the next. An obvious, contraindicated if temporary remedy is for one to wonder WWBD (What Would Bernie Do?), whenever the next appalling, repulsive, horrifying, totally avoidable predicament appears, courtesy the Donald and/or his (or our) many enemies. Which doesn't mean we as a people should forget the point of the July 4 celebration. It's probably harder to forefront in consciousness an authentic notion of the impact of the emerging USA's stipulated claim to of-a-sudden autonomy from its colonial monarchy, way back then in 1776, in the dense clouds of sulfurous smoke and booming crashes of bombs bursting in air, this evening across this great land. The scene in Bushwick, for example, was intense: 360 degree conflagrations, cops with lights-on slowly patrolling the streets, trying to identify the fireworkers atop block-length building-rooftops, densely packed with reveler spectators, scrambling to find the ideal PoV to take in the pumped-up Macy's display blasting the heavens above the River...
Having consumed vast quantities of drugs and alcohol, burgers and franks, apple pie and such, most Americans will be happy to be seduced by the fireworks displays lighting up the country's night skies from NYC to LA (and beyond). Most of us won't be reflecting on stuff like the explosives' grotesque, banal and ironic backstory. Fewer still will pause to consider the flows and ebbs of independence/freedom in this nation's ever-strange history, which is in fact all-directional. I, however, will absolutely be doing just that (with a shout-out to my friend Howard, whose input about the holiday proved immensely helpful)! And applying these reflections to my own multi-modal progress, activities, interests, in a seasonal State-of-the-State blogpost.
Bushwick, BK, NYC, USA (PJM 2017)
America is big by many metrics, and the "space"/place within America I occupy is miniscule, relatively speaking. For a bunch of reasons I'm aware of that comparative architecture, the size-matters dimension of the citizen profile, which connects to one's neighborhood, town, city, state, region, then USA, then the World, as such. It can be a positive and/or (alternating) negative juxtaposition, depending. But we can modify the selfie-to-ussie dynamic just by turning the machine around, by the hand to the eye, plus a button punch, whether the composition is singular or plural! Given it's 2017, in a deft technical media move, I can swing the camera round at myself or us, and BOOM: America is just my/our immediate backdrop, the setting for my/our action, my/our story. In a funny twist, Bushwick, which is American - LOL - is the stage for this post, and its author. As settings go, My/Our 'hood is photogenic, popular, and, if you believe the News isn't completely Fake, ready-for-primetime! Bushwick on the 4th is teeming with young, attractive folks, transiting from many destinations via the L Train, to the Jefferson Street stop, and from there to Vander-Ende Onderdonk House, where House of Yes is hosting a Dance Party & BBQ. Lauren and Lachlan strolled past the festie, and Lula reported seeing through the V-EOH back-fence, a tent for meditations, clothes sales, pastoral scenes of brew sipping conversations among the hip circles of neo-culturati. My neighbor, walking his dog, said he saw a "bunch of transvestites" there, already. At least in this corner of the USA, for this one afternoon, the Trump Effect is on vacation. Plenty of Selfies and Ussies will be taken through the smart phone camera lenses of the diverse crowd celebrating Independence Day, 2017 [and posted to an array of social media platforms]! Then there's THIS kind of 4th of July soiree!
Lulz, "Social Media"... That term seems very quaint, and means, exactly - What?! The last few months have been eye-popping with respect to the New/Social/Media/Economy-scape!! In case you missed, below is a sampler of game-changers:
- “Facebook and Twitter are being used to manipulate public opinion – report/Nine-country study finds widespread use of social media for promoting lies, misinformation and propaganda by governments and individuals” by Alex Hern (June 19, 2017) and ALSO see the cascades of excellent, ongoing Facebook/soc.med reportage at Guardian
- “Google fined $2.7BN for EU antitrust violations over shopping searches”
by Natasha Lomas for Tech Crunch (Jun 27, 2017)
- “Google Is About To Start Tracking Your Offline Behavior, Too” by Josie Wales/TheAntiMedia.org, re-posted at ZeroHedge by Tyler Durden (May 26, 2017)
- “Amazon to Buy Whole Foods for $13.4 Billion” By Nick Wingfield and Michael J. de la Merced for NY Times/Dealbook (June 16, 2017)
- “You Are Now Paying Internet Companies to Sell Your Browsing History to Advertisers/Thanks, Trump!” by Sarah Leonard [@Moyers & company (April 8, 2017), first published at The Nation] and ALSO
We might as well stop there, but that list is by no means more than a teeny surface scratch. I do feel obligated to mention that the President referred to his tweeting habit as "MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL" (ALL-CAPS his), a MAGA technic. You just couldn't make any of this more fictional, could you?
Shane is for now in Thailand, on a dimensional, proportionally artistic, mission (see SK ink paintings above). He shared the image above as an afterthought to the AFH "SELFIE" project (see below). He also uploaded a post to his Instagram feed documenting a fascinating if unintentional Thai variation on our American 4 July party thang. The Selfie (and its plural "USSIE") will figure significantly throughout this composition. The diligent AFH News follower will of course recognize immediately how this media phenomenon (selfie/ussie) conforms to some dominant 4D+ doctoral theses I've been immersed in for some time. But in this bloggy snapshot we won't be pursuing any thorough analysis or at-depth diagnosis on this massive camera-generated genre, no matter how tempting that proposition might be. All in good time, dear reader!
I suppose we ought to share a very brief scan of "art world" notices and observations, for contextual reasons, before we dig into the main course. The art press focus this summer has turned to Europe's big to-do's in Venice, and to the problematic documenta 14, which AFH favorite Ben Davis compellingly reviews HERE. I enjoyed Yanis Varoufakis' barbed take on the spectacle HERE:
O Mark Bradford ["– black, gay, liberal, wondering how he could represent a government that no longer represented him – has turned the rotunda of the White House, as the neoclassical US pavilion is nicknamed, into a barely convincing ruin. Far stronger is the colossal hull of claggy paint you have to duck beneath on entering; look closely and you see it’s a mass of immigration documents and ab-ex brushstrokes." (from Laura Cumming's Guardian review linked above)]! Cumming's framing of Bradford's representation conundrum and proposition ignores another question - When's the last time America's pavilion at VB represented America in a manner that would represent America to our liking, or at least in a way that might project respect for the American experiment and our conceptual democratic prospectus? That's a question that might invite a sober accounting for all those hot-red MAGA hats, and the cultural divide that separates creative elites/celebrities from their "populist" countrymen. Then, from the provincial "empire" where Her Majesty yet reigns, there Hirst's whopper! OUCH!
The top-heavy art industry is wobbly like a drunken sailor, due to burgeoning inequality effects and a plethora of not-unrelated, unresolved internal contradictions. The May 2017 auctions were a roaring success (Christie's $448MM, Sotheby's $319) - O Basquiat! - but the year-over-year cracks in the market's seams are showing, as the reformation of the global exchange modality continues to distort in favor of the richest fractional cohort, as most of them (exchanges) are. Small, mid-sized, even long-lived Name galleries are shuttering in droves, and the survivalist solutions for anyone not in the Big 5 or 10 MEGA-galleries, even those proposed by resourceful clever agents and dealer collectives, strike this practical observer as canary-in-a-coal-mine band-aids. To put it in perspective, I caught on to a different flavor trend happening on another band in the art production spectrum: storage units being marketed as artist studios! Over the past five years or so the storage industrial complex has been pushing this meme, which is finally ripening, as in this story coming to us from Pittsburgh's STORExpress/448 Studios (via storageunit.com). Words fail - but let the CREATIVITY begin!
Let's get started with the AFH UPDATE!
I completed my first class, a summer intensive with program director Professor Richard Jochum, at Columbia Teachers College in the Creative Technologies course on June 24. Titled "New Media, New Forms (NMNF)," the class served as a playful-practical introductory survey to the integrated field of Art/Tech/Education. Each of the students was assigned the task of creating and maintaining a blog for sharing homework, reflections, course-related production, and so on. Mine is HERE. NMNF convened in CTC's Media Lab and Thingspace - the college's nicely equipped makerspaces. If you are unfamiliar with that hot edu-buzzword, a clicky search will yield lots of good results and link to loads of explanatory essays, resources and examples. A couple of projects and class sessions in NMNF required usage of the Media Lab/Thingspace 3D printers and Laser Cutter. Fun! Having spent most of the past 5 years on doctoral work and, when generating art for exhibit and other purposes, doing so (for the most part) with analog/traditional tools, I was keen to finally run those bleeding edge - HA! - tools through the paces. My first attempts, for good and ill, are chronicled in my NMNF blog. Another notable assignment involved adding my/our contribution to Richard's ongoing IMPACT 25. I produced a soc-med dittie called "SELFIE," which is inspiring consequent iterations/re-directions, post-course-completion, for this student-artist. First, I have continued to work with the images sent me by the participants I invited to collaborate on "SELFIE." Here is the second SELFIE iteration:
For the above SquareSpace "Carousel" gallery, I pulled up some old viztrix from the early daze, including decorative elements first deployed in "sliders" - anyone recall slider.com? - and some technics developed around the time I was producing stuff for the LA-based collective Gramatica Parda for our ANDlab show, especially the animation/print set "BONE." Each of the images in the "SELFIE" Series #2 sequence also exists as a standalone digi-file that can be output as an 8.5"x11"/300dpi color print, which I plan on sharing with the participants, who are friends and relatives from several hoops. The image-processing for this "SELFIE" Series included the creation of big bitmaps used in one of each picture's layers. Next, I am thinking I'll output the scaled-up bitmap version of these autoportraits on a paintable substrate and add analog color. & Obviously, by adding to the pool of selfies later, I should be able to create an image database sufficient for animation purposes. And so on. Nice thing about digital stuff: the generative possibilities are practically infinite. Over the Independence Day weekend, as I toiled at the ancient AFH iBook laptop here in Bushwick to make "SELFIE" Series #2, a production concept percolated and popped in my brain, probably through the mangled left middle finger I smashed in my buddy's truck door, during a journey to Kauai for an ohana holiday by way of SoCali. The first stab at that idea yielded the finger(digital)-selfies sprinkled throughout the text and the "treated" sequenced published as a slider concluding the ID2017 post (see below).
Okay. The AFH SELFIE is turning out to be my kind of BIG Concept, new/fresh but plenty done-over in bezillions of variances in as many contexts, and I won't kill my take with artspeak while the thingy goulash is fomenting, gestating and percolating in the so-called mind's eye. I will share a bit of vision with you, though, my faithful AFH readers, ye who've been with me all these years/decades, now, through teh tick n tin. The vizzy looks like a fair collection of old-fashioned paintin's made with new-fangled materials, a raft of big & small prints and combines, maybe a book or two, monumental/plop-art 3D-print sculptures, moving images, the ubiquitous glossy AFH web platform, the whole shebang proliferating & pollinating oodles of collaborative opportunies. Plus a fierce manifesto-ey document, apropo our Times. Something like that, or the usual -- venue TBD, harhar. The [heheh animal] Spirit of the Concept, as I see it, is pre-figured by rebel MMA icons, the brothers Nate/Nick Diaz, flipping "the Bird" as only they can do... It's ("it" being the mighty & spunky finger waggle) a SIGN attached like resonance to the signified ultra-modern/global, penultimate homo indomitus, a gesture, linked by a mysterious, tribal subterranean potency to that which this digital move is empty without - ultimately - NAMELY, a consequent BLUDGEONING, spilling of blood, a battering, a bruising, the emblem of brutal loss but also the survival of all that [anti-]SPORT[sport], which is war-play and its actual (doubling) negation... Geometric, in many scenarios, you will note (ringed squares, octagons and so forth) ...plus the juicy crazy joy of upending hype and status quo narratives with upset, disruption, and sheer junkyard doggedness. The improbability of success in spite of management, in contradiction of the generic heroic, as the prohibitive not-favorite is what the Diaz Bros have come to represent. But I'm rambling and overexcited, the way I get watching UFC on any given Saturday night over the past couple of years, during which I've done more spectating than training, for the first time ever in my adult life, or youth come to think on it - so, ever. Let me try to unscramble the egg, for your sake dear reader.
The potent essence of the Diaz Broz meme parallels a facet of my autobiography, which infuses my perspective/perceptions on other aspects of worlds I visit and sometimes inhabit, including the Academy, the "art world" and the Science Labs (including the Political Science one). Spending a fair proportion of one's adult life in combat sports "gyms" and other, variously complementary training facilities - my latest membership is with Renzo Gracie Fight Academy in Brooklyn - colors a person's comprehension of human interaction, from the particular to the general. It's only natural, as much as it is fictional and metaphorically so. For an example with respect to my peculiar reaction to a seemingly unrelated event: Having Oxford/Ruskin turn me down for the practice-led DPhil course (see my application/portfolio, for the time being HERE), given the way that went down, was a bashing blow, but, now, with you as my witness, the recovery/ricochet effect is happening, day by day. Being mangled by an unfolding project you volunteered for does weirdness to your confidence (game). The connection is ART, whether of the martial or fine varieties. No way around it, in either instance - if one dares to dream, to manifest that dream, and indulges the urgency of expectation, the effects of failure or rejection are inevitably amplified. Without question a hematoma is not a damaged or diminished CV. Which doesn't mean all beatdowns share no resemblance. Anyone who has suffered a diversity of wounds will recognize all have their scales of authenticity and, subsequent to the injury, whatever it is, protocols for healing. Depending on the ouchy boo boo, time is another factor and presence to consider, a matter that could take this brief introductory discourse in many - maybe any - direction. I am thinking of Manny Pacquiao just now.
For this portion of the promotion, let's be satisfied by wrapping up (bandaging) the squished and oozing middle fingertip/SELFIE autonarrative, juxtaposed with a lovely new version of the collective SELFIE project, underpinned with a mass-media phenomenon (the Diaz Broz), plus more, including the prospects for bringing NEW tech to bear on the elemental mash-up to produce notable future SHOWS! This AFH News blogpost suggests a precursory takeaway, with respect to the meaning of that which is unfolding before our eyes, behind the scenes and under the surface - all phrases, in quotes. This be a a feisty historical yarn for a globally combative era... Arguably the Finger is the prime fiction of the past decade+, and the mangled Bird is the "reward" for expressing resistance to Power, for digitally "speaking Truth" to It. For many of us of a certain profile (Holla, Novads!), 2017 Independence Day is bittersweet, an exercise in dark-colorized reflection. Which is nuts, given how pretty it is today in Bushwick, on ID Eve, with all the cosmo tours gawking at the Collective's updated murals and miscellaneous tags, with the easy parking, with the full cafes, etc.
...Because the lesson is now, Sure, it's invigorating in the moment to holler FUCK YOU at one's nemesis, to wave your fisted finger in defiance at him/her/them/the whole lot. But what if that nemesis is fronted by thugs in tactical gear, including all manner of non-/lethal devices, and those minions are commissioned or sanctioned or permitted (whatever) to practice their craft on your ass, which is massively worse than Hell's Angel notorious style, by virtue of the incorporated, recent+ancient scientific advances in high-design mayhem/maiming/murther. Postscript: Poor middle finger, poor selfie...
I guess I'm finally ready to share my own take on what's happening in the streaming current, post-Occupy and perhaps more importantly, to come multiverse... Before beginning the second, completion, phase of my 4D+ doctoral work. Of course, dear reader, this concept's narrative is fiction-based. As I noted above, I smashed my digit in a freak accident on a mountaintop in California, on a beach destination trajectory. A truck door got me. ...But this is the weird thing about the artist-mind, Yes? Somehow all this context madly swirls like an imaginary storm, eventually forming through these hands and eyes, bodily, into echoing objects with durational features, becoming the occurrence of the metaphysical in the Real (Time+Space/Place). The process indeed is Universal, if anything but transcendent. If the phenomenon in sum is trans- at all, it is embracing of the transmorphological, in native 4D+.