The Manifesto of Unintended Consequences

10 January 2010 | by | In Uncategorized

Reading ‘Manifestos for the Future’ by H.U.Obrist in e-flux magazine, and in general what constitutes contemporary in art, such as ‘New Species of Spaces’ by H.Fang. With the growth and variety of contemporary art, manifestos seem silly, they posit notions of the future – and all we know is that the future will hold unintended consequences.

The field of endeavor then is to create a set of conditions, like the format of  ‘haiku‘ poetry, that both limit and set free possibilities.

I’ve been in love with New Babylon for at least 3 decades, a society consisting purely of artists who engage in the world, their lives themselves being works of art.

The architecture of New Babylon is created by the artist Constant Nieuwenhuyst. This fact alone contradicts and negates the project.

[here][now] is a process to put all creativity in the hands of the participants,  a toolkit where any group in any location can create their perception of place, of how they map themselves.

Merely a baby step, but maps are a precondition to empowerment.

laughter and forgetting

29 July 2009 | by | In process

Stumbled across this:

In 1975, Milan Kundera moved to France. There he published The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1979) which told of Czech citizens opposing the communist regime in various ways. An unusual mixture of novel, short story collection and author’s musings, the book set the tone for his works in exile. Critics have noted the irony that the country that Kundera seemed to be writing about when he talked about Czechoslovakia in the book, “is, thanks to the latest political redefinitions, no longer precisely there” which is The “kind of disappearance and reappearance Kundera explores in the book.” [3]

That is from wikipedia.

But this idea of forgotten geographies was an early motivating idea to the project and has shaped several key elements of the piece.

Street of Crocodiles

24 July 2009 | by | In process

“   Our language does not possess epithets fine enough to weigh, as it were, the degrees of its reality, to define its pliability. Let me say it bluntly: the tragedy of this district is that nothing here ever reaches completion; nothing transcends its definitivum — all movements, once begun, hang in the air; all gestures are prematurely exhausted and cannot proceed beyond a certain deadlock. We can now appreciate its great luxuriance and prodigality — in the intentions, projects and anticipations that characterise this district. It is all nothing more than the fermentation of desires, prematurely luxuriant and, therefore, impotent and empty. Every merest whim germinates in its atmosphere of inordinate facility; a fleeting tension swells and grows into an empty, puffed out excrescence, a shot up, grey and light vegetation of downy weeds — colourless shaggy poppy heads composed of a weightless tissue of illusion and hashish. A languid and profligate aura of sin rises over the whole district, and the houses, shops and people not uncommonly seem to be a shudder on its fervid body, the gooseflesh of its feverish reveries. Nowhere so much as here do we feel so threatened by possibilities, so shocked by the propinquity of fulfilment, scared pale and stiff by the pleasurable terror of realisation. But it ends there.”
Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schultz

communication and dialogue

12 June 2009 | by | In process

“… Communication and dialogue have taken on a new specific weight and urgency in modern times, because subjectivity and inwardness have become at once richer and more intensely developed, and more lonely and entrapped, than they ever were before. In such a context, communication and dialogue become both a desperate need and a primary source of delight. In a world where meanings melt into air, these experiences are among the few solid sources of meaning we can count on. One of the things that can make modern life worth living is the enhanced opportunities it offers us — and sometimes even forces on us — to talk together, to reach and understand each other. We need to make the most of these possibilities; they should shape the way we organize our cities and our lives.”
All that is Solid Melts into Air by Marshall Berman.


4 June 2009 | by | In process

At our presentation in Montalvo, as we were talking about the creation of places by avatars, Rory mentioned my fascination with the erasure of memory. Which leads to the following story. Continue reading Erasure…

kantor`s camera

22 May 2009 | by | In process

I’ve been thinking about the drawings that Tadeusz Kantor made for his plays. In “Water Hen” the audience entered through the cloak room,  being winter they took off their coats and were given ‘keys’ or costumes, for example, orthodox Jewish outfits – they were asked at various times to be spectators in the play.

The play itself, by Witkiewicz, took place behind large barn-like doors. Periodically Kantor would go through the doors and pick a ‘character’ from the play and bring them to the audience.  What was curious was that they all had components of the set inside them, as if their bodies and the set were fused together.

Today we spent a long time working on viewpoints and I thought of his special camera.

at Montalvo Arts Center

18 May 2009 | by | In process

So we are today at Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga California, for day 1 of our 12 day residency. After meeting everyone and getting settled we began work with a discussion of a handful of ideas we had each been kicking around but hadn’t yet seemed to have the time to sit down and work through. We talked about:

  • Philip Zimbardo and his book The Lucifer Effect, which talks about how people’s context radically changes how they relate to each other, and is interesting to think about in light of some dynamics that will likely play out in the installation version of the project.
  • In reflecting on the results of our workshop, we discussed Koyaanisqatsi, the 1982 film by Godfrey Reggio with music by Philip Glass.  In a way, the film shows many different aspects of city life juxtaposed together — rather like we will be trying to do with avatars. This also reminded me of Baraka and of course Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera. It was interesting to learn that Baraka was actually made by Ron Fricke in 1992, 10 years after he was the cinematographer on Koyaanisqatsi.
  • But mostly we talked about My Dinner with Andre. A film which is mostly about experimental theater and Polish theater director Jerzy Grotowski, but touches on such metaphysical ideas as “the nature of reality”. Really I think it’s a film about the society of the spectacle in a way — how we perceive, and how our lives play into a broader mediated societal structure.
  • Discussion of that led in many different directions. Most interestingly probably was thinking about a part of the film that addresses the habitual and what that means. Habit as a way of masking death. A character in the film tries to counter this human condition by doing something different everyday, starting from the moment he gets out of bed. This made me think about Tricia Rose’s Black Noise and how we use sampling in music as kind of a way of controlling and defying time. Walter Benjamin talks about architecture and how we as humans experience it only through the habitual, through living or being in a space — ie, architecture as a kind of extended time-based medium. A possible counterpoint to this might be Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception and thinking about understanding spaces instead as extensions of our bodies. Think about how both of these ideas relate to avatars. Our piece engages this idea by assigning an architectural structure to each user as an avatar, and making that structure new and different each time they enter. Thus they will perceive the world differently each time. Hopefully each time a user experiences the piece it will be a new and challenging experience.
  • I am also interested in Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori’s idea of “the Uncanny Valley”, (see illustration) which talks about how as robots get increasingly anthropomorphic, we have an increasingly positive and familiar response to them, until at some point they get very human-like and we find them repulsive. The same could be said about “virtual reality” — or perhaps, “technologically mediated experiences”. As software becomes more “lifelike”, we find it more pleasing. Think of like a command-line interface, versus a windows-based OS or an intuitive Flash interface. But at some point (think like Second Life) the experience becomes very life-like in a way, and at this point most people seem to find this very alienating and repulsive. As the simulation encroaches on realism to the point where we feel it might be “threatening the real”, we have an instinctual and cynical critical reaction.

Psychological Test

11 May 2009 | by | In process

“My show of crashed cars was held at the New Arts Lab in April 1970. It was an art show designed to carry out a psychological test, so that I could decide whether to write my novel “Crash”—begun in 1970 and finished in 1972. I wanted to test my own hypothesis about our unconscious fascination with car crashes and their latent sexuality. One could argue that today’s Turner prize, and the exhibitions of work by Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and the Chapman brothers perform exactly the same role, that they are elaborate attempts to test the psychology of today’s public. Going further, I’m tempted to say that the psychological test is the only function of today’s art shows, and that the aesthetic elements have been reduced almost to zero. It no longer seems possible to shock people by aesthetic means, as did the Impressionists, Picasso and Matisse, among many others. In fact, it no longer seems possible to touch people’s imaginations by aesthetic means. People in London flocked to the Barnet Newman show out of a deep nostalgia for a time when the aesthetic response still mattered.”"
J. G. Ballard

Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote

11 May 2009 | by | In process

“Menard (perhaps without wishing to) has enriched, by means of a new technique, the hesitant and rudimentary art of reading: the technique is one of deliberate anachronism and erroneous attributions. This technique, with its infinite applications, urges us to run through the Odyssey as if it were written after the Aeneid, and to read Le jardin du Centaure by Madame Henri Bachelier as if it were by Madame Henri Bachelier. This technique would fill the dullest books with adventure. Would not the attributing of The Imitation of Christ to Louis Ferdinand Celine or James Joyce be a sufficient renovation of its tenous spiritual counsels?”
Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote” (Borges)

© Walczak & Solomon