Friday, January 27, 2006

Style and Subjectivity

Jean-Luc Godard says:

"To me style is just the outside of content, and content the inside of style, like the outside and inside of the human body. Both go together, they can't be separated."

This may relate to our question in class, the one that keeps coming up, about how we evaluate new media work. For example, how do we differentiate between a "good" remix and a "bad" one? Are these terms even useful anymore? Would we be better off trying to read the various remixes, or better yet, to scan them (progressively scan?), looking for clues to their style and the content that Godard says is always inside of it?

Style is often cool. It's what turns you on. It's what stimulates you. But it's not just style. It may also be FORM.

Ron Silliman, in an essay I just read this morning called "Wild Form" says, in relation to poetry:

"Form is social. It gives meaning to context through its display of the author's stance. But this meaning is always (and only) context specific."

You can replace "author" with whatever other term suits you: artist, collaborative network, remixologist, etc.

"[M]eaning is always (and only) context specific."

And for each subjectivity, context is always shifting, especially as we respond to these cultural productions in a proprioceptive way (our interior nerve centers "clicking" with connection or, when it's just not happening, feeling a total disconnect).

Subjectivity jams with subject matter in a way that is unique to you.

There's this phrase in pop culture: "do you feel it?" Or: "are you feeling it?"

To which you may respond: "I'm not feeling it."

Not feeling the Form.

Not connecting with the Content.

Not intersubjectively jamming with the specific context the content is infused with.

In this regard, you may not be connecting with the maker's intention. This disconnect may be intentional on your part. Or unintentional. It's like, why do you immediately connect with one person but not another. Or why do some interpersonal relationships take longer to get to the point where you're comfortably jamming with the Other?

Or maybe the new media work of art is starting to feel stale to you. "I've seen it all before," i.e. it's no longer cool, or in style.

And then there's this: remixologists run the risk of appearing too derivative. As Silliman says in the same piece linked to above:

"The situational specificity of form also explains why followers, imitators, epigones can never hope to extend or even replicate the meaning of their heroes. The meaning of any second generation is always the reification of the past, even if only to stabilize a sense of the present in order to render it less threatening and chaotic."

One possible way to evaluate the difference between a remix that turns you on and one that turns you off would be to rethink Robert Creeley's phrase "Form is nothing more than an extension of content" and its converse "Content is nothing more than an extension of Form" while keeping in mind the connection between Form/Style/Subjectivity and Content/Subject-Matter, especially as you proprioceptively engage with all kinds of art work that operate in specific contexts.

Remixing Miles Davis, quoted in my initial blog entry, you might say that "learning to engage your subjectivity in plastic dialogue with subject matter, may take longer than you expect."

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Blogger Unknown said...

It's nice to know that somebody still reads that piece -- it's one of my favorites to this day.

3:55 PM  
Blogger Professor VJ said...

Thanks, Ron. Reading "Wild Form" was an excellent way to start the day and pleasantly fit into what I was writing. I am finding a lot poetry and poetics quite useful in my study of net art and VJ culture, some of which will be in my forthcoming book "META/DATA: A Digital Poetics."

11:19 PM  
Blogger Paterika Hengreaves said...

The content of this blog was most informative. Your perception on content and style awesome. Thank you very much for sharing your insight.


9:57 AM  

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