Friday, December 07, 2007

As the Art World Turns II (Updated)

There's something about sitting in your studio
in the middle of the South Pacific
geographically speaking further away from any other land mass
than any other location on Planet Earth
drinking 100% Kona coffee picked just last week by my almost friend but most certainly acquaintance Isaac
and roasted only yesterday morning

that makes you feel like you can do whatever you want with your life
that the choices are yours to make and the object of your study
if you think of this duration that you "work out" in as a duration
can be the philosophical rendering of a theoretical premise
on duration
that "concrescent unison" as Whitehead calls it
that is a cross-section of the universe

Drinking 100% just roasted yesterday Kona coffee while the rain is pouring out of the mountain and smashing into my picture window as another avant-garde movement trying to bust in and destroy everything that came before it
while musing on Whitehead
led me to the performance art of David Antin
who I have also been reading lately
you would think Antin and Whitehead would have very little or nothing to do with each other but then why not especially given the contemporary remixologist's tendency to find social connectedness in everything they encounter
so with the 100% Kona I read Antin talking about not just the object of his study
which in this instance was how all art schools are alike
or are more like each other than anything else in the world
but also discussing / talking about / ruminating on
art objects in general
which he says he is surely not interested in making
and this I can of course agree with 100%
(thank you Kona for the certainty)
but he says he can see why artists would want to make art objects
because making art objects fulfills the desire of those who not only want to make things but make things that are meaningful
and whose meaning will be solidly carried forward for the duration
and that this feeling of making art objects that branch out
into the field of social relatedness that we actual entities share
is part of a desire to create something unique in the world
something that actually means something
and is part of the creative process we align ourselves with
because if the art objects don't mean anything
then there is the risk that the artist and those who encounter
the thing they made will not see these objects as art
but that if they are beautiful enough or at least play with the idea of art
and beauty and even irony (these are my words)
or are even just very much crafted into a well made thing
(one that has a certain aesthetic sexiness about it)
then it will just reek of meaning
and -- as the saying goes -- "mission accomplished"

not that we all want to make meaning out of objects
but for those who do want to make meaning out of objects
they definitely want that meaning to stick around
i.e. want it to endure
which brings me back to duration
but in a funny way
because Whitehead's version of duration
(which is different than Bergson's yet heavily influenced by him)
if I understand him even a little
is something that occurs as a contemporaneous experience
one that is part of a community of concrescent occasions
forming an immediate present while establishing
the principle of common relatedness
a principle (Whitehead tells us)
that can be realized as an element of ones datum

and reading this heavy duty process philosophy of Whitehead over a strong cup of 100% Kona with the rain slamming into the big picture window separating my studio from the pristine aloha scenery I have immersed myself in while at the same time knowing that today's beach walk will have to wait until early afternoon at the soonest and that what I was now experiencing in my immediate present was a duration that I had not anticipated but was remixologically inhabiting as part of my performance anyway

led me to turn my head and read although read is the wrong word maybe I mean processually experience
(led me to further investigate via my ongoing
hyperimprovisational / intuitive / embodied praxis)
Antin's own take on duration in relation to the art object and meaning
(both Antin and Whitehead as actual entities
were opened as books on my desk
books that were in themselves some kind of made thing or object
that were outliving their destinies
as open books
the way blogs like this one are "open books"
that have the potential to outlive their destiny
but then again "not books" too
maybe "open source materials" to jam with?)
and so turning away from Whitehead for a moment
literally turning my head toward the Antin book
and reading him say that "now i know that it is also this potential of objects for duration that is part of their attraction
both for the people who want to make them
and the people who want to perceive them
this tenacious physical hold
on existence
which gives an artist a kind of claim on human attention
over a period of time that is a promise
both for its makers and receivers
of a type of survival
in this duration
and this is something we all experience as artists
because even as a poet and a performer
which for me is nearly the same thing
i want to do something that will have all the immediacy and impact
of a wisecrack and yet will offer itself up to the mind
again and again like a koan
and stay long enough for that
which is a kind of duration"

meaning that it is easy for an artist to commiserate with the aforementioned desire to create something that can be experienced again and again
that can be re-experienced over time
not just by re-reading a book or revisiting a painting or movie or installation
or going to see the same performance two nights in a row
although all of those cultural experiences are also about
"presentational immediacy" and the "nexus of occasions"
that inform ones duration
ones accumulating life datum
(the qualitative sense data that one experiences via an embodied praxis that processes reality by remixologically inhabiting the flow of happenings they circulate in as an artist-medium rendering their body-image into the social network)
but also as an "object" that can be envisioned as
"a whole set of related experiences
maybe rich and mysterious and new"
(to sample from Antin again)

which gets me to thinking that the idea of a rich and mysterious and new set of related experiences triggered by the making of things or the remixing of data may be a fallacy
not in a negative way
but in a fallacious way
let's call it the Novelty Fallacy
but then that would contradict everything this blog is about

[duration slippage -- / -- micro comeback -- / -- are we there yet? -- / -- the promise of money]

oh right
now I remember
the promise of money
that's somehow connected to the primacy of meaning or the desire to create a heretofore unrealized (novel form of) meaning in objects that outlive us and that somehow these are the things we have to contend with if we are to build a legacy
or not a legacy per se
but more like a duration that outlives us even as we in our presentational immediacy only know duration as a contemporary feeling immersed in its own novelty (the mysterious resonance of being here in the now)
of generating an on the fly remix of who we are
in the presentational immediacy
of our selectively manipulated data
because (and I really have to slip this in)
money talks and bullshit walks
not that walking is bad for you
actually it's very good
you could buy a pedometer and wear it all day
and if you go over 10,000 steps you're in good shape
literally you are sculpting your cardiovascular skeletal musculature
into much better shape
10,000 smackers
which happens to be close to the same number
one of my works at Art Miami Basel is going for
meaning that someone now has to take this pseudo-thing
I've made out of the manipulated data of my life experience
and place a value on it in relation to its potential
its potential to maintain a duration
a contemporary feeling for what is novelty now
within the context of a marketplace of ideas
a contemporary feel for a marketplace of ideas
modeled after structurally integrated modes of intuition
which is not to say the art world is very touchy-feely
no far from it
the parties are the opposite of that
they are more like what Whitehead gets into when he writes about
"The Theory of Feelings"
in fact he opens his section on "The Theory of Feelings"
discussing the philosophy of organism
and how it is a cell-theory of actuality
that is to say
"each ultimate unit of fact is a cell-complex
not analysable into components with
equivalent completeness of actuality"

which in art world terms I translate as
"there is not one sure thing that drives the art market"
(not even money although money is the currency that charges
the social connectedness of the various role-players)
but a complexity of things being made by those who
in the presentational immediacy of their selectively manipulated data
form an aesthetic experience that we might call novelty
novelty as the immediate present
one that is capable of establishing the mysterious resonance
of social relatedness as currency in a marketplace of ideas
one that is fueled by this same sense of novelty
(and it really is a sense of novelty
just think of the hungry collectors hounding the scene
sniffing out the next new phase of novelty)

yes novelty fuels novelty ad infinitum
and this is process theory branded

[this of course is liable to make the artists themselves sick to their stomachs except for the fact that they too now have been trained to sniff out what those who buy art may be anticipating as the next new thing to sniff (if Art Miami Basel is starting to sound like a Coke Fest so be it)]

"The Theory of Feelings" and the ability to generate value out of novelty or the objects of contemporary duration remixed by the aesthetic designer we still call artist are related to that species of improvised creativity Whitehead refers to as an "actual entity" one that he describes as "spatialized" and actuated by its own "substantial form"

this actual entity he describes sounds to me like a remixological hacker

as when he says -- "the 'effects' of an actual entity are its interventions in concrescent processes other than its own"

and that by hacking into or remixologically inhabiting or intervening in the datum of our shared (collective, collaborative) presentational immediacy, this actual entity that I have been referring to as the artist-medium becomes an "object"

(I have shied away from the term "object" myself and have been instead using the term body-image)

Whitehead also goes on to state that the actual entity as "object"
has a formal aspect to it
and that this formalism comes to be
via a creative process that is immanent to it
something any contemporary remixologist can relate to
because the embodied praxis of the artist-medium cum remixologist
is predicated upon their ability to formally innovate new iterations of contemporaneity by sampling from the flux of data
at their immediate disposal (Source Material Everywhere)
and as we have already acknowledged
the remixologist is a novelty generator
one who performs their work in the immediate present as a way of establishing the mysterious resonance of social relatedness within the context of a fluctuating currency in the marketplace of ideas
a marketplace that is fueled by this same sense of novelty

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

As the Art World Turns

The art world kicks into high gear at Art Miami Basel this week and as is often the case with these kinds of big art fairs, a lot of attendees think that the more interesting events are the ones that happen outside the mainstream venue but still in conjunction with it.

For example, this year's SCOPE MIAMI program should be exciting and includes my CODEWORK DVD with surround sound as well as some of my VJ-influenced digital prints that were captured off of the DVD (the DVD was created in the middle of my international VJ Persona tour that took place between 2001 - 2005 with stops in places like Tokyo, Basel, the Canary Islands, London, Bremen, Denver, New York, San Francisco, etc.). If you'll be in Miami and would like details on where to find the work, send me an email.

One indication of the head-spinning circularity of today's international networked-art culture is the circuitous routing my own return to Miami, this time as a sequence of heavily manipulated digital images: "Mark Amerika (born in Miami) postproduced the CODEWORD DVD and digital prints in Boulder, Colorado, but only after having captured the source material via digital video shoots in Maui, Tokyo, the Australian Outback, and Hong Kong, which he then remixed as live audio/visual (VJ) performances in places like Basel, Las Palmas (Canary Islands), London, Bremen, Denver, New York, and San Francisco, only to then edit some of the recordings of these live mixes into a DVD surround sound artwork that was eventually purchased (as a limited edition) by the Denver Art Museum where it was on exhibit during the summer of 2004. Last week the second edition of the CODEWORK DVD and images of the digital prints were Fedexed from his studio in Honolulu to Seoul where his Korean dealer received it and will take it with her to Miami for the pleasure of international art collectors."

Speaking of Miami, I wrote about a recent (physical) trip I took there during Spring 2007. The "I Can Relate (Miami Version)" entry is here.

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Monday, December 03, 2007

The Renewable Tradition III

Two years ago, the digital art collective I am part of, DJRABBI, performed a 24-hour multi-media blog jam performance as part of our commissioned installation at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. The work was called 24 Hour Count:
For this 24 hour online blog performance, the artists will use a variety of media including the Internet, mobile phones, digital video and photo cameras, mini-disk recorders, musical instruments, and many computer software programs to improvisationally remix, interpret, and respond to current events while filtering their "digital readings" through the prism of Count Lautréamont's "Songs of Maldoror," a classic French text written in the 19th century and whom the Surrealists adopted as the progenitor of their significant 20th century movement.

André Breton wrote that Maldoror is "the expression of a revelation so complete it seems to exceed human potential." Little is known about Lautréamont aside from his real name (Isidore Ducasse), birth in Uruguay (1846), and early death in Paris (1870). It has been said that "Lautréamont's writings bewildered his contemporaries but the Surrealists modeled their efforts after his lawless black humor and poetic leaps of logic," exemplified by the oft-quoted slogan, "As beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella!" which has also been used as an album title by the underground UK band Nurse With Wound. Rumor has it that Maldoror's shocked first publisher refused to bind the sheets of the original edition, all of which bodes well for this 21st century remix since all of the live data transmission will take place over the net and will contain links to whatever current events happen to be developing during the duration of the performance.
Lautréamont is generally considered one of the first remixologists because of his embrace of pla(y)giarism as a primary aesthetic device in the composition of his stories. He is famous in some circles for having written that:
Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It holds tight an author’s phrase, uses his expressions, eliminates a false idea, and replaces it with just the right idea.
Remixologically inhabiting another artist's stylistic tendencies and/or "body language" with a touch of nervous energy was Lautréamont's forte. An early remixologist, Lautréamont would create his poésies as a counterforce meant to deconstruct the cult of genius by employing the illogic of sense, something he would activate while composing with the artists he was sampling from. His own style in The Songs of Maldoror is decidedly nonlinear, what we might call prototypically hypertextual in its execution even though it was -- as it had to be -- published as a book in the 19th century. Borrowing from much of the gothic literature of his time, I associate his anti-hero Maldoror with what today is sometimes called a "totally goth" coupled with a "rad" political agenda that fought against conventional notions of beauty, originality, and Godlike inspiration. In the youthful parlance of my students today, we could call his methods "wicked" or "sick" and if we read between the lines of what he is saying above in relation to plagiarism, we can see that he views his own remixological writing style as part of a larger critique process, one we might think of as a "collective / collaborative peer review" or "peer renewal" process that, again, writes with those who came before him the same way that, over 100 years later, a "punk" performance writer like Kathy Acker wrote with Hawthorne or Verlaine or the "cyberpunk" William Gibson who came after her (some might suggest that Acker wrote against these male literary icons but my personal discussions with her suggested it was more with them as part of a larger methodological approach to align herself with [or to even become the radicalized spirit of] the figures who preceded or followed her in the rival tradition of literature).

The key word in Lautréamont's quote above, especially for those who struggle to maintain writing's vitality in a post-literary culture, is necessary. Lautréamont is telling us us that plagiarism is necessary for without it there is no renewal of discourse and the tradition of being creative as such ceases to exist. This resonates with the title to Wallace Stevens' book of poetics "The Necessary Angel" and helps us launch a few tags to run with when describing the figures who embrace the remixological methods of the renewable tradition: angels, punks, goths, cyberpunks, pla(y)giarists, postproduction artists -- and yes, we can also say hackers and remixologists too.

To remix Lautréamont's famous quote then, I might say:
Remixology is necessary. Life depends on it. It inhabits a work of art by physically taking on its expressive qualities while simultaneously attempting to remove its excess information and replacing it with a more valuable source material.
[Artist's aside: Can one perform this (anti-author? creative?) function within an economy of motion, one that wastes no time-movement? I ask this because sometimes writing out an artist poetics itself feels like wasted motion as it takes away from the more primary bursts of creativity immersed in its own potential. What's a digital artist / avant-writer / live A/V performer to do?

My sense is that the reasons why many artists, novelists, poets, and performers still take on the role of philosopher or timely rhetorician are many. To be clear, it's not an attempt to over-academicize ones practice, or if it is, then please, show some restraint, and stop yourself right now before it's too late. Rather, this kind of autocannibalizing discourse generally evolves as a way to pragmatically take into account why these "primary bursts of creativity immersed in their own potential" exist in the first place and how they may relate to new forms of knowledge that grow out of what has been remixologically inhabited in the past. If this sounds like a zen-like remix of Alfred North Whitehead's process theory while bringing to mind his own introduction into the philosophical lexicon the word (and idea/theory behind) "creativity" then so be it. Later I will focus more concretely on Whitehead who, it ends, up, was the first philosopher I ever seriously read while an undergraduate at the University of Florida.]

For contemporary remixologists who perform a new author function by hyperimprovisationally tapping into their unconscious creative potential in asynchronous realtime while employing the use of network/digital technologies, there's no escaping the past. Every (instantaneous) process of renewal depends on envisioning their next version of the "author function" with each writerly performance (and in my mind, on a parallel track, as I write these words I am reminded that even that rather short and insignificant last sentence I just wrote was essentially "co-produced" with Barthes and Flusser and countless others). To do this, their bodies must be attuned to the neural resonance of their relationships with other people in their social network, other artworks produced by many of these same people, and the distribution channels that the various works continuously pass through (in META/DATA, I refer to this as a networked space of flows). And yet, even as we say that contemporary remixologists cannot escape the past, the renewable tradition they are the current manifestation of demands that they perform their work in the present. Marshall McLuhan, in a 1968 TV bout with Norman Mailer, wins a round when he both flatters and chinks Mailer's armor by countering Mailer's helplessness in the face of "information overload" and says:
The artist when he encounters the present, the contemporary artist, is always seeking new patterns, new patterns of recognition, which is his task [...] His great need, the absolute indispensability of the artist, is that he alone and the encounter with the present, can give the pattern recognition [...] He alone has the sensory awareness to tell us what our world is made of.
(Remixologist's note: who still talks like that? McLuhan, whose Sixties metaphors helped launch our present-day Wired fashion culture, sounds like an instructional audio book on autopilot when he speaks in this fascinating TV show produced by the Canadian Broadcast Company).

The Artist and the Present, performing together in a Total Field of Action. As a contemporary remixologist, I turn to intuition and make my necessary move in the Total Field of Action. Staying on my quick McLuhan kick, I grab this famous quote from him hot off the web:
. . . it is the speed of electric involvement that creates the integral whole of both private and public awareness. We live today in the Age of Information and of Communication because electric media instantly and constantly create a total field of interacting events in which all men participate.
But then I take a break away from the computer, and jot down some notes, phrases, and other potential source material from David Antin's what it means to be avant-garde and now have this in my stash as well:
all that unites us in this country is the present / and the difficulty of recognizing it and occupying it / which is why it's so easy to slip into prophesy and the emptiness of the future / that is so easy / to occupy because of its emptiness / that we fill up so quickly with a cargo of memories and attendant dreams
(in META/DATA, I attempt to create a poetics that highlights this "cargo of memories and attendant dreams" as prime source material to remix into the night's hyperimprovisatory performance).

Antin has little use for any detailed account of a so-called tradition, even an avant-garde tradition or anti-tradition tradition. "[T]he tradition will resolve itself in the present," he proposes in his talkstory, "and all you have to do is find it / but if you don't it will find you."

In digital cultures, this tradition of finding or having been found by ones "unconscious creative potential" can be rendered as a formal experiment in the creation of an even richer autopoietic network potential, one where "going with the flow" is feeling w-r-i-t-e. (Do I have to I have to spell it out for you? Only as a way to acknowledge its attendant resolutionary potential as well! Here I am reminded of something Charles Bernstein once said to me over lunch, referring to the "high P-R-I-N-T resolution.")

Summoning the ghosts of Burroughs - McLuhan - Williams - Olson - and Ornette Coleman - I have no choice but to say
(Capturing) Source Material Everywhere -- 

A Total Field (of Action) --

(Projecting) Composition By Field --

(Remixed Personas) Play to Play.
Source material is not just data for data's sake either. Nor is it just hackworthy computer code in an open source environment that the programmer can manipulate to alter the functionality of the program. Source material can be found within interpersonal relationships via the body language gestures of those who we used to or still hang out with as well as the stylistic tendencies these same people have revealed to us through their various artworks. Antin, again, in what it means to be avant-garde:
the best you can do depends upon what you have to do and where / and if you have to invent something new to do the work at hand you will / but not if you have a ready-made that will work and is close at hand and you want to get on with the rest of the business / then youll pick up the tool thats there / a tool that somebody else has made that will work / and youll lean on it and feel grateful when its good to you / and youll think of him as a friend who would borrow as freely from you if he thought of it or needed to / because there is a community of artists / who dont recognize copyrights and patents / or shouldnt / except under unusual circumstances / who send each other tools in the mail or exchange them in conversations in a bar
These "friends" are crucial spigots of source material and when added with the free flowing excess of our simultaneous and continuous mash-up of cultural influences that endlessly spur us on to actively participate in a social network of collaborators (creative co-conspirators), we start feeling ourselves awash in an amniotic fluid where it's only natural to experience a kind of body-brain-apparatus achievement while composing on-the-fly remixological discourses in asynchronous realtime. We don't even really have to be aware of our past influences while we participate in these "primary bursts of creativity immersed in their own remixological potential." They reside in the body like a second -- or third or fourth -- nature, something that enables us to "play ourselves" without having to think about it.

But where these creative potentia reside in our bodies is another story. As far as I can tell, there is no advanced biophotonic imaging technology on the market that can come close to visualizing our past influences in any concrete way, so we are left to our imagination, our dreams, our advanced mnemonic devices triggering neural fireworks in the thick of body-brain-apparatus achievements. My experience in making art across the medium spectrum suggests to me that the subjective events we process while we tap into our unconscious readiness potential are themselves the only creative acts worth investing in, and that they are generated by an ongoing sequence of embedded remixological styles, styles that organically mature via a process of innovation that, in an ironic twist of unintentional alliance, seem to sit well with the herding charge of technocapitalism ("Heard that!"). This often leads to the inevitable love-hate relationship one always has with the thing it is co-dependent on.

This can lead to some serious contradiction in the remixological lifestyle. If we assume that innovation depends on what comes before it, then how does aligning oneself with the remixologists of the past while engaging with new media technologies of the present constitute anything more than an attempt at mythologizing a radical stance within the "new tradition" so that we can then lead ourselves to believe that we, as an emergent network of electronically charged creators, are experiencing a unique moment in history, a moment suffused with a many-layered value? That is, and especially in this instance, are we looking for links to the mythologized past -- say, something leashed to the "human imaginary" like the so-called "rival tradition in literature" -- as a way to build whatever measurable value there may be left to tap into for the revolutionary artists, poets, and digital prophets whose multi-media writing gestures seek distinctiveness but may be nothing more than a just-in-time fashion statement for the politically obscure? The fact of the matter is that the "new tradition" has already left us behind and either we have to find it asap or, as if we really have to wait, let it find us. As we sit at our Death Terminals and wait for the next big bang of creative potential to immerse ourselves in, we cannot help but wonder: "Is there another way out? Which way is out? This way? This? How do we move beyond the newness of a tradition typecast as being avant-garde but always trending toward the 'innovative'?"

Innovation bears the same relation to the mainstream as does a concept car to a factory model. Or even better, a hot rod to the mass production version. The former comparison stresses the experimental aspect of innovative work; the latter stresses the excitement, the extra intensity, the pure thrill that comes with the riskiness of high stakes.
In other words: remixologists who play with innovative genres are practicing forms of extreme writing. But here the term "innovation" also brings to mind other terms like "technocapitalism," "market timing," "fashion statement," etc., in that the further you can push the envelope, the more entrepreneurial your writing gesture may be, especially in relation to the way one employs new media technologies that challenge the concept of writing to its core. Could it be that the degree one is more likely to find ways to create measurable value to their embodied praxis using new media technologies is directly correlated to the more attracted they will become to the latest innovations being invented in the commercial marketplace? Inventing a remixological style that is distinct and can easily be associated with your personal narrative, even as the bulk of the source material you remix into your story is inherited from other artist-writers who came before you, runs the risk of playing it too safe by essentially saying "Look at me, I am part of the rival tradition in literature, and I am doing a damn good job of taking it to its next level of innovative development thanks in large part to my inventive use of the latest wave of new technologies." Sukenick was right when he wrote, in his short story Death of the Novel:
Obviously there's no progress in art. Progress toward what? The avant-garde is a convenient propaganda device, but when it wins the war everything is avant-garde, which leaves us just about where we were before.
But then again, that was fictional, yes?

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