Friday, May 30, 2008

Esthetics, Richard Kostelanetz

Aesthetics, or the science of art, only the progressive systematization, always renewed and always renewing, of the problems arising from time to time out of reflection upon art.
—Benedetto Croce, “Aesthetics,” Encyclopedia Britannica (1929)
The questions of esthetics are unchanging—the definition of art (as distinct from non-art or sub-art), the function of art, the types of art, the effects of art, the genesis of art, the relation of art to history and society, criteria of critical evaluation, the processes of perception, and the generic characteristics of superior works. As esthetic thinking deals with properties common and yet peculiar to all things called “art,” the philosophy of art, in contrast to “criticism,” offers statements that are relevant to more than one art, if not fundamental to the arts in general—the presuppositions being that the various arts are more interrelated than not and that common artistic assumptions are more significant than differences in content and materials. Esthetics is, by definition, primarily concerned with “fine art,” if not with only the very best art. Although the philosophy of art customarily depends upon the established hierarchies of critical reputation for its choice of individual examples, esthetics provides more foundation for critical practice than the latter offers the former. Concomitant esthetic concerns include the nature of badness and/or vulgarity in art, and whether art is, or should be, primarily the imitation of nature, the expression of self, or wholly the creation of imagination; for these are questions that are most definitively considered with reference to all of the arts.
Esthetics is more self-reflective than criticism, as well as more dispassionate about particular art forms or works; for it evinces not only a breadth of interest that is ideally all-encompassing but also an objective distance from individual artists, certain styles, internecine disputes and fluctuating hierarchies of reputation. Different esthetic philosophies emphasize different issues, as their basic choices often, on one hand, reflect metaphysical or epistemological assumptions (which may not always be explicit) and, on the other, determine their approach to remaining esthetic issues. Whereas the aim of science is systematic structure, the philosophy of art, even at its finest, is a set of related propositions. Esthetic thinking also tends to be more prescriptive than other branches of philosophy, ethics of course excluded; the American philosopher Charles S. Pierce dubbed esthetics “the basic normative science.”
Esthetics has evolved as both a branch of philosophy (that currently has slight eminence within the American academic profession) and a collection of theoretical reflections by artists and critics, both making explicit those encompassing generalizations that are merely implicit in individual works; so that esthetic thought tends to come either from professional philosophers with an interest in art or from artists and critics with aspirations to philosophy. For these reasons, “esthetics” is not exclusively the domain of self-avowed estheticians, as the epithet is implicitly honorific, characterizing, first, a certain way of thinking about art and, then a level of both perspective and generalization that distinguishes true esthetic ideas from mere criticism about art. Since major esthetic theories emphasize not just different fundamental questions but different dimensions of artistic practice—the creation of art, say, rather than its perception; or evaluation, rather than generic forms—they generally do not possess sufficient common touchstones to invite easy comparison with each other. A further presupposition holds that art, as a particular kind of discourse differing from both expository argument and verifiable demonstration is best regarded as a second nature, so to speak, which is distinct from primary nature.
The answers to the classic questions of esthetics change in time, particularly as the success of a persuasive new style in art renders many old answers dubious, if not ludicrous. Everyone familiar with current art would find obsolete the favorite nineteenth-century categories of the sublime, the tragic, the comic and the picturesque, all of which were derived from a theory of literary and artistic kinds. The reason is, simply, that those qualities, so conspicuous in much nineteenth-century work, are just not particularly prominent in recent art. As Benedetto Croce wrote in 1929, “The chief problem of our time, to be overcome by esthetics, is connected with the [current] crisis in art and in judgments upon art produced by the romantic period.” It is a modern truth that the same art that seemed incomprehensibly innovative to one generation is likely to strike succeeding generations as all too familiar, if not obvious. Indeed, a great change in art, as in our own time, challenges the old esthetic principles and raises a demand for new formulations that bring traditional preoccupations abreast of new experience; one result of every decisive revolution in art should be a comparable revolution in esthetic thinking.
American esthetics between the World Wars focused upon three great themes—the eternal characteristics of realized art, the nature of subjective processes in artistic creation, and art’s social relevance. The first concern unifies, in retrospective intellectual history, estheticians as otherwise contrary as the neo-Aristotelians, with their emphasis upon the resolution of linear forms, and the New Critics, who claimed to derive esthetic criteria (as well as a critical method) valid for all literature and, by obvious implication, for all art too. A statement typical of the time (although its author’s principal theory of art as wish fulfillment put him outside of these two schools) was DeWitt H. Parker’s assertion, in The Analysis of Art (1924), “the general characteristics of esthetic form” could be reduced to six simple principles: “The principle of organic unity, or unity in variety, as it has been called; the principle of the theme; the principle of thematic variation; balance; the principle of hierarchy, and evolution.” Pursuing this concern with unifying structure, Parker followed Aristotle in defining “organic unity [as] the master principle of esthetic form; all the other principles serve it,” so that, here and elsewhere, the quest for unifying esthetic principles inspired an emphasis upon internal artistic unities. Even an esthetician-critic as instinctively eccentric as Kenneth Burke made his major theme the insidiously unifying impact of realized artistic forms.
Another school of American esthetics, influenced by the Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce (and to a lesser extent by Henri Bergson), emphasized intuition, as opposed to intellect, in an expressionistic theory of art. This had much in common with yet another theory that was derived from the impact of Freudian psychology upon esthetic thinking—regarding all works as expressions (and, thus, symbolic revelations) of the submerged, non-rational psychic constitution of its creator. However, both the Crocean and the Freudian positions were ultimately neither objective nor systematic enough to forge philosophical statements with more profundity than obvious platitude; and though the Freudian position often informed illuminating literary criticism, its descriptions of creative processes remained too abstract and mechanical—too divorced from the real problems of artistic choice and construction. (The European origins and dissemination of these traditions perhaps explains why Jean-Paul Sartre’s esthetics, say, or Theodor Adorno’s, also seem so similarly abstract and amorphous.) Moreover, the decidedly objectivist, self-effacing character of nearly all contemporary art, especially since 1959, makes expressionist theories appear even more irrelevant.
It was characteristic of the American philosopher John Dewey, in contrast, to be less concerned with the creation or art, or even with George Santayana’s earlier emphasis upon esthetic pleasure, than with the audience’s experience of serious art. In his single most influential esthetic text, indicatively entitled Art as Experience (1934), Dewey first characterized the pattern of human experience and perception—intrinsically unending, yet full of short-term conclusions. He then defined art’s function as the coherent organization of experience, which is to say the creation of conclusions. This definition leads Dewey to suggest that the materials available to art can include anything in the world, and then that any practical or intellectual activity, “provided that it is integrated and moves by its own urge to fulfillment, will have esthetic quality.” It follows that all successful art is “clearly conceived and consistently ordered,” no matter the quality of the medium’s surface; for in true esthetic perception, “A beholder must create his own experience.” (This emphasis upon the experience of art identified what became known as “contextualist esthetics”; its primary exponents have been Stephen C. Pepper and Irwin Edman.)
As persuasive as Dewey was in characterizing ideal esthetic experience, his book resembles much of his other philosophy (as well as Emerson’s and Thoreau’s) in making essentially normative statements in a descriptive, matter-of-fact style. Secondly, the persuasiveness of his position is somewhat undermined by Dewey’s evident ignorance of individual works and his equally evident insensitivity to issues of artistic quality. Finally, this emphasis upon the audience’s experience becomes outright subjectivism in Curt John Ducasse’s eccentric but influential The Philosophy of Art (1929), which holds that esthetic value depends upon individual experience and, thus, that works of art cannot be objectively compared. It is scarcely surprising that those philosophers and critics regarding Art as the diametric opposite of science should advocate a contrary intellectual methodology as more appropriate to esthetic discussion.
In the decade after the Second World War, no philosophy of art seemed more dominant in America than that expounded by Suzanne K. Langer, first in Philosophy in a New Key (1942), and then in her most sustained esthetic exposition, Feeling and Form (1953). Her theory of art as symbolic representation is indebted to the German philosopher Ernst Cassirer, for symbolism became Langer’s “new key” for generating philosophical answers. “The edifice of human knowledge,” she wrote in the earlier book, “stands before us, not as a vast collection of sense reports, but as a structure of facts that are symbols and laws that have their human meanings.” The words of human language she regarded as one strain of symbolic activity; the non-discursive material of the non-literary arts became another. Both of them are devoted to “the creation of forms symbolic of human feeling,” and a symbol is, in Langer’s definition, “any device whereby we are enabled to make an abstraction.” Thus, to answer the question of how artistic order is created, Langer suggests that the artist endeavors to create unique symbolic structures that nonetheless present “semblances” of familiar feelings—a creative process that, as Langer describes it, scarcely draws upon unconscious materials. “The function of art,” she writes, “is the symbolic expression not of the artist’s actual emotions, but of his knowledge of emotions.” If the symbolic presentation is true to the form of a certain feeling, then this formal abstraction will not only give esthetic pleasure by itself; it will also function to instigate that particular feeling in the spectator.
The intellectual achievement of Langer’s esthetics is a richly supported theory of art-as-emotion that avoids traditional schemes of expression and individual personality on one hand, and explicit universal myth on the other. One evident presupposition is that the ulterior meaning of non-linguistic forms can be universally understood; in truth, however, cultural anthropology documents this last assumption as needlessly naive—the color white, for instance, suggesting to Eskimos feelings quite different from those it inspires in Bushmen. A more critical limitation of Langer’s esthetics is the general sense that her ideas best characterize American art that was prominent in the 1930’s and 1940’s—the representational music of Aaron Copland, the programmatic dance of Martha Graham, the poetry of T. S. Eliot, and post-cubist abstract painting. The sensitive historian of esthetics, Thomas Munro, observed in 1950 that “symbols and symbolism” was at the time the dominant esthetic concept. (Similarly, one reason for the influence of gestalt psychology among artists at that time was that it persuasively rationalized the experience of abstract painting.) Instead, the most significant recent art, in America and elsewhere, is by contrast so consciously constructivist and non-referential that no symbolic translations are intended.
Indeed, a conspicuous lack of contemporary relevance continues to plague nearly all recent writing by American academic estheticians, most of whom appear more concerned with understanding and interpreting classic doctrine, many of whom let their apparent ignorance of recent art slide into an unashamed hostility that fans the fires of philistinism. Even worse, as the British philosopher Richard Wollheim noted, “The great difficulty in any modern book of esthetics is to find anything to criticize. For by and large what is not unintelligible is truism.” Anyone reading academic estheticians in bulk discovers that they rarely confront the major contemporary questions and, if then, rarely decisively enough; and this general vagueness leads to further platitudes in their specific discussions. One reason why they continually complain about being misunderstood, even by their professional peers, is that their initial expositions are frequently unclear. Then too, they often make a point of emphasizing ”value” or evaluation (as supposedly untemporal and, thus, a philosophical specialty); but this emphasis, like that upon “beauty,” serves in practice to introduce precisely those archaic standards that modernist art tries to surpass. As values, both artistic and humane, do indeed change, evaluation remains among the less enlightening approaches to any new art (or any unfamiliar experience, for that matter). New art, in contrast, customarily denies platitude and previous standards of excellence; it challenges accepted esthetic assumptions (particularly those separating art from non-art); it must be apprehended accurately before it is judged. Similarly, it is extreme works, rather than conventional ones, which prompt esthetic reawakening. With the acceptance of a radically different art comes the need to reinterpret, if not recreate, esthetic philosophy.
The truth is that just as so much consequential contemporary sociology comes from writers outside the academic profession, so the esthetic philosophy more appropriate to our time has been forged largely by artists and critics. This shift in origins comes not without shortcomings, of course. Whereas deductive estheticians tend to omit works that they do not like or cannot understand, the artist or critic, customarily working inductively, makes no pretense of moving beyond his primary enthusiasms. Concomitantly, artists and even critics inevitably adopt an approach whose initial scope is much narrower than Langer’s, say, or Dewey’s; they do not feel the academic obligation to acknowledge prominent previous alternative theories before presenting their own. Indicatively, they find definition more essential than evaluation, and the qualities of “significance” or “interest” more laudatory than, say, “beauty.” Thirdly, artists and critics tend to be more intimately familiar with the extreme artistic endeavors that pose the most radical challenges to a de facto philosophy of art. These up-to-date inductive estheticians, at their best, forge generalizations relevant not just to one art but contemporary arts as a whole; and in the sum of their particular perspectives is perhaps a comprehensive esthetic philosophy that, except for minor divergences, would have fairly general contemporary relevance—at least to advanced American art since 1959.
One of the first American books to deal comprehensively with distinctively contemporary art was L. Moholy-Nagy’s Vision in Motion (1947). Its author, born in Hungary in 1895, became successively a painter and photographer in post-WWI Berlin, a teacher at the Bauhaus, a film-maker, a designer, a sculptor, a writer successively in Hungarian, German, and English, and much else. As a refugee from Hitler’s Germany, he emigrated first to London and then to Chicago in 1937 to head the New Bauhaus, which later became the Institute of Design (itself subsequently incorporated into the Illinois Institute of Technology). Written in English and published just after Moholy-Nagy’s premature death in 1946, Vision in Motion draws upon its author’s incomparably various artistic experience, in order to outline his innovative (and influential) program for artistic education. More importantly, as a participant-observer in the revolutions of modern art, Moholy-Nagy personally understood its radical break with past art; as an intellectual, he acknowledged the need for a new esthetics.
In the unprecedented activities of modern art, he found two encompassing tendencies—kinesis and arts-between-old-arts. The first revolutionary development—art that moves—he traced back to cubism and its innovation of systemic multiple perspective realized within a single plane; so that one change in the visual arts, for instance, was a decisive evolution from “fixed perspective to ‘vision in motion’ [of] seeing a constantly changing moving field of mutual relationships.” This leads, of course, to mobile sculpture (where Moholy-Nagy himself was a pioneer creator) and even to cinema, where the form of cinematic montage with multiple perspective represents a formally analogous extension of cubism. In all modern art, Moholy-Nagy finds “space-time” or “vision in motion, “ which he ultimately regards as “a new dynamic and kinetic existence free from the static, fixed framework of the past, “ and this art demands, in turn, unprecedented kinds of esthetic perception. Moholy-Nagy’s generalization is, of course, as perspicacious for contemporary painterly arts as post-ballet modern dance; and the simultaneously multiple perspective of cubistic visual space has formal analogies with, among other phenomena, the aural experience of post-Schoenbergian serial music.
On the second point of arts-between-old-arts, Moholy-Nagy’s discussion of sculpture, for instance, acknowledges that an Alexander Calder mobile possessing negligible weight, kinetic form, and virtual (imagined) volume is not sculpture in the traditional sense but something else—a hybrid of sculpture and theater; and recognitions like this lead him to an acknowledgment of an increased diversity of artistic types. A next step is his acceptance of the unprecedented perceptual experiences instigated by the new art forms. Indeed, precisely because his esthetic thinking is so free of a priori limitations (upon artistic forms, say, or systems of meaning), Moholy-Nagy can offer persuasive rationalizations for freedoms already forged in art. Underlying this acceptance is, nonetheless, a strong sense of the particular integrity and capabilities of both each traditional artistic medium and of each new inter-medium; so that just as an artist would be ill-advised to do in one form what could better succeed in another, so a critic should not judge a painting, say, or a mobile with criteria more relevant to literature.
To explain the evolution of art, especially stylistic change (which remains the basic evolutionary unit), Moholy-Nagy introduces a theme previously unknown in American esthetics (which has tended to avoid the issues of artistic genesis and transformation). This new kind of sociological explanation, which can be called technological determinism, deals with the impact of crucial machinery upon the creative sensibility. The modern end of the Renaissance mode of representational space, where a scene is portrayed “from an unchangeable, fixed point following the rules of the vanishing-point perspective,” is attributed to “speeding on the roads and circling in the skies....The man at the wheel sees persons and objects in quick succession, in permanent motion.” If technology transforms the sensibilities of both perceivers and creators, it follows that art created after the dissemination of radios and then television would differ from earlier art, and these differences would in turn reflect those new technologies. (This theme is more prominently developed in the sixties thought of Marshall McLuhan.)
Moholy-Nagy also regards technology as crucially changing the sum of materials available to artists and thus, again in turn, influencing stylistic development. For instance, the innovative design of even something as mundane as a chair reveals an indebtedness to “electricity, the gasoline and diesel engines, the airplane, motion pictures, color photography, radio, metallurgy, new alloys, plastics, laminated materials....” One obvious extension of this principle holds that electronic sound-generation not only creates an audibly different music but that the mere existence of electronic-assisted sound would also affect musical works which are composed entirely by non-electronic means. In addition, as technology continues to develop new forms, so will art. Extending this sense of history to politics, Moholy-Nagy suggests that changes in creativity and technology—both mind and matter—must necessarily precede transformations in society.
No American has done more to forge an esthetics for post-WWII advanced art than John Cage, perhaps because no other avant-garde artist or critic has so persistently insisted that radical developments in his own initial specialty—in this case, the composition of music—are relevant to other arts. Typically, those ideas suggesting esthetic respeculation have been scattered though Cage’s numerous lectures and interviews, his innumerable conversations both private and public, and the essays and texts he collected into three books of miscellaneous writings—Silence (1961), A Year from Monday (1967) and M. (1973). His esthetic philosophy is also articulated, largely by resonant implication, in his musical works.
Cage’s most general purpose could be defined as opening all esthetic activity to creative processes and perceptual experience unknown before; so that he came to regard as most laudable those contemporary works that realize a purposeful violation of old artistic ideas. “Art, if you want a definition of it,” he wrote, “is criminal action, because it conforms to no rules.” In order to transcend ingrained convention Cage frequently exhibits a dialectical intelligence that asserts art might be opposite of everything it once was; yet by making diametrically contrary esthetic statements, Cage thus makes possible a range of intermediate syntheses. For instance, if the aim of art was once the fabrication of a presentation that is as various and interesting as possible, Cage proposes creating something with minimal surface variety and little immediate interest, even espousing outright repetition and, thus, boredom as not only perceptually engrossing but fertilely inspiring (“The way to get ideas is to do something boring”):
In Zen they say: If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, try it for eight, sixteen, thirty-two, and so on. Eventually one discovers that it’s not boring but very interesting.
(This concern with repetition to cunning excess is also found in the works of Gertrude Stein, who was probably the most consequential precursor of radical American esthetics.) Cage’s ideas have come to rationalize, for both better and worse, all in contemporary art that extends itself far more, in time and space, than was previously acceptable.
If past art aimed to display an artist’s esthetic conscience and the work’s essential organization, Cage advocates the use of procedures that would both minimize the artist’s taste and induce structural disorganization. In the case of music, for instance, this principle informs Cage’s invention of the prepared piano, where the strings’ original pitches and timbres are radically changed. Afterwards in Cage’s own career came chance operations in “composing” or writing out a score, so that traditional structures would assuredly be avoided; and then came the use of live-time machines, such as a turned-on radio with spinning dials, so that the sounds emitted could not be predicted in advance. All these rejections of previous constraints also function, intentionally and intelligently, to free artistic creation from personal control and, therefore, the resulting work from both conventions and cliché. In follows that, in sharp contrast to previous composers, Cage intends to avoid giving a score that is too specific to his performer-collaborators, thereby allowing them far more freedom of individual action than earlier musicians had. Indeed, he has followed his self-withdrawal logic to this radical esthetic definition: “Art instead of being an object made by one person is a process set in motion by a group of people.” This esthetic theme of art as process, rather than product, also had immense influence upon painting and sculpture (even in different styles), as well as dance and intermedia, all through the sixties and seventies.
In the end, Cage favors not artistic improvisation, which depends too much upon acquired habits (and, thus, conventions) but artistic indeterminacy—the creation of conditions or ground rules that force artists to work in unusual ways, which are in turn likely to produce unexpected (and thus unpredictable) results. Indeed, precisely in his preference for extreme originality and complex acoherence, coupled with his contempt for familiar objects and experiences, does Cage himself deny the absolute, indiscriminative license implied by his philosophy. His self-denying principles notwithstanding, Cage in practice usually retains some authority (invariably revealing ingenious and tasteful choices) over the frame of activity, thereby insuring, paradoxically, an art of purposeful purposelessness, as distinct from purposeless purposelessness. Indeed, the key to his artistic intelligence is precisely the imposition of general constraints that allow, if not induce, a circumscribed range of specific freedoms.
The artistic result of Cage’s strategy of freedom within subtle constraints has usually been fields of disordered activity that are formally beyond collage, which is merely a juxtaposition of several dissimilars. Instead, Cage realizes a far more multiple mélange that is without symbolic references, without a formal center, without distinct beginnings or ends (and thus, suggesting incompleteness). He regards such willful disorder as subtly naturalistic—as an “imitation of nature in her manner of operation.” More specifically, he initiates an ongoing event that is as formally non-climactic and internally repetitive as nature itself usually is; and this conclusion explodes the art-life dichotomy as well as the hierarchical structuring that were both sacred to traditional esthetics. (One byproduct of this last theme, the destruction of traditional artistic hierarchies, is the sociological exposure of previously under-examined dimensions of cultural authority and artists’ subservience.)
Precisely because Cage’s ideas rationalized works of art that a previous age (and archaic critics) would find hopelessly chaotic (or in violation of old rules), he came to insist that audiences accept disorder—in this case, atonal and astructural sound; so that in the course of reflecting the philosophic influence of Zen Buddhism, he asserts that not only must people perceive everything, but we must accept everything we perceive. However, this assertion too remains a dialectical antithesis in Cage’s ironically systematic, ironically extreme but highly suggestive esthetics.
It should not be forgotten that the “disintegration of form” that so alarmed conservative critics, such as Erich Kahler in his 1969 book of that title, actually indicates their own inability to grasp alternative formal structures (if not a first-hand ignorance of what they condemn); for in fact true formlessness in any created object or experience is impossible. Anything that can be characterized in one way rather than another, as resembling one thing rather than another thing, has, by that act of definition, a perceptible form. The non-hierarchical evenness or pure formal diffuseness that is characteristic of Cage’s own best art, for instance, reflects a kind of identifiable unity that, needless to say, is not emphasized in his philosophy of art.
Another Cagean strategy has been the creation of artworks or events that, though superficially trivial, have great resonance as implied philosophical statements. In his 4’33” (1952), for instance, an eminent pianist sits at his instrument and makes no audible piano sound for four minutes and thirty-three seconds. Nothing happens, in a superficial sense; yet by making no-sound in a context where sound is expected, the piece implies that in the “silence” is the work’s sound—or more precisely, in all the random, surely atonal and astructural noises audibly within the frame of 4’33” was the “music.” Thus, the esthetic point, by inference, is that “art” consists of all the sensory phenomena that one chooses to perceive; the next inference holds that normal life is rich in art or esthetic experiences that are continually available to the spectator who attunes his sensory equipment.
Cage’s idea of art as anything that generates esthetic experience curiously carries John Dewey’s thinking to a philosophical extreme, as do Cage’s notions of art as revealing experiential reality and of the beholder as necessarily creating his own experience. In addition, 4’33”, for all of its originality, reveals a debt to Marcel Duchamp, whose great innovative idea consisted of imposing, by means of art rather than argument, esthetic value on things which were not initially, or previously, endowed with artistic status.
Just as the radical gesture in Cage’s esthetics lay in his justifying the creation and acceptance of perceptual disorder, somewhat similar concerns inform Morse Peckham’s highly idiosyncratic and provocative essay on Man’s Rage for Chaos (1965), which is indicatively sub-titled “Biology, Behavior, and the Arts.” Drawing upon a scholarly background in English literature and cultural history, its author suggests that, though man craves order in his life, esthetic experience “serves to break up orientations, to weaken and frustrate the tyrannous drive to order, to prepare the individual to observe what the orientation tells him is irrelevant, but what may well be highly relevant.” This emphasis upon the individual’s experience of art, as well as the method of deducing artistic value from an idealization of perceptual processes, also resembles John Dewey (who likewise confessed to more interest in behavior than art); but quite contrary to Dewey, who wanted art to provide artistic order for the sake of common experience, Peckham takes the radical tact of advocating artistic disorder on humane grounds. “Art is the reinforcement of the capacity to endure disorientation,” his book concludes, “so that man may endure exposing himself to the tensions and problems of the real world....Art is rehearsal for the orientation which makes innovation possible.” By implication, then, the new forms of “disordered” art better prepare our perceptual equipment to comprehend the unprecedented structures of contemporary life; but in philosophical contrast to Cage, Peckham advocates disorder with respect to previous art (or conventions), not in imitation of life-like processes.
Peckham is by training a scholar-critic of literature; Cage initially a creator, finally in more arts than music. Another philosopher of the new art was at his professional beginnings a painter who also took degrees in philosophy and art-history; so that Allan Kaprow’s most important text, Assemblage, Environments & Happenings (1966, though first drafted and circulated several years before) exhibits a participant-observer’s synthesis of both involvement and distance—an intelligent awareness of both personal experience and esthetic issues. A sometime composition student of John Cage, Kaprow assimilated his teacher’s passion for stretching both the creative imagination on one hand and the receptive sensibility on the other. Indicatively, he first became known for advocating, in a 1958 essay on “The Legacy of Jackson Pollock,” the use of all possible materials and “unheard-of happenings and events” in the processes and preoccupations of painting—a position ultimately indebted to Marcel Duchamp, with a nod to Cage. Kaprow’s book brilliantly outlines an evolution, in part his own, from collaged painting to assemblages (or three-dimensional collage) to environments (or artistically enclosed spaces), and finally to a mixed-means performance art that he characterized in retrospect as “a collage of events in certain spans of time and in certain spaces.” In short, Kaprow follows Moholy-Nagy in advocating the rejection of conventional barriers between the arts; and like Cage, Kaprow challenges the traditional distinction between art and life. In Kaprow’s thinking, the latter position demands, first of all, the strict elimination in one’s creative practice of the materials, actions, and themes indigenous to earlier arts:
A picture, a piece of music, a poem, a drama, each confined within its respective frame, fixed number of measures, stanzas, and stages, however great they may be in their own right, simply will not allow for breaking the barrier between art and life. And this is what the objective is.
Indeed, the new art Kaprow invented, to which he gave the unfortunately catchy name of “a happening,” is perhaps the closest that art has yet come to meshing with life (and reducing the “psychic distance” of traditional esthetic experience), while yet retaining a distinct artistic, non-life identity. The crucial point for the philosophy of art lay in the fact that a true happening—a performance occurring outside a theatrical setting, completely open (or unfixed) in both time and space, and involving everyone who happens to be within its frame of activity—was by intention as unpredictable, impermanent, and changing as life itself. Nonetheless, the endeavor still satisfied an old definition of art as reflecting more or less deliberate operations—in this case, the scenario of roughly outlined activities that the happenings-artist provided in advance to his prospective collaborators.
“At present,” Kaprow’s book concludes, “any avant-garde is primarily a philosophical quest and a finding of truths, rather than purely an esthetic activity,” so that whereas Cage offered an esthetic for unpredictability (and the acceptance of happenstance), Kaprow forged instead a philosophy advocating impermanence on one hand, and an art independent of any objective forms on the other. “Once, the task of the artist was to make good art,” he wrote in a manifesto first published in 1966, “now it is to avoid making art of any kind.” What, then, is the “artist” to do? Kaprow’s answer was anything, regardless of exhibited craftsmanship or permanence, yet with both the intention of uniqueness and the awareness that his doings would probably be recognized as artistic endeavor.
The decision to be an artist thus assumes both the existence of a unique activity and an endless series of deeds which deny it....Anything I say, do, notice, or think, is art—whether or not desired—because everyone else aware of what is occurring today will probably (not possibly) say, do notice, or think of it as art at some time or other.
Kaprow’s ideas, along with such examples of inferential art as Cage’s 4’33”, forge an idealist philosophy of art, which bases significance primarily upon perception and contextual awareness (rather than the art object). Several radical implications of this view were brilliantly developed by another artist-critic, Michael Kirby—first in Happenings (1965), and then in essays, especially “The Aesthetics of the Avant-Garde,” he collected in The Art of Time (1969).
The contemporary impact of epistemological empiricism, as well as analytic philosophy, inspires the ideal of a rigorously empirical esthetics. This would be capable of clearly distinguishing analytic elucidation from evaluation, and then of making precisely accurate statements which, as a prime criterion of acceptability, could be verified, in roughly similar form, by every equally knowledgeable observer. Of course, such empirical esthetics would become valuable only to the extent that the commentaries of its exponents moved beyond inarguable facts and superficial descriptions to more profound critical illuminations that would, nonetheless, exhibit a logical consistency, linguistic precision, and verifiable accuracy previously unknown in discourse about art. In a retrospective summary, written in 1951, of a program first presented in his earlier essay “Scientific Method in Esthetics” (1928), Thomas Munro championed “a scientific, naturalistic approach to aesthetics: one which should be broadly experimental and empirical, but not limited to quantitative measurement; utilizing the insights of art criticism and philosophy as hypotheses, but deriving objective data from two main sources—the analysis and history of form in the arts, and psychological studies of the production, appreciation, and teaching of the arts. However, as Munro himself is more a prodigiously thorough scholar and decisive theorist, his own major contributions have been not a philosophy of art but exhaustive and definitive studies of, first, the categories of artistic endeavor, The Arts and Their Interrelations (1949), and then historiography theories of Evolution and Art (1963). (One result of analytic philosophy alone—especially Ludwig Wittgenstein’s influence—has been an academic concern with the language of art and literary criticism.)
Among the more eccentrically suggestive, and yet patently unsuccessful American attempts at an empirical theory of artistic value were the foolishly simplistic algebraic formulas that the Harvard mathematician George Birkhoff proposed in his Aesthetic Measure (1933):
M = O/C
where, “within each class of aesthetic objects,” M equals esthetic measure, O is order, and C is complexity. However, one problem with this “quantitative index of [art objects’] comparative esthetic effectiveness” is that it offered no empirical method for specifying the exact degree of each factor in the equation—for verifiably quantifying the components. A second problem with Birkhoff’s formula is that it measures unity in variety, which is at best only one of several dimensions of artistic value. Such deductive theorizing, in contrast to the inductive generalizations more appropriate to science, prompted Thomas Munro himself to comment in 1946 that quantitative esthetics so far “has dealt less with works of art than with preferences for various arbitrary, simplified linear shapes, color combinations, and tone-combinations.”
Beyond that, the new, post-WWII scientific hypotheses of communication—information theory and cybernetics—both suggested schemes of esthetic understanding. The first, for instance, promises a quantitative measure of the experience flowing from a work of art to its receptor—not the content of these transmitted messages, but the size of its channel, the amount of communication precisely measured in “bits,” and its quality in terms of essential information versus redundancy. Though several writers—John R. Pierce, Leonard Meyer, and Lejaren Hiller, among them—have attempted to derive esthetic hypotheses from information theory, no new major ideas have yet emerged. Cybernetics, which emphasizes responsiveness within a closed system, offers ideas relevant less to static art than, say, to that new art form which emerged in the sixties—responsive kinetic environments; but here too, no esthetic theory has yet been fully developed. There is no doubt that a truly persuasive empirical esthetics would represent a great intellectual advance, especially with an artistic generation less eager than its predecessor to rescue art from science. The result might well supercede previous esthetics much as physics replaced some terrains of metaphysics. While the inadequacies of the forays so far suggest that the procedures used to encapsulate primary physical nature may have less relevance to the artifacts of secondary nature, the philosophy of art could probably profit from emulating the rigor, objectivity, and decisiveness of scientific discourse.
A continuing, but somewhat peripheral concern of recent American esthetics has been the difference between art and sub-art. The latter is not synonymous with “non-art” or “anti-art,” both of which are by now thought to be historically relative terms (last year’s “anti-art” often becoming tomorrow’s conventions). Rather, the term refers to that kind of commercialized “popular art” or “mass art” that became prominent in the nineteenth century and, thanks to advertising and mass-merchandizing, increasingly pervasive in the twentieth. One of the first major analyses of sub-art came from the critic Clement Greenberg (himself an able advocate of modernism in all culture) whose 1939 essay on “Avant-Garde and Kitsch” made the decisive distinctions that influenced future esthetic discussion. True arts, in his view, “derive their chief inspiration from the medium they work in” and an awareness of artistic history, while kitsch is subservient both to established artistic formulas, and, usually, to the prospect of an immanent sale. Different in intention and intrinsic nature, kitsch and art also vary in effect. Innovative art at first strikes its spectator as puzzling, if not inscrutable, inevitably creating its awn audience of admirers, while kitsch exploits stereotyped understanding for a pre-conditioned public, if dealing finally in “the lowest common denominators of experience.” In contrast to kitsch, which cultivates the effects of art (and often programs an unmistakable response), avant-garde art, as noted already, defines its integrity by a capacity for genuine surprise. “Avant-garde culture is the imitation of imitating,” Greenberg continues, as “its best artists are artist’s artists, its best poets, poet’s poets.” The difference between kitsch and avant-garde (synonymous in Greenberg’s mind with all that remains relevant in contemporary culture) is so great that they have nothing in common beyond cultural ancestry and superficial mediumistic resemblances.
Kitsch is mechanical and operates by formulas. Kitsch is vicarious experience and faked sensations. Kitsch changes according to style, but remains always the same. Kitsch is the epitome of all that is spurious in the life of our time.
The social origins of kitsch, in Greenberg’s view, lies not in capitalism per se, as most “left” critics charged, but in modern industrial society, which on one hand induces mass-merchandizing of all objects that could be manufactured in unlimited numbers and, on the other, created the “urban masses” that became the most eager consumers of kitsch. The Soviet Union, he hastens to point out, suffers as much kitsch as the U.S.
The issue of mass culture continued to preoccupy many American intellectuals, scarcely a few of whom were also as attuned to genuine art as Greenberg. (Most of them, one suspected, studied tripe because they preferred it to art, or at least found kitsch more susceptible to glib analysis.) Whereas the sociologist customarily studies kitsch’s relationship to its audience, esthetic discussion emphasizes its intrinsic nature and purposes; and while critical and moral reasoning could separate one kind of kitsch from another, the esthetic point remained—that kitsch is not art but sub-art. The first real contribution after Greenberg’s formulation came from Marshall McLuhan in The Mechanical Bride, written during the War but not published until 1951. Here McLuhan examines mass-cultural artifacts with a critical sensibility honed on the close rhetorical analysis of English literature; and this approach enabled him to perceive that the representational discontinuity distinguishing modernist painting and literature also characterizes, for one example, the newspaper’s front page with its discontinuous field of unrelated articles, oversized headlines and occasional captioned pictures:
It is on its technical and mechanical side that the front page is linked to the techniques of modern science and art. Discontinuity is in different ways a basic concept of both quantum and relativity physics....Notoriously, it is the visual technique of a Picasso, the literary technique of James Joyce.
The Mechanical Bride broached two esthetic themes that McLuhan develops more prominently in his later works—that this discontinuity reflects the impact of electronic information technology (such as, in the example at hand, the wire news service) and that, differences in quality notwithstanding, “The great work of a period has much in common with the poorest work.” All this insight into mass culture does not prevent McLuhan from proposing a necessary measure for distinguishing art from kitsch—“how heavy a demand it makes on the intelligence? How inclusive a consciousness does it focus?” (The “pop” paintings of the sixties, it should be noted, do not deny this distinction; for though the artist has appropriated subject matter drawn from kitsch, the best works turn this mundane material to highly sophisticated and uncommon ends.)
Nothing indicates more conclusively the obsolescence of traditional esthetics than the irrelevance of its favorite terms, and as such earlier phrases as “beauty” and “aesthetic distance” lose their currency, the times become ripe for a new esthetic philosophy. Much of this opportunity has been assumed, albeit circuitously, by artists and critics, at least in America, so that by now a substantial intellectual structure can inform intuitive and/or sensory sympathy for the new art. The final result has been a perceptual emphasis that ultimately underscores a highly idealist (and almost solipsistic) philosophy of art, which encompasses such radical propositions as Marshall McLuhan’s “Art is anything you [the artist] can get away with,” and Cage’s hypothesis that art is anywhere, and everywhere, that the spectator wishes to perceive it (e.g., “Theater takes place all the time, wherever one is. And Art simply facilitates persuading one this is the case”).
This new esthetics has, it is true, won more acceptance from artists than literary people, but the revolutions of modernism have always first occurred in the non-literary arts. Nonetheless, ignorance of these ideas, like responses proclaiming “hoax” and/or “not art,” will usually serve to identify a commentator as fundamentally philistine, no matter how well “educated” he superficially seems. Only this new esthetics, rather than an older one, can assimilate the artistic innovations of the past decade—not just mixed-means events, artistic machines, and kinetic environments, but also conceptual art, experimental literature and works revealing the impact of new technologies of mental change. Contemporary art is, in truth, “the only art we have”: and as it continually changes, so there is an unending need for an esthetic philosophy that is, as Croce put it, “always renewed and always renewing.”
* * *
Beardsley, Monroe C. Aesthetics from Classic Greece to the Present. N.Y.: Macmillan, 1966.
———, and Herbert M. Schueller, eds. Aesthetic Inquiry. Belmont, CA: Dickinson, 1967.
Cage, John. Silence. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan Univ., 1961.
———. A Year from Monday. Middletown CT: Wesleyan Univ., 1967.
Coleman, Francis J., ed. Aesthetics. N.Y.: McGraw-Hill, 1968.
Croce, Benedetto. “Aesthetics,” in Encyclopedia Britannica. Fourteenth ed. N.Y. & London: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1929.
Dewey, John. Art as Experience. N.Y.: Minton, Balch, 1934.
Ducasse, Curt John. The Philosophy of Art. N.Y.: The Dial Press, 1929.
Goodman, Nelson. Languages of Art. N.Y.: Bobbs-Merrill, 1969.
Jacobus, Lee A., ed. Aesthetics and the Arts. N.Y.: McGraw-Hill, 1968.
Kadish, Mortimer R., ed. Reason and Controversy in the Arts. Cleveland, OH: Case Western Reserve Univ., 1968.
Kahler, Erich. The Disintegration of Form in the Arts. N.Y.: Braziller, 1968.
Kostelanetz, Richard, ed. The New American Arts. N.Y.: Horizon, 1965.
———. John Cage. N.Y.: Praeger, 1970.
———. Moholy-Nagy. N.Y.: Praeger, 1970.
Langer, Suzanne. Philosophy in a New Key. Cambridge; Harvard Univ., 1942.
———. Feeling and Form. N.Y.: Scribner’s, 1953.
———. Problems of Art. N.Y.: Scribner’s, 1957.
———, ed. Reflections on Art. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1958.
Levich, Marvin, ed. Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Criticism. N.Y.: Random House, 1963.
Margolis, Joseph, ed. Philosophy Looks at the Arts. N.Y.: Scribner’s, 1962.
Munro, Thomas. Toward Science in Aesthetics. N.Y.: Liberal Arts, 1956.
———. The Arts and Their Interrelationships. Revised ed. Cleveland, OH: Case Western Reserve, 1967.
Parker, DeWitt H. The Analysis of Arts. New Haven: Yale Univ., 1924.
Peckham, Morse. Man’s Rage for Chaos. Philadelphia: Chilton, 1965.
Philipson, Morris, ed. Aesthetics Today. N.Y.: Meridian, 1961.
Rader, Melvin. A Modern Book of Aesthetics. Revised ed. N.Y.: Holt, 1953.
———. A Modern Book of Aesthetics. Third ed. N.Y.: Holt, 1960.
Vivas, Eliseo, and Murray Krieger, eds. The Problems of Aesthetics. N.Y.: Holt, 1953.
Weitz, Morris, ed. Problems in Aesthetics. N.Y.: Macmillan, 1959.

Above copied from:

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Anti Form, Robert Morris

In recent object-type art the invention of new forms is not an issue. A morphology of geometric, predominantly rectangular forms has been accepted as a given premise. The engagement of the work becomes focused on the particularization of these general forms by means of varying scale, material, proportion, placement. Because of the flexibility as well as the passive, unemphasized nature of object-type shape it is a useful means. The use of the rectangular has a long history. The right angle has been in use since the first post and lintel constructions. Its efficiency is unparalleled in building with rigid materials, stretching a piece of canvas, etc. This generalized usefulness has moved the rectangle through architecture, painting, sculpture, objects. But only in the case of object-type art have the forms of the cubic and the rectangular been brought so far forward into the final definition of the work. That is, it stands as a self-sufficient whole shape rather than as a relational element. To achieve a cubic or rectangular form is to build in the simplest, most reasonable way, but it is also to build well.

This imperative for the well-built thing solved certain problems. It got rid of asymmetrical placing and composition, for one thing. The solution also threw out all non-rigid materials. This is not the whole story of so‐ called Minimal or Object art. Obviously it does not account for the use of purely decorative schemes of repetitive and progressive ordering of multiple unit work. But the broad rationality of such schemes is related to the reasonableness of the well-built. What remains problematic about these schemes is the fact that any order for multiple units is an imposed one which has no inherent relation to the physicality of the existing units. Permuted, progressive, symmetrical organizations have a dualistic character in relation to the matter they distribute. This is not to imply that these simple orderings do not work. They simply separate, more or less, from

what is physical by making relationships themselves another order of facts. The relationships such schemes establish are not critical from point to point as in European art. The duality is established by the fact that an order, any order, is operating beyond the physical things. Probably no art can completely resolve this. Some art, such as Pollock's, comes close.

The process of "making itself" has hardly been examined. It has only received attention in terms of some kind of mythical, romanticized polarity: the so-called action of the Abstract Expressionists and the so-called conceptualizations of the Minimalists. This does not locate any differences between the two types of work. The actual work particularizes general assumptions about forms in both cases. There are some exceptions. Both ways of working continue the European tradition of aestheticizing general forms that has gone on for half a century. European art since Cubism has been a history of permuting relationships around the general premise that relationships should remain critical. American art has developed by uncovering successive alternative premises for making itself.

Of the Abstract Expressionists only Pollock was able to recover process and hold on to it as part of the end form of the work. Pollock's recovery of process involved a profound rethinking of the role of both material and tools in making. The stick which drips paint is a tool which acknowledges the nature of the fluidity of paint. Like any other tool it is still one that controls and transforms matter. But unlike the brush it is in far greater sympathy with matter because it acknowledges the inherent tendencies and properties of that matter. In some ways Louis was even closer to matter in his use of the container itself to pour the fluid.

To think that painting has some inherent optical nature is ridiculous. It is equally silly to define its "thingness" as acts of logic that acknowledge the edges of the support. The optical and the physical are both there. Both Pollock and Louis were aware of both. Both used directly the physical, fluid properties of paint. Their "optical" forms resulted from dealing with the properties of fluidity and the conditions of a more or less absorptive ground. The forms and the order of their work were not a priori to the means.

The visibility of process in art occurred with the saving of sketches and unfinished work in the High Renaissance. In the nineteenth century both Rodin and Rosso left traces of touch in finished work. Like the Abstract Expressionists after them, they registered the plasticity of material in autobiographical terms. It remained for Pollock and Louis to go beyond the personalism of the hand to the more direct revelation of matter itself. How Pollock broke the domination of Cubist form is tied to his investigation of means: tools, methods of making, nature of material. Form is not perpetuated by means but by preservation of separable idealized ends. This is an anti-entropic and conservative enterprise. It accounts for Greek

architecture changing from wood to marble and looking the same, or for the look of Cubist bronzes with their fragmented, faceted planes. The perpetuation of form is functioning idealism.

In object-type art process is not visible. Materials often are. When they are, their reasonableness is usually apparent. Rigid industrial materials go together at right angles with great ease. But it is the a priori valuation of the well-built that dictates the materials. The well-built form of objects preceded any consideration of means. Materials themselves have been limited to those which efficiently make the general object form.

Recently, materials other than rigid industrial ones have begun to show up. Oldenburg was one of the first to use such materials. A direct investigation of the properties of these materials is in progress. This involves a reconsideration of the use of tools in relation to material. In some cases these investigations move from the making of things to the making of material itself. Sometimes a direct manipulation of a given material without the use of any tool is made. In these cases considerations of gravity become as important as those of space. The focus on matter and gravity as means results in forms which were not projected in advance. Considerations of ordering are necessarily casual and imprecise and unemphasized. Random piling, loose stacking, hanging, give passing form to the material. Chance is accepted and indeterminacy is implied since replacing will result in another configuration. Disengagement with preconceived enduring forms and orders for things is a positive assertion. It is part of the work's refusal to continue aestheticizing form by dealing with it as a prescribed end.

The above originally published as: Robert Morris, "Anti Form," Artforum (April 1968)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

America ®: The Ultimate Killer App: A conceptual poem, Mark Gonzales

Mar 9 2003 SWITCH issue 18

America ®: The Ultimate Killer App. A conceptual poem which explores America's ® role as the dominate "product" in the world "market." In a series of guiding questions and comments, this piece illustrates how America ® created an entire market for itself and continues to grow its market share worldwide.

"First of all, this conceptual poem is not intended to be definitive or conclusive; it is merely a series of guiding questions and comments which explore the possibility of America ® being the ultimate killer App. This piece does not have any definitive answers, it simply raises questions." -Mark Gonzales

The Killer App. (definition):

"The Killer App. (short for application) is yet another grail of the computer industry: The hardware/software combination that creates an entire market segment for itself", (Snap to Grid, A User's Guide To Digital Arts, Media, and Cultures, The World Wide Web: In Search of The Telephone Opera, The Killer App?, Peter Lunenfeld)

America ® Version 10.1 The Ultimate Killer App.

William Samuel Johnson, George Washington, Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin, Oliver Ellsworth, Thomas Jefferson, George Read, Gunning Bedford, Jr., John Dickinson, Richard Bassett, Jacob Broom, William Few, Abraham Baldwin, William Houston, William L. Pierce, James McHenry, Daniel Carroll, Luther Martin, John F. Mercer, Nathaniel Gorham, Rufus King, Elbridge Gerry, Caleb Strong, John Langdon, Nicholas Gilman, William Livingston, David Brearley, William Patterson, Jonathan Dayton, William C. Houston, Alexander Hamilton, John Lansing, Jr., Robert Yates, William. Blount, Richard. Dobbs Spaight, Hugh Williamson, William R. Davie, Alexander Martin, Thomas Mifflin, Robert Morris, George Clymer, Thomas Fitzsimons, Jared Ingersoll, James Wilson, Governor Morris, John Rutledge, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Pierce Butler, John Blair, James Madison Jr., George Mason, James McClurg, Edmund J. Randolph, George Wythe

© 1776-2003 America ® Incorporated all right reserved. America ®, American ®, America's ®, United States ®, USA ®, US ®, US of A ®, U. S. ® American Revolution ®, The Stars and Strips ®, Old Glory, ®, Uncle Sam ®, The Liberty Bell ®, The Star Spangled Banner ®, Yankee Doodle ®, The Pledge of Allegiance ®, The Statue of Liberty, ®, Mount Rushmore ®, The White House ®, America The Beautiful, ®, The Fourth of July ®, Freedom ® and the American Flag ® logo are registered trademarks of America ® Incorporated in the U.S. ® and/or other countries.

America ® Timeline:

America ® Version 1.0 (date of release, 1783)
America ® Version 2.0 (date of release, 1812)
America ® Version 3.0 (date of release, 1848)
America ® Version 4.0 (date of release, 1865)
America ® Version 5.0 (date of release, 1898)
America ® Version 6.0 (date of release, 1918)
America ® Version 7.0 (date of release, 1945)
America ® Version 8.0 (date of release, 1953)
America ® Version 9.0 (date of release, 1975)
America ® Version 10.0 (date of release, 1991)
America ® Version 10.1 (date of release, 2001)

America ®: Laying the Foundation
The American Revolution ® raised many questions about the role of government and the place of the military within it. Remember, there was no president until 1789, and no congress as we know it today. A nation was truly in the making—and it might have failed. But with the great energy and sense of common purpose that defines us, Americans ® eventually forced the British to sue for peace and grant America ® its independence. (

America ®: The Unofficial Story

"The unofficial history of America™, which continues to be written, is not a story of rugged individualism and heroic personal sacrifice in the pursuit of a dream. It is a story of democracy derailed, of a revolutionary spirit suppressed, and of a once-proud people reduced to servitude." (Culture Jam: The UnCooling of America™, Kalle Lasn, William Morrow/Eaglebrook, 1999)

America ®: It's Not Just a Country Anymore

America is no longer a country, but a multi-trillion dollar brand. America™ is no different from McDonald's, Marlboro or General Motors. It's an image "sold" not only to the citizens of the U.S.A.™, but to consumers worldwide. The American™ brand is associated with catchwords such as "democracy," "opportunity" and "freedom." (Kalle Lasn, Culture Jam)

America ®: So perfect that it limits your ability to depict and imagine a future.

"I lay the blame for our inability to imagine anything beyond the moment on two, almost perfect visual systems, both more than a decade old. The first is a movie; the second an interface." (Peter Lunenfeld, Permanent Present, Art/Text no. 63 28-30 N ‘98/JA '99)

Blade Runner and The Graphic User Interface (GUI).

Described by Syd Mead, the visual futurist for the film (Blade Runner), as "a maze of mechanical detail overload onto barely recognizable architecture producing an encrusted combination of style which we…labeled ‘retro deco'—is perfectly postmodern. "As such, it (Blade Runner) has inoculated every cinematic depiction of the future to emerge since." (Peter Lunenfeld, Permanent Present, Art/Text no. 63 28-30 N ‘98/JA '99)

"The market is dominated by one particular flavor of graphic user interface, or GUI, as it's called."

"For all of its success, this interface model, like Blade Runner, becomes an impediment to thinking beyond the present. While there are regular software upgrades that incrementally increase the design efficiency, nothing radically different has penetrated the computer market, nothing really says, "This is the future, pay attention."
(Peter Lunenfeld, Permanent Present, Art/Text no. 63 28-30 N ‘98/JA '99)

Adobe Photoshop: Another Killer App.

"Adobe Photoshop is easily the most life-changing program in publishing history. It sits at the cornerstone of both print and Web publishing -- its power matched only by its elegance. "God bless the United States of Photoshop." --DAVID BLATNER

America ®: The Marketing Campaign

America ® the Marketing Campaign has had a very good run so far, it has inspired many people around the world to "seek out a better life", to "live the American ® Dream", to "be all that you can be", to "find that gold mountain". The marketing campaign was started by America's ® parent company, England and has never let up. So dominant that everything that happened before does not matter, it wiped clean the past and all of its baggage, like a huge sea swell. America ® has always been about "now"; the past has only been used to help create the future. We have a selective past here in America ®; a past which usually benefits us. Some of America's ® past advertising campaigns have included: The Boston Tea Party ®, The Boston Massacre ®, The Alamo ®, Remember The Maine ®, December 7th: A day that will live in Infamy ®, and Cold War ®. Our latest marketing campaign, 9/11 ® is interesting because we live in an age of information, sound bites, and virtual wars (Operation Desert Storm ®). We are a product without any competitors. This has put us in a very abnormal situation. We as a company have been forced to create our own competition. So we created The Axis of Evil ®. These marketing campaigns have become rallying calls for innovation and refinement of America ® the Killer App.

America ®: We Ran Out of Competition, So We Created Our Own, Axis of Evil ®

America ® version 10.1 is in a unique position after 9/11 ®. How are we responding to a direct assault on our Killer App. Status? Can Bush version 2.0 guide America ® 10.1 through this difficult time? Will his team of programmers, system administrators, interface designers and software engineers be able to help him through this?

As America ® faces a potential conflict with the Axis of Evil ®, one must ask some questions: What are we trying to do with our status? Is this about innovation? Is this about market share? Is this about emerging technologies?

Does the Axis of Evil ® have a technology that we want to acquire? If so, what is it? Why would we want this? Is it their access to oil? Oil is an "old technology" and most do not see the necessity for acquiring old technology. Maybe this is a signal that America ® has stopped innovating? Maybe this is our last great effort to use old technology to retain our market share? Will it work?

"The Terrorist" ®: The Next New Killer App.

Is "The Terrorist" ® the new Killer App? Can marketing campaigns help countries and underground movements become Killer Apps? Sure they can. "The Boston Tea Party" ®, "Remember The Alamo" ®, "Manifest Destiny" ® and other marketing slogans and concepts became America ®. Will the "War on Terror" ® backfire on America ® and create a new Killer App? Is "The Terrorist" ® the Ultimate Killer Ap? Have they replaced America ®? Are they a new type of Application? Is "The Terrorist" ® an open-source Ap? Will open-source Killer Apps. replace traditional Killer Apps?

Open-source Killer Apps. Vs. Killer Apps. based on copy written proprietary software code, which will be more effective in the future?

America ®: Using the Business Strategy of Crashing and Combining Systems

Crashing, combining and inventing systems has also been the cornerstone of America's ® success as the killer app. Established systems ensure stability and prosperity. They also help justify actions and repercussions. Some of the systems, which were crashed and combined, included:

The Virginia Company (Jamestown) and the Pilgrims and Puritans (religious freedom)
The Transcontinental Railroad and Manifest Destiny ®
Slavery and Capitalism ®
Exploitation and the Industrial Revolution
Genocide and Expansionism ®
Ecocide and War

America ®: The Industry Standard

Does Adobe Photoshop™ know that it is a killer App? Of course it does, it worked very hard to place it in its unique position as the Industry Standard. This is very similar to America's ® unique position as the Industry Standard country. As a professor of graphic design, I teach my students to use only Industry Standard software. As a citizen of the world, why would we want anything less? Who would want to use sub-standard software? Who would want to be anything other than an American ®? Why would we want anything less? Why is it bad to want to share this with the rest of the world? Why would you want anything else, when you can have it all in one beautifully designed interface?

America ®: An Impediment to Thinking Beyond the Present.

What is the point of being a Killer App? Is this the human condition? Do we all strive as individuals to be the Killer App? Is this a survival skill? Or is this a manifestation of some primal need?

Is it possible to innovate as a Killer App?

Does innovation stop once we attain Killer App status?

Does maintaining our status count as innovation?

Do we innovate only to become a Killer App?

If the answer is yes, than what is the point of innovation?

Is true innovation non-commercial?

America ®: Value Added

Some killer apps. actually help us with our daily lives. Photoshop™ and MS Word ™ actually help us create communication and offer us some benefits. America ® also offers it citizen's benefits as well such as: one of the highest standards of living in the world, fairly low taxes, government subsidies and allowances for education and heath, and a government conducive for capitalistic ventures.

What is in it for the rest of the world? How would citizens of other countries benefit from America ® being the worldwide leader? Benefits might include: increased stability, easy access to information, one stop shopping, resources for innovation and research, affordability, accessibility. Are these not the same benefits that Adobe™, Macromedia™, and Microsoft™ offer with their suites of Killer Aps? Do Adobe Photoshop™, Adobe Illustrator™, and Adobe Go Live™ make the world a better place to live in? Is the world a better place with America ® as the Ultimate Killer App?

America™: Lessons Learned

Since our early developers arrived and created the original 13 colonies, America ® has ensured it's place in the market by swallowing-up innovation and eliminating competition. Did we learn our lessons from other Killer Apps such as Greece™, The Roman Empire™, and Spain™? What caused their demise? And what will cause ours? Can we learn from the past? What will we do with this knowledge and foresight?

What can we learn from other Killer Apps? What did the The Romans™ learn from the Greeks™? What did the Spanish learn from the Romans? What is unique about our tenure as the Killer App? We are the only country that has had prior knowledge of the concept of the Killer App. What will we do with this unique position? Or is it really unique? Did the Greeks™ and Romans™ know that they were Killer Apps? What about failed Killer Apps? Were Hitler, Mao Tse Tung and others the architects of a failed Killer App? What were their failings? What was the fatal flaw that caused their products to fail in the market place? Is America ® is the same position now?

America™: Value Migration

Why would others not want to have America ® as the Ultimate Killer App?

Who would benefit from this situation?

How will this serve the world-wide community?

Which country will become the next Killer App?

Will any other country have the ability to be the next Killer App?


America ® Graffiti:

"That is not the America ® I know. That is not the America ® I serve. We refuse to live in fear. (Applause) This nation, in World War and in Cold War ®, has never permitted the brutal and lawless to set history's course. Now, as before, we will secure our nation, protect our freedom ®, and help others to find freedom ® of their own."

"May God bless America ®." (Applause)
(President Bush Outlines Iraqi Threat, Remarks by the President on Iraq, Cincinnati Museum Center - Cincinnati Union Terminal, Cincinnati, Ohio,

"Think back to February 1990. A fellow named George Bush was in the White House ®. An all-boy band named New Kids on the Block was tearing up the pop charts. Nobody could find Kuwait on a map. And Photoshop 1.0 had just arrived.
Now flash ahead 10 years to fall 2000. Another fellow named George Bush is trying to get into The White House ®. An all-boy band named 'N Synch is tearing up the pop charts. Nobody can find Kuwait on a map. Still. At least some things change -- like Photoshop." (

Author's Bio:

Mark Gonzales is a Professor of Graphic Design at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose and a graduate student in the Art Department at SJSU. He lives in Oakland, California, USA ® with his wife.

Above copied from:

transitivity / intransitivityl, Zoe Stillpass

Transitivity is derived from the Latin word transitivus which means “a passing over.” The intransitive does not pass over. The word transitivity characterizes three types of states or qualities. A) Having the nature of a transitive verb, i.e., a verb that requires a direct object to complete its meaning. B) Something transitive affects something else, it is a transitional or intermediate phase. C) In mathematics and space and time, representation and abstraction. These classifications engender principles that serve as the basis for precise criteria for the proper employment of each. They make sure that the means are intrinsic to artistic ends. One medium should, therefore, not pass over into the territory of another. Similarly, one medium should not have another as its content. The specificity of the medium should be its own subject. And for ultimate purity, the medium should dematerialize. Upholding an intransitivity of media plays a central role in maintaining qualitative judgment and in distinguishing high art from popular culture and kitsch.

Proponents of intransitive media contend that each medium, while not completely discrete, is best suited for specific types of expression. For example, Gotthold Lessing wrote “that succession of time is the province of the poet just as space is that of the painter.” [10] Although he believed, “that as two equitable and friendly neighbors do not permit the one to take unbecoming liberties in the heart of the other’s domain, yet on their extreme frontiers practice a mutual forbearance by which both sides make a peaceful compensation for those slight aggressions which, in haste and from force of circumstance, the one finds himself compelled to make on the other’s privilege: so also with painting and poetry.” [11] He cites Homer as a poet whose pictures emerge consecutively rather than through a static enumeration of details. Clement Greenberg, writing later, pushed for greater autonomy of each medium. He wrote, “Discussion as to purity in art and, bound up with it, the attempts to establish the differences between the various arts are not idle. There has been, is, and will be, such a thing as confusion in the arts. From the point of view of the artist engrossed in the problems of his medium and indifferent to the efforts of theorists to explain abstract art completely, purism is the terminus of a salutory [sic] reaction of the mistakes of painting and sculpture in the past several centuries which were due to such a confusion.” [12] To Greenberg, painters attained autonomy for their medium by eliminating the illusion of depth to reveal the material surface of the flat picture plane.

With the same goal of media independence theorists argued that one medium should not be the content of another. For example, Francois Truffaut introduced the auteur theory in an article that denounced the prevalence of adaptations of novels for the screen. The medium of the cinema, he believed, should be self-sufficient. Conversely, artists complained that their works were compromised when they were represented in other media. For example, Barnett Newman stated that the history of modern painting has been a struggle against the catalogue.

From the reductive process toward medium specificity, critics like Greenberg and Michael Fried, in protecting the autonomy of art, considered it essential to distinguish painting and sculpture from mere objects. To this end, Greenberg advocated an elimination of the tactile to create the appearance “that matter is incorporeal, weightless, and exists only optically like a mirage.” [13] By the end of the 1960s, Conceptualism pushed this de-materialization even further whereby some sought to abolish the object completely to transcend to the realm of pure ideas.

While all mediated relationships are transitive, not all transitive relationships are aesthetic. To have an aesthetic experience, the medium must become a totally integral part of the completed whole. It is, therefore, not a mere means to an end. Dewey stated that aesthetic experience is distinguished from the non-aesthetic by whether or not the means are intrinsic or external to the end. According to this definition, any act which becomes inseparably fused with its object has an aesthetic quality. Dewey went so far as to acknowledge that even business can be considered an art, if it is carried out not for money but to do a job well [14]. For this reason, Dewey criticized rigid classifications including those which intransitively separated the media as leading away from aesthetic experience. He wrote, “They inevitably neglect transitional and connecting links.” [15] Allowing the media to pass over into the other territories and interact would generate a new vitality in art. As Marshall McLuhan wrote, “The crossings or hybridizations of the media release great new force and energy as by fission or fussion.” [16] Acclaiming this tendency, Allan Kaprow wrote in 1958, “Young artists of today need no longer say, ‘I am a painter’ or ‘a poet’ or ‘a dancer.’ They are simply ‘artists.’” [17] Similarly, in 1965, the artist Donald Judd declared that the most interesting new art was neither painting nor sculpture.

Walter Benjamin wrote how media of mechanical reproduction change the art object to a more democratic form. In this vein, theorists have argued that when older media become the content of media of mechanical reproduction, the newer media transitively act as an intermediary which integrate them into daily life. Andre Bazin, for example, observed that painting is a framed and hence intransitive medium separated from the reality that it pictures. He argued that the film screen does not enclose but rather reveals the picture as related to a reality that continues outside its borders. Representing paintings within film, he believed, advantageously opened this hermetic medium to the masses. [18] Similarly, Edward Said has described the results of Glen Gould’s decision in the 1960’s to renounce the concert hall for the mass media of records, television, and radio. While Gould claimed that he made this choice to make his playing more pure, Said found that through these media of mass reproduction, paradoxically, Gould was able to address the world more directly rather than withdraw from it. [19]

Those who believe in the heteronomy of art push for greater transitivity among the media to take art beyond the concert hall, museum, and library and their institutional audiences. At the forefront, Kaprow interpreted the legacy of Jackson Pollock very differently then Greenberg’s attribution of medium specificity. He predicted it would lead beyond the frame of the canvas, off the wall and into the street, blurring the boundaries separating art from life. And he was right. New hybrid media in the form of Happenings, Earth Art, Situationism attempted to make art an integral part of life. Andy Warhol’s factory, bringing together rock music, performance, journalism, and film, has been widely celebrated for intermediating between high art and popular culture. But it can be asked, “Where will this project of breaking down the barriers between art and life lead if it is finally successful?” Will not then the heteronymous become totally autonomous?

Winter 2007

Above copied from:

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

An Interview with Christiane Paul, Sheila A. Malone

on Feb 12 2002 SWITCH issue 17

SWITCH's Sheila Malone talks to the Whitney's Christiane Paul about collaborative curation, autonomous identities, and the differences between European and American approaches to the showing of new media works.

SWITCH: As a curator of new media have you ever collaborated with other curators in the curatorial process? If so, what was the nature of this collaboration?

And, was it successful?

If not, do you think curators can collaborate? and what would a model of collaboration look like?

CP: So far, I haven’t had a collaboration with other curators where all responsibilities were shared. I was part of the curatorial team of the 2002 Whitney Biennial but despite our regular meetings and exchanges we were all mainly responsible for our own specific area. I think models for collaborative curation in the new media realm require a constant dialogue between curators and artists and a shared decision-making process when it comes to the presentation of the work, which mostly has no pre-determined physical manifestation. It is always “reinvented” and recontextualized for the physical space. Ultimately, possibilities for a productive collaboration are always a matter of personality and ego -- no medium will ever change that. If the process isn’t about the art itself and is mainly focused on proving one’s own brilliance, a collaboration can hardly be successful

SWITCH: In your opinion, does new media lend itself to a collaborative process/model(in terms of artists?)

CP: When it comes to new media art, a collaborative process and model is almost a necessity. This applies not only to the collaboration between curators and artists but also to collaboration among artists on specific projects. Some pieces require a whole team of programmers, designers, researchers et. al. In other projects, an artist sets certain parameters and collaborators create different (visual) manifestations of the work within these parameters.

SWITCH: Do you consider any kind of shared project collaboration? How is it different from an artist employing or contracting out skills and construction while remaining autonomous? i.e. Christo, Oldenberg....

CP: Personally, I’m most interested in collaboration (I find it boring to work mostly alone and for myself), and the fact that new media art is more participatory is one of the characteristics that attracts me to it. I think that the work process of the artist who “employs” people to build components etc. is very different from the one required for new media works. In some new media projects, artists become “producers” who work with a whole team of collaborators. In most of these cases, the collaborators aren’t playing the role of contractors but are very much involved in aesthetic decisions. New media art is a very hybrid medium and often demands expertise in very different fields, which one individual alone can hardly acquire.

SWITCH: As a curator what do you find is interesting art? (I know this is such a
mundane question, but really...) Are your interests as an individual the same
as your interests as the curator? Does the institution play a part in your

CP: I cannot come up with a definition of what constitutes “interesting art” for me (that would be similar to the endeavor of delivering the ultimate definition of art, which is a fluctuating concept in the first place). When it comes to new media, the works that I find most interesting are making intelligent, surprising, and aesthetically refined use of their medium. My interests as an individual and curator are at least very similar. As an individual, I probably allow myself more of an immediate emotional response to the work; as a curator, I tend to step back more and evaluate a work from as many different points of view as possible. The institution definitely influences my focus but this has a lot to do with the place new media occupies within the art world at this point in time. It is an art form that still hasn’t found an established place in the arts at large. Many people are still scared of computers, technology, and interfaces and do not understand the inherent possibilities of the medium. I could easily curate a show consisting of projects that I find very interesting, and it would turn out to be a complete “geekfest,” entirely inaccessible to a larger art audience. Curating for a museum, I am aware that I’m still introducing many people to this art form, so I strive to strike a certain balance, choosing projects that are accomplished as well as engaging and accessible.

SWITCH: Do you think Europe is more advanced in terms of embracing, developing,
and showing new media? If so, why do you think this is? If not, how is American New Media doing in terms of the gallery and museum?

CP: Europe certainly has more venues (quite a few of them well established) when it comes to showing this art, ranging from Ars Electronica, EMAF, DEAF, Viper and Transmediale (to name just a few) to museums such as ZKM and Kiasma. I don’t think that more of this art is being developed in Europe; the new media scene in the US is quite large and many of the artists have been showing at the venues mentioned above. There are a few galleries in the US that have consistently shown new media art but museums have only fairly recently begun to embrace the medium. In my opinion, this situation is largely due to economics and funding models. So far, there are no established economic models for selling this art, and commercial galleries obviously need to sell in order to survive. There is far more government and state funding in Europe while institutions in the US have to rely mostly on private and foundation support; they are more cautious when it comes to being adventurous and showing art that is hardly established and doesn’t necessarily have a huge box office draw.

SWITCH: Can you describe your personal and professional background in terms of
your current position at the Whitney? I mean what has led you into the art
world and more specifically into the New Media Curation.

CP: My original background is in academia, specifically American literature. I had done a lot of work on poststructuralism, and when hypertext began to catch on in the late 80s, early 90s, it seemed to literalize many of the theories of poststructuralism, so I started working with hypertext software. Hypertext was my entry point into “multimedia” / new media and when the WWW came into being, I was already deeply immersed in the background theory of this practice. I founded a magazine on new media arts called Intelligent Agent in 1995 and have been chronicling this type of art ever since. Before I officially became a curator, I often “consulted” for curators who were interested in new media work but not very familiar with this art practice.

SWITCH: Do you see any trends or movements in New Media in America? in New York?

CP: I’m always very careful when it comes to generalizations and so-called “trends.” Art that uses digital technologies as a medium can take so many different forms (ranging from interactive installations and networked installations to software art or purely Web-based art, among others). Even the term Internet art has become a broad umbrella for multiple forms of artistic expression that often overlap. There is art that has been created for and exists within the browser window; there are telepresence, telerobotics, and streaming media projects that establish telematic connections between remote places; there are performance and time-based projects that take place as actions within a specific time frame during which they can be experienced by Web visitors worldwide; there is hypertext that experiments with the possibilities of non-linear narrative; there are netactivism or “hacktivism” projects that use the network and its possibilities of instant distribution and cloning of information as a staging platform for interventions; there are alternative browsers, and there is software art that doesn’t make use of existing applications but is coded from scratch and distributed over the network. All of these forms are aesthetically very different and to distinguish certain “trends” is almost impossible. However, there are certain prominent themes and narratives within new media, among them data visualization and mapping, database aesthetics, gaming paradigms, agent technology etc. Currently, more and more works are being developed for nomadic devices, PDAs or cellphones, and I would expect that this art will experiment more with network structures that go beyond the static set-up of the CPU, monitor, and keyboard.

Above copied from:

Tony Conrad interview, Brian Duguid

Tony Conrad, best known for playing violin with the Theatre of Eternal Music in the early sixties, and for his more recent violin-centred compositions, admits that his introduction to his instrument was mostly negative. It was only the influence of the young violinist Ronald Knudsen that changed things, urging Conrad to play slowly, and concentrate on the tuning, something he has been doing ever since.

Knudsen wasn't the only influence that set Conrad on the path that pioneered the minimalist drone. After hearing Heinrich Biber's 17th century Mystery Sonatas, Conrad noted: "Biber's music transformed me; for the first time, my violin sounded truly wonderful". Close behind Biber's polyphonic timbral invention came Indian classical music, which Conrad quickly came to value for the function of the drone and lack of conventional harmonic progression.

When Conrad left music school at the beginning of the sixties and moved to New York, he soon encountered La Monte Young's then group (featuring Billy Name, Marian Zazeela and Angus Maclise), playing a proto-minimalist jazz mutation. Soon, Billy Name left and Conrad joined, beginning by playing only an open fifth drone, and moving the small ensemble towards a "Dream Music" that would profoundly influence subsequent composers.

Conrad saw contemporary music as being at a crisis point. John Cage's radicalism, and Young's Fluxus verbal scores (listening to butterflies as a piece of music) indicated music being dismantled in an unsurpassably extreme manner - a limit that Rhys Chatham describes in more detail elsewhere in this issue. Conrad believed that the "Dream Music" offered three routes out of this quandary. Firstly, it dispensed with the "edifice of high culture" - it was music to participate in, anywhere, not just fodder for galleries and concert halls. Secondly, it dispensed with the musical score, offering a way for classical music to ditch compositional authoritarianism in favour of the improvisational collaboration already mapped out by jazz musicians. Fianlly, it focussed not on the act of composing at all, but, thanks to the minute harmonic intervals the group were now exploring, on the act of listening. According to Conrad: "This was a total displacement of the composer's role, from progenitor of the sound to groundskeeper at its gravesite".

With the addition of John Cale and his viola, the newly named Theatre of Eternal Music became dominated by the drones, and soon left Young's saxophone elaborations behind. They explored new harmonic intervals, dissonant but not discordant, and developed a sound that would ultimately become legendary.

However, as Tony Conrad points out below, "History is like music - completely in the present". About 100 recordings of the Dream Music were made, but after Cale and Conrad left the group in the middle of the decade, Young retained them all, and has since refused to release them to his former collaborators. Despite the scarcity of Young's own recorded output, most histories of minimalism describe the Dream Music as primarily Young's work, not as the radical collaborationt that Tony Conrad today recalls. Some of this "hidden history" is, however, beginning to resurface.

American label Table Of The Elements have recently reissued Outside The Dream Syndicate, an early-70s collaboration between Faust and Conrad (although it curiously disappoints compared to the shrill intensity of their 90s live performances). Since then, they've issued Slapping Pythagoras (see this issue's reviews), hard evidence that the penetrating drones of 60s minimalism remain relevant today, and perhaps an indication that the philosophy against which Conrad struggles dates back not just through this century, but for over two millennia. Coming later this year are Conrad's monumental attempt to resculpt musical history, Early Minimalism, and an excellent and previously unavailable recording dating from 1964, Four Violins. Judging by the latter, they should prove essential listening.

TC: You've heard my "new" record, Four Violins. It is going to be the gateway into my next set of CDs - a complete recording of Early Minimalism. I wrote the seven parts of Early Minimalism over the last ten years, but they all look back at Four Violins, and the "Dream Music" that I worked on during the early 1960s with John Cale, Angus MacLise, Marian Zazeela, and of course La Monte Young.

EST: You've picketed La Monte Young in the past, and La Monte Young is presumably well aware of your criticisms of his stance (most notably his unwillingness to unconditionally release recordings by the Theatre of Eternal Music). How has he responded to your picketing, handbills etc?

TC: What kind of conversation are we having here? I think anybody reading this expects us to be having a very informal kind of exchange. Okay. But picketing - picketing for or against something, and handing out literature - these are conspicuously formal actions. They have to be understood as indirect communication. Yes, I am "in communication" with La Monte Young, of course, when I picket and he is there to perform his public action - but by clearly shaping my own action as "picketing," even though there is only me there, I am making my action interprable only as a public or political action, not as a private communication.

What I'm trying to say is that both the message conveyed through my picketing, and the picketing itself, were not communications primarily intended for La Monte Young personally. They were communications which took place on the public level, which is the level of culture, of symbolic statement. These were symbolic or formal statements, which are as much a part of "Music" as this interview is - even though this interview is actually silent, and we aren't even speaking out loud.

People aren't used to thinking of cultural forms spreading out across the full range of formal interactions - or what is called the "text" in literary terms. Even though we have heard all sorts of political expressions in music, as song, when a musical expression takes the form of politics, it still seems musically inaudible.

Let me get back to Young. La Monte Young's early works, you know, were involved with the neo-Dada movement in New York that spawned Fluxus, conceptual art, and happenings. In some of his pieces, he calls for what might be termed "extra-musical" events: leading a bucket around by a string, feeding a piano some hay, releasing a butterfly, and so forth. That kind of piece, perhaps most recognizable because of Yoko Ono's similar work, built a bridge between performance art and music - and without raising any awkward social issues.

When I picket La Monte Young, I am not only making a cultural statement in the formal arena of political action, I am also consciously pressuring the societal isolationism that Young stands for as a figurehead of this earlier movement. His neo-Dada work was a key piece in the architecture of a 60s cultural understanding: that the institutions of art could be violated, the walls torn down between disciplines, and that this could be done as pure Art, without any involvement with "real" politics or social issues.

I have chosen to use a "real" political form to address a cultural conflict between two individual artists, in this instance, because the action of picketing in itself highlights the paradoxes that La Monte Young continues to represent - he is socially elitist and culturally absolutist, yet his cultural image is of a "radical".

Well, I guess I should get to your question - about how he responded. As soon as Young read my statements and saw clearly what I was saying, he stopped communicating with me. I have heard that he cut me out of the new edition of his book, but I haven't bought it so I'm not sure.

EST: This sort of "direct action" is an unusual step in most artistic communities. Do you feel comfortable with your approach, which seems to me to be almost courageous, it seems so unusual?

TC: Yes, somehow there has been a convention that in their work artists don't use each other's works, and they don't invoke one another personally. This is part of a more general depersonalization of consumerist culture in postmodernity. In the old "modern" art, Picasso painted his girl friend and Cezanne painted his neighborhood. But in postmodernity, there has to be impersonality, because the understanding of art is that it is only legible among a community with shared cultural interests. When Warhol painted Marilyn or Campbell's soup cans, it was only to display their objectification and depersonalization. Then about 1980 Sherrie Levine appropriated photographs by Walker Evans - but Evans was too much a person, too little a product - and Sherrie ran into lawsuits, even though Evans is dead.

This is a particularly insidious energy boundary in our corporation-based contemporary culture - it shuts down personal responsiveness and political interactivity, and rechannels expressions of diversity through polite conventions. Why is this taboo so strong? Because using another artist is first "impolite," second violates proper business methods and the proprieties of consumerism, and third is not cool and impersonal like Art is supposed to be.

For me, music and art just crap out when they don't step across into non-polite spaces and outlaw territory. The job of an artist is to discover laws to violate that haven't been made yet. I remember picketing a Stockhausen concert with Henry Flynt in 1964. A lot of artists were inside participating in the event.

Later, in the press, we were accused of stealing equipment. That was how far the "responsible" press was willing to go to discount our impolite action and divert attention from our message. I'm not going to go into that message right now; it's enough to say it was about cultural imperialism, and would have been clearly understood today by anyone interested in post-colonialism, but was about 25 years ahead of its time.

By the way, I do know that La Monte Young's own social elitism makes it impossible for him to take my picketing for anything other than interpersonal bickering, but for me that has nothing to do with the message. Nevertheless, I wouldn't have picketed him if he had not broken the back of our long friendship by waiting for me to die without being able to hear my music.

EST: Do other former T.E.M. members share your view of the situation?

TC: Marian Zazeela is La Monte's wife, and Angus MacLise is dead.

I've talked with John Cale for two decades about what to do about La Monte, and how to get copies of our work. We consulted lawyers, negotiated with La Monte, and begged and pleaded. Nothing. But all of that helped me realize how special the status of these recordings had become. We were the people who first started making so-called "minimal" music, and these recordings are the residue of that influential conjunction. Why doesn't La Monte Young want these recordings heard, when their historical influence is stronger than their actual audibility?

Because they don't show him in as strong a light as he would wish. His approach to music is unashamedly founded in individualist romanticism, and the tapes can't bear the load of his overinflated personal myth. Young's personal peccadillo has set up a historiographic paradox; the cultural influence of this music is more legible than the music itself is audible. That made me see, in the 80s, that re-composed "images" of this music, by its originators, could throw new light on the relationship between cultural history and the practice of music composition.

EST: You've said that the members of the first TEM were painfully aware that they were making the most interesting avant-garde music of the period. Is this still your opinion?

TC: Yes, for sure. In my notes on Four Violins I go into this in greater detail than I can here, but the key elements were social. By improvising, we eliminated the role of composer. But more, this was the turning point from a regime of writing music to a regime of listening. Many things at the time pushed this change, even though there has been very little comment on, or understanding of, the core paradigm shift that this represented for music.

The principal convergence was among three forces. In terms of the symbolic cultural order of the West it was John Cage, in the 50s, who turned music composition most forcefully toward listening. And as it happened, the 50s also saw the eruption of rock n roll consumerism. Whatever else it was, rock'n'roll elbowed itself to the front of pop music because of its sound - a much simplified, listenable music. In another universe, rock'n'roll might have been called "minimal pop." Then, perhaps most important, the technology of recording, and the economics of the music industry, began to make it practical and possible to listen to more sounds, and music, than ever before. It was only in the 1950s that we began to see LP records of music from other times and cultures, weird jazz, and even avant-garde music, all accessibe by any consumer with enough appetite.

Our "Dream Music" was an effort to freeze the sound in action, to listen around inside the innermost architecture of the sound itself. It had something to do with composition, since it became a commentary on the temporal site of the composer, in relation to the sound itself. We were announcing that the composer could sit within the sound, so to speak, and work with it as a plastic continuum extended in time along the same course, and at the same pace, as the listener. That is quite different from improvising on a tune, or using improvisational variation to elaborate sound patterns. The message here was not about indeterminacy, nor about immediacy, but about the control of sounds right there in your environment, and the process of composition as long-term growth of interests within that sound complex.

When I picketed La Monte Young in 1990, it was principally because he had insisted that before making copies of our music for us - which all of the collaborators had agreed originally would be done - that we each would have to sign an agreement that he, Young, was the "composer" of the music. My picket sign said:


1. The "Theater of Eternal Music" ("TEM") of 1964 was collaboratively founded - and was so named to deny the Eurocentric historical/progressive teleology then represented by the designation, composer.

2. Young is suppressing the recordings of "TEM," which do not flatter him. He has specifically denied access by members of the collaboration (Tony Conrad, John Cale) to the collection of recordings for 25 years. Two members are already dead (Maclise, Jennings).

3. Young himself now ignorantly insists on the artistic demolition of this body of work by claiming that it is a series of "compositions" (by him).

4. The "TEM" introduced an influential preoccupation with just intonation. "TEM" was anti-rationalist and non-electronic, but did focus on perceptual and conceptual aspects of small intervals. Young himself misunderstands this development as neo-Pythagorean rationalism (after the scientific idealism of Helmholtz).

5. Each "TEM" member had an interest in carefully structured improvisation and long durations. Young's early eurocentric compositional innovation - the use of long notes - appears in his String Trio. However, nowhere do his compositions show "TEM"'s crucial understanding that long durations are small intervals.

6. Young's neo-Futurist ("Fluxus") work aside, his Orientalism and romanticized personality-cult mark him among the most regressive of contemporary artists. His conservative gutting of "TEM" has paid off (for him) in a multimillion petro-dollar bonanza, which he uses to perpetuate his exploitative and artistically mindless enterprise.

7. Money paid to Young is valuable resources wasted on ignorance, false self-representation, service to Young's ego at others' expense, and a colonial image of American cultural expression. YOUNG - OUT OF BUFFALO NOW!

But enough of Young, and back to your question. In the group, all of us had a strong conviction that we were making the most interesting music of the time, and that it was continually growing. Personally, what I enjoy most is being stimulated by cultural experiences that change my way of thinking, and that is what had first drawn me into contemporary music. Yes! In fact, I would like to see the concept of "avant-garde" replaced with that as a criterion for art work. So it was painful to sit through the fifteen years after the first Dream Music without hearing anybody out there doing anything comparably interesting.

In a certain sense, our invention of "minimal" music had been a resultant in a flowing and ongoing cultural process. On the other side, there were qualities in our music that presented specific tough challenges for musical art, and for some years after our work, it was difficult to see anywhere to go but backwards into mannerism.

A moment ago I referred to the emergence of a "regime of listening" - a musical sea change that appeared in the wake of swelling access to music from other times and cultures, the tidal wave of rock'n'roll in pop music, and John Cage's summation of the Western symbolic cultural order. Ever since the Enlightenment in the 1700s, Western music had understood itself through the balance between the "universe" of music on the one hand, and the particular world of a single composition on the other. As Julia Kristeva puts it, in classical music "each musical text invented its own laws and did not obey those of the common 'language.' This is the famous loss of 'universality' that music history attributes principally to Beethoven." In earlier music, and in "primitive" societies, supposedly "musical 'creation' requires strict obedience to the rules of the musical code." [Julia Kristeva, Language the Unknown: An Initiation into Linguistics, 1989]

In "Dream Music" there was a complete loss of the particular, in this sense, since the musical work as a closed and internally structured system vanished with the composer. The structural elements with which we were occupied were not parts of an arbitrary system of signifying practices, even by extension, but rather were the physical constituents of tone. We, the performers of the sound, were also first and foremost the listeners. In the context of a single protracted sound, the listener's connection to musical language is cut off; the process of listening is silenced. In this emptiness, unexpectedly, there appears a legibility of rhythm and melody which rises to consciousness automatically, out of the unconscious level of perceptual processes, when the standing wall of sound paradoxically releases the listener's attentiveness.

EST: Why do you feel the strand of minimalism that TEM evolved has failed to reach far beyond a small minority of listeners, unlike other obvious strands of minimal music?

TC: I suppose you're thinking about Reich and Glass. Their "minimalism," though superficially similar to ours, arises quite differently, through process, rhythm, and design - all elements which are deliberately absent in Dream Music. Since their music retained rhythm and internal structure, it had a comfortable familiarity for the Western "classical" listener, and in its rhythmic directness made a bridge to rock music. The bridge to rock was foregrounded in the 70s, of course.

Let me say this more clearly, though. Dream Music had torn up the book of Western composition, whereas Reich and Glass reinscribed it. Nevertheless, there were certain linkages among the two approaches, right from the beginning.

The first composition of mine ever played in concert, Three Loops for Performers and Tape Recorders from 1961, used the same tape delay structure that Terry Riley discovered independently just a bit later. Tape delay was a technological system which had direct rhythmic and metrical implications. Steve Reich saw this during his early apprenticeship with Terry, and appropriated tape delay as the systemic foundation for his own later work. Perhaps it was my own good luck that I have never been very interested in rhythm, and so my piece, Three Loops, is primarily about timbre and process, not rhythm.

To get back to Dream Music, though, perhaps the premise that our music has not reached beyond a small strand of people isn't as accurate as you think. Of course, La Monte Young has built a wall of elitism and privilege around the music we made, and it's easy to imagine that Dream Music has not had much influence, since ironically you can't listen to it. But we did play out at the time, and also privately, for a number of composers. For example, Karlheinz Stockhausen came to listen to us play. At that time we were frequently using a large gong that Robert Morris had made for La Monte. Immediately there was a great change in Stockhausen's music - which had been stalled in its serialist tracks. He started using "improvisation," and even wrote a piece for gong. What a dweeb. I had felt respect for him earlier, but that experience told me a lot about how he worked.

More importantly, of course, our particular approach to the structure of tone, and our departure from the Western compostion tradition, have each been profoundly influential. In fact, the use of "modal" tonality, with harmonic tunings, is a fetish which we installed, and which has popped up all over the musical map.

EST: Were there any other minimalist musicians who you felt any sense of commonality with at any stage?

TC: Yeah, certainly, and at many different times. Of course, Henry Flynt, my earliest friend, would never want to be called a "minimalist" - but his ideas about music were very important in my development. From my first years in New York, one of the most important was Walter DeMaria, who was and is a sculptor - and he would never want to be called a "musician." His use of natural sounds was particularly influential for me. None of his recordings are available anywhere.

There were repeated instances in which I played music with, or for, other musicians, and through this their work was strongly affected by having an awareness of Dream Music. Often, personal contact was the only way that even the most avid younger composers could become aware of our music, during the decade or so following 1965.

In 1971 I played a concert at The Kitchen, for which I devised Ten Years Alive on the Infinite Plain. Rhys Chatham was the musical director there - he was also a flautist with a passion for Indian music. I played the violin part, but I needed another stringed instrument and a bass pulse, so Rhys and Laurie Siegal played with me, and it was clear that this encounter had an impact on his thinking.

It was Rhys, of course, who fulfilled John Cale's initiative begun a decade earlier, by injecting the "minimal" sound into the heart of rock music in the 70s. His music for guitars was, in turn, appropriated by Glenn Branca. Of course, what I mean by John Cale's initiative was the incomparably important work he did with the Velvet Underground. Not only did he incorporate his Dream Music viola work within the Velvets, he also used the Velvet Underground to create huge and powerful continuous sound forms as rock music - in effect constructing the first industrial music.

Charlemagne Palestine and I met in January 1969 when I recorded him performing on the carillon at St. Thomas's Church in New York. He was a music student at that time, and only became involved in minimal music somewhat later. I'm excited that he has returned to music lately, because his work was among the best in the 70s.

When I moved out of New York in 1974 to teach at Antioch College in Ohio, David Hykes was a film student there. He was already aware of Young and my connection with Dream Music, through Paul Sharits. Everyone, like Paul, who had been involved with Fluxus was aware of the Dream Music. Hykes and I played music together occasionally, though the core of our enduring friendship was filmmaking.

And when I moved to Buffalo to teach video, Arnold Dreyblatt was a student here, working with the Vasulkas. Only after he moved to New York, became Young's archivist, and returned to Buffalo for a visit, did he accost me with his astonishment - "So you're the one who started the music!".

EST: Could you tell me something about Early Minimalism?

TC: Sure. Early Minimalism is a series of seven compositions that do two important things - aside from sounding excellent. First, they are comments on the function of history and a non-recoverable past in the archive of musical culture. I said something earlier about the impact of recording technology on access to musical materials. Recording, as a system for the storage of sounds, has always fascinated me - as in Three Loops. You make a record of a sound, it is "archived" for some period, and then it is reproduced. In notated music, written records might be said to "archive" the sound for "reproduction" by a later performer. In Early Minimalism the time frame of "archiving" is a historical interval - about twenty years. The "recording" was effected by and through the composite cultural processes of music history, and the "reproduction" is my act of composition, enabled by the authority of my participation at the originary site of minimalism.

In Early Minimalism I have established a place for the direct participation of history in the cultural process, with history operating through the instrumentality of the composer. The thing that provided me with an unusual opportunity to explore this approach was itself La Monte Young's closure of our taped archive. That closure insured that the cultural legibility of Dream Music would always be understood as indirect. However, by reason of our own participation in the music, I and the other Dream Music collaborators are singularly empowered with direct access to the music.

Early Minimalism invites an interrogation which, for music, has timely and cogent implications: How has "the music" been archived? How is it being reconstituted? What are the cultural processes entailed in storing or recovering musical information? And what reconstitutive processes comprise authenticity? Each of these questions demands attention to the non-congruence of personal memory (or experiential continuity) with cultural memory and influence - that is, attention to the double sites at which music history's power relations are transacted.

I have wished for an active intervention of the historical time scale into music before, but not until the popularity of Foucault's writings and the appearance of postmodernism have such ideas been legible as components of a work.

The secondary ambition which I have for Early Minimalism is simpler and more accessible. Early Minimalism is my way of taking up the Dream Music where I left it and moving it ahead, without the encumbrance of Young's arch-conservative imprint. More than that, in honesty the exquisite joy and painful energy of our high-voltage music began to slump, for me, under the sodden weight of the singing, just at the moment when my playing with John Cale - the two of us, on violin and viola - was reaching a dizzying azimuth. Early Minimalism picks up from that apex.

And further, it has launched some compositional developments in my music that are doing exciting new things with microtonal music. But that's another story.

EST: Given your strong interest in recovering what you've said is a missing personal history, do you feel comfortable with the way that listeners may start to perceive minimalist musical history through the filter not only of writings about Young, but also now through the sound of your "new" music?

TC: Sure. History is like music - completely in the present.

EST: I've received the impression that Early Minimalism, like Slapping Pythagoras and Four Violins, concentrates on the characteristics of stringed instruments. Do you think the absence of vocal/wind parts in any ways misrepresents minimalist musical history? Or is it just that their contributions were never of significant interest?

TC: Well, I'm not sure I want to be the one who tries to authenticate music history; I'm more interested in using it, as a material in my work. As for my choice of instruments, I want to write music that can be performed, and right now that requires me to do a lot of the performing myself. If I'm going to get the sounds I want. The instrumentation might become secondary, if I could be confident about the outcome!

EST: You've spoken almost admiringly (or, with interest, at least) of the way Young allows his personal mystique to create history around him. Are you also trying to consciously remake your own history?

TC: Yes. I have a site to occupy that has stood unannounced for too long. But my approach has nothing to do with personal mystique, and everything to do with ideas and works that aspire to authorize cultural adventurousness and diversity.

By the way, I do believe that La Monte Young wants me to die without hearing my music, just as Angus MacLise has died. I would like to think that Angus's son, Ossian, would contest Young's retention of the Dream Music recordings - but Ossian was raised in Nepal as a Buddhist monk. Young has now already taken control over the works and musical heritages of several dead composers: Terry Jennings and Richard Maxfield, as well as MacLise. That kind of necrological cooptation makes you feel like you'd better get your own words said before you go, if Young controls any part of your work.

EST: Young has acknowledged a debt to yourself in introducing him to the mathematics of just intonation.

TC: Well, among the Dream Music collaborators I provided the understanding of rational numbers as frequency ratios, Cale found Alain Danielou's Tableau Comparatif des Intervalles Musicaux, and Young suggested eliminating the prime factor 5 from our performance intervals. He also discovered Harry Partch's book.

EST: Do you acknowledge any particular debt to him, or the other TEM collaborators?

TC: I certainly do. The Theater of Eternal Music was a collaborative enterprise from the beginning, and I have never deviated from that understanding. Each of us brought an immense contribution to the table, and only Young has corrupted that premise. In particular, without La Monte's discipline, space, and idealism, there would have been no cohesive impulse sufficient to hold us together as long as we were.

EST: What are the most obvious common attributes that you see in your music, film and video work? I'm talking about your public access video work; you seem to have been most interested in community/participatory issues.

TC: Ok, I'll just talk about public access video for now. Usually public access is thought of as an open forum for idiosyncracy and ego fulfillment. However, public access also turns an entire urban municipality into a laboratory for exploring models of the circulation and development of cultural forms. For instance, I have used it to test the potential for triggering cultural participation among the people in my city. I have also tried to reach children in inner city families with messages that can help to authorize their participation in schooling.

This may seem far afield from the music am making, but an overarching concern of both is very close to me. I see the United States as the heartland of a corporatist de-development effort aimed at leveling the playing field for consumerist marketing. Any cultural differentiation on this landscape is antithetical to the structural needs of corporate consumerism. The single preeminent cultural objective that makes sense in the 90s is the development of mechanisms that can trigger and sustain differentiated cultural expression.

There is a scattering of recent developments in communications that appear to be promising in this regard. Some, like the "information superhighway" and the multimedia educational technologies, are fakes that are being oversold in the interest of commercial development. On the other hand, the "zine" scene, and the proliferation of small independent music labels, each seems like a powerful machine for running upstream against the corporate current of cultural diversity dismantling. Perhaps the biggest reason for my increased visibility today is my just being exhilirated by the great little labels like Artware, Barooni, Complacency, Distemper, Extreme, Review, Streamline, Tone, and the rest - and of course Table of the Elements.

EST: To what extent are similar concerns applicable to your music, particularly given its frequently fairly traditional performance context? Also, in discussing The Flicker, you've drawn attention to its hallucinatory qualities, and I'd be keen to hear to what extent you want your music to create similar experiences.

TC: When I made the film The Flicker in 1965-66 my principal motivation was to explore the possibilities for harmonic expression using a sensory mode other than sound. The experience of "flicker" - its peculiar entrapment of the central nervous system, by ocular driving - occurs over a frequency range of about 4 to 40 flashes per second (fps). I used film (at 24 fps) as a sort of "tonic," and devised patterns of frames which would represent combinations of frequencies - heterodyned, or rather multiplexed together. I was interested to see whether there might be combination-frequency effects that would occur with flicker, analogous to the combination-tone effects that are responsible for consonance in musical sound.

That was a sophisticated idea. Even though the frequency range of flicker is theoretically large enough - though barely - for harmonic modulation products to occur, The Flicker did not convincingly demonstrate the existence of any harmonic flicker structures. Nevertheless, the hypnotic phenomena and trance states that characterize flicker drew my attention again later, when I was working in the 70s and 80s on mind-altering, on attentional states, and on Music and the Mind of the World.

EST: Given that you evidently valued the collective semi- improvisatory approach to music-making of the TEM, do you forsee further collaborations with musicians like Faust or others? What interests you about the juncture between "your" music and theirs?

TC: Right now my music has moved so far in its own direction that I don't have any immediate collaborators. In the most recent compositions, there are a lot of new ideas that use tiny harmonic intervals in ways I haven't ever heard of. But that's the impulse for making things - if there's something you won't be able to hear otherwise, you have to play it yourself.

On the other hand, I have been completely inspired by the opportunities I've had to work together with Chicago musicians that I've met through my friend Jim O'Rourke. There is a lot of talent, openness, and adventureousness in the Chicago scene. For instance, Steve Albini, who is a celebrated rock producer, has contributed generously to my recording activities in Chi-town. Jim O'Rourke needs a book-length treatment of his own. Let me just say that I have especially enjoyed playing together with Jim and David Grubbs, and I could envision future collaborations with them very easily.

EST: Could you tell me something about your late 70s music, such as Music and the Mind of the World?

TC: Well, that was twenty years ago, when certain currents in the art world began running more strongly against the stagnation of the late 60s and early 70s formalist hegemony. Some of the younger artists whose ideas were flowing through Buffalo then were David Salle, Robert Longo, Cindy Sherman, and Jack Goldstein. At the same time, women artists were forcefully questioning the closure of art under Greenbergian modernism. My own tactic was to break decisively with the use of formal structures, to explore psychological states and attitudes, and to adopt genre expressive forms as vehicles for constructing public art. I produced a "war" film and a "women's prison" film; in music, I spent five years playing the piano. Since I wanted to incorporate a variety of critical postures and attitudinal approaches within the boundaries of my work, I decided to include rehearsals, being yelled at for making mistakes, doodling, playing excellent music, recalling musical ideas from my past and trying to play them, and even using formally structured playing. Everything was taped; some of it was performed in public. I played at the first New Music America festival, for instance. That phase of my work was extremely important as groundwork for the emergence of Early Minimalism, which takes up certain of the same concerns but addresses them more concisely and within a more auditorily spectacular performance situation.

Conceptually, music presents a lot of opportunities at present, and Music and the Mind of the World continues to be my base camp for approaching the biggest questions.

One of the most profound questions for musical art is how sound and music can be shown to be radically different from language and visual art. All the recent talk about postmodernism has seemed to level the playing field for artists to move their projects ahead in any number of different directions - but then some of the central paradoxes of twentieth century modernism remain dead ahead in front of us, and don't seem to go away. Peter Burger has discussed this. He comments that modern art rebels against its status either by construing itself as political ... or by declaring that the void that it recognizes itself to be is the whole purpose ...

Politicisation or messianic over-inflation are the extremes into which modern art must throw itself as soon as it becomes conscious of the constraints dictated by autonomy. And once these positions have been passed through, all that remains is to attack the institution, a task undertaken by the movements of the historical avant-garde in the wake of World War I ... Since the historical avant-garde, art's self-sublation figures as one of its poles, the other being the self-contained work.

Then he confronts art with an apparent brick wall.

Aesthetic experience cannot get beyond the attack on the institution, because its failure seems only to reinforce the institution's boundary. The catastrophic scenarios of postmodernity with their declarations of the imminent end of art have evidently missed out on an aspect of aesthetic experience continually encountered by artists since the historical avant-garde; namely that once you're inside the place called Art there's no getting out again. As if you were King Midas, everything you touch turns to art. Even the blank refusal to produce anything at all is transformed into an aesthetic act ... What these days goes by the name of post-modernism could more accurately be termed 'post-avant- garde': in other words, an epoch marked by the failure of the historical avant-garde's attack on the artistic institution. [Peter Burger, Aporias of Modern Aesthetics, in Thinking Art: Beyond Traditional Aesthetics, ed. Andrew Benjamin and Peter Osborne, 1991]

But Burger may be wrong where "art" concerns music, if music at its heart functions quite differently from the signifying practices of language and visual expression. And there are reasons to expect that it does. Sometimes, for instance, we just hum or whistle, and it does seem completely artless. Why do we do that? Tunes are for controlling people; otherwise, why would melodies stick in our heads? Perhaps music is not a cultural form so much as an endemic disorder, like a computer virus. Like endemic diseases, it has become a childhood disorder - and lullabies (or now television jingles) may tell us why music is so compelling in group socialization, why it has such a big part in the subject's participation in the social order - politically, religiously, and sexually. And yes, while we're talking about the music inside of our heads, why do humans have such a vast capacity for melody? Is that just a piece of evolutionary bric-a-brac, or does it mean something?

It's going to take a careful study of the full range of cultural diversification to explore these questions - everything from the one immense worldwide corporate hegemony to the numberless inscrutable private cultures or languages that Wittgenstein tried to write out of existence - but which have arguably appeared in Henry Flynt's development of concept art, would arguably eventuate from the infinite fragmentation of subject positions hinted at by queer theory, and arguably arm us with an atheoretic model for understanding hypnotic trance and attentional disorders.

This interview was conducted by eMail between Tony Conrad and Brian Duguid in June 1996. Contact Table of the Elements, Box 5524, Atlanta, Georgia 30307, USA. Special thanks to Jeff Hunt for assistance. Interview © Brian Duguid 1996.

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