Saturday, March 13, 2010

Augmented Vision and the Decade of Ubiquity, Robert Rice

There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come. - Victor Hugo

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it. Really smart people with reasonable funding can do just about anything…” - Alan Kay

The Past

The concept of Augmented Reality has been around for a very long time, and not just in fiction. I’m not going to spend much time talking about what augmented reality (“AR)” is or should be, you can do that on your own. There are plenty of resources like Ori Inbar’s Games Alfresco out there that will get you up to speed quickly. Start there if you want to know who is who, and who is doing what. I’m not aware of any other resource on the net that is as definitive as this site is.

The Present

Augmented Reality is quickly becoming one of the buzzwords of 2009 mostly due to social networking, blogs, twitter, and early exposure in mass media. Unless you have been living under a rock recently, you should have seen some marketing by GE, Toyota, Lego, and many others. While I think that it is too early for AR to have so much attention in the mass market, and it is already beginning to suffer overexposure in some circles, it is undeniably building momentum and the early experimenters/adopters are diving right in with accessible tools.

For now, AR is mostly about superimposing graphics on a video stream (from a webcam). This requires some type of marker such as a glyph or fidicial with a symbol, or some other type of image such as a picture (like the front of a baseball card). In either case, the software uses the marker for two things…first, to determine registration and tracking (where should the content and media be displayed) and second, what content to display. Some companies advertise the second method as markerless, but what they really mean is that they aren’t using the first method of a symbol or pattern. Let’s call all of this Level 1 AR.

In most of these cases, this type of AR is pretty novelty and fairly useless. Aside from some games like Sony’s Eye of Judgment, Int13’s Kweekies, and even Frank Lasorne’s AR Toys concept, which are all pretty damn cool, you won’t see very many applications worth more than a glance unless you break away from the desktop, take it mobile, and get rid of all types of printed markers. Now, we are talking about Level 2 AR.

Probably the most well known example of level 2 is Mobilizy’s Wikitude-AR for the Android platform. As we move away from the desktop AR toys and start paying attention to where you are and what is around you, things get much more interesting. The mobile device becomes a lens that gives us the sensation of looking through and seeing the world around us layered with information, data, and visualizations. As an industry, we are only beginning to explore the possibilities here. The transformation of mobile phones into mobile internet devices (MIDs) with powerful processors, 3D graphics, and GPS functionality has already changed the way we think, communicate, and interact with media. Some, like MIT’s improperly named “Sixth Sense” have this backwards by trying to project images on to objects instead of augmenting what you see. Others, like Tonchidot’s Sekai Camera has the right idea, but their approach feels incomplete. It is one thing to associate or link media to a general location, but it is much better to link to specific objects and things. SprxMobile’s ATM finder for ING is another example of how early location-based augmented reality can be very useful.

The Future

Level 3 becomes Augmented Vision. This is an important distinction. We must break away from the monitor and display to lightweight transparent wearable displays (in an eyeglasses formfactor). Once AR becomes AV, it is immersive. The whole experience immediately changes into something more relevant, contextual, and personal. This is radical and changes everything. As I have said before, this will be the next evolution in media. Print, Radio, Television, Internet, Augmented Reality (well, Vision).

L3 must also be mobile massively multi-user, persistent, shared, dynamic, and ubiquitous. This requires a full on convergence of a variety of technologies and disciplines, particularly powerful multi-core MIDs, pervasive wireless broadband, semantic search, intelligent pattern and image recognition, intelligent agents, hybrid service oriented and client-server architectures, gesture interfaces, standardized communications protocols and data formats, easy-to-use and intuitive tools for application development and content creation, and many others. Depending on a number of factors and variables, we are two to three years from this being realized commercially, and maybe five to seven from dominating the mass market. Maybe longer.

2010 to 2020 will become The Decade of Ubiquity. Not only will Level 3 become a reality, but the advent of this will spawn entirely new industries, professions, and hundreds of thousands of jobs. The impact of L3 will be equal to or greater than the effect of the Internet and the Web combined. Nearly every industry will change in some way, and L3 technologies will have a dramatic effect on our day to day lives, jobs, education, entertainment, culture, politics, society, and so on. Even newspapers will evolve and reinvent themselves. Today’s web designers and artists will become holoscape designers…developers will create intelligent agents and bots that are capable of seamlessly interacting with the real and digital worlds (think about Star Trek Voyager’s Holographic Doctor). Marketing and advertising will be completely reinvented and will be more interactive and dynamic than the targeted holographic advertising in The Minority Report. The world around you becomes your display and your interface. Any and everything will be tagged, labeled, interpreted, remembered, and filtered, in real-time. Cyberspace, combined with L3 devices, will become something like a hive-mind collective conscience and memory that we can all tap into at will. We don’t quite know how this is going to happen yet, but a lot of thought and effort is going on right now. Ideas are beginning to become reality.

Early on, entertainment, advertising, and social communication will feel the effects the strongest. Massive amounts of revenue will be generated and the technology will begin to explode, disrupting the way we do everything. Next, education will get a huge shock, as will training, medicine, and business. Industry domination will first be focused on the hardware and software that users need. Then it will be controlled by whoever masters what goes on behind the scenes in the cloud of cyberspace.


You only have to see the Yellowbook Ads, HP’s Roku’s Reward, Soryn’s The Future of Education, Bruce Branit’s World Builder, Nokia’s Morph concept phone, and Microsoft’s Future Vision Series to get a glimpse of what is COMING and in some cases is almost already here.

The best examples of L3 AR, at least where we are headed to and what everyone is talking about for the near-future, include Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End and Mitsuo Iso’s Denno Coil. If you don’t bother with anything else, at least pay attention to those two.

The Decade of Ubiquity is defined as the next ten years where every aspect of our lives will be permeated by digital, mobile, media, data, information, augmented, virtual, and so forth. It will be everywhere and accessible almost instantly. Everything will be connected, labled, monitored, tracked, tagged, and interactive to some degree or another. We will break away from the desk, we will throw away our monitors, and our children will laugh at how large our IPhones are. They will struggle with how we ever managed to get work done with “windows” “webpages” and keyboards. They will be unable to fathom the concept of vinyl disks, typewriters, and landlines. But it all starts, and accelerates, during this next decade. Imagine everything that happened in the last decade, and multiply it. You haven’t seen anything yet. The next decade will make the last one pale in comparison.

The Distant Future

Level 4 is a long way off and is where we upgrade to contact lens displays and/or direct interfaces to the optic nerve and the brain. At this point, multiple realities collide, merge, and we end up with the Matrix. Without some amazing breakthroughs in a dozen fields, don’t expect this for another two or three decades. That is, assuming there is aggressive funding and R&D in the right areas. It won’t just happen on its own. There needs to be dedicated effort here. This is where Virtual Reality will finally come into its own and our dreams of pure and total immersion where we forget our bodies will finally be realized. Ok, maybe just Playstation 9.

Back to the Future

VAST Media is Virtual, Augmented and Simulations Technology Media. Virtual Worlds, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, MMORPGs, Simulations, and so on. In other words any media that is usually based on technology and is generally three dimensional. Print, Radio, and Television don’t count (this includes video). VAST Media today is still heavily segregated into individual industries with very little cross-pollination and sharing of theory, methodology, application, and leaders. This is slowly changing, but the fact remains that the technologies used for each are very similar. Until industry-wide convergence begins to occur, there will be little growth or advancement in any of the individual sectors. Virtual Reality went into a coma in the earl-mid 90s. Innovation in Virtual Worlds is barely measurable, with much of today’s state-of-the-art barely different from where it was a decade ago. MMORPGs have actually devolved in nearly every aspect. Some of the leading titles focus more on single-player gameplay, repetitive and static content, or aren’t even real 3D anymore. Augmented Reality, even as it is gaining momentum and excitement, is at risk of over-exposure and hype.

New leaders and thinkers are emerging and the hunger for creative innovation is beginning to gnaw at the bellies of Gen X’ers that miss the good old days of the Internet boom. Rapid advancements in mobile internet devices and tools for open development are fanning the fires. L2 will burst into the mainstream very soon, and the main thing holding L3 back are the wearable display companies that keep making promises but don’t seem to actively and aggressively be pushing the limits of technology. Too much emphasis is on miniature projectors or wearable displays so people can watch IPod/IPhone videos on the plane in privacy.

The world is nearing another dramatic paradigm shift and explosive growth in technology and economics, but we need to wake up. Demand more, better, stronger, faster, smaller. The future is ours to invent. Don’t be satisfied with mediocrity or lazy development.

We still have a long way to go, and there are plenty of obstacles and problems to be sorted out. Hardware has got to keep up this time (remember what happened to VR). This means that mobile devices have to crank it up real soon and compete with the desktop. Wearable display companies have got to quit screwing around, or they will single-handedly snuff out most efforts to push the envelop by years.

The architects of our augmented future need to think outside of the box as well. Forget everything you know about the internet, the web, web 2.0, virtual worlds, interface design, client/server, internet domains, etc. They MUST look at massively multiuser ubiquitious augmented reality with fresh eyes and vision. The paradigm is completly different. You can’t think about website design and development and ubiquitous AR at the same time. It isn’t about pages, servers, websites, or everything we have created over the last two decades. AR is about WHO you are, WHERE you are, WHAT is around you, WHAT you are doing, and WHO is nearby. Even things we take for granted like anonymity on the internet needs to be thrown out and rethought. The user’s identity is absolutely key to building the future. So are other things like privacy, interoperability, context, semantics, interface, and so on. We have to be thinking about these things NOW if we are going to build the future in the next decade.

Even the way we think about media and content is going to be important. Types of media can be categorized as Passive, Active, Interactive, Dynamic, and Meta. Passive media is text, an image, a 3D object, or something else that just is, and is static. Active media does something. It might be animated, it could turn on and off, and it can have multiple states. Interactive media requires input and interaction with a user. Games are a good example of interactive media. Dynamic media has the ability to change or evolve. It can be influenced. Meta media is beyond all other media types and is usually created and driven by other media or data sources. An example of this would be dynamic media, such as a constantly shifting and transforming 3D shape with attributes such as size, color, texture, volume, and morphability determined by live input from some other source such as the stock market or an orchestra.

Think about all of that, but with other attributes and influences that are based on the who, what, where, when, how, and why that become important with mobile multiuser ubiquitous augmented reality and vision. Now, make it intelligent. The rabbit hole is getting very deep, isn’t it? You absolutely cannot create, architect, and develop this stuff while in the mindset of 1.0 or 2.0. You have to think ahead to 9.0, or better yet, throw out the whole “point oh” system to start with. Never mind Shrödinger’s Cat, think about his Dog.

You must change your perspective, if you want to change how we see the world.

One good place to find out what some out of the box thinkers are thinking, is over at Tish Shute’s blog. Check it out, definitely worth your time. Her recent interviews with Mike Kuniavsky, Adam Greenfield, Usman Haque, and Andy Stanford-Clark are very interesting and in-depth.

What is your vision of the future?

Above copied from:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Withholding Criticism: Susan Hiller’s Critical Practice of writing and Talking, David Berridge

Susan Hiller, The Provisional Texture of Reality: Selected Talks and Texts, 1977-2007, ed. Alexandra M.Kokoli (JRP Ringier, Zurich, & Les Presses du réel, Dijon, 2008). ISBN 978-3-905829-56-3.

There is a delicate balance throughout the thirty years of talks, catalogue essays, introductions and interviews that comprise The Provisional Texture of Reality. If Hiller demonstrates a verbal facility in regard both to her own work and broader structures and histories of art and thought, she is also acutely aware that if she could just talk or write about the issues involved then there wouldn't be any point making the art itself.

So the writings here give rein to that analytical verve, but always hold back, maintaining a space for the art work itself to function. Re-phrase that as the balance between logic, reason and coherence alongside something more mysterious and unfathomable, and an argument could be made for this being the key subject of Hiller's artistic output as a whole since the 1970's.

This critical-reserve concerns both her own art work and that of the artists about whom Hiller talks and writes. The first section of this book, then, is comprised of explorations-cum-tributes concerning Tarkovsky, O'Keefe, Helio Oiticica, Yves Klein, Henry Moore, Jackson Pollock and Kurt Schwitters. Hiller's tone varies. Her Pollock piece is the closest she comes to art history, seeking to unfold a web of underappreciated artists and influences she saw as leading up to Pollock. The piece on Tarkovsky moves quickest from its ostensible subject to a broader web of ideas and her own practice. But perhaps that is itself a tribute to the astonishing relevance Hiller finds in Solaris: its existence, like the other work she reflects upon, as a kind of viral cultural contagion.

Often - as was no doubt expected by those inviting her to speak at numerous themed conferences and symposia - Hiller is weaving out from each artist's work into a broader web of cultural connections as a way of connecting to her own work. There is a sense throughout Provisional Texture of attaining some clear ground where the self, the work, and the broader culture are all held in balance, and prioritising one is more choice-in-the-moment than imperative. The opening of "O'Keefe As I See Her" states a method applicable to many of the essays in this collection:

In a way, this is a collection of detours around the subject, circling in on it. It's like a drawing, where the negative space is as important as the marks, and where individual marks don't mean much on their own. In the process, I've found my lines of thought converging or overlapping to define a tentative shape that may represent a sighting or wish for something that will emerge more clearly in the future. (33)

Hiller's balance and reserve doesn't stop her making astute critical points. In the O'Keefe essay she raises many issues that have preoccupied academic art historians, but always founded on that initial statement of ambulatory method. Her critical response comes from her ongoing attempt to think (inter-) contextually. So here is O'Keefe in relation to her paintings, in relation to lots of other painters, to her depiction in Stieglitz photos, in relation to Hiller's own biography of engagement with O'Keefe, to Linda Nochlin's gender focussed criticism, and so on and so on.

Essays on Oiticica and Klein focus on the difficulties of preserving anything like an accurate and authentic picture of their work. What we can access of Oiticica's work is "only a collapsed sign of the larger work he made available...relics of a dead past." Klein, by contrast, "took death into account when he made it explicit in his practice of deliberately creating works that were already 'only traces" (55). Hence " his relics do not seem to convey more to those who knew the artist personally than to those who didn't." (55)

Such concerns with the object and related processes of collecting, categorising, curatorship and the museological, relate to Hiller's background as an anthropologist. This emerges here as a biographical detail, an obvious influence on her intellectual approach, and a source of irritation to an artist often finding herself victim of, as she would see it, a lazy critical willingness to identify her works as exhibiting anthropological tendencies. If Hiller wanted to work within anthropological frameworks, her own impatient, somewhat irritated position seems to be, then she wouldn't have abandoned her original career plans.

This is to a degree somewhat disingenuous because Hiller, at least early on in her career, cultivates and depends upon the connection to anthropology as both a source of income and that through which the distinctiveness of her work can be articulated. Here Hiller reviews two exhibitions that, via content and context, weave a fraught amalgam of art and anthropology. In these essays - from 1979 and 1986 - Hiller is not accumulating a "collection of detours" that slowly circle in associatively on their subject. The ideas that lead to these exhibitions are colonial hangovers, and Hiller's aim is to highlight and skewer them with as much clarity as possible.

Thus her review of Sacred Circles: 2,000 Years of North American Art (Hayward Gallery, 7 Oct 1977- 16 Jan 1978) builds to where the show becomes - at least reading about it thirty years later - a kind of anti-credo for her work as a whole:

This exhibition, then, is really about using 'art' to cover up some historical truths; about using aesthetic judgements as a way of avoiding moral judgements; about expressing admiration for spiritual values while manifesting only materialistic ones; about admiring the 'work' while ignoring its meanings; about voiding symbols of their complexity by eliminating their context; and about valuing art objects more than societies.
To say that the purpose of the exhibition is 'that this art should at least be properly regarded for the sake of a better understanding among peoples', is, at the very least, an inadequate way to render justice to the peoples whose works are represented. (101)

Hiller's argument is all the more convincing for how - on the occasion of a review-essay for Studio International - she moves from condemnation towards demonstrating some practical alternatives. Several pages are given over to models of the kind of catalogue entry a non-colonial ethnography and curating would practice. Where an existing catalogue essay refers to "a wampum belt [that] served as a gift, also as a binding symbol of an agreement," Hiller appends to the beginning of the entry the note: "THE MAKING OF TREATIES WITH THE NATIVE AMERICANS WAS CONSIDERED PURELY GESTURAL BY THE WHITES." (96)

This efficacy throughout Hiller's counter-practice prevents many of the pieces in The Provisional Texture of Reality from being circumstance-bound musings. It also explains how Hiller negotiates the divide between artistic and academic, the creative and the theoretical - happily critiquing the later whilst holding to herself its authority.

Hiller herself explores all these issues in her still clear and powerful talk "Women, Language, and Truth", presented at a panel on 'Women's Practice in Art', organised by the Women's Free Art Alliance" in 1977. Hiller's central conviction is the impossibility of anybody or any-thing being fully represented by any available position. Noting how we are each "simultaneously the beneficiary of our cultural heritage and the victim of it" (115), Hiller goes on to observe that "It is always a question of following a thought, first incoherent, later more expressible, through its process of emergence out of and during the inconsistencies of experience, into language."

All this in the first two paragraphs. By the end of the talks two pages Hiller has offered, not a conclusion - "To sum up would be premature, obviously" - but three working proposals that clarify her non-positional and largely upper case free strategies:

1.all my ideas begin as part of the necessity for truth-telling in art practice;

2.not being entirely at home in the ordinary, dominant languages make this less than simple. At the same time, it gives me a wide range of options; and

3.the greatest self-betrayal for an artist is not indulging in anarchic or careless opposition to rational politics, but in fashioning acceptable SEMBLANCES of truth. (117)

Of course, over the time span and career of this book, there is the position of the Self to consider. Or, rather, such a career as Hiller's has to find its own way of not becoming a fixed position, whilst exploring a focussed range of themes, and meeting the professional and commercial pressures to make new work. Hiller herself articulates her anxieties over this in "An Incomplete Text on Commissions", a - perhaps tellingly - previously unpublished text from 2003. It also explains something of why From the Freud Museum has become so emblematic of Hiller's oeuvre.

Comprehensive as this collection is, it remains necessary to view it alongside Barabara Einzig's Thinking About Art: Conversations with Susan Hiller, which gives a sense of the different forms - and image-text relationships - Hiller's lectures have employed. Provisional Textures is poised between a Collected Writings and a snapshot of a writing and talking practice as a place for theorising, engagement and public address. Even though some texts - like Incomplete - gives a presence to Hiller's private writing, this is not a place for notes and other linguistic doodling - as collections of artists' writings often fetishise.

By the third section of this collection, however, I had begun to have a mental picture of Hiller, sifting through a wad of invitations to conferences on art and dreams, art and surrealism, art and anthropology, art and any paranormal phenomena you care to mention, trying to select those with enough of a space of difference to warrant the inevitable repetition. One that seems to warrant the effort is a conference on Body & Soul in Edinburgh in 2000. Hiller concludes her talk by noting, as the book began, her interest in "perspectives where figure-ground relationships can be allowed to shift" (249) and how "not editing-out and not forcing strange juxtapositions and unanswered questions to conform to theory is an aspect of my style, almost a signature."

But the talk also offers a chance to develop ideas around the body that are unarticulated elsewhere in this book. It suggests a motivation for these writings: let the flow of one's professional life as an artist, the opportunities that arise to talk and write, be a way of revitalising thinking and artistic practice itself. In her writing-talking about the body Hiller attempts a methodology that avoids becoming 'a position' - using one's knowledge and abilities, but always willing to start again, refusing certainties and obsessive originality, looking for clarity, the genuine engagement with the highly familiar:

The word 'body' seems very now, very contemporary. The word 'soul' sounds romantic and deeply unfashionable.

The word 'body' makes me very cross when used in connection with contemporary exhibitions, art of the body, the body in art, body art, etc., etc. In my opinion, body can be evoked but not represented. Pictures of bodies I don't think have much to do with 'body.'

Body is felt from the inside ... body is empathy. Body is communicated through touch and smell as much as sight. Body in art would be traces, stains, smears, sounds, not images. Body is blurry ... Handwriting is body. Voice is body.

Above copied from:

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Imagination beyond Representation, Bonjana Piskur

Everything in the world began with a yes. One molecule said yes to another molecule and life was born. How does one start at the beginning, if things happen before they actually happen? (Clarice Lispector)

For some time now we have been considering the questions about the political potential of a work of art, or, put somewhat differently, about freeing the revolutionary potential of art from its social and political forms of representation and from the limitations of its communicative medium. Jacques Ranciere, for example, talks about emancipation of art from its representative regime.

But what does this actually mean? When we consider the political potential of an artwork, we are usually attentive to the possible changes in the social field that this work can stimulate or evoke. We think about the devices in an artwork (such as the motives, the narratives, or “meaningful spectacle” as Ranciere put it) that contribute towards raising the political awareness in a social and economic order. We can even say that it is all about certain political pedagogy. But what we are actually talking about are the ways politics condition art and not about art’s emancipation from the representational regime.

What we are interested in, then, is something else: the unmediated experiences, acts of creation, operations of desire or even insights, which are not yet formalized knowledge but thoughts in their purest formation, passing the field which has been liberated from the institutionalized rationality. Translations of these operations into the so called representative regime of art are never unproblematic, since they stimulate anxiety, incite new reactions and interruptions of the already-known and if not, they remain hidden until they reach their “extractive conditions”. But how does one recognize the moment of moving beyond the subjective territory of the “not yet” into the plane of transversal linkage? How can radical imagination contribute towards crossing that threshold in question, bridging the gap between subjectivity and the representative regime of art?

In order to attempt to answer these questions we should not only reconsider the meaning of imagination and creativity but also the long tradition of conformity to forms of expression and content which resulted in representation dominating our way of thinking. It has been suggested (Simon O’Sullivan) that under different circumstances the art history practice as it is known now might disappear, that is, the kind of practice which positions an artwork as a representation, as a hermeneutic activity.
Imagination is traditionally understood as one’s ability to form mental images, concepts and sensations, which subsequently become defined by images they create of themselves. Images created by imagination are then overwhelmed by a “schema”, a classificatory system that hierarchically organizes knowledge about the world. This is the representation Deleuze called “organic representation” and it is opposite to the “rhizome”. For Deleuze and Guattari thinking non-representational involved thinking difference in itself. And this difference necessarily involves movement and desire; desire in a sense of being a mode of production and constructing of something (for example: a will to live, to create, to love, to invent another society, another value system).

David Bohm, a physicist and theorist, has written about creative and constructive imagination: the former involves perception before a mental vision, a certain insight, and only in the unfolding of this insight in the form of an image is the mind ready to pass the content of the insight into the domain of constructive imagination. Constructive imagination involves reasoning and taking images from memory and from other contexts, as well as already available structures and concepts that come from memory; for scientists it is a hypothesis, for artists the finalization of the perceptive process into an artwork and for writers a translation of thoughts into language. But as Bohm suggests, the creative and constructive are never completely separated, therefore the relationship between imagination and reason must also be taken into account.

Niklas Luhmann attributed to art the function of integrating perception into the communication network of a society. According to him, art only exists within the art system; it is a self-referential system, which interacts with other systems. Once this system recognizes art, the difference between inside and outside cannot disappear again. Luhmann also suggests that if perception and conceptual thought are constructed by the brain, then art should reject the functional concepts of representation, that is, forms that demonstrate the possibility of order and the impossibility of arbitrariness. He notes that only in the form of intuition (or in other words, artistic sensibility) does art acquire the possibility of constructing imaginary worlds within the life-world.

This is where he comes close to DG’s concept of desire and Bohm’s idea of insight. Moreover, what these authors suggest is that these concepts alone are not enough and that some kind of relationship between imagination and reason must be involved (Bohm), intuition and life-world or perception and communicating social system (Luhmann) and desire and stratum (Deleuze) in order to fully realize their revolutionary potential before they get captured by the molar machine or by the state philosophy which is another name for representational thinking. In other words, there needs to be some kind of “situated imagining” in order to point somewhere, there need to be some kind of strata available in order not to fall into the black pit.

It has been said that to invoke imagination as supporting radical politics has become a cliché. But isn’t this kind of statement grounded in another domain of representational thinking as well? And isn’t it our concern, after all, to change the way we make meanings and not just to change the meanings themselves? Or is writing about it already producing another representation?

One way to change the way we make meanings would be to simply do nothing, to avoid the so called “creative imperative” that has been so thoroughly imposed on us by capitalism. I am sure that many of you know the short text by the artist Mladen Stilinović called “In praise of laziness”. In it he talks about the importance of an artist being lazy. What is especially significant in this short text is his noting that laziness is not only the absence of thought, staring at nothing, non-activity, impotence … but that it is really what art is all about, and not some preoccupation with objects and other such matters. In his Fifteen theses on contemporary art Badiou writes that it is better to do nothing than to contribute to the invention of formal ways of rendering visible that which Empire already recognizes as existent. Žižek has proposed that one alternative way to oppose the dominant system could be to withdraw from all forms of political representation, to renounce social and political responsibility, resist the compulsion to act, and instead do nothing. Of course, the question is, how can such non-activity, such doing nothing be revolutionary - resistant in any way? It can be easily considered an escape, a utopia without any meaning. But doing nothing is also becoming different, creating conditions for encounters that are not based on some kind of concept of identity, but on something previously unthought. When perception is liberated of mental images it does not only oppose object relations (schemes of power etc) but radically cancels them.
To give an example: surrealists were concerned with the emancipation of thought, and recognized imagination as a powerful weapon using techniques such as automatic writing, drawing, trance narrations … to move away from the conventional significations. But on the other hand, this kind of private fantasy or reverie could not affect or disrupt the social fabric, as they believed it would; it remained on the level of imaginary projections. Similarly, David Bohm invented a “flow language” – Rheomode, based on motion, because, as he said, reality leads to fragmentation of thought and to unending reductionism, therefore thought needs a constant flow to override this confusion.

And yet: could there be other possibilities? Perhaps we should think spatio-temporal planes differently, access that which is normally outside ourselves, to make ourselves a body without organs, as Artaud wrote in 1947:

When you will have made him a body without organs, then you will have delivered him from all his automatic reactions and restored him to his true freedom.
If art is something that we consider an activity as such, it could be that art’s rupture is the event, or, in the words of Lyotard: “To encounter the event is like bordering on nothingness.” What he suggests is that in order to take on the attitude of an event, one needs to clean out his/her mind, reject modes of preestablished encodings and subsequently the fixity of representation. But the problem is that such affects (or intensities) have no vocabulary and are therefore wedded to theories: as Massumi points out, intensities then lose this kind of eventness in favor of a structure.

Examples of these intensities are “moments”, eruptions of spontaneous creativity, flashes of liberation, utopian consciousness that escape the daily programming. Moments are transitory, critical, creative, unpredictable … and they produce fractures in our subjectivity, introduce a sense of freedom from categorical thought, discipline, common structures, restraints and the like, since they have not yet become alienated time. Moments are sensations of powerful emotions such as delight, disgust, surprise, horror, outrage, and intense euphoria, and as such have a revolutionary potential.

But again: is the revolutionary potential hidden in the prolongation and intensification of such moments, or in their reactivation in the process of defixating meanings?

The analogy can be drawn here with Ranciere’s suggestions that “the dream of an art is to transmit meanings in the form of a rupture with the very logic of meaningful situations”. Native Americans, for example, believe that what appears as a material object or image in space is simply the manifestation of a unique combination of energy waves. Occasionally temporary markings appear in the flux, which are then used as reference points. And these points are what constitute reality.

It would be naïve to suppose that only by breaking or ridding the strata (representation), would one be able to set free. After all, if you lose images you lose space. As DG said: staying organized, signified, subjected is not the worst thing that can happen. It is through a meticulous relation with the strata that one succeeds in freeing lines of flight; through connections of desires, con­junctions of flows, a continuum of intensities.

Or, put differently: blowing up the molar machine will get one destroyed – and not the machine itself. Instead of symmetrical opposition to repressive representation, instead of opposing the current reality in an alleged parallel reality “the aim is now the principle that leads the destiny of creation”. Therefore the political potential of art is in unleashing mind’s most creative capacities, moving away from representation into experience, becoming the “power of emergence” into the open field of unknown relations, which traverse all domains of being into unlimited number of connections in every sense and in all directions, of infinite spreading into schools, prisons, factories, art museums and further on towards where “communication is occurring at the edge of impossible crossings, or perhaps in the gap of potential contact.”

Above copied from:

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Excerpt from Introduction to the Discourse on the Paucity of Reality (1924), André Breton

Poetry evidences in our days such peculiar requirements. See what importance it attaches to the possible, and its love of the improbable. What is, or what might be—how insufficient that appears to be. Nature, it denies your rule. Objects, what does it care about your properties? . . .
Now consider words . . . Words are likely to group themselves according to individual affinities, which generally have the effect of making them re-create the world each instant upon its old model. Everything goes on, then, as though a concrete reality existed outside the individual; I might say, as if such reality were immutable. In the establishment of pure fact, pure and simple, if that is what we are after, we must have absolute certainty in order to advance something new, something the nature of which would shock common sense . . .
But, as I have already said, words, by virtue of the characteristics we find in them, deserve to have another decisive function. Nothing serves to modify them, since they respond in their own way with such promptness to our appeal. It is enough that our criticism should bear on the laws governing their assemblage. Does not the mediocrity of our universe depend essentially on our power of enunciation? In its most sterile seasons, poetry has often furnished proof of this; what debauches of starry skies, precious stones, dead leaves. Thank God a slow but sure reaction against this has finally developed in men's minds. Things said over and over again today meet a solid barrier. They have riveted us to this vulgar universe. It is from them we have acquired this taste for money, these constraining fears, this feeling for the native land, this horror of our destiny. I believe it is not too late to recoil from this deception, inherent in the words we have thus far used so badly. What is to prevent me from throwing disorder into this order of words, to attack murderously this obvious aspect of things? Language can and should be torn from this servitude. No more descriptions from nature, no more sociological studies. Silence, so that I may pass where no one has ever passed. Silence! After you, my beautiful language!
The object of language, they say, is to be understood. But understood how? Understood no doubt by me, when I listen like a child asking for the continuation of a fairy tale. Let them beware! I know the meaning of all my words and follow naturally a syntax (syntax which is not, as certain fools believe, a discipline). This being the case, I cannot see why there should be an outcry when they hear me declare that the most satisfactory image of the earth I can offer at this moment is that of the cardboard hoop. If such an ineptitude has never been advanced before me, then certainly it is not an ineptitude. Furthermore, I cannot be taken to account for a statement of this kind without my demanding the context. A rather dishonest person one day, in a note contained in an anthology, made a list of some of the images presented to us in the work of one of our greatest living poets. It read:
'The next day the caterpillar dressed for the ball' . . . meaning 'butterfly'.
'Breast of crystal . . . meaning carafe'.
No, indeed, sir. It means nothing of the kind. Put your butterfly back in your carafe. You may be sure Saint-Pol-Roux said exactly what he meant.
Do not forget if for no other reason the belief in a certain practical necessity prevents us from ascribing to poetic testimony an equal value to that given, for instance, to the testimony of an explorer . . . To satisfy this desire for perpetual verification, I recently proposed to fabricate, in so far as possible, certain objects which are approached only in dreams and which seem no more useful than enjoyable. Thus recently, while I was asleep, I came across a rather curious book in an open-air market near Saint-Malo. The back of the book was formed by a wooden gnome whose white beard, clipped in the Assyrian manner, reached to his feet. The statue was of ordinary thickness, but did not prevent me from turning the pages, which were of heavy black cloth. I was anxious to buy it and, upon waking, was sorry not to find it near me. It is comparatively easy to recall it. I would like to put into circulation certain objects of this kind, which appear eminently problematical and intriguing. I would accompany each of my books with a copy, in order to make a present to certain persons. Perhaps in that way I should help to demolish those concrete trophies which are so odious, to throw further discredit on those creatures and things of 'reason'.
Who knows? There might be idle machines of a very scientific construction: Plans for immense cities might be minutely outlined which, although we never could carry them out, at least might classify the present and future capitals. Absurd automatons, perfected to the last degree, which would function like nothing else on earth, might give us an accurate idea of action.
Must poetic creations assume that tangible character of extending, strangely, the limits of so-called reality? May the hallucinatory power of certain images and the true gift of evocation which certain people possess, independently of the faculty of memory, no longer be misunderstood? The God within us does not, indeed, rest on the seventh day. We still have the first pages of Genesis to read. It perhaps remains for us only to hurl on the ruins of the ancient world the foundations of our new terrestrial paradise. Nothing yet is lost, for we know by certain signs that the great illumination follows its course. The perils into which reason leads us, in the most general and debatable sense of the word, in subjecting the works of the spirit to its irrevocable dogmas, in depriving us of the mode of expression which harms us the least—this peril, doubtless, is far from being dispelled. The deplorable inspectors who pursue us even after we leave school make their rounds of our homes and our lives. They make sure that we always call a cat a cat and, since after all we accept this to a great extent, they refrain from sending us to the galleys or the poorhouse or the penitentiary. Nevertheless, let us get rid of these officials as soon as possible . . .

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