Author Archive

Object Study: The Hudson River / great waters which are constantly in motion, either flowing or ebbing

May 22, 2009

“As the evening approached, the channel grew more narrow; the banks more and more precipitous; and these later were clothed in richer, more profuse, and more somber foliage.  The water increased in transparency.  The stream took a thousand turns, so that at no moment could its gleaming surface be seen for a greater distance than a furlong.  At every instant the vessel seemed imprisoned with an enchanted surface, having insuperable and impenetrable walls of foliage, a roof of ultra-marine satin, and no floor…The channel now became a gorge…the crystal water welled up against clean granite, or the unblemished moss, with a sharpness of outline that delighted while it bewildered the eye.[i] 

                                                                             – Edgar Allan Poe, Domain of Arnheim

 

 

 

How do you describe a river to someone who has never known one?

 

The Hudson River, a thing of beauty, of nature, of history; a river with as many narratives as bends in its journey from dewy moss droplets to titanic sea.  It is a river steeped in meaning – it is a bountiful river, a strategic river, a sacred river, a perilous river, a chameleon river, a river of controversy, a river of commerce, a river of reprieve, a river of conscience, a river that mirrors, a river that brings together and tears apart.  It is a river that is constantly doing.  The Hudson is a river of change and relations, since its birth as a ‘drowned river’ it has sculpted the landscape around it and been sculpted by it.  The billion-year-old Storm King Mountain that buttresses the river’s side has yielded to its power, and plant and animal life have emerged and disintegrated along its shores and in its waters.  People have been drawn to its resources and battles have been raged over it.  It has helped build a nation, and it has assisted in the devastation of its own inhabitants.  It has cultivated the arts, it has spurned growth, it has been a harbinger of decline. 

 

The Hudson River is a thing that is more than beauty, more than nature, and more than history.  Its agency spills out over its edges and its power resides in its many variations over space, time, and imaginations.  By looking at, listening to, reminiscing about, imagining towards, speaking out about, asking questions of, intermingling with, and writing about the river, I think we can learn something simplistically important about the way things go.  Perhaps we can also experience how creativity flows, the interconnectedness of things, and the way we are bound up in things and things are bound up in us. 

 

When I look upon the Hudson, an unexpected line comes to mind, John Locke’s remark that, “In the beginning, all the world was America.” Freedom was found at the frontiers and it was the river that took the hopeful traveler into those lands of promise and possibility.  I imagine that in the river’s murmur, in its glimmer, its fortitude, and its bend, Locke’s statement locates a spirit that embodies the social imaginary of his time, of our time, and perhaps of all time – that of great ideals, expansive hope, and coursing potential. 

 

The river I look out on almost everyday is the Hudson.  Usually I take note of only the very simple and superficial things.  The color of the water and the texture of its surface, then maybe the things floating on top of it, the sun upon it, and perhaps the smells that accompanies it.  I take for granted that it will be there, whether I look upon it or not, whether or not I detour my route to ride alongside of it.  I also take for granted the cool breeze that it generates, the break that it ensures so that the buildings are not all that I can see and feel.  I enjoy the longer daylight hours that it affords and the birdlife that it attracts. 

 

 

The River as Enchantment

 

When something captivates us, it escapes us.  Early humans gazing at the night sky, observing the movement of the stars, or mimicking the flight patterns of migrating birds begin to dance.  Here nature was teacher, mother, and maker.  Following the river, I am going to attempt a move from rootedness to distributedness.  The story will be about the connection between things and the arrangement that is produced.  When we act on the world, we act upon ourselves…the river can more than metaphorically show us this.

 

Landscape has the potential to inspire.  And the inspiration falls upon the animate and the inanimate. 

 

A vista of the Hudson snaking its way through the Highlands inspires a person to write a poem or paint a picture.  The curvature of a mountain near Storm King inspires an animal to create a place to spend the winter months.  The unknown territory of the upper reaches of the river inspire inventions that seek to explore, cultivate, and develop.  The power of a waterfall inspires a new way of creating and distributing power.  A grove of trees drowned by a corporation inspires the fury and formation of a collective.  A great river inspires a valley to yield, a lake to supply, and life to gather.

 

 

The River Divides 

 

Bill Ingold finds there to be an artificially enforced separation between what we call nature and culture, and that this error can be overcome by going back to nature and to materials.  He urges us to follow the materials themselves.  The river straddles the nature/culture divide.  As a thing it is of nature, it is something that the earth created as it is constantly metamorphosizing.  The river is where we go when we want to be with nature and commune with nature, but it is also a place we go when we want to connect with our own nature.

 

The river also challenges the human/non-human dialectic. The river is a place that also has a culture of its own, it gathers, it has a practice, a mode of communication, a shared set of veracities.  The river is not human but it has been integral in the development of our humanity.  The generations of fishermen, scores of Native American tribes that lived along its shores, the tycoons that built their fortresses along its bluffs, the painters and poets that were inspired, the villagers that called it home, the conservationists that dedicated their lives to it, all these humans imparted themselves in the Hudson and became entangled.  The river is a hybrid being.

 

 

The Power of the River 

As a thing that has had a great many interactions over the course of its existence, the river has done many things.  It has defended, it has poisoned, it has spawned, it has inspired.  Jane Bennett writes, “Thing-power entails the ability to shift or vibrate between states of being, to go from trash/inanimate/resting to treasure/animate/alert.”[ii]  I walk along the Hudson and I must acknowledge its thing-power.  It changes things, it changes me, it itself changes.  I overheard it once said that you are never looking at the same Hudson.  There are so many relations bound up in this thing we call the Hudson River.  When considering the river, I want to explore its relations, alliances, and trials of strength.

 

 

The River as Rhizome

 

The river is clearly rhizomatic in many fundamental ways, especially when you take all of its webby relations into account.  Having no subject or object, the rhizome is composed of ‘directions in motion’ and grows from the middle, extending its lines of flight.[iii] The Hudson’s original name, the river that flows in two directions, speaks to the rhizome’s characteristic of being comprised of ‘directions in motion.’  As the rhizome grows from the center outwards in all directions, any one relation occurring within the realm of the river, can be traced outward, as it joins with other relations forming alliances and breaking them as well.  We can enter at any one of an infinity of openings.  Deleuze and Guattari propose that perhaps the rhizome’s most important characteristic is that it always has multiple entranceways.[iv]

 

A tree that is nourished by the river drops one of its branches into it during a storm.  The branch is bathed by the river and baked by the sun until in becomes a bleached piece of drift that the current and tide carry to and fro.  The piece of wood joins others like it along with bits of debris and end up getting washed up on a long stretch of rock on the west side of the river’s Manhattan shoreline.  After time passes in its rocky crevice, someone picks it up and places it within a sculpture that stands for several days and then collapses back into the river.  The wood is adrift again and eventually breaks down into its organic elements and settles on the bottom of the river where it is fed on by small invertebrate whom are then eaten by a river fish.  The river fish travels up a not so distant feeder river and spawns, not so far away from where that branch from the tree over the river fell.

 

The rhizome has no beginning or end, it is all middle.  It is an alliance with no center, it is a multiplicity of dimensions, and it is constantly in motion.[v]  Any point within the rhizome can be connected to anything else, it can be ruptured at any point, but it will start up again forming a new or already existing connection.[vi] “The rhizome operates by variation, expansion, conquest, capture, and offshoots.”[vii]  At any point in this description, you can substitute the word ‘rhizome’ with ‘river.’  The river does the work of a rhizome, you can chose a moment, a dimension, a material, a happening, and see it as if it is captured in the momentary flash of a camera, or you can take in what is beyond the edges of the frame and go beyond its singular dimensionality and recognize the work of the rhizome.

 

 

The River as Assemblage

 

I am borrowing the concept of assemblage from Deleuze: an ad hoc collectivity that is historically situated, alive, decentralized, and constituted of the human and non-human, the material and immaterial..[viii]  The Hudson River is an assemblage.  It contains things animate and inanimate, stories, sounds, collectivities, energy, time-past, time-present, and time-future.  It has an effect that is at once reflective and transparent; it is iridescent.  It acts as a lens that enables one to simultaneously see through and reflect back.  The dual ability to penetrate and mirror has inspired me to think about the Hudson as a thing anew, a thing among things, one that can give insight into what a thing does, how it does it and how figuring out what it all means is not really the point. 

 

The Hudson is not a tool, a paradigm, a symbol, a resource, an icon, an idea, a landmark, a treasure, a way of life… its more all of these things, in addition to those things that allude categories, that are not able to serve as descriptors.  Ferreting out the meaning of the assemblage is an exercise that is as futile as picking up a piece of driftwood on the banks of the Hudson’s Upper Westside and trying to figure out where it came from and how exactly.  Perhaps more interesting and rewarding is to pick up that piece of driftwood and integrate yourself into the assemblage by creating a work of art.  In this way, you just may feel more connected to the river and to yourself, as you are swept up in the current of not why it all matters, but simply that it does.

 

Just one aspect of the Hudson’s assemblage consists of the creatures and life forms that depend upon its waters.  If we examine this webby world of life that ebb and flow in and out of the river we encounter a sundry and dynamic arena.  The most numerous of the Hudson’s plants are phytoplankton.  Marsh plants form the most productive denizens.  And trees of all shapes and sizes hem the river’s edge, something that Henry Hudson was astonished by.  The animals of the Hudson River include white-footed mouse, moles, Norwegian rats, river otters, mink, shrew, and muskrats.  The bird life consists of geese, swans, ducks, sandpipers, egrets, herons, gulls, warblers, blackbirds, bald eagles, osprey, and wrens.  The amphibians and reptiles that travel in and out of the water include frogs, toads, salamanders, snapping and painted turtles, terrapins, water snakes, and garter snakes.  Fish enact ecological choreography, flowing in and out, up and down the river on the tides dictated by their animal instincts.  Common Hudson River fish include shad, catfish, sturgeon, flounder, striped bass, bluefish, carp, river herring, hogchokers, and eels.  Invertebrates live below the surface and in the muddy bottom, creatures like crabs, mollusks, aquatic worms, and insect larvae.

 

Spinoza also has something to say about nature, suggesting that it is a place where bodies seek to forge alliances with others in order to enhance their power, much like ideas increase their power when they ally themselves with other ideas.[ix]   As for the role humans play with regards to nature, we are not outside of the assemblage, “we may learn to alter the quality of our encounters, but not our encountering nature.”[x]

 

Spinoza said, “It is never we who affirm or deny something of a thing; it is the thing itself that affirms or denies something in us.”  Now, I take issue with this assertion.  It is a statement I have previously believed in, but now I find it lop-sided and problematic.  For we do affirm and deny things – everyday and every moment we do.  And things do, in turn, act on us.

 

I walk to the river and I affirm it.  I opt to bypass it in order to take a more direct route to my intended destination, and I deny it.  When I am constructing a sculpture out of bits of driftwood and debris on the side of the Hudson, I select my pieces one by one, combing the surface and crevices of the rocks, affirming certain pieces and denying others a place in my construction.  But the power is not all mine, the determination is not solely my own.  Things do affirm or deny something in us.  Standing alone on the banks of the Hudson, I am captivated by something that eludes descriptive words, for it is pure feeling and communion which resists intermediaries.  

 

The world is alive with constantly configuring compositions, alliances and rivalries.  Look at the world with a Spinozan lens and you will be incited to ask which alliances and configurations are able to assemble most productively, and are capable of adding positive intensities.  For these will be the strong assemblages, the ones that if you join, will allow you to do well by doing good.

 

 

The River Wants

 

The river wants us to take note of the effects of ‘progress.’  If we harness the iridescent nature of the river – its ability to both see through and reflect back – the river reveals particular relationship with, and narrative of, progress.  Can we think of the river in the way that Walter Benjamin thought about his Angel of History?

 

“His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings spread…his face is turned towards the past.  Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet.  The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed.  But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward, this storm is what we call progress.”[xi]

 

The river is all-seeing, it does not have the ability to blink out an irritation or selectively see.  The river is open wide; it is receptive.  Unlike you and I, who are swept in the current of what we perceive to be our realities, the river, whose existence and experience of reality stretches over a billion years, has an encounter that is total, like that of gravity, where any moment is all moments, and each singularity is also a multiplicity.  And what we perceive and deem to be progress, is not so different from debris, for it builds on itself and fills things up, and collects in heaps.  Time, progress and history do not move in a single direction, just as this river does not.  And the question of redemption is left open – watch a storm moving up a river and you will shiver with fear and delight.

 

 The River Weaves

 

Heidegger felt that we are not able to build anything up unless we already dwell within our surroundings.  He said, “Only if we are capable of dwelling, only then can we build.”[xii]  Here I think we can distinguish ‘building something up’ from the modern notion of ‘progress’.  To live is to be capable of building things – things being ideas, relationships, self-identity, achievements, stories – the things we make of our lives.  The lives we lead (or as Ingold would put it the lives we weave) are determined by our capacity to dwell.  And how is one capable of dwelling in the world?  Dwelling implicates interacting with the materials and forces around us, being able to integrate oneself into the net that is the sieve through which life flows.  It encourages us to know the world for ourselves, and to participate in it.  For Ingold,

 

“Dwelling in the world, in short, is tantamount to the ongoing, temporal interweaving of our lives with one another and with the manifold constituents of our environment.  The world of our experience is, indeed, continually and endlessly coming into being around us as we weave.”[xiii] 

 

I believe that the river carries out these acts of dwelling and building up.  It sensuously engages with the worlds around it, not by choice but out of necessity.  It dwells upon the earth because of forces and materials that interacted before the dawn of man.  One of the things that it has contributed to building up is our story.

 

 The Unfolding River

 

Heidegger says the world worlds, Ingold says the world unfolds.  When I think about what the river does, the idea of unfolding resonates.  The world unfolding is something experienced, and no thing will experience it in the same way.

 

As I stand on the shores of the Hudson, the world unfolds – at that moment I am thinking thoughts that related loosely to the vista, to an old friend, and to the play of light; I am inhaling the smell of organic matter; I grow older by five minutes, my body temperature lowers slightly, my eyes take note of several details that my mind may not.  The rock half-submerged at the river’s edge is getting lapped by the water’s rhythmic banter, little by little the rock’s surface is changing; every once in a while a larger wave cracks over it and it reacts stoically.  Two mallard ducks bob on the surface of the river, occasionally diving down and then resurfacing not too far away.  The tree overhead is in blossom, the light and moisture that the river provides has allowed the tree to grow fast and strong, it is taking in both of these nourishments as it sheds a few blossoms into the river below. 

 

To the river, the unfolding encompasses all of these becomings and more.  If we follow the paths along which things, “flow, mix, and mutate”[xiv] we will not be telling separate stories of unfoldings.  For the river, what is emerging is a story that is told through its involvement with its total surroundings, “and from the manifold ways in which it is engaged in the currents of the lifeworld.”[xv]

The River as Polluted

To progress or to preserve?  The Hudson is a river has something to say about our contradictory desires.  What is a pure thing?  And what contaminates a thing?  When change happens and it is deemed detrimental or disadvantageous to a thing, if it breaks a thing, exposes its ‘black-box’ and pollutes it, the thing becomes something else.  When the Hudson River was polluted by industrious people and things, it went from being a river of revelry to a river of refuse.  At the turn of the century the river’s contamination became an unavoidable topic.  A Pollution Commission was set up to investigate the extent and causes of the problems.  It was found that every quart of harbor waste contained at least an ounce of human waste, that balls of grease clogged the few sewers that existed, the gaseous bubbles were arising from subterranean muddy deposits, petroleum slicks coated parts of the harbor, and industrial wastes of many types were being deposited ranging from sulfuric acid to caustic sodas.[xvi]  In the 1970’s 175 million gallons of raw sewage was let out into the Hudson every day.  On a map created by the New York Geographical Society, the river was marked by a blackened out line because it was deemed a river for industrial use.

 

The Hudson River is the largest federal Superfund site in the US, covering a 200 mile stretch. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) dumped by General Electric continue to contaminate both the Upper and Lower Hudson River. GE’s dumping, most of which was done without permits, occurred from 1946 until 1977, when PCBs were banned. PCBs cause cancer in animals and are a probable human carcinogen. PCBs cause neurological, reproductive, and endocrine problems, as well as birth defects in both humans and wildlife.[xvii]

 

The birth of the modern environmental movement was born on the banks of this river.  In 1962, a battle to save the eroded root of an ancient mountain chain, a picturesque mountain named Storm King became the site for upon which people started to join together and to speak out for things – for mountains, for the environment, for the rights of non-human elements.  Campaigns were waged to save things from ourselves: mountains were lobbied for, fish were petition for, chemicals were sanctioned against, trees were made to be inalienable, animal species were monitored, earth and landmarks were sanctified. 

 

The River as Network 

The river is something that flows; it is not static, it is not stagnant.  It may have seasonal and diurnal cycles, but its actions are not altogether predictable.  The river combines many forces – natural, physical, social, temporal, spatial.  It provides a medium for creativity to flow, connecting ideas, resources, and people.[xviii]  These connections form networks that reach deep within and stretch far beyond the formal confines of the river.

 

A tree is felled by a man in the Catskills in 1889 that joins an assembly of thousands of other fallen soft-wood tree that float down the Hudson for over 100 miles, propelled on their way by scores of dams upstream that are released at precise times.  This tree is just one of over 1 billion board feet that floated down the river to Glenn Falls during the height of the Wood Rush.  This tree maybe pulped into paper, burnt into charcoal, nailed into railroad tracks, food for new steam engines, or fed into fiery factory furnaces. 

 

A side of a mountain is cleared of its surface by a fire sparked by a passing locomotive.  The next spring the earth cannot hold the waters from the mountain snow melt and a deluge is sent down the river which floods towns like Troy and Athens.  Businesses are lost, workers are out of jobs, and children get days off to rejoice and play. 

 

An electric company empties its waste into the nearby river.  The toxins mix with other natural and unnatural substances and form a new brew that diseases the fish.  The fish are caught and consumed by river dwelling people who get ill.  People activate and demand an investigation.  Research is performed on the water and wildlife, and science and capital are activated in order to appease the people and save the business. 

 

An engineer is commissioned to connect two states divided by the river.  The engineer employs knowledge, labor, nature, commerce, and politics to transform his idea into steel, suspension, and locomotion.  For many moons men live and die to create this thing and when it is finished, serves as an artery and a synapse.  Communities are created and destroyed, the world is one measure more connected.

 

 

The River as Nature

 

The Hudson is technically a river valley into which the ocean water has been admitted by subsidence of the land, transforming a large part of the valley into an inlet. The Hudson’s tidewater extends almost half the river’s 315-mile length (from Troy to its mouth), and twice a day the waters run downstream, and then at slack tide the tidal portion stills and with the flood tide the water reverses and flows north upstream.  It is this action that gave this river its original name and its otherworldly characteristic of defying nature’s advice. The nutrients are held in place by the ebb and flow of the tides, instead of being washed out to sea, the richness of the Hudson waters are retained in an even push and pull that require life and death, give and take.

 

The Hudson crosses in a north-south direction near the eastern boundary of New York State.  Arising from the most remote parts of the Adirondack Mountains, 4000 feet above sea level, the head of the river is considered to be Lake Tear-of-the-Clouds, which pools near Mount Marcy.  This lake is younger than the glaciers but older than man.[xix]  This section of the Hudson has many falls and rapids and several large tributaries join this part of the river, including Fish Creek and the Mohawk.  The river’s tortuous course is further propelled by mythical sounding sources like the Opalescent River, Calamity River, and the Falls of the Hanging Spear, as it sweeps around obstacles like Balm of Gilead, Bad Luck Mountain, and Ruby Mountain, and makes its way towards Glenn Falls.

 

The lowland region of the river is embedded with ancient Paleozoic rocks.  The scenery in this part of the river consists of gently sloping hills of colorful of woodland and patch worked farmland, along with the occasional village.  Thirty miles from Troy the Catskill Mountains loom in the west.  Along the banks of the river are great beds of clay.  The river then widens as it approaches Albany sweeping past now post-industrial landscapes.

 

The river enters the northern portals of the Highlands and for16 miles the river is bordered by steeply rising hills, offering striking views of grand variety.  It is here that the river crosses a belt of ancient crystalline rocks of moderately high relief, comparable in geological structure to the Adirondack region.  The lowest section of the tidal part of the Hudson extends from the lower end of the Highlands to New York Bay.  This is a region of ancient and metamorphic Paleozoic rocks on the eastern side, and mainly Triassic rocks on the west.  Because they are less resistant to denudation, these rocks have permitted a broadening of the valley which reaches a width of four miles wide close to the Tappanzee.

 

Through the Gateway Peaks of Storm King and Breakneck, just below Piermont, the range named the Palisades rises picturesquely from the water’s edge to a height of between 300 and 500 feet.  They are formed of trap, a form of lava rock that was intruded as a sheet into the Triassic sandstones, developing prismatic jointing upon settling.

 

At its mouth the Hudson broadens and branches, giving way to islands and a broad harbor. The Hudson empties into the Atlantic and its true end reaches over 100 miles into the sea, as the river bottom dives down and the seawater rolls in on top of the river waters.  A submerged valley, traceable over the continental shelf, is thought to map out an earlier course of the Hudson when land stood over 2000 feet higher than today, and when the inner gorge above New York was being excavated.[xx]

 

 

The River as River

IMG_3550


[i] Dunwell, Frances F.  The Hudson: America’s River.  (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), 320

 

 

 

[ii] Bennett, Jane. 2004. The force of things: steps toward an ecology of matter. Political Theory 32(3): 354

[iii] Delueze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. 1988. Introduction: Rhizome. In A Thousand Plateaus, pp. 23. Athlone Press

[iv] Delueze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. 1988. Introduction: Rhizome. In A Thousand Plateaus, pp. 13. Athlone Press

[v] Delueze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. 1988. Introduction: Rhizome. In A Thousand Plateaus, pp. 23. Athlone Press

[vi] Delueze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. 1988. Introduction: Rhizome. In A Thousand Plateaus, pp. 7, 10. Athlone Press

[vii] Delueze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. 1988. Introduction: Rhizome. In A Thousand Plateaus, pp. 23. Athlone Press

[viii] Bennett, Jane. 2004. The force of things: steps toward an ecology of matter. Political Theory 32(3): 446.

[ix] Bennett, Jane. 2004. The force of things: steps toward an ecology of matter. Political Theory 32(3): 353

[x] Bennett, Jane. 2004. The force of things: steps toward an ecology of matter. Political Theory 32(3): 353

[xi] Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations. (New York: Schocken Books, 1968), 257-8

[xii] Ingold, Tim. 2000a. On weaving a basket. In The Perception of the Environment: Essays in Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill, pp. 348. Routledge, London.

[xiii] Ingold, Tim. 2000a. On weaving a basket. In The Perception of the Environment: Essays in Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill, pp. 348. Routledge, London.

[xiv] Ingold, Tim. 2007. Writing texts, reading materials. A response to my critics. Archaeological Dialogues 14:35

[xv] Ingold, Tim. 2007. Materials against materiality. Archaeological Dialogues, 14:14-15.

[xvi] Dunwell, Frances F.  The Hudson: America’s River.  (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), 242

[xvii] www.clearwater.org/news/dredge.htm

[xviii] Dunwell, Frances F.  The Hudson: America’s River.  (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), 305

[xix] Carmer, Carl.  The Hudson. (New York: Rinehart and Company, 1939), 3

[xx] http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Hudson_River

Object Study: Refuse Sculptures

May 18, 2009

guy

By: Alina Enggist

I envision this piece to be an exercise of the dialogical imagination where objects are themselves real dialogues – active forms of communication between living entities.  I intend to take this serious idea of Bahktin’s in a whimsical direction and conduct a study of a community of things that I have come to call Refuse Sculptures.  As a succession of nomadic, shape-shifting, anonymous works of art, these Refuse Sculptures prompted me to capture their images, take this class, and re-think things.  I intend to create an inter-subjective and polyphonic back-and-forth that I hope will allow you to find meaning in the in-between and to hopefully also locate a space into which you can insert your own meaning. 

 

The portions in italics are to distinguish one side of the dialectic, the one where I believe the things were speaking through me.  I was often in contact or in close proximity to the things themselves as I wrote these sections, even to the point where I recorded portions on-site.  Following Jane Bennett who was inspired by Thoreau, I hope to augment my receptivity to thing-power through writing about it, “by giving an account of the thingness of things that might enable me to feel it more intensely.”[i]  The portions in non-italics are the sections in response to my experiential meditations, an attempt to induce a conversation with some of the thing-theoreticians that also have something to say.  I reference thinkers whose ideas regarding ‘things’ I felt resonated with this community of things that captured my imagination as I made my way to the university each day.

 

For the presentation portion of this piece I will pair italicized text with color images, and non-italicized text with black and white images.  My hope is that ideas and images will be coupled in a way that is loose enough for the viewer to be able to participate in the drawing of references, connections, dissonances, conclusions, and expansions.  There is space built into the structure, which can function like silences do in musical composition.  These are all techniques that I am experimenting with in order to draw out the dialogical imagination.

 angel

Vision

The structure is tall, it is short.  It leans tenuously, it is rooted firmly.  It is made up of ugly unsavories, it is a construction of beauty and balance.  It finds the north star, it is swallowed by the coming tide.  It is smooth and weathered, it is rough and ravaged.  It swings freely with the southerly wind, it stands stout with boorish authority.

 

The water’s edge is where the community gathers, like the far-off image of the animals of the Southern African landscape, navigating hundreds of kilometers in pursuit of the water’s lip.  These objects have found themselves here presently, the migration a combination of many, many trajectories some spanning long and meditative water-borne miles, some originating in foreign lands or subterranean worlds, and others just a short flight from suspension to the earth. 

 

When approaching these objects it is not clear whether they are facing us or have their backs to us.  Are they more intent on watching us go by and by, or are they staring out into the water, transfixed by the shifting surface and the steady rhythms?  As sculptural forms, they do not have a face, they are multi-faceted and have eyes on all sides.  Set against the backdrop of the water, they appear more fixed than they actually are.  The water, sky, ships, distant buildings, flying creatures and machines make up an ever-changing canvas that methodically brightens and darkens like a very slowly blinking eye.

 DSC06459

Relations

Following Bill Brown, I would like to explore these Refuse Sculptures relationally and look at all the things that set this relationship on the ground and against the skyline.  These sculptures stand and fall, they are made of material and immaterial substances, they assemble and dissemble, they exist and then they do not.  When I happened upon these sculptures, I became a part of their relational hold.  And now I would like to imagine what that world may entail.  Enchanted and entangled as I may be, I will try not to stray from the things themselves.  However, my vehicle will be my imagination which, like the things themselves, is a shape-shifting, webby, and capricious force. 

 

When in the presence of these sculptures, many intensities advance: the city meeting nature, the solid ground giving way to water, the western shore facing the eastern, the verticality of the sculptures against the horizontality of the landscape, the lifeless materials laying about just beside a living work of art made of the same materials.  These sculptures incite an awareness of gravity’s participation, the relationship of the elements to materialities, and the overlap of the invented with the extant.

 DSC06328

Space

What is invoked in this space where structures are built not to last or to endow or to valorize?  When in fact they are constructed knowing that they are going to soon retreat back to the state that they were created (wood and debris caught between the rocks) and are built by people who will not be recognized for their effort.  A shape-shifting, but bounded and real space has been created by these people and their sculptures. 

 

And the space that is created and all that it encompasses is a fringe space.  The fringe is the most alive territory of the ecological, political, social, and psychological realms. Who or what do we find at the fringe?  The mad, the sorcerers, the artists, endangered animal species, the discarded, the anachronistic, the ethnographers.  The fringe is usually a wild territory, a frontier.  Far from the locusts of power, this area is a space of flux.  The vacillation between proliferation and retraction can be disorienting.  The violence can be on a massive scale.  The creation that follows the destruction can be astonishing. 

 

These sculptures are fringe elements in multiple senses.  Constructed by unconventional creators (anonymous and transient), out of unconventional materials (washed up refuse and natural materials), they are also physically located on the fringe.  They have no monetary valued assigned or designed.  They seem not to be created for any particular audience.  And they have no signature attached.  One must walk as far west as one can before hitting water.  And the stretch of rocky shore that they are located on is one of the longest stretches of coast without access from the Manhattan streets.  Bounded by 96th street on the south and 131st street to the north, a parkway to the east and the Hudson River to the west; this patch of Riverside Park can get as narrow as 15 feet.  Unless one pulls their car off the highway in a perilous manner, the only way to access this stretch is at one of the entrance points 35 blocks from each other.

 DSC06520

Creation

Ingold writes about an environment that continually unfolds, and the materials that make up the world occur as opposed to exist.   Forms come “into being through the gradual unfolding of that field of forces set up through the active and sensuous engagement of practitioner and material.”[ii]  The materials engaged are processual and relational.  When describing the properties of materials, we must tell their stories, and locates the currents within these material narratives where they flow, mix, and mutate.  (Ingold, 14)

 

Flow, mix, and mutation… the currents of the Hudson bring the refuse to these shores.  The current of life in 2009 bring the refuse to these shores.  The sun, or the drone of the city, or an event, or a whim, bring the sculptor to these shores.  In the case of these driftwood and refuse sculptures, the artists are the invisible builders, balancers, fasteners, and schemers who travel to the banks of the Hudson and create a structure.  Or perhaps they are already at the river’s edge and they are inspired by other sculptures and feeling urged on to create one of their own.  A marked and undisputed act of individuality and communion is performed.  It is sensuous and vigorous engagement of hand, eye, light, current, temporality, form, and material.   Purpose, rigidity, amalgamation, and adherence are implicated.  Every parts story is equally important.  The miner of the tin, the waters that carried it there, the rock that dammed it into place, the person who balanced it on the end of a curved stick, the passerby whose eye lingers, the gull who rests upon it, the foot that kicks it over.  What can be perceived is a story of things coming together and things coming apart, so it is a story like so many others.

 

Ingold writes that, “things are not active because they are imbued with agency but because of the ways they are caught up in the currents of the life world.”[iii]  And so we are caught up in the currents of the world, being animated and dissembled and persuaded and persecuted. 

 

So I walk along the river, past these sculptures I can imagine the relations holding each other, my eye with the silhouette and the light; the driftwood with gravity and the rocky crevice; the passing ship with the suspended fishing wire against the uprighted root. 

 

“Things are in life rather than that life is in things.”[iv]

 

So things are in life, and I keep walking and nothing will be as it was, the light shifts its angle, the boat keeps moving towards the open sea, my eye wanders on.  Watching the Husdon’s current flow, it becomes clear what is meant by Ingold when he speaks of a current of materials that humans swim in, and how we are but one of the materials.  It is from within this current that life is manifest.  The materials are of an iridescent quality, we/they are transparent yet reflective.  They can be isolated as points in time, but never extracted from the flow.  Past, present, and future states are overlaid in holographic displays of interconnectedness. 

 DSC06529

Performance

Alfred Gell forwarded the notion that art is not about observing, it is about doing.  Who or what is doing these Refuse Sculptures? 

 

They are of and in nature.  They are also by and through people.  They are in and out of time.  In one structure there is old wood weathered so much that it is less dense than the water that carried it to this piece of shore, there are twigs that came free from the live tree above, there are plastic bottles drained of their sugary innards, plywood pock-marked with gnarled nails, and nautical rope unraveled from its long-entwined fate. 

 

The materials have partially been assembled, and partially assembled themselves into a structure which hovers on the water’s edge like that most famous American architect situated the thing that brought him so much prestige.  A house of dreams, a house of fortune, a house of intrigue, a house of refuse.  The visionary house that is brought to the water, built for the water, and now accommodates not dwellers but transients- and the small house of congregated refuse, that will imminently fall away into the water – these two houses (one macro one micro) standing for the time being, whose being-in-the-world differs wildly, but whose participation with the world is less dissimilar.  It is possible to contemplate nature in a remarkably similar way when confronted with these two structures.  And I imagine the makers of these two structures may have had similar impetuses and impulses when embarking on their creations and working with their materials.  The materials themselves do not vary, wood, metal and plastic.  Both structures eventually will be reclaimed by their surrounding environments in time, pulled down by gravity, reintegrated into the current.

 

Spinoza said, “It is never we who affirm or deny something of a thing; it is the thing itself that affirms or denies something of itself in us.”

 fishing rod

Extension

In a Gellian and Spinozan paradigm, the Refuse Sculptures are extensions of intensities that stem from both subjects and objects.  With the way that these sculptures affect me, I understand Gell’s idea that certain objects, through creative or representative involvements, acquire the capacity to become indexes of individuals and can thus extend and project ‘self’ beyond the corporeal.  I would then expand this line of thought to the material, for these sculptures also affect a further realization, that they acquire the capacity to become indexes of materiality, and can thus extend and project ‘object-power’ or objecthood beyond the material.  So in this extended expanse of inter-relations I imagine distributed personhood and distributed objecthood enmeshed.  And at the liminal boundaries of this expanse is where the formations occur, and these formations in this instance are the Refuse Sculptures that bring the projectiles of person- and object-hood into contact with each other.  At the boundaries, the friction of contact and movement, are generative. 

 

In a Latourian sense, this liminal area can be considered quasi-object and a place from which other hybrid objects can be generated and assembled.  In this sense, I can imagine the community of Refuse Sculptures coming into being by their very make-up.  Again bringing together an imagined mis-en-scéne of the edges or beginnings of all things, the universe, I see the unstable fringe as the moment when the material, immaterial, and imminent are forced into contact and create a quasi-object, quasi-event that then makes some other association, connection, or disintegration.  Hybrids, as it were, are not planned or preordained, they are forcefully thrown together and what sticks sticks, and what does not fall away. 

 

  1. And this man here, he is either fighting a futile battle, or dismantling one of the few enchantments that this city hasn’t already extinguished.

 

Christopher Tilley once wrote, “through the making, using, exchanging, consuming, interacting, and living with things people make themselves in the process.”[v]  Things are extensions of us and we are extensions of things.  Value is to be found in the in-between, the dialogical relations, and the rainbow-spectrum of connections.

 

Commune

The sculptures form a community, they are communal.  I have covered the entire 250 block long Manhattan coast along the Hudson and this parcel of land is the only with such sculptures inhabiting the landscape.  In this space there are some spots that almost always contain a sculpture, there are others that are almost always barren.  On certain days there are clusters of sculptures, seemingly one on top of each other.  During certain times of the year, there are less than four standing, in varying states of decrepitude.  On other days, there can be several dozen.  Going from one structure to the next has a lyrical affect.  Taken in a collective way, there can be a harmonic or dissonant result, all sorts of trajectories can be gleaned, and never to be experienced in the same way again.  Together they stand, separate they fall, in varying speeds, attuning the collective to a new modality.

 

Jane Bennett’s work centered around the agency of assemblages.  The concept of assemblage is borrowed from Deleuze, and she appropriates the following principles to inform her discussion: an ad hoc collectivity that is historically situated, alive, decentralized, and constituted of the human and non-human, the material and immaterial.  She uses the assemblage to illustrate, “the distributive and composite nature of agency” across “an ontologically diverse range of actors-or actants.”[vi]  The human and non-human actants interact each possessing agency, and she furthers that the assemblages that they construct and that construct them also possess agential propensity. 

 

These assemblages are: simple, matrixed, tied together, balanced, captivating, irregular, feeble, weathered, deconstructed, grandiose, reminiscent, hardly noticeable, scorched, rotted, figural, lyrical, scientific, mimetic, grotesque, beautiful.  In terms of material, they are primarily made up of driftwood, but also include: other types of wood, roots, scraps of cloth, a tennis shoe, athletic balls, plastic bottles, string, plant fiber, rubber, sticks, leaves, stones, aluminum, and unidentifiable bits of debris.  In terms of the immaterial, they are made up of: dreams, skill, patience, frustration, silence, communion, enchantment, creativity, impulse.  The elements intervene: the sun, wind, water, humidity, snow.  Nature plays: the tides, the seasons, the weather patterns, centripetal and centrifugal forces.  Humans participate: they create, destroy, overlook, contemplate, revisit, collaborate.

 A6586
Power

Jane Bennett put forward the concept of ‘thing-power’ that I find potent.  She paints a mise-en-scéne where relationships and intensities exhibit their power on a stage that is shared with us.  On this stage, objects become things that resist being reduced to the contexts which we situate for them.  Things that are considered inanimate like a sculpture or a piling of garbage animate, perform, and produce effects that resonate across recalcitrant dualisms.  “Thing-power entails the ability to shift or vibrate between states of being, to go from trash/inanimate/resting to treasure/animate/alert.”[vii]

 

The Refuse Sculptures possess thing-power, I have experienced it.  Thing-power can have a radical potential.  The eyes take in form, light, contrast, depth, balance, scale, and material.  Once it enters our system, the effects are manifold.  Things possesses a universe of potentialities, and thing-power is constituted of different gradients of presence and agency.  The assemblage, which was itself a creation, gains the ability to create.  A proliferation of the creative principle is at its apex revolutionary.  Mini-revolutions that move an individual to tears or to ecstasy or macro-revolutions can construct philosophies or tear down regimes.  Thing-power has the ability to give substance to fermenting potentialities.   But be sure not to overlook the fact that even at the zenith of its power, things are always is dependent on what they is made of: the viewer, the historical moment, the engulfing milieu, the substances that instantiates it, the medium that supports it. 

 

And as Bennett examined her particular assemblage of a glove, rat, bottle cap, and wood, she was struck by their singular materiality, “brought to light by the contingency of their co-presence, by the specific assemblage they formed.”[viii]  She experienced the thing-power of this assemblage and was able to appreciate what Merleau-Ponty meant when he observed how, “our gaze, prompted by the experience of our own body, will discover in all other ‘objects’ the miracle of expression.”[ix]

 

These structures and the space they encompass have presence.  In order to grasp this presence, one has to find an opening.  These structures are endowed with voice and verve, perhaps because there are no signs, no interpreters, and no mediators present.  The platform on which they perform is free of constructs and naturally ephemeral.  When walking past this stretch of sculptures, one begins to notice the way time works in different ways – sometimes destroying, other times enhancing.  The drifting material potentialities would accumulate indefinitely, but each structure was intrinsically time-bound.

 B6294

Expression

Progress through throwing out theories,

through wreckage and refuse the pile forms a structure,

a layered uneven sculpture,

slipping into place as different parts are applied and tried.

 

Each configuration distinct,

relying on the past and the disregarded for structure,

support,

form,

grace and distinction.

 

The sculpture is left for others to view,

ponder,

destroy. 

 

Sometimes it is a natural destruction,

sometimes man-made,

sometimes they last a long time and then are submerged,

as consciousness levels rise and fall,

as winds blow from west to east. 

 

Sometimes you can only see their outlines

set against a greater backdropping landscape,

nevertheless, they are made of us,

we can look or not look, 

we can add to the structure,

the authorship is communal if we make it so.

 

Sometimes we use material from one to add to another, 

the material will surely float down the river,

at some point,

and get picked up from amongst the rubble,

and weighted for its relevance,

and its utility,

its beauty,

its strength,

its hidden potential,

its well worn endurance.

 d6712

 

 

 


[i] Bennett, Jane. 2004. The force of things: steps toward an ecology of matter. Political Theory 32(3): 349.

[ii] Ingold, Tim. 2000a. On weaving a basket. In The Perception of the Environment: Essays in Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill, pp. 342. Routledge, London.

[iii] Ingold, Tim. 2007. Materials against materiality. Archaeological Dialogues 14:1.

[iv] Ingold, Tim. 2007. Materials against materiality. Archaeological Dialogues 14:12.

[v] Christopher Tilley, “Objectification,” in ed. Handbook of Material Culture (London: Sage Publications, 2006), 61.

[vi] Bennett, Jane. 2004. The force of things: steps toward an ecology of matter. Political Theory 32(3): 446.

[vii] Bennett, Jane. 2004. The force of things: steps toward an ecology of matter. Political Theory 32(3): 354.

[viii] Bennett, Jane. 2004. The force of things: steps toward an ecology of matter. Political Theory 32(3): 350.

[ix] Bennett, Jane. 2004. The force of things: steps toward an ecology of matter. Political Theory 32(3): 350.

The Hudson River / great waters which are constantly in motion, either flowing or ebbing

May 7, 2009

“As the evening approached, the channel grew more narrow; the banks more and more precipitous; and these later were clothed in richer, more profuse, and more somber foliage.  The water increased in transparency.  The stream took a thousand turns, so that at no moment could its gleaming surface be seen for a greater distance than a furlong.  At every instant the vessel seemed imprisoned with an enchanted surface, having insuperable and impenetrable walls of foliage, a roof of ultra-marine satin, and no floor…The channel now became a gorge…the crystal water welled up against clean granite, or the unblemished moss, with a sharpness of outline that delighted while it bewildered the eye.”

                                  – Edgar Allan Poe, Domain of Arnheim

 


How do you describe a river to someone who has never known one?

The Hudson River, a thing of beauty, of nature, of history; a river with as many narratives as bends in its journey from dewy moss droplets to titanic sea. It is a river steeped in meaning – it is a bountiful river, a strategic river, a sacred river, a perilous river, a chameleon river, a river of controversy, a river of commerce, a river of reprieve, a river of conscience, a river that mirrors, a river that brings together and tears apart. It is a river that is constantly doing. The Hudson is a river of change and relations – since its birth as a ‘drowned river’ it has sculpted the landscape around it and been sculpted by it. The billion-year-old Storm King Mountain that buttresses the river’s side has yielded to its power, and plant and animal life have emerged and disintegrated along its shores and in its waters. People have been drawn to its resources and battles have been raged over it. It has helped build a nation, and it has assisted in the devastation of its own inhabitants. It has cultivated the arts, it has spurned growth, it has been a harbinger of decline. The Hudson River is a thing that is more than beauty, more than nature, and more than history. Its agency spills out over its edges and its thing-power resides in its many variations over space, time, and imaginations. By looking at, listening to, reminiscing about, imagining towards, speaking out about, asking questions of, intermingling with, and writing about the river, I think we can learn something simplistically important about the way things go. Perhaps we can also experience how creativity flows, the interconnectedness of things, and the way we are bound up in things and things are bound up in us.

solitude

hudson-iron-works1

Breaking the spell of things

April 28, 2009

After Walter Benjamin died, his friend Theodor Adorno wrote that we must keep alive Benjamin’s intellectual and spiritual pursuit to, “metamorphose into a thing in order to break the catastrophic spell of things.” This quote (and this challenge) has captured my imagination since the first time I encountered it. It was with me on my first day of this class and it found me again as we approach the last. I turn this line over and over in my head, as if I were trying to polish a rough stone…what does this mean and what does this imply…that we must become a thing in order to break the spell of things. That we are the ones who are encouraged to change and to engage in this act of becoming…that the spell of things is deemed catastrophic…that the spell itself is something that should be broken…these are all ideas that I can now challenge. But I also see the statement as a whole from a nuanced perspective: that by becoming a thing we break through the divide that separates us from things, and we are able to enter into the interstices of all the dialectics and binaries that have calcified over time. The spell is the illusion that stops us from fully engaging with the world, with each other, and with ourselves.

Heidegger and the Poetic

April 21, 2009

A Sort of a Song
 

 

 

 

Let the snake wait under
his weed
and the writing
be of words, slow and quick, sharp
to strike, quiet to wait,
sleepless.
— through metaphor to reconcile
the people and the stones.
Compose. (No ideas
but in things) Invent!
Saxifrage is my flower that splits
the rocks.

William Carlos Williams

 

 

 

So I chose to post a poem by WCW for a couple reasons.  First, I have not totally been able to digest The Thing and so have had to resort to some other form of participation.  Second, while reading The Thing, I could not help but be reminded of poetry, and in particular WCW’s poetics.  Also, giving myself some time to peruse WCW’s vast repertoire I came upon a poem that I think it appropriate or at least poignant…one that indeed deals with ‘things.’  And finally after doing a bit of research was not surprised to find that Heidegger did seem to have a more than passing interest in poetry (although I am not sure that he ever published any).  Heidegger (like Emerson) regarded poetry as the truest form of language.  “The nature of poetry is the founding of truth.”  The poet, he wrote, “uses the word—not, however, like ordinary speakers and writers who have to use them up, but rather in such a way that the word only now becomes and remains truly a word.”

 

So as a final thought on this, perhaps we can entertain the idea of poetry as ‘gathering’, over mere representation.  It ‘holds’ and is what displaces the void like the water that fills the jug displaces the empty space contained therein and gives the thing (the jug) its function.  Poetry allows us to approach ‘nearness’ – both in the writing of it and the receiving of it.

Questions posed by the discussants

April 14, 2009

latour-action-figure

 

1) Is there a balance to be struck between the study of ‘change’ (as Latour argues for) and the study of how society works?  Is there merit in studying continuity?  Successful leveling mechanisms?

2) What does Latour and ANT have to offer anthropologists in 2009?  Is ANT what social anthropologists (ethnographers and archaeologists) have always done?  Is ANT simply a critique of sociological theory that did not allow for agency (e.g. Marx) or multiple identities (e.g.  Bourdieu – Distinction, Goffman – The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life)? (see p.84).  What does Latour add in “Third Source of Uncertainty” that is of use to anthropology?

 

3) In a follow-up to Reassembling the Social, Latour wrote a defense paper which he concluded with the following paragraph:

“ANT is a powerful tool to destroy spheres and domains, to regain the sense of heterogeneity and to bring inter-objectivity back into the centre of attention (Latour, 1994). Yet, it is an extremely bad tool for differentiating associations. It gives a black and white picture not a colored and contrasted one. It is thus necessary, after having traced the actor-networks, to specify the types of trajectories that are obtained through highly different mediations.  This is a different task and the one that will make ANT scholars busy for a number of years to come.”

But is this (specifying the types of trajectories) possible if ANT does not attempt to explain why an actor-network exists?  And can color be added to this ‘black and white picture’ say from drawing on some of the theoretical/methodological/practical proposals of authors we have previously encountered in this course?

 

4) There have been various criticisms leveled against ANT. These include:

  • the absurdity of assigning agency to nonhuman actors
  • that ANT is amoral
  • that because it assumes all actors are equal within the network (no accommodations for power imbalances can be made)
  • that ANT leads to useless descriptions with no delimitations and no attempt at explanation

Which of these criticisms do we agree/disagree with?  What are the advantages that we can draw from ANT?

 

5. According to Latour there is certain “incommensurability”  that separates humans and objects (among others, they are quite obstinate and not very vocal), which accounts for their use to facilitate, maintain,  and  prolong the existence of “what is traditionally conceived” as social ties (p. 74). What other roles does this obstinacy play?

6. The problem about taking objects into consideration is that they quickly reside into the background. As a bypass, he proposes to pay attention to some peculiar situations where their visibility is augmented (innovations, distance, breakdowns, collections, and fictions, pp. 80-81). What examples of the use of these privileged instances have we seen
in other authors’ explorations of the non-human? Are these explorations limited to the role of ‘objects’ as mediators or intermediaries? What other situations, outlooks, and/or strategies have been suggested?

7. Concerning the relation between “interrupting the task of assembling the social” and “performing it” (p. 226):  In contrast with “the sociologies of the social”, can ANT’s methodology truly prevent it from intruding upon (and “performing”) the social? What are the fixed points, material conditions and/or presuppositions, on which ANT rests? Are these so non intrusive? Can the “two tasks of taking into account and putting into order” truly be kept separate (p. 257)?

 

 

Latour defends his ANThill

April 14, 2009

I found this paper that Latour wrote in response to some ‘confusions’ that met his ANT work.

If anyone is interested in his defense here are the links:

part one:

http://www.nettime.org/Lists-Archives/nettime-l-9801/msg00019.html

part two:

http://www.nettime.org/Lists-Archives/nettime-l-9801/msg00020.html

Key Concepts and Terms (ANT)

April 14, 2009

Hello Everyone,

We thought we would post some key terms and concepts (and where they are referenced in the text) to help orient your reading and reviewing of this book.  We expect that we all will be throwing these words and concepts around in our discussion tomorrow.  Look out for some questions that we will post later today. 

Cheers,

Alina, Hector, and Matt

 

Terms/Concepts:

ANT:

-‘Following the actors themselves’
-Tracing relations between shifting and unstable frames of reference and different speeds and acceleration

Mediator vs. Intermediary (pg. 37, 39, 233)

Circulation (pg. 36)

Figuration (pg. 57)

Social ties (pg. 66)

 

Social asymmetries (though perhaps this is better phrased as a
question?), also “the maintenance of asymmetries” (p.66-69)

“agency, action, actor” (p.71)

Actor vs. Actant (pg.71)

Incommensurability (pg. 74)

Occasions where the activity of objects become visible (pp. 80-81)

 

Description vs. Explanation (pg 85, 147)

Construction and Objectivity (pp. 89-90)

 

Translation vs. transportation (pg. 106-108)

Social vs. Association (p. 107)

“Pluriverse”, ontology, and reality (pp. 116-117, 119)

 

society vs. collective (p.75-78) vs. network (p.128-133)

Plug ins (pp. 204-205,  207)

 

Actor (p. 208),  action, and network (pp. 216-217) (and individuation)

this is formally out of range, but is important

Local vs. Global (pg. 219-220)

 

Form,  information and stabilization (“immutable mobiles”, p. 223) (performing
stabilization, p. 226) (“standards”, pp. 226, 229).

Types of Connectors (p. 239)

 

Plasma (pp. 243- 244)

 

“Common World” (pp. 254-255) and politics (pp. 161-163)

The Great Divides

April 7, 2009

kruger

Latour’s central argument in We Have Never Been Modern is just that.  All the while we have deceived ourselves into thinking that we are modern and have used this false consciousness to mould our philosophies, exploits, and historiography.  We have propagated a great divide between nature and culture that is actually an outgrowth from another chasm separating human from non-human.  Latour sees these divides as illusory and moreover misleading and mistaken.  He hopes that a repatriated anthropology that acknowledges the a-modern can rectify the a-symmetries that currently threaten to fold us into a dark, ignorant, and intellectually stagnant place.  He wants fling back the curtain and let the dazzling light expose things as they are: as not either non-modern or modern, wither natural or cultural, either subject or object, either essence or existent, either us or them…but as quasi-objects and quasi-subjects.  And an anthropology of the present will have to address these fraught categories and tear down the dichotomies that are holding us fast.  This is our chance to uncover the continuities in our humanity.  After being entrenched in dichotomies for so long, it is time to look towards the connections, collectivities, assemblages, and natures-cultures.

 

This idea of Latour’s of filling in these great divides reminded me of a particular work of Barbara Kruger’s We Won’t Play Nature to Your Culture.  (1983)  In this piece she creates an iconic message that refutes the concept of men as producer of culture and women as products of nature.  The piece orders us to shake ourselves from this dichotomous suggestion that the sexes and the cosmos can be split in such a superficial and limiting manner.  Kruger’s work employs a juxtaposition of imagery and text that helps the viewer to realize (textually and visually) the power schematics that are at play.

…then who does?

March 31, 2009

guns-shirt

As a fun illustration of how embedded and involved things are in spheres of ethics, relations, philosophies, mythologies, and spiritualities, I did some googling on the slogan that was used by several of this week’s authors:  Guns don’t kill people – people with guns kill people! (NRA)

 

Here is what came up:

 

Guns Don’t Kill People, Gun Control Kills People

Uganda terrorizes its own citizens under the auspices of UN gun control mandate.

***

Statistically, doctors are approximately 9,000 times more dangerous than gun owners.

Remember, “Guns don’t kill people, doctors do.”

FACT: NOT EVERYONE HAS A GUN, BUT ALMOST EVERYONE HAS AT LEAST ONE DOCTOR.

 

***

Snide Remarks #37

“Guns Don’t Kill People … Oh, Wait, Yes They Do”

by Eric D. Snider

***

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people, and monkeys do too (if they have a gun).”  Comedian Eddie Izzard

***

 

And now I am just going to start listing:

 

Guns don’t kill people……

 

Liberals do…

rappers do…

frying pans do…

bullets do…

Chuck Norris does…

technology does…

talk radio does…

governments do…

Alabamans and Germans do… 

guys with mustaches do…

I do…

 

Obviously there is much discussion on what things people think are harmful and that have the potential to take our agency away (and cause our death).  To think about how many more things there are that contribute to, complicate, incorporate, modify, infiltrate, and elaborate our lives, it becomes hard not to see Ihde and Latour’s perspectives in tandem:  that much is overlooked when we look at the both the personal relations and wider realm of unintentionality that we share with things.  And that the way our lives are lived and our ethics are never free from these impassive things.  We are extended as far and wide as the things themselves are.  And it is time that the range of possibilities is fully acknowledged.

 

 

Refuse Sculptures

March 26, 2009

guy

 

I envision this piece to be an exercise of the dialogical imagination.  I intend to take this serious idea of Bahktin’s in a whimsical direction and conduct a study of a community of things I have come to call Refuse Sculptures.  As a succession of nomadic, shape-shifting, anonymous works of art, these Refuse Sculptures prompted me to capture their images, take this class, and re-think things.  There will be an obvious back-and-forth that I hope will allow you to find meaning in the in-between and to hopefully also locate a space into which you can insert your own meaning. 

 

The portions in italics are to distinguish one side of the dialectic, I find it to be the one where I felt the things speaking through me.  I was often in contact or close proximity to the things themselves as I wrote these sections, even to the point where I recorded portions on-site.  Following Jane Bennett who was inspired by Thoreau, I hope to augment my receptivity to thing-power through writing about it, “by giving an account of the thingness of things that might enable me to feel it more intensely.”  (Bennett, 349) The portions in non-italics are the sections in response to my experiential meditations, an attempt to induce a conversation with some of the thing-theoreticians that also have something to say.  I reference thinkers whose ideas regarding ‘things’ I felt resonated with this community of things that captured my imagination as I made my way to the university each day. 

 

“It is never we who affirm or deny something of a thing; it is the thing itself that affirms or denies something of itself in us.” –Spinoza

 

The water’s edge is where the community gathers, like the far-off image the animals of the African landscape, navigating hundreds of kilometers in pursuit of the water’s lip.  These objects have found themselves there presently, the migration a combination of many, many trajectories some spanning long and meditative water-borne miles, some originating in foreign lands or subterranean worlds, and others just a short flight from suspension to the earth. 

 

When approaching these objects it is not clear whether they are facing us or have their backs to us.  Are they more intent on watching us go by and by, or are they staring out into the water, transfixed by the shifting surface and the steady rhythms?  As sculptural forms, they do not have a face, they are multi-faceted and have eyes on all sides.  Set against the backdrop of the water, they appear more fixed than they actually are.  The water, sky, ships, distant buildings, flying creatures and machines make up an ever-changing canvas that methodically brightens and darkens like a very slowly blinking eye.

 

The structure is tall, it is short.  It leans tenuously, it is rooted firmly.  It is made up of ugly unsavories, it is a construction of beauty and balance.  It finds the north star, it is swallowed by the coming tide.  It is smooth and weathered, it is rough and ravaged.  It swings freely with the southerly wind, it stands stout with boorish authority.

 

 img_03631

Rhizome, assemblage, and drought

March 10, 2009
The rhizome itself assumes very diverse forms, from ramified surface extension in all directions to concretion into bulbs and tubers. – Deleuze and Guattari

The rhizome itself assumes very diverse forms, from ramified surface extension in all directions to concretion into bulbs and tubers. – Deleuze and Guattari

Principles of rhizomes include: connectivity, heterogeneity, multiplicity, regeneration, antigenealogy, cartographical.  D&G propose that perhaps its most important characteristic is that is always has multiple entranceways. (D&G, 14)  Having no subject or object, the rhizome is composed of ‘directions in motion’ and grows from the middle, extended its lines of flight.  “The rhizome operates by variation, expansion, conquest, capture, and offshoots.”  (D&G, 23)  It is very much alive and for me a much more interesting and opportunity-laden imagistic and conceptual tool than what many of the other authors have offered.

 

I very much like this idea and can see how it can be a way to structure a way to ‘think through things’, but I cannot figure out what this idea has to say about the ‘dualism dilemma’ that has been shadowing us throughout our class discussions.  I was fascinated by what they had to say about it though and feel that their may be something here that can help us position ourselves with regards to this persistent matter:

     “We invoke one dualism only in order to challenge another.  We employ a dualism of models only in order to arrive at a process that challenges all models.  Each time, mental correctives are necessary to undo the dualisms we had no wish to construct but through which we pass.  Arrive at the magic formula we all seek – PLURALISM = MONISM-vial all the dualisms that are the enemy, and entirely necessary enemy, the furniture we are forever rearranging.”  (D&G, 22-23)

 

rauschenberg_monogram-1955-59

 

Bennett’s work centered around the agency of assemblages.  The concept of assemblage is borrowed from Deleuze, and she appropriates the following principles to inform her discussion:  an ad hoc collectivity that is historically situated, alive, decentralized, and constituted of the human and non-human, the material and immaterial.  She uses the assemblage to illustrate, “the distributive and composite nature of agency” across “an ontologically diverse range of actors-or actants.”  (Bennett, 446)  The human and non-human actants interact each possessing agency, and she furthers that the assemblages that they construct and that construct them possess agential propensity. 

 

However, I felt her piece that explored ‘thing-power’ a more original work.  Her section on trash captured my imagination, for it addressed this nagging question that often occurs as I walk through the city, travel to new places, encounter artwork, and meet new people: why do some things move us and what is the tension/energy/force that forms in the in-between?  She paints a misc-en-scene where relationships and intensities exhibit their power on a stage that is shared with us.  “Thing-power entails the ability to shift or vibrate between states of being, to go from trash/inanimate/resting to treasure/animate/alert.”  (Bennett, 354)  Her perspective resonated with the way I encounter an assemblage like Raushenberg’s Monogram where trash and treasure are interplayed along with the animate and the inanimate.  The power is relational.  And the power is in the in-between.

 

drought

 

And my final thought is related to a novel that I am reading with a few other members of the class, Ballard’s The Drought.  Being read for a class on the apocalypse, I read it more as a classic example of an object study, and one that narrates the breakdown of a rhizome.  The object of study ostensibly is the drought itself, but if read with this class’s readings on the mind, it becomes a study of the relations between things (human and non-human, spiritual and physical) when one vital element is removed, water.  The story shows the disintegration of the rhizome where the center stops growing, the connections grow brittle, the root-like tendrils start receding, the parts of the assemblage begin falling away, and the ad hoc nature of the original grouping becomes glaringly obvious.  The rhizome, once as Deleuze described it, “a living, throbbing grouping whose coherence coexist with energies and countercultures that exceed and confound it” is now being desiccated due to its own principles of distribution and connectivity.

“The thing shines, not the maker”

March 3, 2009

After reading Ingold (and even after digesting Miller and Tilley’s sound critiques) I have the impression that he presents us with a new sensibility from which to consider the materials around us and ourselves as a part of that material world.  His approach may strike some as incredibly naïve and prehistoric, but I found it not only compelling but bold and generative.  Maybe his perspective is seductive to me because I have always been intrigued by the simple and the tangible, by praxis and creativity.  But I find something about his position that feels grounded in a certainty that has been gained through direct engagement and insightful risk-taking.  He privileges concepts that are often overlooked by the academy, choosing to think in terms of the ‘flux of materials’, material histories, meshwork, and currents.

 

Using the sensibility that Ingold sets forth I am able to highlight two artists whom I think echo his privileging of materials over materiality, and his idea concerning the generation of form, in that it “comes into being through the gradual unfolding of that field of forces set up through the active and sensuous engagement of practitioner and material.” (On Weaving a Basket, 342)

 

The first artist is Martin Puryear, a contemporary sculptor that I encountered a few years ago at a MoMA retrospective.  Walking around amongst his finely formed creations, I was struck by his mastery of technique, his apparent respect of materials, and his harmonic embodiments (by which I mean I could not discern where material started and object ended).  As critic Neal Benezra noted, Puryear work recalls the words of Soetsu Yanagi, “the thing shines, not the maker.”

installationviewmartinpuryearmomasixthflooruntitled1997

installation view MoMA

 

Puryear himself has spoken about his work in ways that for me strikes a cord with Ingold’s viewpoints.

“I was never interested in making cool, distilled, pure objects.”

“A lot of my work comes from an interest in how things are made and how things are done. And the way materials are manipulated and used … and the whole history of that in mankind’s past … and the language that develops around the way materials are used that has a life of its own.”

“I’m interested in vernacular cultures, where people lived a little closer to the source of materials and the making of objects for use.”

puryear

SELF, 1978

“My vehicle typically is to make work that is about the presentation of the work itself and what went into the making of the work as an object. And there’s a story in the making of objects. There’s a narrative in the fabrication of things, which to me is fascinating. Not as fascinating perhaps as the final form or the final object itself, but I think by working incrementally there’s a built in story in the making of things which I think can be interesting.”

ladder-for-booker-t-washington

ladder-for-booker-t-washington

For more go to: Art21 interview: Abstraction & “Ladder for Booker T. Washington

http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/puryear/clip2.html

Interview on npr: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/lopate/episodes/2007/11/29/segments/89551

 

The other artist I would like to mention is Jimmie Durham.  Using many avenues (performance, sculpture, drawings, video, and writing) he resists addressing issue from afar of through circuitous methods but rather vigorously, in-dialogue.  

Lange Stone

Lange Stone

Here is an except from a recent Artforum article by Anne Ellegood:

“Durham works with many different materials, both natural and
artificial, but he is particularly drawn to those that have
historically been used to make tools-bone, wood, feathers, and,
increasingly, stone….
For Durham, stone is the ultimate sculptural form, not only because
one can carve into it to create a representation but also because
each stone is itself a slowly changing entropie sculpture, shaped
over time by the elements. Indeed, Durham is fascinated by the
personality of stones, by the ways in which a static object can
become incredibly active, a character in an unfolding story-quite
aside from how such anthropomorphism may call to mind totems or other
ritualistic objects…
Moreover, stone’s status as sculpture, and consequently its
prominent role in the history of art, is provocatively reversed
through Durham‘s use of stone as a tool for sculpting other
materials.”

still-life-with-stone-and-car

still-life-with-stone-and-car

And here is a bit of Jimmie’s own thoughts:

 

 

 

“Beginning in the mid-1960s, I worked with everything I found,
whether it was objects or material. In general, though, I find
man-made objects too talkative and boring, while I am a fanatical
lover of all that material is-plastic, bone, iron, wood. In the
United States, the poor stuff of our continent has been so degraded
and feared; I am not sure that anyone over in Europe, for example,
would have had the idea to carve giant heads of national leaders into
the side of a mountain.”

… I decided to work primarily with stone, as an antiarchitecture, antimonument tool.

 And yet many objects really are beautiful, aren’t they? Is there
anyone who does not love oak barrels, with their beautiful shape,
texture, and technology? I love metal oil barrels in the same way.
…For decades, I have used oil barrels, usually which
are bright the ones that proclaim “Total orange. For the show in
Paris, I am making a new piece titled after the petroleum-industry
classification “sweet light crude.” It is twenty-five oil barrels
stacked three barrels high, each one painted a different pastel color
and with a different word: true, pure, good, brave, and so on.

One of my first pieces after I moved to Europe in the ’90s was an
edition of twenty-five television sets for a gallery in Antwerp. I
threw a cobblestone at the screen of each one, breaking it. There
were two assistants who would take away the completed piece and bring
out the next television set, because we were also recording the action
on video. At first it was pleasant work, with a satisfying explosion
and ensuing sound of falling glass. But after breaking four or five
television sets I began to feel nervous. The remaining televisions
all waited in a small room, and my sympathy for them grew with each
throw. Before the end, I was feeling sad and guilty. A year later, I
chose a ’50s-style refrigerator to stone. I reasoned that an old
fridge, unlike a television or automobile, would be completely
neutral to me and to everyone else-that we would feel neither delight
nor remorse at my violence toward it. So every morning for a week or
so, I carted the fridge out to the courtyard and threw cobble-stones
at it for a couple hours. I wanted to change its shape. Yet even on
the very first morning I saw that my action would be uncomfortable
for me. The innocent fridge was so quiet, so pure white; in the end I
gave it the title St. Frigo.

st. theresea

st. frigo

 

… Throwing stones at man-made objects,
or dropping boulders on them, is not like May ’68; it’s not even an
echo. For me, it is more like a mimetic reenactment of nature.

The Dangers of Petrification is another new piece-or maybe it’s an
ongoing piece-which pretends to be a scientific collection of objects
that have been petrified. I am a little hesitant about it, because
most people nowadays have little knowledge about the real world.”

 

clo-thing exhibit

February 26, 2009
Alice Gibb and Olga Sherer, Sennowe Park, Norfolk, England, Nove

photo-Tim Walker: Alice Gibb and Olga Sherer, Sennowe Park, Norfolk, England, Nove

We ended class discussing fashion and I have a feeling clothing-related issues will keep cropping up as the course continues.  Last week I went to the International Center for Photography (free with CU ID) and saw their three fashion related exhibits.  The main one displays fashion as it is disseminated to us as image-conscious consumers and as receptors of visual culture.  The one downstairs features fashion as it once was, through the lens of one of the first major fashion photographer’s E. Steichen.  And a side exhibit shows photographs that were not intended to be appropriated by the fashion world but which have been co-opted as icons of style.  This room probably being of most interest to the class, as these pictures ‘wants’ are much less straight-forward than the ones cut straight from the glossy magazine or the classically staged beauties of the early 20th Century.

photo-Edward Steichen: Marion Morehouse in a bouffant dress and actress Helen Lyons in a long sleeve dress by Kargère; masks by the illustrator W.T. Benda, 1926

photo-Edward Steichen: Marion Morehouse in a bouffant dress and actress Helen Lyons in a long sleeve dress by Kargère; masks by the illustrator W.T. Benda, 1926photo-Weegee: "Hopper's Topper," Hedda Hopper, Hollywood, ca. 1948

photo-Weegee: "Hopper's Topper," Hedda Hopper, Hollywood, ca. 1948

photo-Weegee: "Hopper's Topper," Hedda Hopper, Hollywood, ca. 1948

Do pictures want to be real?

February 24, 2009

 

In Hubble's classic Pillars of Creation photo, made in 1995, astronomers changed some of the red emissions they detected to green in order to highlight information that would otherwise have been lost amid other red emissions.

In Hubble's classic Pillars of Creation photo, made in 1995, astronomers changed some of the red emissions they detected to green in order to highlight information that would otherwise have been lost amid other red emissions.

After our discussion last week on what pictures want and then reading the blogs regarding ‘real’ vs. ‘unreal’ photographs, I began thinking about the images of that defy human visuality.  We often see photographs, and we cannot believe our eyes. What we are confronted with may challenge our perceived realities, captivate and transfix us, repulse us, confuse, or please us…but we can usually locate them within our ever-expanding rolodex that forms in our mind’s eye.  We have seen these types of images before with our own eyes, or permutations of those images, and we have the conceptual, linguistic, and visceral vocabularies to digest them with.  

But what about photographs of things that we can never actually see for ourselves (using our own perceptual faculties), or know in the sense of ever being sure.  Images of space have been very popular ever since we have created the kinds of technologies that allow us to capture these entities that lie far outside our reach.  These are images that are not visible except when delivered to us via a ‘thing’ that extends our sight far beyond our natural capabilities.   But something that I did not know was that most of the images of space we see are not real, in the sense that they are manipulated by scientists and artists.  The images of galaxies and formations in their raw form are colorless and often far less complex then what we are delivered.  What we consume are composite and rendered images that have been imbued with surreal features and agencies.  All Hubble images are created with black-and-white cameras and ones and zeros are sent to the earthbound. Color is photo-shopped in.

 “This is a representation of some kind to convey the information that Hubble has gathered,” Kenneth Brecher, a professor of astronomy at Boston University says. “It’s scientifically sound, but their presentation is subjective.”  This quote was taken from an article titled: Coloring the Universe: Why Reality is a Gray Area in Astronomy.  The professor’s words, ‘their presentation is subjective’ stuck with me along with the title’s notion of reality being a gray area.  As technologies are endowing the visual world with new capabilities, presentation and representation are being blurred, liberties and subjectivites are becoming inter-changable even in the scientific community, and reality is becoming a gray zone.  As we become more and more dependent on things to deliver us our realities, I was pursued by this question: Do pictures want to be real?  And if the answer is no, my imagination starts to take wing and I wonder about how the visual landscape will continue to shift towards thingness, how intelligibility will continue to rely on things, how experience will continue to be mediated through things, and how the way we think about things will likely be how things think us.  

And back to those pretty and ‘out of this world’ space images, maybe we imbue them with color and fanciful imagery because we want them to be more sensuous than they are in reality.  And maybe in this realm where neither objects nor humans can ‘know’, agency is neither here nor there for its in an gray area.

This Hubble image of four colliding galaxies, released in earlier this month, was created mostly with infrared light. Astronomers mixed some visible light taken with the telescope's optical imager, too. The visible light was recorded as yellow but made blue before being combined with this picture.

This Hubble image of four colliding galaxies, released in earlier this month, was created mostly with infrared light. Astronomers mixed some visible light taken with the telescope's optical imager, too. The visible light was recorded as yellow but made blue before being combined with this picture.

 

 

 

John Cage room at the Guggenheim

February 11, 2009

 

John Cage New River Watercolor Series IV, #4, 1988

The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860–1989  (January 30–April 19, 2009)

As a part of this exhibition, the curators have set up a room dedicated to John Cage’s work.  Sev had mentioned Cage’s silent piano piece 4:33 and Nam June Paik’s installation Cage within a Cage (or something close to that title) is being exhibited with Cage ‘performing’ this piece.  On three of the walls there is an installation of Cage’s works on paper that have been assembled using a technique that he composed where the pieces and postioned are determined by chance dynamics.  This all came to mind when we were talking last class about different ways of displaying art objects, and how certain ideas on fetish and categorization translate into the ways we see things displayed in art institutions.

For details on the exhibit:

http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/exhibitions/on-view-now/third-mind

Art and Agency -Gell

February 10, 2009

Several points that came to mind as I read Art and Agency:

 

  • According to Gell, the prevailing ‘aesthetic attitude’ is a Western generated and propagated historical outcome that bears no influence upon peoples who have not participated in the revelry.  He believes that the West has, “neutralized our idols by reclassifying them as art.” (Gell, 97)  He finds that the socio-cultural value that the West places on representational art can be explicated using the same theory he uses to explore idol worship in non-Western societies.  Here he equates the act of contemplating artworks museums as a form of idol-worship that he finds citations for in far-flung areas of the world, but I thought he was trying to get away from this trap of comparing ‘us’ to ‘them’, ‘high art’ and ‘primitive art.’  Further, this dichotomous trajectory is presented in an unbalanced and incomplete way as it avoids contemplating the ways in which people in different societies conceptualize what he considers ‘art’.  His account also totally obscures the role that aesthetic values play in the lives of art objects as social agents. 

 

  • Gell distinguishes between the two types of idols (aniconic and iconic) that perform by assuming either ambassadorial roles or gaining authority via resemblance.  The idol/art object becomes operational through a magic process that feeds off of intention and desire to act either via mimetic faculty or a contagion.  As an example, he cites volt sorcery where an image works to affect a being.  The object and the being are interconnected in an intimate way whereby manipulating the object will have an analogous effect upon the subject.  However, I have also witnessed this phenomenon in the opposite direction.  Every time I visit my father in New Mexico, he gives me holy dirt from the floor of an adobe monastery where Indians were have said to have been massacred.  This dirt is believed possess the most potent healing properties, one need only touch it to the afflicted area and it will be restored. 

 

  • Gell seems to draw a parallel between religion and art.  The object to him is more than itself and this in turn harkens religiosity.  I have read (and indeed myself experienced) that Rothko’s paintings are cited as an example of art that evokes intense emotive responses amongst its viewers.  But is that really a parallel to the religious experience?  Religion is a powerful answer, it is a promise, and an authority.  A work of art that makes you cry strikes me more as a question rather than an answer, a destabilizer, and a disempowering visual affront.  The shock and awe that certain works of art can cause can be related to the awesome quality that religious texts and rites can display.  Even the way in which art is displayed references the temple both in design and in way the observers gather and gaze.  Gell speaks of the capacity of art objects to captivate, that they ensnare us in a liminal state where indecipherability and wonder bind us. 

 

  • Art is being distributed in a similar way that Gell explains the distributed person as being.  I believe it to be distributed by things such as pop culture, events, celebrity, internet/technology…  Its likeness is reproduced and truth is not figured into the equation.  Just as the distributed person is exposed to sorcery because parts and images of you are scattered about, art is exposed in a parallel way.  “Vulnerability stems from the bare possibility of representation, which cannot be avoided.” (Gell, 103)  The questions begs, can we control our own representation?  Can art?  If it cannot be avoided, as Gell intuits, who or what has power over these representations?  Whether I like it or not, my image is used in a multiplicity of ways and the connotations and implications are far ranging (whether I know it or not).  Likewise an artistic act, like the theatrical re-enactment I mentioned last class of an attack on student protestors by the Thai military, can be used by the perpetrators (the military) against the victims (the students) to authorize further violence by construing images of the artistic attack and by channeling it through its state-controlled media outlets.  The victims did not realize that once an image is released, it is no longer exclusively in their control, and it can be used in unimaginable ways. (See Alan Klima’s, Funeral Casino for more details)

 

  • There is also a circuitous aspect to this sorcery, where the injured party gets injured because of what makes them who they are.  The victim is a necessary participant and becomes an objectified subject of attack.  So is the victim responsible for her own victimization?  Just because she buys into the belief system which is acting upon her?  I wonder if, for in the case of art, whether it can disentangle (and disenchant) itself with the forces responsible for its ‘distribution’ in order to protect its integrity.  And perhaps if art can truly transcend representation, its vulnerability will be hugely diminished.

 

  • When the agency of art changes, where does truth lie?  For Gell, agency is referred back to the subject.  He is redistributing power, pulling it from within and forcing it without.  What is the fall-out?  Does he consider where the subject starts and where the object ends?