Thursday, August 27, 2015

ALL THE WORLD’S FUTURES

THE 
the futures
the question
the unexpected 
the warning
the forests
the stories
the lives
the worthy
the desperation
the fearful
the beaten
the abused 
the forgotten
the lost
the decontextualization
the abstraction
the sublime
the silence 
the awakening 

the bridge 


Inspired by the 2015 Venice Biennale 







All photographs taken at the 2015 #VeniceBiennale


Friday, July 11, 2014

Verity and the Myths of Zeus

The beginnings of the contemporary understanding of myths are particularly associated with early nineteenth century discourses on secularism and colonialism. The battle of the sciences for authority over the church and similar powers in their ‘truth-claims’ about reality, led to continued debate on the rational and irrational in the aim towards verity. This was intricately linked with prevailing theories on race and empire, class, sexuality, the civilized world and the primitive, and in such light the term ‘myth’ and all of its associations were set as degrading - references to the fabulous, untrustworthy, deceptive, and non-rational. These discourses were directed in large at the belief systems of colonial imperialism, at “other” people; however through the lenses of universalist and transhistorical theories, they were also increasingly directed within - at the internalized and barbarian otherness inherent in modern ‘civilized’ man with all of its complex expressions. In this paper I will be referencing Craig Owens’s “The Allegorical Impulse: Toward a Theory of Postmodernism”, Sigmund Freud’s “A General Introduction of Psychoanalysis”, Slavoj Žižek’s “The Sublime Object of Ideology” and Jacques Lacan’s “The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis”, amongst various other peripheral resources. The dramatic and textual arts of myths provides a wealth of substantial material to these theories in their uncovering of universalist and transhistorical codes in expressions - particularly those of Classical Greece with which this paper will focus. The argument here however, is that relativism and universalism are malleable terms, and that the postulates of myth and those of philosophy are best seen as forms of local knowledge. To this end, in the following essay I will argue that historical metaphysical postulatesabout reality should not be interpreted by the standards of transhistorical philosophy. It is my hope that this will ultimately lead us to explore the broader question: to which (and whose) reality is it that myth speaks to? Past theories have cited that myths can be translated into allegorical impulses. An allegorical impulse is an examination of why humans are driven towards creating stories with hidden and symbolic meanings. “Every image of the past that is not recognized by the present as one of its own concerns threatens to disappear irretrievably”, Walter Benjamin (Owens, 67). This quote has interesting implications for the question –“to which (and whose) reality do myths speak to?” – as it is only through their validity to present concerns (their ability to speak to the present) that myths continue to be relevant.1 The question then unfolds into the following – how and why the interaction between myths and the theories and philosophies which have addressed them in the modern and contemporary world remain relevant. Like the term ‘allegorical impulse’ this essay will be dealing with several other keywords. These keywords are principles in the discourse of the topic in hand. It is imperative to examine these keywords here before addressing their additional readings as the essay bridges the gap between the dialogical players and the myths themselves. The first in these definitions is the word itself: myth – The word myth is derived from the Greek word muthos. It has a very different meaning in contemporary times than it did in Classical Greece. “For them muthos was a true story, a story that unveils the true origin of the world and human beings. “ (Partenie, Stanford Online) For Hegel, the myth was something to be un-shrouded by philosophy (Kojéve, 78). In these two notions we see an opposition. In philosophy, the “truth” became the story and muthos became the myth. Plato himself had a hand with this exchange, as he would often use traditional myths in addition to his own invented ones for academic purposes (Partenie, Stanford Online). Transhistorical - the second keyword - holds to the idea that a concept can transcend a particular period of time in history. Various aspects of the human condition can be given as an example of being transhistorical. Transhistorical can be something that is considered “timeless” in nature - applicable to all humanity in all times (Oxford Online). The third keyword is Universality or the universal; according to Kant a proposition that is thought of as universal is a priori; independent of experience. Universality in a way is in direct opposition to relativism - that certain truths exist, but only under certain circumstances and contextual means. Universality, in opposition, refers to a “truth” that exists within the whole of the universe (Johnson, Stanford Online). The last few keywords are all covered in depth in their application to the Greek myths of Zeus & Alcmene and Zeus & Semele. The two particular myths that I have chosen pertaining to Zeus encompass what could be interpreted in philosophical terms as symbology. Searching for hidden meanings in myths, symbology implies that they have an allegorical nature, allowing us to keep myths relevant, to rescue them from historical oblivion – it follows that with each breakthrough in theory, philosophy, psychology, and cognitive science, that we can continuously see them in a new and refreshed light (Owens, 68). Freud related symbolism to dreams. His psychoanalytic analysis of his patients consisted of the interpretation of dreams. He believed that the unconscious mind would create wish-fulfilling dreams, and hide these desires in symbology. Each symbol would only give specific meaning to the individual dreamer. This brings up the concept of subject and object. In this case, the subject is the dreamer and the object would be the dream. A term like psychoanalysis can be mercurial in nature as there is no fixed meaning. However, using the OED’s and Freud’s definitions as a reference point, one could say that psychoanalysis is a method of psychological therapies which attempt to treat mental conditions by exploring the interface between conscious and unconscious fundamentals of the mind. In using these observations a psychoanalyst may help the subject to bring their repressed fears into conscious being. In this way the story of Zeus and Alcmene would very likely be treated as a symbolic, psychoanalytical dream. So the question must be asked, “Who is the dreamer?” Alcmene was the daughter of King Tiryns, Electryon. She was considered the most beautiful and wise of all mortal women. Alcmene was exiled to the land of Thebes to marry Amphitryon. However she refused to sleep with Amphitryon, until he had sought revenge, on her behalf, for the wrongful death of her brothers. Zeus took advantage of Amphitryon’s absence in order to seduce the stunning Alcmene. When Amphitryon had gone, Zeus changed his form into Alcmene’s soon to be husband and returned home in his guise. He proclaimed that he had revenged her brothers and would now claim his reward. Alcmene willingly gave herself to him, believing in his facade. With this union a child was conceived and was later born as the hero Hercules. Amphitryon returned to Thebes, unhappy with the union of Zeus and Alcmene, but unable to do any thing, as he was only a mortal man (N.W.E.).
This painting by Giulio Romano painted in 1525, called “The Lovers”, illustrates a reinterpretation of Zeus and Alcmene. The Classical Greek Period was fixed between 500-335 BC and this painting was painted during the Renaissance. Allegory was considered highly popular during the Renaissance, making Greek Myths a clear favorite amongst many painters. However, that is all these paintings were, allegorical interpretations. “Allegory and symbol – like all conceptual pairs, the two are far from evenly matched. In modern aesthetics, allegory is regularly subordinated to the symbol, which represents the supposedly indissoluble unity of form and substance which characterizes the work of art as pure presence”(Owens, 81). Žižek would say, in the spirit of Lacan, that in the action of Zeus taking Alcmene there is a void. The action itself holds no meaning. However the pretext for setting the action in motion holds meaning to the subject: Alcmene. The pretext of the said action is the object of the subject. Amphitryons’ return to Thebes would symbolically take on the role of the Real. The paradox that this action would cause could be described as an ‘excrement’ of the Real. It is the symbology of what is Real, the truth, which holds these individuals together. “In other words, the imaginary balance changes into a symbolical network through the shock of the Real. The symbolic structure must include an element, which embodies its ‘stain’, its own point of impossibility around which it is articulated: in a way it is the structuring of its own impossibility” (Žižek, 207). “This suggestion would find an important point of rapprochement between the structuralist and psychoanalytic approaches to myth in Freud’s thought” (N.W.E.). Structuralism is a theoretical concept that argues that certain elements in human activity can only be understood by looking at the larger picture. What structuralism professes to do is examine the underlying things that people do and how they think, act, and feel (Audi, 181). The shock of the Real would have been a structuralist intervention into the actions of Zeus and Alcmene. The question must be asked, “Is Alcmene really the subject, the dreamer?” This transhistorical myth is an important truth to the Ancient Greek people; it is not just an allegory for the futurists. “ The basic gesture of ‘structuralism’ is to reduce the imaginary richness to a formal network of symbolic relations: what escapes the structuralist perspective is that this formal structure is itself tied by an umbilical cord to some radically contingent material element which, in its pure particularity, ‘is’ a structure, embodies it. Why? Because the big “Other”, the symbolic order, is always failed, crossed out, mutilated and the contingent material element embodies this internal blockage, limit, of the symbolic structure” (Žižek, 208).  “Symbolization of the Imaginary” (Žižek, 209) Alcmene is not the one dreaming the dream. She does not pose as the true subject; the dreamer would be the population of the Ancient Greeks, which would make them the subject. The dream itself is the object.
Image reference: Žižek, Slavoj. The Sublime Object of Ideology. “Lacan: Encore”. London and New York: Verso, 1989. P. 209  Its perhaps one thing to analyze a single patient on a single couch, but to sit an entire culture upon it is another entirely, especially when that culture is a historical one. The past can only speak in one direction. There is no mutual or level-footed conversation it can hold with us, and because of this, we can place any number of interpretations upon it. In a sense it becomes a kind of “Other”, one, which is much more related to the values, and postulates which are applied to it than those of the previous reality of itself. Transhistorical theories seem to overlook this, and because of that, they cannot meet the past on its own terms. This is certainly a productive line of enquiry, but its creating symbols and the hidden forces behind them for a historical culture, which would not have been recognized by them. It undermines their versions of reality, and through focusing on the ulterior motives of creation stories, loses sight of its own providence and the forces, which have influenced and brought it into being. It’s almost like looking at a phantom reality through the lens of a constructed reality. Although myth is intrinsically bound to the political, social, and moral concerns of its culture, it does not necessarily mean that these are reflected back into the myth in such a clean or simple way; neither is it correct to apply science as a truth over the actual beliefs of the culture. Because although the transhistorical approach is able to provide a convincing argument for the hidden meaning behind these symbols, it does so at the expense of not understanding or seeking to understand the context of the use of myths in everyday practice. The transhistorical approach, in a sense, forces the data to conform to its theory, while selectively overlooking competing or alternative versions.
The second myth is of Zeus and Semele. Semele was a mortal priestess of Zeus. One day Zeus saw her slaughter a bull as a sacrifice at his altar. Afterwards, Semele, went to wash in the river Asopus, in order to cleanse the blood from herself. As Zeus flew over in the form of an eagle, he fell desperately in love with Semele. Later, he came to visit her in secret and they consummated their feelings for each other, conceiving a child. Zeus’s wife Hera, became jealous after discovering the affair. Masked as an old crone, Hera befriended Semele and gained her confidence. Semele confided in Hera that Zeus was her lover. Hera proclaimed that she did not believe her and demanded proof. Semele began to question Zeus and demanded of him that he grant her a wish. Out of his absolute love for Semele, Zeus swore that he would give her anything that she so desired. She asked Zeus to reveal his true form to her. Zeus protested proclaiming that it, was dangerous, Semele persisted. Zeus, reluctant, but not wanting to go back on his word, did as she asked and revealed his true nature. Semele, being a mortal, was unable to handle Zeus in all of his glory, and burst into flames. Zeus rescued the unborn child from her belly and sewed it into his own leg. Later the child was birthed from Zeus’s calf, and named Dionysus (N.W.E.). There is a great tragic air to this story of life, love, jealousy, destruction, and rebirth. This painting of Semele by Gustave Moreau, titled “Jupiter and Semele” (Jupiter was the Roman version of Zeus), was painted between the years 1894-95. Moreau was a leader in the Symbolist movement of the 19th century, which channeled Renaissance art. The Symbolists were known for constructing their own meanings out of historical references and feeding their emotions and imaginations into them. As a work of art, this painting is stimulating and emotionally charged. However here once again we have a painting that is taking its values from the allegorical nature of artwork in the Renaissance time (Allan, 19th CAW). “This mystery is, in the final analysis, the mystery of the transference itself: to produce new meaning, it is necessary to presuppose its existence in the Other” (Žižek, 210) Like Mareus’s painting of Zeus and Semele, the use of the mirror as a means of interpreting alterity, Lacan’s “the gaze” achieves a similar solution. Jacques Lacan used Freudian theory to develop the concept of “the gaze”. As described by Lacan, “the gaze” is a state of consciousness created in the subject after awareness takes place. This is the association that develops between the eye and the gaze. A degree of autonomy is lost once the individual becomes visible. “In so far as I am under the gaze, Sartre writes, I no longer see the eye that looks at me and, if I see the eye, the gaze disappears.” (Lacan, 84) Lacan disagrees, saying no this is not the case, but rather that “when I am under the gaze, when I solicit a gaze, when I obtain it, I do not see it as a gaze...The gaze sees itself - to be precise, the gaze of which Sartre speaks, the gaze that surprises me and reduces me to shame, since this is the feeling he regards as the most dominant. The gaze I encounter – is, not a seen gaze, but a gaze imagined by me in the field of the ‘Other’ “ (Lacan, 84). “We can apprehend this privilege of the gaze in the function of desire, by pouring ourselves, as it were, along the veins through which the domain of vision has been integrated into the field of desire.” (Lacan, 85). The concept of desire is crucial to Lacan’s account of sexuality. Desire is defined as the “remainder” of the subject (Rose, 55). How does fantasy and desire relate to each other? According to Rose, “when the subject addresses its demands outside itself to another, this other becomes the fantasied place...of certainty. The “Other” appears to hold the “truth” of the subject and the power to make good its loss...” According to Lacan, we gain acknowledgment by the “Other”. We are made whole by the “Other’s” recognition of us. We can have a sense of ourselves, but it cannot be solidified until we are looked at from the outside, how we are seen from an outside view. This “Other” becomes a fantasy place - fulfillment through fantasy. We give the “Other” power to satisfy our own needs and demands (Rose, 56). The gaze becomes the filter. The eye has the function of seeing. In this particular instance, “the woman that is being looked at”, but knows she is being looked at - the woman (Semele) is the object and subject of desire; she is both. Semele saw herself, or the greatness that she desired in herself, in Zeus. She was a high priestess for his temple; this is a position of high esteem. She admired Zeus. In the root of admiration for another, one usually seeks the same in oneself. Semele sought out “the gaze” of Zeus, in order to solidify herself. Semele loved and worshiped Zeus, she wanted him to see her, thus justifying her existence. This path caused a domino effect. Zeus’s wife Hera took notice and became jealous, which led to Semele’s demise. This is just another example, of an interpretation of the allegorical version of a Greek Classic, using transhistorical philosophy as the key method. Žižek says, “The problem arises, of course, when there are a number of mutually exclusive readings claiming access to the true meaning: how do we choose between them, how do we judge their claims?” Žižek suggests that it is through the use of ‘Eternal reflection’ that a way can be found to transpose the ‘essence’ or truth of a text, “making of it a transcendent ‘Thing-in-itself’. All that is accessible to us, finite subjects, are distorted reflections, partial aspects deformed by our subjective perspective, the Truth-in-itself, the true meaning of the text, is lost for ever” (Žižek, 242). Žižek attains that we can never know what the Greeks really meant. That truth is unattainable, because of ‘historical distance’. A way of attaining some influencing truth would be to look at it from the perspective of the ‘succession of historical influences of the text’. How did these stories affect the Greeks, and in turn the Renaissance, Freud, Lacan and so forth. “And to accomplish the‘determinate reflection’, we have only to experience how this problem of the ‘true’, ‘original’ meaning ‘in-itself’” is. The real truth that can be found “ in the series of subsequent readings, than in its supposedly ‘original’ meaning’.” In other words, “the Truth of a thing emerges because the thing is not accessible to us in its immediate self- identity” (Žižek, 243). We must be aware of our actions and how they can cause a reaction in reinterpreting these myths through transhistorical philosophy, not putting said “Truths” onto the meaning of the myths, but finding the only “Truth” that we can find in them by looking at their historical value. Emmanuel Levinas, the philosopher, gives a good example of how our actions can cause a reaction. “The comedy begins with our simplest gestures. They all entail an inevitable awkwardness. Reaching out my hand to pull a chair toward me, I have folded the arm of my jacket, scratched the floor, and dropped my cigarette ash. In doing what I willed to do, I did a thousand and one things I hadn't willed to do. The act was not pure, it left traces. Wiping away these traces, I left others. Sherlock Holmes will apply his science to this irreducible coarseness of each of my initiatives, and thus the comedy may take a tragic turn. When the awkwardness of the act is turned against the goal pursed, we are in the midst of tragedy.”(Levinas, 3). Conclusion: In this essay we have explored two Classic Greek myths and demonstrated how they can be viewed under the light of transhistorical concepts. Although psychoanalysis and its paradigms are able to provide convincing arguments concerning the nature of the mind, we hold that it is unable to meet the past on its own terms, or to accept contexts outside of the agenda of its theory. These inherent difficulties make it too problematic for universalist or transhistorical approaches to be applied to these myths, and I feel that the very nature of these problems call for a more local and contextual understanding of them - where multiple viewpoints and contexts can be presented over grand ‘truth-claims’. As stated in the introduction, relativism and universalism, are malleable terms, and I believe that they should not be placed in competition as a result, but rather that both could be used to help inform us of the broader picture. It’s never a simple case of the rational and irrational, the specific and the general, the subjective and the objective, but an appreciation, awareness, and understanding of them all in combination. Science believes in concrete laws and rules, which can be applied and tested in the physical world, but I do not believe that this is something that can be said of elements outside of this world. As we have seen, when you attempt to pull history close to you, to place laws and codes upon it, you cannot help but obscure it. I think, however, that this investigation leads us to several interesting viewpoints on the nature of art, perhaps central of which is whether art itself is capable of transcending the context and frame of reference in which it was created - as with the concepts we’ve examined, I believe it can, but not in a fixed way. As Žižek maintains - the truth is unattainable because of the ‘historical distance’ that remains between the Ancient Greeks and the now. However the real truth can be found in the historical effect of myth on writers,philosophers, and artists, and what it meant to them. And in mind of our introductory question: they will speak to all realities, everybody’s reality, at the same time. Works Cited Texts: Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy, Simon & Schuster, 1972. Freud, Sigmund. A General Introduction of Psychoanalysis, “The Psychology of Errors First Lecture”(Kindle version). P.6, 7,10,11,18,25,39 Gay, Peter. The Freud Reader. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1995. Kenny, Anthony. A New History of Western Philosophy, “Schopenhauer on Renunciation”. Oxford University Press, 2010. P.219-224 Kojéve, Alexander. Introduction to the Reading of Hegel. Ed. Alan Bloom. Trans. James H. Nichols, Jr. Ithica: Cornell UP, 1969. Lacan, Jacques. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York and London: Norton, 1978. Levinas, Emmanuel. Entre-Nous. Trans. Michael B. Smith and Barbara Harshaw. New York: Columbia UP, 1998.  Morford, Mark P.O. and Lenardon, Robert J., Classical Mythology, Seventh Edition. Oxford University Press, 2000. Owens, Craig. The Allegorical Impulse: Toward a Theory of Postmodernism, Vol.12. MIT Press, 1980. Rose, Jacqueline. Sexuality in the Field of Vision. London & New York: Verso, 2006. The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. Second Edition. Ed. Robert Audi. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Zirpolo, Lilian H. Historical Dictionary of Baroque Art and Architecture. Estover Road, Plymouth, United Kingdom. 2010. Žižek, Slavoj. The Sublime Object of Ideology. London and New York: Verso, 1989. Films: The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology. Dir. Sophie Fiennes. Perf. Slavoj Žižek. 2012. Images: Mareau, Gustave, Jupiter and Semele. 1894. Romano, Giulio, The Lovers. 1525. Oil on panel, transferred to canvas, 163 x 337cm.  Žižek, Slavoj. The Sublime Object of Ideology. “Lacan: Encore”. London and New York: Verso, 1989. P. 209 Internet Resources: MMIX Encyclopedia Mythic. Ed. Jamie Cisco. May 1999. http://www.pantheon.org/articles/l/leda.html Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide: a journal of nineteenth-century visual culture. “Gustave Moreu’s “Archeological Allegory”. Scott Allan. 2013. http://www.19thc-artworldwide.org/autumn09/gustave-moreaus-archaeological-allegory Oxford Dictionaries. https://www.oxforddictionaries.com Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Ed. Catalin Partenie. “Plato’s Myths” 2011. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/plato-myths/ Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Ed. Robert Johnson. “Kant’s Moral Philosophy” 2008. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-moral/  Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Ed. Sandra Shapshay. “Schopenhauer’s Aesthetics”. 2012. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/schopenhauer-aesthetics/ New World Encyclopedia. “Greek Mythology” 2007. https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Greek_mythology Theoi Project Ed. Aaron J. Atsma, New Zealand. 2011. http://www.theoi.com/Olympios/Zeus.html 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Form and Content at the Centre Pompidou, Paris

This essay offers a brief discussion on the discourse of Kantian form vs. Hegelian content in relation to the Centre Pompidou in Paris, France. Can form and content coexist in one architectural entity? My argument is that the Centre Pompidou, outwardly displays Kantian form, and yet at the same time, holds Hegelian content throughout its collective spirit. In terms of defining form and content, we will use the following definitions: Eternal Kantian Form, is one which holds line and geometric shape but without the content. Hegelian Content is the concepts and history of an object. Modernism was a celebration of form, a metaphorical shedding of the allegory. But you cannot have form without content. Postmodernism came along and fractured form. It changed the way people saw and were seen in their constructed theories on art and philosophy. Now form could be something, which could also hold content. With this new sight it was apparent that everything has content. One of the architectural landscapes that could be said to hold both form and content is the Centre Pompidou in Paris. The architectural team consisting of Rogers, Piano and Franchini, designed this complex entity in 1977. The center is considered a great achievement in the forth coming of Postmodernist Structuralism. Le Figaro, a daily French newspaper, in reaction to the Centre stated, “Paris has its own monster, just like the one in Loch Ness.” (Silver). The building’s skeletal like “pure form” had never been encountered in Paris before, nor has it since. A new library and one of the greatest collections of Fine Art was placed within the Centre and made open to the public, this helped to pass the aversion. The Pritzker jury said the Pompidou, “revolutionized museums, transforming what had once been elite monuments into popular places of social and cultural exchange, woven into the heart of the city.” (Pogrebin). Can form and content coexist in one architectural entity? The Centre Pompidou in Paris proves this possibility making the world a better place for it now and for future generations to come.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Schopenhauer's View of Destiny

"The ethical teaching of Schopenhauer is closely linked to his metaphysics, and in particular to these theses that the world of experience is illusory and that the true reality, the thing-in-itself, is the universal will. We see individuals rising out of nothing, receiving their lives as a gift, and then suffering the loss of this gift in death, returning again to nothing. But if we consider life philosophically we find that the will, the thing-in-itself in all phenomena, is not at all affected by birth and death. It is not the individual, but only the species, that Nature cares for, and for the preservation of which she so earnestly strives, providing for it with the utmost prodigality...The individual, on the contrary, neither has nor can have any value for Nature, for her kingdom is infinite time and infinite space, and within these infinite multiplicity of possible individuals. Therefore she is always ready to let the individual fall, and hence it is not only exposed to destruction in a thousand ways by the most insignificant accident, but originally destined for it, and conducted towards it by Nature herself from the moment it has served its end of maintaining the species." Kenny, Anthony A New History of Philosophy in the Modern World Schopenhauer on Renunciation p.228
Painting "Destiny" by Thomas Cooper Gotch

Thursday, September 5, 2013

ODIGBA! The Death of A Mentor

"SAIC alum Rowynn Dumont was Houlberg’s assistant for over six years. She first learned of the instructor while flipping through the course listings, excited to find offerings like Haitian Voodoo and Witchcraft. “When she would walk into a room, it was like a forgotten entity was walking in, like something you hear about in storybooks. It was like meeting someone who was the last of [her kind].” Under Houlberg’s influence, Dumont was the first at the school to pursue a BFA in Studies of Taboo Religions & Sexuality in Art. Soon after Dumont met Houlberg, the roof collapsed in the professor’s studio. Much of her vast collection of Haitian and African Artifacts was damaged or destroyed. Hoping to gain Houlberg as a mentor, Dumont offered to clean the space and catalog the objects. The project, like Romero’s, is not yet complete; of 10,000 image slides being made for the Smithsonian 7,000 have been completed. Pieces from Houlberg’s collection made up a significant portion of the exhibit “In Extremis: Death and Life in 21st-Century Haitian Art” at Los Angeles’ Fowler Museum last year. Dumont recalled when Houlberg travelled to Haiti and was delayed reentering the country for almost two months. “I finally got word from her that she got stuck in Haiti because she was bringing back a human head that was still decomposing,” laughed Dumont. “I’m assuming it was from one of the temples. Whether she ever got that head through customs, I am not sure.” Houlberg, a rumored witch, exuded a powerful mysticism among the people of Haiti; in the Southern plantation house where the pair stayed, Dumont says they spent two to three hours daily visiting with the lines of people who came to see Houlberg." Goodbye my friend... To read the whole article in fnewsmagazine by Nicole Rhoden please click below http://fnewsmagazine.com/2013/09/odigba/2/ Photographs by Sir Reighlan Douglas Pennal

Monday, August 5, 2013

"We Are All Starlight: Thoughts on Kant's Critique of Judgement"

There is a space, which is laid in front of me. This space holds the emptiness that is my thoughts. Those thoughts are what connect the object that is between the space and I. The object has a flat surface and four sticks that hold the surface upon it. The sticks are made of shaved down, cream-colored wood; the wood comes from a tree. The flat surface is also made of shaved down wood, and it is painted with a smooth, black varnish. The paint is dry to the touch and has been dry for over a year. Atop the flat surface there is a long, thin, plastic pieced cylinder. This cylinder holds a black liquid that produces murky ink from one end. I do not touch this plastic cylinder to make letters move. Instead I touch, with the soft flesh that extends from my form of material existence a thin, light, silver piece of metal. Atop this thin, light, silver piece of metal, there are 78 white plastic pieces, which move up and down, up and down. At the touch of each plastic piece a letter appears. Fifty-three of these plastic pieces, form four lines, in a box that is what my mind believes to be called a ‘square’. Eighteen of these pieces are what my mind calls a small “rectangle”. Six of these plastic pieces are what my mind calls a large “rectangle”. Each “square” and “rectangle” that I press with my extended, material flesh produces a “letter”. These letters appear on an additional flat surface full of electrical currents, science and mathematics. They negotiate with each other to bring about “words”, these “words” form a “sentence” and these “sentences” produce the thoughts that fill your mind as you “read” from your science “machine”, my thoughts, my words, my “letters”. What does it mean? Beauty is Imagination It is all concepts but yet it is a posteriori. So which is it? The science machine, is a monitor, the silver, flat, metal piece with the plastic keys a keyboard. The cylinder with the liquid is a pen. The flat surface with the four sticks is a desk and I am the human sitting at it typing my a posteriori, my subjective and unpure experience to you, while you are simultaneously having your own a posteriori, subjective and unpure experience. The space that is between the desk (object) and I is what connects us. It is a transcendental condition. Yet the desk was a desk, because it is a general concept, just like a goat is a goat. This sort of concept is a general representation and not a particular representation. The desk, goat, pen, fingers, keys, keyboard, monitor, space, all of them are concepts. My senses of perception of these concepts are my intuition. Intuition and concepts are the bases to apriori knowledge. Before I sat in front of this desk, I had a priori knowledge that it was a desk. This is knowledge that has been taught to me second hand, it was given to me, it is not something that I experienced before but am experiencing NOW because of the fact that I was given the knowledge that this was a desk. Otherwise, I would not know to call it “desk” it would merrily be the object that is nameless that is in front of me. If I were to proclaim to you, “This tone of black upon this desk is beautiful”, it is not a judgment of beauty that can be made. For a tone of a color cannot be considered beautiful. For I may say that this is a dark, blue black and you may see it as a midnight black. How are we to know that we are seeing the same tone of color? There is no proof of it, so there for the tone cannot be beautiful. What if I were to say, “The pure color of this desk is beautiful”. This is something that could be said, as the color is pure and is black. However who am I to assume that you take the same pleasure as I do in proclaiming that the pure black of this desk is beautiful? That would make the assumption that all black objects universally are beautiful, which would be a priori. However when I call this pure black desk beautiful, it is my personal experience, which makes it a posteriori. This is my judgment of taste. This is my feeling of pleasure. I am not judging it because of the physical attributes of the blackness of the desk, or the flatness and smoothness of its surface. I am judging it based on my emotion, which is my experience, thus it is impure to the world of reason and science. Who am I to make such judgment? My pleasure is not a concept. It is not a goat. It is not a pen. It is not a desk. It is not the color black or the space between the desk and I and the words that you are reading now. It is only that, which is my pleasure. This makes my pleasure a singular taste, one taste, my own. There for the blackness of the desk cannot be beautiful, based on this alone. Beauty cannot be defined. The pleasure that I may take in making a judgment of taste is what is called disinterest. When I make the statement “the black desk is beautiful” I am expecting others to agree with me universally. The judgment is of my personal feelings without proof that the desk is actually beautiful and yet I expect all other beings to agree with me upon my judgment. There is no truth or fairness in such a judgment. Love cannot be beautiful, because it is based upon emotional experience. But I ask you what is “love” and what is “beauty” but concept. Therefor does that not make them a priori? So then can love be beautiful? What if I love the color black of this desk in front of me, and I think that it is beautiful? THERE IS NECESSITY IN NATURE, AS NATURE ABIDES BY THE LAWS OF MATHMATICS, THIS IS A PRIORI. Is love natural? Is love beautiful? Is the love of the beautiful a necessity? Is being human only our own experiences? These experiences are a subjective territory; it is our faculty of feeling. It is a posterirori. So if there are only humans that can create ideas and concepts, and humans are a posteriori, then how is it that through our own experiences we share them with others, thus creating second hand knowledge that is given to another generation, which is equivalent to a priori. However a priori cannot be a posteriori and it cannot be argued against either. Humans are apart of nature, but we set ourselves out of nature. We can think outside of ourselves, and pounder infinity. Infinity is sublime. The sublime is something that we as humans may be in awe of but unafraid of because we cannot comprehend it; but yet we know of it. We can think of infinity but never in our lifetime experience it. Through this order of reason we over come cause and necessity, because we have the freedom to do so. This freedom gives us moral action. This makes human thought sublime. Through our own thoughts of creation and imagination, we relate to the Judgment of Taste. In Conclusion: We must come to the realization that it is a fact that we are all only particles of stardust, in the vastness that is the universe. The universe is sublime infinity. This is a priori. Yet it gives me as a human great pleasure in the beauty of the sublimity of the universe and of the concept that we are all stardust. Since this is a priori, yet beauty cannot be described, is it not a posteriori. Was Kant a genius? Was he a man of pure originality without limitation? Did he have the ability to give us the rule for art by way of nature? Or was he a mad man, who created these notions and passed them onto others, which makes him a walking contradiction to his own logic. For after all is he not just a piece of starlight himself? “It seems then that our pleasure in beauty has its origins in capacity, due to the free play of imagination, first to experience the harmonious working of our rational faculties, and secondly to project that harmony outwards onto the empirical world. We see in objects the formal unity that we discover in ourselves. This is the origin of our pleasure, and the basis of our common sense of beauty. And it is only under the presupposition…of such common sense that we are able to lay down such judgment of taste.”
Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Judgment. Trans James Creed Meredith. Revised & Edited by Nicholas Walker. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. © All Rights Reserved Rowynn Michelle Dumont 2013

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"The Bubble"

"When I look back on my best work, it was inevitably created in what I call The Bubble. I eliminated every distraction, sacrificed almost everything that gave me pleasure, placed myself in a single minded isolation chamber, and structured my life so that everything was not only feeding the work but subordinated to it. It is not particularly sociable way to operate. It is actively anti-social. On the other hand, it is pro-creative." - Twyla Tharp
"The Creative Habit"

LIVE AND WORK BY THIS NOTION