June 26, 2006

Morning Readings

1. It's called collusion, implicit or unconscious though it may be:

To be sure, it's hard to blame networks for covering natural disasters. Nature's calamities are important, after all, and people care for reasons of empathy and compassion, as well as voyeurism. And of course, the coverage, even the over-coverage, of a natural disaster can't make the original disaster worse.

But what if non-natural disasters were, in fact, made worse by saturation coverage? What about terrorism? Those are the challenging questions asked by two academics, Bruno Frey of the University of Zurich and Dominic Rohner of Cambridge University, who argue that reporters and terrorists are playing a "common-interest game" - that is, a win-win for both. Frey and Rohner studied terrorist activity from 1998 and 2005 and concluded, "Both the media and terrorists benefit from terrorist incidents." Terrorists gain publicity for themselves and their cause, while the media make money from greater sales and "buzz."

2. This is a peek into the future, if you are willing to substitute "battlefield" for "business":

This produces another unique battlefield sound portrait.? You know American troops are at work when one shell goes off, followed by a few shots. No shouting, American troops use individual radios, hand signals and night vision equipment. They move fast, using minimal firepower. Less risk of friendly fire, or collateral damage (civilian casualties or property damage.) Battlefields have never sounded like this.?

3. Saltz speaks truth to power, and power smiles back slyly:

In Germany I had a couple of encounters that gave me a glimpse of what's going on there, a hint of what many Berliners think of us, and a way to gauge two shows of German artists currently on view in the same Chelsea building. Both brushes had to do with money and the market. The first was actually cumulative; numerous dealers repeatedly and snippily told me that New York is "all about the market" and "only concerned with money." This was often said in huge galleries amid sold-out shows of pricey art. Initially I just acceded and shrugged. After a few days of this I got my "these-colors-don't-run" dander up and huffily said to a group of dealers, "You show the same artists that are shown in New York. You participate in the same art fairs and sell to the same collectors. The euro is stronger than the dollar and you're making as much or more money as anyone. New York galleries are slicker, but Berlin is as 'about the market' as anywhere." They all looked at one another, then gave me that sly smile that says "Poor silly American."

Further down, he pins the problem on nihilism and Salz scratches the surface of the antecedents:

Eder says his paintings are "about the sadness and emptiness within me." He claims he's "running behind the trends and artificial values of our Western world." But his paintings are little more than testosterone-driven post-adolescent derivative kitsch. Eder's canvases are too ambitious and ironic to be the worst currently on view in New York. He has a feel for the space between photography, thrift-store painting, pinup-girl posters and old-school punk nihilism. And he's a great technician. But combining images of racy young things with cute animals is blatant to the point of banality and gives you little more than tinsel to think about. (This was done far better 20 years ago by painter Walter Robinson.) Mostly, Eder's work is so gaudy and brazen that it brings to mind disavowed German neo-Expressionists like Helmut Middendorf and Rainer Fetting.

Salz forgot to identify Walter Robinson as ArtNet's macDaddy and the connections to David Salle aren't drawn either. I'm sure it was just a slip. At least he makes the link to the German NeoExpressionists, but I wonder why he uses the term "disavowed"? After all, shouldn't the names one can recall so many years after the bloom and death and mulch of an art moment prove that they are the ones of some kind of distinction? Across the Atlantic, Salle's work will ...or should be a citation in the comemoration of that period. Sure, everyone wants to poop on those artists, but even Warhol spent time in history's brig before he emerged as the best of the bunch.

The next paragraph is pretty devastating, and a cautionary tale for those of us (artists) who might be all too willing travel within the herd.

4. Call Me A Humanist:

Humanists cannot talk to postmodernists. This might seem paradoxical at first since people who consider themselves humanists do, in fact, talk to people who consider themselves postmodernists every day. They meet, for example, in faculty dining rooms and on payroll lines, and they discuss, for example, whether the cafeteria chili should be avoided or whether their health plans cover anti-depressants.

So it is necessary at the outset to define the three key terms: humanist, postmodernist, and talk. By a "humanist," I mean a person who believes that human beings can formulate true or false opinions about a reality that exists independently of their thoughts and language--and that the truth or falsehood of such opinions is gauged by their correspondence with empirical evidence analyzed in light of fundamental rational principles. By a "postmodernist," I mean a person who believes that the perception of a reality existing independently of thought and language is illusory, that what the humanist perceives as reality is in fact a linguistic construct of the phenomena of subjective experience that is continually adjusted in response to a fluid social consensus. Finally, by "talk" I mean to put forward opinions, or sets of opinions, in such a way that they may be either verified or falsified. Of the two possibilities, verification and falsification, I would lay particular emphasis on falsification since it is less provisional. (Falsification, in other words, is less contingent on evidentiary standards. For example, it only takes one black dove to falsify the proposition "All doves are white"; whereas, the standards of support required to verify the proposition inevitably vary.) To talk, by my definition, is to risk one's continued avowal of an intellectual position, to enter willingly into the so-called "marketplace of ideas" in which logical demonstration is recognized as the final arbiter between opposing viewpoints. My thesis, then, is that no such marketplace of ideas can ever truly exist between humanists and postmodernists because postmodernists neither pursue verification nor risk falsification in their exchanges.

All of which reminds me:
"Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."

(As I recall from memory.) I'm sure that Wittgenstein meant this in some other way.

Artists in my community stopped using the term "postmoderism" back in the mid to late 90's. It is... or it was a feature in my life because when I was in grad school, that was the stone they tried to sharpen us with, or so they thought. But it doesn't mean that that whole sector of thought evaporated into thin air. Pretending it dosen't exist might have been a good tactic in high school, but in the real world, you can't move on until you overhaul an era with a thorough critique. So far, we've barely scratched the surface.
5. Many of us have trashed the "cognitive 'Do Not Enter' signs":

One of the most common intuitive problems people have with conspiracy theories is that they require positing such complicated webs of secret actions. If the twin towers fell in a carefully orchestrated demolition shortly after being hit by planes, who set the charges? Who did the planning? And how could hundreds, if not thousands of people complicit in the murder of their own countrymen keep quiet? Usually, Occam's razor intervenes.
Another common problem with conspiracy theories is that they tend to impute cartoonish motives to "them"?? the elites who operate in the shadows. The end result often feels like a heavily plotted movie whose characters do not ring true
Then there are other cognitive Do Not Enter signs: When history ceases to resemble a train of conflicts and ambiguities and becomes instead a series of disinformation campaigns, you sense that a basic self-correcting mechanism of thought has been disabled. A bridge is out, and paranoia yawns below.

6. Another one who wanted to get back to the garden:

Ergot is the natural source of lysergic acid, from which lysergic acid diethylamide is readily synthesized?LSD. What purpose, divine or adaptive, this substance might serve was once the subject of a learned debate that engaged scientists, government officials, psychiatrists, intellectuals, and a few gold-plated egomaniacs. Timothy Leary was one of the egomaniacs.

Leary belonged to what we reverently refer to as the Greatest Generation, that cohort of Americans who eluded most of the deprivations of the Depression, grew fat in the affluence of the postwar years, and then preached hedonism and truancy to the baby-boom generation, which has taken the blame ever since. Great Ones, we salute you!

Besides being a devastating reassessment of the 60's, there are a few gems along the way, such as this one:

He was a counterculture salesman, and he wore, on every occasion, the same blissed-out smile, a rictus somewhere between a beatific, what-me-worry grin and a movie star?s frozen stare into the flashbulbs. One of his ex-wives described it as ?the smile of the ego actually eating the personality.?

You will probably end up killing your mother if you try to crawl back into the womb.

So rich. Cutting.

Here's another:

The rest is bathos.

Posted by Dennis at June 26, 2006 9:41 AM

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