April 18, 2022

What Strange Times


What happens when the firewall burns through?

TLDR / Abstract:

The firewall: Art is art and politics is politics and sometimes political art is art but finally politics, like life, fades... while art remains long. This blog is about the art I hope will remain.

The last two years has been a roller coaster. Recent talk about crossing the nuclear threshold has burned through my firewall.

Have you noticed, as I have, that we are suddenly surrounded by war mongers?

America's project as world leader is a wreck. The USA could end the carnage tomorrow by stopping feeding arms to the war, encourage Ukraine and Russia negotiate an end to military activities and lead to a regional-worldwide understanding and acceptance of the positive role of buffer states.

Screed follows.


Bleed, list:
Divide and Conquer: sex and race, class and age, community and nation
Widespread Paranoia
Travel Restrictions
Wealth Destruction
The Rich, Getting Richer
Social Isolation
Social Inhibition
Crowds (human interaction) Perceived as Dangerous
Masked Conversation
NFT's and the Disembodiment of Art
Political, Racial, Sexual, Generational, Class Minefields
Information Avalanche
Banality of Information
Epidemic of Narcissism
Social Media Vampirism
Eclipse of the Real by the Ideal
Supply Chain Disruptions
Evaporation of Art History
Evaporation of Art Criticism
Shear Inundation of Art Objects
Corporate Mentality in the Art World
Art World Transforming into Art Industry
Art Objects Increasingly Treated as Merely a Store of Monetary Value
Nuclear suicidal ideation
Schadenfreude & viciousness at the scale of the nation state

To put this in another way:

Race riots, rising crime, questionable pandemics in marching sequence, untrustworthy pharmacological corporations exacting revenues beyond the imagination, surging populations of the homeless living in squalor, ridiculously questionable elections, disintegrating legal & criminal justice systems, scrambled & weaponized sexual identity, information warfare of all against all in all our devices, ever augmenting security state regimentation / quasi incarceration... and now... for a little over a month and counting... a proxy war between nuclear powers who are both using and being used by border states while a bewildering number of citizens across all political spectrums fragrantly & aggressively conjure the horrific possibility of nuclear annihilation.

I've held my tongue for much of that. Life is short and art is long, this has been the guiding principal of this blog. It was the war mongering that was gushed across the public sector during the "military action" in Ukraine that opened the safety switch in my mind. After the years of the Gulf Wars and the endless yet ineffective indictment of the NeoCon thirst for military intervention, after the debacle of the abrupt and reckless exit from Afghanistan, here we are now awash in counsel from statesmen official and amateur to flood arms to Ukraine, to set up no-fly zones oblivious to the ramifications of nuclear exchange, to set up sanctions that will surely hurt us economically in short order, and what is worse than all of this if there could be anything uglier, that people would have no compunction to use the Ukrainian people as our (USA) proxies in a war with Russia, to use people who can never win such a fight in such a circumstance, to serve as our cannon fodder. All of this is as a whole, a fit of spite and stupidity of epic proportions.

This blog post was long in the making. Since I had last typed the text above, a Russian cruiser had been disabled and Ukraine is claiming responsibility for that. Ukraine has sent various attacks across Russian borders and the Kremlin has declared consequences for further attacks with plans to target command and control facilities in Kyiv. Finland is doubling down in bellicosity by mirroring Ukraine's request for NATO expansion to their shores. Russia has drawn attention to their definition of a casus belli before and still, we ignore it, crossing their line repeatedly. Meanwhile, Japan is heating up the controversy with Russia regarding the disputed Kuril Island chain, creating a choke point for Vladivostok. Elsewhere, China has signed a defense agreement with the Solomon Islands, edging out Australia. These turns of the threads of war are moving into a horrific direction.

This is the 21st Century, so far. Or this is merely the enhanced turmoil of only the past two and a half years? This too, shall pass? Merely an anomaly?

This is fine?

America has been on a world shaping crusade since the end of WWII. While the tempo had been simmering since the second Clinton administration engaging a creeping NATO expansion, fueled by Bush, accelerating since around 2008 and lunging forward again in 2014 as the American State department vigorously worked to shape the government of Ukraine into a weapon against Russia.

What we did with Ukraine is a species of law enforcement sting operations, but at a nation-state scale. We targeted a hot head, an unstable character, lure them on into a compromising situation and manipulate them into trouble. And then, knee deep in carnage, we congratulated ourselves for a job well done, keeping the world peace.

Blood Lust

One would think that after the debacle of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, America would be chastened and more reflective. Instead, we (the US+EU+GB=NATO) are doubling down on de facto world domination, the self appointed leaders of a worldwide Western hegemony. Even though Francis Fukuyama has been insisting that much of his nuance was ignored in his seminal book "End of History and the Last Man", he summed up the governing idea that consumed the Western mindset: that Liberal Democracy has prevailed and it is only a matter of time until the whole world would follow suit. Always it seems, there exists a percentage of a population who dream big and when confronted by the slow turn of history, agitate against its slowness and seek to accelerate the dream that promises a paradise simply waiting for us just at our fingertips.


Calmer, wiser minds such as John Merasheimer are being ignored or banned (yes, in the lands of "free speech"). Less calm but no less marginalized voices such as Aaron Maté and Max Blumenthal of the investigative journalist website The Grayzone, antiwar and Libertarian voices such as Scott Horton, activist journalists such as Caitlan Johnstone and Maajid Nawas, and philosophers who are willing to understand the Russian psyche such as Michael Millerman. All of these thinkers and more live in the wilderness of this nascent Information Age. They don't agree with the impulse to invade and willfully change regimes of other governments around the world.

War Mongers

In a better, saner world, America would pause and reflect on the damage we've done by trying to "make the world a better place". There was a video I saw about a month ago but didn't record the link thereto. It was a football match in Serbia. The fans stood as a throng up from their eats and held up placards of all the countries that America had invaded, including the year. The list rippled across and around the stadium in a suffering indictment. Sentiments like this are not unknown to my peers in the arts. This bitterness is keen in Central and South America, a list of countries uncomfortable to being manipulated into the club of "Liberal Democracies" is immense. But somehow, my peers in the culture industry and much of the rest of America are all on board with the intention as described recently by tone deaf former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to turn Ukraine into an Afghanistan for Russia. This was a statement that should have met howls of indignation and banishment to the hinterlands, but instead it reflected the passive nod that such a plan be pursued.


Putin is bad, he must be confronted, this is the sentiment that passes for thought. He kills his enemies. Haven't we killed ours too, with a disgusting overabundance of collateral damage? He is an oligarch. The definition of an oligarchy is a small group of people who have control of a country. A variant of this sounds like fascism, where government controls or is controlled by industry to govern the state. Aren't we in the West and especially in the USA, are variants of oligarchies? It was Putin who subdued his proto-oligarchs and it is in the West, especially America where Industry influences and controls government via bribes and blackmail. Big Pharma named their price and governments worldwide have obliged their populations to be the customers by force of law, governments have passed laws to indemnify them from lawsuits, protecting them from the responsibility for negligence or malfeasance. A close examination of the political history of Ukraine reveals a revolving door of oligarchs, mega-billionaires who seek to influence the conduct of their government in concert with "Neo-Cons" (a nomination I have found problematic since there are warmongers and profiteers of all political stripes) from the USA. Research for yourself the history of Russia's emergence from a disintegrating USSR. Documentaries such as Citizen K, a corporate attempt by Amazon to present Mikhail Khodorkovsky in a positive light, but through this we can see the cacophonic operation to monopolize all business in the emergent Russia. It was Putin who reigned in the power elite with characteristic Russian manner. In effect, Putin installed a firewall between corporate interest and government. Who, now is the real oligarchy of this world, Russia or the USA?

At best, Putin, like Xi Jenping, is an autocrat. If it is the ultimate mission of Western Liberal Democracy to replace all autocracies, and much of the American public has been conditioned to be impatient for this, how is it that we cannot be considered war mongers? We openly clamor for regime change in Russia, how is it that we don't consider for a moment how we look in China's eyes? Even if we succeed against Russia, aren't we setting up the conditions for a future confrontation that could be unimaginably ruinous? Are we REALLY trying to "win" a struggle at the frontier of mutually assured destruction? Is the path to victory really the psychotic one?


We can stop this immediately.


- We would have to cease all military assistance to Ukraine.
- We could encourage Ukraine to become a kind of Switzerland, a neutral state.
- We could explicitly renounce the narcissistic self anointed role of world hegemon.
- We could apologize to Russia and to the world.
- We could make our way to a different, more cooperative relation to other nations in the world. Fast or slow, but go.

Our motivation should be wanting to limit the carnage in any way. The concept of collateral damage should be abhorrent. It's as simple and as hard as that.

We need to learn to love small ball again. We need to focus on our own spheres of governance and refrain from wanting to shape the world and instead find a way to work cooperatively with its evolving nature.


/end screed


More spleen to vent (04/21/22):

The Democrat Party as a body politic is a zombie. It is not driven by a collective consciousness as determined by free and fair elections. The Democrat Primary of 2020 was a farce and the severance of its mind/body was alas not resisted by the body politic, so transfixed by an illusion of who they are, a self image maintained by an inchoate and cryptic party elite.

There is no real distinction between the Democrat and Republican Parties. This elite spans across both in America and it is operating in a kind of trance whose storyline indicates an eschaton, a final event wherein all the world would be like them, a hypothesized Liberal Democracy, and then with that realization there would exist a lasting peace for all mankind. Therefore, all autocratic nation states are targeted in sequence. Any government that is not a mirror of Western Civilization will be expired with force.

This is the dream within which we are enthralled. The sleeper is kept in state via lullabies. Our imaginations are enchanted and evidence to the contrary is withheld. Reality is kept at bay, its status down ranked. We are idiots adrift, blind to the rocks and shoals, the sharp and deadly aspects of reality.

Part and parcel with this sad state is the new nature of war wherein the information sphere is a crucial aspect of the battle space. Even when we close our eyes, even when we avert our eyes, the reality remains that it is we (the USA+EU+GB=NATO) who are the provocateurs, it is we who are the destructive, aggressive agents striding in the world. We are treating whole regions and populations like low status pawns.

Against repeated protest, we have continued to advance EU status and perverted NATO from a defensive instrument into an offensive one, threatening Russia repeatedly. Even now in recent news, Finland is using a prospective NATO membership to intimidate Russia, and the official media is oblivious to the ramifications.

We ignore the danger.

We ignore the overt Neo-NAZI presence in Ukraine, the extreme nationalist ideology that had divided Ukraine, that had enabled atrocities committed upon the "less than pure Ukrainian" for the past 8 years. We ignore the multiple war crimes of the Ukraine military and thier outrageous, non-credible, perverted use of psyops.

We ignore the odds against Ukraine in this war. Once Russia is compelled to act in defense of culturally Russian populations (a culture that Ukraine could have themselves identified with and embraced, circumventing a Russian incursion), the momentum of a nation state at the scale of a Russia will not be stopped until its security objectives are satisfied, objectives that the West had put in peril.

We ignore the loss of the US International Reserve Position. We had a virtual mono-polar world and lost it at the throw of the dice. The flow of resources are disrupted worldwide and have yet to settle into a new bi-polar economic order. The prices of power electrical and fuel are rising. The masses who aren't wealthy will the ones to suffer the disruptions, inflation, and probable famines to follow... even as they fund the elites who are leading us into disaster.

It's well past the time to wake up.


It's been a month since I had written the thoughts above. A conversation with friends last week illustrated for me that a prime realization has yet to dawn in the public mind, that we in the West are not only playing a dangerously losing game but we have criminally cultivated hostility in an unstable and belligerent actor (Ukraine) toward Russia and their own culturally Russian population, we armed and trained Ukraine, and have provoked Russia into not only saving the besieged Donbas from an immanent threat but also checking the advance of NATO despite repeated warnings in the past. We in the West are so tone deaf to Russian protests that we yet still entertain the prospect of including Sweden and Finland in the NATO club. We in the West have tried to shift narratives with vague threats to China whose effects could politically destabilize Taiwan. China plays the long game and one can only wonder what nasty surprises that are in store in our future. Every nation is thrown back on reassessing the economic wellsprings of their security. Do we have access to energy? Food? And what are we in America doing in the meantime? Among other things, we are in the process of destabilizing Pakistan.

Meanwhile, sanctions have blown back on the West, revealing that for all these years, Russia has been building strength into their economy while we in the West have been weakening ours. Economic contraction and even famine are on our horizon, a self inflicted wound. The dream of a Global World Order is smashed and a new Multi-Polar World is dawning and we are only dimly aware of its' ramifications.

During the past month, the momentum of the war in Ukraine has built steadily in Russia's favor. Russia has been digesting the war front bit by larger bit. What we see is that Ukraine has cynically and repeatedly positioned their soldiers into stand and fight positions. Azov in Mariupol. As I type these words, about 16,000 Ukraine soldiers are about to be encircled in Severodonetsk. Ukraine had previously blown the bridges that could have served their retreat from certain doom. Suicide missions only make sense when time is bought for the salvation of a subsequent military action on the horizon. None of this exists. Russia has always had the upper hand. To enter into this war was a fool's game. The collective West played Ukraine as an expendable proxy, this is undeniable.

Such an ugly extravagance.

I'm going to pour concrete on this topic in this blog and maintain the domains of art and geo-politics in separate silos. You can always tune in to my Twitter to satisfy morbid curiosity. It's probably too early to speculate on the impact this will have in the mind of the art world. Certainly, early modern art from Dada forward can only be understood in reference to impact of trench warfare. Late modern art is illuminated by the aftermath of WWII and the Cold War. "There will be blood" as a consequence of all this in art theory, but as of this moment, it's too soon to tell. For those of us who are keen about the art industry, consider the effects of global economic contraction, the disruption of transnational transactions. All of this, a self inflicted wound.



"Art no longer cares to serve the state and religion, it no longer wishes to illustrate the history of manners, it wants to have nothing further to do with the object, as such, and believes that it can exist, in and for itself, without "things" (that is, the "time-tested well-spring of life")."
― Kasimir Malevich, The Non-Objective World: The Manifesto of Suprematism

Posted by Dennis at 5:42 PM | Comments (0)

April 1, 2022

Here But I'm Gone

As I entered the sixth floor level of the Whitney Biennial, the dark walls painted an immediate mood and the show title stood out to me: "Quiet as It's Kept". My first thought was afloat in musical lyrics, the lines of Curtis Mayfield's "Here But I'm Gone"

How did I get so far gone?
Where do I belong?
And where in the world did I ever go wrong?

If I took the time to replace
What my mind erased
I still feel as if I'm here but I'm gone

Porched up in a rocking-chair
With my feet all bare
Rolling my blunt in a cigar wrap

Live an adolescent mind
Never do take the time
Waiting for my high, quiet as it's kept

My tour of the Biennale was saturated with this song, so sad, regretful, elegiac, lyrics sung prostrate: "Mama told me I was best / Argue and punch in the chest / Son, now be strong, let me take you home / 'Id see in her eyes so sincere / Screaming, what got me here / Standing in the world with my mind all blown"

I had not previously read Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye", whose first line utters the title of this year's Whitney Biennale. My research afterwards assured me that my earworm did not lead me away from the curator's intentions:

Quiet as it's kept, there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941. We thought, at the time, that it was because Pecola was having her father's baby that the marigolds did not grow. A little examination and much less melancholy would have proved to us that our seeds were not the only ones that did not sprout; nobody's did. Not even the gardens fronting the lake showed marigolds that year. But so deeply concerned we we with the health and safe delivery of Penola's baby we could think of nothing but our own magic: if we planted the seeds, and said the right words over them, they would blossom, and everything would be alright.

There is really nothing more to say - except why. But since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how.

The italics were original but the bolded text is my emphasis here. It indicated an awareness of the hazards of magical thinking, even in the face of the compulsion of life's terrible circumstances.

All of this set the mood for the exhibition, designed into two themes, one per floor, darkness and light. Functionally, this worked quite well.

The dark floor lent itself to image projections and Stygian themes. The few standouts were throwbacks to earlier Biennales such as Daniel Martinez' trans human "Three Critiques". I chatted with one of the museum protection staff, who said with a tinge of mixed feeling that the previous night's opening reception was like a club party. My unverified impression was that that evening had a tinge of Weimar decadence, shoulder to shoulder post pandemic, amidst a train of world disasters, the desperate snatching a fragment of freedom in past tense.

The light floor wrested the structure of conventional walls away from the exhibition. The feeling was as if the works would flop to the floor at every turn, and some obliged. The tour was an aimless meander, there was this and there was that, everything seen through, beside and behind the other. The art felt like a fruitless grasp of any hopeful theme that could save us from the darkness above both literally and figuratively. Candied colors, wilted flowers, postcard imagery. Professionally executed trivialities.

What was missing was any sense of direction, any surprise or challenge, any sense of a tomorrow. Remember, this is a biennial review of what is deemed, what is intended to be a refined selection of the most influential artists across America. To be on the Whitney's radar is top shelf, the aspirational status of every young artist. The best of the best.

How did I get so far gone?
Where do I belong?
And where in the world did I ever go wrong?

I had anticipated that a day at the Whitney Biennial would consume the most of it. But I was out on the street much earlier than I had planned, reverberating with snatches of phrases, words floating to mind: "...stripped the threads of outrage...", "...corporate feel...", "...product showroom..." But what had hit hardest were overtones of helplessness. Coming up empty handed. A busted hand of cards. We are spent junkies, laid low by an overdose of the magical thinking from the previous century.

I'd see in her eyes so sincere
Screaming, what got me here
Standing in the world with my mind all blown
Posted by Dennis at 3:07 PM | Comments (0)