Friday, 30 March 2012

making things up

Obvious title really but it refers to the idea of doing or making something in order to think. Manet for instance thought through painting. Rodin thought through sculpting and drawing. William wegmann thinks through film making. Charles Dickens made up stories to himself. Nowadays the artist or pupil "thinks things up" due to the nature of accountability in funding. "Making things up" feels more resonant and relevant to mutual and connected experience. Having said this the ebb and flow between the mind's eye and the hand's action is a delicate force. The minds eye often seems to present the maker with a barrier to making. Likewise the making can develop sufficient momentum to obliterate the fragile web of initial inspiration. Put simply imagine you have a ball of clay. You could sit and think all day about what to make. This would be thinking up. Or you could pick the clay up and see what you make. This would be Making Up. Of course every creative process is a mixture of these two scenarios but it appears the muscle of the latter has withered to the point of redundancy.

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Wednesday, 28 March 2012

magic and science

Don 3D specs now... Thanks to martin White for rendering this. I'm very pleased at the accidental union of left and right brain this produces.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Doilies and Abundance

I have dutifully deferred gratification and I am now standing in the Jaflong curry house with three bags of Co-op shopping in my hands (yes I forgot to take my bags for life with me). Change is afoot. Our nearest take away has recently stopped doing curry choosing instead to concentrate on local favourites such as ye olde donner kebab. Ah well everything changes. So I now have to drive – perhaps I could cycle but have you ever tried carrying a takeaway curry in a rucksack? In fact I have and it was a miracle we ate that night. I’m not sure I’m ready to become that Lycra clad male who has fashioned a custom-built curry-steadying insert for his rucksack. I don’t really own a rucksack I use the turquoise one that used to be the nappy bag. The one that carried all the paraphernalia that as a stay at home dad I used to carry around. For a long time it still smelt of wet ones and by association something else that doesn’t sit well in a conversation featuring curry. That smell has now gone. Still I’m not using that rucksack tonight. Back to change - I had to drive around the block several times before I finally found a space within walking distance of the coop and the curry house. You see they have made improvements to the road. I’m pretty sure this is to make it safer for pedestrians. To make it easier to cross the road. Perhaps the shopkeepers instigated it. They felt that trade was hindered by pedestrians electing to stay on one side or the other. I think even then it’s pretty evenly balanced as coop is on the non-sunny side. Personally I always rather liked the experience of having to cross in one particular place. I used to think to myself how nice to live by an old fashioned high street with individual bakers and DIY stores and a proper knick-knack store (We Love Farmers). But now we’ve got the familiar raised kerbs and extended pavements creating lay-bys. It all looks very posh and efficient except it has started the homogenisation of the street. Granted there are more people in the area but we’re all pretty good at crossing the road. Perhaps if there had been an accident then someone might have said “oh the council should have installed another pedestrian crossing years ago” but until now there has been no accident that I know of. And so it goes.
 So I’m still standing in the curry house digesting all these complexities of objective phenomena and the chair is pulled out for me. They always pull it out in a way that points you away from the kitchen. I want to make myself invisible but they always turn me to the other diners. I am not a diner I am collecting a take away – this is a relevant point with regards to the next point. Tonight I am offered given a ten percent discount! Brilliant I say and they offer me the customary saucer to place my payment on. Something is not quite right – change is a foot. And here comes my change. But wait all right yes it’s on the saucer but something else is on the saucer too. It’s a doily. Have you ever tried to scoop up your change from a doily-bedecked saucer? It’s impossible. ON previous visits to Jaflong I have always presumed that the whole change on the saucer thing is part of keeping up appearances and facilitating a certain appropriate decorum and feel confident that my decision to not tip due to being my own delivery boy is not questioned one iota. Until tonight. The doily is clearly there to tell me that tipping is expected. The doily is like another hand grabbing hold of my coinage and tugging my cuff saying uh uh not so fast fatso. My change spills on the floor. Decorum punctured. The proprietor helps me pick it up. Its dark and I can’t see what the values are. At the last minute he retrieves what appears to be a pound coin and places it on the doily. For a microsecond I think about picking it up then raise my hand in a gesture that says of course I was going to leave that tip all along Mr. Jaflong. In my head I quickly calculate that with the tip is less than the discount so I can move on. No one surprisingly is too embarrassed by this exchange. Wittgenstein apparently despaired that he would have to rewrite all his ideas when confronted by his colleague flicking his chin at him in an Italian De Niro in Mean Streets kind of way. What would he have made of the complexities of paper doily communication? My sister used to communicate through cutlery. Every time she laid the table she would put the knives and forks in the left-handed position. Admittedly not as jarring as a horses head in the bed (God Father I know!) but still a way of communicating a certain amount of discontent whilst simultaneously unnerving the recipient of the message. The curry is delicious. And I’m glad I deferred this moment not least because I recently read that introverts like to defer gratification and introverts are, so I read, the new cool.
Just read a nice link about Jaflong and it contains the words "doilies in abundance". Could it be that the doily on the plate was simply an over elaboration of the intended decorum.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Postumous human

I am outside lecture room EBG08 – this translates as East Building ground floor room 08 – I am there for a book launch. The invite says it’s between 3.30 and 5 so I think 4 is probably an okay time to arrive but it seems I have come in mid way through the guest speakers speech. Suddenly I feel like an aberrant student. Still I quickly squirrel myself away in a seat at the edge of the front row and keep a low profile. I don’t make a habit of going to lectures in other departments but something about the blurb on the polite invitation drew me in. It’s all about post humanism and escaping the strictures of Newtonian analysis (although here I am already embellishing their copy). The guest speaker is talking about how innovation comes about not through individuals but through groups of ideas happening at the same time and somehow coalescing over time to make a new system that makes the old system obsolete. He is clearly tickled, as am I, by the metaphor of the fax-machine that once ruled the office but is now an historical anomaly. He talks also about how the system of the motorcar came into being at pretty much the same time that the first gusher was unplugged in Texas. We had this idea of limitless cheap fuel and suddenly the world was our oyster. Virginia Woolf, we are told, was very fond of cars and found it hard to believe we could ever go back to a time without them. Her observation that the automobile allows us to happen “upon scenes which would have gone on, have always gone on, will go on, unrecorded, save for this chance glimpse.” reminds me of the genre of American photography that explores the world through the car windscreen. What she saw as a liberating vessel McLuhan later saw as a carapace that distances us from our environment. I have a feeling that the guest speaker is not really into McLuhan. When he was at college I bet McLuhan was distinctly old fashioned. Still in the brief Q&A I do say “erm… do you know much about Buckminster Fuller and the innovative ideas he had possibly being suppressed because they didn’t fit in with the oil based economy?” No he does not know any more than I have just mentioned but oddly what I have asked reminds him of a quote he has. “It’s like a set up,” he jokes reaching for a sheet of paper and finding a quote about how in order to innovate you should not undermine the existing system but make something that renders it obsolete. I am of course summarising. Anyway the guest speaker is done (he’s now pulling strange faces and I get a feeling that I’ve upset him by revealing a blind spot in front of his specialist acolytes) and now the tutors from the University where I work get a chance to talk about their post-humanism book. It’s interesting but something’s not grabbing me. It’s all a bit flat. Why is this? The guest speaker had a fire – that feeling that he was on the cusp of something but these guys are just, you know, more like librarians shuffling ideas from other people and naming them. Perhaps I’m being too harsh and besides I have a certain amount of professional jealousy in play because they have a book published and after all escaping Newtonian strictures is very much my bag. I stay a little afterwards so I can have a brief chat. Okay. I introduce myself to Dr/Prof/Mr (?) Holden “I really like your ideas… I mean the invite really piqued my interest. The whole post-Newtonian Thing…” he’s looking placid and I read this as smug… “ You know it reminded me of Montaigne and the idea that his cat is playing with him rather than visa versa.” I know what I’m doing here is trying to get him to connect but he’s not having it. I pull out a big gun, “do you know the book The Master and his Emissary?” its all about, and now don’t balk, the right and left brain split. I mean you talk about the systems but I just thought that systems are what make us unique as animals but there is a bigger picture. I think I’ve got through. It’s sort of like a poison dart entered his chest. You see he is all about systems. He’s an academic. A social-scientist. Love your label as yourself (McLuhan). I'm thinking that the problem with seeking a unified system is the inherent conflict within trying to explain things coherently. I tell him that freeing ourselves from hierarchies is an idea running throughout art history and he suggests that we collaborate (no nor really) on something to do with hierarchies. Mmm. Thanks but no thanks I think shuffling over to his co author whom I tell that the phrase post humanism is just the same as post modernism in that post words are about trying to regain the part of ourselves we lost when the root word came into being. Modernism wasn’t so long ago and in fact is a development of humanism. Dr/Mr/Prof Holden had told me that humanism was species specific but this then to me is the conundrum, it remains species specific to remain talking about species. Okay we could say yeah lets learn from the systems of nature but its still humans that apply systems as a way of seeing. Now at a later date I will place a quote from the book When East meets West but until then I shall just say we have allowed ourselves to become permanent objectifiers. In order to analyse systematically we are like the white-coated professor viewing the world through a microscope. The problem is we skew the results because we have removed ourselves from all the equations (double slit test anyone?). We’re like articulated calibration machines. God I mean just look up at Spirit of Our Times by Raoul Hausmann. In the afore-mentioned book there is a really neat diagram explaining how when we perceive we could factor ourselves back into the object. The author explains how perceiving is more physical than we allow ourselves to believe and therefore as we are physical phenomena we are part of the thing we are perceiving. So the long and short of it is that in order to be truly post human we need to recognise that systems are like libraries (Dewey decimal) and not the thing itself.

Friday, 2 March 2012

reason's hen

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Agnostic Anglican

Richard Holloway is a Christian Agnostic and this got me thinking. I mean everyone's talking about secularism versus faith right now. I have never seen so many comments on an article. Mind you religion brings the zealot out in us. I like point about the Agnostic Anglican. It has a nice ring to it. From where I'm sat it seems clear that our spiritual selves are seen as an embarrassment even to believers. We (civilised) humans have come so far on intelligence alone that we feel we can leave our deeper perception of life behind. Agnostic Anglicans and their like try to present belief as an adjunct to the rational. An egg laid by reason's hen. I don't feel confident about us realigning the two experiences of life when I see the either or options we present ourselves with. 
Technological advancement has required intense objective activity but not all of us can maintain Einstein's empathy for a faith based on doubt (wonder!) when we subject ourselves to this process. Come on! we the members of the civilised scene place ourselves outside of the observed object. We are articulated calibrating machines. If you take this as the starting point for belief it will lead to a distorted version of spirituality at best and a psychosis (as increasingly seems to be the case) at worst. Schitzophrenics experience their own thoughts as outside of themselves due to an over awareness which routes their perception in the left brain. This over awareness could be seen as the inverted commas that seem to hover over all of the civilised world.
Religions are not immune to this and they "behave like any other worldly individual or organisation and end up doing what protects their secular interests".

Thursday, 1 March 2012

100 Mothers

 I've painted my mum for The harry Pye curated show, Mothers which opens in Chester's contemporary art space Thursday 8th March. Here's a close up. She's in her district nurses uniform as I remember it. I was about 9 when she became one and the transformation into blue really struck me. She seemed important and useful. Until then she had never worn a uniform at home.