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With the overwhelming popularity of last week’s NYT OpEd The Busy Trap in my circles, I’ve been thinking a lot about why artists (myself included) overwork themselves. The article seems to think this is self-imposed stress, and to a certain degree this is right, but there are real societal pressures and virtue rewards to overproduction. Isabelle Lowrey writes in her essay Virtuosos of Freedom (in Critique of Creativity) that:
financing of one’s own creative output, enforced and yet opted for at the same time, constantly supports and reproduces the very conditions in which one suffers and which one at the same time wants to be part of. It is perhaps because of this that creative workers, these voluntarily precarized virtuosos, are subjects so easily exploited; they seem able to tolerate their living and working conditions with infinite patience because of the belief in their own freedoms and autonomies, and because of the fantasies of self-realization. In a neoliberal context, they are so exploitable that, now, it is no longer just the state that presents them as role models for new modes of living and working.
That hit hard, but it gets worse:
Experiences of anxiety and loss of control, feelings of insecurity as well as the fear and the actual experience of failure, a drop in social status and poverty are linked with this state of self-precarization. It is for this reason too that ‘letting go’ or other forms of dropping out of or shedding the hegemonic paradigm are difficult. You have to stay ‘on speed’ or else you could be eliminated. You always feel threatened. There is no clear time for relaxation and recuperation. Then the desire to relax and ‘find oneself’ becomes insatiable. Such reproductive practices usually have to be learned all over again. They are no longer the most natural thing in the world and have to be fought for, bitterly, in a struggle with oneself and others. This in turn is what makes the longing for reproduction, for regeneration, so hugely marketable.
To put this in my own words (and for the record, I rather abhor the term “virtuoso” as expressing the artist at work) reproduction has something of a sex appeal to the artist because the materiality of your work – the sheer volume of it – validates your existence as an artist. An artist cannot seriously be motivated by profit if only because so few artists generate reasonable living wages; an artist is therefore typically motivated/validated by production; an artist is only an artist when they are actively producing.
What I don’t advocate for is the creation of a Creative Class (which is divisive in nature in spite of its desire to create ‘better cities’ and is a myth in any case) or the equally distasteful Randian superiority complex. On the flip side there are very real assumptions that art should be free because it is art. I generally agree with this in theory, but this assumes that the artist takes on the cost of production (which is unfair and unrealistic.) It also places the duty of art production in the hands of an already established elite. If we want a diverse population of art makers producing authentic art, and are going to uphold the current state of needing make a living in order to survive; then we must be willing to pay for beautiful things.
Of course, current systems to buy and sell art must also be examined. There is much that has been written about the causes of absurdly overpriced art which I encourage you to read if you are curious. My problem is that rather than suggest that artists should be economic chauvinists or economically depraved, there has to be a third alternative: one which facilitates access to all parties while not starving the producers.
Like maybe the radical notion that all people contributing to the wellbeing of a society, if they actually contribute to the wellbeing of a society, deserve living wages.
I’d just like to check in about this, because I have a feeling most people are confused. Naomi Klein wrote No Logo, The Shock Doctrine, and narrated the Post Argentina Bankruptcy Documentary The Take. Naomi Wolf wrote The Beauty Myth, The End of America, and most recently an article for The Guardian in which the latter half of links go to unverified and possibly paranoid news sources.
This begins when Wolf sets up a failed link to the Washington Post Blog Wonkette. I read that article a week or so ago, and what it said is that there was an FBI leak, which the FBI denies, that the FBI was working with local city governments to dismantle Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Wall Street Solidarity sites. There is a follow up to that post where the link still works here. You will notice that it calls into question its own source which is the same one Wolf links to in her article: The Examiner. What I liked about the original Wonkette article is that it quoted a protester as stating the obvious: why wouldn’t the FBI and perhaps DHS be interested in a national protest movement like Occupy Wall Street? Though it’s unverified, it’s reasonable to assume national government branches were involved in the multiple destruction of Occupy Sites.
Alternet, who was referenced by Wolf in The Guardian article, wrote an excellent follow up saying they were wrongly implicated: “AlterNet has ‘broken’ no such story – nobody has. We have asked Wolf to retract this claim, but as of this writing, it still remains on her site several days later.”
Let’s take look at the track record of Wolf and Klein: Wolf’s The End of America and other recent work has decried that the United States Government is on a track to fascism. Wolf also recently spoke at a Ron Paul Rally.
Klein however, like the majority of Occupy Wall Street movement supporters, believes that corportations have too big a role in the government, and that we have an obligation to prioritize the needs of the people above corporate personhood. Klein also most recently sat on a pannel with Michael Moore.
Klein herself has tweeted, “PLEASE STOP CONFUSING ME WITH NAOMI WOLF,” as the Canadian National Post pointed out in January of this year. They say:
Going by Google, as many people as ever are confused, vis-à-vis the whiz who wrote No Logo and married into Canada’s leading social dynasty, and the one who, well, once advised presidential candidate Al Gore to wear “earth tones.”
Because this is primarily a design blog, I think it is worth noting that both authors websites use a white N in a black box, though Wolf uses an italicized marker font, while Klein uses a bold san serif. This small fact does not make a significant distinction in separating their namesakes. That and I will attempt to return this to a more traditional design focused blog upon the next posting.
I’ve started a new project called all the things that love you. all the things that love you is a free semi-interactive children’s ebook made entirely of hand printed material before being uploaded to the internet. Each page is a blank note card and can be ordered individually through my etsy store. Additionally, a six month subscription of cards is available for those excited to invest in the continuation of the project or simply receive a little more love in their mailbox. Each card received may be kept or mailed forward to the lover of your choice.
I have two other projects I’ve been working on as well. One is a study of pigeons in flight called “homing” done in layers of a singular transparent tone to achieve an effect similar to an ink wash. The other is a spatial study in narrative, identity, and mapping. More on this as it develops. It’s going to be a busy summer!
I know I haven’t posted in awhile (been busy) but this intellectual praxis by Bret Victor really sparked my interest. Bret is one of 5 who works at Push Pop Press, the programing company designing “a physics-based multi-touch user interface” for the iPad, beginning with the new Al Gore Book. Also in the group is Mike Matas, co-founder of Push Pop and former employee of Apple during the developmental stages of the iPad and iPhone.
Victor posits in that “The power to understand and predict the quantities of the world should not be restricted to those with a freakish knack for manipulating abstract symbols” and thereby formulates solutions for how mathematical principles could be easily manipulated visually through user interface design to be adequately understood and applied to the concrete world. He says, “Writing and math are both symbol-based systems. But I speculate that written language is less artificial because its symbols map directly to words or phonemes, for which humans are hard-wired” though even more interestingly he refers to math as an art form:
This project is not an attack on practicing math for its own sake. I have no problem with mathematics for recreation, or as an art form… There’s beauty in patterns and rules; there’s challenge in discovering it; that’s all fine. My problem is when mindless tradition and lack of imagination compel us to use this art form, with all of its archaic restrictions, as a practical tool.
He makes an analogy between martial arts and mathematical arts, and then suggests that martial arts have become (for better or for worse) inferior to technological advances in the art of war. It doesn’t mean it’s not graceful or beautiful or valuable to practice martial arts, but that “Unlike math, we recognize that the martial arts are no longer suitable for their original practical purpose, now that technological progress has yielded more wonderously effective ways of smashing people.”
My favorite anecdote is then found here:
(Also unlike math, we don’t force-feed twelve years of lessons to every child on the planet, and those who are unskilled at the art aren’t made to feel ashamed and vaguely inferior.)
I think this is important, given the the sometimes chauvinistic approach to math and science; i.e. the ‘god is dead, all hail modern science!’ approach. I don’t take issue with god existing or not but I do take issue with the systematic disempowerment/devaluation of people/nature/beauty, whatever the approach. I like science an awful lot and think it has a wonderful and intriguing place amongst society where it doesn’t try to explain the-universal-theory-of-everything-to-the-point-of-digressing-into-hard-determinism. In the reprinting of Vandana Shiva’s first book called Staying Alive (originally published in 88), Shiva says the “book focuses on science and development as patriarchal projects not as a denial of other sources of patriarchy, such as religion, but because they are thought to be class, culture, and gender neutral.” In other words as a system developed by people in power, science as a tool of power is still plagued with biases that systematically oppress people. In the case of Staying Alive Shiva is focusing on the agricultural practices of women of color being devalued as work entirely.
I’m making a jump now, and should probably jump back before writing an extended thesis on Shiva’s insight (which I’ll save for another post). I have no idea whether or not Bret Victor would agree with me on these issues, and certainly don’t mean to lessen the glory of his elegant interactive simulation models. You should really check them out here. They are awesome in theory and in practice.
It’s been said a million times in a million different ways, but it doesn’t get old.
“What I have loved, whether I have kept it or not, I shall love forever.” Andre Breton
For those of you a little weary on this love holiday I leave you with a couple more heart beats:
This lovely story by Charles Warnke (21 years old he is, no way! Please make sure you read the second page!)
Yesterday I made the photo slideshows for two of my projects: the tea project and the collards project which are below. They warm my heart and make me miss you. Hope you enjoy.
Olneyville Tea Project Music “Happening” by Omnivore
Growing Collards photos by Li Pallas, Heidi Hickman, Ken Nahan, and Sound Mixed by Laine Kaplan-Levenson
Brené Brown’s notes on shame, worthiness, and embracing vulnerability. a little belated posting this, a little belated hearing/watching this, but thankful one wonderfully whole hearted friend preciously tucked this into my email box.
I’ve been focusing the bulk of my efforts on a design/eat interactive arts project called Growing Collards over at Gris Gris Lab in New Orleans. Please stop by, contribute, and check it out. Interesting arts/architectural writings will resume a faster pace very soon as I am reading and coalescing massive quantities of relational theory for your consumption.
Lots of love,
The Collards Project has two remote kiosks for contributions. One at Louisiana Artworks (725 Howard Avenue) as part of the Editions At Dawn Print Show on November 6th 6-9pm; and one at The Front Gallery (4100 St Claude) as part of the Multispecies Salon 3: Swarm on November 13th 6-10pm, then moved to The Old Ironworks (612 Piety Street). Contributions will be on display at Artworks until December 3rd, and at Ironworks until Dec 5th, before being consolidated at Gris Gris Labs for the Closing Exhibition and Dinner Party on December 10th. Additional remote contributions may be made by emailing the artist at firstname.lastname@example.org or snail mailing directly to the gallery at 2245 Brainard St, New Orleans, 70113.
So I know it is totally uncool to like major motion pictures, but OH MY GOODNESS Inception was AMAZING. As far as game theory is concerned, the entire movie is based on a series of easily followable premises (and some logical variables) and nevertheless captivates through creating these very real dream worlds. When in the dream, anything that is happening physically to the dreaming person happens in the dream world for instance. Consequently there are some really interesting feats of physics, which, as opposed to using CGI, Christopher Nolan chose to build sets on hydrolics… The results are incredibly stunning:
The storyline of the film is to break into someone’s dream (by “architecting” a dream that could feasibly be as real as their own!) and steal or implant an idea, which, in order to take, must be it’s simplest form so the dreamer assumes he crafted the concept himself. All I can say is it pushed all my right buttons and go effing see it.
In the wake of watching the film, I first though *maybe I should go to architecture school in Los Angeles* which, after you see the film, you might also want to do (or Paris…). But I shook that thought away fairly quickly realizing that the whole premise of the film: that you can create a dream world and invite someone in; that is what I want to be doing. Creating these dream worlds, inviting people in, and being there myself to document and share the findings of how people behave in ideal situations: under the premise of playfulness. That creating these spaces will help that playfulness spread, and you know, something like world peace ensues.
Big dreams, I know. Go big or go home.
Anyway, in the last chapter of Antoine’s autobiography, which reads just like any other adventure novel, he is traveling through the Spanish Civil War trying to recover Frenchmen who have be held captive by one side or the other. At one point he is where everyone is hiding, and in order to find out where a man is being held, the guy they meet calls out into the seemingly empty valley. The overwhelming response from all corners is “Quiet! Go to bed! Time to sleep!” Saint-Exupery writes,
“It excites us. You who read this will perhaps think that these men were merely playing a game. In a sense they were. I am sure that, being simple men, if you had caught them at their sport they would have denied that it was serious. But games always cover something deep and intense, else there would be no excitement in them, no pleasure, no power to stir us.”
In the end, the call and responder both say to each other, “good night, friend!”
“There words were not the same, but their truth’s were identical. Why has this high communion never yet prevented men from dying in battle against each other?”
(pgs 202 and 203 respectfully like woah.)