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The Hobbit: The Failure of Smaug and The Desolation of Commercial Entertainment

Perhaps art would add something to the experience. And in the addition, which itself might be obscure, there would be a clear if indistinct feeling of relief – a purely human quality consequent on the addition of a wholly inhuman quantity. The experience itself in turn might be neutral or it might be intensely stimulating and would not want for the addition – that is, it would be neutral in view of the addition, or at least could be. Which is only to say that the experience might not even appear lacking but what it lacked might only appear or occur later, on reflection. Reflection could reveal a capacity or a potentiality – purely human – that experience had not reached because it could not without involving another intensive quantity – wholly inhuman. And if the system were by design dissipative, there to provide an experience of social, political, erotic or artistic satisfaction, by relieving a purely human quality, the failure would be one of art, taking into account that this supplementary schema of dissipating what is human need not be, and perhaps were better from the start called, inhuman.

I am thinking of the thermodynamics of art and the energetics of commercial entertainment. Which trades in distraction and – for what reason? – seems to want to avoid adding anything to the closed system of its experience, however stimulating. So that the stimulation is the point? But doesn’t this make it worse? by raising a false expectation that it is this very human capacity that will be invoked, relieved, opened on to?

It is as if the closed energetic system of commercial entertainment excludes from the outset any prospect of relief, that its determined materialism is foreclosed from giving satisfaction. Marx was of course here before. He was right on the problem that capitalism ratchets up desire through the illusion of increasing production – which is resource exhaustion – through a continuous addition of factored-in cost, resulting in a boom-bust cycle, the constant in which is that the producer cannot afford what is produced. What the producer can afford is expectation and disappointment: the call to put more and more energy into a system which offers monstrously disproportionate reward. And little relief. The solution of at least one Marxism is the producer’s ownership and it is assumed control of the means of production. How to re-own ownership of what is given? and of what is the given of capitalism? i.e., the gift.

That something essential is missing occurred to me after seeing the second installment of The Hobbit, The Desolation of Smaug. Not that I am missing or I am being missed – as in I am not the target. Market. Not that I am missing for being excluded from the means of production. And not that I am missing it, or, the point. I was highly productive of laughter, fear and trembling, awe, and kinetic exhaustion, throughout the hyperkinetic HFR 3D experience. It was exhausting. But it left me with regret rather than grateful for having seen it. Not grateful to the massive corporation that made it, delivered it to me, and to the machine of the industry – for which the NZ government in the name of the people is bending over so low to accommodate. Regretful that some supplementary dimension is missing – by design. As if all this artistry were in vain, the artistry of hundreds of artists, from texture artists to actors. Albeit that Peter Jackson has not learnt to direct actors. All those resources and all I had to show for it was an experience from which something was missing. And really it’s not a question of the resources. I saw Frances Ha, a little movie, a character actress vehicle, and it unequally – because it was not so physically involving – failed, failed to acknowledge that anything was missing from it. ‘Relief’ therefore is not the right word. Because the addition is all about acknowledging the problem of art, perhaps, as a barely human defeat in the face of the wholly inhuman.

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it is not time for art; art has become time: it eats its young

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theatre stages place ////\\\\ cinema projects time >>><<< cinematic time & theatrical place

Il était hostile

aux amphitéâtres

dont il disait

qu’ils coupaient

tout échange.

from here

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“A documentary that challenges former Indonesian death squad leaders to reenact their real-life mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers.”

The Act of Killing

explain

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capital: essential listening

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on the edge of something great Gibbs Farm

And the Morgen club arrived, before the Mustang club, to Gibbs Farm – that’s right, no apostrophe – no punctuation – I’m overdoing it.

The brochure we were handed at the gate on entry before 10 am – the designated time – after which, warning-wise – the gates shut – reads:

“When Alan Gibbs bought the land now laconically known as Gibbs Farm, in 1991, he already had three decades of significant art collecting behind him.”

What an extraordinary statement! That the name is laconic and the collecting significant is the least of it. But I’m overdoing it.

The patches are from the multitude of vehicles sliding on the wet spongy grass. More and more came.

The biggest lawn I’ve seen outside Versailles. Much bigger than that. Mown. But with beasts too. First we saw sheep. Bernar Venet’s work sits on the hill. A collection of god’s dirty fingernail parings.

I love the Serra. Richard. Called Te Tuhirangi Contour no previous representative exposure prepared me for the feeling induced by bodily being near to 56 Corten steel plates 252m x 6m x 50mm. The angle of the wall is 11 degrees from the vertical, and the artist’s words have it that it “collects the volume of the land.” The mythology has it that when the work arrived, having been stacked in the hold of the ship, the plates had flattened, leaving no contour. The story continues that Serra had to replace it in its entirety.

The feeling is rather than collection – however significant – a great calm. A similar calm to entering into an expansive interior, a Gothic cathedral. Edging one’s way along the work, the wall, I touched every Corten steel plate. Warm with a calm vitality. A human volume collected, not the volume of the land?

Richard Thompson’s Untitled (Red Square / Black Square) had to wait for the busloads of kids to arrive to be brought to life. The work dates from 1994. The black to red surface transition is the best thing about it and its decisive severity.

Buffalo.

An enlargement of the Chinese miniature landscape, the brochure has Zhan Wang’s Floating Island of the Immortals serve as a landscape to look for an idealistic [sic] world of immortals. I think even immortals would slip from its shiny chrome-icecream surfaces.

Neil Dawson’s Horizons someone called the Tintin and yes this for its purely graphic imposition on the landscape, an immortal’s fallen napkin, after finishing a meal of chromium ice cream, fits. But proximity gives away the device: painted pipe and painted mesh. Materials made clever. Which I suppose is Tintinesque too.

Introducing Dismemberment, Site 1, Anish Kapoor’s telluric diaphragm, and more a joining grommet or passage than a dismemberment, so I wonder what he meant. Dismemberment connects the Kaipara with the valley in which Gibbs is laconically and significantly situated. It nestles between mown mounds and suggests a sexual prosthetic for the earth.

The sound of earthworks was constant at the Farm, echoing over the hill from the Kaipara, where a digger was at work removing mangrove, opening up swathes of waterfields. The Kaipara as waterfeature to go with the land – collected by Serra – as lawn?

Private.

The best view of Graham Bennett’s Sea / Sky Kaipara, a series of prismatic rejects from the giant glasshouse project of the the immortals, elicited the same response from all the passers-by I happened by passing: It looks temporary. Look! It’s not even tethered down properly. It seems impermanent. Are they still finding the right spot for it? (Note how forward slashes prevail in these titles.)

Anish Kapoor. Dismembering site 1. 2009.

The ellipse. A calculated surprise?

Materials, again. Mild steel tube and tensioned fabric, according to the brochure. (Mild?) (tensioned?) Running East to West, 25m x 8m at one end, 8m x 25m at the other, connected over 85m.

I want to.

Daniel Burren’s fence. Green and white. A colour mistake you wonder he didn’t wonder about fixing before it got out of hand.

Approaching Bernar Venet’s 88.5 degrees ARCx8 – tense.

Folded earthworks – lumps out of their molds. Maya Lin’s A Fold in the Field, 2013.

We realised what I was reacting to when I said I couldn’t get comfortable with this work, Bernar Venet’s. It is an uncomfortable curve. And unlike some of the others I felt nothing with or for not a poor use of colour or materials, including the use of paint, which in sculpture I am happy that time had the Greeks halt. An uncomfortable arc that god’s fingernail parings follow. No calmness here. And fingernails indeed, since there are eight of them.

The people seemed to love this work. Most wanting to have the obligatory novelty shot taken. Stand there, as if you’re holding the curve up! Or: Lie down on the oxidised steel boxing! Now smile!

I suppose a half-smile is a similarly uncomfortable curve. A sarcastic smile. Almost a sneer.

No, but these are grasping fingers. Fingers which know they have dropped Neil Dawson’s skeletal handkerchief.

The aluminium and stainless steel pipework you see in the background, these constitute Kenneth Snelson’s Easy K. A disappointing title for a sculpture that I started to like as soon as I noticed that it cranes out over the water, suspended at only a couple of points. It cantilevers.

The Mermaid, who, like Anish Kapoor’s Dismemberment, Site 1 says, No fun. No climbing. No ride. Keeping itself to its own transition. This cube bridge done by Marijke de Goey inviting transgression followed the line of the hills behind in isomorphism or parallelism.

Approaching Sol LeWitt’s Pyramid (Keystone NZ) I was thinking about breezeblock. Maybe prisons. Maybe cheap housing. Maybe perm-mat housing. And basements smelling of wet concrete. Without a breeze. Blocked in. The cavities in the blocks empty as morgues. Air-morgues.

What breathes here is the play of light on the blocks. There was a pink lady watching me to see if like the kids preceding us I would dare to climb up Sol LeWitt. Pink high-viz jacket. But it’s not a pyramid of course. It’s a trapezoidal wedge.

Another colour mistake, Leon van den Eijkel’s Red Cloud Confrontation in Landscape recalls the Jewish monument in Berlin. But memorialises poor aesthetic decisions, frames a nice pond, nothing much else.

Others I know did not respond to Peter Nicholls’s Rakaia, an early work for the laconic Farm, dated 1996/7, but despite its literalism, I liked it. I like the way the red has shed on the ground around the raised painted dead wood, disliking at the same time the means of elevating the braiding red-painted woodcourses.

I saw this in a well-built shed. Citroens etcetera.

The kinetic panels of Two Rectangles, Vertical Gyratory Up (V), 1987, but surely bought and installed much later, by George Rickey, stand in the middle here, before the unattributed fountain, looking still as solar receptors.

Questions about the significance of the collection remain. It’s big. The works are big. Anish Kapoor’s and Richard Serra’s and Bernar Venet’s stand out. It is assumed that this is a difficult task on the big canvas of this landscape.

But the dramas are everywhere. The caretaker ladies telling me to Jog on! as I straggled nearing the deadline for clearing the property.

The privacies all over asked for. The absence of entries and crossings despite the works inviting both entries and crossings.

Perhaps this is why Serra’s barricade wins: it doesn’t so much collect the volume of the land as bar both entry and crossing. It snakes and makes private and isolate exactly nothing more than is on the other side.

I see I haven’t mentioned or recorded in image Jeff Thomson’s corro giraffe, Len Lye’s Wind Wand – looking like an aetiolated 80s lamp from a rape-free zone – or Andy Goldsworthy’s Arches. The last we looked down on from the hills, hearing the digger returning to mud and water the littorals of the Kaipara.

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a description of aion – comment welcome

 

What follows is not representative of Deleuze’s aion. It is my reading and the flaws in it are also mine.

Aion is a pure surface in contact with the outside. It has no immemorial or historic depth to it. Pure surface, it is opposed to chronological time, or chronos.

Chronos allows metaphors, such as depth – the depths of history or memory – and those spatial metaphors derived from geometry and mechanics – a linear, circular time, the wheel of time and the time of mechanical causation, acceleration and dynamic action and reaction. Chronos is metrical, the time of measure and mathematical judgement. Chronos is figurative, can be represented in linguistic and mathematical codes and symbolic registers. Finally, chronos represents time and is what we normally talk about in dealing with representations of time.

The necessity for another understanding of time, aion, comes from the intuition that the present is unrepresentable. However, aion does not connote the present. Aion is in contact with this present, its surface pressed to it.

The problem, therefore, addressed by the concept of aion as a schema of time is the special status of the present. The past may be knowable and the future unknowable but the present can only be a subject of incomplete representation. It is never quite there, never entirely there. It never fully expresses itself – in figural or figurative terms, in symbolic or material registers – and must remain open both to the fully realised past and to the as yet unrealised future.

Aion is not just another word for the present, it regards the present as the outside and it is in regard to the present that it arises as problem and fact. The outside, then, consists of you and I in an unquantifiable present, a present, that is, unquantifiable by or according to chronos. The outside is everything that is in this present moment. It is possessed of all the forces that are brought to bear at a singular point in time which itself is unqualifiable, unable to be given a place or position except in relation, and a present which is literally and exactly incapable of taking place. Place comes, or the place the present left a moment ago, comes after, from a knowable and representable past, from a realised time, chronos. Place is a quantifiable dimension of time and belongs to chronos.

The reason to talk as if forces were taking control and overrunning the present is to point to that of which we are all too aware in subjective experience: that we plug in the past, the realised, the quantified, knowledge, identity and material and symbolic entities to what exists for us in the present moment. We extract forces from things and subjects only in so far as the present, our present, is invested in them, interest, the interest of forces soon to be annihilated, in a moment. We feel affects from objects and others only in so far as they are capable of taking place in a present traversed by forces. These forces occupy the outside, they are the outside into which we are plugged and into which we plug what is affectless, inert, anorganic and lifeless. The world as represented somehow achieves and gets to this present, this outside, which cannot be represented.

Aion provides the point of achievement and getting to whereby the world is then accessible to measure and quantity, to scientific and mathematical intelligibility. The movement whereby the world crosses from the future to arrive in the past is through an outside. This movement is absolute rather than able to be relativised according to fixed points. It is the movement of the present and a passage over and against aion’s pure surface. The word ‘pure’ is meant to reinforce the dimensionlessness of the surface not to impose or import an hierarchy or morality.

If the present is absolute movement, the play of a multiplicity of forces, then aion is pure surface. Aion gives a temporal record of an absolute movement without coordinates.

Relative movement occurs with coordinates; points are already in play, in position. By permitting the taking place of the present, its occupation by the forces of the outside, plugging in, aion shows that both movement and points must be created. Chronos will be the sort of time in which points and movement are coordinated but is not the sort of time necessary for their creation because chronos cannot get near enough to the present that is unrepresentable. But then aion is like the membrane the need for representation would interpose between chronos and this outside present.

In fact, the relation works the other way around: aion gives rise to chronos through its contact with all that can be said to be. Since the existence of both the past and present may be refuted but that of the present is irrefutable.

Movement must be created. Aion is the edge or skin of this creation as it presses against the outside. On its surface – which is why it is never pure in the sense of importing or having an hierarchy or morality imposed upon it – the relative points of singular movements, the lived moments of singular durations are made and appear. Aion embodies the play of infinitesimals on its surface; which means aion embodies all movement as that between and among differences in intensity, giving rise to the singularities that chronos takes and represents along physical and no longer absolute registers.

Aion because it is a pure surface in contact with the forces of the outside and the absolute present and because it skins or covers the process of a universal creation in terms of all movement itself moves outward. It is like a tsunami advancing irresistably against which we stand for a moment and into which we disappear. It is also like a seam or fold extending the length of time and reaching to the depths of space and carrying all of time and space along with it.

This description of aion was included at the end of a short email exchange with Justin B. Rye. I had initially sent Justin the briefest of notes saying that he’d left Deleuze’s aion out of A Guide To SF Chronophysics , where it might not belong, but the possibility it could – the epithet ‘science fiction’ is not altogether misplaced in application to Deleuze’s writing – and that its inclusion might upset some or all of the laws said to apply to temporal schema (or “chronophysics”) in even their fictional deployment was prompt enough for a note. Justin responded with

I’d never heard of Deleuze’s aion.  Googling for it, it looks like the
usual kind of timewasting wordgames churned out by professional
obfuscationists.  Can you suggest some reason anybody with a
functioning brain should take it seriously?  What, for instance, are
the real-world phenomena that it claims to provide a better
explanation for than alternative approaches?

His last email to me provided a running commentary – through-written – on the preceding description of aion which remains entirely and uniformly consistent with this response.”This is such overwritten nonsense it might as well be a hymn to Hulmu,” he interjects at his wittiest. He offers to fetch me a straitjacket and ends writing, “I’m sorry, the only thing it’s much like is a load of old toss.” Strangely, his sign-off throughout our correspondence was

JBR
Ankh kak! (Ancient Egyptian blessing)

Perhaps what he says is true.

But I am interested in hearing your reaction.

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seeing Barney’s wonderful one-man show …Him last night …

…made me want to write a play again. Is this wrong?

I get the feeling something is being left unsaid.

And listening to This Mortal Coil today (“Holocaust”) gave me an inkling of what it is,

and where there is space in the market.

Send me ideas, donations, commissions.

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Jaron Lanier & criticality, ii – more of the same

We have economic fear combined with everybody joined together on these instant twitchy social networks which are designed to create mass action.

– Jaron Lanier quoted here

A pogrom is carried out by a “crowd,” the true horrific embodiment of the purported “wisdom of the crowd.” You could say it made Lanier even more determined not to remain mute. To speak out against the digital barbarism he regrets he helped create.

– Ibid.

Jaron Lanier’s critique takes a bit of Paul Virilio and a touch of Elias Canetti. “Twitchy social networks” suggests however the very opposite of mass homogenisation implicit in the image of www. as productive of mobs. “Twitchy” and “instant” connote a nervous system with realtime responsiveness not the system of nerves of any recognisable representational medium, say, for instance the so-called “social network.” The latter in so far as it is “designed to create mass action” and produce mobs produces its own latent capacity for action by reproducing it. The famous “flash mob” phenomenon, for example, combines a sense of responsiveness with a sense of mass directedness, inciting to action. But a “flash mob” names a time and an action for a participatory spectacle. Participants in this spectacle are already interested and are then fore-warned. The “twitch” is a foreclosure of responiveness; the mass action is a rehearsal and an event staged for spectators.

Isn’t it more a matter that the www. is a network showing and producing more of the same? There is more of the same. Or the same insists on being more. More of the same.

The network is a type of representation par excellence.

Are there conditions under which this type of representation could be used to incite to mass and horific cruelty? to “man’s inhumanity to man”?

Will we see a “flash mob” pogrom?

This would be a very artful use of the medium. (Art as war conducted by other means, here.) And is really beside the point of there being an inherency in the digital per se such that it possesses limitations. I tend to think that the network – and www. as a candidate network – illustrate the transfinitude of representation, internalising and anaesthetising against limits. A mathematisation of representation is then implicit, which asks for comparison to the thought of Alain Badiou and Quentin Meillassoux. And I really must get around to getting around to writing on this subject and stop producing more of the same.

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Federico Armando Beltrán-Masses, 1885-1949, Graphic Idealism, the New Aesthetic and the best porn

Pierrot malade, ou Pierrot et Colombine, 1929

Frederico Beltrán-Masses was a Cuban-born Spanish painter whose reputation flourished in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Friends with William Randolph Hearst, whose portrait he painted, his influence is apparent on the films of the era, particularly his body aesthetic, the look of his women. He’d already shown his notorious Salome, painted in Paris in 1918, at the XII Venice Biennale, 1920, in a pavilion dedicated to his work. When shown in London, in 1929, she was called the most daring nude ever painted, “a naked woman in a pose which no lesser artist could have attempted,” depicted in an athletically erotic position, crutch forward. It could be said that Beltrán-Masses’s athletic eroticism was fashion forward. But of course his exoticism, an Everyman’s Babylonia, his orientialism, which makes him an heir to Moreau, must also have had its fans in Hollywood.

His paintings have this patina – a built-in pathology of age, as if the materials were already in decay before he put them on the canvas. It is theatrical. But there’s a veil, a gauze, an accretion of textural detail – over everything, so that even when it’s clear, with the whites of Pierrot’s costume and the throw on the fauteuil, a sick haze is still there. Which is probably what attracted me to this painting: theatricality and pathology. And the effects of time in which both take part.

These characteristics are what I’m missing from the high definition imagery, the retina tech, which Duchamp would have recognised as belonging to a merely retinal artistic culture, that fills every screen, and screens everywhere. The tablet and touch screen might have returned something of the tactile but so much about their materiality, the glass, the plastic, the metal, while it will last a fraction of the time of one of Beltrán-Masses’s paintings, places it outside of time, which is its own sort of theatricality and pathology, but is in fact inimical to touch since our bodies tie the temporal and tactile together in a decaying, rotting and inevitably dying knot.

There’s something wrong with these paintings, even the flesh of Beltrán-Masses’s nudes, his Salome, and it’s not simply in the elision of genital detail. They look wrong and dated. It’s not simply the implicit prudery eschewing the pornographic. It might be an a-graphism. What these paintings show is the opposite of graphic. As if the clean lines and clear forms we are more familiar with and which we consider closer to nature, to visible reality, were borrowed or stolen exclusively from the clarity, the cleanliness of letters, scripts, writing, in a kind of graphic idealism. Which of course has nothing to do with nature, time, sickness and our bodies, or health, for that matter.

It lies. Graphic idealism. It glitches and because it is machine made it gives rise to an imagistic unconscious, unconsciouses, satellite imagery, computer eyes, distant from the human and un-willed. Which has been called a New Aesthetic. But these machinic aspects are possibly its solitary virtue. (Although I’ve written this sentence three times because my touchpad is playing up. Should I leave the lacuna in obeisance to this virtue?)

I’d been missing something from the imagery on my phone and computer and television and the advertisment hordings and the magazines and … and funny that newsprint retains something of an ongoing state-of-decay recalling the process of time, even more now with digital capture and printing of images showing technical progress doesn’t make for better quality. (But the involuntary shakiness, unmatching colour separations, pixelation and artifacting of the newspaper photo perhaps epitomise the New Aesthetic?) And where what I’d been missing most is most absent is where you might most expect to find it: in graphic depictions of the nude body. Porn I’ve always thought of as the first pomo artform. Bodies come together like the conjunction of letters, like X’s, spread at either end.

A friend said the best porn is the worst. But so much relies on the support medium. VHS is able to be worse. Digital break-up of flesh-tones immediately leaves the territory of even the slimmest pretext of eroticism. As an aside, this could be an observation applicable to digital imagery itself, whether reticulated at the retinal level or on the verge of breaking down in newsprint: a depth all surface. With Andy Warhol as prophet and profiteer. But I hope there’s something more profoundly superficial going on here: the digital image when it fails to represent – in its untimely decay – leaves behind representation altogether. Thinness or lack of profondeur is not the issue, nor is the intimation that the digital body at its most intimate might suddenly reveal itself at its least like a body.

Here the digital makes a short cut – tout court – allowing no natural passage of real time and cutting short the process – of decay or progress. I mean the decay can be built in to painting, the material decay bound to occur, and it can also occur. And what is presented by its inherency in the artistic project or aesthetic – decadence – is the boundedness of materiality: the unescapable depredations of… What? A throwaway society doesn’t see its treasured artifacts decay. Even its iPhone 5’s. Time no longer represents time as process. We fall immediately from one thing into another, through the screened image into what is technically chaos. The spectacle is what is longest lasting in its immediacy, then. Then there is no then.

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