The following writings are excerpts from an ongoing project titled "Slavery" (2013-). They are filled with contradictions and are often problematic and incomplete.They are essentially unedited and frequently do not match my current thinking, but they are important kernels of thought and represent a significant aspect of my practice. The text is ordered chronologically by when it was written from earliest at the top to most recent at the bottom
Cerebral communication yields quantitative and repeatable results. Visceral communication is based in qualitative and experiential physicality. Simply put, cerebral communication exists in a way such that there is a one to one correspondence between the unreal and the real - a simple language. Visceral communication employs a much more dynamic language. This language varies in its correspondence to reality. Therefore, visceral communication is a more complicated and varied language than is cerebral communication.
Division of artists into rational and irrational/emotional. This is like the Heisenberg Principle or the concept of resonance structures. You can draw something or see something one way or the other, but not both ways at the same time. Artists in history have taken the easy way out by choosing the representation of one version or the other. Far fewer have done the job of the artist, which is to choose both versions simultaneously, showing something that is grey rather than black or white, showing the actual structure of the world rather than the structure of the world as it manifests itself to humanity.
Do you remember? The day the earth cracked No, not that day. I remember the day The day that I peered through A window in my room. It was a large window that Looked out upon a courtyard, And on the other side of that Courtyard was another building And another window. I remember the day The day that I peered through A window past another window. It was an even larger window that Opened into a square room with Several lounge chairs. Red, of course, and On the other side of that room Was another window. I remember the day The day that I peered through A window past another window Past another window. It was a smaller window, only Because of the perspective, and It looked out upon another building Across 36th Street, and On the face of that building Was another window I remember the day The day that I peered through A window past another window Past another window past another window. This one was crooked, skewed as though From another world. Nothing Lay behind that window, but Whiteness, a glowing blue light. I remember that day because Because it was also the day that I realized what I wanted from A life well lived. I wanted to see And to see through the barricades.
Technology and art: What does it all mean?
Photography is a form of liberation from the physical. By processing the physical once through a lens, truth falls away, and fear of ignoring the truth in art dies with the process. Tourists take advantage of this same concept without realizing it. Living in two dimensions is easier and more real in a somehow natural way than living in three dimensions, so natural that we don't realize we downsize our world to length and height alone to free ourselves of the burden of width.
Freedom is the greatest enemy of painting, for painting is about truth seeking. Freedom. Freedom is a lie - one that we are ubiquitously told. Like a photograph, it seems real to us, but it is not. Life is and will always be about slavery. We may not be slaves to one, but we are indeed slaves to our own. We have alliances and connections that require from us a burden of assistance that damns our freedom. We must eat, drink, and breathe to live, and for that we are not free. We are caged in our bodies, we are caged in our minds, and we are caged in our lives. Fooling ourselves about freedom is a mistake. It ruins a painting. One can never find truth in a painting about freedom.
It is the whole that counts, nothing else.
Construction of a world appears to me to be illusionism. What makes a painting different from so-called reality? This is a major question, one of the most important of our age. Distinction between the real and unreal is blurring. When are we dreaming? When are we living? When are we dead? Life seems to fly by with streaming contrails. Everything in our periphery is blurry. To me then, painting can be just as real as this so-called reality. Maybe then, there is no difference between our world's creation and our hand's creation.
Jeff Koons? Boring...
Part to the whole - This is the relationship we seek in painting. It is the key to understanding the world. How does the small relate to the large?
Sean Scully, Royal Standard of Ur, Book of Kells. Meditation is key.
Micro v. Macro: In our world there is one fundamental dichotomy. That is the contrast of large and small. In physics, this means universe versus atom. Yet somehow, the large relates and depends on the small, just as the small in some fundamental way depends on the large that it creates. To the human mind though, these two images are impossible to visualize relationally. How can things that can't be seen, like atoms, be responsible for the way everything looks to us? Such an issue of visualization and direct human understanding can't be answered easily from cerebral communication. I believe though that art is indeed the key to unlocking the visual relationship between large and small intuitively in the human mind. Through the creation of patterns by repeated small forms, a larger pattern develops. Understanding of the large pattern changes as a function of distance from the artwork. The viewer then in this instance becomes the scientist, studying the relationship between large and small, but on an accessible level. In essence, the painting becomes the world (the creation). The more repetition, the more similar to the world the painting becomes.
Grid, Pattern, and Form: In art, the grid is an essential form. It divides and structures and provides a place for the artist to experiment and for the viewer to rest. Essentially all painting deals with the notion of grid from atmospheric Turner paintings to minimalist works like those by Donald Judd. The frame becomes the standard by which the artist determines the painting. Obliteration of the frame makes an equally significant statement as its complete preservation. Traditionally, all paintings through their almost exclusively rectangular picture plane have dealt with the concept of a grid by default. However, even in today's contemporary environment, in which painting has migrated off the wall, the grid, both its construction and its deconstruction, play the essential role in painting. It is important to note that the obliteration of the frame does not necessarily suggest chaos. Atmospheric works are often about meditation, not chaos, and yet frequently they completely obliterate the grid pattern. Similarly, keeping a strict grid pattern does not mean the painting becomes rational in its statement. Disruption and corruption of an intact grid can suggest chaos in an equally tangible way as a painting that obliterates all sense of a grid. Painting functions on a multiple correspondence system that depends both on context and visceral reaction. The grid then functions to create a pattern. Regardless of the complexity of the pattern, the grid is responsible. This pattern in turn reflects the relationship between micro and macro. The nature of this relationship is form.
Sometimes, art requires that the system is the lack of a system. That is, the artist can choose the extent to which his artwork is governed by a series of rules. When rules are not considered, art becomes randomness, a quality that can in fact be quite seductive. Creation without rules still follows a rule though: there shall be no rules. Thus, it is impossible for the artist to escape some kind of a system. This system forms the grid of the painting.
Artist as laborer: an important necessity. Ideas aren't enough to float art. The artist must have a physical relationship with the work for it to be a creation of any sort.
The deconstruction of the painting process results in the generation of the rhythm of creation itself.
All I think about are shapes.
The individual shapes the whole and the whole shapes the individual. The question is which appeared first, the individual or the whole? Is there a fixed trajectory of the development of the whole and the subsequent development of the individual? That is, is the destiny of the individual predetermined by the deposition of the whole? Understanding the relationship between the individual and the whole is the essential problem of our age. Does the whole have an independent existence or is it merely the result of a combination of individuals? My hypothesis is that the whole has some degree of independence from the individual.
Vir Heroicus Sublimis subscribes to Greenberg's concept of medium-specificity by emphasizing flatness. The painting consists of a vast field of red, which appears to lack any modulation, split into sections by vertical strips or "zips." The vast size of the canvas and its overwhelming red expanses emphasize a flatness that physically engulfs the viewer into an alternative world. Although some zips like the bright white one seem to exist in front of the red field while others seem to be more distant, any sense of transparency that these zips create is unreadable as earthly space. The painting thus divorces itself from outside influence and even transcends earthly experience by letting the flatness and color of the paint itself determine the content of the canvas. The experience for the viewer becomes one of "disinterested contemplation," as there is no way for the viewer to see the painting as part of earth. Rather, the painting offers the viewer an immersive experience into an alternative world. At the same time, Newman's exploitation of the unique flatness of paint indicates the limitations of the medium as an inherently two-dimensional enterprise. Any notion of relatable space that a painting creates is the result of borrowing from other mediums like sculpture. Therefore, the unique flatness that painting has to offer is also its greatest limitation.
In Rosalind Krauss' discussion, Rauschenberg serves as a vulnerable absorber rather than as an active, heroic maker. The artist indiscriminately receives materials from the world, embedding them in paintings as fragments of life. This attitude toward art making is significantly different from that of Abstract Expressionism. As Barnett Newman explained, Abstract Expressionists sought to build cathedrals out of themselves. The individual artist served as a heroic emitter of paint, leading to paintings devoid of any relationship to the material world. Rauschenberg rejected this aggressive individualism for a more democratic art, allowing the world to develop on his unprotected canvases. For example, in his combine Rebus (1955), Rauschenberg collected a series of photographs, newspaper sheets, comics, drawings, and cloths. He embedded these objects among splotches and drips of paint, which act as objects in their own right. Each object retains its materiality despite its transfer to the painting; photographs remain photographs, drawings remain drawings, cloth remains cloth, and even paint remains just that. Rauschenberg does not generate any kind of illusion with his material. Rather he ensures each object preserves its identity such that the painting as a whole continues to be part of the world. As a result of Rauschenberg's object-oriented painting, the viewer must sift through the painting, considering each fragment of the world. This gives the painting temporality. Rauschenberg believed that it takes time to see, a backlash to the instantaneity of the Abstract Expressionists.
At a fundamental level, Gerhard Richter uses painting to explore the relationship between abstraction and photographic figuration. In his photo paintings, Richter first creates a purely figurative painting by transferring a photograph to his canvas. He then uses a squeegee to blur the figurative painting's surface, introducing a layer of abstraction. This process results in a painting that has several layers of referents. The abstraction refers to figurative painting, which in turn refers to the photograph it was painted from, which also refers to a past moment in the actual world. Richter's creation of these various relationships between referents enables him and the viewer to confront violence and ultimately mortality through analogy. For example, Confrontation 3 demonstrates his use of analogies through blurring and cropping to create meaning. The painting refers to a photograph of the imprisoned Gudrun Ensslin, a RAF terrorist. The source photograph is harshly lit and clearly shows that Ensslin is imprisoned, generating the sense that the viewer is looking at a caged specimen. Richter crops this image to show only Ensslin's upper body. He softens the contrast in the photo and blurs Ensslin's face with his characteristic feathering technique. By zooming in on Ensslin and softening her features and identity, Ensslin no longer appears to be an imprisoned animal as the German government casts her, but rather as another relatable and essentially ordinary human being. Thus, Richter's generation of both a figurative painting and an abstraction forces the viewer to accept that all humans are fundamentally similar. The terrorist and the state are one and the same. We are all violent and mortal.
Although Vija Celmins and Andy Warhol are very different artists, Celmins' Eraser and Warhol's Brillo Box, participate in close dialogue with each other. Both works reject Abstract Expressionism's cult of the individual in favor of resurrecting forgotten pieces of the world. As with Jasper Johns' work, Warhol's Brillo Box is just that, a Brillo Box. Similarly, Celimins' Eraser is exactly what its title suggests, a representation of an eraser. In his The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, the artist explains, "I always like to work on leftovers ... Things that were discarded, that everyone knew were no good." With Brillo Box, Warhol resurrects the Brillo Box from its rusty, dank, and dark place under the sink, presenting a clean reproduction of the object as a work of art to be exalted. Likewise, Celmins chooses to reproduce in three dimensions a partially used eraser, representing the castoff object in larger-than-life proportions. As a result, both Warhol and Celmins forcefully reject the cult of the individual that Abstraction Expression held aloft as its one inspiration. Instead, Warhol and Celmins look to the external world and particularly to the banal as sources for their work. The artists paint the inanimate without emotion, detaching themselves from their works. Still, the artists' departures from Abstract Expressionism produce different effects. In an interview with Chuck Close, Celmins explains, "I got ... involved with myself as one of the subject matters (and my memories), I moved back into my childhood." Rather than serving as a comment on the eraser as an object in the marketplace, Celmins work recalls a child's notion of time and space. Celmins' eraser is enlarged, producing the effect of a child's wondrously blown up view of the world and time. Eraser functions to bring the viewer back in time to the realm of memory. In contrast, Warhol's Brillo Box relates to the concept of commodity fetishism. Warhol presents the box as an object to be venerated, just as all commodities portray themselves in the marketplace before their subsequent fall and discarding. Through his mass production of replicas of objects like the Brillo Box, Warhol ironically participates in commodity fetishism and thereby comments on it. Thus, even though both Celmins and Warhol focus on the mundane, they do so for different reasons.
My notion of the world is one of chaos and order. It is one of insanity and stagnancy. My world is my whole. My world is my space and my place. It is my realm and my home and my very being and feeling. My world is a collection of fragments. I see my world as broken pieces, as colors and lines and shapes flying by, careening across the screen of vision and soul. It is these fragments that build and pile up. They exert control over my understanding and my conscience. These fragments are the very essence of my being. They include the snow on the ground, the crunching sound of brittle ice breaking, the dirt ground into the carpet beneath my feet, the lamp beside my computer, the lights flashing across the street, the flickering of the candle, the vortex of the fan, the sound of the beat, the smell of the oven, the touch of the skin. They are everything. Fragments are everything. They are my experiences and so they are the very essence of my being. My world cannot be understood without collecting fragments and synchronizing them. Only after the fragments' cognizance finds the snap of connection can my world appear to me as a whole, as a single, unhindered entity.
Unlike the hard-edged geometric and identical repetitions of much of Donald Judd's minimalism, Eva Hesse and Robert Morris demonstrate a more modulated and relational approach to Minimalist seriality. Hesse's Tori and Morris' Untitled (L-Beams) indicate an interest in multiplicity rather than strict repetition. Hesse's work consists of several similar polyester and resin tubular forms. Despite the likeness of their general forms, these objects show a great deal of variation. They tilt and twist in different directions and their surfaces are covered in dimples and other imperfections. Rather than austere repetition, the result of such difference is a series that emphasizes multiplicity, which is the display of objects that are closely related but not identical to one another. Morris' Untitled (L-Beams) demonstrates a similar interest. The work consists of three L-shaped, identical forms that sit on the ground in various ways. For instance one lays flat on the ground while another sits with one leg on the ground and the other in the air. Thus, although the forms are identical, their variation in spatial arrangement tends to emphasize multiplicity rather than strict repetition. Moreover, crisscross lines printed flat against the surrounding walls interact with the edges of the rectangular forms, creating additional relational variation. The result of such multiplicity is an increased participation of the viewer in generating the content of the works. As David Joselit explains, "Those who regard the ambiguous objects of Minimalism become active participants in the production of the work's meaning." Hesse's and Morris' works challenge the viewer to compare the objects displayed not just to each other but to the self as well, giving the objects an almost anthropomorphic status. The viewer becomes a part of the work rather than a bystander. This interwoven relationship with the viewer contrasts starkly with the literal repetition of objects found in many of Judd's works, which tend to stand on their own as non-relational forms.
Photography functions as a capacitor. That is, it functions as a storage device. The photograph holds a charge before it has been released, before the sparks have blasted outward on the viewer. The photograph provides a potential difference, a kind of space in which a field exists that becomes the volume of painting. The painting then fills this field, completing the circuit, which the charged images have constructed, and subsequently releasing the energy those pictures contained. Photography then is not an end result but rather a method of retention, a method of collection of vitality. It is only through painting, that this vitality can be released upon the viewer, that this circuit can be completed and the charge diffused on the population. This results from the unequivocal fact that the photograph fails to capture life. It is a moment stagnated, essentially the antithesis of life. The photograph finds one place and one time and singles out. It does not embrace. It narrows and decontextualizes. It enthrones the instant. The painting does the opposite. It breathes eternal change and development. It is the constant flux of art. It is change. Thusly, it is painting that is life. It is painting that transforms the photographs' stored potential back into transmittable energy. It embraces fluidity. It embodies the multiple-correspondence system.
Make a painting with capacitors and circuit elements.
The realm of social and political understanding in art is the anti-aesthetic. This area of art rejects beautification as intrinsically related to the commodity in capitalist society. Since the commodity commands an aura that masks true identity, aesthetic art serves only to screen the viewer from social and political realities by embracing the society of the spectacle. As Rosalyn Deutsche explains, "City spaces were treated solely as aesthetic, physical, functionalist environments; economic forces shaping them were obscured." In response to this commodity-oriented art, Hans Haacke rejected aesthetics for an art of information and archive. For instance, Haacke embraces the notion of the anti-aesthetic in his Shapolsky et al. Manhattan Real Estate Holdings, a Real-Time Social System, as of May 1, 1971 in order to develop political understanding. The work consists of photographs of 142 buildings tied to the Shapolsky slumlord conglomerate. The photos are banal snapshots and look almost identical to one another, creating a sense of repetition as in an archive of data. Rather than expressing any kind of formalist beauty, the photographs serve solely as information that the viewer must read along with text and charts showing the relationships among the various properties. As the viewer participates in this objective, it becomes clear that the Shapolsky group is a tangled handful of wealthy owners who exploit the poor while hiding behind the façades of dummy corporations, ultimately assisting in the eradication of the poor from the city and its culture. The work thus functions to create a new social and political understanding of the city by forcing viewers to confront the facts of their society, a society in which the rich are allowed to dominate and even destroy the lives of the poor, who have been stripped of their ability to protect themselves. It is therefore the purity of facts in the anti-aesthetic that establishes political understanding in the viewer lifting the veil that formalist art has long used to conceal the social and political underpinnings of all of human life.
Dystopian Bourgeoisie (Dystobourge)
The Futurist Manifesto
The world is an allover composition whose surface is constantly in flux. The world is about instantaneity and progression. There are no divisions in the world except those self-imposed by the human mind. The world is unity. The world is one.
The commodity is beautiful. The aura is more so and it is the artist's job to love the aura. To take away the aura is to take away what is the most intrinsic value of art.
The world is about simultaneity. It is about the particle and the wave. It is about the quantum and the continuum. It is everything at once. Simultaneous thinking and being must be attained in order to understand the nature of the world. Numbers are not the answer. Art is not the answer. Everything is the answer.
Turning away from the deadpan aesthetic of the photoconceptualists, Cindy Sherman revels in a renewed interest in visual pleasure as a device for creating meaning. This is apparent in Sherman's Untitled, #93 (1981). The image demonstrates Sherman's invocation of an oscillating sense of visual pleasure, in which the viewer repeatedly accepts and then rejects beauty in the image. Untitled, #93 is a long rectangle, mimicking the relative dimensions of a magazine spread. The woman in the image is positioned lying down flat with her head tilted up against a pillow. She appears to be lying in bed, although it is not entirely clear. A strong light strikes the woman's arms and head, violently encroaching upon her being and revealing her disheveled state. As if in response to the invasive light, the woman recoils and draws up the sheet covering her body closer to her face, expressing her vulnerability. Initially it is this vulnerability that inspires a somewhat pornographic visual pleasure in the viewer. Her vulnerability as a function of the incursion of the light establishes the image as erotic and the woman as an object of the viewer's physical pleasure. However, because the photo is taken with the woman looking away from the camera, the initial erotic pleasure the photo establishes dies away with the realization that the woman is not the viewer's object but the light's object. As Judith Williamson explains, "[The picture] is innocent; you are guilty, you supply the femininity simply through social and cultural knowledge." The unsatisfying angle of the photograph forces viewers to become cognizant of the guilty gaze through which they have attempted to take ownership of the woman. However, as soon as the erotic visual pleasure of the image is rejected, a new form of visual pleasure arises out of empathy. The viewer begins to identify with the woman, catching a glimpse of skepticism or even determination in her eyes aimed at the invasive light. Pleasure comes in recognizing these qualities in the woman and attempting to align with the woman's struggle. This pleasure is also short lived though because the viewer begins to question whether the woman is actually looking at the light or whether she is hiding from it by withdrawing within herself and simply blankly staring outward. Thus, the image establishes oscillations in visual pleasure, where the viewer continually finds pleasure in the image only to subsequently reject it. This very process highlights the phenomenology of identity. Rather than being some autonomous label, identity depends entirely on the viewer's frame of reference and the societal baggage the viewer carries around. As a result, identity is constantly in the flux, and the meaning of the image cannot be pinned down.
Glenn Ligon's Notes on the Margin of the Black Book constitutes an appropriation of Robert Mapplethorpe's The Black Book for new purposes. This instance of appropriation differs from much of Ligon's work, in which he borrows quotations from writers' works. Instead, in Notes Ligon uses Mapplethorpe's photographs, not his words. He then inserts notecard-sized selections of text from a large variety of contemporaries representing the range of responses to Mapplethorpe's book including those of philosophers and conservative evangelicals. The result of this pairing of text and images is an insistence that black identity is unmoored. By inserting notes from a wide variety of sources into the space between images of Mapplethorpe's deconstructed book, Ligon demonstrates the phenomenological tendency of the work. Rather than reading it in a single way, various groups respond to Mapplethorpe's book in vastly different ways from celebration to ridicule depending on the group's cultural upbringing. Darby English writes, "By materializing intertextuality in this way, Notes construes Mapplethorpe's work less as a book and more as a crystallizing but essentially unfinished event in the history of concentration on the black body." In other words, Ligon decisively forces Mapplethorpe's book out of static representation and into the world of perception, which is constantly in flux and is therefore never quite clear or "crystalized." Each text that Ligon appropriates attempts to frame Mapplethorpe's book in a certain conclusive way, whether that be positive or negative. The combination of all of these static viewpoints highlights the reality that the book cannot be read in any one way. This multiplicity of views reflects black identity as constantly shifting with different sects of people trying to pin it down in different places. As Huey Copeland explains, Ligon's works "cast blackness less as fact ... than as frame of mind."
AND Over OR
Usually when I tell people that I am studying chemistry and fine arts, they respond by turning their head at a funny angle and saying something like, "That's an interesting combination," along with a comment about the lack of overlap between the subjects. They often then inquire about the practical use of the combination, suggesting science textbook illustration or art restoration. This reaction encapsulates a major flaw in how we are taught to think. Rather than embrace the world as a uniform place to understand, we are encouraged from an early age to partition the world into autonomous bits and consider each portion separately. The area outside the home is different from the area inside the home. The Atlantic Ocean is different from the Pacific. Math is different from history. Art is different from academics. Society sets up barriers between perceived parts of the world, and we tend to simply accept them without a second thought. The human mind finds comfort in organization and in a world of cubicles. However, the compartmentalization of our world is a major impediment to progress. By dividing up the world, we turn it into a place of disunity in which knowledge is developed in narrow, unconnected channels. We tend to celebrate this specificity as desirable and aesthetically pleasing. Children are taught at an early age that they must "grow up" to fill some kind of cookie cutter position: a firefighter, a police officer, an astronaut, a lawyer, a doctor and so on. In limiting our development to an incredibly narrow band of knowledge, we end up blocking out most of the world in favor of our one small specialty. But in order to truly understand it, we must tear down the arbitrary barriers that society has imposed upon it. By considering the world in its entirety, a more comprehensive program of thinking is possible in which collective thought replaces narrow thought. Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso illustrate the merits of collective thinking. While Einstein was publishing his theory of relativity, Picasso was painting his cubist canvases. Both relativity and cubism have had profound and lasting effects on our world. What is most interesting about these two thinkers is how similar their work is in effect. Both Einstein and Picasso investigated perception as a function of location. Einstein considered the issue with mathematical equations, while Picasso cut up the world into pieces and rearranged them in his paintings. Although Einstein and Picasso did not work together, they engaged in an implicit form of collective thinking in that they applied similar approaches to traditionally different fields of study. This kind of collaboration must become commonplace in our world, as research into the nature of our existence cannot rely on a single field of study but must engage all of the pathways we have at our disposal - language, art, math, science and so on. It is our job to participate in all of them. Recently, there has been a great deal of discussion about the prospect of a quantum computer. Rather than working under a binary system in which the computer can only assign values of 0 and 1, quantum computers have the ability to superimpose multiple states onto one another, allowing for 0 and 1 to be encoded simultaneously as a single value. By debinarizing the operation of computers, the rate at which they can perform tasks increases astonishingly. A problem that would take a classical computer many years to solve could take the quantum computer only a few seconds. Our society needs to be able think like a quantum computer. It needs to be able to synthesize multiple pieces of information simultaneously. I study chemistry and art not for the purpose of finding some superficial link between them such as art restoration, but rather to open my avenues of exploration of the world in a larger way. I am able to explore my thinking simultaneously in multiple areas of study, each with its own merits, in order to gain a more complete picture of the world. It is for this reason that progress lies in the "and" rather than the "or."
Richard Prince takes photographs of preexisting pictures rather than novel events in the world. Surprisingly, this technique results in new images rather than mere copies of the already authored works. Prince's form of appropriation results in the elucidation of the underlying social constructs in the previously produced photographs while simultaneously enhancing their aesthetic qualities. This process of making old images new again is apparent in his Untitled (Girlfriend) (1993). This image shows a half nude woman standing behind a motorcycle. She tilts her head to the side while stiffly placing her hand on the bike's seat. The pose is awkward, indicating that the woman is just a biker's girlfriend rather than a professional model. In her Nowhere Man, Nancy Spector explains, "The pictures begin to reveal their models' essential vulnerability. There is timidity and awkwardness in every pose ... they are young women with bad hair and makeshift outfits, who seem desperate to please yet uncomfortable." Unlike the source photographs, Prince's new image indicates the underlying construct of the biker woman. Rather than being the perfect objects of the bikers' desire, the women become real, animated people with actual emotions. Prince thereby participates in an act of redemption, releasing the women from the perpetual objectification that the biker men tried to force upon them. However, Prince's Girlfriend image does more than simply deconstruct the social assumptions of the source picture. It also establishes a new aestheticization. By blowing up the image to a large 74 by 50 inches, Prince establishes large fields of color that become abstractions. For instance, the leaves in the background of the photograph start to blur together creating a field of black, brown, and orange swatches of color. This field leaves the world of figuration for that of abstraction. As a result, the photograph creates a play between the figurative with the woman and the abstract with her surroundings, revealing an aesthetic quality that is not readily apparent in the source photographs. Moreover, the shear size of the photograph gives it an aura, individualizing it and ensuring its existence as a unique art object rather than another commoditized woman. Thus, Prince's work is really a feminist project, as it allows the woman to step out of her role as object and into unique being.
I am of the opinion that photography is painting and video is sculpture. But since painting and sculpture answer to the same principles, all of these devices are equivalent at their limits.
It is difficult to escape from yourself in the city despite what people often say. You constantly see your reflection everywhere you go. A walk in the city ultimately becomes an examination of yourself and your identity. The city takes on the role of photography, capturing an impression of you as walker on the façades of buildings and on cars. Everywhere you go you find an index of yourself on the wall. Despite your effort to find and understand the city, all you locate are traces of yourself. The city is a great, enveloping mirror. You cannot escape it or yourself.
The Aesthetic Takeover
The world of images has stolen away our humanity
Art is often lauded as a social good that helps overcome the divisions in our world. It allows people of diverse heritages to come together for the common experience of viewing a performance, film, or painting. Art cuts across the boundaries of language, location, and time. It also brings communities together with festivals, exhibitions, and other social activities. In a way then, art is the very essence of humanity. However, art is also the greatest hazard we face. It is beautiful, seductive, and dangerously manipulative. Art has the power to present elegant lies that bury the truth under the static fixation of aesthetic beauty. Perhaps the best instance of this is in advertisement. Take Penn's advertising as an example. Brochures targeted at prospective students show bright, flowering shots of campus that make it look impeccably beautiful. Images show Penn students of all ethnicities gathering together in circles on immaculately groomed lawns. What could be better? As we all know, this is contrived imagery. It presents Penn as a perpetually warm, green place where people of all heritages come together in the pursuit of knowledge. This narrative is a lie. Penn is not such a diverse place. Most Penn students come from the Northeast of the United States or California and were born into families that reside within the wealthiest echelons of society. While Penn's campus may be visually appealing, poverty mires much of the surrounding city whose infrastructure and public schools are crumbling while Penn continues to add billions of dollars to its endowment. Penn's advertisements, however, tend to hide these social and political realities beneath a façade of manufactured visual beauty. Penn is not alone though. Every organization and every person in our world participates in these same dangerous artistic manipulations. All companies use visual advertising to present carefully crafted false associations between products, services and happiness. For instance, Apple connects its products to the creation of a "world story," showing iPads and other devices capturing images of colorful cultural festivities. The truth is that Apple cares about profit margins, not some kind of beautiful global narrative. On the individual level, we use social media to craft art out of ourselves. We take pictures of the luxurious food we eat and all the exotic locations we have seen. We only upload the most flattering of these photographs in an attempt to hide our mistakes. Photographs with purpose exclusively govern our social world. A flood of manipulative visual stimuli has entirely replaced real human interaction with aesthetic falsity. We have let social media become an advertisement for ourselves. This is the century of the self-commoditized human. If there is a God in this world it is the aesthetic, the one and only ruler and dictator of all social relations. Never has art played such an all-important role in society. While it may be impossible to overthrow this all-powerful force, it is possible to push against it within the confines of the system. The first defense against the aesthetic is recognizing it. Instead of taking images at their face value, we must analyze them with the utmost level of suspicion. We must understand their origins and their purposes. We must interrogate their surfaces to isolate the falsities that lie beneath. It is our job then to expose these lies by sharing them with others and by writing about them. As artists of ourselves, we must fight against the urge to present ourselves as commodity. We must refrain from editing our lives and instead show them in their entirety--the good, the bad, the exciting and the mundane. We are so much more than images. We are people. It is time we reclaim that identity.
Andreas Gursky's photographs are immense objects spanning many feet of wall space. The images consistently showcase vertiginous vantage points and wide swathes of space. As a result, Gursky establishes an inhuman viewing experience in his works. Michael Fried explains: "Distance as a 'severing' device plays a decisive role in Gursky's art." Gursky's use of views that eerily hover above his subjects, which take up more space than any human eye could normally process at once, severs his images from the human experience, imposing a new alien seeing on the viewer. For instance, Gursky's Spectacular City (2007) demonstrates Fried's notion of severance. The vantage point appears to be high above the ground floating in the air between tall skyscrapers, a place that no human could comfortably inhabit. The viewer is thus left without a clear position from which to view the subject. Furthermore, the photo captures a wide area, including several buildings, roadways, and parking lots filled with cars. Everything appears to be in sharp focus except for the cars driving on the roadways, which leave trails of light. This incredible level of detail ensures that the viewer is confronted with an image that is distinctly inhuman. By severing the human from the image, Gursky allows the viewer to see the world anew. The rectangular lights of the buildings, the rectilinear buildings themselves, and the gridded parking lot and roadways establish an overwhelming sense of rationality in the photograph. Every element of the city has been carefully constructed like a computer chip. It glows with energy, establishing an aura that radiates outward. Gursky has thereby presented the viewer with an image that demonstrates the total spectacle of the city. As Siegfried Kracauer explains, "The mass ornament is the aesthetic reflex of the rationality to which the prevailing economic system aspires." In other words, the rationality of capitalism has led to a global spectacle created on a microscopic level by every machine and human that inhabits the world. Gursky allows for this "mass ornament" to manifest itself in its entirety as a closed-system that has engulfed the world. The viewer has the distinct impression that the city's rationality and the aura it generates extends far beyond the boundaries of the photograph. It has taken over the world.
If I can observe it, there exist an infinite quantity of the object I am observing. So, since I observe Earth, there are an infinite number of Earths. If there were not, I would not be observing Earth. The universe is so large that singular objects cannot and do not exist. The logical conclusion is also that there are an infinite number of universes. But this is of course no conclusion because there are an infinite number of collections of infinite numbers of universes and so on up the abstraction ladder. And yes, this ladder is indeed infinite and perhaps there are infinite abstraction ladders and so on. Thus, I have surmised that I am not singular, but rather an exacting iteration of an infinity. My thoughts are not my own, but an infinity's being. To say "I think, therefore I am" is a fallacy. To say "I observe myself, therefore I am infinite" is the truth. The question to ask then is not whether or not we are but rather how or how not we are. My claim that we are a proliferation of common singularities provides the answer. We are simultaneously singular and massive and our life is only a feature of our entrapment between these two. In the end, we all choose the massive. We choose the path of least resistance. Our being thus never ends, but our notion of singularity must end. Life is fleeting because collective existence is the one and only law. But, where did this law come from?
Painting provides a means of escaping from humans. It tells us something gravellier and bolder. It tells us something about the nonliving.
A viewer should experience a human sensation upon viewing a work rather than experiencing a viewpoint about a human sensation. In other words, a painting should elicit a human response but it should not be a reflection of another human response. The content of a painting should be devoid of human psychology such that it is in the interaction between painting and viewer alone that psychology and the human experience are born. Just as great waterfalls and natural monument shock the human spirit so too should a painting.
A painting is a world within a world.
When painting becomes the object, the perceptual falls away yielding only the real. It is possible to apply this understanding to all painting including traditional representation. Only the difference is that once the painting becomes the object, it is no longer a representation but reality itself.
It is the interstice between knowing and not knowing where art finds its greatest strength.
(σa)(σb) ≥ ħ/2
The study of art is the study of linguistics.
Abstract Expressionism Neo-Dada
How can an understanding of nonhuman physical and chemical phenomena elevate our thoughts, experiences, and understanding of life as humans?
Black and white pictures of events. This OR That.
QM tells us "AND," not "OR."
The world is about probability and fundamentally uncertainty.
Macroscopic and microscopic and the interstices between the two.
The Aesthetics of Uncertainty
In the 1940s and 1950s, the splatters and color fields of Abstract Expressionism became the predominant American art form. Regarding the movement, Clement Greenberg proclaimed, "If American Society is indeed given over as no other society has been to purposeful activity and material production, then it is right that it should be reminded, in extreme terms, of the essential nature of disinterested activity." In a world charged with goal-oriented action, Greenberg argued that Abstract Expressionism gave the populace an opportunity to submerge itself in an entirely different world devoid of referents to the real one and any narrative element. This he famously termed "disinterested contemplation." However, given the aloof quality of such an outlook on art, it did not take long before Abstract Expressionism was challenged and elements of the real world were reintroduced into the picture plane. The story of contemporary art over the past fifty years has in large part been the story of the reassertion of the world in art. One of the most impactful methods by which the world has been brought back into conversation is with the index, which has wide-ranging implications aesthetically and politically. The index is a lasting residue or fragment of a transient action or event in the world. The quintessential example of the index is the fingerprint, a mark left by the fleeting touch of a hand. However, photography, history, and even physics are equally relevant to the index. Photographs, which are impressions of the world taken by surfaces sensitive to light, are indexes in that they are lasting fragments of a brief moment. Similarly, history is indexical as it is mostly derived from documents that have come to us from the past. These documents are the indexes of past events and actions, and the conclusions drawn from these indexes make up so-called historical knowledge. It is worth noting that photographs can and often do operate as indexes of history. Furthermore, science does not escape the index, but is in fact grounded in it. For instance, in the laboratory data points of a measureable macroscopic property are recorded as a reflection of the microscopic events that are of interest. The data points are the indexes that are then used to construct a picture of the event that cannot be directly witnessed. The implications of the prevalence of the index as a tool used to glean new knowledge in all areas of study should not be overlooked. Given that so much knowledge is based on conclusions drawn from fragments rather than from actual witnessed events, the accuracy of knowledge comes into question and uncertainty arises in its place. However, uncertainty is not a uniquely human concept but rather a unifying theme in the world. For instance, uncertainty is an essential property of quantum mechanical systems. Electrons, which have both wavelike and particle-like behavior, obey the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which states that simultaneously the velocity and position of an electron cannot be known precisely. That is, as the velocity of an electron is defined with greater precision, it becomes more wavelike in nature, resulting in greater uncertainty of its location in space. Conversely, if a particle's position is defined with greater precision, it becomes more particle-like preventing its velocity from being determinable. These conclusions are not the result of imprecise experimental equipment or human error but rather arise naturally out of the fundamental mathematical descriptions of electrons. Uncertainty, far from being a specifically human condition, is very much the condition of the physical world. Thus, contemplating the world from the perspective of the index as a starting point naturally leads to the realization that uncertainty is an omnipresent aspect of the world that must always be considered. However, humans have a natural disposition to avoid uncertainty in an attempt to establish concrete, explanatory narratives. The refusal of humanity to acknowledge and understand that uncertainty is the natural condition of the world has profound implications in politics and aesthetics. Rather than being open to reasoned discussion, political leaders and communities in general tend to develop increasingly entrenched ideas, which they are unwilling to reconsider. The emphasis on developing very particular positions without any uncertainty built in leads to gridlock and a complete inability to progress. Uncertainty rather than certainty therefore must be embraced since it is necessary for progress, evolution, and ultimately the improvement of the human condition. Aesthetically, humanity's inability to embrace uncertainty results in a judgment-based system of visual principles. Humans are conditioned to quickly judge appearances and in these judgments arise some of humanity's greatest blunders, particularly racialization and discrimination based on aesthetics. Rather than realizing the suspect nature of these judgments, humans tend to internalize them as fact, yielding destructive attitudes whose persistent consequences often end up far outlasting the very attitudes that created them. The index as an art form then is rooted in the inclusion of multiple perspectives and the subsequent uncertainty that arises from that multiplicity. Much of the art of the past fifty years has dealt explicitly with a multiplicity of perspectives based on various aspects of the world and thus has begun the work of replacing humanity's disposition for fixed narratives with an understanding of the essential role of uncertainty in the world. It is important to recognize art, a visual medium, as an essential method for the advocacy of ontological multiplicity. Through art, the world as a hybrid of multiple realities established by various indexes can be directly visualized and its inherit uncertainty made physical. As a result, art is a fundamental tool for the progress and liberalization of the human condition.
The more you let yourself give into yourself, the better off you will be.
Michaela Eichwald Rashid Johnson Oscar Murillo Diana Molzan Michael Williams Charline Von Heyl Mark Grotjahn
The floating space of pictures and paper.
There is no free will, only differential equations.
Art's use as a vehicle for political and social messages is a betrayal of the intrinsic power of art. Intellectual pursuit in painting exists in the search for the meaning of painting. Art is internal to itself. The use of art to comment on society enslaves art as a message carrier rather than as a thing itself. The liberation and full power of art only exists when it is understood as internal.
To deny that art is at base materialistic is to deny the very existence of art.
The buildings: sharp, angular, contortionist, those unnamable mutant grays, dark, bright, everything I want in a painting.
If it weren't for contradiction, nothing would ever get done.
My painting called "Rag" reintroduces the human touch to the Pollock and Abstract Expressionism more generally (and perhaps minimalism). It is something fundamentally new. One of the great critiques of Abstract Expressionism was its attempt at location outside of the human world. But to me, Abstract Expressionism captures something very human in its handling. When I began rag, I did not realize that I was making an Abstract Expressionist painting from a human perspective, but as it progressed it became obvious. That the result of such a pairing could be so desirable was a confirmation of the failure of the art world to understand the true take away from Abstract Expressionism: the deeply human touch veiled beneath an overwrought threat of emancipation. Once the veil is removed, Abstract Expressionism becomes neo-representationalism, which is the most pressing field of art today and the logical result of the photograph's ultimate and final takeover.
Art will always be about representation. The question is not one of abstraction, it is one of representation. What is being represented? That is why I dislike the use of the word "abstraction" when discussing art. Art is not on a scale of abstraction because that is intrinsically meaningless. It is on a scale of representation.
If the only admirable purpose of art is social and ultimately the advocacy of Marxism, then it logically follows that art cannot exist in Utopia, as art is a symptom of dystopia. In other words, should art achieve its "admirable" end of establishing a Utopian Marxist society, part of that end would be the annihilation of itself. Herein lies the fallacy of the Marxist agenda and the advocacy of art towards social purposes alone. For how could a Utopia ever exist in the absence of art? That is to say, Marxism ignores the fundamental truth that art has intrinsic, internal value. That which Marxism calls the "spectacle" and wishes to exterminate is perhaps the very defining feature of humanity and the crowning achievement of all life.
We live in the synthetic age.
If I can explain a painting through writing, I have failed to make a painting at all.
"Social activist art" is essentially useless as social activism because it exists in the insulated art world, which prides itself on a high level of art knowledge, and is as a result inaccessible to the very people it wishes to bring out of the shadows and to the people who have power to enact change. Social activist art, for all of its talk about overthrowing power structures and embracing democratic values, has assumed the place of high art, where it sits untouchable above the masses, not among them. High modernism, with its emphasis on heroic individualism, has been replaced by something far worse, social activist art, which functions as a self-congratulatory award ceremony attended by an elite group of self-proclaimed saviors. Although it appears to be extremely different from modernist art, social activist art has simply replaced the high object with high knowledge, which is by its very nature kept from the masses, leaving only those privileged enough to attain that knowledge a route to view contemporary art. The benevolent monarch has been replaced by a ruthless, unsympathetic oligarchy, which has become so removed from the masses it purportedly serves that from the perspective of the masses it appears as an opium-induced clown show composed of rich, pompous, arrogant, untrustworthy phonies. This is the state of art today.
When art approaches actual social activism, it no longer has any discernable relationship to art. Thus, social activism and art are mutually exclusive. Art, in other words, is by its very definition above the masses because it requires a certain level of appreciation if not awe. To align social activism with art is simply impossible since it raises the social activist above the masses, creating for the social activist the same pyramidal power dynamic that the social activist is trying to destroy. This is not to say that the social activist cannot declare his work art, but rather that once he does so, his work fundamentally changes course. It is no longer social activism. It is, as he has declared, art. That is to say, art can be anything, but not anything can be art.
We shall have an aesthetic revolution. We shall have a great schism, and a new art will emerge, an art that requires no knowledge to experience fully. This is the great democratization of the art world.
The intellectual has destroyed art, but to remove the intellectual from art is not to remove art from intellectualism.
Art is experiential.
The paradox of Duchamp's notion of the readymade: I am allowed to declare anything to be art, but immediately after that declaration, the very thing I have declared to be art is no longer the same thing that it was as the sentence was uttered. The labeling of an item as art fundamentally changes the item. Thus, after declaring an item to be art, a subsequent statement declaring the reverse has become a fallacy. That is to say, art cannot be declared to be the item because the item no longer exists in its virgin state--it has been fundamentally altered by its labeling. Furthermore, to restate the claim that the item is art is to express an anachronism. The item no longer exists; a new one has been born.
As an example: Duchamp declared his urinal to be art. Thus, his urinal was fundamentally changed and was no longer a urinal. Thus, it is a fallacy to declare that Duchamp's artwork is a urinal. Its identity has been incontrovertibly changed, its virgin state made irretrievable. It is also improper to subsequently indicate that Duchamp's urinal is art because the urinal no longer exists. Thus, the concept of the readymade is useless because all art objects originate as readymades--drawings, painting, sculpture, video, etc. That is to say all objects must be declared as art whether via cultural hegemony, context, or direct declaration before they enter the domain of art and so all objects have a non-art past, however brief. Simply, all artworks have their origin as readymades, from Michelangelo's David to Duchamp's urinal and beyond. They were made before they entered into the domain of art.
Painting is irreplaceable. It cannot die. This is simply because nothing else can speak in color, nothing else can speak in grey.
Concept takes no precedent over perception. A perceptual problem can exist without an accompanying conceptual framework. It is interesting that the art world is accepting of singularly conceptual works without any physical component, but rejects absolutely an aesthetic problem. Art is itself a concept. It is self-preserving. There is nothing special about concepts. There is nothing unique about them. They are the underlying construct of all disciplines. If the purpose of art must be conceptual, why make art at all?
The unique aspect of art is that it is visual, and as such aesthetic.
Painting is indexical. It is the human touch and a celebration of the human hand.
Garbage is often my subject because it is also an index of living. There is a reflexive quality to painting garbage: indexing an index as index.
Paintings are worth money because people want them. There is demand. When the painting deals with garbage and essentially worthless items, it elevates those items economically. It adds value.
Painting is indexical. It is a history of motion and physicality. In this then, painting flourishes as evidence of life. It is messy and layered, rich in quality. The essence then is to think about painting as a process and not as a picture or an image. The outcome is less than the input. That is to say, the outcome is a history of the input and a reiteration of a lived process. It is not a passive image, but an active site. It is an archeological dig, a construction site, and a destruction site. A painting must be mined for its riches. It does not do anything on its own. It must be looked at in a certain way--a way that emphasizes production rather than consumption.
Object-Oriented Ontology of Painting in the Digital Age
The digital world was originally designed to mimic the physical world, but as the digital world developed, developers allowed the digital to outgrow the physical and become a new force and driver of ontologically unique formulations. Now, it is the job of painting to return these new, digital-only concepts and transfer them into a physical, tangible form. In short, it is the job of painting to reorient the digital in physical objects. Painting enables the production of an object-oriented ontology of digital creations.
Painting is biology - This is not an analogy but an equality. This is a literal statement. As a result biology is painting. Microbes move through a fluid substrate. The microbes are pigment and the fluid substrate is the binder.
The production of imagery is essential to art, and art is as such a capitalist pursuit. It consists of production and consumption. It is thus ironic to make artwork as a method to critique capitalism. The all-powerful Artist, who subjugates the laypeople to a position of first supplication and then passivity, controls production. Thus, a clash occurs between the educated and the uneducated.
If an artist does not understand the ontology of the substance he works with, his work will always be superficial. As such, it is absolutely necessary that the artist always conduct research into the object-oriented ontology of the substance he is using. The only valuable conceptualizations of artworks stem from this investigation. They arise naturally out of it. This spontaneous development is sincere. Any other method is contrived.
Art should force an idea into the world. An idea should not be forced into art.
Bring paint as biological to paint as digital. This is our world today: a confrontation between biology and digital space.
The Ontology of Painting in the Digital Age
In Modernist Painting (1960), Clement Greenberg argued that the medium specificity of painting is its flatness. He wrote, "Because flatness was the only condition painting shared with no other art, Modernist painting oriented itself to flatness as it did to nothing else." While it may be true that modernist painting emphasized the flatness of the picture plane, Greenberg was fundamentally wrong about the medium specificity of painting. Rather than flatness, it is the tension between paint as a three-dimensional object and the two-dimensional surface of the picture plane that constitutes the medium specificity of painting. In my discussion of this topic, I will focus on oil paint, which has been the dominant form of paint in art since the Renaissance. Oil paint consists of pigment suspended in an oil vehicle, usually linseed oil, which contains triglycerides, whose component fatty acids are more than fifty percent the triply unsaturated α-linolenic acid shown in Figure 1. This particular fatty acid undergoes oxidation in air and subsequent polymerization, resulting in its hardening, and thus its usefulness in oil paint as a "drying oil." In its unreacted, fluid form, the oil is viscous because of its long, and partially stackable alkyl chains. In the presence of pigment, this viscosity is intensified. Fundamentally, it is this viscosity that makes oil paint unique and marks its ontology. The medium specify of painting as an art form, though, lies in the relationship between the α-linolenic acid-induced viscosity of oil paint and the picture plane, which it is supposed to form. The essential component of the picture plane is its absolute flatness, in which the optical illusion of an image can exist. However, the very ontology of paint as viscous and therefore at base a three-dimensional object prevents this absolute flatness from ever being realized. It is at once the tension between the three-dimensional character of oil paint and the flatness of the ideal picture plane that makes the process of painting different from any other medium. The potential of painting lies in the exploitation of this rupture. That is the disjunction between paint as object and as illusion. The collision of three-dimensional reality with two-dimensional illusionism plays a particularly central role in our existence in the synthetic, technological age. The friction and merging of biology and technology is an omnipresent part of our daily lives. As biological forms and thus three-dimensional objects, we are constantly interacting with the greatest of two-dimensional illusions so far discovered, the digital screen, whether it be in the format of small cell-phone screens or large television monitors. The interaction of our bodies with these screens constitutes at times a frictional relationship, in which the body becomes unsettlingly digital or the screen becomes awkwardly human, and at other times fluid, in which screen and body come together equally and fuse as one. This is exactly the tension between the viscosity of paint and the flatness of the picture plane. The two notions have the same ontology and are thus inextricable. Humans are paint and screens are picture planes. The biocompatibility of paint and humanity is perhaps best underscored by the ubiquitous presence of α-linolenic acid in people's diets as an essential fatty acid that is needed to sustain life. Without it, we die. Similarly, the picture plane as the most fundamental two-dimensional space of illusionism is in literal terms the screen. The fraught relationship between two-dimensional digital space and three-dimensional biological space is where the ontology of painting lies in the contemporary age. The work I present today is the beginning of this newly defined location of painting. It is humanity in the technological age.
Figure 1. The chemical structure of α-linolenic acid. The three unsaturations in this 18-carbon chain (marked 9, 12, and 15) undergo reaction with oxygen in the air and polymerize with other chains, causing oil paint to dry.
The future is an impending damnation of the past. The present then is limbo; it is purgatory. But, it is a unique purgatory, one in which there should be no confusion about the outcome despite collective delusion to the contrary. Time will damn all.
The Case for Visual Pleasure
It seems that in today's age, there is nothing but abhorrence. There is nothing but a deeply engrained distrust. This is the post-postmodern condition, by which I mean the condition created by postmodernist theory itself. At the same time, the corresponding, reactionary desire for reliability has never been stronger. That is, the more distrustful we become as individuals and as a society, the more intensely we crave the now innocuous notions of change and hope. The more we long for a return to reason and its linearity. Thus, on the one hand we have our contemporary condition of animosity and pessimism towards an existence which we have unwittingly made inexplicable, literally indescribab(b)le, and on the other we have all of our hopes and dreams towards a future enmeshed in notions of truth and the real, but where by our very self-defined condition we cannot possibly expect to ever arrive. This simple paradox, which constitutes our social situation, is what I will denote as the post-postmodern Messianic complex. That is, we, as a people, have promised ourselves the coming of reason and fixed narratives of right and wrong while simultaneously denying ourselves any possible way of realizing this coming, both as a matter of course and as a matter of identification. By this, I mean that we have neither a way of achieving this coming nor a way of knowing when it has indeed come. As such, we have forced ourselves into a perpetual social purgatory, in which our politics, both individual and communal, are impotent, in which we are slaves to indifference. The solution to this indifference, I declare, is a reevaluation of aesthetics, and in particular postmodernism's archenemy: visual pleasure. It may seem strange to elevate the importance of aesthetics to that of the agent of salvation, but if there is one truth in postmodernism, it is that God is aesthetics. I proffer that the Messiah we seek is visual pleasure. It is by embracing the intensity of feeling that visual pleasure produces that we can reconnect with ourselves after so many years of running theoretical circles around reality that we have buried it under layers upon layers of buzz words, postmodern philosophies, and self-referential disenchantment. There is after all a reality for each of us, whether that is the one lived in by my neighbor or me or by the alien life form across the universe. And hovering above it all, there is most certainly a collective reality, composed of the superposition of all beings' realities. To declare that there is no such thing as reality is an epistemological impossibility because it paradoxically pronounces with a certain academic authority that what we have is only the unreal. That is there is still a doctrine of the real asserted in this declaration, but that doctrine is that the real is unreal. It is this underlying theoretical loop of the real as unreal and the unreal as real that undergirds our loss of self. Our failure to realize ourselves and to feel the all-encompassing blanket of collective reality is a problem with theory, not with reality. It is a problem with the mind that has been manifested as a mass psychopathy. A restructuring of our theory is thus requisite for salvation, and this restructure must be rooted in aesthetics since the underlying source of our psychopathy is the loop of the real as unreal, which has as at its core a flawed understanding of representation and, correspondingly, a seismically destructive philosophy of aesthetics. Combating archaic Western notions of the role of the other does not mean demonizing aesthetic pleasure as a deleterious falsehood intended to manipulate, but to propose a new aesthetic pleasure to replace the old. The solution is not the death of painting, but necessarily its vigorous expansion. I do not deny that representations have agendas. What I deny is that the appropriate response is to close the door on aesthetic pleasure as an impossible, irresponsible method. This is equivalent to shutting down debate. The solution to dogmatic representation is not derision of aesthetic pleasure, but rather the production of far more imagery rooted in the same aesthetic pleasure but championing a different cause. This is debate. This is good. And above all else, debate is what we need. Conversation is what we need. It is what we need to reinvigorate our lives as individuals and in communities and our politics as a whole. It may seem counterintuitive given the apparent inundation with images that we have in our digital era, but my argument is simply that we are not in fact flooded sufficiently with images. There is a drought. There may be a high volume of one kind of image, which is that of the mass media, but there is little diversity. Thus, I call for a mass production of visual language. I want to drown in the diversity of representation. We must enrich the soil of production and allow ourselves to sow the seeds of our realities such that they may grow and spread their seeds for the entire world to see, and fill our lives with feelings of visual pleasure. In this work, I will not try to address the entirety of this project, the entirety of our need to rediscover visual pleasure, and the entirety of what that means. But, I will propose a start to that discussion rooted in the following, urgent anecdote. As I stare out my window, I see row houses below me, some with stucco exteriors, some with brick façades, some with black roofs, some with white roofs. I see trees amidst the rows, some young, some old. I see a Veterinary hospital next to the rows. The veterinary hospital has two sections, one with a seventies vibe and one with an early-twentieth-century appearance. As I look out, I see that most streets are parallel to each other but there is also one that is diagonal. To the left, I see a green building with a computer-modeled, webbed façade attached to a late-nineteenth century building. Next to this I see a blooming magnolia tree, next to which is a dormant oak. Behind the green building, I see the spires of a Louis Kahn. Behind the Kahn, I see a vast array of large, institutional research buildings capped with their little silver cylinders. I also see two parking garages, both cement but one with a brick façade. There is a snaking road between the green building and the Veterinary hospital, behind which is another hospital, the VA Medical Center of Philadelphia. To the Right of the VA is a cemetery, comparatively loaded with trees, containing a large Washington-memorial-esque obelisk and several smaller, white ones. Behind the cemetery is a river with several steel bridges spanning it as it winds away. The river appears to stop abruptly at the cemetery, but it simply takes a sharp turn to the left and becomes hidden by the cemetery's trees, the VA, the parking garages, and the research buildings. I infer this because I can see a sign of the river, as the top of a bridge is visible peaking between the parking garage and the VA. Another, broad bridge runs parallel to this smaller one. It has fast moving cars and several lanes. Behind this bridge is a vast swath of low-rise commercial buildings and residential tracts. There is a red warehouse that stands out. Moving back farther toward the horizon there are several large stadiums, to the right of which lies a massive industrial tract, with burning petroleum stacks and smoking pipes. There are also groupings of large egg shaped containers, some white and some rust colored. Amidst this industrial tract, lies train tracks and several parked freight trains, their cars trailing off into the distance alongside the river. Behind the industrial swath, are two bridges, one larger than the other, but both with a similar steel arch form. Beyond the bridges, the grayness of polluted atmosphere interacting with distant land takes hold. Across the sky I see commercial airliners, which appear as small toys, descend into this grayness and disappear as they approach for landing. They nearly touch the figure of a man who appears to stand on the horizon but is really standing on a cylindrical cage, whose top meets precisely with the horizon. But this is no man, but the top of a pipe that is not even attached to the cylindrical cage, but blurs into it. And the colors, the colors are everywhere, the rainbow billboards, the oranges of bricks and flames, the whites of stone and clouds, the blues of water and sky and Church domes, the greens of grass and painted bridges, the pinks of blossoms and illuminated signs, the neutrals of space itself. And, with the setting of the sun, all of these millions of colors have changed thousands of times even just during the writing of this. The view I describe is outside my window, on the twenty-first floor of a building in a random city in a random country, at a random point in time. Then, I ask, who would dare deny we live in a heterogeneous world? And more urgently, who would dare deny the essentialness of such a space? And yet I find myself and, I would argue, all of humanity longing for homogeneity as a definitive reality since we are enmeshed in the terror of the post-postmodern Messianic complex. We long, as a reaction against postmodernism, for the golden age of homogeneity, the golden age of reason, the golden age of the line. Since language cannot do justice to the heterogeneity of space-time because of its nonvisual form, it is the role of images grounded in aesthetic pleasure to represent heterogeneity and in so doing quench, as we shall see, our desire for a definitive reality. And it must be the role of the artist to make those images. My intent to generate such images relies upon first an identification of master copies. These are the multitude of images that have a defined purpose and proclaim a singular viewpoint, such as any painting expressing a uniform, externally consistent place or more generally any photograph at all. After identifying the millions of images herein, the next stage is to strip them of their confidence by stripping them of their support. Rephotographing and digitizing (or perhaps redigitizing) the materials begins this process. These digital files may have their integrity maintained or they may be manipulated and cut apart. For instance, I may violate the digital image of a painting by cutting out a singular paint mark. These digital files are then made physical again by printing them out on poor quality laserjets. Since this physicalizing of the images, while continuing to deteriorate them, returns them to the support of paper, the next step is again to remove that support, but this time by transferring the ink of the image to a Mylar sheet, which although supportive does not have the declarative whiteness of paper. I make these transfers by gluing the images facedown on the Mylar and physically rubbing off the paper. This further distresses the images by making them transparent and by causing parts to flake off. I then layer image transfers on top of each other on the same Mylar sheet to create dense stacks of transparencies. I produce multiple Mylar sheets in this way, and I then stack these Mylar sheets. The stacked sheets are illuminated from behind with a light bulb in a dark room. This activates the layering of the images so that they are blurred together into a cacophonous mass of degraded image, which is then captured digitally with a low-resolution camera, further smearing the images. These digital files, which are composed of repetitions, degradations, and recontextualizations of the original master copies, come closer to heterogeneity. These digital files are then printed out on canvas on a large scale. This brings support to the new images, and infuses them with the confidence that was stripped from the master copies. Some of the digital files that were originally made in preparation for the image transfers are turned into films and burnt into screens, which are used to screen print with varying levels of transparency on top of the digital prints on canvas, adding further layers of images in a new form that further degrades the original master copies, obliterating their power while simultaneously empowering the new degraded image with heightened visual pleasure. These canvas works, which begin to resemble the view outside my window, can then be used for subsequent degradations, by thinking about them as new master copies. In this way, degradation is proposed endlessly with each iteration coming closer to the view outside my window and to the world. Although repetition, loss of image quality, and recontextualization may degrade original meaning or obliterate it completely, these modes of production propose new meanings with far more reality than any original meaning ever professed. These nodules of precession bring the image closer and closer to the heterogeneity that is the world. The rebirth of representation then takes hold, not as a photographic space, but as a hybrid space. And to those who reject the significance of the task of representation as little more than mindless simulation, I ask, do you know what the real is? And more vitally, do you ever ask yourself that question? Representationalism today is not about the master copy but a profusion of images and an exponentiation of repetitions of those images ad infinitum. It is foremost about process. It is about history and translation rather than the isolated shot. My method of image generation is just one of an uncountable number, which artists are producing and which beckon to be produced, as a response to the greatest challenge of our time--to reclaim a defined representation of our world, to reclaim our reality. These images are our Messiah, the return to visual pleasure. Collectively, they constitute our reality, rationality, and linearity, and so, perhaps paradoxically, they quench with their heterogeneity our desire for homogeneity.
Fact is fiction. It is impossible to give all the facts in history, so when telling a story, even if all of what is said is fact, the cherry-picking of these facts from a vast reservoir constitutes the curating of a fiction.
I like how history has sides now like it's a cube or something.
My process is rooted in the transfer, the translation of an object from one place to another. I take photographs, mainly drawn from daily experiences in my life, and I glue them down on mylar sheets and rub off their paper backing, leaving just the ink's transparent presence remaining on the mylar. The images rupture during this process, leaving pockmarks and fracture lines. I build up layers of these distressed images and layers of mylar in varying densities. I backlight the mylar sheets and take high-resolution photographs of them, which capture the physicality of the transfer and the degradation of the images. I then screen print on large digital prints of these photographs, often reinserting the same imagery that was initially pasted onto the mylar, but now transferred and thus distressed in a different way. I see this process as a physicalization of the transformation of the virtual, Internet image, as it undergoes repeated transfers from person to person and network to network, being subjected to degradations and reincarnations along the way. As Hito Steyerl writes, "The poor image is no longer about the real thing--the originary original. Instead, it is about its own real conditions of existence: about swarm circulation, digital dispersion, fractured and flexible temporalities... In short: it is about reality." My process, which is an attempt at a representation of the digital age, results in images that are intensely evocative of the urban despite arising out of notions of the digital. This is a telling sign that the Internet has become a profoundly urban space. My representations of the space of the Internet are indeed indistinguishable from the urban environment. Both are lived in by a concentrated sea of humanity, always in flux between construction and degradation, connection and fragmentation, presence and absence.