tom moody

Germaine Greer's "Town Hall" speech, 1971

as transcribed* from Town Bloody Hall, a 1979 film documenting a raucous panel in 1971, where Norman Mailer appeared with Greer and three other feminist speakers:

I'm afraid I'm going to talk in a very different way possibly than you expected. I do not represent any organization in this country and I dare say the most powerful representation I can make is of myself as a writer, for better or worse. I'm also a feminist and for me the significance of this moment is that I'm having to confront one of the most powerful figures in my own imagination, the being I think most privileged in male elitist society -- namely the masculine artist, the pinnacle of the masculine elite.
Bred as I have been and educated as I have been, most of my life has been most powerfully influenced by the culture for which he stands, so that I'm caught in a basic conflict between inculcated cultural values and my own deep conception of an injustice. Many professional literati ask me in triumphant tones, as you may have noticed, what happens to Mozart's sister?
However they ask me that question, it can have caused them as much anguish as it has caused me because I do not know the answer and I must find the answer. But every attempt I make to find that answer leads me to believe that perhaps what we accept as a creative artist in our society is more a killer than a creator, aiming his ego ahead of lesser talents, drawing the focus of all eyes to his achievements, being read now and by millions and paid in millions. One must ask oneself the question in our society, can any painting be worth the total yearly income of a thousand families?
And if we must answer that it is -- and the auction reports tell us so -- then I think we are forced to consider the possibility that the art on which we nourish ourselves is sapping our vitality and breaking our hearts.
But the problem is very deeply seated, as you can see. I'm agitated in this situation because of the concept I have of the importance of the artist, because of my own instinctive respect for him. Is it possible that the way of the masculine artist in our society is strewn with the husks of people worn out and dried out by his ego? Is it possible that all those that have fallen away -- all those competing egos -- were insufficiently masculine to stay the course?
I turn for some information to Freud, treating Freud's description of the artist as an ad hoc description of the artist's psyche in our society and not as in any way a metaphysical or eternal pronouncement about what art might mean. And what Freud said, of course, has irritated many artists who've had the misfortune to see it: "He longs to attain to honor, power, riches, fame and the love of women, but he lacks the means of achieving these gratifications." As an eccentric little girl who thought it might be worthwhile after all to be a poet, coming across these words for the first time was a severe check. The blandness of Freud's assumption that the artist was a man sent me back into myself to consider whether or not the proposition was reversible. Could a female artist be driven by the desire for riches, fame and the love of men?
And all too soon it was very clear that the female artist's own achievements will disqualify her for the love of men, that no woman yet has been loved for her poetry. And we love men for their achievements all the time, what can this be? Can this be a natural order that wastes so much power, that frets a little girl's heart to pieces? I had no answers, except that I knew the argument was irreversible. And so I turned later to the function of women vis-à-vis art as we know it, and I found that it fell into two parts, that we were either low sloppy creatures or menials or we were goddesses. Or worst of all we were meant to be both, which meant that we broke our hearts trying to keep our aprons clean.
Sylvia Plath's greatest poetry was sometimes conceived while she was baking bread, she was such a perfectionist -- and ultimately such a fool. The trouble is of course that the role of the goddess -- the role of the glory and the grandeur of the female in the universe -- exists in the fantasies of male artists and no woman can ever draw it to her heart for comfort. But the role of menial unfortunately is real and that she knows because she tastes it every day. So the barbaric yawp of utter adoration for the power and the glory and the grandeur of the female in the universe is uttered at the expense of the particular living woman every time.
And because we can be neither one nor the other with any peace of mind, because we are unfortunately improper goddesses and unwilling menials, there is a battle waged between us. And after all in the description of this battle maybe I find the justification of my idea that the achievement of the male artistic ego is at my expense for I find that the battle is dearer to him than the peace would ever be. The eternal battle with women he boasts sharpens our resistance, develops our strength, enlarges the scope of our cultural achievements. So is the scope, after all, worth it? Again the same question, just as if we were talking of the income of a thousand families for a whole year.
You see, I strongly suspect that when this revolution takes place, art will no longer be distinguished by its rarity, or its expense, or its inaccessibility, or the extraordinary way in which it is marketed, it will be the prerogative of all of us and we will do it as those artists did whom Freud understood not at all, the artists who made the Cathedral of Chartres or the mosaics of Byzantine, the artists who had no ego and no name.

*Most of this transcription was done by Jessica Peri Chalmers in connection with the live reenactment of Town Bloody Hall that she organized at Columbia College Chicago last year. [YouTube] [transcripts and other documentation] I made a few editorial tweaks to her text and filled in several paragraphs that she removed for the reenactment, I assume in the interests of brevity.
The original Hegedus-Pennebaker film should be viewed in its entirety before watching the reenactment, since other redactions for brevity change the meaning slightly (Cynthia Ozick's question from the audience, for example, sounds much more intelligent in the original). Hegedus-Pennebaker are selling the DVD for sixty bucks and appear to be issuing takedown notices for full-length YouTubes. As of this writing the video is here (turning off the speech-to-text doggerel captions is also recommended).
In future posts we'll discuss Greer's speech and how it relates to current feminist writing in the net art context (it's much better). Also to be considered is a behind-the-scenes lawsuit Greer was involved in regarding the film rights, in the early '70s.

- tom moody

April 17th, 2015 at 9:17 am

Posted in general

noise meter


hat tips Dr_Age and vince mcelvie

- tom moody

April 16th, 2015 at 9:48 am

Posted in animations - tm

the tower formerly known as freedom

Marco Rubio announced his presidential candidacy on April 13 and Naked Capitalism's Lambert Strether analyzes his speech for dog-whistle phrases, bipartisan shibboleths, equivocation, dead metaphors, "red meat for the base," and other factors. Rubio lost me with the first, inaccurate sentence:

I chose to make this announcement at the Freedom Tower because it is a symbol of our nation’s identity as the land of opportunity. And I am more confident than ever that despite our troubles, we have it within our power to make our time another American Century.

We don't call it the Freedom Tower anymore! I posted a comment to Strether's post:

April 15, 2015 at 12:48 pm
The building where Rubio made his announcement is called One World Trade Center. The “Freedom Tower” name that everyone used for years was dropped in 2009 after the building had failed to attract any tenants and the possibility loomed of a substantial lease with a Chinese real estate company. The Port Authority insisted there was no connection between the name change and prospective tenant fears of operating in a large, ostentatiously-named lightning rod for future terror attacks. The backpedaling quotes from civic leaders such as Mayor Bloomberg after the announcement were priceless. Possibly Rubio doesn’t read the New York newspapers.

See, for example, this Daily News story for more detail.
Here's what Mayor Bloomberg said:

"It's up to the Port Authority," he said. "I have no idea what the commercial aspects are, and we can say, 'Oh, we shouldn't worry about that,' but of course you have to, particularly now.

"I would like to see it stay the Freedom Tower, but it's their building, and they don't need me dumping on it. If they could rent the whole thing by changing the name, I guess they're going to do that, and they probably, from a responsible point of view, should. From a patriotic point of view, is it going to make any difference?"

There's freedom, the symbol Rubio used, and there's market freedom, which dictated the name change. Which is more valuable, as a concept?

- tom moody

April 15th, 2015 at 6:19 pm

Posted in general




screenshots via sterlingcrip and reneabythe

- tom moody

April 14th, 2015 at 11:28 am

Posted in art as criticism

particularly grim jim thompson quote

From his novel Pop. 1280:

I’d been in that house a hundred times, that one and a hundred others like it. But this was the first time I’d seen what they really were. Not homes, not places for people to live in, not nothin’. Just pine-board walls locking in the emptiness. No pictures, no books—nothing to look at or think about. Just the emptiness that was soakin’ in on me here.

And then suddenly it wasn’t here, it was everywhere, every place like this one. And suddenly the emptiness was filled with sound and sight, with all the sad terrible things that the emptiness had brought people to… Because that’s the emptiness thinkin’ and you’re already dead inside, and all you’ll do is spread the stink and the terror, the weepin’ and wailin’, the torture, the starvation, the shame of your deadness. Your emptiness.

via High Priest of the Godless

- tom moody

April 14th, 2015 at 11:27 am

Posted in general

from the vault: Blog, the exhibition, documentation (2007)


Screenshot of announcement for my 2007 show, "Blog," from ArtCat
"This is an experiment in total freedom."
Also, we were laughing pretty hard in Williamburg [sic] over calling the workstation a "terminal." As I recall, Time Out New York's listing used that word, too.

- tom moody

April 14th, 2015 at 9:42 am

interview re: surf clubs

A graduate student doing research about appropriation and authorship sent me some questions about the surf club era. She put the Q&A together into a nice interview [pdf] with illustrations and footnotes.

She felt the Surfing Club scene/period was difficult to grasp because:

(a) With the exception of VVORK, it was more an American phenomenon; “Old skool” is actually more known and discussed in Europe (even today); (b) there is actually little literature available (Ramocki, Olson, Cloninger, Bewersdorf; I ended up reading all your blog entries from 2008 onwards, and chaotic discussions from the Rhizome archive of June 2008), and everybody seems to disagree on some general level and (c) With the meteoric rise of interest in Post Internet, it seems to me that Surfing Clubs have been forgotten.

In our back-and-forth discussion it became clear that current students are getting an, how can this be said diplomatically?, incorrect slant about the scene from later writers who weren't part of it, and welcomed a chance to put in (more of my) two cents.

- tom moody

April 13th, 2015 at 9:54 am

Posted in general

Meta Dance Classic (new Bandcamp release)

Am pleased to announce a new Bandcamp release titled Meta Dance Classic.

Some LP notes:

Continuing to cannibalize older tunes for beats and riffs. The track "Meta Dance Classic" is 100% new but all the others are reworked so extensively they are essentially new. Almost all these songs have melodies or textures produced with Eurorack modular gear, but integrated with softsynths and "packaged" beats. The presets get a tweak, too, so there is almost nothing here that hasn't been massaged to fit the main idea. Am continuing to experiment with timestretching tempos (mostly to speed up songs that were sounding sluggish). In the older versions of some of these tunes, the structure consisted of allowing a beat to develop and then putting some cake icing in at the end in the form of a catchy synth riff. What I'm doing here is moving the "icing" to the beginning of the song, adding counterpoint melodies, choruses, bridges and the rest of that traditional songwriting stuff, so the beat is almost not heard at all (maybe a couple of bars as a "drum solo").

Your support in the form of buying the LPs or songs is very encouraging, but all the material can be streamed. A cassette version is available: it looked so "meta" I decided to use an image of it for the cover.

- tom moody

April 10th, 2015 at 8:08 am

Posted in music - tm

more on surf club revisionism

The following is an only slightly exaggerated version of online conversations I had about Tuesday's post follower privilege, access privilege, and other things to be bitter about. A couple of interrogators are combined here as "RASG" (recent art school graduate):

RASG: You made a good critique yesterday of the Brad Troemel/Jennifer Chan position on the so-called internet surf clubs of '06-'08. You say the clubs' primary attributes weren't exclusivity and a career vehicle for members.

TM: Right.

RASG: It's personal with you, isn't it? That really weakens your argument.

TM: I don't know them. I met Troemel once. My post was basically fact-checking what I consider wrong assumptions, since I was in one of the surf clubs (Nasty Nets) and those authors are viewing the clubs with what seems to be 20/20 incorrect hindsight.

RASG: Possibly your position inside one of the clubs blinds you to what recent art school graduates face, in terms of current options. For us, it's mainly Tumblr and Facebook and you are making fun of that. That's kind of well, arrogant and hypocritical.

TM: Privilege shaming is always a good rhetorical tactic but you're assuming I had some advantage that you currently don't have. If it was 2006 you could have started a group blog and built an audience. I believe you still could, just using search traffic, word of mouth, hyperlinks from respected sites, RSS, and even social media -- without actually situating your group blog on tumblr or FB.

RASG: Oh, yeah, sure, and that's going to just get archived on Rhizome, just like that.

TM: Well, Rhizome archived Nasty Nets, but then their conservator left, so it's a half-finished project. But assuming that NN is laureled to the extent you're saying, no, there is no guarantee that an interesting group blog is going to be recognized. You have to build an audience. That was true for NN as well.

RASG: (scoffs) You already had a career before you joined NN. You can't really talk.

TM: Again, you are privilege shaming. And no, it took years of being online, blogging, before anyone thought about inviting me to be in stuff.

RASG: But you had an art career before that.

TM: That exposure didn't carry over in 2001, when I started blogging. The art world wasn't following blogs. I basically had to start over.

RASG: OK, maybe, but it takes money and tech savvy to start a blog. You had a leg up that we don't have now.

TM: I started blogging on a site called Digital Media Tree. They were hosting a small collection of blogs (still are). The webmaster was very generous with time and skill but there was no gaming the system, a la Buzzfeed. All I did was sign up and start posting -- and built a "rep," such as it is, over time. You could do that, as well. Starting a group blog outside the social media continuum isn't that hard or expensive.

RASG: You are overly romantic. Your story sounds like every one of these startups that claim to have begun penniless.

TM: I like you, as well.

- tom moody

April 9th, 2015 at 7:56 am

Posted in general

follower privilege, access privilege, and other things to be bitter about

Someone sent me an obnoxious quote from an obnoxious essay on post-internet art:

While early new media art communities were built on ethics of openness
 and collaboration, surf clubs and platform-based practices prosper on 
the nepotism [sic] and influence of online and regional friendships. In 2014, the internet is not so democratic and neither is the art world. Privileges of access to the art world come through unlikely cross-platform friendships with critics, academic blogger meritocracy, and follower-populism. Artists with higher follower counts become aesthetic opinion leaders, soft-capitalizing on the attention of the right gallerists, art lovers, art students, and New Yorkers. To base your art practice around any one platform is to submit yourself to the social hierarchies created by impressions of influence and popularity with the communities you build and engage with.

The author is Jennifer Chan. The quote was in a book, which students are reading. Depressing. Let's take it line by line:

While early new media art communities were built on ethics of openness 
and collaboration, surf clubs and platform-based practices prosper on
 the nepotism* and influence of online and regional friendships.

This is the exact opposite of the truth. The dynamic content of blogging software platforms opened up "net practice" from the old days of fixed html pages dependent on collections of hyperlinks for traffic. Suddenly hyperlinks could be generated "on the fly" and conversations could happen right on the page under discussion (instead of through a guestbook or related BBS).

In 2014, the internet is not so democratic and neither is the art world. Privileges of access to the art world come through unlikely cross-platform friendships with critics, academic blogger meritocracy, and follower-populism. Artists with higher follower counts become aesthetic opinion leaders, soft-capitalizing on the attention of the right gallerists, art lovers, art students, and New Yorkers.

Authority based on "higher follower counts" is a completely different concept from authority based on personal contacts. Chan thoughtlessly mashes them together here.

To base your art practice around any one platform is to submit yourself to the social hierarchies created by impressions of influence and popularity with the communities you build and engage with.

"Blogosphere" sites that are self-hosted (which includes '06-'08 surf clubs) didn't partake of the centralized, mass-control structures of a commercial platform such as Tumblr or Facebook. Chan is voluntarily operating in a far more restrictive environment while projecting her hierarchies and elitism onto surf clubs she never participated in.

As an artist friend noted, Chan "pushes privilege shaming to such an extent that we're supposed to feel bad about being friends with other artists." Resentment is raised to a statement of high principle. has archived at least one of the surf clubs from the mid-'00s (Nasty Nets) but has never publicly announced it, or had symposia where some of Chan's revisionism could be cleared up. She was in school when all that was going on and is just fabricating theories about the era (or borrowing her bad ideas from Brad Troemel, who also wasn't there).

*nepotism means giving jobs to your relatives -- I think "cronyism" is the word she means to use here

- tom moody

April 7th, 2015 at 4:00 pm

Posted in general