Archive for December, 2015
Drawn with Linux MyPaint, resized in GIMP
Am about halfway through Joe Milutis' book, Failure, a Writer's Life, which treats the subject of failed literature or non-literature. As in, the necessity and difficulties of adducing a theory for the vast amount of productive writing that falls outside the narrow spectrum of literature: cranks and obsessives such as Charles Fort, real-life versions of Borges' Funes the Memorious, database-compilers on and offline, etc.
I would add J.G. Ballard's favorite non-literature: office memoranda. Also books by authors who have lost and never regained publishers after being hyped as "towering talents for our age." (Several good science fiction authors fall in that category.)
Occasionally the analysis crosses over into failed art or non-art (visual as opposed to writing). Clement Greenberg once noted that we don't have a theory for failed art. Would rather read about someone like Francis Picabia, who was considered a great Dadaist who then produced decades of terrible paintings (until those terrible paintings were reassessed -- and the jury's still out) than Milutis' example of Ryan Trecartin, who, although a terrible artist, is considered a smashing success by every contemporary curator you could name.
Our interests intersect with Milutis' analysis of dump.fm [I made a pdf excerpt -- hope that's OK]. Dump is half-art, half-writing, all "failed" or "non-". The same curators who can talk you to death about Trecartin's carnivalesque inversion of blah-blah are deathly silent about Dump. Words simply fail them.
Milutis rolls up his sleeves and does the work and gets it about 85% right. An excerpt:
Dump.fm, a continuous stream of user-created or repurposed web junk, is based on the premise of “talking with images”: one can, for example, take the url of one participant‘s post, and immediately splice it with another url, with an eye to immediate commerce with images, the surprise combination, or the visual pun, rather than image-authorship strictly conceived. It is isomorphic with Flarf, in that the hastily recontextualized and modified gifs and jpgs, exchanged in a real-time semianonymous community, tend towards the cute, the cloying, the un-P.C., the “not O.K.” Yet because it is a free-floating environment, rather than a stand-alone net art “object,” it has developed in ways that complexify any notion of coherent approaches and specific ontological properties, accommodating methods and uses that do not fit under the rubric of a manifesto. [wikipedia flarf link added]
Nevertheless, in their embrace of real-time, spontaneous discourse with digital junk, Dump.fm users espouse an ambiguous relation to the enforced scarcities of the art world. On the one hand, because Dump.fm values spontaneous participation but also because, for better or for worse, it much of the time gets taken over as a teenage chat rumpus room, there is little patience with work that attempts to be too crafty, or that doesn‘t deal with bottom-barrel internet grotesques for freak-show gawking, or that seems to come from anyone over twenty with any art world cred. One racks up more “likes” in the dump rating system if the dump is a quick turn-over of another dump, rather than something painstakingly composed in Photoshop or AfterEffects: more cred for projectile than for project. There‘s a whole “genre” of dump participant who rarely, if ever, composes or recomposes images, but instead merely posts asignifying snaps from his or her webcam, exerting casual presence as a dump star, as if trying to win the slow bicycle race of artistic inactivity and unambition.
Like the chat function, the webcam functions as a territorializing machine within this more deterritorialized space. That is, the webcam has an indexical function—the presence of the person behind the camera cannot easily be faked; and because no one looks over twenty-one, the frequent use of webcam stills forces unstated rules about who can participate and how. Similarly, the use or overuse of the chat function—sometimes overriding the site's raison d'être of “talking with images” for long stretches of time—tends to create boundaries, subgroups, and rivalries that would not be as evident or easy to maintain if the commerce were merely with recycled web-junk.
Milutis over-rates dump's art world connections. Am flattered to be described as a "participating éminence gris" but at this point dump does more for me than vice versa. Ditto Ryder Ripps, who rarely participates anymore in his own creation. As noted above, the part of the art world that could valorize dump through writing and analysis has been busy with far easier subjects.
A fine rant from Miracle Jones states the unspoken obvious about Amazon:
Amazon is the modern equivalent of the Manson Family: a rapacious organization whose goal is to dissolve human values using technology (guns, dune buggies, LSD, drones, “search,” ebooks) while self-selecting new hidden, hyperactive psychopaths for internal promotion who will thrive within its structure and relish its brutal culling practices, the organization growing more lean and fucked-up in order to do as much damage as possible for dubious, unprofitable goals: not to make money, but to "disrupt" all the piggies.
But that's not the most alarming facet of Amazon. The Manson Family at least had an "us versus them" mentality that let the rest of "us" off the hook if we didn't feel like murdering sad pregnant women to start a race war. Charles Manson was quite happy to be Chief Executive Ballbag at Consolidated Asshole. He liked being in charge. His downfall was rather how much he wanted everyone to know that he was the source and conduit of all the evil he was capable of channeling. He tried to start a business once…a nightclub…but the business failed because Manson was shit at business.
No, the most alarming facet of Amazon is that it makes all of us who actually have souls complicit. It is a great business: it is second order capitalism, a tight iron band around the free market that throttles all retail trade. It is a permanent challenge to morality, a challenge we fail every time we log in. Totalitarianism can be defined as a system where one cannot opt out, and since Amazon's model is not to be a store, but to be the marketplace itself, we often have no choice but to use some aspect of Amazon’s services. And Amazon only offers us ways to fail with respect to morality: it does not offer us the ability to choose to be ethical.
And offers a solution:
How difficult would it be for Amazon to enable us to tip their warehouse workers at every point of sale? Not difficult at all. They already have a program called AmazonSmile that allows you to channel gratuities to the charity of your choice. One would think that Amazon might even welcome the opportunity to make their warehouse jobs more desirable by letting customers tip the workers there for their hard work.
AmazonSmile’s motto is “You shop. Amazon gives.” This is the way it works: you assign a charity of your choice to your account and Amazon donates .5% of all your purchases to that particular charity. There are over a million charities from which it is possible to choose. It is not possible to choose “the workers of Amazon” or “small press authors you are beating in the head with a pipe.”
And maybe that is on us: maybe what we should all do, the customers of Amazon, is create a charity whose specific goal is to provide for the people who work shitty warehouse jobs at Amazon. We register them as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, and we force Amazon to accept this charity as one of the eligible charities for Smilepoints.
Short of that, you *can* start to break the Amazon habit. There are other e-book makers out there. You can buy that futon at the online store of the company that makes the futon. You can spend a few minutes passing along a well-written essay that ridicules Amazon instead of shopping there for the equivalent amount of time.
Drawn with Linux MyPaint and Krita
Thanks to all who came to the "Original PNGs" show at Honey Ramka. The show has been extended to January 24, 2016. The gallery is closed for the holidays but will re-open January 8.
Installation photos of "Original PNGs" have been posted by the gallery.
drawn with Krita and MyPaint
Artforum covered DIS Magazine last year and gushed:
What DIS had discovered -- but what much of the art world still didn’t know -- was that exclusivity had become obsolete. “Cool” wasn’t cool -- the old downtown underground had lost its appeal. The goal was no longer to subvert the mainstream, but to refashion it in subversion’s own image. To be sure, DIS’s impact was more to rebrand cool rather than to actually obliterate social and aesthetic hierarchies, but its rebranding was not without worldly consequence. On the heels of a downtown era defined by Ryan McGinley’s vampire sidekicks and Purple’s aging pornographers, the culture propelled by DIS and affiliated parties like GHE20G0TH1K felt like a life-affirming, gender-fluid, multiracial utopia -- the legatee, in some ways, of earlier art-music-nightlife moments, from disco to the Club Kids, but filtered through the Internet era’s more expansive potential for commingling.
In the article, Artforum reprinted a photo of the DIS staff, posing as annoying hipsters, barefoot and wearing beige casualwear.
On the present blog, this self-aware (yet somehow utopian?) image was paired yesterday with a photo of people riding a conferencebike. Sincere-sincere downscale corporate culture meets fake-sincere, with fake-sincere (yet somehow utopian) coming out rather the worst for the comparison, I thought.
In the chat that follows, dis explainer (name changed to protect the innocent) accuses this blog of not getting that DIS is playing double-head-fake, 6th dimensional taste chess. Read and learn:
dis explainer that dis photo had me dying
tommoody that was in artforum!
tommoody at least online
dis explainer which part
tommoody it was an essay about Dis
dis explainer with those 2 images next to each other?
tommoody no just the Dis staff
dis explainer oh yeah
dis explainer well that's an old photo
dis explainer from like 2010
dis explainer old hat
tommoody i don't care if it's old - it's still stupid
dis explainer i think it's self aware [explanations of irony mechanics omitted for brevity]
Artforum describes DIS as a "magazine" (obviously with an "art" component) and recites its "origin myth":
In late 2009, a year after the crash, a group of friends working in various corners of New York’s culture industry saw their freelance work dry up. Suddenly, they had a lot of time on their hands, and the idea emerged through an email chain to start a digital magazine. “It was an interesting moment,” Lauren Boyle told me in a recent interview. “People were still afraid of tweeting too much! At that time, DAZED, ID, Interview—they weren’t picking up the people we were interested in. We started organizing the community a little bit.”
Lauren and her partner, Marco Roso, an artist who sidelined in advertising, would host big evening meetings at their house on Hooper Street in South Williamsburg. The meetings would mist into parties, and the parties would morph into photo shoots. Eventually, the meetings/parties/shoots were whittled down to a core group of seven, including, in addition to Roso and Boyle: Solomon Chase, who had been doing fashion styling for print and TV; David Toro, a research assistant and art handler; Nick Scholl, a web developer who for years served as the magazine’s webmaster; Patrik Sandberg, a writer; and Samuel Adrian Massey III, a product developer.
Four of the founding editors had attended art school and had chosen to live in New York City over pursuing traditional art careers. “If I had wanted to paint,” said Boyle, “I would have gone to Philadelphia or Baltimore or Berlin.” Roso, who was a bit older and had an established art practice, moved to New York from Spain after spending eight years burning through various artist residencies. “When I lived in Europe, my life was just linked to grants—one grant after another. You hit a point where you go through all the grants.” Not that Roso thought artists in America were much better off—they were dependent on the gallery system. In New York, though, you could find freelance work in fashion or advertising while pursuing art on the side.
The editors decided to organize as an LLC rather than as a nonprofit because they didn’t want to rely on donors or grant-giving bodies. Instead, they nursed the dream that some day their magazine would make money.
So it's barefoot-people-but-not-really running a magazine-but-not-really. People could have differing ideals for how an arty quasi-magazine should present itself, however. Back to the chat with dis explainer (redacted for brevity):
tommoody you can't do barefoot and say it's a joke
dis explainer joke isn't the right word
tommoody i like when magazine staffs were ugly people behind the scenes
tommoody journalists didn't make themselves part of the story
tommoody indulge in narcissism
dis explainer dis magazine was never about journalism, or even blogging.
tommoody i thought it was a magazine
tommoody with stories, etc
dis explainer it's a magazine in the same way saturday night live is a tv show
tommoody mad magazine's staff called themselves "the usual gang of idiots"
dis explainer it's more a culture, a group of people making shit.. an evolving collective
tommoody yeah but barefoot and beige clothes --- YUCK
tommoody it's not funny
tommoody and it was written about in Artforum
dis explainer so because u think barefoot is dumb or gauche or something that means...?
dis explainer that artforum shouldn't write about it
tommoody artforum anoints their hokey statement as "art"
dis explainer so what?
tommoody so i paired it with a conferencebike
tommoody i prefer the conference bike as a goofy corporate statement
dis explainer because i thought the pairing was a lighthearted commentary making fun of when satirizing corny consumer culture gets serious.. not a vitriolic debasement of "taste".. something which you of all people should know really is a fluid thing
tommoody "a lighthearted commentary making fun of when satirizing corny consumer culture gets serious" - that sounds right
tommoody but at the expense of Dis, too
dis explainer so don't become a dick about it saying who deserves what based on the fact u dont like something as trite as pastels
tommoody i'm not being a dick by disliking the Dis schtick
tommoody i have that right
Update: minor corrections to who-said-what
systematically_oppositional twitter keeps sending me nagware popups asking for my phone number
systematically_oppositional they also publish my email address in large type at the top of my timeline asking me to confirm it's still current
systematically_oppositional i would love to send an electromagnetic pulse to their server and taser the company executives at the same time
hypocrisy_detector thats awfully violent for a free service you're voluntarily using
systematically_oppositional it's not free -- they've been exploiting my intellectual labor since 2008
systematically_oppositional all i ask is not to be nagged
hypocrisy_detector voluntary intellectual labor, but yeah, it's annoying
hypocrisy_detector i wish they would just acknowledge you don't want 2-factor and move on
systematically_oppositional it's not voluntary -- social media is "indispensable" to living in the modern world
systematically_oppositional and yes they will never rest until i give them more factors
"We are working to build a whole new way to bank" (photo of sign in lobby). Translation:
"We're giving up half our Manhattan storefront space because we can make more $$ subletting it. We're automating every customer service that hasn't already been digitized. We're moving some of our employees to another retail branch, firing some, and keeping a skeleton staff."