tom moody

Archive for the ‘theory’ Category

hitler on art

From William Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990 edition), pp. 243-4:

The Germany which had given the world a Duerer and a Cranach had not been pre-eminent in the fine arts in modern times, though German expressionism in painting and the Munich Bauhaus architecture were interesting and original movements and German artists had participated in all the twentieth-century evolutions and eruptions represented by impressionism, cubism and Dadaism.
To Hitler, who considered himself a genuine artist despite his early failures as one in Vienna, all modern art was degenerate and senseless. In Mein Kampf he had delivered a long tirade on the subject, and one of his first acts after coming to power was to “cleanse” Germany of its “decadent” art and to attempt to substitute a new “Germanic” art. Some 6,500 modern paintings—not only the works of Germans such as Kokoschka and Grosz but those of Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso and many others—were removed from German museums.
What was to replace them was shown in the summer of 1937 when Hitler formally opened the “House of German Art” in Munich in a drab, pseudoclassic building which he had helped design and which he described as “unparalleled and inimitable” in its architecture. In this first exhibition of Nazi art were crammed some nine hundred works, selected from fifteen thousand submitted, of the worst junk this writer has ever seen in any country. Hitler himself made the final selection and, according to some of the party comrades who were with him at the time, had become so incensed at some of the paintings accepted by the Nazi jury presided over by Adolf Ziegler, a mediocre painter who was president of the Reich Chamber of Art, that he had not only ordered them thrown out but had kicked holes with his jack boot through several of them. “I was always determined,” he said in a long speech inaugurating the exhibition, “if fate ever gave us power, not to discuss these matters [of artistic judgment] but to make decisions.” And he had made them.
In his speech -- it was delivered on July 18, 1937 -- he laid down the Nazi line for “German art”:

Works of art that cannot be understood but need a swollen set of instructions to prove their right to exist and find their way to neurotics who are receptive to such stupid or insolent nonsense will no longer openly reach the German nation. Let no one have illusions! National Socialism has set out to purge the German Reich and our people of all those influences threatening its existence and character… With the opening of this exhibition has come the end of artistic lunacy and with it the artistic pollution of our people…

And yet some Germans at least, especially in the art center of Germany which Munich was, preferred to be artistically polluted. In another part of the city in a ramshackle gallery that had to be reached through a narrow stairway was an exhibition of “degenerate art” which Dr. Goebbels had organized to show the people what Hitler was rescuing them from. It contained a splendid selection of modern paintings—Kokoschka, Chagall and expressionist and impressionist works. The day I visited it, after panting through the sprawling House of German Art, it was crammed, with a long line forming down the creaking stairs and out into the street. In fact, the crowds besieging it became so great that Dr. Goebbels, incensed and embarrassed, soon closed it.

- tom moody

September 30th, 2017 at 5:35 am

Posted in books, theory

Notes for a Daniel Albright bio

Notes for a biographical sketch on the late Daniel Albright, literary critic, musicologist, and theorist of historical Modernism. Albright's Wikipedia entry has a short bio and publication list. Below is a capsule discussion of his career highlights, from web and printed sources. Some additional documentation is still needed.

[Update: This article has been moved to another place of publication. If parts are edited, eventually this post will be the place for an "author's cut" of the Albright bio]

Additional Reading

Panaesthetics website -- site for Albright's next-to-last published book, Panaesthetics, serves as his personal site, posthumously maintained

Harvard Crimson obituary -- "whimsical English and music teacher" seems like faint praise for an influential thinker.

Remembrance of Albright by Andrew Goldstone, author of the book Fictions of Autonomy, in particular, how Albright inspired Goldstone's research.

- tom moody

August 24th, 2017 at 9:01 am

Posted in books, theory

overcoming "our" disillusionment

Geert Lovink's latest anti-social media rant starts out well with amusing quips:

“Artificial intelligence is not the answer to organized stupidity”—Johan Sjerpstra.
“Please don’t email me unless you’re going to pay me”—Molly Soda.
“Late capitalism is like your love life: it looks a lot less bleak through an Instagram filter”—Laurie Penny.
“Wonder how many people going on about the necessity of free speech and rational debate have blocked and muted trolls?”—Nick Srnicek.
“Post-truth is to digital capitalism what pollution is to fossil capitalism—a by-product of operations”— Evgeny Morozov.
“I have seen the troll army and it is us”—Erin Gün Sirer.

But then Lovink switches to first person plural causing me to vomit on the keyboard:

Our disenchantment with the internet is a fact. Yet again, enlightenment does not bring us liberation but depression. The once fabulous aura that surrounded our beloved apps, blogs, and social media has deflated. Swiping, sharing, and liking have begun to feel like soulless routines, empty gestures. We’ve started to unfriend and unfollow, yet we can’t afford to delete our accounts, as this implies social suicide. If “truth is whatever produces most eyeballs,” as Evgeny Morozov states, a general click strike seems like the only option left. But since this is not happening, we feel trapped and console ourselves with memes.

As the old '60s joke goes, "What do you mean we, kemosabe?" Some people didn't sign up for Facebook in 2007 -- because it smelled like a racket. Some people don't carry surveillance devices in their pockets just because everyone else does. Some people have made a good-faith look for alternatives to swiping and sharing, shy of a "general click strike."

Lovink's article appears in e-flux, which recently tried and failed to acquire the .art domain, speaking of the need for general click strikes. A Facebook for art, controlled by well-intentioned do-gooders, was narrowly avoided.

The rest of Lovink's article discusses positive uses of memes, or something. I haven't read it all. It was hard to get past that first paragraph. Will update if there is anything worth passing along.

- tom moody

June 21st, 2017 at 9:43 am

Posted in around the web, theory

a purpose for collecting

Robert Nickas, from his essay on the Affidavit website titled "A 12-Step Program for 'Collectors'":

To collect is to draw things towards ourselves over time, to study and learn from them, to see what they elicit, one from another, not to engage in a continuous and expedient dispersal.

Well said. The essay is a collection of Benjamin Franklin wisdom or Tom Paine common sense aimed at flippers of artwork. None of it should need to be said except this is the era of a $2.9 million Peter Doig (a terrible painter) and a $110.5 million Basquiat that, according to Nickas, "may not be among Basquiat’s very best."

- tom moody

June 6th, 2017 at 5:48 am

drawing, from daniel albright memorial

albrightmemorial

Just learned that one of my favorite teachers, Daniel Albright, died a couple of years ago.
A memorial with readings, music, and reminiscences was posted: [YouTube]
The drawing comes from a series of pictures projected on the auditorium screen, interpreting a passage from one of Albright's books. (It reminds me a bit of Erika Somogyi's work)
I'll have more to say about him -- I just ordered a few of his tomes that I hadn't read yet. I've plugged him a few times on the blahg over the years.
Several of the reminiscers describe him as a genius and there's really no other word. When he lectured he held you spellbound -- you could feel your brain expanding.
In his younger years (when I had him as an undergrad advisor and my brain was still expanding) he primarily focused on English lit. He was in his mid-20s when he wrote a book on "Yeats' creative imagination in old age." That's one I ordered -- I've always been curious about it but never found it in a library or bookstore.
Gradually he broadened his criticism to include music and painting. At the end of his life his focus was interdisciplinary studies. His pursuits took him from Virginia to Rochester to (after 2003) Harvard, whether I gather his courses were popular.
I like his writing on poetry and music and modernist theory in general. I don't really care much about the interrelationships of the arts but appreciated that he would also take the flip side of the argument, explaining why and when it was good for a discipline to remain entrenched in its area of competence (to use a phrase of Greenberg's, a critic he admired but didn't agree with).
An astute Am*zon commenter said, regarding Albright's last book Putting Modernism Together: "A great project but this original and talented thinker is finally unable to let go of the canon." You could do a lot worse having someone to explain the canon to you, but the frustration isn't with Albright's conservatism so much as it is selfishly wanting to see that brilliant mind probing outside the established greats.

- tom moody

April 9th, 2017 at 8:11 am

Posted in art - others, books, theory

internet aware gift shop

roflcopter

yesterday's bad art theory is today's great gift shop

- tom moody

April 6th, 2017 at 7:38 pm

more greed architecture

The small cylindrical building in the lower left was a PATH train entrance that stood alone in a vacant lot for years. Then, the awkward parabuilding on the right was added, using the cylinder as a support for a multi-story hotel (Marriott Residence Inn). "Parabuilding" was New York Times architecture critic's Herbert Muschamp's euphemism for what could also be called "the architecture of greed," where squeezing every last nickel of rent takes precedence over style. Note how the sleek futuristic columns attempt to distract from the silliness of the design.

badarchitecture1

The hotel exploits monetizable floor area on the opposite side, too -- its wraparound floors nudge into the space of the adjacent building, a la the infamous shot of George Bush trying to squeeze past Bill Clinton in a public doorway:

badarchitecture2

Here's an image that a tourist bureau might like, where everything appears neat and symmetrical. Photos can lie.

badarchitecture3

- tom moody

April 6th, 2017 at 7:25 pm

Posted in photo 3, theory

new-ish vimeos

Have been neglecting my Vimeo account, mainly because I hate video and think there's too much of it in our world. Yesterday I posted a couple of laid-back efforts from late 2014 I had been sitting on:

Ambient Bro Environment

Walk to Liberty

Was sort of briefly interested in the idea of home movies as art -- taking that trope of ultimate boredom and elevating it to festival material, as a form of protest or Dada or what have you. I even went as far as to submit Idyllic Bike Ride to the festival "Migrating Forms" (where it was rejected). What happened was, I get a lot of press releases going back to my years as a pundit. Some are welcome and some go to spam. Migrating Forms sent me an announcement with a call for entries. It took about five minutes to submit Idyllic Bike Ride -- I thought a dude's bike ride might be an amusing break or palate cleanser in several hours of heavy identity exploration. It was rejected, and also lessened my spam traffic because I stopped receiving Migrating Forms announcements! Unlike moi, they do not hate video.

- tom moody

March 23rd, 2017 at 8:10 am

Posted in theory, video - tm

bank lobby semiotics

Photo0042

Citibank has been remodeling its New York branches. In Australia they've stopped accepting cash, and it's clear they'd do that here if they could. Paper deposit and withdrawal slips have been phased out.
Teller lines still exist but ATMs are the future. The first thing the teller requests is a card swipe.
Instead of offices where bankers assist you, they offer long tables with computer monitors, like open plan classrooms, where employees give tutorials on how to do online banking.
Comfy seats for waiting customers are replaced with a bleak, padded bench or two.
A posh seating area can still be found but it's for "Citigold" clients paying a higher tier for wealth management services. This lounge-like environment is clearly set apart from the benches.
Outside, facing the street, they have "Citigold" signs, with gold lettering.

- tom moody

March 2nd, 2017 at 6:18 pm

Posted in theory

network plasticity

From a recent interview:

Angelo Romeo: What does the Internet mean to you today?

Geert Lovink: I got to know computers and computer networks in the late 1980s in my late 20s so I can’t say I grew up with them, even though their arrival was announced in films, magazines and science fiction was announced well before I was born. As an undergrad I was still using IBM punch cards. I would not describe my generation as pioneers. We grew up in the shadow of the Cold War, in the ruins of the industrial revolution. It was not a period of prosperity but one of crisis, decay and unemployment. Doom and gloom: no gentrification but squats. In that environment the internet offered an alternative future that first came to us through cyberpunk sci-fi literature. The 1968 generation had nothing to offer to us, and we became cynical because of their failed idealism and double standards. Armed struggle was bankrupt. It is with a certain ironic ambivalence that we entered the internet realm. Some of my friends did not enter the game, while others did. Younger people jumped on it. Internet indeed offered us an opportunity, to get out of the margins, claim a strategic terrain and move into the unknown, cyberspace. This is pretty much the same, 30 years later. The younger you are, the better. The internet never disappointed me. It is society that steers it architectures and applications. Turned into platform capitalism, filtered by authoritarian regimes, pushed by neo-liberal design of the precarious self, that’s what the internet means to us today. This doesn’t say anything about tomorrow. Luckily, we can still speculate about ‘network plasticity’. Platform is not our destiny.

Am a bit more pessimistic about the resilience of "the network," as in, a world wide web, in view of monopolist challenges to neutrality, on the one hand, and the sheeplike migration of citizens to "platforms," on the other. Even smaller networks that are parasitic to the global Internet will be affected by Balkanization. A small case in point, I've been learning to use a Linux system, and while some of the how-to is handled over IRC chat, much is still dependent on Googling. The Ardour forum moderators tell newbies, in so many words, "don't rely on our in-house search to find if your topic has been covered, use Google, it's much more thorough." If Google searching (or DuckDuckGo, or Bing) becomes deprecated because of post-neutrality slow lanes or "platform" dominance of search, Linux mavericks are screwed.

- tom moody

February 27th, 2017 at 8:57 am

Posted in linux diary, theory