he Reasonable Cyborg takes as a given that technology, no matter how powerful, is instrumental to naked human intention. Some RCs may grant that it is possible for naked humans, through inattention, laziness or lack of insight to cede their agency to technological processes. They may advocate that Cyborgs periodically unplug from technology enough to disrupt habits that reinforce this agency cessation. They may suggest various strategies to better manage the incursions into human agency technology may make including various forms of meditation or mindfulness, or simply taking a walk in places they like to designate as Nature.
Every photograph is an illustration of Zeno’s Paradox. By seeming to frame time with the release of the shutter, the photograph seems to frame time as infinitely divisible into moments, into halfway points between an infinitude of 2 other points. Whether starting or ending with starting or ending, the infinitude of these points prevents the possibility of starting or ending.
People have noticed something like this about photography pretty much as soon as its invention. The specificity of the moment and subject of a photograph contrasts with its potential infinitude of meaning and authorship. Even more, this aspect of photography provides a snapshot of the paradox of art in a disenchanted, rationalized age. Continue reading “The Paradox of Photography”
The Szpilman Award is awarded to works that exist only for a moment or a short period of time.
The purpose of the award is to promote such works whose forms consist of ephemeral situations. Szpilman Award
I first became aware of the Szpilman Award a couple of years ago. I found the concept interesting but up until now haven’t been able to organize myself to execute a project for it, and to then submit an application. First prize includes a 10 day trip to Cimochowizna, Poland, a village in a Polish national park.
Saturday, I sent in my application based on my recent Post #74.
The selection of past winners of the Award have shown the jury to be every bit the quirky bunch one might expect in such a project. So any application constitutes an improbability at the outset.
Adding to this for me and my poor damaged brain, making such a trip would entail managing a sensory assault and overload I can barely imagine. It could only result from the realization of a set of cascading improbabilities that in itself would result in an example of the ephemeral sublime.
This element of sublimity is missing from the Szpliman description, yet it is implicit as the defining feature of art that is eligible for the award.
After all, to the extent that anything exists, it exists ephemerally. In past posts, I’ve discussed the Buddhist presentation of Emptiness. The causes and conditions supporting an object or process are all always changing, are ephemeral, as is their result – the object or process.
The view-point and the time scale one uses in considering something determines whether it seems to exist for a long or short time. Seen from the perspective of cosmic time, all of human existence is ephemeral.
The implicit presence of this kind of time scale as backdrop is what makes the “short time” of the ordinary sense of ephemeral mean something worth mentioning at all.
I wonder, for example how much of the experience of the users of ephemeral social media includes some sense of the sublime. Does a cyborg using Snapchat experience a glimpse of cosmic time hitting Send?
A couple of weeks ago in But Is It Art I wrote about a group of people who “scaled the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge and replaced the American flags with bleached out white ones.” The artists/perpetrators did not identify themselves or provide any information beyond the act itself.
Two German artists recently took credit for the act, and provided credible evidence substantiating the claim. The NY Times reported that:
Mischa Leinkauf and Matthias Wermke, say the flags — with hand-stitched stars and stripes, all white — had nothing to do with terrorism. In a series of phone interviews, they explained that they only wanted to celebrate “the beauty of public space” and the great American bridge whose German-born engineer, John Roebling, died in 1869 on July 22, the day the white flags appeared….Mr. Wermke then cited a remark by Philippe Petit, the French high-wire artist, whom the two Germans admire. Mr. Petit walked a tightrope between the twin towers of the World Trade Center almost exactly 40 years ago.
Why did you do it? he was asked.
“There is no why,” he responded.
German Artists Say They Put White Flags on Brooklyn Bridge NY Times 8-12-14
Apparently they underestimated the fear many New Yorker’s would likely have to all this. The Times reports, they had conducted similar projects in other places around the world “and they claimed to be somewhat taken aback by the reception here.”
However difficult to define art may be, the impossible ideas of “art for art’s sake” and a non-utilitarian utilitarianism, are likely to be part of any discussion about art and its embodiments.
Recently, in an interview promoting his newest book Creativity: the perfect crime Philippe Petit revised his earlier remark somewhat:
To be able to create fully, it’s maybe fine that you learn the rules, but you have to forget and to rebel against those rules. … In a bank heist, you steal, you rob, you take away. In an illegal high-wire walk, you bring forth, you inspire, you give a gift — the gift of beauty and inspiration. … The big difference is, you don’t take, you give.
I’m guessing something like this was the “why” behind Leinkauf and Wermke’s’ bridge installation. Given their admiration for Philippe Petit and his close connection with New York and the World Trade Center, it’s ironic they missed the inevitable associations their audience would make.
Last week, a group of people scaled the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge and replaced the American flags with bleached out white ones. Many people have many theories about who did this and why. Certainly, some kind of terrorist explanation comes to mind – a dry run to expose security protocols perhaps. But also among the many speculative explanations was that this was in some way art.
Deputy Police Commissioner John Miller said the incident had “no particular nexus” to terrorism or politics.
“This may be somebody’s art project or an attempt to make some sort of statement, but at this time it’s not clear what that statement is,” Miller told a packed news briefing at police headquarters. NYPD Sees Art, Not Terror, in Brooklyn Bridge Flag Swap Bloomberg 7-25-14
Of course this would be of the Conceptual or Post-Conceptual variety that I discussed in my previous post.
Even so, how can art be indistinguishable from terrorism? Even in the throes of Dada, the avant-garde, the Theater of Cruelty starting almost 100 years ago, the audience knew it was an audience and the artist knew she was an artist. Certainly the creators of these productions meant to break down the barriers between audience and artist, but the barriers were there to be broken down.
By the time we get to 1966, John Cage says to Stanely Kauffmann,
What is happening in this century, whether you accept it or not, is that more and more there is no gap between art and life.
Art is famously impossible to define. It is the institutions of art that clue viewers, listeners, smellers, tasters, touchers that the experience before them should be understood as art. Heidegger describes the function of both art and technology as the revealing of Being. But just as technology is “nothing technological”, art is nothing artistic. Both are a function of the revealing Heidegger discussed, each dependent on a different understanding of Being.
This increasing invisibility of art recalls for me, in this context, the projects Stranger Vision and Invisible by Heather Dewey-Hagborg I discussed in my last post. In the first she constructs “family resemblance” sculptures from DNA she acquired in random places. In the second, she developed a pair of aerosol sprays to eliminate and mask any remaining DNA from a surface.
Indeed, news reports indicate that DNA Evidence Found At Scene Of Brooklyn Bridge White Flag Stunt Gothamist 7-25.
Perhaps the NYPD could find Dewey-Hagborg’s Stranger Vision technology useful. Perhaps the artists/perpetrators could have benefited from her Invisible technology.
There is no Luminol spray to show trace evidence of art. Perhaps that could be Dewey-Hagborg’s next project.
The end product is of no importance. It is the creative process and the fact of sharing this process with everyone else, destroying its mysteriousness, destroying its capitalist value that is vital. Heather Dewey-Hagborg Theoretical Perspectives on Interactivity – Art and Freedom
Post-Conceptual¹ (my term) artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg has executed two related projects that speak to the issues of surveillance I have been discussing. The first of these, Stranger Visions started when she was in a therapy session staring at a framed print with a crack in its glass and a hair lodged in the crack. As her day progressed, the idea that genetic data surrounds us developed into the (post) concept of Stranger Visions.
She began collecting material likely to have DNA on them such as hair, cigarette butts and gum. She then extracted and analyzed the DNA from these samples. Using a computer program she developed, which codes genetic facial traits and generates a model to represent them. After tweaking the result she used a 3D full color printer to produce facial sculptures that have a “family resemblance” to the DNA donor.
[I]t is important to remember that this is art, not the development of a new product or company. This work is a provocation, designed to spur a cultural diaogue about genetic surveillance and forensic DNA phenotyping. What does it mean for an artist, an amateur, to do this? What are the implications for privacy issues as well as law enforcement? I think these are the major questions. We hear everyday about “digital natives” who don’t know how not to share their private data with the world, but here we all are, shedding hairs, nails, skin, and leaving saliva behind us all the time, without thinking about it as information. Stranger Visions Press Release
The second project of Dewey-Hagborg’s I’d like to discuss is Invisible.
Acing that interview? Don’t let your genes undermine your confidence. Be invisible.
Are you too big to fail? Don’t let DNA spill your secrets. Protect your prestige and be invisible
Spend the night somewhere you shouldn’t have? Erase your indiscretion and be invisible
Dinner with the prospective inlaws going smoothly? Don’t let them judge you based on your DNA, be invisible.
Exercising your freedom of speech? Be invisible and never get tracked. Invisible
For this project, Dewey-Hagborg has developed two sprays. The first deletes 99.5% of DNA it comes in contact with, and the other renders the rest unreadable by overwhelming any sample with extraneous DNA.
Dewey-Hagborg sold a limited edition of 100 pairs of sprays for $230. Certainly there are techniques to clean DNA from objects. This project is about invisibility embedded in convenience, not developing a product.
As Dewey-Hagborg points out DNA provides a way of identifying, gaining medical information and monitoring people.
You wouldn’t leave your medical records on the subway for just anyone to read. It should be a choice. You should be in control of how you share your information and with whom: be it your email, your phone calls, your SMS messages, and certainly your genes. Invisible is protection against new forms of biological surveillance. Invisible
At least conceptually.
¹ I use post-conceptual in recognition of Dewey-Hagborg’s critique of Conceptual Art as having sold out and then died. She also critiques the concept of art. She identifies herself however as an artist and her art is conceptual in nature. So post-conceptual is my attempt to recognize her position.