Quote Extracts

16/06/17

I find myself developing a magpie tendency whenever I see a good quote. Whether it’s for personal or academic use, I have a compulsion to document and accumulate them. I always remember my old art teacher having a book of quotes that inspired him. He was a fantastic man, full of energy; who still wore a waistcoat with a pocket watch. I should probably be more religious with my quote gathering and compile them all in one place, as they are currently haphazardly scattered across various notebooks, sticky notes, old receipts and train tickets. Anything I can write on in that moment, I will use to scribble notes. At least I always have a surplus of pens on me as being pen-less is my worst nightmare given I am such an avid note taker.

Although most of the time they are gathered for personal reflection, these are some I thought I would share…

‘To be modern is to find ourselves in an environment that promises adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world and at the same time to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are.’

– M. Berman, All That Is Solid Melts into Air, (1982), p.15

This I felt was a very poignant quote; as it is both at once filled with promise and hope, whilst simultaneously filled with tragedy and sadness. It signifies the disrupted and chaotic equilibrium of life. It exposes both the beauty and virtue of humans, whilst also displaying our destructive and careless nature. I think it is also very beautifully written; the more I read the more I am refining and realising my reading taste. I really do love visual language which drips with life. Along with my new found love for Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi’s writings, I have come across another writer  whose texts are truly brilliant. Although he’s an urban geographer in practice, which might appear a boring working title to some, or a tedious field to others, David Harvey is in fact one of the best writers I have come across in a while. His grasp of literature and his ability to convey and discuss his ideas in an engaging manner is enticing. Ignoring for a moment his staggeringly accurate and perceptive analysis of capitalist culture – he coined the term ‘time-space compression’, which discusses the shrinking of temporal and geographical distances as a result of technological and communication advances, see image below – his writing in itself is beautiful and full-bodied, like a good red wine.

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A quote of his I discovered recently that struck me:

‘Capital is a process and not a thing. It is a process of reproduction of social life through commodity production, in which all of us in the advanced capitalist world are heavily implicated…The process masks and fetishises, achieves growth through creative destruction, creates new wants and needs, exploits the capacity for human labour and desire, transforms spaces, and speeds up the space of life.’ 

– D. Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity, (1989), p.343

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Berardi

12/06/17

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I have been reading a lot of Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi recently. He is an Italian Marxist theorist and activist in the autonomist tradition, who is widely published.  One of his most famous works is The Soul at Work: From Alienation to Autonomy (2009). He has also written extensively on Felix Guattari, ideas of capital and acceleration, society, the future, the worker and a variety of other dense topics. Berardi is perhaps my new favourite writer – or, given I prefer not to categorise into mere favourite divides, it’s probably more accurate to say he is a new favourite of mine.

His name kept cropping up in multiple bibliographies I was skimming and then I found a fantastic article by him on e-flux which could not be more relevant to my current research. The article is title ‘Time, Acceleration and Violence’ and it opens with this:

What do you store in a bank? You store time. But is the money that is stored in the bank my past time—the time that I have spent in the past? Or does this money give me the possibility of buying a future?’

– Berardi, e-flux journal #27, Sept. 2011

Out of all the articles I have ever read, this one has really stuck in my mind and left a lasting impression on me. I keep thinking about it and experiences or news articles I come across remind me of it too. For me, a Berardi read is always incredibly thought-provoking and at times, slightly unsettling. This read is one of those interesting yet unnerving ones. The article is a discussion of capitalism’s integration into our daily lives, into our cores. It talks about time in relation to the philosopher Henri Bergson; his ideas of duration versus modern days of perception. It discusses the Futurists and their war mongering attitude, Marx, war, competition, money, production, surplus. Its contents stick in your mind for days.

Why it was so prevalent to me?

Firstly, because reading about time is always a prevalent experience. Mainly because it forces you into an awareness of your own mortality. Yet this article goes further, as it links biological time to technological time and the time of capital. A comparison between the two is of course disturbing, as the biological can never compete with the economic. Particularly not in the digital age, where everything is immaterial and carried out online.

That was not the only disturbing element however. Extracts in discussion of the Futurists  were perhaps the most worrying given their accurate analysis:

Also in 1977, “competition” became the crucial word for the economy, whose project was to submit human relationships to the singular imperative of competition. The term itself became naturalized to the point where saying “competition” was like saying “work.” But competition is not the same as work. Competition is like crime, like violence, like murder, like rape. Competition equals war. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari say that fascism is “when a war machine is installed in each hole, in every niche.” And I would say that an economic regime based on competition is fascism perfected. But how does this violence arrive in the economic sphere?’

– Berardi, e-flux journal #27, Sept. 2011

Competition equals war. 

Think about that in relation to history. Think about that in relation to 2003; when the US first entered Iraq, claiming it was a moral act of defence and liberation. Yet capital was in fact the dark motive at heart. When I say the article is disturbing, I am not disturbed by the article itself, as it is merely a commentary exposing ideas and observations. It is the observations which disturb and unsettle me, particularly in wake of the current political and economic climate, both of which are fraught with uncertainty.

Recommended reading:

Berardi, e-flux journal #27, Sept. 2011

 

Florian Hecker, Synopsis

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I was through visiting Glasgow at the weekend and made my way to Tramway. One of the exhibitions that was on display was Florian Hecker’s Synopsis. Installed in the amazing open space of what used to be the tram terminus, depot and factory, where railway lines still run through the ground, this installation is experiential to say the least.

This is what I have come to find appeals to me about Contemporary Art. Whereas Modern Art and the Renaissance works are aesthetically appealing and visually rich, I feel the emotive response is quite limited. You can love a Monet, adore a Piccasso or hate Kandinsky (I would like to clarify I am not speaking from a personal perspective here, I myself love the lyricism and colours of Kandinsky’s work). However, through my explorations and exhibition visits, I have come to find that it is the experience of the contemporary which I am drawn to. Sensory works that adopt more of a physical manifestation, such as audio or performance for example, are therefore interesting to me.

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I think this is due to the risk-element in art forms such as this. Whereas a painting can be satisfying and pleasing to the eye, it can very rarely be an obtrusive structure which warrants specific navigation of the room. Paintings hang safely on walls; you do not touch, you simply look. Sculptures on the other hand intervene with the space, video projections force you to move in certain directions so as to avoid shadow obstructions, video noise interferes and distracts. Your senses are challenged; you are not simply looking – you are thinking, critiquing. You are engaged. Putting on headphones to listen to a work, bending low to see the underbelly of a sculpture; these movements in themselves are performative and Contemporary Art encourages the view to transform from a passive spectator into an active participant.

Hecker’s installation, Synopsis, is a challenge to the viewer. Upon entering the room, the audio penetrates your very core, resonating in your chest as you feel the bass of the work swelling up inside you. The installation is composed of a conglomeration of sounds bombarding you simultaneously. These are technically manipulated and reverberate through the installation, which is composed of suspended loudspeakers, cables and acoustic panels, each detailing a different audio environment. Each sound piece presents a manipulated version of an original sound work, which is then played back simultaneously as one from the several hanging speakers, creating an immersive experience for the viewer.

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Now this may not be to everybody’s taste, but for me it was an interesting paradoxical experience of at once being overwhelmed by the excess of sounds yet simultaneously calmed by it. If I shut my eyes, I felt incredibly serene despite the pulsating rhythms. Navigating myself through the work at odd intervals added to this feeling of serenity, as if I stood close to a speaker, I was able to focus purely on that sound and drown out the others slightly. One sound which stood out for me in amongst the cascade of noise appeared to be that of a rhythmic heartbeat. Why I was drawn to this sound in particular, I can only assume, is because I was drawn to the human element in amongst an excess of the technological. I may be mistaken in my assumption of it being a heartbeat, perhaps that was my ears attempting to make a categorisation of the sound, which included the following: cars starting, an organ playing, heart pumping, train driving, air bed deflating, key board playing. These were the sounds my ears conjured up in the technologically manipulated landscape.

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It’s quite a contradiction in that I have photographed a sound work. Obviously, this is not accurate documentation at all. Whereas the installation installed moments of nervousness and a constant sense of momentum through the sound, the images do no such thing. They are flat and banal. They do however give some indication as to the environment and setting of the work. Although the experience and sensory components are what I love about Contemporary Art, they are also the highly problematic grey areas. The documents are not always able to – there are of course exceptions – accurately record an event. I would therefore highly recommend you visit this show and experience it for yourself!

Temporal Habit

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Félix González-Torres, Untitled (Perfect Lovers), 1990

 

The face of a clock,

Is no face at all;

But instead

a cake of quarters,

Four slices I count down through the hour.

 

The digits changing are like the full stops of my life.

Punctuating my day,

My routine…

 

 

A full stop at the mark of every hour,

The conclusion of a sentence to segment my day.

 

Seconds tick by that I can’t see,

they trail obliviously to me.

I can’t hold them in my hand, can’t taste them or touch,

Yet by the marks of the hands,

I know they have passed.

 

As evening comes and darkness arrives,

I elongate my day with the switch of a light.

 

Although I sit in peace and quiet,

I am still aware of the silent clock.

I can’t hide from it, as time will flow.

Tomorrow will come and I will rise;

My phone will ring with messages,

I will empty my breakfast into a bowl

And I will resume to the tick of the clock.

 

Acceleration

o4/06/17

Recently I have been exploring a great deal of philosophical thought concerning time and temporal lineages, including Henri Bergson’s theories of duration, in which time and duration vary according to the individual but remain the same for science. Kant’s notions of time and the sublime experience have also featured, as have several other discussions of the abstract qualities of time.

I have also been reading a lot about the history of time which is incredibly interesting, particularly given the evolution of the instruments we have employed to measure it; which range from sun dials to stop watches. Yet philosophical ideas and the science of time have not been my only major influence; I have  recently become fascinated by geographer David Harvey’s notion of the ‘time-space compression’. This is, as the name indicates, the collapsing of temporal and spatial distances. This compression is triggered by technological innovations and means of communication; the ease of which contributes to today’s shrinking geographies.

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In light of this, my considerations of time in contemporary art and culture have therefore inevitably led to a focus on this idea of acceleration. With the introduction of the internet in 1990s, a paradigmatic shift occurred not only in our abilities to communicate, but also in our economic climate. The internet allowed for the acceleration of capital exchange and production modes, the opening of new markets and an entirely new social sphere. With online banking, Google calendar, alarm notifications, WhatsApp groups, it could be argued that today we exist just as virtually as we do physically. It also heavily impacted artistic production, leading to what is termed as ‘post-internet art’ – a term I personally cringe at using. Although more broad and ambiguous perhaps, I feel ‘the virtual’ is far more encompassing and apt a term to describe online modes of production. Post-internet compartmentalises it too much for me and even the inclusion of the word ‘internet’ is narrowing. However, I feel ‘the virtual’ allows for connotations of various virtual spheres (whether that is social, political or economic), virtual worlds, virtual technologies, virtual communications, etc. It seems far broader and more applicable to my explorations. Having said that, it may just be my aversion to conventional ‘post-internet art’, as with the work of Ryan Trecartin, see here. I am not disinclined towards post-internet art exactly, or to Trecartin’s practice, in fact I think it is a wacky mass of crazy. I think however, my apathy lies in the fact that more articulate practices have since developed.

maxresdefaultRyan Trecartin, Any Ever, 2012, film still

I personally have far greater affinity with the work of both Hito Steyerl and Melanie Gilligan, mostly because both practices and bodies of work are interesting and thought-provoking commentaries on capitalist society. Gilligan’s work takes the form of realist/sci-fi reality TV dramas as an abstract representation of capitalist conditions and social commentaries and Steyerl’s work adopts a more documentary and video essayist approach. I was in The Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow yesterday and so popped in to see Steyerl’s piece Abstract (2012) for the second time, as it is an incredibly interesting film in discussion of weaponry, globalisation and warfare.

I think the success that underpins both of their works is the strength of their theories and research methods; both are incredible writers who I would highly recommend reading.

HT-crop-827x463Hito Steyerl, Abstract, 2012, film still

You can watch Melanie Gilligan’s sci-fi piece Popular Unrest free online here

You can read some of Hito Steyerl’s texts for e-flux journal by clicking the links below:

‘In Free Fall: A Thought Experiment on Vertical Perspective, e-flux, #24, April 2011

‘In Defense of The Poor Image’, e-flux, #10, Nov 2009

 

 

 

Dissertation

02/06/17

Recently I have started my dissertation period. I say recently, it’s been about a month. Having changed my idea several times however, I am finally making headway. The issue about studying art – and contemporary art in particular, is that I want to write about everything! The same problem happened with my artistic practice and in my studio on my Undergraduate; I had a notebook filled with so many ideas that I wanted to pursue every single one. Naturally, I realised this was not possible.

I think however that the process of refinement is really interesting. It teaches you what your core interests really are. So for my dissertation I have been toying with multiple ideas across several weeks, all of which encompass similar themes, which are listed as follows:

Contemporary art
The virtual
Capitalism
Spectatorship
Consumerism
(The archive)
Documents
Virtual representations
Art production online
The internet
The social
Social media
Politics
Ephemerality
Dissemination

I would have to say the core areas of interest are contemporary art, the virtual and capitalism. Finding a way to incorporate these very broad themes has been incredibly difficult, but the more I read and the more my research trajectory was shaped, a theme emerged quite organically; the theme of time. I found myself writing it several times over in my notes:

‘time as commodity’, ‘space and time’, ‘viewing time’, ‘acceleration of time’, ‘relation in time’, ‘temporal instability’…

It kept occurring and it was perfect. It also came as no surprise that this was the theme to emerge. I read Whitechapel Gallery’s Documents of Contemporary Art book on Time two years ago and it had a truly profound effect on me. I could not stop thinking about it or referring back to it. At that point I was exploring Performance Art, so notions of duration and performance time were more my focus. However the themes and threads of the book were incredibly thought-provoking and long lasting. So of course, I have returned to this collection of essays to explore the theme of time in contemporary art and capitalism for my Masters thesis. One of my favourite quotes I have extracted so far is:

‘The clock turns time from a process of nature into a commodity that can be measured and bought and sold like soap or sultanas.’ – George Woodcock, p.65

The reason I believe I am so interested in contemporary time, is that the notion of memory has always intrigued me. Ways to record, ways to remember, was to recapture. Memory and time are inherently bound up. Over time my interests have evolved from purely fixating on ideas of memory and counter-memory, to also encapsulate this idea of acceleration in capitalist culture. Although humans have always segmented their days with set time scales – morning, lunch, afternoon, evening; the working day, it is only in this century that we have become so governed by time. We have people getting up at 5:30am for a morning yoga or bootcamp session, eating a hurried breakfast on the go, grabbing a take out coffee, cycling, driving, or using public transport to get to work to start their day. Email calendar appointments, emails coming through on our phones, notifications on our Fitbits. Leisure time, work time – they are all blurring into one. You can be sat doing work emails at 11pm after only having finished the domestic tasks that needed doing. The lifestyles of late-stage capitalism and neoliberalism have enabled these accelerated timescales. As has the consumerist impulses, which are present not only in commodity goods and shellac nailpolish, but also in today’s ‘scrolling’ society. We are consuming images and information at rates never imagined. We skim and flit between links and articles, but how much are we really absorbing?

It is all comes back to time. Time spent scrolling, time spent listening, time spent planning. Time dictates our body clocks – and I am not referring to this purely in the sense of biological time, but in the time constraints we have established for ourselves as a society. What is an interesting paradox however, is that although time governs so much and so many of our lives, it is an elusive term which no one is able to define. There are several renditions of time, each relevant to a variety of fields; metaphysics, technological time, biological time, Newtonian time, time in philosophical thought, etc. All these grey areas but nothing concrete. I suppose there is the morbid element however; how many of us actually want to think about time? It is a reminder of our own mortality, our own fragility, our own time scales. Is our need and impulse to govern and segment time an attempt to conceal this?

Time will tell.