UNTHESIS

The following are a series of thoughts that often began as ingots on my twitter, @paulkneale

I realised that in accordance with the epiphenomenal nature of media flows, my thoughts were no longer appearing in what could be considered an essay format. A moment on Wikipedia will confirm that this format, long venerated by the western academic tradition, came to prominence by no particular necessity, and is a kind of accidental regime. Good riddance. By the same token, anyone who disagrees on form but finds here or there an interesting idea is welcomed to expand upon them.  LMK

PLAUSIBLE REFERENCE

The scope of things that are easily accepted as reference points in contemporary art works.   This may include subjects such as technology, surface, subjectivity, performativity, networks, abstraction, ennui, classicism, design, nature and ecology, psychology, sex, critical theory, text and others.  In a limited sense, these ‘plausible reference(s)’ are subjects which may escape their perception as subjects, aiding in the creation of a ‘light’ or ‘open’ atmosphere in the work or installation.

UNIQUE DRAMATURGIC INTERIORS

The approach to exhibiting artworks, championed by blogs such as ________________y, where the dramatic staging of the exhibition within an architectural space is itself the subject and focus of the digital images that document it.  This approach is differentiated from what was formerly called ‘installation art’, to the extent that there is not necessarily a reflexive or critical dimension to the engagement of the architecture, and also that the staging is optimised for photographic reproduction rather than physical experience of the work.  This work is aware of its ultimate transmission as a digital image, and often has a ‘minimal’ or sparse composition in order to not be overpowering when viewed in the browser environment where it will inevitably be flanked by banner ads and open programs on one’s personal computer.  This work makes space for advertising.  There’s also a subtle but significant attention to the specific details of the architectural space that encode it as one particular gallery or another.  Rather than neutralizing the historical context of the architecture as the ‘white cube’ approach to exhibition spaces initially intended, ‘unique dramaturgic interiors’ give us the feeling of specificity, but one that is emotionally restrained.  A well trained servant whose dignity becomes a regulating presence in the background environment of the enlightened decor.  

MAINSTREAM FETISHISM

Mainstream fetishism is the current vogue in art practice for appropriating objects and images that are neither ‘high’ nor ‘low’ but rather culled from the middlebrow western capitalist existence, which reproduces itself as ahistorical, eternal, egalitarian, functional and answering to desire and fantasy.  Objects images and scenarios which might fall into these categories may include :  athletic shoes (either new and flashy or used), home appliances, various plastic substrates -- in particular clear perspex, ‘hobbyist’ artistic mediums such as watercolor or intaglio printing and ceramics, cosmetic products and beauty treatments including the ‘spa’ universe, references to popular television shows, the aesthetics of end-user software interfaces such as photoshop deployed in an amateurish but aspirational manner, office furniture and supplies, workout clothing,

The use of such materials is not ‘critical’ in the deconstruscitvist sense -- they are not displayed in such a manner as to reveal to the viewer their functioning in order to desublimate this function and produce an antagonism to the producer of the sublimation.  Rather, ‘Mainstream Fetishism’ mines a vague but palpable territory of popular attitudes toward these subjects, regardless of the political implications (for example the cheerful antipathy toward sweatshop labor used in big-brand clothing) and attempts to use the subjects as demonstrations of this attitude.  It could be said that Mainstream Fetishim is thus a kind of cognitive dissoance in the ‘art’ style.  It goes without saying that Mainstream Fetishism is particularly well suited to being staged as ‘Unique Dramaturgic Interiors’.  

A PICTURE IS WORTH A BUNCH OF WORDS:

the old adage 'a picture is worth a thousand words' -- passed into common phraseology at the beginning of the 20th century. It was often encounter in 'trade' publications pertaining to the print industry. In this capacity it heralded new image reproduction technologies as surpassing text in its ability to convey content and meaning.

Today however, image reproduction technologies have resulted in an extreme excess of images. To compensate for this excess, language has reappeared as an organising and descriptive-ordering element in relation to images in the form of the #. On tumblr for example, the # functions to give generalised descriptions of images, corralling them into categories and flows. While any image may have 'a bunch' of has tags that describe it, it is no longer 'thousands'.

NEW FORMS OF AUTISTIC PRODUCTION:

Autism: a variable developmental disorder that is characterized by impairment of the ability to form normal social relationships, by impairment of the ability to communicate with others, and by stereotyped behavior patterns. Production: the action of making or manufacturing from components or raw materials, or the process of being so manufactured.  AUTISTIC PRODUCTION:  output formats in art where there is discrete subjective continuity but no obvious ability or effort to produce or negotiate relationships with other artworks.  

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IDEOLOGICAL UNCERTAINTY AND THE ENDLESS SCROLL

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NON-SITE-BLACK-SITES OF CULTURAL PRODUCTION:  

In 1968 Robert Smithson wrote a brief piece titled ‘a provisional theory of non-sites’.  He begins :

By drawing a diagram, a ground plan of a house, a street plan to the location of a site, or a topographic map, one draws a "logical two dimensional picture." A "logical picture" differs from a natural or realistic picture in that it rarely looks like the thing it stands for. It is a two dimensional analogy or metaphor - A is Z.”  

The extension of this ‘logical picture’ into the mindspace of the viewer where it functions as ‘the metaphor between the syntactical construct and the complex of ideas’ neatly describes the experience of what you could generally describe as conceptualism in late 20th century art.  Far from being strictly immaterial Smithson’s strategy places the two physical places, the site, or location of the work, and the reproduction of it as a ‘logical drawing’  at the service of the metaphor, which becomes primary.  However today, many works which draw on this conceptual legacy of metaphorical primacy as experience, are drawn not from any place as physical or specific as the Spiral Jetty.  Rather, the ‘sites’ that inspire much of today’s art have more in common with the so-called BLACK-SITES run by the CIA and its enabling client states within the ‘Global War on Terror’.  These secret prisons, where ‘detainees’ exist in a State of Exception, without rights under national or international laws,  are not places in the traditional sense of being definable by either geographical features or social systems.  They are both ambulatory and a-cultural, despite consisting of known physical entities -- namely persons, and the military and security apparatuses -- guns, barbed wire and concrete walls, surveillance cameras, a kitchen and infirmary...  therefore to ‘draw a logical picture’ of these places would, to follow Smithson’s thinking, result in a metaphor with a shifting reference, a talismanic real.  This non-site of a black-site I think could characterise a common contemporary approach.  To begin with a state of exception (the non-objective contemporary human) and proceed to a talismanic real (the logical map of this human experience that masks and distorts it).  

 

 

This process is like the ‘Aqua’ credit-card that openly advertises its usurious 35% interest rate -- rather than the typical associations with ‘silver’ ‘gold’ and ‘platinum’ that insinuate credit cards into familiar material systems of value, the ‘aqua’ card references water; ubiquitous, mysterious, essential yet uninhabitable and hostile in large quantities -- the other --   because of course the applicant to this card has no delusions about the abstract and dangerous nature of credit.  They have surely experienced some of its lightless depths.  It is at once a state of exception from currency, and a system of metaphor that describes that exception in a shifting flow.  

BE THE WANT U CHANGE 2 SEE

how can one be in a constant state of becoming without intent?  or is it actually the natural law of the universe?  how to let happen what you already are?  or how to not be a screen, a facade?  you change to see your wanting that is already manifest. you strip away the baggage of centuries of religion and politics.  you feel the desire for desire itself.  

TERMINATOR SEED FUNDING

portmanteau of TERMINATOR SEED and SEED FUNDING.  Terminator seeds are genetically modified seeds developed by biotechnology corporations such as Montsanto with the cooperation of the United States Department of Agriculture.   The terminator seed has been genetically modified so that the second-generation of the seed will be sterile.  Seed funding meanwhile, is a form of investment whereby an investor purchases part of a company which is at an early stage of their development, a form of venture-capital.  If we conflate these two ideas, TERMINATOR SEED FUNDING could be a type of investment that prevented a company from second-generation development.  This could be used as a form of attack against undesirable enterprises.  A group of investors could conspire to buy a portion of a company at a very early stage, only to very quickly liquidate or disrupt that companies function.  This would of course result in the loss of the investment.  But like the Terminator of the Hollywood franchise,  TERMINATOR SEED FUNDING would self destruct in order to protect the future.  

TUMBLR DARK AGE

Its a common misconception within pop-cultural depictions of the so-called ‘middle ages’ that the period came about all of a sudden.  Rather, the fading away of humanistic knowledge and scientific inquiry of Ancient Greece was gradually replaced by a new fad, Christianity.  Perhaps the key ingredient was that the new religious thinking could be unifromly applied to all aspects of life.  The content of every waking (and dreaming) though and action was crucial toward securing one’s eternal place.  This had a levelling effect, whereby all forms of enquiry were shaped toward a known horizon, a bodily transcendence and moment of moral judgement.  In essence, this was the blueprint for today’s online networks, which offer a totalising agenda for participation, a rubric of visibility and common values expressed by likes, favorites, reblogs etc.  Just as the growth of Christianity and its total, vertically integrated, end-user-system quashed the rich humanistic period before it, so too today are we facing a new period of 'darkness' brought about by the innundating, levelling, and immersive effects of mediation. Today, in aesthetic discourse, many would candidly admit that  they simply 'don't have time' to read the long, dense, deconstructive and analytical writing that appeared as a vital explanatory component to the artworks of the early to high postmodern period. In this period journals such as October published analysis of current practices that had the depth and rigour of formal academic studies, formerly reserved for already cananoical works and artists. Today, October is still a venerable journal, however there's been an explosion of capacity in publishing output, leading to the proliferation of a model that does not privilege 'critical discourse' to the extent that the model developed in the late 20th century did. This new model, which inhabits digital networks but also produces physical publications with the logics of digital networks, is much closer to the believer's totalised model of early Christian/late Roman times. Could the result be a hyper-electric dark age? A dark age visible from space? And are we already building it's Gothic Cathedrals?

 

IMMATERIAL GENTRIFICATION

just as the urban landscape is in a constant process of ghettoisation and gentrification, so too we now experience the virtual creative ghettos that are any number of so-called 'startup' sites being bought up by mega-corporations. To what extent these sites designed themselves toward this uptake is specified by the case. But we can say that with our Tumblr Dark Age there is an ongoing process of consolidation whereby the various temples built for regional gods are consolidated into a few archdiocese managed by the major powers. What if anything is lost in this process is hard to say. Just as it seems wrong to positively identify some aspect of urban blight as a pre-gentrification element worth preserving, so too is the 'open' character of immaterial pre-gentrification hard to define and defend. With the recent acquisition of Tumblr by the ailing giant Yahoo, many have worried aloud that Tumblr's plethora of pornography would be nixed in accordance with yahoo's reactive, American-conservative political stance. However one is hard pressed to imagine the Internet as being short on pornography. It is therefore questionable what would be lost. Perhaps there is a more vague, psychological trauma involved in the knowledge that one's beloved blog on whatever subject is owned by such an entity, regardless of what actual changes are entailed by the switch. The concept of freedom is laced with undifferentiated potential. You can smoke it as a rock or a powder.

POST-AUTHENTIC AURA (RECOVERY MODE)

The 2013 theme of the Metropolitan Opera's annual costume ball was 'punk'. A New Yorker Magazine cover devoted to the subject features the godmother of fashion, Vogue's Anna Wintour, with a purple streak added to her signature helmet-bob, a nose ring, an a shade of burgundy lipstick that would have looked on trend at the original Lilith Fair.  Superimposed in a sans serif font near the bottom of the portrait: 'Punk.'

Certainly the past decade has seen a hyper-proliferation of ultra-specific identitarian concepts that have often been the subject of fierce debate. Recent memory indexes Rihanna and Azelia Banks' appropriation of the so-called 'sea-punk' aesthetic as one such event. However the photoshopped punk of The New Yorker's Wintour cover speaks to something entirely opposite. Rather than positing a constellation of references and symbolic declarations of cultural affiliation as a matrix from which a subject emerges, here the punk aesthetic is isolated and relative, yet strikingly sincere. We are not directed to believe the deployed symbols as constituting the subject's essence, nor are we left feeling the lack of phenomenological trace is a deficit resulting in deception. Rather the subject who is constituted of a series of abstract performances is also positivistically envied with aura. Rather than a pre-benjaminian aura derived from a material localisation in a space/time, this POST-AUTHENTIC AURA is produced from a perpetual movement around an empty Center. And it's auratic quality comes as a byproduct of its radical fidelity to its own time-presence.

 

REPLICANT AESTHETICS

In Ridley Scott's 1984 noir classic Bladerunner, the protagonist, Rick Deckhard, played by Harrison Ford, is tasked with 'retiring' escaped androids known as 'replicants'. These advanced machines are human-like in almost every capacity save for their marked inability to feel empathy.  This is of course, an intentional decision on the part of their programmers, allowing them to perform with maximum efficientcy while maintaining other human appearances. Today, a great deal of aesthetic output could be characterised as having such an 'empathy free' surface. It could be argued that rationalism in art preserved itself as a discourse packet well into the postmodern period by virtue of its readability as a 'surface event' or causal trace that strains to present itself as a descriptive telos: this mark from this process; this skein of this time. However, outside  of a medium-specific discourse that endeavours to present itself as continually progressive, these free-floating rationalisms acquire an ashen hue. It would be safe to say that at the present moment, not only are such medium-discourses virtually exclusive to certain established tropes of painting, but indeed the entire engagement with culture as an event (and thus coterminous with human finitude; demanding empathy) has dissipated in large part due to recent developments in the structures of exchange platforms that have (for reasons of power and capital)  privileged phatic, reiterative communication of mainstream culural strata to the extent that subjectivity has collapsed beneath it. Replicant aesthetics is the mode that illustrates and gives rise to this condition.

CONTENT FOR NEW CHECKING

one possible way to answer the age old riddle 'what came first? the chicken or the egg?' could be 'the subjective position that frames discrete entities in language apparatuses in order to conceptualise their relations'.  This is a slightly cumbersome answer, but it could be an anti-zen riddle to draw the mind into the clusterfuck that is its inability to escape the essence of attention. 'try to think about not thinking'. An obvious contradiction. But the phatic operation of digital platforms is in this sense a piracy of biological function. we look because we look, and that’s what were looking for.

ATHLETIC BATHETICS

In his semen-all essay Athletic Aesthetics Brad Troemel argues that today the importance of a work is determined by its visibility as a photograph in social networks, accruing likes and reblogs as a representation of how legitimate it is as an episode in the centuries long tradition of Art. Surely this evaluation has something in common with Athletics. An ego driven endeavour to learn the rules of a limited sytem of moves, master them, and win in front of an adoring audience. However Aesthetics here are far less in play. Rather the author makes the mistake of ascribing BATHOS to a condensed spectre of what comprises aesthetics, or the philosophy of beauty. This bathos, or the inscription of the pathetically quotidian upon an otherwise elevated subject matter, is illustrative of a far greater misidentification of semi-passive agreement for value. The way in which 'likes' could be considered to be a form of value is in the manner of the companies that create the commercial websites upon which these likes are registered, who then sell them back to advertisers as data that can be interpolated for product development and marketing.

And while these demonstrated predilections expressed as passive behaviour by those captured on such networks surely have a commercial value, and possibly a sociological one (although without a control group the findings are less than rigorous) -- what their relationship is to aesthetics is wholly unclear. The iterations themselves exhibit the aesthetic that is specific to the particular business website -- and the imagistic capacity here is primarily functional -- readable modern font texts and various frame systems to delineate between the flow of posts.

IPOification / CREOLE IPO

Just as almost every aspect of daily life and social relations now comes under the sickle of what’s know as economisation (for example ascribing a value to thought -- 'cognitive labour' or friendships -- 'return on relationships' these thought forms which displace the abstract dimensions of thought and feeling into the parallel abstract of currency systems are also invading art. The IPO or initial public offering is an stock market idea that has recently returned to the popular consciousness via high profile IPO'd by facebook (a spectacular failure) and twitter -- not bad.

A classically liberal economic theory would determine the value of a company by measuring their assets and profits, taking into account planned future contracts, products and market sector predictions. The IPO however, begins with these calculations and then brings them to the public casino of a stock exchange. While the classical liberal valuation of the company would essentially require breakup and liquidation for the estimated value to be confirmed, the IPO invites the public to participate in a speculative valuation. The creation of value through a collective agreement which will be constantly modified -- much the same way a given term in a language means only what the group of its users agree -- even while it undergoes constant modification through both mainstream use and creolisation.  The result is that a company, such as facebook, has the ability to achieve a price that far exceeds its revenues and assets. The original float price for the facebook stock valued the company in the region of 100 billion dollars. While in the year before the IPO their net revenue had been just over 1.4 billion, and asset in server infrastructure and office space adding perhaps another 1-2 billion. Therefore, by conservative estimates, the IPO asked the public to purchase the company for nearly one hundred times what it was demonstrably worth.

Art has recently seen a shift towards such self-created speculative value. Whereas in the past the achievement of value was wracked up by critics and museum curators who passed it along to dealers, today there is the possibility to offer the product uncapitalised, direct to the public (and any circling sharks). The critic and curator (lets call them the accountants of art) are increasingly cut or bought out of the deal, often as their traditional roles in creating agreement and facilitating circulation of the work are supplanted by so called 'social' media. This IPOification then has the effect making discourse arbitrary, or at least doomed to relativism as the hierarchies supporting the social tranches of judgement are eroded. the effect is also to produce a bubble. however this bubble is not only about the recuperative potentials for investors -- rather it destabilises the very fundamentals of the markets. And similarly to stocks its the greed of the little person that acts as a soap solution to the market-makers plastic wand.

ALL FORMATS CODIFY SUBMISSION TO FORMAT (open list):

avi, jpeg, mov, tiff, mpeg-4, CSS, installation shots, ebook, girlfriend, painting, highway, dropbox, entree, workday, pro-forma invoice, feature film, dealer, therapist, personal assistant, gif, zip, raw, outfit, costume, breakup, FLV, hookup, sleep, white lie, html5, boredom, arousal, missed call, funding application, evite, missed connections, casual encounters, confession, download, late fee, eternal return, baptism, emoticon,

FALSE URGENCY RAGA

The cumulative effect of too many hours spent with reports about meteorites nearly hitting the earth, a million new shows in various good taste capitals across the first world, and an update from Tech Crunch about a new microfibre that might change the way surgeons perform aortic bypasses that seems to be the concern of a good number of artists in your feed.  False urgency raga often provides the subject matter for reactive aesthetics, although its not strictly reactive.  Rather it operates from a vague zone of anxiety where former hierarchical systems of valuing new information have been both overwhelmed and dissipated through logics of visibility and group thinking.  Total awareness = awareness of your unawares.  The reaction is often to simply output any phatic communique, sometimes in elaborate and aesthetic modes that situates the issuer as verifiably within the flow.  Be here now or whatever.  

TOPICAL DIFFRACTION

The process by which the assignment of topics to flows of experience, either social or psychological (or some hybrid of both as is most often the case) distorts and shapes or prefigures the dimensions of certain phenomena and prepares them like a product, to be circulated in discourse.  This relates often to the structure that develops between contemporary art practices and metanarratives of society from the mediasphere.  As concepts like ‘big data’ become topics, they begin to frame art practice, now well outside of the framing strictures of historical and medium discourses, within themselves.  The result is that certain works are instrumentalised to illustrate these topics, rather than standing for themselves or provoking discursives nexus’ and by doing so, create precedent for more works that begin with the proposition of operating in the way.

>>>concept big data >>> looks for works that describe >>> now there’s ‘big data art’ >>> people make new art trying to copy/take part >>> critical appraisal of big data art

Similarly to the concept from economics, The Law of Diminishing Returns,  “if you add more units to one of the factors of production and keep the rest constant, the quantity or output created by the extra units will eventually get smaller to a point where overall output will begin to fall”, TOPICAL DIFFRACTION -- as the frenetic, big-business driven news-cycles and discussions infiltrate the terms of art discourse and production, while the latter maintains its constants of display and aesthetics, its inevitable that the ‘return’ from art -- that I might personally state as anything from imaginative autonomy to visions of counterhegemonic dreamspace, to (add your own) -- will be diminished by the necessity to correspond to these mega-corporate topics.  

RELEVANCE HEGEMONY

The new condition of discourse affirmation, whereby the technological forms which are most omnipresent as a result of their profilgation by some of the worlds largest corporations, are taken to be coterminous with relevance, or value.  This scenario at once suggests an erosion of the evolutionary or ethical dimension of cultural value (how attention to a given subject would be read against the position that subject occupied within an agreed upon dynamic known as ‘society’) and also the passing of these mega corporations into our most primary mental processes.  SEARCH. IMAGES. VIDEO. MORE. CLOUD.  

In Nicolaus Baurriauds Relational Aesthetics eulogising exhibition ‘the anyspace whatever’, the anyspace whatever heralded not the anyspace, but the whatever.  it signalled the ascendency not of negative spatial dialectics, but of complete capitulation to capital.  We enter the dawn of a new time where a subjects mass popularity can function in formerly intellectual circles and publications, as sole and autonomous arbiter of its import.  This is a shift in cultural intellect.  Artist’s today produce discourse in a format that isn’t essentially different to celebrity culture: they preen and pose for the camera, then positions these exploits as a form of content for the web-lurking voyeur. What is novel is that this form of content has shifted into art institutional contexts.  

EMOLIBERAL

the neoliberal condition, a productive subject beloved of artists to a seemingly greater degree than economists, refers to an era fiscal policy specific to the central banking policy of a handful of highly industrialised nations.  In this period, the purely laissez faire policy of classical liberalism was publicly confronted with the need for nation states to intervene in their markets in order to balance the destabilising effects of emerging economies, preserving their imperial dominance, which after the second world war was deemed to be sub-optimally managed through warfare alone.

This period signalled to the public that individual governments were in fact still sovereign, concerned with managing the monetary superstructure that allowed the citizens inside their neatly drawn borders to carry out daily transactions, breed and buy property.  Today's reality is radically different.  As borders have become merely conceptual fences for the management of economic classes, and a global oligarchy of cleptocapitalists and megacorporations has vastly overpowered the 'elected' representatives of the hypothetical states, the management level of consumer economies and its manifestation as public messaging has gone from NEO to EMO.

EMO -- the style that arose from the ashes of the possibility of subculture, following punks dissolution into corporate grunge -- EMO is the transference of the 'anger of the disenfranchised' to the 'abject of the dream real'.  EMO signals young people who are aware of their subjectivities being captured within a capitalist mechanism, yet the mechanism is no longer local or state.  Its Global.  And its hopeless.  EMO is the external style of the psychological self-harm that is the only balm for being a hopeless subject in the gears of global capital.  EMOLIBERAL are the consumer chooses and artistic subjectivities that we purchase under this failed mind-state.  The early fashion signifiers of the ideology were appropriately a mixture of punk and glam, depicting the movement from anger to abandon.  However today its far more likely that the EMOLIBERAL subject styles themselves in a curious blend of high capitalist symbols (often cheaply found in athletic wear) and touching personal effects like necklaces and rings and extreme hair styles.