Friday, April 17, 2009

Borges and I

The other one, the one called Borges, is the one things happen to. I walk through the streets of Buenos Aires and stop for a moment, perhaps mechanically now, to look at the arch of an entrance hall and the grillwork on the gate; I know of Borges from the mail and see his name on a list of professors or in a biographical dictionary. I like hourglasses, maps, eighteenth-century typography, the taste of coffee and the prose of Stevenson; he shares these preferences, but in a vain way that turns them into the attributes of an actor. It would be an exaggeration to say that ours is a hostile relationship; I live, let myself go on living, so that Borges may contrive his literature, and this literature justifies me. It is no effort for me to confess that he has achieved some valid pages, but those pages cannot save me, perhaps because what is good belongs to no one, not even to him, but rather to the language and to tradition. Besides, I am destined to perish, definitively, and only some instant of myself can survive in him. Little by little, I am giving over everything to him, though I am quite aware of his perverse custom of falsifying and mag¬nifying things.
Spinoza knew that all things long to persist in their being; the stone eternally wants to be a stone and the tiger a tiger. I shall remain in Borges, not in myself (if it is true that I am someone), but I recognize myself less in his books than in many others or in the laborious strumming of a guitar. Years ago I tried to free myself from him and went from the mythologies of the suburbs to the games with time and infinity, but those games belong to Borges now and I shall have to imagine other things. Thus my life is a flight and I lose everything and everything belongs to oblivion, or to him.
I do not know which of us has written this page.

Jorge Luis Borges

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Delicious multiaesthetics

Above work is by Eko Nugroho (1977, Yogyakarta), the work is titled Kita sedang membicarakan sejarah, i.e. 'We are talking about history' (2008, 200x135x50 and 50x40x35 cm, resin).

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Dog owners: a special specie

Dog owners are a funny breed. They see human characteristics in their pets (I always wonder who is walking whom though). Some go so far as to award rights to animals. Peter Singer says in his book Animal Liberation (first published in 1975) that “there are obviously important differences between human and other animals, and these differences must give rise to some differences in the rights that each have.” Still, rights require a voice to express interests and complains, i.e. issues concerning justice. In modern times, rights also entail representation. Animals cannot represent themselves for they have no voice we can comprehend. So, we have to represent animals. The Party for the Animals has two seats in the lower house of the Dutch Parliament (the Parliament as an Orwellian animal farm...). Rights also entail duties (otherwise a right is merely a privilege), but what duty do animals have to us humans? There is another problem, Singers’ theory of animal rights is based on utilitarianism. Just as humans, animals can feel pleasure and pain (and the total sum of pleasure should be maximized), therefore, Singer argues, we are not allowed to discriminate certain species, which he calls ‘speciesism’. John Rawls, though, claims in A Theory of Justice (first published in 1971) that utilitarians do not take serious the distinction between separate individuals (or beings in Singer’s case). All separate persons are fused into one. The real danger that the gains of many can account for the losses of some others, or that the violation of liberty of a few can be made right by a greater satisfaction of the many. This can be seen in the example of vivisection, while Singer condemns it, he allows for exceptions if the benefits outweigh the harm done to animals. But that brings us back to rights…

good question

Copy/South is a global network doing research on the consequences of the Western copyright system for the non-Western world. Dutch political scientist Joost Smiers is doing research in the same field. Recently his book Arts Under Pressure, Promoting cultural diversity in the age of globalization was translated into Indonesian in which he argues that the copyright system has bad consequences for public space and thus democracy because it privatizes creativity and knowledge (an essay of Smiers can be downloaded here).

one could ponder on the meaning of art, but shouldn't it just be experienced instead of intellectualized?

The Tower of Pisa like sculpture stands in the garden of Galeri Semarang, by far the most beautiful art space in Indonesia.


Above installation is by David Noonan (1969), which is part of the Altermodern exhibition at Tate Trienial, curated by Nicolas Bouriaud. According to Bouriaud, in response to globalization a new modernity is emerging. More communication is coupled to daily chaos, and hybridization is the keyword. Artists respond to globalized modernity because art is made in a global context, Bouriaud says: "Artists are looking for a new modernity that would be based on translation: What matters today is to translate the cultural values of cultural groups and to connect them to the world network. This 'reloading process' of modernism according to the twenty-first-century issues could be called altermodernism, a movement connected to the creolisation of cultures and the fight for autonomy, but also the possibility of producing singularities in a more and more standardized world."

Can we see for the very first once more?

Can we imagine to see for the very first again? Can I see my loved one as I saw her when we first met? We all live in a visual culture. No escape. Does it numb us? Do we sedate ourselves? We live within an Escher drawing. However, can we see for the very first time once more? I thought of that when I was watching 'The Fall' again last night. When I saw this movie for the first time I felt like my senses where picking up much more after I left the cinema. Tarsem Singh Dhandwa (1961), well-known for the MTV award winning video clip of R.E.M.'s hit 'Loosing my Religion' and the movie 'The Cell' with Jennifer Lopez, made the exuberant movie 'The Fall', a movie about the power of story-telling and the need for imagination (below a short clip from YouTube, filmed in Bali, Indonesia, the quality isn't too good though, but the pirated DVD is available in Indonesia, long live the right to copy...). Stories depend on the teller as well as the listener, the story told in 'The Fall' meanders through on a dialogical interaction between teller and listener, and when the story advances fiction becomes intertwined with reality. Just as our visual database - what we have experienced in our own life is intertwined with movies, photos and posters we have seen along the way - has an impact on 'new' acts of seeing.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Virtual rendezvous with former homes...

Shifting spaces of Barnett Newman's 'Cathedra'

"The problem of a painting is physical and metaphysical, the same as I think life is physical and metaphysical."
Barnett Newman

Newman’s 1951 painting ‘Cathedra’ measures 239.6 x 553.8 cm. The longer you gaze at this huge canvas the more the space shifts: from this particular canvas hanging in Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam to the sky to an ocean in which one can float and stare at the sky, and to go back to the sky to stare at the ocean; or from this painted canvas to an aesthetic ethics and from an ethical aesthetic to theology; from epistemology to existentialism; from contingency and mortality to infinity; and from feelings of despair to hope. The sublime makes some people anxious. ‘Cathedra’ was vandalized – raped – a decade ago. The same aesthetic hooligan also put a knife in the heart of 'Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue III' (1967) by the same artist in the same museum.

Here you can order a reproduction of 'Cathedra', the site claims that the painting is "faithfully recreated by hand using the finest art quality linen canvas and Winsor and Newton oil paints." The starting price is 259 US dollars... where?