Archive for art

Fate, or, Machine of Death

Posted in Reactions with tags , , , , , , , , , on 2013/09/11 by las Pétroleuses

If you’re familiar with the webcomics scene, a few years ago you might have heard of a book called Machine of Death. It was edited by Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo, and David Malki !, being an anthology of about two-and-a-half dozen short stories all involving some form of machine which can unerringly predict one’s death. Needless to say the machine’s predictions (printed in as few words as possible on a business card) are “ironically vague;” my personal favorite illustration of this is from the last story in the book (“Cassandra”): a guy’s card reads “ASTEROID”, and so for months is followed around by scientists waiting to pick up the rock as it’s still hot from space; he dies during the filming, in a museum, of a documentary about him, when a display falls over and an old asteroid hits him in the head.

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Art’s Social Reflexions

Posted in Speculation with tags , , , , , on 2013/05/06 by las Pétroleuses

Not too long ago, in a reddit comment on r/Bioshock, I found myself entering into a bit of an exegesis about the nature of art, and its social function:

“Ultimately, “art” is any thing a human has created which is a “reflection” of that person’s world (for art to be non- or anti-representational is a choice; I doubt we’ll ever find a society whose art starts out as abstract). But “reflection” is not the best word, as that feeds into one of the main ideologies of art, that art can be passively considered and observed; an example of this is when artists (I think of Christopher Nolan and Kathryn Bigelow’s comments on their most recent films) say that their work merely reflects back at the spectator the culture which the artist and the spectator share. This is ideology, in the pejorative sense, insofar as all art is necessarily more than just a reflection of the society which gave birth to it: it is an instantiation of this culture, and an intervention into it. (One of ideology’s main functions, it seems to me, is to cover over the intricacies of this process by which supra-individual, societal things, from art to religion to gender to the market to politics, exist only by why of the actions of individuals who presuppose their existence independently of said actions.) In other words, art is political–moreover, the notion that a piece of art can be non-ideological, “purely for entertainment,” is, I believe, in fact the most ideological notion of art possible. (I say “I believe” specifically because I did not come up with this point about ideology. The credit for that belongs to Slavoj Zizek.)” (I’m sure BioShock: Infinite will get its own long analysis here in the future.) Continue reading

Black Box, Red Spark

Posted in Actions with tags , , , , , on 2013/01/16 by las Pétroleuses

The New York Times Magazine (one of the less shitty things produced by the Times, it should be said) recently ran an article about George Saunders, a writer of the same generation as David Foster Wallace, whom people are apparently taking quite a liking to lately. I’ve never read him, but at the least, his description of the purpose of art (and the reference to Vonnegut!) make me interested to do so:

“I began to understand art as a kind of black box the reader enters,” Saunders wrote in an essay on Vonnegut. “He enters in one state of mind and exits in another. The writer gets no points just because what’s inside the box bears some linear resemblance to ‘real life’ — he can put whatever he wants in there. What’s important is that something undeniable and nontrivial happens to the reader between entry and exit. . . . In fact, Slaughterhouse-Five seemed to be saying that our most profound experiences may require this artistic uncoupling from the actual. The black box is meant to change us.”

Over against another common understanding of art, that art is entertainment, nothing more, that to give to art a purpose beyond some nebulous (surely neuronal) satisfaction is to insult the artist, (because all artists just want to entertain, right?) this notion of art is quite refreshing! Art as a vehicle for change! Creation as a mindfield made by one to pull an other through–after which, moreover, that other will be another other!

Let this place be a collection of such black boxes, with a simple purpose: to incite if not inflame a red spark in and among some other(s), some readers, you, you who are not-all!