Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Omnia sunt, lumina sunt

The lair of light soots efficient metronomes into the yesyokes. Like the arrival of the 456. Omnia sunt, lumina sunt all things that are, are light. The promotional literature, Let there be light -- Trite Cliché Immature -- takes away mystery, leaving all things created by god. All things are light. Why? How? Is the mystery not that all things arise from nothingness, that single infinitesimal moment of radiating energy and inflationary expansion. That the word world is nothing but the many billion years old hydrogen atom combined and recombined and fused and torn asunder and vomited out in mindless explosions of mind numbing power set hurtling across the random swerves -- until one fine morning the atom rearranged asks why am I here? Want is light? Why are all things light? Why are there things rather than nothing at all?

“The light & heat of the sun; these are composed of minute atoms which, when they are shoved off, lose no time in shooting right across the interspace of air in the direction imparted by the shove.” Lucretius De Rerum Natura

No god - no mystery - just intergenerational long fears. Light is real and subtle and it is the mystery. And when I look around all the green and all the flowering birds and animals born of light. Color and sound and life non-existent without light. For light is Eros, first born from out of the yawning emptiness, from the gaping nothingness, the generative spirit. Light is constant, the inescapable, the massless quandary. For we can go no faster, the light chases us and we can not flee, we can not outrun.

From my backyard the pillar of light rises over the neighbours house. Only certain places, one must avoid the street lights, one must avoid the light falling from windows. And the matrix of cloud and night sky tumbles and rumbles and turns this way and that, so the column appears and disperses, comes together and falls apart. Blasting Loretta Lynn as I drive into town (40 kilometres) the light glows and stakes shape more solid as I move closer and over the bridge and into the city. From light to stone.

So I wondered and wandered and went down across the wide Derwent estuary to partake the opening night of Sound to Light -- Crossing Borders (STL). As well as the exhibit I saw some audio/visual performances. STL is described as a dynamic, playful, chaotic, experimental project. A social art project that seeks to transcend boundaries between disciplines, but more importantly -- and something that can only be done at this time in history -- seeks to transcend physical location. This could not have been done before the invention of high-speed networking. Like the ancient shamans who could be in two places at once, nowadays artists are able to perform this miracle of bi-location. Optical fibre being part of the infrastructure of modern shamanistic practice the name of the exhibit takes on a special meaning.

Up Woobys Lane, through the courtyard, into an industrial revolution rabbit warren of an old warehouse. Low skeletal ceiling, silver insulation skin exposed. Rendered sandstone, convict-hewn blocks, photographers moving about for a better composition. Pale smart phone light, apparitions in the crowd, petals on a wet, black night. Electronic equipment humming, buzzing a series of sounds and beats, screens projecting the present and past in various combinations, strange generated life forms dancing and swirling. Art, as Andy Warhol said, is anything you can get away with; and everything we do, as John Cage said, is music.

Beyond the large performance space, a series of connected rooms of various installations. I would suggest visiting the website to get more detailed information about the artworks. I can only describe my impressions, and what I saw. With much happening not everything could be given the attention required, and not everything could be properly critiqued.

In one room amplifiers, wires and a small wooden table. On the table Oscar Ferreiro & Heath Brown assembled small pieces of bone. The geometry of innocent flesh on the bone (well as a Dylan freak how could I pass this up?) Small electronic widgets attached to sawn and white scrubbed clean bones. The small motors recorded, and the manipulated sounds filled the little room. The natural and the artificial, prehistoric flutes made of bone and the most up to date technology. Further on a stand in a hallway a simple music box, with a twin in Melbourne. The pair move so slowly that no eye can detect movement. Played back as a time-lapse video the movement becomes apparent, the structure and the music is revealed.

Like Chinese guerrillas amid the peasant class, like fish in the sea, we move through light and sound. Moving from room to room. Agreeing with the Joycean poverty atmosphere of old warehouse art gallery was a room designed by Dylan Sheridan & Laura Hindmarsh. This was a flickering magic lantern room of images thrown onto thin screens in the darkness. This created a melancholy feeling. The impression of being a young child, a poor Edwardian urchin, sneaking a peek into the fabled nickelodeon. Take me away from all this death.

Chris Vik, of Ethno Tekh played his Kinectar. He has written some software to interface with the Kinect sensor, allowing artists while wearing special gloves, to create music by gesture alone. A very cool idea indeed, bringing sound to the language of gesture.

If Sound to Light -- Crossing Borders was meant to be a dynamic, playful, chaotic, experimental social art project, then one is forced to admit that they have succeeded. This type of technological art, this type of social art, this type of shamanistic bi-location will only extend and grow over the next period. In the way that the continual revolution of capitalism is threatening many old style business models, so too is the industrial scientific revolution forcing us to revalue art and the production of art. Recalling Socrates and his contrasting writing to the living word of knowledge. So we must ask if technology, as an extension of writing is not as well a pharmakon. Is technology a remedy, or is it a poison, or (most likely) both at once?

The boat of Ra-Set moves with the sun "but our job to build light." Ezra Pound Canto XCVIII

With one child just minutes away from yet another hospital visit,pale gray and listless from asthma, and one child on crutches with a broken foot, I can be forgiven for missing the unveiling, unleashing of Ryoji Ikeda's Spectra light tower. But I had an opportunity after the STL opening to wander into the domain, near the empty tomb to see for myself up close. Judging by the crowds and the traffic and the families and photographs this was a big hit with the locals. And why not? 'Tis a beautiful thing. Tall and proud and silent the beam of light rises up to the very heavens. All sorts of images and thoughts rattle around my noggin. Storming the gates of heaven. An echo of the blitz. Sublime Rothko silence and religiousness.

Only when I leave the car there is this noise of sine waves that fills all things, and to me subtracts rather than adds to the art work. I wanted the silence to stand and stare and wonder. I wanted to be alone with my thoughts with my own head.

And standing, and walking around I am breathless, but then from nowhere, from deep recesses within a nagging doubt arises. Why? What of this tower of light? Is it more an attempt to control and dominate nature? Is the empty night sky full of wonder and the cold wind of outer space, not enough? Is it not enough to point and say this is art? Like the gardener who digs up the native plants and replaces with roses, or the surfer who sees the ocean and demands to run on top of the waves to control and so dominate the sea, or the matron who see the fox or minx and wishes to flay the flesh as fashion; so too does this installation seem to want to control and dominate the landscape the city the very night itself.

A wonderful art piece to be sure and like all large scale public art, it is more than art. Rather a victory of technology of harnessed nature, of money and power, of government and business and bureaucracy.

Or is it more like the green blades of grass struggling to the light from under from the cracked concrete? The light life force, the will to power?

Or maybe a sound and fury signifying nothing, an insult to poor and voiceless in our society? Spectra must be all this and more. I think the artist said it best when he spoke of this work (like all art works) as being something different for everyone.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

War of the Worlds

Last night I had a night of disturbing dreams. It was a War of the Worlds sort of dream, and I was running and hiding from the aliens who where rampaging around the countryside. This was all very fun and interesting in a disturbing way.

Later the dog woke up my partner, as he had to relieve himself. So half awake, and half dressed I took the dog outside. In the cold clear night, with no clouds and a wide open starry night, I stood alone. Waves from the ocean smashed into the sandy land making an echoing sound like the engines of the giant alien machines from my dream. And when the wind caught the gate and rattled it back and forth, I jumped and my heart skipped a beat.

Lucky for me the dog had finished and I was able to rush back into the house and pull the covers up over my head and fall back into embrace of sleep.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

swarms of wild animals

Like the authors mentioned in a journal note by Kierkegaard most of our critics write with so little individuality that almost any citizen of our sun-burnt commonwealth could sign their name to the work and be done with it.

Most authors write with so little individuality that almost anyone in the kingdom could be the author of what is written, and since the name becomes a very trivial accessory, one perceives that anonymity has significance also in a poetic sense; on the other hand, authors who have individuality have no need of appending their names. (S. Kierkegaard IIA 412, May 6, 1835)

So we see this type anonymous writing coming from the fertilising heroes of the IPA. One such individual wrote a piece about a recent art installation/performance in Melbourne. The art work was called Goldene Bend'er, the critique in one of the major daily fish wrappers was titled “Should you foot the bill for execrable waste of human resources?” The title of the critique being a nice bit of rhetoric, clever pun, for the art work under discussion had the performers sitting on transparent toilets and defecating.

Our individual loving, Voltaire quoting, free speech defending, IPA critic Chris Berg shows us this movement of anonymity at the very start, with the title of his work, with his telegraphed and unreflective turgidity of words. Let us dive into the cesspit. The title is a rhetorical question -- “Should you foot the bill?” Straight away we can see that the anarcho-capitalist, philistine, race to the bottom, purposefully divisive, quaintly populist attack on social funding of art will be a feature of the opinion. And so it continues “for execrable waste of human resources.” Here we have a multi-layered fecal pun worthy of Aristophanes. If the reader was not sure as to how to think, she is given a not too subtle joining of shit with government funding. Finishing off with a the side effect of using the dehumanising capitalist ideal of human resources; when we get to forget real authentic human beings involved in the daily production and reproduction of life and instead looks at humans as a one sided alienated resource.

What of style? What of the critic's style that -- to again use a Kierkegaardian idea -- is the author's external birthmark? What we get as style is no more nor less than one would expect; a sneering, looking down upon, faux-news style. We get to read a mocking of artists and the obligatory sneer across the bow of the art/government bureaucracy. Any number of citizens, driven as they are by common sense, could easily have given their name to this piece. Any number of tired, cynical, jaded, bitter with the world men, who feel that the world is naturally dirty and ugly could have written this critique. Any number of haters could have penned this piece. However, only a select few of those who rail against elites have the wherewithal to have such a piece published in a major newspaper. Any number of white men oppressed as they are by feminism, and aboriginals could have come up with this argument; it is an old argument. Any art work that involves excrement is low hanging fruit for ideologues. Of all those who rail against the elites, only those who have large institutional organisations behind them and ready access could have had this article printed. The great mass of drink addled, brain neutered sheep have to content themselves with beating their wives and children and crying into their beer mumbling about uppity women and the sorry state of the art world at the local suburban hotel.

But why the fuss? Living as I do in the covert wiles of Tasmania I was not able to visit Melbourne to see this work, so I have to assume that our intrepid reporter not only was at the opening of the show, but that he had an in-depth conversation with the artist in an attempt to figure out what was being done and why the work was structured in such a way. While I think that Berg's critique of this installation as being faux-radicalism may be a bit harsh; I have to agree that shocking the bourgeoisie in this manner (if indeed it was the intention of the maker) does no good. The proper way to shock the bourgeoisie is by appropriating their wealth, and overturning their power structures.

From my brief research it seems the shitting was an integral, but not dominate fact of a two hour dance piece. Reading the Berg critique one gets the impression that the shit was the main point of the show. “On a Friday night less than a fortnight ago, six dancers from a company called BalletLab performed an artistic work at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art at Southbank. This involved them sitting on toilets and taking a dump.” Or so says Berg]. Looking at this article one reads this “The two-hour act saw the six dancers, masked but naked beneath sheer garments, move around a room in the gallery before sitting on transparent stools and performing - only if they were moved to do so - what is usually one of our most private and rarely discussed daily acts.”

There would seem to be a difference of aspect in the two reviews. One placing the controversial movement in context, the other designed, it would seem, to angry up the blood. With the blood angering mentions of artists and public money, one can be overawed into thinking that the bourgeoisie in Australia is waiting with open wallets and bank accounts to fund a new wave of provocative art, if only the government would just get out of the way.

But let us briefly touch on what the artist was interested in; it seems that the artist Mikala Dwyer (never mentioned by name in the Berg article -- was this done to dehumanise the artist?) was interested in “the body, transition and transformation.” Which raises the question -- what in our daily life better shows transformation than the daily changing of rich yummy chocolate cake into horrible, stinky fecal matter? Excreting is a seemingly alchemical process, fraught with wonder and horror, a transformation which in a very personal way shows the unity of change, that teaches of matter in it's various forms, a transformation that proves the Hegelian ideal of the blossom superseding the bud, not destroying, but transforming and negating in an organic whole.

I spoke to my thirteen year old, fount of all knowledge, daughter about the Berg review; she noted that it is lazy journalism to mount the argument that excrement has been used in artworks before. All art she maintained has been done before, in the same way that much science is the repetition of experiments. Why bother she continued, working herself up into a home schooling frenzy of debate, even waking up in the morning; after all it has been done before? Why indeed; here I joined in the general rebuttal frenzy, do we hold grand finals when it had been done before? Then my charming partner noted -- why bother writing an article about waste and governmental funding of the arts, when it has been said before? Said by any number of anonymous critics.