Sunday, October 19, 2014

Hito Steyrel: Revolutionary Spam

Last Friday, at The New Foundation, I lead a discussion centered around a screening of Hito Steyrel's Is The Museum A Battlefield, which was produced for the 13th Istanbul Biennial in 2012. (Introductory remarks, written to precede the screening, printed below.)

On seeing the video for the second time, I had similar frustrations with it that I had the first time, i.e., the trajectory of the critique is still annoyingly interrupted or detourned by flights of fancy, goofy, almost surreal flourishes.  But my affective response to these rhetorical disconnects was muted the 2nd time, since I had read and thought about the her work in the interim.

"The Revolution Is My Boyfriend"

While I am suggesting that Steyrel is making "Revolutionary Spam," I don't mean this in a derogatory way or as an insult. As was pointed out in the discussion, the question may be whether the work achieves the level of (artworld) malware, so its distribution and circulation within this ivory tower world (of the 5%) is perhaps what matters.

Others pointed out that these types of anti-aesthetic moves are old hat to the artworld, which nevertheless laps it up.  I find the latter position a bit too easy and cynical, since I think Steyrel is engaged in a project that is socially & politically meaningful and was not trying to become the next big thing in the art world, even tho de facto this seems to have occurred.  The critiques she shoots at us in helter skelter fashion do have a purposiveness.  But they are not intended to strike us, so they would seem to be without purpose?  [cf: the videoclip excerpt she uses from the Angelina Jolie film, where Jolie's character bends the path of bullets with her mind &c]

Steyrel refers several times to digital targeting and spam in the piece.  This reminded me of Steven Shaviro's linking of spam to Kantian aesthetics:

“Spam is ... a message that is nothing beyond its medium… Spam has no utility, and no cognitive point, for its only aim is self-proliferation…  In other words, spam is purposiveness without purpose: in Kantian terms, it is aesthetic..."  [Steve Shaviro - excerpted here]

OK -- I'll abruptly stop here, and leave it to you to decide whether or not to block Steyrel's revolutionary spam.

Introductory Remarks

I wanted to say a few words to introduce Is the Museum A Battlefield, since I think – for better or worse – that it would have been a better first experience for me if I had had more context.

Hito S describes herself (or others describe her) as a filmmaker (once upon a time she worked with Wim Wenders) and I think her writing practice as a critic/essayist has powerfully merged with the filmmaking so that it is just wrong to formally reduce her work to either essay or film.  Remarkably she has been taken up by the art world – and this is difficult to fully comprehend since she is a clear eyed critic of it.

The earliest piece I’ve seen from 2004 is called November, and it involves a touchstone to which she often returns.  She describes November as "a self-reflexive video that examines the role of images in the post-revolutionary moment..."  It deals with her activist friend – I presume from her high school years -- Andrea Wolf -- who later joined the Kurdistan Worker Party and was killed in the late 90s.  Steyerl actually made a very early super-8 film with her – sort of an outlaw/noir/ biker film, which the she calls a "feminist martial arts flick."  This footage is used in November – titled for the month after the revolution – which makes it appropriate for New Foundation to be showing these films in October.

After seeing ITMAB, I was really taken with an essay she wrote in 2010 called A Thing Like You and Me.  And in this I think she describes the underlying project or problem that she is working on -- or which is working on her.

"To Participate In The Image As Thing"

From a critique of authenticity and representation – where what is ‘real’ is suspect – since we live in a world flooded with images (or simulations) -- a sort of “barrage of commodified intensities,” Steyrel is trying to find a way to resist or get past this.

She wants to imagine "an object that is differently animated from the commodity fetish…”  To “abolish that relation where we merely identify with the image.”  She wants “…to call on things (not images!) to become comrades and equals. By releasing the energy stored in them, things become coworkers, potentially friends, even lovers.”

She insists on a materialist base of the digital image.  She wants to “participate in the image as thing... And the desire to become this thing (in this case an image) is the upshot of the struggle over representation.”

[Paraphrasing here:] "Everything converges within images: senses & things; abstraction & excitement; speculation & power; desire & matter."

It might seem vague or confusing  - this notion of a physical image that resists representing and representation.  This image-thing does have some paradoxical work to do.  It isn't expressive in the way we presume art to be expressive.  It does not represent some real thing.  “It doesn’t represent reality. It is a fragment of the real world. It is a [material] thing just like any other – a thing like you and me.”

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Damn the statuary

We need soft sculpture
lost time to astonish
to fulfill memory
to establish
the litany of buoys

two man rock
singing circuits
Roman ruins behind bars
buy one get one free

Monday, September 15, 2014

Lyric Intensity - without the hormones

    "If we don't think capitalism it will think us." –Benjamin Noys

Our high noon's unmade
too many loops
painted white to seize silence

signal to noise rates
river and rivulet
tar babies in long lines

Let's ignore donnybrook
ignore violent blanks
upstream of main
doused with silly string
it's the superheroes
versus the clowns
pogo sticks &
impossible pioneers

Vectors of power
invert fingers & trounce
machine tool fragments
thrifting in theory
to macerate hot stuff
in time's kitchen

What do I regret?
I regret the first person singular
I regret market thinking
I regret my tendency to mutter
I regret not being more multiple
Measured nerve
the better to infect
binaries & oblivion
Cowering reptiles
of the raging psychonaut

I regret adaptive estrangement
My body work is also a wall
I regret Auroral events
I regret gated community
lost to discourse
Comic strips
of hate and love
Naked affront
Between eye rolls
& dumb beats

Let’s buff up the new statuary
help me swallow not escape
what bodies can’t do

Animus before containment
when the real precedes
actual life

Monday, September 8, 2014

Teaching myself Blender

       -for K. T.

Convoluted crankshaft
Fractal diseconomy
Black and blue
With a monied reflection
Beat down
To the frenzied beat
I arose to the pentathlon
And jumped gate

Sunday, August 24, 2014

No Show @HedreenGallery Thru 13 September

Breathe. Not breathless. Amanda Manitach explains here.

A catalog in place of show. Free to pick up at gallery.  Some portions of it are: hereherehereherehere & here.

With Sharon Arnold, Rebecca Brown, Sean J. Patrick Carney, T.s. Flock, Jason Hirata, Robert Mittenthal & Matt Offenbacher

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Audaciously Unexciting

-15 seconds of useful consciousness

Even at 40000 feet
the world is made of accomplished facts
of viral ignorance
enclosed in the crisis that makes us sick

The crisis of enclosure is the Poem
found on the b-side of Exhaustion (literally on the backside of my stapled copy)
That’s the Omnibus which appears as if out of nowhere, unknown and unseen in the next poem
Instead of eliminating all artifice from the apparatus – which is the aim of science – the artist wants to create an artifact that has a life of its own, to make an artwork as alive as a sugar cube in a horse’s mouth.

But how to resist, how to write rather than be written
How not to be a minion?  First, resist all forms of agency. There is no need to authenticate your own incapacity.  Refuse the “we had to.”

For over ten years we have been showing people how to receive immediate cash flow. No selling, no explaining, no cold calling, no chasing friends and family.

Exuberant verb which
makes itself into a good meal
Inhaling and exhaling
Drawing to a close
this age of extremes

Caught in my craw
the hook beneath each hyperlink
Its other name is domination
Traps all the way down
Cymbals timbales
The snare
when ignorance goes viral
when Gidget goes Hawaiian
goes to Rome
to Waikiki
grows up
gets married

It is sabotage – within Sabotage
our Triple agent’s
useless fail
Never have I felt so rested
My love wants to destroy Art
as weaponized concept
Ideal exit not
to escape but to contain
regions beyond work
The IDF’s infamous rhizome
walking thru walls
Liquid city
doubled in the Ancestral dark
Big headed river
when leisure poetry
is set to dial out

Predigested or rationed
I am the battle
Conspiracy theorist of my own contingent material
the shitting machine
lost to memory
thinking within what thinks us

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Song to myself

Poems are exciting
don't write them down
Nauseated sex negative
nature is a stupid business
I hated her Heidegger socks
Bereft of the power of division
dead shoes
The red I feel minus what –
molecular estrangement?

OK, I should be happier doing what Robin James calls the work of viral upworthiness.  I mean pass it on. Pharrell’s hat is already turned up.

“The point is to make signals that, when co-opted, skew the balance and bend the circuit- sort of like retroviruses and malware. Critical delinquency generates noise that isn't noisy in the ‘right’ ways (and thus might not even register as noise), queer noise that, when it gets co-opted, distorts the processes it is supposed to support.” – R James.

In other words, please don’t read the lyrics!  Instrumental ideals are too banal for words.  Something about sadistic enjoyment.  Yeah, I was hooked but I merely lost myself, just as the tailor disappears into his suits, just as the accountant gets lost in accounts. How to capture what is written at each remove.  I want what the smuggler hid in my inner ear. Not some dream of a coin extracted. The artist surveilles surfaces, unmapping and remapping, resting on the dead labor of past generations.  When I hear the good life, I hear the good life, a wall on which to project false positives and true negatives.

We wore the same pajamas
Alien maps
Opposing thumbs
Mr Green Jeans vs Capt Kangaroo
Tell it to the tree
To the molecule that just slammed the door
To roadrunner who refused to fall
Earth will possess us
The untold story
‎More at 11

The rabbit strayed from his hat
Insert happy lyric here
Austerity’s hairshirt
Dracula's happy meal

To bypass psychic add-ons
unfailed fallacy of consent
7 footnotes per page means
Messianic nap time

Th' expense of spirit
‎against the ready made – I made it up
Need to lose this silly moustache
this AOL address
against appearances
against the ‘I’ that would stand up
‎for downtime
for dreamlife