29 July 2007

Quote of the day

Be pleased then, you the living, in your delightfully warm bed, before Lethe's ice-cold wave will lick your escaping foot.

- Goethe

27 July 2007

Drella etc

I went to a four-hour doco on Andy Warhol last night. There was lots of archival footage, which was really good to see, but I particularly enjoyed all the commentators competing to see who could make the silliest claims. When I went out for a cigarette during the intermission (the only person in the entire theatre to do so, I might add), I found I had several texts from various people telling me to check out this story on Campbell Live.

I'm off to the new film by Roy Andersson tonight. His Songs from the second floor is one of my favourite films ever. It was so painterly – no camera movement, each shot a composition – and that's without mentioning the cheery subject matter. After that, I'll be off to Happy to check these guys out.

Dada siegt!

25 July 2007

Kia ora bro


23 July 2007

On pipes and death rays

Check out Mr Stephen Rowe's account of the seventh PLF meeting, at which my t-shirt got zapped.

22 July 2007

The intertemporal avant-garde

Conventional art history sees the avant-garde as a series of historical movements occurring mainly in Europe just before, during, and just after World War I. However, I propose that it is more useful to see it as a series of separate spacetime events joined intertemporally by a transdimensional avant-garde thought virus.

Although each historical manifestation of the avant-garde has specific characteristics peculiar to its particular circumstances, they all share certain common aspects:

  • alienation from bourgeois capitalist society
  • activism and antagonism towards the public and public institutions, especially official and academic art
  • a fundamental break with the past in favour of revolutionary utopianism
  • self-consciousness as an elite vanguard of the future.

What, you may ask, about novelty and experimentation? Aren’t these core elements of avant-garde art? We must beware the romantic myth of the artist as a lone genius who creates works of art out of nothing. We are more inclined to see both the production and reception of art in terms of game theory. In these terms, players (artists, viewers) have certain competencies in the rules of the game (aesthetic canons). They use these competencies to process information from the environment. In the case of the artist, the product of that information processing then becomes part of the environment, creating a feedback loop.

Avant-garde art adapts the rules of the game to its own revolutionary utopian purposes. Historically, the most effective means it has had to do this has been novelty and experimentation, but this need not always be the case. For example, in our recent past the YBAs have exhausted the classic avant-garde tactic of using sensations to shock the public. There is nothing to be gained by merely coming up with new sensations. The particular circumstances of each manifestation of the intertemporal avant-garde determine the artistic strategies of that manifestation.

The avant-garde can only flourish in a bourgeois capitalist society. The experience of the Russian avant-garde after the Revolution shows us that. The members of the avant-garde tend to come from the educated middle class and are alienated from both class and society. Comparing the revolutionary potential of modern technological progress with the actual uses it is put to by advanced consumer capitalism, it is not hard to see where the avant-garde programme comes from.

The relations between avant-garde art and advanced capitalist society are complex and paradoxical. Although avant-garde art is opposed to the dominant beliefs and values of capitalism, it needs the capitalist art market in order to exist. This is one way in which the avant-garde is like a virus: like the ’flu, it can’t get so successful it completely kills off its hosts. This has been the downfall of all the historical avant-garde art movements.

This alienation from advanced capitalism -– in which everyday life is ‘redefined as the pleasurable consumption of material goods within a system of corporate hegemony and male supremacy’ – is what leads to both the avant-garde’s activism and its antagonism. An avant-garde movement is by definition activist. It rejects the dominant society outright and agitates for the future revolutionary utopia of which it is the precursor. For this reason, the avant-garde can’t be funded by, or associated with, public institutions. The avant-garde stands in opposition to official art.

Avant-garde art will have nothing to do with official art until, in the words of Leon Trotsky, there is:

...a gigantic expansion in the scope and artistic quality of industry, and we understand here, under industry, the entire field without exception of the industrial activity of man ... It is difficult to predict the extent of self-government which the man of the future may reach or the heights to which he may carry his technique. Social construction and psycho-physical self-education will become two aspects of the same process. All the arts – literature, drama, painting, music, and architecture – will lend this process beautiful form ... Man will become immeasurably stronger, wiser, and subtler; his body will become more harmonised, his movements more rhythmic, his voice more musical. The forms of life will be dynamically dramatic. The average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx. And above this ridge new peaks will form.

This is the future society that avant-garde art is the vanguard of, where there is no distinction between art and everyday life. Avant-garde art rejects current official and academic aesthetic canons in favour of those of the revolutionary utopian society evoked by Trotsky.

The historical assumption that this society is in the future could be a result of a failure to think four-dimensionally. Certain solutions to some of Einstein’s relavistic equations enable not only travel along closed timelike curves (that is, into the past) but also into alternate spacetimes. If there are, as the many-worlds solution in quantum physics proposes, an infinite number of possible worlds, then every possibility exists somewhere. Therefore, if it is possible for humans to develop an avant-garde revolutionary utopian society, there is an alternate world in which they have. In fact, there will be a multitude of such worlds, from those where a species of the Homo genus evolved that is so much more advanced than us that it has never developed anything other than anarchist societies to those that are closer to our own world but where the Revolution succeeded. Through transdimensional quantum entanglement, it should be possible to communicate telepathically with these worlds. Experimental results so far have proved inconclusive, but it is thought that this is the main vector for the transmission of the virus.

What is known is that there have been at least two major outbreaks of the transdimensional avant-garde thought virus in the recent historical past: in northern Italy during the early 15th century and in Europe during the early 20th century. Conditions in our current spacetime co-ordinates are ripe for another outbreak. Our analysis of the main symptoms allows us to make some predictions.

A contemporary manifestation of intertemporal avant-garde art will probably not use media officially sanctioned by major institutions, such as video, photography, and installation. It will more likely use those media that have proved most effective historically: paintings, drawings, and manifestos. It will be found mostly in sympathetic dealer galleries, online, and in short-run publications. It will denounce the absurdities and hypocrisies of our time. It will reject irony. It will have clearly defined revolutionary utopian aims and strategies informed by a deep historical consciousness.


I'm in the middle of a glorious two-week holiday. I haven't gone anywhere. I'm just enjoying not going to work. I haven't been doing much painting, but I have been making a book for a friend of mine's kids, in which they get abducted by aliens and have various adventures in outer space.

I've also just been enjoying things: smoking, hot black coffee, the colours at twilight, the sound of the rain. And now the film fest's started. I'm not going to very much this year, only about 14 or 15. I went to some hand-painted animations this morning, which as you'd expect were patchy. Two in particular were very good, especially the Russian one, which very appropriately used impressionism to portray a reactionary story set in a romanticised Tsarist Russia. Tonight's the latest by Werner Herzog. I'm very much looking forward to it.

05 July 2007

Where the death ray got me

This one's for Steve

She'll be right

They did some work to the power lines on the street next to where I live a while ago. I thought this was a temporary solution, but it seems I was wrong.
visitors since 29 March 2004.