Wednesday, August 31

The diaspora

I'm in the slow process of moving this page to a prettier Wordpress blog, which you can now visit here. I say slow because it feels like moving house: there is oddly something comforting and familiar with the ability to dump thoughts into one place that looks familiar, much like an actual physical space would be. I suppose that is another metaphor we have to "home" in the digital world. Unlike a physical space that can be upgraded, formatted virtual worlds don't allow much room for painting the walls or swapping out the bathtub.
I recently met a graduate student whose dissertation was on death in digital realms. (Not to be morbid, I'm just moving locations.) He was investigating what happens to our virtual presence when our physical self expires. In the process of moving this history to a new location, I wonder what the narrative is that we leave behind with all of the information that we hoard over the years (our saved emails, the iterations of papers and writing, the digital photos of meaningful people and meaningless events). Sorting through it now by moving backwards on these pages feels both as if these events are past and that they are happening now. There is no wear and tear on a blog post, only a dated style or use of code to make it. Time collapses here.
I sometimes wonder how important it is to keep this going, especially in light of the networking capabilities of other social networks like Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter. Yet I enjoy writing, and since I'm not a corporation, am not as concerned with the quantifiable results of this beyond it being a semi-public platform for some of my less focused thoughts. I hope, for those reading or following this site, you'll continue to visit me at my new home.

Sunday, May 1


One thing that never fails to instill a sense of awe in me is the morphing shape of a flock of flying birds. Apparently, birds have a 360 Degree field of vision, so while flying together, they can see the entire group and move accordingly. Beyond that, the formations are just beautiful.

Saturday, April 23

Working in the data mine

I've been a longtime fan of Bookforum's blog, Omnivore, an odd amalgamation of the day or week's news stories, blog posts, articles and scholarly writing on what is sometimes a very clear topic and sometimes a very large umbrella that some things are not exactly standing under it. It's like looking at Pitchfork's web content or visiting a Sephora: truly experiencing the hypertextual idea of drift.

The post I saw today was on doubt, either aptly named for the Good Friday/Passover season, or personally resonant as I look for a summer job. Links go to writing ranging from the "Narrative Immunity" of Footballers to sexual assault charges, to Godard's Cinema of Doubt. Some great content in this mish-mash; I was particularly liking the post from M/C Journal for an article called "Pragmatist Doubt, Dogmatism and Bullshit"  on the necessity of doubt in navigating our experiences.

Doubt is an interesting idea. It is a liminal state between truth and fiction, a way of dealing pragmatically with a perceived notion, a truth. It has also become a priori in how we navigate the world, in particular digital ones. As content is supplied by armchair philosophers and not those trained in traditions, we are both accepting of information as being somewhat factual, yet wholly skeptical of it as fully-researched fact. The "truth" is subjective, its facets as myriad as those writing it. It is somehow in doubt, in thinking and questioning to make sure what we're fed logically makes sense, that we sift through for what the truth is. Maybe this is the positive legacy of the information age: that increased doubt tests the mind to seek paths to truths.

Tuesday, April 19

Idle hands

Going back to analog for a bit....some explorations of drawn letters and code.

Sunday, April 10

Modern Laputa

Amikejo was the world's first and only state built on the Esperantist ideals, established in an odd wedge-shaped territory bordering Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. From the Big Think website: "In 1906, Moly and Gustave Roy, a French professor – both keen Esperantists – decide to establish an Esperanto state in Neutral Moresnet. Esperanto being an artificial language developed some decades before by L.L. Zamenhof, a Polish doctor. This language, devoid of nationalistic connotations, was supposed to transcend the linguistic divides crippling Europe." The region was annexed to Belgium through the Treaty of Versailles at the war's end.

Wednesday, March 30

I am sitting in a room...

A fascinating post over on BLDGBLOG on the company Airborne Sound's Borgesian library of royalty-free, everyday sound effects "for everyday scenarios like dishwashers, traffic noise, office ambiance, overhead helicopters, vacuum cleaners, elevator shafts, construction sites, and more." Because of the astounding specificity of the catalog ("Small metal military tin, empty, closing concisely," for instance, versus "Small metal military tin, empty, closing quickly and smartly,"), he imagines the possibilities for constructing a synthetic sonic environment á lá cut-and-paste culture. This could act as a spatio-acoustic form of therapy for those suffering from depression or loss, through creating a sensory spectre of the mundane.

Sunday, March 27

Reconstructing desire

The printed material in my mailbox just got even more Freudian.....who says that theory, history and philosophy aren't sexy?

Tuesday, March 22


Nice mix from Fujiya & Miyagi's website, which I'm using as an aural accompaniment to the drafting of some letterforms...

I hear voices vol.2 by Fujiya&Miyagi

An ark kit puncture

There is an interesting post on BLDGBLOG about an architectural detail called a truth window, which reveals the construction of the interior of the walls, mostly of straw bale homes. There, the author considers the philosophical implications of the revelation of networked structures á lá the film "The Matrix" and the revelation of the living body in animal research.

I expected a truth window to come from a macabre tradition from the Victorian era, but could not find (in a brief Google search) anything relating to that kind of history. I was, however, reminded of intersections in built space that reveal the space outside the walls and the intermediary materiality of the building itself (like Gordon Matta-Clark's "Conical Intersect" from 1975, pictured above.) There is the use of space when we are in it, and the idea of walls protecting us from the elements but also from the public. I guess if we actually considered how thin or fragile that materiality is, versus the psychological belief of its solidity in creating a demarcation, it would be really surprising.  Like thinking about how thin a t-shirt is, but that it prevents a more complicated social interaction.

Matta-Clark's piece revealed a structure and created a conduit between interior and exterior that compressed history and time: the 17th century buildings to the contemporary street scene, and ultimately the Pompidou Centre. This idea of tying together history visually by opening up space can also be seen in the Orange Cube, a structure Jakob + Macfarlane Architects (pictured below.)

The goal of the project was to "reinvest the docks of Lyon on the river side and its industrial patrimony...These docks, initially made of warehouses (la Sucrière, les Douanes, les Salins, la Capitainerie), cranes, functional elements bound to the river and its flow, mutate into a territory of experimentation in order to create a new landscape that is articulated towards the river and the surrounding hills." The void at the center allows, as with "Conical Intersect," a experience of spacial geometry based on the position of the viewer.  As with the truth window, what is revealed alters not so much our physical being in the space, but our awareness of that being in relation to its materiality, geography and history.  There is the limitations or allowances of what we can physically navigate in a built space for sure; here there is also the implications of how what we see relates to a knowledge of where we are and how we interact with our location.

Sunday, March 13


Poor erasers, who have been with me for so long.  You hold so may false starts, so many drawings that didn't happen; so many paths almost taken and marks that seemed all wrong at the time , then removed.  And now you are so full of these that you are dirty and can't hold anymore.

Friday, March 11

There's chess, and there's a game of chess...

Parody wrests the concepts and problems inherent in language use to ring truest...or,  "...frillions of legitimate new ideas, so that I can say the following sentence and be utterly sure that no one has ever said it before in the history of human communication:  "Hold the newsreader's nose squarely, waiter, or friendly milk will come to mand to my trousers." Perfectly ordinary words, yet never before put in that precise order...yet we all of us spend all of our days saying to each other the same things time after weary time:  "I love you, don't go in there, get out, you have no right to say that, stop it, that hurt, help, marjorie is dead..."

Sunday, March 6

School of the flower

Diedrich Diedrichsen has a great article in the catalog for A Minimal Future?: Art as Object 1958-1968, on the divergent paths minimalist music took through the classical and psychedelic camps in the 1960s.  Reading it made me want to revisit this revisit Ben Chasny's more contemporary work in the same vein.

Thursday, March 3

Waiting for Beckett

"The expression that there is nothing to express, nothing with which to express, nothing from which to express, no power to express, no desire to express, together with the obligation to express."
~ Sam Beckett on the nature of contemporary art in Three Dialogues

The blog "A Piece of Monologue" has the entire feature length documentary "Waiting for Beckett" posted to their site here.

A chaos of feelings

"Poetry remembers that it was an oral art before it was a written art." ~Jorge-Luis Borges

I've just discovered the work of Arthur Pétronio, an Italian avant-gardist from the early 20th century who strove to find that liminal space where poetry and music, voice and instrument, meet.

"He shared in the World War I era avant-garde fascination with sound poetry, visual poetry and the music of ambient sounds, and under the influence of Wassily Kandinsky and Henri Le Fauconnier developed in 1919 a verbophonic theory for incorporating vowel sounds as elements of a musical score. He also founded several magazines that investigated connections among the arts, including La Revue de Feu, and Créer. Throughout the 1920s, Créer served as an important forum for a diverse group that included Le Corbusier, Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, E.L.T. Mesens, and others interested in the fusion of word, image, and sound into the creation of a total language." 

Pétronio drew from a varied set of experts in order to synthesize this utopian intersection of sound/image/text, using a research practice that seems to have investigated the integration of similarities and differences in each practice.  Among Petronio's most admired verbophonic works are Tellurgie (1964) and Cosmosmose (1968) (which you can hear on ubuweb's page for him.)

Tuesday, March 1

Electric speech

"...woven entirely with citations, references, echos, cultural languages (what language is not?), antecedent and contemporary, which cut across and through in a vast stereophony..."
~Roland Barthes, Image/Music/Text

I've been revisiting typography (partly out of my own never-realised study of it in grad school and partly out of teaching it to one enthusiastic student) by reading Thinking with Type, a lovely book that examines the history of; critical thinking about; and proper usage of typography and text. I should apologize now to those who are already typophiles; my interest in language has been more in its sonic representation, its cultural use and its linguistic characteristics.

There is an unrecognized poetry in the design of words and the organization of text.  Handwriting originally extended from the physical form of the human body, a direct act of the physical form that referenced it. With mechanization, typography earned the freedom to explore visually the relationships of spaces, silences, pauses and breaths in spoken language. Poetry has usually been allowed the freedom to play outside the box of MLA guidelines, and has rightfully considered the relationship between the language we use and the body that utters it. Designers and typographers have, in the meantime, worked to visually represent the richness of representation of words.

Our initial experience with language is as a utility. We speak or write to communicate our needs, to share our thoughts, to express our emotions.  All of these communications are necessary for us to survive as a socially interdependent species. Yet over time, we see that this communication is more than utility. The creative or unorthodox arrangement of one (or more) typefaces, styles, sizes, et al, guide the reader (or should I say "user of words") in a way that is subtle yet represents the secondary reading, the connotation of this set of words. This visual is not a primary as, say, an artwork; it nevertheless informs and steers the meaning of the content for the reader. Ultimately, language is never simply utilitarian. To understand the meaning, we often speak of context and intonation. Silence or absence of language leaves a space loaded with as much meaning as an intimate conversation. I recently saw this post on how the Kindle, by default, justifies the type of a book to fit the screen, obliterating any of the visual alignment usually made to make the page appear even (as well as eliminating "typographic agoraphobia" in the reader.)

The experience of the thoughtful arrangement and design of type is ambient and does not demand our attention at first glance.  Like other ambient experiences (the soundscape of a city, the movement through a building), this visual presentation of what we say connotes more about beliefs and values than we initially, consciously perceive.

(The vertical ribbons of white space are called "rivers." Image above is from Céline's Death on the Installment Plan, which would not read with any of the same verbal hesitation without this intentional visual cue.)

Wednesday, February 23

Minimalist syn-drone

I went to a really interesting presentation at CAA a few weeks back by the Association for Critical Race Art History, that included a paper presentation by Charles L. Davis on locating the frameworks of race in architectural style and ornament. (You can watch a similar presentation here.) The perspective posed was compelling: that style and ornament derive from a cultural history, yet there is no discussion of said history after it is adopted in architecture. It seems like there are many instances in aesthetic practices where formalism reigns at the expense of identifying or discussing the importance of the cultural or vernacular that created that aesthetic. There is definitely a long history of utopian experiments that sought to universalize and eradicate the problems of difference (specifically in primary forms of communication, such as language.) Yet most of these experiments fail (otherwise I'd be writing this in Esperanto, I guess.) If they are considered experiments in formalism, they remove the impetus that necessitates language development (perspectives on experience and their subsequent descriptions in order to communicate or perpetuate them.) But what about other modes of production that communicate ideals, such as architecture, art, design and music? These reductive forms, by appealing to a commonality of experience, often talk about their source material, yet are removed from a discussion of the meaningfulness of that cultural history. And minimalism has become something adopted by the market as a means to ignore the problem of difference by clearly exposing the logical, formal elements. As with language, there is a tension between speaking to everyone and speaking to a few; with universalizing an experience and addressing its questions or problems.

I found very little in an initial search for discussions of race in minimalist avant-garde music, but the work of Julius Eastman (an openly gay, black pianist and composer who was at the music department at the University at Buffalo) was often cited as point of discussion. Eastman's compositions are mostly lost, due to a tragic spiral downward towards the end of his life, but he dedicated his output to an exploration of an organic principle of reduction, where in subsequent sections "the information is taken out at a gradual and logical rate." His music also attempts to examine issues of race and identity through these forms. It's surprising that most of the reviews of his work refrain from any discussions of race at all, despite his highly controversial titles. An example of his work is above.

Sunday, January 23

a hole

Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night.  
Edna St. Vincent Millay