20210409

Learning from the Virus (2020) Paul B. Preciado. I read the article as a plead to prioritize social and existential diversity in the face of a body flattening pandemic. Diversity has to be activity performed because societies are faced my enormous pressures by the constant surveillance executed by cyber-conservative forces (professors and priests peeping into my bedroom using the Zoom.app — We should explore the kink potential of this arrangement!). The text introduces a lot of fun terms such as “pharmacopornographic” and “cyber-oral”, which references a form of post-internet literacy. “We must go from a forced mutation to a chosen mutation.” Preciado calls and I fear I spot an accelerationist tone (but agree).

We are still in the throes of the transition from a written to a cyber-oral society, from an industrial to an immaterial economy, from a form of disciplinary and architectural control to forms of microprosthetic and media-cybernetic control. In other writings, I’ve used the term pharmacopornographic for this type of management and production of the body as well as to describe the political technologies that produce sexual subjectivity within this new configuration of power and knowledge. […] I use the term pornographic because these management techniques function no longer through the repression and prohibition of sexuality, but through the incitement of consumption and the constant production of a regulated and quantifiable pleasure. The more we consume and the better our health, the better we are controlled.

I’m under a ridiculous workload.  Ridiculous as in I can only respond to it with a strange smile and the workload evades attempts to structure it. Work is like a stealth bomber. Feels like every rescheduled event from the past year (or two) is being organized this spring. These zombie-events have weird hybrid-baggage. Some talks are organized online but thanks to a recent drop in death counts, there is an interest to organize events face-to-face too. This means there are always two events organized. In most sessions I will execute a face-to-face performance and an online-performances at the same time. Working double time space!

20210408

Interpreting animals in spaces of cohabitance (2019) Nora Schuurman and Alex Franklin. An inspiring article exploring manifestations of animal agency at horse stables (livery yards to be specific). The article builds a model for horse agency from an array of interviews in which yard managers explain or “narrate” the animals’ behaviour. The approach feels supportive to my own research plans. Yard managers are a convenient source for information because they are responsible for the daily well being of the animals and have to communicate the animals current state to their owners, who possibly only meet their beasts on weekends (as I’ve witnessed at Kylmälänkylä). In short they have to speak for and in behalf of the animals. I think it’s particularly interesting that their expertise is constantly open for questioning as the observed behaviour of the animal can challenge their narration. Also ownership in itself affords an authority in decision making processes.

Referencing Michael Polanyi (1983 [1966]) the authors emphasize tacit knowledge as a key element of the animal interpretation processes: “[T]acit knowledge refers to a personal knowledge or skill that is used in action, but is difficult to explain verbally.” I’m familiar with the claim that tacit it is “difficult to explain”. But I want to underline that there are many reasons for the struggle for verbalizing stuff: Trade secrets, efforts to maintain the aura of the trade, hangover and fatigue. My cynical view is that the struggle is a performance: A performance of professionalism, to be specific. I find this to be a big part of crafts culture. I believe that everything is “difficult to explain” and that every explanation is a crude approximation. From this angle all knowledge (Ikea furniture building guides, academic paper) depends on a tacit-sity (or tactic perhaps?). Also, some aspects of some trades are very easily communicated by sharing choreographies and this makes them more accessible then spoken or written accounts. This would portray academic knowledge as more tacit than craft knowledges. The authors also emphasize that tacit knowledge is an complicated framework, referencing Auli Toom (2006).

Citing Rebecca Cassidy (2002) they bring forths that “[t]acit knowledge is also highly contextual, often tied to working environments and social practices such as the care and training of horses and working with them.” to which I full heartedly agree with to and would like to emphasize on in my reseach. The arrangement and placement of tools (pitchforks, shovels, wheelbarrows) at a stable manifest an intellect (which we can discover by mapping items). The distances of tools and how they are in relation to each other, reveal the choreographies of labour and companionship. This design is informed by both human and animal desires. For example the directions and angles stable doors open to are choreographic apparatuses, they guide the movement of horse handlers and animals so that both will feel safe in manoeuvring in tight spaces (they afford safety). Gates, the complicated process of passing trough gates (which I think horse handling is borderline centred on) and trust issues are discussed relation to Vinciane Desprets writing (2004).

For me it feels like, that in this text tacit is used as a leeway for developing intuitive approaches to caregiving (opposed to a medical approaches etc.). Citing Schuurman (2017) they detail that “tacit knowledge about horses has adapted to the new environments and practices of contemporary horse keeping. Today, it carries information on horse management and care, including the task of communicating with horses and interpreting them as animals in different ways.” This approach works great for me and notes on care is something we could map-out during the upcoming Horse & Build Environment course for Aalto University. But I want to underline that an exploration of the tacit knowledge we develop through horse-human relations may reveal challenging to how care and compassion are currently understood. For example, what how should we approach physical violence from the horses point of view?

To be able to enroll all horses in the process of caring for and being cared for themselves, the yard manager has to specifically identify and manage different subgroups of horses. The size and mix of horses placed in any one field, for example, is significant in maintaining optimum conditions for selfcare. The less conflict there is in the relationships between the horses, the more they can be relied upon to take care of each other. In the case of the livery yards, field groups are commonly kept relatively small or single-sex for this very reason.

The article describes the complexity of social skills (“horse reading”) which maintaining a healthy herds depend on. It’s great that social skills animal management depend on are brought forwards. A regular performance where heard organizations and human activity interplay can be witnessed, is when a singular horse is pulled away from the pasture for work. I would like to add that not all intents for “horse reading“ are benign. For example mounted police officers use their heard and horse reading skills to drive the animal into violent situations and it can also be that the horses are partly driven by this opportunity. Also, horse handlers pick personal favourites and work to advance their position in the herd-organization. I also believe and have witnessed that horse handlers work against the perceived enemies of their favourites.

The type of “narrative analysis” they are developing feels linked to literary or discourse analysis but their approach feels more open for creative interpretations. It also has an archival quality:

The situations in which narration is invoked are multiple. It is used as a technique to communicate interpretations of animal agency within both mundane and eventful human–horse interactions as they take place. It is also drawn upon as a tool to communicate these interactions to others at a later occasion. […] Narrative analysis thus becomes an extremely malleable, flexible, and largely effective method for understanding embodied communication and tacit knowledge within human–animal interaction.

20210403

Homemade traditional resin flux (2019) Matthew Skala. DIY electronics as a forest wandering experience. As Skala mentions, raw pine sap is currently rarely extracted and he imagines it’s mostly used for homemade incenses. Which makes it all the more interesting for the kinds of electronics I’m into! He recommends using anhydrous magnesium sulfate for removing residue water from the resin (which brings this experiment close to mineral waters). Sorbic acid is also added as a preservative (to keep mold out) and citric acid to activate the flux.

It occurs to me that some readers may not know what a pine tree looks like. I’m not sure I can give a definitive spotter’s guide here (try searching the Web or looking at the picture above), but in general the easiest sign to look for is the leaves.

I was working as a clerk at the Konala Shell gas-station when Finland converted markka’s to euro’s, which caused a spike in the price of gas. “I don’t mind the change”. A customer spoke softly. “I fill the tank with what I have”. They continued and I feel them now. “How is the pandemic effecting your praxis?” I imagine someone asking. “I don’t mind the change, I do the most with what I have” I speak out loud, in the damp cellar I call a studio.

20210326

The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception (1979) James J. Gibson feels like a solid leeway towards performance-architecture and animal-built-enviroment-queries (the document I have is messy and I think it suits the theme well). He includes the non-living world as a key factor in the relations of the living, channelling proto-new-material views and I think a particular asset of the text is that it gives a lot of agency to non-humans. “In making life easier for himself, of course, [man] has made life harder for most of the other animals.” he writes and I agree. Sustainable designs would benefit from approaches which teach us how to deal with discomfort and suffering.

If a terrestrial surface is nearly horizontal (instead of slanted), nearly flat (instead of convex or concave), and sufficiently extended (relative to the size of the animal) and if its substance is rigid (relative to the weight of the animal), then the surface affords support. It is a surface of support, and we call it a substratum, ground, or floor. It is stand-on-able, permitting an upright posture for quadrupeds and bipeds. It is therefore walk-on-able and run-over-able. It is not sink-into-able like a surface of water or a swamp, that is, not for heavy terrestrial animals. Support for water bugs is different.

Some parts read like an alchemical liturgy and need a serious uphauling. I begun reading Gibsons introduction to affordances as it were linked to behavioural sciences because the way he talks about animals and terrains makes me think about survival. I was provoked by his writing because I don’t believe in survival: People and animals may prefer colours and textures (instead of comfort) and are open for adjusting their bodies in favour of interesting designs (even if it kills them). But a closer reading revealed that he is reaching for something else entirely: A development of a “naïve realism” which he describes in a lecture from 1974.

As an affordance of support for a species of animal, however, they have to be measured relative to the animal. […] an affordance cannot be measured as we measure in physics.

An important fact about the affordances of the environment is that they are in a sense objective, real, and physical, unlike values and meanings, which are often supposed to be subjective, phenomenal, and mental. But, actually, an affordance is neither an objective property nor a subjective property; or it is both if you like. An affordance cuts across the dichotomy of subjective-objective and helps us to understand its inadequacy. It is equally a fact of the environment and a fact of behavior. It is both physical and psychical, yet neither. An affordance points both ways, to the environment and to the observer.

Naïve realism is a nice basis for a theory for visual perception. It underlines visual as a multisensory experience and acknowledge perception as a relationship. Perception is aided by movement which enables us to read ambient light which reflects from surrounding surfaces from different angles. We determine the quality of our environment from an array of “information” this process provides us. Gibson believes that ambient light contains information (and not merely data which our intellect makes sense of) because the reflecting ambient light is a result of a surfaces physical attributes and effects the world. This process is not dependent on us. I understand this as: Stuff performs.  If we like we can naïvely take this information exchange as being real. He argues that we are sharing and perceiving a real world!

By focusing on ambient light and by underlining that we see only surfaces, he criticizes the theory of optics (which he calls a 17th century fluke). Gibson argues that the optical structure of the eye, which produces the “outside world” to the inside of human body (similar to a camera obscura) should not be understood as evidence that we merely see and interpret images. He argues that we are not seeing objects, things or other beings, we in motion and forming relations to different surfaces. Because visual perception is not merely an image formed by the eye, he speculates that we can see behind walls (in the 1974 lecture). As relationships are presented as the foundation of experiences, we must acknowledge that there is a world outside of our bodies – Which is how his approach to affordances becomes a critique of dualism. In short: Our perception of others is not a distinction (between us and them) but a realization of a relationship. #ॐ

I became interested in Gibson trough Parikka who refers to him in a 2015 article on Mutating Media Ecologies in an effort to “deterritorialize a notion of media outside that of the human body, and look at non-human things as part of an embodied meshwork of agencies”. I’m currently midway a The Ecological Approach to Perception & Action (2013) Harry Heft which seems like a good resource for a broader view on what Gibson stood for.

Tim Ingold refers to Gibson in The Perception of the Environment (2010) saying “I cannot think of any other work that has exerted a greater influence on my thinking over the last ten years or so.”. The book has a chapter on ecological phycology.

Perception, Gibson argued, is not the achievement of a mind in a body, but of the organism as a whole in its environment, and is tantamount to the organism’s own exploratory movement through the world. If mind is anywhere, then, it is not ‘inside the head’ rather than ‘out there’ in the world. To the contrary, it is immanent in the network of sensory pathways that are set up by virtue of the perceiver’s immersion in his or her environment.

Living In A Reversed World – Erismann & Kohler (1954) narrated by Gibson is a great companion for the text.

20210324

Upholstered a Håg kneeling chair which I bought for cheep. Might have to replace the gas spring and wheels too but it works for now. Found a good supplier for strong plastic foam (LIMI P80) in Kerava and sourced leftover canvas from an upcycling bin. The foam is sturdy but soft, intended for upholstery of industrial machine seats. Felt weird to buy new plastic foam to this world but SURREAL SALAD (2020) by Heini Aho comforted me. Her video is perfect for coping with toxic-futures. I think I used too much glue. There is a faint intoxicating smell in the room I work but I’m using it for my benefit (working on grant-applications and preparing a teaching gig for Aalto).

Spotted a small clip about the expo2001∞ fanzine/exhibition by Daniel Kupferberg online. We contributed an angry Trans-Horse text to it. The zine-format is inspirational. We will be hopefully produce a zine during the upcomming Horse & Build Environment course too.

Dreaming of a Ginko Synthese Sampleslicer II. Their LFOv2 is a part of nearly every patch I make. Still experiencing inconsistencies with the Norns Orca ! cc outputs.