20181113

Good stuff to listen to when fixing the socks of strangers around the world (only 5 pairs to go). We had an open studio event on the weekend at ISCP. I was in a flue for the entire event and sat in the corner darning socks. A hipster complemented my stitchwork. He told me I’d make 300$ for a pair!

Anna Tsing & Donna Haraway: Tunneling in the Chthulucene (2015) University of Idaho, Moscow. A long and loose (in good way) presentation of their thinking. Tsing reminds audiences that non-human life does not live in harmony. Symbioses develop trough violence and struggle. Haraway reminds audiences how multicellular entities form: By single cell organisms attempting to eat each others, partially devouring each others bodies, getting stuck and living together anew.

Imagining infrastructures (2017) The British Academy. A (too) detailed talk about infrastructure. Partially good for developing an understanding of infra as a social, life-supporting network. It starts with an interesting analysis of air-conditioners as colonial apparatuses! The idea that people work best in climate controlled cool environments should be re-evaluated. The negative effect that air-conditioners have on communities was addressed in a recent reading group too. Air-conditioners break communities by endorsing indoor, private comfort for closed families. Manuel Tironi’s account on how communities rebuild after catastrophes is very rewarding too. He suggest that infrastructure should be approached as a social network and a compost (as defined by Haraway).

The Facebook Economy (2018) Zero Books podcast. Douglas Lain chatting with Rob Larson. They work their best to frame Facebook (and others) as monopolies and do a good job clearing out how exactly the monopolies make their profits.

Adventures in New America (2018) an afrofuturistic buddy comedy. A fun and easygoing podcast.

WRITING ABOUT ART TODAY MEANS BEING WRITTEN ONTO (2018) Kimmo Modig. Modig is developing a socio-material analysis of contemporary art-exhibition practices. They pleas for a broader acceptance of social practices (workshops etc.) as a critical medium for artistic expression. Social practices and community-building-as-art is a vital field of practice for groups and individuals, who cannot exist alone. Art practices which center on objects & orchestrated performances, advocate exclusive infrastructures. I would like to extend their critique to problematize material & energy demands object centered & orchestrated performance aesthetics rely on. Using Modigs critique we can argue that Chris Burden was more of an antibiotic artist then a performance artist. He was more hospitalized and medicated, then shot in the arm. #ॐ

Modig offers a diagram Social Anxiety Matrix #2 which can be used for analyzing personal motivations for attending art events. They argues that “Contemporary art has never been about class revolution [the temporal and generational rotation of positions of wealth past classes people are born to], but the cementing of its horizontal power structure while adding a new coat of paint on it.” which I don’t agree with. I believe that artist networks and support structures (grants, residencies etc.) are currently the best (if not only) systems for advancing the temporal and generational rotation of wealth and power. Quotes from the text below.

Public has become the primal form of new art, and exhibition the secondary one. The word public here is a (suboptimal) placeholder for assemblies, collectives, public gatherings, non-patriarchal familial constellations and so forth. […] What was once the fringe program (talks, workshops) is now the headliner. When I look around, I can see some people having not really realized this. Others are angry, even. “Why is art about the other stuff nowadays?” This is another way of saying “I”m white and feel like I can’t get enough exposure.”

Managing a nuanced perspective on things is particularly vexing when you’re feeling overwhelmed by the extreme, life-destroying urgency of climate change, for example. Often, you can catch an artist having gone through these motions and realizing that, say, flying to biennials is bad for the environment and a grueling way to live, too. So they turn their own realization into a dictum and hold everyone up to this standard of their own making.

20180806

Bought a book by Michel Serres and started working on an application for the Doctoral Studies Programme in Artistic Research in Performing Arts at the Theatre Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki. I’ve written a 12 page research proposal called “Horse & Performance” (it’s taken me two-to-three weeks and I’m currently waiting for comments/guidance from friends). The English summary is the last part (I’m having trouble with it). Apparently I want to spy on people, talk to horses and ask them what they think about our perception of them.  I can’t read the the summary without giggling – Which has to be a good sign.

The “Horse & Performance” research investigates “what do we talk about, when we talk about horses” at Finnish horse-stables. The research is rooted on an ethnographic study which analyses how horse-hobbyist and professional construct the figure of the contemporary-horse. The ethnographic part of the research will focus on situations were people explain the animals behaviour trough unintentional utterance, murmured while working with them. I will also engage in an “performance architectural” analysis of the sites, where people meet with horses, trough which I will formulate an understanding on how particular sites (and particular technologies presented in them) affect our perception of the animal. The fieldwork will be contrasted to the work of artists and theorists who have contributed to the development of the “animal-turn”.

From these sources I will develop a set of post-humanistically geared exercises and grooming techniques, through which I will direct the question to the horses themselves and ask for their feedback. These exercises will be presented as public performances, organized in urban spaces. The feedback audiences provide will be used to further develop an understanding of the contemporary-horse. Performing publicly with an animals cause conflicts through which we can access views and assumptions people project on them. Techniques developed through this research, can be used to ask animals for feedback on how build environments should be organized. The research aims to advance the wellbeing of animals and to advocate ethical environmental design.

Here is a list of texts I refer in the full proposal:

  • Barad, Karen. 2003. Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter
  • Butler, Judith. 2015. Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly
  • Cull, Laura. 2012. Theatres of Immanence – Deleuze and the Ethics of Performance
  • Despret, Vinciane. 2016. What Would Animals Say If We Asked the Right Questions?
  • Haraway, Donna J. 2007. When Species Meet
  • Haraway, Donna J. 2013. SF: Science Fiction, Speculative Fabulation, String Figures, So Far.
  • Haraway, Donna. 2016. Staying with the Trouble: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene
  • Hribal, Jason. 2003. “Animals Are Part of the Working Class”: A Challenge to Labor History
  • Hribal, Jason. 2012. Animals are Part of the Working Class Reviewed
  • Ingold, Tim. 2011. The Perception of the Environment. Essays on Livelihood
  • Korhonen, Pauliina. 2014. Ratsastusreitit kaupunkialueella – Suunnitteluesimerkkinä Länsi-Vantaan ratsastusreitit
  • Leinonen, Riitta-Marja. 2013. Palvelijasta terapeutiksi – Ihmisen ja hevosen suhteen muuttuvat kulttuuriset mallit Suomessa
  • Mbembe, Achille. 2003. Necropolitics
  • Mitsuda, Tatsuya. 2007. Horse in European History 1550-1900
  • Kaimio, Tuire. 2004. Hevosen kanssa
  • Malm, Andreas. 2016. Fossil Capital – The rise of Steam-power and the Roots of Global Warming
  • Mejdell, Buvik, Jørgensen & Bøe. 2016. Horses can learn to use symbols to communicate their preferences
  • Morton, Timothy. 2017. Humankind
  • Ojanen, Karoliina. 2011. Tyttöjen toinen koti – Etnografinen tutkimus tyttökulttuurista ratsastustalleilla
  • Salminen, Antti & Vadén, Tere. 2016. Energia ja kokemus: Naftologinen essee
  • Serres, Michel. 2010. Malfeasance – Appropriation Through Pollution?
  • Schweder, Alex. 2011. Performance Architecture
  • Urry, John. 2004. The ‘System’ of Automobility
  • Weizman, Eyal. 2015. The Roundabout Revolutions
  • Weizman, Eyal. 2017. Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation
  • Wright, Stephen. 2014. Toward a Lexicon of Usership

20180629

Reading Lovecraft The Shadow Out of Time (1934). After this I’ll read The Mountain of Madness and The Call of Chulhu. Lovecraft might be good source for developing an understanding of horses (and other non-human beasts).

The story of The Shadow Out of Time is told by a man called Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee whose mind is snatched to work in an massive archive populated by drones. He is (along other drones) tasked to document the history of the world (and worlds) in the service of the Great Race. The plant like Great Race is in the process of departing our world and set to live in the future (because they fear the “elder beings”). The library is located in the past of our world (between Paleozoic and Mesozoic periods) but drones (some of who have human minds) that serve the archive come from all ages. The task of documenting everything is so enormous that Nathaniel can’t maintain a stable mind. The archive he describes feels like a data center and narrator is slowly turning into some kind of artificial intelligence. The horror of this story is in the description of the various states of self awareness this intelligence is in. The text is very tricky to read.

The text bundles psychology, archeology and geology. The narrator is on a quest to understand a personal experience (a sudden change in his person and amnesia), this leads to a quest to understand myths, which leads to a quest to understand the world that has created the myths. Perhaps Haraway has used this approach to draft her proposal on different scales that should be thought of when facing other species (biological, cultural and face-to-face). The term “post-human” is mentioned (or specifically a “posthuman beetle race”)! Other interesting concepts are “pseudo-memory”, “memory-rhythm” (a choreography for opening a lock) and “myth-born unreality”. The narrator is excavating trough layers of concealed memories (trauma) and prompted to orchestrate a archeological excavation. The researchers discover archeological and geological evidence which confirms that the narrators pseudo-memories from the distant past are real, that his trauma is based on actual events which took place before his birth. The Lovecraftian world feels very similar to the world of the enchanted, which is depicted in ME AND MINE film (2018).

Here is a description of the archives the narrator is forced to work in and his body when it’s in its virtual drone state:

And then the morbid temptation to look down at myself became greater and greater, till one night I could not resist it. At first my downward glance revealed nothing whatever. A moment later I perceived that this was because my head lay at the end of a flexible neck of enormous length. Retracting this neck and gazing down very sharply, I saw the scaly, rugose, iridescent bulk of a vast cone ten feet tall and ten feet wide at the base. That was when I waked half of Arkham with my screaming as I plunged madly up from the abyss of sleep.

Only after weeks of hideous repetition did I grow half-reconciled to these visions of myself in monstrous form. In the dreams I now moved bodily among the other unknown entities, reading terrible books from the endless shelves and writing for hours at the great tables with a stylus managed by the green tentacles that hung down from my head.

[…]

The archives were in a colossal subterranean structure near the city’s center, which I came to know well through frequent labors and consultations. Meant to last as long as the race, and to withstand the fiercest of earth’s convulsions, this titan repository surpassed all other buildings in the massive, mountain-like firmness of its construction.

The records, written or printed on great sheets of a curiously tenacious cellulose fabric were bound into books that opened from the top, and were kept in individual cases of a strange, extremely light, rustless metal of greyish hue, decorated with mathematical designs and bearing the title in the Great Race’s curvilinear hieroglyphs.

The narrator returns to the archive site in a later episode and tells about the same space when he is in human form:

One thing only was unfamiliar, and that was my own size in relation to the monstrous masonry. I felt oppressed by a sense of unwonted smallness, as if the sight of these towering walls from a mere human body was something wholly new and abnormal. Again and again I looked nervously down at myself, vaguely disturbed by the human form I possessed.

[…]

The very prints of my shoes behind me in the millennially untrodden dust made me shudder. Never before, if my mad dreams held anything of truth, had human feet pressed upon those immemorial pavements.

The way a distant creature is described reminds me of being close to a horse when it’s breathing heavily while trotting:

There was a wind, too – not merely a cool, damp draught, but a violent, purposeful blast belching savagely and frigidly from that abominable gulf whence the obscene whistling came.

20180322

Visited an event organized by Jaana Laakkonen at Asematila space during the weekend. She read texts inside a tent structure which was constructed out of paintings. Works were also exhibited on the floor and some were stored in plastic bags (“for ease of transport”, I was told). She offered them for display on demand and flipped through canvases like a persian rug-dealer in a bazaar. Some pieces had been painted outdoors and were affected by mold. It felt like the mold was a sort of commentary on post-representationalism: The paintings study post-humanistic models of art making, while providing a habitat for non-human critters. The canvas serves as an image, a map, a diary and a Petrie Dish.

I was offered a brightly colored publication. It features close-up photos of painting materials (textures), glimpse of sites she’s worked at and partial outdoor scenes. The publication does not have any text in it and it feels like a sneak peak into an artists practice – Like peeping into a painters studio through a partially open door (intentionally opened by the artist). I also received three printed texts (folded inside the booklet). I’ve only read one: “Does Art Escape When Posthuman Performativity Enters (On [Not] Delivering it)” which is an intimate story about the artists relationship with a dog, bundled with a work journal of sorts.

The event and the texts emphasize entanglement (Referring to Karen Barad & Donna Haraway). This emphasis was present in the way that the artists mixed together intimate stories, technical depictions of the painting equipment and posthuman theory. I had difficulties in engaging with the event because of the artists the personal presence. It was as if she had constructed a zoo around herself. The intensity and intimate nature of the texts, the mold and the artists body predetermined my relation to the site. If the texts would have been read by an actor I could have roamed the stage more freely.

It was an inspirational event – It is as if she was painting with texts. Post-truth-realms have made the representational value of art weak, which is why contemporary art emphasizes on text and performance. Text, performance and bodybuilding exercises (working bodies against material weights) are essential tools to keep us grounded, to keep us in the same world or even to develop new common ground. Working with texts, weights and witnessing events require effort which is why knowledge they produce can be trusted.