Visited Aruna D’Souza’s talk Writing in the Reparative Mode (video link) at the 8th floor. The event was organized by the The New School. She offered a road-map on how she developed from an academician into an art-writer and art critic. D’Souza became disillusioned by the academia after witnessing numerous race related scandals which the organizations failed to respond to. After leaving university, she felt that Facebook helped her to develop as a writer. Posting on her wall felt like brainstorming and gave her the opportunity to pose questions instead of re-affirming what is already known (I really dislike her emphasis on Facebook and Instagram as “real venues for art writing”, because the technology is based on exclusion).

She invited the audience to think about “reparative criticism” which is an attempt to compensate for the injustices which effect the decedents of the enslaved. In the beginning she started to “write as a student”, which means she wants to understand an artwork on the artworks own terms (I’m weirdly reminded by the self-reflectionism of minimal art). Her writing is “drawing attention” to works which teach her how to be “an ethical and political citizen of this fraud moment in history” (D’Souza acknowledges this as signal-boosting). She is also constantly learning to talk about her own failures. “Our culture is weakened by peoples inability to apologize”. She refers to her writing concerning a Jimmie Durham exhibition, in which she downplayed the critique stirred up by Durham’s claims of Native Ancestry (More on the topic by Sheila Regan). After she re-freshened her opinion on Durham (after learning about the topic trough the debate), her act was seen of as opportunism (changing sides) instead of rethinking and apologizing.

In D’Souzas view art writing is primarily made for the white gaze. Art writing excludes the subjectivity of the artist (and the critic). When writing for the black-gaze, she is more sensitive when talking about race and politics. There are benefits too: Some key concepts such as “the existence of structural violence, “the consent of white fragility” and “the weaponized use of white tears” do not need explaining. She invites writers to “punch up” in their critiques and not to be afraid “name names” of people who are responsible for oppressive acts. She wants to name people so that we will not talk “around the problems of institutional racism” (I find this troubling. Naming people feels like vain punishment and I find it hard to imagine how it will help in changing structures). This process has made her friends, peers and audiences feel uneasy.

She wants to center on the voice of the protesters, instead on the “voice of analysis”. This approach has helped her to understand “the protest as a site” which gives some artists (who are excluded by institutions) the only opportunity to engage with the art world. Her starting point is that freedom of speech is not a universal value but a relationship. In her own words she is “not writing good art history” but “writing good something-else”. She points out that all art criticism is “advocacy” and the majority of contemporary art criticism is “advocacy of the supremacy of white male artists”. D’Souza is currently working on a book which is called “Against Empathy”. A critique of the individual affect, at the center of political transformation (in a manner which de-centers collective action). Her argument that “There is no aesthetic understanding, unless there is structural understanding” feels heroic but coming from a new-materialistic, Marxist point of view it feels old.

Our proposal (with Ilari) to have the publication on land- and environmental art conservation co-published by the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York and the Fine Art Academy of Helsinki was excepted and the book will be out this spring! I’ve been busy editing my text for it. Currently re-reading Entropy Made Visible (1973) and Entropy And The New Monuments (1966) by Robert Smithson. Revisited Dia: Beacon to make photocopies of Moira Roth’s interview of the artist found in Eugenie Tsai’s book Robert Smithson (2004). Feeling like a ghetto scholar (I’m literally stealing knowledge to make ends meet).

I got into the interview phase for the Doctoral Studies Programme in Artistic Research in Performing Arts at the Theater Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki. I felt that I couldn’t reply adequately to the questions: Why I want to conduct my research in the framework of the Theater Academy and what its my relationship to performance studies. I mumbled something about, public craft fairs being transparent process of the production of commodity value. I wanted to say that I see performance a material deposit of located behavior, squeezed into acts by the design and affordances which places offer.


I’ve been using Duckduckgo as my search engine for the past two months and it’s working well for me. Today I’m migrating to Firefox. From now on end I’ll be relying on Signal for messaging, Wire for chatting, Firefox for browsing and Little Snitch gives me control over goes out my computer system. Feels good to have more control over my data. How the hell did I end up using Chrome in the first place? It was the 3D demos back in the day, I suppose. I bet Google/Alphabet has already collected enough data of me to create a virtual model of my online behavior. It comforts me that as I change as a human being I’ll slowly slip away from their grasp. So far I haven’t noticed any reduction in speed or significant gaps in information. Everything is working fast and accurately (and more ethically).

Hear William Basinski at an Outpost Artists Resources benefit event. He performed a dreamy, sonic-space exploration trip. The gig was framed as a love story which steered the listening expedience heavily. I couldn’t get very deep into the music, it felt like there was a veil dampening glimmers. His hand hovered over the computer keyboard throughout the gig but I don’t think he touched it. There were some participants of the the Lorre-Mill uTone building workshop present and we got to share notes on the experience, which felt rewarding.

We interviewed Agnes Denes during the weekend with Johannes Heldén. We had a pleasant chat (a citation from it below). Also found a MANIFESTO (1970) of hers online.

It’s so easy to kill a concept. Especially a benign concept. It’s not so easy to kill a bad concept. Its not so easy to kill an evil concept. It’s much easier to kill a good and a nice concept.


Visited Lau Nau: Wild/Captive at Blank Forms last weekend. Modular synth beats from multiple directions, blended with field recordings from the woods and organ-toned melodies. Many of the nature-sound-trips I’ve heard in the city (Bánh Mì Verlag/Control gigs) have been based on field recording too. They have underlined the differences of technological and natural soundscapes, moving from nature-like-sound towards machine-like-sounds (the narrative contrasts them and makes technological sounds feel disrupting). In Naukkarises’ piece the organ-toned melodies (from an accordion?) blended into nature sounds seamlessly. It was a tad romantic, but welcome. It felt hopeful.

Visited Storm King Art Center last Monday with the ISCP-crew. There were also people from other residents such as Eye Beam at the trip but unfortunately we didn’t have time to mingle (it was so cold outside). The endless display of gigantic rusty metal sculptures was depressing but there were some pretty vistas, fresh air and decent artworks on display too.

Mary Mattingly’s Along the Lines of Displacement: A Tropical Food Forest (2018) is a series of tropical trees planted to the cold New York terrain. The palm trees were intentionally displaced, as an absurd and uplifting response to global warming. They are destined to die during the winter, which makes the piece into a memento mori plant-life arrangement. Being non-native to New York I didn’t understand that the trees were unsuited to the climate (palm trees in New York pass my radar).

There was  a really nice video Wolf Nation (2018) by Alan Michelson on display inside the exhibition center. Michelson had found a remarkable stretch of footage from a disregarded wildlife film, which showed a pack of wolves observing their territory on top of a small hill for 10 minutes. They choreographed different kinds of collective arrangements, reacting to other inhabitants of the site and moved in an out the frame periodically. The wildlife film was found footage and Michelson had connected it with a soundtrack. The work referred to the New York Lenape people (Wolf Tribe).

Visited Remy Jungerman’s Based In exhibition at robert henry contemporary on Friday. I had no prior knowledge of his work and decoding its visual language took a while. Luckily Jungerman gave visitors short introduction to the works. As I understood the pieces were tools for identifying blind-spots that modern art and modernistic thinking has in relation to spirituality and otherness. The sculptures in the gallery felt like miniature models of modern cities or container ships. Each had a few iron-nails hammered into it. At first I thought that this was reference to the absence of materiality (in modern design) but the nails were possibly referring to religious practices in which nails are hammered into figurative sculptures as a sacrifice.

Participated in a Lorre-Mill uTone build workshop at Control yesterday. The uTone “uses CMOS logic, a resistor ladder, and a few other simple pieces to create audio forms. The scale inherent in this instrument is the undertone series, giving divisions of the main clock frequency”. Here is more about the design. We build our uTone units in four hours, hooked them together for a jam and chatted briefly about the topography of the circuit. I learned how to read resistor values from color codes a little better. Unfortunately the workshop was too short, we didn’t learn more about Will Schorre’s views on design and sounds (here is an interesting post on his website on prototyping). I would have also liked to learn more what the uTone is capable of. It has two inputs. I’m in the process of adding an 3,5mm TS Jack -> Banana Jack port/adapter to the device to integrate it with other gear.

We drafted a proposal with Ilari to have a publication on land- and environmental art conservation (Working title: Notes on Land and Environmental Art Conservation – Critical Approaches to Denes, Holt and Smithson) co-published by the Finnish Cultural Institute in New Yorks and the Fine Art Academy of Helsinki.

Synths and eurorack modules we proposed through the Oodi-modular initiative are currently being acquired by the library staff! We are on our way to a people’s-public-modular of Helsinki.


Learning about the problematic relationship that land-art has with the cultures of the indigenous peoples of America.

The Face of the Earth (2015) by Stefany Anne Goldberg. The text states that Robert Smithson was directly inspired by the Serpent Mound and that he used it as a model for Spiral Jetty. Goldberg points to Entropy And The New Monuments (1966) to argue that Smithson wanted to produce “anti-monuments” that merged with their environment over time – Goldberg states he wanted to criticize the idea of an everlasting modernism (best exemplified in American architecture). I don’t buy this. Authors like Naomi Stead have shown that architects such as Albert Speer were particularly interested in imagining their designs as ruins. (Here are notes from an article by Stead).

Architects, Smithson once said in an interview, tend to be idealists. They look at their structures and think about how they will cover over the earth. They try not to picture their buildings fallen into ruin, sucked back into the landscape they once sat upon. American builders are especially idealistic because the land they were given to build on since the beginning has been thought of as empty space. […] “America,” said Smithson, “doesn’t have that kind of historical background of debris,” and so Americans don’t often think of monuments the way Europeans do, as potential ruins, subject to entropy, subject to change, involved in the story of Time. Time, for Americans, goes mostly in a straight line, from Point A to Point B, with all things getting bigger and better, even when they collapse. For Smithson, time was like a spiral dissolving in salt, neither static nor cyclical but just moving, just going, disappearing and coming back again.

The last quote from Smitson is from the Entropy Made Visible (1973) interview with Alison Sky. It shows a blatant disregard of the cultures of the indigenous peoples of America. Nancy Holt’s Up and Under (1998) looks like it has been inspired by the Great Serpent Mound and the Mound City in Chillicothe.

Rising Into Ruin (2017) Kate Morris. The article investigates the “Post-modern landscape” by comparing Smithson notes on ruins, to artworks by American artist Alan Michelson. Morris argues that Smithson saw ruins as static “end states” and points out that many indigenous cultures of Americas have an opposing cyclic view of time. The text offers a good overview on what Smitson was after with The Monuments of Passaic (1967) text/actions.

[…] I argue that the works of Smithson and Michelson differ in important ways that are reflective of their cultural perspectives: namely, Smithson regarded ruin as an end state, while Michelson posits it as a condition that portends other states to follow. The argument hinges on the distinction of ruin as a stage in a cycle rather than as a point in a purely linear progression.

A postmodern condition that [Craig] Owens failed to locate in Smithson’s work is an attack on the idea of progress itself, though it seems clear in retrospect that Smithson’s careful documentation of the decline of industrial infrastructures was exactly that. Moreover, it is this aspect of Smithson’s practice that resonates strongly in Michelson’s work, where the notion of progress is conflated with settler colonialism, and thus its dissolution can be regarded as not only a postmodern but distinctly postcolonial condition.

Entropy tells us that nothing can stay in suspension forever; dissolution is inevitable. In “The Monuments of Passaic” Smithson’s entropic vision may come across as temporally muddled, but phrases like “rising into ruin,” “limited eternity,” and “a lower stage of futurity” obfuscate what is actually a rather linear progression.

Sympathetic as he is to Smithson’s dystopic vision, Michelson has also been drawn, paradoxically, to the latent hopefulness of “entropy made visible.” In both Mespat and Shattemuc he focuses on the crumbling infrastructure of industrialization, and by association, of colonialism itself.

The Spiritual Legacy of the Ancient Ones (1992) Robert Houle. A text from the catalogue for Land, Spirit, Power exhibition organized at The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (almost 30 years ago!). Here is a very detailed review of the exhibition by Scott Watson. I was encouraged to study this exhibition by Richard William Hill and Jolene Rickard (Tuscarora), whom I was kindly introduced to at the Vera List Center Forum 2018: If Art Is Politics event. The text attempts to build a framework for reading the art of the indigenous peoples of Americas, in a way which would not rely on a colonial gaze for making forcing sense a particular-western-defined-sense.

Houle’s text is critical towards post-structuralism and postmodernity because it disregards non-western modes of existence. In short: Not all origin stories are bad, not all narratives should be deconstructed and the critique that post-structuralism engages in does not challenge the infrastructure that enables it. It is a smokescreen! Modernity is in dept to indigenous cultures – Artist such as Pollock and Picasso formulated their encounters with indigenous artworks into techniques.

The text also has a detailed history of how the indigenous peoples of Americas have been portrayed in Euro-Western art. It provides a critique of Monument for the Native People of Ontario (1984–85) artwork by Lothar Baumgarten. More on that particular artwork and Houle’s commentary on it in Naming and Reclaiming (2018) Shirley Madill.

The article is filled with interesting details. For example: “There is no word for ‘landscape’ in any of the languages of the ancient ones still spoken” and ” [I]ndividuality operates in the language of paradox, irony, and ambivalence”. The text ends in a beautiful invite: “[T]he spiritual legacy of art from any one culture offers reassurance that the human species has some commonalities which are important to knowing who we are, where we are, and where we are going”. Quotes from Houle’s text below.

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