Anonymous asked: Two years ago neofascist Anders Breivik killed 77 people, today Norwegians opt for a change of government and elect a coalition of right-wing parties promising extensive privatization and stark restriction in immigration. Is humanity as a whole moving to the right or is a balance being maintained globally?
Art is the material thing that happens when someone manages to release the pole around which, to a selfish person, the entire universe seems to rotate. You feel your own sense of importance slip away as your grip on that pole loosens. That loss-of-self is right at the heart of any kind of performance. This is why people who are really good at it frequently come across as simple-minded or pretentious when asked to explain how they do it. They don’t know, because they weren’t there.
Now, fear is the art of selfish times.
Fear is what is produced by people gripping ever more tightly to the pole at the center of themselves. Fear of losing what they take as evidence that they are, indeed, themselves, and so the center of everything. It’s usually money, but any source of prestige that can be quantified will do. Racial purity (full-blood, half-blood, quadroon, etc.) is another example.
Norway was relatively untouched by the recession because it is an oil-producing nation. This permitted its economy to grow as though there were no global economic crisis. But there was. And now it is a rich and prosperous country amid a collective of nations that were not so lucky. Norwegian personal debt (mortgages, credit cards, etc.) has risen as it always does when an economy is doing ‘well.’ At the same time, people from less fortunate economies naturally desire to immigrate. Because Norwegians have been doing well, they have more to lose. And so more to fear from foreigners who might compete with them for their jobs. Jobs to which they now attach much more importance because of the personal debt they decided to carry.
It’s easy to see that an economy doing ‘well’ does not often coincide with the well-being of the members of that economy. Even if they’re all as prosperous as Norwegians. It frequently breeds fear, which is the negative image of what makes art. And so fear produces the opposite of artists: comfortable, static, and inwardly terrified people who elect conservative governments.
Variations on ‘My Country, ‘Tis of Thee’ - Ludwig van Beethoven, 1802
(Melvyn Tan, Broadwood Fortepiano, May 3, 1992)
Q. why are ideas important?
A. because this is an endless piss factory of a world.
because when i’m on hold for ten minutes i can feel the urge to murder someone for three ounces of meat and their chamois skin cape come roaring back. because moving through time only encrypts our savagery until it becomes beige enough to ignore. because the state of nature still bellows in us even if its moments of peace now come from being flush with green rather than drenched in blood. because if they could they’d cut salt with chalk and butter with wax. because of cronuts and twerking and the assholes pulling the strings on miley’s wrists. because no one will spit out the teat on the udder of state even though the milk’s adulteration is headline news.
because faithlessness sits in the scabbard of loneliness like a sword.
Q. should the US invade Syria to stop it from murdering its own citizens?
A. Ok, to me this is a question with roots that go back to France before its own revolution. This is the story of how it became an imperative for one country to invade another when conquest was not being contemplated.
In olden days the invasion of a country was a relatively straightforward procedure. The physical motion of an invading army through foreign territory naturally raised hell but the objective was clear to everyone: nem di gelt (get the money.) Conquest was someone with an army plundering the possessions of someone else who had a weaker army. Gold, wheat, farm animals or most importantly, land. This is what ‘statecraft’ boiled down to for something like five thousand years: iteration after iteration of greed expressed through military means. Now because the success of any military campaign is strongly dependent on chance (the weather, disease, fighting spirit) and because the source of chance is frequently thought to be spiritual (e.g. I Ching casting, drawing straws, etc.,) it’s easy to see how conquerors whose luck held came to be seen as having some sort of divine ratification for their greed. Hence the divine right of kings.
it turned out that the mindless accumulation of wealth through conquest didn’t work as an end in itself. By the 1600’s in Europe, people were beginning to glimpse a world beyond the horizon of mere wealth. This new world—the birth of which was induced by the titanic infusion of gold and silver from plundering the other New World—is the one that we live in today: a world dominated by economics and international trade rather than the desires of hereditary monarchs.
The thing that we nowadays call economics did not exist in a proper sense until the middle of the 18th century. ‘Economics’ is a Greek word that has had a long and mutable history. Its first sense derives from its two parts, oikos and nomos. These two words mean ‘house’ and (loosely) ‘law.’ The idea was that there ought to be a best way to run a house and oikonomikos was that way. This term was later magnified by analogy to mean something like ‘the best way to govern a state’ by a group of French scholars who called themselves économistes. These were the first people to imagine that the circulation of goods and money within a society could be compared to the motion of blood inside an organism. Which is to say, they were the first to imagine an economic model. To distinguish their economic views from those of every later economist, they came to be called Physiocrats.
There was a revelation at the center of everything that the Physiocrats believed. This was that a new world was dawning and that the overwhelming condition of a society’s success in it was going to be international peace. In this world the old method of determining a government’s success had nothing to do with its ability to steal wealth and resources by using its military. Instead, a successful government was the one that created the fewest impediments to trade and what we would call economic development. The revelation was that international trade would become so powerful an agent of prosperity that no single government would dare risk its own portion by interrupting it with a war. Further, this peace-for-the-sake-of-trade would be enforced on all sides: not only would no country disrupt its commerce by going to war but every other country with which it traded would have a vested interest in maintaining peace. In this way, even countries that do not trade with one another would have a mutual interest in maintaining each other’s economy-through-peace. Because on a planet this small, no country is separated from any other by more than one intermediate trading partner.
Needless to say, this idea was a little premature.While it has taken something like two hundred and fifty years for the Physiocratic revelation to gain unquestioned acceptance, nobody with internet access can doubt that we live in a world dominated by the sanctity of peace-for-the-sake-of-trade. We can talk about human rights and military interventions in their name all we want, but at the end of the day I think that everyone in power knows the score: Little wars have to be stamped out before they become big wars, because big wars create enemies and enemies do not do business together. And this is why the idea of intervention has any force at all, not because our ideals have teeth but because our economies can’t stand to be bitten.
However, even in our thoroughly Physiocratic world, there is still a worm in the apple. The Physiocrats were products of an Enlightenment mentality that genuinely (we would say naïvely) believed in human progress. This was an idea of progress that tended towards a stable, harmonious, and rational future for everyone. Well, the twentieth century was the slow and agonizing death of any future for us that could be called harmonious or rational. And the twenty-first is shaping up to be the one where the terms of stability, which have been very much in America’s favor, are going to be rewritten in a language other than English.
Goethe famously defined life as the property whereby the several parts of an organism help one another. I would argue that world economics as we currently experience it is precisely the inverse: the condition created when the several parts of our world help themselves. This is an activity that excels at producing the opposite of life, and any military action taken in its name will only be building another coffin.
Anonymous asked: can you recommend some good books on classic vs modern art and/or aesthetic theories of natural beauty?
The distinction between classical, or classically inspired art, and modern art really depends on who’s doing the writing. In the same way that there were plenty of recognizably modern people walking around Athens in 400 BCE, there were a lot of 14th century Florentines who seriously believed that they were picking up the baton that the Romans had dropped in the 4th.
It’s even worse than meaningless. Not only is the distinction artificial, but it is also strongly flavored by who is making it. The ultimate example of this occurs when the distinction is made to collapse for reasons of profit. This is perfectly demonstrated by the Guennol Lioness. Nobody would have have expected a carving the size of a chessman to sell for $57 million if there weren’t a somewhat flaccid comparison to be made between the 5,000 year old figurine and Cubism. It was enormously in the interest of its seller to call this ancient sculpture ‘Modern’ as a way of exciting the people who’d want to buy it as an investment. This is a good example of how the most extreme stages of an economic bubble can actually boil away the meaning of words.
But my point is that the person who is really valuable when it comes to engendering what you could call wisdom about art is never deceived by the countless stupid oppositions that make art easier to sell.
Wisdom about art is a much rarer substance than the ability to classify it according to an inherited scheme. And after all, if the point of putting various pieces of art onto a continuum is to see the elements that when summed produce our present selves, surely you want someone whose real field of expertise lies in people and not their productions…
Fortunately that narrows the field considerably, because very few humans ever survive the descent into academics. Two guys who seem to me to have made it out well-scathed are Kenneth Clark and Robert Hughes. Clark is everyone’s idea of a tweedy, Oxford aesthete, but there’s a considerable body of clear thinking about mixed feeling that circulates in what he wrote (and spoke for television.) Hughes is Clark’s opposite in almost every way, not least by being a vividly heterosexual Australian. But again, beneath what could be dismissed as the postures from which they each emit their criticisms, there’s an infrangible core of human knowledge. Hughes very nearly died after a car accident in 1999 and spent the rest of his life in considerable pain. I tend to trust him because he was one of those people (like Freud, when he was dying of mouth cancer) for whom the possibilities of life after illness had so enormously contracted that the act of writing became identical with remaining alive. Like a metabolism that requires your conscious will to remain in cycle.
Simon Leys, although he writes almost exclusively about Chinese art, strikes me as having the same kind of relationship with both art and writing.
Kenneth Clark - The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form
Robert Hughes - The Shock of the New
Simon Leys - The Hall of Uselessness
(The only real place to start with aesthetic theories of natural beauty is at the starting point, which is
Immanual Kant - Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime
after that you could look into the second half of The World as Will and Representation if you wanted to. Oh and probably also Goethe’s book on colors. But this is all really just an attempt to skirt the actual answer to your question which is to read more novels.)
- February, 1817 - Thomas Broadwood, a London piano maker, hears Beethoven playing his own fortepiano at his home in Vienna.
- May, 1817 - On his voyage home, Thomas Broadwood decides to give Beethoven a gift of one of his firm’s modern pianos.
- December 27, 1817 - The Broadwood fortepiano selected for Beethoven by the five finest pianists in London leaves for Trieste by sea.
- January, 1818 - The piano arrives in Trieste and is taken to Vienna by horse and cart, becoming the only English fortepiano in the city. Beethoven successfully petitions the head of Austrian customs to cancel the import duties that would normally have applied to such a gift.
- 1818-1827 - The Broadwood fortepiano becomes the central instrument in Beethoven’s creative life, who credited its sound with inspiring the ‘Hammerclavier’ Sonata.
- March 26, 1827 - Beethoven dies of liver failure brought on by alcoholism and lead poisoning from wine illegally sweetened with lead acetate (Sugar of lead.)
- April, 1827 - The Broadwood fortepiano is bought by Carl Anton Spina, a Viennese music publisher.
- May, 1856 - The year before his death Spina gives the fortepiano to Franz Liszt, who keeps it at his home in Weimar.
- July 31, 1886 - Liszt dies of pneumonia and wills the fortepiano to the Hungarian National Museum.
- February, 1887-1991 - There it stays, getting older and less playable.
- April-June, 1991 - Two years after the fall of communism David Winston restores the instrument in Budapest to something like the sound it would have had during Beethoven’s use.
- May, 1992 - The fortepiano is brought to Forde Abbey in Dorset, where Melvyn Tan records an album on it.
- & this is the best track on it.
“The outcome of my days is always the same; an infinite desire for what one never gets; a void one cannot fill; an utter yearning to produce in all ways, to battle as much as possible against time that drags us along, and the distractions that throw a veil over our soul.”
"Although Kane might have been interesting for the Americans, it is completely passé for us, because the whole film is based on a misconception of what cinema is all about. The film is in the past tense, whereas we all know that cinema has got to be in the present tense. “I am the man who is kissing, I am the girl who is being kissed, I am the Indian who is being pursued, I am the man pursuing the Indian.” And film in the past tense is the antithesis of cinema. Therefore Citizen Kane is not cinema.”
—Jean Paul Sartre, review of Citizen Kane, April 14, 1945
"We all know that a feast, a palace, a huge enterprise, a lunch of writers or of journalists, a cordial atmosphere of frank and spontaneous comradeship are all particularly hideous. The Citizen is the first film to show such things with an awareness of this truth. […] It is not an intelligent film, but it is the work of a genius—in the most nocturnal and Germanic sense of this ugly word.”
—Jorge Luis Borges, ‘An Overwhelming Film’ (review of Citizen Kane, released in Argentina as The Citizen), August 22, 1941
(I like this because
- in a Borges review of a film
- that Sartre also reviewed, four years later,
- Borges prophetically describes Sartre’s genius
- and thereby dismisses him as ogreish and despicable
- while seeming only to produce a piece of secondary literature on a third subject.
- Borgesian without even fucking trying man…)
At the moment of giving up the ghost on a hospital bed, the Irish playwright Brendan Behan still had the wit to thank the nun who was wiping his brow: “Thank you, Sister! May all your sons become bishops.”
I am especially moved by the way old Countess de Vercellis died. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who witnessed it, describes the episode in his Confessions: “With her serene mind and pleasant mood, she made the Catholic religion attractive to me. In the very end, she stopped chatting with us; but as she entered the final struggles of agony, she let off a big fart. ‘Well,’ she said, turning over in her bed, ‘a woman that farts is not dead.’ These were her last words.”
The most heartbreaking last words are those of Pancho Villa. As the Mexican revolutionary was about to be shot, he found himself suddenly lost for words. He begged some journalists who stood nearby: “Don’t let it end like this! Tell them I said something!” Yet this time the journalists, instead of making something up, as is their usual practice, soberly reported the failure of inspiration in all its naked truth.
- One 14 oz. can drained chickpeas; it doesn’t really matter which as long as it is never the house brand (Trader Joe’s, e.g.)
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice (juice of 1 or 2 lemons)
- 1/4 cup water
- 6 tablespoons tahini
- 2 tablespoons the best olive oil you can steal
- 3 garlic cloves (minced, pressed or thrown whole into your powerful blender)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon mild chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- lots of Aleppo pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, minced (really stomp that shit)
- some amount of ground sumac berry
0. Hull chickpeas. By far the most important step and the action that will distinguish your hummus from the gritty, grainy bullshit sold in grocery stores. Grasp the slimy chickpea between your thumb and forefinger and squeeze the fragile pea from its translucent hull. Discard hulls. This will take about twenty minutes for one person, so divide the task between you and a person in your power. The chickpeas can be hulled the night before and kept underwater in a refrigerator.
1. Combine lemon juice with water in a small cup or bowl
2. Whisk tahini and olive oil in a separate bowl
- cayenne pepper
- chili powder
to food processor or powerful blender. Blend until nearly fully ground, something like the texture of coarse sand.
4. With your machine running, add the lemon juice and water mixture in steady stream.
5. Scrape down your machine’s container and continue to blend for one minute.
6. With your machine running, add the tahini and olive oil mixture in a steady stream, scraping down your machine’s container as your anxiety dictates.
7. Blend at least another minute or until the hummus approaches the consistency of peanut butter.
8. Scrape hummus into a bowl, coat the sides of the bowl with the hummus, leaving a funnel-shaped void at its center, vajazzle all with olive oil, sprinkle with more chili powder, Aleppo pepper and ground sumac berry. The oil and spices will eventually migrate to the central void, ensuring at least three textures (oil, hummus, bread) enter your mouth.
9. Cover with plastic wrap, ignore on countertop for half an hour.
10. Sprinkle with minced cilantro and serve with warm, gluten-slave pita bread.