Archive for the ‘TRUTH’ Category

Truth and Lies (Part 4)

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Democracy as  internet | Democracy as ideal

Discussions regarding democracy are endlessly complicated in this economic and social climate, where labelled ‘democratic states’ are discovered to be riddled with corruption, repeating hierarchies and decisions imposed upon its inhabitants without consent.

Let us consider democracy through this definition –

‘Democracy in its purest or most ideal form would be a society in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives.[1]

In Western societies, we have the opportunity to vote for those that will lead us from above, we have laws that will intend to protect our human and civil rights and we generally have freedom to move and do what we wish.

I was aware that within the PRC this behavioural freedom was not possible from the short period of time I lived there.  Through conversations with artists, students and other locals – the government controls everyday thoughts and suppresses requests for change.  Physical evidence of discussion of governmental control is also highly censored – there is to be no mention of issues such as Tiananman Square or Tibet, and if there is, the perpetrator is severely punished.  The information board at my own exhibition in Chongqing, which explored issues of online ‘redirection and network timeout’, was amended when translated into Manadarin so as not to offend.  However, through quiet conversation with other artists we discussed these matters carefully.

Concrete hierarchies within the communities I met were evident.  I was most personally upset by how females still have such low status within society.  Challenging, opinionated and confident women, such as the few female University Art Lecturers I met, were kept in a separate category to the ‘beautiful’ submissive females destined to be homemakers from the age of 25 years old.  Men should have a wife, and mistresses are accepted as the norm.  Similarly, female prostitution is commonplace, with a tiered system of clients and prices on offer.

Most of the time I cant get in, June2011

Old habits die hard, June 2011

Other equality and safety issues became evident, although China has entirely avoided the overly sanitised bureaucratic approach we take to living our daily lives in the West.  In some ways, if was as if time had been rewound by 60 years or so.

Democracy is an ideal, almost utopian state of affairs, where can equally contribute to the formation and control of the world we live in.  The internet offers us boundless opportunities to communicate our own opinions, generate information, knowledge and form forces that are evidently powerful from recent political movements that have been carried on social networking sites.  Theorists such as Geert Lovink advocate the power of the activist potential of online space and communication.  But of course, you must be able to access the sites to begin with to be able to offer any personal thought or contribution.

Is there hope for a democratic or libertarian approach to digital space within the PRC? The governing of the digital space closely mirrors the governing of the physical space, but without the opportunity for antagonism can there be any possible development for democracy?  As China continues to trade globally it promises to adjust its internet governance to reflect this international position.  Time will tell.

[1] Larry Jay Diamond, Marc F. Plattner (2006). Electoral systems and democracy p.168. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006

The Excluded Middle

Thursday, February 16th, 2012


The law of the excluded middle is the constant demand imposed upon statements to be true or false, it is both the exclusion of abandoned facts and the affirmation of everything leading up to the demand. The poor thing is often outside of the finite conclusion- made by whatever reason, in whatever fashion; as a result of verificationism and the desire for meaning. Things that exist outside of the definition of the thing, the informe, as Krauss put it, put to one side in favour of an ancient simplified polemic.

Artists are in a constant state of availability, ready for a talk, to verify their intentions, or to confirm and allay the doubts of the audience who have claimed the artist’s ideas before the work was even made. Imagine the luxury of being an artist who can say nothing, who is not present; which is, hypothetically, what apparently exists in theory, where culture claims these things and the artist is left regretting having thought for that split second- or for having the temerity to trust in the idea. Usually it is a social pre-requisite to trust the idea- manifest in the expression “artistic integrity”, which is another social aberration that is claimed by the audience/ outside world.

The size of the middle in this context is obviously vast and impenetrable, although the latter rests upon the finiteness of language understood by individuals. Intuitively, though, the middle is both epistemological and humungous; it is the part representation of something inconceivable and overwhelming in comparison to ourselves- and people’s perception of the truth lies within that. The dichotomy is the easy bit; is the finite ontic phenomena and in this instance a utility for determining- and demanding- some kind of result or, rather, a utility that is analogous to a situation of demands that are ultimately our responsibility in accepting or rejecting. There is so much time at the extreme end of things and monolithic texts, continents, oceans, the atmosphere, physically and socially inhumane living conditions, vacuums, pressure, the literal length of time that exists, history; they all serve as a deterrent for thinking in the middle. It’s intimidating.

What seems evident is our willingness to try and attempt some kind of ontological epistemology, to become luminous beings and to, either in rationalism or intuition, submit as much of ourselves to the question and absorb as much of the question into ourselves. Defining the point where/ when this occurs seems a trivial thing in comparison to the potential- or suspected bulk- of the phenomena and the nobility and braveness required for people to participate in this difficult and ambiguous situation. That vastness is linked to knowing- or gnosis- a person suspects what things are- or may be and it is intuited but there always exists the doubt of being unable to prove or realistically comprehend as to what its actual size or value is and lots of other things we relentlessly ask. Asking questions is difficult; getting answers is rewarding but in a [perverse] temporal/ suspended way. The pessimist in me would say I have received no answers when actually I answered questions that have led to this statement, I suppose awareness, in this case, is a reflection of the person, whether they are grateful for what they have or not.

The emotional side of truth is difficult to reconcile socially, where one person’s burden is another person’s gain and art as an empathetic environment to the trials and tribulations of humanity. Personally, there is still a desire to fuck things up. In the middle there exists great swathes of judgmental and conceited behavior, the attributes of people being passed on to this ridiculous anthropomorphic form of art we invent when we discuss something phenomenologically. It is the guise of positivity as a form for change, which prevails in social behavior and art but where cynicism and negativity and skepticism, which are all essential and vital forms of scientific analysis, are abandoned, or discouraged- considered inappropriate. Science has an advantage over art in that it call really recreate the most destructive force of negativity for its means, placing responsibility of its users. The Internet moderates itself morally, outside of the realm of its designers and moderators, by the way it discourages certain aberrant social behavior- the troll, or the way a person leaves Youtube comments alone, who should know better, where a retarded sub culture exists (I’m not going to say youth). The Facebook page and the Twit feed and before that, writing itself, are all forms of socially moderated behaviour and it is easy to look for either personal conceits or the wider sociological conceits- or, specifically, conceits endemic to artistic practice. The professional versus the wannabee versus the nobody versus the anarchist versus the nice person versus the idiot versus the tourist versus the sycophant versus the genius versus the talented- ad infinitum. The judging continues.

How do you define responsibility as an artist who doesn’t own their ideas? Who is not needed to be present? Firstly it is a statistic miracle that a human can exist, secondly it is a miracle that a human can be happy when they look at certain aspects of the world objectively- and what happens to artists is a trickle down effect of a diminishment of being, where, if they were to be silent enough, an inversion would occur- like a social void or a black hole, where language and society is left with nothing to take and then starts to consume it self like ourobouros: the snake eating its tail. It is strange to think that this has occurred by talking, whether it pre-empts the scenario is a different matter.


Upside down x-ray of a snake that had swallowed a heating blanket

The Lotus Eaters

Monday, February 6th, 2012

“I was driven thence by foul winds for a space of nine days upon the sea, but on the tenth day we reached the land of the Lotus-eaters, who live on a food that comes from a kind of flower. Here we landed to take in fresh water, and our crews got their mid-day meal on the shore near the ships. When they had eaten and drunk I sent two of my company to see what manner of men the people of the place might be, and they had a third man under them. They started at once, and went about among the Lotus-Eaters, who did them no hurt, but gave them to eat of the lotus, which was so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring about home, and did not even want to go back and say what had happened to them, but were for staying and munching lotus with the Lotus-eaters without thinking further of their return; nevertheless, though they wept bitterly I forced them back to the ships and made them fast under the benches. Then I told the rest to go on board at once, lest any of them should taste of the lotus and leave off wanting to get home, so they took their places and smote the grey sea with their oars.”
Odyssey, IX


The sun stops half way through its descent towards the abyss. He wonders where it will go, as he moves his eyes away from the dark horizon. Beyond it, somewhere in the night, his comrades are still rowing through the uncharted sea. By now, if everything had gone according to plan, they should have approached the island… The island… Which island? It was home, long ago, but now he can’t even remember its name. Doulos slips a finger between his belt and the cloth he has around his waist. Carefully, he extracts one soft, fleshy petal. He puts it on his lower lip, and with his tongue he moves it inside his mouth, feeling its smooth surface turning thicker, then slowly dissolving. When he first tried the flowers, the overwhelming sweetness coated his tongue, and it was only out of courtesy for his kind hosts that he had kept on chewing. But now, so many flowers later, now that nothing distinguishes him form his hosts, now… Now… Oh, it’s gone. That thought is gone. No point in chasing it. And his comrades, yes. His comrades at home, wherever it is. But they are not at home, he knows it. Without proof, he knows it for sure.

It was that guy, their master. The man of many ways and no regrets. Like they turned the oars in their hands, he turned their lives in his. And enchanted them, even more than the penetrating juices of the petals of lotus. And now that the sun has started again its descent, in the coming darkness Doulos can see their mouths wide open, as the jaws of the unforgiving sea close on them. The monsters, on the shores, in the caves under water, and in the sky above the waves, they were nothing compared to him. The man who deceived Troy, the trickster who didn’t have to threaten his comrades to obey him, as they did so out of their misplaced love. Him… The king… Doulos squints in the agony of the day, and slowly walks back through the shrubbery. The rising wind swirls the sand around his worn-out sandals. In the distance, behind the olive trees, the lights of the village shine along a wide stretch of land. A few lazy crickets greet his stumbling steps toward his hut. A dog is sleeping in front of his door. Doulos kneels down in front of him and gently caresses his head. The dog growls sleepily, raises his head, licks Doulos’s fingers, sweetened by the lotus.

Behind his hut, beyond the lemon grove, and the stream, and the patches of maritime pines, a pile of enormous rocks cut the wind with their edges. He had hidden there, the day his comrades had come back to look for him. The villagers were still gathered around the fire, methodically chewing on their flowers, looking unimpressed at the foreigners’ frenzy. His comrades had searched the village, running from one hut to the other, shouting his name. The two who had accompanied him in the exploration tried to escape and were dragged back to the ships, in tears. Doulos was hiding behind the rocks, still short of breath. He could see the scene, from that distance, as one looks back at a fading dream just after awakening. He remained in hiding, almost motionless, throughout the night, until, at dawn, the new winds filled the sails and the wooden shells of the Greeks started moving away from the shore. As the ships moved further, Doulos tightened his grip on the rocks. That would have been the last time he would have seen his comrades, heard their voices, the sound of his native tongue… At last, as a final farewell, he heard Ulysses shouting, ‘Doulos, you traitor, you’ll be forgotten!’

Doulos stands up, walks towards the door, opens it. A woman is lying on a rug, chewing her portion of petals. She smiles at him, invites him to lie next to her. Doulos takes off his sandals, dusts off the sand on his feet. He goes to the table and pours two cups of water. He sits at her side, and passes her a cup. She ruffles his hair, gives him a petal. As the juice of the lotus envelops his mouth and teeth, memories get lighter. The dog comes in, and licks the water left in his cup. He looks at him wondering around he room, approaching the door and finally lying in front of it. Doulos reaches for another petal and slips it in his mouth. The woman, next to him, stretches her arm and takes his hand, rubs her fingers on his scars, on the long white marks that made him a soldier, on the hard layers of skin that made him a oarsman, on the painful joints that made him a subject of his master.

Doulos closes his eyes, and the sound of another dog, from another hut, faintly reaches him. There, someone else is reversed on the floor, near another half empty cup of water, far away from any memories. Oblivion. Even remembering oblivion is hard, once the lotus has enveloped you. The land around them, with its sand, the present darkness, the coming light, and darkness again, the distant ships, the wind singing through the rocks, the trees… Like fallen trees they all lie, protected from the sufferings of the world. Like corpses they live, so remote from life they could live forever. And forever forget, about the cares of the sailors, the soldiers, the kings and their ambitions, and their flocks of servants, reversed in the sand, lifeless, at the end of the battles, as the smoke of the sacrifices feeds the gods.

Years before, on the shores of Troy, memories of long-past wrongs possessed bodies much younger than the offenses they had been called to vindicate, and through their veins turned into the terrifying power of armed fists. The smile of the swords, at dawn, as the battlefield presented itself as the last day of the many, the memorable eve of the few. And the unbearable weight of the helmets, as burning as the sun, melting away the remnants of the fallen and the minds of the living. Once the dry plains in front of the burned gates of the city had drank more lives than they could stomach, the spectre of other plains, and other lands, came back to haunt the survivors. Home, as a curse. As a destiny, once again, calling them all to take up the challenge of death. And then, had they passed the swirls hidden between the waves, back again to the chains they used to call their own. The kings, always magnificent, raised they voices over the rowing crews. Home! they ordered. Triumphant commanders, on the deck of their ships, they showed no hesitation in taking the sea again, towards the beds in which their queens laid still, chained to their memory.

Sinking deep towards the boundless realm of the gods, the arrogance of those entitled to glory, the crowned few, pushed the ships away from the shore, back to the native fields and prisons. For Doulos, towards the mountainous pastures of Ithaca, where sheep and shepherds share the same thirst. Swapping the armor for the wooden stick, the sword for the whistle, the obedience in the face of death for that of an entire life. Back, back again. Like a winter that follows an unforgiving summer. Between the sea and the shore, craving a corner to sleep on the crowded deck, on the fields of sheep and tributes, hiding from the wrath of the gods as from that of the king, his face in the sand, his hands, older by the day, gripping on the same myths. Lost in an oblivion in which he only would have remained awake to himself, to his forgettableness.

Until, they took shelter in the land of the lotus eaters, after many days of tempest. The woman starts singing softly, in a language he still does not understand. But is there anyone who understand it? People don’t speak, in the land of oblivion, as they don’t remember their own names, and their debts fade into nothing, as the dogs that move from hut to hut, without fidelity. Is this his woman? He cannot say, and in her dark hair there is no place for the mark of anything but of his fingers, caressing her, rhythmically moving along the riffs of her skull. Is this life at all? He places another petal between his lips and presses in with his teeth. The juice trickles, underneath his tongue, between the molars. Memories get lighter. But he has already thought that. But it doesn’t matter. Thoughts die and are reborn, in a swirl of seasons passing so rapidly, as if the countless days that make the world were comprised in those very moments. And then they die, each and every instant, leaving him motionless, perfectly clear, polished like the bark of an old tree. And behind him, beyond the lemon grove, and the stream, and the patches of maritime pines, a pile of enormous rocks are still cutting the wind with their edges. He has been there, one day, many years ago. He had gone there to look at the sky, and the sea, and had fallen asleep. And he had a dream, and had awakened. And again.
And again.
And again.
Until all the seasons would have run out.

Truth or Lies (Part 3)

Monday, January 30th, 2012

The problems with knowledge and information in an online era

We are all familiar with the optimistic ideologies of cyber-libertarianism.  This new online space reduces hierarchies, and creates a freer, more equal world – eradicating geographical constraints.  The internet provides limitless amounts of information, increasing our ‘knowledge’.  Similarly, Neo-Luddites in the opposed corner, clings onto slower, more concrete methods of communication and knowledge sourcing – revering the printed book and face to face discussion.

However, there is no denying the time efficient benefits of immediate access to information regarding any query from a practical to a philosophical level.

Whilst in residence in China, my possibility for this common place dipping in and out of the internet for advice and knowledge was severely limited.  Not only social networking sites, but any page that contained text or visuals deemed inappropriate, was shut off by a government sensor.  Over time, I stopped trying certain routes or pathways for information, as I was repeatedly being denied access.  While I adjusted to the cultural changes in life on a physical level with social behaviour in my studios and within the local streets, I also altered my approach to my behaviour online.

Without looking back too nostalgically, my life whilst in Chongqing felt more ordered, streamlined and focused on the daily tasks at hand, and long term goals.  I was not regularly side-lined by twitter and chatter on social networking sites, and I did not spend time

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looking through personal photographs of events I had never been and knew little of the people involved.  As research based websites for my project were restricted, I focused on conversations, observation and texts that I had brought with me or been given.  I did not feel ‘the guilt’, that outside of my own physical life, I was not constantly checking, looking and engaging with what is happening online,

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feeling somewhere that perhaps I am missing out on new developments.  I just could not access it – so in many ways I was grateful for what the governmental control of the PRC provided for me through censorship.

Not all routes lead to home, spraypaint in HuangJePing, 2011

The internet undoubtedly has radicalised opportunities, movement, information, knowledge, time efficiency and communication.  But this parallel life online is often tiring, keeping up with constant engagement with ever pouring knowledge and information.  Often those I am physically with in a space, I do not focus upon them and vice versa.  Perhaps there is a requirement for judgement of the value of information online – which may be identified through alignment with our own personal set of values and interests.

However, in many instances places online link in with our everyday life so closely, it is hard for us to eradicate ourselves from them.  For example, friends send invitations to birthday parties within Facebook, meetings are agreed through email, job opportunities exposed through Twitter.  When I emailed artist Ellie Harrison in January 2012, I received an automatic response that informed me that as an experiment she would not use her email for the whole month.  This is a test which will surely provide interesting results.

Social networking sites provide a large amount of personal honesty and ‘truths’.  Confessions of the minutia of daily lives within programmes such as Twitter intrigue us in a similar format as would a reality show, or a Sophie Calle artwork.  Although I engage in Twitter, I am concerned and a little perturbed by the public’s willingness to communicate so much about their whereabouts, relationships and duties. For me, there is information that I simply want to keep to myself and those I am close to.


This is where we meet, Spraypaint in 102 Studios, Chongqing, 2011

Slavoj Žižek addresses this concern over ‘privacy disappearing in public’ in his essay, ‘Good Manners in the Age of Wikileaks’.  Following a narrative discussing respect for a person’s physical space being invaded, he alludes to –

“Appearance, the public face, is never a simple hypocrisy. E.L. Doctorow once remarked that appearances are all we have, so we should treat them with great care. We are often told that privacy is disappearing, that the most intimate secrets are open to public probing. But the reality is the opposite: what is effectively disappearing is public space, with its attendant dignity.”

I make decisions where I will go and what I will do on a daily basis.  I selectively choose what books I will withdraw from the library, knowing that there is a never ending supply of text, image and ‘knowledge’ awaiting me for when I return the next time.

Yet my decision making online is less confident.  I am swayed, brought in, tempted through boundaries by speed.  I need to become more assertive, and remember when to respectfully say ‘no’.  Or do I?


Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

The bookshelf and the spell check, illiteracy in Microsoft Word (2005)


Dictionary of Proverbs/ Baudrillard’s Ecstasy of Communication/ Dictionary of Superstition/ Deleuze and Guattari: 1000 Plateaus/ The Two Sources of Morality and Religion/ The Architectural Uncanny/ Being and Time/ Situationist International/ Anti-Oedipus/ The Social Contract/ The Nose/ Lights Out for the Territory/ Of Grammatology/ Clytemnestra/ Oedipus/ Electra/ Alcestis/ Medea/ ETA Hoffmann/ Orestes/ Lysistrata/ The Eumenides/ The Theban Plays/ Baudelaire’s The Generous Gambler/ The Napoleon of Notting Hill/ Melmoth the Wanderer/ Barthes’ The Eiffel Tower/ Rousseau’s Confessions/ Steppenwolfe/ Little Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine/ Will to Power/ Grossmith’s Diary of a Nobody/ What is Literature?/ Blanchot/ The Arcades Project/ The Stones of Venice/ Kristeva/ Nausea/ Juvenal’s Satires/ Anais Nin/ The Anatomy of Melancholia/ Beyond Good and Evil/ Suite Ventienne/

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The Prince/ Henry Miller/ The Return of the Real/ The Robert Crumb Handbook/ Madness and Civilization/ World View/ Fathers and Sons/ The Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia/ Mark Twain/ Ovid/ Aesop/ Ray Johnson’s a Laugh/ The Man who was Thursday/ Doge and Dogaressa/ Richard Prince/ Sigmar Polke/ Priories and Abbeys of England/ Romanesque/ Ruscha’s Leave Any Information at the Signal/ Modern Man in Search of a Soul/ Why Do Women Write More Letters Than They Send?/ Barthes’ A Lovers Discourse/ Straw Dogs/ Herodotus The Histories/ The R Crumb Handbook/ Francis Wheen’s Karl Marx/ Manners and Morals/ The Moment of Self Portraiture in German Renaissance Art/ John Julius Norwich’s A History of

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Venice/ Venice and the Renaissance/ Piranesi/ Gustave Dore/ Debord’s The Theory of the Derive/ The Parisien Prowler/ Post-Humous Papers of a Living Author/ The Species of Spaces/ Down and Out in Paris and London/ Lord Jim/ Madness and Civilization/ The Object Stares Back/ Ray Monk’s Bertrand Russell Vol 1/ Ray Monk’s Bertrand Russell The Ghost of Madness 1921-70/ CT Onion’s Oxford Dictionary of Etymology/ The Compact Oxford Dictionary/ The Oxford Dictionary of Art/ The Hutton Report/ Chris Burden’s When Robots Rule and The Two Minute Airplane Factory/ Jamie Shovlin on Naomi Jellish/ Jeff Wall/ Raymond Pettibon/ Bruce Nauman/ Mike Kelley’s Catholic Tastes/ Wells Cathedral/ Caravaggio/ From Constable to Delacroix/ Moliere Three Plays/ Candide/ Mythologies/ A Lovers Discourse/ Life A Users Manual/ The Man Without Qualities/ Zazie on the Metro/ L’exercises du Style/ The Lives of the Artists/ Myth of Sisyphus/ The System of Dr Tarr and Professor Fether/ Dave Hickey/ Augustine’s Confessions/ The Critique of Pure Reason/ Erasmus’ In the Praise of Folly/ Helene Cixous/ The Aenid/ Lyotard’s The Post Modern Condition/ Lyotard’s Confessions/ Poetics of Space/ Aristophanes’ Birds, his Wasps, his Frogs and his Clouds/ The Secret Heresy of Hieronymous Bosch/ Prometheus Bound/ Gogol/ The Prisoner of Venice/ Rabelais/ Camus’ Fall, his Plague, his Rebel and his Outsider/ Faust/ Faust/ Faust/ Arrian’s Campaigns of Alexander/ Writing and Difference/ Blanchot’s Friendship/ Derrida’s On Friendship/ Betty Radice/ Michael Wood/ The Confidence Man/ Geoffrey Chaucer/ Being and Nothingness/ Bataille/ Johannes Itten/ Catholic Tastes/ Breakdown/ Plato/ John Ruskin’s Sesames and Lilies/ Harrison and Wood/ Revenge of the Crystal/ PD Ouspensky/ CG Gurdjieff/ Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura/ JK Huysmans’ Against Nature/ Paradisio/ Purgatorio/ Inferno