Wednesday, May 26, 2010

From the notebooks - third bit (for now)

This is the last installment (for now) of things transcribed from old notebooks. I have three others I need to go through, but I’ve decided to put them off for some other time. Now I get to put two in to the deep freeze. So what are we supposed to do with all of our old notebooks, once we’ve gone back through them? They tend to clutter up the place. And the notebook I’m working on now is ¾ of the way done. The question remains.

A little incongruity can go a long way. The difficulty is when incongruity becomes studied. Something that simulates thinking, some falsification. Mass production always replaces originality. (There is no originality for mass production to replace.)

What do we make of people who come by things through studying them rather than living them? That seems to be the argument against MFA programs. That you “study” there rather than live your way into the art there. Is this a real distinction, or is it a misunderstanding of “study” and “living”? Is one not living while one studies (and all the disruptions that come with living), and is one not studying while one lives (paying attention to what’s happening, learning from it)?

If memory is a text it can be used as a text.

All we’ve done in art is to think of everything from A to B. At times that exhilarates me, at times that depresses me.

In art, what we think follows what we do. Hopefully. That’s the best way. Going on your gut has always appealed to me more than going on an idea.

I love the idea of throwing something at the canvas. Of ripping the canvas.

It’s amazing that so many people still subscribe to the mirror theory. (I no longer know what the mirror theory is.)

The sense of any word varies by user—by the experience of the world that user speaks from. (This is such an old idea. Is there anything about the contemporary situation that might be making it more or less true?)

We only have what we inherit. We only move the collage pieces around.

We are only able to do what our context allows. The trick is to make that context.

The artist is thinking about questions of art, but the reader is thinking about questions of life. They can be the same questions.

The point of the art object is different for the artist and the public.

I’m tired of the implied boredom behind much of postmodern art.

The sign goes through four phases (from Baudrillard):

1. It is the reflection of a basic reality.
2. It masks and perverts a basic reality.
3. It marks the absence of a basic reality.
4. It bears no relation to any reality whatever—it is its own simulacrum.

The structure of language permits / causes / defines meaningful thinking.

Can one have meaningful thinking outside the structure of language? (What does it mean to say that?) If so, regarding what? It seems to me that art concerns itself with this question.

Poetry tends to play with the signifier—for sound, form, etc.—but what if that sense of play would move to the signified?

Who deserves fudge if not the good boy?

Meaning comes from the play of arbitrary units fashioned into a line. The system itself is hollow, but forms the available to think. This is the inherited “box” of the system.

The first draft of a poem is concerned mostly with combination. Revision is concerned mostly with substitution.

Because rationalism is a fantasy. (When I first typed this out I thought I had written “nationalism,” which I’m now convinced is equally true.)

The implosion of the future into the present is a violent action.

You have the rest of your life and only one checkerboard.

From Discover magazine: “Those who see themselves as they truly are have a greater chance of being diagnosed with clinical depression.” One would think then that most artists should have a good chance not to be so diagnosed.

From the Hallucination Anthology: Deductive reasoning at some point relies on inductive reasoning. Therefore, all reasoning becomes irrational.

Trying hard is not the same as accomplishment. Accomplishment is not the same as trying hard.


At 5/26/2010 9:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I’m tired of the implied boredom behind much of postmodern art."

Me too. What are your examples?

At 5/27/2010 6:47 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Yikes. If all the same I'll skip examples for now. It's somethign that's said a lot in reviews and retrospectives, the whole malaise thing, the boredom of the now. I, personally don't see either in what I like, as much as it is full of the post post post. I just don't see the boredom (as part of the work, I can always see a reviewer saying the work itself IS boring, that's just a review, but not boredom as a content element).

At 5/27/2010 8:35 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I think the implied boredom is fine. I think it is implicit.

The activity and the shattered nature of the work (‘art’) is underscored by a loss of meaning (and the existentially overarching narratives like ‘God’ have gone away). We’re kept busy with our distractions, but we’re not really busy. We have nothing to keep busy for the sake of… so, the business is broken into many disparate parts and is ‘ultimately’ aimless. Seems pretty accurate. Probably is normal to be tired of it, though.

If a work is going in so many directions that it becomes boring to the reader I think it might directly exhibit this. I’m a bit more skeptical of the poem that simply wallows in the boredom of depression directly—I don’t think it has delved hard enough into why. That is, unless it is like some sort of poem written to cope with depression… then I’m likely even less interested.

Here's to a long and fruitful future of house-cat-abuse poetry.

At 5/27/2010 8:40 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Enjoyed reading these by the way.

I just wrote something a week or two ago just like this one in my own journal:

"We only have what we inherit. We only move the collage pieces around."

I think I followed it with something like "simply copying is death."

At 5/28/2010 10:00 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Right. The boredom mixed into some versions of the Postmodern IS the settled house cat. And that memoir, I'm looking forward to avoiding. As Puss says in the newest Shrek: “Feed me, if you dare!”

But that's all part of the easy version of our times. It's a position of privilege, a very 80s way to look at things. I think we’re in a post-privilege economy, and our art has to be in tune with that.

Or something like that.

At 5/29/2010 8:40 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Post-privileged? How so?

What does a lack of belief have to do with privilege. I think it is as present with the walmart employee as it is with the wall-street executive as it is with the academic. Different strokes of nihilism for different folks.

At 5/29/2010 8:55 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Well, this is probably personal. I admit to cynicism but not nihilism, as I don't find boredom and/or nihilism to carry much meaning in my dealing with the world. This is not to say I'm perky or something. I just dont' find boredom a persuasive term for the vast majority of what's going on (or has gone on in the last ten years).

I see these terms in some art and in some people I talk to now than then, but I don't see it in as much art as people seem to assert I should.

So when people go on about the boredom of the post-whatever (historical?), I think they're missing more interesting things. That's why I've tired of it. Theorizing boredom is the only real boredom I see.

At 5/29/2010 10:03 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I guess that makes sense.

I definitely see a trend toward finding pockets of meaning and the like in the contemporary landscape. I guess I fall back on the boredom/nihilism as an underpinning because I often find that the pockets of meaning are often trite at best (and I’d say implicitly nihilistic).

This is a bit of an extreme example, I guess, but there are all sorts of young girls and women who are becoming ‘wiccan’ (to whatever degree). I don’t particularly have a problem with this, aside from the fact that it is often a very trite and uncritical (and as a result relatively meaningless) stance. The same can be said of the stock market analyst who creates his own little pocket of capitalistic narcissism. To avoid naming names, I feel that way about ‘creativity’ in the trite ways it is flung around as a basis for all meaning and politics. A, sort of, reactive reification of the scattering that happened to art with the post-modern.

I don’t think that is what is happening with the most interesting work being made today, but I think that is what is happening in the big generality (the agglomeration of the masses, which we’re always a part of on whatever level even if in reaction to or in conversation with).

You can’t pull the intimate myth-making of a Rothko out of a crackerjack box. Something like that.

At 5/29/2010 11:30 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Cracker Jacks are deeply meaningful! And pulling things from the box is a form of metaphysics!

But anyway, yeah, I think "the boredom of the subject position" is, or can be, used to dismiss a lot of things that otherwise would have to be engaged. It was tossed at Ashbery many times, etc., and all it ever gave us was hipster cliche. It was never very helpful.

My two cents!


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