maandag 29 september 2014

End of History vs Neverending Story

Last thursday I went to Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam for the Metamodernism symposium, a marathon of lectures. I missed the lecture on the future of history by Francis Fukuyama since it was already sold out. The second lecture by Camille de Toledo (2001) was the most relevant for my research as well as the most inspiring and imaginative. The others (2008, 2011) focused a bit much on politics, economics and the financial crisis instead of arts and culture. But this was to be expected. The lecture by novelist Adam Thirlwell was about new sincerity and collaboration in literature amongst other themes.

My interpretation of the notes I made during the lecture by de Toledo:

Our times are defined by horizontalism vs verticalism. The Berlin wall was a perfect symbol of verticalism and violence. (For most Russians this was a dramatic event though, the coming into contact and experience with democracy). If I remember correctly, he tells a story of a cellist playing music during the fall of the Berlin Wall. But as he plays, people start throwing coins at the cello master. Suddenly the master turns into a beggar… There is a certain sense of the dialectic between horizontality and verticality to the story.  In a later lecture the story of the grasshopper and the ant was recalled, one of Aesop's fables. The grasshopper was singing during the warm summer months while the ant was working hard. When winter came, the grasshopper was dying on the streets, knocked on the door of the ant, but the ant refused help and told the grasshopper to dance during the winter. Now, is the ant a flawed character, yes or no?
Horizontality can be understood as a Habermasian understanding of democracy.
Dialectic can be linked to concept of vertical individualism/vertical collectivism/horizontal individualism/horizontal collectivism.

Airport as a symbol of globalism. See also "non-places" as defined by Marc Augé, to refer to places of transience that do not hold enough significance to be regarded as "places".

There was an endless repetition of 9/11 on our television screens. The images were and are repeated endlessly and ingrained into our brains and collective understanding. We could say that this repetition of (mass) media itself is in a loop. There is no beginning or end to the narrative. It's mostly repetition. Media is one of the causes of an end of history.
There are no ends to myths itself either; they are circular in time. Eliade suggests that the abandonment of mythical thought and the full acceptance of linear, historical time, with its "terror", is one of the reasons for modern man's anxieties.

End of history should be understood not as Hegelian, but rather Kantian: reaching eternal peace, as according to Toledo. Perhaps this could be mixed by Eliade's understanding of myth and the concept of eternal return.

He came up an example. When he reads stories to his children, the children do not want the story to end. But what do they actually want, a continuation of the story or the story to be repeated? Toledo says there is always expectation. At the end comes a new beginning.

One of the slides from the lecture by de Toledo.

2001 was the beginning of the end of Fukuyama. Has history begun again after 2001?
La chute de Fukuyama/The Fall of Fukuyama examines catastrophe and the relationship between humans and History.

The opera takes place simultaneously before, after, and during the attacks of September 11, 2001: that is, between the dream of eternal peace and the return to war, between the memory of the 20th century and the general fiction of the 21st. In several languages, the travelers follow History as it unfolds in the distance on the plasma screens they wander in front of. Between fear, stammering, and madness, they reflect upon the first years of the 21st century, years of war during which the real took on the form of total fiction. The travelers in The Fall of Fukuyama want to act on History, tie themselves to it – but they remain helpless. 

The Neverending story is about reinterpreting tradition, which sounds a lot like something Eliade would say. There is a certain character in the story who is always looking forward to the future, a reopening of a new future. Again a focus on expectation. Expectation and hope is secularised nowadays, while the neverending story has a focus on magic and fantasy.
He argues we have to take a look at the totem instead of the narrative, simply to get rid of the end narrative. The totem maintains the order of law. It is stable. The symbol of the totem can be exchanged by the myth I think.

One of the other slides was a sort of comic strip of Fukuyama falling. de Toledo imagines Fukuyama as a voodoo doll in a shamanistic practice.

A secularized expectation can be found in the 2008 Obama campaign. Focus on themes such as Hope and unity.

He ends with the question how to bring back history in Europe.

One of the panel members ends his story by saying:
"We're all mayflies in the course of history."

During the symposium Shia Labeouf was running a "metamarathon" around the Stedelijk.

donderdag 18 september 2014

We Need a Myth?

The book and movie Life of Pi, which perfectly illustrates two different versions of looking at a certain event (from a rational one versus a religious, magical one), got me thinking about myth-making. The story is basically an argument for the existence of God.

I think it also perfectly represents our times and is best explained with a concept by Max Weber which he called: "the disenchantment of the world", a process of rationalization in a secularized modern bureaucratized Western world, a world which has lost deeper values and meanings ... Life of Pi wants to enchant the world once again by returning to the myth as a deeper truth, to better connect with us on a deeper level, by ways of powerful storytelling. It's leans heavily on aesthetics: the mythical version of the story is beautiful and brings hope and optimism, the actual realistic version is ugly, dark and meaningless. Now what version of the story would you choose?

In a way this also explains why so many people are believers, otherwise we might easily lapse into nihilism.

The need for a myth of course relates to Carl Jung's concept of collective unconscious and archetypes: universal thought patterns we inherented from our ancestors and which are part of our biological make up, and in ways to Joseph Campbell's monomyth: cyclic journey of the hero (Harry Potter, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings also follow the monomyth structure). George Lucas even did so on purpose. All of these stories connect with us on a deeper level.

With our pluralistic society comes confusion, confusion of identity, of belonging, a lost sense of meaning...These films all have a mythical sense to them and might actually replace our need for religious myths, or perhaps fill a certain void. I remember Nietzsche saying myths serve a purpose of generating life-affirmating attitudes.

We need a myth
We need an amethyst bridge
We need a high hanging cliff
Jump, fall, and lift
We can make it

But we need a myth
We need a path through the mist
Like in our beds, we were just kids
Like what was said by our parents

A myth
Guess what we're after is just this
A myth
Guess what we're after is just this

We need a myth
I feel my heart's like a fist
Words spilling out of the blessed lips
Of any prophet or goddess

I need a myth
Brought back to life by a kiss
Scrape away grey cement
Show me the world as it was again
As it was in a myth

A red ribbon to reconnect
The lady's head to her neck
And to forget that her throat
Was ever slit

Guess what we're after is just this
It's a myth
Guess what we're after is just this

Oh, and I'm sick of all these picture books that try
To steal some old reflections for their light
But desperate measures point to desperate times
And that's why
We need a myth

We're cut adrift
And we need a mass uplift
The world is trembling and weeping
Just at the point of believing
In a myth

The sun that shines on my head
The moon that lights me to bed
Were two identical twins
Inside of a myth

I heard the voice of a friend
On Lethe's banks, wading in
And he said
"Well, before I forget
We need a myth

And as we lean in to kiss
To get two nails through the wrist
To get covered in blood
And get covered in spit
And to forgive."

If all we're taught is a trick
Why would this feeling persist?
And with the truth closing in
I must insist:
We need a myth. 

Song by Okkervil River:

Artificial Sun

The Weather project, Studio Olafur Eliassion, 2003

Plato's pharmacy by Derrida

In this essay Derrida takes a closer look at the myth of Teuth included at the end of Plato's Phaedrus.

Socrates never wrote anything himself, Plato did. And writing is sophistry, like rhetoric, and speech is socratic, according to Plato. Now, Plato of course wrote in dialogues and it is often up to the reader to take a certain side.

Plato's case is clear and he sides with Socrates and thus king Thamos: writing will only create forgetfulness and is not a remedy for memory itself, but a way of reminding. Writing is a not a "remedy" (pharmakon) for memory but instead it is "poison" (pharmakon). Pharmakon can mean both things.

As a side note, it is interesting that Theuth, the inventor of writing, symbolizes the moon, and king Thamos, the judge, is interchangable with the sun God Amon. Writing is a reflection just like the moon reflects the sun.

Derrida wants to deconstruct the opposition of writing/speech. Now Derrida focuses on the word pharmakon, which is affiliated with writing. He states that writing itself cannot be reduced to the series of oppositional concepts that it precedes and produces . So he is saying that writing is the origin of the origin and that the son (Theuth) fathers the father (Thamus). Pharmakon is the prior medium in which diferentiation is produced.

This means that it is impossible to attach conceptal opposites (differentation) like remedy/poison, good/bad, light/dark etc. without writing. Writing constitutes the medium in which opposites are opposed. Pharmakon produces difference.

I'm reminded by Derrida's famous statement "There is nothing outside the (con)text".
Text, according to Derrida refers to context and includes all about the "real-life" situation of the speech/text.


Socrates is actually standing in for Thamos (presence), while Phaedrus is standing in for Theuth (absence).
Thamos is closer to the Forms, while Theuth is all about shadows. Theuth is supplementary to Thamos, according to Plato.
Socrates is setting up logocentrism here in Western philosophy, which is the view that speech and not writing is central to language.

Now I understand that Pharmakon is an example of Derrida's concept of trace. A trace is originary, it conveys the impossibility of an origin or a centre (like logocentrism). So when you say pharmakon signifies Remedy it implies that it is not Poison. It implies what is does not mean. They are interdependent. So speech is in a way dependent on writing as well! Writing is not exterior to speech but also has a quality of interiority itself.

So Derrida suggests that written symbols are signifiers on their own (and not signifiers of signifiers), that they should not be considered as derivative from speech.

And if writing is supplementary to speech, it also implies that there is a loss of presence in speech that must be supplemented by writing. Writing may recover what is lacking in speech. So writing is not merely absence, just as speech is not merely presence. Speech occurs in writing and writing occurs in speech.

woensdag 17 september 2014

Moon Life

Cultural artefacts from the moon, a myth from the future...

Alicia Framis and Moon Life Foundation present the Moon Life Concept Store featuring products and concepts that represent future human life in space. 18 September 2011 – 15 October 2011

The products that are specially produced for MOON LIFE CONCEPT STORE are:

COMPASS, a compass that always point the earth, by Paula Ampuero, Maria Serret  and Alicia Framis
MUSIC FOR LISTENING ON THE MOON, composed for the occasion of Moon Life by Yan Jun
THE MOON THAT SHONE ON OUR ANCESTORS is based on the idea “moontage: “moon”, “montage”” is developed by Tozer Pak Sheung Chuen
THE MOON LANDING PROGRAM, presents two LED screens that interrogate the relationship between body, experience, and cognition, by Wang YuYang
CHINESE MOON CALENDAR, an updated Chinese Moon Calendar, with a custom-made Typeface of a personal invention for the moon, by Pan Jianfeng
MOONTAGE is an approach to catch the moon in film, by Law Yuk Mui
SALUTE TO FENG ZIKAI by Pak Sheung Chuen looks for all the “suns” and “moons” from a Shanghai bookstore, bookmarking a book
TABLE WARE, glass and porcelain tableware symbolizing the random bursts of energy on the moon, visualising the energy of an impact, moon craters, freezing pressure wave by EDHV
FLAT PACK SHOES, a flat-packed carbon fiber platform construction that customers assemble themselves at the moon, by United Nude

MOON ANTHEM, music composed, by Monica Tormell
TEETHOPHONE, a small sound amplifying device which will enable future generations of humans living on the Moon to listen to sound in vacuum, by Tao Sambolec and Brian Mckenna
MOON FIRE PLACE, radio waves are received and transformed into sound, which in turn is used to modulate leds, by Tao Sambolec and Brian Mckenna
MOONDICTIONARY, a 360º concept map, an open verbal-diagram around the concept of moon [ mu:n] that shows the relationships among concepts, by Alicia Framis
COLORING BOOK, by Sandra Gnjatovic
MOON VOGUE, a bootleg of Vogue magazine for 2050, by Maryme & Jimmy Paul
MOON DUST, a model for a sustainable base on the moon with sealed chambers that are strong enough to withstand radiation and solar storms, by John Lonsdale
 MOONWORLD, a jewel that is a nano-representation of the cemetery scaled at 1:400,000,0000 in silver, by DUS architects
SPACE SUITE, protects for an organic war and could be used to withdraw on the moon for alternative living, by Atelier van Lieshout
HUMAN and KIND, eighteen different garments with different expert-specifications, like emotional connected to Earth, protective, communicative and comfortable, by Marina Toeters
HANDBOOK MOON LIFE, is a manual to learn about daily life on the moon, by Archis Foundation.

dinsdag 16 september 2014

Medium Religion

Exhibition in ZKM I visited a couple of years ago.

1st Light, 2005

Since particularly 9/11 and the war in Iraq, Paul Chan has become a key figure in the American art scene as well as in political activism. As part of the series The 7 Lights, the computer-animated video 1st Light describes a vision of Biblical elation – the ascending of the believers to Heaven – making reference to 9/11. The floor projection shows shadowy silhouettes of bodies and everyday objects falling to the ground and equally rising towards the sky. This evokes the 1969 images of floating astronauts as much as those of bodies tumbling from the burning towers – iconic images of hope and terror, of utopia and the apocalypse merge. They show how Chan's deconstructivist critique of civilisation rests on the idea that a random happiness is possible.

Paul Chan, * 1973 in Hong Kong (CN, formerly GB), lives and works in New York (USA)

mΛ, 2008

The exterior projection of mΛ shows eight young women in Iranian school uniforms standing in a row before a blue backdrop. They slowly close their eyes and dissolve into the blue of the curtain. The rocking chair in the interior is a play on an unadorned "throne," and the television set shows a 6-year-old professional mourner weeping bitterly. mΛ reflects the role of the media, television in particular; how it has in general, and in a motherly way, substituted religion and particularly the Pastor, and how religion, once considered as "the opium of the masses", has become the opium of a religious media-based state and its masses. The Persian word for curtain, pardé, carries equally the meanings of screen, hymen and shroud. The blue pardé refers both to the blue box technique and various mise-en-scènes used in Iran's political visual system of representation.
The installation mΛ is oriented towards Mecca.

Barbad Golshiri, * 1982 in Tehran (IR), lives and works in Tehran (IR)

Boris Groys

Altermodernism, Metamodernism, Hypermodernism, Supermodernism, Post-postmodernism ...

Steps to go beyond posmodernism. The similarity between them is interesting.

Some refer back to the romantic period, such as Colin Falck.

architects and artists increasingly abandon the aesthetic precepts of deconstruction, parataxis, and pastiche in favor of aesth-ethical notions of reconstruction, myth, and metaxis. These artistic expressions move beyond the worn out sensibilities and empty practices of the postmodernists not by radically parting with their attitudes and techniques but by incorporating and redirecting them. In politics as in culture as elsewhere, a sensibility is emerging from and surpassing postmodernism; as a non-dialectical Aufhebung that negates the postmodern while retaining some of its traits.

Symposium in Stedelijk next week, on thursday:

#IAMSORRY is a collaborative project by Shia LaBeouf, Nastja Säde Rönkkö and Luke Turner.
Focus on oscillation between the emptiness of postmodernism and finding meaning in modernism, and as metamodernism as a lifestyle.

was an exhibition in Tate London in 2009, curated by Nicolas Bourriaud.

Bourriaud is proposing the new art term ‘Altermodern’ to describe how artists are responding to the increasingly global context in which we all now live. Altermodern claims that the period defined as postmodernism has come to an end and a new culture for the 21st century is emerging. Increased communication, travel and migration are having a huge effect on the way we live now. Altermodern describes how artists at the forefront of their generation are responding to this globalised culture with a new spirit and energy. Is postmodernism dead? What does it mean to be modern today? Decide for yourself.

Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics

If distinguished from hypermodernity, supermodernity is a step beyond the ontological emptiness of postmodernism and relies upon a view of plausible truths. Where modernism focused upon the creation of great truths (or what Lyotard called "master narratives" or "metanarratives"), postmodernity is intent upon their destruction (deconstruction). In contrast supermodernity does not concern itself with the creation or identification of truth value. Instead, information that is useful is selected from the superabundant sources of new media. Postmodernity and deconstruction have made the creation of truths an impossible construction. Supermodernity acts amid the chatter and excess of signification in order to escape the nihilistic tautology of postmodernity. The Internet search and the construction of interconnected blogs are excellent metaphors for the action of the supermodern subject.

maandag 15 september 2014

Literature and other sources

Effect van linguistic turn op afbrokkelen mythe. De Saussure -> Derrida / Wittgenstein


Literary Criticism
Myth, Truth and Literature – Colin Falck
Sexual Personae - Camille Paglia 

Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity – Marc Augé
Tom Turner 

Comparative Mythology
Golden Bough -Frazer
Mircea Eliade - Eternal Return
Joseph Campbell - Hero with a thousand faces
Jung - Archetypes and collective unconscious
Structuralist theory of mythology – Levi Strauss vs Symbolist theory of mythology – CG Jung

Csapo, Eric. Theories of Mythology (Blackwell Publishing, 2005), pp 36–43, pp 44–67. ISBN-631-23248-6

Art & philosophy
Heidegger: The Origin of the work of Art
Griekse tempel en peasant shoes om te focussen op eenheid en het aardse bestaan.
“It is the temple-work that first joins together and simultaneously gathers around itself the unity of those paths and relations in which birth and death, disaster and blessing, victory and disgrace, endurance and decline obtain the form of destiny for human being. …The temple first gives to things their look and to humanity their outlook on themselves.”

John David Ebert - Art After Metaphysics / Celluloid Heroes & Mechanical Dragons: Film as the Mythology of Electronic Society

Gianni Vattimo – de transparante samenleving

De wereldbeelden die we via de media en de menswetenschappen ontvangen, zij het op diverse niveaus, zijn niet zomaar verschillende interpretaties van een 'werkelijkheid' die hoe dan ook 'gegeven' is, maar maken de objectiviteit van deze wereld zelf uit. "Er zijn geen feiten, alleen maar interpretaties", aldus Nietzsche, die ook heeft geschreven dat "de ware wereld uiteindeiljk een fabel ging worden."
De wereld is niet zozeer object van mogelijke 'objectieve' kennis, als wel de plaats waar symbolische systemen geproduceerd worden.

De onmythologisering van de onmythologisering kunnen we beschouwen als de eigenlijke overgang van modern naar postmodern. Probeert de 'terugkeer' van de mythe terug te brengen in de samenleving.


“The Truth is Out There: Postmodern Myth and Archetypes, Extraterrestrial Salvation, and Mythic Apologetics”

Susan Hiller

Susan Hiller - Psi Girls 1999 video installation, 5 synchronized programmes with audio, looped

The inherent contradiction that comes from living in a post-modern or post post-modern[vii] condition (which seems to suggest that not only the idea of a modernist one truth is impossible but also that any source material can be relevant to an artwork and any active participation involving technology is often at the forefront of that source). It is the post-modern condition that allows the kind of work Hiller makes to be made, regarding sampling[viii], collecting, documenting, photographing that form the basis of almost her entire practice over the last twenty or so years. The contradiction lies in the way that she is celebrating albeit maybe in a kind of ironic way, the way that people do get fascinated with themes surrounding the occult and the supernatural as if they fulfil, for some, a lacking sense or a need for spirituality .

Susan Hiller. Witness, 2000. audio-sculpture; 350 loudspeakers, 10 cd players, amplifiers, wiring,lights,etc .Witness is an audio work about seeing; In Witness relationships  between the visionary and the visualized are mediated by sound.

UFO als mandala, psyche zoekende naar stabiliteit.


Onderzoek naar de tegenstelling in kunst en populaire cultuur tussen een alles verbindende mythologie: archetypes, symbolen, Jungiaans collectief onderbewustzijn en de oorzaak en gevolgen van een fragmenterende postmodernisme: het ontbreken van een meta-narratief en een groeiende hyperrealiteit.

Is de verwevenheid tussen postmodernisme en mythologie tegenstrijdig? Zijn er mythes terug te vinden in werk met een postmodern bewustzijn (mythologie in nieuwe media, moderne mythes)? Zijn de twee eerder complementair of paradoxaal dan tegenstrijdig?

Is er een nieuwe beweging gaande, ook genaamd altermodernisme, puttende uit hypermodernisme?