The Unrealistic Real

Sean Kernan, photography.

"Kafka's world is a world theatre. For him, man is on the stage from the very beginning." Walter Benjamin "To take upon us the mystery of things" Shakespeare (King Lear) "Leopards break into the temple and drink all the sacrificial vessels dry; it keeps happening; in the end, it can be calculated in advance and is incorporated into the ritual." Kafka (Zurau aphorisms) It is important, I think, to see the heterogeneous and often contextually isolated examples of mass culture that subvert expectations and rise to the level of something other than their stated intention, or the intention of the producers and distributors of this entertainment product. A recent example was an episode … [Read more...]

Civic Death

Daido Moriyama, photography.

"The view only changes for the lead dog." Norman O. Brown "The more I looked at fractal patterns, the more I was reminded of Pollock’s poured paintings. And when I looked at his paintings, I noticed that the paint splatters seemed to spread across his canvases like the flow of electricity through our devices." Richard Taylor "A role is not a role. It is social life, an inherent part of it. What is faked in one sense IS what IS the essential, the most precious, the human, in another and what is most derisory is what is most necessary. It is often difficult to distinguish between what is faked and what is natural, not to say naive (and we should distinguish between a natural naivety … [Read more...]

Exterminationist Game

Anca Danila

"In this way, modern drugs of choice not only keep people at work and make them more productive, they also permit them to stake more of their emotional worth and happiness on work, thereby reifying its importance and justifying the time and effort spent. These drugs ‘answer’ the cultural prescription of more work and more productivity not just by allowing users to focus better and stay awake longer, but also by making them less miserable. { } Might maintenance drugs then be the first step in drug use that permits a post-human state? Although they don’t necessarily fundamentally change who we are – as anyone who is on daily antidepressants or other neurological medications knows – there is a … [Read more...]

Forgetting to Remember to Forget

Francisco Ribalta. (Dead Christ with Angels, detail. 1610)

"Of kin to the so incalculable influences of Concealment, and connected with still greater things, is the wondrous agency of Symbols. In a symbol there is concealment yet revelation: here, therefore, by Silence and by Speech acting together, comes a doubled significance." Thomas Carlyle "No matter what the media make of it, we get the message. As they chanted over television, the whole world was watching—and neither backlash, tear gas, decrepit electoral process, nor the return of Richard Nixon on a platform of law and order could reverse the inevitable “return of the repressed.” Both presidential candidates of the major parties were already undermined by a rhetoric they couldn’t … [Read more...]

Death Masks

Nick Brandt, photography.

"To die, to sleep; To sleep, perchance to dream.” Shakespeare, Hamlet. "The white expressionless mask is closest of all to the figure of death; but amazingly this is the most expressive mask of all. To the same degree the death mask has the most vitality of all." Emilia Perroni "The causal relation between the determining psychical trauma and the hysterical phenomenon is not of a kind implying that the trauma merely acts like an agent provocateur in releasing the symptom, which thereafter leads an independent existence. We must presume rather that the psychical trauma – or more precisely the memory of the trauma – acts like a foreign body which long after its entry … [Read more...]

Architecture Degree Zero

Julie Cockburn

"Every failure, a mysterious victory." Jorge Luis Borges "To live in the world today is to live in a state of constant anxiety." Manfredo Tarfuri "Plato likened philosophers to architects, because philosophers also provide bases for all knowledge, although as was typical of the citizen of Athens, he looked down on architects since in reality they are craftsmen." Kojin Karatani There was a fascinating and oddly intriguing, if not compelling, short article in the N.Y.Times Style magazine a couple years back, on architects defending famously derided buildings. And for some reason this was connected in my brain with a brief piece somewhere, I forget, on the U.S. Navy's new … [Read more...]

Degradation

Nicholas Rubinstein

"...men have less scruple in offending one who is beloved than one who is feared, for love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails” Machiavelli "The endgame can never be played with the same conviction with which it was played when the game was being invented." Donald Kuspit "In other words, it is not so much a question as to whether we are able to cure a patient, whether we can or not, but whether we should or not." Ernest Becker The *fake news* speech Obama delivered recently, and the accompanying articles in those … [Read more...]

The Reptile Eye

Tadasky

"...Adorno knew it was a question not of protecting 'culture' from these horrors but, on the contrary, of recognizing in them the mocking origin of culture itself, finally unveiled in reverse at its end." Roberto Calasso "Charity is meant to be a free gift, a voluntary, unrequited surrender of resources. Though we laud charity as a Christian virtue we know that it wounds." Mary Douglas "Sexual activity, whether perverted or not; the behavior of one sex before the other; defecation; urination; death and the cult of cadavers (above all, insofar as it involves the stinking decomposition of bodies): the different taboos; ritual cannibalism; the sacrifice of animal-gods; omophagia; the … [Read more...]