josh blog

Ordinary language is all right.

One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.

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9 Mar '05 06:08:10 AM

'There is no aesthetic refraction without something being refracted; no imagination without something imagined. This holds true particularly in the case of art's immanent purposiveness. In its relation to empirical reality art sublimates the latter's governing principle of sese conservare as the ideal of the self-identity of its works; as Schoenberg said, one paints a painting, not what it represents. Inherently every artwork desires identity with itself, an identity that in empirical reality is violently forced on all objects as identity with the subject and thus travestied. Aesthetic identity seeks to aid the nonidentical, which in reality is repressed by reality's compulsion to identity. Only by virtue of separation from empirical reality, which sanctions art to model the relation of the whole and the part according to the work's own need, does the artwork achieve a heightened order of existence. Artworks are afterimages of empirical life insofar as they help the latter to what is denied them outside their own sphere and thereby free it from that to which they are condemned by reified external experience. Although the demarcation line between art and the empirical must not be effaced, and least of all by the glorification of the artist, artworks nevertheless have a life sui generis. This life is not just their external fate. Important artworks constantly divulge new layers; they age, grow cold, and die. It is a tautology to point out that as humanly manufactured artifacts they do not live as do people. But the emphasis on the artifactual element in art concerns less the fact that it is manufactured than its own inner constitution, regardless of how it came to be. Artworks are alive in that they speak in a fashion that is denied to natural objects and the subjects who make them. They speak by virtue of the communication of everything particular in them. Thus they come into contrast with the arbitrariness of what simply exists. Yet it is precisely as artifacts, as products of social labor, that they also communicate with the empirical experience that they reject and from which they draw their content. Art negates the categorial determinations stamped on the empirical world and yet harbors what is empirically existing in its own substance. If art opposes the empirical through the element of form - and the mediation of form and content is not to be grasped without their differentiation - the mediation is to be sought in the recognition of aesthetic form as sedimented content. What are taken to be the purest forms (e.g., traditional musical forms) can be traced back even in the smallest idiomatic detail to content such as dance. In many instances ornaments in the visual arts were once primarily cultic symbols. Tracing aesthetic forms back to contents, such as the Warburg Institute undertook to do by following the afterlife of classical antiquity, deserves to be more broadly undertaken. The communication of artworks with what is external to them, with the world from which they blissfully or unhappily seal themselves off, occurs through noncommunication; precisely thereby they prove themselves refracted. It is easy to imagine that art's autonomous realm has nothing in common with the external world other than borrowed elements that have entered into a fully changed context. Nevertheless, there is no contesting the cliché of which cultural history is so fond, that the development of artistic processes, usually classed under the heading of style, corresponds to social development. Even the most sublime artwork takes up a determinate attitude to empirical reality by stepping outside of the constraining spell it casts, not once and for all, but rather ever and again, concretely, unconsciously polemical toward this spell at each historical moment. That artworks as windowless monads "represent" what they themselves are not can scarcely be understood except in that their own dynamic, their immanent historicity as a dialectic of nature and its domination, not only is of the same essence as the dialectic external to them but resembles it without imitating it. The aesthetic force of production is the same as that of productive labor and has the same teleology; and what may be called aesthetic relations of production - all that in which the productive force is embedded and in which it is active - are sedimentations or imprintings of social relations of production. Art's double character as both autonomous and fait social is incessantly reproduced on the level of its autonomy. It is by virtue of this relation to the empirical that artworks recuperate, neutralized, what once was literally and directly experienced in life and what was expulsed by spirit. Artworks participate in enlightenment because they do not lie: They do not feign the literalness of what speaks out of them. They are real as answers to the puzzle externally posed to them. Their own tension is binding in relation to the tension external to them. The basic levels of experience that motivate art are related to those of the objective world from which they recoil. The unsolved antagonisms of reality return in artworks as immanent problems of form.'

8 Mar '05 08:09:32 PM

Huh. That 'but' should be read as: and check out this less awesome but still awesome thing.

7 Mar '05 03:17:46 AM

This entire essay by Greg Tate, on the state of improvisation in relation to various kinds of black music, is nearly breathtaking. But check this from his review of Encore:

'It has also found him scribed on the covers of hiphop magazines as the greatest living rapper, which always makes me laugh and think of how predisposed white supremacy has made even colored journalists crown any white man who takes a Black art form to the bank, to mo' money than Shine ever seen, as the greatest who ever lived. Fred Astaire, Benny Goodman, Elvis, Eric Clapton, Larry Bird, take your pick. As if any of them understood the kind of casual fatalism I overheard on 116th and Adam Clayton Powell the other day, where one brother say to another, straight-faced and not a hint of irony, "He'll be out soon, he didn't get much time, he only got 10 more years." All that August Wilson sheet in other words. That real Black Angst. The kind of angst that only the burdensome, belaboring crucible of white supremacy could twist into those bizarre, contorted, and comforting expressions of Black Pleasure and Irony known as bebop and hiphop and the blues.'

3 Mar '05 11:00:33 AM

'In the name of Anem this carl on the kopje in pelted thongs a parth a lone who the joebiggar be he? Forshapen his pigmaid hoagshead, shroonk his plodsfoot. He hath locktoes, this shortshins, and, Obeold that's pectoral, his mammamuscles most mousterious. It is slaking nuncheon out of some thing's brain pan. Me seemeth a dragon man  He is almonthst on the kiep fief by here, is Comestipple Sacksoun, be it junipery or febrewery, marracks or alebrill or the ramping riots of pouriose and froriose. What a quhare soort of a mahan. It is evident the michindaddy. Lets we overstep his fire defences and these kraals of slitsucked marrogbones. (Cave!) He can prapsposterus the pillory way to Hirculos pillar. Come on, fool porterfull, hosiered women blown monk sewer? Scuse us, chorley guy! You tollerday donsk? N. You tolkatiff scowegian? Nn. You spigotty anglease? Nnn. You phonio saxo? Nnnn. Clear all so! 'Tis a Jute. Let us swop hats and excheck a few strong verbs weak oach eather yapyazzard abast the blooty creeks.'

3 Mar '05 09:45:08 AM

Yarrr. I think I've been wanting this for years! I don't know what it sounds like, though. Basically all I have to go by are years of pirate jokes on The Simpsons.

3 Mar '05 12:03:10 AM

Und Geeta mit, er, photoen? I'm not looking that word up.

2 Mar '05 10:24:50 PM

Geeta mit Michael Mayer.

24 Feb '05 11:32:37 AM

(It occurred to me while hunting down comic citations that it would probably be pretty easy to find one particular flavor of Bakhtin's number ten, er 'felix/oscar' like I said, in the alternation of the comic mode with the horrible, in most every chapter, meaning that most every chapter has something in some place or some time unspeakable (which is probably also a genre characteristic): but without more careful search I've decided that maybe only half of them do - Esther's nose job, Fina's gang rape, the extended debauch of Foppl's party, the disassembly of the bad priest, disfigured Godolphin - and that these serve as contrasts, extensions of the field of the inanimate and its encroachment on the human (welcome adoption by the human) laid out elsewhere in the books. They lend the more cerebral or jokey figures - like early on, Rachel in love with her MG - some of their visceral reaction, and in the retrograde, too: come upon the pages-long description of Esther's nose job (not just nose job but sadomasochistic, the S for him, the M for her, in the least feminist way possible: 'this delicious loss of Estherhood'), and think, this is more of the same, and realize that only then were you thinking of all the earlier talk of inanimate this and inanimate that in quite this way, uncomfortably shifting, queasy.)

24 Feb '05 11:14:11 AM

Bakhtin's basic characteristics for ancient menippean satire more or less apply to V.

1. Examples of the comic chosen mostly at random from each chapter:

1: 'Out in the street a chief yeoman was trying to urinate in the gas tank of a '54 Packard Patrician and five or six seamen apprentice were standing around giving encouragement.' 2: '"Eve was the first Jewish mother, the one who set the pattern. The words she said to Adam have been repeated ever since by her daughters: 'Adam,' she said, 'come inside, have a piece fruit.'"' 3: plotting anarchist punchbowl attendant. 4: Capping the horrific nosejob scene, Schoenmaker's song, the blackest, most appalling comedy - and at the end 'For the last eight bars she chanted "No" on one and three.'. 5: Alligators! 6: Sfacim. 7: Mantissa and Cesare's scheme to cart the 'Birth of Venus' out of the museum in a hollowed-out Judas tree. 8: Pig transmits pornographic stories over the teletype on his ship ('LUCKY PIERRE RUNS AMOK' e.g.). 9: Hard going in this chapter, Mondaugen's story, but Weissmann's finding proposition 1 of the Tractatus in Mondaugen's sferics does amuse me, me being me; better though to look to the tango with which Foppl's party serenades Mondaugen as he finally leaves: 'Why are you leaving the party so early, / just when it was getting good?' 10: Profane has a confrontation with SHROUD, synthetic human, radiation output determined, which he guards as a night watchman. Charisma sings a logical positivist lovesong to Mafia (though it looks like in doing so he falsifies the textual details of the Tractatus to get it to scan!). 11: Mondaugen gets some twisted irony I suppose because that sort of thing always makes twisted things more twisted; but in Fausto's confession it's hard to find anything I'm happy to call 'comic' as opposed to 'ironic', the latter sapped by its place in Fausto's confession and person of anything humorous. 12: Roony's wife, he thinks everyone should know, is a fucking Fascist. Word is she's the Ayn Rand parody character in the book. Har. 13: The story of Pig's abortive effort to make himself temporarily sterile by means of the radar antenna. 14: What clarified for me that this chapter is indeed Stencilized was the information that V. told a great deal of her story to the composer, who told it later to Stencil. The composer's name, tee hee, is 'Porcèpic'. But if that doesn't do it for you, then: 'Porcèpic, to the amusement of all, produced at L'Ouganda one evening a chart of the possible combinations the two could be practicing. It came out to 64 different sets of roles, using the subheadings "dressed as," "social role," "sexual role." They could both for example be dressed as males, both have dominant social roles and strive for dominance sexually. They could be dressed different-sexed and both be entirely passive, the game then being to trick the other into making an aggressive move. Or any of 62 other combinations. Perhaps, Satin suggested, there were also inanimate mechanical aids. This, it was agreed, would confuse the picture. At one point someone suggested that the woman might actually be a transvestive to begin with, which made things even more amusing.'. 15: The list played more for weirdness than laughs that does though include: 'who had the distinction of being the only Manx monoglot in the world and consequently spoke to no one'. 16: The Kilroy-band-pass filter gag, if you want. Though Pig's reappropriated Mickey Mouse Club theme tickles more (though not as much as hearing that he watched the show religiously). 17: Mostly serious, but the antagonism between Stencil and Father Avalanche is good for some grins.

My. That was tiring.