Filed under: Blogs, Ideas, Philosophy, Publishing | Tags: Barrios, critical attitudes, cultural criticism, dispositions, Flaneurie, Jamaica Plain, Josh Glenn, Matthew Battles, New Blogs
A number of weeks ago, a blip on the feed reader caught our attention at tirado/thrown: blog posts authored by Josh Glenn and Matthew Battles, a couple of fellow Bostonians from the JP barrio whose acquaintance we made while shilling ads for Glenn’s amazing periodical Hermenaut in the late 90s-early 00s. A little more digging outside the confines of the feed reader’s data stream revealed the existence of a new entity on the blogging landscape: HILOBROW.
From the looks of a number of the posts, hilobrow promises to be an exciting exploration of modes of (dis)engagement with cultural phenomena which advance a particular disposition. Its editors argue against the snobbishness attitude of the highbrow, the well-intentioned dishonesty of the lowbrow, and the middlebrow’s toxic sarcasm. Instead, hilobrow seeks to approach matters through a camp sensibility, which the editors identify as
…a manifestation of engaged irony. (When the cast of John Waters’s 1998 movie Pecker toast the “death of irony,” they’re toasting the death of middlebrow sarcastic hipsterism.) The engaged ironist is a hilobrow.
This, of course, continues Glenn’s long-standing interest in cultivating philosophic attitudes towards the phantasmic saturation of late capitalist existence. In the late 90s, Glenn devoted a double-issue of Hermenaut (#11/12) to the theme of “Camp”, which lays out the terrain he’s treading. The introductory essay and excerpts from that issue still live at the Hermenaut website (under “Print”).
We here at tirado/thrown couldn’t be more excited for hilobrow‘s debut!
Filed under: Anthropology, Architecture, Ideas, Philosophy | Tags: Architecture, Biopolitics, capitalism, Design, Latour, Philosophy, Politics, Sloterdijk
That was the philosophical catchphrase proclaimed by the self-described “Sloterdijkian” Bruno Latour during his portion of a public lecture with Peter Sloterdijk at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design a couple of weeks ago.
Taking as its theme, “Networks and Spheres: Two Ways to Interpret Globalization”, the tandem lectures and discussion was a sweeping journey through very basic issues of space, dwelling, and modes of design required to meet the demands our current socio-spatial conditions.
Peter Sloterdijk quietly approached the lectern after being introduced by GSD Dean Moshen Mostafavi and lectured with a measure of understatement and modesty. In the form of a self-colloquy, Sloterdijk introduced listeners to the main features of his three-volume Spharen (Spheres) project, citing VonUexkull, Benjamin, LeCorbusier, and a view of psychedelic capitalism as exemplified by the structure heralding the birth of mass culture: London’s Crystal Palace. Taking seriously the notion of space as a key anthropological category, Sloterdijk develops a heuristic questioning the home or the dwelling as the primary philosophical space in a context of profoundly fragile spatial and social complexity.
In the sense that ethos designates a habitat or “accustomed space”, the home is the site western philosophy and ethical thinking. Instead, Sloterdijk proposes the flexible, structures of spheres and foams as structuring spatial relations (whether biological or interpersonal) noting that the task of architecture is to understand its place between biology (dealing with atmosphere or environment) and philosophy (whose inquiry is oriented towards the world). Sloterdijk’s lecture hinted at architecture’s biopolitical vocation in the design and construction of habitats organizing space in dynamic constellations of spheres and islands.
Sloterdijk concluded his portion by noting architecture’s contribution to scientific discovery. He cited the early biologists’ use of the architectural terminology used in the design of monasteries to inspire their study of microscopically experienced structures, saying that “the real owner of the use of the cell is the community of architects…”
An energetic Bruno Latour followed. Drawing upon Sloterdijk, he announced at the very beginning of his lecture, “I was born a Sloterdijkian!” To test out the ideas of spheres and networks in his proposed thought experiment, he took to task contemporary internet-based notions of networks against his understanding of networks as inspired by Leibniz’s monadology and Diderot. Latour equally takes to task Heidegger’s ontological enterprise, which he claims, superficially considers the atmosphere of the world at its peril. Biopolitics again reared its head, this time in the midst of a critique of Heidegger’s fundamental ontology. In Latour’s words,
The Dasein is thrown into the world, but so naked that he doesn’t stand much chance to last. …the respective relations between death and superficiality are suddenly reversed. There’s not the slightest chance to understand being when it has been cut off from the vast numbers of apparently “trifle” [sic] and “superficial” “little beings” that make it exist from moment to moment…In one stroke, the philosopher’s quest for being as such, looks like an antiquated research program.
Latour’s lecture simultaneously glossed on Sloterdijk’s and challenged philosophic thought to re-think itself by diving into the material conceptions and conditions of our dwelling and recast the split between nature and culture in terms of spheres and networks. This provocation calls on us to consider justice and equality as operative in environments where space is needed, spherically structured, and mediated by circuits of networks. In a parody of Heidegger, “Tell me what is your position on space, and I’ll tell you who you are…” he proposes a dead-serious litmus test for philosophers and architects alike to consider. Towards the end of the lecture, his reverie along theological, economic, political, spatial, and historical lines illustrated the urgency of such a project.
- Last week’s coverage of the event from The Harvard Gazette can be found here.
- The GSD has video of the lecture here.
- A special issue of Environment and Planning dedicated to Sloterdijk has a pair of essays by Sloterdijk and a number of commentaries.
Image: From left, Bruno Latour, Peter Sloterdijk, and Moshen Mostafavi at the “Networks and Spheres” discussion at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, February 17, 2009. Photo by Stephanie Mitchell, Harvard University News Office.
Filed under: Architecture, art, Ideas, Music, Uncategorized | Tags: Animation, Architecture, Experience, Music, Sea and Cake, Sound and Vision, Video
Here at tirado/thrown, we heartily anticipate the end of the winter. With the clear light and the cold air, we’re slowly attempting to shed the frozen snow that stubbornly sticks to the ground here in Boston (but not before the upcoming Agamben post, though).
The Sea and Cake’s cover of David Bowie’s “Sound and Vision” is the perfect song for this time of year. They take on Bowie with a blast of cold Chicago air and fashion a tempered interpretation that does not threaten the original version’s excitement and buoyancy.
In an issue of loud paper a number of years ago, The Sea and Cake’s lead singer Sam Prekop professed his love for the work of Mies Van Der Rohe. Lines, glass, light, and steel, Van Der Rohe’s architecture trades in the very basic terms of experience and dwelling.
It’s not entirely surprising then, that the video above marshals high-modern experimental animation to offer a visual expereince well-coordinated with a song that is about experience, broadly conceived: wonder, awakening, anticipation, becoming alive, the senses sparkening and opening to the world. The above video is vitalism wrapped in the guise of a collected, though vibrant, formalism. Here’s to ushering the end of Winter.
UPDATE: A far better version of the video is up on Pitchfork.tv, which I recommend over the video I posted above.
Filed under: art, Flaneurie, Ideas, Poetry, Politics, Psychoanalysis, Uncategorized | Tags: City of Work, ICite, ideology, Language, meaning, Michael Lewy, Ontology, speculations, word clouds
The image above is from artist Micheal Lewy’s City of Work tumblr. (His website is well worth paying a visit.) It caught my attention in light of some reflections at ICite that I’ve been following at a distance concerning the phenomena of word clouds and their relation to language, poetry, politics, psyche, and symbolic efficiency. It started with this post, and has so far continued here and here. Juxtaposing the blog posts and Lewy’s work raised more questions than answers.
First, some questions regarding the relationship of Lewy’s piece to language, its social use, and the piece’s orientation as an artwork. If, as ICite argues, word clouds flatten sense and the possibilities of meaning (through ’marking a moment’, or being a form of secondary orality, a trace of chatter, or a positionless marker of intensity, etc.), does Lewy’s rendering of office lingo serve to pit this terminology against itself? In effect, the piece seems to expose the terminology’s flatness, its lack of tonality, and its reliance on the frequency and intensity of its use in our working lives. Could it be argued that Lewy’s piece is a parody of technical applications of language upon the seemingly neutral language of work?
A second group of questions arise with respect to discourse, psyche, ontology, and politics. Is workplace jargon an apparatus of master discourse reliant upon biopolitical coersion to acheive its politcal-economic ends? Does it not reveal that the language of work is not merely natural, but vulnerable to a decline in symbolic efficiency?
It would seem that Lewy’s ‘work cloud’ brings to sharper relief the contingent properties of social relations, capitalism included.
Filed under: Chicano, Flaneurie, Ideas, Literature, Philosophy, Poetry | Tags: Anzaldua, Arteage, Border, hegemony, Language, State, Violence
From Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera (1987), as quoted by Alfred Arteaga* in Chicano Poetics: Heterotexts and Hybridities:
“The U.S.-Mexican border es una herida abierta [is an open wound] where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds. And before a scab forms it hemorrhages again, the lifeblood of two worlds merging to form a third country – a border culture.” (3)
When placed next to the image of a border fence in Nogales above, the words in each citation seem to make their meaning all the more truthful. The graffiti above reads, “Borders: scars upon the earth.”
These structures are performative signifiers of the State’s violence, a power enacting a logic of exclusion. The fences, walls, agents, and surveillance equipment are ciphers encoding action, establishing identity, and determining the value of who can cross and who cannot.
On the one hand, the State’s constitution excludes portions of humanity to include a remainder and establish the social bond by an oath, a pledge promising the subject’s personal sacrifice for a teleological end. The ultimate wages of transgressing against the State include surrendering the claim to membership in the community and becoming party to a non-sacrificial death: to be killed.
On the other hand, borderlands include the excluded and the excluder alike in a relationship of tense exposure to one another where it becomes possible for language to not be sanctified, where the apparatus of the State is exposed and can be brought to question.
*A note of gratitude to Sound Taste for bringing my attention to Alfred Arteaga in a moving tribute to his memory.
Filed under: Blogs, Books, Ideas, Literature, Writing | Tags: Identity, Literature, Rant, Writing
Sound Taste’s latest entry, A Universal History of Infamy, sparked the motors this morning. A fantastic post. Not only does she point out a lacuna in American literary criticism (a patent “…lack of imagination”), she ties it to the poor habit that can’t seem to think of Latin American literature as anything other than magical realism.
It is a point well-worth reiterating.
Maybe it’s that Jose Saldivar’s”The Dialectics of Our America” is current subway reading and that precious spare time has become consumed with the meaning of identity in current ponderings, but this question of ‘realness’ as a cipher for a personal identity has been bothersome.
Does the drive for ‘realness’ through appropriating the experience of ‘the other’ (well-intended or not) serve to fostering identity in the face of groundlessness? Another question: what are editors and marketers at the big (sinking) houses (and the critics they give free shit to) thinking when they promote crappy reading? It points to a market-driven logic that’s simply dizzying. Just a few paragraphs in, and we already find ourselves in a thicket of ethical issues regarding identity, commodity, and the production of meaning.
But maybe the dirty secret is that personal dirt sells books. The kookier the habit, the deeper the suffering, the better to move units under the guise of real criticism, the thought seems to go. Why not vindicate one’s moral superiority as a reader-observer in the manner we seem to enjoy watching train wrecks unfold nightly on reality television shows ginned up to produce such marvelous human drama?
Besides, why should I care if Bolaño shoveled smack? This 19th-century way of thinking that writing, even fiction, is a mode of self-disclosure is so bankrupt. It lends itself to the pseudo-profound thoughts that writing and language are simple reproductions or reflections of reality. What a cruel and depressing way to treat the gift of language.
Filed under: Aesthetics, Books, Chicano, Ideas, Latinos, Literature, Mexico, Philosophy, Politics, Publications, Uncategorized | Tags: Agamben, Aura Estrada, Badiou, Benjamin, Bernard Steigler, Biopolitics, Books, Foucault, Guillermo Gomez-Pena, Journal of Theives, Literature, Mexico City, New Blogs, Photography, Pochismo, Science
- From Mexico City, Intersections returns from its hiatus with an update on recent events honoring writer Aura Estrada as part of an effort to create a literary prize in her memory. The prize will offer promising Mexican women writers an opportunity to hone their literary chops.
- Intersections follows up with a post on recent programming at Mexico City’s Center for Contemporary Culture. Maras y la Cultura de la Violencia focuses on La Mara Salvatrucha, among the most widely-publicized and feared street gangs in the US and El Salvador. The show raises a host of questions, especially about the way in which museums and cultural institutes address highly charged contemporary issues. Is the show an instance of the ongoing ‘museumification of the world’? Is it an attempt to deal with a matter usually placed under the sign of public safety/police/crime journalism with the resources of humanistic reflection? Or is it just a foolish, useless, and unsympathetic expedition glorifying a way of life marked, or perhaps defined, by cruelty, aggression, and ruthlessness?
- The MIT Press is holding its Winter White Sale until January 31, which is the press’s coolest discount book buying opportunity next to their loading dock sale. If any dear readers wish to donate books to the tirado/thrown staff (ahem…), please feel free to ask how you can send Ruben Gallo’s Mexican Modernity and/or Adam Sharr’s Heidegger’s Hut. Generosity will be compensated with a treatment of received book on this blog and recognition from a grateful beneficiary.
- Perverse Egalitarianism reflects on Bernard Steigler’s Acting Out. The call to philosophy and the discipline required in its practice, which, at the risk of oversimplifying, is part in parcel with getting on in this existence of ours.
- Why has No Useless Leniency not been in my reader? Why were three outstanding posts missed here at tirado/thrown? In the interest of making amends, first some notes on Badiou’s The Meaning of Sarkozy, highlighting some useful precepts. Second, a post reflecting on the ontology of the interval, with some hints for further reflection regarding the conquest and creation of the New World. Third and last, some notes on Walter Benjamin’s essay Capitalism as Religion, an essay that Agamben riffs heavily on in “In Praise of Profanation.”
- This Recording’s recent “Science Corner” entry, aside from being colorful, is an example downright cool science blogging for the barely initiated. And now we are a little more familiar with the mating habits of the banana slug.
- I Cite shares with readers some notes on Foucault’s 1978-79 lectures on the genesis of modern biopolitics. Introduction, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
- Guillermo Gómez-Peña, who has helped bring pochismo into the cultural vernacular, is The Mexorcist. Yes, xenophobia is a spiritual disorder. An interview with the Tuscon Citizen elaborates. (Note: Gómez-Peña will be giving a talk at USC on January 28. For more context, his article in The Journal of Visual Culture from 2006 titled El Mexorcist lays out the basic idea.)
- Rhizome calls our attention to the brick being thrown at us. Buffalo Head: Media Practice, Media Study, Media Pioneeers 1973-1990 is the 800-plus page , 10 pound book documenting the work of SUNY Buffalo’s Center for Media Studies.
- tirado/thrown receives a greeting from Journal of Thieves. Not at all safe for work, or for those who are easily offended. We were definitely charmed by the assault on sensibility that makes easily reproduced spectacle and images of extreme ambiguity render pornography inoperative. tirado/thrown thanks JoT for making us think. We welcome you to the blogroll, with open, er, you get the point.
- Please, click through the link at the end of the bullet . You’ll find your computer to be interesting and fun again. http://www.zigzagphilosophy.com/
Image: Screenshot of zigzagphilosophy.com, (2009). Digital work by Angelo Plessas, found at Rhizome.