tirado/thrown


Incandescent Phenomena
December 13, 2009, 2:30 am
Filed under: Aesthetics, art, Philosophy | Tags: , , , , , ,

Cai Guo-Qiang, Self-Portrait: A Subjugated Soul, 1985/89 From the first time encountering this image, the associations with a handful concepts were inescapable.  In one fell swoop, ideas of subjectivity, energy, temporality, the trace, eventality, halos, and (most interestingly) incandescence glisten in the flow of attention when standing before the Qiang’s image. Multiple=

Cai Guo-Qiang, Self-Portrait: A Subjugated Soul, 1985/89

From the first time encountering this image, the associations with a handful concepts were inescapable.  In one fell swoop, ideas of subjectivity, energy, temporality, the trace, eventality, halos, and (most interestingly) incandescence glisten in the flow of attention when standing before the Qiang’s image.

Multiple passages from Jean-Luc Nancy’s The Experience of Freedom speak to this flash of bundled energy in the act of taking-place or becoming that Qiang’s self-rendering seems to record.  In one particular instance, Nancy writes of the ontological dimensions of freedom’s flare (82):

…freedom is itself nothingness, which does not negate itself properly speaking, but which, in an pre-or paradialectical figure of the negation of negation, affirms itself by making itself intense.

The intensification of the nothingness does not negate its nothing-ness: it concentrates it, accumulates the tension of the nothingness as nothingness (hollowing out the abyss, we cold say…), and carries it to the point of incandescence where it takes on the burst of an affirmation.  With the burst–lightning and bursting, the burst of lightning–it is the strike of one time, the existing irruption of existence.

This radiance occurs at the border between the formless being that lays beyond representation and representations of humanity that take on a determinate form or another.  It is the most basic point of our existence where ontological and ethical categories blur and come into play with each other.

Qiang’s gesture shows a trace of a human being that at a point in time glistens with a particular intensity, radiates heat and energy, and warps and bends the field around him.  At some points the halo surrounding the figure crackles with electric flashes whose ardor match that of the body.

In the halo’s dark singes it is difficult to determine whether each ray is a wayward flash straying outward from the body or if the body is attempting to collect loose bits of energy from the surrounding environment to concentrate and make possible that blinding flash of light that burns the parchment of our world.  The halo allows itself to radiate and dissipate outwards in a faint light to reveal the dark, unknown form that captivates our attention.

Cross-posted at the brand-new tirado/thrown tumblr. Be sure to visit there, too!

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Dispatches from Alla: Gary Garay
October 18, 2009, 3:35 pm
Filed under: art, Chicano, Los Angeles, Video | Tags: , , , ,

Gary Garay, The Last Buffalo, 2004

Gary Garay, The Last Buffalo, 2004

About a month ago, a discussion on the Art and Music of Post-Mexico by Josh Kun at Boston’s ICA got our juices flowing.  More than that, it gave us some considerable material to reflect upon, which we hope to share sooner or later on our pages here at tirado/thrown.  We hope to do so once we have a some more developed reflections ready to go.

Among the trove of exquisite finds Kun shared with those in attendance was the work of Gary Garay, whose evocative work retrieves and re-imagines some of the basic elements of Mexican-American life: paletas, Nike Cortez shoes, “Grandes Exitos” collections, sheepskin seat covers, brick cell phones, cinder blocks, pagers and so on.  He’s got a wealth of images to offer from the sources he draws upon.  A favorite of ours is The Last Buffalo (above), an ink drawing that almost immediately calls to mind the original Brown Buffalo, Oscar Zeta Acosta, and a painting by Eddie Martinez, Val Kilmer’s James Brown.  One part celebration and another part lament, it appears to melancholically announce the loss and disappearance of the Chicano as a robust cultural figure in American life.

Eddie Martinez, Val Kilmer's James Brown, 2008

Eddie Martinez, Val Kilmer's James Brown, 2008

As a part of LACMA’s Phantom Sightings show–which we hope to check out when it arrives at New York’s Museo del Barrio in March 2010– the county museum has an interview with Garay that goes into how he treats his source material.  More to come in time.

Image sources: Gary Garay, ZeiherSmith



Virtual Pyramids and Cosmic Pixels
August 13, 2009, 11:53 am
Filed under: art, Items | Tags: , , , , ,

Breathing Pyramid

Rhizome, a favorite website here at tirado/thrown, directs our attention to these animated gifs from artist MDCCLXIV.  At first, they resembled little more the Mayan temple’s  ziggurat cousins to us.  But a close eye on the way the images unfold rewarded us with the deceptively simple geometric patterns that give structures like those in Tikal the austere rigidity to peek their tops out over the jungle canopy.  The contrast created by the crayon and pastel-colored gradations only heighten the possibility of grasping the geometry at work- breathing, pulsing, spinning, rising and falling.  From the name of the series from which these pieces belong, “About the Field of Statistics”, there’s quite possibly some mathematical ontology to be had here.

The initial allure of these pieces comes on the heels of a day where chats, discussions, phone calls, and re-established connections with friends and relatives from Guatemala and Honduras occupied a great deal of time.  They’re potent, abstract reminders of a land and culture that’s in our cells and are yet to discover here at tirado/thrown. On this occasion they were even more potent than photos of the pyramids themselves, in that their truth resided precisely in their rendering as virtual, which was more faithful to the nature of the highly mediated communicatons conducted via cell and internet than a photo or video of a temple itself (which served more as a secondary reference than anything).

Mayan Pyramid 1

[Image Credit: MDCCLXIV, via Rhizome.]



Late Winter Video: Waiting for the Gift of Sound and Vision

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.



Work Cloud

work-cloud

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.



Neptune: Grey Shallows
January 5, 2009, 11:25 pm
Filed under: art, Music, Rock, Video | Tags: , , , ,

Neptune is more than just a local favorite at tirado/thrown.  Yes, the band’s record, Gong Lake was the subject of one the firsts posts on this blog.  But Neptune more than just represent Jamaica Plain, the neighborhood this publication calls home. They are ceaseless laborers and innovators, entirely committed to their craft of making music with the instruments they create: equal parts luthiers, drum makers, metal smiths, sculptors, creators of things from found and unwanted objects, circuit benders, and songwriters.  Neptune are heralds of a present time perpetually displaced and deferred, though already here.

Performed and produced by multi-disciplinarian Zea Barker, the video for Neptune’s Grey Shallows is a piece documenting effort, motion, position, and gesture suddenly seized and frustrated within the confines of limited space.  An easy visual analogy for an existence trapped inside a cubicle?  That would be one way to approach the video, but a little too easy and practical a metaphor.  

Another way to consider the video is through the use of the scenery’s limited space, which conditions and binds Barker’s movements and frames her exertions.  Her movements are alternately manic and elegant, frenetic and graceful, energetic and exhausted.  All the while, Neptune’s track moves along, suddenly setting itself at a humming idle to seek out the next direction to carry its sound.  From there the verse acts as a means for the song to measure where it stands in the field of sound. The chorus offers a temporary resolution by propelling the song out of boredom and stasis.

What seems to matter most is the dynamism dwelling between the opposite poles of activity and manner represented in vision and sound.  With Grey Shallows, Barker and Neptune summon a thoroughly tactile, and at times uneasy, relationship with the environments they dwell in, making something out of what is otherwise seen as nothing or useless, with marvelous results.



TVOTR: Golden Age

Among the things that make TV on the Radio’s music so rewarding to listen to are the currents of intense, uncontanable energy running through it.  In my opinon, their music’s the closest thing that comes to an original, radical intervention in contemporary Ameican popular music.

Daniel Hernandez points out the band’s merits as an outfit who infuse the cosmic into the everyday. He’s right. I would add to his point that TVOTR do so in a way that George Clinton and the Digital Underground (who made no secret of their desire to emulate Clinton’s stylings) were only hinting at with their experiments in playing with images, figures, and live performance.

TVOTR’s video for “Golden Age” attests to an adroit sense of production, fusing visual, lyrical, and musical elements and leaving a thematically potent package of insights left at the viewer’s door. It’s also a philosophic treasure trove. View the video a few times and you just have to wonder whether the band’s been reading Giorgio Agamben, Nietzsche, the Judeao-Christian Bible, and watching the Care Bears as sources for useful references. A few examples:

  • Scenery evoking, among other references, the revelation atop Mount Sinai, the transfiguration of Christ, and the mountain retreat where Nietzsche first introduces us to Zarathustra: These are elevated spaces where its dwellers are transformed by a gift or bestowal of some sort: of the law, glory, wisdom, or light. We can also say that these are sites of experiences that occur at the limits of experience, language, and comprehension.  In the case of the video, it is quite possible to interpret it as taking place in a state of exception.

 

  • The use of halos and auras as indicators of potentiality, the exposition of identity-shifting figures over and against the figures of sovereign power (the police), and the use of figures fusing the animal and human are found in various works of Giorgio Agamben: Not to belabor the point, but reading The Coming Community, Homo Sacer, and The Open opens up a sensitivity to these themes being played out in cultural products, music videos included.  The nexus of magic, genius, and play at work in the video might also offer examples that point to items that Agamben works with in Profanations as well. 

 

  • In the process of a face-off between the band as figures of humanity and the police as agents of the state, there is quickening of pace, a heightening of tension, and an anticipation of an unknown event.  Hints of Heidegger’s accounting of anticipatory resoluteness and the moment of vision in Being and Time linger within scene.  In the process of transformation to a quickening beat, the police officers no longer operate as agents of the state in the face of a humanity reconciled with its animal nature.  The police’s gestures no longer direct energy towards reservation, distraction, or repression but towards humanity in dance, where gestures are made artful (useful) and traverse the chasm separating spectacle and spectator.  The scene brings to mind a quote from The Coming Community: “The novelty of the coming politics is that it will no longer be a struggle for the control of the state, but a struggle between the State and the non-state (humanity), an insurmountable disjunction between the whatever singularity and the State organization” (84)   Golden Age’s video offers a visual rendition on a variant of such a struggle that Agamben addresses above.

 

I’m sure there are other philosophic themes and references at work in the video (Plato comes to mind), but these stood out most immediately. References aside, “Golden Age” is very succinct rendering of the band’s political mytho-theology, condensing mysticism, mythical symbolism, liberation, redemption, transfiguration, illumination, music making, collective struggle, pop culture, and political emancipation in three minutes.  After all, are these not the promises the holiday season offers to its celbrants, aside from food, companionship, and the prospect of staying in all day? 

It’s fantastic what an outstanding music video can do, especially when the visuals and audio complement each other so well. Enjoy; or rather, be jilted, provoked, distressed, even moved to explore the yet unknown and unspoken possibilities the video offers its viewer.