I just attended art historian T. J. Clark’s lecture, “Capitalism without Images,” at UChicago’s Logan Center, as a part of the Art History Department’s Smart Lecture Series. The picture above is from my view, where I sat on the floor due to the room being completely full. It was a great lecture, and I wish he’d visit the university more, because there was clearly a sense that his lecture was merely scratching the surface of his thesis–which argues that images are used to prop up the gap between the desired life and reality under capitalism.
While I was in Ohio for the holiday, I visited the Cleveland Museum of Art. Instead of seeing the Rodin sculptures in their usual place, I was surprised to find a gallery full of purple balloons. These balloons are a part of Contemporary British artist Martin Creed’s installation called, “Work No. 965: Half the air in a given space.” The installation ends today, so if you missed it, the video above gives a bit of a sense of it.
I was reminded of Allan Kaprow’s Yard (1961) [above], which was a space filled with tires. To experience the art one had to walk around on the tires, which asserted the viewer’s presence within the art. For such an art form, Kaprow used the term “Environment.” In his book Assemblages, Environments, and Happenings, Kaprow writes, “Environments are generally quiet situations, existing for one or for several persons to walk or crawl into, lie down, or sit in. One looks, sometimes listens, eats, drinks, or rearranges the elements as though moving household objects around. Other Environments ask that the visitor-participant recreate and continue the work’s inherent processes. For human beings at least, all of these characteristics suggest a somewhat thoughtful and mediative demeanor.”1
1. Allan Kaprow, excerpts from Assemblages, Environments, and Happenings, in Art in Theory, 1900-2000: An Anthology of Changing Ideas (2nd Ed.), eds. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2003), 717.
A conference at TU Dortmund University in Germany, entitled “Worlds Out of Joint: Re-Imagining Philip K. Dick” just ended yesterday. Although I’ve only read one of his novels (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), this would have been an interesting conference to attend. It looks like the papers are in English, which is a bit surprising, but I suppose it might have drawn less international visitors if German were prioritized. I’m also assuming that English is well known there, given its ubiquity.
I’ve been sitting in on Peter Galison’s class at UChicago, and it’s been fantastic so far. Two days ago he spent some time discussing the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico, where radioactive waste is to be stored for at least the next 10,000 years. That projection of time made us laugh oddly, but it seems that our laughter reveals an inability to comprehend such a span. Given our temporal distance from that point, there is an ongoing debate about how we might warn future humans (or maybe other kinds of sentient beings) about the buried dangers in the vast salt basin. Now we might have the task of writing a language for the future.
All this debate about these materials and the plans for the future can be analyzed as a way in which we know ourselves in the world. These deadly materials that we can’t completely master are forcing us to face problems that will last generations.
I’ve just added a video of another project that I was a part of for the class Data and Algorithm in Art, which took place earlier this year at UChicago. This time I was working with Olivia Li and Pieter Ouwerkerk. We were trying to create a sense of experimentation, drawing from B. F. Skinner’s operant conditioning chamber—also known as the Skinner Box—from which arose the creepy myth that he raised his child in such a device. The display is connected to data coming from the robot as it moves in its claustrophobic environment. We found that this framework of analysis, the enclosure of the robot, and the restriction of its movements, all seem to evoke a kind of anthropomorphic empathy.
Up on ReS Futurae’s research carnet is a short article I wrote on Chris Marker. His imagination has had great influence on science fiction in the last several decades, particularly his groundbreaking short film, La Jetée. I wish I could have met him.
Peter Galison, the Critical Inquiry Visiting Professor for 2012-2013, just gave a public lecture at the University of Chicago entitled, “Time of Physics, Time of Art”. The lecture room was packed, and Professor Galison’s lecture didn’t seem to disappoint, bringing up topics like the pumping of pneumatic time under Paris, Einstein’s sawtoothed illustrations of temporal measurements, and anti-colonial sabotage on submarine communications cables.