“In his later works, Klee began to erase the lines that typically distinguish a painting’s foreground image from its background, and he populated this background with numerous other figures that enter into a viewer’s awareness to greater and lesser degrees. Thus Klee’s late works… paint the usually inconspicuous tension of emerging and withdrawing, the usually unnoticed opposition of foreground and background which allows painting to work.”
—Iain Thomson, “Notes to Heidegger’s Aesthetics”
Room 237 is a documentary covering fan theories that have surfaced around Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Costume design, background posters, and the brand logos of pictured food items all receive thorough readings from the documentary’s featured fan theorists, who see each as a crucial clue to the movie’s “real” plot or theme. What struck me most, when watching Room 237, was how different, rather than similar, this world of film fan theory felt from literary interpretation. Continue reading “Backgrounding Techniques in Cinema and Literature”
IT HAS BEEN EIGHTEEN MONTHS. EIGHTEEN MONTHS, LARGELY WASTED. EIGHTEEN MONTHS OF REGRESSION
SUSPENDED REASON HAS GONE FROM SOFT TO HARD (NON-TECHNICAL TO TECHNICAL). SUSPENDED REASON MUST BECOME SOFT AGAIN
BUT SUSPENDED REASON CANNOT GO BACK TO THINGS THE WAY THEY WERE
SUSPENDED REASON MUST FIGURE OUT A WAY TO SYNTHESIZE THE SOFT WITH THE HARD
SUSPENDED REASON MUST LEARN A WAY TO BE SOPHISTICATED WITHOUT BEING JARGONY
Disclaimer: Most of the insights in this post have already been addressed by semiotics, and won’t strike anyone familiar with that discipline as novel. This is more just an attempt to reframe and re-analogize a process than to advance actual arguments.
Delving into the world of machine learning has me interested in encoding as an analogy for art processes. Consider, for instance, the mental image which so many readers generate in an encounter with a text. This translation from text to image is merely the inverse of what Samuel R. Delaney describes as his writerly process in The Jewel-Hinged Jaw: Notes on the Language of Science Fiction.Continue reading “Mental Imagery 1”
There is a hand-drawn tram simulator, beautifully drawn. You are in the role of some entity, appearing and not appearing human, and you walk him toward the waiting tram. He is — you are — not its passenger but its conductor, controlling the forward and backward movement of the tram. Along the tram route there are stops. At the first such station, you slow too late, having seen it not in time to ease in. This is no serious problem. You merely reverse the tram a few meters, slowly, back into the station, and pause, so the tram doors can open and waiting passengers step on. You do not pay much attention yet. The scenery is beautiful. You can hear birds chirping. Continue reading “Short Trip (Alexander Perrin)”
Gabriel Duquette of Liposuction has raised a number of objections to my insertion of effect-ideas into his maps/chords dualism. Either effect-ideas are not real, he argues, or they are not significant. They are trivial in that they are wildly personal, unpredictable, and unengineerable. Read rather than written into texts, they are the creations of readers and audiences instead of artists and authors. It is akin to ruminating on a rock for hours at end, and then pretending the rock had instigated the conversation. Continue reading “Effect Ideas and Close Encounters”
Interested in literary or artistic "meaning" as the sum of all infinite interrelationships between a work of art/literature and the equally infinite set of all data points which exist both inside the work and out in the world. These data points include, but are not limited to, the composition of society in its entirety, both at the time of the work's creation and every time before or since; the position of the artist/author within society during every moment of his lifetime and also before/since; all facts and biographies about audiences/readers both real and hypothetical; every included word's complete etymological history and complete history of usage (also, important in their negation, the histories of excluded words as well); and all physical facts about the universe. Continue reading “A Possibility for Artistic “Meaning””
“A dramatic presentation should be an act of initiation during which the spectator will be awed and even terrified… During that experience of terror or frenzy… the spectator will be in a position to understand a new set of truths, superhuman in quality.” (Wallace Fowlie on Artaud’s “Theater of Cruelty”)
Gabe Duquette, writing at Liposuction, divides artistic fit into two categories: chords and maps.
Chords are elements combined in a way that is appealing, but not because the combination describes reality. Chords exploit the many evolved sweet spots of the senses. They can be comprised of “real” things but prioritize creation of an experience over transmission of knowledge. Chords can be consonant or dissonant — the sum of their parts can elicit pleasure or irritation, or even revulsion. Chocolate and peanut butter fit better than chocolate and ketchup. Continue reading “Maps, Chords, and Effect Ideas”
Interested in what I am possibly calling Utilitarian Criticism, or more likely Consequentialist Interpretation, or even more likely Return Maximization as a Critical Mode. This is the mode where the goodness or badness of a text/art object, for example, is largely irrelevant. Instead, modes of interpretation or ways of seeing are sought which maximize the audience's return on said text or art object. Utilitarian may be the wrong term because the obvious argument that critiquing (in the sense of evaluating) bad art likely has positive effects towards a culture producing more good art in the long run. Arguments over whether a sober or bright-side approach is better for a culture in sum (or where on the spectrum between approaches is a so-called sweet spot) makes for an interesting conversation but one outside the scope of this specific critical mode. So perhaps Return Maximization is the superior term.
Especially coming out of 20th Century Meaning Wars in literature departments ("Should we rely on author intent, reader response, or formal elements in our interpretation of a text?") the Return Maximization approach interests me as an "out" where consequentialism replaces deontology in deciding critical or interpretative methods. If contextualizing information adds to a text's perceived richness or value, it is worthy of inclusion. Return Maximization implicitly rests on the belief that arguments about "correctness" or "truth" are only relevant with respect to human beings as an end, especially where human-defined concepts like "quality" and "meaning" are concerned.
I do not watch baseball, though many of my favorite passages and anecdotes are inspired by the sport. There is DeLillo, of course, in his prologue to the monumental Underworld, whose opening line — He speaks in your voice, American, and there's a shine in his eye that's halfway hopeful. — remains one of the best ever written.¹ Continue reading “Alva Noë & Baseball”
"Tools are useful only against the background of our needs and capacities. Let’s return to the doorknob. A simple bit of technology, yes, but one that presupposes a vast and remarkable social background. Doorknobs exist in the context of a whole form of life, a whole biology—the existence of doors, and buildings, and passages, the human body, the hand, and so on. A designer of doorknobs makes a simple artifact, but does so with an eye to its mesh with this larger cognitive and anthropological framework." (99) Continue reading “Excerpts from Alva Nöe’s Strange Tools”