recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : quietness   4

Teju Cole — Sitting Together in the Dark - The On Being Project
"Writer and photographer Teju Cole says he is “intrigued by the continuity of places, by the singing line that connects them all.” He attends to the border, overlap and interplay of things — from Brahms and Baldwin to daily technologies like Google. To delve into his mind and his multiple arts is to meet this world with creative raw materials for enduring truth and quiet hope."

"I’m going to go back to a word I used earlier, which is how much help we need. We sometimes think of culture as something we go out there and consume. And this especially happens around clever people, smart people — “Have you read this? Did you check out that review? Do you know this poet? What about this other poet?” Blah blah blah. And we have these checkmarks — “I read 50 books last year” — and everybody wants to be smart and keep up. I find that I’m less and less interested in that, and more and more interested in what can help me and what can jolt me awake. Very often, what can jolt me awake is stuff that is written not for noonday but for the middle of the night. And that has to do with — again, with the concentration of energies in it.

Tomas Tranströmer, the Swedish poet, who died — can’t remember; maybe 2013 he died. He seemed to have unusual access to this membrane between this world and some other world that, as Paul Éluard said, is also in this one. Tranströmer, in his poetry, keeps slipping into that space.

In any case, I just found his work precisely the kind of thing I wanted to read in the silence of the middle of the night and feel myself escaping my body in a way that I become pure spirit, in a way. I remember when he won the Nobel Prize, which was in 2011. We live in an age of opinion, and people always have opinions, especially about things they know nothing about. So people who were hearing about Tranströmer for the first time that morning were very grandly opining that his collected works come to maybe 250 pages, that how could he possibly get the Nobel Prize for that slender body of work? — which, of course, was missing the fact that each of these pages was a searing of the consciousness that was only achieved at by great struggle. I think the best thing to compare him to is the great Japanese poets of haiku, like Kobayashi or Basho."

"But I wrote this today, and — for a long time now, but very definitely since January 1 of this year, I’ve been thinking about hospitality, because I wanted a container for some things I didn’t know where to put about the present moment. Who’s kin? Who’s family? Who’s in, who’s out? And just thinking this whole year about the question of hospitality has given me a way to read a lot of things that are very distressing, in this country and in the world, around the border but also around domestic policy. So this one goes against the grain, but I needed to put it down.

“The extraordinary courage of Lassana Bathily, an immigrant from Mali, saved six lives during a terrorist attack at a kosher supermarket at the Porte de Vincennes in 2015. He was rewarded with French citizenship by the French president, François Hollande.

“But this is not a story about courage.

“The superhuman agility and bravery of Mamadou Gassama, an immigrant from Mali, saved a baby from death in the 18th Arrondissement in May 2018. He was rewarded with French citizenship by the French president, Emmanuel Macron.

“But this is not a story about bravery.

“The superhuman is rewarded with formal status as a human. The merely human, meanwhile, remains unhuman, quasi-human, subhuman. Gassama crossed the Mediterranean in a tiny boat — that was superhuman, but no one filmed that, he remained subhuman, and there was no reward.

“Such is Empire’s magnanimity. Merci, patron. Je suis tellement reconnaissant, patron.

“The hand that gives, it is said in Mali, is always above the hand that receives. Those who are hungry cannot reject food. Not only those who are hungry but those who have been deliberately starved. But soon come the day when the Hebrews will revolt and once and for all refuse Pharaoh’s capricious largesse.


Because I wanted to think about this beyond what seemed, to me, too easy — the headlines, the gratitude — “Oh, he was heroic. He was like Spiderman, and the French government did a great thing and made him a citizen.”

How did we get here? Why is this enough? How did we get into the position where he kneels down to receive the crumbs?

If I were still on Twitter and I wrote that, I might get cancelled. You get cancelled when you’re out of step with the general opinion."

"I just find that anything really loud and hectic can just last for a moment, but it does not get to that deepest place, that place of self-recognition, which becomes indistinguishable from other-recognition, which is continuous with world-recognition. So I’m attracted, in all the arts, to those places where something has been quietened, where concentration has been established. I think one of the great artistic questions for any practitioner of art is, how do you help other people concentrate on a moment? This photograph, it’s a frontal portrait of a young woman, but it’s not a posed portrait. She’s in a crowd, and he has photographed her. She’s African-American, but her skin is dark, and he has made it darker still in the way he has printed it so that your first thought is, “Oh, could we lighten that a little bit?” And then you think, “No — no, no, no. Why am I feeling this way about this image?” In all the arts, there are those moments that are as though somebody has made the gesture of raising a palm, which is not a stop sign, but a — ”Attend, hush, listen.”

I think those are the moments we really live for in art, the moment where the artfulness falls away, and all that is left is that thing we don’t have a better word for beyond poetry."

"This is going to be my worst misquotation of the evening. But Toni Morrison talks about — we die, and that may be the — does anybody know it? — that may be the length of our lives or span of our lives; but we do language, and that may be the meaning of our lives — something in that direction. And I think it is somewhere in there. A frank confrontation with the facts is that between two cosmic immensities of time, you are born, you flare up for a moment, and you’re gone. And within two generations, everybody who knew you personally will also be dead. Your name might survive, but who cares? Nobody’s going to remember your little habits or who you were. So one meaning of our lives might be that we die.

But then the other is this other thing that has nothing to do with the noise out there — advertising, arguing on social media, which we all can get tempted into — or even our personal disputes or even our anxieties, even our struggles — but some other thing that is like this undertow that connects us to everyone currently alive and everyone that has lived and everyone that will live. So I think there’s just the stark, existential fact. It’s not fashionable to take up labels or whatever, but on some level, I’m sort of an existentialist. I don’t think it necessarily has a grander meaning. I certainly don’t believe that God has a wonderful plan to make it all OK. I used to. I don’t believe that anymore. You die; I don’t know what happens. I talk to my dead; I don’t know if they’re anywhere. You die, and it hurts people who love you.

But then, the other thing is that if there’s no grander, larger meaning, in real time there does seem to be a grand and large meaning. Right this minute, this does seem to be something that is real, that might not be meaning but comes awfully close to it: to be sitting together in the dark of this political and social moment, to be sitting together in the dark of what it actually means to be a human being, even if this were a euphoric political moment.

So there’s the grim view of, we’re not here for very long, and LOL no one cares, and then there’s the other thing, which is when your favorite song gets to that part that you love, and you just feel something; or when you’ve had a series of crappy meals and then finally, you get a well-spiced, balanced goat biryani — you know, when the spices are really fresh? Black pepper — a lot of people get black pepper wrong. Really fresh black pepper — and you have this moment.

So these moments of pleasure, of epiphany, of focus, of being there, in their instantaneous way can actually feel like a little nudge that’s telling you, “By the way, this is why you’re alive. And this is not going to last, but never mind that for now.” It happens in art, and it happens in friendship, and it happens in food, and it happens in sex, and it happens in a long walk, and it happens in being immersed in a body of water — baptism, once again — and it happens in running and endorphins and all those moments that psychologists describe as “flow.”

But what is interesting about them is that they happen in real time. As Seamus Heaney says, “Useless to think you’ll park and capture it / More thoroughly. You are […] / A hurry through which known and strange things pass.”

You’re just a conduit for that. But if you are paying attention, it’s almost — I’m not sure if it’s enough, but it’s almost enough. I’m certainly glad for it. I’d rather have it than not have it.

What do you think?"
tejucole  stillness  2019  truth  hope  interconnected  jamesbaldwin  brahms  place  borders  interstitial  tomastranströmer  smartness  reading  poetry  wokeness  kin  family  families  hospitality  photography  art  silence  quietness  listening  donaldtrump  barackobama  howwewrite  howweread  writing  tonimorrison  socialmedia  noise  meaning  seamusheaney  fear  future  optimism  johnberger  rebeccasolnit  virginiawoolf  hopelessness  kalamazoo  pauléluard  primolevi  instagram  twitter 
may 2019 by robertogreco
The Triumph of the Quiet Style - The Awl
"The clearest demonstration of the quiet style—the dominant, most provocative, most interesting aesthetic of our time—is in theater, where Annie Baker created a revolution by slowing everything down, inserting long pauses, setting plays at room temperature. Baker is, in America and for straight plays, the unquestioned superstar playwright of her generation. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 2014 and a MacArthur Grant in 2017. Her success is so sweeping that it’s almost hard to remember how weird her style seemed five or ten years ago, and how much it ran against all the prevailing headwinds of playwriting, which, for decades, had been all about making plays faster, more shocking, edgier.

American plays were already fast-paced (quick cuts, overlapping dialogue) and then, in the 1970s, David Mamet figured out a syncopated style that made them even faster. (“Arrive late, leave early,” is his prescription for writing scenes). Neil LaBute, Mamet’s heir, starts his signature play, Reasons to Be Pretty, with the stage direction: “Two people in their bedroom, already in the middle of it. A nice little fight. Wham!” Edward Albee, the reigning granddaddy of American theater, admitted that he wrote The Goat, a play about a man’s love affair with a farm animal, more or less because he couldn’t think of any taboos left to break.

For Baker, studying playwriting at NYU, the contemporary approach to playwriting was a nightmare—a formula to get your turns and reveals as plentiful and as high up in the script as possible, and all of it about as artistic as working in the pit at Daytona. While in graduate school, she had a breakdown (by her accounting, one of many) and, stuck, declared to her mentor that what she really wanted to do was to write a play about her mom and her mom’s “hippie friends sitting around and talking about spirituality for two hours,” which, to Mamet and her NYU professors, would have been like saying that what she wanted most as a playwright was to make sure that her audience had the right atmosphere for a nice, peaceful nap."

"But it’s not as if the quiet style began ten years ago. Chekhov is quiet. Our Town is quiet. Beckett is quiet. French New Wave is quiet. Probably, in every era, ‘serious’ art is quieter and slower than commercial. What I am saying, though, is that something distinctive is happening, and it’s clearly resonating with audiences since the same tendencies are dominant in all these different mediums, producing what for years has been the the most unsettling, most challenging, most talked-about work.

The key figure for the quiet style, the one who lays its sociopolitical foundations, is J.M. Coetzee. In Coetzee, the ruling class relinquishes—reluctantly but voluntarily—all its entitlements and, in humility and debasement, acquires a kind of beneficence. “The alternatives [to the power structure] are not,” he writes in the Diary Of A Bad Year, “placid servitude on the one hand and revolt against servitude on the other. There is a third way, chosen by thousands and millions of people every day. It is the way of quietism, of willed obscurity, of inner emigration.”

For the protagonists of the quiet style, most of whom descend from generations of easy living (their privilege is so patent and so internalized that they rarely deign even to speak of it), institutions no longer have anything to offer them and need nothing from them. They tend to be very willing to relinquish whatever societal power they have to those who want it more than they do. It’s characteristic to be an ex-pat (as in Lerner and Greenwell) or to be in some sort of internal exile (Vermont in Baker’s plays) or to be adrift in the ghettos of the unpublished, unproduced artistic underclass (as in Jarmusch, Baumbach, Heti, Dunham, etc). In other words, to have opted out.

What’s crucial—and, ultimately, what defines the quiet style—is the gesture of abnegation, a recognition by its heroes that success either is not for them or doesn’t matter to them. In spite of its heavy use of naturalism, the quiet style is not realism. Fundamentally, the quiet style is a mode of religious expression and it leans heavily on its confessional aspect, its blind faith that the moments of most abject, most senseless humiliation are also the moments when we are at our funniest and truest and (ultimately) most divine. For me, the great attraction of the quiet style is that it takes the attributes of my much-maligned generation—our restlessness, fecklessness, envy, solipsism—and turns them into something like a prayer."
quiet  quietness  slow  pause  pauses  art  film  theater  samuelbeckett  frenchnewwave  jmcoetzee  2017  style  playwriting  writing  davidmamet  anniebaker  abnegation  restlessness  fecklessness  envy  solipsism  naturalism  realism  antonchekhov  jimjarmusch  sheilaheti  lenadunham  noahbaumbach  filmmaking  taolin  benlerner  mumblecore 
may 2019 by robertogreco
[this is aaronland] personal brand as the non-state actor of influence
[audio version: ]

"Access and access at the time of your own choosing is a subtle but important distinction and if we are talking about the opportunity of the Network itself, it is this.

Imagine a world in which access to an exchange of culture required we all have to gather around our computers at the same time in order to read Maciej's latest blog post. Some of us can and if you asked I would tell you it sucked.

When television was the only opporunity we had to gather together outside of and to imagine a world larger than our immediate surroundings we managed to craft genuinely meaningful experiences from it. It would be wrong to suggest otherwise but it would equally wrong to ignore how quickly we opted for the alternative modes – opportunities – that the web provided.

I think that should tell us something and that it is perhaps a quality of the Network being overlooked and perhaps being lost entirely as we devote more and more time and infrastructure in an effort to going viral.

Because we are not all, or will not always be, the kinds of people seeking an audience of many. What the web made possible – at a scale never seen before – was the ability for a individual to discover their so-called community of five. In time. It was the ability for one person to project their voice and for it to echo out across the Network long enough for someone else to find it. It gave us the ability to warm up to an idea, to return to it.

That access to recall is what makes the Network special to me. That is the opporunity which has been granted to us which we would be wrong to confuse with success or even discoverability. We all suffer from degrees of not-in-my-lifetime-itis but that is a kind of deviant behaviour we have already perfected so maybe we should not apply its metrics to the Network, for everyone's benefit.

As has been mentioned I work at a museum. As part of the museum's re-opening in December we are building, from scratch, a custom NFC-enabled stylus which we will give to every vistor upon entry. The stylus (or pen) will allow you to manipulate objects on interactive tables as well as to sketch and design your own creations. That is, literally, what the pointy end of the stylus is for.

The other end is used to touch an object label and record the ID of the object associated with it. That's it. Objects are stored on the pen as you wander around the museum and are then transferred back to the museum during or at the end of your visit and are available for retrieval via a unique shortcode assigned to every visit.

If you buy a ticket online and we know who you are then all the items you've collected or created should already be accessible via your museum account waiting for you by the time you get home or even by the time you get your phone out on the way to the subway. (If you don't already have an account then the visit is considered anonymous and that's just fine, too.)

The use of the pen to collect objects has a couple of objectives:

1. To simply do what people have always wanted to be able to in museums and been forced to accomplish themselves: To remember what you saw during your visit. People take pictures of wall labels, I think, not because they really want to but because there is no other mechanism for recall.

2. To get out of the way; to be intensely quiet and polite. The pen will likely enjoy a certain amount of time in the spotlight but my hope is that it will be successful enough that, when that attention fades, it might simply be taken for granted. To be a necessary technology in the service of memory, that dissolves in to normalcy, rather than being something you need to pay attention to or have an experience with.

3. To give people the confidence to believe that they don't necessarily need to do anything with the things they collect in the moment. To have the confidence to believe that we will keep the things they collect during their visit safe for a time when they will once again be relevant to them. For a person to see the history of one visit in association with all their other visits.

The pen itself is a fairly sophisticated piece of technology because it turns out that taking the conceptually simple act of bookmarking objects in real-life and making it simple in hardware and software is still actually hard. We are not doing this simply for the sake of the challenge but because it provides a way for the museum itself to live with the Network. In these ways we are trying to assert patience. We are, after all, a museum and our only purpose is to play the long game.

I totally didn't say that last paragraph on stage. I should have, though. Instead I talked a little bit about oh yeah, that which is a photo-sharing website which lets you upload a photo and then doesn't let you see it for a year. I talked about it as an experiment in a kind of enforced patience with the Network. I also talked about it an exercise in trying to build a tool that could operate without the adult supervision of my time or money (or much of it, anyway) such that it not be subject to the anxieties of being immediately successful. This, it seems to me, is the work ahead of us. It is not about oh yeah, that or any particular class of applications but about understanding why we are doing this at all and building things to those ends."

If you haven't read Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century I would recommend you do. One of the things that makes the book so powerful is that Piketty has been able to shape an argument through the rigorous use of historical data across a number of countries. The data is incomplete in historical terms: The data for the UK is only available from about the 1840s onwards, for the US data becomes available in the 1920s and so on. The one country where the data is available in a comprehensive manner is France. Because they went to the trouble of collecting it. One of the first acts of the state following the French Revolution was to perform an audit of and to continue collecting reliable estimations of wealth and property.

It is that diligence in record-keeping which made it possible for Piketty to illustrate his point in fact rather than intuition. On the web we have been given a similar opportunity to project our stories outwards in the future; to demonstrate a richer past to the present that will follow this one. It is unlikely that it will or even should yield the same fact-based analysis as Piketty's book. That is not the point. The point is that if we subscribe to a point world view that values a multiplicity of stories and understands that history is nuanced across experience and which recognizes that the ability to look backwards as much as forwards is where opportunity lies then we would do well to remember that many of those aspirations are afforded by the Network and in particular the web.

Those qualities are not inherent in the Network no more than access to opportunity guarantees success. They require care and consideration and if it seems like the Network has turned a bit poison we might do well to recognize that maybe we have also been negligent in our expectations, both of the Network and of ourselves.

Damn... you can almost see me exploding in to a TED-sized supernova of emotive jazz-hands at this point. As above, I did not in fact say this while on stage. I tried to say something like it, though, because I think it's true.

One refrain I hear a lot these days is that it's all gotten too hard. That the effort required to create something on the Network and effort to ensure its longevity has morphed in to something far beyonds the means of the individual. I am always struck by these comments not because I think we ought to be leveraging-the-fuck out of the latest, greatest advances in application framework or hosting solutions but for the simple reason that:

We managed to build a lot of cool shit on the back of 56Kb modems. We built a lot of cool shit – including entire communities – on top of a technical infrastructure that is a pale shadow of what we have available to us today. We know how to do this.

It is important to remember that the strength of the web is in its simplicity but in that simplicity – a Network of patient documents – is the opportunity far fewer of us enjoyed before it existed. The opportunity to project one's voice and to posit an argument which might have even a little more weight, or permanance, in the universe than shouting in the wind which is all most people have ever enjoyed. The opportunity to be part of an historical dialog because having an opinion is not de-facto over-sharing.

It is important to remember that the Network has given us the opportunity of a different measure of success."
networks  aaronstraupcope  2014  dconstruct  dconstruct2014  museums  archives  memory  memories  digital  internet  web  history  object  socialobjects  social  proxyobjects  socialnetworks  thomaspiketty  collections  simplicity  williamgibson  technology  cooper-hewitt  maps  mapping  osm  sopenstreetmap  clickbait  coolhunting  anabjain  efficiency  economics  opportunities  maciejceglowski  power  time  cynthiasmith  efficiencies  virality  scalehigh-speedtrading  access  accessibility  recall  nfc  attention  quietness  quiet  normalcy  everyday  maciejcegłowski 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Think You Under the Table On the Internet and Quietness
"My friend Wes linked to this article in the New York Times Sunday Review Op-Ed. It’s about how we’re in danger of losing our selves and our sanity due to screens, the internet, and cellphones (it’s well written and probably better than that description, but…). But as I read these articles from time to time there is a sense that there is something right about them, but I think I ultimately largely disagree with these assessments. Does anyone else find that they don’t have a problem with their selfhood in the context of the internet/cellphones? Maybe it’s because a large part of the way I use these gadgets and all this information is for reading quality writing (like the article Wes linked to) and interacting in intellectually engaging ways with other humans. But that would just reiterate to me that technology is what one makes of it. It isn’t inherently distracting. It can be used for reflective analysis of how one uses technology, like what I’m doing right now. This is form and content in harmony."
noahdennis  technology  humanity  consciousness  quietness  stillness  picoiyer  attention  via:lukeneff 
january 2012 by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:

to read