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Kitsune - Wikipedia
"Kitsune (狐, キツネ, IPA: [kitsɯne] (About this sound listen)) is the Japanese word for the fox. Foxes are a common subject of Japanese folklore; in English, kitsune refers to them in this context. Stories depict them as intelligent beings and as possessing paranormal abilities that increase with their age and wisdom. According to Yōkai folklore, all foxes have the ability to shapeshift into human form. While some folktales speak of kitsune employing this ability to trick others—as foxes in folklore often do—other stories portray them as faithful guardians, friends, lovers, and wives.

Foxes and humans lived close together in ancient Japan; this companionship gave rise to legends about the creatures. Kitsune have become closely associated with Inari, a Shinto kami or spirit, and serve as its messengers. This role has reinforced the fox's supernatural significance. The more tails a kitsune has—they may have as many as nine—the older, wiser, and more powerful it is. Because of their potential power and influence, some people make sacrifices to them as to a deity.

Conversely foxes were often seen as "witch animals", especially during the superstitious Edo period (1603–1867), and were goblins who could not be trusted (similar to some badgers and cats).[1]"
foxes  japan  sestracat  myth  myths  mythology  shinto  trickster  folklore  cats  badgers  shapeshifting  companionship  multispecies  morethanhuman  inari  kami  spirits 
august 2018 by robertogreco
CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts: David Hammons
"Spirits aren’t something you see or even understand. That’s just not how they work. They are too abstract, too invisible, and move too quickly. They don’t live anywhere, but only run by and pass through, and no matter how old they are, they are always light years ahead. They do what they want, whenever they want. And under specific circumstances, at specific times, in specific places, to specific people, for specific reasons, they make their presence known.

In the Congo Basin in Central Africa, they are called minkisi. They are the hiding place for people’s souls.

David Hammons is a spirit catcher. He walks the streets the way an improviser searches for notes, looking for those places and objects where dormant spirits go to hide, and empowers them again. He knows about the streetlamps and the mailboxes where the winos hide their bottles in shame. Hammons calls it tragic magic—the art of converting pain into poetry.

[David Hammons. "Spade With Chains," 1973.]

Much has been said about the materials Hammons uses in his work. Most are taken from the street and cost very little—greasy paper bags, shovels, ice, cigarettes, rubber tubes, hair, rocks, basketballs, fried food, bikes, torn plastic tarps, Kool-Aid. Some of them are (knowingly) borrowed from the vocabulary of other artists, while others are closely tied to his own life and chosen surroundings in Harlem. Much has also been said about the meaning of his work—its arguments, its politics, what it’s “about.” And while much of what has been said has been useful, it has also been partly beside the point.

Materials are something one can see, and arguments are something one can understand, and that’s just not what Hammons is after. He’s interested in how much those wine bottles still somehow contain the lips that once drank from them. He’s after the pun on spirit—as in the drink, but also as in the presence of something far more abstract.
Black hair is the oldest hair in the world. You’ve got tons of people’s spirits in your hands when you work with that stuff.

[David Hammons. "Wine Leading the Wine," 1969. Courtesy of Hudgins Family Collection, New York. Photo: Tim Nighswander/IMAGING4ART.]

If Hammons is suspicious of all that is visible, it might be because the visible, in America, is all that is white. It’s all those Oscar winners, all those museum trustees, and all those faces on all those dollar bills. Some artists work to denounce, reveal, or illustrate racial injustice, and to make visible those who are not. Hammons, on the other hand, prefers invisibility—or placing the visible out of reach. He doesn’t have a lesson to teach or a point to prove, and his act of protest is simply to abstract, because that’s what will make the visible harder to recognize and the intelligible harder to understand.

If Duchamp was uninterested in what the eye can see, Hammons is oppressed by it—it’s not the same thing.

[David Hammons. "In the Hood," 1993. Courtesy of Tilton Gallery, New York.]
I’m trying to make abstract art out of my experience, just like Thelonius Monk.

For Hammons, musicians have always been both the model and the front line. When George Lewis says that “the truth of improvisation involves survival,” it’s because improv musicians look for a way forward, one note at a time, with no map to guide them and with no rules or languages to follow other than ones they invent and determine themselves. It forces them to analyze where they are and forces them to do something about it, on their own terms. Doesn’t get much more political than that.

Or, as Miles Davis once put it, “I do not play jazz.” He plays something that invents its own vocabulary—a vocabulary that is shared only by those who don’t need to know what to call it or how to contain it. And just as Miles Davis doesn’t play jazz, David Hammons doesn’t make art.

[David Hammons. "Blue Rooms," 2000 (installation view, The Centre for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowkski Castle, Warsaw).]
I’m trying to create a hieroglyphics that was definitely black.

Hammons goes looking for spirits in music, poetry, and dirt. He knows they like to hide inside of sounds, lodge themselves between words or within puns, and linger around the used-up and the seemingly worthless. He knows he’s caught some when he succeeds in rousing the rubble and gets it to make its presence felt. Like Noah Purifoy, he ignores the new and the expensive in favor of the available. Like Federico Fellini, he spends his time in the bowels of culture and makes them sing.

[David Hammons. "(Untitled) Basketball Drawing," 2006.]

There are the materials that make the art—those are the foot soldiers—but there is also the attitude that makes the artist. Hammons has his way of thinking and his way of behaving, which is once again not something one sees or necessarily understands, but is something that makes its presence known, the way spirits make their presence felt. There will be some who won’t recognize it and others who do—and his work is meant only for those who see themselves in it.
Did you ever see Elvis Presley’s resume? Or John Lennon’s resume? Fuck that resume shit.

Ornette was Ornette because of what he could blow, but also because he never gave into other people’s agendas or expectations.

What matters even more than having your own agenda is letting others know that it doesn’t fit theirs. “To keep my rhythm,” as Hammons puts it, “there’s always a fight, with any structure.” The stakes are real because should you let your guard down, “they got rhythms for you,” and you’ll soon be thinking just like they do. And in a white and racist America, in a white and racist art world, Hammons doesn’t want to be thinking just like most people do. His is a recalcitrant politics of presence: where he doesn’t seem to belong, he appears; where he does belong, he vanishes.

In short: don’t play a game whose management you don’t control.

[David Hammons. "Higher Goals," 1987. Photo: Matt Weber.]
That’s the only way you have to treat people with money—you have to let these people know that your agenda is light years beyond their thinking patterns.

The Whitney Biennial? I don’t like the job description. A major museum retrospective? Get back to me with something I can’t understand.

Exhibitions are too clean and make too much sense—plus the very authority of many mainstream museums is premised on values that Hammons doesn’t consider legitimate or at least does not share. He is far more interested in walking and talking with Jr., a man living on the streets of the East Village, who taught him about how the homeless divide up their use of space according to lines marked by the positioning of bricks on a wall. Those lines have teeth. In a museum, art is stripped of all its menace.

[David Hammons. "Bliz-aard Ball Sale," 1983. Photo: Dawoud Bey.]

The painter Jack Whitten once explained of how music became so central to black American life with this allegory:
When my white slave masters discovered that my drum was a subversive instrument they took it from me…. The only instrument available was my body, so I used my skin: I clapped my hands, slapped my thighs, and stomped my feet in dynamic rhythms.

David Hammons began with his skin. He pressed his skin onto paper to make prints. Over the subsequent five decades, he has found his drum.

[David Hammons. "Phat Free," 1995-99 (video still). Courtesy of Zwirner & Wirth, New York.]"
davidhammons  anthonyhuberman  art  jazz  ornettecoleman  milesdavis  theloniousmonk  material  rules  trickster  outsiders  artworld  resumes  elvispresley  johnlennon  insiders  race  racism  us  power  authority  jackwhitten  music  museums  galleries  menace  homeless  nyc  management  structure  presence  belonging  expectations  artists  fellini  noahpurifoy  availability  culture  hieroglyphics  blackness  georgelewis  improvisation  oppression  marcelduchamp  visibility  invisibility  souls  spirits 
february 2017 by robertogreco
BBC Four - John Berger: The Art of Looking
[video currently available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3VhbsXk9Ds ]

"Art, politics and motorcycles - on the occasion of his 90th birthday John Berger or the Art of Looking is an intimate portrait of the writer and art critic whose ground-breaking work on seeing has shaped our understanding of the concept for over five decades. The film explores how paintings become narratives and stories turn into images, and rarely does anybody demonstrate this as poignantly as Berger.

Berger lived and worked for decades in a small mountain village in the French Alps, where the nearness to nature, the world of the peasants and his motorcycle, which for him deals so much with presence, inspired his drawing and writing.

The film introduces Berger's art of looking with theatre wizard Simon McBurney, film-director Michael Dibb, visual artist John Christie, cartoonist Selçuk Demiral, photographer Jean Mohr as well as two of his children, film-critic Katya Berger and the painter Yves Berger.

The prelude and starting point is Berger's mind-boggling experience of restored vision following a successful cataract removal surgery. There, in the cusp of his clouding eyesight, Berger re-discovers the irredeemable wonder of seeing.

Realised as a portrait in works and collaborations, this creative documentary takes a different approach to biography, with John Berger leading in his favourite role of the storyteller."
2016  johnberger  documentary  towatch  simonmcburney  michaeldibb  johnchristie  selçukdemiral  jeanmohr  katyaberger  yvesberger  waysofseeing  seeing  looking  noticing  biography  storytelling  skepticism  photography  rebellion  writing  howwewrite  collaboration  canon  conspirators  rebels  friendship  community  migration  motorcycles  presence  being  living  life  interestedness  interested  painting  art  history  france  belonging  place  labor  home  identity  work  peasants  craft  craftsmanship  aesthetics  design  vision  cataracts  sight  teaching  howweteach  attention  focus  agriculture  memory  memories  shit  pigs  humans  animals  childhood  perception  freedom  independence  storytellers  travelers  nomads  trickster  dead  death  meaning  meaningmaking  companionship  listening  discovery  understanding  sfsh  srg  books  publishing  television  tv  communication  engagement  certainly  uncertainty 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Return of the Wild | Boom: A Journal of California
"Of course, that’s not the only history in California. Two analyses of native languages and literature have found traces of the wolf across nearly the whole state. In 2001, Alexandra Geddes-Osborne and Malcolm Margolin found separate words for “wolf” and “coyote” in many indigenous languages, and a role for wolves in story and ceremonies, in tribes as disparate as the Karuk in the far north, to the Pomo in the center of the state, and the Luiseno in the south.5 More recently, a report by scholars from the Anthropological Studies Center at Sonoma State University found fifteen indigenous languages across the state with different words for wolf, coyote, and dog, and five tribes with traditions in which the wolf features.6

One can go even further back in time, beyond history to prehistory. At the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, little kids stare in horrified fascination at an animatronic saber tooth cat taking down a slightly mangy-looking stuffed ground sloth in the public area. Meanwhile, drawers and drawers of specimens from Pleistocene California—from 10,000 to 50,000 years old—compose a deeper archive. Dire wolves—giant relatives of modern gray wolves, though not their ancestors—are the most common fossils found at the site. Researchers have unearthed the bones of some four thousand individual dire wolves. Presumably, mastodons and ground sloths stuck in the tar were so tempting that they lured the dire wolves to their doom.

A curator at the tar pits looks slightly bemused that I’m less interested in the dire wolves (currently chic thanks to their appearance in Game of Thrones) than regular old Canis lupus. “Does the collection include gray wolves?” I ask.

It does, indeed. We walk down a long, narrow corridor between metal cabinets, open a drawer, and here are riches of wolf bones, looking, as tar pit specimens do, mahogany colored and polished. There are teeth, jaws, and skulls. Nineteen drawers in all. When the first people came to what is now California, there were almost certainly wolves here.

Of course, there are still wolves in California—in Los Angeles, in fact. But these aren’t free-roaming wildlife. They are pets—or prisoners, depending on your point of view. Jennifer McCarthy, a dog trainer, spent four years in Colorado studying and working with captive wolves on a large piece of land. She now applies what she learned there to the dogs of the greater Los Angeles area, including the fully domesticated, nonwolf pooches of celebrities such as Christina Aguilera, the Osborne family, and Renee Zellweger. Some of McCarthy’s less famous clients own wolves or wolf-dog hybrids. For many people, there is an undeniable attraction to being that close with a piece of the wild. But wolves and wolf dogs make notoriously poor pets. They can bite. They don’t follow direction well. Their predatory instincts are strong, and, most of all, they are incredible escape artists. They don’t bond with people the way dogs do. Wolves may sound like a cool companion animal, but they spend their lives trying to be wolves, with sometimes-disastrous consequences.

McCarthy meets me in Redondo Beach at a coffee shop, wearing a black hoodie that says “Wolf Woman” on it. “There are people who live in the city of Los Angeles with 100 percent full-blown wolves,” she says. In one case, she was called to an apartment in Beverly Hills where a wolf had chewed through the floor and escaped into the apartment below.

McCarthy disapproves of breeding and selling wolves and part-wolves. “I really believe these animals were meant to be wild,” she says. “Wolves don’t want a lot to do with us.” But she will try to keep pet wolves from being euthanized, either by working on their behavior or placing them in one of the always-crowded specialty wolf rescues. She also volunteers her time to transport wolves and wolf dogs to shelters when necessary.

McCarthy’s experience with wolves suggests to her that even if they recolonize the state in large numbers, they will stay as far away from people as possible. “I couldn’t picture wolves walking down Santa Monica Boulevard at night, going through garbage cans,” she says.

That’s a job for another California canine: the coyote. Smaller, faster-breeding, and potentially more adaptable, the coyote inherited the lands the wolf left behind when humans exterminated it across most of the country. Coyotes, unlike wolves, are nearly impossible to eradicate. You can shoot, trap, and poison them all day long, and they’ll just keep coming.

In a lot of the native California and Oregon stories in which Wolf appears, he seems to be kind of a straight man to the trickster Coyote, who is sometimes his brother. Geddes-Osborne and Margolin retell a story from the Chemehuevi,7 in which Wolf is a brave warrior who saves the day and his little brother when the Bear people attack. Wolf fights in a magnificent multicolored robe, which becomes the rainbow. He is “wiser, more stately and in charge” than his little brother Coyote. This reminds me of stories from the Northern Paiute, recorded in 1938 by Berkeley anthropologist Isabel Kelly.8 In these stories, Wolf and Coyote are brothers, and Coyote is constantly taking risks out of curiosity, despite the warnings of his sage, conservative older brother, Wolf. Here’s a fragment of a tale told by Bige Archie of the Gidii’tikadu or Groundhog Eater band, in Modoc County, California.

They saw someone camped. Coyote wanted to see whose camp it was. Wolf told him, “Those are pretty bad people; don’t go there.” Coyote thought they might have some ya’pa [camas] roots. “I’ll go anyway,” he said. He went over to the camp. There were some Bear women in there. There was lots of ya’pa drying outside. Coyote found a basket. He scooped up some ya’pa and ran. They came after him; they came close behind him. He threw back the basket and hit those women right on the legs. He didn’t eat much of the ya’pa; he didn’t have time.

There seem to be some essential truths here about the natures of these two canines. It may be debatable whether wolves have more dignity. But they are certainly much more risk-averse. They tend to approach novel situations with the utmost caution; they shun humans; they take a long time to warm up to strange wolves. Coyotes are reckless and innovative, and as a result, humans have never managed to kill them off, in California or anywhere else. Stories about coyotes outnumber stories about wolves in most Oregon and California Indian literatures by a considerable margin. Does that mean there were fewer wolves or just that Coyote is a more compelling character for human storytellers?

Coyotes have adapted to a modern, crowded California. They cross Sunset Boulevard in San Francisco in the afternoon,10 nibble on lychee and avocados from suburban Southern California gardens,11 and forage in Santa Monica’s exuberantly varied and rich trashcans.

I have a hard time imagining wolves in those dangerous, liminal niches. Perhaps when wolves come back to a California vastly more overrun with humans than the one they last knew, they will stay hidden in the kind of remote forests favored by OR7 and his pups—places where you can drive up and down ridges all day and hear nothing but the drone of VHF receiver static, the croaks of ravens, and the scold of nuthatches; places where you know wolves are there, but you never see them. Or perhaps wolves will surprise me and everyone else and push in close to human California, appearing on ranches, in coastal suburbs, and even in major cities.

No matter where wolves live and how many there are, humans will be watching. The leaders of California’s first wolf packs likely will be caught and fitted with transmitting collars, just as in the other western states. The first colonists may well have Twitter accounts, like OR7. One thing is sure. In the first year of their official residence in the state, more will be known about them and written about them than all of the wolf generations before 1924."
californina  wolves  emmamarris  naturalhistory  wildlife  coyotes  trickster  urban  urbanism  nature  animals  history  losangeles 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Small groups and consultancy and coffee mornings ( 7 Oct., 2015, at Interconnected)
"One permanent pattern in our workshop culture:
Best design consultancy tip I know: Don't criticise without offering something better. Called the Ahtisaari Manoeuvre after an early client


Always have something on the table.

Another: Always use fat pens.

Another: It's important to have the right people in the room -- representing knowledge of technical possibilities, business needs, and market insights. But at the same time, the ideal number of people to have in the room is five or six. Any more than that, you can't continue a single conversation without it turning into a presentation.

Another: The one who understands the client's business best is the client."



"There are a couple of things I'm investigating:

1. That a small group is a powerful way of thinking, and of creating action. That repetition matters, and informality.

2. It might be possible to help with strategy without providing original thought or even active facilitation: To consult without consulting. The answers and even ways of working are inherent in the group itself.

My hunch is this: To answer a business's strategic questions, which will intrinsically involve changing that business, a more permanent solution than a visiting consultant might be to convene a small group, and spend time with it, chatting informally."




"Once a week we get together -- a half dozen students, often Durrell, whoever is teaching the course with him which was Stuart before and Oscar now, plus a special guest.

It's just for coffee somewhere or other, on Friday mornings, and we chat. It's super casual, sharing ideas and references, talking about the brief and design in general.

I'm curious about informality.

The lunchtimes at BERG, everyone around the table with such a broad range of skills and interests... and after Friday Demos - part of the weekly rhythm - the sparked conversations and the on-topic but off-topic sharing... this is where ideas happen too. Between projects but not outside them.

And I think informality as part of the design process is under-communicated, at least where I've been listening. So much work is done like that. The students are great at speaking about their work, sure. But mainly I'm interesting in how we induct someone into a worldview, quickly; how we explain ideas and then listen carefully for feedback, accepting ideas back -- all conversationally, without (and this is the purpose of the special guest) it turning into a seminar or a crit.

I think the best way to communicate this "lunch table" work informality is to rehearse it, to experience it. Which is what the coffee mornings are about.

I try to make sure everyone speaks, and I ask questions to see if I can encourage the removal of lazy abstraction -- words that get in the way of thinking about what's really going on. I'm a participant-observer.

Tbh I'm not sure what to call this. Visiting convener? It's not an official role.

I think (I hope!) everyone is getting something out of the experience, and everyone is becoming more their own kind of designer because of it, and meanwhile I get to explore and experience a small group. A roughly consistent membership, a roughly regular meeting time, an absence of purpose, or rather a purpose that the group is allowed to negotiate at a place within itself.

~

These RCA coffee mornings grew out of my experiment with hardware-ish coffee mornings, a semi-irregular meetup in London having a vague "making things" skew... Internet of Things, hardware startups, knitting, the future of manufacturing and distribution, a morning off work. That sort of thing. People chat, people bring prototypes. There's no single conversation, and only rarely do we do introductions. This invite to a meet in January also lists my principles:

• Space beats structure
• Informality wins
• Convening not chairing
• Bonfires not fireworks

I've been trying to build a street corner, a place to cultivate serendipity and thoughts. Not an event with speakers, there are already several really good ones."



"My setup was that I believed the answer to the issue would come from the group, that they knew more about their business than me.

Which was true. But I also observed that the purpose of the business had recently changed, and while it could be seen by the CEO that the current approach to this design problem wasn't satisfying, there was no way for the group to come together to think about it, and answer it together. Previously they had represented different strands of development within the startup. Now the company was moving to having a new, singular, measurable goal.

So I started seeing the convened discussions as rehearsing a new constellation of the team members and how they used one-another for thinking, and conscious and unconscious decision making. The group meetings would incubate a new way to think together. Do it enough, point out what works, and habits might form.

~

Consulting without consulting."



"I'm not entirely sure where to take these experiments. I'm learning a lot from various coffee mornings, so I'll carry on with those.

I had some conversations earlier in the year about whether it would be possible to act as a creative director, only via regular breakfast conversations, and helping the group self-direct. Dunno. Or maybe there's a way to build a new division in a company. Maybe what I'm actually talking about is board meetings -- I've been a trustee to Startup Weekend Europe for a couple of years, and the quarterly meetings are light touch. But they don't have this small group aspect, it might be that they haven't been as effective as they could be.

There might be something with the street corners and serendipity pattern... When I was doing that three month gig with the government earlier this year, it felt like the people in the civil service - as a whole - had all the knowledge and skills to take advantage of Internet of Things technologies, to deliver services faster and better. But often the knowledge and opportunities weren't meeting up. Maybe an in-person, regular space could help with that.

At a minimum, if I'm learning how to help companies and friends with startups in a useful way that doesn't involve delivering more darn Powerpoint for the meat grinder: Job done.

But perhaps what's happening is I'm teaching myself how to do something else entirely, and I haven't figured out what that is yet.

~

Some art. Some software."
mattwebb  small  groups  groupsize  2015  collaboration  consulting  vonnegut  kurtvonnegut  organization  howwewrite  writing  meaningmaking  patternrecognition  stevenjohnson  devonthink  groupdynamics  psychology  wilfredbion  dependency  pairing  serendipity  trickster  doublebinds  informality  informal  coffeemornings  meetings  crosspollination  conversation  facilitation  catalysts  scenius  experienceingroups 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Coyote is not a metaphor: On decolonizing, (re)claiming and (re)naming “Coyote” | Risling Baldy | Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society
"This article examines Indigenous oral traditions as methodologies for decolonization by extending Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang’s (2012) settler moves to innocence to include “colonial parallelism.” This article also looks at how western attempts at colonial parallelism have resulted in Coyote First Person being compared to and identified with “trickster” characters and argues that drawing this colonial parallelism of Coyote First Person as part of a universal trickster archetype renders Coyote First Person as a metaphor and erases how Coyote First Person actually builds and supports Indigenous ideas about the world and unsettles western ideas about the world. Ultimately this article asks readers to consider that, as we engage with Coyote First Person as a philosopher and philosophy of decolonization discourse, we should consider how the (re)naming of Coyote, rather than Coyote First Person or the given Indigenous language name, speaks to our theoretical standpoint."
coyote  coyoyes  trickster  decolonization  coyotefirstperson  language  colonialparallelism  2015  kwayneyang  evetuck  oralhistory  revitalization  cutcharislingbaldy 
june 2015 by robertogreco
The Truth About Animal Stories - The New Yorker
"Writers aiming to tell us about human life have often done so under cover of telling us about animals. Animals are fun—they have feathers and fangs, they live in trees and holes—and they seem to us simpler than we are, so that, by using them, we can make our points cleaner and faster. With Madame Bovary, you pretty much have to say who her parents were. With SpongeBob, you don’t, and this keeps the story moving. Most important, the use of animals to stand in for human beings creates a fertile ambiguity. We know that the author is not proposing a one-for-one equivalence between human and nonhuman life, but some kinship is certainly being suggested. Think of Swift’s Houyhnhnms, trotting down the road, their withers shining in the sun, saying sober, passionless things to Gulliver. How beautiful they are, and how creepy. Animal narratives have allowed writers with lessons on their mind to make art rather than just lessons.

Such tales are no doubt as old as animal paintings on cave walls. The earliest evidence we have of them is the beast fable, a form that is said to have come down to us by way of Aesop, a Greek storyteller who was born a slave in the sixth century B.C. Actually, no solid evidence exists that there ever was an Aesop, any more than there was a Homer. As with the Iliad and the Odyssey, we are talking about manuscripts that date from a period much later than the supposed author’s, and were probably assembled from a number of different fragments. In any case, a beast fable is a very short story (the Penguin Classics edition of Aesop renders “The Tortoise and the Hare,” perhaps the most famous of the fables, in five sentences) in which, typically, a couple of animals with the gift of speech learn a lesson from their dealings with one another. This moral is then stated at the end of the fable, and it is usually of a cautionary variety: don’t eat too much, don’t brag, watch out for this or that. As early as the third century B.C., these stories were being gathered together in various editions, usually for children, to teach them Latin (most were in Latin until the late Middle Ages) and some basic rules about life.

Eventually, in continental Europe, a more complicated kind of animal story, the “beast epic,” grew up alongside the beast fable. Beast epics used some of the Aesopian material, but they were much longer and more novelistic. They dispensed with the great Noah’s ark of generic animals that we see in a collection of beast fables: a duck, a goat, a frog, an ass, etc. Even a good-sized beast epic features no more than perhaps a dozen types of animal, each represented by only one or a few individuals, with names and rudimentary personalities. In the typical epic, the star is a fox—Reynard, Renard, or whatever, depending on the language—with his unwavering wiliness. Dominated by that slippery character, the beast epic no longer makes it altogether clear what lesson we are learning, or whether we should be learning it.

The fox epic was imported into England by William Caxton, the man who set up the first English printing press. In 1481, Caxton brought out “The History of Reynard the Fox,” a translation—by him, into his late Middle English—of what was basically a thirteenth-century Dutch version. By 1700, this had been followed by twenty-two further editions. Given the prevailing literacy rates, such a sales record qualifies the book, in the words of the Harvard medievalist James Simpson, as a “runaway best-seller.” This, Simpson says, is because its cold satire “answered to the intensely competitive, materialist conditions” of the time. Perhaps in the belief that such conditions still hold, Simpson has produced his own translation of Caxton’s “Reynard the Fox,” and Liveright has just published it."



"One doesn’t have to be an animal, however, to join the ranks of the tricksters. Gods can be tricksters—Hermes, in one of his aspects; Loki, from Norse mythology—and so can mortal heroes, such as Odysseus. A fictional trickster can also be a more ordinary man, like Patricia Highsmith’s Mr. Ripley. Lewis Hyde, in his widely cherished book “Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art” (1998), says that artists can be tricksters. He nominates Marcel Duchamp and John Cage. It seems that just about the only kind of creature that can’t be a trickster, at least of the classic type, is a female, a fact that somebody should write a dissertation on.

Why do we like tricksters? A comforting answer is that we enjoy watching the play of intelligence. Even nicer is the idea that we like to see intelligence triumph over power. Actually, brains and brawn are not mutually exclusive—Goliath may have been a smart man—but in trickster tales they are usually opposed. Three pages into “Reynard,” Tybert the Cat, hearing Courtoys the Dog accuse Reynard of stealing his sausage, says, Not so! That was my sausage—I stole it from the miller. From then on, almost no episode passes without someone practically walking into a wall.

James Simpson, in the introduction to his translation, says that this is a great part of the pleasure of the book: its revelation of the stupidity of our fellow-creatures. He adds that Reynard’s preying on them might nevertheless trouble us if it weren’t for the fact that they are also brutal and greedy. Reynard gives them their “comeuppance,” and thereby “becomes a hero, or antihero of sorts.” I think that, for the most part, this is not true. On the contrary, the most interesting thing about “Reynard” is its moral ugliness, or, at least, lack of hope, like something out of a Russian novel. Reynard indulges in ecstasies of cruelty. When he tells the King the big lie about the treasure and gets permission to go to Rome, he decides that he’s not finished. One last thing, he says: I can’t make the trip without shoes. How about Isengrim’s? And so the wolf’s shoes are “pulled off from the claws to the sinews. . . . He didn’t move a muscle, even though his feet bled.”"



"What was Caxton’s world? One where there had been armed conflict—the Hundred Years’ War, the Wars of the Roses—for a century and a half, where religious persecution was the rule (the first auto-da-fé of the Spanish Inquisition, in Seville, was carried out the year that “Reynard” was published), where the spikes of city gates were topped with rotting heads. Some commentators, such as Hieronymus Bosch, saw this world as a place of madness. To others, like Machiavelli, it was merely a scene of mortal danger, in which—he says it straight out—one must imitate the fox. Machiavelli’s tone is steady and pitiless. But other works of the period are as baffling as “Reynard.” Consider the Unicorn Tapestries (1495-1505), in which, in a forest carpeted with daisies and marigolds, with little rabbits and birds running around, men plunge their swords into the beautiful white animal, and blood runs down its side. As in “Reynard,” you can’t figure out what you’re being told.

Why is “Reynard” being republished now? Simpson says that his version is the first readily accessible English translation to appear in almost a hundred years. I am glad that he rescued it, but I’d also like to know why no one else bothered to. There are a lot of medievalists in our universities, and Caxton’s English, which is only about a hundred years older than Shakespeare’s, isn’t difficult. (“The wulf sayd I may wel forbere your mockes and your scornes and also your felle venymous words strong theef that ye ar.”) Maybe, because of the book’s puzzling nature, people didn’t like it much, and so they left it alone. And now, perhaps, it has ridden in on the coattails of the iconoclastic trend in the modern study of fairy tales, with Disney’s prettified versions being execrated by feminists and queer-studies writers. (By Marxists, too, notably Jack Zipes, a pioneer in this campaign. His new and proudly horrifying version of the Grimms’ tales was published last year by Princeton.)

Amid the newly exposed atrocities in our folk literature, Caxton’s back-and-forthing on the subject of Reynard’s morals does not appear so shocking. One should consider, too, whether we might not be living in a time that’s comparable, or at least relatable, to Caxton’s, in the sense of strong religious feeling being juxtaposed with terrible events. The Ebola virus, Crimea, Ukraine, Syria; the Pakistani Taliban invading a school, setting a teacher on fire in front of her students, and then gunning down the children, a hundred and thirty-two of them. And that’s just last year. Worse things happened in preceding centuries, but we didn’t know about them. A beheading could be shared with only a certain number of spectators. Today, it seems, many people believe that the world is coming to an end. One of the most widely used settings for novels, movies, and television programs is a post-apocalyptic world. Measured against that, “Reynard,” laughing at cruelty, doesn’t seem so strange."
joanacocella  trickster  reynard  williamcaxton  2015  morality  marcelduchmap  johncage  patriciahighsmith  lewishyde  loki  mythology  hermes  uncleremus 
may 2015 by robertogreco
“Faking It:” Counterfeits, Copies, and Uncertain Truths in Science, Technology, and Medicine :: Center for Science, Technology, Medicine, & Society
"Symposium Abstract:

We invite colleagues to join us for a two day symposium at the University of California, Berkeley on “faking it”–here construed broadly as fudging, imitating, juking, playing the trickster, pretending, feigning, re-creating, manipulating, falsifying.  Our aim is to bring together a wide variety of scholars whose work, in some way, touches upon this issue.  We invite colleagues to consider any aspect of the practices, epistemologies, ontologies, and politics of faking, copying, counterfeiting, or quackery.  We seek to amplify and incubate a growing attention to the theory and practice of fake truths on Berkeley’s campus and beyond.

Over the past several decades, science studies scholars have explored the ways in which scientific knowledge and practice is socially constructed, debated, contested, and deemed credible by the public.  Others have turned their attention to the politics and poetics of “agnotology,” or the social, political, economic, and cultural circumstances that promulgate and substantiate ignorance.  Both of these takes on the sociology of knowledge have opened up room for examining the creative ways in which actors fake, fudge, and forge. In the contested space between corporations and the broader public, for example, sociologists and historians have explored the tobacco wars, global warming debates, and the regulatory boundaries of “permissible exposure” to industrial toxins.  So too, anthropologists and STS scholars working from below are increasingly turning attention to artisanal knowledge and ingenuity, be it cultures of repair or improvisation in medicine. At each of these registers, there are possibilities for both creativity and catastrophe.

For this symposium, we invite scholars working on issues as diverse as climate change, voting machines, and art forgery, as we probe the validity of data, the fabrication of evidence, and the harmful as well as potentially liberating practices and ramifications of faking it.

Keynote Speaker:

Joseph Masco is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. He writes and teaches courses on science and technology, U.S. national security culture, political ecology, mass media, and critical theory. He is the author of The Nuclear Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico (Princeton University Press, 2006), which won the 2008 Rachel Carson Prize from the Society for the Social Studies of Science and the 2006 Robert K. Merton Prize from the Section on Science, Knowledge and Technology of the American Sociology Association. His work as been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Wenner-Gren Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. His current work examines the evolution of the national security state in the United States, with a particular focus on the interplay between affect, technology, and threat perception within a national public sphere."
via:javierarbona  faking  fakingit  trickster  events  2015  imitation  fakes  impostors  falsification  manipulation  copying  counterfeiting  quackery  agnotology  ignorance  fraud  science  sociology  knowledge  forgery  anthropology  improvisation  notknowing  medicine  creativity  fabrication  evidence  truth  josephmasco  technology  culture  society  academia  ethics  invisibility  bullshit 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Sjón & Hari Kunzru — Work in Progress — Medium
[video: https://vimeo.com/72354976 ]
[Björk introduction: http://www.fsgworkinprogress.com/2013/08/bjork-introduces-sjon/
more: http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2013/05/16/sjon-bjork-and-the-furry-trout/ ]

"Sjón: It writes me. I’m better sticking to being visual when I write. No, but for me, to go in that direction, I actually do think most literature is visual arts."



"Sjón: I think we were typical second-wave punks. I mean, obviously, the generation that started the punk movement in England, the first punk bands—The Clash and The Sex Pistols and the Buzzcocks and all these bands—these were all kids that were quite a bit older than we were. They were born around 1953, ’55, so they were all about the anger, and they were all about … I think Johnny Rotten said it came from the liver.

We came to it as teenagers, and it’s interesting that while you can clearly see similarities between punk and Dada, this absolute nihilism, and you can say that the punks were actually fulfilling one of Tristan Tzara’s battle cries where he said, “Musicians, break your instruments on the stage.”

Just as Surrealism followed Dada, something happened when you had seen all this raw anger leading to nothing but raw anger, maybe good old Surrealism became the good and right remedy to all that anger. Like Björk said, it really felt like it fit together, and we were really looking for the revolutionary, the rebellious aspect of Surrealism.

Hari: The idea that it’s sort of dreaming and an escape from reality can be rebellious and revolutionary?

Sjón: As a good Surrealist would say, an escape into reality through dreaming. Ah!

Hari: I was thinking about Jonas Palmason in From the Mouth of the Whale. He goes to Copenhagen, and it’s this huge city filled with more things and people than he’s ever seen before. He imagines that he’s in an ancient version of the city, and I was trying to square that kind of dreaming with this revolutionary dreaming. Are they the same thing? Are they different things? Is the visionary Sjón also an escapist dreamer?

Sjón: One of the first things I learned from Surrealism is that it’s not fantasy, that Surrealism makes a very clear distinction between fantasy and the marvelous. You’re always looking for the marvelous in reality, and that’s where poetry happens. It happens when you hit upon these incredible moments in your reality. In Reykjavik, we had a city of rather small size to go walking around, but this idea of walking around, getting into the spirit, surreal spirit, and awaiting the poetic to manifest in a marvelous way in your reality—that’s very much what I’m looking for."



"Sjón: No. [Pause.] I’m really interested in how people become obsessed with ideas and how they become obsessed with certain cosmologies, and how the obsessed mind starts finding proofs of its truths. How it looks for the manifestation of these truths all around it in reality. This happens all the time—that things start to manifest if you’ve got them on your brain. They start manifesting all around you.

Hari: That’s there in all your fiction, this sense that a certain kind of attention is repaid by this. You start seeing the visionary aspect of the world.

Hari: You’re fond of mythic explanations for things that maybe other people wouldn’t use that for. I saw an interview where you started riffing on the idea that maybe 9-11 was something to do with the power of the great god Pan.

Sjón: I am actually absolutely sure that the great god Pan slipped through some sort of a gateway into our world, on that day.

We’ve been living in panic ever since. Actually, when we were in Athens for Björk’s performance of our song at the Olympics in 2004, I had direct experience of one of the gods there: One day, I was in a group that went down to the peninsula south of Athens, and there is a great Poseidon temple sitting there on a rock. As we came closer to the temple, we saw better and better what a sad state it was in. Obviously, this used to be the place of great sacrifices, 500 bulls sacrificed and burned in one day and all that, and the crowds coming to bow in front of the image of Poseidon.

I thought as we got closer, “Oh, look at you, great Poseidon. Look at the sad state you’re in.” This is how the Icelandic poet’s mind works. That’s how we think when we’re traveling.

We came to the temple and started walking around and looking at these sad ruins, but then I walked to the edge of the cliff. Who was there, who hadn’t moved and left his temple, but Poseidon? The whole ocean stretched out from the cliffs. Poseidon was still there, even though man had stopped sacrificing to Poseidon, Poseidon was still there. Then, Poseidon, of course, feeling a little bit annoyed that people were forgetting him, he moved just a little finger, his little finger a tiny bit, and we had the tsunami in Indonesia.

The myths are really about man confronting the fact that nature is always bigger and stronger.

Hari: It seems that in Iceland, there’s this particular kind of negotiation with nature that has to go on, because it’s a very unstable place, geologically if in no other way. I always think of the island of Surtsey coming out of the sea in the 1960s, and suddenly, you’ve got a new southernmost tip of Iceland that’s been generated by an undersea volcano. Is this sense that things are capable of shifting and that even the ground under your feet could potentially change, do you think this has any link to Iceland’s notorious belief in hidden folk and that sense that the landscape is actually populated with forces that are beyond our immediate understanding?

Sjón: Yes, I think we experience nature as a living thing, and a part of it is to go to the extremes of actually believing that nature has a character, or if not character, that it can manifest itself in different forms. We have folk stories about the hidden people, Huldufólk, who live in rocks and fields and cliffs, and they look exactly like us except they’ve only got one nostril. Apart from having only one nostril, they always lead a much richer and better life than those of us who have to survive above ground. They’re having musical parties all the time. They dress in silk, and whenever an Icelander gives a person from that nation a helping hand, he is rewarded with a cloth of silver or a goblet of gold. We know that the earth is rich, and we know that it’s more powerful than here, so I think when you live in a place that is obviously alive, you tend to populate it with different creatures.

For example, Katla, is this great volcano that possibly will explode fairly soon, and Katla is a woman’s name. It’s the name of a giantess. It’s more than likely that it will wipe out all the habitat that is sitting there on the beach. Man’s existence is—

Hari: Precarious."



"Sjón: I’m interested in the language of faith, and I’m interested in the literature of faith. In Iceland, like in so many Lutheran countries, the translation of the New Testament into the local language was a big moment. The church defined charity and love and all these terms.

I’ve always been interested in religious texts, not only because of the language but because I see religions as cosmologies, and I’m interested in cosmologies, and I’m interested in obsessed people and where to look for obsessed people. The best place is in religion. I think I’ve really taken advantage of the language of religion just in the same way that I’ve taken advantage of the language of myths and the world of myths.

For me, these are all attempts at explaining the same thing, which is to try to answer the question, “Is it possible that in the beginning there was nothing, and now we’re here sitting on these two nice chairs here in this Scandinavia House?”

We know that our cosmology will become obsolete, and it’s really amazing that the biggest given fact of our time is that cosmology, which is the hard science, is so unstable. I love it.

Hari: You take a real aesthetic pleasure in cosmologies, don’t you? What’s the joy of a big system, a big complicated system with lots of moving, whizzing, parts?

Sjón: My joy is the joy of the Trickster. It’s the joy of Loki. It’s the joy of the Coyote, because I know it’s an unstable system, and it will be overthrown, no matter how majestic it is. With the right little tricks, you will have an apocalypse. You will have the twilight of the gods. The gods will fight the last battle, and there will be a new world that rises up from it, and the Trickster can start thinking of new dirty tricks to topple that system."



"Audience Question: You were talking about how you enjoy cosmology and I wondered how you reconcile that with science and with your own art.

Sjón: Well of course it’s the scientists who are destroying each others’ cosmologies all the time. It’s very interesting that most people today live with a cosmology that absolutely ignores the theory of relativity, for example. Most people live as if the theory of relativity never happened because nobody understands it really.

It’s amazing how unaffected we are by these wonderful amazing things. We just continue. That’s one of the ways of overturning cosmologies: just keep brushing your teeth no matter how they say the universe was made."
sjón  iceland  harikunzru  2013  interviews  literature  poetry  davidbowie  surrealism  writing  escapism  punk  reality  björk  fantasy  fiction  nature  myth  mythology  trickster  greekmyths  obsessions  ideas  cosmologies  perspective  science  learning  unlearning  relearning  collaboration  translation  howwewrite  language  icelandic  loki  faith  belief  anthropology  hunting  geology  animals  folklore  folktales  precarity  life  living  myths 
december 2014 by robertogreco
The Genealogy of "Carol Brown": An Intertextual Reading of Parodic-Travestying Song - Text Patterns - The New Atlantis
"Of the three songs, “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover” might at first seem to be the least thoroughly captured by the masculinist rhetorical enterprise, since it features a woman listing the names of men: Jack, Stan, Roy, Gus, and Lee. But this appearance is misleading: note that no woman actually speaks in the song, but rather is spoken for by the masculine singer — and the emphasis is solely on how she relates to him: “The problem is all in side your head, she said to me.” (This is not a song that would pass any musical version of the Bechdel Test.) If a woman seems to have power in this song, it is power yielded to her by the singer, provisionally and temporarily. He remains the true decision-maker.

“Song for Whoever” is more obviously and flagrantly sexist, with its frank emphasis on using the tears of women for financial and reputational gain: “The Number One I hope to reap / Depends upon the tears you weep, / So cry, lover, cry.” Yet the song ultimately deconstructs itself, reaching its aporia in the namelessness of the singer: it is only the women who receive names, while he remains a cipher. He claims the power of speech and song — like Orpheus — but can only receive it by giving up his name, while the specificities of identity remain with the denigrated women. This reversal of power is indirectly acknowledged at the end of the song, with its narration of female vengeance — meant by the singer to be feared, but understood by the listener as a proper and indeed necessary act of retributive justice.

This “return of the repressed,” as Freud might have called it, finds a completion and intensification in the video of “Carol Brown.” Note here the presence of the woman's name even in the song’s very title — indicative of things to come, as the singer strives unsuccessfully to control the narration of his sexual history. His crucial mistake is the decision to display images of his former lovers, with the obvious purpose of subjecting them to the masculine gaze — but to his surprise and consternation, those images come to life: an ideal instance of the feminine subaltern speaking back to masculinist power.

Who organized all my ex-girlfriends into a choir
And got them to sing?
Ooh ooh ooh, shut up
Shut up girlfriends from the past

But — and this is the key point — they do not shut up. (He later repeats his order — “I thought I told you to shut uh-uh-up” — but they do not obey.) Through utterance they overcome their status as mere images, and take control of the song. As Baudrillard might put it, the simulacrum here becomes the hyperreal — and thereby the undoing of the Don Giovanni figure is complete.

Let me close with one ambiguous, and ambivalent, note. The wild card in “Carol Brown,” the figure that represents and enacts excess of signification, is “Bret” — whose evident chief trait here is silence. Unlike “Jemaine” and unlike the “Choir of Ex-Girlfriends” he does not sing. And yet he acts: and his primary acts involve manipulation of the image of “Jemaine,” including, most notably, shrinking him. Thus through “Bret” we see the reversal of the woman-as-enlarging-mirror trope that Virginia Woolf limned so memorably in A Room of One’s Own.

One might then see Bret as a Trickster figure — see Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes This World, though one might also describe “Bret” as a “whiteface” version of the “signifying monkey” about which Henry Louis Gates has written so incisively — but a trickster acting in order to help liberate women from imprisonment in the image constructed by the masculine gaze. But does such behavior enact a genuine male feminism? Or does it rather re-inscribe masculinist control in the deceptive guise of the Liberator? These questions will have to be pursued at a later date."
alanjacobs  fligthoftheconchords  paulsimon  thebeautifulsouth  music  meaning  gender  trickster  lewishyde  trickstermakesthisworld  henrylouisgates  feminism  freud 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Poly-Technic
[via: https://twitter.com/KatePahl/status/518992037740568576 ]

"The Poly-Technic is the collaborative arts practice of Steve Pool and Kate Genever. It is grown from a set of key principles, is not buildings based, geographically specific or funding reliant. It aims to provide a melting pot for ideas, exploring how knowledge is found in places and people as well as books and the internet. The ambition is to bring people together to think around the intersection between art, places, research and in doing so build what we call a “Generative Space”.

Our Manifesto includes ideas such as: Conflict can be generative, Stuff comes from stuff, Abandon what you think you know and It starts when it starts and finishes when it finishes. The Poly-Technic is an idea which can change shape while maintaining it’s form and works across disciplines with the aim of developing and promoting the idea of Wider World Artists [WWA]. We offer a mentoring service and have to date offered opportunities such as bursaries, a summer school, residencies and a commissions scheme."

[See also: http://kategenever-stevepool.blogspot.co.uk/
http://poly-technic.co.uk/news/
http://poly-technic.co.uk/publications/ ]

["How to learn from people"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-R_S83EY84 ]

[Manifesto
http://poly-technic.co.uk/manifesto-2/ ]

"Abandon what you think you know: It’s not easy to gradually let go of well developed expertise, at the Poly-Technic we suggest that it’s best to abandon it all in one go. Disciplinary boundaries can only be collapsed when we stop holding onto disciplinary knowledge.

It starts when it starts and finishes when it finishes: We are not afraid to part with or transform ideas into something new. Polytechnic projects are always “In-Process”.

Trust in the process: Trust yourself and trust in others, trust you will be surprised, trust you will be interested, trust in the future. Trust and belief depend on optimism; without which we are lost.

Meaning is negotiated: The author died in 1967, his children carry on trying to make sense of just about everything.

Conflict can be generative: Work hard to learn the difference between good conflict and bad conflict. But like cholesterol its difficult to know the difference between the good and the bad until it’s too late.

Stuff comes from stuff: trying, helping, working, making, talking – new ideas come from doing.

Make through thinking: the opposite of ‘stuff comes from stuff’, but its still active, its rigorous thinking

Be playful – improvise: Play games, play serious games – Nabeel Hamdi

Craft your practice: We could have said follow your line. The line is not to be broken, it is not marked on a short or long term strategic plan it flows from your feet and hands and entwines us with the world.

Feel your way: The artist’s business is to feel, although he may think a little sometimes… when he has nothing better to do. (John Ruskin)

Question everything: through deep reflection.

It is ambition enough to be employed as an under labourer in clearing ground a little, and removing some rubbish that lies in the way of knowledge. [John Locke. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. 1689.] As such we hope to beat a path through the nettles to a light dappled clearing in the woods and have a nice cup of tea.

Kate Genever and Steve Pool. 2012"
poly-technic  art  stevepool  kategenever  glvo  rolisoen  learning  howwelearn  trickster  knowledge  conflict  manifestos  play  unknowing  notknowing  interdisciplinary  antdisciplinary  transdisciplinary  cv  lcproject  openstudioproject  process  meaning  making  howwework  thinking  ideas  practice  johnruskin  feeling  reflection  questioning  questionasking  skepticism  ambition  johnlocke  optimism  askingquestions 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Transcendent dandyism – The art of dolce far niente – Albert Cossery and escape artistry | Lebenskünstler
"Extreme Indolence: On the Fiction of Albert Cossery [http://www.thenation.com/article/168020/extreme-indolence-fiction-albert-cossery ]

"…A novelist who made a cult of laziness, he had no qualms about taking it easy when it came to literary invention—“The same idea is in all my books; I shape it differently,” he once said…



Cossery’s heroes are usually dandies and thieves, unfettered by possessions or obligations; impoverished but aristocratic idlers who can suck the marrow of joy from the meager bones life tosses their way. They are the descendants of Baudelaire’s flâneur, of the Surrealists with their rejection of the sacrosanct work ethic, of the Situationists and their street-theater shenanigans, not to mention the peripatetic Beats or the countercultural “dropouts” of the 1960s. Henry Miller, who raised dolce far niente to an art form, praised Cossery’s writing as “rare, exotic, haunting, unique.” Whether Cossery’s merry pranksters wish merely to have a good time or, as in The Jokers, to wage an all-out campaign of raillery against the powers that be, there is one belief they all share: the only true recourse against a world governed by “scoundrels” is an utter disregard for convention, including the convention of taking anything seriously.



…The proud beggars in this story are Gohar, who has abandoned a professorship to live on the fringe as a street philosopher and bookkeeper in a brothel; Gohar’s protégé, the poet and drug dealer Yeghen, who tries to live his life as if it were itself a poem; and El Kordi, a revolutionary sympathizer chafing against his dead-end job as a government clerk.

…"

Albert Cossery and the Political Subversion of the Transcendent Dandy [http://www.deathandtaxesmag.com/114238/albert-cossery-and-the-political-subversion-of-the-transcendent-dandy/ ]

"The Egyptian-French novelist Albert Cossery was a philosophical and aesthetic dandy who loathed the idea of work, celebrated underground movements and ideas, and absolutely detested power. He was the dandy as a political subversive—an idea that must be resurrected.



Cossery, in a sense, is something of the offspring of the Surrealist Jacques Vache, a self-described “umourist” who revelled in doing nothing at all. An artist who decided not to create art, a poet who decided not to write poetry, all in an effort to prove that creation of works is counter-intuitive to the true artist, who must live the art and not leave evidence or relics as proof of genius.



Governments are, in fact, quite terrified of this sort of philosophical dandyism—of the aggregate of individuals who subvert by gleefully doing nothing.



And so it is the politically subversive dandy—the transcendent dandy—who is best-equipped to lead a new politically-subversive movement, where a panoply of ideas merge like a kaleidoscope. The dandy understands the absurdity of power and the various ways to subvert, ignore and transcend it, without resorting to violent means.

Dandyism, at its core, is political subversion, and Albert Cossery was nothing if not a dandy. And it was the dandies, the forgotten and ignored whom Cossery celebrated in his novels.



…Characters opt to withdraw from any idea of a career. To recognize the absurdity of joining power in its game (government) and staying as far away from it as possible. To know that love—for friends, fuck buddies, boyfriends, girlfriends—was all and that it was untouchable, transcendent.

We need a new era of dandyism, of subversives. We need a new counter-culture.

The dandy as imagined by Cossery has time to think and enjoy life. Idleness is not only a virtue for Cossery and his characters, it is elevated to the natural state of being—a rejection of the unnatural tethers which are fixed to our bodies as soon as we escape the womb: the classroom, the cubicle, the wage, the dollar, rent, and so forth."

[See also: http://randallszott.org/2014/09/29/loving-those-that-god-forgets-albert-cossery-idleness-is-more-than-a-way-of-life/
http://randallszott.org/2014/09/29/how-to-stop-time-toward-a-politics-of-the-unprolific-eternal-life-for-the-lazy/ ]
albertcossery  randallszott  2014  dandies  dandyism  idleness  counterculture  subversion  subversives  power  art  poetry  writing  wageslaevery  wages  oppression  classrooms  education  schools  unschooling  deschooling  cv  rent  careers  governement  love  friendship  transcendence  politics  nonviolence  philosophy  nothing  trickster  laziness  classroom 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Designing in the Borderlands by Frank Chimero
"We spend a lot of time making arguments over how to choose sides on these splits. But after a lot of reflection, I’ve decided that I’m not particularly interested in choosing sides.

I want to be the line, and I want to mess with that line, because that line is a total fabrication. Why fall on the side of print or digital if what’s usually needed is both? Isn’t that a more interesting design problem? Why make books with only text or images if they get better with both? The questions go on and on.

Luckily, these distinctions were drawn by us, which means that we can redraw them. We can move the line, toe it, and breach it with a transgressive practice that tries to turn opposition into symbiosis. But you can only cross the line and confuse the distinction if you commit to the middle space.

These borderlands are the best place for a designer like me, and maybe like you, because the borderlands are where things connect. If you’re in the borderlands, your different tongues, your scattered thoughts, your lack of identification with a group, and all the things that used to be thought of as drawbacks in a specialist enclave become the hardened armor of a shrewd generalist in the borderlands."



"I learned a lot through the design process of The Shape of Design. First, that there are opportunities to produce projects that elegantly incorporate multiple mediums. One only needs to look for them. And second, that these design problems become easier to handle if one considers the system as a whole, instead of attempting to chop it up into separate pieces and attack it as smaller bits. Division reduces them in the same way that Massage, Electric Information Age Book, or The Shape of Design would be made small if the individual parts were isolated. The individual bits would be have differently, and the designer would miss the most important thing: these projects are important and big because they are multiple, and to temporarily make them not so is to misunderstand and misconstruct them. For these sorts of projects, my mantra has become:

Everything all at once.
Everything all together.



I had two goals today.

First, I wanted to articulate the biggest opportunity I see in design today: designer as translator, designer as integrator, designer as a merchant of ideas. We’ve built up so much knowledge that is tucked away in books and websites, and often all that’s needed to get that knowledge the attention it deserves is a gentle massage of tone and a switch of format. We can introduce physical materials to the web to reap the benefits of the network, but we can also translate the web’s content to the physical realm to stabilize it so it can be held and appreciated.

The second goal was to cast an additional mold for a designer, and to provide an explanation about why a person would want to go make weird little books and sit and write essays instead of working at an ad agency or startup for six figures. It’s worth documenting the different ways one can go about pursuing a design practice. There are many stories and paths, and I hope all of this is a reminder that the lines we draw to create the contours of our expectations can be disrupted. And that this disruption can, somehow, be soothing to those of us who identify as something different than the standard.

I’d like to finish by revisiting that Calvino quote:
Whenever humanity seems condemned to heaviness, I think I should fly like Perseus into a different space. I don’t mean escaping into dreams or the irrational. I mean that I have to change my approach, look at the world from a different perspective, with a different logic and with fresh methods of cognition and verification.

I hope you get the opportunity to do this at some point in your career, and that my conclusions will help those of you who identify as generalists. If you do not, perhaps I have convinced you that our conception of work is more flexible than we typically believe. The field is wide open; that is why it’s called a field."
generalists  frankchimero  creativity  design  borders  seams  interstitial  cv  trickster  departmentalization  interdisciplinary  dualism  transdisciplinary  print  digital  books  ebooks  bookfuturism  marshallmcluhan  quentinfiore  buckminsterfuller  multimedia  jeffreyschnapp  adammichaels  allsorts  italocalvino  translation 
april 2014 by robertogreco
The Craftsman, the Trickster, and the Poet, by Edith Ackermann [.pdf]
"I suggest that art as a way of knowing is about “re-souling” the rational mind. This, in turn,occurs as a consequence of being mindfully engaged, playful in spirit, and disposed to usection—or the powers of myth—as windows into our inner and outer realities. Here, I of-fer a few thoughts on how people make sense of their experience, envision alternatives intheir minds, and most importantly, how they bring forth what they envision in ways thatcan move and inspire others (those at the receiving end of a creator’s oerings)."

[quoting: http://linkedith.kaywa.com/p138.html ]

"The craftsman, the trickster, and the poet are emblematic of the creative side in all of us: a deeply-felt reluctance to freeze the nuances of human experience into set categories, or representations, that rid themselves of the imaginal for the sake of proof or "reason". The artist sticks to the image. And that is why s/he captures our imagination. When art is "true", we know how to read between the lines! What the poet especially warns us against is to look at words as signs (instead of symbols, or indices),: “As we manipulate everyday words, we [shouldn’t] forget that they are fragments of ancient stories, that we are building our houses with broken pieces of sculptures and ruined statues of goad as the barbarians did” (Schultz, 1993. p. 88). The scientist instead is more of a Saussurian. He wants words to be signs, and he cringes when their meanings are “sticky” (fused to their contexts), “thick” (polysemic), or ambiguous (could be seen in more than one way). As for he rationalist in us: s/he wont seek to delight, amuse, or move us (spark insights). Instead, s/he’s here to reason, argue, and prove (provide evidence)!"

[video: http://www.exploratorium.edu/knowing/video.php?videoID=1241851064001 ]

[Edith Ackermann: http://web.media.mit.edu/~edith/ ]
poetry  poets  crafts  craftmanship  trickster  editchackermann  mindfulness  2011  art  artists  creativity  science  stickiness  reason  imagination  beginnersmind  neoteny  play  playfulness  richardsennett  ellenlanger  georgsimmel  jesters  clowns  bricolage  gastonbachelard  making  piaget  ernstcassirer  mending  tinkering  jeanpiaget 
march 2014 by robertogreco
The Pastry Box Project: Mandy Brown [Tuesday, 25 February 2014]
"In The Comedy of Survival, Joseph Meeker argues that much of Western civilization is modeled after the “tragic mode.” You’ll recognize that mode from the Greek and Renaissance tragedies you read in primary school. In the tragic mode, a larger-than-life character attempts to bend the world to his (and it’s always his) image. He succeeds, in part, by mutilating and murdering and generally dragging a swath of blood behind him. But his success is also his undoing, and at the end of the play, his head is carried off the stage. A eulogy praises his bravery while also issuing a caution against those who would follow in his path.

But Meeker proposes an alternative: the comic mode. As you might suspect, the comic mode takes its cues not from the great tragedies but from comedies. Whereas tragedies follow men who are determined to remake the world to suit them, comic characters remake themselves to fit the world. They are flexible and adaptable; they use their wits to take advantage of opportunities as they arise, rather than using their sword to make such opportunities appear.

Where tragedies end in funerals, comedies end in weddings — less blood, more drink.

The tragic mode is the one we slip into when we talk about men who’ve had an outsized impact on the world. We speak of the many things they’ve accomplished, the obstacles they overcame, their ambition, their disruption. We scoff at the companies or people left in their wake. If they fail, we praise their effort and courage. If they succeed, we eventually conspire to get at their throat, and the cycle begins anew.

But what of the comic mode? The comic mode eschews heroic acts. The comic mode pokes fun at ambition and celebrates leisure. The comic mode trades late nights for weekends off, empty savings accounts for day jobs, bravado for brains.

The comic mode lives beyond the curtain fall.

Less blood. More drink."
mandybrown  trickster  worldview  leisure  artleisure  leisurearts  comedy  tragedy  2014  heroism  humor  ambition  disruption 
february 2014 by robertogreco
A Poet's Warning | Harvard Magazine Nov-Dec 2007
"Yet even as the College returns to its civilian pursuits and petty vanities—students struggling with the poems of Donne, “professors back from secret missions” bragging about their adventures—Auden sees another kind of conflict taking shape. This is the war between the two sensibilities, the two social and spiritual visions, that Auden names Apollo and Hermes. Apollo, the Greek god of light and music, becomes for Auden “pompous Apollo,” the patron saint of “official art.” Against him, Auden sets Hermes, the trickster god, protector of thieves and liars, who is “precocious” and undisciplined. Both of these gods can make a kind of music, but Auden asks the reader to decide “under which lyre” he will take his stand.

The comedy of the poem, and its prescience, lies in Auden’s description of Apollo, the presiding spirit of what he calls “the fattening forties.” The danger to postwar America, the poet suggests, lies in the soft tyranny of institutions, authorities, and experts—of people who know what’s best for you and don’t hesitate to make sure you know it, too. Auden gives a wonderful catalog of the things these Apollonians want to impose: colleges where “Truth is replaced by Useful Knowledge,” with courses on “Public Relations, Hygiene, Sport”; poems that “Extol the doughnut and commend/The Common Man” (did Byron Price flinch at those lines?); even processed foods: “a glass of prune juice or a nice/Marsh-mallow salad.” In short, Auden is already predicting the dullest, most conformist aspects of American life in the Cold War years, the kind of prosperous mediocrity that gave the 1950s a bad name.

But if it’s impossible to dislodge Apollo from his throne, Auden suggests, you can still follow Hermes in private. That is why the last stanzas of “Under Which Lyre” offer a “Hermetic Decalogue,” a set of commandments for free spirits who refuse to fall into line:

Thou shalt not do as the dean pleases,
Thou shalt not write thy doctor’s thesis
On education,
Thou shalt not worship projects nor
Shalt thou or thine bow down before
Administration.

Thou shalt not answer questionnaires
Or quizzes upon World-Affairs,
Nor with compliance
Take any test. Thou shalt not sit
With statisticians nor commit
A social science.

This advice is half-joking, but only half. For Auden is reminding his Harvard audience that all the official apparatus of the university is extraneous to its highest purpose, which is to cultivate freedom and inwardness. It is a message that still needs to be heard today, when the expense of higher education forces so many students to look at it as an investment, rather than an adventure.

Auden knows that, if everyone lived by the Hermetic Decalogue all the time, the world would grind to a halt. “The earth would soon, did Hermes run it,/Be like the Balkans,” he ruefully acknowledges. A society run by Hermes would be a disaster; but a society without any followers of Hermes in it would be a nightmare. That message makes “Under Which Lyre” a truly American poem, in the tradition of Emerson and Whitman and Twain, all of them defenders of the individual against the collective. The continued life of Auden’s Phi Beta Kappa poem is a reminder that, when the generals and censors and other powers of the earth are forgotten, it is the mere poet who remains."

[Full poem: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/under-which-lyre-3/
Also here: http://members.wizzards.net/~mlworden/atyp/auden.htm
Audio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZE_bhSUgG8 ]

"Professors back from secret missions
Resume their proper eruditions,
Though some regret it;
They liked their dictaphones a lot,
T hey met some big wheels, and do not
Let you forget it.



The sons of Hermes love to play
And only do their best when they
Are told they oughtn't;
Apollo's children never shrink
From boring jobs but have to think
Their work important.



But jealous of our god of dreams,
His common-sense in secret schemes
To rule the heart;
Unable to invent the lyre,
Creates with simulated fire
Official art.

And when he occupies a college,
Truth is replaced by Useful Knowledge;
He pays particular
Attention to Commercial Thought,
Public Relations, Hygiene, Sport,
In his curricula.



Thou shalt not do as the dean pleases,
Thou shalt not write thy doctor’s thesis
On education,
Thou shalt not worship projects nor
Shalt thou or thine bow down before
Administration.

Thou shalt not answer questionnaires
Or quizzes upon World-Affairs,
Nor with compliance
Take any test. Thou shalt not sit
With statisticians nor commit
A social science."
via:lukeneff  trickster  whauden  poetry  experts  administration  authority  truth  mediocrity  unschooling  deschooling  edreform  education  learning  management  self-importance  hierarchy  poems  1946  highered  highereducation  tyranny  softtyranny  authorities 
february 2014 by robertogreco
The New York Review of Science Fiction: Liminal Places and Liminal States in John Crowley’s Little, Big, by Bernadette Lynn Bosky
"Especially over the past fifteen years, the terms “liminal” or “liminality” and “interstitial” have become increasingly popular in discussion of the arts. Some of these discussions, such as the mission statement of the Interstitial Arts Foundation, seem to use the term primarily in terms of work that crosses the borders of, and/or exists in the interstices between, different genres and art forms (also see Gordon 9). The conference on “Liminality in the Humanities” at the University of Utah takes the term a bit further, presenting papers at the borderlands and interstices of various disciplines. However, that conference also uses the term as it will be used in this study. So, even more strongly, does The International Seminar on Liminality and the Text and its associated journal and books published by Gateway Press.

This use of the terms is based on their origins in anthropology, referring to the borders of and spaces between categories much more fundamental than genre or even different arts. Towards the beginning of the last century, anthropologist Arnold van Gennep stated that rites of passage generally have three stages: “preliminal rites (rites of separation), liminal rites (rites of transition), and postliminal rites (rites of incorporation)” (11). In the 1960s and 1970s, Victor Turner expanded and somewhat adapted van Gennep’s work, concentrating on the liminal stage. As summarized by Richard E. Palmer:
Limen in Latin means threshold, and anthropologists like Turner have become interested in a certain state experienced by persons as they pass over the threshold from one stage of life to another. For instance, Turner notes that the rite of passage at puberty has three phases: separation from one’s status as a child . . . , then a liminal stage, and finally reintegration into society as a full and independent member with rites and responsibilities that the initiate did not have before. During the liminal stage, the between stage, one’s status becomes ambiguous, one is “neither here nor there”[;] one is “betwixt and between all fixed points of classification.” (1–2)


Two clear examples of a liminal state in modern Western culture are divorce and, even more so, marital separation. The couple isn’t joined anymore, but they aren’t separate. (Note even the switch from single to plural verb.) Rules from neither state apply; one is betwixt-and-between. Many people find that some others avoid them in such a liminal state, not knowing what to say or do. Another example is graduate school, an often arduous and curiously protracted liminal state. Graduate students aren’t professionals or students, yet they are both. They are expected to be bold as if the professors are colleagues but submissive as if they are only students; they are paid to teach but not paid much. Many of us would have preferred to be locked in a hut and fed only with implements that would be disposed of afterwards, a more common cultural response to such liminal states.

Places as well as times may be liminal. Crossroads are a meeting of two places and hence not fully either one; they are also, like the liminal stage of initiation, a place of possibilities and choices. Thus, it should not surprise us that the liminal figure of a vampire (neither alive nor dead, yet both) may be slain or buried there (see Clements, “Ogre” 39). Within a house, stairs, landings, and hallways are liminal areas—places we pass through, not generally places where people live. Unsurprisingly, landings, hallways, and stairs are among the most popular places for sightings of ghosts (us and not us, not alive or dead). Two even more popular places for ghost sightings are windows and doorways, which are quintessentially liminal, existing purely to separate yet join areas of room vs. room, room vs. hallway, inside vs. outside.

Here a distinction must be made between boundaries and thresholds, but a connection must be made as well. As stated by that quintessentially liminal figure, Hedwig of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, “Ain’t much difference/Between a bridge and a wall.” On the simplest level, that which separates is often also that which joins; one example is the semicolon.

More mythically, one of the goals of ritual is to turn boundaries into thresholds, as when a shaman crosses the barrier between our world and the other world and then personally forms a bridge between them or as a culture hero makes those boundaries less impermeable (Ellis). Roads and paths can be liminal also; they lead from one place to another, joining them, but also help define, for instance, what is safe versus what is not, as in the story “Little Red Riding Hood.” Finally, liminality is also connected to the idea of hybrids—that is, places, people, events, and things that take part in two categories that are thought of as being not only separate, but dichotomous, such as the ghost or vampire.

Note that many processes have a pattern of departure, entry into other realms, and return—Joseph Campbell’s pattern of the hero, for instance, and shamanic initiations. The difference here is that when it is defined as liminal, the middle stage presents not only physical, mental, and/or spiritual danger but also social and epistemological danger, as its very nature challenges the concept of categories of behavior and thought as absolute. In fact, at their most radical, these liminal areas challenge the binary nature of dichotomies that are supposed to be all encompassing: man/woman, human/animal, human/divine, approved/prohibited, life/death. Because it challenges these dichotomies, liminality is a source of great potential, but also at best uncanny and at worst abject.1 Liminal phenomena are taboo, again in the more technical sense—taboo things and processes are hedged with prohibitions, regarded as excluded and dangerous but still having great magic, religious, and/or social power. When William Clements discusses the work that Mary Douglas and Edmund Leach have done in this area, he concludes that liminal things and processes often inspire dread, perhaps because they “invite chaos by revealing the inadequacies of the ordering system that cannot accommodate them” (“Legends” 83). Those who understand the ordering system as inherent in life rather than constructed feel a different fear because then the anomalies become examples in themselves, or at least omens, of catastrophic rupture in the world itself (see Purcell).

Critics have commented on the mixing of genres in Little, Big. Thomas Disch remarks upon its “incredible tightrope act” between realistic human events and magic (159). James Hynes wittily describes the novel as “a long, gorgeously written picaresque family saga, in the last fifty pages of which all the major characters, with one heartbreaking exception, turn into fairies” (1). (Actually, the hint of an abrupt change within the book is vastly unfair: early indications of the presence of fairies may often be baffling to the first-time reader, but they are undeniable.) However, Little, Big is also a liminal book in a deeper, more mythic sense. It is about transitions, which are repeated on multiple scales and on multiple occasions: the turnings of the seasons and of the history of the world, the personal changes of the many characters and the overarching Tale of their final crossing-over from the world of human beings to the world of the fairies. Much of the book is about the peril and potential of these turning points. Boundary-crossings and the interstitial time between the old and the new are reflected in the novel’s nigh-ubiquitous use of liminal places, times, and processes. Characters generally do well or poorly based on their ability to live in, or at least accept, various degrees of conjunction of our world with that of the fairies.

Note that the world of the fairies is not, in itself, liminal. In fantasy, there is the place one gets to by crossing a threshold: the world of fairy, or Oz, or Shangri-La. Then, there is the place or time or condition that is the threshold itself. In most fantasies, the emphasis is on the former, while in Little, Big most of the pages and most of the emotional energy of the novel goes to the latter."



"The turning of the seasons is indicated by social holidays as well as the geophysical solstices and equinoxes. John Storm Drinkwater, writer and liminal figure who can communicate with the world of animals (192), significantly identifies Christmas as a spot out of time: “a kind of day, like no other in the year, that doesn’t seem to succeed the day it follows. . . . Every Christmas seemed to follow immediately after the last one; all the months between don’t figure in” (161). That is, the holiday is a liminal time in the technical sense, just as the period of transition in the ritual entry into adulthood has more in common with all other periods of transition, in such rituals back across the years, than to the initiate’s time before as a child and time after as an adult; and all of these out-of-time experiences are somehow the same time."



"John Crowley states in a 1994 interview, “One of the reasons you write fiction is because you can create your own world. You need that constant sense of possibility. If you don’t have that sense of possibility in your own life, don’t even feel a craving for that kind of possibility and change, it makes it hard to write” (4). Why someone with this opinion would be drawn to fiction with liminal concerns seems clear. First, the liminal state, with its breaking of old associations and even questioning of received categories of thought, is highly creative, perhaps containing the essence of creativity. Moreover, the process of writing a book is in some ways liminal, itself a transformative seclusion: while some worlds may be made immediately, with no pause—“Fiat lux!”—in general, lengthy processes of change and refashioning are essential to the act of creation, … [more]
liminality  liminalspaces  interstitial  johncrowley  bernadettelynnbosky  arnoldvangennep  anthropology  victorturner  richardpalmer  borders  thresholds  inbetween  crossroads  boundaries  josephcampbell  writing  worldbuilding  possibility  change  migration  transformation  trickster  cv  williamclements  marydouglas  edmundleach 
december 2013 by robertogreco
If a cat could talk – David Wood – Aeon
[Related: "How Humans Created Cats: Following the invention of agriculture, one thing led to another, and ta da: the world's most popular pet." http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/12/how-humans-created-cats/282391/ ]

"Perhaps because we selected cats for their internal contradictions — friendly to us, deadly to the snakes and rodents that threatened our homes — we shaped a creature that escapes our gaze, that doesn’t merely reflect some simple design goal. One way or another, we have licensed a being that displays its ‘otherness’ and flaunts its resistance to human interests. This is part of the common view of cats: we value their independence. From time to time they might want us, but they don’t need us. Dogs, by contrast, are said to be fawning and needy, always eager to please. Dogs confirm us; cats confound us. And in ways that delight us.

In welcoming one animal to police our domestic borders against other creatures that threatened our food or health, did we violate some boundary in our thinking? Such categories are ones we make and maintain without thinking about them as such. Even at this practical level, cats occupy a liminal space: we live with ‘pets’ that are really half-tamed predators.

From the human perspective, cats might literally patrol the home, but more profoundly they walk the line between the familiar and the strange. When we look at a cat, in some sense we do not know what we are looking at. The same can be said of many non-human creatures, but cats are exemplary. Unlike insects, fish, reptiles and birds, cats both keep their distance and actively engage with us. Books tell us that we domesticated the cat. But who is to say that cats did not colonise our rodent-infested dwellings on their own terms? One thinks of Ruduyard Kipling’s story ‘The Cat That Walked by Himself’ (1902), which explains how Man domesticated all the wild animals except for one: ‘the wildest of all the wild animals was the Cat. He walked by himself, and all places were alike to him.’

Michel de Montaigne, in An Apology for Raymond Sebond (1580), captured this uncertainty eloquently. ‘When I play with my cat,’ he mused, ‘how do I know that she is not playing with me rather than I with her?’ So often cats disturb us even as they enchant us. We stroke them, and they purr. We feel intimately connected to these creatures that seem to have abandoned themselves totally to the pleasures of the moment. Cats seem to have learnt enough of our ways to blend in. And yet, they never assimilate entirely. In a trice, in response to some invisible (to the human mind, at least) cue, they will leap off our lap and re-enter their own space, chasing a shadow. Lewis Carroll’s image of the smile on the face of the Cheshire cat, which remains even after the cat has vanished, nicely evokes such floating strangeness. Cats are beacons of the uncanny, shadows of something ‘other’ on the domestic scene.

Our relationship with cats is an eruption of the wild into the domestic: a reminder of the ‘far side’, by whose exclusion we define our own humanity. This is how Michel Foucault understood the construction of ‘madness’ in society — it’s no surprise then that he named his own cat Insanity. Cats, in this sense, are vehicles for our projections, misrecognition, and primitive recollection. They have always been the objects of superstition: through their associations with magic and witchcraft, feline encounters have been thought to forecast the future, including death. But cats are also talismans. They have been recognised as astral travellers, messengers from the gods. In Egypt, Burma and Thailand they have been worshipped. Druids have held some cats to be humans in a second life. They are trickster figures, like the fox, coyote and raven. The common meanings and associations that they carry in our culture permeate, albeit unconsciously, our everyday experience of them.

But if the glimpse of a cat can portend the uncanny, what should we make of the cat’s own glance at us? As Jacques Derrida wondered: ‘Say the animal responded?’ If his cat found him naked in the bathroom, staring at his private parts — as discussed in Derrida's 1997 lecture The Animal That Therefore I Am — who would be more naked: the unclothed human or the never clothed animal? To experience the animal looking back at us challenges the confidence of our own gaze — we lose our unquestioned privilege in the universe. Whatever we might think of our ability to subordinate the animal to our categories, all bets are off when we try to include the animal’s own perspective. That is not just another item to be included in our own world view. It is a distinctive point of view — a way of seeing that we have no reason to suppose we can seamlessly incorporate by some imaginative extension of our own perspective.

This goes further than Montaigne’s musings on who is playing with whom. Imaginative reversal — that is, if the cat is playing with us — would be an exercise in humility. But the dispossession of a cat ‘looking back’ is more disconcerting. It verges on the unthinkable. Perhaps when Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote (of a larger cat) in Philosophical Investigations (1953) that: ‘If a lion could talk we would not understand him,’ he meant something similar. If a lion really could possess language, he or she would have a relation to the world that would challenge our own, without there being any guarantee of translatability. Or if, as T S Eliot suggested in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (1939), cats named themselves as well as being given names by their owners (gazed on by words, if you like), then the order of things — the human order — would be truly shaken."



"Yet the existence of the domestic cat rests on our trust in them to eliminate other creatures who threaten our food and safety. We have a great deal invested in them, if now only symbolically. Snakebites can kill, rats can carry plague: the threat of either brings terror. Cats were bred to be security guards, even as their larger cousins still set their eyes on us and salivate. We like to think we can trust cats. But if we scrutinise their behaviour, our grounds for doing so evaporate.

It is something of an accident that a cat’s lethal instincts align with our interests. They seem recklessly unwilling to manage their own boundaries. Driven as they are by an unbridled spirit of adventure (and killing), they do not themselves seem to have much appreciation of danger. Even if fortune smiles upon them — they are said to have nine lives, after all — in the end, ‘curiosity kills the cat’. Such protection as cats give us seems to be a precarious arrangement."



"Look into the eyes of a cat for a moment. Your gaze will flicker between recognising another being (without quite being able to situate it), and staring into a void. At this point, we would like to think — well, that’s because she or he is a cat. But cannot the same thing happen with our friend, or child, or lover? When we look in the mirror, are we sure we know who we are?"



"Cats, one at a time, as our intimates, our familiars, as strangers in our midst, as mirrors of our co-evolution, as objects of exemplary fascination, pose for us the question: what is it to be a cat? And what is it to be this cat? These questions are contagious. As I stroke Steely Dan, he purrs at my touch. And I begin to ask myself more questions: to whom does this appendage I call my hand belong? What is it to be human? And who, dear feline, do you think I am?"
cats  humans  pets  animals  2013  montaigne  tseliot  wittgenstein  jacquesderrida  gaze  michelfoucault  relationships  nature  consciousness  independence  codependence  rudyardkipling  domestication  davidwood  compatibility  trickster  magic  talismans  micheldemontaigne  foucault 
december 2013 by robertogreco
The Magpies
"The Magpies

When Tom and Elizabeth took the farm
The bracken made their bed
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said

Tom's hand was strong to the plough
and Elizabeth's lips were red
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said

Year in year out they worked
while the pines grew overhead
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said

But all the beautiful crops soon went
to the mortgage man instead
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said

Elizabeth is dead now (it's long ago)
Old Tom's gone light in the head
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said

The farms still there. Mortgage corporations
couldn't give it away
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies say.

Dennis Glover

Artists are people who make us see the world differently. Altho' Glover may not have been the greatest poet of all time he was an entirely real one, but he has always been easy to underestimate because his versification is so domestic and so easy on the ear that one doesn't notice how skilful it is. Ars celare artem. Once you know this poem, whenever you hear a New Zealand magpie call, you will hear it as Glover tells us to hear it: magpies say ``Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle''- they really do. Ask any New Zealander. The fact that is actually quite a good wee poem about what the Great Depression did to farming is a pleasant bonus that is in danger of being overlooked.

Janet Paul once told me that I was better company than Glover because he was drunk all the time. I treasure this compliment: to judge by the poetry he wrote Glover must have been very good company indeed. (memo to self: stay off bottle!)"
poems  poetry  newzealand  dennisglover  magpies  corvids  trickster  art  artists  glvo  birds  janetpaul  thomasforster 
december 2013 by robertogreco
'All Immigrants Are Artists' - Joe Fassler - The Atlantic
"Edwidge Danticat, author of Claire of the Sea Light, believes that "re-creating your entire life is a form of reinvention on par with the greatest works of literature.""



"The narrator encounters resistance when she tells her father she’s considering a creative path. Often, in an immigrant family, it’s a very big departure for a child to say: I want to be an artist, not a doctor, not a lawyer, or an engineer. The father, here, tells his daughter what so many immigrant parents tell their children: Art is not the safest route in life. We didn’t sacrifice all this for you to take up a precarious profession.

He tries to comfort her, at the same time, by insisting that being an immigrant makes her an artist already. And this is a fascinating notion: that re-creating yourself this way, re-creating your entire life is a form of reinvention on par with the greatest works of literature. This brings art into the realm of what ordinary people do to in order to survive. It takes away the notion that art is too lofty for the masses, and puts it in the day-to-day. I’ve never seen anyone connect being an artist and an immigrant so explicitly, and for me it was a revelation.

My parents spent their entire lives in Haiti before they left. They didn’t know much about the United States except that, at that time, there were opportunities there. They basically packed two suitcases and came. That experience of touching down in a totally foreign place is like having a blank canvas: You begin with nothing, but stroke by stroke you build a life. This process requires everything great art requires—risk-tasking, hope, a great deal of imagination, all the qualities that are the building blocks of art. You must be able to dream something nearly impossible and toil to bring it into existence.

As in art, there are always surprises."
art  immigration  writing  literature  lifeasliterature  internetasliterature  fiction  nonfiction  edwidgedanticat  reinvention  life  living  migration  glvo  trickster  patriciaengel  leisurearts  artleisure  internetasfavoritebook 
october 2013 by robertogreco
Beyond Face | The Public Amateur
"[T]he artist becomes a person who consents to learn in public. This person takes the initiative to question something in the province of another discipline, acquire knowledge through unofficial means, and assume the authority to offer interpretations of that knowledge, especially in regard to decisions that affect our lives. The point is not to replace specialists, but to enhance specialized knowledge with considerations that specialties are not designed to accommodate.

Specialization has brought about marvelous achievements. But under increasing complexity and fragmentation, the need for overviews of how vectors of power-knowledge intersect has become more imperative than ever. Our culture asks too high a price of society when it insists on narrow professional specialization. Conforming to this demand divides our intellect from our emotions, our imagination from our efforts, our pleasure from our worth, our verbal and analytic capacity from other creative talents, and our ethics from our daily lives. The result is frustration and disempowerment for the individual and shortsightedness for society as a whole."



"The amateur has transparent relations to her object. She approaches and ultimately appropriates the object of knowledge out of enthusiasm, curiosity or personal need. She learns outside the circuits of professional normalization and reward, things the artist was once presumed to resist.

Anyone can develop expertise and, if motivated enough, can even become an authority. The amateur can be as narrow as the specialist or as amorous as the polymath lover of knowledge. The category of the Public Amateur is not confined to artists. It’s a growing polyglot array of people who want to operate equally from the gut and the brain."



"Artists are expected to have publics, however small or large, but for better or worse, they are not expected to know much. An artist who wants to perform learning can leverage whatever claim to a public she is able to accrue, and initiate processes she hasn’t mastered, putting the very notions of professionalization and credibility on the stage.

This is an activation of metalanguage, something that artists do all the time. When I perform the acquisition of knowledge in the symbolic resonance that is art, I am inviting new conversations about knowledge itself. By placing this activity in the realm of aesthetics, I subject it to our questions about what we care about."

[via: http://ablersite.org/2011/03/24/the-public-amateur/ ]
trickster  art  artists  lcproject  openstudioproject  base619  amateurism  amateurs  beginner'smind  learning  workinginpublic  learninginpublic  howwelearn  cv  specialization  generalists  specialists  clairepentecost  publicamateur  enthusiasm  curiosity 
may 2013 by robertogreco
The Designer as Trickster
"New anthropological studies of designer roles add a new perspective to designers’ understanding of their own role. And that is important. In today’s globalised and high-efficiency society, it is more essential than ever for designers to be trickster characters, maintaining their unique approach to the design process. Tricksterism ensures a degree of change and renewal that is crucial to our society, says anthropologist and management researcher Karen Lisa Salomon."
mediators  kernlisasalomon  practice  trinevu  2009  design  trickster 
december 2012 by robertogreco
Signifyin' - Wikipedia
"Signifyin(g) (vernacular) is a practice in African-American culture, involving a verbal strategy of indirection that exploits the gap between the denotative and figurative meanings of words.

According to Black literary scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., the practice derived from the Trickster archetype found in much African mythology, folklore, and religion: a god, goddess, spirit, man, woman, or anthropomorphic animal who plays tricks or otherwise disobeys normal rules and societal norms. In practice, signifyin' often takes the form of quoting from subcultural vernacular, while extending the meaning at the same time through a rhetorical figure.

The expression itself derives from the numerous tales about the Signifying Monkey, a folk trickster figure said to have originated during slavery in the United States. In most of these narratives, the Monkey manages to dupe the powerful Lion by signifying. Signifyin(g) directs attention to the connotative, context-bound significance of words…"
subculturalvernacular  folklore  mythology  signifyingmonkey  via:charlieloyd  indirection  wordplay  words  africanamerican  language  trickster  henrylouisgates  signifyin' 
november 2012 by robertogreco
American Beuys: "I Like America & America Likes Me"
"During Sacred Time, the time of Creation, Coyote taught humans how to survive, and the incredible survival of the coyote, both mythologically and biologically, continues to be one of the great American mysteries."

"Mythologically and biologically, Coyote is a survivor and exemplar of evolutionary change. This is what attracted Beuys to Coyote."

"Many people feel that the Vietnamese mistake was the first war that the United States didn't win. That isn't true. For forty-five years, Uncle Sam has fought a war against coyotes...and lost!"

"Beuys's intentions in the Coyote action were primarily therapeutic. Using shamanic techniques appropriate to the coyote, his own characteristic tools, and a widely syncretic symbolic language, he engaged the coyote in a dialogue to get to ”the psychological trauma point of the United States' energy constellation”; namely, the schism between native intelligence and European mechanistic, materialistic, and positivistic values."
navajo  transformer  stephenjaygould  jamesgleick  lewisthomas  fritjofcapra  systemsthinking  holisticapproach  holistic  science  adaptation  adaptability  survival  jeannotsimmen  heinerbastian  christianity  semiotics  josémartí  standingbear  nomads  shamanism  anthroposophy  intelligence  evolution  pests  garysnyder  carolinetisdall  johnmoffitt  1974  benjaminbuchloh  susanhowe  davidlevistrauss  1999  ilikeamericaandamericalikesme  history  rudolfsteiner  environmentalism  animalrights  glvo  trickster  shamans  europe  us  art  myth  coyotes  josephbeuys 
november 2012 by robertogreco
Anonymous 101: Introduction to the Lulz | Threat Level | Wired.com
"The trickster isn’t the good guy or the bad guy, it’s the character that exposes contradictions, initiates change and moves the plot forward. One minute, the loving and heroic trickster is saving civilization. A few minutes later the same trickster is cruel, kicking your ass and eating babies as a snack.

The conversation about Anonymous points to this trickster nature, veering between praise and fear, with the media at a loss for even how to describe them…

The point is Anonymous, despite the false shock of contemporary news reporting, isn’t sui generis. It’s not a surprise, and it didn’t spring fully formed from the forehead of Ceiling Cat.

In this place and time, with the exhaustion of political discourse, the overwhelming pressures of modern life, and rise of the internet, the stochastic network organism of Anonymous was inevitable."

[See also: http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/10/quinn-norton-occupy/ ]
lulz  anonymous  quinnnorton  feral  hacktivism  hacking  media  culture  anarchism  4chan  history  ows  occupywallstreet  2011  scientology  trickster 
november 2011 by robertogreco

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