Thursday, November 29, 2007

An Ode to Our "Language: Most Dangerous of Possessions" Class

So, our class is pretty much over. I feel pretty bummed out about it. I can't wait to carry everything I experienced and learned into my future art, classes, research... I've also got a large amount of material to refer to, remember, and explore further...more Foucault, Nietzsche, Handke, Herzog, Benjamin, Hölderlin, Goethe, Pound, Crowley, Mallarme, Evenson...please...and all the rest...thank you...this class was just a starting point for me, a good start. I'll be lucky if I'm ever in another class that works out as well as this one did. The material, the complexion of the class, the interaction between students...teachers..., the approach and course that Alex and Scott took with teaching, everything somehow mixed together so well and culminated into an amazing experience. 

Thanks to everyone in the class, and anyone else who attended. Thanks Alex and Scott...not only for teaching us and introducing us to amazing ideas, but also learning/re-learning and exploring with us. I look forward to our last class on Wednesday and the get-together on Thursday.

I really hope that this blog stays alive...we all should continue to contribute and bring material from everywhere else we end up in our lives and from our other classes...etc.

Hope to see at least some of you in DADA.

(Also, if you want to become a contributor to this blog, just say so and I'm sure Torben will add you :)...)

How social networks are making us kinda famous

For my money Wired Magazine is the best place to see how technology is changing the way we live/communicate. There was a cool little article in this month's issue about the dawn of microcelebrity.

Clive Thompson on the Age of Microcelebrity, and Why Everyone's a Little Brad Pitt
Wired Magazine, December 07 issue

Microcelebs are those people who are well-known to a small set of folks...and nowadays we achieve this celebrity through the artifacts we leave behind on the Web. People we know (and even some we don't) can follow our every move by regularly checking out our flickr account, our MySpace/Facebook page, Twitter, blogs, etc.

As Heisenberg would say, whatever is observed is changed...So now that we have "fans" do we behave differently? Do anyone of you conduct yourself differently because you know what you do or say might end up on a friend's blog tomorrow?

Monday, November 26, 2007


Discussion today (mostly between Alex and me) was about the power language has and the danger it encounters with obscenity.

What we failed to discuss was the way that class influences our sense of what is acceptable and what isn't.

Rising from lower class life to higher and ostensibly more refined classes requires a sloughing off of vulgarity.

But I've always smelled a rat in that distinction. Upper-class refinement can mask violence and exploitation. So my instinct has been to learn all the things available to the upper class, to out-do them at their own game, and to bring along the so-called vulgarity of the lower class as an antidote to over-refinement.

Weekly Rescrap 11/19/07 - 11/25/07

- Scott explored the linguistic remnants of bipedalism in his post, On Standing

- Brent spooked all of us out with The Face of Altmann

Hopefully, we've all come back from Thanksgiving full of insights and scraps. Share them when you get the chance!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Face of Altmann

For no real reason I suddenly got the urge to look at exactly who Scott spoke of in class on Monday, and so I did a little research. For those of you who are also curious, here he is.
Interesting chap Klaus. Scott barely scratched the surface of the demon this man actually was when he told us the brief summary of his endeavors. Upon looking more into what he did, you have to wonder what kind of transformation takes place in the human psyche in order to become the kind of person who would not only do the things that he did, but enjoy them to the level that he did. There is a quote calling Klaus "a dedicated sadist." I wonder if this is something he would have been proud of.

If you are curious still, here is a link to his entry in the Jewish Virtual Library.

Care for some tongue?

~ B

On Standing

It is at least as old as the Sphinx’s riddle:

What being, with only one voice, has sometimes two feet, sometimes three, sometimes four, and is weakest when it has the most?

Man, Oedipus answered, because he crawls on all fours as an infant, stands firmly on his two feet in his youth, and leans upon a staff in his old age. [Robert Graves, The Greek Myths: 2 (Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1955) 10.]

We call ourselves wise (homo sapiens) and argue that our language differentiates us from other species of animals. But even more substantially, we define ourselves by our ancestors’ revolutionary achievement of a standing posture (homo erectus). We became human, in one sense, because we stood up. In another sense, we are who we are because of what that physical act has been made to stand for. Reflecting the substantial nature of that original erection, our languages and cultures constantly, insistently, even obstinately establish superstitions and understandings related to the constituative circumstances of our existence by systematic reference to our station and stature as standing beings, as static and ecstatic beings whose destiny is to cause things to stand. As these words based on the *stā root illustrate, metaphors of standing determine our conceptions of time and space; they shape our understanding of existence and ecstacy; they are the tools and the subject of philosophy and painting, poetry and fiction, sculpture and law, history and psychology, anthropology and linguistics, archaelogy and teleology. Wherever, in short, humans have payed scientific or artistic attention to our status as human beings, we have done so through metaphors of standing.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Weekly rescrap 11/12/07—11/18/07

-Scott posted on the language-based work of Lawrence Weiner

-Brent wrote about virtual body language

It's Thanksgiving week in the U.S. Take a moment on a day off (if you have one) to come up with a good scrap to share.

Virtual Body Language

This is directly pulled from my Blog, but I think it has a place here as well.

It is an interesting thing to realize how much people use body language in typing these days. And it all spawned from games.. Those of you who text message, you're welcome.
For those of you who are now confused let me explain. If you text message, play online games, or do any communication through typing online, you should understand what I'm saying. For those of you who do not get it, pay close attention.

:) This is a smiley face. This is used to portray yourself as smiling.
:( This is a frown-y face. This is used to portray yourself as frowning.
>:O This is a "pissed the hell off" face. This is used to portray yourself as being "pissed the hell off."
8X This is either a sick face, or a disgusted face... subject to context.

Now, these are four of the most common used emotes, or texts used to convey emotion. Do you understand this? We are conveying body language through text! And it is WORKING! People use many other emotes all the time.

Lol: Laugh out Loud
Rofl: rolling on the floor laughing.
Omw: On my way
Brt: be right there

This is NOT a short list! What makes body language so important that we have to be able to portray it to people who are not actually able to see us? And the method doesn't stop with shortening words or using symbols for facial expressions. Due to many Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG) people now use / to represent an action.


And these actions become extremely complex with a simple word. And people who decide to go a little more Emo on the world have them too.

/wrist = slitting my wrists
/cut = cutting myself
/die = um.. dying
/cry = crying.... wait.. I used that one. Oh well, it belongs here anyway.

It is a true testament to how important our body language is when we actually have to find a way to emulate it into a non body form of communication. Body language actually can tell someone more than verbal or written languages, so it is obvious how much more useful body language is over the others. it is also one of the first forms of language and therefore a truly natural language. You can have a conversation with someone without doing anything more than conveying your feelings though body language. A rather impressive feat when you think about it.
Body language is a valuable thing, and I understand what makes people believe that they need to carry it with them into their extended forms of communication, but the interesting thing is this; Why did it take so long? Why did we not instill body language into written communication sooner? What barred us from it? I think that the shrinking of the world that is the Internet is the answer. People did not need to communicate body language before. People' networks did not extend nearly as far 20 years ago as they do now. most of the time when you spoke to someone you were actually talking to them. Now you can talk to people on the other side of the world, on a regular basis, and body language truly hits your conversations home.
Welcome to the age of virtual body language. You can thank the gamers.
~ B

Friday, November 16, 2007

language-based sculptor

This morning, an interesting article in the New York Times about a retrospective exhibition of Lawrence Weiner's work.

The Well-Shaped Phrase as Art

Richard Perry/The New York Times

Lawrence Weiner: As Far As The Eye Can See This retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art consists mainly of phrases in large letters. Also above, a work in which spray paint was applied directly to the floor.

Published: November 16, 2007

So here we are. Just about any scrap of canvas or even paper by Andy Warhol is worth at least a million dollars and usually several. Richard Prince’s retro “Nurse” paintings have cleared $6 million less than five years after they were made. And Jeff Koons’s least-interesting baubles, despite glimmers of anti-bauble intent, go for as much as $23 million.

Be grateful, then, for Lawrence Weiner’s mind-stretching 40-year retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, which is respite, wake-up call and purification rite all in one. It should be required viewing for anyone interested in today’s art, especially people who frequent contemporary art auctions.

A joint effort of the Whitney and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, this profuse exhibition has been organized by Donna De Salvo, the Whitney’s chief curator, and Ann Goldstein, the Los Angeles museum’s senior curator. It honors a Conceptual artist who has made history, and plenty of memorable artworks, while influencing Barbara Kruger, Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Tony Feher, among others. Yet Mr. Weiner has largely and quite deliberately skipped over the production and marketing of salable, portable, immutable objects.

The show consists primarily of cryptic yet suggestive phrases in large letters, splayed across walls, ceiling beams and occasionally floors, that conjure up various physical situations but often leave to your imagination the objects or the scale involved. “A Turbulence Induced Within a Body of Water” could be hands splashing in a bathtub or a tanker churning waves behind it. “Encased By + Reduced to Rust” evokes a crumbling object, but it could also be a soul or an artist’s talent. (And there is that twist of “rust” where you expect “dust.”)

for more

Monday, November 12, 2007

Weekly rescrap 10/29/07—11/11/07

It's a bi-weekly rescrap this time, because the first week was a slow one. On to the scraps:

Tuesday 10/30:
-Grabloid asked, "Was there an ancient language of universal symbols?"

-Torben broke us out of the funk with Pecha Kucha and emotionally intelligent signage

-Scott shared thoughts and an article on geographical names
-Torben posted the video A Vision of Students Today

-Vegor linked to an article exemplifying integrated studies in action

-Rikker asked, "What's in a word?"
-Torben posted the video The Machine is Us/ing Us
-Scott gave notes from class

Friday, November 9, 2007

Notes from Today's Class

Joe sent me these notes he took during today's class (a couple of the ideas sparked wildfires in his mind). Some of the terms are Raymond Williams', whose work Joe has been thinking about for several years.

Some notes

Emergence – reinvention?



What is the difference between the artistic interior motive and the outward performative action?

Is there some clue as to a re-invigoration of a form that still retains the elemental attitude?or spirit – zeit – drive – or even a motive that isn’t quite residual? Can a form be reappropriated from the dominant? what or how is this to be termed? It is not residual. Is it re-emergence? In Benjamin is it merely a copy? What if the “artist” or the group is aware and is specifically the form and turning it from an innocuous dominant form into a new radicalization of emergence? Radicalized emergence? Radicalized residual?

What again is the difference between the artistic interior motive and the outward performative aspect. Is a performer only a performer? Is motive so important. Can motive take a dominant form and defy its dominance? Can a form be reclaimed? If a form or a group re-emerges will or can there be residual dominant elements? If so what role do those dominant elements play in the re-emergence, is the re-emergence then just a novelization of residual elements? Again what of motives? Can a group or artist purposely and effectively defy the dominant – or domination of a form. What is the role of motive?

More notes

Artificial lines of flight? Escapism?

Slot machines

No negativity in the home allowed

Disruption in the line of flight?

Ahab? Simultaneously searching and performing a role at work – disrupted in the search by his work

What is the balance?

Not distracted, disrupted!

Artificial vs. actual

How does language play into these disruptions?

Building today with yesterdays tool


Alphabet – loss of memory

Internet – loss of communication? Focus? Humanity? Communion? Experience?

Even more notes

Place as context

Group as context?

Group and place places

Multiplicity of context in various groups

and contexts

how do I articulate that in each group there can be multiple contexts (or locus) and each place can be a locus for multiple groups

can there be multiple locus for a group? (goner records/goner-board)

what are the hierarchies involved in this structure?

How do they hold, how do they not hold?

In groups – the typical personalities dominate

In places – availability? Historical context? Financial?

Internet based groups – participatory?

The hierarchy of personal contact Is not always king or on the power end of the binary wit? Quantity of post?

How does persona contact factor in?

Is it always necessary? How do internet message board groups function in relation to personal contact?

Goner – is the message board a locus? Is the store? Can two places be a locus for a single group?

Multiplicity of locus? (parallel authenticity?) goner is this, goner is also this.

Authentic in what sense? Authenticity seems to place an monetary or some other arbitrary value on the group

The Machine is Us/ing Us

Vegor linked us to this intriguing video on Scott's personal blog, but I thought that it also needed to be posted here because of its relevance to language. Why don't we work on stuff like this? It would be great to see videos like this from UVU. Why are we not podcasting and producing videos on the concepts we discuss here?

What's in a word?

I just read on Sustaind that the LDS church has changed a single word in the introduction to The Book of Mormon, which was originally written by Bruce R. McConkie and added to the book in 1981.

1981 version:
"After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians."

2007 version:
"After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians."

See the difference? They're stated as "among the ancestors" instead of "the principal ancestors". (Read more at the Salt Lake Tribune [Update: Article "no longer available" from the Tribune, but Google finds it saved on other sites, including here, and here].) I don't mean to get all Mormon-y, but I think this is an interesting example of how a few carefully chosen word changes represent a potentially significant change of popular conception. What say ye?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Integrated Studies in Action

So I brought a copy of this article to Scott...but I thought all of us might enjoy it.

This guy Jonah Lehrer says that science and art should work together because they both are searching for truth. I thought it dovetailed nicely with the Richard Rorty stuff we were studying a few weeks back.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Vision of Students Today

I think this video is interesting when thinking about the "language of learning." Check it out:

city names, country names

This morning's Washington Post had this essay on geographical names. My favorite misuse of a difficult (for English speakers) city name came when Bill Clinton exited a Cologne / Koeln restaurant and told 2000 adoring Germans, including hundreds of media people: "Ich bin ein Koelsch." He figured he was echoing John Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner," but was rather stating "I am the kind of beer Cologne is famous for: Koelsch. Should have said: "Ich bin Koelner."

The Globe, Politically Corrected

By Geoffrey Wheatcroft
Sunday, November 4, 2007; Page B02

When the England cricket team last toured India, fans back home had an interesting choice. They could pick up one newspaper in the morning to read the report of a game played in Bombay, or another paper to read about a game played in Mumbai.

It was the same game and the same town. The "gateway to the East," whose colors and scents Rudyard Kipling always remembered from his early childhood, was known to most of the world for centuries as Bombay but has now had its name politically corrected (as it were) to Mumbai.

Most Western newspapers have obediently followed suit, but then that has been the fashion of the age. For years, baffled readers have pored over the news from Sri Lanka only to realize that it was what they used to call Ceylon, and then from Myanmar, only to work out that it was Burma. Before the name Myanmar was imposed on us by its repulsive junta, it was Democratic Kampuchea instead of Cambodia, to please the Khmer Rouge, of all groups.

This continual tinkering with names is not only environmentally wasteful -- think of all the road signs and textbooks that have to be altered. It's also tedious and illogical. Maybe it's time to call a halt.

In the case of Myanmar, Joseph Lelyveld, a former executive editor of the New York Times, justified his newspaper's decision to follow these governments' leads essentially in terms of good manners: "It is not our business what a country wants to call itself." Indeed it isn't, but is it that country's business what we call it? I once wrote an article for Lelyveld's paper about the brilliant musical life of the country its citizens call Suomi, but that might have puzzled readers, so I called it Finland. And if Myanmar, why not Deutschland or España?

Meanwhile, there has been a separate tendency toward "geographical correctness," so that atlases more and more use local versions of names. Traditional English forms such as Rheims and Lyons are frowned upon and become Reims and Lyon. But this too is obviously inconsistent, otherwise we should be writing about "the 1938 München agreement" and "the 1957 Treaty of Roma."

Across Europe and elsewhere, the English formed our own way of saying and spelling names, which was more flattering than insulting -- and was, after all, reciprocated. An Italian or Frenchman should be no more displeased by my saying "Venice " or "Marseilles" than I am by him saying "Londra" or "Édimbourg." In fact, some of those older forms do survive in specific contexts. Are any feelings hurt if we wear clothes made of cashmere and angora (not Kashmir or Ankara), or keep leghorn chickens (not Livorno)?

To be sure, place names have often been fighting words. Some were changed for political reasons, over and again, so that a man could be born in St. Petersburg, grow up Petrograd and live in Leningrad before dying in St. Petersburg, without leaving the same street. And sometimes they reek of bitter national conflict. Whether you called the self-same town Pressburg, Pozsony or Bratislava depended on what national statement you wanted to make, German, Hungarian or Slovak, and so it went with Smyrna/Izmir (Greek or Turkish) or Fiume/Rijeka (Italian or Croat). In the far northwest of Europe, they facetiously say "Stroke City," intending the oblique stroke in the middle of Londonderry/Derry, as Protestant Unionists and Catholic nationalists respectively call the town on Lough Foyle (though the latter really ought to say Doire, the original Gaelic form).

While all such political and communal passions are sad enough, the worst reason of all for changing names is what the great H.W. Fowler in "A Dictionary of Modern English Usage" condemned under the heading "Didacticism." For centuries, English-speakers called the Chinese capital Peking, until one day we were all told to say Beijing. This wasn't even to placate national sensitivities; it was to appease academic drudges who thought there was a "correct" spelling of Chinese, though how can there be one in a language written in ideograms?

All this incessant, restless change makes language harder to understand. British soldiers used to write acronymic endearments on the back of envelopes to wives or sweethearts: "Holland" was "Hope Our Love Lasts And Never Dies," and "Burma" was "Be Undressed Ready My Angel." What can Myanmar possibly stand for?

And spare us the grand lady-who-lunches ordering an extra portion of Mumbai duck for her Beijingese.

Geoffrey Wheatcroft's books include "The Strange Death of Tory England" and "Yo, Blair!"

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Pecha Kucha and Emotionally Intelligent Signage

I figure it's my responsibility to break us from our current funk :) I'm sure we're all busy (and maybe a bit burnt out?). Anyhow, here is an interesting presentation I found recently: