words written in the week of
January 9th to January 15th
in previous years.
This was 7 years, 2 months, 27 days ago

(revelation below:)

Yearning, as in a thinking-towards-somewhere-else, not necessarily as in about someone, or somewhere specific. Yearning as in 'the thing that puts a spring in your step as you walk between tall buildings at night'. Usually it tastes like a core, something solid and textured and impenetrable, like a peach pit you roll around in your mouth, something experienced only by you, utterly private, solid, unyielding.

As in: how do you acquire knowledge? How do you acquire tacit knowledge? What do you do when complexity ensures that the ingredients of a process manifest in a highly complex output, so that operation feels like tweaking the inputs of a multilayer feedforward neural net, neither blind stabbing nor intelligent calculation?

All models are wrong, and some are just helpful, so part of the practice of living entails the continuous modification of one's model. But abstractions/models are leaky, continually require compromises. Database ORMs engage in the process of helping you model the world and map relationships between them, which can be both helpful and incorrect.

To ask an impossible question - How do you make a building that makes everyone happy? A: you can't. But then the answer is neither to swing the other way into monastic autonomous self-inquiry, clearly. No clear answers are found by saying "the answer is somewhere in the middle" - rather, all questions start there. The neural inputs / elements / processes that really modify the end result/experience, the lived experience of perceived space, is far beyond the reaches and scope of what architectural practice often seems to define, in the way that culinary school that focuses on the craft of cooking is not enough for you to create a restaurant that restores your faith in New York, if not in humanity.

Then what? Blame complexity for always engendering a kind of paranoia, or endless graph traversal, depth-first-searching the annals of Wikipedia and potential factors/actors/repercussions alike. If the enjoyment of the brownie you bake is ultimately determined by the meal you just ate beforehand, do you rewrite your personal practice to encompass becoming a nutritionist and statistician of dietary habits?

-

Etc. etc. etc. I find my metaphors swirling around computer science, because I know no other language with which complexity is described and talked about, know no other world in which a series of simple objects are mashed together, cooked, formulated into a series of systems, dynamics, events, processes, wound up tight like springs and ready to launch and play out. Spaces do that, but the discussion isn't there.

-

One thing that I get irrationally angry at, (in a quick and light kind of anger, as if it were a gust of warm spring wind that pushes you off kilter for a moment) and still don't know whether or not I should get angry at:

is when complexity gets black-boxed, when the mass-production of commodities turn materials (and labor) into reproducible solid objects that seem to be ontologically stable ('clay is anything, but this flowerpot has, is and will always be a flowerpot'), and when we lose sight of this aspect; when these things are instrumentalized, flattened, black-boxed away, I can't help but be angry/sad at this loss, because it feels like the hardening of a model that may not always be helpful.

This is tricky, because these material assemblages push themselves towards black-boxing, stability, and so on. The anchor a free-climber uses to take a break from climbing a cliff involves a metal device so thin and delicate that it might seem astounding that lives are supported by these devices; at the same time, they've been used so often, produced so often, that the device itself becomes relied upon. It has a name that starts to give it a signifier for which it can be understood as a singular object. It has a quality control process that attempts to make all the forms similar. It has a warranty that offers economic reliability/stability/continuity for anyone using the object. At the end of 1,501 five-star Amazon reviews, you have a device that starts to take on an identity of its own, warps space into place to formulate a hardened, enameled shell -- black-boxes itself becoming a Thing that you carefully decide not to think about. What is the metal tempering process? What kind of alloys make the metal more or less brittle? You sweep these thoughts to the side; all you know is that this thing does what it's supposed to.

And? What about everything? Websites, chairs, buildings, air conditioners, cars, parties, spaces, music, cabling, wiring, emails, food, clothing? Is not everything borne out of a process? Is not everything immensely complex? Even this list of words is a completely placeholder; the word 'website' becomes less defined the more of a developer you become. Is it MVC, MVVM, MVP?

The important thing to this all is not that everything born has an origin, but rather than everything breaks, and details are important. Healthcare.gov excoriated and users delayed because of a badly architected website that couldn't handle loads; surely at that point the government black-boxed out a website and got someone who Builds Websites to make the thing. After all, how hard could it be? A climbing anchor is a piece of metal, a water bottle is a thing of plastic, and a website is the thing you get when you go online. Yet in these details, the specifics of the website, and its interface, affects whether or not people sign up; yes, "technology affecting the social", as if bureaucracy wasn't anything more than logistical delays
and waiting lines transforming into emotional/social oppression.


And then, walking one evening in a bitter cold it hits me: that is the role of language, of terminology! The world is complex, and controlling/defining/speaking about the scope of complexity is a task that the world takes on and develops terminology, verbiage, words, for. Words are not consensus-oriented, nor are they democratic; two people makes a language, two people makes a term. Words proliferate, spread, propagate. Words are the mechanism with which the description of different complex patterns/systems are grouped together. Is there any coincidence that a house is called a house? It may also be because, in many context, the house becomes distinct fro m its constituent arguments. Or - in other words - the complex world is comprehended, desperately, inaccurately, and probability-wise.

What that means is that society is a parallel computing device, that discussions are where decisions are borne, that discoveries are necessarily shared, that complexity is something that you can rely on society to (at least) arrive at some normative view of. Because, if it weren't, it would change.

There are no answers here, only a series of questions, and sometime it's only at the brink of lucidity and clarity that you realize the degree to which jetpacks / motivation is important, the damn-it-all clarity of youth piercing through like an invincible lance; sometime's it's all just that.

This was 8 years, 2 months, 30 days ago

oh, this I like. a familiar sting, a quiet sense, city's river out the window. fluorescent lights reflecting through hasty curtains of mylar. said things. obliquely referenced topics.

From this time, last year, from hong kong:

If there's anything to be learned it's that the world is big --

-- but no really, seriously, it is very very big; it is more vast and more varied than you could ever imagine it to be; and you will grow to 'understand' it soon but will travel again one day and will realize, once more again, that it pushes beyond the edges of your understanding. If there's anything to be learned it's that it is easy to fall back into myopic positions of complacency, worrying, competition, self-comparison, whereas the real challenge is in the long run, with one's own being. That this is all but momentary, but what is as concrete as concrete can be are the small nonverbal material things: the gesture of an old woman wiping a table, a glass of tea being poured, the involuntary outward sigh after the first bite of food, the contorted wince when pain strikes a body, the elongation of time when one is sick or hurt, the slippage and transience of memory, and all the other things that find their origin in the body and grow outwards from it. And if you ever forget these things, or stop viscerally understanding that the world is big, then you need to travel (alone) again, and rediscover and remember and remember.

The world is immense and people live in it = there is always, always, another way. In other words: there is never "no alternative". To say so is to fully be enmeshed in the immediacy, vitality, delimiting, constraining, blinding moment of the local present and present only.

yes. oh, self.
who wrote these things? who encountered these aspects? who was that being?

This was 9 years, 3 months ago

Verified again: Every bout traveling alone is a chance to let the world in, to open the floodgates that are constitutive of one's own being and to let the waters rush in. Cell membranes moving, fenceposts shifting, playground chalk lines redrawn, a reconstituting of boundaries and a reorientation of one's view.

And at the same time, there's an intense solipsism or introspection that happens, a snake thoughtfully chewing on its own tail, where the world reduces itself to a series of moments, glances, explorations, decisions, choices, paths, indecipherable messages, meanings that are inaccessible to you. You understand that there is a world behind everything that you see; when squinting through a peephole and discovering infinite variation and complexity, you decide (correctly) that a vast world must lie inside and beside and alongside everything.

Hong Kong was, is, breathtakingly tall, majestically old, aggressively new, but more importantly fully lived-in, fully cared-for, bearing the mark of millions of people making it home, carving out small systems and patterns of life. An old object worn smooth around the edges from people handling it over the ages. A certain kind of honorable ruthlessness maybe, of agility and speed and tempo, but also with balance and rhythm. But enough of this anthropmorphizing of a city.


Sometimes it's only during traveling that the other alternatives or possibilities really surface upwards, that I get to momentarily trace out trajectories and curves for the other beings that I could have become. A lot of them: I could have stayed in Korea, I could have kept my citizenship and gone to the army, I could have gone to that other college in another city, I could have chosen that other program, I could still move back to Korea, or elsewhere. Decisions less like branches on a tree and more like splitting strands of ivy fluttering on the side of a brick wall, varied and wide. I could be elsewhere, anything could happen. If there's a taste in my mouth it's the taste of possibility and alternatives.


For a moment there I was living in Hong Kong and we were all good friends, everyone pushing out into their different directions and trying to probe the world a little; for a moment there it seemed right, everyone gathering underneath an elevated highway to listen to some friends-of-friends play noisy mellow droney postrock next to the glistening harbor, clusters of other enthusiastic people here and there blissed out to layers and layers of noise, sitting on the ground drinking and talking;

For a moment there it seemed like I had been doing this forever, on this warm breezy night, walking together through mostly-empty subway stations, scarfing down junk food for a hasty dinner, bumping into acquaintances, joking on the train, catching a midnight showing of a film by everyone's favorite famous arthouse director; and for a moment it seemed so comfortable, the six of us smoking a cigarette afterwards in the shadows of endlessly tall buildings in the financial district (eerily empty and peaceful for once) and acting out the film, throwing slo-mo mock punches, before saying our goodbyes and disappearing into the night full of sleeping neon signs and traffic lights shining dutifully on empty streets, and the occasional taxi whizzing by.

And so leaving Hong Kong doesn't feel like I'm leaving a place behind, because I could still be there, things still possible, but rather as if I am leaving a version of myself behind, yet another sliver of my being cleaved, shaved off, perhaps to be encountered or rejoined some day, one day, or never at all.


If there's anything to be learned it's that the world is big --

-- but no really, seriously, it is very very big; it is more vast and more varied than you could ever imagine it to be; and you will grow to 'understand' it soon but will travel again one day and will realize, once more again, that it pushes beyond the edges of your understanding. If there's anything to be learned it's that it is easy to fall back into myopic positions of complacency, worrying, competition, self-comparison, where the real challenge is in the long run, with one's own being. That this is all but momentary, but what is as concrete as concrete can be are the small nonverbal material things: the gesture of an old woman wiping a table, a glass of tea being poured, the involuntary outward sigh after the first bite of food, the contorted wince when pain strikes a body, the elongation of time when one is sick or hurt, the slippage and transience of memory, and all the other things that find their origin in the body and grow outwards from it. And if you ever forget these things, or stop viscerally understanding that the world is big, then you need to travel (alone) again, and rediscover and remember and remember.


The world is immense and people live in it = there is always, always, another way. In other words: there is never "no alternative". To say so is to fully be enmeshed in the immediacy, vitality, delimiting, constraining, blinding moment of the local present and present only.

This was 10 years, 2 months, 28 days ago

tonight I am up packing and cleaning, and I will see tomorrow's morning dawn to an empty room, and I know it.

tomorrow I will go sleep in brooklyn, watch the sun set as I cross atlantic avenue. my landscape will once again be dotted with rooftops, vacant warehouses, the incessant thrumm of the overhead heater. I will say: here it is, space, I've regained this intangible thing, graspable intangible presence. here it is.

This was 14 years, 2 months, 28 days ago

brief snippets written on a plane:

summary: Bachelard's entire book (the poetics of space) is based upon a phenomenological exploration of the image, as he argues that the image (born of the imagination) is neither an internally consistent metaphor or even psychologically or psychoanalytically explainable in terms of a causal relationship. The image is a pure signifier without a signified, in a sense. His idea is that any analyzing of the image must take place out of current forms of philosophical thought and must instead involve the soul, in a poetic form of exploration.

Bachelard talks about resonances and reverberations, which I take to be sort of 'appreciated similarities' and 'induced reactions'. At many points, he says that the poem exists on the basis of the image, which has no causal psychological basis but rather a timeless (aka eternal and instantaneous) image born of the imagination. Moreover, in the process of reading poetry and receiving these images, the act of creation is also induced in the reader, "taking root" in the reader.


I agree with his ideas so far. Although -- the poetry examples he uses are always full of pastoral nostalgia, especially focused on nature and the country house, et cetera. Written nearly 40 years ago, his views on the city are still modern and not post-modern; the house with a cellar and attic is the archetypal house, and his parallels between the personal psyche (that is, a psyche only phenomenologically represented by the image) and the ideal house are a little too localized and culture-specific (specifically French?) for my tastes. He does talk about the image of the apartment briefly, but rejects it in favor of the house. Are lifetime apartment-dwellers doomed to merely possess images of a house born of media and language, the shared image of the consciousness?


Like the Zadie Smith quote I always like to refer to, Bachelard talks about the viewer taking part in the appreciation process, the viewer's reading is also the process of reading:

"And this is true of a simple experience of reading. The image offered us by reading the poem now becomes really our own. It takes root in us. It has been given us by another, but we begin to have the impression that we could have created it, that we should have created it. It becomes a new being in our language..."


Thought: what many pieces of new media art seem to miss is the coherence of an image; while creating intellectual connections between ideas and expressing them, the creators lose sight of the image of the soul, and as an essence their pieces become visual essays with little magnetism, little resonance. Visually aesthetic, but not spiritually so. (maybe this can be attributed to the usually non-traditional, less art-school approach of the artist?)

so perhaps:: similarly, the appreciation of art is initially an instinctive and unconscious phenomenological one (the process of "taking root"), that is able to be deepened and more fleshed out by a contextual and intellectual analysis. The appreciation of design is really a contextual and intellectual one, really based on aesthetics all around: an aesthetic appreciation of appearance, usage, intellectuality. (Example: when a typeface matches the text in terms of historical/nationality background.) Although art history exists as a retrospective, historical, and contextual analysis of art, the process of art-historical analysis is a psychological/psychoanalytical analysis of art (as if the world and its artists were a single Geist-like consciousness), whereas the process undergone when viewing art, and creating art inspired by art is really a phenomenological analysis undergone semi-consciously.

Really, Richard Tuttle is only half-right in a sense in that you have to "bring everything to the table" to look at art: that 'bringing everything' is for a viewing of art that combines both a soulful and intellectual, art and art-historical view of art...


Really, what I want to say is that the image is immediate, pervasive, intrusive, memetic, seed-like, and because of those qualities, it is important in poetry, literature, art, and everything else. This is what I have learned from The Poetics of Space.

This was 14 years, 2 months, 28 days ago

I'm back in New York.


Photos of pieces by Carey Young and Hans Haacke, by M0rph3u.

Bouncing Lights Forever - Michael Bell-Smith
Until Feb 16, 2008
Foxy Production, 617 w27th st

Bjorn Schülke - Überschall
Jan 18 - Feb 16
Bitforms

William Kentridge - Seeing Double
Jan 16 - Feb 16
Marian Goodman Gallery

Carey Young - If/Then
Hans Haacke
Until Jan 19
Paula Cooper Gallery

Harun Farocki - Deep Play
Until Feb 9
Greene Naftali Gallery
(writeup by Rhizome here)

Mariko Mori - Tom Na H-iu
Until Jan 19
"The works develop Mori’s continued interest in a fusion of art and technology, and the idea of universal spiritual consciousness. Drawing from ancient rituals and symbols, Mori uses cutting edge technology and material to create a striking vision for the 21st century"
Deitch Projects

And Who Are You? Work from Saatchi Online
Sara Tecchia Roma Gallery
529 West 20th Street, 2nd Floor

Nicholas Nixon - Patients
Until Feb 16
Yossi Milo Gallery

Beth Campbell - Following Room
Lawrence Weiner - As Far As The Eye Can See
Kara Walker - My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love
Until Feb 24, 10, 3rd.
Whitney Museum

Shirin Neshat
Until Feb 23
Barbara Gladstone Gallery

Provoking Magic: Lighting of Ingo Maurer
Until Jan 27
Cooper-Hewitt Museum

This was 14 years, 3 months, 1 day ago

"A great designer has to know everything (language, history, ethnography, anthropology, psychology, biology, anatomy, etc.), while an artist doesn't have to know anything. This polarity ... is the starting point. But ironically, to really appreciate design, it is not about knowledge, but about the experience of living with the work; you don't have to know anything, and you get its 'information' almost through osmosis. Whereas to appreciate a good artwork, you have to bring and apply absolutely everything you know. Why is that?"

- Richard Tuttle