October 30, 2011

On teaching

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There’s a joke I often make about teaching.

Something like: I hate teaching. I hate the students. I just want to punch them in their smug little faces over and over again. But I am led to believe that this is not within the boundaries of acceptable pedagogy.

It always gets a laugh. Its not particularly funny. People laugh because the sentiment is both inappropriate and (more than?) a little bit true. Here we arrive at our first lesson: teaching is not generally considered to be a matter of violence. Except when it is.

When I wonder about my own motivations: in teaching, in life, in art – I always find it most comforting to attribute my actions to the basest motives. That I do these things only for money, ego or (most gloriously) for absolutely no reason at all.

It feels better to think I am doing something for a bad reason than to say I would like to do something for a good reason. For me this is very close to the idea of pedagogy.

The honest desire that I want things to change, that I want my actions to effect the changes I desire, seems ridiculous to me.

I was at an art opening, standing around with a group of artists, all artists whose work I admire.

One of them started complaining about teaching, about the workload and the level of the students. About how draining it was. Everyone joined in, and suddenly I wasn’t standing around with a group of artists, I was standing around with a group of teachers.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, I continue to have a fairly romantic view of artists, while I have a remarkably unromantic view of teachers. (My father was a teacher.) And in the moment when the switch happened, when the people I was surrounded by flipped from artists to teachers, it was a bit like the entire world unraveled.

If artists are teachers, then what are artists?

I felt certain that the motives of each of us in the circle, our motives for teaching, were mainly connected to money, to the desire to make a living. (I probably teach the least of the group, which sadly made me feel just a little superior.) I felt our teaching had nothing to do with the dissemination of knowledge or with any sort of genuine caring for the students. But why did I think this? What evidence did I have? Was I only projecting my cynicism onto those around me or could I actually say something in support of my theory?

When one is standing in from of a classroom there is an incredible pressure to perform.



[Unfinished.]



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October 28, 2011

Blaise Cendrars quote

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I was a youngster in those days,
Hardly sixteen and already I couldn't remember my childhood.
I was sixteen thousand leagues away from the place I was born.
I was in Moscow, the city of a thousand and three belfries and seven railroad stations,
And the seven railroad stations and the thousand and three belfries weren’t enough for me
... For youth was so burning and so mad
That my heart smoldered like the temple of Ephesus or flared like the Red Square of Moscow
At sundown.
And my eyes were headlights on the old roads. I was already such a poor poet
That I never knew how to get to the end of things.

- Blaise Cendrars



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October 26, 2011

Failures come alive

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Perverse curating

Dressing up and acting normal

Boring lecture on a fascinating topic

Failures come alive



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October 19, 2011

Club music

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Club music. A beat that doesn’t change or that shifts constantly, relentlessly, when you least expect it or at regular intervals. Squelching noises. Very low sounds against very high frequencies. A part where it escalates, getting more and more intense, faster like a panic attack. On a crowded dance floor, sweating, you twirl and brush against another dancer, against naked flesh, and suddenly it’s the most sexual experience of your life, sudden shuddering orgasm, almost epileptic, you come and collapse, half-conscious, curled up in a ball in the middle of the dance floor, thrusting and kicking feel surround you. If dancing is sex than what is sex. Sex is like a map, a series of memories, a series of sketches of your most intense and emotionally complex experiences. Where are the songs that find ways to be completely honest and accurate about emotions, because that’s not what songs are for. Love songs are lies to get the ball rolling and the right kind of lie is delicious. A blog is a very dead thing in comparison. Artists who can’t find the sea.



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October 18, 2011

And I noticed my poems were too staged

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And I noticed my poems were too staged, too rational, reasonable – it was like they’d never fucked anyone – arching their way towards closure, conclusion. I wondered if they’d ever crack into confusion of jagged edges or if I would, and why I wanted this more chaotic so much, why psychotic equaled pleasure. Often when out with people I would find myself bored, disengaged. Why write poems that were only a diary of nothing happening and the resulting reflections, so others who also had no vital life could read them and relate. If my poems were fantasies on what ledge would they break, find defeat, elation, defeated elation falling in and out of love. Where is the sinister point of exaltation? Last night I gathered a few poems and sent them to a magazine run by young people wanting to get things done. When I was their age my life was even more dull. I have tried to outgrow my youth, tried to become younger, but the chastity of my twenties haunts me like a crime. If there is one way I would like to be normal I would travel back in time and be normal like that. Is sex the anarchy these poems lack? Is skydiving with no parachute? Will formal constraints save me, when everything else is lost?



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Song fragment (concerning the vagaries of aging)

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I think there’s something you don’t understand
you won’t always be a hot young band
your hair will gray and your styles grow old
I’m not telling you this just to be cold

I think there’s something you don’t understand
your songs will age, so will your fans
your photographs will no longer seem bold
the songs that sell will have already sold

You had your rock, you had your run
hope you put a little something in the pension fund
but don’t give up, don’t think you’re through
just remember I’ll always be older than you



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October 15, 2011

Excerpt from Chamber of Public Secrets' subjective effort to explore the richness and specificity of collective curating

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To begin with, there were a couple of questions from Viktor Misiano: ‘If not you, who? If not now, when?’ And a number of responses straight from thinking loud:

a) The idea of collective curating is a matter of being able to renounce what I already know in order to learn what I do not know – and someone else in the team does. How far can I embrace this attitude and renounce my individual knowledge? Collectives (should) resonate wider; it is not only a matter of adding knowledge and producing something that is bigger than the sum of its parts. It is a dynamic that works by detraction rather than addition and extends its reach precisely by renouncing the singular power position.

b) The above is also important in terms of building and enlarging audiences, be that an art public, a media audience or a peer community: besides renouncing or acquiring knowledge, it is a matter of giving up control and accept risk. Collective production can go awfully wrong or fantastically well for unforeseeable reasons because they involve a greater number of actors. In this context, I work within a territory that is (and remains) uncharted. Calculated risk is a chimera.

c) Furthermore, collective curating is interesting outside the field of art. While it is rather common to group-curate literature (editors) and cinema (programmers), it is less so to ‘curate’ science, journalism or architecture. How would it be for a group of scholars to curate a scientific endeavour or programme, how could it work out a journalistic platform curated collectively (deciding together what to cover and how, not merely producing in team), and what about an urban masterplan devised by a (small) community of inhabitants? (The fact I added ‘small’ is a clue of what can/cannot work within a collective effort.)

d) The crucial question, which exists independently from the activity of curating: why collectively? The first response would be that to work alone, I get bored – a good enough reason. There is something else. In a collective, the risk of overwhelming ideologies, blind faiths or devastating emotional responses is less. All is diluted both in relations, space and time. Of course group ideologies do exist and are no less effective than those imposed single-handedly. But even if the process is slower and sometimes unnerving, there is a good chance that thinking, working and deciding together may bring a less self-centred and more interesting outcome. If people stick around long enough, that is.


[The rest of this text can be found on the Chamber of Public Secrets website here. Their remarkable Immigrant Image Archive can be found here.]  



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October 13, 2011

I had no other choice but to walk

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So I began to think about how long I’ve been taking walks. Years, decades. And if I live significantly longer I could keep on adding, because one thing I’m sure of is that I’ll never stop. But despite this great amount of walking, however, no walk has provided me with any genuine revelation. In my case it’s not as it was in the past, when walkers felt reunited with something that was revealed only during the course of the walk, or believed they had discovered aspects of the world or relationships within nature that had been hidden until then. I never discovered anything, only a vague idea of what was new and different, and rather fleeting at that. I now think I went on walks to experience a specific type of anxiety, one that I’ll call nostalgic anxiety, or empty nostalgia. Nostalgic anxiety would be a state of deprivation in which one has no chance for genuine nostalgia. There may be various reasons for the block. If I’m going to explain it, I have to tell the story of my borrowed ideas, which I’m full of – I say “borrowed,” but I’m not suggesting I don’t have full rights to them, on the contrary…

One of these ideas, among the first I assimilated so thoroughly as to make it my own, was the idealization, initially during the Romantic Era, then the Modern, of the long walk. There must have been something wrong with me, because at the point at which I should have chosen a way of life for my future, I found nothing persuasive. From early on I’ve felt unequal to any kind of enthusiasm: incapable of believing in almost anything, or frankly, in anything at all; disappointed beforehand by politics; skeptical of youth culture despite being, at the time, young; an idle spectator at the collective race for money and so-called material success; suspicious of the benevolence of charity and self-improvement; oblivious of the benefits of procreation and the possibilities of biological continuity; oblivious as well of the idea of following sports or any variety of spectacle; unable to work up enthusiasm for any impracticable profession or scientific vocation; inept at arts or at crafts, at physical or manual labor, also intellectual; to sum up, useless for work in general; unfit for dreaming; with no belief in any religious alternative while longing to be initiated into that realm; too shy or incompetent for an enthusiastic sex life; in short, given such failings, I had no other choice but to walk, which most resembled the vacant and available mind.

- Sergio Chejfec, My Two Worlds



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October 4, 2011

It's hard (song fragment)

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It’s hard to be an everyday habit
and it’s hard to be a tossed away stone
it’s hard to be an orgasm rabbit
and it’s hardest to leave it alone


[Unfinished]



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