Category: Inspiration

Myth Picture

Towards the end of 2016 Adam Curtis’s documentary Hypernormalisation caused a bit of a stir, Curtis argues that since the 1970s, governments, financiers, and technological utopians have given up on the complex ‘real world’ and built a simple ‘fake world’ that is run by corporations and kept stable by politicians.

A few days ago an interesting interview emerged where Curtis discuses art, power, self-expression, individualism, freedom and myth. Read it in full here.

Art

“We may look back at self-expression as the terrible deadening conformity of our time.” – Adam Curtis [1]

Individualism

“Capitalism is about self-expression; art is about self-expression. Art is far from being a radical outside movement.” – Adam Curtis [2]

Power

“But the computers know the truth. They see us as a group. We’re actually quite similar to each other. We have the same desires, ambitions, and fears. Computers spot this through correlations and patterns….Computers can see us as large groups, but they’re glum and only aggregate us to sell us stuff. In reality, the computers give great insight into the power of common identity between groups. No one’s using that. What’s sitting with the computers is a way of seeing new groups, new common identities between people.” – Adam Curtis [3]

Freedom

“The contemporary idea of freedom is very much an individualist one. I, as an individual, want to be free to do what I want to do.” – Adam Curtis [4]

Myth

“I sometimes wonder whether conspiracy theories are an attempt to re-enchant the world in a distorted way…It’s like religion knocking on the door and trying to come back in a strange and distorted form. A sense of mystery beyond our own understanding of the world. If you ever talk to conspiracy theorists, that’s the sense you get from them. A sort of almost romantic sense of awe that there is this dark mysterious thing that a rational thing could never penetrate. That’s sort of religious.” – Adam Curtis [5]

“A myth that tries to explain the things you don’t understand and gives you a sense of consolation beyond your own existence. I think that’s really good. We’re missing that.” – Adam Curtis [6]

Melodrama

“The hyperindividualism of our age is not going to be going back into the bottle. You’ve got to square the circle. You’ve got to let people still feel they’re independent individuals, yet they are giving themselves up to something that is awesome, greater, and more powerful that carries them into the future beyond their own existence. That’s what people are yearning for.” – Adam Curtis [7]

Note to Self:

  • The points this and his previous films like ‘Century of the Self’ raises really made me dwell on certain topics…‘there has been this idea that the function of art is to change the world, and it will do so by changing the way people think and see. Whereas , if you look at the history of art, really brilliant art steps back and shows to you clearly what really is going on in the world you live in, in a vivid, imaginative way.’
  • ‘… artists have retreated over the last 10 to 15 years into either obscure creative bubbles or into money…none of it will actually go out and engage with the world, it’s a retreat.’
  • The current system of power is pretty invisible to us. It resides in finance, in all sorts of new kinds of management, and within computers and the media, which involves invisible algorithms that shape and manage what information we get.
  • The function of art is to go out and explain the world to people, and do it in ways that make it vivid and imaginative.
  • What’s waiting to be invented is a new kind of imaginative language that describes the world of power, which is invisible to us.

Londinium

We visited a few South London galleries on a kind of hidden tour at the Low Residency. Heres a random selection below.

Finnish duo IC-98 large vertical video piece on The Anthropocene.

Old skool YBA material with Gavin Turk at Newport St.

From the maker collective at the Tate Modern, couldn’t see much as had to jump on a plane but liked this Danish girls VR environments, she had built her terrain using imported forest imagery and there was a glitchy element to it I liked.

Wunderwaffe

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“Nature does not know extinction; all it knows is transformation.” – Wernher Von Braun.

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A combination of re-reading Thomas Pynchon’s ‘Gravity’s Rainbow, cargo cults and Platonic solids conspired against me to wash me up on the online shore of an Airfix kit page dedicated to secret WW2 aircraft, most notably the Horten Brothers, two WW2 era aviation inventors who pioneered the Horten 229 aka ‘the Flying Wing’.

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I have always been fascinated by the scientific leaps made in 1944-45 as the Nazi’s desperately tired to develop ‘Wunderwaffe’ or wonder weapons such as the V1 and V2 rockets to turn the tide of WW2. A recent BBC piece on the Horten 229.

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With current world events mirroring the 1930’s, and another extreme narcissist having just assumed power, I look at these ‘Wunderwaffe’ as a foreboding echo from history.

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“Causality does not take place ‘in’ a space that has been established already. Instead it radiates from objects…”. Timothy Morton: ‘Realist Magic objects, Ontology, Causality’.

Note to Self:

  • OOO: Even when they are isolated from all external influences, objects seem to breathe with a strange life…

Polygon Window

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I think these paintings by John Pierre-Roy are just the right side of cheesy.

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They reminded me of Goya’s black paintings, which featured many giants (Colossus), mixed with some kind of contemporary post-rave come down aesthetic.

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Giant contemporary figures with polygonal heads and CMYK colours striding through vast lunar/desert landscapes.

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Note to Self:

  • Some Platonic solids + day-glo Goya giants.

John Frum + Scrum

I’ve become fascinated by the parallels drawn between Cargo Cults and the software development methodology ‘Agile’ (Scrum is a subset of Agile).

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John Frum

Most people will have heard of Cargo Cults, remote Pacific island outposts that were occupied during World War 2 by Allied troops and whose inhabitants subsequently believed that the provisions dropped from the supply planes were from the Gods. Most have vanished, but on Tannu island near Fiji and New Caledonia things are still going strong. The locals worship both Prince Philip and a black American GI called simply ‘John Frum’ (John From America).

“Their followers believe that either an American WWII soldier named John Frum…will somehow come into possession of all the food, clothes and guns that the West currently owns and deliver it all to them. The cargo cults believe that, once that’s happened, the remaining population of the world will disappear, leaving them in control of what they believe is rightfully theirs.” [1]

This odd short film (from a less politically correct era) I found below, shows the futility and absurdity of it all.

”Every year on February 15th, natives of Tanna Island in the Republic of Vanuatu hold a grand celebration in honour of an imaginary man named John Frum. Villagers clothe themselves in homemade US Army britches, paint “USA” on their bare chests and backs, and run a replica of Old Glory up the flagpole alongside the Marine Corps Emblem and the state flag of Georgia. Barefoot soldiers then march in perfect step in the shadow of Yasur, the island’s active volcano, with red-tipped bamboo “rifles” slung over their shoulders. February 15th is known as John Frum day on Tanna Island, and these activities are the islanders’ holiest religious service.” [2]

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Some local prophets started to say that the islanders were the ones who truly deserved all the cargo – that it had been dedicated to them by the gods – but that Westerners were crafty and had unfairly taken possession of it all. People started to believe that, if they imitated the Westerners, they would start to receive the same things, so they built the outer shells of planes out of wood, made landing strips in the jungle, and waited on the strips all day with flags, hoping to guide a plane into land. Some of the elders still go to the airport every day and wait for planes to arrive, in the hope that John Frum might be on one of them.

Scrum

Agile software development refers to a group of software development methodologies based on iterative development, where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing cross-functional teams.

“Agile methods or Agile processes generally promote a disciplined project management process that encourages frequent inspection and adaptation, a leadership philosophy that encourages teamwork, self-organization and accountability, a set of engineering best practices intended to allow for rapid delivery of high-quality software.” [3]

Scrum is a subset of Agile. It is a lightweight process framework for agile development, and the most widely-used one. A Scrum process is distinguished from other agile processes by specific concepts and practices, divided into the three categories of Roles, Artifacts, and Time Boxes. Scrum is most often used to manage complex software and product development, using iterative and incremental practices.

So Cargo Cults are used as a metaphor for software development practices.

Cargo Cults wait for the airplanes to land. They are doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before. But it doesn’t work. No planes land. They replicate the same wrong or incomplete circumstances trying to obtain the same past outcomes.

“Cargo cult software engineering is easy to identify. Cargo cult software engineers justify their practices by saying, “We’ve always done it this way in the past,” or “our company standards require us to do it this way”—even when those ways make no sense. They refuse to acknowledge the tradeoffs involved in either process-oriented or commitment-oriented development. Both have strengths and weaknesses. When presented with more effective, new practices, cargo cult software engineers prefer to stay in their wooden huts of familiar, comfortable and-not-necessarily-effective work habits. “Doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results is a sign of insanity,” the old saying goes. It’s also a sign of cargo cult software engineering.” [4]

Note to Self:

  • The absurdity of the religious practice as ritual.
  • Need my own Cargo Cult!
  • Virtual landing strip?

Plastiglomerate

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What is a beach actually? It is marginalia, a footnote to the essay that is the ocean. [1]

Kamilo Beach, Hawaii is a node where the ocean gets rid of foreign substances. The beach has long been known as a way station. Stories are told that pre-contact, native Hawai’ians used the beach to harvest logs that had drifted into Kamilo from the Pacific Northwest. Currently, Kamilo is a terminal point in the circulation of garbage. The beach and adjacent coastline are covered in plastic, as much as 90% of the garbage accumulated in the area is plastic.

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In 2012, geologist Patricia Corcoran and sculptor Kelly Jazvac travelled to Kamilo Beach, following a tip from oceanographer Charles Moore that the beach was covered in a plastic-sand conglomerate. Moore suspected nearby volcanoes were to blame. In fact, the plastic and beach detritus had been combined into a single substance by bonfires. Human action on the beach had created what Corcoran and Jazvac named “plastiglomerate,” a sand-and-plastic conglomerate. Molten plastic had also in-filled many of the vesicles in the volcanic rock, becoming part of the land that would eventually be eroded back into sand.

…an archive of pure sand is an impossibility. No wonder that sand is often seen to flow through time, through the glass timer, to ebb and flow, to move liquidly across the face of the Earth. [2]

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More poetically, plastiglomerate indexically unites the human with the currents of water. From the primordial muck, to the ocean, to the beach, and back to land, plastiglomerate is an uncanny material marker. It shows the ontological inseparability of all matter, from the micro to the macro. [3]

Following the research excursion to Kamilo Beach, Corcoran and Jazvac argued in GSA Today that plastiglomerate was evidence of a plastic marker horizon that could contribute to the naming of a new era. The naming and dating of the Anthropocene, an as-yet formally unrecognised and heavily debated term for a geologic epoch evidencing human impact on the globe.

Note to Self:

  • OOO: Withdrawn objects…sparkle with absence.