13 December 2010

Bunker windows

"Bunkers have already been described as privatized public spaces which serve various particularized functions, such as political continuity (government offices or national monuments), or areas for consumption frenzy (malls). In line with the feudal tradition of the fortress mentality, the bunker guarantees safety and familiarity in exchange for the relinquishment of individual sovereignty. It can act as a seductive agent offering the credible illusion of consumptive choice and ideological peace for the complicit, or it can act as an aggressive force demanding acquiescence for the resistant. The bunker brings nearly all to its interior with the exception of those left to guard the streets. After all, nomadic power does not offer the choice not to work or not to consume. The bunker is such an all-embracing feature of everyday life that even the most resistant cannot always approach it critically. Alienation, in part, stems from this uncontrollable entrapment in the bunker.
Bunkers vary in appearance as much as they do in function. The nomadic bunker—the product of “the global village”—has both an electronic and an architectural form. The electronic form is witnessed as media; as such it attempts to colonize the private residence. Informative distraction flows in an unceasing stream of fictions produced by Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and CNN. The economy of desire can be safely viewed through the familiar window of screenal space. Secure in the electronic bunker, a life of alienated autoexperience (a loss of the social) can continue in quiet acquiescence and deep privation. The viewer is brought to the world, the world to the viewer, all mediated through the ideology of the screen. This is virtual life in a virtual world. Like the electronic bunker, the architectural bunker is another site where hyperspeed and hyperinertia intersect. Such bunkers are not restricted to national boundaries; in fact, they span the globe. Although they cannot actually move through physical space, they simulate the appearance of being everywhere at once. The architecture itself may vary considerably, even in terms of particular types; however, the logo or totem of a particular type is universal, as are its consumables. In a general sense, it is its redundant participation in these characteristics that make it so seductive.
This type of bunker was typical of capitalist power’s first attempt to go nomadic. During the Counterreformation, when the Catholic Church realized during the Council of Trent (1545-63) that universal presence was a key to power in the age of colonization, this type of bunker came of age. (It took the full development of the capitalist system to produce the technology necessary to return to power through absence). The appearance of the church in frontier areas both East and West, the universalization of ritual, the maintenance of relative grandeur in its architecture, and the ideological marker of the crucifix, all conspired to present a reliable place of familiarity and security. Wherever a person was, the homeland of the church was waiting.
In more contemporary times, the gothic arches have transformed themselves into golden arches. McDonalds’ is global. Wherever an economic frontier is opening, so is a McDonalds’. Travel where you might, that same hamburger and coke are waiting. Like Bernini’s piazza at St. Peters, the golden arches reach out to embrace their clients—so long as they consume, and leave when they are finished. While in the bunker, national boundaries are a thing of the past, in fact you are at home. Why travel at all? After all, wherever you go, you are already there.
There are also sedentary bunkers. This type is clearly nationalized, and hence is the bunker of choice for governments. It is the oldest type, appearing at the dawn of complex society, and reaching a peak in modern society with conglomerates of bunkers spread throughout the urban sprawl. These bunkers are in some cases the last trace of centralized national power (the White House), or in others, they are locations to manufacture a complicit cultural elite (the university), or sites of manufactured continuity (historical monuments). These are sites most vulnerable to electronic disturbance, as their images and mythologies are the easiest to appropriate.
In any bunker (along with its associated geography, territory, and ecology) the resistant cultural producer can best achieve disturbance. There is enough consumer technology available to at least temporarily reinscribe the bunker with image and language that reveal its sacrificial intent, as well as the obscenity of its bourgeois utilitarian aesthetic. Nomadic power has created panic in the streets, with its mythologies of political subversion, economic deterioration, and biological infection, which in turn produce a fortress ideology, and hence a demand for bunkers. It is now necessary to bring panic into the bunker, thus disturbing the illusion of security and leaving no place to hide. The incitement of panic in all sites is the postmodern gamble.
–Critical Art Ensemble The Electronic Disturbance, 1993

13 November 2010

Not Quite "Ivory Tower" Material

upon entering the exhibit, he overheard the young docent exclaim "notice the sweaty punctum".

18 October 2010

Ron Benner

"We have three phases of the Internet. The first phase is that of the hackers, where access was the issue, making software available. The second one, when you begin to have interest by private actors that did not quite know how to use it. It still was mostly a public space, in some ways protected. And now a third stage, the invasion of cyberspace by corporate actors: It's really combat out there. So, for me the internet becomes a space for contestation. I am here not only thinking about multinational corporations. I am thinking of all kinds of actors, including the misusers of the Net, which is something serious also.
"The bandwidth capacity is always a very difficult issue. It is not clear to me if the capacity will be endless, like in the notion of the old frontier, where you had "endless land." But it is not really endless. It takes a number of events to discover that. Certain laboratory productions of capacity are enormous, in terms of bandwidth. But I am not sure what happens once it moves from the lab to people and companies. There are two issues, the first being the economics of introducing the new technical capacities that are possible. And economics matters, We already now have poor men and women's email, where you wait forever. If you pay, you will have a high-speed connection. The other issue is a "degreening" of the practices on the Net, which I find very disturbing: The issue of bandwidth-consuming multimedia, forinstance, where things could also have been done via email.

"In order to have a broad, general debate about the issue of bandwidth, it might be important to see how we can visualize this topic. Which metaphors do we use, what kind of images? How would you describe the bandwidth topic for a wider audience?

"I grew up in Latin America. Anybody who has spent some time there or in Africa knows how difficult it is to place an international, long-distance call. You have to wait, sometimes for hours. You don't just get on the telephone and get access. Why? Because it is a question of capacity. You will experience the notion of inadequate carrying capacity. Today, those of us who use email through institutions have also had that experience. In Europe, it is different in the afternoon than in the morning.Why? Because in the afternoon the United States has woken up and has invaded the Internet. You get to wait a much longer time. If you have a lot of money, believe me, you will have a fast lane. In Bombay or São Paulo, you will find different circumstances. For instance there are porr and rich universities. Some universities in the United States, in order to save money, shift part of their bandwidth to commercial users after 5:00 p.m. And you will wait there forever to get a connection."

—Saskia Sassen in conversation with Geert Lovink, 1997.

7 October 2010


Hello Michael
Interesting project. Yes, I would be a good resource for you if I could provide you with some publication or article on the meaning of Buddhist robes, but I cannot. I have a slide presentation called "The Buddhist Robe: From Sakyamuni to Star Trek" but unfortunately I have no text to go with it. I just speak over top of the images.
The original Buddhist robe in India was made by sewing together pieces of defiled cloth--wrappings from corpses were considered ideal. The Japanese monk Dogen said the ideal cloth for a robe was one which had passed through the stomach of a cow. These pieces of cloth were stitched together (that is why the Buddhist robe has a checkerboard pattern, called "rice paddy" pattern in Asia) and then dyed a colour called kasyaya. The recipe for this dye was rust, earth and tree roots. The intention was to create a dirty unattractive color. The colour of the robe could not be one of the prime colors and not a color which, when put on the body, made the body attractive. The intention of the Buddhist robe was to cut the usual desire to making oneself attractive. Everyone wore the same style and color of robe to extinguish attachment to individuality (same justification for shaving the head). Everyone was limited to three basic robes (skirt robe, short robe and long robe) and these were not to be considered your own possession; they were given to you by the monastery. If a donor gave some fine cloth to the monastery for monks' robes, the monastery cut the cloth into small pieces to lessen its value. All dress was designed to cut the addiction to thinking of clothing as "my" possession and enhancing "my" appearance and expressing "my" status or individuality.
There is lots more on the history of the Buddhist robe. The end of the story however is that the robe gradually evolved into an adornment and came to be used in exactly the opposite way from the original Buddhist robe. The robe got made from expensive silk brocade and complicated ornamental design and pictures were woven into the fabric. Many colours were introduced to emphasize difference in rank. Monks had to had different kinds of robes, some for ordinary daily wear and some for formal ceremonial wear. Some robes now are fantastically expensive.
The peasant dress which Mao Tsu-tung instituted after the Chinese revolution in 1949 had many of the same purposes as the Buddhist robe. First, the old Chinese scholars' gown and the monks' robe were banned. These garments did not have legs, a split crotch, because Confucian scholars and Buddhist monks did no manual labour. So after Mao, everyone in China wore pants, signifying that everyone did manual labour. Then also, women wore pants as well, signifying gender equality. Even now, the older generation of women in China, the one that grew up in the 50s and 60s still wears pants. It is only very recently that younger women have started to wear skirts and dresses. In Mao's time, everyone wore the same colour and material of suit to emphasize their equality. And so on. The chief difference between the Buddhist robe and the Mao suit is that the Buddhist robe was donned as a personal decision for spiritual self-discipline; the Mao suit was imposed on people for political purposes, although lots of people personally agreed with its aims.
I did not mean to write this note. Got carried away with the topic.
Victor Sogen Hori
G. Victor Hori
Faculty of Religious Studies
McGill University
3520 University St.
Montreal, Quebec H3A 2A7
(514) 398-1347; fax (514) 398-6665
----- Original Message -----
To: XXXXXXXXX@mcgill.ca
Sent: Wednesday, May 19, 2004 11:58 AM
Subject: A history of Monastic robes

Greetings, my name is Michael Eddy and I am a student at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. I have recently been asked by an artists' project out of Toronto, "The Grey Sweatsuit Revolution", to write a short account of the various meanings and interpretations behind the pratice of devotional dress. Specifially, my intention is to explore the approaches to the denial of one's self-image that various faiths and disciplines prescribe/suggest.

"The Grey Sweatsuit Revolution" is soliciting the general public to wear nothing but grey sweatsuits for the entire spring and summer in an ironic attempt to curb fashion authoritarianism. Initially I had sent the Revolution an e-mail questioning the redundancy of such a movement when various religious disciplines already take up the call; the organizer responded with an invitation to write an essay.

Terri Woo of Dalhousie University suggested I contact you, mentioning that you had been a monk and that you had written a piece on the topic of robes. You would seem a perfect resource.

Could you point me in a suitable direction? Thank you, Michael Eddy

6 September 2010

An Empty Paper Bag in a Suit

Mr Harvey

This is to inform you that if you do make any more two course
Hole, you will have all your Frames broken and your goods too, though you may think you have made your doom just I shall know how to break your frames, we will not suffer you to win the Trade will die first, if we cant do it just to night we will break them yet, and if we cant break them we will break something better and we will do it too in spite of the devil.

Remember Ned Ludd

2 September 2010


Ecological ashtray designed with Felipe Escudero, going into mass production in 2013!

"I just met a Spanish artist who proposed a new project - it's a bit macho but could be interesting - he wants to punch every Spanish architect he meets in the face! To try and wake them up! It's a rather primitive form of critique but I think it encapsulates a frustration people have with what's going on in our built environment. Why should all these public spaces be privatized? Was anyone asked if they wanted another ridiculous mall in their neighborhood? But to answer your question - I think that it's done both. I'm now more aware of the compromises and processes involved when considering larger urban projects but that, in a way, makes not doing anything even more valuable." –Nils Norman

30 August 2010


"We will continue to employ the methodological concept of the model by setting out precisely what its attributes and properties are:
a) It refines certain characteristics of the concept in general, and of conceptual elaboration or conceptualization. By summing up an experimental and practical given, the classic consept turned too much towards the past, and also towards the simple. The model is a more flexible tool, capable of exploring the complex and the random. With it, thought becomes 'propositional' in a new way: programmatic. However, if the 'model' refines the concept, it cannot dispense with it. It presupposes a conceptual elaboration.
b) Like the concept, the model is a scientific abstraction and a level of abstraction. It is always revisable, and cannot be taken either as a reality or entity imminent to the real beneath the appearances of phenomena (the ontological temptation, which structuralism finds hard to avoid), or as a norm or value (the normative temptation). The methodology of models forbids their fetishization.
c) The model is constructed in order to confront 'reality' (experience and practice). It is useful, not least because it helps us to appreciate the gap between itself and the facts, between the abstract and the concrete, between what has been certified and what is still possible. The model is useful: it is a working implement for knowledge. Only the concept has the dignity of knowing.
d) As far as a set of facts is concerned, there can be no question of a single model. If we are to grasp the actual and the possible,we must construct several models. The confrontation between these will be as interesting theoretically as the confrontation between one of them and the concrete element it represents. In this way diversity and discussion during the process take on added value. No one model can be sufficient or pretend to be sufficient by bringing research to a halt. So we are faced with two alternatives: ontology or criticism, dogmatism or empiricism (or pure relativism).
e) The concept of the model also helps to refine the concept of hypothesis. Every model encompasses a hypothesis (in the broadest sense, theoretical or strategic). Every hypothesis concludes by constructing a model, which is the halfway stage between inventing the hypothesis and proving it. So the model assumes the qualities of the hypothesis: provability, creativity. As Politzer said, it should enable us to move from philosophical luxury to the economy of philosophy, by separating the hypothesis out from speculation.
f) Because it must prove its creativity, the model must have an operating or operational character. However, this trait must not be fetishized. The operating techniques linked to a particular model must be examined with care and suspicion. Fetishization of this characteristic, which blows it up out of all proportion, is the feature of a certain well-defined ideology, namely technocratism. The operational model becomes the practical and theoretical property of a bureaucracy and a technocracy. This brings us back to the most disturbing aspect of structuralism. The fetishization of the concept of the 'model' is part of the strategy of the social group of technocrats."
–Henri Lefebvre, Critique of Everyday Life; Volume 2, p. 177.

27 August 2010

Cosima von Bonin


MAY AND JUNE 1, 2010
130 CM x 90 CM x 400 CM
SMOKE, 2008 / 2010
Photo: Markus Trette
© Kunsthaus Bregenz, Cosima von Bonin

24 August 2010

a comely Dikē throttled an ugly Adikia

"9. Archives are governed by the Laws of Intellectual Propriety as opposed to Property

As the monetary value of the global information economy gains more importance, the abstract value of images get articulated within the language of property and rights. The language of intellectual property normativizes our relationship to knowledge and culture by naturalizing and universalizing narrow ideas of authorship, ownership and property. This language has extended from the world of software databases to traditional archives where copyright serves as Kafka’s gatekeeper and the use of the archive becomes a question of rights management.

Beyond the status of the archive as property lies the properties of the archive which can destabilize and complicate received notions of rights.

They establish their own code of conduct, frame their own rules of access, and develop an ethics of the archive which are beyond the scope of legal imagination. If the archive is a scene of invention then what norms do they develop for themselves which do not take for granted a pre determined language of rights. How do practices of archiving destabilize ideas of property while at the same time remaining stubbornly insistent on questions of ‘propriety’.

Intellectual propriety does not establish any universal rule of how archives collect and make available their artifacts. It recognizes that the archivist play a dual role: They act as the trustees of the memories of other people, and as the transmitters of public knowledge. This schizophrenic impulse prevents any easy settling into a single norm.

Propriety does not name a set of legislated principles of proper etiquette, instead it builds on the care and responsibility that archivists display in their preservation of cultural and historical objects. The digital archive translates this ethic of care into an understanding of the ecology of knowledge, and the modes through which such an ecology is sustained through a logic of distribution, rather than mere accumulation.

It remembers the history of archivists being described as pirates, and scans its own records, files and database to produce an account of itself. In declaring its autonomy, archives seek to produce norms beyond normativity, and ethical claims beyond the law."

—from Pad.Ma, 10 Theses on the Archive

15 August 2010

"Dialectical materialism is not, and never has been, a programmatic method for solving particular physical problems. Rather, dialectical analysis provides an overview and a set of warning signs against particular forms of dogmatism and narrowness of thought. It tells us, “Remember that history may leave an important trace. Remember that being and becoming are dual aspects of nature. Remember that conditions change and that the conditions necessary to the initiation of some process may be destroyed by the process itself. Remember to pay attention to real objects in time and space and not lose them in utterly idealized abstractions. Remember that qualitative effects of context and interaction may be lost when phenomena are isolated.” And above all else, “Remember that all the other caveats are only reminders and warning signs whose application to different circumstances of the real world is contingent."
- Richard Lewontin

30 July 2010

Bad Vibel

"Alan goes to Korea, where we have some big orders coming through," Ron explained recently over lunch--a hamburger, medium-well, with fries--in the V.I.P. booth by the door in the Polo Lounge, at the Beverly Hills Hotel. "I call Alan on the phone. I wake him up. It was two in the morning there. And these are my exact words: `Stop. Do not pursue the bread-and-batter machine. I will pick it up later. This other project needs to come first.' " The other project, his inspiration, was a device capable of smoking meats indoors without creating odors that can suffuse the air and permeate furniture. Ron had a version of the indoor smoker on his porch--"a Rube Goldberg kind of thing" that he'd worked on a year earlier--and, on a whim, he cooked a chicken in it. "That chicken was so good that I said to myself"--and with his left hand Ron began to pound on the table--"This is the best chicken sandwich I have ever had in my life." He turned to me: "How many times have you had a smoked-turkey sandwich? Maybe you have a smoked- turkey or a smoked-chicken sandwich once every six months. Once! How many times have you had smoked salmon? Aah. More. I'm going to say you come across smoked salmon as an hors d'oeuvre or an entrée once every three months. Baby-back ribs? Depends on which restaurant you order ribs at. Smoked sausage, same thing. You touch on smoked food"--he leaned in and poked my arm for emphasis--"but I know one thing, Malcolm. You don't have a smoker."

- Malcolm Gladwell, "The Pitchman." The New Yorker, October 30, 2000

10 July 2010

Hegel's Hotel

Bernard Madoff Client List
"The accusation is that artists are at best the ultimate freelance knowledge workers and at worst barely capable of distinguishing themselves from the consuming desire to work at all times, neurotic people who deploy a series of practices that coincide quite neatly with the requirements of neoliberal, predatory, continually mutating capitalism of the every moment. Artists are people who behave, communicate and innovate in the same manner as those who spend their days trying to capitalize every moment and exchange of daily life. They offer no alternative."
—Liam Gillick

30 June 2010

Manila Vice

"But yeah, ten years ago, Paul Martin, who was then Canada’s finance minister, later Canada’s prime minister, was at a meeting with Larry Summers. This is 1999, so Summers at that time was Bill Clinton’s nominee for Treasury secretary. And the two men were discussing this idea to expand the G7 into a larger grouping to respond to the fact that developing country economies like China and India were growing very quickly, and they wanted to include them into this club, and they were under pressure to do so. So, what Martin and Summers did—and this history we only learned last week. This really wasn’t a history that had been told. So this story came out in The Globe and Mail. And it turns out that the two men didn’t have a piece of paper. They wanted to—I don’t know how this would possibly be the case, but their story is that they wanted to make a list of the countries that they would invite into this club, and they couldn’t find a piece of paper, so they found a manila envelope and wrote on the back of the manila envelope a list of countries. And by Paul Martin’s admission, those countries were not simply the twenty top economies of the world, the biggest GDPs. They were also the countries that were most strategic to the United States. So Larry Summers would make a decision that obviously Iran wouldn’t be in, but Saudi Arabia would be. And so, Saudi Arabia is in. Thailand, it made sense to include Thailand, because it had actually been the Thai economy, which, two years earlier, had set off the Asian economic crisis, but Thailand wasn’t as important to the US strategically as Indonesia, so Indonesia was in and not Thailand. So what you see from this story is that the creation of the G20 was an absolutely top-down decision, two powerful men deciding together to do this, making, you know, an invitation-only list.

"And what you really see is that this is an attempt to get around the United Nations, where every country in the world has a vote, and to create this expanded G7 or G8, where they invite some developing countries, but not so many that they can overpower or outvote the Western—the traditional Western powers. So, as this happened, we have also seen a weakening and an undermining of the United Nations. And I think that that’s the context in which the G20 needs to be understood. And that’s why a lot of the activists in Toronto this week were arguing that the G20 is an illegitimate institution and the price tag is—that we, as Canadian taxpayers, have had to take on for hosting this summit, you know, $1.2 billion, is particularly unacceptable, given that we have the United Nations, where these countries can meet in a much more democratic, much more legitimate forum, as opposed to this ad hoc invitation-only club from the back of an envelope in Larry Summers’s office."
–Naomi Klein talking to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! (June 28, 2010).

19 June 2010

"Laziness is the absence of movement and thought, dumb time—total amnesia. It is also indifference, staring at nothing, nonactivity, impotence. It is sheer stupidity, a time of pain, futile concentration. Those virtues of laziness are important factors in art. Knowing about laziness is not enough, it must be practiced and perfected. Artists in the West are not lazy and therefore not artists but producers of something... Their involvement with matters of no importance, such as production, promotion, gallery system, museum system, competition system (who is first), their preoccupation with objects, all that drives them away from laziness, from art. Just as money is paper, so a gallery is a room. Artists from the East were lazy and poor because the entire system of insignificant factors did not exist. Therefore they had time enough to concentrate on art and laziness. Even when they did produce art, they knew it was in vain, it was nothing... Finally, to be lazy and conclude: There is no art without laziness."
—Mladen Stilinovic´from Documenta 12 Magazine Nº 12 Life!, 2007

11 June 2010

the nurturing, comfortable, safe, infinitely promising Holding Environment

Late stages in the Structural Integrity exhibition as part of the Next Wave Festival in Melbourne.

The laptop in the Holding Environment powered the works of two different pieces by other artists, a radio broadcast by "Sound Research of China" and a video by Guangzhou-based artist Zhou Tao. The heat from the computer's operation helped to produce an appropriate climate for the growth of mushrooms—in this case, the oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus)—inside the Holding Environment. Remember, May is autumn in Australia.