17 September 2011

Queen Elizabeth High School, Halifax, Nova Scotia, being demolished, July 2011. Word has it that allotment gardens will replace the rubble for the short term. 

"This effort of thought seems to meet with its greatest resistance in at­tempting to define the thingness of the thing, for what else could be the reason for the failure of the above attempts? The inconspicuous thing with­draws itself from thought in the most stubborn of ways. Or is it rather that this self-refusal of the mere thing, this self-contained refusal to be pushed around belongs precisely to the  nature of the thing? Must not, then, this disconcerting and uncommunicative element in the essence of the thing become intimately familiar to a thinking which tries to think the thing? If so, we should not force our way into the thing's thingness."
—Martin Heidegger, The Origin of the Artwork

15 September 2011

Gotong Royong

"When anthropologists nowadays speak of “value”—particularly, when they refer to “value” in the singular when one writing twenty years ago would have spoken of “values” in the plural—they are at the very least implying that the fact that all these things should be called by the same word is no coincidence. That ultimately, these are all refractions of the same thing. But if one reflects on it at all, this is a very challenging notion. It would mean, for instance, that when we talk about the “meaning” of a word, and when we talk about the “meaning of life,” we are not talking about utterly different things. And that both have something in common with the sale-price of a refrigerator."
—David Graeber, An Anthropological Theory of Value

8 September 2011

Right Now in Silicon Valley


"The amount of time needed to install the sculpture exceeded my expectations and added extra labor costs. If I had been able to employ my own men, the cost of labor would have been roughly one tenth to one thirtieth of what it cost to employ the Canadian workers. I truly did not expect these added costs. Thus, I quickly realized that when you're doing large scale projects abroad, you must be careful about whom and how many workers you choose to employ. If your own men can't come over from China, large adjustments in technology and operating costs will be required. Of course, this is all part of the learning process." 
—Ren Jun, Praise to Water: The Sculpture of Ren Jun—A Series of News (Vancouver Biennale - Winter Olympic Games; catalogue), 2011

6 September 2011

monads on parade

"A skull with what seemed an anatomically modern brain case and an ape-like jaw was discovered in Piltdown, England in 1912 and dubbed Eoanthropus ("Dawn Man"). Until 1953, when it was realized to be a hoax of patched-together human and ape bones, British scholars welcomed Piltdown Man. The reputation of UK paleo-anthropology was enhanced and national pride reinforced as "this early man with such a large and precocious brain was English and had chosen the rolling hills of Sussex for his home""

—Barry Sautman, Peking Man and the Politics of Paleoanthropological Nationalism in China

5 September 2011


"From a starting point in Christmas folklore, with its central figure of Father Christmas, in just a few unforgettable pages Levi-Strauss reconstructed the meaning of initiation rites; behind the adult-child opposition, he discerned a more basic opposition between living and dead. In fact, as we have seen, children correspond less to the dead than to ghosts. Within the perspective of signifying function, adults and dead belong to the same order, that of stable signifiers and the continuity between diachrony and synchrony. (From this point of view, there is little difference between cold societies, which represent this continuity as a circle in which the living become dead and these in turn become living, and hot societies like ours, which develop this continuity in a rectilinear process. In either case what matters is the continuity of the system.) But children and ghosts, as unstable signifiers, represent the discontinuity and difference between the two worlds. The dead person is not the ancestor: this is the meaning of the ghost. The ancestor is not the living man: this is the meaning of the child. For if the dead immediately became ancestors and ancestors immediately became living men, then the whole present would in an instant be transformed into past, and the whole past into present, and this would diminish that differential margin between synchrony and diachrony on which is based the potential for signifying relations, and with it the potential for human society and history. Thus, since ritual allows the persistence in the churinga of an irreducible diachronic residue, and play allows a synchronic residue in the toy, so the passage between the world of the living and the world of the dead allows the persistence of two points of discontinuity which are necessary to maintain the operation of a signifying function. So the passage between synchrony and diachrony, between world of the living and world of the dead, occurs in a kind of 'quantum leap', in which the unstable signifiers are the cipher:

Within this perspective, ghosts and children, belonging neither to the signifiers of diachrony nor to those of synchrony, appear as the signifiers of the same signifying opposition between the two worlds which constitutes the potential for a social system. They are, therefore, the signifiers of the signifying function, without which there would he neither human time nor history. Playland and the land of ghosts set out a utopian topology of historyland, which has no site except in a signifying difference between diachrony and synchrony, between aion and chronos, between living and dead, between nature and culture.
So the social system can be pictured as a complex mechanism in which (unstable) signifiers of signification are counterposed to stable signifiers, but where in reality an exchange takes place between them to guarantee the functioning of the system. Thus adults submit to becoming ghosts so that the ghosts can become dead, and the dead become children so that the children can become men and women. The object of funeral rites and initiation rites, therefore, is the transmission of the signifying function, which must resist and endure beyond birth and death. Thus no society, whether the hottest and most progressive or the coldest and most conservative, can altogether do without unstable signifiers and, in so far as they represent an element of disturbance and threat, must take care that the signifying exchange is not interrupted, so that phantoms can become dead and babies living men."
—Girorgio Agamben, "In Playland" in Infancy and History, 1978.

1 September 2011

Puerilia Ludicra

"I have no hobby. Not that I am the kind of workaholic, who is incapable of doing anything with his time but applying himself industriously to the required task. But, as far as my activities beyond the bounds of my recognized profession are concerned, I take them all, without exception, very seriously. So much so that I should be horrified by the very idea that they had anything to do with hobbies - preoccupations with which I had become mindlessly infatuated merely in order to kill the time - had I not become hardened by experience to such examples of this now widespread, barbarous mentality. Making music, listening to music, reading with all my attention, these activities are part and parcel of my life; to call them hobbies would make a mockery of them. On the other hand, I have been fortunate enough that my job... cannot be defined in terms of that strict opposition of free time, which is demanded of the current razor-sharp division of the two..."
—Theodor Adorno, "Free Time," in The Culture Industry