the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

Archive for February, 2015

adam harper on health goth as a reaction to indie lo-fi

Posted by rigorousm on February 24, 2015

Health Goth, even just as a set of fashion ideas, is part of a much broader trend spearheaded by the online underground (but certainly not reducible to ‘net music’). … a hi-tech aesthetic made up of a number of different styles and communities including vaporwave, beats, pastiche, collage, club, cuteness, noise and rap, suggesting that together they form a contrasting reaction to the twee, lo-fi and retro-obsessed indie aesthetic. I think Health Goth is part of this wider interest in hi-tech worlds and signifiers, together with the dystopian accelerationism that so often accompanies it. I’d also add that hi-tech isn’t ‘ironic’—it is based around cultural distance, but it’s exploratory and ambivalent rather than false or insincere.

Adam Harper, “What Health Goth Actually Means” for the Fader (link to article)


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taussig on nicknames and their relation to the baroque

Posted by rigorousm on February 20, 2015

Nicknames make you ask questions you wouldn’t ask of an “ordinary” or real name. Nicknames open up names and the act of naming. They splay language open so as to provide alternate universes by stepping out of the rut of everyday life. Having a nickname or an alias is like having a mask, a cover over the real face, similar to what a facelift provides. (123, “The Designer Name”)

You can think of it like this. A nickname sits between one’s real name and a false name, and it is in that ambiguous space also that I would place the face or body changed by cosmic surgery. To the extent that such a face of body is like a false name or an alias, it can seem inauthentic, strange, and troubling, and this is what we find in expressions of distaste toward cosmic surgery outside of Latino cultures, for example. On the other hand, you can, as I have been at pains to point out, think of a nickname not as false but as an adornment– like pearl earrings of a modish hat– and problems such as inauthenticity, being true to one’s body, one’s age, or one’s looks, are irrelevant, which is precisely the aesthetic of the baroque, in which the love of the theatrical, the artificial, and the extravagant was second only to the labyrinthine complexity of the state, the corruption of the bureaucracy, and the heavenly ordained [pwer of the king. It is in this way, then, that the aesthetic of cosmic surgery is today infused with the current political setup, that extravaganza of false faces. (126, “The Designer Name”)

… the baroque, wherein an aesthetic of artificiality and the inordinate complexity of statecraft theatricalizes the world… (109, “The surgeons of the underworld”

— Michael Taussig, Beauty and the Beast, 2012.

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taussig on fashion

Posted by rigorousm on February 20, 2015

Fashion is that which exists between past and future, a constantly shifting force field of collective dream energy, and that is why it has no history but continual erasure, which Benjamin marked as the death ritual of the commodity.

— Michael Taussig, “The History of Beauty,” Beauty and the Beast, 96.

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the third policeman hastens toward death

Posted by rigorousm on February 10, 2015

‘[Fox] is as crazy as bedamned, an incontestable character and a man of ungovernable inexactitudes.’

‘Then why does he sleep here?’ …

‘To spend it and spin it out and not have all of it forever unused inside him.’

‘All what?’

‘His lifetime. He was to get rid of as much as possible, undertime and overtime, as quickly as he can so that he can die as soon as possible. MacCruiskeen and I are wise and we are not yet tired of being ourselves, we save it up. I think he has an opinion that there is a turn to the right down the road and likely that is what he is after, he thinks the best way to find it is to die and get all the leftness out of his blood. I do not believe there is a right-hand road and if there is it would surely take a dozen active men to look after the readings alone, night and morning. As you are perfectly aware the right is much more tricky than the left, you would be surprised at all the right pitfalls there are. We are only at the beginning of our knowledge of the right, there is nothing more deceptive to the unwary.’

Flann O’Brien, The Third Policeman, 158.

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the protagonist reflects on his reincarnation

Posted by rigorousm on February 10, 2015

Here I gave some sound again, hearing my own voice as if I was a bystander at a public meeting where I was myself the main speaker. I had heard the Sergeant’s words and understood them thoroughly but they were no more significant than the clear sounds that infest the air at all times—the far cry of gulls, the disturbance a breeze will make in its blowing and water falling headlong down a hill. Down into the earth where dead men go I would go soon and maybe come out of it again in some healthy way, free and innocent of all human perplexity. I would perhaps be the chill of an April wind, an essential part of some indomitable river or be personally concerned in the ageless perfection of some rank mountain bearing down on the mind by occupying forever a position in the blue easy distance. Or perhaps a smaller thing like movement in the grass on an unbearable breathless yellow day, some hidden creature going about its business— I might well be responsible for that or for some important part of it. Or even those unaccountable distinctions that make an evening recognizable from its own morning, the smells and sounds and sights of the perfected and matured essences of the day, these might not be innocent of my meddling and my abiding presence.

… Or perhaps I would be an influence that prevails in water, something sea-borne and far away, some certain arrangement of sun, light and water unknown and unbeheld, something far-from-usual. There are in the great world whirls of fluid and vaporous existences obtaining in their own unpassing time, unwatched and uninterpreted, valid only in their essential un-understandable mystery, justified only in their eyeless and mindless mystery, unassailable in their actual abstraction; of the inner quality of such a thing I might well in my own time be the true quintessential pith. I might belong to a lonely shore or be the agony of the sea when it bursts upon it in despair.

Flann O’Brien, The Third Policeman 164-165.

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atelier bow-wow on urban sidewalk programming

Posted by rigorousm on February 10, 2015

Where tools like a saw and paintbrush are universal, performing uniform functions everywhere, jigs are particular as they can perform only when they are put in a specific relationship with other tools. …

If we extend this concept of the jig to include all that temporarily anchors people in a stable relationship, we will find many jigs around our behaviors. … Let us further extend our view to the urban spaces. Take a sidewalk café for example. With a program that allows sets of small tables and chairs to be placed outside of a café, a sidewalk café is a jig that makes people comfortably occupy the street-side as a public space. Banks that close at 3 pm, on the other hand, are incapable of becoming a program that populates the streets even when the city gets lively in the evening and weekends. A strong sense of publicness or liveliness in any given urban place is felt approximately proportional to the quantity and different types of people occupying it. From this perspective, the program of a building could be viwer as a jig that creates a comfort zone for people in the urban spaces.

Atelier Bow-Wow, “Jig,” Echo of Space / Space of Echo 087-088.

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atlier bow-wow on masks, faces, deformity and expression

Posted by rigorousm on February 10, 2015

This deformational mechanism… requires a background; it needs an underlying pattern or typological counterpoint that would serve as a referential framework for an object at hand. In the case of masks, the underlying pattern or typological counterpoint is the human face behind them. The face is a powerful pattern that can be easily recognized as we can perceive face-like expressions on buildings’ facades, electric outlets or even a grain of wood. (Thighs will not lend themselves to similar symbolic recognition even if they are deformed somehow.) The face pattern is determined by the constant arrangement in which the eyes, nose, mouth eyebrows, ears, and hair are positioned within or along the facial contour. Since the face derives expressions from this close relationship between the parts and the whole, it can communicate compelling meaning or messages once its equilibrium is broken through a change in a part’s shape, size, or positioning. Imagine how the altered part would behave in the typologically constant arrangement of the human face. This is how the masks’ meanings can be captured. There are lessons to be drawn from their deformational arts and intelligence. Atelier Bow-Wow, “Mask,” Echo of Space / Space of Echo, 022

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yates and barthes on grieving

Posted by rigorousm on February 10, 2015

In Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes distinguishes between two orders of reference, one an effect of any representational system, the other a “photographic referent,” not the optionally real thing to which an image or a sign refers but the necessarily real thing which has been placed before the lens, without which there would be no photograph. Painting, he continues, “can feign reality without having seen it. Discourse combines signs which have referents, of course, but these referents can be and are most often ‘chimeras’. Contrary to these imtitations, in Photography I can never deny that the thing has been there.” It is in the co-presence of the photograph with its referent that Barthes finds the essence of photography. “What I intentionalize in a photograph,” he observes, “is neither Art nor Communication, it is Reference.” Whoever appears in the photograph, whatever events it depicts, are marked, he states, with an irrefutable “’That—has—Been.’” Gazing at a photograph of his dead mother, which he withholds from us, Barthes discovers what he calls her essential “quality.” What he has lost, he tells us, is “not a Figure (the Mother), but a being; and not a being but a quality (a soul): not the indispensable but the irreplaceable.” The photograph captures the fact of his mother’s existence, her “irreplaceability” as a body rather than as an assembly of drives and projections that will make her “the Mother.” The discovery of the “this that was there” of this photograph produces a reciprocal feeling of irreplaceability in Barthes himself. “I am the reference of every photograph,” he writes, “and this is what generates my astonishment in addressing myself to the fundamental question: ‘why is it that I am alive here and now?’” The “irreplaceability” of the photographic referent calls the viewing subject into being, reminds the subject of her or his own finite existence “here and now.”’

— Julian Yates, Error, Misuse, Failure: object lessons of the English Renaissance, 33-34.

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taussig on planning undesirable city space

Posted by rigorousm on February 6, 2015

… in one of his more memorable Surrealist pieces for his famous dictionary in his 1930 magazine, Documents, Georges Bataille stated that the art gallery in our time has taken over as the sacred site in the center of the city that was the king’s palace. The story goes like this: When the king was beheaded in public view during the French Revolution—there in the center of the city where the Egyptian Obelisk was a few years later placed by Napoleon—at the same time as he lost his head, so the city’s abattoir, also in the heart of the city, alive with blood and offal, was moved to anonymous locations outside the city and people could then enjoy their Sundays of purification by going to the art gallery while the obscene roots of the sacred such as sacrifice of the god or animals is nowhere in evidence. That was written almost eighty years ago, and while the general idea is as relevant and as riveting as ever, there are other sacred, or should one say negatively sacred, sites that undergo the same disappearance as Bataille’s abattoir. I am told for instance by a mechanic friend in upstate New York that none of the towns in the vicinity allow junk yards, which he calls salvage yards, to be exposed to the public, and they have to be situated outside of the towns. The county town planner and the town clerk both inform me that local laws demand high walls around such yards, which must be on the outskirts, never inside, the town, and the same applies to strip joints, which are not allowed to have blue lighting on the outside. In town planning parlance strips clubs are called “adult uses” and fall into the more general category of LULUS, meaning Local Unwanted Land Uses, which includes slaughterhouses as well.

Michael Taussig, “The Obscene in Everyday Life” in Obscenity and the Limits of Liberalism, ed Loren Glass and Charles Francis Williams, 20. (link to full article)

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harington on true happiness

Posted by rigorousm on February 5, 2015

Our joys do not, writes Harington [in The Metamorphosis of Ajax], consist of an active search for pleasure but are to be found rather “in indolentia (as they call it) that is an avoyding of grievances and inconveniences, then in possessing any passing great pleasures” (83). This passive enjoyment of “avoidance,” says Harington, is more resilient than:

the chiefest of all our sensual pleasures, I meane that which some call the sweet sinne of letcherie… this surpassing pleasure, that is so much in request, and counted such a principall solace, I have heard confessed before a most honourable person, by a man of middle age, strong constitution, and well practised in this occupation, to have bred no more delictation to him (after the first heate of his youth was past) then to go to a good easie close stoole, when he hath had a lust thereto (for that was his verie phrase.) Which being confessed by him, and confirmed by many; makes me take this advantage thereof in the beginning of this discourse to preferre this house I mind to speake of, before those which they so much frequent; neither let any disdaine the comparison. (84)

Happiness, thinks Harington, is a state of bodily silence, an avoidance of frustrations and grief, rather than the careening course of sexual desire.

— Julian Yates, Error, Misuse, Failure, 90.

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