Archive for October, 2008



Mark Zuckerberg: “Facebook has always tried to push the envelope. And at times that means stretching people and getting them to be comfortable with things they aren’t yet comfortable with. A lot of this is just social norms catching up with what technology is capable of.”



David Sedaris: “Can I interest you in the chicken?” … “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”



The digital information explosion has nurtured the growth of multiple narratives. In the absence of a single master narrative, worth anything much, pragmatic attitudes (either avowed or concealed) have become pervasive. Today, people elaborate their own theoretical and ethical universes, in line with their own ambitions and projects, their own situations, their own psychological needs. Journalists need to believe certain things, construction workers to believe certain things, waitresses to believe certain things…



A lot of time has been spent mourning the future lately. Inspired by Fred Jameson, Marxist critics have lamented our declining ability to imagine new futures, explaining this predicament in terms of the cognitive predations of late capitalism.

But when did the modern idea of the future – as opposed to the idea of “posterity” or “the ages” – become operational in the first place? This much is certain: the concept was historically generated, tethered to a certain phase of history, a particular technological and social regime. Concepts are not immortal, they die natural causes, as the infrastructure supporting them withers away. Few critics today still talks about souls.



Is intelligence more or less common in academia than it is amongst the non-academic population? Probably about the same. Education is never a simple process; people learn different things from experience. Somebody grasps how to make themselves happy, someone learns how to make two books sound the same; someone discovers that they like feeling important, someone learns how to best please their superiors. Education lets people make more informed choices, and gives them more refined languages to express their desires, but it doesn’t displace pathological motives.



“Language is a virus,” said William Burroughs. Clusters of language function like drugs, producing effects in the body. The dilemma of information selection is one which the body decides. Do I want to take this drug? Do I want the sensations this language will give me?



Archigram: “Cities are first a number of events and only secondly a collection of buildings.” There is a divide in architectural theory between those who affirm idea, and those who reject it. This latter camp is ultimately less interested in the human events and relations that designs give rise to, and more interested in conducting a taste-driven hermeneutic of building styles. I am more sympathetic to the Archigram camp. The object – the commodity – is just what you sell; what is important is the discourse around it.



Ferran Adrià is a fascinating feature of the contemporary landscape. The inventor of “deconstructivist” cooking he runs a restaurant in Spain which food critics speak of religiously. A reference to Adrià and his works is also an obligatory ingredient in the regular chef profiles that run in the New Yorker. A citation of his influence seasons the other standard elements, viz, that the chef himself has a terrible diet, works two hundred hour weeks, sleeps on a mattress in a rat-infested apartment. The tragic classic in this series remains this May profile of Grant Achatz, the chef who caught tongue cancer.



Thomas Crow on pages 168-9 of Sarah Thornton’s Seven Days in the Artworld:

“I just try to keep myself out of the text. Half the battle is in the description. If your material is vivid enough, you don’t need to adopt an ego-driven voice where you’re always reflecting on your own formative experiences or your own complexity of mind.”

“I don’t like cults of personality, even minor cults. It gets in the way of observation and learning. Your material should be out in front, carrying the weight.”

“Many of the artists who are ruling the roost at the moment – Jeff Koons, Maurizio Cattelan, Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin – exploit constructed personae. Cults of personality are realities, people are attracted to that, but there has to be a space between you and the people that you’re writing about, so you’re not just echoing the situation that you’re trying to analyze.”

Thornton comments: “Although art historians are always making judgments about what is worth their time, Crow believes that ‘severe attitudes and extreme judgments are a bit out of place.’ For weekly columnists who are read for the consistent taste, ‘their readers enter into a regular relationship with them. They want to know whether they thought it was phony or great.’ However, ‘If you’re an art historian, you can’t just decide that you like this little piece of history because it appeals to your self-regard. A real historian doesn’t do that.'”



In the lounge of Schoeneberg Airport there is an advert for Die Welt Kompakt. In the first panel, the advert shows one person reading a large broadsheet newspaper, with the other travelers near him craning their necks to read it over his shoulder. This panel has a large red cross over it. In the second panel, the advert shows a row of people, all happily reading compact newspapers. This panel has a large green tick. To share a newspaper with others, and so engage in a collective act of reading, would seem now to be forbidden. What is strange is that Die Welt Kompakt is free.