Emergent Forms of Other Belief

The Crisis Theme that seems to be the default, unchangeable background of everything these days can be exhausting. None of us seems to know how to handle social media – is it for self-promotion? sharing opinions? business? the fck is a status update? connecting instead of conversing – beyond obsessive attention to it or turning it off completely. That the tools have been created to make other people rich appears to be a mere byproduct, but is it? Do I need to read an article on it that my friends agree with to believe that? Every news item from the Dunce-in-chief to climate change to what’s wrong with the Democratic party to health care to guns hermetically seals us in a state of doubtful knowing. And like quicksand, if you try to get out of it too desperately, you’re only pulled back all the more. For those who insist on creating, it can be be double-trouble: your battle is not to react against but still ‘do something.’ What does that mean?

Friend of the blog Jed Perl lays out in an inadvertent cautionary tale in this Rauschenberg review, The Confidence Man of American Art:

It was as a genre-buster—an artist who crossed boundaries and cross-pollinated disciplines—that Rauschenberg was embraced in the 1960s. More than fifty years later, there are more and more artists who seem to believe, as he apparently did, that art is unbounded. The only difference is that our contemporaries—figures such as Jeff Koons, Isa Genzken, and Matthew Day Jackson—have traded his whatever-you-want for an even more open-ended and blunt whatever. A creative spirit, according to the argument that Rauschenberg did so much to advance, need not be merely a painter, a photographer, a stage designer, a printmaker, a moviemaker, a collagist, an assemblagist, a writer, an actor, a musician, or a dancer. An artist can be any or all of these things, and even many of them simultaneously. The old artisanal model of the artist—the artist whose genius is grounded in the demands of a particular craft—is replaced by the artist who is often not only figuratively but also literally without portfolio, a creative personality-at-large in the arts.

One can argue that there are historical precedents for this view. Picasso enriched both his painting and his sculpture by working back and forth between the two disciplines. And the work that Picasso did in the theater certainly precipitated significant shifts in his painting.

Just so, and there is much more. And I do not come to praise Rauschenberg or to bury him. One point can be that, for better or worse, he imagined himself and what he was doing. Sure he was affected by his culture and the times in which he lived. But Jed is correct – the question is where the question (whatever it is) takes the artist. If it runs you back into into the insufferable quandary of boredom or futility, it wasn’t the right question. We can work our way through this time, as others have other times, but not by taking it on directly. Okay maybe, if you’re Zola. But you’re not. So don’t do that at all. Ignore it? Abdication is consent. Also – nothing will change. That’s one reason to like the ‘confidence man’ citizen’s arrest of Rauschenberg. It’s a hefty charge. But that’s okay – you don’t need to [first] accept any of the givens about anyone or thing in order to get somewhere. And this is not about progress, anyway. It’s about getting to all some of that other space, all around you, that seems inaccessible. That’s what can be frustrating – and it’s not even true. It’s just a thing someone has created and you’ve allowed to be in your way, that you need to [yes] use your discipline to think beyond. And [yes] to make something.

Image: Portrait of Apollinaire as a Premonition, by Giorgio de Chiricio, 1914

Future, less tense

So in my recap from San Francisco earlier this summer, this bit from Julian Castro at the DNC this week is part of what I was talking about:

What the president did in allowing the children of undocumented immigrants to become citizens was Marco Rubio’s idea, but only Julian Castro got to brag about it at a convention. Only Castro got to make the incontrovertible point that, “In the end, the American Dream is not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay. Our families don’t always cross the finish line in one generation. But each generation passes on to the next generation the fruits of their labors…. My mother fought for civil rights so that instead of a mop, I could hold this microphone.”

Emphasis added.

Sunday fractal convolution and wooden money

It’s hard not see this article about the American Dream in reverse as a blown-up close up of the coastline of our general, if hearty, methods of D/B/A, physically, morally, socially, practically in every respect. Just look at the pictures, or read the article, or chance it and do both. In the blighted-at-birth and now abandoned settlements somehow referred to perhaps without irony (is that still possible?) as ‘once-middle-class-exurbs’, it’s hard not to have your head pinned back by the force of the pan-out to the wider angle on our culture of ambitious slackening. It’s the art of being left bag-holding on which legends have been forged. Is there any doubt this is what these myths (dreams, American and otherwise) stand for?

Lehigh Acres, like much of Florida and many suburbs nationwide, was born with speculation in its DNA.

The area got its start in the 1950s when a Chicago pest control baron, Lee Ratner, and several partners bought thousands of acres of farmland and plotted about 100,000 lots. With Fort Myers, 15 miles to the west, developers left little room for schools, parks or even businesses.

What they sold was sun and quiet living.

The engine we are running on is powered by the engine we’re running on. It produces what it was designed to produce.

Key players in the Obama economic team beyond Geithner are also tied to Rubin or Citigroup or both, from Larry Summers, the administration’s top economic adviser, to Gary Gensler, the newly named nominee to run the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and a Treasury undersecretary in the Clinton administration. Back then, Summers and Gensler joined hands with Phil Gramm to ward off regulation of the derivative markets that have since brought the banking system to ruin. We must take it on faith that they have subsequently had judgment transplants.

Mr. Rich is being a serious joker here, yanking on our chains, such as they have not yet been repo’d. The faith in judgment transplants is as near perfect as the belief that such a local market as cited above can/will bounce back in some resemblance to its former self. It’s part of the defense mechanism to believe in the right to self-exploitation that informs the notion that such manifestations are or were a part of some dream that itself was in a some way righteous or desirable. I’ll demure to this digression on Gresham’s Law from Miller’s essay Money and How It Gets That Way from Stand Still Like a Hummingbird. Gresham’s Law roughly states that “bad money drives out good.” Miller’s context was our country’s departure from the gold standard.

For the sake of creating work, on the other hand, no such hard and fast rules were stipulated by the early nineteenth-century economists. Work and trade were kept apart in watertight compartments, although it was obvious even then, to those who made the subject a profound study, that twist it how you will, the inevitable liaison is always there, namely debt. That is one of the reasons why, under the sway of Marxian diuretic, debt is no longer regarded as a permanent element in the economic disorder, but rather as a solvent, so to speak, in the conversion of capital to labor. Countries like Germany and Italy, in as much as they refuse to adopt the Marxian diuretic, tend to increase the circuit velocity of money, in order that, as an eminent Dutch economist points out, “their currencies may drag themselves by the hair out of the quicksands of worthlessness.” However salutary these tactics may be with regard to the evaporation of the national debt in the countries just mentioned, the fact is nevertheless incontestable that the gold mentality of the world remains unaffected. With money becoming ever cheaper the price of bullion naturally rises to implement the costive condition of the call market. This the real explanation of the fact that, in Pomerania, shortly after Hilter’s advent to power, the turnip and swede crop fell off so markedly. For though it is undeniable that dry years have always had a definite adverse influence upon the price level, yet during the year in question the average rainfall was higher than that of the five years preceding Hitler’s advent. Had this not been so we should be at a loss to account or the fact that during those five preceding years brewery shares were a feature of remarkable strength and integrity.