Friday, July 9, 2010

Deirdre McCloskey on the Arts and Economics

Economist Deirdre McCloskey on the arts and economics. Some really interesting ideas here. A challenge to artists to represent more of the world than we typically do.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Patronizing the Arts Review

Here is an interesting review of a book on patronage. The reviewer does an excellent job giving an overview of the effects of government and the university on the contemporary American arts.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Decline of Fads in the Humanities

Here is an interesting piece about the decline of deconstruction, marxism, and postmodernism in the humanities. I must say, I do like the general direction of things. A gap is opening up that needs to be filled.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The End of Art

Roger Kimball has an interesting article on the relationship among art, beauty, and religion I think worth contemplating and discussing.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Death of Art

Since the 60's, the question of "what is art," has come up. "What is poetry," "painting," "the novel," and many other "what is" questions have arise. Then a rash of declarations that painting was dead, along with tons of other humanities obituaries were written. I think these events show a time of crisis in the arts. This means that the arts are ready to emerge into something new. However, in order to emerge into something else, do we assume that the arts must fall/step back in order to leap forward. Or has this leap been prevented through redefining terms like "painting?" Does redefining terms resuscitate theses ideas from their dead state of being? Or is redefining terms is the fall/step back before the great leap? The great leap being the realization of the interconnectedness of all the arts and the degrade of separation of disciplines.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

New Kind of Canvas

Now here's a new kind of canvas: pregnant belly molds.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Conservative Art

I read this blog about why artists hate conservatives from American Thinker. Beside the completely broad generalizing that was given in the article, I do think it would be an interesting debate about political leanings of most artists. If you read some of the comments, you also see a huge amount of ignorance about artists.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Face Recognition, Culture, and Art

How could the face recognition differences between cultures reported here be used in making visual art?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Shakespeare's Poetry and More Complex Thinking

Philip Davis describes some pretty interesting research on the way Shakespeare's poetry affects the brain. In essence, it suggests ways we can write poetry to make our brains work at a higher, more complex level through the way we use the language. Good poetry makes use of grammatical anomalies which are nonetheless grammatically and syntactically tolerated by the brain, forcing it to work at a more complex level than it otherwise does. In other words, good poetry combines the expected with the unexpected, stretching, but not breaking the language.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Art for Art's Sake

Art for art's sake is an empty phrase. Art for the sake of truth, art for the sake of the good and the beautiful that is the faith I am searching for.

- George Sand

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Animal "art"

I was watching Sunday Morning today and I watched as a dog chewed up paper wrapped up in transfer paper. I began to wonder, why does the media call this art? After all, all the images that the dog had made were remarkably similar. The transfer paper was not the dog's idea. When you see paintings done by elephants and chimps, the style of painting does not change over time. These animals don't develop their images into something new. One could say, Rothko didn't change his style, but look at his early work and you can see the development of ideas into the style he repeated in his later works. Animals can only make similar images with mediums given to them by their human counterparts and apparently sell these images for thousand of dollars. There have been many angles to debunk abstract expressionist type work, but I have so far seen that all have fallen short of that goal, because artist will develop of an idea and animals can not. Well, what about that child that created abstract paintings. If you watch the documentary, her talent is suspect. Her paintings styles are all over the map with few, if any, series of development and from what I see, the paint was applied like a child applying paint. The canvas, paint, and tools were picked out by the parents. I am not saying that a child could not create art. There are prodigies, but any real child prodigies will get training at an early age. This girl was given no training, but is coached by her father. We would laugh at parents that called their 3 or 4 year old child a prodigy if the child just pounded his/her fists on the piano to make noise. So, why are we so quick to call everyone and everything an artist?

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Art of Surprise

Here's an interesting article titled The Art of Surprise. He talks mostly about stories, since he is a film expert, but he does mention Vermeer. For the author, the art of surprise comes about when you have such complex characters that you can't pigeonhole them or say they are representing this or that. Other than Vermeer, is there any other visual artists of surprise? What would such a visual art look like? What could it look like?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Shallow End

I got to thinking, if in our current age is so shallow, has there been other shallow periods in time? Well that answer is a resounding, YES. The Roman Empire had several period of great shallowness. The French Rococo period was shallow city. One of the great painters of the Rococo, the Jeff Koons of his age, is Jean-Honore Fragonard (1732-1806) made plenty of paintings with a wink and a nudge. The French Rococo was all about giving what the collectors wanted, i.e. sex, powerful portraits, and more sex. Don't get me wrong, the work is beautiful and not Everything that came out of that period reflects those ideas, but a Lot of the work was tailor made for the idol rich. Shallow customers = shallow art.
So, if the problem is the tastes of the collectors driving the tastes of the museums, then how do we create non-shallow collectors? You have to appeal to their non-shallow side, because I can assure you everyone has that side. For example, the Neo-Classical art romanticized about Republics, Democracy and Egalitarianism. (Two out of three is not bad). Those collectors believed in something greater than themselves and it reflected in what they bought and the artists they promoted. How do you appeal to the non-shallow side of the current collectors? I don't have an answer, but I am willing to listen to some ideas.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Postcards From Nowhere/Power Station

I just read an article called Postcards From Nowhere on contemporary art and contemporary art museums that should thoroughly annoy Todd. If even the Lefties at New Republic are annoyed with contemporary art, that's really saying something about it. Takashi Murakami's work My Lonesome Cowboy, "a sculpture of a skinny naked boy with flying yellow hair, an erect penis, and an ejaculation so powerful that the thing becomes a twirling lasso, circling his head," is in my opinion a fine representation of what too many contemporary artists -- especially the ones the author is complaining about -- are actually doing when making their "art." Here's the problem: if anything can be art, then art is nothing, and it's time to shut down the museums and close the art schools.

And now, because I don't want this to be just a forum to complain about all the garbage that is out there, let me show an interesting piece called Power Station. The image seems to vibrate with the power of the power station and we see below the building an image that feels electric. It's simultaneously dreary and full of energy -- more ambiguous, perhaps, than the artist intended? Perhaps. But in doing so, the artist allows the viewer to interpret the work for him/her-self. The tyranny of expertise is avoided, meaning an expert on the piece would only contribute to helping make meaning from the work, but would never be the sole contributor of meaning to it.

Monday, June 16, 2008


With Thomas Spencer permission, I have posted his Manifesto here for discussion. I thought it was an interesting take on realism. In a pluralistic period that we find ourselves, realism has been on the upswing since Pop art was born, just in various incarnations. So, here is a possible new movement in realism. Here is his site:

The Experiential Realist:

Uses their skill to recreate the actuality of what the eyes can see.
Renders everyday places, characters, situations, dilemmas, and objects, all in verisimilitude, as being of interest and importance.

Finds and depicts beauty (and ugliness) through their own experience.

Allows their awareness of the situation and circumstances of the subject to influence their perceptions and the way that they express them.

Experiential Realism is not a label to be put on just any painting based on observation.

Specifically, it is used to declare that the painting is important and relevant as a documentation of a place and situation. It lays claim to a particular form of “truth” as having been recorded and declares it as having value.

Of these, it is the first two that make a direct connection with traditional Realism. However, I think that it is the stress of the next two which marks the difference between Realism and Experiential Realism. In some ways it, nudges Realism (just a little) towards Expressionism.The earlier forms of Realism, Social Realism, etc, made a form of political (with small “p”) statement. For example, one major point behind the original Realist Art Movement was to say that great art was not necessarily about “major” people or events. It claimed that a great painting did not have to depict a king or noble lord or even people of wealth and influence (for example, Courbet’s, “Burial at Ornans”. In other words, Realism was a reaction against the prevailing art of the time. From this, I reason that, if Experiential Realism is to have any real importance, it must also be seen in the context of being a reaction to the prevailing art of our time.There is presently a dichotomy in the important means of visual communication. The most pervasive form of visual communication is through photography in all its forms. But, because the images are almost infinitely reproducible (especially now that most photography is digital), whilst the image may be highly esteemed, the means of reproduction has almost none. Films can win Academy Awards and can make the owners of the reproduction rights rich, but the individual video or DVD copy of the film has negligible value. It is only the experience of watching the film that is considered to be important. The DVD or video artefact is merely a convenient form of enabling this experience. On the other side of the split is the fine art object, a painting or sculpture. The experience of viewing the object may be highly valued, but the experience can normally only be gained by visiting the one example of the work and, because of this, the object itself may become worth a great deal of money. Hence a Vincent Van Gogh painting of sunflowers becomes worth millions of pounds in the present day art market.In 1812 Jacques-Louis David painted the Emperor Napoleon, one of the top celebrities of his day, in his study. If it ever came on the market, the painting would now be worth a great deal of money. Present day celebrities, are recorded in film, usually shown on TV, and in photographs, usually published in magazines. A photograph cut from a magazine is worth very little. If a celebrity hired an artist to paint their portrait, the portrait would be worth rather more but would probably only be seen by a very few people. The fine art object which becomes worth a great deal of money does not normally now rely on portraying a celebrity, rather it relies on providing a unique primary experience which can be gained only by visiting the object (and/or a vicarious second-hand experience which can be got from the popular media, usually discussing how ridiculous it is that the object is valued/cost such a great deal of money, e.g., the crack in the floor of the Tate Modern or Damian Hurst's diamond-coated skull).I would see Experiential Realism as closing this gap. It does not mean that other forms of art are “wrong” or worthless, but it is art about normal, average places and people. And it is for normal, average people. To appreciate it, a specialized art education is not required, just some visual sensitivity and awareness. It cannot be produced cheaply, because it is time and skill intensive, but neither is it unaffordable. Hopefully, it will also be of such a quality that the viewer will return to it again and again and still discover new aspects of the work – for that is what differentiates it from a mass produced image where only the straight-forward perception of the image is important.Experiential Realism is also a “Modern” art – and will continue to be so. The Modernism comes from the fact that the artist will always be an artist of their own time, painting the things of their own time. In its own way, each painting is an historical document, because, working within the strengths and weaknesses of the medium, it records the truth of a place and situation.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Competing Arcs

I just learned about this monstrosity in Paris, La Grande Arche de La Defense. It is a giant, almost featureless cube. The wikipedia entry says that it was supposed "to be a 20th Century version of the Arc de Triomphe: a monument to humanity and and humanitarian ideals rather than military victories." If that is what it's supposed to be, then please explain to me why the Arc de Triiomphe is a far more magnificent, beautiful work than is this dehumanizing block.

Seriously, look at the Arc de Triomph. This is a work which has meaning. You don't have to know a thing about the French Revolution to gain meaning from it. Meaning is built into the work itself, and can be gained by anyone looking at it. The Grande Arche is a stark, bare, meaningless cube -- unless you are told what the meaning behind it is by an elite cadre of intellectuals who designed it and get to write on it endlessly, of course. And that, of course, is the problem with it. There is a tyranny of meaning in the Grande Arche -- we have to be told what it means to get any meaning from it. We are reliant on others to tell us what it means, and we have to rely on their expertise. With the Arc de Triomph, however, the meaning is inherent to the work itself. There is no tyranny of meaning. Further, it and the Grande Arche are equally impressive, but the latter has the oppressive architecture found in many fascist works of architecture -- designed to make the person feel small and insignificant next to the great power of the state. Is this not, after all, what Mitterand was after in commissioning this piece? If you look at the second picture I posted, you can see what people look like in relation to it. What other purpose could there have been, but to create this dehumanizing effect? This is no monument to humanity and humanitarian ideals -- it's a monument to socialism and other dehumanizing, anti-humanitarian ideals.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

What happened to history and art?

Hegel described the idea of an end to history. If you think about the context of Hegel was describing, he was talking about an event that changes everything and which leaves the world in a transitional state. The end of the Napoleon era is an example of an end of history event. After Napoleon you had the rise of countries that had never really been all together, together, like Germany and Italy. England soon became the lone superpower, at least for a short while. France managed to remain the cultural center, but the art had changed. A romantic art had arisen out of the ashes of the Neo-Classical. The romantic art included a great many styles of art ranging from the expressionistic to the realistic. Everything was influx until the road to iconoclastic art started with the Impressionists and played out until the 1980’s. An event within many of our lifetime is the fall of the Soviet Union. The US was declared the lone superpower for a little while. And now we are seeing the rise of China and India. Europe has become even more unified in a very short time. Art styles and content are all over the map in this Post Modern period of art making. Yet again we are finding ourselves in an end of history moment in time. This is a great opportunity for artists and the world to set the projection of history for maybe the next 100 years.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Parameters and Art

What are the parameters of art?

What are the parameters which make a bunch of words poetry?

What are the parameters which make a drawing or painting art?

What are the parameters which make an 3-D entity a sculpture?

What are the parameters which make sounds music?

Monday, May 19, 2008

On Literature and Health

My posting On Literature and Health can be found at The Emerson Institute for Freedom and Culture's blog.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

RIP, Robert Rauschenberg

Now that Rauschenberg has died, perhaps we can move beyond (be finished with) his kind of late Modernist/postmodern art. Some of his works were interesting. Some were clever. But if we judge him by his effect on art, I'm not sure how well he'll be judged. Naturally, everyone's throwing in their two cents' worth, from Left to Right. His iconoclasm will undoubtedly be praised -- but what is praiseworthy about attacking what is at the very center of art? In the end, praising one's iconoclasm is praising one's hatred for beauty.

Over on TCSDaily, there is an interview with Tom Wolfe who admitted that artists create for the same reason as God created: for their own glory. This is perhaps true enough. The artist does in a sense pull works out of "airy nothingness" (Shakespeare). More, artists seem compelled to create. And what are they creating but parts of themselves? An artist's art is a reflection of his or her soul, whatever else it may be. More, it is also an attempt to transform the world to reflect the artist him- or herself -- to approve of the things the artist approves of, to condemn the things the artist condemns, to see the world the way the artist sees it. That can be comic, tragic, or romantic, beautiful or ugly, serious or nonserious.

Who, then, was Rauschenberg? ANd what kind of world was he trying so hard to create?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Literary Studies as Science

There is hope yet for literary studies. One hopes people like Gottschall do finally take over our English departments. Of course, the fact that he has already been editor for a major book and now has out another major book of his own but is still only able to get an adjunct position says a lot about the current state of our English Departments.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Tedious and the Repellent

The New Criterion has a good article on the Shvarts "art" case. In this article, the author describes contemporary avant garde art as showing that "the unutterably tedious can cohabit seamlessly with the repellent." If that isn't an apt description of much pomo art, I don't know what is.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Art, Reality, Concept

My grandparents, who were avid birders, preferred those bird books with color illustrations to those with color photographs. The reason was because the illustrated great kiskadee (or fox sparrow or scrub jay, etc.) looked more like any great kiskadee they would see than did the photograph, which was of a particular great kiskadee. The illustrator has done the work of creating an image -- an ideal, or concept -- of the great kiskadee, which is impossible to do with a single example. To create a concept, you must have more than one example of the object being conceptualized, and a conceptualized object makes other similar objects easier to identify. But if you have a single example to work with, you are uncertain if a similar object really is of the same kind as the object of comparison.

We create concepts -- ideas, or Forms -- by taking a set of similar objects and mentally subtracting the differences. We then give that set of objects a label to help us hold them all together. Metaphors are necessary to reorganize our conceptual categories. They create new overlaps, stretch our conceptual categories, and push us into new territory. All art is metaphorical.

All art too is conceptual -- in part. More accurately, art lies on the borderland between the conceptual and the perceptual. Even the most accurate photorealistic painter doing a portrait necessarily has in mind the faces and bodies of every person (s)he has seen. The painting contains within it the tension of representing the object painted and representing the concept of the object painted.

A concept is a concept of something. Those abstract artists who claim to be painting "pure concepts" are thus doing nothing of the sort. One can paint a conceptual tree, a conceptual dog, a conceptual horse, chair, or person -- or even geometrical shapes representing higher-order concepts/abstractions -- but what would it even mean to paint the concept of concept? (A paradox arises here: doesn't the concept of concept necessarily contain itself?) A painting or other work of art is always representational -- concepts are mental. Thus, any work of art is the best that artist can do to represent the meeting of the mental/conceptual and the real/perceived world.

We use representations to communicate to each other. A word is a representation of a concept, and a concept is a mental representation of a set of various similar objects. My set is not your set, so what we communicate is never without some noise or error. If I say "tree," I may be thinking of maples and you may be thinking of pines, so there will be some level of miscommunication. We also have different emotional tags attached to concepts (which include experiences). I will experience Turner's "The Shipwreck" in a different way than someone who has been in a small boat on stormy seas. BOth experiences are equally legitimate, though each will result in different interpretations.

Art is thus a kind of language, as it communicates information from one person to another. Art too is most beautiful when it achieves the balance between the conceptual -- which is one -- and the perceptual -- which is many. This is also reversed, and this reversal is most evident in art -- because the concept is one made of many, and art represents one thing being perceived by the artist. A beautiful work of art represents this tension between the unique object and the conceptual one derived from the subtraction of the uniquing elements in each individual object in a set. This tension is necessarily present in what we typically think of as being representational work, but can be lost in the most abstract works. It is also lost in those works that push toward the perceptual/reality. Such works may not lack in beauty from other paradoxical tensions inherent in the works, but such works won't be as beautiful as they otherwise could be. They may not even be works of art.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Lice Art

Now we have Head Lice Art. Germans covered in lice in an Israeli museum -- and they claim they didn't think of the first thing that popped into MY mind when I read it was Germans doing it. Otherwise, what an incredibly stupid and boring stunt. I'm not calling it art. Kitsch is the portrayal of a world without shit (Kundera), but what's the word for the opposite, where you portray a world as nothing but shit?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Taskmasters and Gurus

Here is a really thoughtful piece on the Shvarts debacle. Here is the problem, as far as the author is concerned:

"It is often said that great achievement requires in one's formative years two teachers: a stern taskmaster who teaches the rules and an inspirational guru who teaches one to break the rules. But they must come in that order. Childhood training in Bach can prepare one to play free jazz and ballet instruction can prepare one to be a modern dancer, but it does not work the other way around. One cannot be liberated from fetters one has never worn; all one can do is to make pastiches of the liberations of others."

But isn't anarchy, meaninglessness, and nihilism kinds of shackles? Disorder prohibits freedom just as much as oppressive laws. Art must have good sets of rules to maintain its freedom.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Reinventing the Sacred

Looks like Stuart Kauffman has a new book coming out: "Reinventing the Sacred. Here is an excerpt from the book. I think it's pretty exciting stuff.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A poet everyone should read

Frederick Pollack teaches part-time in Washington. D.C. and writes poems. I think he writes seven days a week, twenty hours a day. He is prolific, and he is unlike any other living American poet. Read the following, and you'll begin to see why.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Emerson Institute for Freedom and Culture -- Mission Statement

My wife, Anna, and I will be setting up a nonprofit organization we are tentatively calling "The Emerson Institute for Freedom and Culture" -- a think tank to promote the creation of a naturally classical culture. Below is our mission statement. I would appreciate any feedback, recommendations, etc. on it.

The Emerson Institute for Freedom and Culture

Mission Statement

The Emerson Institute for Freedom and Culture is working to change the culture by promoting progressive natural classicism in the arts and humanities.

Censors of every ideology know the power of the arts and humanities. Culture emerges from the people, who are influenced by the culture. Politicians follow the people; the laws they pass are shaped by their perception of what the people want. Thus, if any long-term support for free markets and personal liberty is to occur, the changes must be made in the culture rather than with the politicians. If we have a culture which promotes freedom, truth, beauty, meaning, value, and virtue, we will have people who will support freedom, truth, beauty, meaning, value, and virtue in their lives as a whole, including in their politics. The top will be changed by changes at the bottom.

Cultures, economies, and free societies are all complex systems. Complex systems have bottom-up self-organization, evolve, are polycentric hierarchies, and involve nonlinear feedback loops. Such systems are generative of growth, freedom, value, meaning, and virtue. Thus, we seek to help create this kind of natural culture, one that is a complex, nonlinear, self-organizing, flexible hierarchy that will allow for greater freedom and creative innovation, limit power, and reduce coercion in favor of mutually beneficial exchange and assent. We also seek to oppose all attempts to create a simple, linear, coercive, rigid, egalitarian culture that makes people weak, passive, irresponsible, lacking in self-control, easily led, incapable of independent thought, nihilistic, and prone to engage in crime and self-destructive behavior – all of which makes a society conducive to the acceptance of totalitarianism.

Any real and lasting societal change must start in the culture – in the arts and humanities. If the people are to believe in freedom, truth, beauty, meaning, value, and virtue, then our arts and humanities must create or reconstruct freedom, truth, beauty, meaning, value and virtue in works which address themselves to the average person and not just to the specialist. In other words, we must support works that provide a counterpoint to those postmodern works which promote a simplistic, irrational, unbeautiful, nihilistic worldview that undermines rather than reinforces the creative freedom inherent in the world. Through journals and newsletters, articles and books, scholarly panels, media appearances, and special projects, EIFC strives to reflect the reality of the world as a self-organizing, nonlinear, creative, hierarchical, complex, emergentist system conducive to freedom.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Charles Jencks

Charles Jencks is one of the coolest sculptor-architects I have ever seen. His work is influenced by fractals, DNA, etc. Great stuff! If I could have a dream set-up, I'd have him design an outdoor theater and have my plays performed in it.

Starving A Dog

Not to be out done by a student at Yale, Guillermo Vargas Habacuc pushes nihilistic 'art.' Habacuc in 2007 took a dog from the street, tied him to a rope in an art gallery, and starved him to death. For several days, Habacuc and visitors of the show watched the dog in agony. (The gallery claims the dog did not die and claims they feed it only AFTER the backlash from the show. The gallery claims the dog was not on a leash, but there are plenty of photo-documentations that say otherwise.) You think that is bad, but here is the kicker, Visual Arts Biennial of the Central American decided they wanted Habacuc repeat the act for their 2008 biennial. There is an effort to Boycott this show in Honduras. Go here for more information and to sign a petition stop to Habacuc from killing another dog.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

World's Oldest Oil Paintings

World's Oldest Oil Paintings found in Afghanistan.

The Motive for Metaphor

Check out The Motive for Metaphor, which features Fred Turner and others talking about the nature of metaphor.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Nihilist Art Movement?

What would a nihilist art movement look like? We see a few artists pushing to that edge, and a few more in the nihilist space, so what if a large group of artists started working in nihilistic fashion. Would this lead to the end of history/end of the world that Modernism/Post Modernism wanted? Art ushers in what is acceptable in society, so if nihilism becomes acceptable, where would that lead the world? And do we have to get to nihilist art to have a strong enough reactionary art movement?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Art or Insanity?

Well, it looks like postmodernism has finally reached its logical conclusion in art: abortion. Seriously. There is a woman who has an "art" project that consists of her abortions.

How dare she call what she is doing art? There is no way I would put this in the same category as anything I or anyone I would call an artist does. This is perversity, pure and simple. Give me a pickled shark or chopped up cow any day of the week.

Seriously, what do we think of this?


As followup, the student is now saying she didn't actually do the abortions, but that it was a performance piece. How can we know that it is and not that the dean made her say it is?

And now, to followup on the followup, Shvarts is now claiming that she did do the abortions and that Yale is lying. So my initial suspicion was correct.

We either need a new word for the kind of thing this disturbed woman is doing -- or we need one for the work Michaelangelo and Shakespeare did, because I refuse to consider the works of these two to be in the same category as this woman's.

This is one of the most offensive things I have ever run across. And this is from someone who reads the Marquis de Sade (whose works I find to be mostly funny rather than offensive) and Bataille without feeling offended.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Truth and Beauty

I was looking at Wikipedia and I found their views on Beauty lacking. They point out that Pythagoras found beauty through mathematics. But most of the article is about human beauty. A real entry on Wikipedia should have been a lot longer and less shallow. The truth in beauty needs to be more defined. Let us dig a little deeper. If this group wants to affect people globally, I propose that someone edit the Wikipedia entry to fit a better definition, a more beautiful definition.

William Blake -- Controversial Hymnist

It seems that "Jerusalem," a hymn crated from a section of William Blake's "Milton" os causing a bit of a stir in England's churches. Too nationalistic? Doesn't really praise God? Blake not "Christian enough"?

Here are the words to "Jerusalem":

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Art and Human Action

Can art make anything happen?

Friday, April 4, 2008

False Value

In a Post Structural sense, value in art exists as an arbitrary structure created by institutions and individuals taste. So, the cultural elite decide what valued art is. Of course, if this were true, how has art become more democratic? Maybe the elite are following a trend toward democratic tendencies. I suspect that if the value was truly arbitrary, elites would resist the trends of the society, because they are suppose to set the trends. So, if value in art is not arbitrary, need what is the value of the art? How do we measure the value of art? Can some of the value of art be from arbitrary forces?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Hyperdimentional Geometry and the Arts

Here is an interesting article on the connection between math and music -- specifically using hyperdimensional geometry. I wonder what kinds of geometries one could get if one converted words in a poem or story into mathematical terms.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Literature as a Game

An update on an old paper: here's the new site of Literature as a Game.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Art of Literature and the Science of Literature

Here is an excellent article by Brian Boyd on the relationship between art and pattern -- and art and science.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Some Recent Revisions

Let me follow up to a comment I made to a previous posting. I'm revising some poems. One summer I wrote a sonnet a day without really understanding the form. I'm revising those poems and am finding that some revisions hold the sonnet form. Others result in new forms. Consider the following original (sonnet) and revision (villanelle):

Lost Time

We waste time and we spend it – what’s it cost?
We pass the time and fill the time, there’s no
Lack of excuses for all the time lost
(Even as Proust searched for it we all know
It can never be recovered again) –
What we never seem to want to renew
Among all the filler and endless din
Is to make up for all the time that flew
From tree to tree until we could not see
Where all the time had gone. Do we have time
Enough for love? – or is it on the sea,
Caught up in its rhythm, or in this rhyme?
Despite the time we’ve spent together, I
Wonder where the time’s gone, and wonder why?

Lost Time

We waste time, spend time, fill and pass the time
We’re trapped in all its waves and ebbs and flows –
We’re caught up in its rhythms and its rhyme.

We treat time like it doesn’t cost a dime
When we’re in debt to it. Lord only knows
We waste time, spend time, fill and pass the time.

Our minds and bodies are set to its chime,
Connected more to poetry than prose:
We’re caught up in its rhythms and its rhyme.

We think we can control it, then we mime
All that has come before: it’s all a pose –
We waste time, spend time, fill and pass the time.

When will we learn to use it as a prime
And natural source of life, which always shows
We’re caught up in its rhythms and its rhyme.

We’re monkeys in the tree of time and climb
The limbs, the places where each of us grows.
We waste time, spend time, fill and pass the time –
We’re caught up in its rhythms and its rhyme.

Now, I'm not saying that the villanelle is a great poem, but I think we can agree that it's better than the sonnet from which it was derived. Such a drastic revision makes this a new draft, so it probably has to undergo some more revision (and suggestions are, of course, welcomed), but I think I'm moving in the right direction with this particular poem.

With my sonnet "Wedded" I transformed the poem from a sonnet into a blank verse poem with a rhyming couplet at the end. Here is the sonnet:


In an old white Dutch Masters cigar box
Lies what looks like a Bible, tiny, white,
Pink silk flowers and a gold cross that locks
Away a secret that slips out, a sight
I had not seen, but heard about, a ring
Not a ring – a tab from an old pop can,
The tab my dad gave my mom, that would bring
Them together in marriage, and began
The life that ended in her too-early
Death by cancer, asbestos brought to her
On clothes by her husband unknowingly
From his work. Still, I know that she’d prefer
To have lived this same life over again,
Beginning with this little tab of tin.

Here is the revised poem:

The Engagement Ring

Although my parents never smoked cigars
Or even cigarettes, I have their white
Dutch Masters cigar box, and wonder what
It holds. I lift the lid and look inside –
I find a small white Bible there with pink
Silk flowers and a golden cross that locks
Away a secret. This false Bible is
A box that holds a metal object I
Had never seen, but heard about, a ring
That’s not a ring – a pull tab from an old
Pop can, that tab my dad gave to my mom
When he asked her to marry him. She slipped
It on and told him yes and cut him on
The thumb with it when she gave him a kiss.
This tab brought them together for a life
That ended in her early death by cancer,
Asbestos brought to her as dust by her
Beloved on his clothes unknowingly
From work, destroying her through her weak lungs.
But still, I know that she’d prefer to live
The life she did with this same death again
Beginning with this little tab of tin.

But not all my sonnets have changed form. Take the following sonnet:

Why Bother

Words fall silent on those you love the most,
Those who don’t are the most attentive.
At home you’re ignored or seen to just boast
About all you know. There’s no incentive
To share knowledge or wisdom, it will go
Unheard by those you most wanted to hear
Everything you had to say. And now so
Much harm falls upon those you hold so dear.
What should you expect? For Jesus himself
Said a prophet is not without honor
Save in his own country – full of the wealth
Of knowledge of you, even the horror
That you could possibly have within you
A wisdom they don’t, a knowledge that’s new.

Which I have revised into the following sonnet:

The Prophet at Home

The prophet’s words cannot be heard by those
Who love him most and know him growing up.
At home, they think you only boast – who knows
You as they do? They ask, “Who is this pup?”
Why share with them the wisdom you have gained?
It goes unheard, all that you wished to share –
Their inattentive ears have only pained
Their lives – but also you, because you care.
But those who do not know you are attentive
To what you have to say, and take the most
Of all your wisdom. They have an incentive
To listen – growing, they don’t think you boast.
For Jesus too said that a prophet’s not
Without his honor save with his own lot.

This revision has the sonnet's dialectical development, and resolution in the ending couplet. The subject suggested the retention of the sonnet form in this case, and I abided by that content-form connection. In the two above cases, there were elements in the original poems that suggested different forms, and I listened to them. In the case of the villanelle, though, I did have the form in mind and searched through the poems I had printed out to revise to see if any could fit the form.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Importance of Failure

When making art, it is important not to fear failure. I am currently working on a series of ink on paper drawings using the subject matter of text as a base design element. In the course of creating these works, I try a few experiments. One such experiment was the drawing displayed above. I tried to use an outlined image of a woman as my base design. The drawing soon became to repetitive and had little complexity. I could tell the drawing was going to be a complete failure if I continued to just repeats the image, so in order to add complexity to the image, I broke the large shape with contrasts of black areas and I stopped following the guidelines I had originally set for the image. Although, I don't think I was able to completely save the drawing from failure, but I did, however, apply what I learned into new drawings.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Some Questions on Form

In an interview in the latest issue of Poetry the poet A. E. Stallings says that she doesn't believe in writing in form for its own sake, but then goes on to defend forms such as the sonnet. In the same interview, the interviewer says that "Christian Bök has written recently (on the Poetry Foundation blog, Harriet, of course!) that writing poems in form today has begun to take on the character of a "conservation society," protecting an endangered form of poetry at the brink of its extinction, thereby preserving these "styles" for posterity, like a taxidermist stuffing dead owls." This raises several questions regarding form in general -- whether in poetry or in other forms of art.

When you write or paint, which typically comes first: the form or the content? Why? Why choose one form over another? To what extent does content dictate form? To what extent does form dictate content? Is working in a given form merely an attempt to "preserve" the form from extinction? What could such a statement even mean? What are the benefits of writing in a particular form? What, if any, problems are there?

Perhaps we could come up with some more questions along these lines -- but let's begin with these.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Good Article on Value of the Arts

Here is an interesting article on the value of the arts. I think the author misunderstand the importance of economy -- a strong economy in France will of course provide people with the means and leisure to produce great works of art -- but the rest is quite good. (If I could make a suggestion to Sarkozy on how to help out in the area of culture, may I recommend his getting rid of the Language Commission, which decides what words are properly French, as it is doing nothing more than stifling the French language and thus preventing French literature from being what it once was.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


This group is going to be concerned about beauty. We will be discussing the nature of beauty, particularly as it related to art. That being the case, we need to begin with something that can get us started on this discussion. Thus, I submit the following lists:

Beauty has the following features:

Complexity within Simplicity
Emergent from Conflict
Evolutionary (changes over time)
Generative and Creative
Hierarchical Organization
Reflexivity or Feedback
Scalar Self-Similarity
Unity in Multiplicity

The following agonally unified opposites also constitute beauty:

Native – Foreign
Light – Shadow
Logos – Eros
Emotion – Intellect (Reason)
Conscious – Unconscious
Soul – Technology
Feeling – Thinking
General – Specific
Universal – Particular

I am convinced that there is a strong relationship between things that are evolving, growing, self-organizing, and emergentist and beauty. Thus, let us look at the features of self-organization and see why:

Cohesion (digital-analog)
Downward Causation
Feedback loops, Circular causality
Relative Chance
Globalisation and localisation
Unity in Plurality (Generality and Specificity)

Emergence has the following features:

Synergism (productive interaction between parts)

Monday, February 11, 2008


In the unbelievable and unknown –
In the unrefined and those without thought –
In the unremarkable and unwise –
We find our leaders
We find our heroes
We find our artists
I see it – there is a sun on the horizon –
The rosy fingers of an ancient dawn –
A rebirth of everything from everything we have torn apart –
A world in fragments – no longer a world –
Fragments gathered up –
A world reborn from the fragments –
A world reborn from the past, the ancients –
Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Africans, Arabs, Indians, and aborigines –
Yet –
I am not a postmodernist
And I am not a classicist
And I am not a romantic
And I am not a modernist
And I am not a naturalist
No –
I am each of these – and none
I am the moon and the sun
I am the earth and the sea
I am woman and man
Seriousness and fun
Fragments and unity
Plurality and one


Welcome to The Metaphor Group. Let the productive arguments begin! War and Peace are mutually exclusive and destructive of each other, but competition and cooperation are complementary and creative. So let us agree to disagree agreeably.

What is this group? This is a place where serious artists -- meaning those who produce works all the time and know what it is they are doing, meaning they have the ability to explain what they are doing -- can meet and talk about art, the idea of art, the ideas of art, aesthetics, etc. I myself am a poet, fiction writer, playwright, and scholar, but many kinds of artists are welcome. I do hope, in fact, that like-minded painters and musicians and sculptors, etc. will end up joining. This group will be by invitation only, but anyone may come by and see what we are discussing and leave comments. That will add a little shot of chaos to the order of the group.

The idea of a group like this comes out of a long tradition of artist groups. Shakespeare, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Christopher Marlowe were members of the School of Night. There was the Surrealists, the Paris Salon, which included Hemingway, who had a letter of introduction to the group from Sherwood Anderson, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, For Maddox Ford, and James Joyce, among others (including irregulars, like Picasso), The Bloomsbury Group, which included Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forrester, and the economist John Maynard Keynes, among others, etc. Of course none of these people were who they were when the met up (though some were already established in some ways), but their interactions which spurred on creativity helped to make them who they were. While they all had to be in one geographical place and had to meet in one location on certain nights at certain times, we don't have to do that now with the existence of blogs. Thus, The Metaphor Group.