Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Shabda Brahman

William Clark, who you may also remember from this audio interview or from Gonzomentary, has been making recordings and keeping a photo / blog during his time in India.

Most recent:
Kali Puja is celebrated on the New Moon day of the Hindu calendar month Ashvin. This is also the same day on which the famous festival of light, Diwali, is observed. Throughout this occasion, an intensely festive atmosphere pervades Kolkata: strings of holiday lights decorate buildings, flashing signs line the city streets, candles and lamps burn everywhere, and fireworks explode throughout the night. Although there is a lot of overlap with Diwali, for Bengalis this is definitely Kali’s special day. (Article)

[Check out some of the books, albums, and soon movies produced by Mythos Media and our various media partners.]

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cosmogenesis: In a Small Boat, Drifting on the Ocean/ Parts 7 and 8

By Brian George

In his comment titled, “The Walking Dead”, Dave Hanson wrote:

Thanks, Brian. You describe well the end of the world. Margaret the therapist expresses the spirit of the times perfectly. Margaret says, "I just sort of accept the way the world is and then don't think about it a whole lot." She likes the notion of "a mature sense of autonomy." "No external demand should compel us to be answerable to the needs of others," etc. In other words, we can have a "good life" as alienated, terrified slaves to the machine of civilization. The Kogi, on the other hand (as one example of many) are responsible for the health of the world. They came down the mountain to tell us to grow up and begin caring for our planet. Throughout the indigenous world we find that our work, our intention, must be in part to sustain everything else. We must be compelled by that external demand.

You have accurately described a culture of domesticated animals using language and myth to fool themselves into thinking they will not be slaughtered. Words, words, words. Endless words. Unless we can reintegrate ourselves into the living, conscious, multidimensional web, we will annihilate ourselves and our planetary home. We either will, or we won't, and I'm betting on the latter.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

David Metcalfe Interview

David Metcalfe Interview by Rev.R4D4

David B. Metcalfe of ModernMythology.Net discusses DARPA's metaphor program, Napoleon Hill's occult background, the band Killing Joke & much more. All music tracks on David's soundcloud: davidbmetcalfe.

[Check out some of the books, albums, and soon movies produced by Mythos Media and our various media partners.]

#Myth Week 3: Fundraiser Video

Check out this video, and consider making a donation. In exchange you'll get a nice selection of the work we've been cranking out, and a big thank you. Plus you get to feel good about yourself for helping to aid the production of independent art and media.

Thanks go out to all those who have already contributed, and to the many artists, writers, actors, & groups like the Foolish People who we've been collaborating with over the past years. Let's see what we can do in the next 10!

[Check out some of the books, albums, and soon movies produced by Mythos Media and our various media partners.]

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

#Myth: But Why Do That Hoodoo That You Do?

By Mr. VI

At the risk of treating your like three-year-old children, let's answer the question posed by this subject title. After all, I'm certainly not picturing you whining plaintively as you ask why exactly is myth so important, am I?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

#Myth Week 2

Just a little over a week left for the fundraiser for Modern Mythology to raise money for 2012. We've raised over $500 so far but we still have a way to go!

I'd like to share with you just some of the interviews I've done over the past year talking about many of the projects we've been hard at work on. Projects like these are supported by donations to the campaign:

James Curcio Interview by Rev.R4D4 An interview on Stanford radio about myth, occupy wall street, politics, media, and hoodooengine. If you'd like to hear higher resolution versions of the tracks on here and more, go here and stream or pick up the mp3s! (See other Hoodoo releases on the sidebar.)

[Check out some of the books, albums, and soon movies produced by Mythos Media and our various media partners.]

Monday, November 21, 2011

Living The Myth: A Black Hole In Our Center

Image Mikebp
By James Curcio

Some thoughts on the nature of the ego while sipping on a really excellent mocha at La Columbe yesterday in center city philly, with Occupy people sitting about me in the cafe debating politics. The whole scenes--quiet but fervent political discussion, a beautiful tiny girl with tattoos all over her body discussing the history of surrealism just a table or two down--felt very Parisian, somehow.

These were the notes I got down longhand in my notebook while the caffeine buzz lasted.

If we grant the ego--at once the inner voice thinking "I" and hearing it--any existence at all, paradox and infinite regress abounds. Removing it from the equation, on the other hand, seems unsatisfying. The ground of being is shrouded in uncertainty. When we act, suddenly that ground is far more solid. Maybe this shows a linkage between immanence and the act rather than the reflection or abstraction; but immanence seems to reach out to enfold the numinous as well. Can it grasp it? Embody it?

#Myth Week 1

Showing some of our wares at a recent event.
Here is what some of those who have contributed to our fundraiser campaign have said about this project:

"Modern Mythology’s work is way too important to not support. We need this discourse. Rock on guys!"

"You’re doing good work; I’m proud to support that."

"Myth is something that even our technological, interdependent and global society cannot escape. Myth can illuminate and unveil aspects about ourselves and where we are going, where we have come from. Myth, in short, is self-knowing. As an essential dimension of human experience, it would behoove us to try to contextualize myth—or more appropriately see how myth contextualizes—the modern age."

"You rock so hard, rocks are jello in your very presence. Neutron stars are tied neck and neck in the races. Your stuph is dense, and heavy. Keep it up. Way up."

10 days left! We are presently running an ongoing tweet-a-thon under #myth on twitter. Listen in or join the discussion.

Even a donation of $1 gets you a free eBook and helps to keep us going.

[Check out some of the books, albums, and soon movies produced by Mythos Media and our various media partners.]

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why Myth? An Open Curriculum

Over the course of this project, and in the publication of The Immanence of Myth (Weaponized) and the upcoming Apocalyptic Imaginary, we have been developing a sort of curriculum which has indeed even spread to Prof Rowan's classroom at SUNY Binghamton and hopefully beyond. But what is the intention of this curriculum? What benefit can it serve?

The Immanence of Myth begins a curriculum of self-discovery and questioning that reaches far outside the scope of academic inquiry. This is a challenge to you, to question your beliefs and dig into your own personal history to better understand your own story, and your place in the modern myths unfolding around us every day. The myth of your life is already underway, but this is an opportunity to engage with it in a new way: first philosophically, and then personally. It proposes no final answers, and is simply the opening line in an ongoing discussion.

This curriculum isn't a route to to learning new facts. It's the first step on a path to transformational unlearning. Become who you are and live your myth.
The benefits of this sort of challenge will vary from person to person. Many will become infuriated at first, as they feel their beliefs challenged, and certainly many will react with a kneejerk dismissal before they can ever get far enough in to realize what the potential benefit can be. This is not something that will get you rich quick, in fact the honest truth is that a deep rooted tendency to doubt and question everything will likely not make you very popular in the boardroom. However, that only further highlight how absolutely essential it is.

I have been told by many that this work has changed their lives. I hope that continues. If so, I feel I've certainly done my job.

Want to know where to start? Pick up your copy of The Immanence of Myth. Read with an open mind. And continue ahead to The Apocalyptic Imaginary.

I hope to begin an audio series that continues this but that depends in part on how the fundraiser does in its final days. So by the time you finish with those, there will be more material for you.

[Check out some of the books, albums, and soon movies produced by Mythos Media and our various media partners.]

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Apocalypse: Seeing With New Eyes

We speak of apocalypse rather commonly these days, it seems to be a part of the zeitgeist of this age. Yet many seem to have only a cursory or rather simplistic idea of what the reality (and the concepts we use to encapsulate that reality), entail.

The idea of apocalypse has factored rather centrally into many of the projects I've helped create over the years.

Let me spell this way out by way of example:

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Images of Happiness: The Tragic as Farce

I. After the End

Beyond the eight o'clock blue of August twilight
Lies the truth we now see, that in our grandeur and temerity,
We have outlived the <fin de notre Histoire>, and in our sur-vival
we bypassed this end, and yet stand suspended above the abyss that it is.
I have ever lacked the sense of endings, death and departure are the unknown
to me;
in me;
The deep blue sky, as it prepares to erupt, whispers to me,
that the end was always already completed, and elevates me
to that apex of poetic grandeur, from which I can see that
at the end of History, every ending has touched my heart, inscribing
seductively this truth – that every ending has been dear to me.

A crack of thunder shatters the immense silence of this kingdom of ends
Illuminated by the lightning bolt, this silence is exposed as refusal
– As an obscurantism of ends –
And shattered, torn to pieces, a new truth is born; that each and every ending
Has been but the inverted image of nascent beginnings waiting to be born.

The sense of our hypertelic Histoire will never again be the same,
for the lies of stillborn worlds have been exposed – even if
our Histoire was finished before it ever began, it is now possible
to inscribe on my heart, on our Histoire, a new truth – that the end
was no more than a beginning, and that death and departure have no sense,
are the absence of sense,
    except as rebirths in joyous non-sense

Modern Gnosticism: Surrealist Revolution & Death by Sex

Modern Gnosticism: Surrealist Revolution & Death by Sex

Fuck you André. You just look silly. 
And Bataille, instead, was awarded the Legion d'honneur
Boring excitement, exciting boredom... “The time of the eternal recurrence is, then, not the 'eternal present' of a goalless revolving in which past still becomes and future always was; it is rather a future time of a goal that liberates from the burden of the past and arises from the will to the future.” [1] Surrealism, in “its revolutionary phase – the analogous universe is destroyed... the world with itself and the ego with itself are disunited, and both equally are smashed to pieces. The surrealist allegory orchestrates the worldlessness [Weltlosigkeit] of a nihilistic experience, that initially joins itself to the postulates or a revolutionary communism... [this aspect of] the surrealistic experience “repeats” in modernity the nihilistic worldlessness of Gnosticism in late antiquity... The Gnostic pneumaticist is [much like Baudelaire] the dandy of antiquity.” [2] To cite Benjamin: "A reconciled humanity will take leave of its part -- and one form of reconciliation is gaiety. '...The last stage of a world-historical form is its comedy... Why does history follow this course? So that mankind may take leave of its past gaily.' Karl Marx. Surrealism is the death of the nineteenth century in comedy." [N5a,2]

If we are to foreground certain more-or-less secularized elements drawn from the tradition of Gnosticism, it should be emphasized that, as Jacob Taubes notes, in his rejoinder to Hans Blumenberg during their discussion of Surrealism and Gnosis, Gnosticism in Late Antiquity could hardly be called a monolithic doctrine. If it is true that eschatological and apocalyptic thought is rooted in gnosis, it is equally true that doctrines such as that of Marcion emphasized a rather more “modern” response to the evil of the world and demiurge – rejection and revolt against the established order, destruction of a corrupt world in the hic et nunc. This radical opposition which refuses collaboration by having no particular vision of the immanent and imminent, improved world to follow the rupture, Taubes illustrates, is borrowed and explicitly acknowledged by Ernst Bloch.[3] Norbert Bolz, in “Erlösung als ob: Über einige gnostiche Motive der Kritischen Theorie,”[Salvation as if: On several Gnostic motifs in Critical Theory], makes the case for a gnostic element, not only in Bloch, but at the very heart of Critical Theory as a whole, and particularly in Karl Barth, Theodor Adorno (“es gibt kein rechtige Leben in dem Falsch,” and “die Ganze ist unwahr” and Negativ Dialektik, on the whole, evidence a gnostic acosmism) – including Dialektik der Aufklärung,with Horkheimer, and especially in Benjamin, from his earliest to latest works. Bolz writes that Baudelaire can be seen as an allegorical image of Modern existence:

          In Modernity, as the time of Hell, never appears identical to itself, rather the most recently named –                   
          this is infernal eternity... In great abbreviation, Benjamin unveiled the Gnosticism of Modern everyday 
          life in the necessary form: Nothing is boring to living people than the cosmos [4]

Here it would be apt to draw a parallel to Blanchot's politics of refusal and rupture, which, of course, is indebted both to Bataille and Benjamin; refusal is defined by Blanchot as “absolute, categorical... not discuss[ing] or voice[ing] its reasons,” refusal of “an offer of agreement and compromise that we will not hear. A rupture has occurred. We have been brought back to this frankness that does not tolerate complicity any longer.” This cursory glance alone demonstrates a remarkable kinship to Marcion's gesture of freeing man “from all that was of this world, while providing nothing better,” as Bloch wrote in Atheism in Christianity (1968), which “gave birth to that 'break' mentality which was always to militate against any idea of 'reception': history is devoid of salvation, and salvation of history.” [5] The only determination of refusal is gained in its extreme form, in the “right to insubordination,” which, as an exemplary instance, “designates the right that founds or maintains itself in this refusal and from this refusal: the right not to be oppressed and not to be an oppressor." [6] Whether gnostic in actual inspiration or not,[7] Blanchot's politics and the events of May '68 at large, point to the periodic repetition of gnosis – in its Marcionite form, in this instance – throughout history, which render an exemplary moment of crisis and revolutionary kairos visible and active. [8]

Klossowski's Illustration of Bataille's L'Abbé C.

Pierre Klossowski (1905-2001)
Pierre Klossowski, in an interview with Jean-Maurice Monnoyer, published in 1985, makes the startling revelation that: “Benjamin lent me his copy of Dokumente der Gnosis: the collection edited by Schulze.9 From there I began to study the great heresiarchs, Carpocrates, Valentin, Basilides, before the theologies of Catholicism or Calvinism. ”10 Gnostic allegory. “Allegory should be shown as the antidote to myth.” ([27], 179) “As soon as the poetic power of allegorizing leaves [Nietzsche], the whole decomposes into two contradictory parts, which only conflict holds together. For the tendency to eternalize that has become ephemeral does not enter into the circuit of the eternal cycle of the natural world – unless the temporal will of human existence that has become eccentric were to fly in a superhuman fashion into the heaven of the pre-Copernican world, in order to circle along in the middle of being.”11 Allegory in late antiquity: “In the course of such a literature the world of the ancient gods would have had to die out, and it is precisely allegory which preserved it. For an appreciation of the transience of things, and the concern to rescue them for eternity, is one of the strongest impulses in allegory.”12

He later became Cardinal and died in a whorehouse.
There is a word for death by orgasm: epectasis or epecstasy
Bataille was already interested in and familiar with Gnosticism, having published “Base Materialism and Gnosticism” in Documents, in 1930. His friend and theological interlocutor, too, Fr. Jean Danièlou, S.J., a scholar of patristics, in particular of Origen and Gregory of Nyssa, later lectured on the topic of Gnosis for the Vie Spirituelle circle, on the topic of Gnosis: “Revelation is apportioned out by the gift of God, and this transmits itself in secrecy. Human beings are divided by predestination into somatics or psychics, and it is impossible during the course of life to pass from one category to another. Only the pneumatics can attain salvation.”13 While Bataillle, in 1930, did not mention Marcion, using Basilides as touchstone instead, the Gnosis he describes is rooted in materialism, that is, insubordination:

Abraxas, from the Gnosis of Basilides
It is difficult to believe that on the whole Gnosticism does not manifest above all a sinister love of darkness, a monstrous taste for obscene and lawless archontes, for the head of the solar ass. The existence of a sect of licentious Gnostics and of certain sexual rites fulfills this obscure demand for a baseness that would not be reducible ...Gnosticism, in its psychological process, is not so different from present-day materialism. I mean a materialism not implying an ontology... it is a question above all of not submitting oneself, and with oneself one's reason, to whatever is more elevated, to whatever can give a borrowed authority to the being that I am, and to the reason that arms this being. This being and its reason can in fact only submit to what is lower, to what can never serve in any case to ape a given authority. Also I submit entirely to what must be called matter, since that exists outside of myself and the idea...”14

In view of Bataille's marriage of Gnosticism to materialism, we must at least entertain the hypothesis that the theology which, in Benjamin's “Concept of History,” is both the puppet-master and secret weapon of historical materialism, might in fact be neither Christian nor Jewish – and rather more Gnostic than Kabbalistic. In the first instance, Bloch's discussion of Marcion casts an intriguing light upon Benjamin's reference to the fact that “the Great Revolution introduced a new calendar. The initial day of a calendar presents history in time-lapse mode. And basically it is this same day that keeps recurring... in days of remembrance.”15 Bloch writes that by designating the year of Marcion's birth as Year Zero, the Marcionite calendar marks “the beginning of a new time-series which in itself has no real place, but only an apparent one, in history... the only real parallel lies in the Jacobin calendar, whose year naught was 'also' intended as a totally new beginning, with its break from the entire 'old testament' of history.”16 In the context of this admittedly inexact parallelism, the content of Eingedenken, and of the whole of history, would be the nullity and nullification of that which has been transmitted and passed off as history “the way it was.” Just as Marcionite Gnosis sought to “wrest tradition from the conformism [of the ruling classes] that is working to overpower it”17 and to start anew, Benjamin substitutes the practice of redemptive memory for the “general system of redemption by forgetting – or forgetting conceived as an apocalyptic event (this is one of Basilides' theses that I discovered in reading Schulze's collection,”18 in which Eternal Recurrence and the figure of the Antichrist, which “is not just a word, except in pure criticism, such as that of Lotze, which binds together the history of christianity19 inhere. However, in the damnatio memorae of the redemption – in taking leave of the past following victory over the Antichrist – the Gnostic superposition of redemption and forgetting remains.

1Karl Löwith, Nietzsche's Philosophy of the Eternal Recurrence of the Same, Trans. J. Harvey Lomax (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 87.
2Jacob Taubes, “Notes on Surrealism,” From Cult To Culture, 101-2.
3Jacob Taubes, “Notes on Surrealism,” & “The Iron Cage,” From Cult to Culture, 118-20 & 139-142.
4Norbert Bolz, “Erlösung als ob: Über einige gnostiche Motive der Kritischen Theorie,” Jacob Taubes, Ed., Religionstheorie und Politische Theology: Gnosis und Politik (München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1984). 264-289. 267. Translation R. Tepper.
5 Ernst Bloch, Atheism in Christianity, Trans. J. T. Swann (London & New York: Verso, 2009), 176-7.
7Blanchot, “[The Declaration (of the 121) … is not a protest manifesto],” PW, 23.
8 See Sur-Representation: Revolution & Repetition (R. Tepper).
9Wolfgang Schultz, Dokumente der Gnosis (Jena: Eugen Diedrichs, 1910).
10Pierre Klossowski & Jean-Maurice Monnoyer, Le Peintre et Son Démon, (Paris: Flammarion, 1985), 184. Trans. R. TEpper
11Löwith, 83.
12Benjamin, Origin, 223.
13“Père Danièlou: la gnose, Vie Spirituelle, seance n° 8, 7 mars 1942,” Digraphe 86-7, 45-6. Trans. R. Tepper
14Georges Bataille, “Base Materialism and Gnosticism,” Visions of Excess, 48-51.
15Benjamin, SW 4: 395.
16Bloch, Atheism in Christianity, 177.
17Benjamin, SW 4: 391.
18Klossowski & Monnoyer, 184. Trans. R. Tepper
19Klossowski & Monnoyer, 184.

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Sur-Representation: Revolution & Repetition

Sur-Representation: Revolution & Repetition

“Philosophical writing [must] continually confront the question of representation.” [1] – Walter Benjamin, Ursprung der Deutsche Trauerspiel

The question of representation must indeed be confronted and the impossibility of making do without representation entirely. For, even in the least representative poetic evocation there remains the fact that even Wortsalat has as its building block words that in principle do represent objects. Moreover, the logic of total escape or opposition presupposes the binary logic of mutually exclusive alternatives, which we now know in light of quantum mechanics and subsequent developments in physics to be entirely superseded. Except in human language and quite possibly the forms of human thought. Perhaps there is way to think and to write that can resist the reduction of the infinite richness of experience that all representational-conceptual thought has as its price. A revolutionary possibility whereby experience might break through, within representations themselves, whereby experience would be, to borrow one of Blanchot's formulations, “affirmed in a negation that, while opening a void and stopping time, also point[s] toward the future... a transgression: an innocent transgression.”[2]  Such a possibility for thought and language makes representations of experience transgress their own limits, and the surplus over representation, its sur-representational excess, would no longer represent or signify, but mark an instance of the exemplary. Of course these instances in the course of a “treatise” on time will be ephemeral, and representative discourse remains as an instrument of thinking, but they indicate and articulate that which is to come. It is to make use of “representation as digression.”[3]

Logomachia: The Altar of the Real


Consecrate then desecrate the whiteness of the page:
a film noir murder scene
erases - replaces
and fills in the blank
with sacrificial crimes committed in the name
of the Verb, upon this stage.

Traces of logomachia inscribed in lingual debris
struggle sans origin, sans end writes the script
from which I read
voicing and enacting my ownmost role
in this parody
of "liberty."

Silence, Spirit these words away (from me)!

Sacred lines written in secret and in silence
can only be dis-connected - fragmented
by all-devouring Time.
Never erased - Never effaced,
but by the turning page of History overturned
whence, without recompense,
white sacrifice will ever recommence.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Jailbreaking Language: Elegies for Realities Bygone and Yet to Come

By Prof. Rowan
dialdfordialectic (at) gmail


Who were we to cut time in two?
To place a hand outstretched between two infinities
Digits fingering the supernumerary infinite of time
enumerating, denumerating,
digitally devolving,
continuum contracting
i n t o
wind-blown desert-sand-seconds
counted and counted, once and eternally again
by three anthropomorphic clock-hands
the clock
deified, itself now digital
clutching, counting,
sur-viving the dis-aster of man
two infinities of time once again become one
analog continuum

Monday, November 07, 2011

We are the Salvage Crew for the Wreck that is the Future

By St Stephen
Spaceship Graveyard is in my estimation one of the most outstanding musical projects that I have had the fortune and pleasure to stumble across. Spaceship Graveyard or simply SG, has reopened the final frontier.

Instead of me telling you what SG is about, we (you and I, dear reader) are fortunate enough to have the rare pleasure to having Spaceship Graveyard explain to us their project-mission. In honor of their latest musical accomplishments, we present a truly a prolific band, with over 32 releases in little under a years time. Without further ado from your host, St. Stephen, we of Modern Mythology proudly present a rare and most special report, from a band we cannot say enough good things about, Spaceship Graveyard (mainsite)/Spaceship Graveyard (bandcamp)

Saturday, November 05, 2011

God and the problem of certainty

"Simply, as the great French mathematician Laplace once told Napoleon Bonapart, 'Sire, God is a hypothesis I do not need.' And indeed, science and religion should not be seen as antagonistic; they just do not need each other, as they ask questions and give answers within very different modes of knowing." (The Origins of the Universe, Lurquin.)
By James Curcio

Though there is little more problematic than a religious zealot that doesn't even seem to understand the purpose of religion or the function of symbol, let alone the scientific method, there is a similar side to self-assured atheism that strikes me in all earnestness like proverbial fingernails down a chalkboard. (More like a rusty nail.) This perspective, quite simply, believes that if their understanding of the theistic premise is irrational, it must be false.

Granted, this perspective seems less dangerous. There have been few atheist inquisitions. Though we shouldn't think of the history of communism, fascism or other often atheist politics are unrelated to the absolute role narrative plays in forming our actions in the world.

All this is still based on misunderstanding heaped upon misunderstanding, so I'd like to try to clarify a position. I'm quite sure I'll make no friends in doing so, but I simply can't help myself.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Conversation with Raymond Salvatore Harmon: Bomb

Born in the middle of nowhere Raymond Salvatore Harmon has wandered the earth, building things out of nothing, constructing realities from vague indifference and cultivating a prolonged distaste for both academia and any kind of manual labor.

RSH: "At all levels, ultimately graffiti is an act of cultural insurgency. It is a rebellion; against the norm, against society at large, against corporations, against the city or "government." Graffiti is the act of changing the visual environment in the public space. It doesn't matter if its a quickly scrawled tag or a well developed painting, it shouldn't be there and it is."

James Curcio: To begin with, I'd like to hear what you think the function of graffiti art is. Maybe it has a purpose, maybe it doesn't, but even if you don't intend a purpose, a social action like that has a reaction, it serves a function. They don't necessarily all need to have the same function but I imagine when you really cut down to it there is a fairly small range of possibilities there. What do you think?

Raymond Salvatore Harmon: Modern urban visual environments are controlled by corporations and city governments (which are in fact almost always corporations themselves). They decide where a road goes, how big signs can be, when a billboard can go up, etc. This is all dictated by financial gain. Advertising revenue plays a huge part in city planning.

When someone alters this visual landscape without permission they are fucking with the economic value of that environment. In doing so they are counteracting the attempt that the city government makes to control that environment. While the content and message can vary greatly within graffiti, the act is very clear. Graffiti is doing this act in violation of the law.

Increasingly we are seeing the growth of something that appears to be "graffiti", in that it has co-opted graffiti's common visual aesthetics and techniques, but it is done with permission. "Street art" is graffiti without the teeth. When it's being done with permission it's just the same as the advertising billboards. It's part of the plan, and in being so it's devoid of the same level of depth found in an act of true vandalism.


JC: There is a certain "pay to play" element to what is considered a legal display of imagery and what is illegal. And of course, images are a form of communication. Only some ideas get broadcast, and those ideas have money behind them. Pay $10,000 for a billboard, it's legal. This reminds me a little of the "illegal" guerrilla gardens springing up in the US, where groups are taking unused plots of lands in areas where people have little option but processed awful pseudo-foods, and growing food and using it and giving away the excess for free, in accordance with the basic "rules" of permaculture. And a lot of these operations are being shut down. There's such a point of absurdity here, and none of the arguments leveled against these groups hold much water.

However, and this is a big however, the benefit of healthy food is quite obvious. The benefit provided by some art should also be just as obvious to most people, although it often is not. But much tagging and what I guess I'd have to call crappy graffiti doesn't fall into the same boat. It's not all social activism. I mean, I don't think it is. What do you think? Is there a line to be drawn here?

RSH: The food analogy is good because it underlines the basic situation with both of these concepts, that doing something that avoids the typical capitalist infrastructure is frowned upon by the capitalist government and the corporations that own it.

RSH - Art has a Disease (MBW Attack - London) from Raymond Salvatore Harmon on Vimeo.

The quality of a piece of art doesn't make it "not art." Any form of creative expression is ultimately art. So a "crappy tag" is just as valid an expression as a well painted piece. The irony is that you are seeing cities all over the world start to protect pieces that are by famous artists that have "financial value" all the while still harassing anyone who does graffiti that isn't famous. Its not about the quality, its about the financial value.

In a society where corporations control the visual environment of the public urban space the only form of expression that makes change is one in which we attack that control variable. Are some taggers/painters/writers better than others? Sure. But does it matter who is better or worse? Not really.

JC: Hm. I think there's something interesting going on here. I agree that there is no way to arbitrate what constitutes good art or bad art. Whenever someone creates rules, someone goes and breaks them and in so doing, blows the doors open on our concepts of the nature of art. And eventually that radical approach becomes part of the establishment, and represents a new building that must be destroyed, or painted over. Banksy for instance, now his work is entering a Warhol-esque dimension of fame whereas originally it had been just illegal.

But there are two things I'd like to highlight, and I'd be interested in hearing your take on it.

First, though there's no way of arbitrating this, I think there is "good" art and "bad" art. Just not universally. We won't agree on what it is, and that's exactly the point, I think. By exposing our own aesthetics, we can find the Others that see the world in a vaguely similar way- or we can encounter people that shatter our way of seeing the world, and we can see it a new way. So I think it does matter that some are better than others, but probably not in the way a lot of people would think it does.

And second- as you said, graffiti is not the same as a mural. The difference is not so much that you're getting paid, rather it is what that represents. I believe what you're saying is that it is inherent to the nature of graffiti art that it be illegal. It seems to me that aside from defying the "pay to play" nature of the commons that corporations and politicians assume, it is inherently transgressive. I mean, the moment it becomes condoned across the board it becomes something else. It can hang in the gallery alongside Duchamp's Fountain.

I think there is also a line between transgression and vandalism, which is one of the reasons I think it matters if a graffiti artist is coming at it with an awareness of these things, or they're just tagging because they think it's cool. Do you agree?

What is the point in transgressing in that way?

RSH: Duchamp is a great example of someone whose work was transgressive and attempting to exist outside of the context of the art world but who was appropriated immediately by the art world he was trying to resist. Banksy is just the latest version of that same thing, Banksy's greatest creation is Banksy the artist, and now Banksy the brand.

The concepts of good and bad are directly related to personal experience, they have no validity outside of how an individual may experience the art. You may look at a well painted mural and think "Wow that's amazing!" and someone else is going to say "Meh, its looks like a Nike ad" and then again they may look at a sloppy tag smeared on the front of a retail shop and say "Now that's brilliant!" but to you its just a clumsy splash of paint with no context. What matters is not "good or bad" but reaction or no reaction. If you have a reaction to it then its doing its job. If you don't notice it then its not.

The fact is that real graffiti will never be condoned. That's what is so good about it. The visual aesthetics may be appropriated by the marketing world, millions of prints and t-shirts may be sold, but in no way will spraying paint over someone's building without permission be made legal.

JC: I think you're probably right about that. But that still doesn't answer the question- what is the point in doing it? Is there one, or does there need to be one? Of course I imagine each artist is likely to answer that in a different way- but I'm curious to know your answer.

RSH: Are you asking "What is the point of graffiti?" which I see much the same way I would see the question "What is the point of painting?" and I would give much the same answer to both questions - compulsion. You do it because you don't have any choice but to do it. Between the variables of who you are and how your environment affects you there is an internal drive that compels an artist to create, to express, and graffiti - even the seemingly talentless/pure vandalism type - is no different. Each person may have their own "reasons" for doing it, but in the end its all about not being able to not do it. Its an act of self expression, no different than playing a guitar or painting a painting.

What separates it from these other kinds of creative expression is the aggressive form that it takes. Its not being done quietly at home where no one can see or hear it. Its happening out in the world regardless of if people like it, which gives it an incredible ability, the power to communicate to the public without any intermediary involved.

JC: I think it's interesting that you came to the same general conclusion on this that I have. When I was a little younger I had a lot more I guess you could say idealism about the intention behind my work, but when you reach a certain point- when you've gone well past the bounds of practicality or even sanity to pursue your work - you have to recognize that at bottom it's a compulsion. Habits can be good or bad of course. Yoga is an example of a method of trying to reprogram physical habits of alignment and breathing. It's not all like putting a needle in your arm. But a lot of art might be a bit more like the needle than yoga. It's hard to say.

That said, there can still be an intention behind it. So I was just rooting around there for yours.

What projects are you working on now? Are you looking to go somewhere with it or is it really "chasing the dragon"?

RSH: In my life there have been two currents that have run in parallel for a long time that have just started to converge (unfortunately). On the one had I am an unrealist as an artist. Aesthetics doesn't need to have an explicit message in a semantic sense. Language often simplifies something that can be more complex than any set of verbal descriptions. Burroughs said that language is a virus and I would have to agree with that.

So creatively, as a painter, I have sought out form and colour as a way of expressing myself without the need for some kind of philosophic message. I see all art as simply experience and nothing more. First there is the experience of the artist in creating the work. The process, the interaction with the medium as a form of expression, the dance. Secondly art is the experience of perceiving it. Of looking at at, hearing it, touching, even tasting in the moment of the audience/viewers perceptual awareness. Besides this two sided coin of experience there is nothing.

Alongside of this current of creative expression has always been a very distinct outlook on the world's socio-political stage. Call it an interest in contemporary urban anthropology (which is my education background) I have always had strong opinions on what I call the "disconnect" that most people live in, a kind of strangely exclusive filter bubble that lets people get on with living without acknowledging that totally corrupt and insanely designed socio-cultural box we are told we have to live in. It started in my teens, I was really into social anarchism and the writings of Giovanni Baldelli at age 15, around the time the Tienanmen Square events occurred and it shaped my outlook on the media and the governments of the world.

So now I find these two currents spilling over into each other despite many years of keeping them separate. But in general I see all of my interests starting to converge as we move into the future. The media work, the painting, the writing (which is my least favorite thing to do) are all coming together. There may be another book at some point, but really I guess I am just chasing the dragon.

On November 11th (11.11.11) RSH is launching a new project, NO CTRL, which he describes as "Casting a doubtful eye upon consensual reality. A look at the world from outside the filter bubble." more info at: noctrl.org

[Check out some of the books, albums, and soon movies produced by Mythos Media and our various media partners.]


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