Archive for March, 2019

The “New” Normal

Posted: March 28, 2019 in Uncategorized

Aside from saving a few dollars, what would be the purpose of defunding the Special Olympics?

“This is an exact example of a program that, between a nonprofit community support and government, is able to lift up those that historically have been left in the shadows throughout our country’s history. Why would the federal government not want to raise those folks up and celebrate them? That’s the whole point,” Kennedy said.

DeVos is standing firm on her 2020 Education Department budget proposal that includes eliminating all grant money for the Special Olympics, arguing that the nonprofit doesn’t need federal backing because it can successfully raise private contributions.

The Look of Silence

Posted: March 27, 2019 in Uncategorized

“No to transcendence and spiritual values, heroic scale, anguished decisions, historicizing narrative, valuable artifact, intelligent structure, interesting visual experience.”

Robert Morris

From my IT3 class, as mentioned in today’s session. Compare and contrast what I called the sumptuousness of Galileo’s science with the starkness of Descartes’. It’s precisely the sensuality and eros Descartes liquidated from the investigation of nature that the Surrealists deliberately sought to restore, often (as today’s film demonstrated) through sudden and shocking means.

“GALILEO: I won’t compromise my esthetic.” –Bertold Brecht

“Nigra sum sed formosa.” (dazzled by darkness)



• Optical Distortions and Magnifications
• Saturated Color
• Extremes of Contouring, Modeling and Texture
• Intense Directional Light Source
• Hyperbolic Ascents and Abysses of Consciousness and Sensation
• Sudden Reversals of Value

What do you notice when we place Galileo’s sepia washes alongside Georges de Latour‘s paintings of St. Joseph and the boy Jesus or the angel Gabriel? Can you see the resemblance between the aspects of the Moon and the heads of the painted figures? In both Galileo’s cosmos and Latour’s visual world, a single internal light source creates deep shadows and dazzling highlights, and reveals a variety of curious surface irregularities.


This volume gathers together, for the first time in English translation, Brecht’s own writings on the new film and broadcast technologies that revolutionised arts and communication in the early part of the twentieth century

This book includes all of Brecht’s theoretical writing about film, radio, broadcasting and the new media written between 1919 and 1956 as well as all of his important screenplays produced during the 1920s and 1930s. Screenplays written during this time include an early sound-film adaptation of The Threepenny Opera, and a collaboration with Fritz Lang, Hangmen Also Die. Brecht’s writings on the new media document his fascination with it from Weimar Germany to Hollywood and the movie industry.

“We read Tennyson’s ‘In Memoriam A.H.H.,’ Wordsworth’s ‘Ode: Intimations of Immortality,’ and and Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach.’ But this might be the last year I teach any of those texts. That course belongs to a major that has been canceled, and there is no need for 19th-century British poetry in our preprofessional university. I can sneak only so much into freshman writing, where I spend most of my time talking about the importance of a strong thesis.

Charles Smithson, a character in John Fowles’s 1969 novel, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, is a wealthy, idle gentleman who faces the challenge of realizing that he, as a type, is becoming extinct. The novel is set in 1867, and Charles, a devotee of Darwin, considers the recently published On the Origin of Species to be his bible. His social class will cease to exist within a generation, and Charles has both the wisdom to see that he must adapt and the self-awareness to know that he is incapable of it. He is being swept away by evolutionary change but is helpless to change his fate.

I am a college English instructor. This is a bad time for my species — and a bad time for the study of English. In academe, we are witnessing an extinction of fields of study once thought essential. I teach at a private university that has just canceled majors in English, religious studies, philosophy, and music. The English major is becoming the useless gentleman, the Charles Smithson, of the modern university.

If you should happen to want a $1000 scholarship, it would be well to consider taking one of the courses advertised below.

Dear Honors Faculty:

PLEASE bring up next year’s Praxis Labs to your students in class this week. Next year’s line-up is nothing short of amazing.

Much like the thesis experience, Praxis Labs are opportunities that sometimes intimidate students, and so they are afraid to try them. Yet these are a “transformative” experience upon later reflection. We hear this over and over post-graduation (as we do about the thesis).

I also think it’s hard for students to be thinking of next year right now. So, please help!

p.s. Students earn $1000 scholarship as well.

Dean Sylvia Torti

Readings For March 18th

Posted: March 13, 2019 in Readings

Here are the readings for after the break. You only need to read Aristotle for our next session, but feel free to read Brecht and Artaud if you like. For your reassurance, the Aristotle is quite easy and the Brecht, while potentially confusing, is mercifully brief. We’ll worry about Artaud later. Have an astounding week!

The Philosopher
(384-322 BCE)
“The Poetics”

Bertholt Brecht
(1898 – 1956)
The Epic Theater
“Radio as a Means of Communication” (1932)


Antonin Artaud
(1896 – 1948)
The Theater and Its Double – 1938

(video shows a scene of Artaud in Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc, which is framed within Jean-Luc Godard’s Live Your Life, Susan Sontag’s favorite film)

I was invited by Honor’s instructor Phillip Bimstein, who currently teaches a course on Radical Quiet, to an upcoming musical events. The program will feature Minimalist compositions from a number artists I have mentioned in class and posted on the blog. Please consider attending. You don’t often get a chance to hear such music live, and certainly not on the U of U campus.

Red Desert ensemble and Radical Quiet, an Honors College course that cultivates presence and awareness through a mindful experience of the arts, present Terry Riley’s IN C, along with other experimental and minimalist works. An all-star ensemble of Utah musicians & students will perform Riley’s infamous IN C for an indefinite number of performers. Also on the program: Morton Feldman’s Bass Clarinet & Percussion and works by John Cage, Pauline Oliveros, Arthur Russell and Christian Wolff.

To Phillip Bimstein,

I haven’t been in to see the Sol LeWitt piece yet. I’m a bit at odds with Conceptualism these days, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t pay attention to it. In any case, I certainly prefer Sol LeWitt to Lawrence Weiner. We’ve discussed Conceptualism in class just a bit this semester, but we won’t get into it in any depth until later in the semester.

For the moment we have to backtrack and access Surrealism via Artaud. It’s pretty challenge to get students to understand any of these materials even a little, much less appreciate them at all. Hence the need for constant references to every stripe of popular culture. Minimalism is actually a bit easier for students because it marks, according to the author we’re now studying, the moment when mass-cultural values invade and colonize the museum. Students get that theme parks and the Mets might be far more interesting than an evening at The Met.

Attached is an image I made which features an ad the UMFA created to generate interest in a Lawrence Weiner installation. I believe the event did in fact run out of hotdogs.


It’s all part of creating with other persons. Good luck to all midterm groups!

If Michael Fried argues, in “Art and Objecthood” (1967), that the very best abstract formalist paintings and sculptures of the day are absolutely authoritative, in their own right and on their own terms, and stand in no need whatsoever of public approval or applause, . . .

Morris Louis
#11 (1961)

Jules Olitski
Tin Lizzie Green (1964)

Frank Stella
Black Series II (1967)

Yellow Swing 1965 by Sir Anthony Caro born 1924

Sir Anthony Caro
Yellow Swing (1965)

. . . what, then, would Fried want us to make of the ‘music’ of John Cage, Gyorgy Ligeti and Steve Reich?

And, further, what would Fried want us to think of ‘sculptures’ such as those of Richard Serra?

Richard Serra
Tilted Arc (1981)


Sir Anthony Caro
Early One Morning

[Sir Anthony] Caro’s concentration upon syntax amounts, in Greenberg’s view, to “an emphasis on abstractness, on radical unlikeness to nature.” And Greenberg goes on to remark, “No other sculptor has gone as far from the structural logic of ordinary ponderable things.” It is worth emphasizing, however, that this is a function of more than the lowness, openness, part-by-partness, absence of enclosing profiles and centers of interest, unperspiciousness, etc., of Caro’s sculptures. Rather they defeat, or allay, objecthood by imitating, not gestures exactly, but the efficacy of gesture; like certain music and poetry, they are possessed by the knowledge of the human body and how, in innumerable ways and moods, it makes meaning. It is as though Caro’s sculptures essentialize meaningfulness as such — as though the possibility of meaning what we say and do alone makes his sculpture possible. All this, it is hardly necessary to add, makes Caro’s art a fountainhead of antiliteralist and antitheatrical sensibility.

–Michael Fried, “Art and Objecthood” (1967)

John F. Kennedy

Donald J. Trump

Sontag’s Photographic Love

Posted: March 5, 2019 in Uncategorized

In the 1970s, Annie Leibovitz captured images ranging from Patti Smith singing to Richard Nixon resigning.

Now, more than 4,000 of her photographs from her early years fill an exhibition at the Hauserwirth gallery in LosAngeles. Annie described the show as “the story of a young girl photographer going out and learning how to become a photographer.”

After seeing an exhibition of Annie’s early work in Arles, France, in 2017, Marc Payot, the gallery’s partner and vice president, said he wanted to bring that show to the U.S., where Annie deserved to be contextualized “with the greats of the century — painters, sculptors.”

“There is rarely somebody who has captured America like her,” he said. Annie, who worked for Rolling Stone magazine and Vanity Fair, said she was well aware that magazine photographers have historically not been respected as artists, but that “I have always thought of my work as art.”

Barnett Newman
Onement V

Dan Flavin

JAM verb \ˈjam\

intransitive verb

1a: to become blocked, wedged, or stuck fast; b: to become unworkable when a movable part becomes blocked or stuck the gun jammed

2: to force one’s way into a restricted space

3: to improvise on a musical instrument with a group : to take part in a jam session musicians jamming together

transitive verb

1a: to press into a close or tight position; b(1): to cause to become wedged or stuck so as to be unworkable (2): to make (machinery) unworkable by becoming wedged or stuck c: to block passage of, d: to fill to excess

2: to push forcibly : to apply (brakes) suddenly and forcibly

3: to cause (a part of the body) to be painfully crushed or squeezed jammed his finger in the door

4a: to make unintelligible by sending out interfering signals or messages jam a radio broadcast; b: to make (a radar apparatus) ineffective by sending out interfering signals or by causing reflection of radar waves

What I’m Reading Now

Posted: March 4, 2019 in Uncategorized

Technics and Civilization first presented its compelling history of the machine and critical study of its effects on civilization in 1934—before television, the personal computer, and the Internet even appeared on our periphery.

Drawing upon art, science, philosophy, and the history of culture, Lewis Mumford explained the origin of the machine age and traced its social results, asserting that the development of modern technology had its roots in the Middle Ages rather than the Industrial Revolution. Mumford sagely argued that it was the moral, economic, and political choices we made, not the machines that we used, that determined our then industrially driven economy.

First published in 1948, Mechanization Takes Command is an examination of mechanization and its effects on everyday life. A monumental figure in the field of architectural history, Sigfried Giedion traces the evolution and resulting philosophical implications of such disparate innovations as the slaughterhouse, the Yale lock, the assembly line, tractors, ovens, and “comfort” as defined by advancements in furniture design. A groundbreaking text when originally published, Giedion’s pioneering work remains an important contribution to architecture, philosophy, and technology studies.

Unlike adherents of the dominant schools of Anglo-American and German art history, Francastel was not obsessed with establishing a quasi-scientific methodology as the basis for his studies. But as art history itself is being reshaped by the culture of technology, his nuanced meditations from the 1950s on the intricate intersection of technology and art gain heightened value. The concrete objects that Francastel examines are for the most part from the architecture and design of the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth century. Through them he engages his central problem: the abrupt historical collision between traditional symbol-making activities of human society and the appearance in the nineteenth century of unprecedented technological and industrial capabilities and forms. Francastel’s vision of the indeterminate, shifting relation between the aesthetic and the technological will be of crucial interest to anyone interested in the history of art, architecture, and design.

The latest from one of today’s greatest philosophers of science and magic, Bruno Latour. I posted about him in the past.