Zooming out

I’ve been silent because I believe the issue resides elsewhere… this is simply a local manifestation of the widespread inability of contemporary culture and society to acknowledge and incorporate transgression. Transgression cannot become mainstream without losing its soul, and hereby resides the paradox – and the imperative of context. Rather than visiting an exhibition as “cultural experts”, they should instead be getting a crash course on the history of counter-cultures that emancipated so many from stigma – and paradoxically ended up tamed in this perverse wave of sanitised eroticism. Zoom out, guys, it’s a sign of the times.

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R.I.P. Charles Aznavour

Deeply saddened by the passing of Charles Aznavour… with him a bit of the post-war dream of a gentler world fades away. His voice conveyed so much beyond the lyrics and the melodies, there was a charisma, a presence in his delivery that was in itself a message. And so quite a bit of the soundtrack to my early years becomes more distant, and a lighthouse to my parents’ generation goes out.

Smarties!

I believe the word “smart” is still the best available example of how our lexicon is being turned into its opposite, short-circuiting our expectations and narrative legacies in the process. The latest example is Gmail’s brand new “smart composing” function. It prides itself in predicting what one will write.

Should’t that be… “dumb composing”?

Of course, the issue here is that the word “smart” is qualifying the technology, not us; we… we’re supposed to be dumb lazy users who cannot be bothered to work out the sentence we mean to write. Progress!

Afar

There is a kind of longing that lives in the recordings of Hans-Joachim Roedelius that I have never quite heard captured elsewhere. It’s in the wandering melodies, for sure, but in the acoustics as well… there is an “afar” to it, an Autumnal evening feel, I don’t know how else to put it…

This absolute gem is from 1986 and it precedes by decades so many of the ambient trends. And it’s still far above most of them. I bought it for the first time on cassette in San Francisco in 1991 and worn it out not long thereafter…

Storm L’Oeil

alvelos_stormoeilw

The stormy skies yesterday night made for some fascinating optical illusions… at times, whenever the full moon peeked through the odd opening among the thick clouds, it seemed that the negative space itself became a bright, otherworldly cloud.

 

 

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Design in the age of hyper-legibility

My friend Erik Stein’s audio release just got its cover nixed by digital distributors…
The reason? The name of the band is presented in too cryptic a fashion.

Uh… yeah, and…?

This is our eyes and our brain being invited into sheer laziness, this is graphic design being dragged into the age of hyper-legibility, the discreet yet forceful annihilation of nuance and ambivalence. Interestingly enough, a barcode or a QR code do not seem to pose a problem, do they?

i.e., the promotion of preceptive laziness is paralleled by the efficient hermeticism of automated codification.
i.e.2, text garbling is reserved for coding, alright y’all?

I quote myself from another recent context: in our daily lives, in the smallest details, we are being sold the illusion of the absence of ideology. And this is itself an ideology, made dangerous as it mimics its own disappearance and thus renders it impossible for us to transcend it.

I know this is “just an album cover” – but that’s exactly the point. It seems innocuous. It’s not.

The magic trick of non-ideology

Re: web summit and all that. Proclaiming a space for the absence of ideology is an intrinsic paradox. The absence of ideology -is- itself an ideology. It is the magic trick of its supposed disappearance, and thus the ensuring of its unregulated advancement. Zuckerberg has been doing this for a while… look where it’s brought us.

I recommend Ommandala

“Ommandala”, a recent installation piece by Pedro Alves da Veiga, is currently on display at the Cerveira Biennale in Portugal. And it is certainly one of my personal highlights. Besides its evident aesthetic sophistication, it is exquisitely rich in semantic and philosophical propositions – no small feat when it comes to digital media largely reliant on random participant vocal input.

Half of the installation is made of a layer of objects the author gathered around his own private spaces, each enclosed in its own glass: a circle shrouded in semi-obscurity, a potent metaphor for the individual desire to confer a transcendence to our daily existence. We are what we own, we become what we make, we elevate ourselves through offering… the magic circle of glass is fragile and only half-visible, as an invitation to either catch a fleeting glimpse of someone else’s intimacy, or otherwise scrutinise it in proximity, faith in what we may guess among the shadows and reflections.

The other half, a projection, is equally engaging on a sensorial level, but this time the elements are a lot more readily readable; it offers an ever-mutating kaleidoscope of patterns made up of objects one might guess would correspond to the ones physically present. As the material object subsides in the shade, so its digital mimesis flourishes exuberant…

The kaleidoscope shifts randomly in accordance to the vocal input of visitors. And here lies Veiga’s fine touch: what could easily become a succession of endless, senseless patterns is provided with meaning through the figuration present – and in how our own vocal stimuli (words uttered, questions asked, whispers and roars) transform into a personal oracle.

I asked Ommandala what my future would bring. The projected objects reassembled and, through the very human ability to provide meaning out of semantic association, they spoke to me as metaphor, both open ended and surprisingly tangible. A bit like a cross between astrology and psychoanalysis. It felt right.

Images and info here

Photo by Pedro Alves da Veiga, 2018

Happy sizzling…

Songs for Summer… this one by early Santana, introduced to me by my cousins (who were musically always one step ahead) via the double-album Moonflower. We spent a Summer vacation together in Southern France and listened to it incessantly. I fell in love with it in no time.

Listening now, what stands out are the melancholic echoes of Mahavishnu and Woodstock, as well as the gorgeous bite of Mexican idioms merging with the soothing landscapes of California…

As the landscape of popular culture changed, Carlos Santana gradually lost the plot… after crossing his own musical desert (avoid their 1980s output for your own good), he resurrected in the late 1990s as a gigantic pop phenomenon. But this was another Santana, one I have no interest in; anything up until around 1977 is definitely worth it, I’d say.

Happy sizzling…