Reading Diary 2021


SEP21 ORI-READING 1: The Room of Silence (students from Rhode Island School of Design)
As I watched The Room of Silence, at first I thought of my students. I teach painting, drawing and color theory at City University of New York’s Lehman College, which has a majority Hispanic student population. The campus is also 68-74% female, most of whom are either immigrant or 1st generation American. At CUNY, economic standing, race and/or minority ethnic populations, including Hispanic, are by NY State law, protected against discrimination. And I kept thinking that surely, in at least some of their critiques, hopefully not in my classroom, my students have had similar or identical experiences.
And, full disclosure, my own CUNY ethnic status is a listed “protected” class… I am a 2nd generation Italian American. Two of my maternal great-grandparents and one maternal grandfather were late 19th C.- early 20th C. Italian immigrants. And two of my paternal great-grandparents were early 20th C. Sicilian immigrants.
So watching, listening to, and hearing The Room of Silence students of color and mixed ethnicities speak on their classroom and life experiences not only gave me empathy for my own students, but it also caused me to re-visit my own ethnic heritage.
Some of what has been brewing in me at some level all of my life, but of late on a more conscious level surfaced while listening to one specific student’s comment re: people referring to her as “exotic”. Her recounting sent off in my mind a repeating memory "bell". Like the student who recounted it, I also did not experienced it as a complement…but nor have I exactly heard is as an intended slight. It simply stuns me.

SEP21 ORI-READING 2: Observations on forms and patterns of critique, Judith Leehman 2004
Leehman discusses a couple of older, harsh if not cruel methods of critiquing artwork, as well as a couple of revised, much more productive models. I especially appreciated the encouragement to speak up and change the direction if a critique is not going well… if you feel it is something you will need to recover from. LOL. As an MFA student, I had a couple of those kinds of critiques. I try to host zero that go that direction for my own students. Also very helpful is her mention writing about a critique participant locating their physical response as the critique was happening. From that, the participant was able to change a negative, or destructive situation into a more productive one. (Our bodies and our senses know.)

SEP21 ORI-READING 3: Feldman’s Model of Art Criticism- From the work of Edmund Burke Feldman
This is an early form of what I learned is a “critique card”. I was introduced to a version of it in the 2000’s by two young art department colleagues who came by it and employed it as an ASSESSMENT tool. C. 2010 I adopted and use it in my own studio classroom critiques. I have made my own customized versions, a handful for intro painting, a handful for intro drawing and one for color theory. The critique card as I use it allows students to gather, in-class, informal written ideas, so they feel and are prepared to speak informally on a fellow student’s work. Note, my version recommends the one doing the critiquing point out what they view the most successful aspect of a piece to be, and to also state something, in their view that the student artist can improve upon.


SEP21 WKS1-READING 1: In "The Creative Process", James Baldwin* (from Creative America, Ridge Press, 1962), writes on the existentialist topic of being…on “The state of being alone” and more specifically on the plight of the artist’s state of being essentially, even more alone than other members of society or a community.
Baldwin is funny and fatalistic throughout, i.e., It is for this reason that all societies have battled with the incorrigible disturber of the peace—the artist. I doubt that future societies will get on with him any better.…
His theme of salvation is revealed in statements like: And a higher level of consciousness among the people is the only hope we have, now or in the future, of minimizing human damage.
He places his own hopes in The artist (who) is distinguished from all other responsible actors in society—the politicians, legislators, educators, and scientists—by the fact that he is his own test tube, his own laboratory, working according to very rigorous rules, however unstated these may be, and cannot allow any consideration to supersede his responsibility to reveal all that he can possibly discover concerning the mystery of the human being...
I am really trying to make clear the nature of the artist’s responsibility to his society. The peculiar nature of this responsibility is that he must never cease warring with it, for its sake and for his own. For the truth, in spite of appearances and all our hopes, is that everything is always changing and the measure of our maturity as nations and as men is how well prepared we are to meet these changes, and further, to use them for our health.
I think about this a lot…that nothing is ever fixed. I think about how we are in constant motion on our earth, which is like a living, spinning bead in the solar system that’s endlessly twirls around the sun. And about how our cosmic ooze flies through space at unimaginable speeds. (The sun and the solar system appear to be moving at 200 kilometers per second, or at an average speed of 448,000 mph (720,000 km/h). Even at this rapid speed, the solar system would take about 230 million years to travel all the way around the Milky Way.)
I see Baldwin as almost a mystic... at least he acknowledges the mystical role artists have in their societies. He’s genius, and a real poetic thinker/writer...we see it when he writes things like... “That nation is healthiest which has the least necessity to distrust or ostracize these people—whom, as I say, honor, once they are gone, because somewhere in our hearts we know that we cannot live without them.” and “…the aloneness in which one discovers that life is tragic, and therefore unutterably beautiful—could not be permitted….Societies never know it, but the war of an artist with his society is a lover’s war, and he does, at his best, what lovers do, which is to reveal the beloved to himself and, with that revelation, to make freedom real.”

SEP21 WKS1-READING 2: The Artist as Producer in Times of Crisis, by Okwui Enwezor
Enwezor considers if questions raised in 1932 by Georg Lukács (“The conditions of production of the time was the struggle between capitalism and socialism as the driving force behind modern subjectivity.”) and in 1934 by Walter Benjamin (…to what degree does political awareness in a work of art becomes a tool for the deracination of the autonomy of the work and that of the author? And "What is the attitude of a work to the relations of production of its time?") are, in the context of the 21st Century’s critical context of contemporary culture…with a focus on “…(art) work driven by the spirit of activism…” still relevant.
Enwezor also asks Is the collectivization of artistic production not a critique of the poverty of the language of contemporary art in the face of large scale commodifications of culture which have merged the identity of the artist with the corporate logo of global capitalism? …Is he thinking of collaborations like the Warhol-Basquiat paintings?
Enwezor differentiates between two kinds of collaborations, one he states%“…can be summarized as possessing a structured modus vivendi based on permanent, fixed groupings of practitioners working over a sustained period. In such collectives, authorship represents the expression of the group rather than that of the individual artist.% (Ex. Based on Middle Ages collectives that constructed Romanesque and Gothic Cathedrals…Modern architects, builders, artisans for example involved in constructing the “new” Renaissance Vatican?). And The second type of collectives tend to emphasize a flexible, non-permanent course of affiliation, privileging collaboration on project basis than on a permanent alliance. This type of collective formation can be designated as networked collectives. Such networks are far more prevalent today due to radical advances in communication technologies and globalization. I ask, as in the The Dinner Party, produced from 1974 to 1979 as a collaboration, (but directed by and authorship is given to Judy Chicago

SEP21 WKS1-READING 3: Theory of the Dérive- Guy Debord
One of the basic situationist practices is the dérive [literally: “drifting”], a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll.
In his study Paris et l’agglomération Parisienne (Bibliotheque de Sociologie Contemporaine, P.U.F., 1952) Chombart de Lauwe notes that “an urban neighborhood is determined not only by geographical and economic factors, but also by the image that its inhabitants and those of other neighborhoods have of it.” In the same work, in order to illustrate “the narrowness of the real Paris in which each individual lives… within a geographical area whose radius is extremely small,” he diagrams all the movements made in the space of one year by a student living in the 16th Arrondissement. Her itinerary forms a small triangle with no significant deviations, the three apexes of which are the School of Political Sciences, her residence and that of her piano teacher. (Seems like de Lauwe may have stalked this student…?)
One can dérive alone, but all indications are that the most fruitful numerical arrangement consists of several small groups of two or three people who have reached the same level of awareness, since cross-checking these different groups’ impressions makes it possible to arrive at more objective conclusions.
I love the term psychogeographical urbanism
Derive alone...Are Adrian Piper’s 1970’s street performance works (conceptual, socially “interactive”, identity based) examples of solo derives?
Or are derives actually “pass times” and/or “great games” as Debord states, and not conceptual (art)?
Derive in small groups... Do Alan Kaprow’s 1950’s outdoor happenings count, or were they “too large” and because often a loose concept pre-existed, do they not qualify?

SEP21 WKS1-READING 4: James Elkins (School of the Art Institute Chicago | Chicago, USA) "What is Research?" Keynote speech of the conference Black Mountain - Educational Turn and the Avantgarde at Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin on the 25 and 26/09/ 2015.
Elkins discusses the rise of the practice based PhD program in the Western world and in Japan, and the issues surrounding the quantification of creative expression (artwork). Ex. He references assessment models that science based education uses/applies and how they do not readily work with practice based knowledge. He discussed is the linguistics of creative products/art, the H-index, and referenced the Bologna Process.
H-index, sometimes called the Hirsch index or Hirsch number.

The Bologna Process is a series of ministerial meetings and agreements between European countries to ensure comparability in the standards and quality of higher-education qualifications
My overarching question/thought is regarding Elkins talk is that if we via post-structuralism determined that all naturally existing and created phenomena are language, or elements of language, then does it not stand to reason that if experience is what brings language into knowledge, then all experienced or lived phenomena, creative experiences included, is also knowledge?


SEP21 WKS2-READING 1: Venus in Two Acts, Small Axe 12, 1-14, 2008, S. Hartman
This is a brutal, beautiful, brilliant piece of writing. Wow… after a young black southern woman named Brianna Taylor was brutally shot and murdered by police who raided her apartment at night while she slept, in the US, say her name became a national mantra…this comes to my mind as soon as I start reading Saidiya Hartman’s Venus in Two Acts.
Hartman writes her name, Venus, which is the transformational act. Not believing that it is enough, she imagines “out loud” what stories she would like to write. This allows her to leave the historical accounts, which are woefully lacking in too many ways to list, and infuriatingly unjust in every way) intact…all important to the writing of a history writer, i.e., Initially I thought I wanted to represent the affiliations severed and remade in the hollow of the slave ship by imagining the two girls as friends, by giving them one another. But in the end I was forced to admit that I wanted to console myself and to escape the slave hold with a vision of something other than the bodies of two girls settling on the floor of the Atlantic.
And then similarly, Hartman weaves her ideas (or temptations to have ideas) for stories that she might like to create about the black Venus/es by denying herself out loud too. I.e., In the end, I could say no more about Venus than I had said about her friend: “I am unsure if it is possible to salvage an existence from a handful of words: the supposed murder of a negro girl.” …I could not change anything: “The girl” never will have any existence outside the precarious domicile of words’ that allowed her to be murdered.
…I could not have arrived at another conclusion. So it was better to leave them as I had found them. Two girls, alone.
Then in “The Reprise” Hartman explains herself, I chose not to tell a story about Venus because to do so would have trespassed the boundaries of the archive. History pledges to be faithful to the limits of fact, evidence, and archive, even as those dead certainties are produced by terror.
And, again out loud, Hartman questions herself too… By retreating from the story of these two girls, was I simply upholding the rules of the historical guild and the “manufactured certainties” of their killers, and by doing so, hadn’t I sealed their fate? Hadn’t I too consigned them to oblivion? In the end, was it better to leave them as I found them?
She goes on to question why we (all) want to tell untold stories, stories that are not retrievable, stories so woefully archived, barely footnoted. This brings to mind that we ought to each be doing past life regression therapy, and writing/recording each memory retrieved. I reason this will simultaneously assist us in retrieving our untold stories/histories. The body knows…our bodies and minds remember it all…every detail.
When Hartman writes, My account replicates the very order of violence that it writes against by placing yet another demand upon the girl, by requiring that her life be made useful or instructive, by finding in it a lesson for our future or a hope for history. We all know better. It is much too late for the accounts of death to prevent other deaths; and it is much too early for such scenes of death to halt other crimes. But in the meantime, in the space of the interval, between too late and too early, between the no longer and the not yet, our lives are coeval with the girl’s in the as-yet-incomplete project of freedom. In the meantime, it is clear that her life and ours hang in the balance…and later,%“… we too emerge from the encounter with a sense of incompleteness and with the recognition that some part of the self is missing as a consequence of this engagement…%she confirms a pressing sense that we must do something, take some kind of action to change our (humanity’s) trajectory…even if we simply "say her name".

SEP21 WKS2-READING 2: Creative Selves / Creative Cultures. Creativity, Education and the Arts. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. Holman Jones S., Pruyn M. (eds)
When Stacy Holman Jones writes As arts-based and practice-led scholars, we aimed to explore what critical autoethnography and performance in particular have to teach us about creativity and pedagogy (which includes formal educational contexts alongside the broader concerns of public pedagogy and creativity education). We approached our work with the aim of joining the explanatory power of critical theory and inquiry with creative, specific, aesthetically engaging, and personal examples of the ideas at work—in cultural context, in practice, in people’s lives.
The result is a collection of essays that we believe fills a much-needed gap in creativity and education by providing you, our readers, with work that demonstrates how critical autoethnography offers researchers and scholars in multiple disciplines not only a method for creatively putting critical theory into action, but also a means for forging more creative selves and creative cultures in a time when neoliberal discourses and the forces of globalization are working against (while trying to capitalize on) the cohering and enlarging of both self and world.
...I ask, is she saying she is anti-globalist? Anti-neo-liberal?
She addresses her main question, What is critical autoethnography and why is it an innovative and educative approach for building, understanding, and transforming creative selves and cultures?... with a definition ...Critical autoethnography is, most simply, the study and critique of culture through the lens of the self. Critical autoethnography merges the practices of autobiography—writing about the self—and ethnography—the study of and writing about culture. Critical autoethnography is a thoroughly qualitative and intimate method in that it provides us with nuanced, complex, and specific insights into particular human lives, experiences, and relationships. Where quantitative approaches to research give us general insights into the cultures and experiences of large groups of people, telling us about the who, what, when, and where of life, critical autoethnography teaches us about the why and how and so what of those lives.
And she continues ...Critical autoethnography helps us create ‘living bodies of thought’—work that uses story to bring theory alive and shows us how stories are embodiments of knowledges that can and do create movement and change in the world (Holman Jones, 2016 ). As “an embodied method,” critical autoethnography “articulates and makes material what is and should be” (Spry, 2016 , p. 34). In other words, critical autoethnography critically imagines a future world through the very performance of other ways of living, being, and becoming.
Holman Jones makes a case for performative autoethnography throughout the rest of the piece…A performative approach to autoethnography foregrounds five intersecting commitments: focusing on embodiment, valuing diverse forms of knowledge, creating relationships, highlighting the affective and emotional in narratives of experience, and seeking change.…and she continues, Critical autoethographers, particularly those working in and through the method and lens of performance, embrace, rather than erase embodiment; we make the body the “nexus of meaning-making”—the source of the stories, movements, and speech that is created in the ethnographic exchange (Spry, 2016 , p. 35). Indeed, as Spry notes, "All research ultimately, pragmatically, brutally emanates from a corporeal body that exists within a sociopolitical context (2016 , p. 37)."
I think of the works of Adrian Piper, Laurie Anderson, Marina Abramovic, Venessa Beecroft and others. Am I on the right track with this?
…our work is our shared and communal effort to “understand the human as a relational and social being, one whose action depends on equality” (Butler, 2015 , p. 88).
Holman Jones essentially states that we are literally bodies of knowledge… (the best idea of the piece)… speaking with one another vs. speaking for the “other” ...critical autoethnography is not, as some assert, ‘me-search,’ nor is it a means for a “single and unified subject [to] declare its will” (Butler, 2015 , p. 156). Rather, autoethnography is interested and invested in assembling a we —a clutch of listeners and speakers— who, before uttering any words, are already enacting (and speaking) a collective and popular ‘will. And what is the collective will in critical autoethnography? It is the will to connect, to be in conversation with each other and in the world.

SEP21 WKS2-READING 3: Epistemic Disobedience, Independent Thought and Decolonial Freedom. Theory, Culture & Society, W. D. Mignolo, 2009: 26-28: 159-181.
While reading Walter D. Mignolo’s piece, I keep thinking about Hélène Cixous and other poststructuralist feminist theorists... In Cixous 1975 article "Le rire de la méduse" ("The Laugh of the Medusa" 1976 in English). Cixous and Luce Irigaray combined Derrida's logocentric idea and Lacan's symbol for desire, creating the term phallogocentrism. They share Derrida's phallogocentric reading of 'all of Western metaphysics'. For example, Catherine Clément and Hélène Cixous in "The Newly Born Woman" (1975) decry the "dual, hierarchical oppositions" set up by the traditional phallogocentric philosophy of determinateness, wherein "death is always at work" as "the premise of woman's abasement", woman who has been "colonized" by phallogocentric thinking. According to Cixous and Clément, the 'crumbling' of this way of thinking will take place through a Derridean-inspired, anti-phallo/logocentric philosophy of indeterminateness. (Wikipedia)
I think it may be helpful in solving some of the issues of racism, which, as with sexism, and most other forms of oppression, are in part, linguistically based problems. Overall, it’s such a dense read. For me, these are some of the most interesting parts:
…“If you are getting the idea of what shifting the geography of reason and enacting geo-politics of knowledge means, you will also be understanding what the decolonial option in general (or decolonial options in each particular and local history) means. It means, in the first place, to engage in epistemic disobedience, as is clear in the three examples I offered. Epistemic disobedience is necessary to take on civil disobedience (Gandhi, Martin Luther King) to its point of non-return. Civil disobedience, within modern Western epistemology (and remember: Greek and Latin, and six vernacular European modern and imperial languages), could only lead to reforms, not to transformations...
…pg 174 The differences between bio-politics in Europe and bio-politics in the colonies lie in the racial distinction between the European population (even when bio-politically managed by the state) and the population of the colonies: less human, subhumans, as Smith pointed out. But it is also important to remember that bio-political techniques enacted on colonial populations returned as a boomerang to Europe in the Holocaust. Many have already underlined the uses of colonial techniques applied to non-European populations to control and exterminate the Jewish population...
Thus, body-politics is the darker side and the missing half of biopolitics: body-politics describes decolonial technologies enacted by bodies who realized that they were considered less human at the moment they realized that the very act of describing them as less human was a radical un-human consideration… Body-politics is a fundamental component of decolonial thinking, decolonial doing and the decolonial option.
To better understand the distinction and history on geopolitics and biopolitics, I found this side bar reading…
Historically, geo-politics of knowledge emerged in the ‘Third World’ contesting the imperial distribution of scientific labor that Pletsch mapped out. Body-politics of knowledge has had its more pronounced manifestations in the United States, as a consequence of the Civil Rights movement. Who were the main actors of the body-politics of knowledge? Women – first white women, soon joined by women of color (and linking with geo-politics, so-called ‘Third World women’); Latino and Latina scholars and activists; Afro-Americans and Native Americans, mainly.
Pg 177… Theo- and ego-politics of knowledge also bracketed the body in knowledge- making (Mignolo, 2007a). By locating knowledge in the mind only, and bracketing ‘secondary qualities’ (affects, emotions, desires, anger, humiliation, etc.), social actors who happened to be white, inhabiting Europe/Western Christendom and speaking specific languages assumed that what was right for them in that place and which fulfilled their affects, emotions, fears and angers was indeed valid for the rest of the planet and, consequently, that they were the depositor, warrantor, creator and distributor of universal knowledge.
Pg 178… Racism, as we sense it today, was the result of two conceptual inventions of imperial knowledge: that certain bodies were inferior to others, and that inferior bodies carried inferior intelligence. The emergence of a body-politics of knowledge is a second strand of decolonial thinking and the decolonial option. Decolonial thinking presupposes de-linking (epistemically and politically) from the web of imperial knowledge (theo- and ego-politically grounded) from disciplinary management. A common topic of conversation today, after the financial crisis on Wall Street, is ‘how to save capitalism’. A decolonial question would be: ‘Why would you want to save capitalism and not save human beings? Why save an abstract entity and not the human lives that capitalism is constantly destroying?’ …In the ‘politics of life in itself’ political and economic strategies for controlling life at the same time as creating more consumers join forces...
This is the point where decolonial options, grounded in geo- and bodypolitics of knowledge, engage in both decolonizing knowledge and de -colonial knowledge-making, delinking from the web of imperial/modern knowledge and from the colonial matrix of power.

NOVEMBER 2021- TT SESSION 12: Formed in entanglement: knowing, writing, publishing- A WORK GROUP LEAD BY Marc Herbst with Pascale Ife Williams, Stevphen Shukaitis & Claudia Firth- Readings 1-5

NOV21-READING 1. An Invitation to Live Together, Making the “Complex We”, Marisol De La Cadena
Anthropologist Marisol De La Cadena's linguistically complex An Invitation to Live Together, Making the “Complex We” deals with inherent issues within human classification systems. Seemingly she makes cases both for and against the “complex we”. First pointing out the problem of the shared condition from which “self” and “other”. Then she suggests that by "Displacing the anthropos through the “complex we,” the human may reemerge with what the anthropos self-severed from: with nonhumans, and thus, as in the already classic phrase, become “more than human,” with both bios and geos alike. It could also—and crucially—choose to emerge with that which exceeds those partitions (bios and geos) and the practice of classification from where they emerge. Hence it would become within the relational condition that I have speculatively conceptualized as the anthropo-not-seen-..."
She goes on, To continue my argument, a word about classification is in order, for which I offer two reminders. First: “A classification is a spatial, temporal, or spatial-temporal segmentation of the world. Second: Nothing comes without its world. Combining both reminders…I want to make a relatively obvious insinuation: the “order of things” that separated humans from nonhumans, life from nonlife, slotted the latter as geos, organized the former (bios) into species, divided them into animals, plants, and humans, and ordered the latter into hierarchies of race, gender, sexuality, class, geography, education; all these came with a specific world: the world implicitly identified with “the anthropos.” %John Law calls it “the one-world world.” Of course, classifications are not inherently good or bad, and it can be said that “all worlds” classify. Yet a classification may impose itself on other classifications. And, today, what the assertion “all worlds classify” may be unable to hide any longer is that the anthropos granted to the classification that made its world the privilege to subordinate all other classifications (or worlds’ orders) and silence their worlding capacity.
De La Cadena argues that human classification systems are inherently anthropocentric, though she expressly states that classification systems are neither good nor bad, she does strongly suggest that the anthropocentric nature of 17th-18th C. European Enlightenment era systems, basically in still place, are not good… Undoing the hierarchies of race is important indeed—yet addressing the inequalities that this regime enabled might be insufficient for the ranking that race affected also imposed a homogeneous humanity onto divergent peoples whose worlds (and everything that made them) were made equivalent to each other (and thus the same) following their distance from nature (an imposed homogeneous condition relation as well.) With this consideration, scholarly practices that decenter the anthropos by bridging the divide between nature and humanity might also be insufficient if they continue the classificatory practices that trap, for example as species, what may be not only such because they may also become through practices that exceed nature or Humanity. My proverbial example is Ausangate, an entity that emerges as mountain and earth being.
Colleagues provide other examples: jaguars that are also persons, a hunter that is (also) not not-animal. These are excesses in many ways: as earth being Ausangate exceeds geos, the jaguar that is person exceeds animal, the not not-animal hunter exceeds human and animal. They all exceed species (and their required relations) even in its most oxymoronic emergence.
Basically, De La Cadena describes creating intellectual and psychic space for a de-anthropocentricized world where surrealistic becomes realistic, where dare I write, anthropomorphized creatures actually exist: ...Instead, if replete with monsters—those that cannot be—the “complex we” has the potential both to challenge the destructive imposition of sameness performed by the world that founded the anthropos and to be unafraid of the unknown that their emergence may inaugurate. This is the invitation that the Manifesto has the potential to issue.
Her conclusion calls to mind various Ancient art historical images, and Modernist anthropomorphized animals, and various futuristic extraterritorial creatures. Images like:
Bird-Headed Deity, Artist Not Known, Calah, Iraq c. 885 B.C., limestone relief
Jean-Baptiste Deshays, Le singe peintre (The Monkey Painter), ca. 1745. Oil on canvas
ET from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (aka E.T.), Steven Spielberg, producer director, 1982, American science fiction film

NOV21-READING 2. The Coming Community, Giorgio Agamben
The first etymological puzzle that Giorgio Agamben solves in his The Coming Community (Translated by Michael Hardt) chapter titled "Whatever" is that whatever, means exactly the opposite of how it is used and/or understood today. Ex. rather than being a statement of indifference or meaning "it does not matter", in Latin it actually means "it always matters". He goes on to discuss the structuralism of singularity and want: The singularity exposed as such is whatever you want, that is, lovable...Thus, whatever singularity (the Lovable) is never the intelligence of some "thing", of this or that quality or essence, but only the intelligence of an intelligibility.
Agamben begins his chapter "From Limbo" by reciting Saint Thomas' theological questions...Where do whatever singularities come from? What is their realm?, setting up a double deconstructive analysis of the state of limbo, which is one of four named Catholic hell states. (Medieval theologians of Western Europe described the underworld ("hell", "hades", "infernum") as divided into four distinct parts: Hell of the Damned, Purgatory, Limbo of the Fathers or Patriarchs, and "Limbo of the Infants" (the unofficial Catholic doctrine), the place where unbaptized deceased infant souls, too young to have committed actual sins, but not having been freed from original sin, permanently reside.
Agamben argues that "The greatest punishment- the lack of the vision of God -thus turns into a natural joy: Irremediably lost, they persist without pain in divine abandon. God has not forgotten them, but rather they have always already forgotten God…Like letters with no addressee, these uprisen beings remain without a destination. Neither blessed like the elected, nor hopeless like the damned, they are infused with a joy with no outlet."
My psychoanalytic brain segment asks, You mean these infant souls are in a constant state of arousal without the ability or opportunity to climax and/or relax...for eternity?... I find this alarming, but afterall, Agamben is quoting Saint Thomas, who was a Catholic Benedictine monk given the "grace of perfect chastity by Christ". (By now I am thinking both Agamben and Saint Thomas are not right.)
Then Agamben states, "This nature of limbo is the secret of Walser's world." And since I did not previously know of his work, I looked up Robert Walser, a Swiss born, German/French speaking, early-mid 20th C. writer who was fancied by Walter Benjamin, Herman Hesse, Franz Kafka and other famous 20th C. all of whom I have read. Walser's fictitious creatures have been described as what I think of as "pre-Kafka-esque", and while briefly researching,I found the pictured above 16th C. Italian G. Arcimboldo’s oil painting Water.
Agamben goes on about "Infant Limbo state" souls being irreparably astray, but in a region that is beyond perdition and salvation: Their nullity, of which they are so proud, is principally a neutrality with respect to salvation-the most radical objection that has ever been levied against the very idea of redemption. The truly un-savable life is the one in which there is nothing to save… I wonder if he agrees with this extreme and archaic Catholic position of no possible enlightenment/redemption for these souls?
Finally, in Example Agamben discusses in the most explicitly linguistic or post-structural terms The antimony of the individual and the universal has its origin in language. The word "tree" designates all trees indifferently, insofar as it posits the proper universal significance in place of singular ineffable trees…The fortune of set theory in modem logic is born of the fact that the definition of the set is simply the definition of linguistic meaning...
And he continues on with classifications, linguistic logic, and circles back to singularity, from his "Whatever" chapter, now citing it as "the example...(which) is characterized by the fact that it holds for all cases of the same type, and, at the same time, it is included among these…"
At this point I feel my head spinning in linguistic circles. And by the end of "Example", as I have a more than a hundred times in my adult life, I think of the (Western Christian) linguistics origins of John 1:1... "In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God." I think this because it is exactly where Agamben leads us..."This life is purely linguistic life. Only life in the word is undefinable and unforgettable. Exemplary being is purely linguistic being. Exemplary is what is not defined by any property, except by being-called…. Being-called-the property that establishes all possible belongings (being-called-Italian, -dog, -Communist) - is also what can bring them all back radically into question..."

NOV21-READING 3: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulhucene, Martha Kenney
In her interview of Feminist Cyborg Scholar and Professor Emerita in the History of Consciousness Department and Feminist Studies Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Donna Haraway, the two discuss topics of art, craft, environmentalism, feminism, and feminist science fiction, and more than once, Haraway's favorite topic of Navajo/Diné string figures called Na’at’lo and Euro-American cat’s cradle, and tentacularitism, ex. Medusa, who Haraway makes the most engaging points about:
Then there is Medusa, whose head is tentacular and snaky. Medusa is a Gorgon, of whom there are three and only one is mortal—Medusa. And she is killed in a murder-for-hire instigated by Athena. Medusa’s body is decapitated, her head drips blood, and out of that blood sprang the coral gorgone reefs of the Western Sea, onto which the ships of the hero-explorers are dashed. So, her blood generates the coral reef—- Eva Hayward pointed that out to me. From her decapitated body springs Pegasus, the winged horse, and of course feminists have big stakes in horses. So I’m interested in the figure of Medusa as a tentacular, Gorgonic figure full of feely snakes, who threatens the children of Zeus, most certainly including the head-born daughter of Zeus, Athena. The head-born daughter is not a feminist—quite the opposite.
The Gorgons are also ambiguous about gender. They are earlier than, or other than, Chaos. Gaia/Terra are offspring of Chaos, and they don’t really have a gender, despite their iconography as goddesses; Bruno Latour emphasizes this. Gaia is not he or she, but it. They are forces of generativity, vitality, and destruction. But the dreadful ones are even more powerful. The Gorgons are dreadful—the word gorgones translates as dreadful. I think the abyssal and elemental dreadful ones are the figures that we need to inhabit in these moments of urgency which we tried to sketch at the beginning of our conversation, this living in a time of excess mass death, much of it human-induced.
Also interestingly, Haraway concludes the interview...You could say... about techno-humanism: that we make ourselves the enemy when we enslave ourselves to the heroic-tragic man-makes-himself story. When we cut ourselves off from our collective, our becoming-with, including dying and becoming compost again. When we cut ourselves off from mortality and fear death, we become our own worst enemy in this relentless story of making ourselves in the image of death. These are the lived stories of the Anthropocene as Capitalocene. But there’s a third story, or actually myriad stories. The Chthulhucene probably won’t catch on because not enough people know the word. But the Chthulhucene would be truer. I am resigned to the term Anthropocene; I’m not going to be abstemious, and I’m not going to play purity games here. But, if only we had not started with that term… What if we had started instead by renaming our epoch, even—especially—in the Geophyiscal Union, with sym-poietic power, to signal the ongoing and non-Euclidean net bag of the Chthulhucene, a story of SF, speculative fabulation, speculative feminism, scientific fact, string figures, so far? This unfinished Chthulhocene must collect up the trash of the Anthropocene, the exterminism of the Capitalocene, and make a much hotter compost pile for still possible pasts, presents, and futures.

NOV21-READING 4: The Medium of Contingency, Edited by Robin Mackay, is a collection of writings by economists and philosophers that includes Reza Negarestani's piece Contingency and Complicity. Negarestani, an Iranian "rationalist inhumanist" philosopher, e.g. "...concept of the human is under-explored and is a matter of theoretical and practical investigation, the results of which will lead to a thoroughgoing new conception of the human that stands in opposition to classical versions of humanism and human essentialism. He is known for "pioneering the genre of 'theory-fiction' with his book 2008 Cyclonopedia, listed as one of Artforum's 2009 best books."
Reza Negarestani initially discusses the artistic medium of contingency as a kind of "incidental expense" to the artist, but eventually I gather his underlying concept of contingency is more likely the philosophical one that is "the absence of necessity; the fact of being so without having to be so." He also discusses materiality in the metaphyscial sense that is as a "state of embodiment" and capacity.
Difficult for me is that throughout his extremely theoretical piece, Negarestani gives neither concrete/explicit nor abstract examples, but instead stacks idea upon idea so I am forced to understand his as an explicitly post-structural or open-ended writing. Given this, accurate or not, I gather he argues that the artistic medium of contingency (dictionary definition: "a provision for an unforeseen event or circumstance") is based on materiality, or on one's being, or on one's mental capacities...that is one's presence of mind and its ability to comprehend or understand itself as an active (co-)creator (aka artist) of immediate and/or distant realities or futures.
Negarestani discusses "the embracing of contingency through a rigorous and twisted mode of closure" or by complicity (the act of helping someone else behave inappropriately or illegally)...with implied "commonalities." But then he proverbially draws that post-linguistic circle, and states that "...contingency entertains no commonality with anyone."
Next he speculates, If we consider the "contigency effectuations %(which are generally defined as a form of reasoning or problem solving which assumes the future is largely unpredictable, but that it can be controlled through human action) as traumas..." I interpret that he suggests we essentially create our own realities based on patterns of intrusions.
The very funniest thing that Negarestani writes is, ...when it comes to the thought of contingency, the artist must recognize herself as the conspiracy theorist of her materials. But we must first realize that the work of contingency is neither horrific nor suspenseful; it is subtly can think of a continuum where everyday superficiality, horror, reason, comedy, suspense, and seamless uneventfulness are all fuzzy gradients of the same contingent universe that might be brought in and out of focus without respect to any necessity whatsoever.
And the most serious call Negarestani makes is in his summary, which concludes, closure calls for a new philosophy of experimentation- for it is not merely a recipe for art-making or writing, but a vector toward an ethics of humiliation and a science of openness. I note that in this writing, Negarestani certainly achieves this end.

NOV21-READING 5: The Journal of Aesthetics & Protest, Issue 11
During my reading of this online journal, I highlighted what I think are the most relevant and interesting aspects of the 2019 call for (creative) newsletter-as-cultural-artifact submissions:
Opening Statement
Corona, Fascism, Climate Break-Down. Headlines all, and very real crises felt everywhere– things whose concerns work over situations at every scale of possible experience.
...This issue’s aim was to facilitate such work in intimate places, to do so, this issue serves primarily as a compilation of autonomously produced and locally distributed newsletters aimed at situating non-fascist thought and/or avant garde culture… it reflects our understanding that despite serious critical and creative work occurring from the center to the far left, liberatory and cosmopolitically open enlivening politics are not advancing.
...Overall, our submission call demonstrates how the issue has two theoretical anchors, new municipalist, small “d” democratic praxis and de-colonial thinking... All we asked was that contributions be; 1) collectively edited to make sure each project was more than one person’s ambition 2) locally distributed in hopes that a situation would drive content beside whatever ambition 3) and oriented along avant-garde or anti-fascist ends…
...This issue explores the concept of "culture beside itself"…What we mean by "Culture beside itself”. We see a contradiction in the utilization of the word "culture"…At the embrace of this contradiction is the situation of "culture beside itself."
Newsletters, as cultural and political expression
...If "cultural" things are comprehended as unique objects- singular paintings, dances, books, newsletter- then we wonder how those unique expressions exist as if they had the autonomy that Western thought gives to individual (male, white) humans. We wanted to listen to printed words as though they might vary or fluctuate as though they had their own (own) being.
On Newsletters in site and place
...if the practice of concerted and conscious cultural work is to be taken seriously, it insists that considered work does have its own effects on the things it relates to...For us, a newsletter represents the sustained efforts of a people within a place to maintain a focused and yet also almost mundane relation to both the community and their habitus…
...Non-fascist or avant-garde practice vary-ingly pushes against power's logistics.
...As this issue's Out of the Woods and Tools for Action discuss, such practices develop from and can develop towards innately radical ways of being different; because they find no compulsion to explain to authority who and why they are.
For me the most helpful and insightful aspects of The Journal of Aesthetics & Protest's newsletter project parameters and objectives are the establishing of the political and/or avant garde nature of submission content, and the collaborative and local requirements.
As long as I have had this website c. 2009, I have intended but failed to create a quarterly newsletter linking to it. Prior to commencing the Transart/LJMU program earlier this year, I had for the many years, inconsistently used the blog as a poor substitute. (Note: a blog is definitely different than a newsletter.)
I consider now that if I had established even one of the The Journal of Aesthetics & Protest listed parameters, ex. collaborating with an editor partner... how practical, helpful and motivating it would have been. And the practice of establishing a theoretical, ex. creative and political aim, is also useful.
Ultimately and in large measure because of the collaborative parameter and theoretical basis for The Journal of Aesthetics & Protest, Issue 11, the call itself is inspired and inspiring.