Claire Bishop - Aesthetic/Ethical - Critical Modalities


We've mentioned Claire Bishop's article "The Social Turn: Collaboration and its Discontents" in the 2/06 issue of ArtForum in a previous post. We are revisiting it here to continue to develop our position. In the essay, she critiques the turn to ethical criticism over aesthetic judgments when writing about socially engaged work. She specifically critiques Maria Lind's essay "Actualisation of Space: The Case of Oda Projesi" in Contemporary Art: from Studio to Situation edited by Claire Doherty as an example of the focus on the ethical dimensions of work rather than on its "conceptual density" or "artistic significance."

Bishop is especially bothered by the latter, "...Lind downplays what might be interesting in Oda Projesi's work as art [emphasis hers]..." She registers the same complaint in referencing Grant Kester's book Conversation Pieces and Erik Hagoort's Good Intentions: Judging the Art of Encounter, "In each of these examples, authorial intentionality (or a humble lack thereof) is privileged over a discussion of the work's conceptual significance as a social and aesthetic [emphasis mine] form."

Bishop is pretty succinct with her position in the earlier part of her essay when she writes, "...I would argue that it is also crucial to discuss, analyze, and compare such work critically as art [her emphasis]." She proceeds to lay out two poles in a "standoff" in debates around social practices between the "nonbelievers" and the "believers." She offers (a point of which we were reminded by a comment on the earlier post):

"The former, at their most extreme, would condemn us to a world of irrelevant painting and sculpture, while the latter have a tendency to self-marginalize to the point of inadvertently reinforcing art's autonomy, thereby preventing any productive rapprochement between art and life."

Now we've really arrived at the crux of the matter for LeisureArts and we will develop our position in the post here: Maria Lind - Tactical/Agnostic - Ted Purves

Maria Lind - Tactical/Agnostic Artist - Ted Purves

To extend on the Claire Bishop - Aesthetic/Ethical - Critical Modalities, post and as a continuation of sketching out new critical modalities, we'd like to address Maria Lind's contextualization of Oda Projesi relative to the art world as it intersects with Ted Purves' "Blows Against the Empire" which appears in his edited volume What We Want is Free: Generosity and Exchange in Recent Art.

It is helpful to start with an excerpt from IC-98's website in which they explain the rationale for their activities within the domain of art [full quote is available on their site and in our previous post]:

" a reaction to the restrictions of academic writing...In practice, the world of contemporary art has proved to be the most flexible environment for diverse projects, being a free zone of experimentation within the society at large...[it] offers possibilities to put forward ideas without the preconditions of academic work ...the market...or activism...the projects are labeled art only for strategic reasons – the strategy works as long as the concepts of art do not come to dominate the discourse. The same applies to the individuals working in the group: you call yourself artist, just because it is institutionally convenient, [emphasis mine] because the very concept of ARTIST is obscure."

We see here another option outside of Claire Bishop's believer/nonbeliever dichotomy - the agnostic. Lind writes of Oda Projesi, "They have loose connections with the art world and are less occupied with discussing what is and is not art; it seems to suffice that art offers a method and a zone for certain types of activities." This is strikingly similar to IC-98's "free zone," and points to the tactical utilization of art structures and institutions that we believe gets mistakenly interpreted as art by design, rather than convenience.

Ted Purves offers yet another complication for us in writing about the San Francisco Diggers. The Diggers were an eventual splinter group from the San Francisco Mime Troupe in the 60s. They offered free food to people in Golden Gate Park with only one requirement, they had to step through a wooden frame which represented stepping into a "free frame of reference." Purves is struck by the fact that they "...made an actual doorway that people had to cross over." He notes that the Diggers' activities "...reveal a shrewd conceptual bent that would certainly brand [them] as 'relational artists'..." if they placed themselves in that context.

The point, of course, is that they did not contextualize their activities as art. Just what it was is a matter of debate. Art or not art? It's a debate art critics love to have, but one we think is somewhat trivial. What new generative social possibilities do these activities create? How do they interface with broad political and philosophical themes? Are they fun? These are questions that seem infinitely more useful than, how they function "as art."

This brings us back to Bishop's argument in "The Social Turn: Art and Its Discontents." She's right to ask that these activities be judged by their "conceptual significance," but the real reinforcement of "art's autonomy" is not from the so-called self-marginal impetus of these activities, but from accepting the very notion that they are marginal if they ignore the trappings of art or use them as IC-98 says, "because it is institutionally convenient."

The discussion continues in this post: Grant Kester - Artforum - Claire Bishop

Official Condiment - LeisureArts - HP Sauce

We already enjoyed dipping our fries, err, chips in HP sauce, but after seeing a photograph of Gilbert+George sitting in the Market Cafe with a bottle of it on the table, we decided to make a formal declaration:

HP Sauce is the official condiment of LeisureArts.

Escape Artistry - Richard Roth - LeisureArts

The notion of escape artistry, vis-à-vis Kaprow's un-artist, is a central thematic of LeisureArts doctrine. This is excerpted from The crit - play by Richard Roth which originally appeared in the Spring '99 issue of Art Journal, and can be found here.

"Holly Stolz: I totally fucking agree. The best artists today are engaged in finding a way out of the art world. Escaping . . . with flair . . . is the art of our time.

A.R.: Escape artists!"

Daughters: #1 Song/#1 Enemy 1986

Claire Doherty - Studio to Situation - Finn Smith

At Mute Magazine, Finn Smith reviews Contemporary Art from Studio to Situation - Claire Doherty ed.

The book merits some consideration and has been on the LeisureArts "do something with this" list for a few weeks. For now, we'll just focus on the Smith/Doherty exchange. What I find so interesting about the review mentioned above is that Doherty responds to it in the comments section. She makes an articulate and well targeted defense of her work. She is especially good at taking Smith to task for tired complaints of "name dropping" and accusations of scenesterism. In response to another charge about cultivating the "cult of the individual," Doherty rightfully responds:

"On the contrary, I would argue that this book moves beyond an internationally sanctioned list of 'usual suspects' to offer readers a combination of views and opinions on the ways in which artists respond to a variety of contexts through strategic, collective, collaborative and direct action. Is Smith really arguing that the combination of Charlie Gere and Rod Dickinson on Crop Circles, Catherine David and Irit Rogoff on Contemporary Arab Representations and Becky Shaw's project with an Alzheimer's patient is a simply a process of art-world list making?"

Smith deserves credit for tackling a complex book and devoting a good deal of energy in laying out a critical framework for engaging the book, but the review doesn't really ask any interesting questions. Instead we're mired down in pointless requests for definitions that are beyond the scope of the book or would needlessly fill it with addenda. For instance:

"Where is the evidence that this leads to increased opportunities for long-term engagement and what is actually meant by ‘engagement’ and ‘long-term’? Why should ‘long-term’ be positive?"

To this sort of thing we might well ask: what is meant by 'evidence?' what are 'opportunities?' and how do we know if they're 'increasing?' You get the picture.

Doherty's summary is a pretty accurate description of the book:

"This book is just one contribution to a broad and contested field of enquiry. It considers situation as a term which releases us from the scripted meanings of 'public art' and 'contextual art', which provides us with a terminology for appraising and exploring artworks which increasingly emerge from intersections of social interactions and encourages an interdisciplinary consideration of contemporary art in context."

We hope to come back to this book, not to review it in its totality, but to address Maria Lind's Essay on Oda Projesi (a LeisureArts Final Four participant). The essay ties into the ideas being sketched out in this post.

Untitled [For A+K]

Matthew Stadler - Red76 - Jeff Jahn

LeisureArts missed this whole debate due to a problem in comment notification on this blog. What is striking about Jahn's "defense" of Red76, particularly their engagement with art history, is that he cites Duchamp as "the prototype for Red 76's activities" while he simultaneously offers their "public declaration is a clear statement of intent." He is referring to their Free Art History project in which they use the bulletin board flyer model to "educate" the public about art history. This is supposed to be his "gotcha" moment in setting the record straight on Red76. The irony here is that Duchamp, in his talk The Creative Act, problematizes the whole notion of an artist's intention with regard to what a work means and how it is judged by posterity. He speaks of an "art coefficient:"

"...the personal 'art coefficient' is like an arithmetical relation between the unexpressed but intended and the unintentionally expressed." [emphasis mine]

This unintentional expression exists quite independently of an artist, or of their defenders. Of course, Barthes, and Foucault also provide solid theoretical counterpoints for Jahn's decrying that he wishes to "resist turning artists into a kind of ventriloquist act." Stadler's "ventriloquism" is really an enactment of Duchamp's analysis, something Jahn should be happy about given his interpretation of Red76 as an extension of Dada/Duchamp. Again, Duchamp says:

"...the artist...will have to wait for the verdict of the spectator in order that declarations take a social value and that, finally, posterity includes him [sic] in the primers of Art History."


"...the creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world...and thus adds his [sic] contribution to the creative act."

So when Stadler says, "They do their work — they make the art — and I do mine, which is writing." He is just the sort of ventriloquist Duchamp says creates Art History.

Lane Relyea - Bad at Sports - Theory

Bad at Sports Episode 32 features an extended conversation with Lane Relyea. Much of the talk centers on how Chicago is positioned in the global art system. The conversation evolves into a minor confrontation with Richard Holland (one of the Bad at Sports team) over the value/place of theory in contemporary art. In a nutshell, Holland believes it is too prevalent, and Relyea believes theory is dead. What I find strange is that Relyea seems to offer a linear/progressivist model of art theory. That is to say, writers of a certain era are only relevant to that era. We (as a community of critics/artists/etc.) must, and do, move on to new ideas (merely for the sake of newness, it appears) according to him. He offers that the theorists cited and promoted by the October crowd "are all dead," as if this somehow negates the usefulness or relevance of their work. I find this odd because I don't think Relyea believes this, but it certainly seemed implicit from his comments.

As to whether theory is dead, I suspect that the definition of theory is important. Relyea offers that theory is no longer to be found in Art Forum and cites the proliferation of top ten lists and "what's hot" sorts of articles as proof of this. While I despise Art Forum nearly as much as I despise the October crowd, I think again, that he is being a bit flippant, or hyper-specific about what "theory" is. LeisureArts cited a recent discussion of "relational" art criticism in Art Forum that could easily be offered as "theoretical." Our real contention, however, is not really in disputing the examples set forth by Relyea or Holland for that matter, but to point to material left out of the discussion. Cabinet magazine is a shining example of where theory has gone in contemporary art discourse. Many artists are still operating in the context of theory, but I suspect that in addition to a definition of theory (which is beyond the scope of this post), we also need to establish which art world "theory" is absent from. The art-market-world (the world of Frieze, Art Forum, Tema Celeste, and others cited by Relyea) may have dispensed with it, but the "fringe" art world that we inhabit still engages the "big ideas" Relyea says don't exist anymore (and really, just what was all of that "base and superstructure" talk Gareth James was laying out at Relyea's Post-Post-Studio discussion if not "theory?") .

As a side note, Relyea was making a historical comparison of how the Los Angeles art scene in the early to mid 80s is analogous to some degree to the current state of affairs in Chicago. A couple of things that don't fit into that (interesting) comparison are the role of podcasts and blogs in creating and augmenting an art culture. We recently ranted about this, and would like to offer that creating multiple "economies of conversations" (zines, blogs, podcasts, journals, panel discussions, etc.) is another dimension to creating a vital art culture.

Criticism - Chicago Art Bloggers - Insecurity

For an example of truly fragile egos, check out this display of thin skinned whining by Chicago art bloggers. If being criticized by a STUDENT newspaper even registers a second thought, you really should get out of the blogging arena. Memo to Erik Wenzel: Saying, "I average about 500 hits a week. So I must be doing something right." undermines some really valid points you make about the nature of blog readership. Your blog is good, and offering a lame numbers based defense is unnecessary.

A quick comparison of NYC art blogs (Art Fag City, Art Soldier, Edward Winkleman, From the Floor, Notes and Queries, Deborah Fisher, and on and on and on) relative to Chicago ones will quickly demonstrate how weak Chicago art blogger production is. Although folding chair is a blog we like, we have to say that a team of FOUR people that manages to post sporadically with a week often separating their posts is pathetic. As much as it might seem like an attack, this post is really meant as a call to arms (such militaristic lingo!). Chicago art bloggers, give the city the vibrant discussion and activity it deserves.

Thanks to Houndstooth for providing the impetus for this post.

Beautiful Privacy - Kaprow - Fame

This is a nice passage from Jeff Kelly in the Acknowledgements at the beginning of Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life by Allan Kaprow:

"Sensing the obsolescence of his newly invented art form [happenings] as early as 1961, Kaprow wrote: 'Some of us will probably become famous. It will be an ironic fame fashioned largely by those who have never seen our work.' He was right. Happenings soon became a species of mythology, the subject of rumor or gossip. Hoping to prolong his experiment into the meanings of everyday life, Kaprow reconciled himself to letting go of the avant-garde genre he'd become identified with, confessing: 'I shouldn't really mind, for as the new myth grows on its own, without reference to anything in particular, that artist may achieve a beautiful privacy, famed for something purely imaginary while free to explore something nobody will notice.'

"Indeed, as the century draws to a close, one still hears the question, 'What ever happened to Allan Kaprow?' Life has happened to Allan Kaprow, his life, 'something nobody will notice,' and it has happened to him as the subject matter of his practice as an artist."

Kaprow was so prescient to see that even though he had largely abandoned "happenings" by the early 60s he would forever be identified by them. He, similar to Duchamp, used his fame tactically to explore a truly radical break with art. For forty years after making that break, he plotted an alternate course for art practice, one that confronted the specter of "professionalism" and "careerism" that has come to dominate art making of the last half century or so, even among those who appear under the art/life banner. With many of these forms, the art side of art/life still prevails falling short of Kaprow's speculation "...that art and all its resonances may one day become unnecessary for today's experimenter..." It remains to be seen if that threshold will ever be crossed given how entrenched art is with commerce, but we can dream of the days when "beautiful privacy" prevails.

A much better obituary than the one linked to in the previous post can be found here.

Kaprow - Unartist - Legacy

Devasating news for LeisureArts - Allan Kaprow (1927-2006)

This obituary is woefully inadequate, but is somehow fitting given how inadquately his work/writings were engaged. "He was primarily a painter and sculptor working with found objects." - Wow, what a terrible disservice to his legacy.

We will do our best in future posts to honor the profundly radical challenges offered by Kaprow that have never been sufficently addressed.

Mark Twain - LeisureArts - Michelangelo

"I never felt so fervently thankful, so soothed, so tranquil, so filled with blessed peace as I did yesterday when I learned Michelangelo was dead." - Mark Twain from Innocents Abroad

LeisureArts Manifesto [Christmas 2004]

Manifestos are boring, but we like them. We are average people tired of the sterile world of museums and galleries. We are lazy. We love to shop. We love to eat. We like to talk with friends about reality television and drink coffee with silly names. We mean what we say until pressed too hard, then we start to drift into daydreams of garage sales and glossy magazines. We're too smart to care. We've read enough fancy books to justify our existence, but we don't bother. We'll have a party soon, so think of a gift. We're slackers, and we believe that LeisureArts is the highest art of all...

Critique - Pedagogy - Project Runway

Gerard Brown engages an important set of questions in this post.

What was going to be a quick comment on his blog, turned into this on-the-fly post here:

Saul Ostrow will be leading a College Art Association panel on this very topic in 2007.

While I also enjoy Project Runway and Iron Chef, I wouldn't want to use them as models for critique. The fashion world is especially unfit, from what I've seen, given its imprecise/sloppy use of language (just count the number of times designers throw around the term "modern" and try to decipher what it actually means) and (by its very nature) superficial handling of concepts (Hussein Chalayan, Alexander McQueen and a couple of others are exceptions). I certainly don't see how either of these are counter-examples of critique as "justifying preference." To be fair, when it comes to matters of craft the fashion world/Project Runway and Iron Chef to some degree, do a good job.

Having said that, I think Brown is dead on in describing students' work as "too rooted in intuition and pleasure" to be able to withstand or invite critique. I'd like to argue that part of this is a structural problem of academic institutions. They (art departments, etc.) do a terrible job of making explicit what kind of artist they're trying to cultivate, and often don't seem to know themselves what sort of art world they're trying to prepare students for. The biennial/Art Forum world? The professional exhibition, but "second tier" city/gallery world? The Sunday painter/coffee house exhibition world?

These are simplifications of course, but these are often competing agendas and create headaches for instructors who are trying to prepare students who want to exist in one domain for a different one. Strangely, I guess I'm arguing that academic art institutions should be less inclusive, that is, if they are trying to create capital "A" art world artists.

A pedagogical problem is often at play in a failed critique. Finding ways to eliminate students' subjectivity (in the expressive, uncritically emotive, and issues driven sense) is imperative to create a sufficiently "neutral" set of work to critique (please, I use neutral very loosely here).

As far as offering models for art instructors to emulate, I can point to philosophy and architecture. In the critiques/discussions in those fields that I've encountered, I found them to be fruitful and stimulating. They have an advantage though, in that they have not inherited the expressive legacy of art-making.

Of course, maybe, as Ostrow suggests in his conference proposal, the era of critique is over…

2006 LeisureArts Art Collective Championship


And thanks to all participating collectives and fans.

Leisure - Geoffrey Godbey - Theory

A useful introducion to the LeisureArts way of life. A sampling of chapters and chapter sections:

What is Leisure?
Leisure Defined as Time
Leisure Defined as Activity
Leisure Defined as State of Existence or Mind
Problems With Conventional Ideas About Leisure
Leisure as Free Time
Leisure as State of Mind
Leisure as State of Being
Leisure as Activities








The future of leisure, is, of course - LeisureArts.

16 Beaver vs. Oda Projesi

If you love watching sweat dry, C-SPAN and the 12-disc DVD series on the history of Baroque Period painting, you'll love watching a replay of [16 Beaver] squeezing the Final Four life out of [Oda Projesi].

[16 Beaver] doesn't simply play defense, they roll you in bubble wrap, apply duct tape and send you home in an overnight package. It's about as sexy as Billy Packer in a Speedo, but it works. Gawd, does it work.

Remember that scene in "Titanic," when what's-her-face lets go of Leonardo DiCaprio and he slips into the darkness of the icy sea? That was [Oda Projesi]. And [16 Beaver] were the ones who tied cement Nikes to [Oda Projesi]'s ankles.

In the end, [16 Beaver]'s defense was the difference. It always is with [16 Beaver].

Now back to our regularly scheduled C-SPAN programming.

See bracket
below to see the road to the championship game.

MTAA vs. Instant Coffee

[MTAA] finally started acting its size. America's favorite underdog looked more like the mid-major it is instead of the spunky team that crashed the Final Four in a 73-58 loss to [Instant Coffee] on Saturday night.

[MTAA] missed dozens of easy shots inside, were dismal from 3-point range, and had none of the swagger and spunk that carried them through the first two weeks of the LeisureArts Tournament. A [duo] from [New York], [MTAA] had never even won an Art Collective Tournament game before this year. No way it could hold its own against the likes of [Rum46], [Mess Hall], and [Temporary Services]. But that's exactly what [MTAA] did -- and more. They knocked off all three powerhouses to become the first [duo] to reach the Final Four since 1979. They also were the lowest seed to reach the Final Four since 1986.

When the final buzzer sounded, the dejected-looking [MTAA] trotted off the floor, their magical ride at an ugly end.

See bracket
below to see the road to the championship game.


LeisureArts announces the launch of placekraft. In the restaurant business we would call this a "soft opening." In the tech world they call it the "beta" phase. The site is barely functional, but there are a few things to look over. This is really just a post to say keep an eye out for the official launch annoucement soon.

Pork Rally - Lake County Fair - We Want Wow Now

In August of 2005 LeisureArts undertook the following challenge at the Lake County Fair in Grayslake, IL:


WOW your friends, family and the fair’s judges. The National Pork Board is sponsoring a recipe rally,as they seek the most flavorful, fuss-free pork recipes in America. Combine fresh pork with up to five other ingredients for a convenient and memorable main dish that says WOW! The top three entries— picked for flavor, convenience and presentation—earn cash prizes for their creators: $400 total at each fair, plus commemorative gifts!

Entries will be judged at the fair based on 3 “WOW NOW” FACTORS: Flavor: 50% Convenience: 30% Presentation: 20%

Unfortunately, we did not win a prize (unless you count the pork apron we received for being among the first 20 entrants). We suspect our apple cider brined pork scored highly on flavor and presentation, but lacked in convenience as it was a bit labor intensive. It is strike number two against us – we also failed to ribbon in a Jell-O challenge at the 2002 Westmoreland Festival in Pleasant Unity, PA. We're still learning the county fair cook-off sensibility and plan to try again this year.

Jesuits - Leisure - Josef Pieper

Odd as it may seem (given that we are not Catholic), three Jesuit/Catholic philosophers are essential to the theoretical core for LeisureArts - Michel de Certeau, Ivan Illich, and Josef Pieper.

I mentioned Illich in a previous post, and de Certeau is fairly widely known, but Pieper is a bit more obscure. Josef Pieper wrote Leisure: The Basis of Culture (1948!). Two prominent items of interest for LeisureArts are:

1. Pieper's definition of leisure, which he distinguishes from idleness: "Idleness and lack of leisure belong with each other; leisure is opposed to both." He is careful to divorce leisure from an inherent relationship to the world of labor: "Leisure is not the cessation of work, but work of another kind, work restored to its human meaning, as celebration and ritual."

2. His critique of "intellectual labor," "intellectual worker," and the integration of education into the "total world of work." Pieper, in 1948 mind you, laments the collapse of education into training. He offers that the value of the liberal arts is that "...they do not need to be legitimated by a social function, by being work." He argues that the intellectual worker " a functionary in the total world of work...[and] nobody - whether he be 'intellectual' or 'hand' worker - nobody is granted a 'free zone' of intellectual activity, 'free' meaning not being subordinated to a duty to fulfill some function." This is essentially a broader argument against the proletarianization of culture, pointing to the trap of labor as a foundation for culture.

There is much more, of course, to be said about the book, but these threads should suffice to show their relevance to re-thinking art practice in terms of leisure rather than work.

Some suggested LeisureArts advertising slogans

LeisureArts: putting the talent in dilettante.

LeisureArts: putting the vice in achievement.

LeisureArts: making art effortless and effortless art.

LeisureArts: the art of relaxation.

LeisureArts: making art is easy, but relaxation is hard work.

LeisureArts: removing the work from network.

LeisureArts: we put the art in partnership.

LeisureArts: we put the "bro" in collaboration.

LeisureArts: we take the labor out of collaboration.

LeisureArts: work ethic is an oxymoron.

LeisureArts: winning isn't everything.

LeisureArts: removing the lack from slacking.


In 2005, LeisureArts had the distinct pleasure of speaking with artist/curator Erika Nelson, the founder of: The World's Largest Collection of the World's Smallest Versions of the World's Largest Things Traveling Roadside Attraction and Museum. Her practice is marginal in the best sense, operating at the edge of a number of discourses. It has no "home" in the arts, nor is it merely an "attraction." The work embodies its vagabond status by literally wandering. Her relative anonymity among art world cognoscenti is instructive when one reads discussion of "relational" or other "alternative" practices. She points to the elitist/populist divide:

" seems as if the Art World gets uncomfortable with things that normal people will relate to, and normal people hesitate to call things they relate to "Art". .. We're all so afraid of being taken for a sucker that we've forgotten how to just enjoy, and not care that we're laughing."

Become a member of World's Largest Things and support truly alternative art practices.

Bracketology [Final Four]

[via AP]

As anyone who's ever participated in an [LeisureArts] pool at the office knows full well, there always are upsets at the [Art Collective Championship] tournament. Hey, that's why they call it "March Madness."

Still, it's been quite awhile since there were this many stunning results and so few favorites headed to the Final Four. The biggest surprise of all is [MTAA] that never had even won a single game in the event until this year. "We don't mind being the Cinderella," [MTAA] guard [T.Whid] said after his 11th-seeded team knocked off No. 1 seed [Temporary Services] in overtime Sunday at the Regional final.

Apparently, there was more than one pair of glass slippers lying around. This is the first time since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 that none of the four teams seeded No. 1 reached the Final Four. The main culprit is [MTAA], but joining it next weekend will be two other [collectives] seeking a first national title, [Oda Projesi] and [Instant Coffee]. The fourth semifinalist is [16 Beaver], which has dominated [collectives] but had fallen on harder times of late.

Tournament info updated here and here.

Gregory Bateson - Ecology of Ideas - Anthony Wilden

[WARNING: Long post ahead]

I want to take up another arc of thought instigated by Julian Bleecker (again) at techkwondo. In a recent post, there is an attempt to find ways "to describe the circulation of culture" beyond top-down and bottom-up modalities. He arrives at the idea of clusters of circulation and hints in the post's title at the ecosystemic roots of this metaphor. I think developing an ecological model for cultural production/circulation is a useful endeavor.

Four texts instrumental in developing such an "ecology of ideas" should be:

Steps to an Ecology of Mind - Gregory Bateson

System and Structure: Essays in Communication and Exchange - Anthony Wilden

A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History - Manuel De Landa.

Postmodern Ecology: Communication, Evolution, and Play - Daniel R. White

Bateson's book adapts ecological principles (recursive feedback, information patterns, network and individual flexibility/organization, etc.) to the discussion of anthropology, psychology (with particular emphasis on an ecosystemic model of the mind), and epistemology. His discussion regarding the replication of ideas is nice because it doesn't have the deterministic trappings of Richard Dawkins' work. A sample:

"It is commonly the more generalized and abstract ideas that survive repeated use. The more generalized ideas thus tend to become premises upon which other ideas shall become hard programmed…The same process determines that these hard programmed ideas become nuclear or nodal within constellations of other ideas, because the survival of these ideas depends on how they fit with the hard programmed ideas. It follows that any change in the hard programmed ideas may involve change of the whole related constellation."

Anthony Wilden (in what I previously mentioned as a shockingly unknown work) maps a number of domains utilizing a synthesis of communications/information and ecological theories. Of particular use in thinking through the circulation of culture, is the explication of the inter-relations of logical types and orders of complexity in feedback loops. Utilizing Wilden, we can start to trace the ways that hierarchies constrain, rather than determine how individual cultural agents operate, AND how those individual operations act to re-organize hierarchies. A sample:

"Any highly abstract and deeply programmed process is necessarily of a higher logical type than less abstract and more manifest processes…the epistemology of a culture or the ideology of a class are necessarily of a higher logical type than their manifestation in any particular 'individual' of that culture or class…"

Manuel De Landa offers a number of useful tools for conceptualizing cultural development:

autocatalytic loops[via Maturana and Varela]

double articulation [via Deleuze and Guattari]

The relationship of meshworks [bottom up] and hierarchies [top down] is especially germane to Bleecker. De Landa offers a reading of social formations as consisting of various degrees of "meshworks of hierarchies" and "hierarchies of meshworks."

In explaining the linguistic work of William Labov he offers this as a glimpse of enriching cluster or network models of cultural circulation:

"Given a network of a certain density, the higher the local prestige of an individual, or the larger the number of his or her contacts, the more likely it is that a variant originated by that individual will become collective and eventually become part of the accumulated heritage." [sounds an awful like the way blogging works no?]

Finally, we have Daniel White's brilliant synthesis of Wilden and Bateson's work with literary theory, continental philosophy, and structural anthropology. Explicating the non-deterministic ecology of ideas I mentioned above, White says:

"Thus DNA may not be said to 'cause' an organism to form in the sense that it initiates a linear sequence. Instead we should say that DNA is in a form of communication with its environment, that the genetic code only contains the possibilities of what can happen if certain conditions are met."

Related posts here and here.

So-called artists, you got served!

I guess I really need to re-think this whole LeisureArts thing:

TheirSpace - Danah Boyd - Concept Trucking

In TheirSpace and Power2.0, Abstract Dynamics provides an interesting counterpoint to Boyd's essay Friendster lost steam. Is MySpace just a fad? (which I linked to in a previous post). Both of their posts are really just sketches of a possible rejoinder more than full scale critiques, but useful nonetheless given the EXTREMELY uncritical acceptance of her work. She is engaged in important and thoughtful research, but we would be served better if the legions of bloggers citing her essays engaged in some form of criticality rather than ceding to her default authority in the matter. Thank you, Abstract Dynamics.

Theory Object - Inscription - Cultural Production

From TechKwonDo (Julian Bleecker):

"When you're creating a semantic object — say, a thesis, or a bit of software, or an aircraft wing — the process of going from vague idea to demostrable, exhibited, named thing has a significance that is more important than what we oftentimes misconstrue as the "final version." The process and practice of moving from idea to final version is all too often a process of making the richest part of creativity illegible."

This is a discussion of "theory objects" which has obvious implications for developing new models for cultural production. My initial understanding of the term is that rather than call this web node a "blog," it might better be conceptualized as a theory object. To quote Bleecker (whose blog linked above, is a must-read), who credits Tara McPherson with coining the term:

"...the activity of accumulating all of this must be thought of as a kind of introductory chapter for the thesis project and that the slow articulation of this ephemera into form (construction) is a way of asking and framing the important questions that undergird the project, and the construction.
[emphasis mine]"

So this site functions as a theory object that embodies the various threads of research and cultural activity that constitute LeisureArts. It is an enactment and a trace, an attempt at making practice transparent. More to come later regarding this as I have to do more research, but it seems like an incredibly useful meme...

Love [Part Three]

Love [Part Two]

When you love someone, tell them.
Love is...wanting to be near you all the time.
I'm only happy when we're together, or when I'm with you.
I guess you know I love you.
I love you more than Fridays.
Love isn't love unless it's shared.
I love you, and it's all your fault.
Our love is growing all the time.
Our love is something special.
I need loving.
Happiness is being with the one you love.
I love you a whole bunch.
I wuv you.
As long as we will be.
Me and you, you and me, that's the way it'll always be.
Cross my heart I love you.
I love you this much.
Falling in love is wonderful.
You're always on my mind, you're always in my heart.
Every second of every minute of every hour...I love you.
Loving you happens to be what I do best.
Even when the whole world is fast alseep, I think of you in my dreams.
Sometimes I hate you, but always I love you.

Love [Part One]

Concept Trucking - Pedophilia - MySpace

More context for Concept Trucking via The Onion:

Pedophile Less Interested The More He Views 13-Year-Old's MySpace Profile

And on a serious note, this from the ever thoughtful/on point Danah Boyd:
Friendster lost steam. Is MySpace just a fad?

Academic Practices - Art/Theory - Research

A very important essay discussing practice-based PhDs in the U.K. In the discussion Fiona Candlin fleshes out the complex relationship between academic legitimacy and artistic practice:

"The separations between theory and practice, artwork and academia have served to build and maintain specific competencies and authorities; supporting particular groups of people and their interests to the detriment of others. The practice-based PhDs, however minimally, have had an effect on these constructions of academic space, opening it up to a different constituency, to different forms of knowledge and of practice."

LeisureArts is eager to see these new "forms of knowledge and of practice" make their way to the academy here in the United States.

One relatively obscure, but hopeful example in the U.S. is at the University of Texas - Dallas. They offer a PhD in Humanities that offers a "creative dissertation" option.

Convivial Practice - Everyday - Luce Giard

Two important books for sketching out a notion of what convivial practice might entail:

The Practice of Everyday Life Volume 2: Living & Cooking - Michel de Certeau, Luce Giard, and Pierre Mayol

Culinary Artistry - Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page

The latter book is one of the most thoughtful discussions of cooking to be found in a non-academic press publication. It begins with a discussion of whether cooking is a trade, a craft, or an art. The book uses a rather dated idea of what "art" is, but it is still useful. Culinary Artistry treats cooking as an artistic practice - from providing palettes of flavors, theories of menu construction, flavor composition, and the process of composing a dish. There are times that more rigor and a more sophisticated understanding of what contemporary art practices actually are would be nice, but given its popular press ambitions, this is not really its responsibility.

The Practice of Everyday Life Volume 2 proves a nice theoretical companion to Dornenburg and Page's book. Its second half, "Doing-Cooking" investigates a variety of culinary practices. The book is a "practical" extension of de Certeau's Practice of Everyday Life Vol 1. in which he offers ways to think about ordinary and everyday practices as moments of creative resistance and engagement. Cooking, in the second volume, serves as an example of the "...creative cunning in the undefined whirlwind of everyday practices..." What I am calling convivial practice is really just a broadened application of Giard's "doing-cooking." It is the terrain that LeisureArts seeks to operate within. We cook because it is a practice that is intricately social, mundane, and a field of pleasures. To quote Giard:

"...[re:cooking] manipulating ordinary things make one use intelligence, a subtle intelligence full of nuances and strokes of genius, a light and lively intelligence that can be perceived without exhibiting itself, in short, a very ordinary intelligence."

I forgot to thank Oliver Luker for providing the impetus for me to consider this again.

And I should also direct people to Gastronomica as an exemplary synthesis of academic/popular writing with regard to the culinary arts.

For the socio-political dimension of conviviality please see Ivan Illich's Tools for Conviviality:

"I choose the term 'conviviality' to designate the opposite of industrial productivity. I intend it to mean autonomous and creative intercourse among persons with their environment...I consider conviviality to be individual freedom realized in personal interdependence and, as such, an intrinsic ethical value."