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    The Aesthetic Ground (part 3)
    Project: Polytopia




    ‘Matter’ becomes soft. It is the softening of matter, of ourselves, of our genes, of our beliefs, the softening of our mindset and base-images, which is distributed all over as the voice and signal of the 21st century. It is the softening of ‘matter’, of the concreteness of our precincts and restrictions that allows us to choose our identity, to shape it as malleable substance. Fundamentalism, the historical mindset of fundamentalism is becoming obsolete. (From notes in black and white)


    Migration into the Soft

    When we speak of the “middle” in a hard medium, what we see is the center in a structure, an a-priori privileged location, a unique point of view, like the control tower in a panopticon, or like reason in rationality, like good in morality or the truth in validation. It is the center from which to behold the symmetry of architectural virtuosity.

    When matter becomes soft, ‘middle’ loses its structural image while sustaining the potency of relation. Where is the ‘middle’ of flowing minds? The ‘middle’ of imagination? Where is the middle of an evolving phenomenon? Even the middle of a living town… and we are in the middle of each one of them. A shift in meaning, the middle in a soft medium depicts a state; it is a within, a between, an un-pictured touch-like equidistance from everything reaching from the inside out.

    Letting oneself into the “middle”, the solid concreteness of restrictions is re-examined anew and projected into possible tensions that generate change. The structural stability of the hard yields to the dynamic potential of the soft, giving play to corridors of yet unexpressed opportunities, momentary shapes, endless reshuffling of landscapes.

    In a momentary crossing over from a world of definite restrictions toward the wilderness of dynamic tensions, mind learns to morph singular states in soft matter.

    The ‘middle’ is an aesthetic attitude of mind.

    We are in migration; we are migrating into the soft; first generations to step into a soft universe, to cross over into softening selves and softening “matter”. And migration, this new form of migration, is reshaping our minds, our perception and intelligence.

    Between mathematics to imagination

    The works of Diana Al Hadid are to me a window into the Soft, a private window into the indefinite opportunities hidden in the ‘middle’ of ‘Matter’. The works occupy the infinitesimal space between construction and deconstruction, between emergence and entropy and between mathematics and imagination.



    Her unique ability to walk these shifting lines, to operate intuitively membranes between construction and deconstruction, is reflected in her inspiring manipulation of shapes. It seems as if matter in her hands is indeed becoming soft, enriched with undomesticated opportunities for re-viewing.

    The works are like a descriptive poem of the gradual coming into existence, a poetry of poiesis – the bringing of a ‘form’ into the light, layer by layer, time after time, process after process, a becoming, a long becoming, a very long becoming that resonates with a million years.


    Yet there is a discernment between natural evolution and conscious poiesis, there is a difference between nature and culture, and between the processes through which forms are produced. A conscious catalyst that interferes with becoming (of form) becomes in its turn intimate with the process of exceeding itself while in the ‘middle’. Thus opening doors that are disengaged from the natural.

    The difference, where manifested, is not a matter of perfection or imperfection as in the world of Plato, rather it is an aesthetic probe, sensing where to make the difference visible, harvesting its power to un-domesticate form. From cracks on the surface of the familiar into the liquid streams of possibilities, emerging as the singular.


    At the inexistent heart of soft matter, aesthetics is rumbling, probing new grounds for thought, portraying the “middle”, not as locus nor as subject, but as a new intelligence within the flow of human minding.

    Aesthetics, the ‘Middle’ of Minding

    “When the lines of distinction between Matter and Mind are fading, that is when an artist begins to work. When matter is soft and mind is clear, when matter and mind become a ‘Brain’ that thinks, then thought begins to move in alternative paths.” (From notes in black and white)

    It is this state of affairs that I call the ‘middle’ of minding, and the ground of aesthetic thought. The intense and singular emergence in which mind and matter forge a ‘Brain’ that thinks and exceeds. A virtual ‘brain’ that moves and emotes along the line of tension, stretched between the intimate and the alien.



    Like those moments in which a sculptor merges with the substance she is working with, and a painter migrates into color and a photographer blends with light, it is not the union that matters but the kind of ‘brain’ that emerges.

    It is with the emergence of these virtual ‘brains’ that we realize; we are not ‘caged in matter’ as much as we are not ‘caged in selves’, rather, we have just begun our journey into flows of concrete potentialities that unfold through and emerge within the amalgam of ‘mind’ and ‘matter’.

    ‘While going to a condition’

    “I want the audience to experience the space” - Hiroaki Umeda

    “While going to a condition” was the first work of Hiroaki Umeda, performed in 2002. It is an enlightening work, brilliant in its simplicity and elegant and modest in its use of technology.
    It ventures away from the standards of perception into an alternative phase-space, into being intimate with an alien mindset of sight. It is a reminder, so to say, of the endless opportunities that constitute the space between forms and language.



    The elements from which the work is composed are brought to a plane of equivalence - body movements, sound, light and technology - so that, the basic unit, the ‘Atom’ from which the performance is made, is an alien composition of multiplicities.

    The hard distinction between the elements is replaced by soft distinction. Making clear that softness is not about a collapse into one amorphous substance, but rather it is pointing to endless relational opportunities, existing in the space that enfolds between the elements.

    Sound, light and movement are as if physical substances, materials that he strips from melody, text and continuity; so that the relation with them and between them is a flesh of direct contact.
    Once the index of patterns is cracked open, and softness fills up the fractures, space is exposed as an eruption of unpredictable spatial opportunities, the ‘middle’ of undefined possibilities becoming tangible.


    The volume of possibilities

    “It's not easy to see things in the middle, rather than looking down on them from above or up at them from below, or from left to right or right to left: try it, you'll see that everything changes”. — Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus

    Both intelligence and evolution operate upon multiplicity of options; our tendency to anchor an understanding to a single point of view or a specific form is a bias of linear perception. Moving into softness we need a metaphor expanding awareness to unexpressed multiplicity and parallel waves of possibility; together with the accuracy of calibration we need corridors into the ‘middle’.

    In cinema the set of coordinates in space are defined by the location of the camera, the motion of it and the kind of lenses that are selected, together coalescing the type of perspective. These are the vectors mapping the phase-space of sight (the volume containing all possible perspectives applicable to a given cinematographic moment, whether actuated or not).

    The question of where and how to operate the camera is an exploration of such phase-space and any shot is in fact a particular state within the volume of optional perspectives.
    The evolution of technology in relation to cinema did change profoundly the volume of possible sights and the set of restrictions operative in it – thus altering the way to navigate and create within a phase-space, which is itself in change.

    The matter of cinema progressively becomes soft, but this is not necessarily enough in making greater cinema; on the contrary more often than not it reflects a gap in speed, between the growing freedoms of technology, reducing restrictions, and the fragile freedom of our minds in being able to extract singular states out of equivalent multiplicities.

    It is not that it is less easy or more difficult to make movies today; it is a different task altogether in terms of operative intelligence.

    The great masters of the medium indeed begin with softness of ‘matter’, they transform restriction to tension, and then when Mind and Matter, sight and observer, co-forge a ‘brain’ that thinks, they move to a new path in the phase-space and bring to fruition a singular state of sight.

    Much like the first moment of “The consequence of love” by Paolo Sorrentino (2004). It is a still shot, an airport landscape, a long and empty conveyor belt, in the very end of it, far in the depth of the frame a human enters moving towards the viewer. Step by step, as the human figure is approaching and closing the distance, the sense is almost transforming into a thriller.
    The thriller though is about the viewer migrating into the world of the movie.



    Just before the human figure is about to leave the frame, the camera begins to move. But now the camera is very tangibly loaded with the viewer mind and emotion, as if the ‘mind’ of the viewer and the ‘matter’ of the close-up co-forged a brain that emotes; the gap is engulfed into a new corridor of possibilities, and bravely gliding to a new and singular path.

    For a blink of a second time stands, space opens, the seeking of a new encounter and the apparently bland first contact with the movie is suddenly overwhelmed by information.
    From then on the viewer remains in longing for that kind of moment, while the story of the hero of the movie is exactly the same, longing for that kind of instance in which matter is soft, and contact produces different versions of ourselves, even if the consequences are deadly.

    The magic of art is in the accessibility to singular states of sight and emotion, which provoke deep and inexhaustible observation. So that it allows us, while being no more than a case in evolution, to sustain corridors of observation upon matter becoming soft.

    Matter loosens its grip

    The becoming soft of matter is riding multiple ruptures in technology, science, society, subjectivity, philosophy and art, if just to name some of the realms in which it is gathering momentum. It is this network of ruptures that makes matter soft, or differently put, makes matter pregnant with new clouds of opportunities and sights.

    It is connectivity, hyper connectivity and the incoming interfaces between the physical and the virtual, between brain and machine that make matter soft. These coordinates in which domains overlap, oscillate and gently seep into each other are corridors into the middle.

    Matter loosens its grip, its hardness and rigidity, becoming malleable, pliable, a quasi-solid stream of opportunities.

    Yet, we do know how to operate in a hard world, and we are only now gathering the intelligence and speed that fit softness. The softness of matter calls for the softness of a new aesthetics, to fit the radical ongoing change.


    We need to rethink intelligent operation in a soft universe, extraction of singular states out of flowing streams, instantaneous processes of reconstructing mindsets together with the art and science of curating becoming.

    It is Aesthetics that provides us the grounds to a new system of navigation.



    Image 1 – Santa Cruz - Cueva Manos
    Image 2 – Diana Al Hadid - In Mortal Repose, 2011
    Image 3 – Diana Al Hadid - Self-Melt, 2008
    Image 4 – Tara Donovan - Untitled, 2003
    Image 5 – Neri Oxman - E,X,Y,Z,S,S,T


    Thu, Jan 19, 2012  Permanent link
    Categories: Intelligence, Aesthetics, Soft, Middle
    Sent to project: Polytopia
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    Wildcat     Thu, Jan 19, 2012  Permanent link
    "We need to rethink intelligent operation in a soft universe, extraction of singular states out of flowing streams, instantaneous processes of reconstructing mindsets together with the art and science of curating becoming.

    It is Aesthetics that provides us the grounds to a new system of navigation."

    Fantastic writing Xaos, thank you, one of the best contributions to the Polytopia Vision of aesthetics perspective and perception. I do believe that in this post you are laying the groundwork, or more accurately an infrastructure or pathway by which we can follow the breadcrumbs left by artistic manifestations to help us navigate the chaotic waters of the motion into virtuality.

    I am very much with you in the issue of softening, though if truth must be told, I think that what we can see in the world is a simultaneous and quite conflicting direction, in which some of us are moving into the softening you describe whilst others are moving away (or back) into a hardening of contours trying to cling to past ideas.

    the question of course is in what fashion do you see the function of the artist in the coming future as protagonist of a cultural softening or do you think this motion is inherently inevitable and all will align eventually no matter what we do?
    Fast T     Sat, Jan 21, 2012  Permanent link
    Letting oneself into the “middle”, the solid concreteness of restrictions is re-examined anew and projected into possible tensions that generate change. The structural stability of the hard yields to the dynamic potential of the soft, giving play to corridors of yet unexpressed opportunities, momentary shapes, endless reshuffling of landscapes.

    In a momentary crossing over from a world of definite restrictions toward the wilderness of dynamic tensions, mind learns to morph singular states in soft matter.



    Being me, after all, is a process (and so, is, as far as I can tell, being anyone). It is an epistemological process.

    ‘Soft’ and ‘middle’, the way they are depicted here, describe the quality of the Epistemological process, discerning at that the medium, ecology and very intelligence in which and by which knowledge is forming and morphing. The ecology and process in turn are molding ‘knowledge itself’ (I put ‘knowledge itself’ in Quotation marks to emphasize that ‘knowledge’ has no a-priori or stand alone state).

    One of the focuses in this is the crucial impact states of softness have in the process of becoming, while becoming here stands for interacting with the knowledge (attained and potential) of being ‘me’; or in your words: when contact produces different versions of ourselves.

    Of course one of the interesting issues here is the necessity to employ navigational tools that are, once departing from the ‘structural wisdom’ of hard matter, of open nature and in fact lacking a-priori direction.
    Otherwise put, what if at all is applicable in order to maintain consistency of said versions of ourselves?

    One is tempted to call whatever means employed in this context, aesthetic ones.


    A conscious catalyst that interferes with becoming (of form) becomes in its turn intimate with the process of exceeding itself while in the ‘middle’. Thus opening doors that are disengaged from the natural.

    The difference, where manifested, is not a matter of perfection or imperfection as in the world of Plato, rather it is an aesthetic probe, sensing where to make the difference visible, harvesting its power to un-domesticate form. From cracks on the surface of the familiar into the liquid streams of possibilities, emerging as the singular.


    But are they (disengaged from the natural)? What aspect of natural might be amiss in that ‘aesthetic probe’?

    I think the intimate and the alien, so beautifully brought into the thought of aesthetics, are naturally infused in the process of morphing knowledge that is at heart (in its virtual sense) of becoming human.
    For this particular tension is of the richest veins along the undulating histories of our intelligent minding. One without which I find it verging on impossible to describe myself to myself.





    Xaos     Sat, Jan 21, 2012  Permanent link
    Wildcat thank you for your warm words, the question is indeed of critical nature. But first to your comment.

    “I am very much with you in the issue of softening, though if truth must be told, I think that what we can see in the world is a simultaneous and quite conflicting direction, in which some of us are moving into the softening you describe whilst others are moving away (or back) into a hardening of contours trying to cling to past ideas.”


    “The Artist” a 2011 French movie directed by Michel Hazanavicius is a black and white silent movie; the story takes place in Hollywood between 1927 and 1932, the times in which technology irreversibly altered cinema and the silent movie disappeared from the stage giving way to talking heroes. I find it in some aspect funny if not interesting that today this is the movie getting all the attention, just few moments after the production of Avatar.

    Cinema I think provides us with a brilliant window into dynamics of ‘fast’ evolution’. At a moment in which the future of cinema is not clear, here comes the trend in which the present is noisy (Avatar) but the past holds our greater days. It seems that at times of fast evolution there is a tendency to look back for wisdom and cling to past ideas, so that a conflict of directionality is inevitably apparent.

    But then again, I believe that as a species we are young in the art and science of periods of fast evolution. We register a threat in it and for more than one reason; leaving aside for a moment the more territorial fears (bound to rigid contours of identity at different scales) we understand the threat and consequent fear of not being able to produce a step ahead in the same level of quality of the legacy of steps that preceded our station in evolution (whether cultural or natural). It is a threat to the very criteria of what we hold precious or better yet of what we are, which is not yet balanced by concrete alternatives.

    In short, emergence of conflicting direction in periods of fast evolution is inherent and maybe important. This said, I do believe that we have to develop ‘Outposts’ which escape the global patterns and conflicts and are busy in decoding and extracting the intelligence of the particular moment. Neither the past nor the future are full of treasures, yet the present junction of mind and trends, when projected across metaphors of past and future is that which is pregnant with opportunities, whose becoming is to be curated.

    The magic of the silent movie was that it reflected all of us to the same plane, with Chaplin WE are, while with Godard it is individuation that takes the lead, but then came Tarkovsky and made of cinema a spiritual technology. Those three masters of cinema are not in competition, it is not that cinema should be that or this, it is the artist that makes cinema relevant or not to its audience.

    When entering a metamorphosis we enter a singularity of sorts, one cannot know a priori what will emerge on the other side yet we do have a responsibility of intelligence extraction and of path finding.

    So, yes, I do see the function of the artist in the coming future as a protagonist of a cultural softening, whether the motion of softening is inevitable or not. (Here the artist stands as a trait and style of mind not necessarily a specific manifest).

    I believe that addressing the soft is a different challenge all together, it is not the loyalty to the medium or to a particular style that count, but rather the ability to articulate anew the interrelation medium-being, so that the emerging alternative will soften the fear from the river of instability that all futures hold.
     
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