Monday, May 21, 2007


"I can hardly understand the importance given to the word research in connection with modern painting" Pablo Picasso says in a 1923 interview, coolly anticipating Daniel-Henry Miller's latest fulgurescence. But how does cubism work?

You can imagine:

accepted the cinematicity of consciousness,

the minimum that a film needs to do to stress its involvement in (what we are obliged to call) a three-dimensional world is that it captures an object in rotation.

Now, the film here would consist of many (notionally) two-dimensional images, the aggregation of which merely give the impression of three dimensionality.

But each of these images outside its sequence could equally represent no possible real object.

Simultaneous to the realisation of objectivity in (notionally) three dimensions is the complementary realisation of the object in time.

Consequently the forced thwarting of three-dimensionality of the object of cubism simultaneously thwarts the temporality of this object.

Cubism as such is, for the first time in the history of western art, able to capture the metaphysics of commodity production.


Le Colonel Chabert said...

On 'Enjoyment' of Property:

"By being taken into possession, the thing acquires the predicate 'mine' and my will is related to it positively. Within this identity, the thing is equally established as something negative, and my will in this situation is a particular will, i.e. need, inclination, and so forth. Yet my need, as the particular aspect of a single will, is the positive element which finds satisfaction, and the thing, as something negative in itself, exists only for my need and is at its service. — The use of the thing is my need being externally realised through the change, destruction, and consumption of the thing. The thing thereby stands revealed as naturally self-less and so fulfils its destiny." (Hegel, Philosophy of Right)

(Cubism is perpetually window shopping.)

Pourquoi dire toujours de la peinture qu'elle rend? Qu'elle restitue? [Why do we always say of painting that it renders? That it restores/repays?] - Jacques Derrida, La Vérité en peinture

(Cubism is hopelessly in debt.)

Le Colonel Chabert said...

"For that is what our habitual representations of movement and change hinders us from seeing. If movement is a series of positions and change a series of states, time is made up of distinct parts immediately adjacent to one another. No doubt we still say that they follow one another, but in that case this succession is similar to that of the images on a cinematographic film: the film could be run off ten, a hundred, even a thousand times faster without the slightest modification in what was being shown; if its speed were increased to infinity, if the unrolling (this time, away from the apparatus) became instantaneous, the pictures would still be the same. Succession thus understood, therefore, adds nothing; on the contrary, it takes something away; it marks a deficit; it reveals a weakness in our perception, which is forced by this weakness to divide up the film image by image instead of grasping it in the aggregate" (Bergson, The Creative Mind)


"Despite all the hyperbole about the Internet advertising market M&A activities, I am surprised at the lack of critical perspective about the consolidation of cookies being placed and managed on users' computers without their knowledge.

The recent spamacornucopia means more than $10 BILLION DOLLARS OF YOUR DATA IS BEING EXCHANGED AMONG BUYERS AND SELLERS THAT YOU DON'T CONTROL, starting with DoubleClick (and H&F their private equity owner) and Google, and then Right Media (Redpoint) and Yahoo!, and then 24/7 and WPP, and now aQuantive and Microsoft.

I have heard that a profile is worth a dollar.

One could assume that a clickstream is worth $10.

We know, after all, that a mortgage lead can be worth more than $100.

How much is a cookie worth? As in, how much does it cost a company now on average to place a cookie on a user's desktop? Of course the folks at Tacoda, Blue Lithium and Revenue Science would know this with more granularity, but my sense is that a cookie is currently worth about $.10.

...And so, the $10 billion dollars worth of online advertising deals would equate to about 100 billion cookies served.

Do we as users have any sense of this reality, or any control over its consequences?" (Seth Goldstein, 100 Billion Cookies and Nobodys is Paying Attention

catmint said...

thanks Chabert!

Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, the leading dealer in cubist art, wrote a monograph about cubism at the time of the first world war (he'd been deported from france) relating it to the ideas of Kant and Locke:

"In the words of Locke, these painters distinguish between primary and secondary qualities. They endeavor to represent the primary, or most important qualities, as exactly as possible. In painting these are: the object's form, and its position in space. They merely suggest the secondary characteristics such as color and tactile quality leaving their incorporation into the object to the mind of the spectator"

Picasso, from what I understand, was always irritated by people projecting their own theories onto his work

the analogy with modern physics I think comes from Apollinaire and I don't think this was ever formally endorsed either

Le Colonel Chabert said...

bill brown, a big fan of lefebvre, put me in mind also of the possibility of taking the next step from these objects as pretext for space, and the construction/production of all these figurative spaces that characterise post war theory, to the cognizance that these figurative spaces (cubist space, l'espace littéraire, deleuzian territories, the "space" every theorist is trying to "open" for some thinking of this or that) are not spatial/physical contexts for bodies at all, but are all actually markets. The figurative "space" is conjured as euphemism for a market mechanism.

in picasso's cubist work, the viewer is implicated in the creation of these temporal spaces for which the objects, which reproduce the painting inside itself, become pretexts, but also endowed with the confidence of an overview. In the most banal sense - and everybody takes this absolutely for granted - they turn every viewer into an art collector/appraiser; the paintings educate the viewer in the proper practise of their own valuation. Cubism is perhaps the first art scandal that came with a built in user's manual so rather more rapidly attaining legitimacy than previous formal challenges to the established capital.

catmint said...

yes. I think these could be very important points. I'll have to think about this.

with respect to the (possible?) switch in the value of art from having a local use-value to a use-value related to an overall symbolic order...

Picasso, after visiting an exhibition of African ceremonial (?) masks, wrote in a letter:

"Men had made those masks and other objects for a sacred purpose, a magic purpose, as a kind of mediation between themselves and the unknown hostile forces that surround them, in order to overcome their fear and horror by giving it a form and image. At that moment I realized what painting was all about. Painting isn't an aesthetic operation; it's a form of magic designed to be a mediator between this strange, hostile world and us, a way of seizing the power by giving form to our terrors as well as our desires. When I came to that realization, I knew I had found my way."

catmint said...

I've read some of Lefebvre's Critique of Everyday Life - I thought it was very good

catmint said...

"they turn every viewer into an art collector/appraiser; the paintings educate the viewer in the proper practise of their own valuation"

a while back they had Bataille's Critical Dictionary online (it's been taken off now) - he writes about this too - the reframing of this stuff basically expropriated from Africa, reframed as western classical art, at the same time as merchandise

Le Colonel Chabert said...

yeah, curio collecting, travellers souvenirs, much as the philosophy of the period used "adoreable little things picked up in the east".

(COEL is great, the beginning of everything, but Production of Space is even better.)

That Picasso has always disturbed me; there is a projection of "fear and horror" - it is wrapped in a page ripped out of Hegel perhaps - in the course of an appropriation that involves an ideological organisation of this fear and horror and imputes helplessness to an abject other and designs a general set of imperialist givens which the very artiness of art sustains. This (ahistorical) "fear and horror" which modernism invents to pretend to appropriate - a really complicated disavowal - becomes an alibi supplied by dissident artists to the establishment. An art practise aspiring to the status of professional magic impulse-management is it seems to me a not entirely honest idea, and "fetish in the brothel in the gallery" a not entirely honest kind of perception.

catmint said...

"it is wrapped in a page ripped out of Hegel perhaps"

it is very Hegel - treating ones fantasies about Africa as equivalent to actual experience

I think Picasso here is breaking with seccesionism, which has a different (reactionary) ideology - ideas about the spiritual life etc - Kandinsky, writing at the same time as Picasso is coming from this tradition

I don't think Hegel was especially well known in France at this time, though Sérusier justified his and Gauguin's work with a tract he wrote based on Hegel - I think that's the only example

catmint said...

an excellent piece of (vulgar) marxist art-history is Gwyn Williams' Goya and the Impossible Revolution - relating Goya's innovations to the rise of the commodity economy in Spain and the French invasion - Williams wrote a history of the Spanish Civil War and I think did this book about Goya as an afterthought

I imagine something similar could be done relating Picasso to the rise of cinema as well as new ideas about anthropology (and commerce) - this is just conjecture though