A long list of media, read and unread, which pertain to aesthetics. Philosophical aesthetics, art, popular culture, and the impact of reproduction upon poetry and image. Included here for archival purposes, mainly because they provide useful terminology for the study of pop culture and/or literature in the present. Do they matter to read? Maybe. (Asterik = yes.)
Siegfried Kracauer. “The Mass Ornament.” In Mass Ornament: Weimar Essays. Translated by Thomas Y. Levin. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995, 74-86.
An excavation which proceeds sectionally, as does Kracauer:
In the first paragraph of this essay, Kracauer sets his readers up for the analysis of popular culture that is to follow, kneading us into a receptive mode through which we might grasp the significance of studying synchronized dancers:
The position that an epoch occupies in the historical process can be determined more strikingly from an analysis of its inconspicuous surface-level expressions than from that epoch’s judgments about itself. Since these judgments are expressions of the tendencies of a particular era, they do not offer conclusive testimony about its overall constitution. The surface-level expressions, however, by virtue of their unconscious nature, provide unmediated access to the fundamental substance of the state of things. Conversely, knowledge of this state of things depends on the interpretation of these surface-level expressions. The fundamental substance of an epoch and its unheeded impulses illuminate each other reciprocally. (75)
Earlier in the spring I stopped after this mysterious first paragraph, wondering how I might apply Kracauer’s explanation of “reading the surface” to my own continuing curiosities about a domain of popular culture which, by its own declaration, pertains more to health and fitness than it does to passive entertainment. Already a few questions emerge here: what does it mean for an expression to be inconspicuous — is it by definition what we are so accustomed to that we overlook its meaning? How useful is the translation of marginalia to decipher the moment when it seems possible that only retrospectively can we decipher its era, when inevitably our own judgments interfere with our ability to discern such relevancy in fringe or frivolous expressions of culture? Continue reading “Attempting to Translate “The Mass Ornament” (TBC)”
~~THE GHOST IN THE MACHINE, ETC~~
From January til March 2015, I metabolized research on supernatural beliefs in relation to mental illness, malaise, health food fads, subculture, colonization, herbalism, and also art history into weekly crystallizations of questions, poetry, and drawings. What follows are the results of that experimentation. Some are more closed than others. Make it a treasure hunt for signs of herb school, Thierry de Duve, Walter Benjamin, Sianne Ngai, Marx, and the Paleo diet. In other words, how closely does the fetishization of commodities mirror the sacralization of “magical cures” and what healing power do aesthetic objects hold over us? These are some questions that pop up. Most of what I have to show here is from a not-yet-fully-digested stage (which I guess is the step before shit); there might be something important about these articulations in which the inter-related nature of disorganized material has not yet been stripped of its complexity via a concise synthesis, or at least that’s the wager. Here they are found in ascending order.
Beginning with a field trip to a campus cafeteria and then taking a hair-pin turn into some contemporary cultural lifestyle trends, I try to examine what a trifecta of neon fitness gear, artistanal donuts, and bone broth can tell us about how the redemption of “happiness” is represented in the ethereal space of popular culture and public expression.
As the connection between physical and emotional health are simultaneously hyperbolized and distorted, food stands as a talismanic escape from abjection in ways that are more and less fulfilling: pseudo-nostalgia and misleading entry-points into an escape from the bodily degradation which proliferates in our present moment. I linger a bit in the trends themselves, visiting some staunch ice-age ideologues and contemporaries. And then yet another hair-pin turn into aesthetics, letting Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin be like puppets for the promise that seems more compelling than a totally distorted commodity-primitivism, while also attempting to complicate the boundary between their proposals.
Click the link below for a June 2015 iteration of this ongoing project, complete with typos: