Proposed PhD title:
“Making Beyond Nothingness: An Artistic Challenge to the Unaesthetic Language of the Public Place in Contemporary South Africa”
This study is presented as an exhibition (in my case, a series of artefacts) supported by a dissertation. My purpose is to pursue a paradox of possibility in art practice: how, in the context of a negative set of circumstances (the currently debased character of public language in South Africa, and for that matter, globally) to create forms of representation that transfigure ‘nothingness’ into a vindication of the creativity of the human imagination? The pursuit and embodiment of such a paradox finds antecedence in the most influential art movement of the last 150 years: modernism (or, an aesthetics of modernity) and its ongoing adaptations: in my case, conceptual art and postmodernism. The contradictory nature of the practice, description and reflection is given philosophical and theoretical coherence in a two-part process: ‘deconstruction’ as a post-structural investigation of the hidden power relations of society, and a subsequent search beyond the anti-humanist theories of Derrida and other French poststructuralists, to a re-vindicated humanism; but a humanism no longer wedded to its classical beginnings as ‘universally’ detached from specific social demands. My practice, therefore, involves a pragmatic consideration: how might the artist be ‘relevant’ to activities of the society?
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We’re governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organised. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. Our invisible governors are, in many cases, unaware of the identity of their fellow members in the inner cabinet.
They govern us by their qualities of natural leadership, their ability to supply needed ideas and by their key position in the social structure. Whatever attitude one chooses to take toward this condition, it remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of per sons-a trifling fraction of our hundred and twenty million who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.”
– Bernays E.L. 1928. Propoganda. p 8-10. New York. Horace Liveright.
“The culture industry misuses its concern for the masses in order to duplicate, reinforce and strengthen their mentality, which it presumes is given and unchangeable. How this mentality might be changed is excluded throughout. The masses are not the measure but the ideology of the culture industry, even though the culture industry itself could scarcely exist without adapting to the masses. The cultural commodities of the industry are governed, as Brecht and Suhrkamp expressed it thirty years ago, by the principle of their realization as value, and not by their own specific content and harmonious formation. The entire practice of the culture industry transfers the profit motive naked onto cultural forms. Ever since these cultural forms first began to earn a living for their creators as commodities in the market-place they had already possessed something of this quality.” – Theodor Adorno from “The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture” London: Routledge, 1991
work in progress: “The Beginning Always Has an End 2007-2017.”
“You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I’m talking about? … Do you want to know what it is?… The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth. … That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind. … Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself. … This is your last chance. After this there is no turning back. You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember, all I’m offering is the truth, nothing more. … Follow me.” – Morpheus: The Matrix (1999)
“If we have brains or courage, then we are blessed and called on not to frit these qualities away, standing agape at the ideas of others, winning pissing contests, improving the efficiencies of the neo-corporate state, or immersing ourselves in obscuranta, but rather to prove the vigor of our talents against the strongest opponents of love we can find.” – Julian Assange
“The crux of Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon and the impetus behind its design was to create a structure that enabled a singular watcher to have an unobstructed view of everything that existed within view of the watchtower, effectively becoming the eye of God. In modernity, advances in technology have made large-scale observation possible on scales that vastly exceed anything Bentham could have predicted. The rise of the modern security state allows governments and powerful corporations to observe behaviors and trends in citizens and consumers to more easily control them and to enforce checks on transgressive behavior. There are very few public places that do not have some form of security camera or CCTV, and any time one connects to the Internet, their traffic is monitored by various markers for reasons of commerce and security. The practice of panopticism has now spread beyond institutions, be those the traditional Benthamite prisons and workhouses or in the wider, more Foucaultian sense, any institution that exercises disciplinary power and conditioning, and outward to first the authorities that control the aforementioned institutions and then still further to the states that control even those authorities.”
– Sheridan, Connor, “Foucault, Power and the Modern Panopticon”. Senior Theses, Trinity College, Hartford, CT 2016. Trinity College Digital Repository, http://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/theses/548
Me looking at you looking at me: Lightbeam is an add-on for Firefox that displays third party tracking cookies placed on the user’s computer while visiting various websites. It displays a graph of the interactions and connections of sites visited and the tracking sites to which they provide information.
“To sell your soul is the easiest thing in the world. That’s what everybody does every hour of his life. If I asked you to keep your soul – would you understand why that’s much harder?” ― Ayn Rand,
work in progress: Dark Matter (Political Landscape 2017)
Vial of Useless Information (2014), acrylic tube, brass, paper, 1000 x 60mm Ø
“It isn’t a coincidence that governments everywhere want to educate children. Government education, in turn, is supposed to be evidence of the state’s goodness and its concern for our well-being. The real explanation is less flattering. If the government’s propaganda can take root as children grow up, those kids will be no threat to the state apparatus. They’ll fasten the chains to their own ankles.”
― Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr.
“The whole educational and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent, and who think for themselves, and who don’t know how to be submissive, and so on — because they’re dysfunctional to the institutions.”
― Noam Chomsky
“THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, THE MORE THEY STAY THE SAME.”
– Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr (1849)
Theodor Adorno argued that humans in modern society are programmed at work and in their leisure, and though they seek to escape the monotony of their workplace, they are merely changing to another piece of the machine – from producer to consumer. There is no chance of becoming free individuals who can take part in the creation of society, whether at work or play.
Leonard Cohen - The Night Comes On
We were fighting in Egypt
When they signed this agreement
That nobody else had to die
There was this terrible sound
And my father went down
With a terrible wound in his side
He said, Try to go on
Take my books, take my gun
Remember, my son, how they lied
And the night comes on
It’s very calm
I’d like to pretend that my father was wrong
But you don’t want to lie, not to the young
Secrecy, being an instrument of conspiracy, ought never to be the system of a regular government.