Saturday, October 21, 2023

philosophers and sensates

the rift goes as far back as plato rebuking artists for being too focused on appearances in the republic. probably much farther. what’s the quest for: knowledge or experience?

for the philosopher, experience is a means to get to knowledge. specific instances are disposable, general principles sacred. theories are elaborate fortresses—always guarded and always being reinforced in obscure corners.

for the sensate, knowledge is a means to get to experience. general principles are disposable, specific instances sacred. theories are drugs—all they need to do is temporarily make pictures prettier. 

each belief system has common pitfalls. philosophers can be staid and dogmatic, sensates hedonistic and solipsistic. both find ordinary life oppressive.

but these are just stereotypes. philosophers can, on occasion, even be fun, and sensates are sometimes capable of intellectual rigor. a philosopher might live in constant emotional turmoil, or jump from one heart-racing adventure to the next. and a sensate might live a quiet uneventful life and appear quite affectless on the surface. people will seek what they're after in surprising ways.

so maybe drawing this distinction is pointless. i do think the dichotomy breaks down once you get deep enough into the psyche. 

and yet... i keep coming back to it. it's often helped me come to grips with both other people's way of interfacing with things and my own. in school it used to bother me how i'd get absorbed in an assigned book or film and then struggle to come up with a thesis about what the book "meant". but just because you don't have some clever, pithy takeaway that you can express to other people, doesn't mean you weren't paying attention. maybe you were paying a different kind of attention. and it's not just literature; the arts in general are perhaps the most active battleground between these two factions.

below are a few examples of the schism being alluded to elsewhere. 

1) if there's such thing as a sensate manifesto, it has to be "against interpretation". (iirc? it's been a while since i last read it.)   

2) blissblogger recently unearthed a similar divide staked out during the old days of the uk music press. 

this, more or less, is the philosopher's perspective:

I was really struck by the phrase "instruments of discourse." as used by Steve Sutherland to describe Josef K and other groups of that postpunk-into-New-Pop moment. . . As much as they made music, groups existed to be conversation-starters. They would initiate a conversation, or they might try to disrupt the existing conversation, make it swerve off course -  go somewhere different, somewhere new.  In the hyper-conscious climate of postpunk>>>New Pop, music-making could be a form of active criticism.  Which Steve conveys here with his sharp line about how Josef K "recorded reviews, not records. They could / should have all been journos..."
while this would be the sensate perspective: 

I didn't read this Barney [Hoskyns] review at the time (came across it much, much later) but got the drift from his subsequent writing on....  everything, really, but especially The Birthday Party and the marshalling of his personal Dionysian pantheon that enshrined The Stooges above all....  but others too (the Stones, Suicide, etc) (see closing peroration here). The basic drift: music should not be a vehicle for social comment or critique, for meta-musical positioning. It should be "about" nothing except the ecstasy it grants us -  access to sacred frenzy.
3) this exchange between... well, if you’re reading this, there’s about a 50% chance you're being quoted:

Gus is such a strange reader. but at least he reads.

Why is my reading weird? How do you think other people read

your tendency is to rush to flatten the particular into the general, the concrete into the abstract, and thereby extract your 'themes.'
it reminds me of meeting a cousin of mine who's a writer in new york and she said to me
(i can't remember the exact words) "my work is about memory and loss"
i didn't say anything obviously but in my head i was thinking wtf

that's true, I do flatten the particular into the general
always searching for tendrils of text that elaborate the vines of my themes

 4) ted gioia identifies a split in early christian traditions:

“In the Epistle to the Ephensians, Paul urges believers to abandon drunkenness and instead turn to “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” The mention of music as an alternative to intoxication suggests that the early Christians well understood the ecstatic properties of song, its ability to induce trance and altered states of consciousness. Paul refers to music again in the Epistle to the Colossians, but here focuses on its use as a pedagogical tool: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” But these are two very different views of music–songs as a pathway into euphoric trance and as a source of teachable moments–and often in conflict with one another.” 

5) even before i'd read "against interpretation", the first place i saw this staked out (and felt the immediate catharsis that comes when something you didn't have words for is identified, brought into the open) was in the following exchange on /mu/ in 2016: 


the types of identity politics that are the academic and journalistic status quo - the easy topics to go with because they're completely institutionalized and mapped out - were the fresh new position and subject matter during post-punk, and then again during the 90s some through early alternative. at this point they're so easy to adopt that the 'artists' informed by that now are pop artists... Beyonce, Taylor, Meghann Traynor. It's not ahead of the curve to be hammering on about race/class/gender/sex. And the most interesting stuff hasn't been about that now for at last 10 or so years. But journalists have a problem with that because they're humanities majors and as such have absorbed politicized critique tools and don't know how to receive art that isn't based in praxis or a certain kind of 'critique' in some way vis-a-vis the patriarchy or capitalism or whatever. but actually, in the history of art, a majority of stuff is not actually operating in that way.

I think it's lazy to even to to group things here, most stuff mentioned doesn't have much to do with each other, but there definitely isn't some political motivation. you can try to do a political 'reading', but you'd be projecting.


the literal text of ferraro and blunt's work is pretty explicitly political/ideological, unless you restrict the concept of political to like, enumerable policy statements. the form of opn and arca's work is arguably so, especially in conjunction with the authors further elaborations.

>absorbed politicized critique tools and don't know how to receive art that isn't based in praxis or a certain kind of 'critique' in some way vis-a-vis the patriarchy or capitalism or whatever. but actually, in the history of art, a majority of stuff is not actually operating in that way.

i'm not sure how you draw the conclusion that the work isn't political from the premise that there have been historically different interpretative methods to discuss art.
does a work need to be political according to an a-temporal standard to be considered political? what would such a standard look like, oh socrates?

>but you'd be projecting.
yeah, and again, no, because of the authors comments outside the text indicate they're intention-- but if they author's dead or whatever, your point is moot-- the text stands aside from intents, and intepretation of the work which best comports with the world as it is is the best reading. my projecting is necessary to the interpretative process.

but please, make a textual argument why the work of opn and arca and blunt and ferraro isn't political/ideological. 


working with current cultural stuffs doesn't mean you're taking a political position or pushing a message. a good example would be Spring Breakers. it's loaded with things that can easily be politically read into - but which reading? you realize one could take any position, and Korine refuses to say what a message would be, and in fact asserts he isn't giving a message, that any significance is kind of a sticky side-effect or by-product. same with this stuff. people can work with the things of their time without taking a critical position. this is where it's really hard for writerly, political people to wrap their heads around it, because a lot of visual and sonic people can work with such stuff in a 'potent' way that doesn't take a position.

and who says people necessarily have to fully agree to the 'death of the author' idea? you could of course find all kinds of possible stuff to find in potent art, but it's inaccurate to then say that the artist was political in intention due to your ascribing such intention after the fact. and sure, you can project, but people can also project nihilistic meanings, sexist meanings, insane meanings, and all of them would be no less true or relevant than yours, if they are in fact genuinely having that significance resonate for them.

if you're going to force a marxist perspective in which it all comes down to a structure which always favors that reading, then of course noone can escape that in your eyes - people could throw anything at a wall and it will always be read in terms of class structures and capitalism or sex and gender. but do keep in mind that people who actually make art are not - individually or amongst themselves - working explicitly in those terms - and it may be that reality can actually be more than just those narrow confines. 


I'm perfectly willing to concede that there are always many parties and forces teaming in the mix whenever anything is made, sure, but just that critiques then really shouldn't feel compelled (or justified) to assume there is some pre-named ideology to discern in there. maybe, and I'd say more accurately, the 'ideology' is usually just the various organisms' and their memetic sympathies' various self-interests to advance themselves or develop. this is not always going to come down to said organisms or groups' having become invested somewhere in a recognizable political agenda (or a noble one) - motivation may come down more to a general fascination/wonder, love of the 'buzz'/dopamine, desire to grow/thrive/learn/procreate, uncontainable impulse, etc.

I mean, political as in there are different parties interacting - sure, but I don't like that word because it always allows very readymade positions, readings, and motivations, and reduces everything to that, when there is just so much more than what the subsequent political agendas start to narrow readings down to.

as a bonus, here's another unrelated(?) /mu/ post about one of the artists discussed above:

the perception shift over Ferraro has been funny to witness though, I was an active participant in the us noise scene 2005-2009 and Ferraro was actually called out numerous times for being a crook - dude was a straight out drug addict and burned numerous people, sure there are some archived threads from the old days of iheartnoise/chondriticsound. Always enjoyed his output with Spencer Clark but it was not conceptual or coming from the same place OPN is, was two straight out junkies releasing a constant stream of noise.

was hysterical to me to see the highbrow critique of far side virtual, acting as if the album was this social/political statement when I know based on my interactions with the dude his approach to music couldn't be more far from that.

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