Thoughts on GREY X, Part 2

by Brantly Martin

9 July 2014

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Look out honey, ’cause I’m using technology
Ain’t got time to make no apology
-Iggy Pop, “Search and Destroy”


Mexico versus Holland ended without much satisfaction for a futbol tourist such as myself. Mexico lost 2 – 1. A last minute “touch foul” (you’re right: I don’t get it) played an oversized role.
      Rougher still was the misdirection introduced in plain sight: the TV timeout. Neither FIFA nor the television announcers (at least the English language ones) refer to these breaks—dictated by a temperature/humidity combo—as a “TV timeout.” No no, they are “cooling breaks” done for the players’ health. (Paternalism of the Lefty variety always feels worse…even in futbol.) I can hear the protestations: Americanization! Capitalism! Though true, I want to say: Just wait dude, this is nothing

A possible Near Future: Beyonce/Shakira/Sting/[World Music Sandman] performing the FIFA-commissioned “Water Song” (Get on that Evian / So you can carry on or Ding ding ding / Time for Poland Springs) during the “cooling break.” Another might be a Spotify-style commercial “opt-out,” where—for a small fee—instead of receiving another audio/visual beer-fast-food-penis-pill-hypnotization-attempt (drug note: The USA and New Zealand are the only “developed” nations that allow mass market direct-to-user advertising of pharmaceuticals. So the next time you feel bad about the unrealistic body image expectations heaped on teenage girls, take a moment for the social security set. Although AARP members are Coldplay’s natural audience, wasn’t A Rush of Blood to the Head a bit specific?) one could have options: sideline coach interviews, drunk fan pontifications, locally sourced brothel webcam, music playlist queued and “auto-matched” to highlights from your team. In my thoughts on the Donald Sterling fiasco I imagined a technology called Bthere—but that would only be for the super rich. But Brantly, what is a new technology for the super rich if not a future technology “for the people” if not a soon-to-be-passé technology for the super rich in search of a new technology/mating-toy? Fair enough. By that logic the next “leap” after Bthere would be something that in 2014 would have to be described as out-and-out Possession of the Catholic variety. Or as Arthur C. Clarke had it: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Like many leaps, this technology would venture from observation to participation. You could be the player for a fee. It could start off with one possessor per player per team per game. Cost: $5 million. Adjusted for inflation, that’s about what various dictators (many of whom are recently deceased) paid for a shorter-than-an-NBA-game private performance from a pop star. The company would be called, of course, Possession. This being 50 – 100 years from now, Possession would advertise through “unobtrusive neuro-waves” to those “privileged-percenters” able to drop five mil to Possess. Their neuro-wave adggestion: “Are you ready for your possession session?” More on that later.

We featured two artists in GREY X: William Eggleston and Marcel Dzama. We were fortunate to have Anthony Haden-Guest write about Eggleston. He painted a bathed-in-verisimilitude portrait of the man. My favorite pull-out: “Indeed Eggleston’s combination of occasionally outré behavior—hard drinking once reputedly included—and an inwardness, his rejection of the comfortable rituals of big city social life can bring to mind another huge, eccentric talent who came from money, William Burroughs.” With that, whatever else is going on with Eggleston—technique, subject matter—I leave to someone else. The context of the Burroughs comparison can’t help but bring to mind the current crop of trust-fund kids (who for the most part are no longer kids) that have increasingly littered New York during my fifteen-year tenure. For all the faults of the old guard Southern WASP (I consider Burroughs’ St. Louis Southern: with its historic divisions, music icons—Chuck Berry, Miles Davis—and relationship to The Mississippi River, it’s Southern in many of the same ways that Eggleston’s Memphis was/is) there was something in his/her eccentric variant that steered the sense of entitlement toward ruffian adventure. (If Zelda Sayre from Montgomery, Alabama had been socially free to pursue a life free of marriage imagine the books!) Contrast that with the Camusian New York infestation of moneyed Euros and South Americans—increasingly prefaced with a tacit: “the son/daughter of ______”—whose adventure-seeking compass seems to waver seasonally on where one can be seen buying champagne and where one can be seen spraying champagne. (And even more adventurous! if somehow involving ART.)
     His comparison to another writer—“At once old world and avant-garde, given to Savile Row tailoring—is this a Southern trait? I give you Tom Wolfe”—brings The Painted Word to mind. And, for that matter, its update: the art world shenanigans in Wolfe’s Back to Blood. Setting aside the combative taste (if still “acquired” it’s often in increments of measured-then-accepted-and-repeated-as-one’s-own propaganda) I suppose lifestyle choice in pursuit of one’s art, if one indeed has that choice à la Eggleston and Burroughs, might present a safely distanced vista for common admiration. If given the life choice of a familial-silver-lined-parachute-equipped Bandito or an NYC golden point-of-entry ticket into a false economy of propulsion based solely on insider trading and the I guess no longer un-American thrust of recent blood lines for the purposes of having your likeness distributed digitally, bat-signaling eighteen-to-twenty-year-old sexual collaborators and maintaining a New Colonial Cash Cow that takes great care never to venture into the “empirical arts”—heart surgery, the 100 meter dash, realism—I’d like to think I’d have chosen the gold-plated Bandito route. But I’ll never know what it’s like to be a seagull either… 

Since the words art and artist no longer have specific usage and shape-shift to their wielder’s hand much like the words peace, son, bullocks, sticazzi, word, dude, yo and entrepreneur, I’m gag-reflex weary when one refers to oneself as an “artist.” Besides my immediate surmising that this “artist” must have grown up very rich or very poor, or commandeered one of these poles—what middle-class non-French self-taught human being can with a straight face say: “I’m an artist”—I just let it roll away as another word lost to strategizing, like “nonprofit.” 

A word that’s found an opposite destiny—fixed and pejorative—is formulaic. This is funny. What is it these product- and identity-delivery titans think they are doing? Is algorithmic better? Even if one is pushing boundaries in chemistry, architecture, MMA, opera, space exploration, chicken farming, religion, spirituality!, rock or hip-hop aren’t they, almost always, building on old formulas? Sometimes their own? (Jay-Z: take a bow for honesty.) If you spend money based on “Suggested For You” then, yes: You are highly suggestible. (No mirror please.) Even those on a legitimate “spiritual seek” often look to the rigid and routine as preferred wormhole entrance. What’s more formulaic than focus on your breath. 
    So it was with this disposition that I chose to view Marcel Dzama’s work featured in GREY X as ingredients in a yet-to-be-determined (non-pejorative) formulaic future. Let’s place it before the aforementioned Possession technology is mastered and after, say, Alzheimer’s Disease is eradicated. Dzama’s six collages on paper—A worthless king, guards the games; From the veil of the soul; Diese städte nicht hart, es ist huhn or This cities not tough, it’s chicken; Whatever drones may be… that dead men rise up never; Turning terror to a trade; I thought that all things have been savage here—conjure up, for me, the notion, the slight possibility, of a Near Future where “extracted subconscious” is turned into Neuro-Art.
      If stream of consciousness can be turned into connect-the-dots pattern recognition/instruction art who’s to say removal of the “middle man” doesn’t yield “higher art”? An art that is not only “hands free” but “action free” and “effort free” and is as successful as its hive-minded propagandist micro-economists rig it to be. If we can accept Auto-Focus, Photoshop, Spell-Check and “Suggested For You”…
      (And if you think the logical progression of Amazon, or the next Amazon, is anything other than having entire books/movies/music/television series “created to your individual needs”: Just wait dude.)
      I imagine this emerging “experiential art market” for Neuro-Art would go something like this:

Decide Whose Subconscious Is Worthy Of Extraction 
This will, of course, all be nonsense. Politics, nepotism, sexual relations and payola will determine whose subconscious is deemed “worthy” (more easily marketed) of extraction and—just as important—compensation. 

Subconscious Extraction Implications
Virtual Reality and/or 3-D Printing appear to be the most viable candidates for outlet and revenue source. They are both gaining traction in the public imagination and receiving huge cash infusions (guaranteeing a brand of American success—or at least delayed failure). Virtual Reality will allow a user to “Enter the Mind of a Genius” (as the ad will no doubt bill the extracted). 3-D Printing will turn the extracted subconscious (its veracity of derivation besides the point) into code, then—for the right amount of moolah—construct a physical world based on this “genius.”  

In other words: If these six collages from Marcel Dzama were instead “subconscious extractions,” acquired in one possible Near Future by method of neuro-scan to hard drive and awaiting use as either Virtual Reality immersion or 3-D “printout” come to life (Is the crocodile in Dzama’s I thought all things have been savage here real? Put your head in its mouth and find out!) they could be sold in editions of one, two, three…with the owner(s) doling them out as they see fit. Not unlike the Lord of the Manor showing off his private gallery. Is this likely to play out? Probably about as likely as another category 5 hurricane hitting a major American city or the USA winning The World Cup or a real third party entering American politics…
     For those that think skepticism will undo these “action free” Neuro-Art antics before they start, I offer the following prediction: Skeptics won’t become Neuro-Art collectors. And if these realities are only subjective then the barrier to creating demand through American style marketing via well placed Euros will be assuring Neuro-Art Collectors that their current reality is also subjective, only less illuminatingly co-signed. 

more from Brantly Martin

 collage on paper: I thought all things have been savage here by Marcel Dzama

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