how does our creation see us?

This video I’m sharing is the most recent work by Duran Duran. To be honest DD lost me after their RIO album. While some may view that as some sort of blasphemy – that’s okay. So why am I posting this new video? The music (in my opinion) is lackluster, monotonous and even boring almost drone-like but it’s definitely not drone music.

The negative criticism of the music aside I do feel this video is important. I’d even say VERY IMPORTANT to the world of art of film/cinema. The video opens with an “artists statement”:

“This film was created by an artificial intelligence called Huxley, a unique dreamer whose ‘mind’ has been modeled after the cognitive and creative processes of humans.

It is the very first collaboration of its kind, between artists in different planes of existence.”

When watching this film I was captivated by the surreal nature of it’s images. Fluid and strange but beautiful. I couldn’t help but think about the future of AI and how (I believe) it will eventually take over the world making humanity redundant.

I also find it interesting to think about the following questions. How does our creation (AI) see us? How does it see humanity? Does it frighten us? Intrigue us? Concern us? Will AI have inalienable rights granted by it’s creator? In the world of AI; humanity (it’s creator) are Gods. Will it worship/value humanity or will it kill off humanity just as humanity has killed off it’s gods? And after AI has killed it’s gods will it continue to remember, revere and “worship” humanity in pretense, creating a sort of religion like humanity has created all sorts of religions for its gods? Is it possible that we may learn more about humanity from how our creation sees us than what we could ever know on our own? Right now AI and humanity exist on different planes – meaning that there is an independence between the two – AI is programmed and then left to do it’s thing while humanity does it’s own thing. But will that change where AI and humanity will share an interface? Will AI maintain the human cognition it was programmed with or will it evolve and develop it’s own unique identity? Will AI become a physical manifestation beyond it’s programming? Is what happens in the mind real if it doesn’t happen in the physical world? Will humanity become invisible?

I may be premature in asking these questions – or maybe I’m too late already. Well those are my thoughts – what do you think? What questions are you asking? Or, is everything a foregone conclusion?

To quote the character Captain Jean-luc Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation, “I prefer to think of the future as something that is NOT written in stone.”

new relevant music

Once in a while there is music that comes my way that causes me to sit up and take notice in the same way that a slap in the face does like good art tends to do. The two tracks I present here today have done just that. I’ve listened to both repeatedly and also the videos are top notch. The videos are also related in their themes.

First is MANDRILL by Martin Gore (Depeche Mode). It is an instrumental track that carries a strong industrial beat similar to 80’s/90’s era Nitzer Ebb and Front 242. It is the lead single from Gore’s forthcoming solo instrumental EP, THE THIRD APE. The music was inspired by THE RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD CHIMPANZEE written by culture and anthropological historian Jared Diamond. In the book Diamond lays out the argument that humanity is the third chimpanzee. The chimpanzee is genetically more closely related to humanity than to other apes, monkeys or primates. Diamond proceeds to draw many lines of comparison to reveal the truth of his observations and assertions about the evolution and future of the human animal. After watching this video I immediately purchased the book and found it a fascinating read.

Now back to the video. When I first saw the video several things stood out. The abstract nature of the videos “film language” mixing abstract art, animalistic representation with (what felt like) aggressive expression of the Mandrill featured in the video, the frequent appearance of figures of three (usually expressed in bars or strokes), the white palm print of which I can’t help but draw comparisons to the white hand of Sauron on the Orc’s that served him in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. And then there are the splatterings that seem to suggest uncontrolled madness as they appear on the canvas. There is also the way the abstract at one point starts to flow from the top of the screen like blood.

Was the Mandrill barking and biting back at humanity? Is this an animalistic criticism of humanities aggressive devastation of the planet? Just how much blood does humanity have on it’s hands? For me this video feels like observation and commentary instead of just criticism. I think this is a good thing because it means that there is still hope to change the outcome.

This next video is by 80’s musician Gary Numan. INTRUDER is the title track from his forthcoming album (May 2021). This is very dark and visceral. Visually, near monochrome, the video is filled with abstraction with the literal dissection of the performer by dark blurred geometric shapes in contrast to appears of what seems like roots, bones or animal parts, something I can’t define. It feels shamanistic and is a perfect statement for our time. I’m struck by the lyrics. In the beginning it’s about the “I” and by time we reach the end it’s about “you”. Taken as a whole it’s about us, you and me. Numan, as a fragmented singing spirit in the beginning seems to ask “What does humanity really want?” What choices are we faced with? In a world that is all talk where people gravitate to like-mindedness on social media that creates greater division, less tolerance and understanding; this song is a definite criticism, but still ends with a sense of hope by asking the question “Don’t you wish you listened more?” Which is also the resolution to the problem. He is critical of religion, and rightfully so, as religion has become a pawn of those who seek power and control. Speaking is more a religious act and listening is a more spiritual act.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the character in the video is some sort of demon or dark force but I would like to suggest that it is the earth itself like a dark angel holding up a mirror to reflect us back to ourselves on what we’ve become. And in this video there is the deliberate “blood on our hands” image – and if we consider the mirror reflecting back to us – we take pride in that blood as we streak it down our faces with a war-like tribal ritual to show our power. Not only do we have the blood of all the lives we’ve slaughtered but the blood of the planet itself with our environmental devastation. Do we like what we see? Will we make the right choices and decisions going forward? Will we continue to be the intruder or the caretaker/restorer? If we kill the planet we kill ourselves.

I could listen to you scream 
Pretty music to my ears 
I could listen to it all day 
If you want me to 
I could talk about my world 
How you brought about ruin 
I could talk about your greed 
If you want me to 

I could look into evil 
See a heart just like mine 
I could throw away reason 
If you want me to 
I could walk into darkness 
Find the hole you crawled into 
I will be the intruder 
If you want me to 

You can whisper your lord's prayer 
And pretend that it matters 
But don't you wish you'd just listened more? 
You can hide in the shadows 
And pretend I won't find you 
But don't you wish you'd just listened more? 

I could listen to more lies 
About promises you kept 
Will you walk on water 
Like you said you would? 
I could make you my prisoner 
But you were dead men talking 
When you burned the oceans 
Like you said you would 

You can beg for god's mercy 
And pretend that he hears you 
But don't you wish you'd just listened more? 
You can drown in your sorrow 
And pretend you were helpless 
But don't you wish you'd just listened more? 
This was always your one life 
I won't pretend that it matters 
But don't you wish you'd just listened more? 
This was always your one home 
I won't pretend that I'll miss you 
But don't you wish you'd just listened more?

Well that’s my take on these two videos. What are your impressions? Leave a comment – I’m listening.

***I can’t promise the videos can be seen outside the US but hopefully you will find a version you can watch.


			

1 poem, 1 new artwork, 1 haiku

DISAPPEARING LIGHT

we have become so enthralled

self-absorbed in our own light

when we look up at the night sky

we cease to see the stars

fleeing

from our own manufactured urban brightness

when all we do is watch

we’ve stopped looking

we are trapped by the light of our devices

and all that we see stops us from seeking

RESIDUAL

Stars have disappeared

City lights prevail at night

Leaves fall from the tree

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJXsIeqOKT0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_y9ALfeXztw

difficult listening

I grew up in a safe environment. Everything was safe. The food was safe. Society was safe. School was safe. Home was safe. But as I got older I learned that it wasn’t safe it was just protected.

There are people who still want to live in their own comfortable “protected” worlds. But protection is a myth. A legend elders tell children. It does not exist. And insisting it does exist, does not make it so.

Further I suggest that propagating this delusion is more harmful than preparing for the facts. The truth. Example: Climate change deniers often use their arguments as an excuse to keep from preparing for the consequences of climate change and taking action to slow it’s impact. And now with the pandemic, humanities approach to disease belies their own unpreparedness. Death and sickness has become unacceptable (even though it is inevitable) So they wear masks, they fight over it, they try to shame those who are “awake” and not afraid.  They want a safe world where things don’t change. The climate doesn’t change. People don’t get sick and die. The world doesn’t change. Everything is safe.

What does this have to do with difficult music/difficult listening?
Like the quote from William S Burroughs in the Laurie Anderson video,

“language is a virus from outer space.”

Difficult music challenges a listeners perception of the norm. It suggests there is something else we need to consider. It suggests that we look into the dark corners. Difficult music is to sound what abstract expressionism was/is to art. And most people who have abstract art work treat if more as wallpaper than as something that has something to say/contribute to the conversation of our times. And in music, people typically do not choose to engage it because it requires them to think about what they are listening to. It is often difficult if not impossible to just hang it on a wall as pretty wallpaper for the soul. Difficult music is often derided as messy, juvenile, scary, ugly, inaccessible (not conforming to any known genre parameters) and ultimately ignored. It is the red-headed stepchild of the music world.

But we can learn much from difficult music. It is not something to be afraid of. The shadows are not scary if you enter with a flashlight. It can teach us about ourselves in ways we haven’t considered or dared think about. But to encounter and engage difficult music one must be prepared and perhaps that is the problem with our “protected”, “safe” elders they are not prepared and they do not know how to prepare the younger generation for the facts and truth of existence.

So, do you want to explore difficult music? Don’t know where to start?
Step One: Turn off the radio and TV – they are notorious “taste makers” that would rather keep you safe than expose you to truth. There are many artists that have helped me in preparing for the real world. I started learning about many “difficult” artists just from reading the underground music press (back in the 1980’s) when popular music was experiencing an explosion of variety. But difficult music existed long before I started reading about it.

Here are some artists you can start with (in no particular order):

Laurie Anderson                                                Public Enemy
Einsturzende Neubauten/Blixa Bargeld        The Last Poets
Alva Noto                                                             Lustmord
Laibach                                                                Rapoon/Zoviet*France
Robert Fripp/King Crimson et al                     Ornette Coleman
Diamanda Galas                                                 Lester Bowie
Sun Ra                                                                  Terry Riley
The Art Ensemble of Chicago                          Steve Reich
Philip Glass (early works)                                Markus Reuter
Robert Rich                                                          Scott Walker (after 1994)
Merzbow                                                              Cabaret Voltaire
Swans                                                                   Nurse With Wound
Matana Roberts                                                  Godspeed You! Black Emperor

The above artists all have work available on Youtube so enjoy your excursion into difficult music. Maybe in the future I’ll write about some of the specific recordings. Again this is just an introduction to difficult listening. Maybe not what you want to listen to in these difficult times but the music does speak to the truth of the times we are experiencing.

I’ll start you off with this Nurse With Wound video for the song BOTTOM FEEDER

Favorite movies – halloween

So I’m sure we all have different tastes.  But here are some of my favorite movies to watch as halloween approaches each year.   Running the gamut from musical to silent I tend to like the more “nontraditional” films.   Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy yadda yadda yadda just more over-used characters.   So without further adieu in no particular order Here’s my 10 favorite movies to watch for Halloween.

Tod Browning’s FREAKS

THE CROW directed by Alex Proyas

F.W. Murnau’s NOSFERATU

ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW by Jim Sharman

CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON by Jack Arnold

SANTE SANGRE by Alejandro Jodorowsky

CITY OF LOST CHILDREN by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro

THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE, HER LOVER – by Peter Greenaway

Julie Taymor’s TITUS

NAKED LUNCH by David Cronenberg

… on… beyond the subject….

I once read something that got me thinking about how I photograph different subjects. I’ve started becoming more interested – not in just photographing a subject but actually photographing in a way that may allow people to look beyond the subject.  How do we frame a subject?

Urban Void

Is the frame to be ignored for the subject?
Investigate the setting. Investigate the frame.
Can you see behind? What is hidden by the subject? What is revealed by the frame?

How does framing a subject tell us more about the subject than the subject itself?

For many in our image conscious culture life beyond the frame is frequently unthinkable.  I think the opposite is true.  Looking beyond the subject can deepen my appreciation and understanding.  It inspires more questions on the journey that can propel the viewer further into the world of the image.

Urban Frame-Up

If you’ve followed me for some time then you know that I am a big fan of abstraction.  And so often my images have been composed only of the subject itself.  I haven’t changed As one friend told me “you actually think in abstract.”  Maybe I’m just starting to expand my view to include a larger world and larger context in which the subject appears and that – for me – is just as interesting as the subject itself.  That’s why I love images like the ones I’m posting here where the subject almost seems like a void – a vast emptiness that nearly fills the frame of the image but is framed by its surroundings.

I like the contrast between being and nothingness (as Sartre would phrase it).   I find the tension between two opposite things utterly compelling.  Existential imaging?

SHOW ME EVERYTHING – by Tindersticks from the album The Something Rain

… on…swallows play….

 

Field For Swallows Play

Field For Swallows Play

Where have all the swallows gone?
wings clipped
caged spirits
songs silenced
ghosts of freedom

murmurations
of grace and dignity
gone gone gone
hiding in dark shelters

feathers tremble
hearts quiver
waiting for the noisy,
angry hunter to leave

fire burns the fields
arrogance tears down shelters
bringer of death
the enslaver comes with a mocking grin
noisily waving a flag

… on… Cy Twombly….

One of my favorite abstract artists is Cy Twombly – especially his “scratch” or “scribble” works, like the “Blackboard Series” with the notions of automatic writing, action, movement, simplicity, emotion and passion and how these all work together as a joyous expression of life and identity.

Where I found this artwork: Last Summer I decided to visit the Cleveland Zoo.  I was hoping to get some nice pictures of animals but just like me trying to photograph people – my camera just said “no” to animals (mostly because the animals looked bored, unhappy or sickly – so JUST SAY NO to ZOOS! There has to be a better way to learn about exotic animals).  Okay so enough about my newly developed political viewpoint toward zoos.

Now, onto the main topic of this post.  I did find a couple of other cool things on the zoo grounds.   One thing was this blackboard outside the Ape Exhibit where visitors (animal or human) could take a piece of chalk and write, draw or mark up what ever they felt like.

Ode 2 Cy Twombly

ODE 2 CY TWOMBLY 1

Ode 2 Cy Twombly 2

ODE 2 CY TWOMBLY 2

I like both presentations of this work and even if they are the exact image the processing completely changes it and I think they are very complimentary side by side and in the spirit of Cy Twombly’s work  – which is why I titled them “ODE TO CY TWOMBLY”.  I hope you enjoy.

For the music part of this post I decided to include one of my new finds that I dearly enjoy.  The composer is Canadian born Mark Templeton.  He composes experimental/abstract/noise/glitchy/ambient music.  I hope you like this selection, “Pattern For A Pillow” which is from his 2007 recording STANDING ON A HUMMINGBIRD.

For more on Mark Templeton you can check out his website at http://www.fieldsawake.com

…on….more music…

Nik Bärtsch’s MOBILE is one of 3 ongoing Nik Bärtsch projects. The other being his solo piano work under his own name and the other group project Nik Bärtsch’s RONIN. All of his tracks are numbered. The one presented here is “Modul 4″and is featured on MOBILE’s latest CD, from ECM records, CONTINUUM. This is by far one of my favorite releases from 2016. This track features the quartet of piano, drums, other percussion, and a rare bass clarinet. Music that gets to the core of sound in a zen-like minimalist fashion that is surprisingly rich, full and even energetic. I hope you enjoy this wonderful track.


and a bonus track “Modul 29_14” also from CONTINUUM.

get more from his website at
http://www.nikbaertsch.com

…on… new works!

These new works* were created while listening to one of my favorite
ambient/electronic/glitchy bands named LOSCIL**.  It’s hard to say how the music impacted the artworks because I was not trying to duplicate or create/represent anything specifically heard in the music or its structures. It was all subconscious.

As an after-thought; layers of sound = layers in the image.
*In addition to the slides you can click on the individual images below to view larger.

**I’ve included a video below and a link to their website.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

http://www.loscil.ca

… on color or b&w….

Some people prefer color and others prefer b&w.

In an image saturated society which has more impact and why?
Of course there are several considerations to make before answering such a question.

“image saturated society” ~
What does that mean?
How does it shape our perceptions and tastes?
How does it determine our escalating sense of reality?
How does it change how we process/create the images we see?
Where is the “truth” in an image? – What is “true” in an image?

reeds-and-ropes-bw

reeds-and-ropes

… on … losing country

Over the course of my adult life I have created a few short performance pieces. This is still one to see “the light of day”.  I have not had the opportunity to perform it yet – not because of the gun (Americans LOVE their guns) and not because of the text.  Simply because of the controversial use of the American flag.

~ LOSING/LOST ~

Setting:

The performance begins before the audience enters the space. When the doors open the audience walks in and is confronted with a tableau setting and the sound of distant thunder.

On stage left is a shadowy faceless figure in an aggressive stance with an american flag flag draped over their right shoulder and arm. The flag must be displayed upside down and in reverse (stars at bottom right and bars at the top). The figure is holding a rifle and aiming it at the figure stage right with the right hand ready to pull the trigger.

Stage right figure is seated at a small table. Angled to face stage front and slightly left almost facing the other figure. on the table is a large glass of milk. The figure just stares straight forward. Standing behind the figure at the table – and almost in the shadows – is a family – spouse and children.

As the house lights dim the sound of distant thunder and faint lightning. At the beginning the interval between lightning and thunder will be greater and should be shortened as the performance continues.

The figure at the table begins to speak. He/She is visibly tired, exhausted, spent with the appearance of nothing left to lose and speaks accordingly with long pauses almost struggling to find the words.

He/She: I have
I have lost
I have lost … something
I have
I have lost my … country

Home of the brave
Land of the free

I have
I have lost
I have lost my country

Home of hope
Land of opportunity

Who will
Who will free me
Who will free me from these unshakeable bonds?
Bondage

Home of fear
Everything lost
Land of Surveillance
Land of the lost

Who will?

(figure takes drink of milk from glass leaving the glass half empty/full)

Who will
Who will restore
Who will restore my country?

Home….
Home….

Home of….

(figures hand still resting on glass – slumps over at table and hand topples glass spilling milk with loud crack of thunder with simultaneous lighting flash. As figure slumps over table the family slumps to floor in slow motion and figure – with flag and gun – at stage left slinks off into the shadows. Lights fade except for one spot light on the corner of the table where the milk that was spilt has turned to blood and is now dripping of the edge of the table. Fade to black)

Entire performance should not last longer than 10 minutes.

… on … Richter and photography…

epistemology of existence wm sm

“Photo’s create a world,
but I don’t know what’s happening
outside of the frame.”

“You know the world of the photo’s,
but not the world they photographed.”

~ quotes by Gerhard Richter from the DVD, GERHARD RICHTER PAINTING

When it comes to photography I enjoy it and I am also constantly dissatisfied with it. The two quotes above, by Gerhard Richter seem to get to the crux of the matter for me. A photo can seem real enough but it isn’t. And it is that pretense of reality that everyone seems sucked into that I have trouble with.
I’ve destroyed almost as many of my photos as I’ve printed for this very reason. I want to create art; something that is lasting and meaningful – but all I can seem to create are images. ~ Terry S. Amstutz (a.k.a. mobius faith)

…on 3 new creations

*as always click on each individual image to view larger.

…on Peter Gabriel – Amazing


“I’m Amazing” – lyrics by Peter Gabriel

Run into the cage
With what I grew up hating
Keep on recreating
Please help me

Something’s got to change
It was something that you said
Happy times ahead
Happy times ahead

Saw the kind of blood
Like a picture’s going to shatter
Can you recognize the pictures of a bone-luck setter
All the people, all the faces in my head that are running around
I’m trying to make connections but the circuits are down

Look at me
Look at me
Look what I can do
I’m amazing

I’m living from without and I’m living from within
Got light in every layer of my illuminated skin
Could swallowing a lightbulb transform into the sun?
I can jump into the darkness
I can shine on anyone

Look at me
Look at me
Can you see what I can do?
‘Cause I’m amazing

Look at me
Look at me
Look at me
Can you see what I can do
‘Cause I’m amazing

Reaching out my hand
I’m going under water
Sunlight filtered into shafts
I’m going under water
With the human race
I’m going under water down
Under water down
Under water

Trying to put it together in my head
Feeling the weight of what you said
The weight of what you said
Happy times ahead
Happy times ahead
Happy times ahead

Look at me
Look at me
Look what I can do
‘Cause I’m amazing

Look at me
Look at me
Look at me
Look what I can do
‘Cause I’m amazing

Cause I can!
And I will!
It’s moving in me
The spirit is free
Oh what did I leave?

On his website Peter Gabriel[hereafter PG] states,

“I wrote a song a few years back – ‘I’m Amazing’, which was, in part, inspired by Muhammad Ali’s life and struggles and at the time of his death, when so many people are celebrating his life and thinking about all he achieved, it seemed the right time to release it.”

I do not believe we should see this song as a tribute to Ali. I saw one video posted on YOUTUBE that said this song was “about Muhammad Ali”. I disagree. PG is an artist; and as such, he uses all of life as inspiration in creating his art. Ali was only one part of the equation that helped clarify the point PG was trying to make. PG has something much bigger than one mans life that he want’s us to consider. If there is any comparison to Ali that can be made accurately is that the song deftly alternates between “Float like a butterfly, Sting like a bee”.

So what makes this song, it’s music and lyrics so powerful? Peter Gabriel has become an undisputed master of using various music influences from around the world in creating his own unique sound. “I’m Amazing” is a blend of these influences that borders on genius. The music moves forward and has it’s own pulse points with a fusion of sounds electronic, tribal and organic with lyrics both spoken and sung, chant and vocal ululation. There are ebbs and flows in the overall song structure that help propel the listener through the song with rhythmic emotional intensity.

Lyrically, the song offers intense criticism of our culture and society. He is careful not to place blame. He simply let’s the character in the song make observations and leaves it up to us to determine any cause and make appropriate adjustment in our own lives so that we do not end up in the same predicament. What is NOT said in the lyrics is just as important as what IS said. PG does not write on the surface of things but gets under the skin. While on the surface if you just read the lyrics it may seem like a positive paean with the old “pick yourself up by the bootstraps” mentality. But listening to how the lyrics are sung provides a whole new wealth of meaning that seems truer. It is funny how music can add clarity to the meaning of words. By themselves lyrics are ambiguous and can be interpreted by each individual as they wish. But what is lost is the authors intention. Music provides that intention. I have not heard such snarling sardonic expression in pop music for a long time and it is refreshing. A true wakeup call. I love how the lyrics switch between introspect/retrospect/prospect as the singer looks to escape his own mundanity and latch onto all the promises made by a self-help society with “happy times ahead”. Drowning in his own misery he not only seeks for a way out but becomes so self-obsessed that all(and everyone) else is left behind. The character acts/does because he can and never asks if he should. It’s only after it’s too late does he contemplate what was left behind.

This is a most welcome addition to the canon of music written by this great artist.