[-empyre-] of pain and others

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Mon Oct 29 12:55:49 EST 2012

On Mon, 29 Oct 2012, Jonathan Marshall wrote:

> All i'm trying to do here is suggest that pain, misery depression etc 
> are not the only inexpressable states of being
> My point (and examples) where to suggest that other states also cannot 
> be expressed.
> and while we are at it, lets not forget zen.... which is always 
> precisely about the non-expressable and the hope that the 'art' and 
> practice can induce that realisation of something else.

I don't think this is what Zen is about - think of the Oxherding pictures 
for example. The difference re: pain again, I keep saying this, is not 
whether it's expressible, but when suffering is extreme, it's 
inexpressible in a different way, and again think of slaughter or death 
_from the viewpoint of the dead._ This is the difficulty of the virtual; 
unlike Deena, I see a _lot_ of expressivity of joy, even in Fau's work, 
Second Front's work, Gaz's work, all these people in SL; it can be 

> i did not mean to write 'all'....  so the example does not negate what 
> seems to be to be a trend - when compared to other times and places.
Then let me mention Laurie Anderson, Mariko Mori, all those mentioned in 
SL, I'd include some of Garrett Lynch, a great deal of Stelarc, etc. I 
don't see this as a trend and I know the artworld pretty well. Maybe in 
Australia it's different; I can't speak to that.

> Personally i think that the denigration of the comedic/joyous/ecstatic 
> probably began during the reformation period - let's blame the 
> calvinists :) but others might date it earlier

I give up, Jon; you keep harping on this.

> If i cannot use my own reactions to art to write about those reactions 
> and about art, are those reactions being defined as illegitimate? what 
> else do we generalise from?

We generalize from knowing art and art movements deeply, knowing the 
sociology of art, and then knowing not to generalize from individual 
reactions, but trying to look beyond them; otherwise at least for me, I'd 
fall into a position of connoisseurship, which places everything in terms 
of taste definitely and class somewhat; I'm more interested in looking 
critically at my own reactions and proceeding from there, and from a 
fairly good knowledge of contemporary art and art practices, and from my 
own position having curated a great deal, etc. etc.

> I believe that there were many attempts to ban songs during the arab 
> spring, there were many banned songs during the French Revolution. 
> According to a story I was told once, in the in early stages of the 
> American war of independence whistling 'yankee doodle' was considered 
> insubordination....

But it wasn't banned; I don't know enough about music and the Arab Spring 
or French Revolution, but I do know that in the US songs just aren't 
banned, not even the stuff from MDC, Millions of Dead Cops, for example, 
or gangsta rap, etc. Maybe it's different in Australia again; I can't 
speak to that.

> but the 'song' aspect is more or less irrelevant; the point is that art 
> that depicts the enemy as human, or as worthy of empathy tends to have a 
> difficult official life.

??? What "official life" does art possibly have. Jon, we shouldn't go on 
about this; we live on different planets in terms of art, I think. I just 
don't buy into what you're writing, any more than you buy int what I'm 
saying; we're not even on the same page.

> Again does every song have to be banned before we can talk about the 
> logic of banning art, or of attempts to repress of empathy?

You brought up banning art, not me.

>> Again, I don't understand your aesthetics; I don't know what "the more
>> 'real' the art" means at all, what it means for art to stand on its own,
>> etc. etc.; to quote badly Foucault, art is a discursive formation.
> I'm not so sure i would reduce all art in that kind of way.
It's not reductive; it simply says that art is a confluence of works, 
discussions, conversations, art bars, galleries, museums, idiolects, etc. 
etc., everything, that it's a discourse, that it doesn't exist in a 
vacuum, that art doesn't stand on its own, but it's culturally embedded.

> Or insist on people having a aesthetic theory to be able to talk about 
> art (that is really making art a discursive formation!)

That's not what "discursive formation" means I think.

> After all the conversation then becomes fruitless - to make pain more of 
> a problem for art because it is inexpressible is a discurisive 
> formation, indeed it could be simply to say that we cannot deal with 
> pain, and pain only, within a particular discursive formation, and then 
> universalise it and valorise it to make it a 'fact of life'.

I don't understand this, apologies -

> For me, if (for someone or other) art is does not make something 'real' 
> in any way at all (perhaps fictively-imaginally as i have been saying), 
> or if it does not open something, or convey something, then it is a bit 
> pointless.

Ok, then my art is pointless; it's not about that atall.

> It is because it does have 'power' that it becomes taken as art - within 
> the language game that states that something is art, as opposed to 
> politics etc.

I don't know what "power" means here.

> I'm not sure though that we are writing a conversation? it seems to me 
> that there is largely mis-takes all the way through. gliding past one 
> another - but that is also pain of living online to return to one theme

I think it's not mis-takes; I think we see so deeply otherwise about art 
that it's pointless to go on. I've written a lot of art criticism, taught 
it and lectured on it, and through all of this have worked out my (anti- 
perhaps) positions, through a great deal of work. I don't buy into your 
discourse and get exasperated unfortunately, because I don't understand it 
very well, and what I do understand, I don't agree with, which may be my 

Let's just agree to disagree; this is seriously going nowhere. I'm really 
sorry; I'm just on the other side of the fence on this - it may be I'm too 
familiar with "american" or "continental" aesthetics, I don't know. But I 
do want to give up; I think the american artworld may be entirely 
different, and it's something i'm very familiar with; I don't know that 
much about Australian contemporary art, other than, say, Juan Davila (who 
would actually be relevant to this month's discussion).

- Alan, apologies -

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