[-empyre-] empyre Digest, Vol 115, Issue 18

roger malina rmalina at alum.mit.edu
Sun Jun 22 01:19:03 EST 2014


i just want to pick up on the anthropomorphism vs anthropocentric discussion
and inject a variant  that one might call  'fine tuning' ( in my
discussions of art science
I have sometimes talked about 'making science intimate")

As an astronomer my first interest is of course electromagnetic
radiation because
it is one of the sources of energy that travels long distances in
space - and as astronomers
have studied various wavelengths of light they have uncovered parts of
the universe that we
didnt know existed before

the radio telescope is an obvious example and its whole reframing of
cosmological questions
once the relic radiation was detected and studied

as astronomers have expanded their receptivity, they have relied on
two unreasonably
effective approaches

a) the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics ( famous text by
eugene wigner) which
has been a surprisingly useful way of making sense of patterns in the
universe ( theories
of gravity, of electromagnetism etc)

the usual claim is that mathematics is a tool that is independent of
the human cognitive
apparatus ( the prime numbers are prime everywhere in the universe)
but in philosophy
of mathematics there are interesting nuances of this since progress in
discovery is very anthrocentic and dependent on the nature and
specificities of human cognition )

b) the unreasonable effectiveness of instruments - the plain fact is
that there are so many
things that are un knowable until the right instrument has been
designed - and this is
very anthropocentric because we have to 'fine tune' instruments as
interfaces between
human perception and the world of phenomena in general

one of the things that enthused me about doug kahn's book Earth Sound
Earth Signal:
Energies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts was this sense of an
alternative history of
this fine tuning- and clearly this cultural process with sound is both
and anthropocentric- and involve both making sense and making meaning

finally let me just mention that one of the projects in our new
artscilab at ut dallas
in collaboration with scot gresham lancaster,tim perkis and andrew blanton is
development of what one might call 'multi modal' representation of
scientific data-
in the first case we are working on brain connectome data and creating
multimodal representations that include both visualisation and
sonification- the fine
tuning process is double - first we are using data from instruments
(fMRI) that allow
one to detect features of mental activity - i do believe that the
things that are observed
exist independent of the instrument and the human observer- but the
data is converted
into forms that human perception can accept- then the second fine
tuning is the software
for the visualisation and sonfification- and this involves both
anhtropocentric and anthropomorphic
aspects because inevitably our interpretation of images and sounds is
culturally loaded
and in fact one exploits this very natural 'self-referencing' to
detect interesting or meaningful
aspects of the data

so i am

> Today's Topics:
>    1. Re: Thursday, 19th: Hearing and Listening (Seth Kim-Cohen)
>    2. Re: Thursday, 19th: Hearing and Listening (Christoph Cox)
>    3. Re: Thursday, 19th: Hearing and Listening (Jim Drobnick)
>    4. Re: Thursday, 19th: Hearing and Listening (D Ryan)
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Message: 1
> Date: Fri, 20 Jun 2014 13:47:37 -0400
> From: Seth Kim-Cohen <seth at kim-cohen.com>
> To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] Thursday, 19th: Hearing and Listening
> Message-ID: <A76AFF51-0C68-4342-A627-5A0115BC5AC0 at kim-cohen.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="windows-1252"
> Over the past 8 or 9 years, Christoph and I have been back and forth from the eastern to western borders of this territory. And yet I feel there are stones still to be overturned. To wit:
> When Christoph writes, "human processes of perceiving and knowing are simply variants of the processes [...] through which the entire world [...] operates," it is precisely the crucial importance of the "variants" that I want (need?) to account for. I don't take issue with the claim that all the universe is energy in various forms. As one of those forms, I am availed of a certain set of capacities, and a complementary set of  incapacities. I have no choice but to do my best within this set of abilities and disabilities. On the one hand, I want desperately to understand and to value the modalities of other forms of energy. On the other hand, I feel that it's presumptuous to think I can truly accomplish this understanding and valuing. I'm left with what the philosophers call an aporia, what Joseph Heller called a Catch-22, what my Uncle Morty would call a pickle: damned if I privilege my forms of perceiving and knowing, damned if I don't.
> As a way out (or simply as cover), I'm sympathetic to Timothy Morton's distinction between anthropomorphism and anthropocentricism. What we call "sound" is, of course, a product of a particular filtering of the spectrum of wavelengths traversing the universe. This filtering is produced by the sized, shapes, and specific apparatus of our bodies. At the same time, it is produced by cultural, historical, categorical, and linguistic convention. Sound, therefore, is doubly anthropomorphized: by human anatomy and by human practices. There's no other way to carve "sound" out of the broader spectrum of universal vibration. To acknowledge this, however, is not, in Morton's view, to necessarily privilege the particular carving-out that sound is. In other words: anthropomorphism does not equal anthropocentricism.
> Why can't we accept our anthropomorphized and anthropomorphizing position without succumbing or surrendering to an anthropocentric privileging of the human (all too human)?
> All my best
> Seth
> ________________
> www.kim-cohen.com
> On Jun 20, 2014, at 9:03 AM, Christoph Cox wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> One last comment on this general epistemological and metaphysical issue which, while not about sound per se, bears on methodologies of sonic inquiry:
> The (non-human) world is not an "other" from which we are somehow cut off. Human beings are OF the world, not ABOVE it or BESIDE it. And human processes of perceiving and knowing are simply variants of the processes of selection, incorporation, assimilation, etc. through which the entire world (inorganic, organic, animal, human . . .) operates. Pace Salome, it is precisely "exoticist" to think otherwise: to think that the non-human world is a mysterious and ineffable something that, despite our efforts, forever eludes us. And it is precisely "anthropocentric" and "narcissistic" to endorse a species solipsism that locks us in our own epistemological bubble. We can know the world because we are not other than it, because we are continuous with it.
> Nietzsche proposed a middle position between Salome's and mine. He agrees with Salome that knowledge is a "will to power," a will to capture the not-human and transform it into the human. But he strongly qualified this claim with a metaphysical monism that utterly rejected species solipsism. Knowing may be a will to power; but so is the entire inorganic and organic world. As he famously put it: "The world is will to power and nothing besides; and you yourselves are also this will to power and nothing besides."
> On 6/20/14, 5:32 AM, Salom? Voegelin wrote:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> Chris, in relation to the dumb world: absolutely of course I would never suggest that the world is a dumb vessel we sit within. However, the answer to humanism and idealism that sets itself above this world and its things, is not to pretend we can know what the "other" in this case nature, the chair, the bird, etc. is thinking and know its agency, that would be just another exoticism and thus just as colonial and humanist as the 19th Century admiration and collecting of plants and butterflies. In fact to deny the factors and consequences of human agency, and the quite unique blame and responsibility that at least ecologically speaking we have to level at ourselves, through the slight of hand of a theoretical equivalence with nature and things, seems an enormously anthropocentric and idealist move if not down right narcissistic.
>> Therefor, to get back to listening, what interests me is the philosophical, musical, artistic as well as theological biases that are involved in this mode of engagement with the world and in what why sound art negotiates, critiques, augments and challenges, reaffirms or indeed ignores such biases and legacies. Not to pretend that I listen to the inanimate, dumb sound work, sound world, but because I am humbly aware of the fact that I am me and not that chair, and I will never become that chair, but understanding my modes of engagement with it I can come to appreciate its autonomy and complexity without subsuming it into an equivalence that is powered by my agency: creating an ?ber-human post-humanism.
>> On Jun 20, 2014, at 4:11 AM, Christoph Cox <ccox at hampshire.edu> wrote:
>>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>> Rule and Levine's analysis of "International Art English" was brilliant and hilarious (AND, it should be mentioned, a project of Triple Canopy, one of the key purveyors of contemporary art     discourse, or IAE, I suppose). It's also certainly worth doing anthropological/cultural anthropological analyses of cultural discourses.
>>> But roundly condemning any conceptual or technical discourse about art is, I think, simply anti-intellectual. There are certainly bad and obfuscating writers of art discourse but also brilliantly illuminating ones. Of course, that's true in any field. Why should we expect (or want) art (or humanistic) discourse to be more "jargon-free" than any other discourse? Should we equally condemn hepatologists or quantum physicists or epistemologists for having peculiar insider discourses? That would be dumb, I think.
>>> Salome remarks: "I do not think sound is necessarily political, and a vista is not per se political either, but listening and looking are. Sound is sound and a chair is a chair, but how I look at it or listen to it is political." I understand what she means, of course. But I think we need to be wary of that sort of distinction, as though the world is inert and meaningless until we impose meaning and value on it. Again, this sort of world/human, fact/value distinction easily slides into idealism and a theological inflation of the human. The world is vast array of forces, human and non-human, that impose themselves on us and vice versa, and that, each in their own way, are selective, evaluative, etc. It's not some dumb thing waiting for me to make (or not make) meaning and politics out of it.
>>> On 6/19/14, 12:06 PM, Semitransgenic wrote:
>>>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>>> Hi Seth,
>>>> not sure I can agree with this : ) "The fatigue with the language of conceptual art expressed by Semitransgenic strikes me as a response to the very difficult and neverending work of resisting the dominant vocabularies of our times and places" and actually, the very sentence "a response to the very difficult and neverending work of resisting the dominant vocabularies of our times and places" is artspeak ; )
>>>> Unfortunately, like it or not, within the "art-world" IAE is a dominant vocabulary, it really has gone beyond a joke at this point.
>>>>  So:  "Will the hegemony of IAE, to use a very IAE term, ever end? Rule and Levine think it soon might. Now that competence in IAE is almost a given for art professionals, its allure as an exclusive private language is fading. When IAE goes out of fashion, they write, 'We probably shouldn't expect that the globalised art world's language will become ... inclusive. More likely, the elite of that world will opt for something like conventional highbrow English.'"
>>>> On 19 June 2014 15:27, Seth Kim-Cohen <seth at kim-cohen.com> wrote:
>>>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>>> Hello All
>>>> Nice to be with you and thanks, Jim, for the invitation to participate.
>>>> Art that engages sound is not a special case. The same obligations obtain, and the same privileges too. The fetishization of audio technology hearkens back to half-century-old discussions of the "material support" of visual artworks. Why should we care if the painting is on canvas or linen? Likewise, should we know or want to know if it's Supercollider or Max or a CD? Similarly, why is listening isolated, idealized, and idolized? Ultimately, the interactions that sustain interest and importance are not those between sound waves and eardrums, but between ideologies and economies, between societies and subjects, between history and concentrations of power.
>>>> The fatigue with the language of conceptual art expressed by Semitransgenic strikes me as a response to the very difficult and neverending work of resisting the dominant vocabularies of our times and places. Such vocabularies are so pervasive as to operate transparently and to be adopted unproblematically as natural. The best "international art-speak" of the past fifty years has taken it upon itself to sprinkle sand in the gears of the cultural-industrial machinery. Of course, the machinery constantly recoups this sand as raw material for further manufacture. This recuperation produces both our collective fatigue and the demand for further "innovation" (I use the term cautiously) in the strategies and modes of alternative meaning-making.
>>>> I fear - genuinely, I do - that our collective recourse to technology, to listening, to mute materiality, is a signal of retreat from the ubiquity of cultural-ecnomic hegemony. Sound schmound. Let's think about the relationships artworks create between audiences, institutions, conventions, ideas, and philosophies. Then we're on to something.
>>>> Kindest regards to you all
>>>> Seth
>>>> ________________
>>>> www.kim-cohen.com

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