Archive for the ‘Book-Text-Read-Zines’ Category

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Radical Cities: Across Latin America in Search of a New Architecture

July 13, 2014

What makes the city of the future? How do you heal a divided city?

In Radical Cities, Justin McGuirk travels across Latin America in search of the activist architects, maverick politicians and alternative communities already answering these questions. From Brazil to Venezuela, and from Mexico to Argentina, McGuirk discovers the people and ideas shaping the way cities are evolving.

Ever since the mid twentieth century, when the dream of modernist utopia went to Latin America to die, the continent has been a testing ground for exciting new conceptions of the city. An architect in Chile has designed a form of social housing where only half of the house is built, allowing the owners to adapt the rest; Medellín, formerly the world’s murder capital, has been transformed with innovative public architecture; squatters in Caracas have taken over the forty-five-storey Torre David skyscraper; and Rio is on a mission to incorporate its favelas into the rest of the city.

Here, in the most urbanised continent on the planet, extreme cities have bred extreme conditions, from vast housing estates to sprawling slums. But after decades of social and political failure, a new generation has revitalised architecture and urban design in order to address persistent poverty and inequality. Together, these activists, pragmatists and social idealists are performing bold experiments that the rest of the world may learn from.

Radical Cities is a colorful journey through Latin America—a crucible of architectural and urban innovation.

Text and Image via VERSO Books

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On Cruelty | Judith Butler

July 13, 2014

‘Whence comes this bizarre, bizarre idea,’ Jacques Derrida asks, reading Nietzsche on debt in On the Genealogy of Morals, ‘this ancient, archaic (uralte) idea, this so very deeply rooted, perhaps indestructible idea, of a possible equivalence between injury and pain (Schaden und Schmerz)? Whence comes this strange hypothesis or presumption of an equivalence between two such incommensurable things? What can a wrong and a suffering have in common?’ By way of an answer, he points out that ‘the origin of the legal subject, and notably of penal law, is commercial law; it is the law of commerce, debt, the market, the exchange between things, bodies and monetary signs, with their general equivalent and their surplus value, their interest.’

In the first volume of The Death Penalty, Derrida considers the jus talionis, the principle of equivalence according to which a relation is set up ‘between the crime and the punishment, between the injury and the price to be paid’. Debt, in On the Genealogy of Morals, gives Nietzsche a way of understanding how ‘the “consciousness of guilt”, “bad conscience”’ came into the world. Earlier he laments ‘that whole sombre thing called reflection’, in which the self becomes its own object of relentless scrutiny and self-punishment. If one wants to keep a promise, one must burn memory into the will, submit to – or submit oneself to – a reign of terror in the name of morality, administer pain to oneself in order to ensure one’s continuity and calculability through time. If I am to be moral and keep my promises, I will remember what I promised and remain the same ‘I’ who first uttered that promise, resisting any circumstances that might alter its continuity through time, never dozing when wakefulness is needed. The promise takes on another meaning in Nietzsche when what I have promised is precisely to repay a debt, a promise by which I enter into, and become bound by, a certain kind of contract. What I have apparently burned into the will, or had burned there, is a promise to remember and repay that debt, to realise the promise within a calculable period of time, and so to become a calculable creature. I can be counted on to count the time and count up the money to make the repayment: that accountability is the promise. I can count on myself, and others can count on me. If I prove capable of making a contract, I can receive a loan and be relied on to pay it back with interest, so that the lender can accumulate wealth from my debt in a predictable way. And if I default, the law will intervene to protect his interest in the interest he exacts from me.

Read full text at London Review of Books

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A Critique of Everyday Life

July 1, 2014

Henri Lefebvre’s magnum opus: a monumental exploration of contemporary society.

Critique of Everyday Life Volume One: Introduction. A groundbreaking analysis of the alienating phenomena of daily life under capitalism.

Critique of Everyday Life Volume Two: Foundations for a Sociology of the Everyday. Identifies categories within everyday life, such as the theory of the semantic field and the theory of moments.

Critique of Everyday Life Volume Three: From Modernity to Modernism. Explores the crisis of modernity and the decisive assertion of technological modernism.

Verso Books: Henri Lefebvre’s three-volume Critique of Everyday Life is perhaps the richest, most prescient work by one of the twentieth century’s greatest philosophers. Written at the birth of post-war consumerism, the Critique was a philosophical inspiration for the 1968 student revolution in France and is considered to be the founding text of all that we know as cultural studies, as well as a major influence on the fields of contemporary philosophy, geography, sociology, architecture, political theory and urbanism. A work of enormous range and subtlety, Lefebvre takes as his starting-point and guide the “trivial” details of quotidian experience: an experience colonized by the commodity, shadowed by inauthenticity, yet one which remains the only source of resistance and change.

This is an enduringly radical text, untimely today only in its intransigence and optimism.

Text and Images via Verso Books

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The Sick Rose: Disease and the Art of Medical Illustration

June 23, 2014

The Sick Rose: Disease and the Art of Medical Illustration, by academic medical historian Dr. Richard Barnett.

Publisher Thames and Hudson writes: The Sick Rose is a visual tour through the golden age of medical illustration. The nineteenth century experienced an explosion of epidemics such as cholera and diphtheria, driven by industrialization, urbanization and poor hygiene. In this pre-color-photography era, accurate images were relied upon to teach students and aid diagnosis. The best examples, featured here, are remarkable pieces of art that attempted to elucidate the mysteries of the body, and the successive onset of each affliction. Bizarre and captivating images, including close-up details and revealing cross-sections, make all too clear the fascinations of both doctors and artists of the time. Barnett illuminates the fears and obsessions of a society gripped by disease, yet slowly coming to understand and combat it. The age also saw the acceptance of vaccination and the germ theory, and notable diagrams that transformed public health, such as John Snow’s cholera map and Florence Nightingale’s pioneering histograms, are included and explained. Organized by disease, The Sick Rose ranges from little-known ailments now all but forgotten to the epidemics that shaped the modern age.

Images via The Guardian

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Class in America: The Fault Lines

June 17, 2014

From “trailer trash” to “the one percent,” the language of class tends to evoke divisions both stark and simplistic. It’s easy to discern the outward differences between a single mother living in squalor and a socialite in her Park Avenue penthouse. But the lived experience of class takes place on far more fractured terrain. The way we understand our own class—and determine the class of others—is as much about yesterday’s legacy as today’s money, as much about perception as reality.

In this special issue of Guernica, the second of four made possible through your generous support to our Kickstarter campaign, we offer stories beyond the sleeping beast that is the Occupy Movement. As with our previous theme issues, we hope to start conversations, not end them, exploring how class lives in our minds and manifests in imperceptible and unexpected ways. Class lines are fault lines: politically fraught and personally subjective, actual and imagined.

In this issue:

Features:

Margo Jefferson: Scenes From a Life in Negroland

Luis Alberto Urrea: Ghosts in the Land of Plenty

Rachel Riederer: The Teaching Class

Ann Neumann: How the Other Half Dies

Jessica Pishko: The Price of Freedom

Lauren Quinn: Which Side Are You On, Girl?

Interviews:

Servings of Small Change: Meara Sharma interviews Jane Black and Brent Cunningham

Going Through Customs: Hillary Brenhouse interviews Cristina Ibarra

Talking Clean and Acting Dirty: Katherine Rowland interviews Robert Bullard

Art:

Alex Zafiris: Sight Lines

Fiction:

Tracy O’Neill: Who Can Shave Thirteen Times a Day

Tracey Rose Peyton: More Than This

Poetry:

Abigail Carl-Klassen: Temporary People

Tommy Pico: Thems

Via Guernica. Read this Special Issue HERE

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Inspiration Pad

June 13, 2014

Second edition. 48 pages, dimensions 165 x 210 mm, softcover.
Printed on sustainable paper in Belgium.

Via TMshop

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Comic Book Cartography

June 10, 2014

Comic Book Cartography is a now-dormant blog devoted to maps, charts, diagrams, and other visual explainers of (mostly) fictional worlds found (mostly) in old comic books.

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NASA Has Released A Free eBook About Communicating With Extraterrestrial Intelligence

June 10, 2014

Titled Archaeology, Anthropology and Interstellar Communication and edited by SETI Director of Interstellar Message Composition Douglas Vakoch, the document draws on “issues at the core of contemporary archaeology and anthropology” to prepare us “for contact with an extraterrestrial civilization, should that day ever come.”

“Addressing a field that has been dominated by astronomers, physicists, engineers, and computer scientists, the contributors to this collection raise questions that may have been overlooked by physical scientists about the ease of establishing meaningful communication with an extraterrestrial intelligence. These scholars are grappling with some of the enormous challenges that will face humanity if an information-rich signal emanating from another world is detected.”

Via NASA

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Anthropodermic Bibliopegy: A Book Cover made of Human Skin

June 9, 2014

“While books bound in human skin are now objects of fascination and revulsion, the practice was once somewhat common,” writes Heather Cole, assistant curator of modern books and manuscripts at Harvard’s Houghton Library. “Termed anthropodermic bibliopegy, the binding of books in human skin has occurred at least since the 16th century. The confessions of criminals were occasionally bound in the skin of the convicted, or an individual might request to be memorialized for family or lovers in the form of a book.”

Via The Atlantic. Read Article HERE and HERE

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ARPA: Applied Research Practices in Architecture Journal

May 23, 2014

Architects experiment upon the world. Researchers extend outside the laboratory by co-opting existing structures of influence and crafting new techniques of engagement. Even the effects of proving grounds–from Coney Island to emergency drills–leak beyond their boundaries without any official sanction. Impacts are often unpredictable, but no less powerful. The practice of human subject research has yielded the benefits of the polio vaccine and the horrors of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, reminding us that, as a former director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency once remarked, “When we fail, we fail big.”

‘Test Subjects’ focuses on the contended nature of application in architectural research. How do architects wield influence through research? As we weigh the risks and rewards of aggressive experimentation, how careful do we need to be? How do researchers maintain effects of their work, both intended and unintended? How does the agency of test subjects refigure the role of the expert in research?

ARPA

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Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment

May 16, 2014

The relationship between bodily pleasure, space, and architecture—from one of the twentieth century’s most important urban theorists

Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment, the first publication of Henri Lefebvre’s only book devoted to architecture, redefines architecture as a mode of imagination rather than a specialized process or a collection of monuments. Lefebvre calls for an architecture of jouissance—of pleasure or enjoyment—centered on the body and its rhythms and based on the possibilities of the senses.

Lukasz Stanek’s work has already taken scholarship on Henri Lefebvre’s concept of space to an unprecedented level of philosophical sophistication. With the discovery of the new text, Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment, Stanek escorts Lefebvre to the center of architecture theory since 1968. Lefebvre’s conceptual text and Stanek’s exquisite introduction together enable the possibility of thinking not about architecture, but thinking architecturally about how we inhabit our world. Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment takes us toward a concept of the architectural imagination that is a powerful mediator between thought and action.

—K. Michael Hays, Harvard Graduate School of Design

Text and Image via UPRESS

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The Writing of Stones by Roger Caillois

May 14, 2014

Surrealist and Sociologist Roger Caillois was known for his writings on biomimicry, especially within the insect world, pareidolia and lithic scrying. His latter interest provided us with The Writing of Stones, a book in which he unravels the ‘unfathomable graphic madness’ etched onto the rocks contained within the ‘archives of geology’. Each chapter of the book is dedicated to a species of rock – in each he channels ever increasingly dense, extravagant, and at times morbid tales from the authorless inscriptions each stone contains.

“Life appears: a complex dampness, destined to an intricate future and charged with secret virtues, capable of challenge and creation. A kind of precarious slime, of surface mildew, in which a ferment is already working. A turbulent, spasmodic sap, a presage and expectation of a new way of being, breaking with mineral perpetuity and boldly exchanging it for the doubtful privilege of being able to tremble, decay, and multiply.”

About the book, from the flaps:

The Writing of Stones is a fascinating meditation on the human imagination contemplating the interior of stones. Caillois examines patterns that are revealed by polishing sections of minerals such as agate, jasper, and onyx. He considers the impact these configurations have had upon the human imagination throughout history and he reviews man’s attempt to categorize and explain them.

Marguerite Yourcenar [in her introduction] points out that “there had taken place in [his] intellect the equivalent of the Copernican revolution: man was no longer the center of the universe, except in the sense that the center is everywhere; man, like all the rest, was a cog in the whole system of turning wheels. Quite early on, having entered ‘the forbidden laboratories,’ Caillois applied himself to the study of diagonals which link the species, of the recurrent phenomena that act, so to speak as a matrix of forms.” Caillois found the presence throughout the universe of a sensibility and a consciousness analogous to our own. One way which this consciousness expresses itself is in a “natural fantasy” that is evident in the pictures found in stones. Man’s own aesthetic may then be no more than one of many manifestations of an all-pervasive aesthetic that reveals itself in the natural world.

The Writing of Stones PDF

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Cradle of Civil Disobedience: Gandhi Before India

May 10, 2014

At the end of the 19th century, Mohandas Gandhi was a young lawyer living in Durban, South Africa. He left his house in Beach Grove every morning for an office on Mercury Lane, where he spent much of the day helping his fellow Indian immigrants navigate the onerous colonial bureaucracy. He kept meticulous records, including a logbook of correspondence — from an English missionary and local planters, and a series of letters exchanged with the Protector of Indian Immigrants about the treatment of indentured laborers. In January of 1897, and again a few months later, he heard from another lawyer who was, like him, a Gujarati who had studied in England and then struggled to establish a practice in Bombay. The contents of these letters are unknown. In a remarkable new biography, “Gandhi Before India,” Ramachandra Guha gingerly speculates about what they might have been. Expressions of support for Gandhi’s nascent activism? Or perhaps “explorations of interest in a possible career in South Africa”? Guha wisely stops there. What is not in doubt is the name in Gandhi’s logbook — “M. A. Jinnah,” Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who would become the founder of Pakistan. “All we now know is that, a full 50 years before partition and the independence of India and Pakistan, the respective ‘Fathers’ of those nations were in correspondence.”

Read Full Article at NYT

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Arvo Pärt on the Creative Process. From an interview conducted in November 1978

May 4, 2014

The following interview with Arvo Pärt was conducted at the composer’s home at Mustamäe, November 28, 1978. Filmed by Andres Sööt, the dialogue (at times, Arvo’s wife Eleonora seconds his husband behind the screen) and the rehearsal of the soon-to-be-premiered ‘Italian Concerto’ at the concert hall “Estonia” became the basis for the film-portrait entitled, suitably, “Arvo Pärt in November 1978″. The conversation, which lasted more than an hour (for the transcription of which we thank Jaak Elling), has been edited in order to make it more readable. Text from the actual film is in italics.

In February 1980, Arvo Pärt moved abroad with his family. His music stayed in his homeland as did two films by Andres Sööt about him: “Arvo Pärt in November 1978″ (Eesti Telefilm, 1978) and “Fantasy C-dur” (Eesti Telefilm, 1979), which haven’t been aired since the name and the compositions of Arvo were banned in Estonia.

Ivalo Randalu: I remember when you came [to the conservatory] in 1954 you had lots of blank sheets with you and you began to write a violin concerto. Then you had a very beautiful prelude a la Rachmaninov cis-moll, which you threw away after a year. You always changed, new qualities emerged. It led to your first symphony in your second year at the conservatory. And all those collages at that time. And then you had to turn again. What was it that made you change so much and move on?

Arvo Pärt: I think maybe the ideals that escort and accompany a human being in his life. Or let’s say – teachers, if we can say so. One has several teachers. One teacher can be the present and the people surrounding him – let’s say some school teachers belong there. At some period of time, a human is like inside these conditions and tuned to them. And then suddenly you discover another teacher for yourself – say, the past; great men of the past; all the cultural treasures of the past. It can happen that he becomes blind to all other things and fixes his view on the past only. And this certainly influences a man, gives a new tinge to his actions. Plus, there maybe exists the greatest teacher of all, I mean, the future – or let’s say, conscience. View yourself – what you’d really like to be. What you aren’t, but how you’d like to see yourself. We can say, it’s like a future we want to arrive at. Is that clear enough? Like an animal or, say, a little child chooses food.

Read fully HERE

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Everything is Leaf: In The Metamorphosis of Plants, Goethe turned to botany — because sometimes, poetry isn’t enough.

April 30, 2014

Found among the notes of the poet Johann Wolfgang Goethe is a stupendous claim: Everything is leaf. This is a statement that seems too beautiful to be science. Goethe came to this idea on a trip to Italy in the late 1700s. The more Goethe looked at plants, and lived and breathed with plants, the more profoundly he felt poetry’s limits. He turned to botany and began publishing scientific works. He created his own study of seeing, which he called “morphology.” In this, Goethe’s love of plants followed the same path that all lasting love must take. Goethe wanted to know plants from their most essential beginnings, wanted to touch their seeds, follow their cycles. He couldn’t be satisfied just wandering around parks, glancing at the flowers and pronouncing metaphors upon them — Goethe had to understand what a plant truly is. Everything is leaf, he discovered at last, every part of a plant is leaf. The cotyledon, the foliage, the cataphylls, the petals — a plant is fundamentally leaf. Goethe published this intimate memoir of his relationship with leaves and named it The Metamorphosis of Plants.

It’s unsurprising that Goethe came to his idea about the everythingness of leaf while wandering the lush countryside of Naples. I wonder if he could have had his realization trudging through the barren early spring gardens of Weimar. “The Neapolitan firmly believes that he lives in Paradise and takes a very dismal view of northern countries,” Goethe wrote in his notebook. “Sempre neve, case di legno, gran ignoranza, ma denari assai — that is how he pictures our lives. For the edification of all northerners, this means: ‘Snow all the year round, wooden houses, great ignorance, but lots of money.’” That is to say, a leaf in Germany is a mostly invisible thing. It is an entr’acte, a promise. In the northern parts of the world, the leaves hide inside the sticks; the sticks, for most of the year, look dead. And only a poet or a flimflammer could come up with the notion that something hardly visible is everything.

Text by Stefany Anne Golberg. Continue at The Smart Set.

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Places of healing [The Library: A World History]

November 8, 2013

Mafra Palace Library in Mafra, Portugal

Tripitaka Koreana at the Haeinsa Temple in South Korea

Biblioteca Malatestiana in Cesena, Italy

Codrington Library at All Souls College in Oxford

Abbey of St Gall Library in St Gallen, Switzerland

George Peabody Library, Baltimore

“Will this study serve merely as a memorial to a defunct building type?” James W. P. Campbell poses this troubling question at the start of his odyssey through the library buildings of the world. Over 300 pages – and nearly 300 illustrations – later he answers his own query with cautious optimism: “humankind has created an extraordinary variety of spaces in which to read, to think, to dream and to celebrate knowledge. As long as it continues to value these activities, it will continue to build places to house them. Whether they will involve books or will still be called libraries only time will tell”.

Well, this is Thames and Hudson’s third attempt in a decade to get to grips with this theme. And it is by far the best. The first, The Most Beautiful Libraries of the World by Jacques Bosser and Guillaume de Laubier (2003), was little more than a picturebook with anecdotal captions. The coverage was primarily European and post-Renaissance: only Boston, Washington, New York and St Petersburg slipped inside the cultural fence. The second attempt – Libraries (2005) – was sadly defective: a random package of images by Candida Hofer, without text apart from a rambling preface by Umberto Eco. On every count – scholarship, production, readability – The Library: A world history is way ahead of its predecessors, particularly with regards to production and design. The photographs by Will Pryce are technically flawless, and they give point and purpose to a text which is not only informative but persuasive. The message is clear: of the making of libraries there can be no end.

The Library: A World History Hardcover
by James W. P. Campbell (Author), Will Pryce (Photographer)

Excerpt from an article written by J. MORDAUNT CROOK at TLS. Continue THERE

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W.H. Auden and Ecopoetics

November 1, 2013

W.H. Auden is a Greek poet, at least when it comes to nature. No, I don’t mean that he is all about olive trees and white sand beaches: I mean there is something fundamentally classical in his attitude toward the natural world, something that puts him at odds with the two dominant modes of nature poetry of our time—something that, indeed, casts light on the outlines of those norms.

The two most common attitudes toward non-human nature in contemporary poetry are the Romantic (or sentimental—if we can use that word without condescension) and the ecopoetic. The first of these dates back more than two centuries, and receives its most powerful theoretical articulation in Friedrich Schiller’s great essay of 1795, “On Simple and Sentimental Poetry.” Here, Schiller begins by describing the longing for the realm of nature among self-conscious and sophisticated people:

There are moments in our life, when we dedicate a kind of love and touching respect to nature in its plants, minerals, animals, landscapes . . . not because it is pleasing to our senses, not even because it satisfies our understanding or taste . . . but rather merely because it is nature. Every fine man, who does not altogether lack feeling, experiences this, when he walks in the open, when he lives upon the land . . . in short, when he is surprised in artificial relations and situations with the sight of simple nature.

Excerpt from a text written by Robert Archambeau at the Boston Review. Continue THERE

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The Untold Story of Che in Bolivia

November 1, 2013

The tribulations of Che Guevara, the T-shirt Christ, still continue to fascinate, almost half a century after he was executed in the Bolivian jungle; so, too, continues the hunt for the Judas who betrayed him. A prime suspect has long been the artist Ciro Bustos, who, caught by the CIA-backed Bolivian crack squad sent to track down the Argentinian revolutionary, was accused of providing sketches of his old comrades. A few weeks later, Che was captured and gunned down in cold blood. After a silence over four decades long, Bustos has produced his defence. It makes for a fascinating read, a beautifully written and melancholy tribute to the energy and madness that drove Che to help Castro to overthrow Batista in Cuba and led to his death in Bolivia.

Bustos does something else, too: he writes with real passion about what it was to be a child of the revolution in South America – the excitement, the glamour, the allure of trying to bring down capitalism – in that time as red in tooth and claw as can be. We first meet Che in the flesh in Havana when he is competing against a blind chess master: ‘the ceiling fans were working overtime trying to recycle the air, but it was like stirring soup in which the audience were cooking’. Bustos came to Cuba in 1961 packed to the gunwhales with enthusiasm, but even then he sensed Stalinist sectarianism gnawing at the revolution’s great heart. A woman warned him, ‘your disillusionment will be very painful, I’m afraid. Communists are coming out of the woodwork like mice, taking over everything, to get at the cheese.’ He writes that ‘the phrase remained engraved in my memory like a hieroglyphic chiselled in granite’.

Excerpt from a text by Ciro Bustos. Continue HERE

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Senses Of Vibration: A History of the Pleasure and Pain of Sound

October 22, 2013

The study of the senses has become a rich topic in recent years. Senses of Vibration explores a wide range of sensory experience and makes a decisive new contribution to this growing field by focussing not simply on the senses as such, but on the material experience – vibration – that underpins them.
This is the first book to take the theme of vibration as central, offering an interdisciplinary history of the phenomenon and its reverberations in the cultural imaginary. It tracks vibration through the work of a wide range of writers, including physiologists (who thought vibrations in the nerves delivered sensations to the brain), physicists (who claimed that light, heat, electricity and other forms of energy were vibratory), spiritualists (who figured that spiritual energies also existed in vibratory form), and poets and novelists from Coleridge to Dickens and Wells. Senses of Vibration is a work of scholarship that cuts through a range of disciplines and will reverberate for many years to come.

Senses of Vibration
A History of the Pleasure and Pain of Sound
By: Shelley Trower

Text & Image via Bloomsbury

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T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land Project: An online exhibit/performance project devised by Christopher Domig and Daniel Domig

October 16, 2013

“The Waste Land”, an exhibit/performance project, is a collaboration between artist Daniel Domig and actor Christopher Domig. T.S. Eliot’s work has been an inspiration for both artists over the years in their individual disciplines. This current collaboration will create an experience that is both a fully realized exhibit during the day and a complete theatrical performance at night, occupying the same space.

Eliot’s “The Waste Land” lends itself ideally for this endeavor, as it was written as a poem (neither an actor’s script, nor an artist’s playground). It is precisely due to its poetic form that other disciplines have, and continue to approach it with the same degree of alienation and familiarity, a dynamic that has been the catalyst to new work ever since it was published in 1922.

“The Waste Land” will be exhibited and performed in a neutral space (neither the artist’s white box, nor the actor’s black box). The space will be large enough for visitors to walk among the installation during the day as well as move around the space during the performance. The ability to move freely throughout the experience mirrors the poem’s inherent fragmentation (a literary, artistic and theatrical device mainly familiar to us due to Eliot’s use of it in his poem)

Follow The Waste Land Project on Facebook and Tumblr.

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Dispossession: The Performative in the Political (PCVS-Polity Conversations Series)

October 1, 2013

Dispossession describes the condition of those who have lost land, citizenship, property, and a broader belonging to the world. This thought-provoking book seeks to elaborate our understanding of dispossession outside of the conventional logic of possession, a hallmark of capitalism, liberalism, and humanism. Can dispossession simultaneously characterize political responses and opposition to the disenfranchisement associated with unjust dispossession of land, economic and political power, and basic conditions for living?

In the context of neoliberal expropriation of labor and livelihood, dispossession opens up a performative condition of being both affected by injustice and prompted to act. From the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa to the anti-neoliberal gatherings at Puerta del Sol, Syntagma and Zucchotti Park, an alternative political and affective economy of bodies in public is being formed. Bodies on the street are precarious – exposed to police force, they are also standing for, and opposing, their dispossession. These bodies insist upon their collective standing, organize themselves without and against hierarchy, and refuse to become disposable: they demand regard. This book interrogates the agonistic and open-ended corporeality and conviviality of the crowd as it assembles in cities to protest political and economic dispossession through a performative dispossession of the sovereign subject and its propriety.

Text and Image via Politybooks

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Phenomenology never goes out of date

September 26, 2013

Susanna Siegel is the major philosophical mentalist who gets into our heads and deep into the depths of philosophical phenomenology, epistemic downgrades, how the issues can be approached from different traditions, considers a gun in a fridge, how priming examples don’t reveal underlying psychological mechanisms, cognitive modularity and what it does and doesn’t insulate, top-down effects, the rational accessibility of perception, the contents of visual experience, the richness of perception and what to do about sexism in professional philosophy. Off we go.

3:AM: You remember ‘….staring up at the ceiling as a little girl and wondering whether the marks she saw on the white surface were tiny holes or tiny dots.’ So was that when you decided you’d be a philosopher?

Susanna Siegel: I was around 4 when I wondered about the ceiling. I wanted to be a philosopher when I read Alice in Wonderland and Raymond Smullyan’s “What is the Name of this Book?” around age 7.

3:AM: Are you a very up to date phenomenologist? Can you say something about your philosophical interests in all things perceptual?

SS: Phenomenology never goes out of date.

3:AM: You talk about cases where prior mental states interfere with perception. Can you talk about this idea and why this might lead to what you call an epistemic downgrade?

SS: Suppose you are afraid that I am angry at you, and your fear makes me look angry to you when you see me. Do you get any reason from your experience to believe that I’m angry at you? There’s something fishy and even perverse about the idea that your fears can get confirmed by fear-induced experience. I focus on the general notion of rationality. I am interested in the epistemic status of the type of “top-down” influences on perception from fears and desires. If you could confirm your fears through such fear-influenced experiences, rational confirmation of fears would be too cheap.

Continue interview of Susanna Siegel by Richard Marshall at 3AM Magazine

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What does George Orwell have in common with Edward Snowden?

September 26, 2013

George Orwell was not a political thinker, exactly. Sure, he wrote books like 1984 and Animal Farm. Those books are political. Or better put, they are political thought experiments in novel form. Orwell liked to think about totalitarianism. He created fictional scenarios like 1984 in order to think through the logic of totalitarianism, to find out how it works. Orwell’s essays, too, are often about politics. He wondered if it was possible to create a decent Socialism in the aftermath of the debacle of real-life Socialism, as it existed in the Soviet Union.
The power of Orwell’s writing came from his honesty about the actions and motivations of human beings making decisions in a messy world. So maybe it is best to say that Orwell was thinking about politics without being a political scientist. He wasn’t good at looking at politics from a distanced, objective point of view in order to suss out general laws. That’s why one of his best political essays is a story about shooting an elephant in Burma. It is a story of Orwell himself.

As a young man, Orwell got a job as an imperial policeman in Burma. He was working for the British crown. This was the 1920s. The British Empire still lorded over many parts of East Asia. Orwell realized quickly that he was a symbol of oppression to most Burmese. He was harassed in the streets, especially by the young Buddhist priests who seemed to have nothing to do, “except stand on street corners and jeer at Europeans.” This bothered Orwell, a sensitive chap with little taste for flexing his authority as a policeman. In short, Orwell felt immensely guilty about his role as a tiny cog in the British imperial machine. The guilt made him angry and the anger tore him in two. He wrote that he was “stuck between my hatred of the empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible.”

Excerpt from an article written by Idle Chatter at The Smart Set. Continue THERE

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The Secrets of Alchemy: No nearer the Philosopher’s Stone

September 26, 2013

Lawrence M. Principe’s The Secrets of Alchemy is a deeply gratifying book that brilliantly unveils the hidden wonders of that most shadowy and misunderstood art. Alchemy has not always been associated with esoteric mystics muttering necromantic incantations in the quest for spiritual purification. For much of its history, Principe reveals, alchemy was recognized as a sophisticated pursuit entailing the vigorous exertion of mind and hand, a convergence of laboratory experimentation and theoretical speculation that yielded spectacular control of chemical processes. To protect their hard-earned knowledge, alchemists wrote under pseudonyms and encrypted discoveries in mystical-sounding codenames (Decknamen). While this contributed to alchemy’s association with mysticism, Principe argues persuasively that its traditional essence lay in the expert combining of substances, and that no account of it can rightfully ignore its experimental and material foundations.

Principe’s most robust evidence derives from his own laboratory expertise and philological sleuthing. By deciphering the substances concealed under Decknamen and re-creating the reactions elaborated in seemingly obscure texts, he reveals alchemists to be proficient manipulators of chemical phenomena, capable of creating remarkable effects through distillation, fermentation, cupellation and more. Alchemy’s experimentalism, marriage of theory and practice, as well as attention to material causality explain the enthusiasm with which luminaries of early modern science such as Isaac Newton and Robert Boyle practised it.

Excerpt from an article written by NICHOLAS POPPER at TLS. Continue THERE

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Silicon and surveillance: A tale of big data and bigger conspiracies

September 24, 2013


Thomas Pynchon’s novels have several recurring themes: paranoia and conspiracy, pastiches of high and low culture, synchronicity and coincidence, shadowy networks lurking around every corner, and the impact of science and technology. With the coming of the Internet age and the surveillance society that sprang up in the wake of 11 September 2001, it seems as though reality has finally caught up with his vision. In his latest work, Bleeding Edge, Pynchon takes full advantage of this convergence.

The first question asked of a new Pynchon book is: is this one of the sprawling, spiralling, time-tripping monsters with innumerable characters and a plot that is tricky to bring into focus, like Gravity’s Rainbow or Against the Day; or is it one of the fun detective stories with a well-defined protagonist, like The Crying of Lot 49 or Inherent Vice? Bleeding Edge is definitely in the latter category. There is a colourful cast of memorable personalities, and high jinks often ensue, but the tale is told linearly, from the point of view of an acknowledged main character, with something approximating an explicit goal.

Excerpt from an article written by Sean M. Carroll at Nature. Continue THERE

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When Memorization Gets in the Way of Learning A teacher’s quest to discourage his students from mindlessly reciting information.

September 14, 2013

Some things are worth memorizing–addresses, PINs, your parents’ birthdays. The sine of π/2 is not among them. It’s a fact that matters only insofar as it connects to other ideas. To learn it in isolation is like learning the sentence “Hamlet kills Claudius” without the faintest idea of who either gentleman is–or, for what matter, of what “kill” means. Memorization is a frontage road: It runs parallel to the best parts of learning, never intersecting. It’s a detour around all the action, a way of knowing without learning, of answering without understanding.

Memorization has enjoyed a surge of defenders recently. They argue that memorization exercises the brain and even fuels deep insights. They say our haste to purge old-school skills-driven teaching from our schools has stranded a generation of students upriver without a paddle. They recommend new apps aiming to make drills fun instead of tedious. Most of all, they complain that rote learning has become taboo, rather than accepted as a healthy part of a balanced scholastic diet.

Excerpt from an article written by BEN ORLIN at The Atlantic. Continue THERE

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An Inquiry Into Modes of Existence by Bruno Latour

September 12, 2013

The result of a twenty five years inquiry, it offers a positive version to the question raised, only negatively, with the publication, in 1991, of ”We have never been modern”: if ”we” have never been modern, then what have ”we” been? From what sort of values should ”we” inherit? In order to answer this question, a research protocol has been developed that is very different from the actor-network theory. The question is no longer only to define ”associations” and to follow networks in order to redefine the notion of ”society” and ”social” (as in ”Reassembling the Social”) but to follow the different types of connectors that provide those networks with their specific tonalities. Those modes of extension, or modes of existence, account for the many differences between law, science, politics, and so on. This systematic effort for building a new philosophical anthropology offers a completely different view of what the ”Moderns” have been and thus a very different basis for opening a comparative anthropology with the other collectives – at the time when they all have to cope with ecological crisis. Thanks to a European research council grant (2011-2014) the printed book will be associated with a very original purpose built digital platform allowing for the inquiry summed up in the book to be pursued and modified by interested readers who will act as co-inquirers and co-authors of the final results. With this major book, readers will finally understand what has led to so many apparently disconnected topics and see how the symmetric anthropology begun forty years ago can come to fruition.

Text and Image via Bruno Latour

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Shedding the Superwoman Myth

September 10, 2013

Debora L. Spar writes: In 2005, I was teaching a first-year class at Harvard Business School. As usual, slightly under a third of my students were women. As always, I was the only female professor.

So one evening, my female students asked me and one of my female colleagues to join them for cocktails. They ordered a lovely spread of hors d’oeuvres and white wine. They presented each of us with an elegant lavender plant. And then, like women meeting for cocktails often do, they—well, we, actually—proceeded to complain. About how tough it was to be so constantly in the minority. About how the guys sucked up all the air around the school. About the folks in career services who told them never to wear anything but a good black pantsuit to an interview.

Over the course of the conversation, though, things began to turn. The women stopped talking about their present lives and started to focus on their futures, futures that had little to do with conferences or pantsuits and everything to do with babies, and families, and men. Most of the women were frankly intending to work “for a year or two” and then move into motherhood. These were some of the smartest and most determined young women in the country. They had Ivy League degrees, for the most part, and were in the midst of paying more than $100,000 for an M.B.A. And yet they were already deeply concerned about how they would juggle their lives, and surprisingly pessimistic about their chances of doing so.

Continue text at The Chronicle of Higher Education

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How far can provocation in art go, before it becomes cynical and abusive? Scandalous: A Reader on Art and Ethics

September 10, 2013

Recent encounters between art and real life, the ubiquity of images of violence and humiliation in visual culture and the media, and the persistence of controversial debates on public and participatory art projects are raising fundamental questions about the importance of ethical decisions in art and curating. How far can provocation in art go, before it becomes cynical and abusive? Does “good censorship” exist? Are ethical decisions seen as more urgent in participatory art?

This reader introduces current notions of ethics in several contexts related to the cultural field. Responding to the instrumentalization of ethics as a privileged tool of neoliberalism, the reader claims the need for an ethics that critically reflects the mechanisms of contemporary global power structures. The contributions discuss models of subjective and situational ethics and pit them against a canon of unquestioned principles and upturned notions of ethics and human rights.

Texts by Petra Bauer and Annette Krauss, Franco Bifo Berardi, Galit Eilat, Ronald Jones, Maria Karlsson and Måns Wrange, Nina Möntmann, Peter Osborne, Marcus Steinweg, Nato Thompson; conversations between Simon Critchley and Miguel Á. Hernández-Navarro, Renzo Martens and T. J. Demos

Scandalous: A Reader on Art and Ethics
Nina Möntmann

Text and Image via Sternberg Press

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Letting Go

September 8, 2013

In 1968, a letter to The British Medical Journal titled “Not Allowed to Die” described the ordeal of a retired 68-year-old doctor admitted to “an overseas hospital” (almost certainly in America) with metastatic stomach cancer. After much of his stomach was surgically removed and a blood clot cleared from his lung, he asked that “no further steps be taken to prolong his life, for the pain of his cancer was now more than he would needlessly continue to endure.” Two weeks later the unfortunate doctor had a heart attack in the hospital. His heart was shocked and restarted five times in a single night; morning found him in a persistent vegetative state. His body remained alive for another three weeks.

That hellish situation, rare in the rest of the world, is all too common in this country. Although most of us claim no desire to die with a tube down our throat and on a ventilator, the fact is, as Katy Butler reminds us in “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” a fifth of American deaths now take place in intensive care, where 10 days of futile flailing can cost as much as $323,000, as it did for one California man.

Butler’s introduction to the surreal world of health “care” at the end of life was precipitated by the sudden illness of her father, a native of South Africa. Jeffrey Butler lost his arm while serving in World War II. He married, earned a Ph.D. from Oxford and settled into academic life in the United States. He was a charismatic father, the sort who would “stand in our bedroom doorways and say good night to my two brothers and me quoting Horatio’s farewell to the dying Hamlet: ‘May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!’ ” At 79 he was active and enjoying retirement when he suffered a stroke. Soon after hospitalization a “discharge planner” told the family that Jeffrey had to be immediately transferred to a neurological rehabilitation facility. “Only later would I understand the rush,” Butler writes. “The hospital was losing money on him with every passing day. Out of $20,228 in services performed and billed, Medicare would reimburse Middlesex Memorial only $6,559, a lump sum based on the severity of my father’s stroke diagnosis.”

Excerpt from an article written by ABRAHAM VERGHESE at the NYT. Continue THERE