Iain Cameron's Diary
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2005-12-25 - 10:03 a.m.
Christmas shopping in Fopp earlier in the week I picked up a Taschen book about conceptual art for three quid. There’s a page on Adrian Piper which reminded me think what an extraordinary career she has had. As a black teenager she went downtown in Manhattan and hung out with the conceptual artists and started making contributions to the genre which achieved an international reputation. Then AP discovered to her surprise that people couldn’t handle the fact that she made these contributions but she was also young gifted black and female – and this pushed her art towards an exploration of social identity. During this phase she went to Harvard and studied philosophy with John Rawls, specialising in the philosophy of Kant. One of the big things this year for me was to begin to understand to the aesthetic theory of Kant, And of course Piper went on to apply the theory to her artistic practice especially in terms of the social perception Parliament and Funkladelic.
In parallel I am pushing on with Feenberg on Heidegger and Marcuse, and I have discovered then when, as part of the phase of his thought which inspired the counter-culture, he began to write about marrying aesthetics and technology, the aesthetics he had in mind were the aesthetics of Kant. This is a bigger idea than it sounds. You might well think that bringing aesthetics into technology is merely a matter of making sure the printed circuits are laid out crisply, for example.
Kantian aesthetics is built around various principles not least a pleasure which goes beyond ordinary pleasure and which makes you tell your friends – not in the way that you might recommend a restaurant – but with a stronger sense of obligation or inner compulsion. There is also the famous blend of purposefulness and purposelessness – plus the fact that the object of reflection in some way energises the cognitive apparatus of the individual. This is a great theory in its own right, but applied to the genesis of technology it is potentially spectacular.
I mentioned earlier the two stage theory of technology – that initially a technology exists in a form which is remote from application – the technology has the ability to act – but lacks an embodiment which connects it with our networks. In that sense it is both purposeless and purposeful at the first stage and so satisfies the first element of Kantian aesthetics. What might it mean for the other elements to apply – for example that in developing a technology, one of the tests might be whether it generates a peculiar pleasure when you contemplate it? And whether you feel a compulsion to tell your friends about it? These ideas might apply to the Learning Grid – the project which got me to this point in the first place.
The guitar which was played by the weather also comes to mind – this was a nascent technology which as far as I was concerned generated an aesthetic pleasure, It’s the kind of bundling of diverse technologies that the Japanese are good at. And of course it is a small step from these reflections to the Belville Three and the invention of Techno in Detroit – the new use of artefacts that the Japanese had invented not fully anticipating how they might be used – within a new network – for aesthetic purposes . It was one of the Belville Three that spoke of George Clinton and Kraftwerk being locked together in an elevator. It is a small step to Adrian Piper’s use of Kant.
In the same Fopp foray I picked up an Italian compilation of early ambient – Budd and the Eno brothers for example. It has the original version of that song about Cordoba which John Cale often performs – the arrangement on the original is utterly stunning – and in fact it is a Cale-Eno co-composition. Talking of stunning arrangements, I see there has been a re-release of the Marcus Miller/Miles Davis collaboration film soundtrack, Siesta.
I have bought James the latest biography of Stalin for Christmas – one year I got him a DVD of that German film about Stalingrad which we all watched on Christmas morning.
I have discovered several new Scriabin dominant voicings for the guitar.
Vita has paint brushes – I was amazed how expensive the ones she likes are.