Trenchant Lemmings
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Robert Weaver
Sydney, Australia
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The weblog description is a misquotation from Steve Aylett's Indicted to a Party: What to Do, Who to Blame.
The weblog title links to the "No Country Redirect" version, for whatever that might be worth.
March 28, 2012
The Extended Mind Hypothesis

Not sure I entirely agree with this, being the introspective fellow I am, but it is most interesting:

I actually came to the conclusion that thinking is not something done by a single person. We have a false model of what thinking is. Because you can't really think by yourself, can you? You have to create someone else in your mind to explain things to, and to have an imaginary conversation with. This idea was inspired in part by the philosopher of cybernetics, Andy Clark, who proposed something he calls the extended mind hypothesis. Basically, the argument goes like this: Say you're doing long division on a piece of paper instead of doing it in your head. Clark asks why the piece of paper is not just as much a part of your mind while you're doing that calculation as the part of your brain that's doing the math. He says there's no reason at all.There are a million similar examples that philosophers like to trundle out — you have a bad memory so you write everything down. Is that piece of paper then part of your mind?

"Mind" isn't "brain" — the brain is just an organ; your mind is the dynamic interaction of various moving elements that culminates in thought. Philosophers like Clark are willing to take that argument this far, but the question that never seems to occur to them is this: when you're having a conversation with someone else, is their mind part of your mind? Nowadays, many philosophers of consciousness like to note just how razor-thin this thing we call "consciousness", that self-aware part of our mental operations, really is. The average person can rarely hold a thought for more than three or four seconds, eight at the most, before the mind wanders. It's very unusual to be fully conscious for more than a tiny window of time. That is, unless you're having a conversation with someone else, in which case you can often do it for long periods of time, especially if the conversation is with someone you find particularly interesting. In other words, most of the time we're conscious is when we're talking to someone else, or otherwise interacting intensely; during moments in which when we're not clear whose mind is whose. So consciousness is interactive, it's dyadic or triadic. It's a fallacy to imagine that thinking is something you largely do alone. On some level, of course, we already know that. But I don't think we've even begun to explore the full implications.
From an interview with David Graeber. Yeah, I know, I'm such a fanboy.

March 27, 2012

Once again it falls to Mr Rundle to state the blindingly obvious.

But above all, what is most significant is that absolute refusal to question either the wisdom, politics or necessity of the asset sales, one of the single most politically destructive moves in the history of Australian politics. Labor had a more solid relationship with sections of its electorate in Queensland than anywhere else  —  a relationship grounded in its ancient history but forged above all by the decades-long fixed electoral dictatorship of Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

The sense that Labor, the majority choice, was excluded from power by a fix, gave Queensland Labor an extra dimension of solidarity with its base, just as that was withering away elsewhere, under the impact of the wholesale reconstruction of economic and social life in the 1990s. The asset sales move, which treated Labor’s own supporters with utter contempt, and communicated to them that the party’s loyalty was to a technocratic elite, could not have been more precisely designed to f-ck up that relationship if it had been designed in the LNP skunk-works room.

March 18, 2012

Investor confidence is the key to understanding the unprecedented Gagosian show of Hirst's spot paintings. Hirst's atelier has been turning these out at every scale since 1986, and by the artist's own estimate there are around 1,400 in existence, of which Gagosian was showing 300 under the faux-definitive title The Complete Spot Paintings. They are made by Hirst's assistants to a simple aesthetic rule – the colour sequences of the dots must be "random". ... Many of them are technically difficult to execute, such as the piece completed for the Gagosian show that comprises 25,781 one millimetre spots that the poor bloody assistants had to paint without repeating any single colour. Examples have sold at recent auctions for between $800,000 and $3m. This is to say that they are valued like unique, individual works of art, yet are made in quantities – and using methods – that seem to deny this fiction. ...

If I were Larry Gagosian ... and I wanted to help my top client shore up the value of a body of work ... what would I do?

Long-term value in the art world depends in a certain raw way on scarcity, but is largely produced through a delicate process by which aesthetic value (determined by curators and critics) intersects with market value, determined ultimately by auction prices. One point at which these two types of value intersect is in provenance. The story behind an object – its past owners, where it has been shown, its place in the story of the artist's career, and so on – confers both types of value. A landmark show, geographically dispersed in an unprecedented way, is bound to be remembered as a significant moment in Hirst's career as a global art star. When that show is accompanied by a critical apparatus, chiefly a catalogue raisonnée (a meticulously documented list of works shown, accompanied by scholarly essays), those works become part of a canon and a magical walled garden of significance is erected around them.

As Francis Outred, Christie's European head of contemporary art, told the Economist, this catalogue "could bring reassuring clarity to the question of volume". The pharmaceutical paintings are frankly too financially valuable to too many people for their actual status (banal, mass-produced, decorative) to intrude on the consensus fiction that they are scarce and important. The owners of the 1,100 paintings not in the Gagosian show should be nervous, though. They just lost their AAA rating.
Hari Kunzru in the Guardian.

March 17, 2012
Time Capsule

Go immediately and see Timothy Allen's extraordinary photographs of the Buzludha monument, a decaying communist-era modernist edifice stranded on a mountaintop in Bulgaria's Balkan Range:

Buzludha is Bulgaria’s largest ideological monument to Communism. Designed by architect Guéorguy Stoilov, more than 6000 workers were involved in its 7 year construction including 20 leading Bulgarian artists who worked for 18 months on the interior decoration...

Buried in the monument’s concrete structure, is a time capsule containing a message for future generations explaining the significance of the building.


In 1989, Bulgaria’s bloodless revolution ended with the disbandment of the Bulgarian Communist Party. Ownership of the monument was ceded to the state and consequently it was left to ruin.
Via a Ben Goldacre tviit.

March 10, 2012
Jean Giraud 1938-2012

March 07, 2012
Amusingly Grisly

March 01, 2012
Stability Maintenance

Maintaining stability, we’re told, is more important than anything else. Our government likes to stress the rule of law, but when stability needs to be maintained, the law goes out the window. Now that human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng and his family have been confined to house arrest in their home village, many people have attempted to visit them and express their support. But as soon as they get anywhere near his home, they are waylaid by toughs who beat them up and steal their wallets...

Sometimes stability maintenance reaches truly comic levels. When the Jasmine Revolution roiled North Africa this spring, the traditional ballad "Jasmine Flower" was banned in China. A friend of mine who had used the song in a just-completed TV program was told to remove it, and a substitute song about peonies got the thumbs down, too. In the end, he learned that no song involving flowers of any description would be permitted.
- The Arab Spring and the Chinese Autumn

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