RAMers generataion manifest

By Ryan Tebo


If by breaking glasses or by shouting, Truth can be told, then I have broken seven glasses. Have I spoken greater Truth than you?

– From the Bollywood film, Taal (1999)

 

 

We demand a positive philosophy

Enough pandering to fundamentalists
We want an open, plural society
We embrace the ironic and absurd
oo over the sarcastic and sublime

Truth belongs to 18th Century Monarchies
ooooooooooo and 20th Century Colonial Regimes

We are collected individuals and, as such,
oo have had our fill of dystopic (myopic) visions
oo of what society could/should/will (not) be

What we need now is an infusion of utopian enthusiasms

THE NEW SINCERE

What if ‘68 hadn’t succumbed to a drug-induced, hedonist (complacent) apathy?

Let us envision our utopias with wide-open eyes
oo with an aware, committed naivety
++

As someone on the vanguard of the RAM generation, I issue these:

oooooooooooooo AESTHETICS of SINCERITY
1. No negative restrictions (we say this is what we do, instead of what we cannot do)
2. Continuity is provided by the witness’s (viewer/listener/reader) experience of our work
3. Frame is a fluid, and layered, concept
4. Meaning is open (contingent and creative, not fixed and destructive)
5. Material for work comes from more than one source
6. More than one defining style is preferred
7. Public transportation, walking, or biking is used by all involved in production of work
8. This is decidedly an urban experience
9. Decision making is shared when possible
10. *

ooooooooooooooooooo * Each individual work determines this last aesthetic.


Random
Access
Memory
o generation

This is a re-description of a generation of North Americans and their shift in ways of processing and producing. I was born in 1974 and came of age in the 1980s. What distinguishes me from my parents’ generation is the fact that for them the dominant, popular information and entertainment technology was the television, whereas for those of us born in the mid-1970s and later this technology is, obviously, the computer. What interests me about this shift in generations is not so much the way that the technology itself functions, but the way this newer technology has shaped its users. To understand this shaping I use the metaphor of Random Access Memory (RAM).

Nonlinear narrative experience (RAM workflow of computers) is second nature to RAM generation (RAMers) and defines cognitive comprehension and development of identity, communication, relationships (between people, between technologies and between people and technologies), etc. Active participation and interactivity are fundamental to this experience: multi-tasking (including dual, and now more, processing) and many simultaneous frames and windows provide many possible, layered meanings and ways of interpreting information. History, as well as memory and identity, is no longer a timeline. It is accessed like a computer accesses data, fluidly and non-sequentially. This is opposed to the receptive, passive processing of Read Only Memory (ROM), which can metaphorically be used to describe a pre-RAM generation (ROMers) consciousness.

 

The information bomb exploded in the early 1990s, when computer networks attained a critical speed and scale, flipping the gates wide open to unleash a torrent of blinding, deafening code — a thunderous explosion of advertising, entertainment, voice, and data. Now, we must negotiate continuous, relentless input. We have become the organic components of an integrated global data and information system…interactivity is required to become media literate, and it is highly recommended for counteracting the numbing effects of the I-bomb. [1]

 

oooooooo Truth has been replaced with informations
And now it’s big business dealing with the distribution of and access to informations.

Now it’s about how one uses (if one is able to) not about what one has. But we must be careful not to let a ROMers definition of ownership, as a strictly profitable thing, remain dominant and dominating.

In a RAMers context,
Ownership is:
unstable
transient
collective
borrowed and loaned
becoming obsolete

specificity of contexts is dissolving
information must be able to exist comfortably in any context
now everything is out of place

everything needs an address
but addresses change faster than information is delivered

The new RAM-generated narrative is believable, but not necessarily realistic
My narrative is pre-meditated
Not pre-determined

This is not a definitive statement.

[…]

I put my ear to the ground and, like Cage in the anechoic chamber, I feel my own nervous system and all I can hear is the pulsing of blood by a human heart. I am alive.

Morality is private
Ethics are public

Revolution is a public act-expression.
Aesthetics is a private experience.
Religion (metaphysics) precludes continual self-redescription
because everything is already pre-(de)scribed.

ROMer-defined Ownership is not a mark of responsibility; it is an assertion of authority.

Aesthetics are not a direct political act. Aesthetics and politics can exist simultaneously but private and public cannot be united.

This is not an argument.

[…]

What is a revolutionary aesthetics?
It is not a commodity. Once it becomes a commodity it stops spinning.

The potential Revolution of the 1960s was bought, and snuffed, out: assassinations and tokens (sedating illusions of change).

not-for-profit

Revolution will fail if there is (the fear of) something to lose (no matter how small).
the same goes for aesthetics:
the more fear of losing an audience
the more conservative will be the aesthetics

the suppression and repression of avant-garde aesthetics signals the change from socialist revolutionary society to totalitarian state. Stalin, the Cultural Revolution: mandating the so-called social-realism. This did not happen in Cuba, though.

My main problem with Marx and his descendents is his appeal to Hegel’s end of history.

A revolutionary aesthetic is necessary for revolution and social change.

“When you change the way you play your instrument, you change the way you think, which will change the way you live [and act].” [2]

“We choose to compose our immediate information environment from multiple sources, mixing our multilayered reality on the spot.” [3]

All nationalism is separatism

Do unity and difference have to be at odds?

Solidarity and contingency

We can reject fundamentalisms
And still call for solidarity

Change must grow from the ground.
It cannot be imposed from above.

[…]

I don’t learn (know) things; I figure things out.

“To see the aim of a just and free society as letting its citizens be as privitistic, ‘irrationalist,’ and aestheticist as they please so long as they do it on their own time — causing no harm to others and using no resources needed by those less advantaged.” [4]

Redefine success and prosperity.

We must challenge our audience with our work, but avoid alienating them by being
excessively esoteric.

John Cage said that his music wouldn’t be successful if it couldn’t survive its audience. This is why he saw the noises the audience produced as part of the music and performance. The work shouldn’t exist in an anechoic chamber without an audience.

in accordance with narrative (faith-based; private)
vs.
in accordance with fact (reality-based; public)

a developing approach to aesthetics:
abstraction + reference + emotional complexity

“non-participation in anything you believe is evil” [5]

I will never hear clean beauty again, only sound-information; like a busted speaker,
paper rattling in the sound-wind-waves.

Pete Seeger about music:
It’s not about whether or not it’s good
It’s what it’s good for

Mary Pipher about writing:
Moral Imagination is lacking in US
The job of a writer is to help other people grow their moral imagination [6]

[…]

public or private
vs.
public and private

“Only metaphysicians think that our present genres and criteria exhaust the realm of possibility. Ironists continue to expand that realm.” [7]

“Create the taste by which one judges oneself” [8]

sublimity is beyond all perspectives (contingencies)
sublimity is beyond beautiful
to seek the sublime is to betray one’s perspectivalism and anti-essentialism (of an ironist)

the floating and falling blood-veins of my eyes are forever now projected onto everything I see outside my eyes (open or closed).

***

metaphysics — metanarrative

What basis are we left with for critique?

Self-creation and social responsibility cannot be synthesized…self-discovery and political utility cannot be united [9]

I must spend some time away from computer, TV, media (even other people), in order to become human again. The cyclothymic alternations between anxiety and alienation are a particular symptom of the RAM epoch. For my own mental and physical well-being I must spend time booth brooding alone indoors and walking outdoors

“Blanking is not attention deficit disorder (ADD) or daydreaming (dd), but a breakdown of consciousness brought about by sensory and cognitive overextension induced by hyperconnectivity.”[10]

Personal narrative
Social action

[…]

Not just the hair, but also the flesh on my scalp, seems to be receding and my skull to be more and more prominent. Not skin and bones, but bones and nerves.

All peripherals have been ejected.
Remaining Inventory:
1 Vat
1 Brain

“You think you’re radical
But you’re not so radical
In fact, you’re fanatical” [11]

What makes someone fanatical is an inability, or unwillingness, to be self-critical-reflexive and, to a lesser extent, an awareness of contingency.

There is a quietness to truly independent cinematic narrative developing, which (to me as a viewer) is responding to the obnoxious loudness of advertising and most of popular culture. This quietness is an embrace of subtlety. The recent public embrace of Bela Tarr could stem from this. The patient reflection in his films is in this new narrative sensibility.

 

To create today is to create dangerously…The question, for all those who cannot live without art and what it signifies, is merely to find out how, among the police forces of so many ideologies (how many churches, what solitude!), the strange liberty of creation is possible. In most cases the artist is ashamed of himself and his privileges, if he has any. He must first of all answer the question he has put to himself: is art a deceptive luxury?…In the face of so much suffering, if art insists on being a luxury, it will also be a lie…We resemble one another in what we see together, in what we suffer together…Art advances between two chasms, which are frivolity and propaganda…The time of irresponsible artists is over.[12]

 

Instead of providing obvious and expected (right) answers to viewers,
guide them to better questions.

The way we tell stories is changing. And the way we hear them, too.

Above all else one must learn to live with uncertainty. To live uncertainly.

**

To not overlook the lagging lay public; to not fear too much the obvious or the oversimplified; to not be afraid to be attacked as ‘artist’s artist;’ to beat down the aesthetically insensitive and the politically indecent; to fight the foul in art, too, to the finish – these things we look at as good. [13]


I want to view my personal, private beliefs and experiences as parallel and simultaneous to my social, public policies and actions. This is the difference between morality (metaphysics: what we think and feel in private) and ethics (politics: how we act in public society). Therefore, politics should be founded on the principle of not imposing a specific metaphysics, but rather to encourage and legislate policies that allow for as many metaphysics as there are people.

Aesthetics is the private choice and experience of a maker(s) expressed to an audience. Using a particular aesthetic can be a radical political act, but the actual aesthetic itself remains uniquely private (thus there is no absolutely right aesthetic). The American painter Ad Reinhardt fascinates and inspires me because of this apparent contradiction. He was an active member of the American Communist Party in his public life, but as an artist and private individual he chose an aesthetic based on the idea of ‘art for art’s sake.’ Yet, he was critically aware that his art-works existed publicly and refused to allow them to become commodities. He even refused or returned prize money. However, while Reinhardt was adamant that art was only about art (the private metaphysics of his aesthetics do not directly relate to or inform a public politics), he still says (quoting himself) that, “art is a weapon.”

 

We saw (through a wine-glass) how painting in past periods freed itself from ‘story,’ ‘subject-matter’ and ‘skill,’ from ‘fixed, final’ ideas, from ‘flux, fusion, feeling’ and ‘flicker’ conceptions until it became flatly no picture but a ‘field’ of color-activity. Today painting has a different meaning from a picture. Instead of succumbing to the pressure (which also produces fascism) for hand-painted pictures (which deadens your mind), free yourself from your frustrations and paint yourself. Art is not a bag of trade-tricks or hack-skills, a property of the few, but a dangerous propaganda for changing and controlling the world so that everyone can be creative…We saw that the elements in modern painting, as in modern music and jazz, come forward from their flat plane to face the onlooker honestly for his active participation instead of vanishing in the distance through an illusionistic ‘hole-in-the-wall…[14]

 

Art is not valuable because of what it gives to you, it is valuable because of the process of giving meaning as a viewer/listener/reader. A particular aesthetic can be a radical political act by being in opposition to a conventional, commodified aesthetic, which pressures society toward passively accepting fascism. What is radical about Reinhardt’s aesthetic is its opposition to the deadening of people’s minds (one could make a similar argument against popular, conventional television, music, and Hollywood) and the way his paintings challenges their viewers’ to be active participants in the art-experience. If we learn that we can give (create) some meaning as audience, not just receive it obediently. We might become more intelligent, informed, and active citizens, as well. There is nothing in the aesthetic itself that produces this, though. It is in our confrontation with aesthetics where revolution lies.

 

 


Written summer 2007.


 

NOTES

1. Tom Sherman, “After the I-Bomb” (1999), in Before and After the I-Bomb: An Artist in the Information Environment, ed. Peggy Gale (Banff: The Banff Centre Press, 2002), pp. 2-3.

2. Dror Feiler, in conversation with the author, April 2007.

3. Tom Sherman, “Blanking________” (1996), in Before and After the I-Bomb, p. 4.

4. Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. xiv.

5. The Books, “There is No There: sampling Einstein,” United Nations radio interview recorded in Einstein's study, Princeton, New Jersey (1950).

6. Mary Pipher, interview with Amy Goodman, Democracy Now, August 29, 2007. The Seeger quote is cited by Pipher in the interview.

7. Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, p. 135.

8. Ibid., p. 106.

9. Ibid., p. 120.

10. Tom Sherman, “Blanking________,” p. 4.

11. Flaming Lips, “Free Radicals (A Hallucination Of The Christmas Skeleton Pleading With A Suicide Bomber),” At War With The Mystics, Warner Bros. Records, 2006.

12. Albert Camus. “Create Dangerously (Lecture given at the University of Uppsala in December 1957),” Resistance, Rebellion, and Death (New York: Vintage International, 1995), pp. 251-253, 258, 268, 271.

13. Ad Reinhardt, “How to Look at Things Again: a forthright, fun-loving, fortnightly feature on modern art by Ad Reinhardt…the thirteenth and a rough recapitulation of a series showing why a. the Best pictures today are not paintings b. the Best paintings today are not pictures.” This text appeared in PM, an afternoon tabloid published in New York City between 1940 and 1948 by Ralph Ingersoll.

14. Ibid.

 

 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ryan Tebo was born in Buffalo, New York in 1974. He is currently beginning a one-year Assistant Professor position teaching filmmaking at Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. Tebo is an artist working with film, video, and photography, as well as being a free-improvising musician. Provisional utopic visions along with skeptical awareness to counter cynical power structures seemingly absolute. Cooperation before competition.


 


INCITE Journal of Experimental Media
Issue Number One (Fall 2008 - Spring 2009)


 

 

 

 

 


 

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