30 April 2007


The problem with liberalism as we know it is that it's oppositional.

Institutional critique stands outside institutions and describes the way power works. Fine art applauds anything that offends, at any price. Card-carrying democrats know that they cannot stop the war, so they cry that it is "not in my name."

Liberalism uses the concept of against. It says that we are right in relationship to this wrong that is outside us, that we separate ourselves from. We have tuned in and dropped out and turned on.

But it is absurd to attempt to oppose that which you create. Democrats and Republicans are part of the same fake democracy that caters pretty much exclusively to big business at the expense of the citizen, and yet this fact does not excuse this administration's tyrrany! Mark diSuvero and Richard Serra, bless their hearts, pushed their rhetoric of protest at the last Whitney Biennial, and it was not powerful. What was powerful was the institution that they helped to create, draining the meaning from their protest. What more do you need? The institution swallowed the Peace Tower whole, for chrissakes! I don't need any more evidence that Chrissie and Paul were truly curating--that they were truly telling us a story about the zeitgeist!

Opposition from within creates all kinds of ridiculouslessness, like conservatives getting all up in Al Gore's business for flying a lot and therefore having a relatively large carbon footprint. Looking at this absurdity and attempting to oppose it creates art that is abject, art that throws up its hands, or looks only inward, or just says fuck this, and fuck you.

I say fuck that. I am implicated, and so are you. As part of an imperialist nation, I am an imperialist. And as part of a capitalist society, I am a capitalist. The Dalai Lama is right. George W. Bush has been my mother. We are cooking the planet, killing thousands of Iraqis, fucking our own poor and patriotic by sending them off to die in a war that we say is "not in our name." We all have a lot of blood on our hands, and there is nothing abject about that. I can't talk for you, but that is a situation that I have a serious emotional investment in.

If the aesthetic of opposition (I am right, and this is wrong) is moving more and more toward the abject, what is the aesthetic of implication?


Blogger geoffrey said...


(note: not compassion that involves pity and even more separation as in the latin sense of the word. But compassion that absorbs any illusion of separation.)

01 May, 2007 19:16  
Blogger geoffrey said...

PS... i didn't mean to sound so abrupt in that last comment. I promised myself only ten minutes in blog land today... so much work to do. But i wanted to say that i am and have been in full agreement for a long time. I too am guilty of letting politics become something real, instead of the American Idolesque distraction it really is. And as a white male i hae had to come to grips with (and still do often) with my heritage and how i contribute to this system. A lot of my work is about these things in your post. I also wanted to mention something I always go back to that i think defines compassion and it's antithesis. The small window, this incredibly beautiful moment in humankind... the silence after 9-11 that lasted maybe an entire half day. In that moment, we were all each other and could feel our vulnerablity the world over. It was incredible if you remember... And it ended, just as soon as we couldn't see ourselves as the hijackers.

01 May, 2007 19:40  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

Hey Geoff!

Thanks for the comments. Not to be brusque, but:


Good one.

01 May, 2007 20:52  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

I know that you defined compassion specifically, Geoff, and I see the difference.

But there is something about that word that is so irritating to me. It connotes value judgements in our culture. Compassion is something the rich *give* to the poor...

I agree with you about the absence of separation, though. And I understand the western buddhist "tradition" of calling that connectedness "compassion."

02 May, 2007 08:29  
Blogger geoffrey said...

right... i know. Sad that "compassion" has come to have such an air of condescension. (more irritating are the western bhuddists... we can get into that later) There is an Eastern European root that merely refers to co-feeling. Of both sorrow and joy. An emotional telepathy. Trust me, i am extremely wary of words like art and transformation and we are all one and blah blah blah... But if Bell Hooks could redefine love, i think it is possible to bring back compassion. Compassion is not la-tee-da or airy fairy. It is not easy and clean. It asks us to feel the pain of, and not point the finger at, someone even the likes of the VTech gunman. There, but for the grace of god, go i... my grandfather used to say while he watched the news.

02 May, 2007 16:08  
Blogger geoffrey said...

PS... if i had a dollar for every time i spell "buddhists" wrong...

02 May, 2007 16:10  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

Compassion is not la-tee-da or airy fairy. It is not easy and clean. It asks us to feel the pain of, and not point the finger at, someone even the likes of the VTech gunman.

Yeah. I see exactly what you mean.

Do you see what I mean?

That it's so hard to say such a thing and actually mean it? Not that I think you don't, because I do think you mean it.

But when you put words to that...

It asks us to feel the pain of, and not point the finger at, someone even the likes of the VTech gunman.

...there's this huge chasm between the flat truth of those words and what they actually mean.

It's fucked up to understand that you are responsible for the world outside you on that level. There's this whole existential landscape stretched out between...

...well, let's get that VA-Tech guy out of this. Let's just talk about understanding one asshole who just cut you off on the freeway. Just to level the playing field. And the amount of imagining you have to do to project youself into his late-for-a-very-important-date shoes. And the immense, immense ego-swallowing you have to do to make your righteousness (because he did really cut you off!!) less important than his momentary existence in front of you...

...and the guy who cut you off did not kill people. He did not even truly inconvenience you. He just scared you. He invaded your space.

Know what I mean?

Understanding that guy and not letting him raise your blood pressure is compassion as you define it.

And I think about this shit all day long, and I still suck at it!

And that effort, and reaching toward that kind of strange responsibility, and seeing how beautiful it could be and not quite getting there, and sitting with your fuming self knowing that there is a better way and finding it just past you, just brushable with your fingertips...

...that's the aesthetic I am thinking of.

And I don't have any other words to describe it.

03 May, 2007 21:56  
Blogger geoffrey said...

ha! the aesthetic of the human condition... i kid, kind of.

words words words. I know what you mean only to well. and i do know the place, and i can get there after some time of breathing and wearing out my own defenses, allowing myself to move outward... and i suck at it too often (but i'm getting better... art helps). I think it is hard because feeling the weight of the world is not easy.

Separation is easy. If the guy on the freeway is an asshole and the gunman is a monster, well then they are not human and they are not us. And anger is so easy and so fast... I am the first to shout, and the first to rant with anything that irritates me... accountability and compassion are so much slower.

(Even Jesus sucked at it too from time to time, taking the whip to the merchants. God of the Old Testament was even a pissy one, just read the flood story. Nelson Mandela was a trained terrorist before he was a prisoner. The list goes on...)

My feeling is that all great works of art, the timeless ones... understand this thing of which we speak. And that it is what we consider beauty in the end. I don't think it is such a mystery, and i think by making this beauty undefinable or unobtainable, just out of reach, we continue to enjoy our laziness.

I think it is when the work comes from the I that is the world, not the I that is "me". Not swallowing the ego, but realizing that it isn't the end all be all and is actually kind of insignifigant. I mean, sure its there, but it's not where the work should come from. And art is our practice of getting beyond it to something greater... (vulnerability, like you said.)

BTW... I don't believe my reaction to freeway asshole is Me. I don't think your reaction is you. (I'm not really sure that most of what people show is what they are.)

A long time ago, I was looking through that big ass book of birthdays that was so popular in malls in the late 90's... the horoscope one. Each day comes with a saying or a mantra. Mine still haunts/cracks me up. "All irritation is of our own doing..."

so i guess when you say:

"It's fucked up to understand that you are responsible for the world outside you on that level."

with the understanding that there is no world outside of anything or anyone, we can just leave the last part off that sentence, and yes...

it IS fucked up to understand that I am responsible for the world.

I know you get all this and if i would be preaching (which i promise i am only saying all this to remind myself) it would be to a choir here...

04 May, 2007 05:10  
Blogger Mark Creegan said...

Intersting discussion. Just finished watching the "Miracle Planet" series and have this pleasant afterglow feeling of total insignificance. No matter what I/we do, life will prevail. Yay life!

But when we feel the horror and weep for our freshmen being gunned down but do not REALLY feel the horror or weep for Iraqi children being bombed we are trapped in our own evolutionary tribalism. Can somebody invent a pill to wipe out tribalism already? Jeez! A little help ova here!

Is that why the peace tower was totally inaffective, it wasnt sincere because it couldnt be?

04 May, 2007 23:56  
Blogger fisher6000 said...


I think we are both being romantic, which is interesting and worth looking past.

More later. I am a little drunk and really tired.

...Hey Mark!!!

06 May, 2007 21:24  

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