Acts of rebellion in a lifetime

Acts of rebellion in a lifetime

My mother, Athina, from Ioannina-Epirus, lived most of her life in Athens; as youngster in Petralona, as married woman and mother in Kypseli and then later in Maroussi a northern suburb of Athens (and earlier times a village). She lived a simple life with a husband, two children, love, smile, beauty, some dramas and many sorrows. She didn’t enjoy eating nor drinking. She loved animals; she’d feed stray cats systematically and saved many of them from sickness and from street life dangers (unfriendly dogs, neighbors, cars, etc.). She was a tireless craftswoman in crochet and knitting; and somewhat in embroidery.

She kept her wishes dimmed, yet contributed her acts of rebellion just as we all ought to do (no matter how small). She got cremated in Bulgaria because the Greek State has not managed to surpass the church’s claim to our bodies (soul is not enough). It was her wish to be cremated despite the church’s commands and against most of her acquaintances and distant relatives’ expectations. Her own people had long before her departed. There was no ceremony; only my brother and I said goodbye to her body before the last trip to Sofia.

When still in Kypseli, on the first anniversary of “Polytechnio”, in 1974, she put in her bag the family film camera Standard 8 and went. The students’ rebellion against the junta – marked by the tank entering the Athens Polytechnic university in the early morning of 17 November 1973 and the accompanied brutalities by the police in and around the Polytechnio building – was then, just a year after and with the democracy freshly reestablished, a symbol of the fight for freedom, collective and individual; the Polytechnio ground was a highly emotional place. My mama filmed a roll or two. These films became a part of our family films; they were to be found in between summer holidays and Christmas dinners.

In 2007, based on these bits of film I made the video with the title “The importance of flowers” which was shown in the exhibition “Words-no-Words” in The Hague. It was the time of our housing and studio space renting in soon-to-be-demolished blocks of buildings. My mama did see the exhibition and her part in it. We were together then, our names connected closely as always.

From now on silence.

Athina Kapnissi-Tsanti, 1932-2018

 

 

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The continent formerly known as Europe

The continent formerly known as Europe

In the 20th century’s 90’s, deep in the bliss of spending in the name of consumerism (without a blush), the foundations were secured of what we are living now. Europe endorsed money as the major life value and its citizens were renamed into consumers; then the talk about (the) currency started and ruled over any other concern of the European existence.

This, the currency, was meant to be the main experiment and around it we saw all possible flaws sticking to the continent’s vessel. As real Europeans growing in self-criticism, should we first list the (criminal) flaws? Dublin 2 top of the list; the agreement regarding the refugees that touch land in Greece, Italy, Spain, Bulgaria, but also Hungary (till sometime ago); an agreement designed to protect the financially advanced, situated in the centre of this continent, at any cost (lives-dignity-resources). The economical flaws are equally crucial. Tax evasion (or accomplice to) as a person or as State; bribery and fraud counted in bills of hundreds or of millions (under this should we also mention the bonuses of bank managers in central continent?); corruption on the level of a police station officer or on systemic violations of citizens’ constitutional rights (e.g. strategic misinformation turning peoples against each other)?

Once flaws listed, every top meeting and every negotiation in Europe could start with reporting about the basics. On which ideas should we base our directions? What can your country contribute to the pool of historical knowledge and philosophical vision? The standard answer of eternal financial growth is here irrelevant; as it refers to an accountancy and investment bureau, not to the place that claims to defend democracy, etc. But the € union is systemically pushing humanities and culture to the side; starting by crashing the (university) studies that do not translate into present or future profit, those failing to produce present or future antagonistic individuals (humanities again). No need to mention the total dishonouring of the arts; though here more actors are involved. Governments are even applauded when scrapping in one go 40% of the spending on culture from their annual budget.

Europe was a continent and then, after multiple internal massacres, came the European community, then called union; then the Euro and the eurozone appeared. In this process, Greece received its share of benefits, while contributing – amongst a number of known and less known things – the name Europe, Ευρώπη. Within the recent dismay of everything Greek, and the non-memory of the people, the officials will cut off from the name, one way or the other.

On a time leap ahead, when our dear northerns will be visiting Europe, they can show their passports mentioning at forefront “citizen of €”, or else “citizen of the continent formerly known as Europe”.

P.S. 1 From the depth of my heart to a hero of my youth: Thank you Jean-Luc Godard, for your fiery defense for Greece and for the ideas that once seemed to unite this continent.

P.S. 2 This text was written in the midst of the Greek financial crisis. Since then, some things may have changed in the Greek situation; the tv has found other black sheep to point fingers at. I am not a journalist; my point remains.

the continent formerly known as Europe

I cannot travel anymore – books for short trips

I cannot travel anymore – books for short trips

‘I cannot travel anymore’ would be the next book to read. I would read it within a day or two: as long as a short trip for work usually lasts, or equal to the free time saved for reading when away for longer (work/duty) trips. It is a good title; a statement that shocks in real life. People ask immediately why. What to give as main reason: the physical strain (including the recovery time that becomes longer and longer), the shattering sense of loneliness among familiar faces (never managed to beat this one), the dislike of hotel rooms with their zombie tidiness, the limiting of the vital space within the frames of a suitcase and a crummy airplane seat, the food mostly under the acceptable standard (note: I like simple food), the goodbyes to loved ones, the current readings that must stay at home because of their volume and weight.

‘I cannot travel anymore’ does not exist as book title yet. I’ve had to do with other (more imaginative) titles, this recent period.

Here is a short selection of five:
A General Theory of Oblivion (2015, in EN) by Jose Eduardo Agualusa, an Angolan writer, famous (of what I read) and really special in his writing style and story building. I bought the book at Eason in Dublin; read it that evening sitting in my dorm bed and at the airport the next day before returning home.
The last days of New Paris (2016) by China Mieville, an English writer of fantasy fiction but also of history related to Marxism and the October revolution; here dealing with Surrealism and its role in history, with artists and Nazis in exploding encounters. I bought the book at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam on my way to Athens; read it during the trip and one night in the Athenian heat of August (air-co on of course).
Swing Time (2016) by Zadie Smith, an English writer famous enough not to need introductions I think. This one is about the inevitable crashing of lives no matter what the predictions or the first indications might be. But, open as an artwork, others have read in it tales about friendship and such which is indeed the first level of the story. I bought it also at Schiphol airport on my way to Marrakech for a conference job; read it there and then in between work, dinners, talks, and through hours of sleeplessness.
Batavia’s Graveyard (2002) by Mike Dash, a Welsh writer of history. This is a scholarly publication with 100 pages of annotations and a full bibliography; yet an absolute page turner. It is the story of the Dutch ship ‘Batavia’ that left Holland in 1628 and shipwrecked a few months later onto a group of islands off the Australian west coast. The mutiny that followed, the killings, the living conditions on and off the ship(s), the scum of the earth that manned the East India ships and populated the colonies, and the retribution by the authorities: exciting by itself and told by a fantastic writer, all into it! I bought the book at the American Bookstore in The Hague and read it on my way to Kassel; a road trip this one.
The Red and the Black (1830) by Stendhal, the classic 19th century French writer, yes. Where did this come from, one would wonder. Well, apart from doing a refresh of early readings, I wanted to read through a good account of ambition and hypocrisy, together with love affairs with a purpose, horrendous (real) love entanglements, and the all-time hopelessness of those lacking social/cultural/financial capital. I bought it online and read it somewhere between Athens and Amsterdam. Though reading it in English was difficult, I found, cause the long sentences of the French language sound awkward in  English, the tone was well transferred.

Since the fall of Napoleon, all appearance of gallantry has been severely barred from provincial manners. There is fear of being deprived of one’s post. The scoundrels seek the support of the Congregation; and hypocrisy has made most wonderful progress even in the liberal ranks. Boredom redoubles itself. There remain no other pleasures but reading and agriculture. [p. 52]

P.S. Dedicated to all those who travel more than often, with admiration for their physical strength.

highway_dream_rain_web
‘Highways and a dream: on wet roads’, oil on canvas, 100 x 150 cm, 2015

 

 

 

 

Dublin in lost mode

Dublin in lost mode

You know that a city is a welcoming place when you can enjoy a long walk in lost mode without much; not afraid to take the wrong turn; no (terribly) wrong street to step foot on nor too long a distance to deal with.

Dublin is such a welcoming place: in the centre, despite the hordes of tourists (with the drunkenness and whatever else that often brings in the need for paramedics), in the high neighbourhoods with the coloured Georgian doors and the classy galleries, and just the same in the working class streets where you smell and see in full: open air food markets, small eating places, basic shops of anything, people doing their thing and letting you be.

No, I am not idealizing it as it is not a harmless joyful city; the word ‘disparity’ is here again more than obvious, just like in most of our cities; soup for the poor and homeless, high art for the delicate souls. Still, Dublin manages to keep it down to earth (no lepricorns  here).

The deep green colour is beautiful and heart breaking; the soups have a distinct blunt taste as if grandma made them (delicious); the dark beer flows and the rain falls whenever it pleases, and you can count the drops one by one.

 P.S. Getting lost with a smart phone in your hand is the easiest thing, trust me!

Dublin_rain

 

The authority of the button

The authority of the button

 

Introduction no 1

Being, or not, a person who doesn’t like to be told what to do is of no importance; we all succumbed at some point to the button. Being aware, or not, of when the delirium started is of no importance either. At present, the button is triumphing.

The authority of the button in practice: you do when you press it. Yet, this authority goes beyond the physical action on to the power exercised on thought and will of each one of us.

The following text was a brief comment, expressed rather as a question, that was published in a closed wiki last year (2016) as assignment in the course ‘Media Philosophy’.  It refers to text as this was the subject of the study; but the visual and the arts are in the same stream.

The comment: the authority of the button

[…] in text-related technologies, we can take as example the structure of the digital text with its multilevel linking; all with the use of the button and the necessary user’s action of clicking.

The button is a technological device that entails simultaneously the option (free choice) and the command (authoritarian behavior). In these two contradictory traits, the first lays the foundation for the second to establish itself. A technology with innate capacity for organizing power and authority seems the only option in a democratic society; seemingly, the authority is diffused to the people that use this technology.

The use of the imperative form, either friendly as in “join, share, like, etc.” or service oriented as  in “listen now, download now, go there now, etc.”, and of course more directly commanding as in “buy now”, would not be accepted otherwise; not in politics, nor in social life. Instead, because of being essential to the structure of the specific technology, and through its material carrier, the button, the command has been accepted as normal. In its turn, the authoritarian behavior exercised on individual level, shifts the limits of acceptable authority that can be imposed centrally.

The question arises: is the authoritarian tendency innate to humans so that the central power contains it as much as the technology that they produce?

Introduction no 2

The button has been a peculiar element of modern times. It has been the focus of awe and of mockery since the moment that its use left the industrial terrain and spread in to everyday life. Between Chaplin’s uncontrollable machines in his movie Modern Times (1936) and The Matrix (Wachowski brothers, 1999), buttons became an accessory in the hands of literally everyone.

One push further, the statement ‘Never send a human to do a machine’s job’ (The Matrix) moved from the sphere of the joke to the common belief.

P.S. 1 I had a hard time in the Univ when omitting the conclusion/closure bit, faithful to the inconclusiveness of art. Cause, apart from believing in this as the only possible free area, I considered all my writings as being part of my artistic practice (no conclusions, only open space). That is why this blog post has two introductions; one to start and one to finish, with the question in the middle.

P.S. 2 The front image is a detail from a textile work of mine titled ‘The memory of a nebula’; embroidery with some padded parts.

KAPNISSI_06
‘Do not press’ – acrylic on canvas, 1998

 

Hedonism and the rest

Hedonism and the rest

Away with hedonism and the rest.

The problem with being against everything is that you slide down the whirlpool of being against yourself; and there you often find the start of your whirlpool too. I have a mind trained to make unusual connections, the ones that art permits and reveals to its disciples. This kind of mind is pleased whenever the web of links shows anomalies, like clots, stretches, or a hiatus.

The book ‘Against Everything: On Dishonest Times‘ by Mark Greif (London-New York: Verso, 2016) is a collection of essays that present in a cool minded way an array of protests. With the voice of a young man and a scholar, the author carefully unfolds on the dissecting table the passions of age groups, style groups, class groups, and the philosophies whereupon our world of today is lingering.

I had to show how every commonplace thing might be a compromise. [p. xi]

Why is it that I thought that this is also a common place, a common knowledge? Is it because of a nearly compulsory critical thinking or because of catching a big shift (or rather its final twist) at its start? Didn’t we see the aesthetic hedonism (the idea that aesthetic value resides solely in a thing’s ability to give us pleasure) taking over within the establishment of consumerism (triumphant for everyone’s consent); these two together eliminating life as we knew it, to the extent that things must be explained as before and after? The author searches the origins of today’s hurtful structures in a depth of more than a century when putting forth the authors Thoreau and Flaubert, and the derailment of the notions of aestheticism and perfectionism.

In the nineteenth century, Flaubert and Thoreau foresaw mud where others saw a perfectly rewarding way of life. Today we’re up to our eyes in it. [p. 88]

This is included in one of the interim chapters sharing a common by-title ‘The meaning of life’. There are four such chapters. Here is where the specific leads to the general, a contemplative step back is taken for viewing the structure with the aim to word it.

Part III of this series is titled ‘Anaesthetic ideology’. Within a few pages, Plato and Aristotle are put on the table, in connection to experience and non-experience, or restriction of it, with mentioning of Socrates and Diogenes the Cynic and the concluding presence of Epicurus. The Epicurean bliss is then connected to the apatheia (no passion, or better not responding to the world’s mud) of Epictetus, in the quest for absolute freedom, in which case self-ending is an option. Both sides of anesthesia (non feeling) are referring to pain. They are like the operas of Richard Strauss where the happy parts are the same hysterical scream as the tragic parts (an amazing thing). That is because despite all, you want to be here.

The sad truth is that you still want to live in their world. It just somehow seems this world has changed to exile you. [p. 227]

Philosophy does help us find a position, see what we do and maybe why; see also why we feel guilty and whether there is anything we can do to improve all that.

The essays look at subjects partly of our lived youth and further, carrying a question mark (with a kind of sympathy or inevitable association?). Radiohead, punk, rap, a good historical account of the hipsters (had no idea), teenage bodies of grown-up women, the fitness (have tried and failed; my body is a stoic philosopher on this), reality tv, and some sides of American reality which we can read only with the cognition (I’m afraid).

Decomposing things in present tense and in writing is interesting indeed, and wise. Surely wiser than counting the number of ‘NOs’ you’ve said in practice.

P.S.1 Epictetus was a presence in my youth, through the writings of Jason Xenakis who followed the path of self-determination to the end. I recently came across this essay: The post-existentialist neo-stoicism of Jason Xenakis and the stoic theory of suicide. 

P.S.2 Whatever happened to aesthetic beauty as the condition where the content falls into the form without flaw (in the same way that the soul falls into the body in/through martial arts and such)?

IMG_7522

Digital analysis of a blog

Digital analysis of a blog

What can distant reading say about a blog, when we know its theme and we follow it either from the author’s side or that of the reader? What is expected from a digital analysis of a non-commercial blog?

There are numbers and ratios retrieved, and lists of words (the most commonly used) as well as links between them. There is a web revealed and a mapping done. The analysis is both quantitative and qualitative, the two tightly correlated.

A good number of digital analysis tools for texts have been developed and are in use the last 10-15 years. Those who have more understanding of such tools set themselves the terms of the analysis, to some extent; for ex. which common words (a, the, and, etc.) to exclude when composing the word frequency lists. This is not an impossible task, it takes however a lot of work and a brave brain squeeze. Though I find something intriguing to it, I don’t feel that brave to meddle with commands, expressions, and you name it. I have done it, and even got some result. But, the ratio (!) of success towards failure is a negative figure. A simple job can be done with the ready-to-use free online tools, like the Voyant tools, and such (with thanks).

Summary of the five most recent posts (here seen as a ‘corpus’):
This corpus has 1 document with 5,077 total words and 1,541 unique word formsVocabulary Density (ratio found by dividing the Total Words by the Unique Words): 3,30 (not too bad) [see literary examples: Vocabulary Analysis of Project Gutenberg].
Average Words Per Sentence: 22.3
Most frequent words in the corpus: art (49); artists (33); artist (23); like (22); work (20); blog (15); authority (13); time (13); words (13); life (10); sea (10); book (9); march (9); music (9); way (9); world (9); april (8); arts (8); comment (8); january (8); p.s (8); people (8); read (8); status (8); books (7); don’t (7); end (7); essay (7); facebook(7); film (7); google (7); irony (7); kapnissi (7); kind (7); leave (7); linkedin (7); loading (7); market (7); order (7); pinterest (7); poetry (7); posts (7); reddit (7); september (7); share (7)

By this, the theme of the blog is already set, with a little surprise in the mention of the ‘sea’. The social media presence was inevitable, as they make part of each blog post (that is why I did not remove these words/ names) even though not in the actual text. While here we see about 50 words, in the visualization with the name cirrus we can view many more words in one look; I set it up to retrieve 150, so this is what this cloud-like word list shows:

cirrus_blog_150words_01

Quite interestingly but not a real surprise, the word ‘depression’ pops-up as a prominent one, yet not as prominent as the ‘sea’, or ‘music’. And it is possible to go even further and expand the viewing of the words used in this part of the blog, in this beautiful arch, which works itself linking word for word in a rhythmical progression:

arch_blog2

As artists, we find and we make links between whatever lies in this world of ours. Words are more specific in this, that is why they are regarded as more appropriate for conveying meaning and for transferring knowledge (make a note for another post, though just one will not be enough for this topic). Digital analysis tools also find links between words in the analysed text. The result of such a search can be presented for ex. like this:

links_blog

In a very quick viewing of this visualization, the word ‘status’ is linked to the word ‘artists’, the ‘artist’ is linked to ‘authority’, and ‘art’ is linked to the ‘artists’, to ‘history’, and to the ‘market’.

Reversing the findings, what is not there also says something about the analysed text. In this case, what is absent are the names of people, and specifically of (famous) artists.

Text analysis tools give a variety of options for breaking down the text into its components and re-composing it in an untangled form. The new forms, rather in plural, are untangled from whatever we have in our mind regarding the text(s). However, these tools also entail to some extent the choice for manipulation (of input and result). This makes the analysis a game, which seriousness lies upon you. A lot of responsibility again; here is a knot representing the vicinity or correlation (not clear) of the words ‘art’, ‘artists’, ‘work’, ‘authority’, and ‘time’:

blog_knot

I must say, that the first time I saw a visualization of a data set (or of a text, not sure) I was so impressed that since then I look for such things, mostly with the artist’s hat on. There are sophisticated people out there that can make real use of the analysis tools, systems, methods, etc. I am happy I managed to take a glimpse (and, I have some fun ideas…).

P.S. Text analysis and visualization are not necessarily connected. They can also live apart. Visualization lives in science and in art, and relevant studies can be done in either field. Here is someone who combines both; have a look, there are interesting things in here: http://manovich.net/