Cultural Discourse looks at a broad range of cultural issues.
20th April 2018

On the Post-Metaphysical Art of Santa Fe Artist Blair Vaughn-Gruler

Blue Shingle, 2017

In her artist statement, “Occlude, Penetrate, Resolve: Paint in Relation to the Body,” the Santa Fe artist Blair Vaughn-Gruler likens the act of painting to creating an epidermal layer of skin that is designed to heal a Wound: as she specifies it, the Wound is that inflicted upon us by Modernity, in which a crisis of meaning of signifiers that have come unglued from their signifieds has resulted.

I think the art of Blair Vaughn-Gruler can best be approached from the standpoint of its evolution over time as she seeks, through the process of epidermal layering, to find new signifiers to occupy the semiotic vacancies left behind by the Dark Age of postmodernity.

To begin with her paintings from 2012, Blair Vaughn-Gruler’s surface of inscription is that, perhaps, of an old abandoned city wall upon which, after a Dark Age, an obscure memory of some formal vocabulary still exists–an echo of Euclid’s Elements, let’s say–and which is scrawled crudely upon the surface as rectangular boxes:

Recess, 2011









Or, as in Climbing Tower of 2011, in which the memory of the vertical-axial arche-form begins to resurface as a quest for depth:


Climbing Tower, 2011









In the 2012 painting Aperiodic Tesselations, a new epidermal surface begins to emerge into the Clearing which she is creating, in the form of tiny raised-relief rectangles that now begin to compose the form language of the Vocabulary she is searching for:

Aperiodic Tesselations, 2012










With Geometry Angel of 2012, the geometric forms now begin to burn and glow with a faint self-luminous aura that indicates their numinosity as forms glowing out of the dim recesses of collective memory:

Geometry Angel, 2012








And in Architectural Geometry II, the Euclidean graffiti shapes begin to resolve themselves into the possibility for the formation of houses and rectangles that could be reinhabited by this human Remnant:

Architectural Geometry II, 2012











In 2013, the epidermal surface of inscription explodes into a series of rectangular units in raised relief, reiterated across a topological infinity, as in Shingle Painting 45:

Shingle Painting 45, 2013










The semiotic vacancies of the Dark Age after Modernity are now being filled in with a new form language of discrete iterations of abstract modularity, floating in hyperspace, as in Diablo, which suggests the view of a complex city from satellized orbit:







By 2015, the solution to the problem posed by her post-metaphysical semiotic vacancies is in process of resolving itself. The squares become organized, not random, and form a complex topology of striated space, as in Compulsion:

Compulsion, 2015










Soon, a post-metaphysical rhizome begins to unfold that integrates all the elements into a complex form language of geometric micro-conversations as dense and complex as an Islamic arabesque:

Articulated Scribbling, 2015








And the rhizome that emerges is a symbiosis of forms creating a carpet of interwoven geometries that have now been remembered, recaptured and interleaved to form a higher, more fractally complicated geometry that exists on a plane of consistency beyond the ancient, dying Euclidean plane of organization:

Infinite Loop, 2015










By 2017, a new space has opened up and dropped downward into the Infinite, a sort of visual equivalent of a Cantorian mathematical infinity as layer upon layer of geometric iteration builds one atop the next:

Logicism, 2017








By 2018, these paintings have become worlds unto themselves, each one a microcosm of complexity and fractal energy with its own form world, its own figurative vocabulary and its own internal rhizomatic metaphysic:

Wiggle-Room, 2018








In short, the art of Blair Vaughn-Gruler is that of a contemporary master whose work you cannot afford to overlook and which is currently available in Santa Fe at the GVG gallery.

Blair Vaughn-Gruler’s website:








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4th April 2018

On Nasim Aghdam, You Tube and the Hypersubject

Nasim Aghdam YouTube Video

David Cronenberg, in his 1999 Hypermodern masterpiece, Existenz, saw it coming. At the film’s conclusion, a virtual reality game designer named Yevgeny Nourish, together with his female assistant, are confronted by a pair of test subjects–played by Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jude Law–who have just participated in his game. The character known as Ted Pikul (Law) confronts Yevgeny with these words:

“Don’t you think that the world’s greatest game artist ought to be punished for the most effective deforming of reality?”

Then both he and the character named Allegra Geller (Leigh) withdraw handguns from their hiding place in the coat of the mangy dog they carry between them and shout:

“Death to the demon Yevgeny Nourish!”

“Death to Pilgrimage! Death to Transcendenz!”

Then they shoot both the virtual reality game designer and his assistant to death.

In other words, the creation of virtual phantoms and ghosts will eventually lead to thymotic reactions of anger and frustration from the limbic brain as the confused and tricked frontal lobes are manipulated by phantoms triggering energetic responses that are evolutionarily programmed into human / hominid biology. If these phantoms confuse the neocortex, the emotionally-charged thymotic centers of the mammalian brain will respond with violence, whether the objects of that violence are real or not.

And so now, the case of one Nasim Aghdam, an Iranian-born woman living in San Diego, aged 39, who has spent the past few years creating her own Hypersubject as an avataric extension of herself into cyberspace. She was a militant vegan and body-builder who created a series of YouTube videos projecting herself as a bizarre dancing entity against multi-colored backdrops and accompanied on occasion by dancing human figures wearing animal-headed masks, all in protest of the killing and eating of animals.

Ms. Aghdam claimed in her videos and on her website that YouTube had recently demonetized her and restricted some of her videos–in which she is shown doing stretching exercises–as age restricted so that she got fewer views. Apparently, demonetizing her videos, she claimed, cut off the only income she had.

So she armed herself with a Smith & Wesson 9mm. handgun and drove from San Diego to the offices of in San Bernardino, and on April 3 at 12:46 pm got out of her car and walked to a patio area in front of the building where some YouTube workers were having lunch, and opened fire, injuring three people before turning the gun on herself and committing suicide.

In his commentary on the ontological characteristics of the subject in the digital age, the Korean born German theoretician Byung-chul Han writes in his essay on the culture of the “outraged” which is being produced under the conditions of complete digitization:

“The outraged do not form a stable we who are displaying concern for society as a whole. Enraged citizens, even though they are citizens, do not demonstrate concern for the social body so much as for themselves…Today’s fits of outrage are extremely fleeting and scattered. Outrage lacks the mass–the gravitation–that is necessary for action. It generates no future.”

Which is the point I made exactly in my essay “On Hypermodernity.” The Hypermodern Subject, perfectly illustrated here in the actions of Nasim Aghdam, is a deworlded subjectivity, carved out from all social formations and projected and amplified into the avataric conditions of hyperspace as a lone subjectivity with his / her own private sign regime and its preferential concerns. The concerns of “society,” “ideology,” or social utopias need not apply. Under the conditions of Hypermodernity, all ideologies are dead. We are instead dealing with a new universe of excessive individualities running rampant across social media. (Donald Trump is the first Hypermodern president: neither Left nor truly Right, he is a pure phantom of raging Tweets and personal preferences connected to no particular ideology who Tweeted his way into the presidency).

These Hypersubjects–a.k.a. avatars–we are now discovering, can be hurt, deformed, warped or otherwise mangled as pain is inflicted upon them. When YouTube demonetized Nasim Aghdam’s account, it actually mangled her avatar and sent pain waves rippling backward through hyperspace to their point of origin in the very loose and liquid subjectivity known as Nasim Aghdam located in physical space in a suburban home in San Diego. In order to cause harm and do battle with YouTube, however, today’s hapless individual has recourse only to resort to a handgun attack on real, physical individuals working at YouTube headquarters in San Bernadino. Individuals there can be shot, hurt or otherwise maimed at the point of origin of their attacks on Ms. Aghdam’s avatar.

In other words, today’s warriors are not ideologically driven Marxists who are members of underground groups organizing themselves for assault on Capitalist society. Those days are gone. Today’s warriors are lone Hypersubjects who exist in cyberspace where they come equipped with their own suits of light and their own private sign regimes of personal preferences. These are deworlded individuals who have come unglued from any local horizons and are let loose in hypermodern cyberspace, where they are unstable, liquid, morphing, shifting entities who appear harmless on the surface.

But that is the realm of the hypercapitalist imaginary. On the plane of the Real, these subjectivities can, and will, do physical harm to the originators of other avatars and other sign regimes which come into conflict with their own.

In my own case, YouTube demonetized my Channel a long time ago, for no clearly given reason. Then, in 2016, they locked me out of access to my John David Channel, where I have over 500 videos, that are extremely popular, with tens of thousands of views. I do not make a cent from any of those videos which YouTube is using to make money from. They simply went in and changed my password without notifying me and now there’s no way in, as I discovered after talking over the phone to a YouTube representative who explained to me, “there no way back way in.”

Really? I kinda find that hard to believe. YouTube has over 1700 hundred employees at its offices in San Bernardino, and you’re telling me not one of those “geniuses” knows of a back way for me to get back into my account? I simply don’t believe that. They just have no motivation to help me out. After all, who am I but just another avatar in their digital apparatus of capture?

So I’ve had to create a new channel and have been trying to build an audience for that back up. Meanwhile, I cannot monetize my new channel until it has over 4000 hours of continuous watching over the last 12 months.

So I know exactly what Nasim Aghdam was feeling when she got into the car and made the drive, together with her 9 mm. handgun, to the offices of YouTube.

YouTube, apparently, can do as they please, with no accountability and no consequences for whatever arbitrary decisions they want to make, completely heedless of their effects on other peoples’ lives. After all, those people aren’t even real, are they?

I think I see more weapons glinting in the sunlight coming over the horizon.



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    For more John Ebert books and lectures…Get it on Google Play






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