Cultural Discourse looks at a broad range of cultural issues.
7th March 2018

On Hypermodernity

On Hypermodernity

by John David Ebert

1.

Every new world age must be preceded by an Event of such momentous significance that it causes a tectonic shift, or discontinuity, in the ontological architecture of a society. Hence World War II was the great Event that separated Modernity from Post-Modenity, irrevocably dividing one world age from the next. Everything that we think of as “postmodern” came into being after it: eclecticism in architecture; the death of the metanarrative (Lyotard); the rise of minority cultures; decolonization and the Voice of the Cultural Other being expressed in academe (Spivak), etc. etc.

Likewise the Event that separates Modernity properly speaking–demarcating it, say, from the Enlightenment–from all that went before it was the French Revolution and the succeeding Napoleonic Wars that eventually, once the dust had settled, led to the Haussmanization of Paris: a complete structural reworking of boulevards, streets and demolition of old, worn-out neighborhoods that was already consistent with the Revolutionary tendency toward Deconstruction; that is to say, of the getting rid of old grand historical metanarratives (hence the advent of the metric system; the attempt to implement a new world calendar by getting rid of months and days named after old European gods and goddesses intertwined with Christian eschatologies). The difference in world horizons is exemplified by comparing Ingres’s 1827 painting “The Apotheosis of Homer” with Manet’s 1862 “Le Dejeuner sur L’Herbe.” Whereas the former painting apotheosizes the West’s grand Homeric narrative of descent from the Classical world, Manet’s painting absolutely defies all attempts at trying to find a narrative in it.

After the restructurings of Haussman, the French Impressionist painters put Paris on the map as the capital, not only of the nineteenth century–to quote Walter Benjamin–but of the entire project of Modernity down to World War II (after which the center of the art world shifts with Abstract Expressionism to New York, although Paris becomes the Intellectual Capital of Postmodernity in the 1960s).

Such Evental shifts between world ages can be found all throughout history, for they are not at all unique to Western Modernity. The seventeenth century BC, for instance, was an age of horizonal demarcation with the advent of the two-wheeled horse chariot and compound bow that, in the West, created the Mycenaeans of the Pelopennese, Troy Level VI (1700 to 1200 BC) and the Hyksos invasion of Egypt which was ruled for a little over a century by Semitic peoples from Palestine. The Hyksos dynasty ended the Egyptian Middle Kingdom and their expulsion from Egypt by the twin brothers Ahmose and Kamose around 1530 BC marked the transition of Egypt into its New Kingdom imperial phase and the creation of its trans-Palestinian Empire.

Another such Event takes place around the year 1200 BC, which brings this Late Bronze Age of the chariot empires to a close with a massive systems collapse signalled by the Trojan War (end of Troy VI, circa 1250 BC) and the eruption, from the Black Sea, of marauding Sea Peoples who systematically dismantle and destroy the Mycenaean world, the Hittite Empire, and nearly all of the cities of Palestine. Egypt barely survives this period intact, but its imperial days, from that point on, were over.

Not to digress too far, but I think it is important to understand that such world ages are nothing new and indeed, make up the ontology of history, which is catastrophic and dis-continuous.

2.

The Great Event, likewise, that signifies the decisive shift from Postmodernity to Hypermodernism was September 11, 2001.  Up until then, as Baudrillard once pointed out, Events had been on strike and had apparently ceased to happen, as globalization dissolved history into its anticlimactic end. But 9/11 was the great Hyksos Event that signified the transition of American political power from the concerns of what Carl Schmitt called its “grossraum,” that is to say, its trans-national hemispheric domain, to the building of an Imperial Security State Apparatus, with a global external proletariat defining a specific Outside in the form of those neo-Hyksos barbarians known as the mujaheideen and their various genealogical offshoots (ISIL, ISIS, etc.).

At least, this is the Event that signalled the shift on the political plane, for on the technological plane, the shift can be more precisely demarcated in the year 1995 when the National Science Foundation turned the Internet over to the public. The impact of the Internet on all previous forms of media is the equivalent on the technological plane of the Hyksos Event of 9/11 on the political plane. For the Internet now proceeded to provide Hypermodernity with its World Interior which, as Peter Sloterdijk pointed out, had earlier been architecturally expressed in the 1851 Event of the Crystal Palace in the Great Exhibition in London of that year–preceded by the Parisian prologue of the Arcades of the 1830s–which provided Modernity with its World Interior: namely, that of a global shopping mall.

This was a kind of translucifying of retail space–an opening up of it, as it were–by liquidating its walls and rendering them transparent to the outside. As Walter Benjamin pointed out, the department store came into being out of the Parisian arcades, as well as the concept of retail stores connected by labyrinthine alleyways with iron and glass enclosures. (Whereas the Crystal Palace simply enclosed all retail space into a single gigantic, linear open mall lined with purveyors and merchants: the ultimate outcome of that phase of Modernity marked by the discovery and conquest of the New World, and the expansion of Western imperialism across the planet, from whence signifiers of all kinds and sorts were ripped from their various cultural contexts and put into the circulation of Industrial capitalism).

Whereas the World Interior retail space of postmodernity was the advent, in Edina, Minnesota in 1956 of the shopping mall, which introduced the innovation of turning all the retail spaces away from the city center and faced them, as it were, with their backs, while enclosing itself in a bi-level air-conditioned interior as a miniature city. The shopping mall, with its fake plants, strategically placed fountains, and above all, its electified staircases in the form of escalators became the world interior of postmodernity.

And along with it, what Marc Auge termed “the Non-Place,” that is to say, the eruption, during the 1950s in America, of the Interstate Highway System and its various motels, fast food restaurants and strip malls, all of which had a decentralizing effect on the quaint old city center of the traditional modern city. While the downtown areas began to crumble, the city exported itself to the countryside so that, as McLuhan–the great prophet of postmodern media–put it, “every truck stop cafe with a television and a newspaper became as cosmopolitan as New York or Paris.”

But then, Hypermodernity put an end to the shopping mall, which began to dissolve and disappear during the decade of the 2000’s as the Internet, in turn, decentralized the mall by exporting it to the living room: in effect, the mall became an individualized, rather than a communal, experience. With the Internet, the individual never had to leave his home to shop, and so during the 2000’s retail stores, shopping malls and their connected media–bookstores, record stores, magazines and newspapers–began to disappear as they were absorbed into this new totally electronic World Interior.

3.

Whereas the media of postmodernity had all been analogue–records, cassette tapes, photographs, magazines, celluloid–the media of Hypermodernity is exclusively digital. With the satellization of the Exosphere, the analogue telephone became transformed into the cell phone and later the smart phone, which jacked the individual into the World Interior from wherever on the planet he happened to be. He didn’t have to go anywhere to be included in the new Hypermodern World Interior. And all his analogue photographs could be dissolved from their nitrate surfaces and melted into cyberspace directly from his brain as his camera became an appendage of the new World Interior. His vinyl records were dissolved and liquefied, and his celluloid films transformed into bytes that obsolesced the movie projector. All analogue media were liquefied, dissolved and fed into the new matrix.

Now the individual became empowered to become a new kind of entity, for Hypermodernism has created the Hyperindividual, a new–and bizarre–kind of individual that is nothing like the traditional Western idea of the transcendent Self, for this new self is floating, discarnate, deworlded and decontextualized from all world horizons. The Hyperindividual has no connection with history, community or any kind of idealistic, utopian projects. Those all characterized the past. The Hyperindividual is a world unto himself.

Hypermodernity pours liquid scorn upon all utopian projects, since such projects presuppose a historical narrative behind them. The Hypermodern individual has no connection with the past or the future, indeed, does not even have any connection with the preceding moment, for he / she exists in a timeless, spaceless, ahistorical and modular present.

The structure of Time in Hypermodernity is modular: it is composed of a succession of present moments, each of which is isolated and has no relationship to any preceding moment, or any future moment. The ontology of the individual is that of an amoral hedonist achieving sensory gratification in each present moment, which is disconnected from all others. As a result, there are no values and there are no visions and above all, no connection of the individual to any traditional social formations. He has become a nomad, on his own, disconnected, modular and historyless. (Hence, the advent of the Dangerous Loner, a new anthropological type of Hypermodernity).

Whereas the Transcendental Self of Western history was an objective entity who was actually embedded in a historical flow that connected him ultimately all the way back to the Greeks, the Hypermodern individual has no connections to anything but the luminous glow of cyberspace.

Now that he / she has become disconnected from all utopian projects and all sense of community–for there are no longer any world spaces for him to gather within as part of one or another social grouping–he / she can, within the World Interior, gigantify him or herself to the level of an Icon by using the new media that enable this process to take place: as I pointed out in my 2011 book The New Media Invasion, Jeff Bezos is Amazon, Mark Zuckerberg is Facebook, Larry Page and Sergey Brin are Google. On Facebook, the Hypermodern individual becomes a unique presence in cyberspace, with his own website and his own videos; the technology now enables him or her to gigantify out of all proportion to any relation of scale that would connect him to any group or social formation whatsoever.

Thus, the sobering truth now begins to dawn: Marxism is dead. Critical Theory is dead. The public intellectual is dead. For all these phenomena presuppose connections of the individual to larger social formations beyond himself as a modular unit isolated to sensual gratification in the present moment. The Internet–with its satellized connections to the Exosphere–unplugs and deworlds the individual, putting him into orbit about the planet.

Hence revolutionary protest groups such as the Weatherman underground of the 1970s, or the Baader-Meinhof group in the German Democratic Republic of the 1970s now give way to the phenomenon of the lonely, isolated spree killer who stands for Nothing and represents no one. The spree killer, disconnected from all social formations whatsoever, wishes to leave a Mark on the socius because he feels somehow disincluded from the larger project of Modernity. The irony is, however, that in actuality there is nothing that he is disincluded from since Hypermodernity has melted down all coherent social formations. The modular individual as world island unto himself is the only ontological self that exists in Hypermodernity.

4.

Under the conditions of Hypermodernity, there is no longer any Art World, per se, no longer any New York or Paris that functions as a cosmopolitan world center for the artist to be a part of. Art now, simply exists wherever there happens to be an artist–scattered at random across the striated landscapes of the global planetary surface–or he is a criminal who, like Banksy, must get into the city, make his mark–just like a spree killer–and get out quickly. Anselm Kiefer, with his isolated junk shop world horizon at La Ribaute, typifies this new ontological status of the artist as a loner who creates his art out of junked signifiers taken higgeldy-piggeldy from the blown out civilizations of the past.

Is there any longer even such as thing as the practice of art as an activity distinct from, say, science? The plasticene anatomical corpses of Gunther Hagens would seem to defy any clear separation of art from science. In these new vague ontologies, an artist like Anselm Kiefer begins to take on the ontological status of a junkyard dealer.

Under the conditions of Hypermodernity, there are no more Art Movements, only individual artists dotting the ontological Clearing opened up by this new, and uncertain global World Interior.

Hypermodernity is the Death of Art. But not, perhaps, of the artist, who manages to eke out a living like a retrieval of some Robinson Crusoe figure washed ashore with a junkheap of broken signifiers from dead worlds surrounding him.

5.

On the economic plane, Hypermodernity is based upon the neoliberalization of the planet under Clinton in the 1990s. With Free Trade Agreements, the World Bank, GATT and NAFTA, the economy is sent into orbit around the planet and becomes deworlded: all local economies–such as the farmer in a village in Mexico–are simply wiped out, and the result is the empowerment of local criminal organizations, such as the cartels in Mexico, or the Russian mafias, which rush in to fill the gap and try to supply the missing supplement of local need. Thus, the economic transformation creates as a side effect its own internal proletariats and what the German theoretician Heiner Muhlmann calls “disruptive cultures” as a result. Empowering the global ecumene means a disempowering of local community structures, generating violent counterreactions in turn.

6.

Finally, in Hypermodernity there is no longer anything to achieve. Marxism is dead. Utopianism is dead. Revolutionary movements–despite the Arab Spring–are gone. Idealism is non-existent under such conditions, since Hypermodernity locks the individual into a modular present that is disconnected from all preceding presents. There is only the Now. Anything that has occurred more than 48 hours ago, simply ceases to exist.

Civilization has now become the sum total of its population: a planet of individuals achieving instant gratification, amoral, valueless, unmotivated and without Vision. All exoskeletal “spheres,” to use Peter Sloterdijk’s term, are gone and now there is only social “foam,” that is to say, individuals rubbing up against other individuals, each with their own private semiotic sign regime clashing with each other’s. In Modernity, civilizations with their own sign regimes clashed with one another; in Postmodernity, terrorist groups as social formations clashed; but in Hypermodernity each individual is a nation state unto himself armed and equipped with his own electronic sign regime to do battle with other suits of light in cyberspace.

With the annihilation of all geographic distance due to globalizing technologies, there is now nowhere for the individual to go to. The World Interior of the civilization now exists on a glowing, self-luminous surface in front of him. There is, furthermore, nothing to achieve, since all utopian projects have come to an end with the liquidation of all social formations.

In Hypermodernity, too much is never enough, for it is a society of excess, surfeit and signifier overload. Anyone can become “famous” for any reason, but under the conditions of constant electronic liquefaction, that fame will last precisely 48 hours. In a society in which everyone can become famous, no one in particular is famous. Thus, the structuring anthropological types of the previous world order of postmodernity are simply melted down under the impact of the unfolding architecture of planetary cyberspace: celebrities and public intellectuals cannot exist under such conditions because the digital technologies of Hypermodernity enable anyone to enter the civilizational Clearing without the slightest effort. Hence, there is no discipline that is necessary to master because all such conditions have been liquefied and melted down, to be thrown onto the junkheap along with all other civilizational paradigms.

But: there is an Empire to build, and you must be careful, in this new world interior, what you do and say, for you–as a perpetual and continuous inhabitant of its inside–are constantly under surveillance. There is no place where you are not. The Forum and the Agora are everywhere.

You do not need to go to them, they are already wherever you are.

You are civilization.

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2nd March 2018

Introducing the Art of Morpheus Lunae: On the Paternal Vulva

On the Art of Morpheus Lunae and the Paternal Vulva

by John David Ebert

“…how with shrinking hands he cut the incision in his thigh and carried him in his man’s womb, father and gracious mother at once, and well he remembered another birth, when his own head conceived, when his temple was big with child, and he carried that incredible unbegotten lump until he shot out Athena scintillating in her armour.” –Nonnos, Dionysiaca, Bk. 1.6-10

For Lacan, the Phallus existed on all three of his registers: on the level of the Real, the phallus is precisely the biological organ which we term the “penis.” But at the level of the Imaginary, the Phallus is a fantasy that the infant identifies with in order to impress his mother. He wishes to be the Phallus for her, the thing that keeps her interest focused on him and away from the Father. But in order for the individual to be properly initiated into the Big Other of society, a symbolic castration must take place, in which the individual realizes that he cannot be the phallus for the mother and that he must accede to the paternal authority which Lacan terms the Name of the Father. For him, the Father is sacrosanct, and the Phallus at the level of the Symbolic Order is precisely his authority. It’s a bit like Greek initiation into the Academy.

Lacan, however, completely ignored the vulva. For him, it had no metaphysical valency whatsoever, but I would suggest that the vulva, too, exists on all three registers: on the level of the Real, it is the pink, fleshy vagina that is the gateway and portal for all entities into this world; but the imaginary vulva is what I term the “metaphysical vulva” and it is not a physical thing at all, but a metaphysical reality that, once appropriated, accedes to the Symbolic Order of a society as a creative signification.

It was Heidegger who invented the so-called “metaphysical age” which he saw as beginning with Plato and continuing all the way down to Nietzsche–an age which Derrida termed “logocentric,” since meaning was firmly anchored in Transcendental Signifieds that were actually, in some way, “out there” and which could be reached by the Knower through a long, Hegelian pilgrimage through the Stations of the Cross, as it were, to match one’s concepts with their ultimate quilting points. All the metaphysical concepts of the metaphysical age, were, according to Lacan, anchored to what he called “quilting points,” and when slippages occurred–i.e. when a signifer came unglued from its signified–a psychosis could result, thus thrusting the individual back out of the Symbolic Order and into that swamp of images, myths and phantasies which he termed, dismissively, the imaginary order.

But it was Peter Sloterdijk who pointed out that the metaphysical age–in which the Paternal Authority reigned supreme–was preceded by a pre-metaphysical age, in which the ruling archai that governed the imaginary significations of a society were all gynocentric, to use Bachofen’s terminology. The signifiers were mythic and firmly rooted in the authority of the Great Mother. The vulva was her primary icon, for it was the source of all life and the ultimate signifier of all gateways to the Underworlds of initiation into her various Mysteries.

Heidegger’s metaphysical age, however, did not begin with Plato, but actually with Homer, and its primary characteristic was an appropriation of the metaphysical vulva from the Goddess and a dethroning and discrediting of her powers. Zeus claims the metaphysical vulva from the goddess and uses it to give birth to Athena, the goddess of wrath and Reason, from out of his skull–which has to be cloven open by the axe of Hephaestus. When Zeus gives birth to Dionysus, likewise, by retrieving his embryo from the shattered ruins of Semele and having it stitched into his thigh, he appropriates it again. (And note that when Hera parthenogenetically gives birth to the smith god Hephaestus, she attempts to reclaim the metaphysical vulva, now, however termed “the paternal vulva” in the metaphysical age [which includes Karl Jasper’s Axial Age and its various prophets–all men–who give birth to the Logos from out of their own skulls, where the paternal vulva now lies]).

Even the Jews got in on the game, for Moses and Homer are equally the architects of this age: when Yahweh takes the rib from the side of Adam and causes Adam to give birth to Eve, it is the paternal vulva at work once again, just as it is when the Christian God gives birth to Christ as the Logos from out of his own mind and appropriates the biological body of Mary as his vessel with which to do so. She, a virgin who never knows the pleasures of the phallus on the plane of the real, actually becomes an instance of the paternal vulva. The “Magnificat” in which she accedes to the Paternal Authority by saying “My soul doth magnify the Lord,” is really a way of saying, “My vagina will become the gateway of your will.”

In the Medieval epoch, the spear wound inflicted upon the side of Christ on the Cross was specifically meant to refer to the paternal vulva with which Adam gave birth to Christ. Here is an image of the vaginal wound from a fourteenth century psalter made for the Duchess of Burgundy:

Which brings us to the artwork of the new German artist Morpheus Lunae, in whose painting entitled “Folds VI: The Breaking Part,” he has perfectly compressed the image of the Crucifixion–a dead Transcendental Signified–with the paternal vulva. Myth is all about compression. It is actually the reverse of psychoanalysis, which attempts to decompress such images and sort them out and, especially in Lacan, to lift them out of the swamp of the imaginary register and transform them into the linguistic signifiers of the symbolic register, thus freeing the hapless patient from what Slavoj Zizek once derided as “the Plague of Fantasies.”

Fantasies, however, are not a plague. They are composed of images in the form of mythic compression of signifiers that have been densely interwoven as messages from deeper oracular zones within us. Each one of us, that is to say, contains a miniature Delphic Oracle within us from whence these mythically compressed images arise and which function as messages to us. Learning to read and decipher them is what straightens people out. Crushing and dismissing them via the Lacanian L-shcema is a complete failure to listen. Lacan comes to the Delphic Oracle like Apollo and kills its Python, thus wiping it out with his phallic sun rays. No more messages from the maternal vulva, but only from the Name of the Father, which is simply another name for the Paternal Vulva.

The paternal vulva is currently working out the final stages of the metaphysical age through science, in the form of in vitro fertilization, cloning, genetic engineering and test tube babies. These are all concretizations of the mythic vulva of the goddess now appropriated by Father Science. Indeed, there is currently a struggle going on for possession of the metaphysical vulva, and this forms the subtext of films such as the Alien and Blade Runner movies which do, indeed, come to us from the level of the imaginary. As James Hillman pointed out, they do not need to be translated into logocentric concepts in which their multiple meanings and ambiguities are crushed in the Name of the Father. Derridean sliding of signifiers, in which meaning proliferates like the heads of the Hydra, is the more apt image here.

What does the paternal vulva mean? The German artist Morpheus Lunae invites us to consider it through the process of aesthetic arrest before a single image which compresses multiple meanings into it. It is currently the hidden signifier of our culture, and the battle for its possession is the ultimate and final outcome of Heidegger’s metaphysical age.

I foresee a great future for Morpheus Lunae, who is following in the tradition of such great European surrealists as H.R. Giger and Zdzislaw Beksinski.

The art of Morpheus Lunae may be purchased here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MorpheusLunae

And his Patreon page is available here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/folds-vii-viii-v-11587750

 

 

 

 

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15th January 2018

Heather Neil’s “The Bog Cutter,” A Cultural Archaeology

Heather Neil’s The Bog Cutter: A Cultural Archaeology

by John David Ebert

Heather Neil is an East Coast artist whose work is currently represented by the Sugarman-Peterson Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her various paintings are extraordinary works of Realism–although that term can, of course, be deceptive–but it is her 2014 masterpiece The Bog Cutter that I wish to focus on here as an example of the process of what I term “cultural compression.” Artists often paint in layers: Heather Neil, for instance, lays down a coat of gesso and then adds layer upon layer of paint on top of that, creating very dense and detailed images. But the psyche, too–as Freud pointed out–is capable of image compression, a phenomenon in which one image will contain many other images embedded inside of it. Only a cultural archaeology can dig out these images to reveal their stacked complexity. To do so is to reveal the particular Unconscious of the work of art in question. Each work, as we will see, comes equipped–just as each individual does–with its own collective unconscious.

The Bog Cutter depicts a man who is a stonemason by trade, although he agreed to pose for Neil in the attitude of one who digs up peat moss in order to use it for fuel for burning. (It is perhaps not insignificant that the melting of peat bogs in Russia is a major contributor to global warming, since these bogs contain highly compressed amounts of CO2 within them).

The image ghost of Jean-Francois Millet’s 1850 painting The Sower is unmistakably buried in Neil’s painting.

 

 

Millet’s painting is an example of strict realism, however; whereas the weird unearthly light that falls upon Neil’s bog cutter is mysterious: it looks as though it may emanate from a spotlight, and it catches him in a static pose, whereas Millet’s protagonist is in rapid, dynamic motion as he spreads his seeds across the ground, oblivious of an observer. Neil’s bog cutter is quite aware that he is being observed and even seems a bit irritated by the fact.

In 1888, Van Gogh produced three paintings which are embedded in Neil’s Bog Cutter. First, he did a reworking of Millet’s painting entitled The Sower with Setting Sun, as follows:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We note that the light source is now located behind the sower, although Van Gogh represents the world as though it were entirely self-luminous, like a piece of stained glass. For Millet, the sower is simply a matter of fact inhabitant of the countryside, but for Van Gogh, the entire world is a manifestation of Divine Radiance that shines with revelatory power through all things. The sower is no longer even the protagonist, but rather the power of Transcendence itself that luminesces through the whole canvas.

Also in 1888, Van Gogh painted a self-portrait of himself On the Way to Tarascon, in which he represents himself in the mode of a sort of artist as pilgrim along the Way. Now there is a distinct shadow represented on the ground beside him, almost as though it were another figure, the shadow side of Van Gogh’s troubled, unstable bipolar personality that would eventually consume and destroy him, just as this painting was destroyed during the Allied firebombings of World War II.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1957, the great British painter Francis Bacon reworked Van Gogh’s painting in a work that he titled Study for a Portrait of Van Gogh. For Bacon, the shadow on the ground haunting Van Gogh takes on a becoming-animal quality and very much resembles a dog on a leash, as though to bring out the visceral, feral quality of the shadow that lived inside Van Gogh, and ultimately tore his psyche to pieces, like the hounds of Artemis who went after Actaeon after he dared glimpse her bathing nude. Bacon paints Van Gogh as though he were a shade encountered in some journey of the artist to the Underworld of art history, where all its iconotypes and shadow forms dwell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1888, Van Gogh also painted Pollard Willows with Setting Sun, in which three willow trees are represented as gnarled, bony figures very much resembling the three crosses of the traditional iconotype of the Crucifixion. It is as though Van Gogh had taken the figure of his own shadow from the ground and multiplied it threefold to produce a “natural crucifixion.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Returning now to Heather Neil’s The Bog Cutter of 2014, we note that the shadow that is cast on the ground at the bog cutter’s feet very much resembles a Crucifixion. The West’s great Master Signifier, that is to say–its ultimate iconotype and Transcendental Signified–now exists only in shadow form at the feet of a bog cutter whose process of digging up peat moss will contribute to the planetary crucifixion of global warming. Iconotypes in contemporary art haunt its various figures and images as shadow forms: that is to say, they still exist as shaping archetypes that glow through the images and which can be unearthed only by the process of the kind of cultural image archaeology that I have just demonstrated in this essay. It is also ironic that the source of the light that is casting the crucifixion shadow may not even be natural, but rather a studio light shining on a stonemason who has agreed to pose for Neil’s painting.

The Bog Cutter is a masterpiece of contemporary art.

Heather Neil’s work may be obtained by contacting the Sugarman-Peterson Gallery in Santa Fe. Their website is http://www.sugarmanpetersongallery.com/

Their phone number is 505 820-0010.

 

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12th December 2017

Introducing the Art of Annie Dover

On The Art of Annie Dover

by John David Ebert

Walking the salmon pink streets of the Plaza in Santa Fe, my attention was momentarily distracted by a small painting hanging on the wall of the Sugarman-Peterson Gallery. The painting, as it turns out, is entitled Streaming Light, and it depicts a lone woman in a blue dress sitting at a table in the Blue Corn Cafe quietly perusing a menu. She is the only person depicted in the painting, and I was at once drawn into the private world interior of her quiet, pensive silence. The emotional space drew me in like a planet pulled in by the curvature of the space warped by the mass of large stellar objects: her silence was the loudest thing on the street.

After inquiring of the owner, I discovered that the painting was done by one Annie Dover, a periodic occupant of Santa Fe, with her primary home situated in San Diego. And to my delight, the owner revealed a whole collection of paintings by this extraordinary Southwestern artist who has busied herself with mapping out the emotional contours of the Internet Age, an age which supposedly, through electronic technology, includes everybody, but which yet–as is evident in the art of Annie Dover–has ejected the individual subjectivity into ever more private, withdrawn and isolated emotional interiors.

“Who, if I cried out, among the angelic hierarchies / would hear me?” announced the poet Rilke in the first of his 1923 Duino Elegies. That annunciation was echoed by Heidegger in his 1927 Being and Time, in which he revealed that the ontological status of the contemporary inhabitant of the twentieth century was characterized by being-in-the-world as being thrown into the world, and therefore excluded from all cosmic immune systems. As the philosopher Peter Sloterdijk puts it, there have been three metaphysical world ages in the first of which being-in-the-world in the pre-metaphysical age meant being taken up into the body of the Great Mother during the epoch of Egypt and ancient Sumer. With the rise of the metaphphysical world age in the time of Homer and Moses, however, being-in-the-world meant being in the mind of the Father, for with the second generation of high civilization the powers of the Great Mother have been appropriated by the paternal vulva which has taken from the Great Mother her creative powers and turned them over to demiurges like Zeus and Yahweh who give birth to the logos from out of their own heads, just as Athena, the goddess of reason, is born, not from the mother’s body, but from the head of Zeus. In the post-metaphysical age, however, the individual has been simply thrown into the world in a state of shell-lessness, unprotected by any immune systems whatsoever, and exposed to the hazards of a world interior that has deworlded him from any and all locality whatsoever.

Observe the plight of the young woman in Waiting: she sits on a couch, by herself, in a tasteful living room gazing away from the viewer and looking quietly out the window. What she is waiting for we do not know: perhaps it is an Orpheus whom she is yearning will come to liberate her from captivity in the Underworld of global capitalism in which electronic technologies that have rendered the far near and the near far have come to exclude them.

The woman at her laptop in Greensleaves, with her back, significantly, turned away from the viewer, in a corner of some global cafe, is in dialogue with the art of German Romantic painters like Georg Friedrich Kersting’s Woman Embroidering who likewise sits with her back to the viewer as she works upon some hidden textile.

The difference, however, between the two worlds is one of entirely differing ontologies: in Kersting’s art, his protagonists are embedded in the metaphysical world of Infinite Space in which strong Subjects confronted Objects in a realm in which meaning was guaranteed and anchored in the various Transcendental Signifieds that guaranteed that there was a meaning to the world they occupied; whereas the protagonists of the art of Annie Dover exist in private world spaces into which they have been cast off by a public sphere that has failed to take them into account, and situate them in a horizon of meaning. Dover’s subjects are “beings who have been abandoned by Being,” as Heidegger would put it.

The woman in Expresso, gazing into the electronic window of her laptop is participating in a technology that, far from what it advertises as “social media” is making her feel more alone than ever before. The virtual entities and avatars animated by the world space of cyberspace have receded away from her across a horizon that is ever more and more remote. As the world interior of capital has grown, so the micro-spaces of individuals who feel excluded from it has receded into ever smaller and more remote world corners. Like the various objects of the art of Joseph Beuys–pianos covered in felt, or records soaked in paint–which have receded from functionality and withdrawn from any ability whatsoever to communicate their traditional functions as objects embedded within a world horizon that gave them their meaning–what Heidegger called Zuhandenheit--so the entities in the broken, fragmented worlds of Annie Dover have inexplicably lost their ability to communicate.

Indeed, the very fact that they never meet the viewer’s eye emphasizes and highlights their disengagement from all human feedback loops. Unlike the portrait studies of the various individuals of Renaissance and Baroque art, who meet the viewer’s gaze as transcendental Subjectivities embedded in a functioning macrosphere, the entities in Dover’s works have come unplugged from all collective social assemblages whatsoever. The world into which they are supposed to be protected by meaningful metaphysical immune systems has failed them. They have been disincluded from the world interior of capital.

The girl in Street Singer who plays her guitar on the street in front of the cafe window has averted her gaze from the viewer and is focused only upon the object that gives her any kind of meaning at all. The failure to meet the viewer’s gaze suggests a breakdown and fragmentation of the social order. The viewer, try though he or she might, simply cannot reach into the worlds of these individuals and connect to them. The age of connectivity does not, it seems, apply to the social order, but only the gadgets that illuminate a virtual world from within.

It was Gunther Anders who said that the advent of the television into the living room significantly changed the seating patterns of what had previously been the Family Dinner: instead of meeting each other’s gazes directly across the table and fostering community and conversation, the television averts their gazes from each other to form an intersubjective communion with the new Electronic Presence that cuts through such relationships and melts them down with its swimming-pool blue plasma.

The art of Annie Dover is an art that drew me out of my own private space as a flaneur and brought me, through their powerful emotional cartographies, into the quiet corners of the various cafes and restaurants in which such lonesome and solemn individuals go on with their lives disconnected from Being. She is a profound poet of the soul of contemporary hypermodernity: her work belongs to the same world horizons as the poetry of Rilke or the paintings of Edward Hopper. They seem to suggest that there is something in the human soul that is not being reached by the new technologies of planetary shrinkage that make the earth ever smaller in direct proportion to the degree to which it makes individuals ever more and more cut off from one another. The various feedback loops created by smartphones and laptops increasingly disconnect the relations of individuals from one another and foster linkages with tiny self-luminous machines that beckon with a phantasmatic power for them to leave their bodies and become avatars in an electronic phase space that retrieves the age of stained glass with all its Biblical denizens and their profound and meaningful agonies. The avataric entities in the electronic phase space, however, are slick, glib and essentially meaningless. They touch only the surfaces of the human subjectivity and fail–as was the job of poetry once upon a time–to reach inside their souls and turn the inner world into the outer landscape of social significations.

You cannot afford to overlook her art and it is now available for sale at the Sugarman-Peterson gallery in Santa Fe.

Here is the link to their website: http://sugarmanpetersongallery.com

The paintings are affordable and I highly recommend snatching them up before they recede into the world interior of capitalism itself that is currently encasing the planet in an etheric hypersphere of deworlded entities and circulating numbers.

 

 

 

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16th April 2017

Ebert’s new Gilgamesh Epic is out!

 

 

An excerpt from Gilgamesh Redux by John David Ebert:

This book can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.com/Gilgamesh-Redux-John-David-Ebert/dp/1545388962/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1492470617&sr=8-1&keywords=gilgamesh+redux

LUGALBANDA

 

the army of enmerkar on its way to aratta:

a horizon splayed with sticks of bronze spears heavy chariots copper helmets human swarm of living flies ravaging the planar surface of the flat carnelian desert

coffee brown fog of dust sand debris unleashed from a cleft in the earth that stains the lapis blue sky to erase the sun a dim copper disk wan and pale in the vanilla air eyes ripped out of their sockets teeth made into mortars and pestles grinding sand a dustrain that draws the onagers pulling the carts to a dead stop

a sickness ravaged lugalbanda the eighth son of enmerkar and he plunged to the sand a mud effigy as his seven brothers surrounded him raised him up and carried him upon their shoulders a pale christ walking mourners in a death dirge to the mouth of a nearby cave an ancient paleolithic mausoleum for the gods uttu ninhursag and inanna would not heed them and he was laid out flat on his back gone wasted and wrack with fever and ruinous dread of the demon that the sandstorm had blown inside of him some wayward creature with blue splayed batwings thin spindly legs and a ruinous gibbering toothless mouth that had blown into him and now had him turned upside down

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