Notes on Hell, Blogs
Blogs are most interesting when they resemble without being the same as language, when the blogger creates an idiosyncratic syntax of imagery out of the collective inchoate imagerie, the zoetrope of culture, like a baby organizing mobiles from its cradle.
Do we blink more than we use to? As the world in its vast image of inchoateness scrolls by, we blink at it the same way, or not the same way that Neanderthals once blinked at the exterior world they were starting to extricate from.
That the blog is so prominent and successful in its photographic stream of thought, that it has become ʻmemeticʼ, that it can communicate and even implant ideas from one mind to another as if by magic, as language once did thousands of years ago and still just as enigmatically today, tacitly implies that language and words may not have a future. Every blog title is secretly, Do words have a future?
Blogs that are not directly art-related, that do not feature art work exclusively, that are not trying to reinvent art for the internet age, that erroneously (but perhaps truthfully in an unintentional way) perceive the artless bureaucracy as the herald of aesthetic experience now unknown, are far more interesting than those that are, because they examine the true artlessness of our moment, the incapability of whole experience. The artless blog is freer; it has the ability to incorporate a great diversity of content without being limited to the tightened narrow of stock conceptual restrictions, they lack the obsolete criteria that had determined a course of contemporary art that is obsolete without realizing so, their lack is their bane of drift and their redeeming quality.
In blogs one ﬁnally sees the co-existence of pornography and art, a situation (at least) as old as Baudelaire. Art as prostitution, that art is pornography, no longer a metaphor, put to the test in the blog lab; centuries too late? Maybe. Very literal coexistence of what once was opposite, a cauldron of uncritical coexistences and oppositions.
The diaristic quality of the blog is its most ubiquitously understood and compelling aspect, without a clear relation of either category, because they are not understood as categories. Blogs canʼt be understood today.
Blog ʻwritingʼ shares with art, or at least an old idea of art now forgotten, an attempt to write history apperceptively. Compare the artist today to the artist who went on world discovery expeditions in the 17th century, who was indispensable for recording new people, things, and geologies. It is almost miraculous that there was this drive, but what they thought they were recording also got in the way of being objective. All thought must be emptied, digressions, parataxes are permitted to include those things that our petty little conceptualizations leave out, unbeknownst to us. We see something different that the past saw in itself, and so too will we look as if we got in the way of our moment, even as we obsessively represented it. There is something more dynamic and apperceptive in the blog format, which is by default digressive, ﬁlled with paths leading away from ourselves.
The intense difﬁculty of comprehending the moment at its best, ripest, most acute, symptomatic and problematic, is due to an overripeness-turned-decay that thwarts representation, whose decay repulses a rationalized subjectivity that will only touch the decay with white gloves, and yet some total and whole constellation demands to be represented, driving all reﬂection wild and pell-mell, reﬂection mimicking a throng. If one wants to grasp the true essence of the moment in all its barbaric diversity, one has to mimic ”the mess” (Beckett) in form, comprehension is a formal problem of how to represent a reality that has run away from us, that has overproduced and reproduced obsolete forms ad nauseum.
The art-obsessed blogger, who pathologically and romantically must turn everything into art, (as opposed to the blogging blogger), when working under the umbrella of contemporary art categories, is blocked from successfully achieving a representation of reality by an adherence to obsolete categories; both contemporary and postmodern art tropes now canonized and recognized even by those who cling to them as insufﬁcient to resonate experience. The contemporary art blog aims to ʻtreatʼ new forms of consciousness like the blog with contemporary art categories that are not understood in their particularity, though something is understood that has not been related. Whereas blogs that lack such aesthetic rationalization render apparent the true arbitrariness of contemporary life, and something seems related which is not understood, and seems incapable of being understood, and is perhaps interesting for that explicit reason.
Turning the internet into an aesthetic playground or cultural ʻanswerʼ to abandoned aesthetic problems would be akin to Kafkaʼs hunger artist crawling back into his cage decades after he ﬁnally found the food he liked.
Communication in blogs is reminiscent of the type of communication that once occurred between curiosity collector and its visitor, showing off ones collection, more is said through the objects than through their discourse, through the raw material that just … compiles. Blog communication differs insofar as it measures not the proprietary prowess of the collector, but the striving for a ﬁnal image, for the essential image that outshines all the others, that becomes The idol, whose diversity is a means of metabolism, and so the great public sphere of the blog also has its ﬁnal goal in the end of communication, in the retreat of heterogeneity into a single homogenous idol, and yet the goal is incapable of being reached.
Some curiosity collections in the early colonial era had ʻcuriousʼ exotic peoples as part of the collection—e.g. a dwarf—and this dwarf would also be trained to give discursive tours on the (other) objects of the collection, maybe realizing it itself was a part of the collection too. The guide emerges out the material not itself, like a demon that doesnʼt belong but is its natural logic. It canʼt be trusted and yet it knows better than anyone the contours which it conveys. Something similar occurs with artistic discourse.
Blogs are most interesting in their diaristic panorama, mapping the shadows which ﬁlter through the bedroom window. They are hyper-individual and retreat into this singular and very real hermetic illusion as a way of dilating its outside.
Blogs perhaps function like mobiles above a babyʼs cradle, they are captivating by dint of their mesmerization … critical function. It may also be true that what is curious about the blog form is that it attempts, unsuccessfully, but important in its ineptitude, to collapse the distinction between cultural enchantment and cultural criticism.
Imagery is the enemy of the blogger in the same way that words were the enemy of the 19th century poet. They have not been revealed to be the true problem they are intuited to be. Visual imagery, like language in modernity, is an alien fabric, historically speciﬁc but in ways no one can really articulate. Its constraints on consciousness are more sensed than made apparent, and ʻthe imageʼ is not about the image at all, but about something alien to the very idea of seeing.
In the sense that art has always been a manner of organizing the exterior world that is alien from the subject, that it is a nexus of friction between two irreconcilable strangers, blogs share something in common with art. But it is also true that this has been accomplished best not via art per se, but a freer form of organizing that art as such is too young to know. E.g.: the journal or biography are often more revealing reﬂections of a historical moment than are ﬁne arts, which have not really articulated their position as autonomous from representation, they do not ﬁt, cannot ﬁt. Blogs ﬁt, and yet something is lost. The emergence of the blog as a ubiquitous social phenomena is prehistoryʼs anxious way of trying to make sense of itself, of offering the material for historical understanding in such a way that it cannot be overlooked or avoided. Blogs are asymptotic remedies for severe collective amnesia.
Jon Rafmanʼs 16 Google Street Views shows a world in which human beings are perfunctory, anomalies, accidents, are irreconcilable blights in the landscape. Humans dot the landscape like impish footnotes to a demonic second nature, and imply some tramp-like image of redemption.
It is certainly true that we have created a world for ourselves that necessarily excludes ourselves. We are not supposed to exist in the paradise we are creating, a paradise now thoroughly mapped for this reason of unliving, life not lived. We send zillions of images into space, into a void, as documents of an existence we want but cannot have, as documents of a hypothesis. The mapping of the world excludes those for whom the map is made.
There is something akin to ﬁre worship in the gloriﬁcation of the Internet, but we wouldnʼt know what.
The ﬂickering of images that volatilize vertically out of sight mimic the entrancing ﬂames of ﬁre. And now we can freeze & return to certain moments in a stream that is otherwise ephemeral and passes us by. Can we really?
The ﬁgure ambiguously facing the sea in Rafmanʼs 16 Google Street Views obviously looks like David Friedrich Casparʼs Wanderer above the sea of fog, and it looks circumscribed. But it is also compelling because the subject undoubtedly recognizes that it is being followed, that the narrative is a script, that the fog is an effect, sublimity is mapped out, but doesnʼt care. There is something else on its mind. And ʻsomething elseʼ is always a threat to the irrationally circumscribed order. What is on its mind? Besides, the image also looks freer, and captures the moment of unknowing better than Casparʼs, which is symmetrical and pat in comparison to Rafmanʼs subject, which curiously looks all wrong and aberrant, freedom as calculable. German Romanticism was crucially philosophical, conceptualizing an aesthetic program for the next few centuries as much as it made its own totemic and self-prescribed art…something similar today?
Caspar also painted numerous canvases of people looking out windows, a common trope in the 18th century (e.g. Hammershoi). There is maybe something reminiscent of looking out into an alien world from onesʼ abode in the blog experience, which also brings that alien world into the area of singular contemplation, as a ﬂickering dance of the collective imagerie. To go out into that natural, hellish world seems almost besides the point of what it means to examine a life incapable of being lived.
Blogs place the arbitrary current of external events back in the variegated impressions of discreet individuals who interpret them differently through actively organizing contentious impressions from a current that impresses weirdly. The blog has to do with the image as poetry did with the word and its simultaneous concealing and probing of what lay behind it: something non-communicative. There is something about the experience of the blog that has nothing to do with imagery or communication, if only because the imagery is obviously cast as illusion, as the curtain which … a stage for experience.
…a manner of actively organizing the world in the image of …Is there any criteria by which to organize?
The measure of the blog is the quality of its lucidity, it is individual particularity that is socially demanded to open up onto something more universal, not consciously of course, it exists in the way a glass sphere exists in a landscape, it distorts it but simultaneously refracts it, all blogs are refractions of the entire universal stream, but they are not mere illusions, though they are illusions. We do not need more light to see, we need less, to see.
The metabolization of the dreamworld, and, also, the bizarre sort of refraction of reality blended with dream that occurs when the eyes are awakened and blurred.
All image blogs are lontano effects.
Undoubtedly, the best representations of our particular moment are photo blogs, which are comprehensive without bragging about their openness. I donʼt speak of a particular one—why?
Thereʼs an unspeakable connection of blog imagery to ancient Greek sculpture, in that most of the images show the crucial nexus of action, the singular moment of grace. Movie-stills, for example, common on blogs, capture the moment in the impression of the blogger, and this has greater ﬂexibility than ever. But so does an unhappy ballerina.
And all these images pile up as if they were already discarded statues with penises lopped off by barbarians, already stored in some ambiguous annal.
All images crawl out from the bowels of prehistory like cockroaches pilgrimaging from woodwork to the center of a room to die. They seem to live only for this moment, to have been practicing their death pose that in being concretized correctly will preserve and illuminate the enigmatic essence of their speciﬁc life.
It is proving difﬁcult to materialize the ideal simplicity of the journal form, which is given an extended signiﬁcance via the phenomena of blogging. Countless ideas, theories and so forth tend to detract instead of bolster the attempt to write history from the apperceptive periphery that is so interesting. Already, rationalized knowledge seems to burden the form so much that simple, free play of thought seems an impossible ideal, direct simplicity becomes a confounding impossibility.
The ﬁgurines in 16 Google Street Views look as if suspended in a snowglobe, or insects eternally caught struggling in amber, sub specie aeternitatis. They seem trapped in a sort of atmospheric medium, crystallized in an eternal pose like a ﬁgurine, “solidiﬁed into images of bronze”, in Hegelʼs words describing Danteʼs Inferno, frozen as they lived, but cast in a new light, appearing as real people in the world to an enigmatic and circumscribed order, brought before the tribunal of the universal concept that has recently taken a permanent vacation. One canʼt speak of order today, it is a profanity. But the truancy of judgment doesnʼt mean that subjects are freed from their agony: it only means that they are not permitted redemption, that they are not able to be seen in the image of their potential, of what could, and should have been, and only in the image of their agony resultant from temporary social conditions.
“In hell the movement is energetic but the ﬁgures are plastic and stiff in their agony, lit terrifyingly”.
Only, hell is not a divine order, but a human constructed order, in which a counteractive and illuminating sympathy that lights hellʼs ﬁgurines on ﬁre, such as Danteʼs, is nulliﬁed. The ʻmediumʼ in which they are suspended is the anaerobic stuff of a rationalized society, a gritty “creatural” quality, in the words of Erich Auerbach, that is rendered unprecedentedly unavoidable. These ﬁgurines are incapable of overcoming the atmosphere which they breathe, recycle, which ﬁlls their lungs and every crevice of their inﬁnite subjective porosity, they are incapable of doing anything other than expressing their oppressive atmosphere, the fabric of the air that is social life awry.
Absorption, what photo blogs offer is absorption, the blogger seems captivated by its photographic material, while the viewer can spend hours idling away time, absorbed and captive to an idea of matter.
Something must have to be said for the experience of browsing, of scanning the photo blog, as the images ﬂip upwards rapidly, as if the viewer wants to render them into motion, into a real action beyond contemplation, but can only do so most unsuccessfully.
There is something Hieronymous Bosch-ian in the photo blog as well, everything unimaginable under the radiating and hellish sun meshes a comprehensive screen, a “vulgar cauldron” of pseudo-activity.
“the sacred Past hath no ﬁxed statues erected to it, but all things irreverently seethe and boil in the vulgar cauldron of an everlasting and uncrystallizing Present”—Melville
If we can supposedly see more clearly through technological lensʼ, it is only because it is far more abstract than the immediate experience of looking. It rather seems that we see less clearly, that technological means are inhibitive in a very revealing way. It is curious that the best ʻnet artistsʼ donʼt take advantage of sophisticated technological tools as they are commonly understood, but disabuse them of their common use. By comparison a good experimental musician ﬁnds a secret life beyond presets, somehow, and not merely by resistance. Everybody knows this. It is more important to discover what could have and maybe should have been, than it is to futuristically create the next big thing that will revolutionize bla bla bla.
One canʼt experience the comprehensive perspective the internet has to offer if they are interested in the internet as such, which is the antithesis of perspectivism. It would be akin to writers and readers who canʼt see the world through the pen in which it was written.
Cezanne saw much more clearly than Seurat, who utilized scientiﬁc and technological means of seeing. Cezanne was more lucid because he had his forme tout sienne, sealed off from the supposed means of the tools in his era.
On blogs everything looks better than it really is, and it shows how things ought to look all the time, and how they seem like they are just about to look, but cannot, and will not ever, it seems. They are rhetorical, even as they approach the practical wish list.
Photo blogs show the individual cloaked in the stuff of the world, which looks like the entire universe printed pell-mell on a cloth in which the individual is swaddled. The individual has not yet extricated itself from the breast of the natural world, which it suckles like a child that does not yet realize it is distinct from a nature which is antagonistic to it by being indifferent to it (second nature). But the impression that the entire universe is presented before the babeʼs eyes is impression, though not merely impression.
It is perhaps true that the homogenization of social work and socialized non-work work renders individuals indistinct from one another, which breeds both empathy with anyone and also impotence and genericness. I think of Megan Boyleʼs statement that she could tag on …from a Mexican Panda Express employee to the end of her own blog post book because her indistinctness renders any perspective possible and immediately available, as if one could swap skins as if they are masks. There is also a horriﬁc side to perspectivism, which ought not be valued in itself but as a means.
Literature today ubiquitously approaches the confessional, a form once tied to Christianity, e.g. St. Augustine and later Rousseau, who sought to clear his reputation, and accidentally created a freer literary form than had hitherto existed. Rousseauʼs Confessions is the father of all blog writing and recent literature inﬂuenced thereby, bringing the mundane particularity of oneʼs own arbitrary individuality before a troop of absent judges, a truant jury. Why do people want to confess today? To whom? For what?
The ʻconfessionalʼ is not merely ʻinformalʼ writing, but an integral mode of writing history, in the manner of a Cellini or Rousseau. The indignant attitude through which Cellini relates to everyone he comes in contact with is not an artifact of the age, but is the crux of historical detail. Celliniʼs braggart, almost poor writing style, which has a naive lack of tact and self-editing, captures the spirit of the age better than any scientiﬁc or historical address, speciﬁcally because his subjectivity is ripened to the point where it becomes an object of the era—Celliniʼs free and unedited passion penetrates the opacity of the moment, despite the fact that he says himself that he is not writing history. If Cellini—or Rousseau—was a ʻgoodʻ writer, by the common mannerisms of omitting inessential details, weʼd have no image of the intimate relations that appear random, but contribute to the consciousness of the moment—e.g. the insults and casual violence crudely ﬂung around in every direction which indicates a raw and still quibbling set of tribal relations which were are beginning to transform—or Celliniʼs attention to how much he got paid for each artwork, who owned it when, the work conditions of his shops, and so forth, that are all essential anchors to understand the complex social relations of the moment. Form needs to be free and experimental in order to articulate the newness of each moment—in a negative social situation, the inessential to us is perhaps the truly essential.
There is also something more or different than the confession form happening in new writing, because it is obligated to confess everything, to confess every stray thought that is not in the least incriminating. This is an acceleration of absolute transparency—the minds of humans become more and more like the modernist glass building, in which everything is shown, everything is refracted, everything is rendered vulgarly naked.
Now that a molliﬁed ﬁne art is shown to irreversibly coexist with soft porn, Greenbergʼs ʻavant-garde and kitschʼ is made undoubtedly relevant, aesthetic antagonisms cannot be ignored any longer, even as they are.
That blogs are experienced in a rapid scroll indicates that the world is best appreciated when it is not seen, when it is incapable of being seen.
So many blogs gravitate around imagery of architecture not because they are superﬁcial or nostalgic, or because they are shallow formal modernists etc., but because they show how the world should be architected but cannot be…yet. Current social conditions restrict the realization of an aesthetic world—that Trotsky once said that the average person in a free society would be an Aristotle, can also be that the average building in a free world would be a challenging pleasure to stroll through to live in, an atmosphere that is not oppressive. Such blogs are the preservation of a dream in a time of vulgar reality principles.
Photo blogs turn real things into real imagined things.
As sanctions, blogs take on the character of the library in the baroque period, whose contemplative character Benjamin emarcated as distinct from renaissance external activity. Like the baroque library, the blog is concealed from all the detritus of history, immune to decay. While the photo blog mandates that the entire world is cloaked in itself, and implies something public, that publicness is always a projection/ideal.