Dee Glazer

Thesis Draft

  • May

    26

    Posted In: Writings

     Below is one of the drafts of my thesis for the MFA Program at PAFA.

    Everyday Alienation

    A key point to the society of the spectacle is the characteristic of alienation. Although individuals exist together within a society and function as a social body, they are alienated from each other. There is little social interaction amongst individuals that is not driven solely by use value and consumption. A majority of social interaction is driven by utilitarian or functional relationships. We primarily exist in a state of simultaneous togetherness and separation; others surround us but we are inherently isolated. There is an overabundant feeling of being alone together. It is in our isolation that we exist and sustain our every day lives.

                Society is a collective space that exists as a singular social body to be regulated. The socius remains occupied with their ?everyday? life, the socially accepted and expected set of behaviors and actions. The everyday can be understood as the habituated routines of individuals in society. On his lectures on Biopower, Foucault speaks of the idea of ?docility.? A docile human is one who is habituated to act within a particular framework. He is a valuable member of society and does not deviate from the dictated norm. In other words, to be docile is to be compliant.

    Basic acts of docility include, a student who goes to class, a businessman who goes to work, or a parent who cares for their children. Docility is the ability to fulfill a specific functioning, one that is productive and benefits the social whole. The ?everyday? is a set of routines, productive in nature, that are often repetitious and scheduled. The contemporary individual is docile in his everydayness; he is obedient in the carrying out of his productive routines.

    Everyday life takes on a repetitious nature. No alarms and no surprises, our days are prescheduled. In contemporary society there is designated work time, leisure time, feeding time, and sleeping time. Within the capitalist framework exists the framework of the everyday. Because of the necessity for routine and functionality, there is an inherent mundane nature to everyday life to ensure regularity or normalcy. Furthermore, this mundane lifestyle is sustained through its technology of distractions.

    Society of the Spectacle

    Further exacerbating alienation and the monotony of the everyday are communication technologies such as televisions, telephones, computers, and screens. Systems of communication connect us to the larger network of relations while simultaneously disconnecting us from immediate interactions. This situation is a result of the replacement of reality by representations or images, also known as the society of the spectacle.

    Guy Debord outlines the society of the spectacle as an inauthentic way of living together due to post-capitalist commoditization and progress. Commodities overwhelm and run individual life, images and representations supplant reality, and people exist as spectators. We do not have authentic relationships or social interactions, but rather interact through telecommunications and screens. As Debord states, the society of the spectacle is ?a social relationship between people that is mediated by images? (____). The space between individuals is further distanced, both physically and conceptually, by the illusion of connection provided by technological advancements.

    Within the society of the spectacle, adherence to the screen becomes a way of life. The screen itself likens to a portal, a means to escape reality that creates a refuge from the everyday. Images become more interesting and desirable than the activities of daily life. We are driven by the spectacle, by the display of something satisfying to our hungry eyes and minds. By providing a feeling of escape through the distraction of televisions or screens, we sink ever deeper into our designated positions within the communication network or social system. We become ever more docile, willing, and compatible due to our promise of escape or distraction later.

    The majority of daily life is lived in passivity, often being compared to an alternative moment in the mind?s eye. Much like a commercial broadcast, our mind is disconnected and occupied with the representation of an elsewhere or otherwise. We would rather be in our technologically induced state of narcosis than to be fully present in our everyday life. The representation of an idealized state of affairs, or the presentation of an alternative reality, distracts us from being in the present. Almost any image or idea can appear preferable to the reality in front of us, and communication technologies make these ideas and images easily accessible.

    We are always on the move and rarely ever fully in the present. In relation to Heidegger?s conception of existence or Dasein, i.e. ?being-there? or ?being-present,? we are almost always out of sync with our present. If existence is equated with being present, then what kind of existence is one primarily based in distraction? With the advent of modern communication technology, reality becomes something to be manufactured or produced. The present is advertised through means of communication such as reality television or internet status updates. The present is at once something to be marked, quickly engrained into the system of passing time. Instantaneity results in passivity, a further disconnection from existence in the now. The constant publishing and broadcasting of a person?s activity distances that person from participating in the very activity. Furthermore, this increases the tendency to compare each moment to a relative alternative, resulting in more isolation and judgment.

    Being Connected

    The contemporary conception of being-in-the-world is redefined by technology communications. To be ?in-the-world? is to be connected to it, and today being connected means being connected in a virtual sense, i.e. being connected to the network of the world. An individual?s virtual existence or cyber-life often takes precedence over an individual?s ?real? life. The situation of being linked together into a global network has become increasingly simple with the development of communication technologies. The iPhone has become an extension of the human self, replacing eyes with Google glasses; communication accessories have become extensions of the human body. Constant communication provides the means for constant connection to the external world, a world that can be accessed with the push of a button or a blink of an eye.

    Timothy Leary?s ?Tune in, turn on, and drop out? takes on a new meaning. We tune in to the transmission, we turn on our receivers, and we drop out of everyday reality. We exist in the virtual, in a reality made possible by technology, a technology of distractions. In the early development of cinema and television, the only physical requirement was to sit still and look.

    As in a striptease, the space slowly disrobes itself, turning, presenting itself from different sides, teasing, stepping forward and retracting, always leaving something covered so that the spectator must wait for the next shot?a seductive dance that begins all over with the next scene. All the spectator has to do is remain immobile.[1]

    Menovich likens the cinema to a prison, holding the spectator in the grip of its virtual gaze. But this technology has grown increasingly mobile. Our culture of communication, our virtual world, has become compact, transient, and nomadic. We have transformed into wanderers of a cybernetic cultural system. Existence becomes both immediate and temporal, a succession of connections and disconnections.

    But with the development of constant and immediate access to entertainments of distraction, such as Netflix and the advent of ?binge watching,?[2] the contemporary spectator rarely needs to have physical contact with the external world. This quasi-agoraphobic life is intensified through consumer luxuries such as Facetime, Facebook, grocery delivery services, and a variety of other modern conveniences. The majority of human interactions, even the fulfillment of basic survival functions, are mediated by technology. The defining line of authentic interactions becomes increasingly unclear.

    Progressive technologies like virtual reality seem to provide some freedom on the outset, but the spectator is not physically liberated. Although the spectator has the ability to move in a virtual space, he is connected to a physical machine. Furthermore, the spectator must continuously move in order to see the image depicted. Seemingly liberating, virtual worlds do not allow the spectator to fully embody the active role.  

    In one way or another, contemporary life primarily takes place in the virtual, even without the use of virtual reality simulators. One can imagine how the availability of such technologies to the average consumer will further transform his relationship to reality. In 2015 Samsung Galaxy released VR gear to be paired with their cell phones. Currently, VR technology is being used in the medical field as experimental therapies for hospital patients. The use of VR headsets allows long-term patients to temporarily escape the dreary reality of their hospital beds. Such accessories are also being used as treatment for depression, and for suffering painfully long pregnancies.[3] VR technologies offer a diversion from the physical and mental effects of daily life.     

    Situationist International

                Founded by Guy Debord, the Situationist International (SI) was a group of artists and intellectuals based on post-Marxist theories and avant-garde art movements. The situationist?s critiqued society?s shift from authentic desire fulfillment to commodity consumption. The situationists strived to wake people up through political and artistic means. They strived to counter the society of the spectacle by constructing situations to liberate the spectator and reposition everyday life outside of its patterned framework.

                Building off of Marx, Debord provides a foundation for the liberation of the modern individual in post capitalist society. In his The Emancipated Spectator, Jacques Ranciere develops on the concept of the modern spectator. As Ranciere states, ?Distance is not an evil to be abolished, but the normal condition of any communication? (10). Ranciere claims that spectatorship is a normal condition of human life, and therefore it should not be considered as a passive activity. Individuals are separated from one another, but accessible through a system and network of communication. In this sense we exist as a ?living community? or a sort of unified organism made up of individual parts.  A different type of spectator is called for, one that is not ignorant of both his knowledge and his agency.

    In The Practice of Everyday Life, Michel de Certau builds upon the ideas surrounding consumer behavior and the everyday. Certau claims that contemporary individuals, i.e. consumers, have not lost their capacity for creative expression and individuality. Rather, consumer individuals express their creativity in the way they consume and navigate the capitalist system. His most known example is that of a city walker who travels the streets by taking short cuts, thus not entirely succumbing to the prefabricated gridded system.

    Debord, Certau, and Ranciere, all call for an awakening and redefining of the contemporary individual. To achieve liberation and awakening, one must transform from consumer to producer and from spectator to actor. Creative expression and artistic production can provide liberation through its construction of lived experiences.

    Relational Aesthetics

                Nicolas Bourriaud develops upon the ideas introduced by the situationists in his exploration of art as a means to create social change. He coins the term relational aesthetics as a form of art that takes place amongst individuals in society. Relational art is participatory; it requires the spectator to directly confront the work in the realm of his every day life. Often, the work is participatory and requires the existence of spectators to contribute, thus transforming the passive spectator into an active participator.

    Bourriaud points to art as social practice as a means to escape the imprisonment of the society of the spectacle and to redefine everyday life. In Postproduction, he likens artistic production to the remixing of realities.[4] Art can act as a means to reorganize the interacting systems that define contemporary life. This reorganization is similar to that outlined by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari?s conception of the body without organs.

    The body without organs is a disorgan-ized surface, one that does not succumb to any defining system, but rather is the surface upon which systems are built, or territorialized. The production and reproduction of systems is the continuous process of territorialization and deterritorialization. The body without organs is the body deterritorialized. Much like Deleuze and Guattari, Bourriaud calls for a redefinition or redirection of aesthetics involving the interactions between individuals in society. Thus repositioning art into the realm of society or the everyday.

    Bourriaud argues that relational art can cause the new modes of human relations that are necessary to both analyze and resist the society of the spectacle. But the mere repositioning of art into the social realm still involves the greater system at work, i.e. the capitalist, the consumer, and the system itself that developed the society of the spectacle. For relational aesthetics relates to that very society, it is contextual and relative to the system it tries to escape. In itself, it is insufficient, but it opens the door to the analysis necessary for an aesthetic revolution.

    Techno-phrenia

    What is needed is an entirely new structure, one that is malleable like Deleuze and Guattari?s formulation of the body without organs. The phrase ?body without organs? is taken from Antonin Artaud, a writer, intellectual, and artist who suffered from various mental illnesses. The following excerpt is from his radio play entitled To Have Done With the Judgement of God:

    I say, to remake his anatomy. Man is sick because he is badly constructed. We must make up our minds to strip him bare. In order to scrape off that animalcule that itches him mortally. God, and with god his organs. For you can tie me up if you wish, but there is nothing more useless than an organ.

    For Artaud, organs are like chains tying the human body to humanity. By ridding himself of his organs, he cuts his ties to humanity, ridding himself from the constructed ideologies and humane ways of thinking.

    The concept of docility is involved in the notion of humanity, i.e. humans living together in a society. One can look to Freud?s Civilization and its Discontents for an explanation of how human beings are inherently barbaric. It is through the formulation of a society, or of humans having to exist together within a group, that modern discontent is developed. For it is against our barbaric nature to have systems, i.e. to have rules of conduct, or a social contract. Yet in order to live together in a functional manner we cannot act as barbarians, and thus we must cope with our discontent. Communication technologies provide a means to cope with reality, but mixed with the effects of capitalist society, these technologies push us further into the situation it sets out to efface. It merely provides a means to temporarily escape the system while doing nothing to alter the foundation itself. It hides the symptoms while exacerbating the problems.

    In Anti-Oedipus Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Deleuze and Guattari develop the idea of a schizophrenic framework. The schizophrenic framework does not abide by any overarching system, it connects and disconnects without the adherence to a specific system. It is not in a state of passive narcosis, either by the greater order or the distractions provided by it, but rather in a state of constant reevaluation and recreation. The schizophrenic formula does not remain in any one channel, but can combine and flip between them. This results in the creation of newfound connections and associations that could not be reached while adhering to a singular system.  

    By allowing itself to relate to a variety of systems or networks, a plurality is formed. No longer does a channel of action or thought need to edit itself based on a prefigured formula. But rather, it can freely utilize any pathway appropriate to it at that moment.  It is like the body without organs, the body unorgan-ized, the system de-systematized. The model or network itself becomes situational, adapting to the temporal moment, i.e. what is happening at that sequence in time. Instead of being pre planned, and therefore causing the predetermination and limitation of possible outcomes, the system adapts instantaneously. What is needed in order to liberate the individual from the spectacle is an aesthetic transformation, and one of a schizophrenic design.

    But can such a model be initiated and put into action? The result could be a deeper alienation that would surpass the docile human?s capacity to function. Because we do have organs, we have basic human needs that require satiation. The Hunger Artist did not last very long before needing a meal. Wouldn?t consumption and production increase to the level of excess if it were not regulated by some order? Does the schizophrenic model resemble anarchy?

    Merriam-Webster defines anarchy as the following:

    1a: absence of government

    b: a state of lawlessness or political disorder due to the absence of governmental authority.

    c: a utopian society of individuals who enjoy complete freedom without government. [5]

    By ?government? we can think of system; system being an umbrella term for a system of linguistics, ethics, language, and society. So the ?laws? can be interpreted as rules of conduct, language, and the overall culture of a society. The word ?disorder? is directly in the definition of anarchy. It is important to note that disorder means to ?disturb the regular or normal functions of?[6] and does not imply dysfunction. Thus in a schizophrenic model, the regular functioning is altered and transformed into an irregular system. An irregular system does not have a preordained pattern or regularity; it does not have a normal organization. But such a model does enjoy the freedom of its parts, i.e. the ability to function without a specific duty. Therefore allowing the organs of the organism to act without the need to produce designated outcomes. The social body becomes a machine whose parts can move freely. Deleuze refers to the organism as ?what imprisons life,?[7] but if we allow for the totality of possible connections and functions of said organs, the organism is redefined as a plurality rather than a singularity. For it no longer would be a regulating container for behavior but a living and changing body made up of living and changing parts.

    Something like the golden mean of schizophrenia is needed, a balance of extreme indulgence and fine tuned systematization and production. To be a pendulum that can swing freely between the two poles without succumbing to its own pitfalls. A new way of life needs to be initiated in order to liberate the spectator, to wake up humanity from its progressive slumber.

    The revolution, or aesthetic transformation, must involve proper training for adjusting to a new perspective of the world. To change the perspective of the world requires an entire redefinition of habits and lifestyles. It necessitates a relearning of how to live, i.e. how to live without the need for distraction from the everyday. The aesthetics and reality of our culture is ingrained within us. Reformulating the civilization that creates these very perspectives necessarily involves the reformulization of the discontent it produces. By deterritorializing our very perspective of the world, i.e. of reality, we can reterritorialize it without the inherent production of alienation and the need for escape. We cannot remove our organs without leaving their residue; we must adapt and learn to cope with the technology of contemporary society. Communication technology must exist as a tool for engagement more so than disengagement, the benefits of connecting must outweigh the destructions of disconnecting.

    Communication Refuge

                 Fred Forest describes ?sociological art? as an art of action whose aim is to initiate change in the world, i.e. in perceptible reality.

    The inflation of images has inevitably led to their devaluation. Aesthetics now seeks its favored ground elsewhere than in the incarnation of the plastic sign. No longer able to operate on the method or representation, the artist now intervenes directly on reality?[8]

    Forest describes the ?communication artist? as one who works directly in the realm of information and takes the role as transmitter. He transmits his own symbols into the greater network in order to alter it, or he sets up parallel networks that are accessible to the larger whole. It is through a play of connecting, disconnecting, and assembling that the communication artist works. He takes the position of a switchboard conductor, choreographing his desired dance.

                A form of refuge is created or exposed by the artist. As Forest states,

    Stricken with vertigo and anguish before a changing world he is unable to come to grips with, man has a tendency to seek refuge in the past. The artist refuses this retrograde vision. He faces up to the present, pushing himself to explore its possibilities. ?in order to revive our codes our ways of seeing, of thinking, of understanding. And, in the same way, to allow the individual to find his place, here and now, in the world.[9]

    The refuge created by the artist is not an alternative to the reality available to him, like that of television or distractions. Rather it is a refuge in the here and now that is not pushed away for an alternative present, past, or future. This form of artistic creation restores a sense of being-in-the-world, a being-here that is not only virtual but also actual. It is a presentness that requires action, a reorganization of an individual?s physical and virtual place.

    The aesthetics of communication involves a constant fragmenting and assembling of interconnected networks. Artists have the ability to plug in from one system to the next, like a dancer or symphony remixing the sounds of the ages. The artist has the ability to draw from multiple existing sources while creating a new situation entirely. A functional composition is formulated and reformulated by constant manipulation. The artist creates a refuge of time and place amidst an ever-progressing functional reality. The refuge is not the product of his creation, but rather the act itself. Like an eye opening from within an electric storm, a place is created within a non-place. This type of creation is a temporally based action that is irregular and under constant reevaluation by the actor, i.e. the artist, while simultaneously producing changes in the context he exists in. Thus both the artist and the context (or ?system?) are in a constant state of flux; the only regularity is irregularity, or the constant act of reevaluation and recreation.

    Designing a New Perspective

    There is a battle between internal space and external space, i.e. the internal sphere of personal information and the external sphere of worldly information. As Forest states, ?Modern man, enveloped as he is in a moving sphere of information, must find the tempo of his own score in order to achieve harmonic integration into the whole symphony? (Forest 18). Rather than swinging between the two poles, Forest points to merging the information systems into an all-encompassing network. A merging that reflects the principles of Zen meditation, being able to exist in harmony with external and internal forces.

                It can be understood as a turning over of will power, or the instinct to fight against pressures and forces. Not necessarily succeeding to them, but being content with them, and integrating them into one?s own personal network. It is an act of plugging into the world in its entirety and existing as a part of it. Transforming reality into a network that one plugs into that is connected to a global system of relations and communications. It is artists that can design such a network, artists that involve themselves with communication and perspective as a subject.

                An artist communicates with a language entirely of his own system and structure. His creation does not abide by the laws of linguistics or societal structures. It is of another network entirely or of a mixed composition of frameworks. It is through the creation of something cross-disciplinary that the foundational structure of a system can be de- and reterritorialized. This structural surface is like the body without organs; slippery, malleable, and transformable.

                The artist is both the explorer and the geographer mapping out preexisting terrain with contemporary roadways. He paves the way for a different type of experience. Like Deleuze and Guattari?s conception of the schizophrenic, the artist can jump from one terrain to another; connecting plugs into new or unused outlets, creating alternative links and passageways. With one flip of his switch he can redirect the railways, altering the flows of communication that formulate our realities.

                Communication technologies are something that can dangerously heighten our alienation and submission into the everyday by pushing us further into our desire for distraction and escape. But they are also a means to our liberation. They formulate a readymade network leading to a new perspective. Yet this new perspective is dependent on a proper fragmenting or deterritorializing of preexisting systems.

                Like Nietzsche?s übermensch we must live in an eternal return. A return to the same system, but a system redirected and re-circulated. The proper perspective must be constantly developed and maintained. It is an act that requires constant action, keeping the position of passive spectator at bay. It is a design of constant revolution.

                The structure of life cannot be too structured, resulting in a situation such as the society of the spectacle and everydayness. Society and the everyday must be under constant redefinition. We must be temporary and fragmented in nature. Reorganized to be de-organized. Organ-less. It is the artist who can begin this transformation. For he has access to the skewed thought process likened to that of the schizophrenic; the jumping, dancing, chaos-grabbing birthing of creation that pushes one to the limits of being and back. The nearness of death for the far reaches of life, he will paint the new picture directly onto the concrete.

    A bridge is built between nature and culture? Through the complex synchronic process we are constantly involved in, we have the continual feeling that we are part of a global beat made up of an infinite number of distinct little rhythms. When we are in a situation, we have the overwhelming feeling that we are deeply part of our surrounding world? (Forest. 19).       

    The process of creating something that involves more than just mere spectatorship or viewing reintegrates our social body into the natural world. It works to break down barriers between differing spheres and discourses, allowing individuals to exist in a more plural manner by reducing singular defining boundaries. Such means of creative communication restores the chaos in the natural order of the world around us, allowing for a culture of fluidity and multiplicity. This type of thought allows for a reduction in restrictive and confining situations by providing the foundation for multiple pathways or lines of flight. By designing a new situation, or by revolutionizing our perceptions of the world, we reduce the need to escape our daily realities.

     

     



    [1] Lev Menovich (108).

    [2] Terms like ?binge watching? and ?Netflix and chill? have become part of the cultural language, some are new additions to the English dictionary, eerily reminiscent of Orwellian ?Newspeak.?

    [3] This information is taken from studies from the U.S. National Institute of Health. Studies can be found at http://www.clinicaltrials.gov

    [4] Bourriaud, Postproduction, 39

    [5] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anarchy

    [6] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disorder

    [7] Deleuze The Logic of Sensation p. 39-40

    [8] Fred Forest, For An Aesthetics of Communication, P.4

    [9] Ibid. P.7