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5 - GREAT ART books


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Was it Dostoyevsky who said that if humans were rational they'd cease to exist - because no-one would bother to do anything? Perhaps he meant that if we knew the truth about the universe we'd conclude that life was meaningless, so would see no point in anything?

The implication is that to survive and find contentment we need meaning – as if to distract us from reality: that is, of a meaningless universe and the knowledge that we’re going to die. Even assuming we need meaning (or distraction), why should it only be found in crazy notions as are inherent in religion - which even a minimal level of common sense tells us is not only implausible but utterly absurd... as if the more fantastic it is, the more likely to be true and believable?

This reversal of logic is as incongruous to me as I guess it is to Richard Dawkins – and likewise for how so many people are hoodwinked by such obvious nonsense. Weirdest of all is when otherwise intelligent people insist on believing such ridiculous crap - that even the most eccentric sci-fi fiend would regard as weirder than fantasy. This is clearly a subject for psychology rather than science.

Maybe the entire issue is actually a misunderstanding. Which is that religion has nothing to do with creating meaning, but rather, as has been suspected for aeons, is down to a handful of devious elites (from back in the days before science) who harnessed it to dominate and control people so as to further their own selfish aims - and so turn much of the rest of society into zombies (at least those who refused to think for themselves). Surely now, it's about time the humbug was exposed for what it is: a subtle and outmoded tool of elites (which aren’t necessarily in government) so they can influence and manipulate society. The multiplicity of hijacked anecdotes and fables used to impress and attract potential acolytes are all part of the chicanery. Like most myths, fairy-tales and narratives, whether true, false or whatever, stories are as old as humankind. But it’s useful if you want to grasp REALITY not to confuse this with the wealth of seductive tosh that emanates from religions and the insane rituals that tend to surround them.

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Reflective lucky-dip (Q & A below)

(The Selfish Atom)

"While it is in progress, life may be a neurotic search for ever greater fulfilment, even if that is only imagined. Future promise, it seems, always surpasses experience. When it is ended, however, life seems inconsequential. We live, we love, we dream, we die. And we are soon forgotten, even the turbulence of the journey is soon smoothed. Those with whom we have shared our lives may remember us for a while, but even memory, it seems, is founded in self-interest. Perhaps memory of a deceased is the livings' mechanism of coping with their own future."

mmm... nicely put, eloquent and concise... but...

...it might trouble some people to reflect that however removed, their motivations ultimately stem from Dawkins' 'Selfish Gene'... just as (for those who, like Dawkins, insist on evidence) a universe without meaning might trouble them. But then, if the impetus for human progress originates in genetic evolution, maybe the drive of the universe originates in molecular evolution - which perhaps ultimately stems from the 'Selfish Atom/Molecule'?

Either way, these 'origins', these 'motivations', have become so remote from experience that it takes unusual insight - such as that of Dawkins - to spot them. We are so immersed in and preoccupied with the detail of our lives... of food, relationships, entertainment, work and so on... that most of us spend an entire lifetime oblivious of reasons and causes and the great beyond from where we originate, forever unaware of why we are as we are and do as we do - our noses forever at the grindstone of everyday living. The question is: if we fail to reflect, then can we regard ourselves as any more than mere biological machines at the mercy of a genetic tyranny?

Before a true civilisation can exist, a crucial part of everyone's experience must surely be to consider their - all of our - existential predicament... and be informed and edified by it (at least as much as by anything else). Otherwise, how is it possible to genuinely evolve - that is, psychologically? No fanciful myths or superstitions here, no fictions of saviours or monsters dredged up from the gamut of religions, faiths and whatever other weird figments and ghosts have haunted and corrupted primitive cultures through the ages. Here we have pure evidential reality. Which is not to say we shouldn't acknowledge the existence of a collective unconscious - this, diminishing as it is, remains part of reality, and should be understood for what it is, and for its influence.

What I'm saying is that to move closer to genuine autonomy we need to be aware of more than what has traditionally preoccupied us. Always a few exceptional individuals have this awareness, which can be seen to operate through innovation, through relentless questioning - especially of one's culture and upbringing - being ready to overthrow accepted ideas that prove specious, flawed or in some way logically inconsistent or problematic, and seek new approaches - but above all to observe one's situation from outside oneself. These were once exclusive to the privileged, the educated, the intellectual elite: Socrates, Goethe, Voltaire.... Not nowadays - not when half the planet has access to virtually unlimited information on virtually any subject, and to a whole menagerie of new and fast-evolving technologies.

Anyone older than about 40 will have witnessed the unfolding of this phenomenon - the emergence of an era so replete with a potential that just six decades ago it would have seemed inconceivable - except maybe to a well-informed sci-fi geek. Now everyone can see it. Moreover, like a fabulous aroma after a while, they've grown used to it - so used to it, in fact, that they hardly notice it anymore. Instead of astonishment, each new turn-up evokes almost a yawn of indifference.

It's an era, though, that really began around 1948, when the transistor was invented. By the 60s - some 15 years later - the future looked sealed, huge technological changes loomed enticingly and as imminent as sunshine. Progress, however, seemed agonisingly slow through the next half-century. But as with a plant, growth at the beginning is inclined to be slow - and a little painful perhaps, sprinkled with sticking-points, misapplications and other diversions. Yet compared with former times, advances have actually moved fast, and signal, in effect, the start of an unstoppable torrent of developments. So far, this is no more than a trickle. Soon though, beside it, the industrial revolution will resemble a mere drip.

Even so, who can say in what direction these changes will take us? Who knows how we as individuals, or as a society, will respond and be altered by them?

I glance at my own situation and contrast it against the thousands of generations gone and thousands yet to emerge... and when I reflect, I'm left wondering what the picture will look like in, say, a millennium from now. Will people - if we could observe them - still be recognisable to us in how they live/behave? How about society? Will we today appear more remote than those a millennium ago do to us now? Might we eventually, having reached some kind of technical hiatus or limit, cede technological evolution exclusively to 'androids' (whatever form they take)? Might, over subsequent aeons, those 'androids' (evolved by then beyond recognition, perhaps integated/merged into everything else) populate and even 'engineer' the galaxy as new manifestations of the 'Selfish Atom/Molecule'... the evolution for which we'll have played the essential primal catalyst?

Are we, in fact, simply unwitting instruments in an extraordinary evolutionary process that follows some invincible eternal mandate, embedded like DNA, in the fabric - within the very essence - of matter itself? (the ultimate in Universal-Darwinism)

And if so, what then?

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MORE ON THE FUTURE ........ (plus from Jan 12 >)

Most attempts to look into the future are biased - ie, old people are inclined to predict doom; probably their way of coping with their own imminent demise...  if they convince themselves that the world is going duff, they won't feel like they’re missing-out. But one thing is fairly certain: the next millennium won't see people change much physically – unless genetic manipulation becomes fashionable.

But psychological evolution is likely, especially within cultures that are technically advancing and living in ways that are new and stimulating.

As ever a range of types too are inevitable, determined mainly by upbringing, experience, education, etc. On the negative side the majority (currently, at any rate) – from business gurus to a scavenging underclass - naturally display primitive or juvenile characteristics like jealousy, greed, exaggerated egos, and various superstitions. On the positive side, which favours progress, enough will live relatively free of these problematic corruptions from a difficult past (that when not evoked in childhood lay dormant). In other words, a whole range of cultures exist - cultures within cultures and cultures within cultures within cultures - and will presumably further evolve and intermingle regardless of increasing homogenisation through universal communication.

The question is: will at some point a conflict between the interests of cultures occur that could destabilise technological progress?

It's always possible that something else will halt progress - such as climate change, or some unforeseen problem like a super-bug.

Yet, all things considered, technology will probably not merely prevail, but will advance ever-faster. It tends to spread like a virus anyway, so advances are often financed even by cultures that oppose those who develop it. If I'm right, this means we'll inevitably reach a stage where some kind of 'intelligent android brain' will be capable of overseeing technical development. And since physical restraints on evolution we humans are subject to are irrelevant to technology, progress will take-off at a rate few people these days would imagine possible. Us humans will be left standing!

Well, that's my take on the issue for what it's worth.

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Q (red) & A (purple)


The question is: if we fail to reflect - Reflect to me sounds sort of arrogant / self congratulatory or possible nostalgic?

OED: reflect // v.
1 tr. a (of a surface or body) throw back (heat, light, sound, etc.). b cause to rebound (reflected light).
2 tr. (of a mirror) show an image of; reproduce to the eye or mind.
3 tr. correspond in appearance or effect to; have as a cause or source (their behaviour reflects a wish to succeed).
4 tr. a (of an action, result, etc.) show or bring (credit, discredit, etc.). b (absol.; usu. foll. by on, upon) bring discredit on.
5 a intr. (often foll. by on, upon) meditate on; think about. b tr. (foll. by that, how, etc. + clause) consider; remind oneself.
6 intr. (usu. foll. by upon, on) make disparaging remarks.
[Middle English from Old French reflecter or Latin reflectere (as re-, flectere flex- ‘bend’)]

I intend the word ‘reflect’ to mean the OED definition 5 : a intr. (often foll. by on, upon) meditate on; think about. b tr. (foll. by that, how, etc. + clause) consider; remind oneself.

Ie: Meditate on, think about. 

true civilisation - the trouble with this term is what is the reference you are basing the word true on? Turmoil, suffering etc. could be perfectly true for a civilisation?

Civilization - OED: 1 an advanced stage or system of social development.

Any group of ‘right-brain’ (as most are) animals might be regarded to involve some level of civilization, as people who live hand to mouth and never meditate on anything might. What I mean goes beyond that simple basic existence.

The problem, the way I see it, is that we all live far too short. We don't magically pass on some wisdom down the generations, so quite a lot of 'thinking' starts again from scratch with the next birth, the next young generation. Some will be bright sparks but you can't expect the majority to feel that way. The window of realisation could be in someone's 40's - 60's maybe, at an age where they might not be that bothered anyway.

All this is true, experience and learning die with the individual, but NOT their work; their creations, if valuable, form the forward thrust that doesn’t die: ie, technological advance.


The question is: paint the picture YOU would like to see when someone is born and what is presented to their lives and why? Also how does this fit in with their young energetic minds?

Successive generations in an advancing society will enjoy a different experience. They will be influenced by different lifestyles and different technologies. This will inspire further advances, though it’s possible a society could rest on its laurels, so to speak - OED: rest on one's laurels be satisfied with what one has done and not seek further success.


The question is: if we fail to reflect, then can we regard ourselves as any more than mere biological machines at the mercy of a genetic tyranny?

When I wrote that, the intended implied answer was: No, to reflect is to meditate on, examine, question, analyse... If we were entirely at the mercy of a tyranny such a response would probably be impossible. On the other hand, if we don’t reflect then that places us nearer to the level of a machine.    

The question is how does it actually matter if we are just that? If we have a life of pleasure and fulfilment in the broadest or most pathetic terms, how is that wrong ?

Matter to who or what? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, certainly not to me - I’ll be long dead before any significant developments happen with regard to the issue under focus here. Nor is it wrong if we ‘Rest on our laurels’ and cease developing. Value JUDGMENTS are irrelevant here, since it’s an examination, an analysis of what is, or what ‘what is’ is most likely to lead to. Nothing either matters or doesn’t matter, and nothing is wrong or right. It just IS (or IS most probable, even perhaps inevitable).

In contrast to what I conclude, see if you can imagine some other scenario transpiring over the next millennium (or better: over the next 100 millennia). Cosmologists examine the past back to when they reckon the Big Bang occurred, and nowadays they even try to look before that. So why not take the status quo of the world, together with how technology has developed (and the rate of development), and see where it’s probably heading? I, for one, think that makes an interesting study – much more interesting, for some reason, than looking back – though I know most people prefer that, even when historical ‘facts’ usually depend on who’s telling or researching them and any motives they might have in promoting a particular viewpoint.

What I’m attempting here is to avoid any particular viewpoint. The aim is simply to examine what, according to evidence and from our current position, seems most likely to happen in future.

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Gay, Straight, Trans... so bloody what?

It's obvious why some people want to dominate and control others - to exploit them for selfish ends - but l've wondered all my adult life why they should want to do that when there's nothing to gain from it. I mean, there's an old joke about the woman who complains that her neighbour sunbathes naked, and when asked for details reveals that she has to stand on a chair at the bedroom window and crane her neck to see it.

Then during the recent gay-marriage debate I spotted a couple of tweets from Dara O'Briain (who's straight):

"Still not getting how two happy gay people you've never met can weaken your marriage. How do the gays do that?"

"I guess there are just a few MPs out there who imagine that one day a gay man may come between them."

As for me, I reckon marriage is a weird institution anyway, whether between straights, gays, transsexuals...whatever. But:

...it's mostly ONLY miserable old fuckers who are close to pegging-out who want progress to stop, and say things have gone too far when people of the same gender want to be happy together... or rather: get married. Old fuckers are usually against anything new, regardless - they can't face the idea of missing out on something. I can see how they feel, but they've no right to go fucking-up other people's futures (however irrational that future might seem). There's always a handful of young 'old fuckers' too - they seem born like it. We've all met them. They should be shown-up for what they are instead of being placated and soothed by 'politically correct' sycophants.  

I heard the last bit of a discussion on R-5 the morning they were due to vote on the issue in parliament. It boiled down to a spat between bigots and libertarians. What struck me as most astonishing was not how irrational people are, as how unaware they are of how irrational they are.... a bit like the US gun lobby, I guess. The planet is solid with nutters - who doesn't know it? Luckily, there are many non-nutters too - but the nutters usually have a more powerful voice, while non-nutters are inclined to be composed and unruffled. So one is often left with the impression that nutters comprise 99% when it's probably nearer to 70% (at a wild guess... who knows the truth of it?). 

But it was as funny as it was incredible to see in the news bulletins those old fogies in the house of commons, stuck in the past like pigs in a cesspit, getting all excited and red in the face as they delivered their puerile attacks on the gay lib brigade. I thought: why the hell don't they just die and let people celebrate life and have fun and do their own thing? What the hell are those old cunts trying to do - a last gasp to see how much duffness they can inflict before they keel over for good. I suppose they think, as I say: I missed out so I'm bloody well going to do what I can to make sure everyone else misses out too.

It's the age-old syndrome Douglas Adams satirised so brilliantly in his masterpiece 'Hitchhiker's Guide...' where the Vogon spaceship commander addresses his crew over the tannoy: 'I've just had an unsuccessful love affair and don't see why anyone else should have a good time, so I'm going to read some of my poetry' then launches into a deluge of unintelligible gobbledegook, and everyone writhes in agony holding their hands over their ears. I thought: "YES, that says all that needs to be said about poetry!" - at least according to what I experienced before perchance hitting-on Hesse, Ginsberg, Blake... and oh yeah: Larkin (&)... and Bukowski... and...!


Children of a future age,
Reading this indignant page,
Know that in a former time,
Love, sweet love, was thought a crime.

William Blake

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(free viewing - with art show - at de la warr pavillion, Bexhill on sea)

Cutting Edges: Contemporary Collage 
by Robert Klanten (31 Jan 2011) 


Punk: An Aesthetic: An Aesthetic

With text by Jon Savage and William Gibson (Sept 2012)


Raw + Material = Art: Found, Scavenged and Upcycled 
by Tristan Manco (23 April 2012) 


Street Sketchbook (Street Graphics / Street Art) 
by Tristan Manco (Oct 2007)


Beautiful Losers: Contemporary Art and Street Culture 
by Christian Strike (Aug 2005)