What is Creativity, and, can AI be an Artist? – A response to Sean Dorrance Kelly

Scrolling through the #Aesthetic tag on Twitter I came across a link to an article titled: “A Philosopher argues that an AI can’t be an Artist”. Despite the click-baity “you’ll never know what this guy has to say…” title, I nonetheless still clicked because I disagree so vehemently to the idea that its not possible for AI to be an Artist – and more specifically, whether it can be creative. And sure enough, that is what this post will be about; dissecting and picking apart what creativity really means and unearth why people such as Sean The Philosopher here seems so deeply intent on preserving that quality solely for humans.

The preliminary point i’d like to make is despite my acceptance to the idea that AI can be artistically creative doesn’t mean I think AI, up until this point, has been so or is. For example, the article opens with the iconic image of recent years a ‘painting’ created by AI algorithms called GANs by Parisian art collective Obvious and despite its flatness characteristic of all digital art trying to emulate or replace painting, it looks like a baby-faced Rembrandt self portrait created from a free-to-play App painted with a chubby finger. Yet quite obviously, my sympathy lies in not what it has created but the remarkable creative act itself.

What’s most suspect about the article is the self-quoting epigram used to begin with: “Creativity is, and always will be, a human endeavor”. Throughout history there have been attempts at distinguishing the uniqueness of humanity to the rest of the universe and this strikes me as adding to that tradition. It smells of a passive-aggressive quasi-essentialist argument for what it means to be Human by resorting to the only thing that’s left for us, Art and Creativity. And any attempt via either Animal Psychology or growing developments in Artificial Intelligence will only further diminish the image of what little uniqueness we have. In fact, Sean further reveals his insecurities in the very last paragraph; for, “If we allow ourselves to slip in this way, to treat machine “creativity” as a substitute for our own, then machines will indeed come to seem incomprehensibly superior to us”.

Sean is right when he says, “creativity is not just novelty. A toddler at the piano may hit a novel sequence of notes, but they’re not, in any meaningful sense, creative”. This illustrates an important distinction lying within creativity – the doing and being. Although not creative, the Toddler hitting the piano is nonetheless acting creatively – participating in creativity.

Sean then continues to say creativity is historically bounded; a community has to accept them as creative. And goes on to consider the ways in which AI will be predicted to eventually surpass human intelligence in becoming “super intelligent”. And as a result, ponders whether just like intelligence, will creativity – a subset of intelligence – too succumb to be over taken by something super creative? His answer is an unabashed “no”. But why? Because “to say otherwise is to misunderstand both what human beings are and what our creativity amounts to”. Can it be fair to say that, for Sean, to be human is to be creative?

He even goes on to nearly undermine his own argument by saying that it is “entirely possible” that AI will be so vastly superior anything they do we will “naturally” attribute creativity to them. Yet for Sean, it would be the denigration of the human for bestowing the machine with creative gifts rather than acknowledging the gift itself. And further, despite being “entirely possible”, it is “mythmaking” to speculate about the wondrous things AI can do without a “reasoned argument” for technological possibilities. It seems then fruitless at this point to continue, since we both agree that AI at this moment in time has yet to showcase the capacity of the kind of creativity we would like it to have. But let’s move forward.

Sean starts to provide the meat to his boney sketch of creativity. Regarding Music, why someone like Schoenburg is a creative innovator is not only because he is able to provide a new vision of the future through his work but because the people/audience are accurately able to decipher this work into a correct interpretation. And yet, if the creative genius of Schoenberg was only posthumously and communally discovered, how and in what ways are we to verify the ‘correct’ interpretation? A retroactively constituted creativity. The point here for Sean is simply that there can be no correct interpretation to the vision of the Artist if the Artist has no vision to begin with because it is not human. Reasons being that any greatness or creativity that may come from AI is more to do with the fact that it has been appropriately programmed to do so – following some “arbitrary act or algorithmic formalism” – and can thus not accept it as vision.

Although I agree in some respect, my contention lays more with how he defines creativity as an act of vision in the first place that must be acknowledged in the manner in which it was conceived. And to my mind, this is an argument for a kind of intentionalism. That creativity lies in what the creator visioned or intended and must be known as such. The simplest argument I have against it is that even the Artist themself does not know the kind of vision or intention which their work fully assumes. Or put differently, the work and experience the Artist does produces always exceeds and goes beyond the boundary of what they originally intended. Thus it is really only arbitrary and one additional factors among many others that we include the artist into the way we go about interpreting the work. Intentionalism ignores the external aspect to the creative production itself. An Artist don’t intend the way politics are going, the way economy is playing out, or what society is like, and the attitude they have therein; they can only peripherally respond to it and be apart of it. She would have to assume God-like status to be able to accurately manipulate every aspect of Life to properly achieve a vision that can be responded to. As Graham Harman likes to say, the reality of the object withdraws from the surface level qualities which are perceptively attached to it.

Its unsurprising Sean would use Music or Mathematics as examples because they are easiest to defend authorial intent. Composition in a way becomes a word used to justify any act of creativity which curates and exhibits a body of work that is created out of an assemblage that have yet to been previously curated. To Compose music or a painting or a film etc is to creatively and inventively curate/organise/ pre-existing materials in a way that has not been achieved previously. Creativity begins with innovation. It might be even to suggest that the Director of a film is not the sole individual to provide a creative work. There are hundreds of people collaborating that goes into producing a film. Yet would it be crazy or mad to suggest even that even non-human objects too also contribute to the effectiveness of the creative vision that cannot so easily be attributable to the individual alone even if that person is a pianist? That, despite one’s efforts in tuning the piano to one’s liking, adjusting the stall, and playing with a nice open room, there are additional elements that are actively contributing, affecting, how the music is playing out and how it is responded to. Just in the way the weather and humidity can change causing one’s fingers to swell, even stiffen, and so too the keys. Or if it is played at night which allows Phantom of the Opera to be that much more influencing emotionally. Or even in the very attitude of the Pianist herself which is affected by the daily rituals of life. The point to this speculative understanding of what it means to be a creative experience is that there is whole ensemble of affects that contribute to the way any work plays out, a whole vocabulary to the artwork that isn’t solely attributed to the inner grammar of the artist, which means Intentions has to contend with this very issue.

There are some other examples concerning games, physics and science (Harvard professor alert!) that I don’t feel necessary to attack because I don’t think they are worthwhile. But please, see for yourself. See Link Below: 

I could suggest that the difference in conceiving Creativity is a difference of degree and not kind. Because I agree wholeheartedly with Sean when he says, “Creativity is one of the defining features of human beings. The capacity for genuine creativity, the kind of creativity that updates our understanding of the nature of being, that changes the way we understand what it is to be beautiful or good or true—that capacity is at the ground of what it is to be human”. To reiterate, creativity is what introduces us into conceptualizing and interacting with what is the seemingly familiar as the unfamiliar. And what is more familiar to us than ourselves? Creativity is to take ourselves outside ourselves. To enjoy an experience we don’t think we own. And yet nothing to me suggests AI or anything else for that matter is not capable of producing those kinds of moments.

Creativity for me thus far is defined in three terms: What it is, what it does, what it achieves.

What it is is innovation. What it does is self-other. What it achieves is elicit an experience that transcends the situation of the interaction between subject and object and is marked by an ability to create a metaphoric experience that cannot be reduced to down to either the object or concept alone – a kind of dualism. The Artwork is a self-othering object because it takes you away from the literal evaluation of it yet cannot be fully eradicated – nor be replaced without changing – by the metaphor which it summons. It is neither object (self) or Metaphor (other), but the necessary connection that combines and constitutes the experience via their connection. Artworks don’t exist in vacuums. They are objects situated in context-specific environments that influence the effect of the work. We must contend with the environment an artobject is produced in and the way it is produced in order to fully assess its being.

How Are you? You OK? You Alright?

If there’s one thing to be said about British Culture, it would be our faux-but-necessary exchange of greetings displayed as surface-level optimism masquerading the real pervading feelings of pessimism bubbling on the underside.

There are various ways to communicate different senses of faux-optimism and each different relative to the ‘true’ pessimism of each person. Yet nonetheless, every greetings exchange – once inspected – looks and feels like an inner repressive struggle to properly convey ones own ‘true’ sense of self.

One of course doesn’t really desire the answer to the question How Are you? in full except just an acknowledgement of the question posed in the first place. And usually, the acknowledgement takes the form of a mirror, reiterating the question posed onto us back to the questioner. Whats more, depending on the person, instead of ending the exchange with the acknowledgment of the question by way of saying I’m Fine, the original questioner might proceed to actually answer in full, what usually is never answered, to the How Are You?, effectively using his fellow people as a springboard or mirror to his own advantage.

Although asking How Are You? is a vague question with little intent on knowing the answer in full, and so usually means How Are You At This Very Moment In Time, the questioner acts as analyst in practice with hopes of better understand who they themselves are reflected in the eyes of others. No wonder such a question is consistently posed through out ones life as it takes quite literally ones entire life to figure out just how one is really, truly feeling. And it is this inability, acknowledged by all, that confines any answer to one of I’m Fine, OK, and Good etc. (Note: any or all answers are frequently positive masking true negative feelings that one realizes one is unable to fully expand in the conversation alone. Even extreme positive answers such as Great!, Amazing, I’m so Happy, are also not conveyed as any chance to fully expand on them are limited). Because of this inability to truly speaks ones mind in light of civility, customs and time, a paradox emerges whereby even expressing feelings of negative or extreme positive emotion are to be met negatively by others. As if either negativity or excessive positivity is a very un-British thing to display and ought to be repressed and hidden from view away from others in fear of catching it like a cold or becoming bitter and resentful of ones own inability to accurately express ones own positive feelings. Britishness, then, by these standards is a very grey, moderate, pragmatic and neutral disposition or attitude. Contrasted with America where having a shrink/therapist is commonplace, allowing for the ability to speak openly about ones emotions, in Britain it is virtually unheard of – it is what presumably family and friends and even strangers are for. The British people act as a communal therapy group.

Even if How Are You? allows for the flexibility of an answer, how might one respond to You OK?. What are the degrees of OK-ness that one can accurately convey? Similar to the inability of being able to adequately answer the complex How Are You? in any decent way we end up resorting to a simple I’m Fine, Thanks. You?. You OK? doesn’t allow for complexity nor for any chance of feelings of negativity – it is exclusively an exchange for people who are already feeling quite OK and therefore redundant as a question in the first place. Yet, as mentioned before, no answer is to really be met except for the acknowledgment of the exchanges of communication itself. In fact, You OK? has the subversive undertones of already presupposition that the other person is in fact not OK – Just as how you see a friend fall off a Bicycle and ask Are You OK? knowing full well that your friend has just literally fallen off a Bicycle and is anything but OK. Which is to say that the gesture of Are You OK? is really, “you are going to be OK”, “you will get through this momentary bad phase and come out of it triumphant”. Its the additional spirit of British Culture that everything in the end will all be alright. No wonder the British public took Bob Marley on board so well as “every little thing is gonna be alright!” is – like all great things British – an appropriated motto for our own country taken from another culture. And so, when you converge in the exchanges of OK’s, its not only a civil acknowledgement of each others existence, but that the acknowledgement is the consoling factor of letting yourself and others know that despite your repressive pessimism for life, everything is OK, we will all get through this together.

 

A Sexy Odyssey

What can maybe be said to connect or preoccupy us all – regardless of where we are in the world, what culture we’re raised in, what race we feel we belong to or the differences in identity – is a feeling and acknowledgement of the want/need to be noticed by others. Now this isn’t a cynical comment about obtaining a sense of self-gratification but that of not being lonely, of being apart of a community and a reciprocation of identity formation.

And of course, this desire to be noticed manifests itself differently relative to the level of culture, community and individual identity itself. And while this post will refer exclusively to where I am situated in (England) and where I am enveloped in (America), I wanted to take the opportunity to semi-seriously make note on the preoccupation of the desire to be noticed, as emphasized on the media I am involved with, which in my opinion is characterized as the desire to be seen as Sexy. (and what I can extrapolate out of the seemingly trivial subject of sexiness)

This is not what is sexy but how.


 

There is no being sexy – in the same way as there is no being sincere – as it suggests intent on doing and artificially constructing a mode of being or doing and of being seen that is not true to itself (in other words, inauthentic). It is what is presumably what happens to you, without your acknowledged doing. Except, as we will come to see, such a basis for authenticity, sincerity and even sexiness is through the process of ideological cynicism and a performance for an other and oneself.

Authenticity is one of the primary and fundamental criterion for any being – having the capabilities of possessing and carrying out what could be described as Attitude – to be seen as sexy. As such, authenticity suggests a being for oneself which instigates confidence (another criterion of sexiness).

Confidence is the link between performer and spectator, an exuberance that can be spotted, if not, called for from the performer. Ideological cynicism is what allows a performer of sexiness to both act as if one were sexy and, as a result, be sexy from such action. Any act of sincerity performed enough times inevitably puts oneself into a position of sincerity (even if only from an on-looker. Yet if both performer and spectator believe in the existence of either sexiness or sincerity, does it matter at all?).

It is not only authenticity and confidence needed to be sexy, and such a rigid and well kempt definition surely goes against the lure of sexiness itself, but here is to my mind, a litany of sexiness: appeal, charm, allure, seduction, concealment/secrecy, allusion, teasing, eroticism, contentedness, and the spectacle etc.

One begins the act of sexiness by first being dishonest, insincere, inauthentic, and incomplete. Sexiness is a reenactment, a construction or playing out of being, a productivity, an action, a performative rhetoric. By literally doing the actions of sexy, one tricks oneself into believing and thus invariably become sexy (but of course, one must know what sexiness is in order to perform it, yet, in my opinion, it is not so much what is performed as it is the performance itself that is sexy. Which is to say, there is no being one way or another, there is only being).

This acting or Performative (Procedural) Rhetoric is nicely described by Levi Bryant on an idea thought by Ian Bogost as to how we learn through playing video games such as SIMS. “A Performative Rhetoric is a rhetoric that persuades not through language, but through situating an audience in an activity. The audiences understanding is transformed through the activity of doing. In this regard, games are a form of rhetoric. They change us through their play.” Interestingly, the audience described here is the one playing the game, in other words, the actor performing or ‘playing’ the role of sexiness. Yet because such an act of sexiness is characterized by its being an act for an audience, a spectator, then a second audience exists and can be said to also posses the understanding of sexiness – the receiving of pleasure – by being put, as well putting themselves through, the act of doing, the act of being a part of a spectacle or an audience.

This Performative rhetoric can also be considered along the lines of Ideological Cynicism, following the procedure of belief. The difference is, where or to who the feeling of sexiness exists, in the performer or its audience? The rhetoric allows for oneself to believe in oneself, effectively tricking oneself into becoming, in order to finally become, so others too can witness it. Ideological cynicism, on the other hand, allows oneself (the audience) for the option of having the potential to see, witness and experience sexiness where ever it may not ‘actually’, or intend to, exist.

The similarity is in a shared truism: Fake it til’ you make it! Zizek has a lot to say about Cynicism, and so I will go through two ways in which I can appropriate him for my own cause (without just referring you to him).

The first is in the way such an actor produces for themselves a sense of authority confirmed by their apparentness, attitude, confidence and supposed authenticity (to the eyes of others). This authority plays a crucial role in Lacan’s symbolic order, whereby we treat the subject of authority only with regards to their authority irrespective of what they are like without it. As Zizek says, this takes the form of a fetishistic disavowal: “I know very well that things are the way I see them /that this person is a corrupt weakling, but I nonetheless treat him respectfully, since he wears the insignia of a judge, so that when he speaks, it is the Law itself which speaks through him”. Sexiness, then, replaces the Judge. Regardless if one is actually or truly sexy, the confidence and performance with which the subject is enacting, takes the role of authority,  receives from it all the gratification and acceptance of its audience for whom can only believe that it is a sexiness irrespective to how they actually feel.

Another example of fetishistic disavowal is, as described in one of Zizeks stories, how one can perform the same lucky ritual or superstition even if one disbelieves in it, and have its effects still ‘work’. “seeing a horse-shoe on his door, the surprised visitor said that he doesn’t believe in the superstition that it brings luck, to what Bohr snapped back: “I also do not believe in it; I have it there because I was told that it works also if one does not believe in it!”” It could be said that if only one believed what one hoped to see or experience, one would end up experiencing that very thing, if not only a fiction produced via ones own imagination. Its how the dirty mind sees sex everywhere! 


 

Sexiness is a technique of seduction, not in search for a partner to fill the gap of sexual inadequacy or to confirm its (sexiness) existence, but of acquiring an audience. Sexiness is a play of the spectacle, set up as an Amphitheater home to an all-seeing audience competing among each other over the cause of sexiness and over the acquisition of the experience of sexiness itself. It is also this competition that further emphasizes, even rarefies such a feeling of sexiness to both performer and audience.

If one were to pinpoint the sexy in the subject, one would come away empty handed and exhausted. For what we can only find is the reflection of our own idiosyncratic eccentricities and fetishistic desires that transposes the sexy from the performer into the mind of the spectator.

In his book Mythologies, Roland Barthes describes Wrestling as a spectacle of excessive, exaggerated and most importantly, grandiloquent gestures. Yet these gestures are nothing without its audience, for what makes of wrestling without them? Two people limply fighting, unconvinced of their own performance? This is to say that sexiness – and wrestling – is a direct relationship between performance and audience.

I’m inclined to say that it is with the apprehension of never being able to achieve, attain, or gain full satisfaction from the object of sexy is what constitutes sexiness itself. It is a never full-filling eroticism that goes beyond the mere illusion or caricature of sex appeal. Yet what constitutes the erotic? Barthes asks, “Is not the most erotic portion of a body where the garment gapes? In perversion (which is the realm of textual pleasure) there are no “erogenous zones” (a foolish expression, besides); it is intermittence, as psychoanalysis has so rightly stated, which is erotic: the intermittence of skin flashing between two articles of clothing (trousers and sweater), between two edges (the open-necked shirt, the glove and the sleeve); it is this flash itself which seduces, or rather: the staging of an appearance-as-disappearance.” The slow reveal of the clothing (or obstructive toy) that masquerades the object of sexy.

This disappearance is the curiosity a spectator feels that is diminished through an eagerness to see more – such as the trouser leg raising beyond the ankle, exposing too much, yet not enough –  and yet what is more is not what is there, as it is what is not there is what we actually want. The libidinal intensification one now feels is a result of now having endured the prolonging of sexual teasing.

Paradoxically, after all, there is no audience a performer of sexiness can/does perform to directly, as if the performer were just as aware of the audience as they were of the performer. Except, one performs believing such an audience exists, even if not to be watching. Which is to say that sexiness is as much for an audience as it is for oneself.

Thinking Horrifically – A Vicintiy of Horror

I think a lot about the horror and suffering of the world, from the minute and seemingly trivial up to the all-encompassing and overwhelming — Ironically, it is these two extreme ends on a horrific spectrum that we lost sight of. Too small and we disregard or deem unworthy of being named, such as losing money, falling over, being disorganized etc, and/or too big it seems to resist such a naming, such as ecological disaster, political corruption and even ones own future self.

The inability of seeing beyond the confines of a median horror out towards the periphery of inner-self and outer-life, what we name as the experience of horror is that which is – quite literally – in our very local vicinity. For instance, depending on the severity of injury, we regard and thus associate horror based on the length of impact such an injury has on our future – how it effects our ‘local’ foreseeable future self. Or, of being aware that we are in close proximity to an outside horror, such as stabbings in your neighborhood. Its because of this short-sightedness that it becomes much easier to care for these local horrors than it is too acknowledge the wars going on in other countries, the emotional anguish of strangers, or the deep depths of our own unconscious or future self (e.g. smoking), and finally the ultimate horror that will effect us all yet seemingly none is ecological disaster – a too grand of an object to contemplate and thus tackle oneself let alone think about. It is a horror so sever that it breaches its own boundaries as to escape the very confines of what can be considered terrifying.

This post is not about the horrors of the world as such, as it it a personal rumination on horror and how effectual thinking horrifically – that is, in terms of locality (a nearness to us) – can be useful to the way we think and act in this world.

                                                                   —————

As it ought to be known, I don’t like watching horror films – or more precisely, I find myself too easily susceptible to strong feelings of sadness that I reduce all interactions to a minimum. Nor any material that readily presents itself as content uneasy for light viewing, such as the bite-sized clips naughtily posted on obscure facebook pages of tortured animals, fights between people on derelict streets, the terror that overcomes individual people of all ages – unnecessary cries of toddlers, children that are lost, adults losing someone, old people forgetting themselves. Or even watching the news or listening to talks told reminiscently. Of course, one should be aware of the suffering of others as to allow empathy to flow, responsibility to take place and care to take action, but it is not that by not watching these videos I attempt at avoiding responsibility and effectively caring for, and building relations with, others. Or relieve myself of guilty feelings by pretending pain doesn’t exist.

But it is paradoxically the nature of ‘enjoying’ the experience of emerging oneself in horror (films) that nonetheless separates us from a real horror to contemplate and explore and tackle or live alongside. It is this that one invariably loses sight of the horror that occurs on base level, at the very local vicinity of day to day, moment to moment micro-actions that have and leads to much larger longer lasting consequences. All Horror is necessarily mediated through imagery, with each level of mediation taking us further and further away, presenting to us a caricature, ideal, type, etc., from the acute reality of horror one needs to not only take seriously, but acknowledge such contemplation of micro-horrors are worth taking seriously.

Horror is reassuring.

It seems oxymoronic to suggest Horror is reassuring. That it soothes us and prevents our being fearful and scared, consoling and comforting us by presenting to us that which we might most be fearful of, mediated through imagery/films/books. But it is this mediation between us and them, our reality and that reality, that allows us to displace or defer the sense of fear we feel by transcribing it onto a different reality altogether. Wherein, I’m not so much as scared by my reality as I am of/for yours. Intuitively, this suggests an added ability to empathize for a reality that is not our own, except, as I have previously remarked, this mediation or displacement between realities is what disables us from every actually coming to experience the true horrors of an others experience. Reassurance to me means a reminder of what goes on and what could go on. It sets itself up as a marker of terror, providing us the tools of how to feel and when to feel it like a big brother – a quality with which does exist in art.

Again, Horror is always necessarily mediated through some artistic medium with the goal of allowing us to acknowledge such horrors in the first place. But my problem is that mediation is only the beginning, what it misses or what we miss from it is the awareness to an all too true unseen reality of horror that are dismissed, ignored or unworthy based on the grandiloquence of Horror that mediates in the first place. Not unseen as undocumented, but as not worthy of contemplation because it doesn’t conform to any horrific ideals. If Ecological disaster strays from our imagination as not being horrific, so too does the other end of the spectrum with the minute and seemingly trivial. The exaggeration of Horror paradoxically only cares for the means in-between the two ends of sizable horrors – from the tiny to large. This is to say that another task for Horror is to really bring it back down to reality, not focus solely on the very local and instantaneous horror that can happen but on the slow undulating unsexy horror that exists from mental health to climate change.

Like the somewhat insincere attempt to console your friend in hopes of getting them to stop crying, avoiding any attempt to help aid the cause of the crying, conversely then, horror is the insincere friend who wants for you to only cry about the subjects for which horror deems worthy of contemplation – the very local, effectual, visceral and instantaneous and filmic horrors –  and not the real underlying and overlying problems.

When speaking about believing, Zizek says it is not that we don’t believe – when for instance we say “I Love You” –  but that we believe too much. It is not that we don’t believe in the effects of saying I Love You that by not saying it we save ourselves any quarrel or burden, but that we in fact believe in it too much and its effect. We believe “absolutely” in the power of saying I Love You that any deferral or reluctance for saying it doesn’t risk the inevitable consequences of doing so. And this in some ways, about belief, is what we do when we watch a horror film. One could happily say to themselves that what they are watching is not real, that the character of the killer clown or groups of zombies isn’t real, that we don’t believe in it. But, apart from believing literally in killer clowns and zombies themselves, we do in fact believe in a kind of ‘monster’, and as such, because we believe so absolutely, we reside ourselves to the comfort of watching these imagined monsters mediated via the screens of horror films as to not allow ourselves to fall trap to the real horror of our everyday reality. That horror films literally provide a caricature and face of a monster so deeply disturbing we would rather go outright an watch it, full frontal, – as if we were the ones in control of our own sense of being scared – than be witness and victim to the true horror of the faceless unknown that is not meditated but totally real and in out periphery. We believe in monsters so much as to only confront them on our own terms. We create superstitions as to make them real, relieving us of the doubt that we don’t know of what were most afraid of (Yet how can we be scared of that which we don’t know we’re scared of?). One could say that, calling mummy or daddy to check underneath your bed at night, or in the wardrobe, is a way of creating for yourself an image of an monster that which you don’t actually believe, but nonetheless are still frightened of as the feeling of being scared itself has to be pointed towards something, yet this something is always in a local vicinity to one self as that which is outside our own reality can be quite easily dismissed. The parent then is the mediation between the child and the monster, for when the parent says nothing’s there, you continue to sleep, except that its not being there is really not a sign of its non-existence as it is more a process of being scared through something (the parent), of confronting through someone, as to alleviate any feeling of personal horror. As such, a mediation could thereby be seen as a horror for a spectacle that is quite literally dispelled and dissipated, dispersing and diluting the power of horror over its audience. Paradoxically, the child wants to prove its own disbelief. By getting its parent to check what the child already doesn’t believe is to confirm for the child that which doesn’t already exist. A parent confirms what you already believe, or not believe in. The imagination of the monster is as real for the child (and us) as the monster itself.

“Scratching an itch that doesn’t exist – thereby bringing it into existence” — Timothy Morton

This is what I mean when I say horror is reassuring. Media provides us with the scapegoat of reality, as we all know, as to not confront it head on. Of course one could say that horror films are a horrific reality in and of themselves, but I’m not talking about the realness of horror as I am the impracticality of mediation when it comes to understanding what is also really horrific – our everyday micro-actions and those action within – and contributing to – a far larger macro-horror (world). Taking cue from art, we need to quite literally give a face to the faceless monster, bring about its existence in out imagination as to dispel with it. In order to overcome the fear of Horror, what one needs is to think Horrifically.

Unkempt Thoughts — Act I

Among the few truly influential and attitude re-adjusting books I have read, E.M. Cioran’s debut book On The Heights of Despair (Written at age 22, similar to when I first read it, aged 21), is certainly one of them. Although this will not be a review of either the book or pessimism in general (although those will certainly feature in the near future), but a presentation of the unedited and unrefined notes scribbled within the empty spaces of the pages themselves – and in this way, such a direct and affected response to Cioran via these notes can be taken as a review itself, except not from any post-reading contemplation but an immediate reaction. Also, not every note made was necessarily a direct response to the text but an additional rumination using the framework with which I had indulged myself in through reading such a text.

On a side note, because I made just as many notes as did Cioran, I will make a few separate publications that allow for ease of digestion.


 

— I would hate to think that I am perfect, and I would hate to think that others think I think I am perfect. But one of the troubles of Being is that we cannot know whether we are deluding ourselves or not. Like anybody, I’d like to think I’m not deluding myself, and if I’m not, well then I’m pretty damn perfect if you ask me.

— If there are possible absolutes, we are not one of them. On the spectrum of all possible worlds, all possible words have failed because of us. We are the cause for their failure, a median on the spectrum of non-existence. How can you know of anything if living a reality is just being alive in a world of either absolute good or evil? Such lack of conscious comes from a world where you don’t know you are not. We are the truly pessimistic world because we know of a world wholly better than ours. A world that doesn’t exist and yet can never cease from existing. An impossible. The paradox of the worst kind of suffering is not enduring absolute suffering, the worst pain imaginable, even though such suffering goes unthought as one can never know of anything except pain, and thus wouldn’t know themselves to be enduring anything but living a life as if nothing else was known, but, with the taste of hope this world offers coupled with the sense of freedom from pain.

— This world can be described as: Life is the emergency we must attend to

— What’s more cynical, sadomasochistic, and ironic than trying to make something out of living knowing such horror?

— All great and revelatory ideas bore from pessimism, its the only reason we do anything. Become radical, think differently. Because we ignore, refuse and rebel against ourselves and the normalities of the world. We fight it. But all radicality must soon come to an end with its own inevitable collapse. Until we regress once more, indefinitely! A fight for and against ourselves!

— Life lived is nothing but contradictions, opposites and partial truths all places along a spectrum.

— How torturous sleep would be if the night went over in a blink of an eye. The nights begun and I’m already beginning to feel the pain.

— Teaching others to suffer is on the spectrum of criminality, facing its counterpart of the gruesomely and torturous knife crime. Slicing at the flesh exposing the innards. Stabbing, one would hope, by anything other than the rusty blunt blade, skewering, fragmenting, severing each vital organ as it jaggedly punctures through. Wishful thinking is hoping the blade remains inside us as to not reveal our absence and bleed out. To allow the metal in becoming as much apart of us as any other ligament. Its metal re-filling the gaps where flesh and self once was, only to be removed again leaving us with a physical and emotional hole, an emptiness in need of filling with life. We cannot teach suffering no more than we can teach knife crime or even suicide. We can only teach through the history of suffering, through acts and recitals. Suffering need not be voluntarily shown as it makes itself present anyhow. Teaching through noticing, of oneself and others. Connecting, relieving selfishness.

— What does one do when given money in a way that one is unable to return, to then find themselves having to return or owe the so called gift-giver in investments of small sums that may or may not equal the gift received for the rest of ones life? Just as how we are gifted life, forced into a world. Life gives us life. But unlike that of anything outside ourselves, we cannot return it. We cannot return to a place once before, to be unborn from life. And to commit suicide is to do oneself an injustice! We are thus left to live in obedience, sometimes slavery, towards nature giving back that which we never asked for.

— Should we care for the unborn? The wish to be born to fight the necessity of ever having been born! If only one had the option to be born. I don’t wish to be unborn, just unborn.

— I suffer at a greater intensity so others don’t have to. I feel it too, but it is the greatest of selfish acts one can do in feeling comfort knowing other feel a similar, if not greater, or even worse, suffering than our own. But it is through such selflessness that we wish to recreate what we have experienced, to also suffer at a greater intensity so others don’t have to, and so on, indefinitely, until we are all equally suffering and suffering equally.

— The sad paradox of anti-natalism is the hope that those who make the decision not to reproduce, ought to be the ones reproducing.

— Just look how disgustingly privileged I am, alive but never living. How selfish must I be to have a life others die for. I am deeply sorry. I feel a duty of care to live and carry on living the lives of all those who lost theirs.

— I don’t feel this emptiness so many others proclaim to feel. It is, in fact, a feeling of fullness, of nothing else being able to quench my first, feed my hunger, pleasure my appetites. It is in this sense that I am in fact empty of all things to come, all that I long for. I don’t wish to dine on what I once had, provisional pleasures. I have a fetish for the new, not the long lasting beauty but the ephemeral pretty. A longing to be able to turn myself back on and repeat a pleasure, forever fresh. For otherwise they turn sour and bitter, regurgitated.

— There’s no surprise the sad man sleeps throughout the day becoming restless at night. Sleep being a quasi-suicide, a trial of death. We cannot know of such people because they are no where to be seen. Away during the day in a dreamt up coma.

Transfiguration of Objects – The Third Object (Preliminary Outline)

    1. There Exists
    2. Within such Existence exists objects
    3. Among these objects exists what we call world
    4. This world is a container of, and hosts many, objects
    5. We are the objects for whom know themselves as Objects
    6. Upon the unique relationship between container and contained – World and Object – bores a third conceptual or imaginary object: The World-Institution
    7. Such a World-Institution only exists in relationship with the Object for whom they know themselves as Objects, and interact as such. – Perceive it, is conscious of it, refers to it, plays or is active with it. Existing in such a way that actions are for a World-Institution
    8. Within a World-Institution lies all objects – human and non-human, physical and non-physical, real and non-real – that has the potentiality of transfiguring or actualizing into its own third conceptual object created from any number of individual relationships made between Objects and objects, altogether forming one unified relationship
    9. The third objects are what we refer to as Holy, Ritualistic, Sacred or Artistic – Objects that cannot exist without some relationship and activity towards a World-Institution
    10. No object necessarily ever becomes actualized or Transfigured
    11. No object requires of itself to be moved, adjusted, artificially constructed or installed in order for it to achieve Transfiguration
    12. No third object can be experienced in the same way by any number of Objects. The greater the number of participants in the relationship between Object and object, the more complex the third object becomes and therefore less understandable and differs experientially between participants
    13. Such third objects are necessarily complex as they are formed by, and inform, a community – and as such, vague and/or general interpretations emerge
    14. It is the weird that allures us, awaits us, to the object – to discover it or let itself be revealed in a way that was otherwise missed before. Weird because it is what was once seen as commonplace now seen as foreign 
    15. Luring plays the part of enticing a response of Noticing and Discovery – within both Object and object – that prompts Objects into a performance of doing that engages the actualizing and actualizes the engagement
    16. Activity or performance is what allows for a specific mode of perception or Attitude that sets the stage for Objects to properly connect, collaborate and form a relationship
    17. Attitude is what allows Objects to succumb to the allure of objects which allows for discovery and noticing to take place
    18. Once Noticing and Discovery is engaged, critical investment or involvement thus ensues
    19. A limited perception of the Institution demands a limited access to the experience of third objects. Which is why it is necessary to expand to the experience of an open world as being the container and place holder of potential transfiguring third objects accessible to anyone

 

An Object-Oriented Love Affair

When you really want love you will find it waiting for you.

— Oscar Wilde

And what is the task of defining what Love really is? What necessary and sufficient conditions must there be for such an experience or event or object to exist?

The allure and inexpressible or untranslatable – from experience to words – of Love, is akin to the experience of Art and the Sublime. They each posses that which cannot be fathomed by mere words alone. This said, taking Oscar Wilde as our cue, is the experience of Art, the finding of it, not unlike that of Love? Or is it that, any art-object laying out there submerged in the noise of other objects, hidden, doesn’t necessarily require the seeker of aesthetic experience to find the art-object, but of waiting to be called forth by the art-object itself, and allow oneself to succumb to its mysterious allure – Some inner-voice or subconscious tic beckoning the soul in the colliding of two great forces creating that single object, the art-object. And again, is this not the same with Love? That the longer the relationship one is in, built from Love, the stronger the fusion of two objects transformed into one homogenized object, or one person made up of two halves. And to operate or function properly without malfunction is to resist splitting back into two empty halves?

To hide a passion is inconceivable: not because the human subject is too weak, but because passion is in its essence made to be seen: I want you to know that I am hiding something from you, that is the active paradox I must resolve: I want you to know that I don’t want to show my feelings: That is the message I address to the other. 

— Roland Barthes

Is passion in this case the insatiable desire or longing to love and be loved or, love itself, or all three simultaneously? Is Love or Art, as described by Wilde, waiting to be found and such a finding of Love or Art as said by Barthes is made to be seen? That the art-object wants us to know that it is hiding something from us, the Art in the very ordinary object of reality waiting to be discovered. And does any attempt at revealing ones now new found experience of Art or Love diminish or interrupt that very experience due to its failure in translation? Does one have to pretend that one experiences Love in order not to conceptualize it fully as to lose that sense of discovery with which you found? In other words, to be in a perpetual state of being caught off guard to the true nature of Love or Art. 

It would be impossible to ‘love’ anyone or anything one knew completely. Love is directed towards what lies hidden in its object.

— Valéry

Is the attempt at understanding Art an inadvertent self-sabotage to the potential of aesthetic experience? Does such contemplation of the art-object transmute that object dead, and thus reason for contemplation is to dissect such a corpse. As Guy Debord suggests, all contemplation or speculation initiates an alienation between viewer and object, and as such, will further separate the experience of Love/Art away from the subject. Which means such an attempt of dissection or contemplation proves futile to the otherwise hidden essence of the object itself. Is this what Graham Harman refers to as Withdrawal? That all objects containing their essence, its thing-in-itself, means we cannot get full access to it. No matter the amount of interpretations and/or how deep we probe, the search for its true meaning, its essence alludes us; escapes; remains hidden on the outside of the reality that perceives it; withdrawn. But what if such a withdrawal is what constitutes the very existence of the art-object itself? That there isn’t so much an essence that cannot be excavated and remains there despite our trying, but that its essence relies on the collaboration and collision between two objects?

If pure love exists, free from the dross of our other passions, it lies hidden in the depths of our hearts and unknown even to ourselves. 

— La Rochefoucauld

Such an essence formed via the collaboration among two objects reveals itself to no one. Or, that the essence is split equally between them and access to the other half is inaccessible and still remains lost or hidden. And this feeling of losing access to its essence, of the inability of obtaining its secrets, is all the more severe when one understands that it isn’t the un-graspability of a distant essence that is cause for discomfort, but in the very absurd situation of having that essence lay locally within us, taunting us with the illusion of accessibility. One can feel content knowing any answer to the question of essence lay outside away from everyone’s reach, but distraught with the responsibility that such a possession of the answer lies within and within us only. In this case, Essence – the thing-in-itself, is like the set of keys gone missing only to reside in ones back pocket the entire time.