The Blue Raccoon

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Learning Annex

Last night me and my partner-in-art hied out to the Plant Zero art factory in beautiful downtown Manchester to take in a show at artspace, one of the several galleries there.

I was intrigued by an installation concocted by Justin Lincoln. The title is somewhat unwieldy, “Self Reliance: A Lesson for a Child When He Gets Older,” but nonetheless an accurate description.

Within Artspace, Lincoln, using his sculpture background, devised a room into which he packed what amounts to an exploded blog page. On all the white walls are arranged rows of PostIt notes onto which are in a neat hand written aphorisms, quotes and tech-savvy observations. Most of them are not credited to a source.

Lincoln remarked that prior to World War II, Walter Benjamin had conceived of a massive book comprised of random materials – images, newspaper clippings, assorted texts. The reference, I believe, was to that tome he was putting together the putative subject of which was the enclosed arcades of Paris. Read about it here and here.

So. Would Benjamin’s book constituted a heinous act of plagiarism?

If I were to write a history of Richmond that constituted a bricolage of postcards, foreign currency, cartoons and letters placed on mirrors and shelves behind the bars of its drinking establishments – would I be a thief of photographer’s images, card-caption writers, French money engravers? I realize it’s one thing to write something and pass it off as your own, but another to utilize that same material in a greater work – though the law and copyright are rather unsettled by the entire question.

But, for those of you in the billion-eyed audience who are keeping score at home, Lincoln installed three bookshelves on which he displayed an array of volumes. These represent texts that may shape the future education of his son, Kai. On the top shelf was a small video of Kai at play mixed with an assault of letters and phrases that represent the cataract of information that are streaming into him whenever he opens his eyes. And as Lincoln explained to me, even with just the natural world for the mind to process there is plentitude of information.

These days, information overflows from all its collector ladles and is dashed upon our brains, whether we ask for or even want to experience these multiple and multifold messages. The universe of media that Kai will grow into provides a challenge for his parents, and, as he matures, for Kai himself. What filters does he use? How can filters be built that are the most beneficial to him as a human who always learns, and does not fall back upon preconceptions? Is this even possible?

Lincoln wrote in his artist’s statement, and I quote:

Last year I was reading Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance, as I planned this exhibition. I hadn’t reads it since high school. Emerson’s call for non-conformity totally flies in the face of the kind of public schooling I received. Kai should not simply be a product of standardization. He should be a creative, confident, joyful, critical and self-directed gift to our society.

Kai may decide that he wants to go to a public or private school. (At almost two, he currently obsesses over school busses). If so, I will remain deeply and profoundly involved with that education. This installation catalogs ideas that I want to discuss with my son as he gets older. Beginning with that end in mind, please freely examine these materials as both a curriculum and a time capsule.

Lincoln is maintaining an actual blog about this exhibit, here. I’m a little disappointed that he hasn’t yet included images of the work. But he promises to keep updating. He’s not constructed the blog for commentary. If you can, go there and write something in his visitor book. There, in that wee room, you can pick up a piece of real dead tree fiber upon which is printed his e-mail address. I'm chary of giving it out at this source unless I ask him, which I didn't think to do. "Self-Reliance" is his art, after all, not mine.

Some of the PostIt sayings that appealed, and in my own way, seemed in a myopic way relevant to what’s preoccupied me the past month, I jotted down in my cramped hand on the lined pages of my Rhodia pad:

Flash fictions & documentary vignettes

Techno-magical realism

Magazines & Internet are novelty aggregators

Apohenia: to see connections in previously in unrelated things –William Gibson

“It is the business of the future to be dangerous.” Alfred Lord Whitehead [Should be: Lord Alfred North Whitehead, but, OK, I know who it is. Actual occasions and actual entities, and all that Western Philosophy colliding with the Dao...]

On-line is here, off-line is there – William Gibson

Cause and effect don’t exist. They just make you comfortable.

Thought is a matter of accretion.

Hybrid vigor trumps purity or eugenics.

Jesus and Socrates have always struck me as equally ironic.

Imagine the impact on the world if all the Christians gave all their money away.

Jesus was more radical than Marx.

All matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves. – Bill Hicks

Technology has exceeded copyright.

A schizophrenic on a walk is a better model than a neurotic laying on an analyst’s couch. –Deleuze and Guattari

Among the books Lincoln chose to display were, and this is a jolly laugh to crowd lining the cracked sidewalks of the Boulevard of Dreams Broken By The Crypto-Fascists I’m certain: Pronoia Is an Antidote for Paranoia: How the whole world is conspiring to shower you with blessings, by Rob Brezsny.


John Cage’s A Year From Monday; A Whole New Mind, Daniel H. Pink; Kierkegaard’s Either/Or Volume 1 – but not Volume 2, that I could see (And I've only read the first--I found it left behind on a bus, so I figured I had to); Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century, Alex Steffen; a trifecta of Nietzsche: Beyond Good And Evil, The Birth of Tragedy & On The Genealogy of Morals, Thus Sprach Zarathustra; William Blake anthology; Thoreau works; a couple by Rousseau; Grimm’s Fairy Tales; Peter Pan; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (I met Mel Stuart, the director of the original film and asked him about that silly use of Martin Bormann...) and James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl; Rimbaud poems; In Praise of Slow by Carl Honoré; Aesop’s Fables; No Logo by Naomi Klein; Alain de Botton’s Status Anxiety; Orientalism by Edward Said; Neuro-Linguistic Programaming. And then, among this vast assortment of erudition and philosophy and history – Anthony Robbins and Awakening The Giant Within.

Lincoln told me, “There is a lesson he teaches about self-reliance.”

And he pointed to a PostIt: You don’t have to like every idea a person has to embrace just one of them.

Meanwhile, you look at the BBC News homepage and among the fires, floods and foment one conjures words of Loudoun Wainwright III: it’s a hard day on planet Earth. And Justin Lincoln’s son, and many sons and daughters of the billion-eyed audience, are getting left to this mess. That is, if the species survives the generational inheritance.

And, then, of course, there’s a billion light years in space that is all about…nothing. Not even The Onion can make up stuff like this.

Things get put into perspective, except the perspective is that we're on the lip of an abyss while standing in a stiff breeze.

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At 9:02 PM, Anonymous Justin Lincoln said...

Thanks Harry. Any chance you could formalize this post and pass it on to a local paper?

Blogging, as you noticed,is the native element for what I am doing in the installation....but I'd love to bring "offline" people into the fold as well.

As for uncredited sources in my far as I can remember those are ideas I've come across in "the commons" of the net.
The net is reshaping attribution of ideas. Paraphrasing of paraphrasing....often creating productive misunderstandings. Use value is the key thing as we all gain our own printing presses and movie studios.

- Justin

At 11:43 PM, Blogger HEK said...

Hey Justin!

My remark about "uncredited" goes more to a meme here at the Blue Raccoon about appropriating bloggers, than your art.

And I hope some of those who drop in read your words; actually, I may pump them up into a later post.

Thanks for visiting. Put up some pictures!

Problem with me passing this on to a paper is that I already write for a magazine. But, hey. Source me to the Blue Raccoon. "The Blue Raccoon had this to say..."

At 8:00 PM, Anonymous Justin Lincoln said...

What magazine do you write for?...I'll look for it on the stands.

My favorite local art critic Vittorio Collaizi has moved up north for a teaching position. Can you recommend another well-informed critic....I'll track him or her down and point'em in the right direction. Brick printed a press photo for the show earlier this month, so maybe they'd be up for a profile or a review.

By the way, I'll be certain to catch Amy's upcoming show. i remember her work as far back as when I was at Longwood college 1991-1995.


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