Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Report from the Phantom Zone

Somewhere along the way, rules got a bad name.

People began to associate rules with authority and oppression of freedom.

Rules are now seen as antiquated obstacles to individualism and progress.

Artists in particular decided that following any rules meant total subordination of personal liberties to potentially dangerous social institutions. Artists now fear that if any rules are allowed to even be uttered without immediately being contradicted, that there will be a return to social domination like the infamous degenerate art exhibition of 1937 or Lenin’s Izo-Narkompros where totalitarian social institutions attempted to dictate the rules of art for everyone in society.

The notion that rules can function as efficient ways of passing knowledge that require judgment before following and not blind adherence seems to have withered as fear of totalitarianism has risen.

A total rejection of all rules is fueled by fear. Fear of loss of individuality, fear of loss of freedom, fear of loss of the notion of self, fear of loss of liberty, etc. Perhaps the fear is well founded, or perhaps there is nothing wrong with rules as long as the focus is on judgment, not adherence.

Rules are _not_ meant to be broken; they are meant to be guides that the informed can choose to follow or break depending on the situation, not just always broken.

Here are some rules that may evoke vehement objection or vigorous endorsement. Either way, they are not meant to apply to every situation all the time. They are meant (as all rules are) to give a framework for the application of judgment.

Be careful with irony in e-mails.

If someone is carrying a heavy package, hold the door.

Avoid gossip.

Don’t text while driving.

Don’t pose for a photo with a drink in your hand.

Facebook should not be used for a therapy session.

Keep e-mails short.

Let passengers off the train first before you get on.

Don’t forward hoaxes.

Re-size pictures before putting them in e-mails.

If people follow you on Twitter, it's polite to "follow" them back.

Don’t give your business card to just anyone.

Never ask someone if they are pregnant.

Have nothing to do with standing ovations unless a performance is actually close to a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Don’t hand out a postcard for your opening at someone else’s art opening.

Be on time.

Don’t walk into a gallery with your portfolio.

Replace your divots.

Don’t sabotage other’s efforts at creativity.

Be accountable for your actions.

Don’t send invitations to people who don’t know you.

Don’t be social in the bathroom.

Try to offer seats to those who you think need them.

What’s rude in life is rude on Twitter.

If you are in a store to use the free Wi-Fi, buy something.

Try to avoid interrupting conversations.

No matter how well trained your dog is, put your dog on a leash when near strangers.

Avoid profanity.

Don't spam.

Exit taxis on the sidewalk side only.

Always be kind to the wait staff, no matter what happens (and tip well).

Don’t buy purposely loud motor vehicles.

Don’t litter.

Don’t talk on your cell-phone in the checkout line.

The food at art openings is not a buffet.

If you can think of any you want to add, please add them in the comment section.

Adolf Hitler and Adolf Ziegler visit the Degenerate Art exhibition, 1937.

Protesters outside the courthouse in 1990 protesting “Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment” exhibit in Cincinnati.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A Report from the Phantom Zone

Information has evolved into a new species of garbage.

The entire concept of someone who is “informed” has changed and now fragmentary 140 character lines of text pass as communication. It is not that this new breed of information is false that is the issue, but rather it is an illusion of knowledge.

We are all watching as knowledge is drowning in a river of irrelevance. There is constant stream of data flowing from one communication device to the other without picking up value along the way.

Sci-fi novels of the 20th century did not anticipate this 21st century state of reading. Bradbury and Orwell taught us to fear totalitarian governments that wanted to burn books, but no one warned us about the general public expressing their freedom to write so much that nothing would be worth reading.

This century’s dystopia novels will be populated by people who read and write all day long, but somehow they know nothing. People who are continually informed and yet have no information. The heroes of these novels will be underground rebels who insist on writing and reading more than 3 lines of text. They can have clever names like Edmund Spenser or Milton Vyasa and these new logos-heros will insist on things like news outlets that pay for and conduct thorough research. Inevitably the next generation of dystopia novels will conclude with death by communal distraction.

This new species of information is worse than being deprived of information because information has become a plague. The more you read, the less you know.

Tyranny is no longer required for the ruin of a society; the freedom to pursue an infinite appetite for distractions can do the job more efficiently. Included in this is the distraction of continual creativity without rationality or analysis.

A 14 year old girl is reported to have sent 35,463 text messages, or about 1 text message a minute in the month of June 2008. “The Old Man and the Sea” only has 27,315 words. The texter in question has stated she texted that much in one month because she was at cheer camp. It seems safe to say that while she wrote more than a Hemmingway novel in one month, the level of valuable information transmitted was probably significantly lower.

The antidote to the venom of cultural distraction is to return to state where reading is considered a serious business. Where the goal of information transfer is no longer quantity, but quality.

It is now November; ticket buying season for Miami Basel even in a down economy. All of the fairs can be followed on Facebook or Twitter:
Pulse on Twitter
Pulse on Facebook
Art Miami on Twitter
Art Miami on Facebook
Miami Basel on Twitter
Miami Basel on Facebook
Aqua on Facebook

I take these modes of communication seriously. Why would I follow Miami Basel’s Twitter account? Because I want to see if the fairs will be worth an investment in a trip this year. I expect the information they post to actually be valuable. I expect to see exhibitor lists. I expect to see performance art schedules.

But I am already wrong.

One of the fair’s tweets already says, “See you out there!”
It was not worth reading.
It was information evolved into garbage and I was its garbage collector.
I have faith in a return to the seriousness of reading, but I expect it will be a while.


Me in Miami Basel 2006

Morgan Pozgar, age 13, is officially the LG National Texting Champion

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