Friday, February 23, 2007

Rationale for the Iraq War

One reason President Bush gave as justification for an invasion of Iraq was the imminent threat that Saddam Hussein would give weapons of mass destruction to Al Qaeda.

Our inability to locate these weapons is often attributed to a failure of intelligence. However, the threat of Saddam Hussein giving WMDs to terrorists represents a deliberate effort to mislead the American public.

The most obvious problem with the Administration's rationale is that Al Qaeda viewed Saddam Hussein as an enemy. Saddam Hussein was the head of a secular regime, which did not require women to wear a burka and which allowed women to go to college.

Furthermore, Saddam Hussein was a dictator, and a dictatorship is about control. Why would a dictator in possession of a WMD yield control of such a device by giving it to an enemy?

Al Qaeda wasn't in Iraq before we invaded, and we are now deploying the same types of weapons on the battlefield which we, as grounds for our invasion, accused Iraq of attempting to acquire. This is untenable. Our colonial occupying force is actively breeding the very sentiment we ostensibly sought to confront.

While we worry about the rise of Fascism abroad, we omit the threat of Fascism in our Homeland (Fatherland, Motherland). We must be vigilant against Fascism both here and abroad.

  According to interviews with several past and present American intelligence officials, the Pentagon’s operation, known inside the intelligence community by several code words, including Copper Green, encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq. A senior C.I.A. official, in confirming the details of this account last week, said that the operation stemmed from Rumsfeld’s long-standing desire to wrest control of America’s clandestine and paramilitary operations from the C.I.A.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Taxation Without Representation

The reason the National Security Agency wants to read your email is because they are trying to use algorithms to detect terrorist activity. This invasion of privacy is based on the assumption that terrorists use the Internet in ways that are statistically distinct from the ways ordinary Americans use the Internet. In order to statistically detect online terrorist activity, the governmet needs a large sample of "normal" Internet use.

Although this may seem reasonable when we are confronted with an indistinct enemy, fighting on ill-defined battlefields, this really amounts to an unconstitutional indirect tax. Just as the Federal government incorporated FEMA into the Department of Homeland Security to hide the cost of creating the largest bureaucracy in the history of civilization, the government's use of private citizens' Internet service for surveillance purposes is used to hide the true cost of the War on Terror.

When the government compels private corporations to comply with national security directives, without compensating these corporations for the cost of implementing such directives, the cost is passed on to consumers.

Because the Administrative branch of government refuses to inform Congress as to the nature of these programs, these programs amount to taxation without representation.

Beyond violating the 4th Amendment right to protection against unwarranted search and seizure, this practice also violates the 5th Amendment, by effectively situating military operatives within private homes, taking private property for public use, and opening up the potential to compel private citizens to, in effect, unwittingly testify against themselves. Not only do these practices appropriate private citizens into the Federal intelligence infrastructure without compensation, but citizens are furthermore charged for this.

Our current Administration has a constitutional duty to either halt these programs, or to fully inform Congress as to their nature. In lieu of such disclosures, we as citizens have a duty to remove these criminals from office.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Art is Not the Tablescraps of Commerce.

Julio García Espinosa has argued against the refined “reactionary” arts, and for a revolutionary art which is “no longer interested in quality or technique.” By this he does not mean to assert that aesthetics should not be a concern for those devoted to artistic exploration, but rather, that an aesthetics of “art for art’s sake” is insufficient when confronted with an aesthetics of hunger.

Espinosa recognizes that art possesses “its own cognitive power,” while asserting that this power resides not in elite academies, but in art’s potential to express the diversity of culture as a whole. He rejects claims that art must be seen as either “committed” or otherwise, purposeful or self-serving, and suggests that art might be liberated from these arguments if it is viewed as an activity fundamental to daily life.

Only if art is regarded as a life activity, produced by all for the appreciation of all, can it be a pure and uncommitted activity, while at the same time serving to further revolution.

Only if every man and woman has incentive to become a man or woman “of culture” can the artist be freed of struggling at the margins of society, and thereby allow art to diffuse from the domain of the elite to the domain of the many. Because revolution is an ongoing process – one which is never complete – revolutionary art ought to address itself to this incompletion. An art wholly entrenched in timeless institutions cannot change as culture changes. Only a popular art can do this: an art which fails to engage the popular idiom will fail to reveal the processes by which a society expresses and transforms itself. At the same time, it should be noted that a revolutionary art demands an awareness of the materialist histories against which the reactionary arts define themselves.

A revolutionary art is an assertion of Life. Art is a basic human activity, like eating, sleeping, or making tools. Only when it is controlled by elites does it only yield its pleasures by engaging “the functionality (without a specific goal) of our intelligence and our own sensitivity.” Such a condition undermines the role of art as a basic human activity. The elites who control distribution thereby dictate the terms of production, and transform art into employment. When art is regarded by industrialist societies as employment, it becomes subject to Fordist pressures to specialize; a specialized art as employment demands the full devotion of an artist, too often to the exclusion of other human endeavor.

The dissolution of contemporary controls over the means of artistic production and distribution demands not just a democratization of these means, but also a decentralization of them. Art must be free to express what it finds wherever it finds it, and must not be relegated to illustrating statements that “can also be expressed through philosophy, sociology, [or] psychology.”

To the industrialist, an artist engaged in developing a style is engaged in a process of branding his or her self. The industrial artist cultivates an image, and uses this image to engage the markets of spectacle.

To give one’s image to commerce is to surrender control of how one’s image is used. This is the basis of the commercial arts. To use images for commerce is often to analyze, reduce, and reproduce them, appropriating conventions from the fine arts.

The commercial potential of art relies upon the conventions of the fine arts, which supply the commercial arts with the material history by which artistic expression is rendered identifiable as a sequestered facet of our culture. The commercial arts exploit copyright to manipulate the conventions of the fine arts (which are produced by consumers of commercial art). Current definitions of copyright are political tools to secure the profitability of commercial art (do you assume a political message whenever you see an advertisement?).

Industrialists have this interest in reinforcing the illusion that art is an elite practice: scarcity creates value.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Diversity in American Politics

I feel like race is something that everybody in America has to live with, but which many people feel as though, in order to discuss it with anybody but close friends, they must go out on a limb. There are a few things that can be said about race with reasonable certainty: race is first and foremost a cultural and linguistic construct because genetic variation is continuous among the human population. Genetically, skin color is about as meaningful as hair color.

Then there is the sand of time, the ocean of language, the tree of life, and the dollar. Sometimes there is harmony, too often discord, always this beat of a collective march towards something greater. Blind marchers and marchers who see, sleepwalking or awake but dreaming, never too long complacent with complacency; in America, by and large, people get along so long as they are left alone.

American culture has this paradox: we say the Civil War is over and that we live amongst ourselves in peace; yet judging by the number of gun deaths here, a foreigner may be hard-pressed to say there is not a war underway.

Is politics really war without bloodshed, or are there bodies in the streets? Why are these deaths not shown on the news like the faces of soldiers brought home from Iraq in flag-draped coffins?

I would argue that cultural diversity contributes to much of the beauty in American society. I would also argue that it continues to contribute to much sadness. I will not argue for a beauty of sadness, but I will speak to the transformative power of sadness, and for the nobility of a just struggle.

The democratic struggle begins and ends with a voice; the interim need not see bloodshed, but too often does. What is the struggle of democracy, if not to end political bloodshed?

Too many of our political struggles end in complacency: polarization in American politics is a rhetorical illusion, which suggests that, for example, Democrats and Republicans exist at opposite ends of a continuum. Yet these two parties encapsulate the diversity of neither American culture nor American politics. There should be not one black party, but multiple; not one conservative voice, but many; and many revolutionary voices to define the centrism of their parties.

The United States of America is a republican democracy, with constituencies that believe in fiscal conservatism, liberalism, communism, and anarchism. Those constituencies interested in the pure pursuit of power leverage their influence to engineer self-reinforcing social systems, such that most citizens can only participate in politics if they vote to reinforce the illusion of polarity.

Our government collects so much information about us, and makes so many decisions based on derivative information, that the Democrat/Republican/Yes/No vote we are offered (depending on the most popular spin) is drowned out by all the other votes we make with our consumer habits. It seems to me that if we had a greater number of viable parties in our politics, we could express more articulately what we would like to see in our government. Politics could become a forum for popular discourse, rather than an elitist form of oppression.

But democracy starts and ends with the people, and a diverse body politic is not something a government can give a people, like a government might give people safe food, national security, or roads.

This election season, Americans have a number of viable candidates seeking the Presidency. If John Edwards, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Ron Paul, and Mike Huckabee stopped competing for candidacy under the same two parties, and sought instead to represent other parties in our upcoming Presidential election, Americans could use their votes to help create viable third parties. A third party candidate only needs to earn 5% of the vote in a Presidential election to qualify for federal matching funds the following season. Viable third parties could create a situation where, if a candidate wins the Presidency with one third of the popular vote, the President will have no choice but to cooperate with other constituencies in order to get anything done. If we continue under our current two-party system, we have rule not by the majority, but by the handful of Representatives willing to vote across party lines.

Perhaps a vote should be viewed as an investment in democracy rather than as a payday wad to blow uptown. A vote for a third party candidate is an investment in American cultural and political diversity. If you don't vote at all, the government won't hear what you have to say.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Who is Being Brainwashed?

Regarding recent articles on government "mind control" in The Washington Post and on Wired:

An important area of operation for contemporary intelligence gathering agencies is data aggregation: collecting information from multiple sources and creating meaningful connections between these disparate sources of information. Increasingly, this is being carried out by government agencies with the cooperation or coercion of private infrastructure. The intrusion of military intelligence operations into the private sector is especially troubling because it represents the ability, facilitated by the Web, to not only appropriate private citizens and organizations into a federal intelligence infrastructure, but also to manipulate these individuals and organizations for obscure motives (given our present state of government secrecy).

Consider the potential of combining the functionality of MySpace with that of Google, if the actions of users are mapped to a set of IP addresses or a MAC address:

The value of MySpace for intelligence purposes extends beyond the content of individual postings or personal data stored in a user’s profile. Every time a MySpace user does or does not click on a MySpace porn bot's solicitation, the result of that user’s decision is recorded. The way in which users respond to eachother’s social cues, the way blog posts are categorized, and the frequency or methodology with which one seeks to extend one’s social cluster are not only recorded, but furthermore represent a psychological model of that individual user.

Google also keeps track of user behavior. This data, which is recorded for advertising purposes, can be used to reveal word-by-word accounts of how users view language, associate specific terms, and, in a sense, what users are thinking about.

If intelligence agencies have access to user logs for both MySpace and Google, they have, on the one hand, a psychological model to describe an individual, and on the other hand, a semantic database to explain that individual's decision-making. This information could be combined to not only predict how individuals will respond to various stimuli, but to provide stimuli whereby certain behaviors are likely to be provoked. Such a semantic-behavior model could be tested by inserting specific search results into a list returned by Google and recording if and how a user responds.

Other, more direct methods of manipulating individuals have been investigated. Several recent patents issued to Hendricus Loos discuss a variety of ways in which, for example, the electromagnetic radiation emitted by cathode ray tube monitors can be used to manipulate an individual’s central nervous system.

Beyond the potential for illegal government experimentation or sadistic behavior on the part of rogue contractors, the proliferation of these technologies and the diffusion of these abilities into private hands will present to law enforcement a new and serious challenge. Frightened governments, faced with a problem which they have no idea how to detect or mitigate, may be part of the reason why people complaining of “mind control” are actively marginalized.

It would seem that governments concerned with serving the interests of their citizens would want to halt such research, assess the state of things, and begin to make disclosures. How can citizens ensure that their interests are being served if they cannot discuss the actions of their own government?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Game Show and the Collective Good

The television game show provides an interesting perspective into the American psyche. In considering why viewers tune in -- what the attraction is -- two possibilities make themselves pronounced: either the psychological desire for the game show originates in witnessing conflict (expressed as competition), or it is a matter of vicarious enjoyment projected into the individual winning money.

If the answer is the former, then in a sense it matters little to the viewer what prize is being fought over. For example: in Spain there is an annual horse race, which has been run every year by the same families for generations upon generations. The families compete, but the goal is not to win the race by coming in first: rather, the goal is not to come in second. The goal is predicated on the assumption that if one places twenty-third, one was never in the running; but if one comes in second, one’s defeat becomes a crushing blow. So some families -- different families every year -- engage in all manner of schemes to see that one family or another is certain to come in exactly second. Furthermore, I imagine, they all wind up drunk together in the end, affably, if not beautifully engrossed in some harlequin melodrama. Yet my point was simpler than all this: the desire game shows satisfy, under this first interpretation, is the desire to witness conflict, no matter what the object.

The other interpretation posits that we like to watch contestants win money because it provides a way for viewers to imagine themselves winning money. This is reasonable enough, but the question ought then to be asked: if given a choice, would viewers strongly prefer to watch contestants winning money, or might they prefer to watch contestants compete on behalf of positive social initiatives?

As viewers aren’t really given a choice in the matter, we are left with a non-empirical discussion of cultural influences. But the question is worth asking because the asking illustrates that, in a culture which professes the value of choice, there are some very basic choices we just aren’t given. There exists the potential for television viewers, with their collective marketing pull, to actually help heal the world simply by imagining themselves doing so. Does this sound absurdly utopian? If so, why?

Why is the object of the game show always personal enrichment? Why can’t people in our culture receive vicarious pleasure from watching a contestant accomplish good deeds? Why don’t contestants play for rebuilding efforts in Lebanon, a library in Ghana, a college scholarship fund for high school seniors in Detroit, or startup capital for a micro-lending bank in South America? Are game show producers afraid of offending the political sensibilities of their audience by supporting international humanitarian efforts, more than by the ethics of the companies that sponsor their broadcasts? The studio audience could vote on a number of local, national, or international charities and nongovernmental organizations to mitigate any perceptions of bias on the part of producers...

Or we could all stop waiting for governments and private corporations to solve our global problems for us -- the organizations upon which we depend seem too often too busy with political infighting to adapt to constituencies in a timely manner. There have got to be enough individuals -- winning more money every week on game shows than the people who made their clothes will see in a decade or more -- who have gained enough material profit from their five minutes of fame that some modest organizational efforts on their part (or by advertisers on their behalf) could yield some real collective good.

Or maybe the problem isn’t any lack of a cultural desire to see good done, but that we Americans are kept so much in want of... everything.

In the President’s proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning in October 2007, funding for domestic programs (which include veteran care) is set to increase less than the rate of inflation, while funding for the Pentagon (excluding ongoing war costs) is increased more than three times the rate of inflation.

Although the White House has in the past boasted that its budgets offer “successful pro-growth policies,” there is ample evidence to the contrary. Furthermore, two facts remain unaddressed: first, our economy cannot grow forever because we live on a planet with limited resources; and second, neither typical Americans nor the domestic programs upon which we rely are seeing any of this growth. Economic growth is not inherently beneficial and these policies cannot be accurately characterized as successful.

At least we have enough advertising to constantly remind us how much we want, and to inform us of all the choices we have...

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Texture and Object: on Grounding Channel-Surfing as a Visual Motif


The aesthetics of Modernism can generally be characterized by a formal preoccupation with novelty, polyphony, fragmentation, and the breakdown of Rationalist moral order. No doubt the advent of popular sound and image recordings, widespread division of labor, and capitalist largesse were contributing factors to this re-evaluation of form in Western art; these influences were culturally pervasive. But industrialization also ushered in a broader cultural re-orientation associated with consumer behavior. Individuals, to procure their daily necessities, turned their attention to the acquisition of products garnered by market labor, rather than the acquisition of commodities garnered by agrarian or clerical labor.

Industrialization has changed the way our culture assigns value both to employment and to the compensation for one’s employment: we now seek to procure, primarily, products with our employment, whereas prior to industrialization, we would seek commodities primarily.

Commodities are more or less un-differentiable between producers: two individual wheat farmers each supply the same commodity. Suppliers of commodities compete by finding ways to increase output while decreasing cost, and attract customers by out-pricing competitors. Products, however, are differentiated from one another by a type of culturally-assumed object status: through a combination of packaging, advertising, and novel design features in the product itself, producers employ a variety of cultural signifiers to construct a symbolic identity for their product. Producers of products compete not on the basis of cost economics, but on the clarity with which the product's symbolism is articulated. The symbolic nature of the product is what differentiates Heinz tomato ketchup from Hunt's. It is moreover irrelevant that the symbolic qualities of a product may bear little direct relationship to the material qualities of a product, as the product is not strictly a material object.

Within industrialized nations, the impact of this reorientation pervades daily life: among other effects (such as the commodification of time and the acceleration of urbanization), it alters the assumptions underlying the behavior of individuals seeking to acquire their basic necessities. Contrary to the benefit-maximizing behavior economists prescribe for rational agents, consumers in industrialized societies consistently purchase products with the most appealing packaging or advertising, rather than those which provide the most product for the least amount of currency; given these circumstances, one must either acknowledge that industrialization causes humans to behave less rationally, or one must accept that in some manner the product has a different type of value than the commodity.


A profusion of products in simultaneous collision on store shelves provided the cultural context necessary for the eventual popular appreciation of collage; more significantly, perhaps, the object status of the product also provided the context necessary for grounding the appreciation of Modernist art in terms of the art object.


In Classical traditions the closest analog of the art object is found within various craft movements; this comparison, however, can serve only as analogy. Classical traditions distinguish art-objects from craft-objects by appeal to the utility value (or intended utility value) of a given object, while the cultural reorientation associated with Modernism by and large dispenses with this distinction: hence the appropriation of ceremonial African masks by cubism, the appearance of industrial design programs in art academies, and the placement of consumer products in museum halls by the likes of Marcel Duchamp.

To describe this cultural reorientation in dialectic terms, the Classical mode of artistic expression can be characterized by an evaluation of texture, while the Modern is characterized by an evaluation of object status. Classical aesthetics therefore rely upon the vindication of tradition (the cultural and artistic texture within which an individual artwork is situated), while Modernist aesthetics rely upon the vindication of the critical statement (the critical framework an artist employs to justify a particular approach to the art object).


The dialectic is especially evident in urban architecture: Classical architecture is concerned with the creation of continuous spaces and the integration of buildings into these spaces, whereas Modern architecture is concerned with the creation of buildings as self-referential symbolic objects.


Architectural spaces are a function of the visual harmony or local continuity of facades, the relative positioning of buildings, and the socio-economic functions of adjacent spaces. The texture of architectural spaces furthermore relies upon clear distinctions between what is public and what is private, consistent visual cues to distinguish the various cultural and economic uses of individual buildings, and the role of monumental structures within these spaces. Spaces are imbued with meaning in virtue of their integration with adjacent spaces, the cultural history of those spaces, and how they function in concert with the surrounding environment to promote or discourage different types of socio-economic activity.

Even such monolithic structures as cathedrals, in the Classical tradition, are integrated into the texture of surrounding spaces: the Piazza san Marco in Venice incorporates the san Marco Basilica into a public market plaza, symbolic of the church as a place of gathering, and of the importance of spirituality in daily life. The church and the plaza generate traffic for one another, while differences in architectural detail demarcate the distinct purpose of each of the plaza's components.

The integration of the San Marco Basilica with the Piazza can be seen in contrast to the Milwaukee Art Museum's recent extension, designed by Santiago Calatrava. The Milwaukee Art Museum extension is separated from the city by an urban park, a bluff, a bridge, and a four-lane separated highway; is more of a sculpture than a building with a facade; and stands in opposition to large amounts of open space all around it (the lake, the park, a parkinglot). The Museum stands as a singular object, visually distinct from nearby structures; the building's sculptural qualities signify the Museum's role as a purveyor of aesthetic experience; and the international renown associated with the name of the building's designer advertises the cultural importance of art.


While the Classical tradition generally expresses a worldview concerned with man's position in a greater order (be that order divine, rational, moral, or iconographic), the Modern tradition represents a worldview wherein nature is objectified, and then made subject to culture and technology. In the Modern tradition, man may have escaped the arbitrary constraints of an incomprehensible and unassailable cosmos, but is instead condemned to contend with the arbitrariness of other men. Thus Modern urban architecture seeks to do violence to the city, which is the natural environment of Modern man: to create buildings which, viewed as the products of individual architects, each represents a unique vision of comfort and safety amidst the symbolic wilderness of sensory chaos and moral decay often attributed to the city.


The object is a socio-cultural construction defined in opposition to other objects, while texture relies on the iterative amalgamation of historical continuities. The manipulation of texture then involves the creation of a void amidst a plenum (the harvesting of fields in agrarian economies), while the manipulation of the object involves creating tangible solids amidst a void (the construction of factories on farmland claimed by industry).

Competition among products and the opposition of one object to another finds expression in the conquest and subjugation of texture. Much as the Victorian fixation with automatic writing sought to liberate the mystical truths of the unconscious from the conventions of Rationalist tradition, and the Dada sought to destroy art in favor of a utopian purity of artistic expression, the building as object in Modern architecture seeks to destroy historically-motivated modulations of clearly demarcated public and private spaces. Modern architecture would fragment the city into an agglomeration of equally disparate building-objects, each of which interacts little with the historical and geographic topography of the surrounding urban landscape: extreme examples of this disposition are Disneyland and Las Vegas.


With the advent of the motion picture came the conquest of the whole of art history: dance, music, theatre, painting, literature, architecture and photography were all made raw material for this new medium. Film co-opted and encapsulated the formal and critical conventions of all these art forms, wrought from this quintessence a new sort of art object, was considered by the Soviet propagandists as a substitute literacy, and was soon granted its own a priori qualities (such as montage) ready for exploitation.

Furthermore, film provided an idealized mode of expression for the Modernist preoccupation with novelty, polyphony, and fragmentation. The first quarter century of film history can be characterized as a period guided by the pursuit of novelty -- in terms of formal experimentation, theoretical exploration, or technological innovation. Sound films such as Howard Hawk's Scarface reproduced a variety of spoken mannerisms with a verisimilitude unrivaled even by Mark Twain's most faithful renderings of dialect; Man Ray's Emak Bakia, meanwhile, approaches the image with a kaleidoscopic array of stylistic devices reminiscent of James Joyce's "little telephone book" (which has been described by critics as "a novel to end all novels"). Early animators like Ladislaw Starewicz exploited the fragmentation of time by which film renders the illusion of continuous movement, while Maya Deren combined the frame with the illusion of continuous time to fragment space.


Film has been readily granted the status of art object as much for the cultural context in which it was developed as for the manual manipulability of the material itself; the ethereality of video-based motion pictures, however, framed a new critical debate.

Critics seized upon the featureless strip of magnetically-coated plastic as evidence that video is different in kind from film; critics such as Nicky Hamlyn saw digital video in particular as posing a challenge to High Modernism's critical notion of medium specificity, since the exact same video image can be stored or retrieved using a wide variety of physical means. Critics became unnerved at being unable to localize the video object, in light of the video image consisting of immaterial "ones and zeroes" (or, in computer science terminology, ordered collections of abstract truth values). Hamlyn voiced alarm that the same "ones and zeroes" used to record a video image can be output as sound through a speaker, or on paper as text. Bill Viola asserted that the video image is not really an image at all because it is built up by phosphor dots illuminated -- very rapidly -- one row at a time.


Efforts among critics to distinguish video from film often focus on undermining the object status of video imagery. Artists addressing the critical response to video have generally sought either to contextualize video within the realm of conceptual art (where the video image becomes an instance of some critical thesis, a token object of some aesthetic type), or else to construct a physical context for video imagery with installation (wherein the video image is visually parsed as an object in space). These artistic approaches do not, however, directly address the problem video poses for the notion of medium specificity.

One solution is to deny the validity of medium specificity as a critical concept, which might make a fine home for video, but would complicate historical analysis of the relationship between art and technology. If medium-specificity is a valid concept (which seems to be the case, historically speaking), and Modernism is as much a set of stylistic concerns as it is a historical epoch (as much contemporary architecture would seem to imply), then a medium-specific analysis ought to be relevant wherever the stylistic concerns of Modernism are found.


Throughout the Renaissance, as the widespread adoption of oil painting on canvas dramatically diminished the popularity of the fresco, the new possibilities of the new medium reshaped the appearance of art. From today's perspective, the distinction between fresco and oil may seem to be less than fundamental to a critical evaluation of Renaissance painting (which is more often described in terms of the introduction of perspective rendering, or the influence of Giotto). Since critical discussion of video, however, often pays disproportionate attention to whatever minute or tautological details can be used to distinguish video from film, it is worth noting that fresco and oil treat paintings as art objects just as film and video treat the framed image as an art object; the cinematic experience is designed to visually isolate the projected image, to thereby provide the image a spatial, object gestalt.


An alternate approach would be to treat television as a commodity, to take an inventory of the formal features of television, and to create a product using this formal vocabulary. A result of this approach is channel-surfing as a visual motif: the incorporation of a variety of stylistic devices, picture qualities, production standards, and thematic concerns, presented in a rapidly changing format, with repetitive structural elements.

The visual and thematic field created by channel-surfing is morally and ethically ambiguous in virtue of the panorama of interests and intents presented by the producers of different programs, advertisements, public service announcements, public proclamations, and political campaigns; but from this ethically-ambiguous perspective, television comments upon itself, the world, and its relation to the world, as it simultaneously influences how individuals perceive television and the world, feeding back into itself... like a baroque minimalism... or a mannerist modernism...

* illustrations from Collage City by Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter.