65. Towards A Radical Empiricism

It continues to feel like a difficult time for you here in Blogland. But increasingly you feel it is worth writing through this apparent block rather than abandoning the Blog or making any drastic changes (of content, style, purpose etc.)

The week has featured the kinds of events that a month ago you would have used as the basis for a kind of personal report (always trying to avoid the tradition of ‘review’ writing), but once again you can’t seem to locate the motive and momentum required to report them.

A couple of people have asked you exactly what it is that has changed, changed you or changed your mind, and to be honest you just don’t know. We all have our doubts abut the real value of online authorship, immediate and unedited as it is, but recently, perhaps more than ever you seem to feel you want and need a definitive answer regarding this kind of activity.

Sometimes – I’m sure you know – you feel that anything and everything you do with a computer is a kind of degradation of human value and experience. Even a land-line phone call can sometimes seem more human, more wholesome and warmer than a mobile phone call. But why? Simply because its less ‘computerised’? Perhaps because it is your real home calling someone else’s real home and so all the advantages of being ‘mobile’ are replaced by the advantages of being immobile.

Somehow you suspect that what you’re going through is not just technological, its personal and perhaps even political too. We do, after all, come to significant moments of change in our lives, and they can creep up on us or befall us in unexpected ways. Once we have gained a new perspective on ourselves (and we do) there is no going back to the old one. And this is how you feel, as though who you are today looks back and looks in a way ‘down’ on who you were even a few weeks ago – your habits, your vocabulary, your drives, your judgements – and finds them all wanting.

It’s probably best to avoid talking about the political situation, but suffice to say you have never felt so concerned for the people of the country and the world you live in, given the outcomes of that great irresponsible short-sighted monster that has tried to run the world for too long – yes, neoliberal capitalism.

OK, this week you gave a successful talk, on a platform shared by artist and teaching colleague Rebecca Fortnum, to a keen audience, on the theme of ‘Getting Lost‘. You did a lot more marking of undergraduate dissertations. You tried to complete 1-2 overdue articles for ‘referee journals’. And last night you went to the Whitechapel Gallery to see films by Aura Satz (highly recommended works that abstract anachronistic and idiosyncratic technological processes ), followed by a talk featuring fellow art writer and curator Morgan Quaintance.

hqdefault  aura-satz-oramicsAura Satz

Meanwhile, at the Whitechapel you got a second chance to see ‘Electronic Superhighway‘ the rambling curation by Omar Khaleif that tries to both historicise and describe the contemporary trajectories of computer based art. You don’t want to say more about that here as, again, you’ve been asked to write about it for a referee journal.

But on the way to the Whitechapel Gallery your bus, the stalwart 42, got really stuck in bad traffic making you arrive about an hour later than you’d hoped. It’s an increasingly common occurrence in a city whose centre is being rampantly transformed (culturally hollowed out) by the Chancellor’s businesslike henchmen, all rabidly competing to build lucrative apartments in record time, and no matter what the disruption to the established city and its inhabitants.

The stalwart 42 bus

But you stayed cool, read more of Khaleif’s recent book ‘You Are Here: Art After The Internet‘, and mused on the idea of using the Blog to describe journeys to shows but not the shows themselves. Hmmm, that could work – you thought- but again, WHY? Is it because you are desperate to do something different, almost anything other than be seen as just another arts Blogger, or fear being somehow used or abused by the art world in the traditional (and today highly fragile) role of Reviews writer?


It’s true that, from the outset, you aimed to avoid all of that, and also true that, from your very first unpublished experiments in art writing back in the 1990s, right through to the start of this Blog, you have always tried to achieve and maintain a candid relationship between content, the act of writing, the subjectivity of the writer (YOU!) and you the reader. It’s obviously very important to you, to somehow keep all of this in some particular or personal balance.

Perhaps you just like to keep everything in question, which may ultimately mean never learning from ‘mistakes’, never accumulating knowledge, and never denying that everything IS a question and everything is IN question.

That may sound worrying but it also means that everything is ‘up for grabs’ i.e. free to grasp, claim or interpret (momentarily at least) from a personal perspective. In this way you may simply want to transmit and translate life as a whole (you sometimes call it a ‘Radical Empiricism’) and avoid falling into any prescribed identities and professional roles.

Why are you doing this? And what are you doing? Apologies to you, dear reader, but these questions are still looming larger in the mind than any clear idea of what this Blog is for, and certainly larger than any simplistic desire to inform or entertain.






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