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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Victims of Globalization

Kennard/Phillips, Photomontage, 2005 (appeared in: Art & Agenda: Political Art & Activism, by Silke Krohn, published by Die Gestalten Verlag 2011)

Victims of Globalization
Topics in Contemporary Visual Culture

David Stanley Aponte
September 2009

In “The Violence of the Global,” Jean Baudrillard says that “Any culture that universalizes loses its singularity and dies.” I believe that the values and essence of the human spirit are being stamped out and homogenized into a generic pulp of conformity. Globalization impedes the progress of humanity but promotes the illusion that progress has been reached. In reality humanity is de-evolving and will extinguish itself. The universal is disappearing, according to Buadrillard, and the sense of value no longer drives our actions. People act as if they are taking some sort of drug that distracts them from their own inhumane acts. Instead of taking responsibility for personal or national actions that promote globalization, people continue to consume and live their comfortable lives. The only opposition people show are those that safely keep them from being marginalized, because globalization eliminates or pushes away any anomalies to the borderland. 

In order to function in a culture that pursues the agenda of globalization, we need to embrace a certain sense of consumerism. We may oppose to certain things that our government is doing, we still must take part in the globalized society. Theoretically, if everyone banded together and objected, the system could be shut down, but it is safer to stay at home. It is easy to complain about the atrocities of the American oligarchy and still participate as a good consumer. Ideology does not matter. Everyone contributes to the strength of the globalizing force that is the U.S.

Television and the controlled media system creates the spectacle that advances globalization through advertising. Programs lowers entertainment to the lowest common denominator much like profound universal “truths” have been distilled to slogans. Nothing outstanding can exist in this system.
Baudrillard says “discrimation and exclusion are not accidental consequences; they are part of the very logic of globalization.” With globalization, anything eccentric is pushed to the borders and something homogenized owns the middle ground. In the same way that gentrification will push all the “undesirable” elements of society like the poor, ill, old, and ugly move to the edges. And then they are moved again.

This happens in the art world. Artists who have not conformed to the spectacle and commodity of current marketable trends in art world suffer because of their individuality. Once they die, they are often conformed to the art world and become the flavor of the day. A retrospective of their work is held and they are honored. “It is paradoxical to make a retrospective survey of a work which never intended to be prospective.” (The Ecstasy of Communication by Baudrillard)

Another way that globalization pushes aside the nonconformist is in the way that pop culture synthesizes the lowest common denominator of musical expression that people will buy. A band is engineered and reaches out to the masses. Musicians can be exploited and reduced to something easily digested by the populace. John Cage has made music that is impossible to push into the mold of globalized culture. His randomness cannot be successfully blended and homogenized and put on MTV. 

The violence of the global eliminates criticism. After the terrorism of September 11, no one could criticize the actions of the U.S. without vilification. No allowance was made for anyone who thought that the U.S. may have been responsible for the violence against it. In fact, those people would be profiled and labeled as a terrorist-sympathizer, much like the so-called Communists during the McCarthy era. Certainly artwork that criticized the war was unpopular for some time after the terrorist act.

There is no room in globalization for anomalies. Due to globalization, genuine activism has been hidden by the lack of true journalism, since media is globalized and detests the eccentricity of protest. Even when a half million people protest the war, the media downgrades the numbers. Violence in protest will not receive the proper media attention. Globalization has killed the activist. This is the violence of the global.

Baudrillard says that singularities, extreme acts, can stop the system of globalization. I disagree with this. The terrorism of September 11 assisted the forces of globalization as furthered by the Bush administration, more than it crippled that power. It gave the administration an excuse to send troops into Afghanistan and Iraq and strengthened the forces of Globalization. It caused torture to be normalized. It diluted values. 

Filippo Minelli, Contradictions, 2010, Brescia Italy (appeared in: Art & Agenda: Political Art & Activism, by Silke Krohn, published by Die Gestalten Verlag 2011)

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Response to the Work of Olafur Eliasson

David Stanley Aponte
25 Febuary, 2009

Olafur Eliasson, Succession, 1998

In the book, Olafur Eliasson, (Madeleine Grynasztejn, Daniel Birnbaum, Michael Speaks, Phaidon 2002) Daniel Birnbaum asks the artist about the way he brings the bystander into the work. Eliasson says that the moment the viewer sees the mechanics of his illusions, it creates an “aha” moment. This is the point in which the observer is reminded that they contribute to the experience in a unique way. All the meaning of the piece depends on who the viewer is and their location within the piece. 

When a work of art can draw in a viewer and cause them to interact with it, some kind of education occurs. Even though Eliasson is not a philosopher, his work evokes a philosophical response. He invited the observer to consider the environment in a different way by controlling the perspectives from which they will view. 

A good example of a piece where Eliasson relies on illusion is in “Succession” (2002) displayed at the Art Institute of Chicago. The viewer sees a grassy lawn on the second floor of the Art Insitute. Inside the museum it looks like a nice lawn is growing outside. But at the next window, the viewer sees that the lawn is not really there but is suspended on the train depot. The viewer may say that the lawn is unreal, but Eliasson considers this the most real part of his work.
In the same interview with Birnbaum, Eliasson expands his idea of what reality is by referring to the reconstruction of the early 20th century skagen village (like Williamsburg, VA) is less real than the Legoland copy of a skagen. The Legoland skagen village does not claim to be “real” and therefore is more real. The display of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, for example is less real than the postcard of the liberty bell that is in the shop.

In “F for Fake,” Orson Wells offers a documentary about an artist who forges famous paintings and sells them to collectors as authentic. Wells pointed out that Picasso was known to claim that his “real” work was forged and that forged work was his “real” work Wells investigates whether or not it is important to determine authenticity. If a curator determines that a work is “authentic” then the work is considered genuine. But this determination in some sense is arbitrary. Once again, reality is contrived.

Eliasson helps people understand that the world and most particularly by museums contrive reality. Another example of this idea can be found in Eliasson’s piece “A Very Large Ice Step Experienced.” Several ice blocks are laid inside the museum within a box where the people passing will see a disappearing art installation. The same blocks laid out on the lawn of the museum were ignored or at best thought of as peculiar litter. The location determined whether or not it was considered art.

Duchamp’s piece, “The Fountain” approaches the idea of art in the museum from another perspective. “The Fountain” was rejected by as a work of art because people saw a urinal on its side. Duchamp was taking the literal essence of the “ready-made” as a piece of art and challenged the restrictions on the definition of an object as art. 

Eliasson takes this into another dimension. The ready-made has been accepted. Eliasson’s melting ice is art because it is within a display. Many people passing the same blocks in the grass do not see them as artwork. While Duchamp questions the definition of art, Eliasson points out that the specific context and location of art in a museum makes them art. Sometimes the visitor to the museum can find more interesting objects of art on the way to the building than they find within the museum.

In addition to addressing the location of art within a museum, Eliasson also confront the concept of art as experience. There can be no pictures of Eliasson’s work that will adequately allow a person to understand the concepts. The viewer sees a performance by water and light that cannot be duplicated by words or photos. Eliasson eloquently explains his work and readily engages his audience. In his letter to the viewer, Eliasson stretches the visitor to consider the possibility that the weather and uncontrollable events around his show were intended to be parts of it. 

Eliasson’s works are performance pieces that move the viewer’s perception beyond themselves. A good example of this is in the piece “Your Sun Machine.” Natural light comes into a room through a hole in the ceiling. Often a viewer says, “The sun is moving around the room.” Of course the earth is moving around the sun. In this way Eliasson’s work can be described as Copernican. His pieces not only illustrate scientific principles that interested that scientist but are “profoundly important or far-reaching.”

Olafur Eliasson, Your sun machine, 1997

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Van Gogh, the Man Suicide by Society - Antonin Artaud ::: With Portraits

David Stanley Aponte, Van Gogh, digital print on paper, 2013

David Stanley Aponte, Drinking Absinthe with Van Gogh, spraypaint and acrylic on canvas strips on wood, 2010-2014 (detail)

David Stanley Aponte, Drinking Absinthe with Van Gogh, spraypaint and acrylic on canvas strips on wood, 2010-2014

David Stanley Aponte, Van Gogh, Tattoo by Kevin Riley, 2009

Saturday, May 19, 2018

33 Owls

David Stanley Aponte & Jordan Graw, Wendigo, photograph, 2010, photo taken by David Walker in West Philadelphia

Part of my masters thesis in graduate school involved 33 owls. They were featured in a large photograph that was displayed in the museum of the the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art and after i graduated with my masters in 2010 I had moved the owls with me from place to place Philadelphia. When I moved to Berlin Germany the owls lived with my parents in Lancaster Pennsylvania and moved with them to Indianapolis Indiana. In 2014 I had moved back to Philadelphia Pennsylvania and 30 of the 33 owls lived in the basement of the Cedar house (X93X) and three owls lived in my studio on the 3rd floor. Starting in 2015-2016 i started giving owls to different venues and promoters in the Philadelphia as gifts when I attended events and when I didn’t give an owl as a gift I would give a fresh pineapple from a West Philadelphia fruit truck. I remember distinctly giving owls to WKDU, the Mothership, The Eris Temple, 52hz, Beaumont Wherehouse, Fort Tinder, Soundhole, Lava space, Berks warehouse, Ahimsa house, The Farm, A-Space, Satellite cafe, Spruce Caboose, Fuime, The Vat, Lacquer, Hot yoga Philadelphia, Inciting hq, Kungfu Necktie (upstairs), just to name a handful and many more places that were hosting events. One more owl with a broken beak was placed on the traffic box on the northwest corner of 49th and Catherine Street in front of the Bar(n), which was taken by one of the employees of Dock Street who had just gotten off shift to drink at the bar.

The owls themselves have many different meanings to me, first of which is that the goddess Athena’s friend and sidekick is “Athene Noctua” the owl. As a child in Catasauqua Pennsylvania I made a pledge to the universe to seek wisdom in life so Athena and the owl became later symbols of this youthful pledge. My father had gotten his masters and doctorate in cultural studies and ethnology from Temple University, had taught there as well and Temples mascot is the Owl that accompanies the Temple of Athena that is on their crest. 

Later as a late teenager in the 90’s in Chicago Illinois I had watched the TV, “Twin Peaks” and I remember the character “the log lady” saying the infamous line “the owls are not what they seem”, so the owl becomes a meme and a bit of a jest. Over all the owl became a symbol of knowledge, wisdom alluding to a strong female presence watching over me and i tried to take it back from the negative context that the owl has in our culture. 

Actually the owl itself has a kinder memory in my childhood as being a character in “Winnie the Pooh”. The owl as a night creature is also often sees what most can not see at night so to me it becomes a symbol in night parties of the techno world of night time raves and parties. I always felt if there was an owl in the room at a show or party then I felt safe as if the goddess Athena was watching over me and protecting me from negative energy and negative people. 

The last aspect of the owl is as an object to scare away squirrels. When I lived in the Cedar house in West Philadelphia from 2014-2018 squirrels had broken in and made home in the wall of my studio and bedroom. They made a lot of noise often between the times of 5-6 AM until 8pm everyday. I started to attempt to plug up the holes they where getting the wall from the outside by making holes in the drywall of the studio to reach the outer holes. This caused at one time a squirrel to enter the studio which I managed to corner and to catch wearing a work glove on my hand and the squirrel was released unharmed outside. Using peanut butter and a squirrel trap borrowed from a neighbor in a two week time frame I had caught seven squirrels from the roof of the Cedar house. We released the squirrels out in Bartrams Gardens which was far enough away that they didn’t cross back to Cedar Park. In the end I don’t think the owls worked in keeping the squirrels away.

-David Stanley Aponte, 19.May.2018, Collective Brand Movement Studio, West Philadelphia

Thursday, May 17, 2018

10 albums that most influenced me as a Teenager : David Stanley Aponte

These are ten albums that most influenced me as a teenager that I have also kept over the years and still listen to. These albums are listed in no real order other then the order I posted them in, in the first ten days of May 2018. My family had moved to Chicago from Pennsylvania around 1993 so all of these albums I found in Chicago record stores in the nineties before my family moved to Dallas Texas in 1998. I actually can also remember that I bought some of these records in Chicago at these stores, Reckless Records, Laurie's Planet of Sound (in Lincoln Square), Metro Records (now defunct) and Grooving High.

Public Enemy, Takes a Nation to Hold Us Back, 1988

1/10 In no real order I am posting 10 records that have had a great influence on me and I have kept in my life since my youth. As a kid my family had lived in the Lehigh Valley outside of Allentown and I remember spending many summers up in the Poconos. So when I heard Public Enemy's 1988 album "It takes a nation of millions to hold us back" for the first time and it blew my mind when Flavor Flav referencing the Poconos in lyrics of song "Cold Lampin With Flavor". More so hearing "Terminator X" mix the records on the tracks and in the music always amazed me and showed me at an early age the amazing art form of mixing records.

Wendy Carlos, Switched on Bach, 1968

2/10 of influential albums in my life, in no order. As a kid before high school, I favored primarily three kinds of music, hip-hop, rock and classical. In grade and middle school I was in choir and band, as well as being in the Church choir at a Church which hosted the infamous Bach choir of Bethlehem. My grandfather had sung in the Bach choir and performed in East and west Germany with the choir. I love Bach and the organ pieces was the only thing that would get me through the boring, bland and meaningless of going to church. I wanted to compose music inspired by composers like Bach and to eventually sing in the Bach choir myself like my grandfather but new adventures called me to Chicago. I had gotten into some electronic music in Chicago such as listening to Kraftwerk and when i found Wendy Carlos's "switched on Bach" as a kid it pulled two worlds together in my mind, the mystery of electronic music, with the love and feel of the Bach organ and harpsichord. It was as if NASA had shot my mind to a one way mission to space!

999, Wild Sun, 1981

3/10 Another influential records I had gotten as a kid living in Chicago in the 90's. It was 999's 1981 12 inch single of "Wild Sun". This song has been really important to me as a person who suffers from severe depression as listening to the song over and over again has gotten me through some dark times in my life and reminded me to be strong. I wish I knew suffered from depression as a kid when I bought the record though at Reckless Records on Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago. Still to this day I listen to records when I am under the weather as it reminds me that I am not the only one that feels down sometimes and it reminds me to be strong because I am me and there is no one else like me.

The Specials, 1979

4/10 This record is probably one of the most influential albums of my teenage years. There are even pictures of me floating around in back alleys of Chicago wearing a white shirt, thin black tie and black pants with a shaved head. The Specials got me into English ska such as English Beat, Selecter Slits & Madness. English ska opened the doors for me listening to Jamaican ska such as Toots and Maytals, Dandy Livingstone, The Skatalites, just to name a few, as well as listening to Trojan Box sets collections. Through ska I had gotten into dub which to be honest without ska and dub music I would not be alive today.

A Tribe Called Quest, Midnight Marauders, 1993
5/10 This album came out when my family moved to Chicago from Pennsylvania. This is one of the early albums I bought in Chicago on cd, I brought this album with me everywhere to the point the jewel case got all scratched up and frosted. When I got my first disc man I remember listening to this album over and over again while riding the el and bus to and from school, or my rides downtown, or riding down to Tower Records in Lincoln Park to get the newest graffiti mags. This album pumped out of the headphones into my teenage ears with the bass boost on, with my Zoo York skateboard under my arm, with me ready for a new adventure (and yes in those days I wore my adidas shoes, Boss or jnco jeans).

Crass, Christ the Album, 1982
6/10 I first bought this album at Metro Record store next to the Metro in Wrigleyville on Clark. I bought much of my early anarcho punk albums at the Metro such as; Flux of Pink Indians, Poison Girls, Conflict, Icons of Filth, Oi Polloi, just to name a handful. This album was great as it had a number of known Crass songs as well as some live recordings which came on two discs in the CD format. I actually own this album in the original CD I bought at the Metro and LP which I bought later. I found the a lot of inspiration in this album for my own experimental music especial the use that crass did in cut and paste samples throughout the whole album. I started making my own recordings of mixing found tapes and recordings I made from the radio and TV and this Crass album showed me long before being turned on to stuff like Pierre Schaeffer that I could make music and recordings of collaged material of other tapes. This was the first Crass album that I had picked up as a teenager and this got me also into the art of Crass and Gee Vaucher who did much of the the photomontages in the albums and much of the artwork. Through getting into Gee Vaucher's work I got into John Heartfeld's political anti-fascist photomontages.

Beastie Boys, Ill Communication, 1994
7/10 "rwooo rwooo rwooo..." I have a memory of buying this album when it came out in the first year my family was living in Chicago after we moved from Pennsylvania. I must have listened to this album hundreds of times and I still get a euphoria of my teenage years in Chicago from listening to it. As a kid I was into hip hop and later i got into punk rock so the Beastie Boys are a good bridge for me that connects both cultures other than Ice T's "Body Count". The album "Some old Bullshit" is actually one of the early punk albums i fully listened to as I broadened my taste of music from hip-hop into punk. I would say "Ill Communication" might not be considered by all as the best Beastie Boys album but it has the most deep meaning for me and is my favorite. The album shows the versatility the Beastie Boys have in style and production ranging from hip-hop, punk, jazz and the track "Do it" features Biz Markie who is one of my favorite classic rappers in hip-hop. "ahhh yes indeed it's fun time..."

Devo, Oh no! It's Devo, 1982
8/10 It was hard to choose which Devo album to post as each one of them describes a different layer of of my musical discovery as a teenager. I decided to choose "Oh no! It's Devo " because of the tracks "Patterns", "What I must do", "Speed Racer" and "Peek a boo!" are some of my favorite songs, though "Through Being Cool" and "Beautiful World" from the album "New Traditionalists are personal anthems for me. If I recall the first Devo album I had bought was actually "Q: Are we not men?" (which is classic but not on my favorite album), and much later I collected all of the Devo main releases including the Ryko disc releases of "Hardcore Devo" Volume 1 & 2. One of the first times I read about Devo was in a copy of Re-Search republication of "Search and Destroy" which my father had bought me at bookstore as a gift when he dragged me around in suburban book stores to search for books for his academic research. Outside of "Search and Destroy", a friend from high school who was a reverend in the "Church of Subgenius" was a huge Devo fan and he fed me much more information about the group at an early age.

The Residents, Duck Stab, 1978

9/10 Well here is an album from a band that shows the depths of my pre altered state teenage weirdness. I had first come across the Residents in the re-search republication of "Search and Destroy" zine. The photos of the band with eyeball heads and tuxedos, mystified me. After hitting Chicago record stores I found the Ryko disc release of "Hell" at Lorie's Planet of Sound in Lincoln Square. The album "Hell" was part of a two volume collection of Residents song along with "Heaven" and if you put the two albums together it would make a picture of "god''. The 2nd album i had found by the Residents was "the third Reich and Roll" which made a parody of American classic Top hits of Rock and roll, sound like you crammed 45 singles through an organ grinder of sorts. Though I chose here to post the album "Duck Stab" as I felt it was the one that fit through the flow of my selection of this top ten albums. The song "Hello Skinny" that appears on this album is a Residents classic as well as "Lizard Lady". Of course the track "Bach Is Dead" gives me a good laugh being a big fan of "Bach". Duck Stab also has a really good creepy birthday song entitled "Birthday Boy", which makes a good track to put on happy birthday mix tapes. After diving further into the Residents catalog I started to get into the amazingly weird guitarist "Snakerfinger" who appears on a number of early Residents albums and Snakefinger also released a number of solo albums on the Residents label "Ralph Records". Though Ralph records I got into other bands such as "Tuxedomoon", and the very odd "Nash the Slash" and "Renaldo and the Loaf" (which i discovered makes really bad first date music to play that flowed out of the bad idea fountain). I suppose I was a weird kid and finding the resident as a teenager fed the weird and absurd part of my mind as I travelled through a world that tried to bombard me with pop culture in the American Nightmare. Weird and the freaky is something I can relate to and this very much is a piece of weird and freaky Americana.

Kraftwerk, Man Machine, 1978

10/10 Like rings of an electro tree Kraftwerk has inspired and come into different layers of my life. The first Kraftwerk album I picked up at a record store in Chicago was "Man Machine" and this is another album that I have had so long that the jewel case has become scratched up and frosted. What is very interesting about Kraftwerk is how many different genres of music they had influences in, I remember countless of samples from Kraftwerk found in hip-hop, Miami bass, techno, electro and so many covers of Kraftwerk songs by Snakefinger, Balanescu Quartet, Big Black, SeƱor Coconut, Borghesia, Siouxsie and the Banshees, just to name a handful. Besides Kraftwerk inspiring many forms of electronic music and hip-hop you see many influences of Kraftwerk in electro punk and even contemporary composers. Later in the late 90's my free jazz friends in Dallas had gotten me into krautrock and this reconnected me again with Kraftwerk with their early recordings and previous project "Organisation". What also impresses me about early Kraftwerk recordings with Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger who are on early Kraftwerk recordings later left the group to form the band "Neu" which I am also found of. From electro, to hip-hop, Miami bass, techno, acid house, synth punk to contemporary composers, Kraftwerk continues to be one of the most influential modern musical groups that has had such a huge influence on me as well.

Honorable mentions (because 10 is not enough):

De La Soul, 3 feet and rising, 1989
Dead Boys, Sonic Reducer, 1977
Dead Kennedys, In God We Trust Inc, 1981
Lene Lovich, Stateless, 1978
Yellow Magic Orchestra, 1979
Killing Joke, 1980
Front 242, Offical Version, 1987