robertogreco + björk   10

Children Of The Anthropocene | Future Unfolding | Heterotopias
"Look beneath your feet and you will see the Anthropocene. It is made of the deep concrete that paves our cities, the abundant plastics that constitute our waste and the metal pipes that funnel our water and oil. Look up and the chances are you will see it, too. Vapour trails linger in the air after an aeroplane has shot through a clear, blue sky, their chemical residue spraying delicately over the earth below.

“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life”
In 2000, the Nobel-prize winning atmospheric chemist, Paul Crutzen, and biologist, Eugene F. Stoermer, advanced a theory suggesting we are no longer living in the geological epoch known as the Holocene. Following the Paleolithic Ice Age, the Holocene provided us with stable, mild climates for approximately 12,000 years. Weather patterns were relatively predictable while land, animals, plant and tree life carved out a flourishing existence amidst its warm, pleasant temperatures. Citing the measurable effect greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane were exacting on the atmosphere, Crutzen proposed the Anthropocene, “the age of man”, the delineation of a time defined by human action on the environment. While the term has not yet gained official designation, there are increasing efforts to scientifically prove its existence. Global warming, plastic pollution, nuclear waste and many other human-driven phenomenon leave an unmistakable trace in geological records, the data of which is being used to evidence the Anthropocene.

Despite the bleak hubris and narcissism underpinning the term, these scientific efforts are facilitating a broader dawning ecological awareness. Eschewing the apocalyptic fatalism of its many contemporaries, Future Unfolding asks not what the world looks like after the deluge but before it. The game pulls off the temporal trick of transporting both player and setting back in time, adopting an almost childlike gaze of its seemingly edenic world. Inspired by designers Mattias Ljungström and Marek Plichta’s own experiences growing up in the Swedish and Polish countryside, dense forests of coniferous trees grow unchecked and its woodland floor is often carpeted with delicate red and yellow flowers. With such a shift in perspective—a reversion back to an earlier self—Future Unfolding asks us to assume a state of naivety and rediscover a sense of openness. With it, we might relearn our relationship with nature, unpick our assumptions and dissolve the hubris of our Anthropocene.

Things don’t function as you might expect in Future Unfolding. A tree is often a tree but at other times it is a portal, capable of transcending time and space. Sometimes these portals appear in its fauna like the idly grazing sheep who possess the ability to teleport. Elsewhere, amidst the ferns and luminescent lichen, pines appear to make patterns, simple shapes that when strung together, produce an entity capable of dissolving obstacles such as the impassable boulders strewn across the land. I remember playing in the ancient woodlands of Snowdonia as a child, forging many of the same connections and exploring the same potential of the environment that Future Unfolding depicts. That landscape hummed with the vibrancy of life, from the insects that consumed the pungent, rotting leaves on the ground to the thick, green moss that covered each rock. It offered me a window into another world that, as a child, echoed in my consciousness."



"For a crisis as enveloping as the Anthropocene, there is a value in this type of universalism. Specific problems abound that require specific solutions, of course, but Future Unfolding, along with other video games, literature, art and music are beginning to craft a new vernacular capable of conveying this shift in expression. Bjork’s work has long since channelled some sort of symbiosis with nature. Speaking about utopia in a recent interview with Dazed, she said: “There’s this old argument that civilisation treats nature the same as man treats women—you have to oppress it and dominate in order to progress. I just don’t agree with that. There is another way.” Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith crafts what might be considered the sonic equivalent to Future Unfolding’s pristine wilderness, her dense latticework synths sparkling with the same primordial urgency as the game. Track titles like “Existence in the Unfurling” speak to a similar biological enmeshing that Future Unfolding works towards. Ed Key and David Kanaga’s Proteus explores similar terrain, that game’s fizzing soundtrack determined by your place in the environment. Trees, hillocks and beaches all carry specific sounds, the effect of which jostles you into paying closer attention to its procedurally generated landscape."



"Throughout both Future Unfolding and the Southern Reach Trilogy, the gap between “us” and “them”—between humans and other life—is broken down. Sleeping mammals with long, white hair populate the game’s glowing landscape, each one keen to dispense knowledge. “Things near are not less beautiful and wondrous than things remote,” one said to me. “The near explains the far. The drop is a small ocean.” Their words emphasise wholeness and co-existence at times while also asking the player to unknow. “Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything,” said another. “Not till we are lost. In other words, not till we have lost the world do we begin to find ourselves.” This might sound like the garbling of a new-age hippie but these messages signal to a wider picture while the moments of discovery and interaction enable us to peek at the minutiae of blooming flowers and bobbling rocks.

Adopting this shift in perspective allows us to understand the scope of the Anthropocene as well as a way out of it. In his 2016 book, Dark Ecology, the philosopher Timothy Morton, wrote that “ecological awareness forces us to think and feel at multiple scales, scales that disorient normative concepts such as ‘present’, ‘life’, ‘human’, ‘nature’, ‘thing’, ‘thought,’ and ‘logic.’” But in traversing and reconciling these eerie phenomena we might reach a state of intimacy with nonhumans. “Coexisting with these nonhumans is ecological thought, art, ethics and politics.” For Morton, such a coexistence doesn’t entail a deferral to primitivism but an embracing of technologies amidst a transforming viewpoint. Play is crucial to the process and Future Unfolding gives us a space where we might test out these ideas for size to see how they fit, feel and taste.

Future Unfolding’s childlike gaze gently encourages a flexibility of thinking within us. It asks us to forget old cognitive pathways and instead forge new routes of thought. It is sometimes a sticky, unsettling process and, eschewing formal instructions or direction, the game reflects our current state of unknowing. We are prone to flailing in the murky darkness of the forest. But as we reformulate our relationship with nonhumans, Future Unfolding asks us to push through the uncomfortable anxiety of dawning ecological intimacy. Only then might we reach the ecstasy the Biologist experiences in Area X. We are prone to flailing in the murky darkness of the forest. But as we reformulate our relationship with nonhumans, Future Unfolding asks us to push through the uncomfortable anxiety of dawning ecological intimacy. Only then might we reach the ecstasy the Biologist experiences in Area X."
anthropocene  2017  lewisgordon  games  gaming  videogames  timothymorton  paulcrutzen  eugenestroermer  systems  systemsthinking  edkey  davidkanaga  proteus  kaitlynaureliasmith  futureunfolding  johnmuir  nature  mattiasljungström  marekplichta  globalarming  climatechange  via:anne  trees  lanscape  toplay  universalism  jeffvandermeer  southernreachtrilogy  biology  morethanhuman  multispecies  darkeccology  ecology  björk 
october 2017 by robertogreco
My life with Oliver Sacks: ‘He was the most unusual person I had ever known’ | Books | The Guardian
"Not long after I moved to New York, Michael Jackson died. O had no idea who Michael Jackson was. “What is Michael Jackson?” he asked me the day after the news – not who but what – which seemed both a very odd and a very apt way of putting it, given how much the brilliant singer had transmuted from a human into an alien being. O often said he had no knowledge of popular culture after 1955, and this was not an exaggeration. He did not know popular music, rarely watched anything on TV but the news, did not enjoy contemporary fiction, and had zero interest in celebrities or fame (including his own). He didn’t possess a computer, had never used email or texted; he wrote with a fountain pen. This wasn’t pretentiousness; he wasn’t proud of it; indeed, this feeling of “not being with it” contributed to his extreme shyness. But there was no denying that his tastes, his habits, his ways – all were irreversibly, fixedly, not of our tim"



"I learned that not only had he never been in a relationship, he had also never come out publicly as a gay man. But in a way, he’d had no reason to do so – he hadn’t had sex in three-and-a-half decades, he told me. At first, I did not believe him; such a monk-like existence – devoted solely to work, reading, writing, thinking – seemed at once awe-inspiring and inconceivable. He was without a doubt the most unusual person I had ever known, and before long I found myself not just falling in love with O; it was something more, something I had never experienced before. I adored him."



"She wandered into an upper room, and we followed. There, she showed us two custom-made instruments, a celeste and what looked like a harpsichord. Both had been modified somehow through instructions from a programme on her Mac. I could tell that O was completely lost as she explained how this worked. Yet it was then, right then, that I realised how much she and O were alike – fellow geniuses, incredibly, intuitively brilliant – while being at the same time such an unlikely pair of friends."



"“Hey doc, you ever done belladonna?” she asked. “Now there’s a drug!”

“Well, as a matter of fact, yes, I have,” and he proceeded to tell her about his hallucinations on belladonna. They traded stories. Eventually she began to figure out that this wasn’t his first book.

“Are you – are you Oliver Sacks? The Oliver Sacks?” Oliver looked both pleased and stricken.

“Well, it is very good to meet you, sir.” She sounded like a southern barmaid in a 50s western. But it wasn’t an act. “I’ve been reading you since way back. Oliver Sacks – imagine that!”

Oliver, I should note, had absolutely no idea who she was, nor would he understand if I had pulled him aside and told him.

Fashion? Vogue magazine? No idea…

The two of them hit it off. She was fast-talking, bawdy, opinionated, a broad – the opposite of Oliver except for having in common that mysterious quality: charm.

Somewhere along the way, she explained the black eye: a few days earlier, she had walked out of a business meeting at which she’d learned that she had been “robbed” of a third of everything she’d ever earned, and in a daze walked smack into a scaffolding pipe at eye level on the sidewalk. She didn’t seem too bothered by it: shit happens.

I looked up and saw that the room was empty by now but for Kevin and us.
“Well, gentlemen, I’m going downtown. Share a cab?”
“Uh, we have a car,” I said.
“Even better. Much more civilised. I’m downtown.”
How could one refuse? “Let’s go, shall we?” I said. Lauren Hutton offered Oliver an arm and we walked slowly to the parking garage. I pushed things out of the way in the back seat; she tossed in her handbag, and dove in. She immediately popped her head between our seats – the three of us were practically ear-to-ear.

Her incredible face blocked my rearview mirror. When O took out his wallet to give me a credit card for the parking, she spotted the copy of the periodic table he carries in lieu of a driver’s licence. This prompted a series of questions about the periodic table, the elements, the composition of the very air we were breathing. A dozen questions led to a dozen more, like a student soaking up knowledge. We talked about travels – Iceland, Africa – and Plato, Socrates, the pygmies, William Burroughs, poets… She was clearly intensely curious, life-loving, adventurous. In passing, she said something about having been a model – “The only reason I did it was so I could make enough dough to travel” – but otherwise didn’t say anything about that part of her life. Traffic was thick, so it took quite a while to get downtown.

Eventually, we reached her address, or close enough.

“Well, gentlemen, it has been a true pleasure. I cannot thank you enough. This is where I exit. Goodbye – for now.” And she was gone, as suddenly as she’d arrived. Oliver took a breath as we headed west and home. “I don’t know who that was, but she seems like a very remarkable person.”"
billhayes  2017  olivracks  laurenhutton  björk  iceland  companionship 
april 2017 by robertogreco
lessons for students — Medium
"lesson 1: Everything is about curiosity …

lesson 2: The world is Hungry for Ideas …

Lesson 3: Questions are key. Questions lead to conversation, conversation leads to learning.

At the School for Poetic Computation we start the first day always with the same activity — sit quietly by yourself for 20–30 mins and write down every question you have about what we are studying. Then, in smaller groups (and then finally in a larger group) we organize and collate these questions, developing a taxonomy. In some ways this is a contrast to typical school term, where you are presented with a syllabus that kind of lays out the answers.

The reason we do this is that invariably questions lead to discussion and talking and we’re really of the mindset that education is basically structured conversation — that the key to learning is talking, and through talking, we can find better metaphors, better illustrations, better explanations to make harder things simple, or explain how a gets to z.

Lesson 4. Together we know more …

Lesson 5: Simple and honest things win …

Lesson 6: Artistic practice is research, take that obligation seriously.

You are a researcher.

I’ve made the argument for a long time that artistic practice is a form or research, the same way a car company might have an R&D department to think about cars of the future, artists are a kind of R&D department for humanity thinking about different possible futures. It’s important to take the job of research seriously: to study the history, to take notes about process, to publish, etc. In terms of history, I think it’s crucial to know your field, who came before you and to explore the work of the past. We have a tendency to work and think ahistorically (think about how often you hear about “what a revolutionary time we live in”) and it can present profound limitations to creative practice. Note taking is also crucial — I think the more you approach the creative process as a study vs some sort of magical moment of inspiration, the more fruitful your work will be. Finally, publishing is crucial. Scientists write papers, synthasize findings, etc — artists should do the same. In my case, I use open source as a mechanism, but there are plenty of mechanisms for publishing. I think it’s a crucial part of taking R&D seriously.

Lesson 7: Everything operates at a time scale you don’t know.

You are a farmer.

I’ve found (from over a decade working in media art) that things you do take time and work in timescales that you don’t understand. A project you start one year will come back years later, or an idea you have can only be realized at some later point in your life. I think it’s hard as a student to understand timescale. I try to use the metaphor of a farmer, since it feels to me that things you do one year might have impacts years later.

At eyeo festival two years ago I mentioned to the audience during a talk that at the beginning of every class I tell students, “I adopt you.” After the talk, someone came up to me and he said, “10 years ago, I was in a workshop you gave in Brazil where you said, ‘I adopt you’… I didn’t even recognize you here, but when you said that on stage I remembered that moment. Your workshop is why I started doing what I do now.” When I think about that workshop, all I can remember that it was in a hot and stuffy computer lab, I can’t remember anything from that day just that it was, but being face to face with my former student reminded me that the work you at one time can come back many years later. Plant seeds, tend soil, be a farmer.

Lesson 8: Take the time you need.

There’s a tendency in programming education to have these “learn x in y time” type books and approaches. “Learn C++ in 30 days”, “Learn HTML in 24 hours”, etc. It’s important to remind students to take the time they need.

As a side note: at SFPC we are fortunate to have Amit Pitaru as a co-founder and steering committee member, and Amit to me is one of the best advocates for this notion of taking time. I think of him almost as a kind of sherpa for education. check out his talk at eyeo 2013 (https://vimeo.com/69477201) where mid-way through he breaks into a spontaneous discussion of learning.

Lesson 9: Find your team.

One of the best things you can do as a student is find and surround yourself with people who are supportive, understanding and help you know your own value. I think that is a crucial part of success.

Lesson 10: The past gets made again

I found this amazing book from 1993 called the art of computer designing:

archive.org version of the book [https://archive.org/details/satoArtOfComputerDesigning ]

It’s a pretty amazing book because it’s very fresh even by today’s standards — there’s clever and fun ideas of using shapes and geometry:

but the best part of the book is the afterword, where the author thanks a bunch of people and also members of the Bauhaus. He writes:
I would also like to acknowledge my favorites, Russian Avant-garde, Futurism and Bauhaus, whose brilliant typefaces and designs have in many ways shaped my own mind. If the artists of these movements where alive now to work with computers, I am certain they would discover new artistic possabilities. The work of past ages accumulates, and is remade again.

I love this last sentence of the book,
“the work of past ages accumulates, and is remade again”

It’s a reminder (and license) that the job of every generation is to remake the past.
sfpc  schoolforpoeticcomputation  2015  zachlieberman  teaching  pedagogy  learning  education  curiosity  tcsnmy  lcproject  openstudioproject  time  scale  purpose  questions  questionasking  art  research  conversation  osamusato  andrewzolli  amitpitaru  mitchgoldstein  ideas  howweteach  howwelearn  schools  arteducation  inquiry  inquirybasedlearning  convesation  askingquestions  björk 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Review: Björk Unfurled in Many Guises at MoMA - NYTimes.com
"Björk should have said no — not because her work isn’t museum-worthy but because, as proved here, the Modern is not up to the task. The show is billed as a “midcareer survey,” but its disappointing catalog indicates little of the research, documentation or context setting that such projects usually entail, and the exhibition hasn’t been allotted much more gallery space than one of the museum’s “projects series” showing work by emerging artists. Given the number of Björk fans it will probably attract, the show’s future as a logistical nightmare seems clear. It was already indicated at the preview on Tuesday night."



"As a result, the Björk exhibition stands as a glaring symbol of the museum’s urge to be all things to all people, its disdain for its core audience, its frequent curatorial slackness and its indifference to the handling of crowds and the needs of its visitors. To force this show, even in its current underdone state, into the atrium’s juggernaut of art, people and poor design is little short of hostile. It superficially promotes the Modern’s hipness while making the place even more unpleasant than usual. Given that the pavilion seems designed to comfortably hold around 300 to 350 people, those Björk fans are going to spend a great deal of time waiting in line or, worse, near the pavilion."
moma  art  2015  björk  process  hipness  coolness  trends  documentation  research  exhibitions 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Interview with Sjón | The White Review
"Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Where are you from? And how did you come to write?

A: SJÓN — I was born in Reykjavík in 1962. From the beginning I read everything, from children’s books to newspapers – whatever printed material came into the house. At the age of 8 I discovered Icelandic folk stories, which is when I truly started waking up to literature. A year later, I discovered poetry. In school we were given a big collection of poetry, which was to last us throughout our school years, and I started reading this book for pleasure at home. I was reading detective novels, Icelandic folk stories, and Icelandic romantic poetry from very early on. Early reading teaches you the different possibilities of text.

When I came into my teenage years I became a huge David Bowie fan. To be a David Bowie fan in Iceland you more or less had to teach yourself English – to translate the lyrics, to be able to read the interviews in NME. My infatuation with Bowie prepared me for my discovery of modernist poetry, first in translation. At the age of 15 I found a book of Icelandic modernists from the end of the Second World War. That’s when modernism came to Iceland – and they were very much influenced by the surrealists. Somehow, I was bitten by the bug. It simply fascinated me that you were allowed to use the Icelandic language in this way, to create these incredible images and metaphors, and to present such ideas with the Icelandic language. I felt like I should be a part of it. So I started writing poetry and in a few months time I had written enough poetry for a book. I published my first book of poetry the summer I turned 16.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — You speak of an early interest in the various kinds of text, and your own writing is not easily assimilated into any single textual mode. As a writer, lyricist and poet, you move in and out of these different formats. What do you classify yourself as first and foremost, if anything? How might this resistance to categorisation link in to your interest in surrealism?

A: SJÓN — I’m a novelist who occasionally writes poetry. I write librettos, lyrics and children’s books but these are all collaborations that I do in between working on novels and poetry. One of the wonders of the novel is how easily it absorbs diverse texts. Everything that is written, whether it is non-fiction, old archives, newspaper articles, lullabies – somehow it can always find its place in the novel, and for that reason the novel became more important to me than the poem.

The novel is encyclopaedic: all of the different manners of expressing oneself in words can find their place there. In the Eighties my friends and I formed a group of surrealist poets called Medusa. Surrealism brings so much with it and one of the first things I realised when I became excited by surrealism was its link with folk stories. Surrealism is always non-academic, always looking for the source of human activity, looking into the back alleys and the darkest clearing in the forest for excitement. Somehow it was always very natural for me to bring all these different things together in what I was doing.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Your novels are hybrids – a crossbreed of narrative fiction, historical fact, myth, music…

A: SJÓN — I like my novels to be made up of different parts, realities, states of consciousness. I now see my work as realist because everything I write is grounded in at least the experience of the character, here, in earthly life. The strange things that happen in the books are what happens in people’s minds, what they experience as truth. That of course creates a hybrid, when your standard is something normalised and accepted as the only way to experience reality.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Music is a great part of this assortment – you’ve mentioned Bowie as an influence, and you have collaborated with musicians such as Björk. Do you think that words can achieve the condition of music, which has a much greater immediacy and is far less freighted with multiple meanings?

A: SJÓN — I think it’s very important to be open to influence from diverse artistic forms and forms of expression. I have been very much influenced by music and one of the routes I took to literature was through the music of David Bowie. I have worked with musicians in all fields – contemporary composers, pop artists – and I’ve worked with very diverse styles of music. But there is a huge difference between words being sung, spoken or read. The emotion that the singing voice brings to the world when sung out loud is something you cannot recreate on paper. I don’t think you should even try.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — You have spoken of realising that ‘you could take the classical string quartet as a model for the composition of THE BLUE FOX’. How did you achieve this?

A: SJÓN — I think the fact that I can take the form of the string quartet and use it as the basis of a novel is another proof of how dynamic the novel is. I’m sure that a composer writing a string quartet can learn something from a movie or the structure of film. It was music that gave me the idea of constantly breaking up the narrative. THE BLUE FOX would be a completely different novel if it were chronological. In it, there are constant cliff-hangers and repeated refrains – I’m playing with the element of two melodies that come together but never fully, only in the end finding a solution. It was very interesting that the first people who commented on the book were composers. They said it was very clear to them that I was always playing with volume of information versus text, which is the same thing they do – volume of tones versus time. You can take a melody and stretch it over five minutes, or compress it down to three seconds. They were very much aware of how I was playing with text versus information.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Does your involvement in the world of music, and the musicality of your novels, betray some sort of frustration with the limits of the written word?

A: SJÓN — No. I am in the position where I can move between those different ways of writing. For me, it is a celebration of the many possibilities given to an author. I play no instruments, my only involvement with music is in collaborations with people who know how to do it. It is a privilege to be working with these musicians and to be allowed to bring my words to their work. To hear the words sung is a wonderful present from these people."



"This view actually went against everything that I had been taught in school. The Reformation is presented in Icelandic history books as something very benevolent and it was convenient to ignore that in the first decade after the Reformation life was very difficult for the common man and for scholars. The Methodist church became very dogmatic, and everything that had to do with the old Nordic religion, with old wisdom or old medicine, was banished as sorcery. He is the only historical voice that we have speaking against this. It was an opportunity to put a seed inside somebody’s skull, and take a walk through those times with his eyes."



"The reason that I felt it right to enter this world, this state of complaint against a world going to pieces, is because he lived through the period when the Catholic Church, the only socially responsible institution, was all of a sudden taken away. In Iceland, it is a fact that the Catholic Church was the only welfare structure in the country – we had no king, no dukes, we had no one to take over the social responsibilities when the Catholic Church vanished overnight. All the monasteries were closed down, all the orphanages, the old people’s shelters – everything, overnight. And the duty that the rich had – to keep the livestock alive on behalf of the religious priests who fed the poor – that vanished too.

Jón Guðmundsson is unique in that he is the only one who wrote about this. He bore witness to a world in which man had been relieved of his duty to show charity to his fellow men. This is very much what the last decade has felt like, at least in Iceland, if not many parts of the West. With the deregulation of the economic system, social responsibility was thrown out of the window and all of a sudden the rich became richer and they had no duties any more. This is something that happened with the fall of the Eastern Bloc – the message that we were told then was that capitalism had won and communism was the dark art. The Left lost its voice, at least in Iceland. The centre Left – the social democrats – they decided to start playing along with the capitalists, which is what you would call New Labour here. The real Left was all of a sudden presented as the losers of history, even though these people had been in opposition to the totalitarian regimes in the East for decades. All of a sudden everything that began with the word ‘social’ was a dirty word. The social contract that was established in most of the West after the Second World War, was dealt the final blow."



"In times where grand narratives are needed we look to the grand narratives of our culture. In our case it is the great myths, and sometimes it is to give name to something like the panic after September 11. Myth always puts man down to size, and man realises he is just this tiny figure moving from one meal to another on his way to the grave.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Oral tradition is very much a part of myth. Is this something that can still exist today?

A: SJÓN — You have a whole continent, Africa, which has so many languages that have still not found a written form. There are places that have an unbroken tradition, stretching thousands of years back, of telling the same stories over and over again. Mostly here in the West we have lost the ability to protect our culture orally, and maybe we are in danger. What will happen when all the books have flared up and all the Kindles lost their battery power?

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Literary translation and the rise of world … [more]
sjón  2012  interviews  iceland  poems  poetry  novels  literature  writing  music  björk  reality  collaboration  surrealism  existence  humans  storytelling  davidbowie  mogenrukov  dogme95  life  living  perspective  curiosity  translation  africa  diversity  myths  myth  mythology  charity  catholicism  history  capitalism  economics  society  collectivism  interdependence  individualism  insignificance  folklore  nature  reformation  religion  magic  mysticism  enlightenment  catholicchurch  9/11  oraltradition  ebooks  books  words  coldwar  socialism  communism  jónguðmundsson  sorcery  songs  posthumanism 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Sjón & Hari Kunzru — Work in Progress — Medium
[video: https://vimeo.com/72354976 ]
[Björk introduction: http://www.fsgworkinprogress.com/2013/08/bjork-introduces-sjon/
more: http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2013/05/16/sjon-bjork-and-the-furry-trout/ ]

"Sjón: It writes me. I’m better sticking to being visual when I write. No, but for me, to go in that direction, I actually do think most literature is visual arts."



"Sjón: I think we were typical second-wave punks. I mean, obviously, the generation that started the punk movement in England, the first punk bands—The Clash and The Sex Pistols and the Buzzcocks and all these bands—these were all kids that were quite a bit older than we were. They were born around 1953, ’55, so they were all about the anger, and they were all about … I think Johnny Rotten said it came from the liver.

We came to it as teenagers, and it’s interesting that while you can clearly see similarities between punk and Dada, this absolute nihilism, and you can say that the punks were actually fulfilling one of Tristan Tzara’s battle cries where he said, “Musicians, break your instruments on the stage.”

Just as Surrealism followed Dada, something happened when you had seen all this raw anger leading to nothing but raw anger, maybe good old Surrealism became the good and right remedy to all that anger. Like Björk said, it really felt like it fit together, and we were really looking for the revolutionary, the rebellious aspect of Surrealism.

Hari: The idea that it’s sort of dreaming and an escape from reality can be rebellious and revolutionary?

Sjón: As a good Surrealist would say, an escape into reality through dreaming. Ah!

Hari: I was thinking about Jonas Palmason in From the Mouth of the Whale. He goes to Copenhagen, and it’s this huge city filled with more things and people than he’s ever seen before. He imagines that he’s in an ancient version of the city, and I was trying to square that kind of dreaming with this revolutionary dreaming. Are they the same thing? Are they different things? Is the visionary Sjón also an escapist dreamer?

Sjón: One of the first things I learned from Surrealism is that it’s not fantasy, that Surrealism makes a very clear distinction between fantasy and the marvelous. You’re always looking for the marvelous in reality, and that’s where poetry happens. It happens when you hit upon these incredible moments in your reality. In Reykjavik, we had a city of rather small size to go walking around, but this idea of walking around, getting into the spirit, surreal spirit, and awaiting the poetic to manifest in a marvelous way in your reality—that’s very much what I’m looking for."



"Sjón: No. [Pause.] I’m really interested in how people become obsessed with ideas and how they become obsessed with certain cosmologies, and how the obsessed mind starts finding proofs of its truths. How it looks for the manifestation of these truths all around it in reality. This happens all the time—that things start to manifest if you’ve got them on your brain. They start manifesting all around you.

Hari: That’s there in all your fiction, this sense that a certain kind of attention is repaid by this. You start seeing the visionary aspect of the world.

Hari: You’re fond of mythic explanations for things that maybe other people wouldn’t use that for. I saw an interview where you started riffing on the idea that maybe 9-11 was something to do with the power of the great god Pan.

Sjón: I am actually absolutely sure that the great god Pan slipped through some sort of a gateway into our world, on that day.

We’ve been living in panic ever since. Actually, when we were in Athens for Björk’s performance of our song at the Olympics in 2004, I had direct experience of one of the gods there: One day, I was in a group that went down to the peninsula south of Athens, and there is a great Poseidon temple sitting there on a rock. As we came closer to the temple, we saw better and better what a sad state it was in. Obviously, this used to be the place of great sacrifices, 500 bulls sacrificed and burned in one day and all that, and the crowds coming to bow in front of the image of Poseidon.

I thought as we got closer, “Oh, look at you, great Poseidon. Look at the sad state you’re in.” This is how the Icelandic poet’s mind works. That’s how we think when we’re traveling.

We came to the temple and started walking around and looking at these sad ruins, but then I walked to the edge of the cliff. Who was there, who hadn’t moved and left his temple, but Poseidon? The whole ocean stretched out from the cliffs. Poseidon was still there, even though man had stopped sacrificing to Poseidon, Poseidon was still there. Then, Poseidon, of course, feeling a little bit annoyed that people were forgetting him, he moved just a little finger, his little finger a tiny bit, and we had the tsunami in Indonesia.

The myths are really about man confronting the fact that nature is always bigger and stronger.

Hari: It seems that in Iceland, there’s this particular kind of negotiation with nature that has to go on, because it’s a very unstable place, geologically if in no other way. I always think of the island of Surtsey coming out of the sea in the 1960s, and suddenly, you’ve got a new southernmost tip of Iceland that’s been generated by an undersea volcano. Is this sense that things are capable of shifting and that even the ground under your feet could potentially change, do you think this has any link to Iceland’s notorious belief in hidden folk and that sense that the landscape is actually populated with forces that are beyond our immediate understanding?

Sjón: Yes, I think we experience nature as a living thing, and a part of it is to go to the extremes of actually believing that nature has a character, or if not character, that it can manifest itself in different forms. We have folk stories about the hidden people, Huldufólk, who live in rocks and fields and cliffs, and they look exactly like us except they’ve only got one nostril. Apart from having only one nostril, they always lead a much richer and better life than those of us who have to survive above ground. They’re having musical parties all the time. They dress in silk, and whenever an Icelander gives a person from that nation a helping hand, he is rewarded with a cloth of silver or a goblet of gold. We know that the earth is rich, and we know that it’s more powerful than here, so I think when you live in a place that is obviously alive, you tend to populate it with different creatures.

For example, Katla, is this great volcano that possibly will explode fairly soon, and Katla is a woman’s name. It’s the name of a giantess. It’s more than likely that it will wipe out all the habitat that is sitting there on the beach. Man’s existence is—

Hari: Precarious."



"Sjón: I’m interested in the language of faith, and I’m interested in the literature of faith. In Iceland, like in so many Lutheran countries, the translation of the New Testament into the local language was a big moment. The church defined charity and love and all these terms.

I’ve always been interested in religious texts, not only because of the language but because I see religions as cosmologies, and I’m interested in cosmologies, and I’m interested in obsessed people and where to look for obsessed people. The best place is in religion. I think I’ve really taken advantage of the language of religion just in the same way that I’ve taken advantage of the language of myths and the world of myths.

For me, these are all attempts at explaining the same thing, which is to try to answer the question, “Is it possible that in the beginning there was nothing, and now we’re here sitting on these two nice chairs here in this Scandinavia House?”

We know that our cosmology will become obsolete, and it’s really amazing that the biggest given fact of our time is that cosmology, which is the hard science, is so unstable. I love it.

Hari: You take a real aesthetic pleasure in cosmologies, don’t you? What’s the joy of a big system, a big complicated system with lots of moving, whizzing, parts?

Sjón: My joy is the joy of the Trickster. It’s the joy of Loki. It’s the joy of the Coyote, because I know it’s an unstable system, and it will be overthrown, no matter how majestic it is. With the right little tricks, you will have an apocalypse. You will have the twilight of the gods. The gods will fight the last battle, and there will be a new world that rises up from it, and the Trickster can start thinking of new dirty tricks to topple that system."



"Audience Question: You were talking about how you enjoy cosmology and I wondered how you reconcile that with science and with your own art.

Sjón: Well of course it’s the scientists who are destroying each others’ cosmologies all the time. It’s very interesting that most people today live with a cosmology that absolutely ignores the theory of relativity, for example. Most people live as if the theory of relativity never happened because nobody understands it really.

It’s amazing how unaffected we are by these wonderful amazing things. We just continue. That’s one of the ways of overturning cosmologies: just keep brushing your teeth no matter how they say the universe was made."
sjón  iceland  harikunzru  2013  interviews  literature  poetry  davidbowie  surrealism  writing  escapism  punk  reality  björk  fantasy  fiction  nature  myth  mythology  trickster  greekmyths  obsessions  ideas  cosmologies  perspective  science  learning  unlearning  relearning  collaboration  translation  howwewrite  language  icelandic  loki  faith  belief  anthropology  hunting  geology  animals  folklore  folktales  precarity  life  living  myths 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Björk Introduces Sjón | Work in Progress
"Sjón was the leader. I remember liking him a lot. But also one of the first memories I have of him is debating with him in a bar about André Breton. Breton was his idol. I was probably about seventeen at the time. I felt André was all theory, style — cold — seeing things from the outside, not the inside. He was all about intellectual theory versus the things I preferred, like impulse, emotion, instinct. Then Sjón started introducing me to books: Georges Bataille’s Story of the Eye, Jo Imog’s Demon Flower, Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, and I guess he somehow showed me the more impulsive, raw, and feminine side of surrealism. As you can imagine, this planted strong stubborn plants in me, which I build my work on, all the way until today."



"I feel Sjón and I have many mutual roots. Even though our work is very different. We both had to develop some D.I.Y. punk spirit to survive, publishing poetry and music from the age of twenty.

Iceland of course formed us both: the isolation and having only 300 thousand people in an island a little smaller than New York State, a lot of space and a strong, strong silhouette! Reykjavik is small enough to be a village but is still a capital in Europe.

We also have in common a strong relationship with nature. Both Sjón and I know that you don’t have to choose between nature and civilization. These two can coexist. And in this way I feel we are better equipped than some of the urban areas in the world to imagine a hopeful twenty-first century. Both in reality and in fiction."



"Sjón’s books are unique. I feel he has managed to take the thread of classic literature and continue into the future. Connect with the roots of authentic old Iceland and then bring it in a streamlined way into the twenty-first century. Take on Iceland’s strong relationship with nature and make it shake hands with the modern times. But more importantly he has managed to unite intelligence and the heart.

Because, for me, Sjón has always been first and last about the heart."

[See also: https://medium.com/work-in-progress/sjon-hari-kunzru-3e3f40e2a6b5
video https://vimeo.com/72354976
more: http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2013/05/16/sjon-bjork-and-the-furry-trout/ ]
björk  sjón  2013  iceland  poetry  music  literature  writing  surrealism  harikunzu  civilization  nature  posthumanism 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Make: Talk 018 – Isaiah Saxon of DIY.org | MAKE
"Our maker this week is Isaiah Saxon (@isaiah_saxon_). He’s the co-founder of DIY.org, an organization that encourages kids to make stuff and is a film director at Encyclopedia Pictura, which has made videos for the musician Bjork and others (the image above is from Bjork’s “Wanderlust” video).

He’s also working on an animated feature film about a group of DIY kids who have to rebuild civilization. Above, a gallery of screenshots of concept art for the movie (Click on the images to enlarge them.)

Here’s a time-lapse video that shows how Isaiah creates his amazing artwork.

Here’s Isaiah’s answer to a question that he didn’t get to answer fully during my interview with him. My question was about DIY.org. Was he planning on making it a nonprofit organization or a for-profit company? Here is his answer:

We decided to structure DIY.org as a for-profit startup because we know that if we create a tool that boosts kids’ creativity, that will be of tremendous value to parents. Rather than being a non-profit and begging wealthy donors to fund us, we aim to build a great service that parents are excited to pay for. We’ll never sell information about our users to advertisers and we’ll never allow advertising on the site. Membership to DIY.org will include embroidered skill patches that come in the mail once earned, and potentially a kit service as well. Using a majority of the site’s features will remain free for non-members. Also, we use a very flexible Creative Commons license for all the content uploaded to the site, and our team releases much of DIY’s platform as open source on a nearly weekly basis.

MAKE profiled Isaiah Saxon and his partners at Encyclopedia Pictura in MAKE volume 30. Here’s a PDF of the article."
isaiahsaxon  encyclopediapictura  diy.org  interviews  filmmaking  troutgulch  björk  animation  2012 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Meara O'Reilly
"Meara O'Reilly is a sound artist and educator, in residence at the Exploratorium. Current ongoing projects include a curated collection of auditory illusions as found in indigenous folk music traditions, as well as adapting more scientifically established auditory illusions to be presented on homemade acoustic instruments. Instruments under construction include a midi-controlled 18th century pipe organ and a hand-cut glass bell gamelan.

She recently contributed to the Song Reader issue of Pop-Up Magazine and completed her first permanent exhibit at the Exploratorium, entitled Chladni Singing. Her collaboration with design firm Snibbe Interactive on sound-based 'cymatic' concert visuals for Björk's Biophilia album is currently on world tour.

Selected past performances include Davies Symphony Hall, SFMOMA, the Berkeley Art Museum, Jeffrey Deitch Gallery in New York, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, opening for artists such as Beck, Kronos Quartet, Laurie Anderson, Lucky Dragons, Dirty Projectors, Deerhoof, Michael Hurley, Bill Callahan, Matmos, and Dinosaur Jr. She toured internationally as a solo musician and in the bands Feathers and Brightblack Morning Light.

In addition to performing and designing installations, Meara has co-curated content and taught at San Francisco children's camp 'A Curious Summer', and written for Make Magazine, Boingboing, and the SFMoma's Open Space Blog.

Meara was a member of the Trout Gulch land project where she built a tiny house with her partner. She currently lives in San Francisco."
mearao'reilly  art  sound  exploratorium  björk  music  teaching  education  illusions  folkmusic  musicalinstruments  troutgulch 
august 2014 by robertogreco
metacool: Björgvin Tómasson's Gameleste
"when trying to bring something new to life, you will be faced w/ many challenges. Friends will question your vision, lawyers will come up w/ a million reasons why you shouldn't do what you want to do, & money people will demand the right to dig up your precious little seed of an idea each day to ensure it's growing (they have to be sure to get their full money's worth, you know).

In response, just start. Plunge in. Create. Excessive talking & planning is a sign that you are stuck in an emotional-intellectual mire of your own making. That mire gets its power from our fear of the unknown. In order to break its grip, you need to start - anywhere. It's hard to break out of, for sure. But we can all do it. How did Björgvin Tómasson manage to figure out what a gameleste would be like when it did not exist? By starting, by making it. & now we all also know what a gameleste is all about, for the person who acts not only brings a new thing to life, but brings all of us along, too."
starting  doing  making  glvo  yearoff  yearoff2  lcproject  diegorodriguez  cv  björgvintómasson  björk  music  musicalinstruments  invention  creativity  creation  entrepreneurship  biophilia  gamelan  celeste  gameleste  persistence  naysayers  tcsnmy  failure  risk  risktaking  from delicious
july 2011 by robertogreco

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