Saturday, January 21, 2017

Milton Rakove on politics - 4

I'm reading this wonderful book from 1975: Don't make no waves ... don't back no losers by Milton Rakove. The book does not give answers about our current situation, but it puts some things in perspective. I like its musings on political philosophy. Something resonates with our times. See the quotes below. The earlier parts of this series are here-1here-2 and here-3.

In the largest Roman Catholic archdiocese in North America, containing approximately 1,750,000 of the faithful, no decision can be made without due consideration for the. feelings and aspirations of the majority Catholic population of the city. It is with good reason that the state of Illinois annually awarded license plate number one, not to the governor, but to the Roman Catholic cardinal of Chicago. The influence of the hierarchy and the many parishioners of the Church of Rome is always present in decision making in the politics, law, educational policy, and cultural life of the city.

If, as Christ told his people, his Father's house has many rooms, so does his Roman Catholic church in Chicago have many factions. Some of the most liberal, as well as some of the most conservative, proposals and pressures in the life of Chicago have emanated from the many-splendored, broad-based, variegated Roman Catholic clergy and laity of the city.

In contrast to the dominant Catholic religious community, the Protestant and Jewish communities, with the exception of powerful business leaders, are weak. They are not ignored, they are consulted, but their influence is nowhere near so great as that of the Roman Catholic community. Since most of the Protestants in the city are now the blacks, they can be dealt with on the basis of race rather than religion.

And since most of the Jews have fled the city for the suburbs, except for those residing in a few fringe areas, they can be easily ignored, although recognized and tolerated in decision making in the city.

Religion and politics
Daley's political morality epitomizes the Irish Catholic sense of morality ... He is "charitably disposed toward most of the moral and situational shortcomings of others except for apostates, heretics, and marital infidelity." He believes that "justice must be tempered with a good deal of mercy, or charity for fallible man." He recognizes that, inevitably, a certain degree of corruption exists in politics, as it does in all areas of human endeavor. But it should be kept within reasonable bounds.

While Daley may be a puritan in his social behavior, there is little sympathy for or understanding of the Protestant religious mentality which attempts to apply absolute moral standards to political behavior.

Daley's political morality is, rather, rooted in the Irish Catholic attitude toward politics which reflects the Gelasian doctrine of rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's.
In other words, while man, the fallen creation, is commanded to be moral by his religious precepts, being sinful, he cannot follow his religious precepts in his daily life. In dealing with other men in a political milieu, it is necessary to follow the precepts of Caesar rather than God.

It is not that God has no place at all in politics but that God's primary concerns are with the soul and salvation rather than with the mundane, everyday dealings of human beings with each other. Daley would agree with the German nineteenth-century theologian who wrote, "We do not consult Jesus when we are concerned with things which belong to the domain of the construction of the state and -political economy."

This is not to say that men should not try to be as moral as they can in politics and follow God's law as much as they can, but that they often cannot because they are sinful creatures in an imperfect world. The purpose of politics, then, is to try to make men behave as morally as possible but also to recognize that they probably will not and cannot.

"Look at our Lord's Disciples," Daley said, in answer to a charge that there had been corruption in city government, during his campaign for his fourth mayoral term in 1967. "One denied Him, one doubted Him, one betrayed Him. If our Lord couldn't have perfection, how are you going to have it in city government?"

Monday, January 9, 2017

Per Kirkeby - Overpaintings

Last weekend I fond a wonderful old book in the Rotterdam library: Per Kirkeby: Übermalungen, 1964-1984. The book contains deliberate overpaintings (Overmalinger, Übermalungen) of second-hand kitsch paintings. The interventions reveal or enhance the landscapes that hide under the surface.
There is almost no information on the internet so I decided to post a few scans on my weblog. I'm also surprised how much these overpainting resemble the work of Neo Rauch.
... I just stand there and see. See with my X-ray eyes that -reality- is pervaded by strange lines, that there is a structure which lies hidden beneath the real motif in a frightful way.
Die blaue Stunde, 1975
... I understand my paintings as the summation of structures. A sedimentation of very thin layers. Only in extreme despair does a thick layer emerge. In principle an endless sedimentation. But it is conspicuous that the underlying structure always shines through, even when a new layer has a completely different motif and a totally different color.
Ohne titel, 1976
By the synchronous I mean all those pictures where all the layers aim at the same picture, where the underpainting and following layers - glazed or not - fall on top of each other. The unsynchronous are the ones where each new layer is a new picture.
Byzantinische spiegelung nach der Heimkehr / Landschaft, 1977
It is wrong and unscientific, to remodel the real thing. It is the only reality there is, those overgrown heaps mid between nature and art, belonging half to one and half to the other world, in transit between states.
Ohne titel, 1977
... I myself never found the pictures I overpainted. This would have been impossible: in such a case the searching would have been the effort. I have also never overpainted a picture I considered »valuable« in an acutal artistic sense. Almost always only those pictures on the brink of the garbage pail.
Tiefe, 1979
I also always saw it in such a way that, in continuing to paint, I was searching for the real essence of the picture I was overworking. It is indeed as if I were painting one of my »own« pictures. My »argument« was that there was no difference here and that I wasn't making fun of the kitsch. In this respect a lot of history, Pop Art, Jorn's intimate banalities of the forties, Dada, etc. could be brought in here.
Ohne Titel, 1979
It deals with the relationship between what I call: motif, form, structure. The motif is the beginning, the provocation and the possibility of correction. The motif is the memory. Without memory one cannot paint a picture, I believe. One begins with it, without a motif not even blotches get on the canvas in the beginning.
Ohne Titel, 1982
Ohne Titel, Zustand II, 1984

Per Kirkeby : Übermalungen, 1964-1984 - Author: Per Kirkeby; Luise Horn; Christine Tacke - Hypo Kulturstiftung, Spendhaus Reutlingen, Paperback, Publisher: München : Der Kunstraum, 1984.
Per Kirkeby - OVERPAINTINGS - Luise Horn - In transit between states

See also - with much better colours:

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Milton Rakove on politics - 3

Recently I found this wonderful book from 1975: Don't make no waves ... don't back no losers by Milton Rakove. It was mentioned in another wonderful book from 2012: The Wrong Answer Faster: The Inside Story of Making the Machine that Trades Trillions by Michael Goodkin.
The author, professor and politician Milton Rakove.
His pragmatic sense of humour is also evident in his book.

The book does not give answers about our current situation, but it puts some things in perspective. I like its musings on political philosophy. Something resonates with our times. See the quotes below. The earlier parts of this series are here-1 and here-2.

Chicago diversity on a McDonalds mural - photo by Daniel X. O'Neil.

Early immigration and minor divisions
By 1920, Chicago had more Poles than any city in Poland except Warsaw, more Bohemians than any city in Czechoslovakia except Prague, and more Lithuanians than any city in Lithuania except Vilna.

New immigrants almost always moved into old neighborhoods, usually close to the terminus of whatever form of transportation they used to get to the city, the bus or train station. Since those terminal points were usually located in or near the central core of the city, those were the areas in which the new immigrants settled.

The reasons for the tendency of new immigrants to settle near the terminals were quite simple. A new immigrant arriving in a strange environment was not likely to take a taxi or even public transportation with which he was unfamiliar into the distant reaches of the city. His natural inclination was to take his suitcase (if he had one) or his bag or box of belongings, walk around the corner from the terminal, and find a room. His next step was to find a job, preferably as close as possible to where he lived.

Once firmly rooted economically, he sent for his family (if he had one) and looked for a larger flat, possibly two or three rooms. Then the brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents began to arrive. They almost automatically went to the area where the enterprising pioneer immigrants were living and moved in with the relatives until they could afford a room or a couple of rooms of their own. Within a short period of time, shops stocking native foods appeared, restaurants serving native delicacies opened, taverns or wine houses dispensing native alcoholic spirits blossomed, recreational facilities endemic to the native culture were built, and churches or temples serving the religious needs of the local population were established. Thus, island oases of native culture were created in the heart of the city.

The process repeated itself with each ethnic group moving into the city. Chicago became a city of ethnic neighborhoods with almost fixed boundary lines dividing the various nationality groups.

Later immigration and more significant divisions
The more than 1,000,000 blacks from the South who have emigrated to Chicago, and approximately 350,000-500,000 Mexicans and Puerto Ricans, are the last of the great wave of immigrants, and are following the traditional patterns of movement which characterize the behavior of immigrant groups moving into a new environment. Like the ethnic immigrants before them, southern blacks and Spanish-speaking Latins moving into Chicago settled in the old neighborhoods. As is traditional in such situations, the ethnic old settlers in these communities began to flee from the new immigrants.

The influx of 1,000,000 blacks and 350,000 Latins into the city has fragmented the population even more deeply than the ethnic divisions. The division between ethnic whites, and the Latins and blacks has added another dimension to the ethnically separated city.

In one sense, it has unified the ethnic whites on a single issue-blocking the movement of the blacks and Latins into white neighborhoods. But, at another level, the rapid growth of the black and Latin populations and the steady spread of the black and Latin ghettos have opened a wide chasm within the city's body politic between the black and Latin, and the white populations of the city.

Sources: Don_t_Make_No_Waves_Don_t_Back_No_Losers

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Milton Rakove on politics - 2

Recently I found this wonderful book from 1975: Don't make no waves ... don't back no losers by Milton Rakove. It was mentioned in another wonderful book from 2012: The Wrong Answer Faster: The Inside Story of Making the Machine that Trades Trillions by Michael Goodkin.

It does not give answers about our current situation, but it puts some things in perspective. I like its musings on political philosophy. Something resonates with our times. See the quotes below:

Practical politics

They [the city officials] have little concept of broad social problems and social movements. They deal with each other, and with the problems of the community, on a person-to-person, individual basis. They shrink from striking out in new directions, have no interest in blazing new trails, abhor radical solutions to problems, and, in general, resist activism of any sort about anything.

"I got two rules," 29th Ward Committeeman Bernard Neistein confided when asked how he had operated so successfully in politics in Chicago for most of his adult life.
  • The first one is: Don't make no waves.
  • The second one is: Don't back no losers.
[...] Behind those principles is a profound understanding of the relationship between those who hold political power in a society and who operate on a professional level, and those for whom politics is an avocation and a means to a different end.

Those who hold power - those who seek power

[...] Those who hold political power are primarily interested in keeping it, while those professionals who are out of office and interested in office are primarily concerned with taking power from those who hold it. Outside these two groups of activists stands the great mass of the population, which has neither the interest, the ability, nor the intestinal fortitude to engage in what Frank Kent called "the great game of politics." But in a democracy they must be wooed by those who seek political power.

The two groups of activists, those who hold power and those who seek it, traditionally employ different tactics in dealing with the electorate.

Those who seek power must make waves, must raise issues, and must arouse the electorate in order to remove from office those who hold political power. Those in office must keep the electorate quiescent, passive, and disinterested, since an aroused, interested electorate will usually react unfavorably toward those in office. How to keep the electorate quiet? Don't make no waves.

When power seekers get power - they become power holders

[...] when wavemakers and nonprofessionals become officeholders, they soon discover the elemental truth that the best and surest way to stay in office is to adopt the behavior patterns and philosophies of the non-wavemakers and professionals. For they, too, soon discover the truth that the professionals and non-wavemakers always knew - that there is no such thing as the public interest insofar as the electorate is concerned; that the private, self-interests of the various groups that compose the electorate must be appeased; and that this can best be done by appealing to those groups on a personal basis and by concerning oneself with those private interests rather than with broad social problems.

They also discover, after assuming office, that there is no such thing as "new politics" or "old politics," that if they want to stay in office there is something called "politics," a game that has been played since time immemorial by men called "politicians," and that it behooves them to join the ranks and play the game if they wish to survive.

The book
Milton Rakove obituary
Milton Rakove obituary

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Enigmatic books by Adriana Ramić - 3

Enigmatic books - previous posts in this series are here (2011), here (2011), here (2011), here (2013)here (2014), and here (2015).

Still life - Yesterday I visited the third floor of the Witte de With gallery in Rotterdam and I saw this still life:
Archive warning - A heap of thick books is irresistible for me. So I sat down on one of the stools and started exploring the thick volumes. I was alert for heavy lifting because the shape, size and colour of the books said: ARCHIVE! - ENCYCLOPEDIA! - LOGBOOK! Just like the yellow-black warning colours of the  wasp.
This was volume 10 of "Serious elements", pages 7165-7950. Another alert: THIS BOOK IS NOT FOR READING!
Opaque - Upon opening the book I was confronted with seemingly innocuous chapters and paragraphs of English and Dutch text.
 But upon close reading the text yielded no meaning at all. It had the look and feel of normal language but it was totally opaque. Babble, automatic speech, bullshit text from some artistic source.
In all the pages I tried there was not one normal sentence.
I had no idea how the monumental text had been generated: was it a dump of a database? Was it scraped from the website of the gallery? Were these the raw contents of a harddisk? 
Parody and seduction - The long paragraphs of nonsense characters suggested some raw data dump or a misconfigured printer. But what was most striking:
  • The texts were a perfect parody of current art speech. Complicated, theoretical, jargon-laden and content free. Is this all there is? Must it be like this?
  • Even though I knew the books were meaningless, there was a powerful seduction to sit and search the books for any meaning, for some revelation. To come and sit here every day, searching this monumental text. In something so enigmatic something of value must be hidden! *
First explanation - Finally I picked a brochure from the stack and it was - of course - as I had expected. But it was more technological than I had expected:
Please browse through the collection of books on the ground. They present you with a text. It was written by an artificial neural network trained by Adriana Ramić. She decided that the neural network should learn to write texts from the digital archive of Witte de With, which it then taught itself to do.
On the other hand, I couldn't see the difference between the text of a neural network and a text generated by a Markov process, like here and here. Now I'm inspired to experiment with automatic text generation.
Second explanation - I had also noted this postcard-sized photograph hidden in a corner. I'm irresistibly drawn to these nondescript photographs of "something" - "somewhere". And the enigmatic caption made it even better: "i armoric terre lives are a human forms were time." *
The brochure gave the solution for this mini-mystery:
The selection of works forms a cryptic arrangement. It is Adriana Ramić's interpretation of the neural network's text. Is it possible to order an archive in a way so that it tells the same to everyone?

* There must be a pony somewhere:
** Typing this text in a search engine yields: Hepatitis B, Schlumberger Global Stewardship, Jobs at Kroger, United States Army, Terre des Hommes, Mobile Forms Software, The Day the Earth Stood Still and Population Clock.


Christof Mascher at Galerie Rianne Groen

I'm a fan of the Gallery Rianne Groen. The gallery is located in a quiet side street (Schietbaanstraat 21) of the Nieuwe Binnenweg in Rotterdam. The art is always interesting and surprising. The works are of museum quality, are moderately priced (in the 1000 - 5000 euro range) and totally worth the money. Unfortunately still far above my pay grade.

A few weeks ago I saw the exhibition by Christof Mascher (it closed on 3 december). I like the pictures very much.
Guppy 13, 25x18,5 cm, watercolour, indian ink and pencil on paper
They use classic technique and materials. Nothing much happens in them. But they have a magic quality for me. They show the surface of the world together with things below that surface. Innocuous landscapes with hidden mysteries. In them I recognize  my feelings about the city.
Blurry car, 25x19cm, watercolour, indian ink and pencil on paper
There are strong moods in these landscapes and vistas. Seasons are changing, weather patterns are changing. Something is patiently waiting and brooding. I would like to enter the landscapes, sit on a bench and watch, listen and feel. It would be peacefully melancholic.
Novel, 95x70cm, oil on canvas
Many the pictures feel like illustrations for a novel. They are introductory paragraphs, the stories are just beginning to take shape. For now everything looks normal, but discoveries will be made, mysteries will be revealed.


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Milton Rakove on politics

Recently I found this wonderful book from 1975: Don't make no waves ... don't back no losers by Milton Rakove. It was mentioned in another wonderful book from 2012: The Wrong Answer Faster: The Inside Story of Making the Machine that Trades Trillions by Michael Goodkin.

It does not give answers about our current situation, but it puts some things in perspective. I like its musings on political philosophy. Something resonates with our times. See the example below.

He [the officeholder] knows that all these selfish individuals and groups within the electorate are pursuing their own self-interests. He knows, too, that their support for him in the future will be incumbent upon his support for those private, selfish, self-interests. 
[...] And he knows, finally, that the sovereign voters are ungrateful, that while they will forget the things he has done for them, they will never forget the things he has done to them. How to resolve this dilemma? 
[...] Do as little as you can about emotional political issues. For every time you make a political decision on such issues, somebody wins, somebody loses. Those who win are forgetful. On election day they are out of town, they forget to vote, or they have acquired new concerns about which you have done nothing as yet. But those who lose will remember you. They will mush through five feet of snow to get to the polling place, they will get an absentee ballot to vote against you, if they have to leave town, and they will publicize your dereliction of duty to all who will listen.
Above all, do not raise issues of ideology or philosophy if you want to remain in public office for very long. Those are the things which excite and incite the electorate the most. Instead, concern yourself with materialistic matters. Trim the trees, repair the curbs, get the children a summer job, lower the taxes on the property, and avoid broad social issues and questions, for while the sovereign voters will demand that you take public positions on such issues, they will not vote for you or against you on election day on the basis of your stand. Instead, they will return you to public office or reject you for public office on the basis of how well you have served their private interests.
There are several interesting YouTube videos about mayor Daley:
I will post more quotes from this book. It should not be forgotten.