Mover-se é viver, dizer-se é sobreviver. Não há nada de real na vida que o não seja porque se descreveu bem. Os críticos da casa pequena soem apontar que tal poema, longamente ritmado, não quer, afinal, dizer senão que o dia está bom. Mas dizer que o dia está bom é difícil, e o dia bom, ele mesmo, passa. Temos pois que conservar o dia bom em uma memória florida e prolixa, e assim constelar de novas flores ou de novos astros os campos ou os céus da exterioridade vazia e passageira.

Bernardo Soares.


After all the flames
In the morning
Quiet ashes fell
For hours and hours
And in the morning rise
We planted our skin
Like a seed in the ground
So we dug ourselves a hole
And planted all our skin
Like a seed in the ground
To grow again
Where the fireweeds grow

Patrick Watson, In “Fireweed”, “Wooden Arms”, 2009.

What does this mean?

It is worth emphasizing that there is no single or ‘correct’ answer to this question, ‘What does this image mean?’ or ‘What is this ad saying?’ Since there is no law which can guarantee that things will have ‘one, true meaning’, or that meanings won’t change over time, work in thi area is bound to be interpretative – a debate between, not who is ‘right’ and who is ‘wrong’, but between equally plausible, though sometimes competing and contesting, meanings and interpretations. The best way to ‘settle’ such contested readings is to look again at the concrete example and try to justify one’s ‘reading’ in detail in relation to the actual practices and forms of signification used, and what meanings they seem to you to be producing.

Stuart Hall, “Introduction”. In S. Hall (ed.), “Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London: SAGE Publishing, p. 9.

Teaching Humility in an Age of Arrogance

We need to incorporate intellectual humility — what John Dewey called the “scientific attitude” — as a cultural norm. “Merely legal guarantees of the civil liberties of free belief, free expression, free assembly are of little avail,” Dewey noted, “if in daily life freedom of communication, the give and take of ideas, facts, experiences, is choked by mutual suspicion, by abuse, by fear and hatred.”
Dewey knew that democracies can’t function if their citizens don’t have conviction — an apathetic electorate is no electorate at all. But our democracy also can’t function if we don’t seek, at least some of the time, to inhabit a common space where we can listen to each other and trade reasons back and forth. And that’s one reason that teaching our students the value of empathy, of reasons and dialogue, and the value and nature of evidence itself, is crucial — in fact, now more than ever. Encouraging evidential epistemologies helps combat intellectual arrogance.
Overcoming toxic arrogance is not easy, and our present political moment is not making it any easier. But if we want to live in a tolerant society where we are not only open-minded but willing to learn from others, we need to balance humility and conviction. We can start by looking past ourselves — and admitting that we don’t know it all.

Michael Patrick Lynch, “Teaching Humility in an Age of Arrogance”. In The Chronicle Review:

For the first time

Is it because we saw something already that we think we don’t need to see it any longer? On the contrary, when we show something everyone has seen, it is perhaps at that point we see if for the first time. The woman, her back to us, pulls out potatoes, Delphine, my mother, yourself. A woman, yes, but a corridor for a minute? A tree?

Chantal Akerman. In

A burning desire

I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be.
Martha said to me, very quietly: “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. As for you, Agnes, you have so far used about one-third of your talent.”
“But,” I said, “when I see my work I take for granted what other people value in it. I see only its ineptitude, inorganic flaws, and crudities. I am not pleased or satisfied.”
“No artist is pleased.”
“But then there is no satisfaction?”
“No satisfaction whatever at any time,” she cried out passionately. “There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

Martha Graham in conversation with Agnes de Mille. In:

Gold field

There it was, in a white room, all by itself, it didn’t need company, it didn’t need anything. Sitting on the floor, ever so lightly. A new landscape, a possible horizon, a place of rest and absolute beauty. Waiting for the right viewer willing and needing to be moved to a place of the imagination. This piece is nothing more than a thin layer of gold. It is everything a good poem by Wallace Stevens is: precise, with no baggage, nothing extra. A poem that feels secure and dares to unravel itself, to become naked, to be enjoyed in a tactile manner, but beyond that, in an intellectual way too. Ross and I were lifted. That gesture was all we needed to rest, to think about the possibility of change. This showed the innate ability of an artist proposing to make this place a better place. How truly revolutionary.
This work was needed. This was an undiscovered ocean for us. It was impossible, yet it was real, we saw this landscape. Like no other landscape. We felt it. We traveled together to countless sunsets. But where did this object come from? Who produced this piece that risked itself by being so fragile, just laying on the floor, no base, no plexiglass box on top of it…. A place to dream, to regain energy, to dare. Ross and I always talked about this work, how much it affected us. After that any sunset became “The Gold Field.” Roni had named something that had always been there. Now we saw it through her eyes, her imagination.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, “1990: L.A., “The Gold Field”. In:

Luscious life

Sweet oh luscious life
celebrate your dreams when you are away
doesn’t it taste so sweet
like it’s growing on oh, growing on the trees
growing on the trees
when you pick me up off the ground
I’ll slowly turn you from a frown
sweet oh luscious life
my sweet oh my sweet oh, luscious life
you taste so sweet
when you are so free
my sweet oh luscious life you taste so sweet, to me
hold time, no need for the moment of the day
I celebrate, I need, I need you today
what’s one minute of the day
to celebrate
to let it be
to feel so free
when you and me
in a sweet luscious life
for a minute of the day
you taste so sweet
you taste so

Patrick Watson, In “Luscious life”, “Close to Paradise”, 2006.

About being human

Man is not free from conditions. But he is free to take a stand in regard to them. The conditions do not completely condition him. Within limits it is up to him whether or not he succumbs and surrenders to the conditions. He may as well rise above them and by so doing open up and enter the human dimension… Ultimately, man is not subject to the conditions that confront him; rather, these conditions are subject to his decision. Wittingly or unwittingly, he decides whether he will face up or give in, whether or not he will let himself be determined by the conditions.

Viktor Frankl, “Psychotherapy and Existentialism”. Excerpt found online.

Eliminating the human

I have a theory that much recent tech development and innovation over the last decade or so has had an unspoken overarching agenda—it has been about facilitating the need for LESS human interaction. It’s not a bug—it’s a feature. (…) I am not saying these developments are not efficient and convenient; this is not a judgement regarding the services and technology. I am simply noticing a pattern and wondering if that pattern means there are other possible roads we could be going down, and that the way we’re going is not in fact inevitable, but is (possibly unconsciously) chosen. (…) Social media is not really social—ticking boxes and having followers and getting feeds is NOT being social—it’s a screen simulation of human interaction. Human interaction is much more nuanced and complicated than what happens online. Engineers like things that are quantifiable. Smells, gestures, expression, tone of voice, etc. etc.—in short, all the various ways we communicate are VERY hard to quantify, and those are often how we tell if someone likes us or not. (..) Our random accidents and odd behaviors are fun—they make life enjoyable. I’m wondering what we’re left with when there are fewer and fewer human interactions. Remove humans from the equation and we are less complete as people or as a society. “We” do not exist as isolated individuals—we as individuals are inhabitants of networks, we are relationships. That is how we prosper and thrive.

David Byrne, “Eliminating the human”. In: