A word on ‘pace’

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The current fashion is for valuing ‘speed’, the assumption being that slowness is not just boring, but wasteful because inefficient. The first question in communication as in other social practices might have to be ‘What is a humane pace’ or even ‘ What is human pace, under present social conditions?’, ‘Under what conditions is slowness of pace essential?’. The pace of technological change cannot possibly be mirrored by social institutions, even though that seems intended in calls to accommodate to every innovation as a means of furthering efficiencies: the ceaseless restructurings of organizations are one such symptom, as it the requirements of individuals constantly to adapt.
The more urgent question is to reflect  what the relation between technological, institutional, social and human pace should be. Society cannot hope to mimic the pace inherent in every technological innovation, nor should it attempt to do so. In a healthy sociality, social, human aims and purposes must take precedence.
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Gunther Kress, “Multimodality: A social semiotic approach to contemporary communication”. London: Routledge, 2010, p. 29-30.

What does this mean?

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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.
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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

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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.
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Michael Patrick Lynch, “Teaching Humility in an Age of Arrogance”. In The Chronicle Review: http://www.chronicle.com/article/Teaching-Humility-in-an-Age-of/240266?utm_content=bufferd866d&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

For the first time

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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?
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Chantal Akerman. In https://www.instagram.com/criterioncollection/

A burning desire

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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.”
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Martha Graham in conversation with Agnes de Mille. In: https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/10/02/martha-graham-creativity-divine-dissatisfaction/

Gold field

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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.
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Felix Gonzalez-Torres, “1990: L.A., “The Gold Field”. In: http://www.andrearosengallery.com/exhibitions/felix-gonzalez-torres-and-roni-horn

Eliminating the human

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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.
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David Byrne, “Eliminating the human”. In: http://davidbyrne.com/journal/eliminating-the-human

Süddeutsche Zeitung, 24 June 2016

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I’m not feeling depressed today. I had a profoundly sad moment the evening before last when, leaving Tate Modern, I looked at the building and after sunset walked over the Millennium Bridge. Both were opened in 2000, both symbols of a new openness. That same month I was nominated for the Turner Prize for British art alongside two other non-Britons and one Briton. This was the new London that had been taking shape since the early 90s. The London that had self-confidently taken its place at the very centre of Europe. I looked at the yellow-red sky to the west and my eyes filled with tears, realising that this could be the final evening before a new era. That sixteen years later we should have got to a situation where half the population rejects this open and international spirit is hard to comprehend. This all happened when there was still the general feeling that the vote would favour remain. The fact that, unlike many others this morning, I’m not feeling deeply depressed about the way the English and Welsh voted, makes me realise that the sorrow I’d felt two days previously was the emotional manifestation of something that I had sensed for a long time; which Tony Blair put into words on 29 August last year in the Guardian. Blair who had completely lost touch with reality over Iraq, suddenly showed a moment of lucidity, as he wrote to fellow party members in an effort to persuade them not to elect the populist left-wing candidate, Jeremy Corbyn, as leader of the Labour Party. Reading the last paragraph, the hairs stood up on the back of my neck as Blair admitted that his generation would have to rethink everything, because what we are currently seeing is part of something even bigger: ‘But people like me have a lot of thinking to do. We don’t yet properly understand this. It is about to transform a political institution we spent our whole lives defending. But it is part of something much bigger in politics.
Because it is a vast wave of feeling against the unfairness of globalisation, against elites, against the humdrum navigation of decision-making in an imperfect world, it persuades itself that it has a monopoly on authenticity. They’re “telling it like it is”, when, of course, they’re telling it like it isn’t.’
Now ten months after Blair wrote these words, the first big wave has breached one of these institutions. He was writing about left-wing populism in his own party, but the larger picture is of course the more damaging right-wing populism, which yesterday’s vote is so much part of. We still have more of this to go through.
The only thing that helps is not to lose courage, because what’s being attacked by populists is not in fact the real evil, instead it’s substitutes that get attacked – refugees, the UN, the EU, or simply politicians. It’s now the duty of us all to defend the pillars of the free world order that was created over the last seventy years.
To hold the centre ground, and not to contribute to the centrifugal energies around us. And I know that we’re still the majority.
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Wolfgang Tillmans, “Süddeutsche Zeitung, 24 June 2016”. In “Wolgang Tillmans, 2017”. London: Tate Publishing, 2017, p. 303.

Conversas

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O que suscita em nós uma grande ideia é quando alguém diz uma coisa que nos leva a pensar num grande número de outras coisas ou quando somos levados a descobrir num impulso algo que só poderíamos vir a entender depois de muita leitura.
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Charles-Louis de Secondat Montesquieu, “Essai sur le goût”. In “Manuela Marques e Versailles: A face escondida do sol”. Lisboa: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, 2017, p. 5.

In many ways,

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“The strength of images is that they always relate to the one who is looking at them,” Varda said. “But it also depends on the time you spend looking.” She recounts a time she visited the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, specifically to sit in front of the paintings of Vermeer. “I felt so good that I fell asleep,” she said. “After a while, for some reason, a person I knew woke me up. The feeling of peace and happiness had been so strong that I wanted to sleep there. So maybe we will find people sleeping in front of my work.”
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Agnès Varda, editorial by Craig Hubert, “Grandmother of French New Wave Agnès Varda on Becoming an Artist at 88”. In Artsy: https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-grandmother-french-cinema-agnes-varda-artist-88