Some time ago

We always look at first times with excessive indulgence. Even if by their nature they’re founded on inexperience, and so as a rule are not very successful, we recall them with sympathy, with regret. They’re swallowed up by all the times that have followed, by their transformation into habit, and yet we attribute to them the power of the unrepeatable.
Precisely because of this innate contradiction, my project began to sink right away and shipwrecked conclusively when I tried to describe my first love truthfully.

Elena Ferrante, “I loved that boy to the point where I felt close to fainting”. In The Guardian:



Why do lovely faces haunt us so? Do extraordinary flowers have evil roots?
Studying her morsel by morsel, feet, hands, hair, lips, ears, breasts, traveling from navel to mouth and from mouth to eyes, the woman I fell upon, clawed, bit, suffocated with kisses, the woman who had been Mara and was now Mona, who had been and would be other names, other persons, other assemblages of appendages, was no more accessible, penetrable, than a cool statue in a forgotten garden of a lost continent. At nine or earlier, with a revolver that was never intended to go off, she might have pressed a swooning trigger and fallen like a dead swan from the heights of her dream. It might well have been that way, for in the flesh she was dispersed, in the mind she was as dust blown hither and thither. In her heart a bell tolled, but what it signified no one knew. Her image corresponded to nothing that I had formed in my heart. She had intruded it, slipped it like thinnest gauze between the crevices of the brain in a moment of lesion. And when the wound closed the imprint had remained, like a frail leaf traced upon a stone.

Henry Miller, “Sexus”. In Thomas H. Moore (ed.) “Henry Miller on Writing”. New York: New Directions, 1964, p.30.

South Platte

…the sight of sky and willows and the weaving net of water murmuring a little in the shallows on its way to the Gulf stirred me, parched as I was with miles of walking, with a new idea: I was going to float. I was going to undergo a tremendous adventure. (…) I lay back in the floating position that left my face to the sky, and shoved off (…) I drifted by stranded timber (…) I slid over shallows that had buried the broken axles of prairie shooners and the mired bones of mammoth. I was streaming alive through the hot and working ferment of the sun, or oozing secretively through shady thickets. I was water.

Loren Eisely, “The Immense Journey”. New York: Random House, 1957, p.19-20.

I refuse to be part of the problem

And so the cycle of provocation continues. It is hardwired into the network. We customise our news feeds to partisan taste, digging information trenches along the contours of our bias. Then we hurl pointless barrages of disbelief at the enemy trench. This has become part of the media business model, what has been called the “outrage economy”.
Extremes of opinion cause spikes in web traffic, which suits publishers and platforms.
Anger is useful in politics as a spur to action against injustice, corruption, misrule. But as a gateway to raw hatred, stoking an appetite for retribution, it is toxic. The distinction between those modes is lost in the riotous rhetoric of online dispute, which increasingly permeates the world offline. Switching off devices isn’t a solution. But it is a way to avoid – if just for a few days – being part of the problem; to avoid the call of the dark side.

Rafael Behr, “You can log off, sure. But you can’t stop the outrage economy”. In The Guardian:

Here you understand the gods

“Wait,” Usnelli said, “wait.”
“Wait for what?” she said. “What could be more beautiful than this?”
He, distrustful (by nature and through his literary education) of emotions and words already the property of others, accustomed more to discovering hidden and spurious beauties than those that were evident and indisputable, was still nervous and tense. Happiness, for Usnelli, was a suspended condition, to be lived, holding your breath. Ever since he began loving Delia, he had seen his cautious, sparing relationship with the world endangered; but he wished to renounce nothing, neither of himself nor of the happiness that opened before him. Now he was on guard, as if every degree of perfection that nature, around him, achieved – a decanting of the blue of the water, a languishing of the coast’s green into gray, the flash of a fish’s fin at the very spot where the sea’s expanse was most smooth – were only heralding another, higher degree, and so on, to the point where the invisible line of the horizon would part like an oyster revealing all of a sudden a different planet or a new word.
They entered a grotto.

Italo Calvino, “The adventure of a poet”, In “Difficult Loves”. London: Vintage Books, 1999, p. 104.

Choreographic Objects

There were no hesitations, no missteps; no point at which one limb converged onto another, when one cut of cloth got caught up in another. A pair of machines, whose materials were listed obliquely, solely, as “readymade industrial robots,” rest promenade-style, side by side, oriented toward the entrance—toward me—before the flailing rods’ algorithm-determined chassé started up again. Each figure is a slab of steel on the ground, plane extending several square meters, and anchoring an eight-ton robotic arm at its center, grasping a 13-meter-high carbon fiber flagpole from which hangs an enormous raven nylon flag. The entire display is murdered out, from the seven heavy rotating joints to the high-voltage cables bundled together, snaking to the obscured generators powering the 28-minute-long duet.

Jennifer Piejko, “William Forsythe’s ‘Choreographic Objects'”. In art-agenda:
Also, see the artist himself talking about the works on display at Gagosian, Paris:–october-15-2017

Enough already

To lay the cards on the table, this essay does not prove that photography
is an art. On the contrary, it starts with the fact that photography
is an art. A walk around the galleries or an afternoon’s web browsing
gives us far more confidence in this fact than any amount of slick
reasoning to the contrary. Faced with some philosophy purporting to
show that we cannot know that there is a physical reality, the philosopher
G. E. Moore held up his hand and remarked, “here is a hand.” His point
was that no amount of philosophy could outweigh the truth of that. The
gesture said, “Halt! Enough already!” Well, nobody needs philosophy
to settle the question of whether photography is an art. Photography
is an art.

Dominic McIver Lopes, “Four Arts of Photography: An Essay in Philosophy”. West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons, 2016, p. 3.

A sopa envenenada

Nada disto é incomum, é até muito vulgar, e consideravelmente consentido quando dentro de portas, e quando ou se esconde bem a mão, ou quando se distribui alguma coisa do bodo colectivo e “comem todos”. Até um dia. Nesse dia vai lá tudo deitar pedras, como se não se soubesse de nada, ou, um pouco por todo o lado, como se comportamentos deste género não fossem o retrato de uma sociedade onde há uma escassa ética colectiva, em parte porque somos ainda uma sociedade muito pobre, ou em que parte das pessoas saiu ainda há pouco tempo da pobreza, onde nunca na burocracia imperaram critérios de mérito, mas a cunha ou o patrocinato, onde esquemas de todo o tipo são tão comuns, no Estado, na política, nas empresas, nos bombeiros, nas casas paroquiais, nas escolas, nos quartéis, nos centros de saúde, um pouco por todo o lado. Talvez com menos gravidade, nem sendo muitas vezes crimes mas apenas abusos, mas com tanta trivialidade que não os vemos como culposos.
Significa isso que os portugueses não são honrados? Não, significa que são pobres, ou ainda que têm uma memória viva da pobreza, não sentem a coisa pública como sendo de todos, e sabem que, para empregar um filho, obter um papel na câmara, evitar pagar o IVA, passar à frente de uma fila, há um sistema de favores implantado que vive da complacência de quem se aproveita e da inveja de quem ficou de fora. E isto é de uma ponta à outra da sociedade. Desde os offshores “legais” ao planeamento fiscal, às compras para as cantinas, das empresas que fazem brindes para as campanhas eleitorais, até aos amigos e as empresas que arranjam sempre ser contratados sem concurso público, até ao autarca que “rouba mas faz” e a quem os mesmos que exorcizam a corrupção em cada palavra que dizem, afinal, votam.
Isto é corrupção, mas não só. É o retrato de uma sociedade disfuncional, muito desigual, onde quem tem acesso ao poder de gerir, ou de comprar, ou de vender, o faz quase sempre numa rede de amizades e cumplicidades, com proveito mútuo, e tão habitual que não merece condenação social. Até um dia, em que a complacência se substitui pela inveja. Nesse dia entra em cena aquilo a que chamei “a sopa envenenada”.

José Pacheco Pereira, “A sopa envenenada”. In Público:

The Sleepwalker

I can hear
voices in the water
coming up like
smoke brings the wind
I have to take some time
to relocate that house of mine
I think I must lost it
in the river
they see things so
to green eyes they give nothing away
do you think now at last
you can tell me
no you won’t
give away
crush snow on my face
feels like
and birds
black face
singing in the tree
if I got myself a gun
then I could shoot
down everyone
maybe I’ve just invented some religion
I saw father
dancing with his daughter
and the music singing softly on the breeze
I can’t see an end
salvation anywhere
think I’ll wait here if he comes
he comes down the river
think I’ll wait here if he comes
he comes down the river
I’ve heard all this before
already I know
a lost soul
I won’t say

Cat Power, “The Sleepwalker”. In “Dear Sir”, 1995.

‘We are indeed at war’

– How do you explain the rise of antiscientific thinking and “alternative facts”?
– To have common facts, you need a common reality. This needs to be instituted in church, classes, decent journalism, peer review. … It is not about posttruth, it is about the fact that large groups of people are living in a different world with different realities, where the climate is not changing.
The second science war has at least freed us of the idea that science and technology can be separated from policy. I have always argued that they can’t be. Science has never been immune to political bias. On issues with huge policy implications, you cannot produce unbiased data. That does not mean you cannot produce good science, but scientists should explicitly state their interests, their values, and what sort of proof will make them change their mind.

– How should scientists wage this new war?
– We will have to regain some of the authority of science. That is the complete opposite from where we started doing science studies. Now, scientists have to win back respect. But the solution is the same: You need to present science as science in action. I agree that’s risky, because we make the uncertainties and controversies explicit.
The Australian public ethics professor Clive Hamilton has proposed another line of defense named “strategic essentialism”—stating that the science is indisputable for strategic reasons. This sounds reasonable, but in the long run we need a more realistic image of scientific knowledge. Also, given the state of the dispute and the current lack of confidence, we can’t just go back and state that climate change is “just a fact.”

– Isn’t it?
– No, science is more complex and messy than to understand how the climate works. It is an illusion of certainty to state that we fully understand it, a remnant of the ideal of science.

– But climate change doubters use the uncertainty strategically, too.
– That is true. But the uncertainty is no legitimate reason to block or postpone policy. And certainly, it is no reason to defund the research. That is the real crime: defunding research which might produce unwelcome results. By the way, calling it “skepticism” is an abuse of the term.

Bruno Latour, interviewed by Jop de Vrieze. In Science: