Book Club Wk 4: Games, Art, the Structure of Possibilities
Archive of a past book club.
James Carse, Finite and Infinite Games: "Where a society is defined by its boundaries, [culture plays with boundaries,] is defined by its horizon." Where rules (and hence, success) in a finite game are contractually determined ahead of time, success in an infinite game is only available in retrospect.
Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae introduction: "[This book] seeks to demonstrate the unity and continuity of Western culture, something that has inspired little belief since the period before World War One."
Sontag 1967: The Aesthetics of Silence
Bourdieu 1986: Principles for a Sociology of Cultural Works
Nguyen 2019: Gamification and Value Capture
Reason 2018: Oscillation/Fashion
Davis 1971: That's Interesting!
[8:30 PM] suspended reason: Nguyen on gamification, Bourdieu on a field's "space of possibles," Sontag on the aesthetics of silence¶
[8:31 PM] suspended reason: Bonus that waxes on some related themes, ties in the Christopher Alexander idea "fit": https://suspendedreason.com/2018/07/19/oscillation-fashion/¶
[8:34 PM] suspended reason: The explicit theme of these is the idea of "moves" in sequential group activities, and what it means to make a meaningful move. If you're feeling especially ambitious you could skim over, or just read the introduction (which is probably sufficient) to Murray Davis's "Thats Interesting!" which discusses what it means for an utterance be an "interesting" move in a conversation: https://proseminarcrossnationalstudies.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/thatsinteresting_1971.pdf¶
[8:34 PM] suspended reason: If folks think Wittgenstein has something to say about this, would be interested too
Crispy's Sontag reacts fr Jul 22:
[12:06 AM] crispy_chicken: Okay
[12:06 AM] crispy_chicken: so
[12:06 AM] crispy_chicken: here's the thing
[12:06 AM] crispy_chicken: this Sontag?
[12:06 AM] crispy_chicken: It absolutely rips.
[12:06 AM] crispy_chicken: Holy shit
[12:07 AM] crispy_chicken: Banger after banger
[12:07 AM] crispy_chicken: "Spirituality = plans, terminologies, ideas of deportment aimed at the resolution of painful structural contradictions inherent in the human situation, at the completion of human consciousness, at transcendence."
[12:08 AM] crispy_chicken: lmao sure why not just start off with a complete description of the problems literature wrestles with, good 4 you
[12:08 AM] crispy_chicken: "Art, itself a form of mystification, endures a succession of crises of demystification"
[12:08 AM] crispy_chicken: This is like 20k word book I wanted to write, but how do I beat this? It's so damn true.
[12:09 AM] crispy_chicken: Her notion of the limitations of art as being constructed by the medium it currently inhabit, i.e. its cultural place, and that teardown is how we get that feeling of transcendence and what ends up creating the next genre is spot-on.
[12:10 AM] crispy_chicken: Practiced in a world furnished with second-hand perceptions, and specifically confounded by the treachery of words, the activity of the artist is cursed with mediacy. Art becomes t enemy of the artist, for it denies him the realization, the transcendence, he desires.
[12:12 AM] crispy_chicken: But the best part of this is the specificity with which she hones in on the Hollywood Magic that gives these feelings form
[12:12 AM] crispy_chicken: "Silence is the artist's ultimate other-worldly gesture; by silence, he frees himself from servile bondage to the world, which appears as patron, client, audience, antagonist, arbiter, and distorter of his work."
[12:13 AM] crispy_chicken: This describes easily 80% of the gestures I've seen for giving legitimacy to artists: he was so despondent he could never write again, he grew so close to god he could no longer speak our language, etc.
[12:13 AM] crispy_chicken: My writing teacher from middle school had a huge influence on me, and this is just constantly what he gestured at, this otherwordliness
[12:14 AM] crispy_chicken: But she bangs into the pragmatic edge:
[12:14 AM] crispy_chicken: "It suggests that the artist has had the wit to ask more questions than other people, as well as that he possesses stronger nerves and higher standards of excellence."
[12:15 AM] crispy_chicken: Because it is all ultimately about status. And the weird thing about status, is people want to derive it from things, and when they can't see things they try to derive it from either grit or discernement. They have the strength to bear what you cannot or they have the eye to see what you cannot, and because we cannot see those things except through their achievements, their achievments are justified.
[12:16 AM] crispy_chicken: "The history of art is a sequence of successful transgressions." ...because transgressions are the only thing that allow you to add something new to the foreground.
[12:17 AM] crispy_chicken: Silence is special because you chose not to speak. If it is not perceived as a choice, it is not really silence.
[12:18 AM] crispy_chicken: Which of course she captures perfectly:
[12:18 AM] crispy_chicken: "A genuine emptiness, a pure silence, are not feasible — either conceptually or in fact. If only because the art-work exists in a world furnished with many other things, the artist who creates silence or emptiness must produce something dialectical: a full void, an enriching emptiness, a resonating or eloquent silence. Silence remains, inescapably, a form of speech (in many instances, of complaint or indictment) and an element in a dialogue."
[12:20 AM] crispy_chicken: But transgressions are ultimately begging the audience to standardize them, and begging for silence is a tricky thing. The artist is not begging for silence, they are begging to be associated with silence. Silence is special in that it is a message completely defined by its context, but artists wanting to take advantange of its eery qualities must make space for it with noise:
[12:20 AM] crispy_chicken: "The art of our time is noisy with appeals for silence."
[12:22 AM] crispy_chicken: Our banana rings through back from history, but in reverse:
[12:22 AM] crispy_chicken: "Language is experienced not merely as something shared but something corrupted, weighed down by historical accumulation"
[12:24 AM] crispy_chicken: Where :banana: sees history as the grounding, Sontag is here making the claim that is our inability to use words in new ways that is holding us back and I so badly agree! :banana: 's mistake in Words Fail is to pretend that you could tie down meaning. Where did it come from? It was tied down for a purpose, and when it is no longer used for the purpose it is easy to say "invent a new word" but we are bad at inventing new words. We can recognize good ones (just like :banana: 's shawls), so we must recycle in order to produce with quality. But for something to truly be recycled, it must lose something of its former self, and this has become harder and harder
[12:26 AM] crispy_chicken: "Traditional art invites a look. Art that's silent engenders a stare."
[12:26 AM] crispy_chicken: The minimalism!
[12:26 AM] crispy_chicken: We need to learn from Sontag if we're going to make our Minimal Capture a thing
[12:29 AM] crispy_chicken: "We lack words, and we have too many of them. It reflects a double complaint. Words are crude, and they're also too busy — inviting a hyperactivity of consciousness which is not only dysfunctional, in terms of human capacities of feeling and acting, but which actively deadens the mind and blunts the senses."
[12:30 AM] crispy_chicken: This is part of what I was trying to get at in: https://crispychicken.cc/2020/06/06/communicative-minima/
[12:30 AM] crispy_chicken: Words are so busy they are distracting. We think we can ignore distractions and get to the real thing, but in reality we are just distracted by an infinite list
We can recall Spendy's Law—Today's reward function is tomorrow's production function—and its variant—Today's payoffs determine tomorrow's symbolic performances.
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