Category Archives: theory

“Pornography is […] like the Western and science fiction […] a form of pop art” –Leslie Fiedler

While I’m researching my master thesis on the possibility of pornographic art I stumble across new information all the time.

One of the best finds was the cluster theory of art by Berys Gaut which I found via Ian Jarvie (was happy to see mentioned by Simon Fokt).

But the best was this: as I was writing a possible rationale for why pornograpy had become salonfähig in the 1960s and 1970s and I wanted to write about nobrow and Sontag and Fiedler I did some extra research on Cross the Border — Close the Gap and found the whole transcript of the 1969 Playboy article[1] including the page scans and including the illustration by Karl Wirsum (above).

Everybody continually kills the Mandarin

Examining the bibliography of Art and Its Objects for my thesis Can Porn Be Art?, I came across Alain‘s System of the Fine Arts which in turn led me anew to the “killing of the hypothetical Mandarin“, a subject I had contemplated in some detail for the first time in 2013. I spent about six hours on the subject over the afternoon, time I did not spend on my thesis.

A new element in this afternoon reading and studying binge was “Killing a Chinese Mandarin“, an essay by Carlo Ginzburg (the current heir to Umberto Eco?) first published in 1994 and essential to the parable, referencing Aristotle’s Rhetoric, “Conversation of a Father with his Children” and “Letter on the Blind” (Diderot), Charles de PougensModeste Mignon (Balzac), Ordinary Men (Christopher Browning) and David Hume.

As far as I’m concerned Alain made the definitive statement about the “hypothetical Mandarin” when he said ” proving that we are all victims of collective guilt, a point particularly poignant in the current migrant crisis.

Having lost a lot of time (time I should’ve spent on my thesis), I decided to write this snippet reporting my vagrancies. As I was thinking of a picture that could illustrate it, I suddenly thought of Death by a Thousand Cuts. Are we not guilty — with every Chinese product we buy — of the violations of human rights in China perpetrated on a daily basis? But then I couldn’t. The image is just too cruel.

Instead, I give you a cover of Alain on Happiness [above], from whence came Alain’s dictum on the mandarin, not referenced by Ginzburg in his sublime essay on emotional and social distance.

Icons of erotic art #56

In the history of 20th century eroticaWalter Sickert kicks off the era with a series of oils known as the The Camden Town Nudes.

Nuit dété (Summer Night) [above] is one of them. Sickert’s erotica is exemplary of the cult of ugliness. Nevertheless, I like his nudes better than Lucian Freud’s, which belong to the same ‘cult of ugliness’ category. Of note is also that Sickert wrote of eroticism in the visual arts in writings such as “The Naked and the Nude“.

I say “writings“, but I’m not sure he did more writing on the nude than this one.

A way out of the ‘tautological genre-trap’

I finally started writing my master thesis for a degree in philosophy.

The subject?

“Can porn be art?”

The answer: “Yes it can be but usually it’s not.”

Anyway, to get to this answer, one needs to define art and porn.

Defining art is notoriously difficult.

Defining porn less so. First you need to get rid of the tautological genre-trap (see genre theory, corpus and tautology).

Page 135 from ‘Theories of Film’ (1974)

I finally read the original page on which the problem of the tautological genre-trap is first elaborated [above].

The page is from Andrew Tudor’s 1974 Theories of Film, the chapter’s title is “Critical Method: Auteur and Genre”, the page 135.

The text reads:

“To take a genre such as a ‘Western’, analyse it, and list its principal characteristics, is to beg the question that we must first isolate the body of films which are ‘Westerns’. But they can only be isolated on the basis of the ‘principal characteristics’ which can only be discovered from the films themselves after they have been isolated. That is, we are caught in a circle that first requires that the films be isolated, for which purposes a criterion is necessary, but the criterion is, in turn, meant to emerge from the empirically established common characteristics of the films.”

Tudor calls this an ’empiricist dilemma’.

More philosophically, you might call ‘genre’ an ostensive definition.

My way out of this quagmire?

Make use of Venn-diagrams. Some works are part of the ‘western’ set but can overlap with other sets.

Kings and philosophers shit – and so do ladies

Kings and philosophers shit – and so do ladies(Montaigne (1533-1592) in his Essays)

Der kleine Narr illustrates the first draft of the translation of my “Satirical pornography and pornographic satire, the caveman is agitated” chapter in The History of Erotica.

Mind the turd.

The sinister silence of the Laocoön marble

A depiction by Charles Bell of of the Laocoon marble in The Anatomy and Philosophy of Expression

Laocoon marble: a depiction.

Surprise! David Toop in Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener (see prev. post [1]) does not refer to the Laocoon marble. Granted, Toop mentions The Scream by Munch, which is the direct heir to the Laocoon.

The Laocoon is central to the ekphrasis concept, and the ekphrasis concept should be central to the “Act of silence” and “Art of silence” chapters in Sinister Resonance.

In fact, the whole area of writing about music is an act of ekphrastic transposition, some have even found completely nonsensical, testimony to this is the famous maxim “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”

PS: I was glad to see that Toop cites Victor Stoichita, an author who writes about the self-reflexivity of painting in the same way that Toop writes about sound culture.

PPS: Jahsonic loves the work of David Toop, who is part of his canon, so any criticism you read in this post is non-existent.

“One can look at seeing but one can’t hear hearing” –Duchamp

I want to read Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener.

”Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener” (2010) by David Toop
[Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Back in 2007, I attended[1] a lecture by David Toop. The title was Ways of Hearing.

In 2010, this lecture crystallized as the book Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener.

On the cover is a detail of «Soplones», nº 48 of Goya series Los Caprichos.

It is a book about listening, the way sound is portrayed in painting and other “silent arts”, about arts that involve sound, about the resonance of architecture, about auditory artefacts and about self-reflexivity.

Michaelangelo Matos called it “an exploration of sound in novels, poems, and paintings from before the era of sound reproduction.”

Threaded through the book is Marcel Duchamp’s observation “One can look at seeing but one can’t hear hearing” and his concept of the infrathin, those human experiences so fugitive that they exist only in the imaginative absences of perception.

David Toop is always interesting, he introduced me to the eavesdropper paintings by 17th century Dutch painter Nicolaes Maes and the concept of silence in painting.

A certain Guilherme Werneck has made a pinterest board consisting of a “visual guide” to Sinister Resonance.

Toop’s magnum opus is Ocean of Sound.

See also my current research on medium specificity.

In praise of pornosophy

Art/Porn: A History of Seeing and Touching (2009) – [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

I want to read Art/Porn: A History of Seeing and Touching (2009) by Kelly Dennis.

Besides that pornosophy is my area of expertise, the book looks rather more clever than many porn studies that have recently flooded the American market and finding smart sentences such as the following has whetted my appetite:

“We can now see that the “sister arts,” the paragone, the hierarchy of genres, and even ekphrasis are all rooted in an opposition between word and image, between an acceptable literary pictorialism and a less acceptable pictorial literacy.”

I found this book while googling paragone and ekphrasis mentioned in my previous post on Baudelaire[1].

On the cover of Art/Porn is one panel from the Every Playboy centerfold, by decade series by Jason Salavon.

Poetry is like painting, cooking, and cosmetics

Title page[1] from the Carlos Schwabe illustrations for Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal.

I have no clue what plant it is (a flesh-eating plant perhaps?), nor if it is real or imaginary, but I’m pretty sure it fits in the horticultural horror category.

Additionally, as far as I know, this illustration is the only literal interpretation of the flowers of evil.

One thing inevitably leads to another:

On opening my copy of The Romantic Agony for the nth time brought up this passage:

“That poetry is like the arts of painting, cooking, and cosmetics in its ability to express every sensation of sweetness or bitterness, of beatitude or horror, by coupling a certain noun with a certain adjective, in analogy or contrast” writes Baudelaire in an unpublished preface to a 2nd preface of The Flowers of Evil (translation by Marthiel and Jackson Mathews).

Beautiful isn’t it, this trying to connect poetry to cuisine and cosmetics via adjectives and nouns in logical combinations, evoking diverse sentiments?

See also: literature and olfaction, synesthesia and literature, paragone and ekphrasis.

Once more, one thing leads to another

Encore” is a musical composition by Nicolas Jaar.

As usual, one thing leads to another.

This particular Youtube upload (above) features the photo “Dancers Wearing Gas Masks In England On February 1940“.

The photo stems from the Edward George Warris Hulton collection and features girls wearing gas masks and dancing a can-can-like dance.

The sample at the beginning of the song:

“from the labyrinth beyond time and space, seeks his way out to a clearing”

is from an audio recording of “The Creative Act,” a speech by ‘mere artist” Marcel Duchamp given in 1957.

In view of its non-elitist (although it can also be read as a defence of Duchamp’s own greatness) point of view (considering bad art also as art); its emphasis on reception and audience participation; its view as the artist as a mere medium, I pronounce “The Creative Act” to be a nobrow manifesto of sorts.

“Encore” by my poulain Nicolas Jaar is World Music Classic #699.