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A Bus Ride

The time was 6:45 pm. The date was November, 8, 2012. I was waiting in a sleazy, sketchy, old Greyhound station waiting to take the Richmond to New York City bus. The trip took eight hours. In these eight hours to New York and in the eight hours back, I decided to write my thoughts. The following pages contain some of the things I wrote sitting on this bus. I fin them to be all mutually related. I hope you do too. #1 7:30 PM Fredericksburg, Springfield, D.C, Baltimore I just got on the bus. On my way to New York City. I want to, first of all, say what I want these writings to be and the way in which I want them to be written. I don’t want it to be a stream of consciousness type thing. Bada bing, bada boom! I don’t want to just write anything that comes to mind. That has been done. That would not be fair to my readers, perhaps? This book is not about my trip. This book is not about a place. Sitting on a bus for 8 hours is perhaps one of the most boring and monotonous experiences a human being can experience. While I love trying to find out where I am (that’s one of the reasons I decided to include a map as the cover for my chapters) and while I like seeing the cities and spaces I pass, the goal, the point, the intention of this seat in this bus is the attempt to look inwards. It isn’t a travel to a geographical location but rather an elimination of space as an excuse to look inwards. #2 I like looking inwards. You might say I like talking to myself quite a bit. Does this make me sound as if I was mentally unstable? Who can tell the difference anyway. I find that whenever I am able to eliminate space, to close myself down, to lock myself in, I learn something new about myself. What better joy in life than learning something new about yourself. At the expense of sounding cliché, “The life not examined is not worth living.” What I have recently found out is that I don’t really ‘talk to myself’ as the expression usually goes. Rather, I have a conversation with myself, a conversation in the second person. There is Jorge, the talker. As the name suggests, he’s the one doing the talking. At the same time, there’s Jorge, the listener. He’s mute. The first Jorge, on the other hand, is completely deaf. As you can imagine, they get along quite well. Actually, deaf Jorge is the one writing this paper. Deaf Jorge is quite the talker and, because he loves hearing the sound of his own voice, he often overdoes it. At that point, mute Jorge gives him a stern, cold look. Deaf Jorge knows what this means and proceeds to re-think whatever absurdity just left his mouth. My life consists on the conversation between these two individuals. I am both and I am neither. Silence does not exists for me, since silence is the moment when I get to hear what they have to say. What would life be like without them? #3 7:50 “Next stop is Fredericksburg, VA” The Annihilation of Space Monotony is a way in which space is eliminated. When  you repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat the iterations of that repetition become meaningless. The 1,000th tree I’ll see on this trip won’t be different enough from the 1377th tree. At that time I’ll be thinking about something else. #4 The nature of this trip, in its very nature, goes against any pragmatic purpose. Sixteen hours on a bus for the pure joy of it is entirely anti-pragmatic. My favorite kind of trips are precisely the anti-pragmatic ones. I love moving for movement’s sake. I love moving so I can have time to myself. Sometimes, on a Thursday or Friday night, I bike through the streets of Richmond. I bike through the Fan or downtown without trying to go anywhere in particular, trying to drift through the city while perhaps learning a few new street names. Lombardy, Rowland, Meadow, Vine, Allen, and Strawberry. I always remember N. Meadow because it’s the only street with a traffic light. I would always do the same, late at night, in the street of San Juan. I would drive around the more urban neighborhoods: Hato Rey, Santurce, Río Piedras, Condado. I would try to find absolutely nothing in particular. Sometimes, I might, perhaps, try to find new ways to get around. Others I would try to find new ways to try to understand my city. Yet, at the end, there was no real point to it, besides forgetting where I was. Being able to do nothing for an hour, only to bike around and think about nothing in particular is a great blessing. Being able to do nothing for a couple of hours, only to drive and think about nothing in particular is a great blessing. Being able to do nothing for 8 hours, only to sit and think about nothing in particular is an immense blessing. #5 My favorite trip is perhaps the most unpragmatic. I was in Wrocław, Poland and wanted to go Belgrade, Serbia. I was broke and couldn’t go through the European Union because my Schengen visa had expired, which meant I couldn’t go through Czech Republic, Slovakia or Hungary and almost every train passed through Hungary. These two conditions created an opportunity for a feat that, while necessary, seemed almost ridiculous. My good friend from Ukraine, Yenia found instructions on how to go through Ukraine and Romania to Belgrade, rather than through other EU countries. Needless to say, he found it on Yandex (the Russian equivalent to google) and the instructions were in Russian, so he had to carefully explain each step of the trip to me. I understood about half of it. This trip would take more than 48 hours at a distance that, in a plane, might take less than two hours. I would have to cross 3 borders in 4 countries with 4 different languages (none of which I spoke). It involved taking 3 trains, 3 bus rides, a 3 kilometer walk and an unexpected hitch-hike. I was afraid, but happy at the same time. This trip would be a challenge. #8 Canada My first time travelling was the time I went to a summer camp in Canada. I was probably about 10 years old and my dad wanted me to go to his camp in Barry’s Bay, Ontario. I wanted to go because of the excitement of travelling, for having a new experience. He wanted me to go because it was organized by the local church group. It was, very creatively, called Leadership Summer Camp and it was intended as a way to build ‘character’ among young teenage boys. There are many things I remember from this summer camp, but perhaps one of the most memorable were the long bus rides. At the summer camp, we would make a trip to the Niagara Falls. That was almost 6 hours away. We would wake up at 3:00 am, go to mass, have breakfast and hop on a big, yellow school bus. I could never sleep on these bus trips, or at least not much. So, while everyone else was sleeping, I would look at the majestic pines trees of Ontario I had never seen before, look out for deer and read the bilingual road signs to try to figure out where I was. I still remember names like Peterborough, Hamilton, Combermere and Pembroke. I can’t remember if these trips bothered me and I can’t recall complaining about them. I don’t know if this was because of the excitement of going somewhere or because of the long time on the bus. The other thing I would do is just think about whatever came to mind. What I wanted to do when I ‘grew up’, who I was going to be in the future, things like music and movies, and, of course, the all-important love interests of a 6th grader. Not much has changed since then. Yet, I think it was since this very young age that I knew I liked travelling and that what I wanted to keep on doing it. There was nothing like the excitement of going to these new places. For some reason, since this very tender age I somehow knew that all this wandering around would really define who I was and who I wanted to be. I also think that it was through these early travels that I eventually figured out something very important. Who you were, as a person, was not predefined but rather, it was something that had to be realized. You had to act as the person who you wanted to be. Life was something that could be acted upon. I have yet to find a better way to define yourself than through travelling, moving, and wandering around. Well, to be honest, I probably didn’t think this when I was ten, but this was a start. #10 9:24 Woodbridge Bus Stories I owed her 4 thousand dollars in child support so she took me to court. I didn’t have the money. When we were in court, she said she wanted the money that same day. My lawyer argued with her “How is he going to get the money if he’s in jail? Give him some time to come up with the money”. After some time, she finally agreed. The judge gave me a week to come up with the money. I was in deep shit. I was going to go to jail. The next day, with the last couple of dollars I had, I went to Dunkin Donuts and I bought myself a cup of coffee. Then I crossed the street to the gas station and bought a lottery ticket. I won 20 thousand dollars and I cashed that check the same day! I paid her the 4 thousand dollars. “Here, bitch, here’s your money!” It was a goddamn miracle. #11 10:42  Washington D.C. A lot of people I know and a lot of I see on the street seem to tend to be as connected as possible. I normally see people spending their spare moments trying to call someone up, hearing some music or playing a game on their phones. I try to avoid these things... and the machines that facilitate them. I have an old phone, fortunately, that can’t do any of these things. The reason I avoid these all-in-one technological marvels because I find the to be them enemy of silence. They are the way in which we avoid silence at absolutely any moment during the day. We live in a society that now escapes silence at all costs. Maybe this is a good thing. Progress might be nothing more than the ability to continually avoid confronting ourselves. The fact that we don’t experience silence is only an indication of how much we have accomplished. Why would we ever be in silence if we have Angry Birds and Spotiffy? One of these is obviously less engaging. Weirdly enough, I see a very strong relationship between religion, silence, and the contemporary lack of it (Am I just imagining things?). It seems to me that it is not coincidence the continual technological development of our societies goes along with the disappearance of religion (at least in more recent generations). We certainly don’t deify the iPhone, but it’s too entertaining! We choose not to have time to stop and think about the questions that religion tries to respond to in the first place. Who would ever do a thing like that? #15 2:22 Am Holy shit, it’s snowing! There’s snow in the grand. It has to be so cold. I might freeze to death! Soon, I’ll be there. #16 Nov 10, 3:10 PM Newark, NJ I just got stuck in the bathroom of the bus. 10 minutes stuck in a 4 square foot bathroom seems like a lot more that ten minutes. I hesitated pushing the “In case of emergency” button, but the claustrophobia of the whole thing was getting to me. I know that 10 more minutes in the make-believe bathroom would make me feel desperate, dizzy and horrible. It’s funny seeing how a simple situation can seem so bad. Normally, in a sticky situation like this one, I try to think of what is the worst possible thing that could happen. I could get so dizzy and disoriented, I might have nausea and have to vomit somewhere. I apologize for the mental picture that has just appeared into your head. Really, I apologize. They might have to stop the bus in order for the driver to come and rescue me. Everyone would get pissed off at the 23 year old kid who delayed the bus. Maybe, the employees on the bus won’t be able to open the door for me, and I might be obliged to spend 8 hours on a 4 square feet, no windows, smelly bathroom on my way to Richmond, VA. At some point, I might start seeing my life in a flash and the light at the end of the tunnel. Jorge Silva Jetter. 1989-2012. Died in the Greyhound bathroom. The headlines on the newspaper would tell the tragic story of a young (good looking, I might add) 23 year old who died in the bathroom of a greyhound bus. Lawsuits would be made. Careers would be ruined. Greyhound, the 98 year old company would go bankrupt due to the damage of its public image. All because I couldn’t get out of the bathroom. After some time, the employee came to my rescue from the torture of the make-believe bathroom. He started trying to open the door, but he was only trying to open the bottom lock “It’s the one on the top!”, I shouted. “I know what’s wrong” he answered back to me, as if he was the one stuck in the bathroom and had been trying to open the damn door. A few moments later, I made my triumphant exit out of the tiny bathroom. The three people sitting close by started laughing when they saw me, laughing at my little near-death experience. I also laughed a bit at myself, knowing that everything was okay, even do a few moments earlier I wasn’t sure I was ever going to get out of there. At the end, things are never as bad as my creative worst case scenarios, which makes the experience seem a lot lighter. #20 4:59 PM Delaware The night is now falling. the nature of my trip has changed. The view of nature, of my surroundings are now impossible. I shall have to look inwards. #21 I am already disappointed in this trip. I’m starting to find that my expectations were, perhaps, a bit too high. It is strange to say, but I do have to admit that I thought I would fine a lot more on this bus ride. How naive of me to think that a simple bus ride might provide the answers to the universe. How naive am I to think that a bus ride may provide with any answers at all. That, in a way, is the nature of reflection. You always find as many questions as you find answers. You find that there are no correct answers to life, there are only hypothesis. You find that, no matter how you live your life, there will always be regrets, there will always be unanswered questions, there will always remain doubt.   You can also see this document in PDF form: A Bus Ride - Jorge Silva-Jetter    

Purpose and Surrender of Control in the Work of John Cage

You can also see this document in PDF with citations and Images John Cage was one of the 20th Century’s most important composers. His attitude towards music was profoundly avant-garde and his work changed the limits and definitions of what experimental music could be. These views developed over many decades, as they become more and more profound. His famous compositions like 4’33” are well known, yet readily understood. This paper aims to address not only his music, but the ideas behind his compositions, and his views on life. 4’33” and Composing with Noise A lot of Cage’s ideas are exemplified in one of his most famous pieces: 4’33”. In this composition, the performer is instructed not to play a single note for 4 minutes and 33 seconds. The audience hears only the sounds of the surroundings and this is precisely what is intended of the piece. “4’33” is not a negation of music but an affirmation of its omnipresence.” Cage made no distinction between music and noise, ultimately believing that there was no such thing as noise. Music is everywhere. When he talked about music, he used the term ‘music’ to mean all sounds, including noise, and even silence. Cage, for example, talked about the ‘noise’ of traffic as music. He found this music to be much more interesting than Beethoven’s, or any other composer’s music, because traffic is different every time. It cannot be repeated. This is in contrast to the way in which music and composing are traditionally seen and heard, as fixed pieces that don’t change. As a composer, he believed that his role was to consider these sounds as the basis of his music. His intent was to compose with sounds as they were, rather than to shape them to his own will. As a composer he lived by the mantra of “Let Sounds be Sounds”. His compositions did not impose a specific order on sounds and noise, but rather took them as they were. His compositions aspired to find ways in which unexpected noises/sounds/music could emerge. As an extension of his views on music, Cage also talked about how silence does not exist. Cage heard music everywhere and could not foresee an instance in which there was a lack of music. At every moment, he argued, we can hear something. At every moment, there is music. Cage became specially convinced of this after visiting an anechoic chamber, a chamber that is completely sound proof. Even in this chamber he found there was no absence of sounds. “Being able to hear, in a soundproof room, sounds from this blood circulation and from his nervous system, Cage proved to himself that silence could not be an absence of sounds.” It is this experience that most profoundly shaped his view on silence and it is this experience that made 4’33” conceptually possible. Without this overwhelming belief in music, 4’33” and its underlying ideas would have never come to fruition. In this composition, the lack of an intentional, pre-defined set of sounds performed by a series of musicians is not an impediment for the audience to hear music. 4’33” affirmed Cage’s strong belief in the omnipresence of music. The Prepared Piano An earlier example of Cage’s philosophy in relation to music and his role as a composer, was the creation and use of the prepared piano. In a prepared piano, objects are placed between or on top the instrument’s strings. In this way, the sounds created by the instrument are different from those normally expected. Since a great variety of objects can be placed inside the piano, the possibilities of music are almost limitless. More importantly, the performer opens himself or herself to the unexpected, thus making each instance of a piece unique in its own way. The prepared piano came to be out of necessity. In the early 1940’s, Cage was working mostly on composing for percussion, since this was instrumentation that was closest to his conceptual interests. In 1942, Cage moved from Chicago to New York and he did not have the money to bring his percussion instruments with him. When he received a commission for a piece, he started trying to recreate the conditions of percussion in a piano. That’s when Cage started placing objects (mostly pieces of rubber and screws) into the strings of the piano. The instructions by which the piano was prepared would become an explicit part of his compositions. He would instruct the performer where these pieces were to be located, what pieces to use, and even, what specific Steinway pianos could be used (since different pianos resulted in different sounds). An example of this type of composition is Sonatas and Interludes, a set of 20 pieces inspired by his emerging interest in Indian philosophy. In Sonata V, the sounds of the piano are completely transformed. The keys that have been altered (not all keys are) now sound like individual instruments each with a sound that is completely different from the original sound of a piano. The result was music that sounded as if a complete ensemble was playing. The use of this instrument can be seen as a beginning to Cage’s later questioning of the role of control in his own compositions. At this point, Cage exerted a lot of control over the sounds emitted by the prepared piano giving detailed instructions about its preparation, yet there is an openness the unpredictability and lack of control of the sounds made by this instrument, at least in relation to the more common intent of making all notes in a piano sound as expected. There is still a great distance in these works from what would eventually become 4’33” and similar pieces, but their origins can be seen in the prepared piano and in the Sonatas and Interludes. Intentions and Work as Question Through many of his pieces (including 4’33”), there is an underlying desire in Cage to question the role of intention in a musical work. “Cage’s most important compositions of the past three decades have been conceived to deny his intentional desires as completely as possible.” It is this feature that what makes his work radically different from so many before him. Cage constantly tried to surrender as much intention as possible form his work. He used the term “purposeful purposelessness” as a way to describe what he saw as the ‘purpose’ of his art. He did have a purpose in the creation of his music and his art, but the purpose was based on the generation of questions rather than on providing answers. To a certain extent, his purpose might be interpreted as the purpose to find a purpose. This might seem a contradictory tautology, but through his work Cage intended to find something deeper than his intentions. He wanted to have a conversation with his work that would lead to a process of discovery. Art, to Cage, was not a way to communicate his ideas, but rather, a way in which these ideas could be communicated to him (and to his audience). “If, from the Renaissance on, art has been regarded as a means of communication, Cage instead defined art as self-alteration, a means to sober up the mind.” For Cage, the lack of intention in his work (or his ‘purposeful purposefulness’) explains something much deeper about his views on art. The work of the artist (in Cage’s view) is a process of questioning, rather than of providing answers. It is because of this, that Cage utilized chance operations (to name one of his many processes). “Most people who believe that I’m interested in chance don’t realize that I use chance as discipline. They think I use it - I don’t know as a way of giving up making choices. But my choices constitute what questions to ask.” His use of chance operations were a way in which Cage could ask questions of nature and to have nature respond back. His interest was not in a lack of control for its own sake, but rather as an expression of a deep humility towards admitting an incomplete knowledge about nature, and the desire and curiosity to find out. “That there is an overriding harmony in everything he created accords with Cage’s belief in the essential, if unknowable, order in nature, as revealed by his chance operations.” Unpredictable Outcomes Through most of Cage’s work, we find a desire to create compositions in which the outcome is unpredictable and all performances are unique. For Cage, the lack of clear and direct intentions in his work was a way to ensure that the outcome of his work could become unpredictable. The result of his chance operations would be as much of a surprise to him as it would be to his audience. “For Cage, the outcome of a fully structured piece is predictable and therefore occludes the act of performing with memories of definitive readings.” In other words, there is no point in performing a piece if the outcome is already known. In Cage’s compositions, the performance is the moment in which that particular instance of a piece is created. Music then becomes and endeavor that, in and of itself, has no predictable outcome, but speaks to us at a much more deeper level. Music begins to mirror unpredictability of life itself. An example of this type of work is Imaginary Landscapes #4, a piece for 24 musicians in which the musicians split up in to 12 pairs, each pair holding on radio. For each radio, one performer controls the tuner while the other controls the volume. The tuning and volume are dictated by the score of the piece, yet the performers have no control about what is actually coming out of the radio. While certain variables of the piece are determined by the score, most of the piece is unpredictable. Since the music depends on what is being transmitted by the radio at that specific moment, the location (the city or region in which it is performed) and time of day are important factors on the final performance. Also, because of the nature of the radio, it is impossible to completely replicate an instance of the performance, even if it’s performed in the same place and at the same time. The Role of the Audience, The Role of the Artist and Views on Art One of Cage’s main preoccupations was the audience and its role in relation to the performer. In Cage’s work, as in 4’33”, the traditional role of the audience is deeply challenged. “The listener does not stand outside the experience in order to describe it, analyze and understand it, but co-creates and undergoes it.” The audience is not a passive entity who is privileged to witness the genius of the artist, but rather a group that performs with the performer, and composes with the composer. The composer, in Cages view, should not attempt to impose a particular meaning or understanding of a particular piece on the listener, but should instead require the listener to understand and appreciate the piece on their own terms. “The emptiness of 4’33” is filled by the listeners, whose focus must be open, free-flowing and capable of supplying his or her own meaning.” In this way, the listeners form an integral part of the piece they are experiencing. The composition is completed the moment the audience gets to experience it. Through this new type of work and through this new relationship to the audience, Cage dramatically challenged our understanding of the role of the artist. While, typically, the artist assumes a role of informing its audience by delivering a particular message through their work, Cage had no intention of doing this. He once said , perhaps half-jokingly, “I don’t want to spend my life being pushed around by a bunch of artists”. Rather, he regarded his art as a process of discovery. Art is a praxis by which he could learn about nature. Through this exploration of nature, the artist and the audience share, not so much an experience of acquisition of knowledge, but of “sobering up the mind.” Communication from the artist to the audience was is secondary, if important at all. “If art has been regarded as a giver of truth through the ‘self-expressed individuality of the artist’ Cage saw it rather as an exploration of how nature itself functions as a means to open the mind and spirit to the beauty of life with a minimum of expression or interpretation.” Connections with Eastern Understandings of Art and Spirituality Throughout most of Cage’s work and his ideas on art, there is a very strong influence of Eastern philosophy, spirituality and the aesthetic ideas of Wabi-sabi. In the book, “Wabi-sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers” Leonard Koren provides a comparison between Wabi-sabi (An ancient Japanese philosophy of life and art) and Middle Modernism (the minimalist style in architecture and product design that surged after the Second World War). Koren contends that Wabi-sabi was very influenced by Zen Buddhism.”The initial inspiration for Wabi-sabi’s metaphysical, spiritual and moral principles come from ideas about simplicity, naturalness, and acceptance of reality found in Taoism and Chinese Zen Buddhism.” These ideas shared by both, Wabi-sabi and Zen Buddhism, are also very clear in Cage’s work. Koren explains that Wabi-sabi “believes in the fundamental uncontrollability of nature”, is “one-of-a-kind”, and implies “people adapting to nature”. On the other hand, Middle Modernism “believes in the control of nature”, is “mass-produced, and implies “people adapting to machines”. In Cage’s piece, 4’33” almost all of these ideas related to Wabi-sabi are demonstrated. First of all, there is no control of what that final piece is. When the performer plays the piece, the outcome is totally dependent on nature and the environment. The performer does not seek control of what is happening and cannot control nature. Second, because each performance of the piece depends on the state of the environment at a particular time and place. Each instance of 4’33” is inherently different. Finally, since the performer just lets the sounds of the environment be, the performance is a collaboration between the performer and the audience to adapt to nature and adapt to the circumstances of the environment at one particular moment. The similarities between Eastern aesthetics (using Koren’s description of Wabi-sabi) and Cage’s work are very clear, but Cage’s connection to Eastern thought goes much deeper than the formal aspects of his work. His whole conception of what music is and what it should do is founded on Eastern principles. More specifically, it is based on Gita Sarabhai’s (An Indian composer and contemporary to Cage) conception of music. “The view of art as a form of spiritual discipline reflected in Cage’s new formulation of the purpose of music, given to him by Sarabhai: ‘To sober and quiet the mind, thus rendering it susceptible to divine influences’.” Art then becomes a spiritual journey by which an individual is able to shorten the distance between himself/herself and nature. Music, for Cage, is an attempt to become one with nature. Conclusion Cage’s work and ideas changed the way we view music and the possibilities of music. His life and career show an exceptional development and constant questioning. While at first glance, Cage’s ideas seem related to music, they embody a much more profound meaning. Cage was involved, not only in the process of questioning how music is created, but questioning the role of the performer and the audience, the connection of art and life and, ultimately, view on life itself. For Cage, All these thing are interconnected.   Bibliography Cage, John. Composition in Retrospect. Cambridge: Exact Change, 1993. Clarkson, Austin. “The Intent of the Musical Moment.” In Writings through John Cage’s Music Poetry, and Art, edited by David W. Bernstein and Christopher Hatch, 62-112. Chicago:  The University of Chicago Press, 2001. De Visscher, Eric. ““There is no such thing as silence...”: John Cage’s Petics of Silence (1991).” In Writings about John Cage, edited by Richard Kostelanetz,  117-133. Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Press, 1993. Koren, Leonard. Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers. Berkely, California: Stone Bridge Press, 1994. Kostelanetz, Richard. W“Beginining with Cage (1979).” In Writings about John Cage, edited by Richard Kostelanetz, 8-12. Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Press, 1993. Constance LeWallen, “Cage and the Structure of Chance.” In Writings through John Cage’s Music Poetry, and Art, ed. David W. Bernstein and Christopher Hatch. Chicago:  The University of Chicago Press, 2001. James Pritchett, The Music of John Cage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

I See Everything

This composition was created using 190 images taken from the observation deck of the Richmond City Hall. For every window, 3 pictures were taken: 1 of the horizon, one middle picture, and one last one as far down as possible. The pictures were later arranged starting with the horizon images, followed by the middle images. If you notice, you can see the sun setting at the left of the image, meaning that this was the west of the camera. The sun may rise in the east, but it settles in a finer location. In a way, you can see the whole world from this image, based on the fact that you can see everything from one single vantage point, including the horizon. The piece, more than anything, is a result of a set of very specific instructions, a specific methodology, I set onto myself. ( Please, please, please!!! See this Full-Size and Zoom into the Image!! )  

Dear Czesław Miłosz

Dear Czesław, I have read your poem and I can only say I couldn’t agree more. I also ask myself if Heaven and Hell have vanished forever. I have always thought that I’d rather burn in the tormenting but suitable quarters of hell than to renounce myself to dispassionate Nothingness. While I also weep at this great loss, I usually suspect that is our destiny. I wonder who could we implore about its return to us. Does God have a “returns department”, a 1-800 number? More importantly, I wonder how we lost it. It seem to me that this has all been a consequence of the adventures of thoughts. We have made thinking a dangerous undertaking. I could never blame our kind for carrying through on the capacity given to us by God. Yet, sitting here, in this beautiful cathedral, I begin to doubt myself. Maybe, we haven’t lost that second space. It seems impossible that a world without it can coexist with the individuals who built this church. I can only think that the existence of the second space is the only thing permitting this one. This place makes me questions your poem, Czesław. I bet you didn’t write that poem in a cathedral like this one. Most people think you can speak to God through prayer. I think this space can hold a much more deeper conversation. * Nothingness and God are both capitalized, based on the probability of their mutual exclusion.

Abstract: Design Through the Loop

This is an abstract for a paper I will present in the ICDHS 2012 conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil. It is basically about the use of programing in graphic design as an alternative methodology.   Title: Design through the loop: Creating through programing in the field of graphic design Keywords: graphic design, programming, computation, dynamic design, new media, digital design, digital aesthetics Abstract: The digital sphere has granted us the greatest computational power ever known to the human race. Yet, in the field of graphic design the computer is used merely as a tool of visual reproduction, where what was formerly done with the pencil is now done with the mouse. A new generation of hybrid designers bridge the gap between design and programming, incorporating the vast computational power of the digital realm as a new tool. This paper deals with the issue of design through the creation of software and the changing nature of aesthetics in the information age. Examples of historical and contemporary practices in which visual form and code are at the core of the design process are examined. Particular importance is given to dynamic design, overcoming the traditional character of graphic design.

Thoughts on: Automation (Understanding Media, McLuhan)

Introduction · When McLuhan speaks of automations he is not speaking of assembly line automation or any type of linear automation. “Mechanization of any process is achieved by fragmentation” pg. 461 “The assembly line has gone the way of the stag line. Nor is just the lineal and sequential aspect of mechanical analysis that has been erased by the electric speedup and exact synchronizing of information that is automation” pg. 462 · For him automation is the same as cybernation. Automation and Electricity · Automation is the introduction of electricity and information into al walks of daily life. For McLuhan, there is very little difference between the advent of electricity and the advent of the Information age. · Electricity decentralizes everything, making everything accessible at once. This is similar to Alice in Wonderland. “Time and space are neither uniform or continuous” · Electricity is similar to our own central nervous system. Everything is connected and information can flow instantaneously to all parts. Humanity now lives a single unified field of experience. While our interpretations are very different, what we experience is similar. “It is a principal aspect of the electric age that it establishes a global network that has much of the character of our central nervous system. Our central nervous system is not merely an electric network, but it constitutes a single unified field of experience” pg. 460 · What makes all this possible is the fact that electricity is de-centralized. Electricity is produced in one place and consumed in another. This goes agains the assembly line model. “For electricity not only gives primacy to process, whether in making or in learning, but it makes independent the source of energy from the location of the process” pg. 459 “Such was never the case in the mechanical systems. The power and the work done were always in direct relation, whether it was hand and hammer, water and wheel, horse and cart or steam and piston.” pg. 463 Consequences · These changes are independent from any social ideologies. “The electric changes associated with automation have nothing to do with ideologies or social programs. If they had, they could be delayed or controlled.” pg 465 · Automation brings the end of specialization. “Man is more complex and less specialized than a dinosaur” pg. 470 “Paradoxically, automation makes liberal education mandatory” pg 471 Predictions · Advent of the consumer/producer. “for the consumer becomes producer in the automation circuit, quite as much as the reader of the mosaic telegraph press makes his own news, or just is his own news” pg 462 · End of the “job” model. “This is the new role for men in society. whereas the older mechanistic idea of ‘jobs’ or fragmented tasks and specialist slots for ‘workers’ becomes meaningless under automation.” pg 464 “Uniformly trained and homogenized citizenry, so long in preparation and so necessary to a mechanized society, is becoming quite a burden and problem to an automated society, for automation and electricity require depth approaches in all fields and at all times. ” “The social and educations patterns latent in automation are those of self-employment and artistic autonomy.” pg 473 · From mass produced to custom-built. “The custom built supplants the mass-produced” pg 465 · Globalization is a result of the world connected through and electric central nervous system. “Electric speed up requires organic structuring of the global economy quite as much as early mechanization by print and by road led to acceptance of national unity. ” pg. 466 · Change in the way we view armed forces. This are becoming more specialized. “Small teams of experts have replaced the citizen armies of yesterday even fasters than they have taken over the reorganization of industry.” · Machinery that can create everything. Machinery is no longer specialized. “a tree that can change form oak to maple to walnut as required” pg 469 “With the electronic music instrument, any tone can be made available in any intensity and for any length of time” pg 471 · The old dichotomy between culture and industry(The culture industry - Adorno) end because both now speak the common language of automation/electricity. There is no more specialization. “It ends the old dichotomies between culture and technology, between art and commerce, and between work and leisure” pg. 459  

Psycholgoy & Design: What can they teach each other?

This paper is the proposal for the Final Presentation on my Graduate Semintar, at Virginia Commonwealth University.   Color and Psychology (Download as a PDF - Recommended)   This is a ­paper in three acts concerning my two different academic backgrounds: psychology and design. On the first act, I will try to deal with my own experience of studying psychology and the context in which I studied it. This act is very autobiographical and I decided to write so you, my dear reader, can appreciate where I’m coming from (Also, because I just wanted to write it).What did I really learn it? What upper hand do I have in design because of it? How did it shape me? The second act of this trilogy deals with the subject of what can design learn from psychology. The third one is the inverse, what can psychology learn from design. What I learned from my Psychology degree. The first thing that I can say about my education in psychology, looking back in retrospective, is that it had very little to do with psychology; at least, in the way most people think about psychology. I didn’t learn about ‘therapy’ or ‘helping people’. I didn’t learn to read minds. I didn’t learn about psychological conditions. I never took a class on neurobiology. What the hell did I do for three years? The first thing I think about is that my almost 700 student psychology department was split into two strong factions. These factions were like black and white, capitalist and communist, Elvis and Bach, Yankees and Red Sox, Delacroix and Ingres… They didn’t like each other very much, but this difference was only apparent to those who had an eye for it. On one side there were the scientists. They were instructed primarily on research. They were instructed on treating psychology with the rigor and practices of science. They used APA style very strictly and read academic journals with the latest psychological findings. They were very much into neurobiology and cognitive psychology. I always saw them as the Americans. They did psychology the American style and they got rewarded for it! They got millions and millions of dollars from institutions NIH. There students were funded by stipends and later on went to American universities to do even more research. They had big buildings with expensive equipment.  In my opinion, they were boring. They read boring journals about nothing important and did boring experiments that proved absolutely nothing about nothing important. Then there were the underdogs. The second faction lived almost purely for the purpose of critizing the first one. They had nothing. No money, no facilities, no grad students. They hated American psychology because Americans did stupid research about nothing in particular. They hated American psychology because they thought that considering psychology merely as a science was a dis-service to it. They thought psychology and the human being were to complex to be measured and subjected to the scientific method. They talked about politics and they were mad. Their rage was felt. They were left leaning and the descendents of the revolutionaries of the sixties that had taken over the whole world, and had a particular debt to the communist tradition and theory more common in Europe and Latin America. The beauty of this is that students could, through their electives and professors, choose a side and decide what they wanted to learn inside the same program. Naturally, I leaned towards the second one. They questioned a lot more. They discussed and criticized a lot more and, besides, their readings were a lot more interesting. Rather than reading boring, current psychology journals; we read the old stuff. Nothing we read had been written in the last 30 years and it was wonderful. We rarely read any Americans (remember, they were boring!) and mostly read Frenchmen. Foucault was a cited daily. Edgar Morin was one of my favorite reads. Papa Freud was also very common. A lot of sociologists were also constantly read. Thinkers like Marx, Zygmunt Bauman, Josep Luis Sert, Antonio Gramsi, Max Weber, Tomas Ibanez, Slavoj Zizek, Jean-Francois Lyotard, Thomas Khun, Georg Simmel, Paulo Freire, Ludwik Fleck, Gilles Deleuze, Jean Baudrillard, Jaques Derrida… Those were the guys I met with at the library. In my psychology classes, there was very little psychology but I learned something for which I am eternally grateful. I learned what the greatest minds of our time are thinking about these days. I learned what are the present philosophical issues in the world. But, most importantly, I learned who to think. I learned something that I think very few people know how to really do in the world. I learned who to question and how to argue and I inherited a vision of the world more complex and rich than the one taught to me by my parents and former teachers. All this doesn’t really exist in design school. I miss that. What can design learn from psychology? In a word, it’s all about perception. “The color is not important in itself. What is vastly more important is the response to it, even to the point of color blindness” In the world of design, we tend to view things in a relatively objective way. Certain color combinations are better than others. Certain layouts are better than others. Certain typefaces are better than other. In the real world, nobody has ever died because of the use of Comic Sans. At the end of the day, the foundations of graphic design don’t really matter that much in the real world. What really does matter is how people react and interact with design. The design is not important in itself but in the way in which people perceive it. That’s something designers tend to often forget. Design in a vacuum is quite worthless and unless design goes out in to the world and is let wild and loose, it doesn’t really have much value. What can psychology learn from design? In a word, it’s all about perception. “As one travels, it is not unreasonable to expect the lack of valuable new content to be proportionately related to the amount of color one finds throughout the daily newspaper. The more color, the less solid news” The field of psychology is full of interesting ideas. Unfortunately, they are only found on obscure and lengthy books and journal articles. Most of them are quite boring to read. Not because of the idea, but because of the communication of the idea. Rather than writing this wonderful ideas in a very simple and comprehensible way; psychology, philosophy and science in general tend to be very dry. Why invest more time in trying to communicate ideas effectively? Why not add a bit more color to the newspaper? The idea in these fields still tends to be that the less color, the more text, the less images, the more obscure… the better the idea is. The denser, the more important. Yet, for these ideas to be taken they need to be communicated effectively. Why not take the fascinating world of thoughts and give it the fascinatingly simple form of a poster?        

Color and Literature and Art and Gertrude Stein and Genius*

This paper was published for my MFA Graduate Seminar. Also available in a PDF: Oct 16 - Literature and Art and Gertrude Stein - Jorge Silva. 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Gertrude Stein was one of the most important art collectors of the 20th Century. She was also a very influential writer in her own right, having written important yet obscure works of literature. Yet, if examined closely, the life of Gertrude Stein seems to be more a guide book into the development of what we have come to call “genius”. The term refers to someone, generally in the arts and sciences that possesses an almost supernatural understanding and ability at his or her own field. Gertrude Stein was as interested in developing her aura as a “genius” as she was in dedicating time to the work itself. Her art collecting was a way of affirming her own genius by surrounding herself with other individuals of the same stature[1]. An example of this is the relationship between Stein and Picasso. “His reputation as a genius, and Stein’s reputation as his first major advocate, lay the latter’s credibility as a collector and an artist”[2]. By recognizing Picasso as genius, Stein confirmed her own status as genius and reaffirmed her authority. By the gradual increase of her authority as an art collector, Stein was able to become, not a mere collector, but almost an artist of grand stature herself[3]. The interesting part in all this lays on the fact that being a genius is also ‘staged’. Many times, artists and writers don’t become geniuses just by going about their work, but by consciously ‘acting’ as geniuses. This seems to be something that Gertrude Stein understood very well. Robert MacAlmon writes of Stein: “There could be no doubt that [Gertrude Stein] knew how to stage-set herself as an eccentric, and thus become, aside from her writing, and exotic character and celebrity”[4]. This is not unique to the Gertrude Stein as an artist, but very common throughout the history of art and literature. The artist must create the image/identity of the genius in order to recognized as such. In the case of Gertrude Stein, this might have been more important and present because of her status as woman[5]. The recognition of the artist as ‘genius’ has, many times, very little to do with the work of the artist itself. Many times, this recognition comes from the performance of the artist. How the artist frames his or her work, who the artist surrounds himself or herself with, their eccentricities, how he or she views and describes himself or herself... All these are as important (sometimes even more) than the actual work of the artist. Gertrude Stein, who for most of her life wrote for half and hour a day, is not one a perfect example of the laborious and uphill task of being an artist, but rather on the psychological personal views and the image the artist portrays.   * The theme for this writing is a loose interpretation of Color and Literature. In my opinion, color and art are very much related (This for example is exemplified in Color Codes, in which a large portion of the book is dedicated to art). Hence the theme, color and literature is closely related to “Art and Literature“. By this standard, writing about Gertrude Stein is highly appropriate, considering her importance in the connection between art and literature in the 20th Century. The concept of the “genius“ is related to all these three themes: art, literature and Gertrude Stein. Hence why I felt it appropriate to consider it in my writing. 1 · “Stein ‘genius’ did not reside in her literary talent alone but also, and perhaps more importantly, in her capacity to assemble around her a world that affirmed her artistic stature.” Latimer, Tirza. ““In the Jealous Way of Pictures”: Gertrude Stein’s Collections.” Women’s Studies 39.6 (2010): 562-84. Pg. 563. 2 · Latimer, Tirza. ““In the Jealous Way of Pictures”: Gertrude Stein’s Collections.” Women’s Studies 39.6 (2010): 562-84. Pg. 563. 3 · “the creation of a personal network of artist finessed Stein’s transformation from a connoisseur of art into a producer of art”. Latimer, Tirza. ““In the Jealous Way of Pictures”: Gertrude Stein’s Collections.” Women’s Studies 39.6 (2010): 562-84. Pg. 564. 4 · Latimer, Tirza. ““In the Jealous Way of Pictures”: Gertrude Stein’s Collections.” Women’s Studies 39.6 (2010): 562-84. Pg. 566. 5 · “For Stein, being a genius ( or being perceived as such) was not as straightforward as it might have been for a male artist”. Latimer, Tirza. ““In the Jealous Way of Pictures”: Gertrude Stein’s Collections.” Women’s Studies 39.6 (2010): 562-84. Pg. 566.