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Great Expectations (Advanced New Genres Syllabus: University of California, Los Angeles — Spring 2018)


UCLA. Broad Art Centre. Classroom 2122.

Great Expectations. A bildungsroman novel by Charles Dickens. The narrator: Pip. A retrospective narrator for a recursive structure. Recounting, with hindsight, the story of the young boy he once was. Two Pips per page, often more. For instance: older Pip remembering younger Pip thinking about his future. Identity formation and reformation. Is this self-discovery happening through subject-object relations in Victorian commodity culture? Or a strange transposition of the colonial slave narrative to England - applied as a generic paradigm to issues of class mobility, literacy, and freedom? Or industrialization, urbanization, and imperialism? Or specifically: global transport networks? Or networking? Or guilt, shame, and obsessive desire? Or was it “the female accessory”? Or desire between women? Or the complete inadequacy of our knowledge of the present to act? Too many scales? Too many subjects? What did you expect?

Dickens anticipates Poincare’s turn-of-the-century warning that 'small differences in the initial conditions produce very great ones in the final phenomena. A small error in the former will produce an enormous error in the latter. Prediction becomes impossible ...' A pronouncement scientists largely ignored until computers proved it true. Take a moment to feel grateful for computation ... Even though it may be one of those “I wish agriculture was never invented” kinds of days. Circle back to its initial conditions, imagine them different, pursue the consequences, and find the new versions radically different. What’s the point?

Great Expectations (1969 / 1974). A recording by Miles Davis from the Bitches Brew sessions. Electric piano and electric guitar abruptly forced into Jazz History, along with their tendencies within rock and roll. A rhythm section expanded and foregrounded. Two bassists - one playing bass guitar, the other double bass. Two to three drummers. Two to three electric piano players. A percussionist. All playing at the same time. Granting soloists wide yet active expanses. Sounding like long jams locked into grooves around keyboard, bass, or guitar vamps. The musicians had little or no idea of what they were to record. Usually only a few instructions ... a tempo count ... a few chords or a hint of melody… mood descriptions ... tone suggestions ... Miles liked it this way. Musicians were forced to pay close attention to one another. And to their own performances. Or to Davis's cues, which could change at any moment.

But, significant editing was made to the recorded music. Producer Teo Macero assembled it all from various jams. Splice to splice, section to section. The studio became an instrument. Then the instrument became a computer. And the computer became anything.

From the link:

The New Genres curriculum includes installation, video, film, audio, performance, digital, hybrid and emerging art forms. New Genres is a practice which begins with ideas and then moves to the appropriate form or media for that particular idea, sometimes inventing entirely new sites of cultural production, new methodologies, technologies, or genres in the process. The area gives emphasis to questioning preconceived notions of the role of art in culture and its relationship to a specific form or medium.

So really, what’s the point? The point of view? Let’s think in terms of these so called “new genres.” Not so much performance art (at least 100 years old), or video art (at least 60 years old), but deep digitality. CCTV meshes deployed across cities. Virtual cameras in computer imaging. Fly-through mode in CAD software. Crowd-sourced swarms that converge on a single target. A Wikipedia page with thousands of authors. Something less like collage, and more like sculpture or theater. Or music, with its tendency towards multiple voices: multiple subjects. The subject is cellular. It splits from 1 to 2. It reintegrates the world into a rendered universe now viewable from all sides. Modeled from all sides. Striving towards multiple or even an infinity of points of view. This creates a curvature of space. It bends and recedes, and therefore grows deep as the subject engulfs it.

I noticed that several of you followed me on Instagram before the quarter started. What did I expect?

Great Expectations (1998). A film (orphaned) by Alfonso Cuaron, based on the 19th century novel mentioned above. Though constrictive, how fitting. A likely story. The protagonist: Finn (played by Ethan Hawke). Now a painter in late twentieth-century America. Stumbling his way into the New York art world... eventually. He starts off somewhere on Florida’s gulf coast. Destined to fish for an attempt at living. A red herring character burns and the mysterious benefactor is revealed. Bridging that gap between the art world and the rest of the world. Well, at least for Finn.

The gap is a given. Given the gap - what’s the point? We copy and paste our claims towards “fostering dialog” into funding proposals while others crawl through the mud. How could we allow our fear of disappointment to escalate to such heights? Heights at which we can no longer see the sky without peering through the telescope of our own expectations, a sky which may just be a trompe l'oeil dome (Truman Show, 1998), a nocturnal delusion through dissociative insomnia (Fight Club, 1999), or a digital simulation (The Matrix, 1999)?

What if I told you that even red pills still have to be consumed? What if I told you that the expectation that art will challenge one’s expectations is still an expectation predicated on habitual fulfillment? What if I told you that the art world is a childproofed iPad play version of society for delusional incompetents that’s monitored by horny, neglectful dads?

And what if these horny, neglectful dads either constitute the 1%, or directly rely on that 1%, having installed financial closure into an unregulated cottage industry in the name of emancipated thought and action for a network of turgid charlatans driven by the obscene excesses it generates, performing cognitive templates programmed for novelty without difference in a demented pageant infected with strict behavioral codes: the enterprise private network, for which every insider, at once crucial for growth yet entirely disposable, is a functional link within the compactly segmented mesh of mouths and rectums through which the artworld bootstraps itself - a feat achieved by a resourceful financial and cognitive algorithm against which fantasies of acceleration or slowing down and hypothetical escape or radical self-critique are exposed as simply variations in the rate of passage of shelled out red pill capsules from body to body?

The point? To be honest: I’m not quite sure. This class is an attempt to figure that out, and I’ll be taking it with you.

4/3: Great Expectations

  1. Surprise - The Internet (expectations articulated)

RD: (Retrospective description — RD) We made our way to the studio room and sat around a tangled network of 9 PVC tubes, all 11 feet long and mostly covered by a cloth. The lights were turned off and the door was closed, leaving the room pitch black. All 18 students established protocols for communicating through the tubes with their anonymous partners, and then took turns articulating their expectations for the class. Everyone seemed surprised by how well the tubes carried the sound.

  1. The Name Drill
  2. 30 second Final Project work session

RD: The students were told that they will make just one artwork for the class, which will be developed over the course of the quarter. Then students were told to think about what their final project might be for 30 seconds.

  1. The Birthplace of the Internet: 3420 Boelter Hall. Meet The Engineer at 2:55 in the Court of Sciences
  2. Surprise - der köder

RD: We watched Werner Herzog's Lo and Behold, which starts off in the internet birthplace that we had just visited.*

● Bring sixteen pebbles to class
● Bring gym clothes to class
● Read 'The University and the Undercommons' and 'Fantasy In The Hold' chapters from The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study by Fred Moten and Stefano Harvey

4/5: Old Genres (Ecstasy)

  1. Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell: Mutron/Bemsha Swing/Solidarity/Arabian Nightingale
  2. Discussion of The University and the Undercommons and Fantasy In The Hold by Fred Moten and Stefano Harvey
  3. Pebble Painting while listening to Miles Davis' Great Expectations

RD: We each painted our 16 pebbles while listening to Miles Davis Great Expectations recording.

  1. Door does impression of Miles Davis
  2. Surprise - Old Genres (Ecstasy)

RD: After watching a video of a door doing an impression of Miles Davis, we walked into the studio room and danced to a ninety-seven minute movement meditation set called Old Genres: Ecstasy that starts at 110 BPM and finishes at 160 bpm. There were no expectations for how participants in the movement meditation should move, but they were encouraged to not stop moving to the rhythms for the entire session so that they could achieve an ecstatic state.

● Make fifty dollars
● Listen to Norm’s Punk Mix

4/10: Make fifty dollars

  1. Presentations on making fifty dollars

RD: Everyone presented on how they had made (or did not make) fifty dollars. We discussed the successes, difficulties, and implications of the money making methods. The methods included: exchanging socks soaked with sweat during the last class’s dance party for mushrooms and selling those mushrooms, collecting and charging ‘Bird’ scooters, selling a computer scavenged from the e-waste center, making a solar battery charger, asking friends or relatives for money through venmo, selling prescription drugs, providing a bed and breakfast service, selling bitcoin, selling and trading personal items on the sidewalk, and selling art.

4/12: Image Employment

  1. Image Employment
    Organised by Andrew Norman Wilson and Aily Nash

Image Employment presents recent moving image works that investigate various modes of contemporary production. The selected works illustrate differing approaches to the subject, from observational films that avoid participation in capitalistic image creation, to videos that engage corporate omnipotence by employing its processes, as well as works that complicate these two tendencies. Participating artists include Neil Beloufa, Guy Ben-Ner, Ben Thorp Brown, DIS, Harm van den Dorpel, Dan Eisenberg, Kevin Jerome Everson, Harun Farocki, Zachary Formwalt, Mark Leckey, Sharon Lockhart, Auguste and Louis Lumière, Lucy Raven, Ben Rivers, Michael Bell-Smith, Hito Steyerl, Superflex, Pilvi Takala, Ryan Trecartin, and Andrew Norman Wilson. The full program and selected works can be viewed on the MoMA PS1 website and select works can be viewed on Contemporary Art Daily.

RD: We continued presentations on making fifty dollars and gave ourselves time for longer discussions, allowing for meandering explorations of questions that arose. Money making projects included drawing a fifty dollar note, being paid to be part of a live TV audience, remote / data entry, and returning store bought clothing for a refund. We talked about the physical artifact of money and how that related to symbolic and virtual functions of money, the moral implications of the language around money for example “make” vs “earn,” social capital, labor and psychoanalysis, Bitcoin, refusal of work, national borders and the flow of capital, making money from money (banks, the stock exchange), the subsumption of wellness into corporate employment conditions and who those tactics benefit. Then we watched videos from the Image Employment exhibition.

● Read On Ketamine and Added Value by Dena Yago
● Read Youth Mode: A Report on Freedom by K-Hole
prepare a written proposition or question

4/17: On Ketamine and Added Value (featuring Dena Yago)

  1. Discussion with Dena Yago

RD: Dena Yago spoke about K-hole, her recent artwork, and her experience working at Tesla. We discussed artists such as Simon Denny and Daniel Keller, how Deleuze and Guattari never anticipated that Israeli military would use their ideas as tactics, Pamela Anderson’s poems about Julian Assange, the novel Reena Spaulings by the Bernadette Corporation as an example of collective authorship, brand identity through the Reformation Brand, an essay on Jeffersonian Bazaars and Hiltonian Cathedrals by Venkatesh Rao, Audre Lorde on self care, and uncovering the magic of marketing - seeing it and other forms of specialized language for what they are, what they conceal, what they are trying to enact and upon whom.

● Read Darren Bader: rocks and mirrors by Sabrina Tarasoff; contribution to Darren Bader’s monograph by Tess Edmonson, Andrew Norman Wilson, and Dena Yago (pgs 106-144)
● Watch the Sol Lewitt Incomplete Open Cubes video
● Wear pants or shorts with two pockets, a coat or shirt with two pockets, and sneakers to the next class.

4/19: Old Genres (Pebbles in Algorithms) - Hansel, Gretel, Molloy, and the Lottery (featuring Sabrina Tarasoff)

  1. Surprise Old Genres (Pebbles in Algorithms) - Hansel, Gretel, Molloy, and the Lottery (featuring Sabrina Tarasoff)

RD: Today started with Norm reading a lecture called 'The Fairy’s Hole: Vincent Fecteau’s Caveman Sculpture.' Then we each picked up our sixteen pebbles, which had been sitting in a corner of the classroom since week 1, and Norm read an excerpt from How Stories Explain Computing. Then we walked outside and entered the Richard Serra sculpture in the sculpture garden, where we read the stone sucking passage from Samuel Beckett’s Molloy while sucking our own stones according to Molloy’s stone sucking algorithm. Then we walked to the Spadena Witch House, and a student read Hansel and Gretel and then a description of the Spadena House’s history. Then we walked to the O’neill House, where a student read a description of its history. Then we walked to the Union 76 gas station, where a student read a description of its history. Then we walked to Two Rodeo, where a student read a description of its history. At each of these locations, we all left pebbles in a pile on the sidewalk so that we could find our way back. In between locations and on the way back to campus, Norm and Sabrina talked to us about our final project ideas. Once back in the classroom, we all read The Lottery by Shirley Jackson to ourselves. Then Norm pulled our names out of a bag to determine the order in which we would present our final projects over the last few weeks of the quarter. Then students who wanted to change their time slot negotiated trades with each other. Then Sabrina talked about her research. By the end, class had gone over by three hours.

● Read The Silence of the Lens by David Claerbout
● (Recommended) Read Torture Concrete: Jean-Luc Moulène and the Protocol of Abstraction by Reza Negarastani
● (Recommended) Read Conflicts of Interest (pg 10) by Laura Mclean-Ferris

4/24: Humpty Dumpty

  1. Download Signal and initiate Group Text
  2. Lecture on Humpty Dumpty and computer generated imagery
  3. 3D Antimodels

A program of puppet-oriented videos that come from beyond the realm of contemporary art. In these works formal uncertainty is produced through anthropomorphism, objectification, bodily fragmentation, and physically impossible scenarios.
Works by Cool 3D World, 3dmuscle, madcatlady and DPO23.

RD: Norm gave a lecture on Humpty Dumpty and computer generated imagery and then showed related videos from the list above. Then he showed a video called Funny Animals Swimming Race Animals INDOOR PLAYGROUND For Kids 3D Colors Animals Finger Family Song, and a conversation started about its origin.

  1. UCLA Game Lab visit

RD: We walked upstairs to talk with Eddo, Tyler, and Matthias at the UCLA Game Lab. Things that came up in their introduction to the Game Lab were Guattari hero, Blast theory, Lea Schonfolder, Paolo Peforzini (?), Molle industria, Angela washko, Cactus squid (maker of Hotline Miami), Porpentine Charity Heartscape, tools people could get started with 3D models and virtual gaming included Turbosquid, Wordseye, Twine text based games / decision, Game maker, and Unity. Upon returning to class, we had a discussion about what 'New Genres' means, conceptually and also in terms of making work within or around that idea.

  1. Lecture on Jean-Luc Moulene
  2. Kaspar Hauser: A Problem of Logic

● Read Outing A.I.: Beyond the Turing Test by Benjamin Bratton
● Read Towards a Poetics of Artificial Superintelligence by Nora Kahn

4/26: The Order of Ought

  1. Harun Farocki - Parallel I-IV
  2. Play-through #1 (Webdriver Torso) & Play-through #2 (Adolfo Mateo), organized by Anthony Discenza

Playthroughs of #1 and #2 contemplate two enormous archives of YouTube output (one generated by a human, the other by a Google-created AI) as discrete, long-form viewing objects. Play-through #1 is to be shown on an iMac laid flat atop its own packaging and placed on the floor. Play-through #2 is to be shown on an iPad on a wall-mounted armature.

  1. The Order of Ought

This screening presents works in which artificial and animal intelligence play a role in the production of images that emphasize alien perspectives for human viewers. The works amount to an ethical disturbance in which the involvement of intelligent, amoral actors complicates a humanist legacy that understands the world as having been given for our needs and created in our image. From these revisionary vantage points, this stagnant legacy begins to contradict itself, amounting to an ecologically murderous, even suicidal tendency. Thankfully, I also sense an order of ought, a program for escape.
Works by Stan Brakhage, Yuri Ancarani, Andrew Norman Wilson, Jos De Gruyter and Harald Thys, INDOOR PLAYGROUND For Kids 3D, by My Finger Family Rhymes

  1. What Happens When Our Computers Get Smarter than We Are? by Nick Bostrom
  2. Remarks on the Hole of Representation in Computer 'Vision' by Benjamin Bratton

RD: Today was a passive viewing day. We watched the Harun Farocki videos listed above and then transitioned into a screening called “The Order of Ought.” Then we watched a Benjamin Bratton lecture because he was not able to be present in class.

5/1: Holes, Portals, and Gaps in the Other Valley

  1. Surprise - Holes, Portals, and Gaps in the Other Valley (featuring Sam Davis)
    ***Meet at Rodin’s Monument to Balzac at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena at 12:45 pm. Class will extend into the night. Bring swimwear and a towel.

RD: Today we drove to various holes, portals, and gaps around the San Gabriel Valley in a caravan formation split across 5 cars. No one was told where we were going ahead of time. Here is a map with the list of stops, plus descriptions that were shared via group text. After eating Bánh mì at Norm’s house, more than half of us continued on to Cafe Brass Monkey to tune our cakeholes to the backing tracks of karaoke classics.

● Read Notes on Blacceleration by Aria Dean

5/3: Busta Rhymes at the End of the World (featuring Aria Dean)

  1. Presentation by Aria Dean
  2. Discussion with Aria Dean
  3. Videos by James N. Kienitz Wilkins — TESTER and Special Features

RD: Aria Dean came to class to give a lecture called “Busta Rhymes at the End of the World,” and five minutes into her lecture a fire alarm went off. We tried to sit it out but Deanna Erdmann poked her head in and said we had to evacuate. We were only outside for about a minute, and were then let back inside the building. Aria delivered her lecture, and then we talked about apocalyptic blackness, her Notes on Blacceleration essay, her work, and more. For the second half of class we watched videos by James N. Kienitz Wilkins.

● Make a 'New Genres' artwork

5/8: 'New Genres'

  1. Examination of student 'New Genres' artwork
  2. The Nonexistent Form

These works describe forms that do not yet exist, and enact a gradual illumination of the cinema.
Works by Alice Coltrane, Anthony Discenza, Emily Wardill, James N Kienitz Wilkins, Mary Helena Clark and Darren Bader.

RD: Today we reviewed the works in progress of nine students, and then watched The Non-existent Form program

5/10: 'New Genres'

  1. Examination of student 'New Genres' artwork (Nikita Ariel Brian Carlita Claire Gozie Adam Ago)
  2. Object Relations/Special Effects

Object Relations / Special Effects presents works made by humans that attempt to
incorporate nonhuman perspectives and performances.
Works by Grace Jones and Jean-Paul Goude, Kevin Jerome Everson, Madelon Vriesendorp, Steve Reinke, Joan Jonas, Mark Leckey, Daria Martin, Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz

RD: Today we reviewed the works in progress of eight students, and then watched Object Relations / Special Effects program

● Write a one-two page proposal for your final project and prepare to deliver it as a presentation to the class. You are encouraged to include imagery that relates to your research, inspirations, experiments, and ideas. If so, present this imagery as a single slide presentation. Upload these materials to the final project presentation folder.

5/15: Presentations on Research, Inspirations, and Ideas for Final Projects

5/17: Gapsploitation

  1. Gapsploitation

Works by Stephen Sutcliffe, Chris Kraus, Rachel Reupke, Charles Bernstein and Jon Lovitz Lynne Margulies, Clemens von Wedemeyes, Steve Reinke and William E Jones

  1. A Steven Wright Special
  2. Andy Kaufman on the HBO Young Comedians Special

RD: Today five students delivered a presentation on their final projects. Then we watched the Gapsploitation program.

5/22, 5/24, 5/29, 5/31, 6/5 and 6/7

  1. Examination of Final Projects

RD: Each student presented their final project, and the group discussed the work for seventy-five-minutes after each presentation.

Andrew Norman Wilson is an artist based in Los Angeles. Wilson’s work is in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art Warsaw, the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami, the Stolbun Collection, Collection Lambert and the Kadist Foundation.