Archive for the ‘Page 8: Coming to Terms with Bad’ Category

EXHIBITION PHOTOS FOLLOW THIS ARTICLE

Corrugated Tin PresidentThis attempt at intelligence is about ‘bad,’ bad in the spiritual or ethical sense, not bad like a bad song cover, a bad cold, a bad day, or as in some heavyweight weight-watcher wanting ice cream in a bad way. And as pathetic as it may seem to some of us, the subject persists, does indeed remain relevant—look at us, the Google company even has “Don’t be evil.” as its motto.

But can some concept of bad really exist in this traditional religious sense, stand up to scrutiny, in the godless world so many of us like to champion today? Hard to say, but with all the bombs going off to make what’s right wrong, and all yesterday’s mental disorders becoming today’s new form of enlightenment, it makes you wonder. It makes you wonder about the need for some rethinking of the subject, for some deeper understanding of the subject; and this, for our peace of mind—for our self preservation for god’s sake!

However necessary keeping this idea of bad in mind may be, the idea doesn’t seem to represent more than that, that is to say, more than an idea. I mean, what educated person today truly believes that Jesus was, literally, the son of God or that Muhammad really heard god’s voice and by divine right should serve as his official spokesman?, and likewise for the rest of them. But, to the extent that some spiritual sense of bad can still be said to be real, valid, in this world, I hope to catch, at least, a glimpse of it. Note that I’m not worried about ‘good’ here; good things tend to be taken for granted, to take care of themselves if you will. No, for man, it is the ‘bad’ that seems to incite particular concern and a call for action. On the other hand, if good only exists in opposition to bad…perhaps I’m paranoid.

Without believing in god one would seem to be nothing more than a hypocrite or an ill-informed simpleton for believing in bad—or good for that matter. Indeed, if you don’t believe in any superior, higher force, some being or entity of some sort to hold you accountable for your actions, is there any reason—that can be defended with reason—to behave in one way as opposed to another, according to some moral code as opposed to none at all? Robbing a bank is not good? Who says? If you don’t believe in god, then there is nothing obviously wrong with it in a spiritual, religiously moral, absolute sense. There may be something obviously wrong with getting caught, but nothing wrong with the act itself, in and of itself. Perhaps if we considered other factors such as the fact that if everyone did that, robbed banks, then everyone’s savings would be in jeopardy; maybe that would change our opinion. Indeed, everyone’s savings, everyone’s money—that means yours too, and if the hurt impacts you personally, you reconsider…don’t you?

“The Opera’s over here creep.”

Wherever I’m coming from, here’s where I’m at, where my thoughts on the subject have led me: that hurt on some personal level, in some personal way, may be wrong, wrong in ‘human’ terms, and this human element seems to mean something. In effect, the opposite—inhuman—may just be the bad we want to put a finger on, point a finger at, a bad that is bad in some spiritual sense, or “evil” sense if Google hasn’t yet bought the rights to this term. But in the above example, a personal hurt due to the loss of your personal bank savings, this still is only bad in some practical, numbskull sense. I think personal, human, remain the key words here, but, without further reflection on the subject, the question remains: what’s really bad in all this? Yourself getting hurt, hurting your own person due to a lack of foresight or common sense, is obviously bad but only bad in the practical, numbskull sense. I think to get at what is ‘bad’ in some deeper sense we have to think transcendence, have to transcend ourselves (you heard it here first). We have to consider ‘personal’ (and the external catalyst, or bridge, of the transcendence), in the sense of another person, in the sense where hurt is inflicted on another person, and yet, still affects the person responsible for the act, the perpetrator, to whom the concept of bad obviously applies.¹ After all, it wouldn’t be logical to associate the bad we are talking about with the victim, the person who is anything but responsible for the act. In the end, what we want answered is this: how is the act of hurting another person ‘bad’, even killing someone? If you don’t believe in god, believing that it is would seem to be—and most ironically so—nothing less than an act of faith on your part.

Where did i GO?

Indeed, if you believe that there is no reference point exterior to this world, to this life of ours, to draw absolute conclusions about our world or life from, if you believe there is no exterior being or force to answer to, that is to say god, then no, it wouldn’t seem to be bad in any absolute sense, in any spiritual-religious sense. In hurting someone, you are just doing something period, one thing like any other thing in this meaningless life, you are just ‘hurting’ someone, as if this someone were a thing, a pile of atoms so to speak—without any of the traditional religious stigmas and/or consequences to go along with it. And if you can’t make out any correlation between your actions and some wider social disorder, whereby you personally would come to suffer along with the others, then what’s bad about it at all, in any sense? Many of us are righteous enough, pretentious enough to claim some noble system of ethics, a profound sense of civility in the face of the largely godless world we live in, but we most probably are only trying to show how clever we are in the face of some religious bumpkin and the religious notions of his that we are trying to debunk. In effect, if it were not for the existence of religion—that we are so cleverly trying to demean—we would not be the ethical minded person we so proudly claim to be. In effect, were such a god forsaken vacuum to exist, a culture of morality would be anything but certain, and you now might very well be the savage beast preying upon the weak, taking advantage of the law of the jungle as it were. You are what you are because they are what they are.

Wait till we tackle Stephen Hawking

Which brings me to this, the closest I can come to a concept of bad in the spiritual or ethical sense is the following: hurting someone who you perceive to be weaker than you. Here, we just may be at the lowest, most foundational level of the subject at hand. The idea I have in mind deals directly with the very psychological being, psyche, the very psycho-biological makeup of a person. It is important to note here that a person’s psyche, and the ‘identity’ of the self that is produced by it to create the person, is as real to a person as an arm, leg, or his blood pumping heart—we have to take it into consideration in a way every bit as real.

This type of behavior—hurting someone who you perceive to be weaker than you—presumably would not make one feel strong, which is the primary and ‘normal’ goal of one’s psyche: to allow for and further that behavior that strengthens the identity of the person. Instead, such behavior should rattle the psyche, and in a way such that the identity of the person is weakened, the person lessened. I express certain reservations using the word ‘should’—as obvious as it would seem, it still depends. It depends on how developed, or rather, undeveloped one’s consciousness is.

Listen to this

The normal, desired condition for an adult is to be fully conscious, consciousness being the essence of our psyche, our very being. We are what our consciousness is. And a large part of consciousness, one of its defining traits, is empathy, the ability to feel that which others feel, to have an awareness of and to be sensitive to other people’s feelings. And empathy in turn is the natural, psycho-biological root of a ‘conscience’—our definitively human conscience, personal as well as social conscience—before anyone, any prophet or disciple put it into words, invented a ‘bible’ to go along with it. So, the normal, desired condition for an adult is to be fully conscious and with this comes empathy, upon which, a conscience is founded. Left undeveloped, we are nothing more, nothing better, than children, small children, who are commonly accused of being cruel in a ‘totally’ consciousless, conscienceless way. Indeed, when speaking of adults, a stronger person hurting a weaker person can only reasonably take place if the stronger person has an undeveloped consciousness, or conscience, which obviously implies an inhuman quality, which in turn, might be likened to bad in some extra human sense—a ‘bad’ beyond bad in a strictly worldly sense. In some ‘evil’ sense? If we can not establish some truth to this ‘evil,’ this bad in the traditionally religious sense, that it truly exists and must be taken into account—to some extent—at least, then truly anything goes as far as ethics or the notion of good and bad go. Indeed, in a godless world, one without any such truth, hurting a person, causing another to suffer, to feel pain, would not be a problem, be bad, wrong, what have you, if you can get away with it.

I’m really trying here

To help us consider whether all things are being considered here, maybe one reservation merits mentioning: perhaps this aforementioned case is somewhat different in the case of a strong person when dealing with another strong person—perhaps one’s capacity for empathy, his sense of sympathy, is called less into question. In effect, hurting someone else who is on the same level as you is one thing, may even be a good thing according to your psyche, for your ego/identity; but hurting someone who is weaker than you would produce self doubt, would make you ask yourself if you yourself are not weak for having to stoop to this lower level—and the projection of this negative image of yourself onto the self would hurt. Along with self doubt comes ‘guilt,’ whereby you question yourself, your ‘self,’ to the point of feeling the actual pain inflicted on your victim. The issue here, should it come to this, may have very profound repercussions, depending on how bad the transgression is. If bad enough, the acute pain felt by the perpetrator persists, is relentless, ‘obsessional’; it is such that it requires him to carry out some very real, concrete act of ‘redemption’ in order to relieve it.² A person in such a situation—no longer being himself—desperately feels the need to refind himself and is compelled to the point of action, is compelled to undertake ‘concrete’ actions to do so, to re-establish his identity, his true and coherent identity, the one and only identity he can live with, literally, technically, clinically. Such are the mechanics of the mind. In conclusion: feeling the hurt you inflict upon an unqualified competitor, or adversary, and certainly that which you inflict upon a weaker person for no good reason, would seem to be categorically—all considerations considered—negative.

Who would do such a thing?

For any number of terribly unfortunate reasons, a person, his mind, may feel helplessly compelled by his “ego” in a direction despite the fact that his “super-ego” is telling him—is relentlessly insisting—that it is unacceptable. A person finds himself in a situation beyond his control, no longer in control of his own mind, and experiencing the horrifying mental pain and suffering that goes along with it. His mind assumes two roles, acting—at the same time—on the self: the role of the reprehensible perpetrator responsible for getting himself into the situation of pain and suffering and the role of the calloused executioner, the one responsible for inflicting the punishment—the latter inflicting a pain and suffering onto the self, to the mind, as real as any pain and suffering brought on by a broken bone or hemorrhaging wound to the body. In such a desperate situation, one that is beyond your control, if the transgressions are grave enough, with feelings of guilt equally grave, this is a living hell. And this is beginning to sound a lot like ‘bad,’ as bad as the proverbial wrath of god and what we imagine an eternal hereafter of hell to be.

Rush to publish

So, hurting someone who you perceive to be weaker than you, this would be bad—this point of fact is the lowest level, the root level—as best I can figure—upon which one can build an argument for the existence of ‘bad’ in this seemingly godless world of ours because, even devoid of god, we remain what we are, whatever remains of us, let’s say a human, let’s hope ‘human’. And our feelings towards another, for our fellow man, is what, more than any other feeling, thing, makes us ‘human,’ makes us what we are, whatever we are, and this, regardless of whether or not there is a god to account for our existence in any deeper sense.

But if none of this still sounds convincing for establishing the existence of some ‘evil’ sort of bad, this concept that has obsessed everyone from Delilah, of Sampson and Delilah holy-bible fame, to Michael, of Michael Joseph Jackson king of the pops fame, then maybe that’s just because it can’t be established without some possibility of an exterior reference point, some notion of some thing, or being, something, beyond this life that would make bad real, really real—an exterior reference point that would qualify, and certify, certain behavior in this life here on Earth as bad, behavior to be avoided for fear of the consequences after death. If this exterior reference point is indeed necessary for this, then we better damn well start believing in it, at least as a possibility, for otherwise, all ‘hell’ will certainly break loose, or for non believers, let’s say: a veritable shit storm will certainly hit home. And the weak will be the first ones blown away. As usual.

Check to see what the markets are doing

“At least as a possibility” I said. As a fact though, as far as fact goes, this afterlife, afterexperience, whatever you want to call it, is impossible to know before death, one way or another. It’s like that. And you can forget the likes of Stephen Hawking and other awe-inspiring, stupefying scientists who would try to make you believe in things that man just can’t understand.

For Hawking, our existence, life, all that is, will, and can ever be; all that is, will, and can ever be known, is all wrapped up in an all inclusive way into what we commonly call the universe. (Note that we are not using the more reasonable, or modest term ‘known universe’. For Hawking, everything is known.) And the all-inclusive nature of the universe described by Hawking shows, according to Hawking, that the universe, and our lives within it, can exist without an exterior cause or reference point, that is to say, without some god or some kind of afterlife or experience of whatever kind after death. However believable his scheme of things may seem using our formidable means of understanding, the mathematics and the science at our disposal, it still remains nothing more than ideas or impressions experienced by our consciousness in this what we call life. In effect, this ‘reality’ of his, however complete and absolute Hawking can make it seem, is limited to this consciousness of ours in this so called life we live. But as many a philosopher has said, using simple logic, it may all be an illusion—or if not an illusion, one should not, at the least, be drawing absolute conclusions about what we can or can not know—about anything, in any life or time—without having an exterior reference point to know/validate it from. And as logic would have it, one exterior reference point—should it exist for you to benefit from—would need another in which to judge it from in turn, ad infinitum. So just drop it. You can’t use physics, science, mathematics, no matter how complete your scientific scheme or theory seems to be, to speak about something outside of or beyond our consciousness. However ingenious Stephen Hawking may be as a scientist-mathematician and, once again, however all-encompassing his scheme depicting our universe (the extent of our reality), may appear to be, he is mistaken on this point. He is not a genius about everything, and everything would seem to be a minimum prerequisite when questioning whether or not our mind is capable of drawing absolute conclusions about all that can be known and all that can be, particularly given the fact that death³, the unknown, must be factored into the equation, no pun intended.

At this point it is appropriate to question the emotional quirks, or cracks, in Hawking’s intellectual ‘omnipotence’, his ‘omniscience’ on the subject of existence, his denouncing of a possible part to be played by death, the death of our consciousness in this life experience, his renouncing of any possibility for any post-life existence, experience, phenomena of whatever sort, and of course his renouncing of any form of ‘god’ along the way. As I said, the more normal position to take on the subject would be one where we admitted, given the limits of our psycho-biological makeup—which is responsible for our capabilities in respect to consciousness and awareness—that either position is absurd: that there being a god or some explanation for our existence after death or there not being a god or some explanation for our existence after death. Both situations are absurd: our existence, being—anything—without a cause is absurd (and this includes Hawking’s self contained universe) or, equally as absurd, is a god, an ultimate being as a cause or explanation for our existence, for if there was this god, then where did this god come from?, who created him?, and so on, ad infinitum. Given this impossibility to make sense on such a matter why would someone as intelligent as Stephen Hawking take such an absolute position on the subject?

Well obviously he is coming from a world of science where one tries to explain what is happening around him but more than this—much more than this—he is coming from a life dedicated to the “theory of everything”, whereby you try to explain, in one theory, in even one equation…well, everything. This leads to, at least in his case, one trying to explain the limits of our knowledge and existence in an absolute way, to an absolute extent. In so doing, it almost naturally follows that he would play God and try to explain things which just can’t be understood, that is to say, explain not just those things we perceive while alive with the consciousness that goes with being alive, but also potential phenomena or existence beyond death, those things outside of or beyond our consciousness, which is diametrically in opposition to logic, or in plain language, totally absurd.

Also, to the extent that Hawking is challenging the traditional conception of a traditionally conceived god, whose punitive measures for non believers are legendary, he would appear to be throwing caution to the wind—to say the least. But in his personal case this is easy to understand. It is not hard to imagine that a man who has been stricken by a crippling disease and confined to a wheelchair for the greater part of his adult life feels that he has every right to challenge god, especially a god who is typically conceived of as being so great, so ‘big’, so understanding. Could such a god be so small as to smite one of his humble creations to the point that he not only cripples him in his life on Earth, as he has done with Stephen Hawking, but would also condemn him to ‘hell’ after death—all because the poor guy refused to believe in his questionable existence? I think it perfectly understandable that Stephen Hawking, given the pathetic physical condition he’s in in such worldly respects, pushes his science to its improbable conclusion and tells god to “take that”, his best shot. He knows god’s big enough to take it. And, and, it all makes him look so ‘provocative’ to us.

…if we can’t master bad? I leave you with the following response: the “Coming to Terms with Bad” art works, my dead-end statement on, expression of, if not contribution to, the subject.

Essential Footnotes:

¹ The transcendence in question here is somewhat of a novel concept: it does not result in an extension or completion of the self which is normally the case, but to the contrary, in a regression or diminution of the self. The transcendence is in the form of a primal reaction taken by the mind to regain a cohesive self, or at least, a manageable impression of it. In effect, to the extent that cohesion is maintained, its only interest (positive quality) is base self preservation. It is to the extent that the bridging effect of this reaction equates with relief, or a liberating sensation, albeit, only from something far worse, that it equates with transcendence. The experience has for final result, has for its bottom line, a ‘negative transcendence.’  The individual is a new person indeed, but one catalyzed into a lesser self, one lacking the qualities and/or constituents of a normal well balanced person, who can grow, explore, go where it wants to go without fear and the mental suffering resulting from fear. In the pathological case at hand he takes on a form that can be qualified as less than ‘human’, one which may best be described as bestial, given the opprobrious nature of the transformation.

² On matters of self identity, the ‘self’ (your being in the most absolute sense), committing an idea to action—going beyond an idea of oneself to actually acting on the idea—is decisive, definitive, conclusive in its realization, its ‘concretization’. I think, by the way, as a nice little poetic afterthought, that this is what Melville was referring to in Moby Dick when Ahab exclaimed: “Hark ye yet again—the little lower layer. All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event—in the living act, the undoubted deed—there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask!”

³ Psychologists and other human-science scholars recognize death—man’s awareness of his own end—as being one of the principal ‘realities’ that conscious man realizes, and this realization is fundamental in the formation of his identity, his ‘self’,  in the formation of his very being—to the extent that any being, as opposed to thing, can exist and be understood. Extent, to the ‘extent’ that any being can exist and be understood, is the key—because death prevents us from knowing ourselves and from understanding our existence entirely. In effect, the limitations and/or unknown facet of the ‘self’ inherent in the concept of death is at the base of all that is essentially man: his sophistication, his complexity, but also his mystery and/or problematic existence due to the unknown.

Do I have to paint a picture for you? Do I have to photograph the evidence exhibits of the Defense?

If you won’t listen to me, then listen to yourself. Don’t let the classic psychological reaction of denial get the ‘best’ of you. When it gets to the point where you are integrating the act of hurting yourself, physically or psychologically, trying to assimilate self-harm in order to live with yourself, only one conclusion can be drawn: you’re in a bad way. And you, me, we are the society we make up and it would seem evident that our society is on an irrevocable path, out of control, doing ever greater injustice—read harm—to us (to the individuals in the name of individual liberty I guess) and this irrevocable, out-of-control path that we are on is leaving no apparent clue, as of yet, as to how we can defend ourselves against it. Even if we see that something, something, is wrong, we resign ourselves to what we sense as inevitable. And worse, if our denial mechanism is sufficiently clever, we can even make a ‘decent’ life of it…for some time anyway.

Somewhere along the line we have identified being bad as being the future

Somewhere along the line we have associated being bad with the future, as being the future—and the future is a mental construct that the mind can not deny, can not deprive itself of. In effect, the mind can not conceive of our existence without situating it in time, without recording our passage from the past towards the future, as identified by the changes it perceives in our environment. Stephen Hawking is right about this much if this is what he has in mind when speaking of time lines and arrows of time.

So what does this all mean? : It means that somewhere along the line we have come to think that being bad is being ‘in’, ‘hip’, ‘modern’, and that at this point, not only do we want it (to be bad), but—if the laws of physics are correct—it can’t be otherwise, it’s beyond our control!

So, where does this all leave us? : It leaves us coping as best we can, lumbering on…tottering, leaving a sense of balance farther and farther afield, replaced by an ideal—which is nothing more than a perversion. We go on—drag ourselves along—from bad to worse, as long as it lasts, till we can no longer go, are sufficiently dead, and a new life can take hold. Here is my contribution, my effort, at coming to terms with bad.

IMPORTANT : For the more ‘technical’ explanations of the “Coming to Terms with Bad” work, refer to “The More Technical or Art-specific Explanations” section at the bottom of this page.

view-from-living-room2016
This as well as all other photographs worked with an ancient version of Microsoft ® Paint.
Version 5.1 (Number 2600.xpsp_sp3_qfe.130704-0421 : Service Pack 3)
Copyright © 2007 Microsoft Corporation

Just what we need, that’s what we all want to believe: But as I said in the accompanying essay: art certainly isn’t about the talentless type of photography we see today: slick Photoshopped pics and the seemingly inexhaustible stock of snapshots cluttering up so many silly galleries, gawked at by so many wannabe artists living in the FaceBook-Instagram-selfie-narcissistic-crapola world. And now me… Jesus.

Decidedly, I’m of the mind that this work is bad. But don’t take my word for it: The eminent psychoanalyst Erich Fromm, already back in the early sixties, said that people who had taken up this snapshot craze, are a perfect example of the hoarding proclivity (a primary sympton of pathological alienation), which is thoroughly documented in psychology. Take the tourist for example; the only thing he thinks to do is accumulate pictures. But in doing so, he never lives the experience itself. Today this pathology is worse. In the Facebook-selfie world, the narcissism that is inherent is cronic, acute, rampant. The life experience is concentrated almost exclusively in the poor person’s thinking of himself, and himself alone. Unfortunately though, the life experience that he is so longing for, to transcend his lonely self, totally alludes the person.

inanimate-objects-wdtk1996
Photograph made right by Microsoft Paint.

Animate objects: What Don’t They Know? Look at them! as if they knew something in the first place, to wit, to wit… A brief survey, the lay of the land. Looking out the glass, nothing more than molten sand. Them! as opposed to poles and posts of course, poking their heads out the sand, or whatever we did to it, transformed, or rather concretized, sand, and the rest that goes with it, that is to say, gravel, and water—hardened (read CONCRETE dim wit), or, or, sprawling asphalte-laden earth under foot…which amounts to the same thing: it is hard on us all.

Street signs going up, blowing up—in your face!…urban thoroughfares running down, run-down, and whatever parks there are run over, bulldozing over anyone at rest, Keep Off The Grass sidewalk detours, paved arteries as well, as badly as, might as well be clogged arteries of a massive—and hysterical—heart attack patient for all that matters. All bad thoughts, all that there. But health matters, both cardiac arrest and mass hysteria are number one in the hearts and minds, respectively, of this organization of people here, this megapole. Bright lights, as in people at their best—poleaxed. Only two left standing, of flesh and blood, a man and a woman…to go about their business—or what they do best.

“Coming out of it now, are you?” After considerable reflection, but not long after running head-on—into a wall (metaphor) the equivalent of a ‘dead end’ but was really, literally, a metal bludgeon (entered as evidence, exhibit number 4). Who in the world?! The handyman? No one in particular? Or it could have been that type of guy, there, the laborer, covered in dirt, a post hole digger, with his machine, with an engine, with little other effort, who did it, with little or no reflection, took up the task, committed the idea to action, did the deed, crossed over the line, went too far if you will—buried, cover up (just below the surface), resurrection—from just below the surface—sometime in July, no air co, back home from his space, his office pen as he is wont to say, so it was one weekday evening or another, in front of the set (after yet another warm beer—and daily news fit), the knot head had to ask: What do they know?

largest-tree-in-costa-rica2016
Photograph made great with Microsoft Paint.

Life? You have to understand Retriever: the dog almost died—in the jungle here, and I, I could see it in his eyes. And not abruptly, as I could make out, but with time for the idea to sink in, in his modest-sized head of a dog, and ruin his insouciant, his innocent, his life of a dog, or dog’s life as we say. Fearless. I think the problem is with me.

Have you ever almost died? Try it sometime. You must dramatize to get your point across—obviously. You exagerate, do you? Really? Tough to do in the face of such extremity, that is death, four-legged animal with questionable intelligence or not. My idea?—I’m outta here! Every animal for himself, as it were; as death would have it otherwise. Such an out-of-your-skin, skin-chilling realization that seizes you, for the first freaking, shuddering, take-you-totally-by-surprise time in your life. Man’s best friend. Retriever, go for it, have at it—he just don’t get it… Bare your teeth if that’s how you see it. Jump at the jugular. But the beast before us was small in comparison, inconsequential in hindsight. The real hell here was that we were just plain lost.

Not to trouble you anymore than that but, what I, I, took away from this experience was that it makes up for bad, evil even, for our bad self—a hell that we got to know, got to know on some level, that we got to retrieve from some level, gotta have, if only to keep an eye on it, keep it under control…or to keep us whole?

Corrugated Tin President2016
Photograph worked over with Microsoft Paint.

Like magic:
The American Psychological Association has taken care of thatthey simply removed it from its list of mental disorders.

It depends on how one judges mental illness: The emminent psychoanalyst, Erich Fromm, in his seminal work The Sane Society points out that there are two ways to consider whether or not a certain behavior, or condition, is to be considered normal, as opposed to a form of mental illness:
1) Does it meet the criteria of that which competent psychologists commonly consider to be normal?, or 2) is it behavior which, however bizarre or seemingly harmful, is commonplace in the society?, in which case, it may be considered normal. The only problem here, with this latter approach, is that many documented examples can be given where an entire society can be said to be crazy, mentally ill. Decidedly, just because something is common does not mean that it is a desired condition, or ‘normal,’ where mental health is concerned.

Pedestrian Scene2016
Photograph enhanced with Microsoft Paint.

Oh, this is not bad? ! Trying to balance the composition by distributing like colors, like-minded loud colors, in symmetric fashion is no great feat; might even be considered a sellout—on the cheap. Introducing elements to highten the interest of the picture such as transforming the sidewalk is cheap and changing the lowbrow, pedestrian, life-protection poles into light beacons is cheap, especially cheap—and too, should be rethought through. I’d kick that dog in the ass.

Mindless maybe. Mind, or total lack there of, must be the key. The whole idea—as if the idea were unheard of—is this: How can one be pure? Good god, how can one be pure? How can one be sure? The dog, already crapola in his conceptualization, has taken a dump where others must walk (there’s a law against that), where they walk absentmindedly, or mindlessly rather, along. There’s no law against this though—just their own conscience, should they ever come across it, and it, god forbid, with this strange idea collide.

Sailboat2016
Photograph reworked with Microsoft Paint.

Pleasure Boat: Forbid, Forbad, Forbidden. It’s so-so at best, not bad, so damned something else—or another. No, it is bad, that sea horizon cascading down the way it does. If it were real though, it would not only be not bad, it would be phenomenal—but it’s not—real. If anything, it makes you feel nothing. Attentive?—the surly, burly ‘marina cleana,’ employed for the comfort of others—to no avail—the mean slop ejected from the machine (lick your finger and hold it up to the wind), not to mention the iconic, mythical sail, the world over. Billowing.

A travesty of the human spirit—that ragged (Xyz /\) piecemeal thing shaped out of something or another, some kind of fir, or pine tree branch, or arrangement thereof, some kind of mass, anything but right (look for yourself), anything but light, conducive to flight. And whatever’s solid—that would be on shore—usually way upstream like solid oak, unseen like the forest for the trees…or the sea bed below, or the open seas, or the sea period for that matter, which is, after all, the matter at hand… Sinking. The whole chunk of a boat, “yacht,” cut out by hand, from the office block on land, taking a leak, the restrooms are private, on higher ground as with their lives, upper deck, the rigging—all inspired by a self-righteous, infallible (read rigged), plan, which isn’t necessarily bad either—as if you care, would care…for who are we to say?

Tourist Trap2016
Photograph altered with Microsoft Paint.

You may notice ‘your eminence’: our eminent wise man of theoretical physics and of our otherwise—if not for his wisdom—unfathomable universe, the genius, the terribly wheelchair-confined bespectacled doctor, Dr. Stephen Hawking; our hero rising to his feet and miraculously marching forth (foreground, bottom-left) toward the hordes in his awe-inspiring study of mass and force, or more precisely: in the study of the popular masses and the pointless laws governing their attraction—to tourist attractions, or rather distractions. Thumb up. Like. An engineer with a selfie stick. Nothing by itself has ever amounted to much.

2016
Photograph worked with Microsoft Paint

No civilization has lasted forever. Nothing, for that matter, has lasted forever. Whether it be due to decadence or entropy, everything comes to an end.
Is there any reason to believe that, given the socio-psychological dynamics that govern us and our society today, that a final limit to our self-destructive tendencies can one day be expected to be drawn? Without our civilization coming to an end? As usual.
What a shame that the world’s most ‘aware’ people—this means you—just can’t take their awareness a step further, one based on an awareness of the inherently destructive quality of certain extremist tenets/tendencies on both the right and left, admit their personal shortcomings, and humbly try to find a concerted, honest compromise.
Unfortunately, for this to come about, one may have to undergo a radical psychological transformation; but such a transformation is almost always reserved to a “traumatic” experience whose result is most always negative. In effect, the affected person may be sufficiently “cracked,” if you will, allowing him to see/feel such important issues as we are talking about from two otherwise polarized perspectives—and agree to a necessary compromise—but this “may be” is usually not the case. Indeed, it’s a little too much to expect a situational procedure in our society whereby the people be cracked, and this, in a way favorable to the desired outcome. Conclusion:
It’s only going to get worse, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Blue Wild Flower2016
Photograph worked with Microsoft Paint

If we can’t deal with the enemy that is within… It goes as deep as each person being guilty of not understanding that a big part of his problem—rather than being the problem of a deficient government or calloused “establishment”—is the problem of just being alive. Psychoanaysts refer to this simply—though it is not simple—as the “existential problem”. Just being alive is a problem. From the moment we leave our mother’s womb, our organism senses anxiety. We are cut off from what our organism senses as its whole. We no longer feel whole. Some people never recover from this (emphasis on the this), not to mention our more ‘apparent’ problems of having, or not, parents who ensure our psychological and material needs as children—who see that we are loved, have enough to eat, who see that we study in school to ensure for ourselves employment and our ability to manage our general affairs later in life, etc., etc., etc.

Bad. At what level of disharmony in society will we feel that we have figured it out? If we can’t correct ourselves, deal with the enemy within, we will have to find a scape goat, an enemy exterior to what we see as ‘me,’ as being us, exterior to what we view ourselves to be. Historically, this takes the form of another country. With this the parameters are larger, greater, and more unwieldly, but it may be a facility-solution for one or another participant nation—typically because the real problem is too difficult to understand, or at least too difficult to communicate in an understandable way across the society, and exponentially so when considering the multiple societies that are involved. Result:
It’s only going to get worse and there’s nothing we can do about it.

the-projects-outdoors2016
Photograph helped out with Microsoft Paint

See here! I introduced the blue sky, as bright and blue as it is, as a principal object, then the clothes on the telephone pole line as another principal object, contrived, and the enhanced, artificially colored grass in the bottom right as yet another principal object, or feature. “Fair enough.”

At this point I asked myself what could still be done to add to the interest of the picture. I decided to shorten the biggest clothes line pole, which before this, exited the picture in the foreground. This creates a strange effect but the length of the pole was almost impossible to decide on: I had to achieve the optimum balance with the other created objects. Seemingly countless adjustments were tested. Throughout the night—was really getting on my nerves—finally at five or so, just before daylight, the solution came. Surprisingly, the solution came by moving the small, round bright white object—with a dimple—that can be seen close by to the left of the pole more to the front in relation to it… This is an insult to your intelligence.

Bedroom Scene2016
Photograph Worked with Microsoft Paint.

The brute, it’s like in a film—we know that they’re the bad guy, what’s bad in all this (this is not a question). The Weak on the other hand, they’re less obvious to put a finger on, an accusatory finger. These people who were picked on too much on the playground when they were kids—or whatever the reason for their weak character and spitefulness today—these are the types who come up with ideas like “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

In the waiting room to heaven, or well before, on the day of their birth; or well after, on judgement day, or… They can rationalize anything, absolutely anything. Note however, that anyone with an emotional problem, with his head ajar, whether he be of the weak or strong personality type, is able to rationalize whatever, anything whatever, whatever it takes to save face, his heart and soul, his most intimate ‘self,’ his big fat ass, and this, however meaningless such effort and intentions would seem, given his thoroughly meaningless existence. We are all guilty.

Felt-it2016
Photograph reworked with really old version of Microsoft Paint.

A big, bad, basketball man: “As bad as I wanna be.”
How far does bad go? From externalized thanatose to internalized suicide: consider the fact that man get’s something out of all this, if not outright pleasure, a reduction of inner suffering.
“It’s all good.”

Beach in Borneo2016
Photograph made great with Microsoft Paint.

Bad taste isn’t any big deal is it? Nobody wants to be number two, certainly not ‘inferior’. Students for example, or young people in general perhaps, who have no money—not yet anyway—react by defending a life without money—manifest a faux poverty as if it was something to be proud of. Why poke holes in pants, your threads, thrash gashes in your jeans and lay bare your knees? Is this intelligent design? Is it chic? Does it come from philosophy 101, from some adverse reaction to some introduction to esthetics? It’s like… What it really shows us is what people don’t understand about themselves. Students and their fashion statement, no big deal; but as for veritable sociopaths, such a misunderstood psychological complex run amuck can be quite a strain on society.

Down There's The Sanctuary2016
Photograph enhanced with Microsoft Paint.

Bad ass? Taking a magnifying glass to ants—just plain mean! Their miniature parade—your sandwich, your picnic in the grass. Nature or nurture? I’ve been enlisted. And even if you ain’t perfect, your enemy ain’t no better. You fight back. Your self preservation instinct must prevail!

And speaking of self preservation:

The competition between the actors in the market place force them to gamble. Should an actor decide not to take chances, he forfits his chance, to others, of making the right decisions—of ensuring/increasing his capital and assets, of ensuring/gaining positive position in respect to others, and thereby forfits his chance of ensuring his survival in the market place.
There will be losers of course, but make no mistake about this: you have no choice but to take chances. If you remain out of the process, you are sure to lose out, sooner or later; you are sure to be left behind, to be left helpless—and eliminated by your competition.

The same is true for the financial markets, and manifests itself in speculative bubbles, which add to the stakes—that are already high. The same is true with nation states, manifesting itself in plays for hegemony: nations are ‘obliged’ to colonize other peoples, sensing that if they don’t do it, their enemy will… which would come back to haunt them in the end. Thanks for playing along.

tailgaitin2016
Photograph reworked with a primitive version of Microsoft Paint.

Know this but what if? A great amount of injustice—and suffering—to our fellow man can be perpetrated by one who feels life isn’t fair, isn’t fair to him—who feels he has a right to strike out, even when it involves others in his path—stink in his wake—and if you truly think like this you are likely to feel little if any of the suffering to others that is a result of your bullshit. This is what is meant by sociopath, or psychopath (the difference is only a question of degree).

But, what if: you lose this excuse you’ve been using which has it that life is unfair to you? And what might cause you to lose this excuse? Regardless, should one lose this excuse—whatever the reason—he would begin to feel, for the first time, the pain inflicted upon others. And that would be bad.

Trail Head to That2016
Bad photograph made worse.
Technique: Microsoft Paint computer graphics tool.

It all depends. How many times have we heard that? You say you have something to say, good, a picture is worth a thousand words, great, but… It depends what we mean by a good photograph to begin with. Erich Fromm, eminent psychologist and psychoanalyst, in reference to alienation in modern man, had this to say about photos in his seminal work The Sane Society: “Indeed, the taking of snapshots has become one of the most significant expressions of alienated visual perception, of sheer consumption. The “tourist” with his camera is an outstanding symbol of an alienated relationship to the world. Being constantly occupied with taking pictures, actually he does not see anything at all, except through the intermediary of the camera. The camera sees for him, and the outcome of his “pleasure” trip is a collection of snapshots, which are the substitute for an experience that he could have had, but did not have.”

The single most significant impact of Facebook

The above-mentioned pathology is even more true today, in this Facebook-selfie era that we live, with its stupid collective consciousness, its superficial, narcissistic, insecure culture, its nonexistent soul and its vacuum of true humanistic spirit, and on and on and on…gotta update my Facebook page—so you can see my face. The single most significant impact that Facebook has had on society is that it has given people a medium, a pretext—and in their minds—the overwhelming right to be infatuated wih themselves. And last but not least, it has given them to think that others are as interested in them as they so sorrowfully are. It had to be a raging success.

Scooter2016
Photograph reworked with primitive version of Microsoft Paint.

Going from one extreme to another—where this means war:
Bad is bad, terrible is worse, abhorrent worse yet still—but what in the world can create a monster such as Hitler? The economy was bad, some poorly managed inferiority complex, his obsessing over the nepotism, reverse racism—as he saw it—practiced by the Jewish community, he was sexually frustrated…I guess there’s no end to the reasons to explain such a bestial creep.

And then there were the super creeps to the left, creeping up on him from the east—the communists. These guys wanted to squash any spirit any man might have of realizing his personal dream, of realizing his person, his very being. For a man healthy in mind and body—and I am not speaking of Hitler here, but of men in general—to think he has to extinguish all light within himself, all spirit, in the name of, and to the benefit of, some pseudo intellectual elite, some discontent working stiffs—often nothing more than dead beats—this must have driven a normal, responsible man with ambition, right out of his skin.
And in reaction to this, war it was, and has been ever since.

if-thats-all-paris-were2016
Photograph modified with Microsoft Paint.

“Can you dig it?” : The Undisputed Truth was the name of some folk-pop group, and wrongly so. Festivals. Sanitation snafus. What happens when… of the debate to come. Head-on response, rebuttal, insult, result, eternal conflict—on account of the instinct where you get off like that. Poor bastard’s more delerious than serious.

Please reconsider…

An Intersection for a gathering place?, for the “occasion”—of nobody’s choice. But not a roundabout, where everyone would come around as it were—rather than fly off the handle as with some newly acquired centrifugal force.  A square would connote stability, as in the community square. Whatever, and wherever these buttresses are, it’s not a ‘place’, though this is just a detail—anything to help get your bearings straight. What’s what is that it’s not a place for that. You can only do so much for them, after which, they should get run over—it’s part of larger, necessary population-management measures when in social situations of such explosive proportions. Please consider the reasons for—it’s a shame not to celebrate for that. It’s even criminal!

As in a song…reminds me of R. L. Burnside’s “It’s Bad You Know.” Understand that no one’s gonna’ think up—except perhaps the showman Ray Kurzweil—“It’s Better Now You Know”? Not on this fitfull “occasion.” That’s as much understanding as one can muster up under the circumstances.

Rows in Field2016
Photograph worked with Microsoft Paint.

An idle field, or cultivating the land in bad fashion: Like idle hands, or worse, minds. It’s true that if you got nothin’ goin’ on…that amounts to a hill of beans, which means somethin’—nothin’. Part of man’s natural list of afflictions is boredom. Question your roots. Just imagine! If you’re obsessional, as can easily be the case if you’re lacking in confidence, such simple things get blown out of proportion(s) and away in a storm–like dirt in a field, what little dirt there is, in certain lands, with weather conditions that aren’t suitable to certain crops, to certain agricultural techniques, and to certain famers who wouldn’t read a farm report even if they could.

Wooded Deck2016
Photograph worked with Microsoft Paint.

Lying might not always be bad: a lady lying about her age, a miracle or placebo if it’ll help, all the fun we have with the Easter Bunny or Santa—or lying to an enemy while at war certainly not… A white lie—it depends what it’s all about…

Lying out of self hate though, that is bad by definition, potentially the worst kind of lie, potentially your worst nightmare; but not for some moral or spiritual reason—but because your own personal self preservation is on the line. As common knowledge has it: lies grow, one upon the other, until they’re out of control. You don’t want this to happen with the cause that is bringing it all on, when the cause bringing it all on is self hate. Sign and date, preceeded by the mention, “Don’t I know!”

Coming To Terms with Bad2016
Photograph refined with Microsoft Paint.

Who wrote that book Crap Towns in England?
Though I would like to think that a person can be happy anywhere if he feels good within himself.

Diced up some leaves, checkered in some black around the window panes in the tree. Added some minced road to the sky as cloud cover, cobble stone. SUV, backing up, down the drive, the red Suburban rear end—and barely that to boot! Anything but that! Sky (not) blue! Why’s that? Why that’s not nice to see! For Christ’s sake. Take it from your gifted seer (only from books), a form of escape, from your page in an open book, from the darkened interior of a desolate suburban room. Upstairs, down the hall, at the end. Let’s all back up a bit. This ain’t what I thought it was.

Park in Paris

The “Coming to Terms with Bad” Work

This “Coming to Terms with Bad” work is about bad, which the name implies of course. In fact, as far as I’m concerned it not only deals with it, bad, it is bad—just because it’s photography, which is reason enough. I did it knowing full well that it was bad, just because it’s photography. [What you say?] You yourself might not be so jaded—but you might be missing the point. You might tell me not to be so hard on myself; that in fact, it’s not half bad. OK, it’s not bad in the ‘evil’ way referred to in the “Coming to Terms with Bad” article above, or in a sick way such as in the article “Just Plain Nuts” (On the home page; see reference to artist Bjarne Melgaard¹). That type of bad is for sure to be avoided, though unfortunately today it is not only not being avoided, it is being actively pursued, which is the main reason I decided to say and do something about it. In effect, this work is about coming to terms with bad.

My work, in its physical form are photographs, which I consider not only to be a lesser art but something which today has become a plague on the ‘fine’ art scene. Galleries have become an extension of the popular masses’ Facebook pages. Truly an embarrassment. I should know of what I speak; as a young man, when I was trying to find myself, my way in life, make sense of all that was before me and that all seemed so senseless, I felt the need to express something. But since I was no artist I picked up a camera to do the work for me. In a word: pathetic. I did my own dark room work however, did gallery prints, did OK work—for photography—and though it was better than the run of the mill crap you see today in this Facebook culture of ours, it was still just photography.

So I tell myself, well, I’m not OK with this shit; I need to say something about this ugly, sick form of ‘bad’ mentioned above, that unfortunately today is not only not being avoided, it is being actively pursued. And what more appropriate way than to go back to this pitiful medium of my past, photography, to say something about bad today.

However, the photographic images in this “Coming to Terms with Bad” work are meant to be well balanced none the less: they are bad, yes, but bad only to the point of “numbskull bad” also referred to in the Coming to Terms with Bad article. The ugly, inhuman sort of bad, I don’t do that. This is a major part of my art statement: that refraining from this sick sort of bad can be done if we are conscious of the problem, despite the odds¹ expressed in the article “Just Plain Nuts”:

“Somewhere along the line we have associated being bad with the future, as being the future—and the future is a mental construct that the mind can not deny, can not deprive itself of. In effect, the mind can not conceive of our existence without situating it in time, without recording our passage from the past towards the future, as identified by the changes it perceives in our environment.” So what does this all mean? : It means that somewhere along the line we have come to think that being bad is being ‘in’, ‘hip’, ‘modern’, and that at this point, not only do we want it (to be bad), but—if the laws of physics are correct—it can’t be otherwise, it’s beyond our control!

Tough odds indeed.

Once again however, despite the odds, I would like to say, I would like to think, that we—at least as individuals if not the society as a whole—can refrain from it.

So, that’s why these Coming to Terms with Bad photographs are not bad in an ugly way. But they are bad, which brings me to the other axis, or idea behind this work: that to the extent they belong to this seemingly boundless Facebook culture of mediocre photography, they are bad, period—the situation today is that bad.

Let’s all admit it.

In effect, art is certainly not about the talentless type of photography we see today: our slick Photoshopped pics (like mine in this exhibit—let’s admit it) and the seemingly inexhaustible stock of snapshots cluttering up so many silly galleries today, gawked at by so many wannabe artists living in the FaceBook-Instagram world. But don’t take my word for it:

The eminent psychoanalyst Erich Fromm, already back in the early sixties, said that people who had taken up this snapshot craze, are a perfect example of the hoarding mania (a primary illness of pathological alienation), which is thoroughly documented in psychology. The only thing tourists—in his example—think to do is accumulate pictures. But in doing so, they never live the experience itself. Today this pathology is worse. In the Facebook-selfie world, the narcissism that is inherent is acute, chronic, and rampant. The life experience is concentrated almost exclusively in the poor person’s thinking of himself, and himself alone. The life experience he is so longing for though, to transcend his lonely self, unfortunately, totally alludes the person.

However, as I said, it’s not all bad; the overall message I should want to convey is that life is both good and bad. Moreover, I think a person can be happy in life just about anywhere if he is happy within himself. To ensure a certain balance along these philosophical lines, I try to maintain certain positive aspects in the work, aspects that are nothing more or less than the A, B, Cs of any decent art:

  • Compositional balance: forms, dimensions, colors, etc.
  • Human significance, or importance of the theme, largely alluded to above.
  • A certain originality, both in its theme and technique.
  • And that it be defiant of any humanly imaginable mathematical model of any inspired mind, calculating intellect, however great, while yet—at the same time—be crying out its obviously triumphal glory to any and all an aching heart—to any, to each, to everyone of us—to all mankind!—and this, even for one so unfortunate as to be blind. Wow!

As far as technique goes, I am using an old version of Microsoft Paint to modify my images, an application that is very rudimentary as a graphic tool. This is not meant as an excuse for the ‘bad’ work (I am more than competent with Photoshop), the work is meant to be bad afterall; it belongs to photography in this dumb smartphone, Facebook culture of ours today. But, as I said at the outset, not too bad, not an inconceivable, unforgivable, evil brand of bad—just the mediocre bad of the aforementioned crap culture of ours today—mediocre indeed, with mediocrity being—now that I think about it—a form of bad so prevalent and pernicious that it may be as bad as the rest.

How can we be pure?
How can we be sure?

In final analysis, the question: is this “Coming to Terms with Bad” work, this exhibition, worth anything? If nothing else, at least it’s trying to mean something worthwhile, at least it was inspired by something worthwhile—namely this troubling idea that makes one ask: can a moral sense of bad exist in a purely secular world? The implication couldn’t be more grave: Thou shalt not kill; I don’t care; but maybe I should—even in this godless world of ours. How’s that? Well, maybe we oughta’ consider the premise expressed in the Coming to Terms with Bad article (see above).

So, at least the work is trying to mean something worthwhile, which is more than I can say for so much of this other stuff parading as ‘art’—in the noble sense of the term—where art, certain art movements, try to mean something, try to mean something humanly important. I’m really trying here.

Footnotes

¹ References to this sick sort of bad can be found in the article “Just Plain Nuts,” on the home page of the Day4thArt site (https://day4thart.wordpress.com/). In this article, see section referencing the artist Bjarne Melgaard.