The art object is an object whose objecthood claims an essence. All objects have an essence–no doubt about that–but an art object is one that knows its essence cannot be known. The art object always has another object in mind, unknowable; that is its essence. The art object is never itself, and although this is not a unique feature, the art object says it is not itself. An apple cannot say it is not itself. The art object points in many directions, the more the more successful the art object, although it does not point in all directions.

The art object does have an aim, its directions pulled magnetically toward it. This is what the critic and the art historian try to describe, although they usually just mistake their own direction with the aim of whatever particular art object happens under their gaze.

The artist does not need to be aware of the aim of her art object; history tells us this has never been the case anyway. She merely has some vague, inaccurate conception of what could possible be. Her art object is always virtual, even when it is “finished”. She always nags at herself about how she could have finished it.

For us, it is complete. The art object could never have been anything but what it is, staring back at us like death. We are so curious.

I’m Trying to Say “White” before “Guy” Instead of Assuming People Know I’m Talking About a White Guy

I catch myself all the time placing the race of my subject as a predicate unless he is white. My whole life has naturalized the assumption in my common sense, but over the last few years I have actively sought to say “white” when his or her race is white in my speech. It’s been hard, and embarrassing, not so much from the reaction of others, the same assumption being alive and well in them too; no, my self-awareness does this for them, as I trip over my words and go back to explain the other guy is white in the story. This can be a powerful device for disciplining normalcy, and not a bad thing on its own, but I suppose a subject has to have a certain openness to self-criticism in the first place. I guess I have that a little; it’s incredibly uncomfortable and wholly undesirable. I’m doing a mediocre job anyway.  At any rate the same mechanism inverted is already present in our minds–consumption rather than self-criticism being the target.

This already feels like a self-pat on the back.

I want maple floors.


This Thanksgiving I was in the bathroom during our family’s round robin giving of individual thanks to whatever. I find it hard to give thanks to much of late, as everything I have seems tainted by exploitation or meaninglessness. Everything I read tells me “just how bad it is.” We might go to war. Climate change is… out of control, likely to remain in that state effectively forever. Technology only accelerates its development with little collective knowledge of who controls it.

Things are open, though. The backlash against Trump’s figure is a good sign, although I think we focus too much on him as a person.

But perhaps now is not the time to be thanking anyone for anything, certainly not the current hand that feeds. Perhaps now the time is precisely for something everybody wants to avoid: anger. We should be angry; we have every right. Late night and comedy talk show hosts, mostly with liberal sensibilities, condemn violence of any kind. I suppose they’re right. Although I’d find it hard to condemn a woman for stealing through force to feed herself. Many United States citizens are this desperate.

What about destruction of property? Government property? Sure, I guess these kinds of acts should be condemned outright, only I guess I am not so sure. Violence to bodies, individuals, is something different. How much property do the wealthy need to consolidate before its destruction becomes the symbolic avalanche of revolution? Who believes anymore that a democratic solution is on the horizon?


It is obvious why Nazis crawl out from under their rocks, spreading cultural rot wherever they go. They have to be empowered. At first I believed, as many do, that the politics of identity have allowed people who spread “intolerance” to use it against those who fight it, by claiming intolerant speech needs to be tolerated like all other forms of free speech, but that opening was always been there in the 1st amendment. A Nazi has always been able to do what he has now effectively naturalized in common sense and speech; i.e. there’s nothing new about the 1st amendment. Thus, I feel safe to conclude that it is not simply the ability of one to exercise the 1st amendment in such a way, but Donald Trump’s empowerment of those who would that has changed the mainstream landscape.

Donald Trump’s buffoonery, and I specifically reference here his use of language, combines with the fact he really is dangerous to produce an ideal candidate for those eager to project their violent fantasies onto a figure. These white men, filled with resentment towards the recent movement in the country towards greater social permissiveness and their dwindling economic foothold, make easy targets for the republican party, now willing to do anything to remain in power. To be clear, I’m saying racism is the problem. But I think it may be even worse. Losing power does something in a person worse than instilling desire to win.

Does it not seem as though things have moved beyond a zero-sum game? The ethos of the republican party is no longer “I win, you lose”. It’s just “you lose,” and I don’t care what happens to me. Cynicism, the defacto model of the republican party, means you don’t believe in what you say. The problem is that if their paradigm wins through, reality will soon puncture it with a vengeance, and we’ll all be screwed.

Yet Another Desperate Post as Insecurity Only Grows

Repeating, imaginatively, the same horrible fantasy can be therapeutic; Freud taught as that. Although it seems as though right now our collective fantasy only pushes us closer to a complete undoing of our humanity. Fantasies have material effects. This thought occurred to me as, in my typical distracted state of mind–really how can we be anything but nowadays–a Dodge commercial laid its hooks in my mind. This particular advertisement actually contained a deeper, ideological one, although deeper is perhaps not the right word; it’s obvious what the producers had in mind. I tried to find it on YouTube unsuccessfully, so you, dear reader, will just have to trust my memory.

The commercial features all the V8 beasts charging through some desert, Utah we’ll say, at frightening speeds. The engines emit ungodly engine sounds, the rapid internal explosions rising together in a chorus of roaring American Thunder. But what really caught today’s ethos for me was when the camera shot cut to the drivers of, I think, the Charger. Anyways that detail doesn’t matter. The dress of the drivers was unmistakably from the roaring 20s!, a time when excess seemed as though it might grow into infinity. We all know how that belief turned against us, and WAR was the only thing that raised our country from economic nuclear winter (an apt metaphor considering our heinous acts of dropping nuclear weapons on Japan AFTER fire bombing like 250,000 civilians).

It is as if we want to destroy ourselves. Rest assured our president will most certainly take us into WWIII.

Open Access

It seems to me as though the debate revolving around open access is a debate between the symbolization of “free content” in a capitalist system and the incongruity of capitalism itself and intellectual property. The first thing we need to do is establish terms–effectively we have two terms implied by open access: there are closed access and open access journals. Closed access or course refers to the “pay” schemes of most scholarly journal, creating an industry.

The main difference between closed and open access journals is for me rooted in the difference between commodity and intellectual property. A commodity, as defined to us first by Karl Ponanyi in the sixties, is something that is produced for the purposes of consumption. A non-commodity, however, is something that is not produced, such as “land” or “labor.” As regards intellectual property, we must now ask the question: is intellectual property a commodity? As such, intellectual property is something, as far as I am concerned, not captured in the idea of something “produced.” Sure, intellectual property is a production process; it is produced, but not in the same sense as a bottle of shampoo.

Intellectual property is a process is more akin to an image created by the forces of collaboration that subject enters into than it is an opaque product. In this sense, there is no specific author to intellectual property, but a consortium of authors from which the “creator” of any said unit of intellectual property draws. Intellectual property extracts new histories from old facts. Intellectual property is most certainly about ideas, but it is not about the commodifiable unit of information that contemporary ownership schemes wish to assign to it.

Consider the genre of advertising, certainly a knowledge producing discourse. An advertiser would never think to include images and/or phases from a competitor’s imagery; this would result in a lawsuit. Scholarship, on the other hand, is full of direct extractions from those one would “oppose” or those who would seek to outdo one’s own scholarly vogue. At any rate, “quoting” ones adversaries in advertisement results in advertising for one’s adversaries. This is the definition of “bad press is good press,” the idea that any attention nowadays is good.

Open access seems natural to the field of intellectual property, save one caveat: legitimacy. Closed access journals are considered more legitimate than their “free” counterparts. This is a psychological category rooted in faith. It is through faith that subjects accept the idea that a paid journal is more legitimate than one that is unpaid. One problem I see emerging with this new paradigm: the process of legitimization through payment has or is dissolving with no alternative.

What’s the Point?

Dear reader,

I’m sitting here exhausted from the ills I managed to contract recently–a headache that won’t let me sleep, fatigue that won’t let me think, and nausea that won’t let me eat. I cannot do any of my three favorite things to do. And yet, although I find myself in an effective state of inactivity, I nonetheless find it easier to deal with my reality by attempting to distract myself with a confession. And we all know a confession is the most therapeutic act after transgression, but I am not sure if what follows amounts to a combination of the two.

I have found my thoughts wandering to despair recently, corroding the image I had of what earning a PhD would be. It’s a general despair, not one of any specific nature, but perhaps not a general one either. That would be inaccurate. It is a specific despair, but one I cannot recognize. I project things onto it. I project phantoms like hurricanes or despots onto it, but none of the projections capture my despair. Am I just going through some kind of middle-PhD crisis? I figure it can’t be that weak. But I figure it is that weak; just don’t take what follows as pure, as a representation.

I hate the idea of writing. I sat down the other day to work on an assignment due tomorrow, and on the wings of Mercury, I leapt over two hours of time and told myself that, despite no objective sign of any work done, I had nonetheless made progress in thought. Maybe I did; I don’t remember. But the idea of writing engenders in me such a ferocious repulsion of late, I have found myself compensating in so many pathetic ways, the above of which is an excellent example.  It’s like every time I think I’ll sit down and write, my compulsion turns on itself because we need the future if we want anything to matter, and there is no future when the worst has already happened. And it has–we only have to watch the worst unfold.

I am unsure if I even hate anything anymore. A friend of mine and I joked recently that even the coming apocalypse is boring. You know? The coming apocalypse in which humanity ends not in flames (well it will when we launch nuclear missiles against each other), but in a Wall Street scandal of such a scale due to its algorithmic reach that production simply cannot reproduce itself in the wake of its disruption. Supply chains will sputter to a halt. Then war. But everything is boring now, so the war will probably be a series of cyber hacks from nerds. Heroes don’t exist anymore.

I just don’t know if I should laugh, cry, scream in rage, or drool. Perhaps an emoji? That just doesn’t matter.


Blog Post 2 – Ethics

The Office of Research Integrity’s beginnings occurred in the 80s when Al Gore first raised the issue of falsification of data with several major institutes. The institute centralized the responsibility for reviewing suspected false public health research. It is interesting to note when one checks the credentials of the directors of this program, the integrity of this institution’s administration seems to be intact. As we have seen in many other government institutional appointments under our current administration, the appointee lacks any competence in his or her post. This of course will only occur as long as this particular institution does not threaten the administration’s efforts in an overt way.

At any rate the consequence for ethics and morality under such an administration is that the effectiveness of an institution such as ORI dwindles. Perhaps they still maintain some power over the aim of research, i.e. one can not falsify effective research. For an institution such as the EPA, its luck is not so great. Its purpose has been hijacked in the service of business. But it is these institutions that provide the very basis of our moral and ethical principles, so it is not just the undermining of morality, but of the very coordinates that provide for its emergence in the first place.

Terror and Buffoonery

The Nathan Bedford Forrest statue facing I-65 just outside of Nashville Tennessee crystallizes in its idolatry the ideology of white supremacy. The sculpture depicts a horse-mounted confederate general rearing his horse, wielding a pistol and a sword, typical of many confederate statues, but in an incredibly cartoonish style. Most confederate statues emerged from the neo-classical style, imitating ancient Greek statues in style and proportion (Washington Post), and most emerged during the Jim Crow era, and the Civil Rights movement (John Oliver). Before the statues embodied a false sense of patriotism that emerged from the change in meaning of the image of confederate leaders, i.e. from the embodiment of traitors to the embodiment of containers of American tradition, it was the hood that carried meaning for white nationalists.

I would like to suggest that the movement from hood to statue to the current backlash over their removal map onto three corresponding versions of disavowal introduced by Slavoj Zizek in his essay “The Totalitarian Invitation to Enjoyment.” Normal, manipulative, and fetishistic form his triad of disavowals. Normal disavowal regards the hood. It corresponds to the effectiveness of the mask (or in our case a hood) over the bearer in traditional idolatry. For example, a child may one day be disappointed to find out his father has been posing as Santa all along, but then he may have greater enjoyment adopting a position of faith or commitment to the ritual for his niece. The lesson of this tale, is that the symbol, the mask of Santa is of greater importance than the bearer. The hood gave white nationalists special powers.

The next form of disavowal is manipulative and it corresponds to the “elite” who supposedly “pull the strings” of the greater social population. This is where the erection of cynical statues enters the stage, for it is becoming common knowledge that they emerged not during the civil war as the defense of tradition argument would imply, but during periods of time when the social hegemony was in jeopardy. That is to say, the erectors of the statues clearly did not believe in the traditional ethos with which they associated their sculptures; they knew the effect was a rewriting of tradition to obscure the suppression of history. However, as we have seen, the second the statues come into question, southern elites and conservatives rush to defend the false tradition; they believe more than those they fool, their “base.”

The third form of disavowal corresponds to the direct embodiment of the object through the subject, which means that the subject is the direct embodiment of “the party,” according to Zizek. In our case it is white supremecy. This means that a white supremacist knows he is just a person like any other, but nonetheless considers himself to be made of something special. It makes sense in the age of hyper-individualism and far right explosions in popularity. Is not this the basic call to action nowadays? Do we not think of ourselves as just people, atomized individuals, while simultaneously the center of our own universe (social media)? And is this not the Nathan Bedford Forrest sculpture’s ethos—a multimedia ultra conservative memorial depicting a buffoonish clown, a terrorist-father, a source of authority and rebellion?


Slavoj Zizek. The Totalitarian Invitation to Enjoyment. Qui Parle. Vol. 5, No. 1 (Fall/Winter 1991), pp. 73-100

Nationalism, the future-past, and the new: two mission statements from my previous institutions

For my selection I chose the previous graduate school I attended for my MFA, University of Florida, and my undergraduate institution, Western Kentucky University. The first thing that stood out to me in comparing the two was the notion of nationalism. University of Florida’s mission statement has a nationalistic tone, hence “The Gator Nation,” and “shaping a better future for Florida, the nation and the world.” Western Kentucky University’s mission statement, however, does not, and is in my mind superior in breadth and content. Western Kentucky University prepares “citizen-leaders of a global society.” The difference in meaning and use of words between the two missions is striking, I believe, and marks an important subject up for debate right now: the efficacy of the state.

Secondly, I took notice to the relation time has to each statement. Florida’s ethical substance is the next generation. It is future-oriented. Western Kentucky’s is present in time. True, the university provides “lifelong” support to its faculty and students, but the subject is its current students and faculty, which of course can change. My undergrad “enriches” lives of those “within its reach,” again language suggesting spacial presentism. I guess I find this important, because the future-oriented mission could open the space for a morality of the future-past sort: “all this will have been worth it when things are better.”

One last thought: why do we need to lead and influence the next generation? Isn’t this a more complicated subject than the paternal implication above? Isn’t the new made apparent when the old mold doesn’t fit the new body?

Mission statement 1:

The University of Florida is a comprehensive learning institution built on a land-grant foundation. We are The Gator Nation, a diverse community dedicated to excellence in education and research and shaping a better future for Florida, the nation and the world.

Our mission is to enable our students to lead and influence the next generation and beyond for economic, cultural and societal benefit.

The university welcomes the full exploration of its intellectual boundaries and supports its faculty and students in the creation of new knowledge and the pursuit of new ideas.

  • Teaching is a fundamental purpose of this university at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
  • Research and scholarship are integral to the educational process and to the expansion of our understanding of the natural world, the intellect and the senses.
  • Service reflects the university’s obligation to share the benefits of its research and knowledge for the public good. The university serves the nation’s and the state’s critical needs by contributing to a well-qualified and broadly diverse citizenry, leadership and workforce.

The University of Florida must create the broadly diverse environment necessary to foster multi-cultural skills and perspectives in its teaching and research for its students to contribute and succeed in the world of the 21st century.

These three interlocking elements — teaching, research and scholarship, and service — span all the university’s academic disciplines and represent the university’s commitment to lead and serve the state of Florida, the nation and the world by pursuing and disseminating new knowledge while building upon the experiences of the past. The university aspires to advance by strengthening the human condition and improving the quality of life.

Mission Statement 2:

Western Kentucky University (WKU) prepares students of all backgrounds to be productive, engaged, and socially responsible citizen-leaders of a global society. The University provides research, service and lifelong learning opportunities for its students, faculty, and other constituents. WKU enriches the quality of life for those within its reach.