Monday, June 29, 2015

I Just Can't Even


 
Today is one of those days where I just can’t even with just about everything. Nothing bad is happening but it’s one of those you wake up out of bed and you know it’s going to be one of those shit days. And maybe you are making that happen for yourself because you are wishing, expecting it to be a shit day and when it reveals itself and proves itself to be a shit day you can’t even be pissed off because you and your shit attitude probably deserve it. Ugggggggggg. Monday. Anyways yeah, I can’t even be bothered with writing this post today so anyone who even gives a crap about reading this has to deal with my bad attitude. Please eject now if you don’t want to be in my perma shit waves or continue reading if you too are having a shit day and just can’t deal.

Here’s a list of things that are just so Uggg right now to me.

Art – Sorry but art is so blah to me right now. I’m looking, searching, hoping to find little gems out there and there are a few here and again but overall (specifically contemporary art) has been just so blah blah blah. I am not sure why that is, there’s so damn much of it that statistically this should be impossible but going to see shows in London and recently in NYC has been as fascinating as a drinks and hors d'oeuvres meet and greet. It all looks fine and acts fine but there is something so flat and pasty about it all. Maybe it’s the season. Summer spurns the blasé but truly, I wish someone was making a scene and passing around some vodka in a flask or doing body shots in some aesthetic and conceptual manner.

Reading – I just want to read a novel but I am shackled to theory and neuroscience. FML.

Sleeping – I have been having insane sleeping habits and this morning I was having crazy weird sex dreams which is very rare and it makes me feel very very nervous to go to bed tonight. Eeeek!

Drugs – Over it.

Smoking – Tried to quit smoking but then I just think about Joan Didion and then I just smoke.

Internet – It’s there but it seems very weirdly stagnant. I know that’s just me but there is something repulsive about it and plodding. I’ve never had that intense of a relationship to it but now it seems so catered and regular and obvious. Also all that checking in and checking up is a bit weary. I’ve never been one of those ‘let’s go dark’ re: the internet but yeah. It’s like a weird buzz button social numbing device and it just seems so pedestrian.

Phone – I hate my phone service provider. O2. Die, Die, Die.

Eating – Why have I never dated anyone that can just cook me food and put it in front of me and then I can clean the dishes after? Why? Where are you people?

Walking – Sometimes I just want to be put in a wagon and wheeled around. Not a wheelchair. A wagon, the ones with the wheel in front and two handles in the back. And then when I reach my destination whoever is pushing it can just dump me out.

Library – My personal prison. My personal hell. The only place I want to be. The agony!

What People Are Doing – I just don’t care about your show, your new project, where you have been, where you are going, what you did last night, who you are having sex with, who you want to have sex with, who you are not supposed to be having sex with, what you ate, what movie you saw, what party you went to. It’s not so much that I don’t care but if you care that I care then yeah, I don’t care.

Exercise – I feel like I am shrinking, like actually getting even smaller. It is freaking me out so maybe I should like run and lift things but then I’m like never mind, I’ll just sleep for another hour.

Thinking About The Future – There’s really just nothing to say about that.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Ohhh NYC...


 

I’ve been in NYC for about 2 weeks and returning to London today. It’s been a weird trip. A full trip. A busy trip. A too fast and too slow trip. While here I couldn’t help but do the comparison game of NYC vs. LDN. It’s such a trite thing to do but impossible to escape. With that in mind I will parley a few things about NYC that I may have not noticed so much before. These are good, bad and just I don’t know type of things. It’s not a measure of one place being better then the other but being away from something you once knew so well makes the return to it much stranger then anticipated.

The “What do you do?” question – That question, “what do you do?” is so different when asked in NYC then in most other places (perhaps not in LA). When this question is asked it is a form of vetting. It is basically a summing up of the other person and judgment of if they are valid, valued and or worthy of heightened or actual interest. It is asked in other places but in NYC it is more then a mere icebreaker. It is a network tool and it is constantly deployed to slice through people, conversations and social situations. Why is that? Maybe it’s because everyone is so damn busy and to be honest making new friends is not the m.o. in this town as one already has too many of those. This question is honest in its swiftness but it is also just the worst when it comes to being a human being to another human being. How does one get out of this four word social trap? Pretend your deaf or just be vague enough to seem fabulous, slightly rich or highly socially connected. If you are any of those things, congrats you’re in. If not, just silently sip yourself into a stupor and stay out of the way.  

Whitney Museum – Ummm yeah, this is the best museum I have seen for a long time and most certainly the best in contemporary/modern art in NYC. The current show, “America is Hard to See” is a stunner and full of consideration and nuance. The word that keeps popping to my mind and lips is the word ‘generous.’ It is generous in the way it presents the work and the building is generous in how it encourages and allows one to see the work. You don’t think about the building so much as you think and feel the space. That to me is the true success in the marriage of art and architecture. It enhances versus dictates. In addition, this building (designed by Renzo Piano) also has a respectful and tasteful populism with many and large outdoor vistas. Looking out from them and seeing mostly the parking garages and municipally used docks and lots it stings back to a New York that is disappearing. One that was gritty and unstrategic in its facade. Who knows how long that will last. In a few years time I’m sure it will be populated by bland avant garde gardenscapes and nouveau-riche condos but hey, I’ll take it for as long as I can. Truly, finally, NYC gets a museum that it deserves. (But honestly the admission fee should be much less and free for students).

Busy Busy Busy Bees – Everyone is insanely busy in NYC. I know people are busy everywhere but seriously, you are just busier here. Like a lot busier. It’s good but also a sign that capitalism is winning.

Food – I have eaten out all but two meals in the last two weeks and that is making me not swimsuit ready but hey it’s been really yummy. Mexican(ish), pizza, bagels, bubble teas, Chinese, Burgers, Hippie Salads, Wings, onion rings, Thai, Beer, Wine, Middle Eastern, Japanese, Korean, Italian, more pizza, you name it NYC has it and it is so good and it is way cheaper to eat out then in London. That’s a huge difference that I have noted before but this trip has made me even more aware of it. This is because the restaurants in NYC are reasonably priced to cheap and are super good. Also, the fact that most people have small apartments with even smaller kitchens, means going out to eat is the de facto meal norm. London’s restaurants are expensive to very expensive and although many are good the price is not worth it most of the time. Groceries there are very good (they don’t label things ‘local’ because basically everything thing is actually local) and less expensive so making food at home and having impromptu or planned dinners happen very often and with a casualness that is refreshing. Both are nice but for one who likes to cook and is a budget student, eating out every meal even in NYC adds up. It was worth it though. I am eating my third meal of pizza to bon voyage my trip and to tide me over till I return because I know there’s other pizza out there but it’s just NOT NYC pizza.

Single Life – Everyone I know is breaking up. Well that’s not true but returning home I got a big dose of catch-me-ups and many of those involved stories of heartache, unravelings and giant f-yous to former flames. NYC is a hard city for love especially if you are a woman and especially if you have goals and crap like that. Being busy, being driven is not a good bedfellow for amore if the other actual bedfellow has issues one way or the other about all of that. It hasn’t been all bad news on the love front though. Many friends are happily married and about to move in with their significant others and that’s all grand and all but yeah, NYC is the single, hooking up, it’s complicated town it has always been.

Scene – What’s the new art scene? What’s the new music scene? What’s the new party scene? Who are the new hot young things? What are the hot young galleries? Who are the cool artists? Who is cool? What’s new? What’s old? Answer: Nothing. I know 10ish months of not being here is too short of a time to truly judge this but the NYC scene is feeling stale and I think this has been for some time. Every year or so there is a new batch of kids from some art school from someplace that descends the city or there is a strange crew of arty weirdos that dress different, feel different and just pop things off, which can feel like a breath of fresh air or can be a cringy cliché, but regardless it’s something new to notice and to chitter about. This has not happened in the last year plus and maybe it’s because I’ve been away but yeah, things feel a bit off or flat lined at the moment. I have faith though. Hopefully in September when the kids have enough saved up to move to the city things will replenish and zing with new energy again.

Gallery Overload – There are too many galleries in NYC. Stop it. People. Just Stop It!

Fashion – I am so impressed and invigorated by NYC fashion right now. London is very self-aware in how it dresses. It is sort of like how NYC was 3 years ago (sports wear meets goth) but with an injection of raver and lots more sweats. The London look is tight and it is fantastic in its comfort and informing social solidarity but NYC is kind of killing it with its mix of styles and diversity of looks. Everything is okay to wear here and it’s more an attitude of wearing it that makes it look great then a certain oeuvre of style. Things I really liked seeing are cuffed or cut loose pants on guys to lower shins with high socks. Girls wearing very big but somehow comfortable looking shoes with tiny-tiny skirts or shorts. Khaki’s in that color or in shades of blue. Monochrome outfits that are slightly dirty with touches of color and linen being so easy breezy in all this heat. All I wanted to do is shop in NYC since it is so much cheaper but sadly for my condensed space life I am only returning with more staples of black and white. Oh to be able to have more then one suitcase of clothes would be a dream.

Beach – You can go to a really nice beach for the cost of one subway ride ($2.75). That’s truly amazing.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Home



I’m home. Or something that is called that. I am back in NYC for about two weeks and also New Jersey to my other home-home where I grew up and my parents still live. I have done the ‘going home’ thing many times for many reasons, mostly holidays and other life moment events but this time around it feels different, much different.

Living somewhere for a bit and having that place take up a place in your head (and heart) that feels closer to a ‘home’ vibe shifts the other homes and creates shadows and spotlights onto things that were once unnoticed or vague. I am having this feeling intensely at the moment. All this ‘being home’ and then being more home and then thinking about this other new home is a bit of a mind melt. Also it’s hot in NY/NJ so it really feels like one is melting a bit.

What makes a place home? I think it’s a feeling. A place can feel like home, a room can feel like home, a person can feel like home. It’s a feeling of peace, calm and belonging that is like a key-turn that allows you to feel safe and utterly comfortable. The switch of performing life goes off at home. You can be yourself. You can be private. You can be the you that you just are.

It is also the people. It’s the sharing of space, time, memories, meals, rhythms of movement that bind and tie and also synchronizes things and makes all this living a bit more bearable.

Home is transient and fixed depending on what it is you need from it. This is another thing about home. You can adjust and make it what you need and want it to be. There are limitations of course but there is so much power in how one conditions their environment via objects, space as well as the people we invest our habitation and habits with.

Why all this blah-de-blah about home? I am currently stuck in the thought of it because I am on this tiered cake of home on home on home. I am not sure what feels like home. None do but all do. This feeling is a bit nervous because it makes me feel like a balloon with a loose knot. It’s all fine but the process is a new one so a bit distorting.

Is it human nature to settle down and make a nest and be a part of a community and stabilize and grow roots? Is it human nature to explore and seek and be nomads of roving tribes that spread and expand and disappear? I think both are our natures but it depends on what type of human you are.

Balance. Home is balance, movement is balance, living is balance. Balance.

I don’t know what, where my home is at the moment. It’s all in the air, in a good way, it will come down soon and things will be as they should or need to be and in that there will be a sculpting of a new home vibe. But in this intermediate, suspended in the air state, I feel oddly lucky to be able to feel tenderness to so many places and to so many people yet still feel like the itch I have to move is valued and necessary. 

That phrase, that cheesy god damn awful phrase of ‘Home is where the heart is’ is so damn true.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Attraction



Wow, sorry everyone just totally forgot it was Monday yesterday. It was a bit of a weekend, no excuses but yeah, one of those time melts that just happens once in a while. Anyways, for the sake of getting something on here and also to segment my time well for an eight hour library day, I’m going to just blitz through some thoughts on attraction that I have been thinking about these past few days.

Attraction is a funny thing. It’s not just in ‘the sexual way for another’ that I am thinking about it but the larger scope of it. The ‘sexual’ aspect of it is something that cannot be separated though, as I think, that the bodily always sticks to the concept of attraction and desire.

Attraction can be directed towards someone you want to ‘be with’ be with but it can also be for friends, objects, feelings, experience, and for ideas. It is something that happens when there is something external to oneself and the proximity, need, want or curiosity for it draws you towards it or makes you adjust yourself in order to be closer or understand it better.

For the physical sort of attraction it is many times linked with the chemical. Smells, tingles, pumps of the heart, tightness of the chest, flutters in the stomach. It feels like something has been injected into your blood and brains and it is now apart of you. The focus of your attraction becomes a concept, and at times an idealization. There is something very animal about it and at times, depending on the degree of the attraction, you find yourself acting like a feral animal of sorts and doing things that are beyond your normal rationalities. This type of desire is exhilarating but also can be frightening as it is a form of possession that incites a lack of control.

Physical attraction is something that is many times mostly surface. It is nature, hormones and sexuality reminding you that you are still animal. The surface can be good though; a propellant into attachment and reciprocity with another, if that attraction is mutual, and it can go beyond the chemical swarms. But many times this is unbalanced, impulsive and short lived. It is addictive to some and scary to others and the syncing of it is often precarious and lacking in endurance.

Attraction for a friend has links to the physical but there are parameters that define and negotiate this. I believe that anyone who is friends with another in any meaningful way has some sort of sexual affection and impulse towards that other person. Whether that is ever manifested or not is another series of restraints and possibly repressions but I do truly believe this. I think this because through the affection and care one has for another and through feelings, experiences and closeness there is a warmth and trust that grows. This is a form of intimacy and a powerful form of it. The body is the site of this connection and to extend that in a physical way is natural, albeit definitely not necessary.

Friendship is an evolved sort of attraction in which there is someone that extends oneself and is a means of relaying oneself. This is done through the various things I noted above like experiences, conversations, time spent together, and meaningful things seen and shared. It is also the subtly of the mundane, the sharing of time that can be dull and stagnant but there is an accumulation which binds the highs and the lows. This attraction is mutual and it has degrees of development and scales of worth and need but it is one that makes us much less isolated and more complete in the living of life and the punctures, dramas, and repetitions of it.

Attraction to things, objects or ideas is another ballpark but the same field as the above relayed forms of attraction. This is when there is an inanimate, non-human (non-bodied), thing or concept that draws one towards it in its potential. The attraction is for the potential of the thing and the possible meaning associated with it. It is a thing of desire and to posses this thing means something. Or at least there is an idea/illusion that it does. This thing can be as simple as a bag, shoe or car. It can also be a certain branding of identity or an idea of self. It can also be a philosophy, a movement, a politics of self and the group in which this encircles. This type of attraction is at times simple but it is also one that is a form of entrapment as it has the potential to externalize the self. What I mean by this is that this action of wanting something external to oneself and the belief that this will enhance or transform the self is deluded as it lacks long term and meaningful reciprocity that is essential for generative attraction/desire. This is an endgame of sorts, which does have certain short-term benefits but in the big scale of things is quite shallow.

Maybe I’m being too harsh on the object/ideas thing. Maybe. What I do feel confident in though is the notion of the body and attraction and how through attraction there is a reminder of our nature as sexualized beings and also that this is healthy and necessary in forming ourselves. It is through shared experience that one can learn to better understand oneself and others and to enjoy and understand the situation of living that we are in. Attraction is a powerful thing and one that can unlock things, if you let it. It’s like a fire; it’s warm, bright, alluring but be wary as well because it can also burn. It’s getting warmer. Open yourselves up to all your attractions and follow them as far as you want.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Dissertation Presentation - Disruption of Desire


Oh My God! I just did my dissertation presentation and I am so relieved! For those who don't know, I'm in an MA program for Contemporary Art Theory at Goldsmiths (lolz) and one of the things we have to do/get assessed (aka graded) on is a 20 minute presentation on our research project/dissertation which we will hand in September. 

I have been in tunnel vision preparing for this, practicing it and overcoming my gigantic public speaking fears. Anyways. It's over! It's done! I'm not sure how good it was but I'm so happy to have it done with and it had positive response so yay! 

Anyways, with that in mind all I wanna do is jump up and down and drink a pint or four with some mates so instead of a post I'll share with you my little thing. 

It will change. I already want to focus my research more on simulation and the body but yeah, this was where my brain was at a few weeks ago. 

It's a crazy thing to extend oneself in a way that is small and measurable. To force oneself out of comfort zones, to articulate and potentially defend one's ideas is challenging and character building. I recommend everyone to go out on a limb once in a while. You may surprise yourselves and maybe even a few others. 

Till next week, hope all your smarties brains get bigger and that you do something you didn't think you could do. 

xx

P.S. It's long, 20 mins of talking is a lot of talking especially if I'm the talker. Also, it reads a bit funny because it was basically my cue cards so please excuse the lexical idiosyncrasies. 


Disruption of Desire

For my dissertation topic I would like to focus on the disruption of desire in the postmodern state, how mimetics impacts this and how this can be understood and evaluated through science, specifically neurology and the study of mirror neurons. I want to link these concepts and investigate how this is explored within contemporary art.

The goal of this is to incorporate new advances in science with theory and to see how this can evolve the way mimetics is discussed. My theoretical focus is desire and my three core thinkers to date are Alexandre Kojeve, Rene Girard and Jacques Lacan. Through the linking of these separate areas, I would like to explore how mimetics and desire impacts and effects subjectivity.

I believe that the biology of mimetic behavior is one that will further expand the theories of desire and I would like to use this to ground and evaluate the social conditioning of our contemporary state. I will do this by examining how mimetics and desire function in our construction of self and how that is disrupted and destabilized by external forces.

I will present the work of artists, Jordan Wolfson, Ian Cheng and Pierre Huyghe to focus this research within contemporary art and use their work to example how it reflects disruptions of desire and how they can be seen as imaginings, explorations and synthesizers for the concepts presented in the evaluation of mimetics, desire, and science.

I will show brief examples of their work at the end of this presentation but to begin I would like to present the structuring cores of my research. This will include a brief on the science of mimetics and theories about desire. I will then go into explaining how mimetics and desire are conditioned in the post modern state and why I feel it pertinent for there to be a greater dialogue between these various areas.


The first section I am presenting is an overview of the science of mimetics.



In 1996 there was a groundbreaking discovery made by the team of neoroscientists lead by Rizzolatti where mirror neurons and their functioning was discovered, to quote:

Mirror neurons are a class of neurons, initially found in the premotor cortex of macaque monkeys, that are activated both when a monkey performs a specific goal-oriented action and when it simply observes another monkey (or human) performing the same action. Premotor activation can be considered the neural basis of an intention to perform a motor act…

The discovery of mirror neurons should be seen as a new key in understanding perception, behavior and subjectivity as humans also posses them and it not only effects motor responses but other areas of the brain which control emotions such as empathy, pain, and fear.



What exactly do mirror neurons do? Mirror neurons are fired in the brain when an action occurs, such as grasping a cup, but they are also duplicity fired when this action is being represented, such as watching another person grasp a cup or seeing a video of someone doing this.

It has been evidenced in research that mirror neurons not only underpin action understanding, but they are also involved in the intentions of these actions.

With this it can be hypothesized that human beings are innately wired to identify with each other and that this process of identification can be cognitively explained through mirror neurons.

In addition, Garrels also speaks of the essential role of the mimetic connection in contributing to a wide-scale cerebral re-organizination of the brain, which allows for a co-evolution of complex social abilities in relationship to brain development.

This idea of the brain’s wiring being linked to mimetics is fascinating when thinking about how one’s subjectivity is formed. This is an especially daunting idea when related to research done by Metzloff and Moore in 1977, which showed that infants learn via imitation immediately from birth - as early as 42 seconds old.



This innate instinct to imitate is extremely impactful on how we develop both cognitively and socially as one of our primary means of communicating is through expression and the understanding of these through imitation. When we witness a facial expression and comprehend it as an emotional state, we don’t do this through inference. Rather it is understood through the meaning of other’s emotion. This is termed as a form of “simulation” and an embodiment producing an ‘as-if’ experience by a shared body state. It is the shared body state that enables direct understanding.

Further in this vain, developmental psychology has shown that the mind begins as a shared mind. In this way mirroring mechanisms and embodied simulation are key components of what makes our mind this shared mind.




Quoting Leander, “Mimicry increases people's pro-social orientations in broad and generalized ways engendering a fundamental shift in the way people see themselves in relation to others. People who are mimicked become more agreeable and responsive to others' wants, and they also become more attuned to their mimicker's viewpoints on social issues. This suggests that mimicked individuals also become more accommodating to others' expectancies for behavior—including any stereotyped expectancies that they assume others to possess.”

This impacts many socializing factors including stereotypes of gender and race, which is often perpetuated by unconscious repetitions of mimetic behavior.

Socializing through mimetic behavior is in psychology called affiliation, which is the desire to be accepted by one’s social group even if behaviors negatively impact oneself and others. Remember this term affiliation as it will be a recurrent concept related to understanding desire.

Again to quote Leander, “individuals who are pursuing affiliation often use stereotypes about themselves to regulate their social behavior. Mimicry functions as a kind of “social glue” that brings and keeps people together.” This can be beneficial in many ways but I believe that this can lead to a destabilization of the self and it is done through this desiring impulse.


Now onto the next section which is on the theories of desire and how they link to mimetics.

There are many thinkers that focus on mimetic theory but at this stage in my research the three core theorists I have begun to focus on are Alexandre Kojeve, Rene Girard and Jacques Lacan. All three have distinct yet linked perspectives on mimetics and desire and I will present some of their ideas to give a foundational base on my current research areas and how this can be linked to the science of the brain and how it impacts subjectivity.



Let us being with Alexandre Kojéve who can be viewed as an anticipator of the notion of mimetic desire. In his Introduction to the Reading of Hegel from 1947, he introduced the notion of the ‘desiring I’ as being a void that is filled by positive content from the negation and destroying of the desired non-Self and its assimilation.

He emphasized the difference between the desire of animals and humans with the main difference being that human desire is mediated by the desire of others.

According to Kojéve, the desire that defines the human condition is the desire directed towards another desire and it is only through this type of interaction that self-consciousness can be achieved.

To further understand Kojeve I will introduce the thinking of Rene Girard who is an inheritor of Kojeve’s notions of desire. Girard speaks directly of mimetic desire, and stresses that from this comes aggression and violence which characterizes our species.

In relationship to my area of interest though, Girard’s concept of appropriative desire has the most resonance and can be linked to affiliation.




For Girad appropriative desire is the compulsive tendency of humans to imitate others’ desires, so that what is really desired is what others desire. This links directly back to Kojeve. For both, the intrinsic value of the objects of our desire is not as important as the object itself.

I would also like to emphasize that Girard is very clear in drawing a distinction between desire and appetite. While appetite is the outcome of instinctual drives, desire not only requires an object, but also another individual, a mediator.

Kojeve and Girard’s notions of desire relate to the affiliative tendencies produced by mimetic behavior and can be seen as a conditioning structure that these desires manifest and become targeted.

To desire another’s desire and to be the target of others’ desire, means to gain social recognition. This is substantial in thinking about how mimetics functions and what is creating this process.



Lastly I will touch on some of Lacan’s thoughts on desire and suggest that there might be a greater need for expansion within established theoretical discourse in light of scientific research.

Lacan’s notion of desire was expounded in his first two Seminars, 1953 through 1955. In these he gives a detailed discussion of the species-specific preconditions that allow humans to speak and establish symbolic pacts among individuals.

Lacan states that human desire is the repetitive pursuit of the fulfillment of desire and that it is ultimately a “desire for nothing”, the desire of the other’s desire as an irreducible lack.

He also speaks about the human subject and how they are a discordant by the fragmentation of their ego, and consequently “cannot desire without itself dissolving” and undergoing alienation. Psychoanalysis thus regards the human subject as a “being in becoming.” This is an interesting concept and one that elucidates the mimetic structuring of desire, but there are also other ideas of Lacan, which I have issue with, and that is his thinking on language and the creation of the desiring subject.

In Seminar I, Lacan emphasizes that, “at first there is language, already formed” and that a child is thus “passive” before the “universe of symbols.”

This concept of language is central for Lacan in his discussions about desire and mimesis and this has been perpetuated in theoretical discourse to this day. I propose that this trajectory should be paused to incorporate its relationship to the biology of mimetic behavior and my previous statements on how mimetics is something that happens preverbally and at infancy. This evidences that the creation of the subject operates through psychosocial development where communication with another is non-symbolic.

These three philosophers are currently my focuses as they speak directly about desire and how that informs subjectivity and in my research I want to incorporate the lineages of their concepts with the science of mimetics and investigate how that can be integrated and or realigned. I have also focused on these particular thinkers as their concepts connote how the situation of postmodernity influences desire and what that might mean in the formation of the self.


To speak further about postmodernity, I will now discuss how this impacts mimetics and desire and what that might mean.



A good place to start talking about the relationship of postmodernism, mimetics and how it is a socializing behavior is the idea of the ‘chameleon effect’ which in psychology is described as the unconscious mimicry of postures, expressions, and behaviors of others.  These unconscious mimetic behaviors share a pro-social character, because their occurrence tends to increase during social interactions, which has affiliative purposes, and let’s think back to my earlier mention of this concept.

Furthering this thought, scientists stress that emotional states are not an intrinsic psychological property of a subject but the relational property of an individual within a given social context. This means emotions constitute a system of social communication with its main purpose being social coordination.

Saying this, one can see the implications of the socialization factor and how the desire to affiliate and to have social cohesion can lead to homogenization. This to me is a very evocative idea in trying to understand how the postmodern condition is perpetuated and what is the result of this in society.

In the formation of the self both Kojeve and Girard speak of this need to be another and express that the self is coextensive with the structure of mimetic desire and that the self is a relational and dynamic phenomenon rather than an essential, objectively real, or autonomous source of intentions. This connection of subjectivity to desire and to the mediator is one that I believe is a being disrupted and molded by the conditions of postmodernity.
Thus this consolidation of social habits frames the subject deeply into a constructed mimetic and desiring loop.

Every time we relate to other people, we automatically inhabit a we-centric space, within which we exploit a series of certainties and expectations of others. This is an immediate construction as mimetic behavior is one that is biologically embedded at the beginning of life.

Additionally, central to all human social cultures is the notion of social identification. All levels of social interaction that require social cognition intersects or overlaps with mutual recognition and with this notion of social identification.



Social identification is the membership-fee all individuals pay in order to guarantee the sense of belonging to a larger community. Social identification is adaptive, because it grants the capacity to better predict the consequences of behaviors of members within a given social group.

Girard denotes the adverse influence of mimesis and desire and its impacts on our interactions with others. For the Girardian subject at some level they recognize that their own desires are not original and that their being is not produced from themselves. But this subject still believes that others have real desires and possess self awareness and worth. As a result of this, the subject consequently operates from a sense inadequacy, shame, and self-loathing while it regards the other with envy.

This fundamental delusion regarding desire and subjectivity results in a self-defeating, unreflective mimesis, which is one that I believe, is perpetuated in the postmodern structure, which thrives off this delusion.

It is from this that I say the phrase “disruption of desire” and it is the postmodern condition which is the background in which this conflict of the self and desire manifest. The biological and unconscious mechanisms for mimetic behavior and the desire that is produced from this is one that should be seen as a source of perpetuation but also may be a means to examine this imposed state.


I will now present examples of works by Jordon Wolfson, Ian Cheng, and Pierre Huyghe to discuss how their work gives insight on mimetics, desire and also the postmodern subject.

The first artist I will present is Jordon Wolfson and his piece Female figure from 2014. (Female figure) is an animatronic sculpture that cost over half a million dollars to construct, possesses forty-eight motors, motion-detection tracking eyes and has an uncanny real-lifeness that is as fascinating as it is jarring.


Here is a video clip of this work https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JestwuC1Cik

What interests me about this work is the queasy embodiment of the female figure and the representation of what femaleness is. The implicit recreation of objectified desires and desiring subject is one that I think has very rich application for investigating and detangling the interpretation of desire and how the replication and mimicked tropes, in this case gender, is manifested.

With this work and with the others I will present, the disruption of the desire takes place through the act of simulation. Simulation Theory focuses on trying to understand what another is thinking and feeling and it is by embodiment and empathy this can be actualized.

Next is the artist Ian Cheng and here I will show a brief clip of his work Entropy Wrangler from 2013.


https://vimeo.com/69708433

Cheng’s work is about dematerialization and replication and he evokes and challenges this. For this work and many of his others, he creates coding that commands the 3D generated images to interact with each other. It is a language that is being scripted but it is also giving function as well as instruction. This results in the coded commands sometimes cannibalizing themselves while at other times they create divergences. This aliveness or deterioration through language is fascinating when thinking about its role in the formation of subjectivity. What also draws me to his work is how Cheng speaks directly about the concept of simulation.

Quoting from his newly released monograph for his show at Kunsthalle Dusseldorf:

"What is a simulation? It is a private game we devise when the aliveness of a situation is too complex to really know. It is drafting reality through an ocean of forking behaviors to find an optimal end. What is a live simulation? It is playing this game in public and not letting it end when the game gets good. Darwin said the greatest live simulation is nature herself, who incessantly tries and fails aloud, never stopping at perfection. But nature is often too fast, too slow, too big, too small, for us. We desire a live simulation at scale with human spacetime, but unending in its variety and blind to our barometers of quality. A live simulation that we can feel, but does not give a fig for us." 

I find this very compelling and want to further investigate how his perception of this may link to desire and mimetics.

My last artist example is Pierre Huyghe and his video, Untitled, Human Mask from 2014. Here are a few still images as I couldn’t source a video clip.





This piece, as you can see has a monkey wearing the mask of a girl and it has been trained to be a waitress at a restaurant. Although this is based on an actual true to life situation, the way in which Huyghe presents it compounds the eeriness of it all. This tone is set by the film’s opening footage which is of the deserted Fukushima sites. This is followed by scenes of the monkey being alone in an empty, dark restaurant. There is a dystopian feeling to it all and this relationship of animal, human, embodiment and control are all triggers when thinking about mimetics and desire. It is also an interesting piece in which to evaluate the relationships of human/animal discourse within science and philosophy in connection to imitation and desire.

I have chosen these three artists to show the breadth of practice that contemporary artists are creating that are inciting questions, concerns and interpretations of desire and mimetics. It is through the bizarreness and uneasiness of these works in which the postmodern is revealed and has the potential to be disrupted. Through these artists I would like to research various branches of mimetics and desire which focuses on the body, cybernetics and anthropormorphism and try to connect the threads of their shared relationships to mimetics and desire and to also learn more about the science behind those fields.

To conclude I would like to quickly overview what I have discussed

I began by presenting an overview of the science of mimetics and specifically mirror neurons to open up a new way of possibly thinking about the creation of subjectivity and to show how science can be and should be incorporated in theoretical discourses of mimesis and desire. Mirror neurons are I think especially important in discussing art as they illuminate the neural underpinnings about physical reactions to aesthetic experiences and they are key to understanding intentionality. The concept of affiliation which dominates behavior and interactions with others is central to understanding mimcry and is also a linked concept for desire.

It is desire and the structuring of desire that I think is pertinent in discussing how one understands themselves. I exampled three thinkers Kojeve, Girard and Lacan to give a sense of the mode in which I am thinking about desire and how this is apart of the postmodern condition. The relationship to desire and mimesis within postmodernism and how that is reflected in contemporary art is one that I think can help elucidate the various areas of thinking in order to increase dialogue between these various fields.

At this stage in my research I am excited and challenged to see how I can incorporate the science of the mind, mimetics and desire in order to advance these areas within the discourse of contemporary art theory. 


Bibliography

Alison, James, “The Search for a Theological Anthropology.” In Girard and Theology.
(London: Continuum International Publishing Group, 1998), 22-63.

Cheng, Ian, Evers, Elodie, Jaskey, Jenny, Kelsey, John, and Parisi, Luciana, Ian Cheng. Live Simulation, (Leipzig: Spector Book, 2015).

Chiesa, Lorenzo, “The World of Desire: Lacan between Evolutionary Biology and             Psychoanalytic Theory,” Filozofski vestnik XXX (2009): 83-112

Erving, George, “Rene Girard and the Legacy of Alexandre Kojeve.” In Contagion 10 (Spring 2003): 111-125.

Freeberg, David, and Gallese, Vittorio, “Motion, emotion and empathy in esthetic             experience.” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 11, (March, 7, 2007): 197-203,          doi:10.1016/j.tics.2007.02.003

Gallese, Vittorio, “The Two Sides of Mimesis Girard’s Mimetic Theory, Embodied Simulation and Social Identification.” Journal of Consciousness Studies 16, (2009): 1-24

Girard, René, Deceit, Desire, and the Novel, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1965.

Kojéve, Alexandre, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel, 3-30, New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1996.

Leander, N. Pontus, Chartrand, Tanya L., Wood, Wendy, “Mind your mannerisms: Behavioral mimicry elicits stereotype conformity.” Journal of Experimental   Social Psychology 47 (2011): 195–201

Shanton, Karen and Goldman, Alvin, “Simulation Theory.” Wires Cognitive Science, New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons LTD (2010): 1-12, doi: 10.1002/wcs.33.