Monday, May 29, 2017

I (heart) Epicurian





These days the word epicurean brings to mind fancy foodies and certain stylized lifestyles but that is far from its origin. Epicurus was a Greek philosopher (c. 307 BC) who was way ahead of his time. He believed in Atomism, the concept that physical things are made of constantly moving atoms, even our bodies, hence death was not to be feared. He also believed that the gods had very little impact or interest in our lives, hence our time on earth was what was most important.

His core philosophy is based on how one lives and for him; the goal of pleasure was key. His philosophy gets misinterpreted as seeking pleasure for hedonistic pursuits but really it is the opposite. Pleasure for Epicureans is the achievement of balance and to not feel pain. A word that can sum this up is ataraxia, which literally means “freedom from worry.”

To do what one wants but not at the expense of producing pain to yourself and others is the basis for not only the way one thinks but lives. It seems egocentric perhaps but there is honesty to it. We are all egocentric, but the capacity for empathy and care for others is beneficial for ourselves as much it is for others.

One tenant of Epicurean thought which I just love is the emphasis on friendship. The pursuit of knowledge is fundamental to Epicureans and they believe that friendship, conversations and dialogue with others is the maximal way in which to attain this. For them, while sexual partners are fine to have in ones life, friendships are vital and essential.

There is something refreshing about this philosophic thought especially today in which there is a dis-balance of what the difference between self-care and indulgence is. There is also a detachment and a dissociative quality to our relationships, which is of course resultant to our capitalist system. Perhaps it is because of this setting in which we live that I find Epicureanism so alluring. It accepts the compulsions of the self but also insists on awareness and a striving goal for peace within it.

To sum up here is an Epicurean Epitaph: Non fui, fui, non sum, non curo ("I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care").

Below are the Principal Doctrines written by Epicurus. They are a bit dry but if you want to learn more about this philosophy, I highly encourage it.


Principal Doctrines” (also sometimes translated under the title “Sovran Maxims”)

1. A blessed and indestructible being has no trouble himself and brings no trouble upon any other being; so he is free from anger and partiality, for all such things imply weakness.

2. Death is nothing to us; for that which has been dissolved into its elements experiences no sensations, and that which has no sensation is nothing to us.

3. The magnitude of pleasure reaches its limit in the removal of all pain. When such pleasure is present, so long as it is uninterrupted, there is no pain either of body or of mind or of both together.

4. Continuous bodily pain does not last long; instead, pain, if extreme, is present a very short time, and even that degree of pain which slightly exceeds bodily pleasure does not last for many days at once. Diseases of long duration allow an excess of bodily pleasure over pain.

5. It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and honorably and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely and honorably and justly without living pleasantly. Whenever any one of these is lacking, when, for instance, the man is not able to live wisely, though he lives honorably and justly, it is impossible for him to live a pleasant life.

6. In order to obtain protection from other men, any means for attaining this end is a natural good.

7. Some men want fame and status, thinking that they would thus make themselves secure against other men. If the life of such men really were secure, they have attained a natural good; if, however, it is insecure, they have not attained the end which by nature's own prompting they originally sought.

8. No pleasure is a bad thing in itself, but the things which produce certain pleasures entail disturbances many times greater than the pleasures themselves.

9. If every pleasure had been capable of accumulation, not only over time but also over the entire body or at least over the principal parts of our nature, then pleasures would never differ from one another.

10. If the things that produce the pleasures of profligate men really freed them from fears of the mind concerning celestial and atmospheric phenomena, the fear of death, and the fear of pain; if, further, they taught them to limit their desires, we should never have any fault to find with such persons, for they would then be filled with pleasures from every source and would never have pain of body or mind, which is what is bad.

11. If we had never been troubled by celestial and atmospheric phenomena, nor by fears about death, nor by our ignorance of the limits of pains and desires, we should have had no need of natural science.
12. It is impossible for someone to dispel his fears about the most important matters if he doesn't know the nature of the universe but still gives some credence to myths. So without the study of nature there is no enjoyment of pure pleasure.

13. There is no advantage to obtaining protection from other men so long as we are alarmed by events above or below the earth or in general by whatever happens in the boundless universe.

14. Protection from other men, secured to some extent by the power to expel and by material prosperity, in its purest form comes from a quiet life withdrawn from the multitude.

15. The wealth required by nature is limited and is easy to procure; but the wealth required by vain ideals extends to infinity.

16. Chance seldom interferes with the wise man; his greatest and highest interests have been, are, and will be, directed by reason throughout his whole life.

17. The just man is most free from disturbance, while the unjust is full of the utmost disturbance.

18. Bodily pleasure does not increase when the pain of want has been removed; after that it only admits of variation. The limit of mental pleasure, however, is reached when we reflect on these bodily pleasures and their related emotions, which used to cause the mind the greatest alarms.

19. Unlimited time and limited time afford an equal amount of pleasure, if we measure the limits of that pleasure by reason.

20. The flesh receives as unlimited the limits of pleasure; and to provide it requires unlimited time. But the mind, intellectually grasping what the end and limit of the flesh is, and banishing the terrors of the future, procures a complete and perfect life, and we have no longer any need of unlimited time. Nevertheless the mind does not shun pleasure, and even when circumstances make death imminent, the mind does not lack enjoyment of the best life.

21. He who understands the limits of life knows that it is easy to obtain that which removes the pain of want and makes the whole of life complete and perfect. Thus he has no longer any need of things which involve struggle.

22. We must consider both the ultimate end and all clear sensory evidence, to which we refer our opinions; for otherwise everything will be full of uncertainty and confusion.

23. If you fight against all your sensations, you will have no standard to which to refer, and thus no means of judging even those sensations which you claim are false.

24. If you reject absolutely any single sensation without stopping to distinguish between opinion about things awaiting confirmation and that which is already confirmed to be present, whether in sensation or in feelings or in any application of intellect to the presentations, you will confuse the rest of your sensations by your groundless opinion and so you will reject every standard of truth. If in your ideas based upon opinion you hastily affirm as true all that awaits confirmation as well as that which does not, you will not avoid error, as you will be maintaining the entire basis for doubt in every judgment between correct and incorrect opinion.

25. If you do not on every occasion refer each of your actions to the ultimate end prescribed by nature, but instead of this in the act of choice or avoidance turn to some other end, your actions will not be consistent with your theories.

26. All desires that do not lead to pain when they remain unsatisfied are unnecessary, but the desire is easily got rid of, when the thing desired is difficult to obtain or the desires seem likely to produce harm.

27. Of all the means which wisdom acquires to ensure happiness throughout the whole of life, by far the most important is friendship.

28. The same conviction which inspires confidence that nothing we have to fear is eternal or even of long duration, also enables us to see that in the limited evils of this life nothing enhances our security so much as friendship.

29. Of our desires some are natural and necessary, others are natural but not necessary; and others are neither natural nor necessary, but are due to groundless opinion.

30. Those natural desires which entail no pain when unsatisfied, though pursued with an intense effort, are also due to groundless opinion; and it is not because of their own nature they are not got rid of but because of man's groundless opinions.

31. Natural justice is a pledge of reciprocal benefit, to prevent one man from harming or being harmed by another.

32. Those animals which are incapable of making binding agreements with one another not to inflict nor suffer harm are without either justice or injustice; and likewise for those peoples who either could not or would not form binding agreements not to inflict nor suffer harm.

33. There never was such a thing as absolute justice, but only agreements made in mutual dealings among men in whatever places at various times providing against the infliction or suffering of harm.

34. Injustice is not an evil in itself, but only in consequence of the fear which is associated with the apprehension of being discovered by those appointed to punish such actions.

35. It is impossible for a man who secretly violates the terms of the agreement not to harm or be harmed to feel confident that he will remain undiscovered, even if he has already escaped ten thousand times; for until his death he is never sure that he will not be detected.

36. In general justice is the same for all, for it is something found mutually beneficial in men's dealings, but in its application to particular places or other circumstances the same thing is not necessarily just for everyone.

37. Among the things held to be just by law, whatever is proved to be of advantage in men's dealings has the stamp of justice, whether or not it be the same for all; but if a man makes a law and it does not prove to be mutually advantageous, then this is no longer just. And if what is mutually advantageous varies and only for a time corresponds to our concept of justice, nevertheless for that time it is just for those who do not trouble themselves about empty words, but look simply at the facts.

38. Where without any change in circumstances the things held to be just by law are seen not to correspond with the concept of justice in actual practice, such laws are not really just; but wherever the laws have ceased to be advantageous because of a change in circumstances, in that case the laws were for that time just when they were advantageous for the mutual dealings of the citizens, and subsequently ceased to be just when they were no longer advantageous.

39. The man who best knows how to meet external threats makes into one family all the creatures he can; and those he can not, he at any rate does not treat as aliens; and where he finds even this impossible, he avoids all dealings, and, so far as is advantageous, excludes them from his life.

40. Those who possess the power to defend themselves against threats by their neighbors, being thus in possession of the surest guarantee of security, live the most pleasant life with one another; and their enjoyment of the fullest intimacy is such that if one of them dies prematurely, the others do not lament his death as though it called for pity.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Florine Stettheimer



Florine Stettheimer’s current exhibition on view at The Jewish Museum, Florine Stettheimer: Painting Poetry, is an incredibly charming show. Stettheimer is a cultish artist in some circles and those that love her work are smitten and those that don’t, well perhaps you shouldn’t go because it is to the tilt with Florine.

She was a New York socialite in the blossoming days of Modernism and her works reflect this completely. They are of friends, all upper crust or avant-garde, as well as her idyllic fortitude inhabited by her sisters (three) and mother. Everyone goes on and on about her close friendship with Marcel Duchamp and while that might be a spur in her recognition as an artist herself these days, it shouldn’t be seen as the only reason why.

Stettheimer paints like she is frosting a cake. There is a sweetness, a slathering type of giddiness that goes right to the edge of over-doing it. Her palate is like icing too. Whites, yellows, blues and pinks whose unnaturalness makes them festive. Objects as well as people have a prop like quality to them and it should be no surprise that she did some theatric design and loved all things staged.  Her works have this stilled posing that promotes vacancy but this doesn’t take away from their fabulousness. It’s as if her only directive while painting was to make it ‘Fab-u-lous and Fun.’

She was a rich girl with lots of free time on her hand and this might make some viewers annoyed and dismissive but she knew it too. She painted for herself, her pleasure, her want. We just happen to be given access to them because her sister, Ettie, disobeyed her wish and didn’t destroy them when she died. Good for Ettie and for us because these are simply lovely and feel so wonderful to see.

The heaviness of Modernism the malenessmakes such lightness and yes; I’ll say it, femininity, of Stettheimer’s work not only delightful but important. How many women, wealthy or otherwise, do you think actually did/have burned their works because it was just not ‘heavy’ enough? And yes, her privilege allowed her to indulge her fancies but should we really hold that against her when men from time eternal have been given this latitude?

The focuses of her works feel surface and seem a bit shallow or simple; picnics, parties, shopping, lazy summer days, but that’s life sometimes and who are we to say what can or cannot be subjects? Below this surface there is the actual painting though. It is faux-naif as they say but it’s got so much personality and panache that it is undeniably ‘art.’

Stettheimer was a woman who lived a charmed life and her work reflects this. I find her embracing this type of attitude enlivening and let’s be honest, rare for any artistsmale or female.

Go see this show if you want to teleport to a time, to a spot of sunshine under a tree, where the world is your oyster and filled with all the people you love most.

I leave you now with some of her poems because they too reflect this exposed wonderment and lightness.



Today
The breaking waves
Look like
Ruffled-edge petunia leaves

----------

MY ATTITUDE IS ONE OF LOVE
is all adoration
for all the fringes
all the color
all tinsel creation

I like slippers gold
I like oyster cold
and my garden of mixed flowers
and the sky full of leaves
and traffic in the streets
and Maillard’s sweets
and Bendel’s clothes
and Nat Lewis hose
and Tappê’s window arrays
and crystal fixtures
and Walt Disney cartoons
and colored balloons

----------

You stirred me
You made me giddy
Then you poured oil on my stirred self
I’m mayonnaise

----------

THE UNLOVED PAINTING

I was pure white
You made a painted show-thing of me
You called me the real-thing
Your creation
No setting was too good for me
Silver --- even gold
I needed gorgeous surroundings
You then sold me to another man

Monday, May 15, 2017

Highly Recommend

Maureen Gallace


So, as this blog attests the last few months have been savagely shitty and instead of wallowing in it further, I’m going to be positive for a change. I tend to not like being overly positive because, hello, shit is too real out there, but sometimes you just have to embrace things with a squeezy hug versus white fists. Also, it’s May ya’ll and the weather is getting warmer and flowers are blooming and even this cement city we call home seems full of life.

Below are some recommendations that made me smile the past week or so. I hope you are smiling a bit more and if not, fake it till you make it babies.


Maureen Gallace at PS1 MoMA

Went to see Ian Cheng’s show at PS1 and although I liked that show, I was really surprised and happy to see Maureen Gallace’s show of paintings. They are discreet oils of houses; beaches; flowers and they feel like an antidote to all the heavy dystopian over-the-topness in art of late. Light, shadows, speckling of sky are masterfully, I mean truly masterfully done and although the subject matter might feel pedestrian, these paintings are anything but. They are quiet but haunted, beautiful but complicated, they are so clear yet have this enigmatic quality that makes you aware of what the word impressive means. This show is formal and feels classic but wow, does it feel like a breath of fresh air. So much of art today is overly cryptic and sophomorically dense. In contrast, this show is transparent and light which makes it risky and bold.


Sam McKinniss’ Consumer Report on ArtNews

Want to laugh out loud at your screen while at work? Then read Sam’s Consumer Report on Artnews. This is a little thing that the mag does wherein they ask an artist to archive/live-stream their lives for the past 24-48 hours or so. These are all sort of funny but Sam’s is even funnier, and even if you don’t know Sam, it’s still very fucking funny because Sam is brilliant with words and his timing in all things is genius. It also makes you see the ‘art world’ scene in a true-blue way. One that is full of everyday glamour, friends, humor and booze.


Adriana Ramic at Kimberly Klark

So I’m biased, I know and like both Adriana and KK gallery but kids, you just have to make it out to Ridgewood to see this show. This is a small space that is packed with wonderfulness. Dirt, moss, and flowers cover the floor and Ramic’s coded language, conceptual puzzles are like a Mensa child’s dream wallpaper. It is smart and charming and it has chops all around. Also, why isn’t there more art work with dirt? All those guys from back then are dead now, let’s make dirt alive again! Really, a very charming show which has gotten the critical kudos it deserves. Trek out if it is far away from you and then enjoy a pint and pretzel at Gottscheer nearby and contemplate the lexiconic fairies you just witnessed. 


Reading

Duh. It’s the best thing ever and you can have You time and also look and be smart. Fab. Fab. Fab. Maybe I’ll put together a summer rec books list from some friends and share in a few weeks but for now in no particular order or reason here are some I recommend for this month. Octavia Butler – Wild Seed; Kool AD – OK; Dostoyevsky – Idiot; Joan Didion – Play it as it Lays; Raymond Chandler – The Big Sleep; Jean Rhys – Quartet (always!); Andy Warhol – From A and B and Back Again; Calvin Tompkins – Living Well is the Best Revenge.


Getting A Hair Cut

Getting a hair cut is a form of catharsis, or it can be, and I think it should be. As the season changes I think it’s the best of times to re-vamp your look and to get rid of all that dead debris that is your hair. I chopped off over 7 inches last week and let me tell you, I feel so much lighter in all ways. It’s a personal thing and can be radical or just a hint but I think care and re-invention of self is a must do at least once a year. If you don’t have hair enough to cut then do something else but I encourage anyone who is sick of their look or wants to kick start the new you, cut it. Just cut it all off.

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Burdens of Oversharing




There are times in life when the last thing you want to do is share or reveal anything about yourself. Possibly there are a few true-blue egoists out there who may never feel this way but I think most of us know this feeling and make it a point to retract ourselves in one way or another. As this blog attests, I am one type of self-inflicted over sharer and even though I don't really reveal a lot about myself (my true self), it’s still a lot, like way too much.  It’s like holding a mirror to refract light trying to distract people but you are still acting the fool by holding a mirror up at all.

Regardless, it’s tiring and a bit cringe when dissected. I have been thinking about this more because I have started new projects that do even more oversharing and when I sat to write this thing today I couldn’t help but think, ‘who the fuck cares,’ and ‘I’m tired of me, everyone else must be tired of me.’ This impulse to share is a strange but seemingly unavoidable thing about our social condition. We are all so tired of presenting ourselves but yet we keep doing it. It’s as if we need to, and perhaps in some ways we do.

So everyone probably reading this has some sort of social media account. Multiple probably. On one or the other platform there is a tone and presentation of self that one ‘gives’ or ‘allows’ others to see. The concept of the edit in structuring one’s projected self is just wild these days in its control and impact. The idea of being seen and perceived is as old as time though, possibly innate to being a human. We dress a certain way, walk and talk certain way, in order to cue who we are in the world or who we want to be seen as.

All this reflects one’s history, curiosities, fascinations and comforts but it is also essentially about the audience. We want to be both lauded and accepted and to be ‘recognized’ for the self we think we are and/or want to be. Life is certainly a stage but now this audience is virtually expanded via the Internet and social sharing platforms. Words and images are the cache of signifying who/what/where/how you are who you are and how we want others to perceive the story of ourselves. We want whatever life we live, or wish to live to be witnessed, confirmed and thus made real somehow.

But how really real is it all? How much time goes, consciously or unconsciously, into performing or acting out this person you want others to perceive? If there isn’t a pic, did it not happen? If you don’t get likes or reactions to it, did it matter? Are you sitting there taking selfie after selfie trying to look casual or spontaneous when it is anything but?

There are extremes of every behavior and to be able to balance reality vs. fictive reality can co-exist but regardless, if you do share your ‘life’ to the world, there is always this edit. The act of editing acts to protect oneself but also to control the gaze and the spectator. This is all so obvious but I’ve been thinking about how this has become so ubiquitous that it’s normative and that’s what makes may hair stand on end. Normality of this type of impulse and way of connecting with each other feels like some sort of edge of a cliff.

Let’s not all be lemmings and let’s all take a step back and realize that through all this sharing, are we negotiating other things that really matter. The way people talk to each other, hangout, have sex, build friendships, develop relationships long and short are all caught up in this now normalized impulse to share, edit, and present in this way.

It is not all bad of course. The internet is an amazing thing. But doesn’t it feel like sometimes it’s all just too much? That there is just too much of everything, even yourself? I’m not a luddite and I’m not one to ‘take a break’ from anything but yeah, too much is just too much sometimes.

But maybe it’s not the oversharing that gets me down but how most of what is being shared is so edited, so truncated, so manicured. I’d rather get a pile of realness then the slivers of someone’s edited presentation of self. I get it, it's a form of advertising, our exchange of our selves is literally the money in our pockets at times, but is it really worth it? As usual I'm being wishy-washy about this whole idea. I know I can’t have it both ways, but yeah, I know I’m a part of the problem too so here’s to hoping I either go all in and be for real-real or just fade the fuck away. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Spring Poems



It’s May. The first of May is commonly referred to as ‘May Day’ which can be connoted to International Worker’s Day, which is associated with socialists and communists and their politically aligned, and it is also the day to celebrate spring.

The Maypole with its ribbons and dancing circle, the Roman’s and their celebration of Flora, the goddess of flowers, and varieties of fetes welcoming spring with ‘pagan’ origins that are still somehow remembered.

Spring is truly here in New York and it feels like a time for new possibilities or at least the wish that this will come.

With this clinging optimism I will leave you with some poems that reflect spring.


The Wild Flower's Song - William Blake

As I wander'd the forest,
The green leaves among,
I heard a wild flower
Singing a song.

I slept in the Earth
In the silent night,
I murmur'd my fears
And I felt delight.

In the morning I went
As rosy as morn,
To seek for new joy;
But O! met with scorn.


A Light Exists in Spring - Emily Dickenson

A light exists in spring
Not present on the year
At any other period.
When March is scarcely here

A color stands abroad
On solitary hills
That science cannot overtake,
But human nature feels.

It waits upon the lawn;
It shows the furthest tree
Upon the furthest slope we know;
It almost speaks to me.

Then, as horizons step,
Or noons report away,
Without the formula of sound,
It passes, and we stay:

A quality of loss
Affecting our content,
As trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a sacrament. 


First Day Of Spring - Matsuo Basho
First day of spring--
I keep thinking about
the end of autumn.


I So Liked Spring - Charlotte Mary Mew
I so liked Spring last year
Because you were here;-
The thrushes too-
Because it was these you so liked to hear-
I so liked you.

This year's a different thing,-
I'll not think of you.
But I'll like the Spring because it is simply spring
As the thrushes do. 


In The Spring Twilight - Sappho
In the spring twilight 
the full moon is shining: 
Girls take their places 
as though around an altar 


 A Little Flower - Dmitriy Kokarev
A flower grew out of the ground
A tiny flower from the dirt
A tiny living soul from underground
A baby crawling from the dirt
A little innocence of wild color
A tiny spark of hope
A tiny pleasure free of charge
A flower that i called my own
A little baby ran towards it
A tiny flower crushed beneath the feet
A little human innocence
A little bliss destroyed by ignorance
A little flower dead on the ground
A little baby jumping up and down
And only me from my own window, witnessed the death of my own flower beneath the feet of blissful child without idea of his first crime...