Kleptocracy & “Van Gogh”

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org & Knatz.com /
Teaching / Society / NoHier / Kleptocracy /

Bucky Fuller said that when nature wants to accomplish something she makes candidates by the million. pk says that cultures have room for few more than one hero at a time: one center of attention. pk believes that if god wanted to send a message to mankind she would have to send a million Jesuses. The Church celebrates one, but pk sees that “one” as symbolic of … a “million”: a million not only including Noah and Moses, but Siddartha, Mandelbrot, Illich … and himself: pk. Fuller too of course.

Disagree? I invite you to try to follow my point anyway.

Similarly, pk uses “Vincent Van Gogh” as the prototype, the symbol, for all unappreciated, unpaid artists [note]. Similarly, pk’s points using “Jesus” as a symbol do not depend on literal truth in the gospels. I also point out that pk is not alone in this type of usage: the media use “Einstein” as the prototype of “the genius.”

I hope the visitor is already picking up the spew of implications: one Van Gogh? Poke in a garret: you might find another. Of course it’s far more probable that you’ll find another pretender, some dilatant: sponging on friends and family: no talent, no vision, no new message from the random. But are you sure? Are you willing to bet the future of the biosphere on your judgment?

That, betting the future of the biosphere, is exactly what we do with the choices we make. Chaos theory has it that a butterfly in the Amazon may “cause” a tsunami in the Pacific.

non-linear order
non-linear order
thanx true-enlightenment

Perhaps my point holds for any creature capable of making choices: a shrimp grabbing another shrimp in the species’ mating frenzy, a bacterium moving south-east instead of north-west … But I hope all agree by now that man’s influence on the biosphere is neither illusory nor trivial. Survival is affected by every choice. And is it not also obvious that no culture ever accurately assesses its resources?

The more information we have the more evident that becomes. Enough records have been kept in the last couple of centuries that we may now see clearly what once was obscured by the selectivity of what a culture memorializes. Compare the best poets of the Romantic Period as judged by contemporary scholars with what sold best or was best hailed in the Romantic Period itself. Macroinformation emerges. They are different, discrepant. We tout Blake and Keats; they touted Wordsworth and Byron. Don’t get me wrong: I agree that Wordsworth and Byron are great. Indeed, I submit that it would be difficult to impossible to overrate them. (I once got a shocked look from a friend when I suggested that Shakespeare was the world’s most underrated poet: saying that he’s the “best” is not good enough.) But I say that it would be hard to overrate Keats or Blake either.

New tack on same sea: I recently suggested to an award winning artist (Rhoda Ross) that she imagine a requirement by which museums could display only art for which the artist could be shown to have been paid. “The museums would be empty,” Rhoda said.

Now I invite the visitor to imagine a society in which all claims to “property” are backed unbrokenly by complete records of cordial and fair exchanges, exchanges in which the seller was not coerced: in which the seller was satisfied with the exchange. Smith may buy property from Jones who in turn bought it from Miller … but how far back can you go before running into theft, murder, trickery?

Bucky Fuller also suggested (as I have already mentioned elsewhere) that India, having seceded from British colonialism, become the flake which snowballs, all of us seceding from imperialism, all of us becoming citizens of “India.”

New tack on same sea: Back in 1974 I was managing the Circle Gallery on Madison Avenue, a few doors up from the Whitney. I’d hooked Gail Bruce up with a serigraph printer and her White Hat had been printed and signed. Will Barnet consigned me a few original graphics as did others. I was about to break loose on my own but still had that “roof” over my head. A network exec called the gallery, wondered if I’d decorate a set for them. Robert Rauschenberg and Marisol were going to confront Skull and his accountant on as show called Good Morning, New York (some such title).

thanx warhol

It had been all in the news that Rauschenberg was furious with Skull. Skull had been collecting his paintings from day one. They’d risen in value from $800 to $60,000 and up: big five to six figures. Rauschenberg was arguing that some of the appreciation of art, at resale, should go to the artist. Neither Rauschenberg nor Marisol wanted their own art in the backdrop: would I supply something?

thanx madamepickwick

You bet your ass. Gail was yet unknown. Gatja Rothe was struggling. Even Will was under-appreciated. And what a gas it would be to show Bob and Marisol against such a background: unknown, unbought, under-appreciated. I got some big prints shrink wrapped and stuck them up. Gail Bruce’s first public showing was thus on TV! major network!

Rauschenberg had labored to distance himself personally from his suggestion. He emphasized that he, Robert Rauschenberg, didn’t need more money; but how about distributing some portion of the increase to unknown artists?

Now: understand: the Paul Knatz who was running the Circle Gallery was the same pk who four years earlier had founded the Free Learning Exchange, Inc.: free learning, free information, free marketplace … By 1973 I was saying to Trustee Ron Gross that perhaps FLEX was too abstract for people to digest. Perhaps they’d support a more concrete approach: and I outlined my idea for an open public gallery, the first since the FDR years: one the first ever completely open. I emphasized that the idea of “art” must remain undefined: mere laws of public safety need apply. In other words: “Jesus” in a bottle of piss might not be acceptable if the piss is real urine and the bottle isn’t properly sealed. I actually made the proposal: to the New York State commission on the arts (I don’t capitalize because I don’t remember the actual title: but they gave grants. I proposed that the public support a gallery in which any artist was welcome to exhibit work for sale to the public: once. (I’ve already told elsewhere how the grant went to the gal I submitted my proposal to. Did she ever submit mine? Or just rewrite it, subsitituing her judgment for the concept of any? Her gallery was in SOHO and introduced eight new artists a year. Of course my plan was to run FLEX from a back room: trick the state into supporting free information by supporting free art.

In other words, wittingly or un-, the network had invited an anarchist revolutionary English scholar (with some artist friends) to decorate their confrontation between Skull and Rauschenberg.

I knew and admired Rauschenberg’s work, but that was the first and only time I ever met him. A very shy man. Once the camera was on, he said not a word: exactly matching Marisol’s own output. Skull did all the talking: with a few words from his accountant. No. Why should they pay anything? They bought it, they paid for it, they owned it.

My own attitude toward Rauschenberg’s suggestion embodies a major problem with good ideas for an anarchist: who will administer it? I presented FLEX as voluntary! I didn’t want any laws on the subject. Ethics, yes. Good manners, yes. Evolution! Social evolution; not law. No coercion. If people can’t voluntarily upgrade themselves, then there’s no hope for society. Then I might as well just kill everybody to clear space for myself. And Skull wasn’t volunteering!

PS. For the moment I am failing to research the art collector and taxi fleet mogul, Skull. I think his name was Robert also. But right now I’m not sure of spelling or any such details. If I could remember his wife’s name, I’d include a Rauschenberg-related story about her as well.

I’m also not very happy with how I’ve begun this file these couple of days later: it may get broken up and redistributed as well as “finished.”

This author is beyond psychiatric help. Do Not Publish!
Publishers office on J.G. Ballard

Van Gogh Scrapbook

2004 06 04 I’m just again glancing through G. M. Young’s Victorian Essays where he strives to distill the essence of what distinguishes English society 1832 to 1901 from other periods. The Age of Tennyson contains this remark:
The later eighteenth century … did not want to hear the things that Blake had to say, and so it hardly noticed that Blake was there. The early nineteenth century did most eagerly want something like Childe Harold, and having got it, went on to accept from Byron much which a less avid taste would have rejected.
Exactly. Culture exercises selective sight. Culture feels free to change its mind without apology or explanation. One minute culture is blind here; another minute culture is blind there: inspired here, inspired there.
The world ignored Illich and Knatz learning webs in 1970 — when they could have had it at cost, but gobbled precisely the same structure in 1972, 1973 when it was presented — for profit — as a “dating service.”
Democritus’ talk of atoms was largely ignored by his fellow Greeks, but lionized by twentieth-century atomists. One generation assassinates Lincoln; another deifies him: still another may ignore him.

At 65 going on 66 pk doesn’t much care if Illich or pk are household names in another 2,000 or 1,000,000 years (pk doubts that there will be (human) households in 500 years). pk reemphasizes: “Jesus” — or “Van Gogh” — are already adequate symbols for the phenomenon. Who should care whether the symbol is spelled J-e-s-u-s or R-e-m-b-r-a-n-d-t?
Millions flail around moaning “Jesus, Jesus …” But does a single one know Jesus? what he likes for breakfast? what his favorite color is? (See? That has nothing to do with what “Jesus” means.)
Something else I was about to say I’ll explore under Fiction as Convergent; Life as Divergent.
pk very much cares though whether any possible survivors in 2,000 years will be deschooled! independent! not 98% in thrall to the state!

Please don’t think that I believe that consciousness should or could be unselective. The map is not the territory. The perception is not the thing (or pattern) perceived. Universe and mind cannot be the same thing. No “god” can be conscious of everything. No matter how “smart” the AI, it too will have to be selective.
Which doesn’t mean that some selectivities are not grubby, disgusting, self-serving … dishonest.

2006 01 23 Around 1989, first arrived in Sebring FL and still dealing with emergencies (like eating at least once a day) by selling art from the trunk of my car, I delayed as per usual till my cupboard was bare, then scouted what galleries Sebring had to offer. One was closed, but I spied something abstract through the window, made a point of returning. At some point in my spiel, sensing little appreciation from the owner for who or what I was as well as for who or what I was showing him, I made reference to Van Gogh.
I wish I could quote the dialogue verbatim. Failing that I hope you’ll trust my facsimile. My Van Gogh reference bounced off the owner less lively than a squash ball. He afforded no sympathy to under-appreciated art. It turned out by his own admission that he had never heard of Van Gogh! an art gallery owner! It was also clear though that he got my point: and didn’t care. In fact he specified that if Van Gogh wanted to paint, and he painted, then he got what he wanted, got what he deserved, and deserved no more.
It turned out that the abstract I’d seen through the window was the owner’s own work: accident painting: dyes variously thrown onto paper. He knew nothing of the history of such techniques, neither did he care.
Please realize, there is only one qualification for owning an art gallery: owning an art gallery. It’s no surprise to those in the business that those most successful in the business came to it after selling mens underwear, or aluminum siding. In my end of the business — graphics, multiples — your average gallery is owned by the dentist’s wife put out to pasture in middle age. She doesn’t have to turn a profit, however much she hopes to. And every gallery owner with the rent paid, will feel superior (in their own quarters) to anyone they didn’t invite and pay to attend.
I got to know this particular owner well enough to know that my first impression was no fluke. His background was painting: house painting: after an illiterate childhood in the Everglades.
Last I knew of him he had applied to the state for museum status for his gallery: his shtick at the time was arguing that the Highwaymen, po’ blacks who sold landscapes at the roadside, sloshed together in seconds from the cheapest, handiest materials, for $1, $2 … were legitimate artists whose prices should skyrocket.
See? He did get something from our conversation.
Funny thing was: this guy was born again. What kind of a conversation would we have had had the subject been whether or not Jesus got what he deserved? whether Jesus was owed anything.
No, pk. How can you be so stupid? Don’t you see? Jesus was God.
And that makes all the difference.
PS If Jim had sold a $2 highway painting for $10,000, the paint already no good, falling off the surface after only ten years, would have sought out the artist? give him a royalty? No, the appreciation was for the guy who’d finessed the appreciation.
Market world.
PPS Today’s gabble relates to work I’ll put elsewhere: on Cannibals vs. Missionaries, on the human delusion that sentience can reliably distinguish good from bad, good from evil, sacred from profane …
Use the search feature below to research such key words, key themes: past, present, and in time, future.

2006 03 22 F.X. Toole (AKA Jerry Boyd)
What a great pen name. FX as in special effects. Toole as in tool. Toole as in Irish as hell. F.X. as in Francis Xavier (Irish as hell).
2005 I saw Million Dollar Baby, saw Clint, saw Morgan Freeman, saw Hilary Swank, saw them all win award after award. I liked Baby; though I sure didn’t like it that much, had quarrel after quarrel with it: thought it was one of Clint’s lesser good efforts, enjoyed seeing Swank buff, but didn’t think it was her best. … Now I just watched the DVD: and hated more than liked it. IMDb.com informed me that the source had been called Rope Burns. I instantly thought that was a better title, went to the library, got it, read it. Van Gogh all over again.
This is great writing. This is great boxing writing. This is great gender writing. …
So now I know: Jerry Boyd was 70 before he got published. He’d been fielding rejection letters for forty years. He dies two years later. Three years after that, the movie comes out. One year after that pk discovers the writing. …
Are we still supposed to think that publishers can tell shit from Shinola? their ass from their elbow? “good” from “bad”? marketable from unmarketable?

“Van Gogh,” as a principle, has been a theme at  for a decade, a theme with pk for half a century or more: just as is Jesus, just as is Galileo … Just as has become kleptocracy, just had been civilization … Nice to have a new example to add.
The author credits an agent for making “a silk purse from a sow’s ear.” Editors, agents … have long collaborated with authors, with composers … How much of Michael Jackson’s excellence is Michael Jackson? how much the choreographers? the music teachers (or the whole family)? the Hollywood directors of the videos? the rest of the ensemble?
How much of the Mona Lisa is Leonardo and how much Walter Pater? How much of the sunset is the sun and how much the particular day’s atmosphere? How much of “seeing” is in the eye? in the visual cortex? in the pre-existing mind?
How much of the next day’s mind is the pre-existing mind?
Then again: how much of F.X. Toole’s acknowledgment of Nat Sobel is business obligation? mere courtesy? flat-out lies? We’d have to read all the MSs before Sobel, and read them again after, before we could have even so much as an opinion.

2006 03 22 The above remarks came on the crest of reading the title story, Million Dollar Baby. I’m not reading further among the stories and quite a bit more of the “sow’s ear” shows through “the silk purse.” Still, the voice is unmistakable: in quality, in power, in genuineness.

2006 09 08 New Title out, folks: Pound for Pound: posthumous, of course.

2006 04 16 Happy Easter!
Watching some of the Features on the DVD of Polanski’s Tess I learn that Thomas Hardy wasn’t able to find a publisher for Tess of the d’Urbervilles for the longest time. (This was double-information for me, because back in the 1960s I’d researched Hardy (mostly in relation to Jude) and hadn’t noticed that history of Tess.)
The publishers didn’t find Hardy’s grim tale to be reader-friendly (Family-friendly, Christian-friendly …) (uhh … duh …)

more on that in a bit


Unpaid Artists:

Of course they are unappreciated, unpaid “artists” who “stink.” So what? They’re no problem. Spend a million publicizing them: you still can’t make them an enduring best seller.


About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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