Functionarian Therapy

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Circumspective thought was a ruling class value. To be a master you must possess “reason”, you must be literate. A slave otherwise. Late modernity’s version of rational subjectivity gave rise to the dumbing down critique of the late twentieth century. Youth was becoming capricious, ignorant, careless. Today slaves to hand-held devices spend all day in technical imagery. I suppose that is why we have [NAME] Publications—to remark otherwise.

Recently published by the Miami-based nonprofit, Source and Viking Funeral respond to contemporary slavery by allegorical procession, analogic relation, and poetic ambits. Source, with transcendental passages of analogy and allegory is an invitation to a reality of Americana, slightly off, but slightly right. If “a mythology reflects it region” Source achieves a high-grade vision of Floridian, Southwestern, American mythemes—linking various locales together. Viking Funeral suggests a debauched world, not in the sense of a Lynchian Hollywood, it remarks of DeVito indifference with a side of Christopher Walken nuttiness, fragmental, half-blended studio collage, an adolescent all-nighter sponsored by involuntary repulsions of too much Sloe Gin.

There are no page numbers or branding. This disrupts the system of an order. [NAME]’s intervention is against technics and our seemingly inescapable functionarian entrapment. Challenging imagination, the books move against its decline, against the self-titled art critic decomposing in his or her Ikean utopia. Source is successful in confronting banal historicity, perhaps by simple magic, for example: a rusted, full size hull on the first pages transforms into a hand-held miniature ship on the next. Commentaries by images about images in hand, hand-held book devices return to reign over speech absorbent iPads. We find curious sequences: an image of a logo “Beaver Brand Paddles and Oars” that decomposes in subsequent pages of beaver butchery, rendering the animal, a view of an interchange of the subject and its fragments that reconstitutes throughout the kernel of a world. One suspects the exercise tilts toward a polemic. This is, perhaps, a thinking of shock values in a digital age as we find a row of disembodied beaver tails drying against a blue sky. The peculiarity of allegory is a question of image propulsion. This disrupts the act of turning pages. This gives [NAME] a possible editorial imperative, a counteractive wedge deeper than sentimental polemics. “My, the things natives do” is replaced with a realization of the device in hand. Shock is the potency of an image; how it hangs around in other images you land on. Here a poetic ambit remarks of magnitude. Source and Viking Funeral initiate key questions: the view of the digital native moving into the book again, to take another chance at it, to impose a comment of the world of technics back on the coffee table of this sublime bourgeoisie.

Source’s motif on nature is timely, a small murmuring for theory land Naturphilosophie neophytes. It should sell a few copies on that fact alone. As for polemics Source lends to a notion of sustainability that is subordinate to thinking of technological desubjectification. The measure of strong art is to think about nature, not its representation, but to think about the device itself—what we take for granted day to day. Source incorporates not only a few hot philosophemes of the day, it does more. The work is revolting, more revolving a thought of its own, not too hard, not too subdued; not too what is already known and not too trendy. It has its own trend. The criteria for a good book, more a good press is whether or not it restores parity to “smart” and “device”. [NAME]’s publications opens this possibility.

Source does so by moving into mythemes and beyond: a view of trees, and rendered trees moving from the beaver cut tree. A threading together of the geometric and the everyday, a concept of poetic history in variations, between subjects and situations, of onlookers within and without: bull rider, sheep skin on stilts drying out, naked chested natives juxtaposed to the passed out cowboy in dusty jeans. Old white woman working in front of a multicolored quilt, two black guys in rainbow gay gear—this fabrication of America—this full spread of a bull rider in crotch rocket glasses. Source’s thinking of the documentary form, is it from the view of the digital native—“see what these migrants do?”  The book is not too shocking, it uses shock to comment on the reality of reading. These are not hard oppositions, forcing dialectics, rather refractions disbursed throughout. An ambit of the poetic, an overall movement remarks of an ethics more than repulsion that is rather compelling.

Source makes an evocative stance on the sublime bourgeoisie’s coffee table, it might torment a few, or make your teenager proud. An intervention on the documentary art form the mytheme of Americana is its primary mediation; a cultural commentary needed for an America that looks incredibly bipolar, the land of graphite tasting coffee and AR-15s still makes a point of viewing itself.

Viking Funeral takes a harsher stance, it is peppered with pubes, nipples, burns, burn-outs. It is a montage of the wastoid’s studio and imaginary desires, why you do not unravel an old tissue. It is an artist’s book but with different achievements from those of Source. The shock element is much stronger and not as masterfully requited; theory and practice unresolved perhaps work to the studio essentialism within. There are some humorous and horrific moments, Elvis levitating over a stack of hamburgers, a close-up of a zipper, teeth and attached nipples that consolidate the ripped apart flesh sprinkled about. Viking Funeral is weirdly a personal book. We see a prolonged adolescence unfold, apropos to the time of digital life expectancy.

Source and Viking Funeral may be associations of one another, the latter simply a high-end hardcover zine. At any rate, it remarks on the status of mad compilations. Viking Funeral takes its own path, through the mental vomit of a teenager at twenty-six drunk on Vanilla Ice. No doubt, books full of stories in images and in the relations of images.

Source. Christy Gast. Miami: [NAME] Publications, 2011. (http://www.namepublications.org/christygastbook.html)

Viking Funeral Compilation 2011. Miami: [NAME] Publications, 2011. (http://www.namepublications.org/vikingfuneralbook.html)

Adam Staley Groves is a lecturer and Fellow with Tembusu College, National University of Singapore. Adam received MA and PhD degrees from the European Graduate School, Switzerland. Adam’s current research with the Univeristy of Aberdeen’s Centre for Modern Thought explores the relationship between poetry and technology thus toward an ethics of imagination in an age of technics.

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