Are you ok? Do you feel good about this?
Faster artificial intelligence, kill kill!
Oh hello, oh hi there!
Big hand wave from out here on the high plateau of Mexico City, where I am doing very well, thank you.
Hope you are, too.
It’s September, which is traditionally Subduction Frictional Consequences month around these slowly sinking parts.
In existential preparation I’ve recently re-watched Stalker and framed one of my favorite movie posters in tribute. That’s Tita on the Fake Eames, say hello 🐕.
Two recent creative tools that new subscribers (👋) may enjoy:
I apologize for the tardiness of this newsletter, I was writing a proposal for a global non-profit which I am v v excited about. Might create a proposal template soon.
As always, office hours are open for all your office hours needs.
Condolences to my British friends.
This week’s letter is about our modern midden heap of art.
Have you heard of cluttercore, aka the “handy, TikTok-searchable catchall for an aesthetic that demands every available surface be covered with the type of tchotchkes and doodads the rest of us would shove in a box or simply throw away”? You have now. Is living inside a museum of yourself a form of collecting? A form of hoarding? You tell me. Or inquire at The Marion Stokes Project, an excellent documentary about the woman who obsessively recorded 30 years of TV news (which I watched via a Plex maintained by a severely maximalist friend). Meanwhile in The Congo, kids who haven’t grown up yet are dressing in the colorful clutter the world is dumping there. See also: I Went to Trash School and truckspills.com.
Speaking of the rapid accretion of more more more, here’s the headline: An AI-Generated Artwork Won First Place at a State Fair Fine Arts Competition, and Artists Are Pissed. The usual anxieties apply: is this the end of art? Will creatives be out of a job? I don’t know! I doubt it! Anyway here’s an excellent response thread by the former creative director of Nine Inch Nails: “Tech has always given artists new ways to express ideas and automated processes to help artists execute their visions faster. It has never replaced artists or killed art”. Speaking of art, here’s an excellent interview with the creator of Midjourney, and it’s interesting enought to quote three points at length:
“We found very quickly that most people don’t know what they want. You say: “Here’s a machine you can imagine anything with it — what do you want?” And they go: “dog.” And you go “really?” and they go “pink dog.” So you give them a picture of a dog, and they go “okay” and then go do something else. Whereas if you put them in a group, they’ll go “dog” and someone else will go “space dog” and someone else will go “Aztec space dog,” and then all of a sudden, people understand the possibilities, and you’re creating this augmented imagination — an environment where people can learn and play with this new capacity. So we found that people really like imagining together, and so we made [Midjourney] social.” Oh hell, art is other people.
“Inside the community, you have a million people making images, and they’re all riffing off each other, and by default, everybody can see everybody else’s images. You have to pay extra to pull out the community — and usually, if you do that, it means you’re some type of commercial user. So everyone’s ripping off each other, and there’s all these new aesthetics. It’s almost like aesthetic accelerationism.” No, it is definitely like aesthetic accelerationism.
“We do have a lot of artists in the community, and I’d say they’re universally positive about the tool, and they think it’s gonna make them much more productive and improve their lives a lot. And we are constantly talking to them and asking, “Are you okay? Do you feel good about this?”
I mean, that’s nice, but it’s also like asking Rick Moranis how he feels while he’s going plaid. What if they don’t feel good about this? What then? Not going to pack it all in, are you? The fact of accelerationism doesn’t care about artist’s feelings.
Myself, I am not currently in the market for solace. But if I were to take solace, it would be in the form of Richard Turley’s final post at Its Nice That where, in decrying the glut of good and professional and sanitized taste out there, he advocates for working with people who don’t know what they’re doing, who break the rules and create something new. “There are no new ideas, there never have been. There are only new ways of thinking about old ideas and how they’re stitched together.” Sounds a bit like what’s happening with AI art, you ask me.
The new boredom
Almost dear god 15 years ago, PSFK invited me to sit on a panel called Is New York Still Cool? Big group anxiety. What were we reacting to? Too few speakeasies? Chase banks on every corner? The NYTimes had recently discovered Williamsburg. No iphone yet. Blog culture. Headphones had wires. Scarcity still a concept. There was not enough cool! Now, today, we have bright infinities in our palms. Now there is *too much* cool! We have, on the one hand, lots of everything: Streamers, video, content, aesthetic accelerationism, a world that became Brooklyn and then became an algorithm. Consequently, we have, on the other hand, lots of boredom. We see so many things happen, and so often, that we can predict every cycle, every call, every response. Big group anxiety again! We live in the age of corporate IP and formulaic twitter threads and enlightenment that arrives via dropship. Everything happens too much, whatever it is, and we can have it all, so none of it matters. Multiple realities and metaverses, no wonder that idea caught on. We yearn for other worlds with other things, other consumption patterns, others ways to be. Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.
2002: Culture as anaesthetic
2022: Did the internet ruin culture?
If everything happens anywhere, it’s here. I was just explaining to my girlfriend how August in the United States—with its shark attacks and firestorms and hurricanes and bath-salted panics arising from sweaty boredom—is the Florida of months, and then lookit, A24 just published a travel guide to everyone’s favorite syphillitic dangle on the eastern seaboard. It’s no longer August but shh, this book is beautifully illustrated by Gabriel Alcala.
Eternal sunshine state of the swampy mind.
More delightful resources
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