Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Lascaux drawings are impressive in their artfulness. They have an elegance achieved by drawing for the pleasure of drawing. The animals are naturalistically rendered, and the scenes don’t seem to be loaded with symbolic meaning, the elements of the pictures don’t appear to belong to a symbol system. They do , or can, function as propositions in the Tractarian sense, because they provide pictures of their world, of life in paleolithic Europe. I still have questions. Was there a division of labor seperating artists from hunters? Hunting was necessary labor, but was picture-making also considered necessary? Did the pictures have some specific social use -- as a record of events, or as a summoning of magical powers? Were the hunters also the picture-makers? Did the picture-makers have more, less, or equal social status with the hunters? Were they revered or considered parasites?
The art draws from the excitement of the hunt. The hunt is as much a sport as it is a necessity, and drawing is also a sport, but a different kind, requiring different skills, and giving different pleasures. Is the Lascaux cave like a temple? A gallery? A rec room with pictures of hunting scenes? We project our fantasies on the walls and see magic and mystery, an attempt to acquire power over life and death, maybe. We are familiar with the need to make “art,” and look for the prehistoric secret of that need. The peculiar stick figure, in particular, invites interpretation because it differs so much from the naturalism of the animal it is confronting, and we can’t know if that is because it was added by an artist of lesser, or different, talent, or if it does have a symbolic, maybe magical, use. It might depict a kind of scarecrow or decoy, or a supernatural figure or shapeshifter, or just paleolithic graffiti with a meaning that is not recoverable. Compare that scene with Wittgenstein’s fighting stick figures. Is the picture stating that this actually happened? Joseph Campbell popularized the reading or misreading of this stick figure as a shaman. My misreading of Lascaux is a storytelling game that sees the stick man as a possible ancestor, though geographically distant, of Thoth, the ibis-headed scribe of the gods who invented hieroglyphic writing as well as arts and sciences. The ancient Greeks identified Thoth with Hermes. By transforming pictures into symbols for speech, Thoth created the means to record, store, and transmit knowledge.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

In the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote that
we make for ourselves a model of the world, a picture of facts. The
elements of the picture represent objects in the world, and the way
the elements are related to each other in the picture, or model, states
how the objects are related to each other in the world. Maybe here he
is talking about an interior "map" of the world that each of us
possesses, a representation of the world, that enables us to interpret
what we perceive and navigate our environment. I don't know for sure
what he meant. I don't know if he was unaware of abstract art in 1914
and wrote his first notes for the book, or if that even matters. What
he wrote(and what is given in the original German in the collage below)
was, "Let us think of hieroglyphic writing in which each word is a
representation of what it stands for." The problem is that in
"hieroglyphic writing," at least the Egyptian kind, the pictures are
used to represent sounds, not objects, so the cobra represents a soft
G, for example. Of course, it also represents a cobra, but the way the
pictures are lined up and made to relate to each other, has to do with
representing words and phrases, not relationships of objects. But that
just means that W's note tells us nothing about how Egyptian
hieroglyphic writing works. In the collage below I also show some
examples from English Through Pictures that show what he was thinking
about, maybe, where stick figures represent the sentences "I am here,"
"He is there," She is there," but I doubt that I would know that the
pictures were saying these specific things unless the English sentences
were also there. It is thoughts like this that made me wonder what W
thought he was saying, and why he thought his theory made sense. That's
why it was so difficult to write a paper about the Tractaus. I think we
do carry representations of the world within us, so to speak, and that
they are based on language, and that we reality test our models, and
adapt them. The Lascaux pictures are representational, but we don't
know if the hunting scene depicts some specific hunt that had happened,
or one the artist was planning, or one the artist was imagining and
depicting for "entertainment." I think Penck had encountered W's
notebook and the pictographic proposition, and Penck was making a kind
of writing, but it wasn't the kind being discussed in the Tractatus.
Richards seemed to be looking for a kind of universal pictographic
writing, or one that could be universally comprehended, so people could
use it to learn languages. I don't think it worked very well. I thought
that the problems in Richards system could help show problems in
Wittgenstein's Tractarian system and could make a possible groovy
dissertation topic. I'm really writing about this to try to explain why
I got involved in doing a pictographic, and ideographic, kind of art,
that it infected me (pictographic germs). It wasn't that I wanted to be
another Penck or Haring, although they also carried the virus.

Monday, September 27, 2010

note to collage essay

A long time ago I studied a little Wittgenstein in school, hoping it
would help me understand how marks on paper could have meaning. Around
that time A.R. Penck's paintings were becoming well known and I saw
some things in his work I thought could be connected. I found a copy of
French Through Pictures by I.A. Richards and realized his idea was
based on the picture theory of language in Wittgenstein's Tractatus,
which W later rejected. Later, I found English Through Pictures, the
first in the series, and Spanish, and Hebrew. I thought it was the best
conceptual art I ever saw. We had the World Book Encyclopedia when I
was a kid and the history of each letter of the alphabet was pictured.
I thought a mythical history could be written in pictures in which
drawing is subjected to spoken language, and made to represent speech.
I also believed that thinking about this might help me develop a
composite word/picture poetry.

Pieces of a collage essay. All images appropriated.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

article in Hyperallergic

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I started this model for a second word game and found I made a mistake in the order of the red and yellow sides, so I'll do those sides over. I am thinking of making a plywood word game later.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Shows in Amherst Lori and I are in.

Two more word games.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


• During the week ending 9/12/2010, I did not refuse any job offer or
job referral.
• Including self-employment, I did not work during the week ending
• Excluding earnings from self-employment, I did not earn more than
• I was ready, willing and able to work every day last week.
• I was not owed vacation pay and I did not receive vacation pay.
• I was not owed holiday pay and I did not receive holiday pay.
• I have not returned to work full time.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ecclesiastes 12:12

The making of many books is without limit
And much study is a wearying of the flesh.

Here is the model, if that's what it is, or 3D drawing, in the context of my work space, which is in disarray. I am getting it in order this week, and this has delayed working on another model/drawing. I like to have my studio organized when I begin a project. As the project proceeds, I make a mess. Maybe I can break that pattern. I always hope I can organize the studio so that I can keep it organized and functioning like a machine, or an organism -- a system, at any rate, that can produce art objects with a minimum of confusion.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

3D drawing

I have an idea for presenting some of my old word squares.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Muslim prayer

On September 11, 2001, minutes after we heard the explosion, Eugene,
the other assistant manager in the Borders in the store at the time,
made an announcement to evacuate. I didn't hear the announcement for
some reason. He was in the cafe upstairs where he could see out the
north window and I was on the ground level. All I could see outside was
lots of paper falling and people running, screaming. After a few long
minutes he called me on the cellphone and said he would check the lower
level and I said I'll make sure everyone had left upstairs. The staff
were collecting their things in the back office area. One of my
co-workers, a devout Muslim, was holding a copy of the Qur'an, She
apologized for not hearing the announcement to evacuate because she had
been praying. This is one of the most vivid memories, among many, of
that morning. My friend prayed every day, and we had to make time for
her. She was in charge of the religion section and had carefully
organized the Bibles by translation. Our store sold more Bibles than
any other Borders in the country. When I saw her again a few days after
the attack we took a long walk in Midtown and talked about faith, among
other things. I wanted to write something about her because I liked her
a lot and think about her, and the recent uproar over the Cordoba
House, and over the ignorant Florida pseudo-pastor who plans to
publicly burn Qur'ans, has disturbed me very much. I can't recognize a
"faith" that preaches this much hate and paranoia.
If your god does not hear the prayers of Muslims, it doesn't hear your
prayers either.

Peace Out,

Lawrence Swan

Breathe in One

Pieces of Zero

mid-term elections

The learning curve of the American political universe is long, but it bends toward D minus.

Monday, September 06, 2010

First page, with receipt.

labor pain

"3.2 The position of the professional artist is archetypically middle-class in relation to labor: the dream of being an artist is the dream of making a living off the products of one's own mental or physical labor while fully being able to control and identify with that labor. "

From "9.5 Theses on Art and Class" by Ben Davis

Labor Day

Cursed be the ground because of you;
By toil shall you eat of it
All the days of your life:
Thorns and thistles shall it sprout for you.
But your food shall be the grasses of the field;
By the sweat of your brow
Shall you get bread to eat,
Until you return to the ground --
For from it you were taken.
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.

Genesis 3:23

Sunday, September 05, 2010

I have a new project. Hrag Vartanian is working with me on this. It is a sort of byproduct of the article I just had in Hyperallergic, Your Own Reality Show
I want to document the making of a specific art work for a specific showusing various social media, including my blog Facebook, email, maybe Twitter, YouTube. The story of the making of the piece will be part of the piece, maybe, although the piece will struggle for autonomy. Like any good art reality show participant I went to Utrecht to get materials, a sketchbook.

certify benefits

  • During the week ending 9/5/2010, I did not refuse any job offer or job referral.
  • Including self-employment, I did not work during the week ending 9/5/2010,
  • Excluding earnings from self-employment, I did not earn more than $405.00.
  • I was ready, willing and able to work every day last week.
  • I was not owed vacation pay and I did not receive vacation pay.
  • I was not owed holiday pay and I did not receive holiday pay.
  • I have not returned to work full time.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Work in progress.