Monday, March 19, 2012

What Do You Dream of Now?

Satellite's gone
up to the skies
Thing like that drive me
out of my mind

---Lou Reed, "Satellite of Love"

Dreams of a better (or at least different) world have fueled artists' pursuits for millennia, with more modern examples ranging from finding inspiration in exotic locales (think Gauguin or Rousseau) to exposés of human suffering designed to raise consciousness (think Picasso up through Emily Jacir) to simply musing on the aesthetics and metaphors of space exploration and the technology explosion of the last century (think Rosenquist up through Cory Archangel).

The appeal of "over there" or "tomorrow" (that is, the unknown and hopefully better) worlds is understandably a rich vein to mine for artists, but while we see turmoil the world over with protests and wars and plans for new wars and what not, there seems to be a bit of loss of direction (perhaps simply the result of a vastly connected and much more complex world) in the dream department these days.

Neil deGrasse Tyson makes a passionate argument that the lack of enthusiasm for more space exploration (via NASA funding) is an indication that we have stopped dreaming the way we used to in this video:



Of course, there is a generation of artists who recognize the appeal of deGrasse Tyson's other declaration (that "the universe is in us") and have concluded (rightly, I think) that that's a rich enough territory for any artist to explore. But at other times I find it hard to separate dreaming inward from the eventual drudgery of "navel gazing." The idea that there's still so much more worthwhile "out there" is difficult to give up.

Art world types (ok, so mostly those who fall into the "geek" or "nerd" categories) are excited for the upcoming return of director Ridley Scott to the sci-fi genre, with his highly anticipated new flick "Prometheus."




And among the super-geeky there's also viral enthusiasm for Scott's envisioned TED talk from the year 2023:



It's an blisteringly exciting vision: "We are the gods now." And isn't it partly the their secret desire to be more godlike (to create new universes that he/she completely controls) that makes exploring new territories or building new, better worlds (according to one's own vision) so appealing to artists?

But, alas, achieving anything approaching the Prometheus vision would seem to require that we continue to invest in space exploration.

Is deGrasse Tyson off base?

If so, what do you dream of now?

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6 Comments:

Anonymous Gam said...

I'll go out on a limb - I question if artists dream -

in my view, what makes us human
isn't having language,
it isnt even being a tool maker,
but its our propensity to move between world views- to temporarily suspend reality for another
it gives us
play
humour
art
addiction
totalitarinism ....

this ability gives us an incredible evolutionary and social advantage and incredible cultural depth-
but like achilles heel, if we dont practice recognising which reality we are in (as we do with humour) then we risk becoming estranged from reality.

I think artists are not so much playing at gods, as they are holding up to ourselves (and themseleves) the paradigm of what we have already beome in terms of our current social paradigms. The more coherent that paradigm they show us, the more we can then see it juxtaposed with whichever paradigm we believe we are in, allowing to correct our world view if we feel it necessary.

Artists simply show which dream the dreamer is already dreaming, they arent playing at being Gods. They simply proclaim out loud what most have already accepted without realizing it. We are the corollary to technologies every way of being , becoming a way of knowing. Putting forth cohesive views of reality, offering instead every way of knowing, becoming a way of being.

I would even state that artists dont change the world, but instead show us how the world has already changed.

3/20/2012 10:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I have a couple of favorite quotes, one from St. Augustine:

Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.

The other from Henry Miller:

Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music - the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.

They are contradictory, yet both true. How to reconcile them is an exercise left to the reader.

The tension isn't really between exoteric and esoteric explorations, but between exploration and being a homebody (philosophical or actual), neither cultivating where you are nor seeking outside of it for new experiences. There's a passive form of homebody-ing which is sheer laziness and fear, and an active form in which you stop testing your own arguments, or stop testing them in a way that matters, and revel in the foregone conclusions. You could call it wheel-spinning. Most of what passes for art (especially art about the art world) is wheel-spinning.

I'm cautiously pessimistic about Prometheus. Since I had to look it up, here's an introduction to the M-theory mentioned in the "TED Talk" at 1:53.

3/20/2012 11:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

Franklin,

reminds me of Levis Strauss's quip of travel abroad being an exploration of the self and of our memories of home ...

m theory is intriguing

3/20/2012 11:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This topic is something I've thought of a lot. I look at our society and there aren't any dreams. Unfortunately we dismiss or vilify scientists and engineers (in movies they're villains, second only to business).
We've turned away from dreaming about possibilities and have turned that energy into a pessimistic drive for unattainable utopias. The desire for utopias is wonderful (a time when no one will ever be cold, hungry, poor, sad, used cruelly by life and other humans), but it isn't attainable. We shouldn't stop trying for all those goods to come into being, but the dreams of science and technology are achievable and shouldn't be targeted as the enemy. I've had too many conversations with people who consider themselves environmentalists who are ignorant of the riches that surround them that have been produced by scientists and engineers. They drink their lattes, talk on their iphones and tell me how if we don't have electricity or plastic or whatever the latest bugaboo is that the world would somehow be a better place, but they don't bring to the discussion achievable, affordable alternatives.
The funny thing is that the people I know who are engineers actually have gizmos and devices in their homes trying to achieve what the rest of us only yak about.
We've become a society that glorifies poverty and ghetto life (without ever having suffered through it) instead of glorifying the aspirations of getting ahead and working hard and educating ourselves. You know, the sorts of ambitions that immigrants have.
My dream is still to live in a space colony and get away from our flabby society. That being unlikely, plus I have a fear of heights and flying, I'm hoping for one of those floating constructed cities on the ocean and being surrounded by scientists and engineers making stuff. I'd have to be a cleaning lady or waitress in such a place, but it would be awesome to be surrounded by thinking and making, less pessimistically centered people. I love tech, I love being alive thanks to vaccines, I love the knowledge now at my finger tips due to computers, I'm hoping for a self driving car so I can live rural but drive safely to the store when I'm 90 and drooling, I love out of season fruit. Can we open the window and let some optimism in.

3/20/2012 02:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who do you trust in the future? Corprate America's Cyberdine T-100 and Skynet cuzz that's were its going or The Alien Critters? I will take my Chances with the Acid Blood Overlords.

3/23/2012 09:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What i see in the future.
100 million world wide population.
One world goverment ruled by you know who.
synthetic everything.
a usb port in your skull.

No religion, no love no hate ,NO nothing. emotions will be programed.

The Arts Bwahahahha wtf is that.

got a fucking problem ask Hal.

3/23/2012 10:20:00 AM  

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