Straining the Greens: Letter to Another Friend:
I assume that you, as an engineer, are imbued with sensible pragmatism
-while I, as an artist, am filled with megalomania and fantasy. Of
course, you are not only an "engineer" and I am not only an "artist"
-but these concepts are fun to play with sometimes....
My objection to the GUI is the reactionary way it reinforces the user's
own view of the world -and does not extend their perspective in any
way. However, I really do believe that one must carefully separate out
the various levels of "focus" and understand how these (different)
levels (or domains) interact with each other in (extremely) complex and
perhaps creative ways.... In this context, the concept (and practice)
of "interfacing" is of great importance and beauty -because (in theory
and practice) it allows things to fit (and communicate) together that
would not normally be able to do so...
In practice, the GUI is destructive to human intelligence -but in
theory, it could be the key to peaceful political and social
revolution! Although closely interwoven with modern (western?)
technology on a practical level -in a
philosophical context, mappings and interfaces are somewhat
antagonistic to the idea of "universal" (and therefore homogeneous)
"truth" that is so fundamental to (and so damaging within) western
philosophy.... It seems that the theory of interfacing is both a
continuation and a contradiciton of western thinking.... and of course,
such a paradox is totally alien to western logic!
In fact, my work started with the "Cross-media Mapping Project" -which
grew out of my fascination with the potential (creative and
cognitive) power of a study of the implications of mappings between
different (conceptual) spaces. Obviously, every interface involves a
mapping -but not every mapping is an interface....
How I love the term "engineer" -with it's association of well oiled and
well run engines -despite the fact that possibly, historically, most of
our current problems concern the failed social integration of the
(British) industrialisation process. However, as an engineer, I'm sure
that you will appreciate me saying (because I like to play "engineer"
too) that your "fair election project" (however successful it might be)
ain't worth nuffin -without a genuine social debate and a viable
political alternative, so that the people's votes actually mean
Presumably, one has to form coalitions -and one has to have some kind
of theoretical and practical manifesto.... These are fascinating
"design" problems: How can one develop a flexible structure that allows
a multitude of positions to cooperate within a broad consensus -while
using potential disagreements that would normally lead to fractionalism
in more creative and symbiotic ways?
In this sense, the "party" would actually be a microcosmic model for
the nation (which in turn, is surely a microcosmic model of the
Perhaps my relationship with my (ex?)partner is a good concrete
example: I find her thoughts very stimulating -but they "stimulate"
ideas that are not wholly consistent with her original position. So, I
can imagine that she experiences my remarks as being very "negative"
and damaging.... I suspect that this is made worse because this
"negativity" resonates with damaging negative remarks made by others
-and so she emotionally explodes -as part of a healthy defense
Unfortunately, she still cannot see that my reactions, which upset her
so much, are probably fueled by similar mechanisms in myself.
At this point, it seems that we have "negative negativity" that is very
damaging -and "positive negativity" which is very constructive.
So then it also seems that we might have two fundamentally different
types of "positive" and "negative": One concerned with
being "inside or outside" a conceptual framework -while the other is
concerned with being "constructive or destructive".... Which surely
brings us back to the problems of definitions and identities -because
presumably any practical implementation must ask "inside or outside" of
what? -and "constructive or destructive" of what?.... Apparently, both
of these questions introduce a third type of "negativity" (related to
the first) -which involves the principle of "complementation" -i.e. the
view "outside" for an "outsider" might well be the view "inside" for
somebody else in a different position and who therefore has a different
Although brought up in a protestant (Church of England) context, I am
not a religious person in conventional terms -but my (ex?)partner has
grown up in a powerful religious context (and seems to be speaking in
increasingly religious terms).
She claims that I am "evil"... Of course, I cannot agree: However, I
can see her point -which is quite logical if one interprets my
(inside-outside) negativity in entirely (destructive) negative terms,
which various external and internal factors apparently tend to
encourage her to do....
She also talks about "equilibrium" and "life force" -while I talk in
terms of "aesthetics" and "ecology". These two sets of terms probably
both have important connotations which the other does not have -so it
is important (within my theory) that everybody speaks their own
language -but I do believe that both sets of terms do "map" into each
other fairly easily (at least in non contradictory ways)....
In fact, in my view, the creative dialogue only really gets of the
ground when it involves translations between different "languages" (or
systems). Perhaps, this is why a good (western) artist needs to have
internal contradictions -and perhaps why so many end up (like my
(ex?)partner) in self-destructive mode. This is a consequence of
thinking in terms of irreconcilable binary differences -of thinking in
terms of conflict and not harmonic dialogue.
This essential need for multi-layered conceptual dialogue within the
creative process presumably explains why the practice of making art is
seriously undermined if practitioners concentrate on the "theoretical"
side and ignore the more "practical" aspects of the image -including
the image making and interpretation process.... This is why, in my
view, contemporary (global) art is failing, why "art" is more valuable
than "philosophy" (because art has the art work as pragmatic, external,
test while philosophy can only be tested in terms of its own internal
logic) -and, perhaps even more important, why "politics" will always
fail unless a better understanding of the interaction between theory
and practice is developed and practiced...
I guess this also suggests why the "Graphic User Interface" and the
"user" orientated ICT paradigm are so dangerous -because they "solve"
the practical problems for the user -leaving them to concentrate on the
(theoretical) "content" -thus destroying the vitally important
interaction between theory and praxis (including the dialogue between
form and content).
Indeed, I can agree with the term "evil"-when
one sees how, for various reasons, attitudes that should compliment
each other and feed the creative dialogue in delightful ways -instead,
turn against themselves and each other in totally destructive ways....
Unfortunately, those responsible (and perhaps I should include myself
here too) have probably all had the best intentions in the world.....
Sometimes, it seems, that we need to be forced to transcend our own
good intentions (even though this can sometimes be a difficult and
painful process).... In this context, we all need to be "healed" (and
made "whole") again....
I have tried to suggest to her that she needs to resolve these internal
contradictions, but unfortunately, this is always interpreted as a
criticism and a denial by me of my own problems. However, this is not
how I see things -because I believe that understanding one's own
contradictions (and working with them creatively) is a pre-condition
for working constructively with those who might think differently to
What we both need is an "interface" -and until now, regrettably, nobody has been prepared, or able, to do it....
In Holland, at one point, I unfortunately got involved with intense
infighting in the art college where I worked. This focused on a
conflict between my head of department and myself -with, of course, the
director becoming involved in support of the departmental head. As a
result of this, I asked the chairman of the board of governors, who was
a friend of a friend -in a private conversation, if he thought I should
continue: He replied that on the farm where he had his studio there was
a big pit for manure and excrement -and that every year, somebody (in
protective clothing) had to descend into the pit to clean it out....
I can understand that, in some cultures, those who do such disgusting
work (without protective clothing) easily become "untouchable"....
Perhaps one needs to occasionally look "under the motor cap" to see
that while the Brahmins may keep things going on a conceptual level -it
is the untouchables who keep things going on a practical level -and we
both need each other in order to survive!
The "bottom line" is: That although the "fair election project" should
not be linked to any specific political party (or movement) -you do
need a viable and responsible political party to capitalize on the
results of a fair election. In turn, such a party needs to develop
theories and practices that can form the foundation and provide the
conditions for development of an intelligent, responsible and vibrant
(broad based) political movement -that is effective but still not so
threatening to any opponents that it will be destroyed by them.
In theoretical terms, such a system is called an "ecology" -so
presumably, the "Greens" would be an appropriate starting point....
However, this "ecology" also needs a brain (as well as functioning
limbs) -so it also needs a "Scientific Institute" that can be an open
forum for the discussion and development of ideas -and in turn, this
needs to be linked into the educational, economic and cultural
infrastructures via various (multi-directional) interfaces.....
Perhaps you will forgive my personal artistic megalomania -if I add
that I believe that my (ex?)partner is developing a potentially
important infrastructural base (which could be used, if she was
willing) for such a project -and I also believe that my work could
provide a useful (initial) conceptual foundation for further
discussion.... However, this means that she and I (and others) would
need to learn to work together (at least!),,,, and that my personal
life seems weirdly interwoven with much more important issues....
I know that you are busy -we have spoken of this before -but I do
believe that the time is rapidly approaching when some of these
thoughts need to be put to the test within some form of practical
structure..... If only the right people can be brought together (in
time) to work things out properly....
With sincere best wishes,
Manila, October 15 2006