A new chapter begins – my last day in my current academic position as course leader and senior lecturer. From January 2022 on I will be a full-time student and focus on developing and hopefully finishing my PhD on the use of space in alternative art airs as a form of contradicting white cube strategies and hierarchies in the art market. But today, I stumbled about this beautiful quote. If my pen (keyboard) can become a chisel like this, I shall be happy.
The moon, stars and constellations
Picture: Asteroid (source Wiki)
One of my great-uncles was an astronomer in Hamburg with name Wilhelm Dieckvoss. Asteroid (1706) Dieckvoss was named after him. This has nothing to do with my PhD.
But working an a journal article on private museums, I am late with, I have been reading Claire Bishop’s Radical museology. On page 56 she writes:
“An apt term to describe the result of these activities is the constellation, a work used by Walter Benjamin to describe a Marxist project of bringing events together in new ways, disrupting established taxonomies, disciplines, mediums and proprieties.” (56)
He wrote about it in the Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels und im Arkadenprojekt. I hadn’t hear about this (my bad).
The Oxford Quick reference website states:
“That is to say, ideas are no more present in the world than constellations actually exist in the heavens, but like constellations they enable us to perceive relations between objects. It also means ideas are not the same as concepts, nor can they be construed as the laws of concepts. Ideas do not give rise to knowledge about phenomena and phenomena cannot be used to measure their validity. This is not to say the constellation is purely subjective or all in our heads. The stars in the night sky are where they are regardless of how we look at them and there is something in how they are positioned above us that suggests the image we construct of them. But having said that, the names we use for constellations are embedded in history, tradition and myth. So the constellation is simultaneously subjective and objective in nature. It is not, however, a system, and this is its true significance for Benjamin, who rejects the notion that philosophy can be thought of as systemic, as though it were mathematical or scientific instead of discursive…. The notion of constellation allows for a depiction of the relation between ideas that gives individual ideas their autonomy but does not thereby plunge them into a state of isolated anomie. (https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095633862)
This is interesting. I wonder if this helps me to get unstuck. I am stuck in methodologies, chronologies, reading versus thinking versus writing and being distracted with lots of other projects. I am also stuck in dichotomies and oppositions. This seems to be a possibility.
Like Luna. Our new puppy. She is also a new possibility to live life differently.
The State of my desk today sums up my year. It’s been messy. It broke my heart multiple times and I experienced loss in way I did not know was possible. I am still broken but I try to see it as a chance.
Today, I didn’t tidy up my desk. Maybe tomorrow. But I have my laptop and after pausing my PhD for about 9 months, I have started again. Baby steps.
Today I read a lot. Mainly on the history of power theories. Contextualising before delving into Foucault. Or so I tell myself. Was lucky as our new puppy slept all day. (the other reason for the messy desk – saving papers from her).
I filed notes on notecards, I wrote in my book (sorry), I thought of ideas and added articles to Zotero. And at the end I found the most amazing quote, which made today all worthwhile. Not for the PhD maybe but for me. Thank you John Rajchman:
“In this sense Foucault’s art of seeing might be said to be the art of seeing outside ourselves, or seeing the “absence” in our work. Not to look within to a true or authentic self; not to master one’s time by holding it in one’s thought; not to find a place for oneself within society or state, but to look out from oneself, to open one’s time to what has not yet been seen, to transform or displace one’s instituted, assigned identity at a time and place. In this sense Foucault’s art of seeing is an art of looking out, which would “give new impetus, as far and wide as possible, to the undefined work of freedom.”
John Rajchman, October, 1988
Vita Activa (H Arendt).
Not knowing and living with the ‘absence’. Still doing. For what lies ahead. In work and life. To honour the lives lost.
The Law of the innermost form of the essay is heresy. Theodor Adorno
So I started reading today – and note taking.
Supernotecard works quite well and I can link it to my references in Zotero. I also started a physical notebook. Unless I find a way how to draw on the computer/laptop. Any ideas?
I started Byung-Chul Han’s Phychopolitics and fell in love with Han. Not because he is a philosopher and is clever and is German and writes in German which would all be very valid reasons to be amazing but because he has been gardening daily for three years and wrote a book about gardening.
Have a back garden (see above), a front garden and an allotment. I love gardens, too. But I am not a philosopher and my garden is one of the few things I don’t want to write about. I want to feel it – with my hands. But I instagram about it. A lot (@stephdieckvoss). A good sign.
I tried to read Phychopolitics in English – that didn’t work out well. Just ordered the German version. Will use English quotes if needed. Can’t read German philosophy in English. Moving on:
I am reading Gregory Sholette’s Dark Matter and have immediately been hooked. An artist and writer talking about the shodows, the invisible mass, the dar matter of the art world. Hugely fascinating and insightful. Sadly – or luckily I am getting easily distracted by his quotations and references and have only progressed to page 5. But I have read about the gentrification in New York in the 1980s and Walter Benjamin’s 1934 text the author as producer and the need to align production mechanisms to content (and style).
Being reminded how complicit with capital I am publishing “critical” articles on the art market in a financial paper. But I know that – even before Benjamin. But now I feel hit over the head with a stick. More to mull over. But it’s a PhD, not a life-changing – or is it?
I have been thinking a lot today about how to index things in a non linear way. Last week, at the TECHNE induction PhD day I realised again the importance of terminologies and definitions. There were people who didn’t know what an art fair is. [I guess it is their right?]. So what language to use, how to explain?
This morning I started to re-read Michael Foucault’s Order of things on the train. In German, in my 22-year old copy. I think French translates better into German than English. More sophistication?
Foucault talks a lot about epistemology. This make me realise I need to write a glossary. For key-terms. And what they mean to me. And how I want to define them. Now I am contemplating which system to use. I would like to flip through them, like with index cards in the old days. I would be in good company. Aby Warburg used a lot of index cards:
I am quite temped to use paper cards, I still fondly have boxes with stencilled labels which would house them perfectly and what a wonderful start to the PhD. However – I can’t read my handwriting 80% of the time, I can’t link them nor write on them when I forget them [ I never, ever gorget my laptop] … So maybe I need to look at online options?
https://www.supernotecard.com/ looks quite good
I don’t like note keeping software, I do use google keep happily for my lists but this is different – this is a new level … Well, I will report how I get on.
Maybe you have gathered already, or maybe not, but I am quite a mature PhD student. I am a lecturer, I write and publish regularly and of course I know everything best and am already the expert in my topic! Sort of. I really felt for my wonderful (as I hope he will turn out to be) supervisor, who I think must have felt terrified to encounter a colleague in such a new relationship. He gave me lots and lots of good ideas of things to get stuck into and what to read.
Most important was a discussion of the notion of contemporaneity. Thinking about how to avoid getting stuck in tracing the origins of art fairs and the early history of the fair versus my interest in what fairs tell us about the art world today. Good tactics. Doesn’t stop me digging back when trying to define first what a contemporary art fair is not. Exclusion is always a good start … Maybe even doing a bit of mapping?
So I am actually off to the library gathering some books. Oh, and I still haven’t decided if to stick with Zotero or move to RefWorks?? Maybe this might help: Decision time. The review actually didn’t help – they are all goo (incl. Endnote and Mendeley) and in the end it is personal choice.
And still finding nice phd blogs:
This is an image of my desk, where I hope most of my PhD thinking and writing will happen. I will add library desks as I move along…
Thanks for joining me!
“Since this entire structure, dimly illumined in one’s mind, can be compared to a painting, and since you do not have to work gradually from left to right for its proper perception, I may direct my flashlight at any part or particle of the picture when setting it down in writing. I do not begin my novel at the beginning I do not reach chapter three before I reach chapter four… This is why I like writing my stories and novels on index cards, numbering them later when the whole set is complete. Every card is rewritten many times…”