Cheney, in an interview with ABC news, correspondent Martha Raddatz
pointed out that a majority of citizens opposed the war in Iraq.
Cheney replied, “So?” Martha asked, “You don't care what the
American people think?” He said, “NO.” He then goes on to say
that we can't be subject to fluctuations in opinion polls. A White
House speaker was asked later if this meant the government didn't
think the public should have input. The speaker remarked that the
public has input every four years. Since they fund, so pretty much
own the candidates in those 4 year elections (but not Bernie), that
sums up the oligarchic attitude towards democracy. By the way, other
damage that administration did to democracy was stack the federal
courts with corporate conservatives and the news out of Paris this
weekend is called blowback... violence begets violence. Chomsky
points out in this book a number of issues on which the citizenry
holds an opinion, according to polls, in contrast to government ie, a
large majority support a single payer health care system, a
significant majority would prefer less military-focused budget
priorities, strong human rights policies and real democracy... the
government and mainstream media declare these positions not
politically feasible. Since the majority supports them there must be
some other criterion for politically feasible and of course that
brings us to the disproportionate influence of the 1%... what the 1%
wants the 1% usually gets. Another
related, revealing and disturbing factoid Chomsky cites is a
worldwide study by Edward Herman looking at the relationship between
U.S. aid and torture. The study showed a high correlation. A second
study concluded that the key factor was “investment climate”.
U.S. aid increased as investment climate improved, ie, a favorable
investment situation for U.S. corporations = higher U.S. aid levels.
How is a favorable investment climate created and maintained? Well,
“One of the best ways is to murder union organizers and peasant
leaders, to torture priests, to massacre peasants, to undermine
social programs etc;” Not that the U.S. prefers human rights
violations, that is just what accompanies the favorable business
climate created by client governments. In
government and media discussion of the terrible threat to the
U.S. from Iran, the regime is described as dictatorial (though
elected) and dangerous, no argument with the former, no evidence
needed for the latter. No mention of course of the inconvenient fact
that the U.S. and Britain in 1954 overthrew a parliamentary democracy
in the country, installing the Shah's ruthless regime characterized
by the usual offensive attributes. The U.S. has boots on the ground,
as the saying goes, in Afghanistan and Iraq but Iran is
“destabilizing” the area. Stabilization is when everyone is
following orders and a favorable investment climate is created. This
in fact is what is usually at the root of U.S. aggression - from
Clinton's bombing of Kosovo/Serbia to the U.S. invasion of Vietnam,
the embargo of Cuba and support for right wing dictators across the
planet. Risking the sensibility of the blind patriot, Chomsky
compares U.S. operations to the Mafia... the Don cannot allow one
storekeeper to refuse “protection” payments. Total obediance is
required or the system of domination is threatened. Chomsky
ventures where few will follow, or even comprehend, given the
indoctrination system, conflicting as it does, too mightily with
received wisdom – U.S. allegiance to Israel unfettered by human
rights considerations. Israel is described as playing the role of a
U.S. aircraft carrier, a military base in the midst of an
oil-drenched prize sure to lure the attention of the consumption
addict. Israel is allowed wide lattitude in its barbaric behavior
around land grabs and oppression of Palestinians so long as they play
out their proper military role. Anyone dependent on mainstream media
for their notion of what's going on in the mideast would be
flabbergasted to hear that it is the U.S. and Israel who have blocked
a two-state peace settlement for 35 years. And it is these same
players who block proposals for a nuclear-free middle east, something
one would think highly desirable but since the aircraft carrier
has them, and U.S. ships in the area probably have them, then the ol'
what's good for the goose is good for the gander cannot apply.
The Don's dominance cannot be questioned.
Excerpts 1975 - 1985, Tom Ferguson, published in Art Papers,
Vol 9. No. 5. September/October 1985
(one can readily see
from these writings why Eckhart Tolle so appealed to me, once I
discovered his teachings. Kinda fun to review these entries groping for insight, stumbling on it now and then, veering off
in the wrong direction, not quite getting it consistently)
1969 Winter Has Its Influence, 1973 SF+CT+TF, 1967 Perhaps an Archetype, 1977 all oil on canvas
visuals roughly track the evolution of my paintings, here & below. For a more
detailed view – www.thinkspeak.net
The Greeks, for all their
brilliance, were not ready to build a just society. Instead they
constructed architectural, artistic and philosophical edifices which
have dominated the West for centuries. So today, for all our
technological achievement, those who beg us to consider a just world
as worthy of our energy are swamped by a stupid insistence on nuclear
weapons, more weapons and now “star wars”. The Greek Gods groan.
At least the temples were majestic. Their beauty was perhaps lost on
the poor slaves expended in construction, just as we are offered as
sacrifice to myopic megalomania.
Of the ideological
strains in Abstract Expressionism, I identify with the existential –
painting as series of decisions, record of action, arena where
authenticity is sought and Zen contact – painting as means to
self-in-the-world. The painting as object, as color organization, as
itself – these more minimal factors also attract, as do conceptual
isssues. Subject is one means to incorporate issues that interest me.
Color/impasto is one means to assert the surface, not
indiscriminately but in passages of authentic or interesting or
I make pictures. Lately
they allude to a real or fictive reality beyond the painting but they
do not masquerade as holographs. They balance allusion against
surface, they embed reference in paint. Not that I wouldn't push
illusion. Nothing is forbidden save the unauthentic. Authenticity is
not a product of subject or style or medium but an un-selfconscious
coming together of interest, skill and insight.
Painting speaks via a
shared vocabulary of form, a vocabulary both learned and inherited.
Learning may distort one's aesthetic when it dogmatically insists
upon certain values and arbitrarily excludes others. Learning is on
the mark when it guides to innate response to form and expands the
possibilities of form and subject.
There is a double-entente
peculiar to the portrait genre. The painting is and if of
entity. Portraiture emphasizes and balances that surface/allusion
dichotomy, each of which vies for dominance yet yields, with great
pleasure, to the other.
Painting is about ideas
and emotion and individual physiognomy. The face, as subject, is a
convenient means to dealing with all three:
Face as Subject
has individual physiognomy (character, personality), implies ideas
(identity, being, situation) and emotion (feelings about identity,
individual physiognomy (rough, smooth etc;), implies ideas (decision,
skin, chaos/order, sensuality, actuality, primal consciousness) and
emotion (feelings about being, time, order/chaos, sensuality, fear,
awe, primal consciousness).
individual physiognomy (hue, saturation, brightness) and implies
ideas (polarity, contrast, harmony, dissonance) and emotion (feelings
about particular color experiences i.e., attraction/ repulsion,
With surface, and
sometimes color, I try to assert a definite presence, to underline
and underlie the various preoccupations of subject. Flatness is the
premise which drawing defies. Impasto short-circuits the denial and
An arrangement of color
is analogous to an arrangement of sound. Each medium addresses its
peculiar sensory organ –
speaking of delight, of death, of the range of emotion and value
common to homosapien.
structure, place for color. The end remains unknown. Piano, with its
88 possibilities, is another medium for unknown ends.
Jack Burnham suggests
that art-making is myth, that the artist stands at the abyss. Leap
(into synchronic time) or play end-game variations of the “elborate
and beautiful game.” If synchronic time is what I think it is,
painting is one of the means to pursuing it. Said another way,
end-game is a means to leaping.
entries as subject/past drng books/letters/events i.e., Partial List
of the Dead/excuse to paint but also to claim significance for all
things and simply as one of the objects my interest fastens on, which
is guide and criterion for subject and approach, stuff from my life I
appropriate for painting and so comment on this on-going process
Impasto: surface assertion/primal/muck/skin/physicality/sensuality/fecal matter/surface beauty/ surface is asserted, is actuality which is
being which is what surface assertion means – art object reality:
person being, perceiving...
sub-conscious resonance/primal/icon/... stirs primal consciousness
and this is less a reflection on the past than an experiencing of the
present as it genetically embodies that past.
words/figuration/portraits/jounals/ also – narration of self as
record of act the tension or cancellation which occurs between
narration and the formal.
duets/trios/three lines each/gatekeeper/jazz influence the
grid and/or canvas as net for catching events.
cold code/drng. Books/journals/songs/ asserts significance of all
things in tradition of ready-made, still-life, assemblage,
documentary photography, some conceptual art. Somethings stand for
all things when they “strike” me, reminding me that everything
resonates with being. This can be on a less cosmic level. The cosmic
is one of the deeper layers of “neatness”.
Formal: the basis,
the way in which the others manifest themselves – color. The
painting as object, as itself.
Many of the sub-sets
overlap. I think of significant images as color arrangements that
resonate such that they stir being. Other characteristics may support
the main concern but it is dominant.
There is an aspect of
self which reaches roots deep, into pre-history, our inherited
genetic reality, as it survives in us; that aspect of being which
connects us with the evolutionary process through our concrete
relatedness to it.
Surrealism evoked the
novelty of being by citing the strange. Genre painting was political
asserting the dignity of the common people. By transposing subject
from the mythical to the common-place, neither importance nor myth
were discarded. Instead it was declared that what myth attempts to
address is present everywhere, that “creation” is astounding in
every of its manifestations. Eventually the painting itself came to
embody the myth, to be manifestation. This may always have
been the case but abstraction took to emphasizing it.
arguments in philosophy. Materialism insisted that the artist decides
and that is subject. Transcendentalism saw the artist as go-between,
medium, shaman. Abstract Expressionism was existential. Minimalism
was confrontation – phenomenological reduction. Pop, another
manifestation of the genre, lightened things up. Process and
performance art reacted against commodification, so the object refers
not to itself but to the recent history of its production. Since
performance is process, and nothing remains after, it seems most
appropriate to de-commodification. Deconstruction calls for a
vigorous analysis of intent.
There is a strain in 20th
Century art that coincides with “bad art”. Cezanne's Bathers,
Matisse's sculpture, Leger's images, Shapiro's block figures,
Stephan's conical paintings... early Cubism... Marc, Schwitters...
there is an awkwardness, a non-classical kind of proportioning and
coloring. Something in this approach draws artists. Somehow
articulation of the inarticulate is articulate, of some one of
the multi-layers of meaning.
I pursue in painting,
what seems significant to me. What makes for “success” is the
confluence of interest 'twixt artist and the art world powers. A trend
catches on because it excites some significant portion of this
population. Some artists and critics disparage the trend. Some
“bandwagon” as popularity and profits increase. So the movement
becomes diluted, reaction sets in, other issues come to the fore. But
an artist can at any time make significant art in any of the
approaches. The rewards will however be limited - unless the timing
is such as to begin a movement or revival.
involve subject selection, what I fasten on as alluring, given the
present way of painting. It is a reciprocal evolving. Certain
subjects mesh favorably with my present approach, others interest me
enough to change my approach to mesh with them.
David Smith says that the
art object is spark to fire the viewer's imagination. For me color is
the itself of painting, not only spark but instance of
imagination. The art-act is an intuitive act of conviction, according
to Smith. Specifically it is unpredictable yet, since he claims it as
an evolved language, it is recognizable as convincing or no. When it
is genuine it expresses the uniqueness of its maker.
Croce: expression is the
first form of consciousness.
There is the art object
and its meaning. On one level these are not different. The object
induces self-consciousness, as Kuspit says (Artforum, Jan. 81)
“through its lack of meaning – but it does convey its physiognomy
which consists in qualities which do or do not align with our own
John Cage seeks
significant form in random processes. Given a series of random tonal
events one's attention shifts alternately from hearing them to
self-consciousness. Traditionally the personality (the source of
affinity) was evident in the composition. Cage's is in the system and
parameters – apparently removed – that produce the experience.
What is the value of this experience? Perhaps replenishment of
“spirit” that in everyday consciousness a component is lacking,
of intensity. There may be a need here akin to sleep. What were (are)
the mystics, poets, painters, composers seeking? Then as now, being –
the most curious and essential fact of existence.
God is thought to be
elsewhere, or within, or both, or none. I exist. My being gives me
access to the other, the infinite, to which I am connected. My
awareness is of self. Where self ends and other begins is
indeterminate. The God word functions to “sacredize” being, to
emphasize the connection to and wonder of the unbroken expansive
continuity. As anthropomorphism it is simply superstition.
Interesting Art in
America article – Dec. 81 by Robt. Morris, cites Duchamp,
Pollock, Hopper and Cornell as four seminal figures whose concerns
represent four strains in art history: the difficult; formalist;
alienated and the decorative. Morris dismisses the latter
contemptuously. I share his nuclear and environmental concerns but I
cultivate the decorative not as escape from but release into the
world. We must work for nuclear disarmament but as our lives pass we
must not forget to experience in essence.
The Surrealists cite the
strange for it is strange, being, when suppressed daily for
the sake of other delights. It is magic when contrasted with
everyday consciousness. I cite the ordinary to claim for it, via the
context of art, its place in the continuum of wonder.
transposes the experience of being into something like – I saw God!
It is all words, all valid – as myth. Being for me, refers directly
to the experience without implying any dogma.
Kuspit uses words like
transcendental, iconic, magical, transnatural sense of immediacy. His
succinctness relies on dictionary members, pointers at the ineffable.
“The sensuous and concentrated dynamism create an intensity which
is read as a sign of interiority.”
Part of what both subject
and object address is emotion. They stir emotion. Minimalism reduced
the art experience in complexity, reducing not eliminating allusion.
For there remains some emotive response to the sparsest work. And it
is this sparse emotion that Shapiro and Stephan built upon.
Ritual – immediate
enhancement of the experience of living. Science, religion, art...
answer to the aesthetic need for satisfaction (exercise?) of the
imagination. The close of an experience is the institution of a felt
In a museum we bounce off
art. We bring our intelligence and emotion to the work and, depending
on the intensity of our attention, we experience. Our values
determine for us what is cliché and what is profound. The variety of
values make for similarity and overlap, dis-similarity and polarity.
Dewey: metaphor... an act
of emotional identification, not intellectual comparison.
Alan Sondheim: autograph
of reality, signature.
pre-cognitive is of physiology and since we inherit genes from
ancestors, recent to ancient, to deep history and pre-history, we
experience that connection – call it primal or archetypal. The
further back the more primal. Our inheritance does reach back into
the muck and so portraying the muck (impasto – fecal?) is a way of
referring to it. Just any muck won't do. It must work. There
is a difference between a sleeping can and a dead cat.
In writing my object is
to fill the page with words. In painting my object is to fill the
canvas with paint. In either case I may have an object or
preconception but it is the passages in the end which bring me to
that object and which ultimately are the work.
I am what, 90% water? Do
“I” reside somewhere between the water molecules? Am “I” the
friction of water molecules rubbing against each other? Art is the
rubbing together of molecules in the “I” and in the object.
Surface refers to itself,
is otherwise meaningless. But that it is itself, experiencing it
consists in a meeting.
With the portraits I had
to consciously intervene to include minorities. It is not difficult
to discern their place, - a gauge of the progress in the fight
against racism and sexism. To comment on this I titled many paintings
non-stereotypically i.e., Physicist in the Breezeway and
First Violin. And the black man titled Jesus Christ goes
against the current even, I think, of black christians.
Carter Ratcliff, Art
in America, March '85 calligraph, hieroglyph... poetic cry...
epic list – all the devices the self employs in imaging itself
forth to itself... one reenacts one's birth endlessly in ritual that
in turn gives birth to images so plenteous they evoke the universe,
which is one's infinite, imaginary self.
The way to subvert
intellectual and ethical dishonesty is not to mimic but to shun. I
don't accept that the values of formalism, of making authentic
passages in paint, is of a kind with tricking people into smoking
Perhaps the role of
subversive art is not to convert the rich but to divert money which
would otherwise go to the right.
Duchamp asserts that
there is no essential difference between the choices made in art and
selection from the racks of a new shirt.
A drawing of a wrench a
la Dine is interesting in its novelty, in the initial surprise of
encountering the commonplace in art's exalted context. The wrench
serves as a continuing reminder of the profundity of any intersection
of events, of electron-photon serendipity. I venture that there is
no inherent superiority of painting to shirt design, that these are
simply means to action, recipients of interest. Art by tradition has
this philosophical aspect which Kuspit suggests is what remains when
the art is stripped of reference and meaning – an encounter with
meaninglessness and a subsequent scramble to make sense of it, which
is to say one encounters consciousness without an object and one
attributes that self-consciousness to the art.
And it is the art,
which isn't to say that the infinite is only encounterable in art.
The context of shirts is such that they do not stir consciousness.
Their meaning is so insistent that heraclean efforts are
required to get beyond. This gives context and tradition great
responsibility for meaning in art. Context and tradition prep. Those
who take an interest in painting have a philosophical bent perhaps,
or a sensitivity to color or story-telling. They are encouraged and
rewarded, more or less, by the greater and lesser instances of genius
in painting's history.
Subject “occurs” to
me, another way of saying that a particular subject interests me at
one time and not at another. I could select subject randomly but I
rather pay attention to the image emerging out of my consciousness.
One of the ways a work is
powerful is when artist transcends teacher. We do not say, oh, a
disciple of... we directly encounter the work.
Kuspit (again) suggests
that self consciousness is arrived at by default, that minimal art
has no meaning and thus leaves the patron on their own. But it seems
to me that the art is about its own physiognomy and the artists's
sensibility. The greater meaning consists in simply asserting that we
are our own meaning, that there is no and need be no prior intent or
intender, purpose or prime cause, beyond that of being ourselves,
creating our selves. What characterizes all is individual
A painting is about what
happens everywhere on the support.
Kuspit seems right, that
any reflection is already memory. An art object can set up a
“dialectic” where reflection occurs, on being. But I think there
is immediacy, to experiencing sensation. Intensity is
the primary factor. It isn't that consciousness is invalidated by the
fact that reflection on it is memory. Great intensity of
consciousness causes us to notice the fact of novelty. We are more or
less continuously evaluating what we are experiencing. It is the
increase in consciousness-intensity that reveals the world as
infinite mystery. The confrontation with reality-instance provided by
art is one way to raise this issue, to face one with being.
Napkin Drawing, Sea Legs, Allegory of the Shower,
Heads, installation Atlanta
1984 High Museum of Art, 1985
Tom Ferguson is an
Atlanta painter who has recently exhibited at the High Museum, Nexus
Contemporary Art Center and Fay Gold Gallery.
Reviewing this writing
30 years later, and having encountered the clarifying work of Eckhart
Tolle, I can see that in that last paragraph I am groppingly using
intensity to explain what I now see as cessation of mind-chatter or
this collection of interviews and speeches the prolific Chomsky
offers his insights on two critical items. Asked, what are the
primary issues that should concern us?, he replies, “Nuclear War
and Environmental Catastrophe.” There seems to be an idea in the
air lately (see Naomi Klein's book on climate change, This
that capitalism is incompatible with democracy and survival of our
civilization. Chomsky elucidates how the most ruthless in the
capitalist game come to power and overinfluence the governmental and
institutional agenda in the U.S., indeed the planet. Like other forms
of addiction the quest for endless wealth is characterized by denial
of information that might bring to light the addiction. And
opposition to any policy that might infringe on accumulation
behavior, especially sharing. The
possession of nuclear warheads, and their hair-trigger alert status
are an extreme threat to our survival. An accidental launch is all
too likely when only minutes are available to evaluate reports of a
launch by some adversary. Numerous incidents have brought us
perilously close to annihilation yet the decision makers refuse to
move toward even discussing the issue. As Einstein remarked, “The
splitting of the atom changed everything except the way we think...
and so we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.” We've been
incredibly lucky so far. Even if we took these civilization-ending
warheads off hair-trigger, we'd still have the dangerous situation of
their existence. And since the nations who possess nuclear weapons
fail to live up to their obligations under the NPT (Non-proliferation
Treaty) to phase out the weapons, non-possessing states will sooner
or later feel obligated, for their own security, to avoid
intimidation from the armed states, to build their own. And since the
U.S. seems to see nuclear weapons as essential to “security”, or
should I say to the capacity to dominate, then obviously this stance
contributes to proliferation. A
nuclear war, even a limited exchange, say between India and Pakistan,
a real possibility, would probably end life, at least human life, in
the northern hemisphere. A full exchange would likely create a
for the whole planet since the debris put into the atmosphere would
block the sun for months. This has been common knowledge for years
yet the powers that be continue business as usual, unwilling to risk
the advantageous power, profits and privilege the present order
bestows on them. The accumulation addiction trumps common sense. The
desire to dominate rather than share leaves no room for non-violent
conflict resolution for in that endeavor the sought-after end is
win-win, not win-lose. Win-win would make war far less likely, maybe
obsolete, but that would limit the addiction. Carl Sagan has said
that if we were to encounter an advanced alien culture they would be
peaceful, for those who survive the evolution of intelligence, with
its inevitable splitting of the atom, will have ended war by
mastering conflict resolution. The
other item, environmental catastrophe, consists of climate change and
all its implications for the 6+ billion people subject to its
effects. Also, the hysterical pursuit of profits means the expense of
containing pollutants is avoided as much as possible, thus POPS
(persistent organic pollutants) proliferate our air, water and soil.
Our soil blows away due to unsustainable agricultural practices
associated with this same profit motive. Related is the deforestation
of vital rainforests, acid rain, desertification. And coming again to
nukes, nuclear weaponry and commercial reactors release radiation
into the air/soil/water, routinely and by way of accidents (you've
heard perhaps of Fukushima, Chernobyl?)... something quite
predictable when you locate dangerous technology on earth quake
faults and on waterways, source of drinking water essential to life.
Currently Fukushima leaks immense quantities of radiation into the
Pacific on a daily basis and has been doing so since 2011. Just as it
has been shown that no amount of radiation is safe for the
individual, no amount is safe for the life system. As in the
irrational relationship with nuclear weapons, dirty but profitable
energy technologies are preferred over sustainable alternatives due
to entrenched interests. The recent outing of Exxon's suppressing for
years, studies that show climate change to be real, demonstrates that
even without denial - they KNEW climate change was real - profits
must come before science. Despite their knowledge they continued to
fund climate-denying groups to muddy the waters, putting short-term
profits above their own grandchildren and the rest of us. This is
serious dsyfunction and the kind of economics that we allow to rule
at our peril.