JULY 1998


Why Justice is Wrong...

...could very well be the title of an essay by Paul Treanor. Any thing (or outcome) that is more 'just' than any other thing (or outcome) expresses a prejudice that limits (as Treanor would certainly argue) future possibilities.

In other words we can imagine problems with: Art that is more just than others (read: art that is more just than artistic), laws that are more just than others, plans that are more just than others etc.

Justice protects and preserves the status quo.

Here's what Deleuze has to say on the 'just' idea being the 'right' idea' (found in the photocopy I got on Saturday from Joke Robaard):

...Ideas, having an idea, isn't about ideology, it's a practical matter. Godard has a nice saying: not a just image, just an image. Philosophers ought also to say "not the just ideas, just ideas" and bear this out in their activity. Because the just ideas are always those that conform to accepted meanings or established precepts, they're always ideas that confirm something, even if it's something in the future, even if it's the future of the revolution. While 'just ideas' is a becoming-present, a stammering of ideas, and can only be expressed in the form of questions that tend to confound any answers. Or you can present some simple thing that disrupts all the arguments.

Gilles Deleuze: Negotiations


Met with Maryan Geluk from the Amsterdam Fonds voor de Kunst together with Mark Madel and Jouke at Mark's studio. She is interested in giving us (as Media-GN) a commission to do an 'interactive' or 'multi-media' art work for the new 'stadsdeelkantoor' (city district office) in North Amsterdam.

This is something that we would like to do (and is definitely in the direction that we wish to take Media-GN). There is also a sizable budget for the project--which means we can develop something substantial.


Day in GN for the year end assessments of students from the media department Minerva.

Printed the CLIPS user guide (expert system software) to read on the train home.


Spent most of the day reading Schama's 'The Embarrassment of Riches' and making notes.


Another one of those special 'hangover' days due to psychic excess and exhaustion rather than alcohol (you know that I haven't had a drink in years). Tried (and failed) to clean up the house. Spent most of the day online.

Played a bit more with CLIPS, it looks a lot like LISP. I like it.

Here's some test CLIPS code that I wrote before breakfast:

(defrule startup
(printout t "What was your mother's name? (first last) ")
(bind ?string (readline))
(assert-string (str-cat "(mother " ?string ")"))
(printout t "What was your father's name? (first last) ")
(bind ?string (readline))
(assert-string (str-cat "(father " ?string ")")))

(defrule numChild
(mother ?mFN ?mLN)
(father ?fFN ?fLN)
(printout t "How many children did "?mFN" and "?fFN" have? (1 - ?) ")
(assert (numChild (read))))

Later I picked up Count Zero and started to read:

'Christopher Mitchell,' Conroy said. 'Maas Biolabs. Their head hybridoma man. He's coming over to Hosaka.'

Surprise. Surprise. See: Good and Evil on the Long Voyage (1997)

'Forgive me,' she found herself saying to her horror, 'but I understand you to say that you live in a, a vat?'

'Yes Marly. And from that rather terminal perspective, I should advise you to strive to live hourly in your own flesh. Not in the past, if you understand me. I speak as someone who can no longer tolerate that simple state, the cells of my body having opted for the quixotic pursuit of individual careers. I imagine that a more fortunate man, or a poorer one, would have been allowed to die at last, or be coded at the core of some bit of hardware. But I seem constrained, by a byzantine net of circumstances that requires, I understand something like a tenth of my annual income. Making me, I suppose, the world's most expensive invalid. I was touched, Marly, at your affairs of the heart. I envy you the ordered flesh from which they unfold.'


Woke up thinking about the role of the 'will' in an artist's estate. I don't have a 'will' but I know that I should make one. But when?

When a person expresses his 'will' that a particular disposition be made of his property, his words are words of command, and the word 'will' as so used is mandatory, comprehensive, and dispositive in nature.
Black's Law Dictionary

Just checked out Jouke's site, and found him quoting Dave Hickey on risk:

I have always associated the desire to make money with a profound lack of confidence in one's ability to make a living, to make one's way in the world through wit and wile.

And Dave Hickey on art and money:

First: Art is no commodity. It has no intrinsic value or stable application. Corn is a commodity, and so is long-distance service, since the operative difference between bushels of corn and minutes of long-distance service is the price. Price distinguishes commodities that are otherwise similar and destabilizes the market, whereas price likens works of art that are otherwise dissimilar and stabilizes the market. [...]

Second: Art and money never touch. They exist in parallel universes of value at comparable levels of cultural generalization: Art does nothing to money but translate it. Money does nothing to art but facilitate the dissemination of it and buy the occasional bowl of Wheaties for an artist or an art dealer. Thus, when you trade a piece of green paper with a picture on it, signed by a bureaucrat, for a piece of white paper with a picture on it, signed by an artist, you haven't bought anything, since neither piece of paper is worth anything. You have translated your investment and your faith from one universe of value to another.

If you can't tell one universe from another, that's your problem, but not an unusual one, since art and money are very much alike, in both embodiment and conception. To put it simply: art and money are cultural fictions with no intrinsic value. They acquire exchange value through the fiduciary investment of complex constituencies--through overt demonstrations of trust (or acts of faith, if you will) of the sort we all perform when we accept paper currency (or, even more trustingly, a check) for goods or services.


Caught thinking while listening to someone eating an apple on the train...

...I wonder if there is a usenet group for misanthropists?

The Count Zero Art Market

Marly studied the quotations. Pollock was down again. This, she supposed, was the aspect of art that she had the most difficulty understanding. Picard, if that was the man's name, was speaking with a broker in New York, arranging the purchase of a certain number of 'points' of the work of a particular artist. A 'point' might be defined in any number of ways, depending on the medium involved, but it was almost certain that Picard would never see the works he was purchasing. If the artist enjoyed sufficient status, the originals were very likely crated away in some vault, where no one saw them at all. Days or years later, Picard might pick up that same phone and order the broker to sell.

Marly's gallery had sold originals. There was relatively little money in it, but it had a certain visceral appeal.

Caught thinking while later reading this web page...

...I wonder why Pollack was down?


I'm in GN today and tomorrow for the year end assessments of the MFA students.

Work on Nuclear Garden and Amsterdam 2.0 continues. I received mail over the last few days from Arjen Mulder and Jaakko van 't Spijker which I haven't had time to respond to. Will have time to start work on these projects again starting this weekend. Meanwhile I've added Arjen's and Jaakko's notes to 2.0 Project Issues.

Synchro Note: On the 29th of June I wrote a note on Peter Bernstein's 'Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk', a book that I browsed a year or two ago in the American Bookstore in Amsterdam. Yesterday evening I saw that it has been reviewed in this month's (July) Wired.


Yesterday and today were two full-metal-jacket days of 'storm and stress' (Sturm und Drang).

Assessments are always hell but each time I'm surprised at how terribly hellish they can become.

The students either resent (1) having to present their work or (2) having to show and discuss it within a half hour, or (3) they simply resent the formality of the occasion. Tensions and emotions run high. And there are always some who are (4) disappointed by the feedback and response that they get. This inevitably leads to displays of frustration, anger and aggression.

I suppose the anger is partly due to the fact that we have 'power' over their circumstances and partly due to the vulnerability of their work at this stage of their careers.

BTW: the OED defines 'storm and stress' as a 'period of fermenting ideas and unrest in a person's or nation's life.' The term originated in Germany and was the name of a play characteristic of the literary movement 1770-82.

Jules' last days at Media-GN

To top it all off, we had the planned 'staff party' yesterday evening--to celebrate the fact that Media-GN (formally SCAN) is 10 years old this year and to honor Jules van de Vijver who left us today to become the Director of the St. Joost Academy (art school) in Breda.

The evening was surprisingly a success. Everyone mingled and talked over an excellent italian buffet (at La Trattoria). During one of the many pauses between courses I became an impromptu 'MC' by standing up and telling everyone about my first meeting with Jules and then introducing a series of others who told stories about Jules' life in Groningen.

FRIDAY, 10 JULY 1998

My summer retreat begins today. Started it by lying in bed and finishing Gibson's Count Zero. Near the end of the book there is again a reference to the hybridoma technology of Maas Biotech:

And Maas, she wondered, who were they? Virek claimed that they had murdered Alain, that Alain had been working for them. She had vague recollections of stories in the media, something to do with the newest generation of computers, some ominous-sounding process in which immortal hybrid cancers spewed out tailored molecules that became units of circuitry. She remembered, now, Paco had said that the screen of his modular telephone was a Maas product...

And a reference to the origin of the AI which was assembling the 'Joseph Cornell' like boxes:

'I understand,' she said, some time later, knowing that she spoke now for the comfort of hearing her own voice. She spoke quietly, unwilling to wake that bounce and ripple of sound. 'You are someone else's collage. Your maker was the true artist. Was it the mad daughter? It doesn't matter. Someone brought the machine here, welded it to the dome, and wired it to the traces of memory. And spilled, somehow, all the worn sad evidence of a family's humanity, and left it all to be stirred, to be sorted by the poet. To be sealed away in boxes. I know of no more extraordinary work that this. No more complex gesture..."

So what 'worn sad evidence' of our 'humanity,' what detrius, what objects, will our own 'expert systems' stir and sort?


Have added two old texts of mine to Alamut.

The Body and The World (1993)
The Day of Van Meegeren's Trial (1987)

Finished the terrazzo floor in the high-tech unit upstairs.

Found this online:

Scientists hope to revive mammoths
Sunday, July 5

LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists are mounting an expedition to Siberia seek out frozen mammoth sperm and bring the extinct species back to life, the Sunday Times reported.

The newspaper said the plan was to use the frozen sperm to fertilize elephants' eggs and breed hybrids.

"Cross-breeding with successive generations would allow the hybrids gradually to become pure genetic copies of their mammoth ancestors," the report said.

The Sunday Times said British, Russian and Japanese researchers were involved in the project, which will hunt for frozen mammoths in the permafrost of eastern Siberia.

Mammoths -- large hairy elephant-like creatures -- died out some 30,000 years ago but their remains have been found in several places in Siberia.

*Take me away from all this death.*

SUNDAY, 12 JULY 1998

Arjen received a small commission from the board in Wageningen to make a small (Dutch) booklet on 'Nuclear Garden' and uranium.

Sorting my papers on my way to a meeting with him this morning I found the following statement on a page I'd printed from the Principia Cybernetica Web:

The human will to immortality is a natural extension of the animal will for life.

I'm okay. You're okay. And there is nothing abnormal about wanting to live forever.

In case you're all watching...

Here's JK's remarks about the MFA projects which he saw on the first day of the review, July 8th.

More can be found at his site, under the rubric, 'Notes, Quotes, Provocations And Other Fair Use.'

Finally saw all the MFA students' projects when they presented for the end of the year assessment. Two observations: all students want to connect information space and real space to inform one another, in different ways: theatrical, architectural, in installations or performances, using hybrid media, etc. That's hopeful. And at least three students want to involve some kind of computation to systematically track their ideas and sketches and inspirations in some smart kinda way, using databases, AI, what have you. Their interest shows a shift of focus for the use of computation, from simulation and visualisation to a more conceptual level--which is another hopeful sign.

In a world where everything is PLANTATION...

Uploaded my old proposal for a cannabis float for a flower parade:

In bower and field he sought,
where any tuft of grove or garden plot more pleasant lay,
these tendance or Plantation for Delight.

Milton 1667

Written one hundred and seventy-five years after Columbus embarked upon his grand tour westward, Milton's words return us to a world where the finding of a Plantation in the countryside was the exception rather than the rule. The Plantation of Milton's time was a scarcity, and when come across in the wilderness, was seen as a reason for gladness. Three hundred and twenty-five years later, Plantation becomes the title of my work for the 'Zuid Hollandse Bloemenparade'. We now live in a world, completely reversed, where everything is Plantation; there are no longer exceptions to the rule, or if there are, they are only those that appear to us in dreams.

From Plantation (1992)

MONDAY, 13 JULY 1998

Self Surgery...

(OR rubbing your culture back into yourself.)

I was rather surprised yesterday to find that I mentioned the 'lion lying down with the lamb' as early as February 1992 in my Plantation text. JK and I eventually forced the lion to lie down with the lamb in Vilnius in 1995 (Kiosk de Combat/Safe Haven) and I managed to get them to breed (as artist and mouse) last December in Maastricht ("Good and Evil on the Long Voyage").

What if we were to examine the Bloemenparade as if it were a long sentence, looking at the praalwagens as separate words punctuated by marching bands and majorettes; if we first were to consider the grammar of the whole and then carefully dissect each word; what if, in other words, we were to establish this long sentence's context? If we determined the significance of this syntactical amalgamation of plaster and flowers? Then we might rightly ask--What place has serious art here? Who or what are we--the artists--serving?

If lion and lamb are going to lie together in one bed, what are we going to call the children?

From: Plantation (1992)


Been working the last two days on an introduction to the Amsterdam 2.0 Constitution. I'm finding it very difficult (and slow) going. Got to have it finished by tomorrow.

Btw: the constituion has been updated to version 1.2, giving the cities the right to refuse citizenship to anyone and ammending the Bill of Rights to allow 'voluntary slavery'.


Finally finished my Introduction to the Constitution of Amsterdam 2.0 this morning and took it personally to the graphic designer (in Amsterdam, of course), Thomas Buxó, who will be making a dummy of the book. With the dummy the team hopes to raise interest and money to publish the real thing.


Happy Birthday Jente!

Received an email from Jaakko this morning, very kind and diplomatic, asking me to make some changes to the 'preamble' of the Constitution. Apparently it doesn't contain enough 'Sturm und Drang'. I don't mind making changes but am concerned that we are not understanding each other...

I've added Jaakko's mail and my reply to the 2.0 Project Issues page.

Some snelnet access yesterday evening allowed me to delve into what the web has to say about Hasan-i Sabbah's Alamut. Comparing dates I uncovered an interesting coincidence. It would appear that the original Alamut was overrun and destroyed by the Mongels in 1256--exactly 700 years before I was born...

FRIDAY, 17 JULY 1998

Spent the day in Amsterdam. Paid a visit to Mark Madel in the afternoon. Made a quick trip to Amersfoort (beautiful town!) before returning to Rotterdam in the evening.

Arrived home to find that Jaakko had left two messages on my answering machine.


Peter Lamborn Wilson writes in Scandal:

'Heresies' are often the means of transfer of ideas and art-forms from one culture to another.

In this cultural role heresies are like fortuitous or even deliberate mistranslations of texts.

The definition of heresy depends on whose interpretation, whose hermeneutic one accepts.

We will never ask what heresy is, because to the heretic it is truth and to the orthodox it is error. Instead we will ask what heresy does. How does it produce its scandal? What happens when the veil is ripped asunder?

Radiation Hormesis, the idea that (small amounts) of radiation are good for you is a heresy that I discovered while doing my research for my Nuclear Garden piece.

The heretical idea competes with an orthodox idea for a piece of your mind. One imagines that the orthodox idea is tried and proven --it is a good idea, works well for lots of people, it has stood the test of time. What is the advantage of the heretical idea?

What makes the heresy the better memetic carrier? What makes it so attractive? Is it simply the titillation (pleasant excitement) of seeing or hearing something different? The vicarious pleasure? The second-hand thrill at seeing the tables turned?

Other examples of heresy: cold fusion, holocaust revisionism. What heresies did the original Alamut harbor?

SUNDAY, 19 JULY 1998

I've been htmlizing a file this morning which contains the following quote about the Islamic Last Judgement (orig. from the Encyclopedia Brittanica):

The time before the end is viewed pessimistically: God himself will abandon the godless world. The Ka'bah (the great pilgrimage sanctuary of the Muslim world) will vanish, the copies of the Qur'an will become empty paper, and its words will disappear from memory. Then the end will draw near.

I am surprised that pessimism can generate such a beautiful image--'the copies of the Qur'an will become empty paper, and its words will disappear from memory'. For a believer this represents absolute horror of course.

The Power to Interpret

Or ripping the veils asunder at 88 billion keys per second:

EFF Breaks U.S. Crypto Standard In 56 Hours
By John Borland, TechWeb

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said Friday it has broken the strongest level of encryption the U.S. government allows to be exported in less than three days of code-cracking.

The EFF broke a 56-bit encryption standard called DES, which was created by IBM, modified by the National Security Agency, and adopted by the federal government in 1977 as a standard for protecting unclassified messages.

...Gilmore's team spent a year and about $210,000 building its code-cracking machine, using a PC connected to a bank of chips created specifically for breaking this kind of encryption. The machine was able to search more than 88 billion possible keys to an encrypted message every second before finding the correct one in 56 hours, Gilmore said.

..."If a small nonprofit can crack DES, your competitors can, too," Steinhardt added. "Five years from now, some teenager may well build a DES cracker as her high school science-fair project."

Between now and five years such a device could form the basis of a nice cottage industry. A net based crypto-crack shop. A source of revenue for the Alamut monks. Multinational clients only please...

MONDAY, 20 JULY 1998

Talk about public space! Ever heard of a wiki (or swiki) server? No. Then check this out:

Overhead in the Garden at Alamut:

Hasan:What is reason?
Rashid:Discourse... building upon empirical concepts... an ideology.
Hasan:What is poetry?
Rashid:It's another ideology... another way of looking at the world... another way of fitting the world to words.
Hasan:Is poetry preferable to reason?


Hasan:What is heresy?
Rashid:Poetry within reason?


I called Maurice, and he asked me to come out to the Brainpark this afternoon to talk. It was a 'relaxed' meeting. We talked about the constitution and looked together at the book design that Thomas Buxó has put together. I believe we've sorted out our misunderstanding concerning the 'tone' of the Amsterdam 2.0 Constitution.

Maurice and his 'team' will develop 'plans' for 4 or 5 of the 400 'possible' cities over the next few weeks. We discussed the choice of these 'pilot' cities--they should differ ideologically enough from each other to illustrate the diversity of Amsterdam 2.0. To facilitate this 'schism' each architect will be assigned his or her own project. Hopefully I can be part of the development process (as a representative of the Amsterdam 2.0 'government').

Thomas' design for the book looks good. I like that the images (and text) are presented like a collection of postcards, though this may not have been a conscious decision on his part. I'd be interested to see this form made stronger, the book really as a catalogue of postcards-- self-contained messages and souvenirs from the near future edge. It may be that this form is the perfect way to reconcile the project's poetic images and serious ideas.

I met Arno Coenen and Rene Bosma later for dinner at the Hotel New York. Again very 'relaxed'. We sat and talked and ate for hours, the two boys consuming (to my mind) copious quantities of 'witbier'. There was, though, good cause to celebrate... Arno is going to be a father!


The last few days I've been busy working on a set of pages called 'The History of Alamut'. Stay tuned for the upload.

I described two days ago a conversation I overheard in the Garden of Alamut. Today I read the following:

It is too easy to write 'representationally'--to write sequential and reasonable prose. Finally very little of any importance can be said in that medium since it comes from and directs itself to one section of consciousness to the exclusion of all others. Only 'poetry' (including texts to be read as well as texts to be sung) and 'story' can address consciousness as a whole--which means that poetry and story are both impenetrably difficult and ridiculously simple at the same time--but never 'easy' in the sense of 'cheaply acquired'.

As soon as an idea or an image requires expression in the dry form of prose one can be sure it wants to polemicize, to dualize and to offer discrete definitions rather than a field of perception. The intellect, proverbial one-winged bird, deals from a position of weakness because it demands dogma, and dogma demands defense; and as the samurai know, there exists no such thing as an adequate defense. Slash! and that's the beginning and end of it.

When intellect becomes intuition it sheds prose like a snakeskin. In this sense, art is necessary because it constitutes the only possible language of such a re-birth. As a Javanese pamong once told me, "We must all be great artists."

- Peter Lamborn Wilson, Scandal, Essays in Islamic Heresy


Visited the building site of 'Stadsdeelkantoor' in Amsterdam Noord with Jouke and Mark this morning . As 'Media-GN' we've been invited (together with 3 other artists) to develop a plan for a 'new media' work for this building. The proposed budget will be around Hfl. 500,000.

FRIDAY, 24 JULY 1998

Quiet day in the Pijp.

Loes and I took turns working on her snelnet computer. I updated my internic contact registration, and checked out llamacom's virtual web hosting facility.

After uploading an update to these pages noted some trouble with the server at media-gn. The server persists in returning a broken index page on one URL while the alternative URL works fine and both URL's point to the same file. Will bring this up with Arthur (who is back from New York).


I'm off to Fred's gallery in Beesterzwaag this morning to hang some of the work that I dropped off there recently.

SUNDAY, 26 JULY 1998

This morning I'm thinking about schism and watershed. What causes division in our world? What causes a religious group to split into factions? What causes a water droplet to flow towards the city's reservoir? Here is a list of objects and processes associated with divergence: attractors, gravity, partisan politics, a mountain peak, a woman, intellectual attachment, identity, history.


Often you feel a schism coming, divergence just around the corner, a split 'waiting to happen.' It's like this: you and I are rushing forward, a fast mountain stream. A rock lies in the way, you break left, I right. In retrospect it was predictable. You were already leaning to the left and me to the right. In terms of a dynamic system the watershed was already within us, we belonged, from the start, to different attractor 'basins' (a basin is defined as: the set of all initial states that share one attractor as final destination).

A bifurcation (defined as a: significant change in the portrait of attractors and basins of a dynamical system, as its rules are changed) is something else. Rule changes are not as obvious or predictable as the slippery slopes of an attractor basin. And because of that the results can be quite surprising. Divergence can suddenly 'explode' from uniformity when the rules change.


MONDAY, 27 JULY 1998

Alamut is going to move! I've arranged for virtual web hosting and the registration of my own domain name. If all goes well Alamut should be up and running on its new server at within a few days...


I've been shopping for a new powerbook to go with that new domain... : - )

Expensive puppies. Arthur Elsenaar is shopping for one too. The VAR's in the US won't export them to NL so we've either got to mail order non-VAR or buy it here. To check out the screen, I grabbed my brompton and took the train to Woerden. The MacHouse there had a few G3 series powerbooks in stock.

I'm not that crazy about the case--but the screens are to die for.


A vacation does strange things to you. You collapse for a while. Then you start spontaneously doing things that you've been meaning to do but didn't find time for.

Over the last few days I've re-registered alamut as an internet domain, started making a coat rack for the office and just this afternoon I walked into one of the telephone company's 'primafoon' offices and ordered an ISDN line. Just like that! Just out of the blue!


Saw two interesting references last night in a book (Ralph Abraham's 'Chaos, Eros and Gaia') that I'm reading.

  1. Gregory Bateson's theory of schismogenisis (first introduced in his 1935 article 'Cultural Contact and Schismogenesis').
  2. Paul Tillich's theory of 'social tranformation through utopian thought... He embeds the two aspects of utopology--the positive-creative and the negative-destructive--into an essentially human activity that drives history through alternating cycles of falling from an ideal, then gaining new possibilities.'

Rented Massive Attack's 'Mezzanine' from the CD library. I like it, been playing it over and over, it fits my mood.

FRIDAY, 31 JULY 1998

I've made some changes to the site. Moved the 'Mail' (threads) directory into the 'Past' directory and added a 'Misc' link--don't bother looking there is nothing there yet--it will (one day) become the home of the search engine form and other links.

I tried to upload the site today to my new domain server but had some troubles with the gif binaries... A call to Arthur gave me a few clues as to the trouble. Anarchie gets confused if you try to upload text and binaries together. Before I try again I'm going to consolidate all my images into one directory.

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