Archive for February, 2017

Autonomy of Consciousness

There is a concept about body autonomy: No one can take our organs – we choose what to do with our remains. But do we have autonomy of the self or consciousness?

Ray Kurzweil famously wants to resurrect his father in some future digital consciousness. Kurzweil has gathered everything he can in hopes that future technology will allow some kind of recreation – some kind of electronic consciousness based on saved data. Kurzweil is using his father’s writings and whatever he has in order to hopefully recreate his father. Kurzweil’s father died before social media. Social media, might contain much more information about a person.

Social media has become a juggernaut of information. Amazon and Facebook are trying to track habits and develop metrics to understand each individual consumer. It isn’t too far fetched to conceive that some kind of personality profiling is occurring. It isn’t too far fetched to conceive that some kind of consciousness might be constructed from these social media profiles.

Social media might change or cease to exist as we currently understand it. The model of social media changed from web 1.0 and from myspace to Facebook. The model now seems to be purely about collecting data that can be sold.

It might be pure science fiction speculation, but imagine a future where consciousnesses could be uploaded into computers. These consciousnesses might essentially create immortal human beings.

Now imagine that this technology is created a century from now. 21st century social media created many profiles of its users but in the 22nd century, those people have passed. Early 21st century social media users are dead but what if their profiles were used to create consciousnesses in this hypothetical 22nd century. These old social media profiles would be less sophisticated because they would be incomplete with 22nd century technology.

So the question would be, how much autonomy would these one-hundred year old consciousness have? They might be flawed and not fully functional. So they might be considered less human or less deserving of rights. They might not be treated like the physical bodies of corpses, as in they would not have the choice to be “organ donors.” They might be considered “meat,” consciousness meat. Terabytes of conscious ghostly meat.

These old consciousness might be used in ways that, when alive, they would not appreciate.

Imagine a celebrity on Facebook in 2017. Now imagine what someone might do with that celebrity’s consciousness in 2117.

This question of autonomy of self is also present in current film making. The recent movie, Rogue One, had several deceased actors reprising their roles. It is not too far fetched to assume that this technology could be used in ways that the deceased would not affirm. As digital rendering improves, an eighteen year old Carrie Fisher could sell candy bars from the grave. Soon anyone from history could have words put in their mouth. Anyone and everyone’s knowledge of self and self awareness could be challenged, changed, and manipulated.


Computer generated Carrie Fisher

Obviously there are political implications to this as well. Stalin famously erased people from photos. Future autocrats would be able to make those erased people speak for them instead. People mostly see politicians online or on TV. Future regimes could kill political opponents then use their image to endorse their agendas.

This question is sliding around the idea of autonomy of self and authority of consciousness but these have been questioned. Richard Prince takes an artists’ work and makes it his own via the concept of appropriation. What does that say about autonomy of self, autonomy of intellect, and autonomy of one’s labors? The post post post modern (or whatever we are calling this (maybe Post Truth era due to Trump)) might be a sort of buffet table wherein anyone has access to anything and nothing is sacred nor should it be. However, it seems reasonable in theory but then it stands to reason that people should be compensated for their labor. If Prince sells an instagram image of another artist, then that artist should be compensated or Prince should be sued.


Whether or not we have any autonomy of consciousness is seen on the internet as well. Pirating is a world view. Everything belongs to everyone. If you can torrent it, you can own it. Music, literature, movies, pictures, everything is for the taking. The internet is a contemporary Library of Alexandria but with doors wide open.

Autonomy is also lacking with surveillance. There is no privacy in the UK. CCTV is everywhere. So a person is never alone. Our laptop cameras might be turned on right now.

This is really all a question of what is a self and what rights does it have. If we conceive that bodies have rights, then consciousness should likewise have rights.

The wrench in the works might appear after reading Thomas McEvilley’s essay, “I Am,” is a Vain Thought. McEvilley suggests that the conception of a self stems from a western idea of the soul. The soul being eternal and divinely gifted suggests that consciousness is unique or special. Conversely, McEvilley discussed the Japanese concept of “not-self or soullessness.”

McEvilley goes on further to discuss how science might discuss the idea of self:

Modern biology also shifts the concept of selfhood from the category of substance to that of process. If a neuron alters in the brain every time we experience anything, then the self is a constantly changing thing like John Locke’s sock (which acquired one patch after another till no fiber of it was the same; Did it become another sock? When?).

If there is a self then should it have some autonomy? Or is the concept of self leftover theism and we should embrace our future ghostly avatars’ tomorrows? It just be the post human future we cannot avoid.



How Long Can You Beat a Dead Horse?

The Joke Workshop was interesting. Participants were two comedians, Christine Ferrera and Ben O’Brien.

I think I gained a leg up on my understanding of theory versus practice. I have been trying to write my way through the topic. I wanted to see if there were parallels between designing jokes and designing art. I wanted to see if these things could enter the classroom and help me affect the situation of co-learning in a more meaningful way.

In essence, I want to be a better teacher. I have observed that students know more than they have been led to believe and they know more than they are willing to believe. There are many issues that create this situation but I think it is due to how they have learned their entire lives and due to the unfortunate result of modernist activities driving people away from art.

I think it would be helpful to foreground this situation to them earlier rather than later. I think many students could gain quite a lot from taking agency with their own education. I think that elucidating that they know more than they thought would be helpful. With all that in mind, I embarked upon this experiment between art and comedy.

During the workshop we discussed Chris’ jokes. Chris and Ben jumped in with their practiced knowledge whereas I felt a bit bewildered. I didn’t really have too much access because they were digging into subtleties and I am not a stage performer nor a comedian.

We then looked at images from the New Yorker’s Caption Contest. We bounced around some ideas but landed on a topic Chris previously discussed with me: writing versus performing. They are different animals. Perhaps similar to how many visual artists find difficulty in writing about their work. There is a linguistic issue here. During this portion, Chris suggested that dealing with the caption contest might require a certain kind of skill set, and she suggested having improv actors to assist. So I might create a workshop were I interact with improv folks.


a recent caption contest image from the New Yorker. The winning caption was, “Long time no sea.”

We finished with looking at some art historical paintings as well as art history memes. We bounced around some ideas but the same kind of issues with the New Yorker caption contest arose with the art historical images.


a detail from a painting by Hieronymus Bosch. A possible caption: MFW a Trump voter says, “we don’t need no Obama health and dental care!”

I think there might be some future activities that could bounce off the workshop, like some kind of tweet writing workshop. Maybe it would be a podcast or a video. I think the purpose would be an intersection between comedy and pedagogy.

One of the collaborators, Ben O’Brien, discussed networking jokes through fiverr. I often overwork paintings to the point where I call them kitchen sink paintings – they include all my painting ideas and the kitchen sink. I overwork them because I don’t know when to stop. I overpaint because I doubt my own knowledge. My doubt takes the form of erasing the previous painting over and over. Networking the joke over and over might function in the same way. Maybe overworking the joke would cause it to fall apart. How long can you beat a dead horse?


Asking the question, “How long can you beat a dead horse?” Apparently the answer is, indefinitely. 

Another thought I had is perhaps there is a major difference between comedy and art: efficiency or function. Essentially, the joke needs to be funny or its purpose is thwarted. However, the art gesture/object need not have any purpose other than its making. There might not even need to be an object. There is “process art” but is there “process comedy?” Is there a point where comedy is the thing itself? I need to research theatre and comedy.

Continuing this thought, I was once offered a skateboard to use as a painting surface but there was the stipulation that it still be ridable. The efficiency of form influenced the content. I never did make that painting because it felt like some kind of external demand that had nothing to do with painting. If I made that skateboard painting I would have just been designing. However, in retrospect I was completely misguided because I have been designing around the “edge” of the painting for years.

I have been making paintings that are aware of the end of the painting in order to foreground that inconsistent modernist convention of the painting as a window. Form and content do not exist solely within the painting. The painting is not a universe. The painting hangs on a wall that exists in some kind of institution. That institution has its own values and thusly those values influence the painting and the viewing of that painting. There is no such thing as four neutral walls. The point is, I think there is no distance between form and content. I think this is a central tenant in my world view.

A good example of this pressing against the edge can be seen at Trestle Gallery in Brooklyn right now. The show, Introductions 2017 was curated by Julie Torres and is up through February 19.


from Katerina Lanfranco’s instagram: A Many One Layer Lie, second from the left, at Trestle Gallery.

But my world view might be completely bat shit crazy. Further research into comedy might help me ride the horse off into the sunset rather than into a lake.

See more of Christine and Ben at their websites

And check out Trestle Gallery at

Metal Jesus

Is there an intersection between art and comedy?

Metal Jesus is pretty funny.


A forgetful hoplite is funny.


What the hell is going on with humor and art? Come by the Torpedo Factory tonight and help me figure that out.

The Joke Workshop is a free event taking place at 5-7 in Studio 12.



Goddamn Darlings

Artist John M. Adams came by the studio yesterday and we talked about process. We discussed how my piece, 100 Paintings, foregrounded both process and design. I think content is available via observing how the maker made the item. Likewise, John appreciated the aesthetics of the thing. So it looks good and thinks good.


100 Paintings; 2015; one-hundred acrylic paintings on a 20×16” stretcher on easel; 74x37x37”


I think I have made many works that are trying to find some axis between looking good and thinking good. Process has been an important component of my work as a means at standing back from painting issues like re-presentaiton, the canon of art, and my skeptics world view. The stretching and re-stretching method of painting was a process based approach to get a leg up on the image – the front of the painting the viewer sees. Painting Paintings at Both Ends was a culmination and cousin of 100 Paintings.


Painting Paintings at Both Ends, 2017, acrylic on canvas and two stretchers, 50×216″

John helped me realize that I have been bouncing between a content oriented process approach to making and rebounding back towards the most elemental origins of making: the mark. I have recently been just trying to make paintings that stand on their own sans my gimmicks of layering or exploding the painting.

The mark making goes back to some of my first interactions with sticks of charcoal. You put the charcoal on its side, then pivot, leaving its center axis on the page. By doing this, you can make a circle. Or you can slide the stick around and create a network of what looks like pipes. The recent painting is doing this same athletic gesture but with the brush.


Untidy Pivot, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 28×28″


I followed Untidy Pivot up with Sixteen Cornered Darling and an as yet to be titled painting yesterday…


Sixteen Cornered Darling, 2017, acrylic on linen, 19×19″



currently untitled, 2017, acrylic on linen, 19×19″

and today. This one might look black and white but it is actually very dark blue.


A 42 Broken Arm or So, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 50×50″


I am already seeing a problem with these paintings (and why I have done the more process oriented works in the past): the paintings are pretty, sensuous, and goddamn darlings. So I need to think about them but they feel good.

See more of John M. Adam’s work at his poetically titled website:


Interlocuting Art and Comedy

My Joke Workshop begins 5-7pm this Thursday, February 9.

Participants are invited to assist in an exploration of both humor and learning with the purpose of finding parallels between humor and art. The workshop will be led by Post Graduate Torpedo Factory Resident,  Jay Hendrick and performance artist and comedian, Christine Ferrera.

Participants are invited to share in three prompted activities. The first activity invites contributors to bring their jokes that need work. It might be that the jokes require better phrasing, timing, or delivery. It might be that the jokes lack a punch line or perhaps there is only a punch line.

The second activity is a caption contest with visual prompts. Participants are invited to work together to create funny captions for pictures. Similar to the New Yorker’s caption contest.


an early attempt creating a caption contest drawing

Finally, participants are invited to caption famous works of art.


“Who put that dirty dish rag on the wall?!”

Cohosting with me is Christine Ferrera.

Christine Ferrera is an American triathlete, comedian and mother of eight (goldfish). She performs darkly absurd stand-up in clubs, conference rooms and crawl spaces internationally and has appeared as a peripheral character in several Nora Ephron films in her mind. Ferrera recently self-published a book about her decade-long correspondence with Starbucks Coffee Company titled, Starbux Diary: My 10-year Journey to Caffeinated Enlightenment, which was included in City Paper’s Top Ten Baltimore Books of 2015 and described as “Hilariously personal.” She has performed at the Pittsburgh Comedy Festival, Cleveland Comedy Festival, Chicago Women’s Funny Festival and will be featured on Wham City Comedy’s spring tour. She lives and works and eats and prays and loves in Baltimore, USA.


Christine Ferrera pondering the mysterious universe

See more of her work at:


I am still working out what I am trying to attain, but the following describes the motivations for this workshop.

I teach art classes and one of the issues I encounter is that students believe they do not have access to art. However, they consistently show me that they do have access to art though often they lack a vocabulary to discuss it. For instance, I show them a bottom heavy design and they recognize that the design has something wrong with it. They recognize that the bottom heavy design pulls the eyes down. They may not a cultivated language to address the design, but they have some ability to see when something is askew.

If these students have more access to art than they perceived then I want find methods to make them aware of this. I am trying help them see that they have access to art thereby allowing them to set aside preconceived notions about the necessity of talent, skill, or book knowledge. These preconceived notions slow down the process of confidence in making. If a learner can recognize early in the process that they do have access to art, then they can develop habits that contribute to future successes in thinking and working.

Thusly I seek other areas of interest to parallel with art. For instance, I ask them to discuss their likes and dislikes of food. I think the design of food is a good analogy for design in art. We understand why we like or dislike certain foods. I think this understanding is a counter to the situation wherein a learner does not believe they have access to art. I think that this situation could also be examined through comedy.

We know what we think is funny. We have access to the design of comedy. I am curious if joke design can be analogous to visual design. I am curious about the logistics of the joke. I am also curious about situations that lend themselves to successful design of jokes and if those situations are similar to what occurs with art.

There is a strange thing that happens when a person becomes an artist, they begin to see the potential for art in any situation. It might come from many hours looking at a thing and drawing it. I wonder if comedians have similar experiences. Do comedians see potential for humor in any situation?