Our HD nature

(There are probably a lot more i could have talked about, some of it left out purposely, some not. i want these piece to be, ideally, between 500-1000 words, i failed this time, but i am trying. i want them to be diving off points for extended dialogue with those interested. It is odd though that as these ideas for think-pieces arise, a whole synchronicity of material unfolds & tidally moves toward me, making it hard to ignore & so the pieces expand.)

Our HD nature

There was not long ago (i think it is still played sometimes) an advertisement on TV, here in Korea (& perhaps elsewhere; maybe you know it) for a new fandangled HD-flat-curved-screen-Oled-TV.
Much to my embarrassment, i don’t recall if it was Samsung or LG, the model or any of that stuff i neither need, watch nor have the money to buy. i tried to search Youtube so you could watch the advertisement & i could prove its existence, but i failed so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
What interests me, is how the company tacitly express a lot about the relationship between nature (or what Tim Morton would term the symbiotic-real, which i’m quite fond of) & man (or maybe culture might be a better dichotomy)— perhaps not even tacitly, as the indelible aplomb of marketing attempts to sell the product by illuminating the crossing triumph of man’s organic threshold with technology.
The advertisement’s music is a piece i recognize, on the tip of my tongue, but for the life of me… It is rooted in African tribal chants & drums, it has an epic, authentic sweep to it, but not quite, there is something just slightly off about the authenticity.
This music plays in tandem with wide vistas of various terrains: the dorsal fins of sand dunes, rain-forests dripping in beads of rain just after rainfall & verdant valleys goose-stepping into snow-capped mountain ranges. Among these grand landscapes, a solitary figure gives the spaciousness depth, complementing the mass of saturated colours & naturalness: a Masai (i think) warrior searching distances; a Native American on horseback riding away from us; a Peruvian profoundly opening their eyes (i made this one up)— people whose authenticity means they’d never be able to afford such a technical feat as a convex TV; they’d have nowhere to plug it in for a start.
From the comfort of suburbia, white, rich people, with houses seemingly made of nothing but glass which opens out onto a curated nature— even those cooped up in expensive apartments— taste authenticity, they become endowed through their attention of authenticity, more authentic themselves, through a sympathetic effort, so long as they own this TV. Dressed in their purified white linen & cashmere, matching their mother of pearl teeth, they are an embodiment of betterment through symbiosis with authenticity.
Woven in this woof of superficial authenticity, is a leopard in its natural environment, which walks across the façade of the TV inexplicably planted there, paying no mind to it, until it flicks on suddenly with an image of a leopard almost identical, if not the same leopard, causing the leopard to jet out a terrified, defensive roar.
The TV is set into the natural environment, a picture of the environment on its screen, camouflaging it, symbiotic in its relation; an inevitable outcome, man’s emergence from the organic, via his technological triumph; boasting a clarity the eye can see but not replicate itself. There are no borders on the TV, suggesting no borders with nature (the symbiotic-real), freed from the demarcations of technology, yet containing nature, creating new demarcations, or rather toppling old barriers, long overdue a kicking. We can have it all.
But it isn’t symbiotic with nature, nor is it the symbiotic real realized in an object that entertains & informs. The TV’s commercial & the TV itself, tacitly boasts the besting of nature, because it functions, through its crystal-pristine-pixels, its HD-fat-saturation, to be an improvement on the quality of what the eye perceives. This damages our expectation of what reality delivers, it is a divorce from what the eye perceives; it is like arriving on that beach in Bali you saw in the tour guide, or on that travel blog & finding the susurrus waves scrumming beer cans & condoms.
The tech is not imitating nature, it is taunting nature to catch up with it, else risk obsolescence.
But we are, vicariously, the eyes for & of nature: nature substitutes a consciousness that is aware of itself (for itself) & allows us to maintain exclusivity of that consciousness & with this, as we stack our limits for advancement, have gotten around to creating what the eye cannot itself do. This is a form of evolution, i suppose. If we cannot improve the function of the corporeal, let tech do it; even in the minor annex of entertainment. The microscope enables us to peer into the microscopic as the telescope does the opposite. Tools are one thing, entertainment is quite another. Are these companies telling us they can sell us a reality realer than reality because we don’t have the technology, in the flesh, to see as well as their technology can?
That is what i am saying.
It is the technological boast of an advancement, missing the mark because, the purpose, the selling point—that the TV can give us an accurate, if not better appreciation of our environment through greater pictorial clarity— is, simultaneously, deriding the environment & even our tools of perception (our eyes) as inferior compared to the product’s achievements. A result of this is that our expectations can never match what the TV is alerting us to. The TV is representative of a significant amplification of authenticity, yet in the process it devalues, through excess, the authentic. It has shit where we sleep.
We see something similar in tourism. Foreigners want to escape to an ideal of paradise they have resolved themselves to, erroneously, from what they are told constitutes a paradise, which is in fact not the actuality. However, the reality is sustainable so long as the illusion, the amplification, persists. But if one understands the realities of a paradise: the excesses that strain the local populace, access to water being one; the buildup of unrecycled waste, due to the stretching of a paradise’s limits in answering the call of foreign desires; the lack of prospects for locals other than crap jobs in the tourist industry; the exorbitant increases in rent & land costs, owing to hoteliers with huge capital moving in, meaning locals can’t afford to live comfortably, having to secure second jobs to make ends meet; sometimes, a large percentage of facilities are tailored for tourism, locals uncomfortable or simply seeking a rest from the touristic, find it difficult to do so— i think i read that there was only one cinema in Venice.
Paradise under these considerations, becomes more problematic & less appealing.
What i can’t resolve is, if an artist or poet is guilty of the same mistake, or if this even is a mistake or simply imminent? i don’t know if i want to be judgmental & risk hypocrisy. i am being deliberately ambivalent as to how i feel about all this.
In painting a landscape or depicting it in language, there is distortion, there is a stylistic element brought in to form the content of the work, to elevate the thing in itself to artistic expectations.
If we were to be simply, natural, organic entities, existing without attachments, in our environment, we’d find less usage for technique or technology. Yes, it exists, it is of use, it is even essential, but has fundamentally practical necessities. It is not abundance but need that the tool or the artifice provides for the integrated, practical human. The artist in this system would observe & leave it at that, it would be enough, wouldn’t it?
Well, probably not. Because to see is to test the instinct to reproduce. The artist isn’t just content with mimicry, it is the skill that it takes. There is always a certain egotism between the artist & their subject.
So what of the cave paintings found across the globe? Is the authenticity in the primitivism of the style? Were their reasons any different from our own? Was there egotism in their endeavor, a quest for a transference of mortality into immortality, or just an attempt to quell boredom? As we come closer to more absolute correction of the thing itself through style, do we actually inch further away from accuracy because we are over-compensating, in an ego tousle with the organic, as with the exorbitant saturation of TVs & digital cameras?
The poet is under similar pressures. The word in itself is a poor replication of the thing it represents. Take any word & line it up with its object or subject & it has little substance without the a priori knowledge that comes with knowing the semiotics of the language the word comes from. If i write the word 사랑 & ask you to, from the physicality of it, determine its meaning, it would be but a guess, unless you read Korean & have a basic vocabulary set. This word is an emotion we all know, all struggle to interpret or rather, interpret based on the context of our experiences— it is the word love. Yet we receive it as an ambiguous symbol because we are ill informed by the physicality of it in space.
But none of this matters: humanity is the great anomaly from the offset. As soon as we attempted the replication of that which we witnessed, we parted ways from nature, in some sense, because it became a form of domination over our environment; a form of taking the environment with us where we move & reproducing it through memory into art.
Any imbalance has been countered by the very act of replication. In our replication, in the evolution of representation, we remain tethered in some way to our origin, to that which delivers us from starvation & gives life meaning. Just as our dreams, when we give them our attention, are founded on very old symbols & stories, so our attention to representation through art & tech & whatsoever, is an attempt to maintain a bond with something inching further away in actuality, but maintaining a hold subjectively.
We cannot escape the hold the ecosystem has on us, because, taken for granted or not, we know sustenance comes of the soil, all the ignorance coalesced into its most disastrous form, cannot separate use from this truth; it is pushed deep down at an instinctual level, where the will cannot touch it.
i imagine a distant, dystopian future, where there is no longer a nature, or rather, it is so removed from the city it is unknown to its denizens who have become nigh digitized. Children, inexplicably, doodle extinct animals & plants, even flowers they’ve never seen on the new iPad & show them to their dumbfounded parents who remember something & call them beautiful.

8 thoughts on “Our HD nature

  1. “i imagine a distant, dystopian future, where there is no longer a nature, or rather, it is so removed from the city it is unknown to its denizens who have become nigh digitized.”

    “Oh they took all the trees, put ’em in a tree museum,
    And they charged the people a dollar-and-a-half just to see ’em…”

    I’ve nothing much more to say to this essay. It is compulsive reading, and it flows, each idea building on the last. One of your best pieces of writing. Thank you for engaging my mind this morning.

    On the subject of cave art, etc. my agent has an occasional blog, in which he dusts off his crustiness. He’s in his late sixties (about 68 I think) and is currently a ‘mature’ postgrad. Sheesh! He had this to say about (cave) art:

    [[
    We are time-travellers, and we have stepped into the caves at Altamira. There we find someone painting animals on the ceiling. We ask him, “What are you doing?”

    He turns and makes a puzzled frown, he doesn’t understand our question. Or rather he does, but wonders why we are so stupid as to ask. “Life, of course!” he says.

    Art is only art because we have made a word for it. I’m told that the ancient Egyptians had no word for it, yet they covered their world of ritual with sculptures and paintings. Imagine, then, what it must have been like to walk down a walled avenue of gods, goddesses, kings, queens, dancing girls, captives, sphinxes, armies, musicians, hunters, birds, and so on, and not to have had any dividing line in your mind between yourself and them, not to have had a separate concept of them from anything else in your life.
    ]]

    I wish he would write more often, but he’s wrapped and rapt in his studies.
    https://whatthehellisart.wordpress.com/

    1. Thanks for the encouraging words. i enjoy writing these, but i don’t always know if they land. There is a beautiful synchronicity to the foraging of information, to them; as if the decision & pursuit itself magnetizes & draws the necessary information for me to sift through.

      i have some stuff on Browning in the works, going to take time, as i need to focus it so i can do it in 1000 word chunks to really get my point across.

      i am always glad to be introduced to a decent blog. Got a lot of work on at the moment, with the arrival of spring, so i may not be as responsive, i will be responding, hopefully in as much depth as i can muster, but if not, just a heads up that i am busier than the winter. But i hope to find time for your agent’s blog, a scan tells me it deserves attention.

      “Art is only art because we have made a word for it. I’m told that the ancient Egyptians had no word for it, yet they covered their world of ritual with sculptures and paintings. Imagine, then, what it must have been like to walk down a walled avenue of gods, goddesses, kings, queens, dancing girls, captives, sphinxes, armies, musicians, hunters, birds, and so on, and not to have had any dividing line in your mind between yourself and them, not to have had a separate concept of them from anything else in your life.”

      This made me howl with joy; i do that when something is just overwhelming, can’t help it, i just yelp & whoop like my team just scored. It is such a profound thought to entertain. Had this in mind all night & still today. Just astonishing. Thank you. Gonna have to nab it & do something with it poetry wise. It’ll turn up somewhere, it is inevitable.

      1. I wish he would write more (and not just quote from Benjamin, Zizek, and Joyce!), but he’s busy studying and hardly has any time, or so I believe. I pinch a lot of ideas from him, when he actually bothers to set them out on his table.

  2. An interesting read, Daniel. For me, many of us want to move away from the real, yet no matter how sophisticated our inventions become, we cannot escape the laws of thermodynamics, meaning we cannot escape time. Mind you, in the dystopia, I will keep warm by burning poetry books, and avoid starvation by eating them. 😄

    1. Cheer Steve.
      However much i think & feel we have some indelible bond with nature because of laws, outcomes & necessities, i do have this other side which is doubtful & think it well within the range of human capacity to forget & destroy. i hope the former is right though. Can’t pray, but i can hope.

      1. Hope is good, I try as well, and I agree, we can forget about nature and her laws, but unfortunately she will not forget about us (and I don’t mean in a good way).

  3. A million things to react to: “so long as they own this TV” …. that’s the shame inherent in tech & advertising (& organized religion): you gotta hate what you are presently, & only this TV or this version of an incantation will put you right. The best sieve for any idea is if it’s stopped up by a qualifier like that, “just buy/do/go along with this” & it’ll all be ok.

    “This damages our expectation of what reality delivers” ….I’m halfway convinced that my notions of nostalgia for the past, perhaps even of romantic love, were royally fucked by a diet of movies, even good ones, where the music swells or there’s the right montage where the mystery is solved, when this rarely happens in reality.

    “Tools are one thing, entertainment is quite another” …. I think this lets us poets off the hook a little bit, since what we do still might be better termed a tool than an entertainment; & what I just emailed you about, the website that went bankrupt because it was sued by the person whose sex tape they posted: maybe that does harm to free speech, but the website was an entertainment & not a tool, & that’s why I don’t care. This might be one of yr great ideas: we really could draw a line down a sheet of paper, one side for tools, another for entertainment, & organize ourselves much better.

    “We see something similar in tourism” …. I wonder if my Orkney poems are something like this, a lot of starry-eyes from a somebody who was only there for six or seven days, & would they think me ridiculous if I read them in front of people who live there? It’s hard to say. All I’m sure of is that I’ve been careful, careful of everything I love/사랑 & have given my all to, the kind of care & careful we don’t see in a lot of poetry may be reflected in other lives too, in tech & so much else. Because how do you market care & careful, or make it a matter of shame & envy? It won’t sell TVs.

    1. i felt on a thin line with this, i didn’t want to do the usual, “TV rots your brain & is bad for you” shtick, & i wouldn’t have written this if not for the angle i thought this advertisement offered.

      1, Yes, that is the ploy isn’t, basically “you need this…” How many times i heard somebody say they need something they have is outrageous. What makes things sort of worse now is how advertisement takes the identity of those who wanted to rebel against conformity & has made it the norm. Hipsters & noisy music all over our TV. In England Johnny Rotten & Iggy Pop selling car insurance, that’ll get the attention of the baby boomers. Then next, techno music, enviably young, beautiful people in flashy outfits selling, i dunno, feckin yogurt.
      i can just see it in England, sitting at the pub & hearing people say how cool an advert is. Yup mate, that’s your identity now, enjoy it till you rebel with pipes, fireside chats & hand knitted cardigans. Haha.

      2. i am slowly inching away from movies. They just don’t indulge my yearning for subtlety, nor for offering what i don’t know i want till i see it. i can almost anticipate the next line. i did recently watch Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread, the subtlety of which appeal to me as heavily as a samite sail. But how rare are such movies in the vomit packed gulch that flows out of Hollywood? You may very well have those feelings for those reasons, but i don’t think it is necessarily your, or our fault, it is heavily conditioned during a formative period; how do you rebel against that. i still cheer when Hans Gruber falls from the Nakatomi, or when McClane says “yippee kay ae motherfucker!” We want the hero to succeed, you know Campbell & Jung well enough to know why that is. But i will argue that, despite a few flashy explosions, there was still some acting, some dramatic focus on the person as a real thing in an imagined space, rather than the actor now being digitized heavily in an imagined space. i’d not mourn the end of the big budget film industry,

      3. i agree here. i think poetry is awareness, in some sense (& much more). The effort needed to engage with a poem, the particular tact necessary for enjoyment, is not founded, any longer, on entertainment. Perhaps before media, poetry was entertainment, but even then it was moral compass, a means to travel beyond the small region most people were confined to. Even in its humour there is a sense of showing. Perceptions guided correctly i’d say take tools not entertainments. You don’t need to spend millions of dollars to make a moral crusade. A few words on a page, an apothegm, aphorism, a chapter of a book can do just that, a lecture, or a podcast. If you need to spend lots of money to explain morals & right action, there is something wrong with how society feels it needs information to be presented in order for it to digest it, which needs to be fixed (i am aware i may fall into a trap of not realizing that perhaps rhetoric is at its best with high production value). i said in my Populism essay, it should not be for poets to lower the bar, but for people to rise to it. Elitism? Probably. But i still believe in effort & that effort = being more able. The most terrifying thing said during Brexit was when Gove (the education secretary) said “people have grown tired of experts.” Not making a statement that we need more of them, but implying that they are not important in society.

      i think you are safe with the Orkney. i am very sure those people are very proud of where they live & due to the distant antiquity of the history they are pleased with the speculation it invites & the starry eyed wonder. Religion has never appealed to me, but when i walk into a church or cathedral, i feel something, i won’t say God, but a feeling that this gave people something, it is human, that is all, a by product of our curiosity to understand. Tourism for me becomes problematic when you start expecting monks not to use cell phones, while you are taking pictures of them with your cell phone. When authenticity is rooted out & disappoints because it has been packaged as if the culture behaves that way for the tourist. i don’t think the Scots but on any airs & graces for tourists, & if it is like England, most places like the Lakes etc, though there is a certain tourism, it is done quite tastefully.
      Poetry might not sell TVs, but it seems to be a poetic singer-songwriter gives that person a higher esteem, even if their fans never read poetry, nor are their lyrics poetic, it can be a dangerous pretension. This is why i don’t think Dylan is a poet or even poetic, why can’t he just be an astonishing lyricist? Even Cohen. To use poetic as a descriptive enhancement of what is nothing of the sort, isn’t much worse than poems selling TVs. i am thankful poetry has little influence on popular culture. i want it remain a niche, even as a niche it invites impostors, but at least they can be rooted out easier. (i will send you an email with an example of a successful impostor, it has almost prompted me to write a blog post, almost…

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