Nothing … Creating Illusions

Banksy's Banality of evil

Banksy’s Banality of evil

This reading made me think of Stanley Milgram best known for his controversial experiment on obedience conducted in the 1960s during his professorship at Yale. Milgram was influenced by the events of the Holocaust, specifically the trial of Adolf Eichmann, in developing this experiment.

Both Wallace Shawn and Milgram were vilified for the presumption that “normal” people can participate in heinous acts given the right set of circumstances. A fact that says more about the audience and the public at large than it does about these men.

I was also reminded me of the man who ran the Auschwitz Birkenau death camps, and how it seems that Shawn is merely pointing out a fact that is indisputable. Rarely do you see the footage of the Rudolf Höss playing with his children in his yard with the walls of the concentration camp right behind them. Its rarity highlights an uncomfortable truth that Milgram and Shawn both point to: It is possible Evil deeds are perpetrated by “normal people”



Höss lived with his wife and four children in a house just yards from the crematorium in Auschwitz main camp, where some of the earliest killing experiments were conducted using the poisonous insecticide Zyklon B. Even, other SS personnel were also initially allowed to bring fiancees, wives, and children to live at the camp.

The children in the yard of the villa next to the gas chamber

The children in the yard of the villa next to the gas chamber

During his working days, Höss presided over the murder of more than a million people in the camp. However at night when he came home next door he lived the life of a solid, middle-class German husband and father. It is this ‘normality’ that makes Höss a much more terrifying figure than an unhinged brute like Amon Goeth.

As Shawn points out.

“Now there are people who will argue, No, he could not have loved his dog. There was nothing good or attractive about him, nothing true in what he said. And in my opinion the reason they make that argument is that if Hitler did not love his dog, if he did not ever say anything true, then we know that we all could have seen him for the monster he was. As soon as we admit that he might have loved his dog, then we begin to worry that perhaps we would not have seen how evil he was, perhaps we’re not superior to the people who listened to his speeches all those many years ago, perhaps we too might have been confused, perhaps, in fact, we’re confused right now. We lose our certainty that the people we admire now are not evil, that the arguments we believe in now, the things we say and the thoughts we think, are not evil, and we ourselves are not evil.”

It is only in the clarity we get from viewing through the lens of history that we see these people as the monsters they are.  It was not in the fervor of the rally that Jason Wilton Wetzel who slapped East Carolina University student Adedayo Adeniyi recognized his evil, it was after confronted with his actions by law enforcement (albiet uncomfortably after the fact as well) that Wetzel is overcome with remorse.  It may not even be due to his arrest. It may just be that he was confronted with his vitriol via grainy cell phone video.

“I can’t believe I did that. It was me, but I’m not a hateful man. I just got caught up. When I saw the video all over the news of me doing that to that young man, I was just disgusted with myself,”

It is not history that is reserved for the monsters, it is the present; And if you want to see what that evil looks like, we might need only to look in the mirror, or perhaps that hand held cell phone footage aimed directly at ourselves, “and that our self-examination might save a lot of people — possible all people — from being harmed by us.”


Wetzel attacking Adeniyi


Wetzel’s booking photo

The reading felt like one was looking inside the mind of Einstein during his famous thought experiments. Like he was playing with the idea of time and how it would be experienced by society in a real world scenario if these various conditions existed. Sometimes sad, sometimes happy, sometimes neither but all were poetic.


All of the days were interesting, but 29th of May is the most telling to my mind. The world in which the faster you go the more competitive edge you have on your neighbor. It has echoes of the world in which we currently live. We all sleep less and work longer hours forsaking our private lives and families to gain an edge on our competition. I particularly like the part when people choose to shutter the world to experience time as it “should” be with their families and loved ones.


Speaking of time here is some interesting stuff on time and quantum entanglement.

My Group is going to be AV Craig and Jordan.


We talked about combining something with projection mapping and anamorphosis.

Initial ideas based around anamorphosis utilizing techniques of Andrea Pozzo


When viewed from the center of the end of the hall the fresco looks three dimensional, when view from the side you can see the anamorphosis.

Or something like this work from Felice Varini




We have also talked about using a scrim to cover one of the windows on the floor and projecting content on it to show something that could be happening outside. Like a man jumping from the ledge or birds flying away like a starling murmeration or pigeons taking flight.


We have also played around with the  idea of something more physical like this work from Patrick Hughs

Hopefully with some input this week we’ll have a better idea and can get moving on the work.



The most fundamental takeaway from the excerpt of the book Seeing is Forgetting, and I believe that there are many, is what Irvin says about his own practice.  He says:

            “We are past minded, in the sense that all of our systems of measure are developed and in a sense dependent upon a kind of physical resolution.  We tag our renaissances at the highest level of performance, whereas it’s really fairly clear to me that once the question is raised, the performance is somewhat inevitable, almost just a mopping-up operation, merely a matter of time.  Now, I’m not anti performance, but I find it very precarious for a culture only to be able to measure performance and never be able to credit the questions themselves.”


It is an interesting quote especially considering the time he was in which he was working.  With contemporaries such as Frank Stella or Mark Rothko.  The works of these artists were striving toward the finish of the ideas that Irwin was asking questions about, but rather than the finish of the idea of the depth and boundaries of the canvas. But Irwin was interested in the journey.  The exploration and the process itself was what he considered to be his art.  Although he admits that he had some work that was seen to its conclusion, he sounds almost bored by it.  It was the curiosity and the development of the processes that was exciting to him.  It was also during this time that people like Miles Davis were changing jazz to its highly improvisational form.  Something more about the process than the end result of what is now called jazz fusion.


The excerpt of Seeing is Forgetting was also a fantastic insight to that process that Irvin was so interested in.  When speaking about dots the author chose some fantastic quotes about how the painting “blushed, and you blushed back.” It would seem that this was about the answer to the question that Irvin was asking, but the author talked so much about the painstaking process of achieving it, and in a way implying that it was only the beginning of that inquiry because it led Irvin to the disk work.  Which he said was more about experiential rather than intellectual concerns.  Something evocative and emotional.



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There are a great many things that can be said of F is for Fake.  It’s illusory, irreverent, pretentious, cheeky, ahead of its time, and mostly true.  Welles was playfully doing a very interesting thing with breaking the fourth wall with the audience, or even the fifth wall with filmmakers and critics.  Going further than just addressing the audience directly by looking into the camera (generating rapport).  He steps intentionally in and out of the intended shot to reveal Oz behind the curtain.

Dressed much like a magician, he coaxes the audience into the belief that what was true were illusions and what was illusory were true.  The pace of the cutting and changing of perspectives in the beginning were dizzying… confusing. Like the slight of hand he plays with the little boy, he sets the viewer up to disbelieve their own eyes and minds.  He goes so far as to tell the viewer that for the first hour everything he says will be true.

The facts about Elmyr (the forger), Irving (the faker), Howard Hughes (the recluse), and Reichenbach (the filmmaker?) are all true. But with some slight of hand, or a 1970’s version of misdirection (naked Kodar, if it is even Kodar), he begins a falsehood that leaves the viewer questioning everything that they have just seen.

I found the film to be a delightful commentary on the value of art (or all things we consider to have value), the truth, experts, critics, and the structure of storytelling in film, even if Welles is a self-proclaimed and otherwise proven charlatan.

To take a tip from Orson, I might make an aside…

Here is an interesting take by Tony Zhou from the Every Frame A Painting channel on vimeo talking about how ahead of its time this film really was.