It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, so apologies in advance if this is a bit rusty. I remember Mark Fisher saying that depression is a great instigator of the desire to write blogs, a theory I would tend to agree with, though he didn’t explain what urges you to stop. Are we to take his decrease in output to mean ‘good’ mental health has returned? Or just that he’s getting so many gigs these days, he doesn’t need to write for free? (and good on him, obviously, I’m not hating). Maybe being paid now and then helps lift depression as well.

Speaking of depression, the world economy is becoming a very confusing place to live in, particularly if you happen to live in a country currently at the centre (or epicentre, to use a fittingly sensationalist, seismological term) of the trouble, i.e. Greece. That status is confusing enough as it is, since Greece is normally referred to as ‘peripheral’ in terms of the EU economy, but somehow not peripheral enough to be a bit player in the imminent collapse of something, perhaps everything.

Confusion mounts as the situation fluctuates daily- one day everything is fine and the markets are soothed with a dose of rescue packages, next everything is doomed and Greece, along with the whole EURO project, is going straight to Hades (unless its on strike). One of the issues is how to make sense of the deluge of contradictory information that continuously rains down, trying to separate op-eds from ‘facts’, and the inability to have perspective of the bigger picture when drowning in all this crap.

This preamble about parsing information is partly what I had been thinking about following the Kenny Goldsmith and Craig Dworkin talk on Friday at the Whitechapel. Kenny expounded some of his usual ideas around uncreative writing and conceptual poetry, but what caught my attention was the idea of ‘filtering’, whereby, in a world gorged on info-mountains of (mostly useless) stuff, the role of the artist has shifted away from creating and towards filtering.

This is hardly new (not that there’s anything wrong with that, as I’m sure Mssrs G & D would agree) since Bourriaud has sketched a pretty similar job description for today’s artists. The term he coined is semionauts, who traverse the info-plane of corporate logos, media images, urban signs and administrative procedures which populate our everyday lives, and claims that by “making them materials from which they compose their works, artists underscore their arbitrary, conventional and ideological dimension’.

He posits this as a political project, since via this transformation of apparently solid objects/ signs into trembling, fragile constructions, ‘precariousness is introduced into the system of representations’. I wonder what Marx would think. If artists are (cod) philosophers, maybe the point is now to change the world through interpreting it?

Anyway back to Goldsmith and the notion of filtering. As he said, in a world of re-tweets, re-posts, link-sharing and so on, being able to ‘point to’ what’s hot and happening is where value lies now. And the ability to point follows from a capacity to consume and process information efficiently and effectively, as well as having something akin to taste.

Like going shopping at charity shops or TK Maxx, some people can do this better than others (I happen to be a pro at the latter); but either way, this ability to sort, filter and re-communicate efficiently is the skill worth having. As the triumph of Google would attest to, I suppose.

I am now thinking about Baldessari’s ‘Commissioned Paintings’, a response to painter Al Held’s barb: “All conceptual art is just pointing at things.” So maybe its now about pointing at patterns, flows and connections, rather than concrete things and ideas. Fluidity replaces solidity, processes replace objects and verbs become nouns (and vice versa).

Steven Poole cites this interchangeability of verbs for nouns as a variant of ‘Unspeak’ in his blog (see I’m doing it too…) which brilliantly records the abuses of language in the name of ideological agendas, everything from management-speak to political speeches and fashion blogs. To quote Nina Power: ‘nouns, like material products, appear to be out of fashion’.