[iDC] Speaking of techgnosis, read that Stewart Brand thing. That is just amazing social history.

mark bartlett mark at globalpostmark.net
Thu Oct 12 23:27:50 EDT 2006


i shouldn't be answering this because i still owe brian holmes a  
reply. but the reason i haven't responded to brian is because i'm  
late on an essay that is working through the same time period that  
turner addresses. though i address a different set of characters and  
links. so i'd feel irresponsible to not deflate your description of  
his essay as amazing social history. none of those attributes fit it  
actually. fun maybe. and it does address important moments in the  
story of techno-utopianism. it does function as an interview would,  
as a primary source.

but while turner's archeological dig reveals a few new links, it also  
replays many erroneous historical narratives of the avant-garde that  
from the point of the view of the archives, where i've spent a great  
deal of time over the past several years, doesn't hold water. He  
essentially replays the now standardized accounts of the Black  
Mountain moment, than in his case, leads to Brand as the "most  
influential person in America." That these narratives themselves have  
been built under "social" conditions that would give them a very  
different patina than is reflected in his description of things,  
Turner never considers.  That lineage, to avoid calling it a  
"genealogy," while far from irrelevant, is also far from accurate,  
and  constructs an uncritical historiography in the same old  
hegelian, evolutionist mode that over the past 30-40 years, various  
schools of criticism have demolished, though the backlash against  
them, their theory and critical historigraphical methods and  
perspectives, has returned with a vengeance, and a very chilling  
vengeance in many ways. turner's article, while certainly not based  
on backlash vendetta, by default contributes to it. it is this  
problem, partly, that goaded me into responding, because as i'm sure  
you'll agree, language is non-trivial, and it is exactly social  
history that is more than ever necessary.

so, it is necessary to point out that tuner's essay isn't 'history'  
in the same way that the "History Channel" on PBS isn't history. A  
serial, blow by blow account of the battles of WWII isn't history.  
It's reportage, or, chronicle, at best, propaganda at worst; and  
because it is only chronicle, it can never rise above itself to look  
around. it is important material. but it can't be history, let alone  
social history, without putting under examination its own conditions  
of emergence, and without dropping its unrelenting tendency to  
hagiography. cage was important, as is brand. but cunningham is more  
important than cage, in my view, but i can't, unfortunately,  
demonstrate that here. my point being only that the reasons that cage  
has been so sactified have not been addressed, that his role in the  
avant-garde has become reifeid, and so naturalized, that such  
histories are nothing more than a 19th century form of 'natural  
history.' He is species as definitive as the most rare of mushrooms.  
but what about that fungus discovered to be both singular, and the  
size of the state of oregon?

mark bartlett

On Oct 12, 2006, at 4:38 PM, Bruce Sterling wrote:

> http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge193.html#turner
> Go ahead, read that.  Really.
> By the way, edge.org is what idc would be if idc had top-end  
> literary agents.
> Bruce S.
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