06 September 2016

{M}anifesto: Commentary on the pragmas of {M}

{M}anifesto


Commentary on the pragmas of {M}

The word "pragma" comes from computer science where it refers to an instruction in a computer program that directs how the program is to be converted into a compiled or ready-to-run state. I borrowed the word and am giving it the meaning of a recommended practice. Both “practice” and “pragma” come from the Greek word meaning “deed” as does “pragmatic”.



  1. Look for ideas by paying close attention to their own direct experiences… This pragma reflects the first dogma by emphasizing direct experience. Here the artist is encouraged to be alert for insights in relatively low-level cognitive events pertaining to the senses, global constructs like space and time, linguistic experiences, feelings and emotions… Higher level social constructions pertaining to race, gender, power, politics, or economics are avoided here because they are too complex, and have too much content, which acts as a distraction from direct experience of the mind. Other ways of making art do focus on these higher level constructions, which also need to be examined.
  2. Explore research, documents, and practices… This research should supplement direct experience. My work has been aided mostly by texts in linguistics and cognitive psychology, philosophy, particularly Buddhist philosophy. Practices such as zen meditation and psychotherapy have also been valuable.
  3. Study {M}-like works… I’ve listed a few in Examples of  {M}-like works. Of course many other examples exist, some of which I know and others I don’t. These works are very unlike each other in medium or genre, and “style”. Little could be gained by imitating them. But viewed on a higher level, these works can point to a way of thinking or of approaching the work that can inspire.
  4. Avoid including unnecessary content which distracts from the raw direct experience that is the point of this kind of work. 
  5. Self-reflexive… As an example, my text-sound piece, Voyage,  describes a psychotic breakdown which is very similar to the distortions which occur in the text. The text is in a sense about itself. This points the listener in the right direction to feel what happens when meaning is lost.
  6. Keep the work simple and avoid distractions. 
  7. Don’t tell viewers what to expect but do give some hints…If you spell out, either in the title or in program notes, what viewers should expect to experience, you close the possibility of their knowing what they are actually experiencing substituting their thinking about what they are supposed to experience. On the other hand some hints that it would be well to pay attention to their reactions would probably helpful.
  8. Media and genres… Music, painting, sculpture,installation, dance,  performance, literature and cuisine are categories in the list of {M}-like works. There is no reason to exclude any human activity from possibly being a work in {M}.

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