Bert Olivier

‘Searching for an Electric Peanut (part II)’: Jonathan Silverman’s liminal art

Liminality is a strange phenomenon: The Encarta dictionary online defines it as ‘belonging to the point of conscious awareness below which something cannot be experienced or felt’, which is only one of the ways the term is used, but nevertheless gives a good idea of what is involved when you call something ‘liminal’. The point…

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The dynamics of complex systems: ‘Flight Behaviour’

Most people don’t know what complex systems (the word ‘complex’ is important) are, despite the fact that everyone one is enmeshed in several such complex systems every minute of the day and night. One such complex system is language, which we use more or less all the time, except when we sleep, and even then,…

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Breaking down South Africa?

In 2015, it was reported that Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, speaking to followers at Nongoma, criticised black South Africans for not building further on the country they had inherited from the National Party, opting instead to destroy or break down infrastructure, in this way cancelling out the (economic) progress made during a time when the…

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Sleepwalking into a geophysical storm?

In a recent article titled ‘The perils of short-termism: Civilisation’s greatest threat’, by Richard Fisher, he makes the following sober (and sobering) remark about the people — our children and grandchildren — who are likely to be alive when the iconic year, 2100, dawns: All the decisions we make, for better and worse, will be…

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‘Dark technology’ and human ‘nature’ or ‘nurture’?

In the later 19th century there was a protracted debate among thinkers of various stripes about the question, what ultimately determines human actions — ‘nature’ or ‘nurture’ — a debate that is still going on today. But while it was then influenced by the evolutionary theory of Charles Darwin, on the one hand, and empiricist…

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People are not as free as they think they are

Some (older) people may recall the 1983 Warner Brothers mockumentary, Zelig, written by, and starring Woody Allen, together with Mia Farrow as the psychiatrist who treats him for his strange disorder. Lately I have been thinking a lot about this classic portrayal of conformism on the part of a man who manifested his adaptation to…

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A world in need of redemption

This morning my two sons and I were having a texting exchange on Skype, while all of us were on our computers and online for various reasons — I was working and chatting to them in-between reading a PhD-student’s latest chapter of his thesis, and at least one of them was working while chatting too….

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‘Pictures at an Exhibition:’ Mussorgsky, painting and Virilio’s ‘grey ecology’

In my previous post, I pondered the work of Paul Virilio on the ‘accelerated’ lives we lead in the early 21st century, and tried to explain what this has to do with the never-ending stream of images bombarding one on a daily basis. What I did not have space to do, was to draw attention…

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How (virtual) ‘speed’ has changed our way of life

Paul Virilio is a very important, if unusual, thinker. An architect and philosopher, his work has transformed the way people think about the relationship between speed (or acceleration), visuality (or visual culture), technology, the military, and the distinctive mode of existence of people in the early 21st century. This is how Virilio expresses the links…

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Why Americans should vote Democratic in the mid-term elections tomorrow

The American midterm elections – halfway through the American president’s term, where voters decide on their representatives in the two houses of American ‘democratic’ government, Congress and the Senate (as well as on some state governors) – take place tomorrow, on 6 November 2018, and all indications are that these will be the most significant…

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