Michael Garfield's Love Without End Tour Newsletter

12 June 2022

The Future is Noisy • New A.I. Music Videos • In Defense of Picard • Future Fossils with EFF-Austin • A Manifesto for Weird Science • Diverse Aliens

"Two dangers threaten the universe: order and disorder."
— Paul Valéry

"Without order, nothing can exist. Without chaos, nothing can evolve."
— Oscar Wilde

The next newsletter will be an explosion of new visual art experiments in several different media. THIS one is a combination of speculative non-fiction; experimental art-plus-electroacoustic-music collaborations with A.I.; two of the spiciest podcast episodes I've ever released; and a short slide deck summarizing my critiques about the current state of astrobiology. 

It's all about as heady as can be. If you just want eye candy, hold tight; I have plenty in store for you.

📝 New Writing

My latest essay for How To Live in The Future is now at Return.Life. Here's a teaser:

When I imagine forward into futures, all of them but the worst are noisy places: highly interactive, densely woven, layered, and syntactical – and as in any web of chatter, lots of lossy transfers, errors, and the patterns of intelligences too bizarre or fast or vast for anyone to notice are registered as noise. Stand back far enough and it’s hard to ignore the curve: from the biofilms that dominated early Earth and made no more noise than gaseous bubbling, to the launch of rockets and atomic bombs. We’ve found a way to make ourselves heard...

Here is my response to disparaging comments made by several of my friends about how Starfleet and The Federation of Planets no longer represent what they did in Star Trek: The Original Series and The Next Generation, I felt it necessary to say a few words in defense of the narrative turns taken by the recent series Picard and Discovery on Paramount+.

This one is considerably less deep and interesting than the piece above, frankly, but it might have more resonance for some people given that Star Trek is such an extensive cultural phenomenon.

🎸 New Music + Animated A.I. Imagery

I’ve devoted the last 17 years to exploring the constructed and metamorphic boundaries of human-machine, self-other, nature-culture, created-discovered…all of which are under interrogation in our acceleratingly weird era of digital media and proliferating intelligence.

As a musician, this manifests in site-specific “cyberacoustic guitar” improvisations that embed artist and instrument into what Darwin might have called a “tangled bank” of electronic augmentations — sampling, mangling, remixing, and reinventing acoustic music as a raw material just like the complex transformations of gene and meme transfer drive the evolutionary process as more conventionally understood.

As a visual artist, I’ve recently taken to exploring the same ever-folding symbiosis from the other shore: starting with text-to-image AI artworks in collaboration with generative adversarial networks, then animating them by hand and setting them to music.

Both paths recruit non-human agency and the contingency of machinic creativity into my own dreamy psychedelic wanderings through transmedia hyperspace — building and testing, in the words of rhetorician Richard Doyle, ecodelic “training wheels for transhumanism” that perform, and prepare audiences for, the convoluted subjectivity of the futures into which we will be reborn. The Love Machines series explores the intersection of intentionality and randomness, chaos and order, will and automation, heart and mind arising in the clear light of awareness…

🎧 New Podcasts

And speaking of weird science...

👾 "Diverse Aliens" Slide Deck

Here are the seven slides I contributed to a group presentation for the 2021 Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute, interrogating the criteria used by SETI (The Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) and beckoning people deeper into a somewhat more rigorous embrace of Mystery:

That's all for now. (It's still a lot!) Thank you for sitting with me and be well!

03 May 2022

New Blotter Art, Solo Acoustic EP, Futurism Essay, Sensemaking Roundtable, Upcoming Book Club

“We can only navigate outside as well as we can navigate within.”
– Timothy Leary

I'm not really clear on how I've managed to get so much done with all the parenting and day job, lately, but regardless I'm pleased to share these latest highlights with you!  Enjoy and feel free to write back if the spirit moves you.  (And of course, if you like this stuff I hope you'll share the newsletter with a friend; not touring festivals anymore means I get almost zero chances to build out this list the way I would prefer to, one inspiring in-person conversation at a time...)

🎨 New Art: "Liquid Sunrise" Blotter Art (Signed/Numbered)

The Shakedown Gallery in San Francisco is the world's premier source for blotter art, and I'm honored to finally get some artwork into their collection! Grab your own (perfectly innocuous and legal) prints of my piece "Liquid Sunrise" — released in a signed and numbered series of 100 as part of their special Bicycle Day 2022 drop, including works by my friend and hero Randal Roberts and many other greats — for a better price than pretty much any other print deal I've ever offered. Much like the peak experience they depict, they won't last...but at least you'll never have a bummer "oh man, human AGAIN?" come down.

🎸 New Solo Acoustic EP: Empty Frames
Download WAV/MP3 at Bandcamp or Patreon

These are placeholders to stake and commit to record songs I love that aren't ready for prime time yet. A song ought to stand on its own and I hope these do, but this is basically me sharing my songbook with a feather in it for a bookmark. They mean a lot to me but I haven't found the time to give them a proper studio treatment yet. We have:

1. Ian - about my baby son, with maybe some Elliott Smith and (sleepy) Tenacious D and Lana Del Rey swimming around in there.

2. A Merry Mess - not sure exactly but a tip of the hat to Jeff Buckley and my friend Mitch Mignano.

3. The 120th Shrine - regarding The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, kind of a cowboy ballad since you're riding a horse a lot, but also gliding.

4. Seeing Like A State - with a nod to James C. Scott's book, about mathematically guaranteed injustice and the tragedy of being one of the ants out of a plane window.

5. Buried Together - for Nikki Taylor, with whom I intend to be interred, God Willing.

6. Frog Seven Green - a vignette of life in a hot tub under shade sails on the porch of a basement apartment nestled up close to the mountains in Santa Fe with a young family.

📝 New Writing: The Future Is Noisy

A nearly-completed draft of my first new chapter of How To Live in The Future since 2018 (!) is now available to Patreon supporters, and is in edit now to be published (in what I'm sure will be a very different-looking for) at Return.Life soon. Here's an excerpt to whet your appetite:

Noise is here to stay because making noise on purpose can jolt a system out of its rut. The fool in the king’s court or the heyoka at Sun Dance both keep the social system from settling into maladaptive complacency. When mass extinctions disrupt the byzantine symbiotic networks of mature ecosystems, fine-tuned specialists take the hit and loose, messy generalists that can catch as catch can — the raccoons, cockroaches, Lystrosaurs — misfit organisms that seemed forever out of place suddenly come into their own and help reboot the entire food web. It pays for the biosphere to keep these clowns around.

Then there’s Michelle Girvan, who explains that literally just the live feed of a camera trained on sloshing water in a bucket is enough to double the predictive horizon of a machine learning algorithm trained to model weather…seeing further by leaning less on memory. Similarly, Erik Hoel hypothesizes that dreams function to prevent “overfitting” of the brain to its conditioning, allowing it to generalize from past experiences to novel future scenarios. It would fit, then, that not only jazz and noise music but the myriad other dreamlike expressions of modern art — from surrealism to cubism to combinatorial music — all emerged at a time when we started to “lose the plot,” or perhaps more accurately realize that the story the modern world had been telling itself was nothing more than a linear projection drawn poorly from heavily biased historical sampling.

In times when you can’t trust the score civilization has been following, it’s a more sensible recourse to stop following the conductor and play by ear. Cognitive scientist Tyler Marghetis, in studying the quantitative data tracking critical transitions among improvisational jazz ensembles, notes moments when the entire group breaks through and shifts together all at once, like a pirouetting murmuration of starlings; the pace and immediacy of this kind of response is impossible for those who insist on an objective “view from nowhere” – a monolithic canonical version of reality – and refuse to accept that, in Thompson’s words, “A fact requires a theory just as a flame requires an atmosphere.” In other words, people who refuse to relax their focus, let figure dissolve into ground, enter a flow state that can respond faster than the clunky executive processing of the frontal lobe, and dream with the agility of a disinhibited mind in attunement. Education at the edge of history can’t rely on the authority of educators brought up in a world that no longer exists; a postapocalyptic pedagogy for digital natives discards rote memorization and writes curricula that emphasize curiosity, lifelong learning, collective intelligence, and the power of search.

Become a patron if you want to soak up my illuminated mystic science rantings right away...

🎧 New Future Fossils Podcast Episode 185

Be forewarned: This latest episode is some extremely heady stuff. But thankfully, it's also full of heart and soul...

Back in February, Jonathan Rowson posted two clips (here and here) from his latest in-progress writing tlimito Twitter, where it succeeded in baiting a bunch of the folks with whom I regularly interact as members of the so-called "Liminal Web" into reflecting on the value of partitioning a global boil of loosely-associated "sensemakers," "meta-theorists," and "systems poets" into well-meaning but ultimately dubious cultural taxonomies.

I had plenty to say about this (herehere, and here) from my awkwardly consistent stance of being both enthusiastic and skeptical about apparently everything. But so did numerous other brilliant and inspiring people, including Bonnitta RoyStephanie LeppAshley Colby, and Jason Snyder – all of whom I've wanted on the show for a while (with the exception of Stephanie, with whom I had a great chat back on episode 154). So I took it upon myself to press for an on-the-record group discussion about the virtue and folly of putting labels on sociocultural processes and networks that are defined by their liminality: Is this ultimately a good thing, or does it just kill the magic in a foolish servility to economic pressures and the desire to be recognized as A Movement?

When we finally met at the end of March for our call, the conversation turned to issues with more urgency and gravitas — namely: Is it even helpful to spend all of our time talking about crises and metacrises when there is so much work to be done?

What transpired was easily one of the more profound and inspired conversations I've ever had the good fortune to host on this show, although it was also more beset with insane and infuriating technical problems that getting it ready for release took over thirty hours of excruciating editing. I am so immensely glad I am finally done and can get on with my damn life! But also that I get to share this with you and hear what the rest of our scene(s) have to contribute to this discourse.

📚 Next Book Club: When We Cease To Understand The World

The Future Fossils Media Club returns next month on May 14th at 1:00 - 2:30 pm Mountain (12 noon Pacific, 3 pm Eastern) with a discussion of Benjamin Labatut's award-winning When We Cease To Understand The World, a visionary exploration of "the complex ties between scientific and mathematical understanding and personal and historical catastrophe...a book that fuses fact and fiction to revelatory and profoundly disconcerting effect."

You can grab your copy at the Future Fossils Bookshop.org Reading List — and whether or not you can make this call, I recommend going there to check out an extensive (although not comprehensive YET) list of recommendations we've discussed on the show. (I love Bookshop.org because it's a small but still nontrivial diversion of excess funds away from Amazon and toward local booksellers...and I get a tiny piece of every sale at no additional cost to you-the-buyer.)

"I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”
– Blaise Pascal

07 April 2022

Live at Meow Wolf with DeVotchKa • SIX New Paintings • The Other Others • Rad New Future Fossils Episodes

“The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable.”
- Carl Jung

Once again I'm awful and dump way too much on you at once!  I'm sorry and I love you.  But wow am I ever excited about this new stuff — I think this latest newsletter outdoes every other I've released.  Enjoy, and write back any time!

New Music

Just played the best gig I've had in years at Meow Wolf Santa Fe opening for DeVotchKa (who is, by the way, an act I've always respected but suddenly now that I've finally seen them live one of my favorite bands of all time). As always, Patreon and Bandcamp supporters got it first, but now it's up on Spotify and all other major streaming services (in an abridged form without the between-song dialogue, which would have messed with being able to put this on playlists, but is an essential part of the show in my mind and is there on the full-concert HD video YouTube and the lossless audio Bandcamp pages).

New Paintings

My first collaboration painting with my daughter Ada, who just turned three, plus five others!  Sometimes I seem to go months without painting and then, like this, I knock out six in one week.  When it rains, it pours.  Most of these are sold but the Ada collab is available, as is the "Fabergé eggs launching seed bombs" type piece — 100% of the sales of which will donate relief to Ukraine.

I still have a ton of prints for sale as well as NFTs but have not made any for this batch yet...meanwhile, I'd far prefer to just keep doing commissions, which I've always loved as a professional illustrator (as I used to with the 350 custom-painted hats I made back in the day)...

Xenobotanicals - painting collaboration #1 with Ada - Unsold

Space Cactus - Sold

Seeds Not Bombs - Unsold

Birth of Mysteries - Sold

Saint Diplodocus - Sold

Chainlink Heart - Sold

Several other paintings still available here.

New Podcasts

Soooo excited to have made it onto Tyson Yunkaporta's podcast The Other Others after his wonderful appearance on Future Fossils 172. Here's his description of the episode:

And then, Future Fossils has just been AWESOME lately:
"Progress would be wonderful — if only it would stop."
- Robert Musil