Author Topic: Dada Black Sheep: Have You Any Pull?  (Read 11457 times)

Prelate Diogenes Shandor

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Re: Dada Black Sheep: Have You Any Pull?
« Reply #60 on: May 30, 2009, 01:44:26 am »
The dadaists. Absurdism. Nonsense.

It is common to think of these things as meaningless, effete gestures at the rational order. Random nonsense is often decried as a masturbatory means of expression, satisfying the communicator but boring the communicatee. Many people have a similar distaste for "modern" art. "Anyone can draw a single dot on a canvas, how is that art?" In part, they are reacting with frustration at their inability to grasp the expression with their rational mind. In this essay I hope to illustrate the intent of much "meaningless" expression.

I don't think that you should lump "modern art" and dadaism together in that manner. Modern art generally takes little or no real effort to produce, whereas Dadaism, (as I understand it), entails a concerted effort to be as bad as possible.
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Verbal Mike

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Re: Dada Black Sheep: Have You Any Pull?
« Reply #61 on: May 30, 2009, 12:08:42 pm »
About the different kinds of nonsense language, here's how I would differentiate between Jabberwocky stuff and total nonsense: the Jabberwocky poem is basically English with non-existent lexical items (~"words"). It conforms to basically all rules of English, except for a few very soft constraints on how words look ("brillig" is not how any English adjective should look, but it's close enough, and would work in almost any other Germanic language). The non-existent words are semantically empty, but they're only a minority of the semantic information in the language anyway - English encodes enormous amounts of information through word-order and the juxtaposition of words of different types with specific functional words, specifically particles such as "the", "and", "in", "he", which aren't lexical items but more like functions of sentence/proposition structure cast into sounds. So what you really get is semantically rich text with "holes" in it where the words -- which all could be English but are not actually associated with any meaning -- don't convey some of the exact details of what's going on. So the brain works through the context (the sound semantics which are available outside of the fake words, the real lexical items such as "sword" and "beware", and one's general background knowledge, including familiarity with similar mythical contexts) and cobbles together a tentative explanation for what the poem is supposed to mean. The beautiful thing is that the actual information conveyed by "brillig" and "frumious" is really minimal, and these create holes where the reader creates far more meaning than the author. It makes parsing the text a far more engaging, interactive process than with semantically sound "real" English.

All of this does not apply as soon as you stop using the framework of natural language grammar. "Hjdi mlgrkta prkprktrr klaj ijhay munu-munu maak" could very well be a sentence in a natural language, but the amount of semantics you can encode when you aren't using a known language is entirely minimal. Certain sounds can be roughly associated with certain sensations and concepts (the word "tkakkrit" is probably likelier to refer to a pointy object than the word "molb") but compared to the preciseness of language this is negligible. As soon as you abandon the common constraints that a common language provides, you are no longer able to convey any meaningful amount of meaning/information, and the brain doesn't try to fill in the gaps when there's way more gaps than non-gaps -- unless it is convinced the gaps are part of a comprehensive learnable language, in which case it might try to learn the language, which for adults usually still requires conscious effort.

The relative effect of Jabberwocky-type nonsense is greater because it triggers the brain's interaction without calling for conscious effort.
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Cain

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Re: Dada Black Sheep: Have You Any Pull?
« Reply #62 on: May 30, 2009, 12:47:28 pm »
:mittens:

This is why its good to have a linguistics expert or two around.

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Re: Dada Black Sheep: Have You Any Pull?
« Reply #63 on: May 30, 2009, 01:49:37 pm »
The dadaists. Absurdism. Nonsense.

It is common to think of these things as meaningless, effete gestures at the rational order. Random nonsense is often decried as a masturbatory means of expression, satisfying the communicator but boring the communicatee. Many people have a similar distaste for "modern" art. "Anyone can draw a single dot on a canvas, how is that art?" In part, they are reacting with frustration at their inability to grasp the expression with their rational mind. In this essay I hope to illustrate the intent of much "meaningless" expression.

I don't think that you should lump "modern art" and dadaism together in that manner. Modern art generally takes little or no real effort to produce, whereas Dadaism, (as I understand it), entails a concerted effort to be as bad as possible.

err, you know Dadaism is a form of "modern art", right?



a long long time ago art used to be entirely about skill. You were a good artist if you could paint realistic portraits or landscapes or whatever. The conceptual element was kind of minimal.

Many artistic movements are based on people coming up with a new way to conceive of something visually. Like the impressionists - that was the first time anybody tried to paint the "impression" of something. Largely, most artistic movements are in response to other artistic movements. The real story is invisible unless you understand the piece's context. Which means that most art isn't really meant to be understood by us chumps with no art history background.

In the 1930s, a cavalcade of renegades came along, including Marcel Duchamp and friends. They decided that the concept of the painting was more important than the technical skill involved in its production. By creating art that consisted of stuff like a single dot on a white canvas, they actually changed art. I think that's pretty impressive! Yes, it takes no technical skill to make a single dot, but they were saying that's not as important anymore. It's a new world.

It really irritated the art market, who was used to getting their pretty pastoral paintings to hang in the foyer and everybody thinks its lovely.

Mondrian (a "modern artist" whose paintings basically looks like lines and colored boxes) rejected symbolism entirely, trying to make paintings without even representing anything. Now you can look a a Mondrian painting and say "what a bunch of crap, any teenager could do that", but it's kind of missing the point. It's like criticizing ee cummings for not writing poetry in traditional rhyming lines and stanzas. It's not that he doesn't know how to capitalize. It's that he's intentionally breaking step from the last 2000 years of poetry.

Now, nobody can come along and make a single dot on a canvas and call it art again. Somebody already did that. You still have to be original to be an artist, although the current fad ("reappropriation") challenges the definition of originality.


that was kind of a tangent, and I'm sure I didn't do justice to the Dadaists. (like I said, I don't really have an art history background) But the point is that, critiquing the lack of technical skill involved in the production of "modern art" is missing the point.


Bringing it back to the topic, it only appears like nonsense if you're unaware of the piece's context.

Cain

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Re: Dada Black Sheep: Have You Any Pull?
« Reply #64 on: May 30, 2009, 02:39:53 pm »
Contextual nonsense may also be a better name for holistic nonsense, since it more accurately reflects the point I was trying to get across, I believe.

Cainad (dec.)

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Re: Dada Black Sheep: Have You Any Pull?
« Reply #65 on: May 30, 2009, 02:47:21 pm »
:mittens:

This is why its good to have a linguistics expert or two around.

2nd'ed.

Verbal Mike

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Re: Dada Black Sheep: Have You Any Pull?
« Reply #66 on: May 30, 2009, 02:56:53 pm »
Contextual nonsense may also be a better name for holistic nonsense, since it more accurately reflects the point I was trying to get across, I believe.
Can you give a quick recap/summary of the dichotomy you propose? I'm not sure I get it yet. Is it the same as the dichotomy I alluded to between nonsense in structure and nonsense sans structure?

(btw, forgot to say, this thread kicks ass)
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Cain

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Re: Dada Black Sheep: Have You Any Pull?
« Reply #67 on: May 30, 2009, 02:59:54 pm »
Pretty much, yeah.  Its nonsense embedded within a wider structure of meaning or apparent sense.

Also, I thought, on another tangent, this might be of interest.  Raoul Vangiem's Revolution of Everyday Life.  The book is freely available elsewhere, but I thought since this was all nicely formatted and stuff, to bring it to your collective attention.

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Re: Dada Black Sheep: Have You Any Pull?
« Reply #68 on: May 30, 2009, 03:05:14 pm »
Modern art generally takes little or no real effort to produce

Cram said it more eloquently than me but...  seriously?

Have you ever seen any modern art?  Do you realise what a painfully huge generalisation you have made?

anyways verbs post was awesome, as was the OP.

My thinkings:

I like absurdity, I especially like the stream-of-consciousness rants I occassionally throw into everyday conversation for comic effect.  I agree there is a limit to nonsense, that it is, at some point becomes pointless (just noise as someone else said).  But I suppose I subscribe more to the "Monty Python" camp, rather than using nonsense in words e.g.  Haflteryoup

I prefer the use of um..  suprise nonsense?

That is a situation that is nonsensical, not because we can't understand what is being said, but where what is being said is ridiculous nonsense, so a revelation of our reliance on "normality" in some sense.

rubbish e.g.

the cat sat on the mat

the mat sat on the cat... 'cause the mat's a badass...

or maybe the matt sat on the cat...

I hope that kinda makes sense...

x

Verbal Mike

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Re: Dada Black Sheep: Have You Any Pull?
« Reply #69 on: May 30, 2009, 03:12:43 pm »
So holistic/contextual nonsense is the Jabberwocky kind of nonsense (possibly also the Duchamp kind?) and the "semantic" nonsense is the kind which really doesn't make sense?
I'm not sure the name "semantic nonsense" is accurate, because the very difference is that your semantics doesn't even know where to start with this kind. "Context-free" or "context-independent" nonsense might be a better term, because the difference is not the nonsense, but the context it is placed within. This would also fit in well with your proposed "contextual nonsense" (which is nonsense within context), and incidentally fall together with the Chomsky hierarchy for language types, which I haven't really understood but divides languages (not necessarily natural languages) into four types, or levels of potence, where one is called "context-sensitive" and one is called "context-free". (I would try to explain, but like I said, I don't get it.)
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Re: Dada Black Sheep: Have You Any Pull?
« Reply #70 on: May 30, 2009, 03:20:57 pm »
i didn't think jabberwocky was entirely nonsense though. Even some of the 'nonsense' words do have meaning beyond it's placement in the context.  The poem contained several portmanteau words.  According to Humpty Dumpty:

Quote
- Well, "SLITHY" means "lithe and slimy."  "Lithe"  is  the  same  as
"active." You see it's like a portmanteau - there are two meanings  packed
up into one word.

and

Quote
- Exactly so. Well, then, "MIMSY" is "flimsy and miserable"  (there's
another portmanteau for you).

As far as the portmanteau goes, i'd suggest that what makes it 'holistic nonsense' is that it's both nonsense AND meaningful.  I'd say it's even MORE meaningful due to there being 2 separate definitions condensed down into a seemingly nonsensical word.   I think as far as the brain filling the gap because it has enough information (at least with the portmanteau words) to gather the 'correct' meaning. 

Cain

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Re: Dada Black Sheep: Have You Any Pull?
« Reply #71 on: May 30, 2009, 03:21:54 pm »
Well when I wrote it I had in mind exactly the sort of people who came on here and posted things like "Hjdi mlgrkta prkprktrr klaj ijhay munu-munu maak".

It was an easy phrase to grab at to get my point across.  With time, I can probably come up with a better one, though chances are I'll most likely stick with "context-free nonsense" or "white noise".

Verbal Mike

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Re: Dada Black Sheep: Have You Any Pull?
« Reply #72 on: May 30, 2009, 03:26:06 pm »
True, burns, most of the "nonsense" in the poem isn't actual semantically empty nonsense words but reappropriations (misappropriations?) of existing words. (Not only through portmanteaus, also some words being used in the wrong category, like a noun being turned into an adverb... Too lazy to check for precise examples atm.)
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Re: Dada Black Sheep: Have You Any Pull?
« Reply #73 on: May 30, 2009, 03:27:51 pm »
i want to add that i think what might make nonsense of the annoying kind different from the more creative kind is that, like the portmanteau, there is a puzzle to try and decipher what is going on.  

Another example being the Codex Seraphinianus.  People have been trying to 'decipher' it forever but can't figure it out. (apparantly.)  I'm taking the easy way out and interpreting the whole bit as nonsense portrayed as if it's NOT nonsense.  This would be an example of people scrambling for meaning which might not even be there in the first place.  (i could be wrong about that though).

Jenne

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Re: Dada Black Sheep: Have You Any Pull?
« Reply #74 on: May 30, 2009, 04:44:01 pm »
About the different kinds of nonsense language, here's how I would differentiate between Jabberwocky stuff and total nonsense: the Jabberwocky poem is basically English with non-existent lexical items (~"words"). It conforms to basically all rules of English, except for a few very soft constraints on how words look ("brillig" is not how any English adjective should look, but it's close enough, and would work in almost any other Germanic language). The non-existent words are semantically empty, but they're only a minority of the semantic information in the language anyway - English encodes enormous amounts of information through word-order and the juxtaposition of words of different types with specific functional words, specifically particles such as "the", "and", "in", "he", which aren't lexical items but more like functions of sentence/proposition structure cast into sounds. So what you really get is semantically rich text with "holes" in it where the words -- which all could be English but are not actually associated with any meaning -- don't convey some of the exact details of what's going on. So the brain works through the context (the sound semantics which are available outside of the fake words, the real lexical items such as "sword" and "beware", and one's general background knowledge, including familiarity with similar mythical contexts) and cobbles together a tentative explanation for what the poem is supposed to mean. The beautiful thing is that the actual information conveyed by "brillig" and "frumious" is really minimal, and these create holes where the reader creates far more meaning than the author. It makes parsing the text a far more engaging, interactive process than with semantically sound "real" English.

All of this does not apply as soon as you stop using the framework of natural language grammar. "Hjdi mlgrkta prkprktrr klaj ijhay munu-munu maak" could very well be a sentence in a natural language, but the amount of semantics you can encode when you aren't using a known language is entirely minimal. Certain sounds can be roughly associated with certain sensations and concepts (the word "tkakkrit" is probably likelier to refer to a pointy object than the word "molb") but compared to the preciseness of language this is negligible. As soon as you abandon the common constraints that a common language provides, you are no longer able to convey any meaningful amount of meaning/information, and the brain doesn't try to fill in the gaps when there's way more gaps than non-gaps -- unless it is convinced the gaps are part of a comprehensive learnable language, in which case it might try to learn the language, which for adults usually still requires conscious effort.

The relative effect of Jabberwocky-type nonsense is greater because it triggers the brain's interaction without calling for conscious effort.

You explained rather eloquently and in-depth why LMNO's example holds so much relevance to why language and the manipulation thereof is a rather clever way of triggering the embedded knowledge, but puts it in a different order to make it stand out and induce you to pay attention to it (what I was talking about vis a vis "salience").

I think LMNO himself touched on it as well, showing that the jumbling of unrecognizable word patterns don't have the same effect, and probably never would, as a lightly off-pattern and more recognizable jumble of the same letters.

I think this is why in those word jumble games you do as a kid you need the context in order to find the word hidden within the mixup of letters quickly: you need something for your brain to latch on to and connect the dots so that the letters and their pattern makes more sense.

And once you know your language construct in an "expert" way (i.e. are a true native), that pattern is ingrained and probably immutable.