Unreal Nature

September 23, 2014

Field-grown Monsters

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

… While Giacometti could raise his monsters by hand and in a hothouse, Hare has to meet the rush of a horde of late, hot, field-grown monsters coming from every direction …

This is from ‘Review of an Exhibition of David Hare’ (1946) found in Clement Greenberg: The Collected Essays and Criticism, Vol. 2, edited by John O’Brian (1986):

Hare stands second to no sculptor of his generation, unless it be David Smith, in potential talent. But like Smith in his latest phase and like all those who practice the baroque seriously at this moment, he is overwhelmed by the challenge of what is thought to be the contemporary mood.

Hare’s is the most intensely surrealist art I have ever seen — in the sense tha tit goes all the way in the direction of surrealism and then beyond, developing surrealism’s premises with a consistency and boldness the surrealist doctrinaires themselves have hardly envisaged.

David Hare, Magician’s Game, 1944 [image from WikiArt]

Hare preserves Giacometti’s demiurgic ambition to create in each work of art a non-aesthetic personality, a new element of “absolute” experience, but he has failed to possess himself as yet of a sense of style comparable to Giacometti’s at his best. And he is not concerned enough with the necessity of making sure that the work of art be at least art before becoming a personality. There are, of course, extenuating circumstances in Hare’s case. While Giacometti could raise his monsters by hand and in a hothouse, Hare has to meet the rush of a horde of late, hot, field-grown monsters coming from every direction of present day history [1946]. They are not as easy to control as Giacometti’s horrors.

Hare’s art as a whole suffers from its diversity, its lack of a unifying formal principle, of a consistent plastic bias. The twenty-three “personalities” on exhibition belong to at lest seven different periods of geology. Their variety is upsetting instead of stimulating, because it is the result of the absence of style and the presence of elaborations and complications too often motivated by nothing more than exuberance or mechanical facility. Nor does the individual excellence of so many of the pieces — some are superb — remedy their failure to relate to one another.

As I have said, Hare has a prodigious amount of talent. The linear inventiveness of his sculpture cannot be denied; it is almost possible, in fact, to argue that he is a great draftsman– which is, perhaps, why he is not a successful sculptor in any final way. He still derives too closely from painting and fails to distinguish between the different orders of feeling proper to it and to sculpture. And in this respect, particularly, gothic surrealism, with its deliberate obliteration of such distinctions, is a handicap. (Perhaps it is necessary to remind the reader that the surrealism of Picasso, Miró, and Masson is not gothic.) Only when Hare comes to include his surrealism in something larger and outwardly more impassive and controlled, something that scorns to compete with nature in procreation, will he realize the fulness of his unquestionable talent.




September 22, 2014

In Whose Frame

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:44 am

… Making fiction does not mean telling stories. It means undoing and rearticulating the connections …

This is from the essay ‘Contemporary Art and the Politics of Aesthetics’ by Jacques Rancière found in Theory in Contemporary Art since 1985, second edition, edited by Zoya Kocur and Simon Leung (2012):

… A community of sense is a certain cutting out of space and time that binds together practices, forms of visibility, and patterns of intelligibility. I call this cutting out and this linkage a partition of the sensible.

[ ... ]

… If Brecht remained a kind of archetype for political art in the twentieth century, it was due not so much to his enduring communist commitment as to the way he negotiated the relation between these opposites, blending the scholastic forms of political teaching with the enjoyments of the musical or the cabaret or discussing allegories of Nazi power in verse about cauliflowers. The main procedure of political or critical art consists in setting out the encounter, and possibly the clash, of heterogeneous elements. The clash of these heterogeneous elements is supposed to provoke a break in our perception, to disclose some secret connection of things hidden behind everyday reality. This hidden reality may be the absolute power of dream and desire concealed by the prose of bourgeois life, as it is in the surrealist poetics. …

… In recent years many artists have set out to revive the project of an art that makes real objects instead of producing or recycling images, or that undertakes real actions in the real world rather than merely “artistic” installations. Political commitment thus is equated with the search for the real. But the political is not the “outside” of a “real” that art would have to reach. The “outward” is always the other side of the “inward.” What produces their difference is the topography in whose frame the relation of in and out is negotiated. The real as such simply does not exist. What does exist is a framing or a fiction of reality. Art does not do politics by reaching the real. It does it by inventing fictions that challenge the existing distribution of the real and the fictional.

Making fiction does not mean telling stories. It means undoing and rearticulating the connections between signs and images, images and times, or signs and space that frame the existing sense of reality. Fiction invents new communities of sense: that is to say, new trajectories between what can be seen, what can be said, and what can be done. It blurs over the distribution of places and competences, which also means that it blurs over the very borders defining its own activity; doing art means displacing the borders of art, just as doing politics means displacing the borders of what is recognized as the sphere of the political. It is no coincidence that some of the most interesting artworks today engage with matters of territories and borders. What could be the ultimate paradox of the politics of aesthetics is that perhaps by inventing new forms of aesthetic distance or indifference, art today can help frame, against the consensus, new political communities of sense. Art cannot merely occupy the space left by the weakening of political conflict. It has to reshape it, at the risk of testing the limits of its own politics.




September 21, 2014

Nothing But Chances

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:45 am

… existence is engaged in this absence of the given in order to give sense every chance …

This is from the essay ‘Responding to Existence’ in A Finite Thinking by Jean-Luc Nancy (2003):

… Sense is only guaranteed by its own movement of expansion and flight — or, if you prefer, its own imminent contagion or its own transcendent excess.

Sense, then, has the same structure as responsibility: it is engagement, oath. Spondere is to engage by a ritualized oath. To one’s sponsio, the other’s re-sponsio responds. The response is first of all a re-engagement — an engagement in return for what engaged us or what engaged itself for us: the world, existence, others. It is a guaranteed exchange without any guarantee of making sense. It is a mutual pledge to truthfulness without which neither speech nor expression [regard] would be possible. So, when one answers for, one also responds to — to a call, to an invitation, to a question or to a defiance of sense. And when one responds to, one answers for — for the sense that is promised or guaranteed. If I’m asked the time, I guarantee that I will give the right time. If I’m asked about love or justice, I guarantee the unassureable infinity of these words. What we usually call a “response” is a solution; here, though, it is a matter of the referral or the return [renvoi] of the promise or the engagement. Sense is the engagement between several beings, and truth always, inevitably, lies in this between or in this with.

This is our responsibility: it isn’t a task assigned to us, but an assignment that constitutes our being.

… This responsibility is as empty as it is absolute. This emptiness is its truth: the opening of sense. This emptiness is everything, therefore, everything except nothingness in the sense that nihilism understands it. Nihilism affirms that there is no sense, that the heavens of sense are empty. In a sense, absolute responsibility says the same thing: that there is no given (present, available, configured, attested, deposited, assured) sense, that sense can never be given. It says that existence is engaged in this absence of the given in order to give sense every chance — indeed, perhaps sense is made up of nothing but chances.




September 20, 2014

At Last Nothing To Vary From

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:43 am

… The last variation is regularity.

This is from the essay ‘The Problem of Form’ found in The Collected Essays of J.V. Cunningham (1976):

… If informality and antiformality are positive values, then the problem of form is how to get rid of it. But to get rid of it we must keep it; we must have something to get rid of. To do this we need a method, and we have found it in our dualism of science and art, of intellectual and emotional, of regularity and irregularity, of norm and variation. [ ... ] And so we embrace the broad, pervasive simple-minded, and scarcely scrutinized proposition that regularity is meaningless and irregularity is meaningful — to the subversion of Form. For one needs only so much regularity as will validate irregularity. But Form is regularity.

So we come to definition. The customary distinctions of form and matter, or form and content, are in the discussion of writing at least only usable on the most rudimentary level. For it is apparent to any poet who sets out to write a sonnet that the form of the sonnet is the content, and its content the form. This is not a profundity but the end of the discussion. I shall define form, then, without a contrasting term. It is that which remains the same when everything else is changed.

… it is the essence of form to be repetitive, and the repetitive is form. It follows, further, that there may be in a given utterance simultaneously a number of forms, so that the common literary question, What is the form of this work? can only be answered by a tacit disregard of all the forms other than the one we are momently concerned with.

… that so many operate simultaneously shows, not that a literary work has form, but that it is a convergence of forms, and forms of disparate orders. It is the coincidence of forms that locks in the poem.

Indeed, it is the inherent coincidence of forms in poetry, in metrical writing, that gives it its place and its power — a claim for poetry perhaps more accurate and certainly more modest than is customary. For this is the poet’s Poetics: prose is written in sentences; poetry in sentences and lines. It is encoded not only in grammar, but also simultaneously in meter, for meter is the principle or set of principles, whatever they may be, that determines the line. And as we perceive of each sentence that it is grammatical or not, so the repetitive perception that this line is metrical or that it is not, that it exemplifies the rules or that it does not, is the metrical experience. It is the ground bass of all poetry.

And here in naked reduction is the problem of form in the poetry of our day. It is before all a problem of meter. We have lost the repetitive harmony of the old tradition, and we have not established a new. We have written to vary or violate the old line, for regularity we feel is meaningless and irregularity meaningful. But a generation of poets, acting on the principles and practice of significant variation, have at last nothing to vary from. The last variation is regularity.




September 19, 2014

What You Can’t Avoid

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:45 am

… It has to be what you can’t avoid saying, not what you set out to say.

This first is from a 1965 BBC interview with David Sylvester, found in Jasper Johns: Writings, Sketchbook Notes, Interviews, edited by Kirk Varnedoe and compiled by Christel Hollevoet (1996):

[ ... ]

Jasper Johns: … when you begin to work with the idea of suggesting [via a painting], say, a particular psychological state of affairs, you have eliminated so much from the process of painting that you make an artificial statement which is, I think, not desirable. I think one has to work with everything and accept the kind of statement which results as unavoidable or as a helpless situation. I think that most art which begins to make a statement fails to make a statement because the methods used are too schematic or too artificial. I think that one wants from painting a sense of life. The final suggestion, the final statement, has to be not a deliberate statement but a helpless statement. It has to be what you can’t avoid saying, not what you set out to say.

[ ... ]

David Sylvester: Again and again you return to the way in which something is posed and then contradicted or departed from, so that you are constantly interested in the way in which intention and improvisation work together. In other words, it seems to me your constant preoccupation is the interplay between affirmation and denial, expectation and fulfillment, the degree in which things happen as one would expect and the degree in which things happen as one would not expect.

JJ: Well, intention involves such a small fragment of our consciousness and of our mind and of our life. I think a painting should include more experience than simply intended statement. I personally would like to keep the painting in a state of “shunning statement,” so that one is left with the fact that one can experience individually as one pleases; that is, not to focus the attention in one way, but to leave the situation as a kind of actual thing, so that the experience of it is variable.

DS: In other words, if your painting says something that could be pinned down, what it says is that nothing can be pinned down, that nothing is pure, that nothing is simple.

JJ: I don’t like saying that it says that. I would like it to be that.




September 18, 2014

Different Kinds of Time

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:44 am

… the embrace of affect within the analytico-cognitivist paradigm comes mostly by way of cognitivizing affectivity as a well-structured, problem-solving and object-related mode of mentation … [W]hat is precisely affective about affect — the subjective qualia themselves — has been lost.

This is from Philosophy and the Moving Image: Refractions of Reality by John Mullarkey (2009):

Bordwell’s is a perceptual-cognitive model of film comprehension, a ‘problem/solution model … [that] invites us to reconstruct decisions made by active agents, and it treats persons as concrete forces for stability and change (or both)’. In other words, the story of film spectatorship told by Bordwell is quite like the stories told in certain movies themselves, with a central plot composed of questions and an agent who propels it in search of answers.

… Within Bordwell’s approach, the principal tenet is the endurance and universality of the classical Hollywood style of narration, one that demands a naturalistic justification. The clear use of events and actors; individuated characters who are psychologically rather than socially motivated; linear chains of cause and effect; the division between main and secondary plots; the use of mostly unrestricted narration, itself structured with a beginning, middle and end; the provision of a proper (often happy) resolution at the end; and the use of continuity editing — all of these principles are firmly rooted in the Hollywood mode of filmmaking, such that even the more experimental strategies of plot and style found in recent Hollywood output, actually only deviate from the norm at their margins.

… the taming of the aesthetic dimension of cinema, be it in terms of transgression or excess, is absolutely necessary for Bordwell when isolating narration as a cognitive process.

… Claims by avant-garde filmmakers themselves, for instance, that new forms of realism are being innovated through film, are dismissed by him as merely attempts to ‘justify novelty’ and cultivate ambiguity. The real offering of the art film is to inform the spectator of its reflexivity — it is a metalevel communication only; ‘put crudely, the procedural slogan of art-cinema narration might be: “interpret this film, and interpret it so as to maximize ambiguity” ‘. For a science of film such as Bordwell’s, therefore, ambiguity in film cannot be realistic because reality really is clear cut. If there is any ambiguity in the film, it must be because the film is saying something about itself.

Bordwell sees it as his task to reveal the filmic and perceptual mechanisms that generate meaning immanently (including the false meanings of the ideologues). In essence, Bordwell follows Samuel Goldwyn’s famous dictum that ‘messages are for Western Union': films should be analysed for what they do, not what they mean – even when a part of what they do is facilitate the making of meaning. The object, scientific approach must relinquish any a priori ascriptions and focus only on what film does empirically, how its formal devices interact with the viewer’s perceptual-cognitive mechanisms to create a story. [ ... ] The brain, in this cognitive paradigm, must be seen as an ‘inferring machine’ that works with its own dynamic set of internalized ‘story schemata’ (clusters of knowledge that guide our ‘hypothesis making’), utilizing them in its ‘algorithmic processing’ of the cinematic information it recovers.

[ ... ]

… when has a film ever represented ‘real,’ continuous time when it has involved more than one continuous shot?

The answer, of course, is ‘never,’ but not because film lacks the ability to capture real time, so much as film itself being just one instance of the myriad forms of time. There is no pure, single, continuous time to capture; or rather, real time just is the host of different kinds of time being made continuously.

[ ... ]

… despite such evidence for the mutability and porosity between nature and culture in both directions, Bordwell insists on a fixed continuum with easily learnt, hardwired and disposition-friendly effects at one end (‘dissolves or fades; most acting styles; and most stylistic innovations such as cross-cutting’); and culture-specific acquisitions at the other end that need more exposure to acquire (such as the artful playing with narrative time). We would not dispute that there is, at any one time, a continuum. But what is on the continuum itself is not fixed; rather, it is always itself moving (and, as we’ll see, resting on another, equally mobile, continuum).

… the embrace of affect within the analytico-cognitivist paradigm comes mostly by way of cognitivizing affectivity as a well-structured, problem-solving and object-related mode of mentation, as the title of the prominent collection of essay, Passionate Views: Film, Cognition, and Emotion, clearly attests. Emotion becomes a form of representation about the film-object or world. Hence, it is arguable that what is precisely affective about affect — the subjective qualia themselves — has been lost.

My most recent previous post from Mullarkey’s book is here.




September 17, 2014

And Held One Moment Burns the Hand

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:45 am

… Logic alone is as incapable of leading a person to new ideas as grammar alone is incapable of inspiring poems …

This is from Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors: Symbolic Action in Human Society by Victor Turner (1974):

… The social world is a world in becoming, not a world in being (except insofar as “being” is a description of the static, atemporal models men have in their heads), and for this reason studies of social structure as such are irrelevant. They are erroneous in basic premise because there is no such thing as “static action.” That is why I am a little chary of the terms “community” or “society,” too, though I do use them, for they are often thought of as static concepts. Such a view violates the actual flux and changefulness of the human social scene.

… one must pick one’s root metaphors carefully, for appropriateness and potential fruitfulness. Not only [Robert A.] Nisbet but Max Black, the Cornell philosopher, and others have pointed out how “perhaps every science must start with metaphor and end with algebra; and perhaps without the metaphor there would never have been any algebra.”

… Both Black and Nisbet admit the tenacity as well as the potency of metaphors. Nisbet argues that what we usually call revolutions in thought are

quite often no more than the mutational replacement, at certain critical points in history, of one foundation-metaphor by another in man’s contemplation of universe, society, and self. Metaphoric likening of the universe to an organism in its structure will yield one set of derivations; derivations which become propositions in complex systems of philosophy. But when, as happened in the 17th Century, the universe is likened instead to a machine, not merely physical science but whole areas of moral philosophy and human psychology are affected.

… I have mentioned all this merely to point out that there are certain dangers inherent in regarding the social world as “a world in becoming,” if by invoking the idea “becoming” one is unconsciously influenced by the ancient metaphor or organic growth and decay. Becoming suggests genetic continuity, telic growth, cumulative development, progress, etc. But many social events do not have this “directional” character. Here the metaphor may well select, emphasize, suppress, or organize features of social relations in accordance with plant or animal growth process, and in so doing, mislead us about the nature of the human social world, sui generis. There is nothing wrong with metaphors or, mutatis mutandis, with models, provided that one is aware of the perils lurking behind their misuse. If one regards them, however, as a species of liminal monster, such as I described in The Forest of Symbols (1967), whose combination of familiar features provokes us into thought, provides us with new perspectives, one can be excited by them; the implications, suggestions, and supporting values entwined with their literal use enable us to see a new subject matter in a new way.

[ ... ]

… We have to learn to think of societies as continuously “flowing,” as a “dangerous tide … that never stops or dies, … And held one moment burns the hand,” as W.H. Auden once put it. the formal supposedly static, structures only become visible through this flow which energizes them, heats them to the point of visibility — to use yet another metaphor. Their very stasis is the effect of social dynamics. The organizational foci of temporal structures are “goals,” the objects of action or effort, not “nodes,” mere points of diagrammatic intersection or lines of rest. Temporal structure, until at rest and therefore atemporal, is always tentative; there are always alternative goals and alternative means of attaining them. Since its foci are goals, psychological factors, such as volition, motivation, span of attention, level of aspiration, and so on, are important in its analysis; contrastingly, in atemporal structures these are unimportant, for such structures reveal themselves as already exhausted, achieved, or, alternatively as axioms, self-evident cognitive or normative frames to which action is subsequent and subordinate. Again, since the goals significantly include social goals, the study of temporal structures involves the study of the communication process, including the sources of pressures to communicate within and among groups; this leads inevitably to the study of the symbols, signs, signals, and tokens, verbal and nonverbal, that people employ in order to attain personal and group goals.

… Every mathematician and every natural scientist would, I think, agree with Mario Bunge that

without imagination, without inventiveness, without the ability to conceive hypotheses and proposals, nothing but the “mechanical” operations can be performed, i.e., the manipulations of apparatus and the application of computation algorithms, the art of calculating with any species of notation. The invention of hypotheses, the devising of techniques, and the designing of experiments, are clear cases of imaginative, [purely "liminal"] operations, as opposed to “mechanical” operations. They are not purely logical operations. Logic alone is as incapable of leading a person to new ideas as grammar alone is incapable of inspiring poems and as theory of harmony alone is incapable of inspiring sonatas. Logic, grammar, and musical theory enable us to detect formal mistakes and good ideas, as well as to develop good ideas, but they do not, as it were, supply the “substance,” the happy ideas, the new point of view.

… In the ares of social creativity — where new social and cultural forms are engendered — both structure and communitas are necessary, or both the “bound” and the “unbound.” To view “societas” as human process, rather than as an atemporal timeless or eternal system modeled either on an organism or a machine, is to enable us to concentrate on the relationships, existing at every point and on every level in complex and subtle ways, between communitas and structure. We must devise approaches that safeguard both archmodalities, for in destroying one we destroy both and must then present a distorted account of man with man.

My previous post from Turner’s book is here.




September 16, 2014

A Cold Nature

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:42 am

… who but a cold nature can calculate best when it comes to a question of dramatizing and exploiting emotion?

This is from ‘The Great Precursor: Review of The Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, introduced by A.E. Popham’ (1946) found in Clement Greenberg: The Collected Essays and Criticism, Vol. 2, edited by John O’Brian (1986):

… His preoccupations with knowledge and power goes hand in hand with a certain coldness or detached impersonality, for which evidence is to be found in both his drawings and his notebooks. Yet his revolutionary contributions to painting were an emotional naturalism that inaugurated the High Renaissance, and his sfumato, which by swathing forms in soft, voluminous shading not only moved them into “real” space but made the emotion they bore more explicit. And yet who but a cold nature can calculate best when it comes to a question of dramatizing and exploiting emotion? And is it not also characteristic of a cold nature that, when called on to display emotion, it should resort, as Leonardo did, to sentimentality and exaggeration?

There is, however, a kind of valid feeling in Leonardo’s seemingly most objective drawings. But it appears as puzzling to us as it proved troublesome, no doubt, to the artist himself. It is the alienated and the unsympathetic, and is expressed in depictions of violent struggles, of catastrophes by fire and flood, of invented facial types and facial deformities, of war chariots with revolving scythes that litter the ground with human limbs, and in the directions in his notebooks on how to paint a battle scene — but most particularly in his anatomical studies, which convey, as modern anatomical plates do not, the idea of a callousness that does not come altogether from the fact that these studies were done from life by a consummate draftsman in a period in which hardly anyone as yet had acquired the habit of viewing the insides of a human body detachedly and with curiosity. The mirrormaker who denounced Leonardo to the Pope for his anatomical drawings may have had ulterior motives, but I believe I can understand why he felt he had a good case.


The most precise definition I can give of the feeling I detect in Leonardo’s drawings and writings is that it is the result of self-withdrawal, of an unwillingness or inability to commit or reveal himself. His appetite for mystification would bear this out. (And by mystification I do not mean merely his practice of writing from right to left; after all, Leonardo was left-handed.) He was able to put emotion into his art more outwardly than anyone before him because it was not his own emotion but emotion that he chose for his not-self. He was able to write more copiously than any other artist of his time because he kept himself out of what he wrote. He willed because he assigned the performance of the acts of his will to his not-self.


… The famous Burlington House cartoon of the Madonna, St. Anne, the Jesus child, and St. John, made as a sample sketch for an altar piece never executed, is considered by many the greatest and most genuine surviving example of Leonardo’s genius [ ... ] And yet I feel something impure, mannered, cloying in the elongated figures of this drawing, in the faces, and in the sugary sfumato that halos them. The emotion is sent too exclusively and too far in one direction, becoming unbelievable for the purposes of art; the artist seems to be staking his effect on the spectator’s weaknesses as well as on his own skill.

The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and St. John the Baptist [image from Wikipedia]




September 15, 2014

Dried Up ?

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:45 am

… when the absence of models to be imitated begins to be felt as a loss and no longer as a liberation, this can only mean that this culture’s capacity to invent without looking back has dried up.

This is from the essay ‘When Form Has Become Attitude — and Beyond’ by Thierry de Duve found in Theory in Contemporary Art since 1985, second edition, edited by Zoya Kocur and Simon Leung (2012):

It used to be that the teaching of art was academic and proud of it. Rooted in the observation of nature and the imitation of previous art, the long apprenticeship of a would-be painter or sculptor was primarily an acquisition of skills put under specific cultural constraints. Life-drawing and its underlying discourse, anatomy, provided the basic skill ennobled with humanistic knowledge. Never, though, was art equated with skill. What deserved admiration in the accomplished artist was talent, not craftsmanship. Skill could be acquired, talent could not, since talent was thought of as a gift of nature — a gift, however, which could neither develop nor express itself outside the rules, conventions, and codes provided by the tradition. Tradition set the standards against which the production of art students was measured. Academic teaching had great ambitions as regards the maintenance of tradition and the passing on of quality standards; it had little vanity as regards its ability to “turn out” individual artists. All it could hope to do was nurture and discipline its students’ gifts within the limits of nature’s generosity, and to grant even the most ungifted students a technical know-how capable of securing them a recognized, if humble, place in society and a plausible, if modest, source of income. Between the work of the artisan and that of the genius the Academy recognized a leap in quality, but also the cultural continuity of one and the same trade in which everybody held his (or her) rank.

All this was destroyed in less than a century.

… Talent, as such, no longer exists. It lies in a raw state in everyone’s creativity, and skill lies, so to speak, ready-made in the properties of the medium: in the linearity of drawing, in the two-dimensionality of the picture plane, in the volumetric properties of sculpture. In principle, if not in fact, the learning of art became simple: students should learn how to tap their unspoilt creativity, guided by immediate feeling and emotion, and to read their medium, obeying its immanent syntax. As their aesthetic sensibility and artistic literacy progressed, their ability to feel and to read would translate into the ability to express and to articulate. Nurtured perception and imagination would produce artworks of a new kind.

[ ... ]

… Who [among art teachers] has not dreamt, if only secretly, of having students — the best students — forcing the teacher to give them an A+ because they transgressed the rules of the assignment so intelligently that they displayed a perfect awareness of what art-making is about? Those of us who teach “mixed media,” “intermedia,” “multi-media,” or “experimental media” — whatever the name is of the no-man’s-land that most art schools have ended up institutionalizing as if it were a medium of its own — know all too well that if they did not assign subject matter or set technical constraints, formal limits, severe deadlines or whatever rules or conventions, they would not achieve much more than organized escapism.

… When the culture that fosters invention starts to doubt, it ceases to oppose itself to the culture fostering imitation that it claimed to supplant. Conversely, when the absence of models to be imitated begins to be felt as a loss and no longer as a liberation, this can only mean that this culture’s capacity to invent without looking back has dried up. Once this point is reached (and God knows it has been reached: look at all the neo- and all the post- movements, look at the endemic practices of quotation, second- and third-degree self-referentiality, replicas, and the like), then it is no longer enough to say that imitation repeats and that invention makes the difference.




September 14, 2014

Nonetheless, It Happens

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:40 am

… But there is this brilliant, shattering constitution of being.

Continuing through (and finishing) the essay ‘Shattered Love’ in A Finite Thinking by Jean-Luc Nancy (2003):

… To joy is no more impossible, as Lacan wanted it, than possible, as the sexologist would want it. To joy is not an eventuality that one might expect, that one might exclude, or that one might provoke. To joy is not a fulfillment, and it is not even an event. Nonetheless, it happens, it arrives — and it arrives as it departs, it arrives in departing and it departs in the arrival, in the same beat of the heart. To joy is the crossing of the other.

… It is not something unspeakable, because it is spoken, the joy is named, but it is something with which discourses (narratives and poems) can never be even. They have never said it enough, having always discoursed it too much, declared it too much.

Joy is the trembling of a deliverance beyond all freedom: it is to be cut across, undone, it is to be joyed as much as to joy.

… joy is not appeasement, but a serenity without rest. To joy is not to be satisfied — it is to be filled, overflowed. It is to be cut across without even being able to hold onto what “to joy” makes happen. To joy cannot contain itself. Joy is not even to contain joy itself, not the pain that consequently accompanies it. The joy of joying does not come back to anyone, neither to me nor to you, for in each it opens the other.

… This puts one beside oneself, this irritates and exasperates, and the language for saying it is exasperated.

… But love is neither unique nor necessary. It comes, it is offered; it is not established as a structure of being or as its principle, and even less as its subjectivity. [ ... ] The correlation would neither be causal nor expressive nor essential nor existential nor of any other known genre. Perhaps it would no longer be necessary to speak of correlation. But there is this brilliant, shattering constitution of being. “Love” does not define it, but it names it, and obliges us to think it.

Nancy ends the essay with a ‘Postscriptum’ that is in the form of a conversation with an unnamed skeptic:

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— There is then no excess, no infinite transport in this raving: it must be only this other? Only him, her, to whom you send your love, and if not there is no love? But each time, and even if you switched everyday, and even if you love several at a time, love is addressed to one alone, singularly and infinitely: does not your lightness forget that?

— No, I haven’t forgotten that. But this infinity is minute, and the words of love are too big for it. Or rather, they are really too small. … I don’t know anymore. I should perhaps give them all to you, send them all to you, all imprinted, as one touches everywhere the minute infinity of skin, with impatience, with this boundless disorder that never finds an order or a measure, except by being always shaken, always broken, rushed to multiply itself, a nervousness of fingers on masses, on flanks, and in secret folds — with nothing more that is secret, in the end. … I should have sent everything, a thousand pages of love and not one word on it, to you alone. All the words of love from everyone. … It would have flown into pieces, barely thrown toward you, as it always flies into pieces as soon as it is sent.

— Yes, it’s made for that.

Except for the first bracketed one, the ellipses within that last bit are in the original. My most recent previous post from Nancy’s essay on love is here.




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