Unreal Nature

October 23, 2016

Hopping About to Music

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:29 am

… he will tell you that he enjoyed it long before he knew what it meant or how it worked.

This is from ‘Ballet: The American Position’ [1947] found in Edwin Denby: Dance Writings, edited by Robert Cornfield and William MacKay (1986):

… Ballet is absurd by nature. But its absurdities are civilized ones. It is as absurd as a symphony concert. A symphony is seventy-five men on a stage who make noises together very earnestly for a couple of hours; and music lovers beam at some of the noises and lose their tempers over others. Ballet is a lot of young people hopping about to music in a peculiarly exhilarating way. Sometimes they’re being sad and sometimes funny, but they’re always in the pink of condition, charmingly built, graceful, well-mannered, and serious.

[line break added] Like an orchestra of musicians or a cast of actors they are busy building up the illusion of some sort of event; but they don’t waste so much time about it as actors and they are pleasanter to watch at work than musicians. Dancers appear briefly in all the glamour of orchestral sonorities and surprising fancy dress, and you find intelligent people who long afterward remember with affection some brief illusion that dancers created.

This is from ‘Against Meaning in Ballet’ [1949]:

… [Nineteenth-century French poet and ballet critic] Gautier assumes that all people need do to enjoy art is to look and listen with ready attention and trust their own sensual impressions. He is right. But when they hear that ballet is an elaborate art with a complicated technique and tradition, many modest people are intimidated and are afraid to trust their own spontaneous impressions. They may have been to a few performances, they may have liked it when they saw it, but now they wonder if maybe they liked the wrong things and missed the right ones.

[line break added] Before going again, they want it explained, they want to know what to watch for and exactly what to feel. If it is really real art and fine great art, it must be studied before it is enjoyed; that is what they remember from school. In school the art of poetry is approached by a strictly rational method, which teaches you what to enjoy and how to discriminate.

[line break added] You are taught to analyze the technique and the relation of form to content; you are taught to identify and “evaluate” stylistic, biographical, economic, and anthropological influences, and told what is great and what is minor so you can prepare yourself for a great reaction or for a minor one. The effect of these conscientious labors on the pupils is distressing. For the rest of their lives they can’t face a page of verse without experiencing a complete mental blackout. They don’t enjoy, they don’t discriminate, they don’t even take the printed words at face value.

[line break added] For the rest of their lives they go prying for hidden motives back of literature, for psychological, economic, or stylistic explanations, and it never occurs to them to read the words and respond to them as they do to the nonsense of current songs or the nonsense of billboards by the roadside. Poetry is the same thing — it’s words, only more interesting, more directly and richly sensual.

The first taste of art is spontaneously sensual, it is the discovery of an absorbing entertainment, an absorbing pleasure. If you ask anyone who enjoys ballet or any other art how he started, he will tell you that he enjoyed it long before he knew what it meant or how it worked.

… To some of my friends the images ballet leaves in the imagination suggest, as poetry does, an aspect of the drama of human behavior. For others such ballet images keep their sensual mysteriousness, “abstract,” unrationalized, and magical. Anyone who cannot bear to contemplate human behavior except from a rationalist point of view had better not try to “understand” the exhilarating excitement of ballet; its finest images of our fate are not easier to face than those of poetry itself, though they are no less beautiful.

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




October 22, 2016

Conceptual Boundaries

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:50 am

… It is not particularly urban or wild, but simply removed from one’s normal environment.

This is from the essay ‘Vernacular Parks’ by Paul Groth found in Denatured Visions: Landscape and Culture in the Twentieth Century edited by Stuart Wrede and William Howard Adams (1991):

Design professionals usually see urban parks as official places: special areas reserved for finding aesthetic and spiritual refreshment, and for learning the ruling interpretations of nature and society.

… If we look at ordinary American environments, however, we find a very different and very vibrant urban park tradition, one that we might call the vernacular park. The vernacular park is ad hoc: it is not focused on a correct visual style, on the adulation of certain types of geological or botanical specimens, or on a prescription for specific activities. It is not particularly urban or wild, but simply removed from one’s normal environment. Like other vernacular landscapes, it is not focused on the future or on abstract ideas, but instead on the present and the everyday.

[line break added] People develop vernacular parks where official order is beginning to crumble — in underused areas of the city or out on the urban fringe. An uncharacteristically permanent but ubiquitous form of a vernacular park is the speedboat dock. Vernacular parks often exist within official parks: for instance, a dirt road behind the levee of an otherwise official urban park.

Children innately create and use vernacular parks largely invisible to the adult population. For the eight-year-old with a model boat or raft to float or pull with a string, the chains of mud puddles along the side of a road form a public recreation space that can stretch for several blocks. Children of all classes and ethnic backgrounds create and use vernacular parks, but the adults who do so typically come from the lower half of the socioeconomic spectrum. They are recent urban migrants, racial or ethnic minorities, or young adults: people whom the official population might disparagingly categorize as working-class, lowbrow, redneck, or merely adolescent. They often have access to a car — most often a used car.

For these people, the vernacular park is not the covertly transformed nature of official parks, but brazenly commodified nature. The experience of nature goes hand in hand with buying, collecting, and using nature.

… the vernacular park is not a sacred realm, but a scenic backdrop for ordinary and everyday activities, many of which ignore nature altogether. Hester and McNalley [of the California Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection, 1988] found that park users felt automobiles, trucks, loud radios, or a motorboat (in the case of water) were usually considered essential: park use could mean such mundane activities as fixing an automobile transmission or watching television.

[line break added] Throughout the United States, vernacular park use for teenagers can consist of having a drinking party or just hanging out. The nearer a vernacular park area is to the center of the city, the more likely its daytime social promenade will include waxing one’s car in the shade while potential admirers cruise by on the nearby road.

… In popular vernacular parks, seemingly random parking along the roadside and among the trees blurs the conceptual boundaries between road, parking lot, and park. Inside even Yosemite National Park (as official a park as one could find), the parking lots are dramatic in and of themselves and often see more pleasurable social activity than the hiking trails.

… Vernacular and official parks may be inherently contradictory; if so, we must ensure that park programs are pluralistic enough to allow both traditions. We must also find ways to mitigate the ecological damage of the vernacular traditions without undermining them with official control.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.




October 21, 2016

Without Delegation

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:35 am

… It is a relation in depth, and without delegation of functions or powers.

This is from ‘Telegraph: The Social Hormone’ found in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man by Marshall McLuhan (1964, 1994, 2003):

… What makes a mechanism is the separation and extension of separate parts of our body as hand, arm, feet, in pen, hammer, wheel. And the mechanization of a task is done by segmentation of each part of an action in a series of uniform, repeatable, and movable parts. The exact opposite characterizes cybernation (or automation), which has been described as a way of thinking, as much as a way of doing. Instead of being concerned with separate machines, cybernation looks at the production problem as an integrated system of information handling.

It is this same provision of interacting places in the electric media that now compels us to react to the world as a whole. Above all, however, it is the speed of electric involvement that creates the integral whole of both private and public awareness. We live today in the Age of Information and of Communication because electric media instantly and constantly create a total field of interacting events in which all men participate.

… Many analysts have been misled by electric media because of the seeming ability of these media to extend man’s spatial powers of organization. Electric media, however, abolish the spatial dimension, rather than enlarge it. By electricity, we everywhere resume person-to-person relations as if on the smallest village scale. It is a relation in depth, and without delegation of functions or powers. The organic everywhere supplants the mechanical. Dialogue supersedes the lecture.

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




October 20, 2016

Behind the Veil

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:45 am

… the acts he has perpetrated are inseparable from the extreme beauty of his being.

This is from the essay ‘A Stranger’s Posture: Notes on Bresson’s Late Films’ by Kent Jones found in Robert Bresson edited by James Quandt (1998):

… In L’Argent, the man-made world is a ruthlessly efficient machine fueled by money in which everyone is potentially disposable. The viewer is drawn to little traces of activity and sensual detail that the characters don’t even notice — Yvon’s gloved hands as he pumps oil (a devastating cut: it is our introduction to him, and we’ve just left the owners of the photography shop discussing how they can palm off their counterfeit bill), the heavy-footed walk of the old woman as Yvon follows her from town to her house in the country, the dog frantically running through the house as the final murders are committed.

[line break added] Bresson makes his camera as implacable as the position of modern society itself, and with the most extraordinary calm and dispassion makes a film about the genesis and final realization of a tragedy, over which neither he nor anyone else has any control. L’Argent is just as frightening a film as Pasolini’s Salò, except that it is less toxic, informed by a terrible resignation rather than a profound anger. Yvon’s solidity (there is the saddest hint of a bygone innocent youth in his face and his movement) is no match for the society that is systematically destroying him.


… What led to Bresson’s increasing need to focus on desperation and hopelessness in the years between Un condamné à mort s’est échappé and L’Argent? But then, can it really be said that L’Argent or Le Diable probablement are pessimistic films? That different outcomes seem almost impossible for either Charles or Yvon is less important than the fact that, beyond the despair felt by each character, the world continues: the events of both films, awful as they are, occur in the same Christian universe where the flowing of water through a stream and the hanging of clothes on a line (the clicking of those clothes-pins!) imprint themselves on the eye and ear, acquiring a pure, heightened beauty that approaches the ecstatic.

[line break added] Just as Pasolini left his vanity behind when he made Salò to foucs his audience’s attention on the cruelties of the world in the most direct way he knew, Bresson ended one of the most adventurous and heroic careers in the cinema by filming a real-life horror story. But whereas Pasolini withdrew any possibility of redemption from his film and left all responsibility to his audience, Bresson kept his faith in an ultimate reality behind the veil of modern callousness by trusting his own senses to perceive its beauty, and in the sensitivity of his camera and his Nagra to record it.

[line break added] “I love life,” Bresson said in a 1986 conversation with Brian Baxter, and that love is evident in every frame of L’Argent, perhaps the only film ever made that allows the horrors of mankind and the beauty of the world that contains it to coexist without irony or bitterness. As Yvon sits in the café having his last drink as a free man, his head slightly cocked, his brow furrowed, his body almost inert, the acts he has perpetrated are inseparable from the extreme beauty of his being.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.




October 19, 2016

Inventive Fractures

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:34 am

… Contemporary culture has, engrained deep within it, an infinity of responses to Muybridge’s images of bodies in motion …

This is from Muybridge: The Eye in Motion by Stephen Barber (2012):

Muybridge’s pervasive inspiration extends far beyond the domain of film and photography,encompassing visual art, poetry, performance, fiction, digital media, choreography, and theory.

… Such inspirations are rarely a response to an exposure to Muybridge’s work in its totality, since that work is profligately vast and expansive, wilfully so, and many of its traces are scattered across archival collections. More often, as with Bacon’s approach (with Muybridge’s images torn from the catalogues or albums of his work and affixed to the studio walls or trodden underfoot), it is an exposure to isolated images or sequences drawn out of more extensive works.

[line break added] Contemporary culture has, engrained deep within it, an infinity of responses to Muybridge’s images of bodies in motion from more than a century’s exposure to that work: responses endlessly amended and transformed, and inflected by that contact with flashes or shards of images. In the future, whenever all of the traces of Muybridge’s work — such as his Scrapbook — are digitized and immediately accessible that body of work will necessarily generate other, unforeseen dimensions of response in visual culture and beyond.

[line break added] But Muybridge’s work also presents a profound challenge to digitization and to the pervasive spectatorial ‘ease’ of viewing since it always resistantly exceeds the medium that surrounds it and demands that the medium itself be overhauled, destabilized, reworked, or returned to zero, in order to hold and project that work.

Muybridge’s zoopraxoscope

… In many ways, Muybridge’s work forms a set of inventive fractures, rather than an accumulation of linear consolidations, and those formative moments of fracture, in which existing media are abruptly engulfed or reconceived, leave their traces in the archival memory of his work, above all in his Scrapbook: memories of immediacies and instants often of creative exhilaration that interrogate the future far more than the past.




October 18, 2016

This Talent, However Small

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 9:16 am

… the development of this talent, however small, carrying with it a severe discipline of its own, results in the students becoming more sensitive to order in the world and within himself than he can ever be through intellectual effort alone.

This is from Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College: 1933-1957 by Helen Molesworth (2015):

Rice, a man who knew little about art and knew no artists personally before founding Black Mountain, insisted that art be at the center of the curriculum. Refusing its typical designation as extracurricular, he felt that art “should no longer have a precarious existence on the fringe of the curriculum but … should be at the very center of things.”

[line break added] According to Rice, “There are things to be learned through observation [that] cannot be learned through words.” Rice felt that art not only occupies a possible zone outside of language but also holds the potential to enable individuals to make choices — and choices, he stressed, were at the heart of a truly democratic society. The arts, he felt, “when properly employed [are] least subject to direction from without and yet have within them a severe discipline of their own.”

[line break added]  Martin Duberman elegantly summarizes Rice’s thinking when he suggests that learning art taught students “that the worthwhile struggle was the interior one — not against one’s fellows, but against one’s ‘own ignorance and clumsiness.’ The integrity an artist learns when dealing with materials translates into an integrity with oneself and other men.”

… Self-expression was actively discouraged [by teacher Josef Albers]; for “experience shows that in young people this encourages artistic conceit but hardly results in a solid capability which alone can give the foundation and freedom for more personal work.” That, he went on to say, “will develop best afterwards and outside the school.” Moreover, there was an overall understanding that though it had placed art at its core of instruction Black Mountain was not an art school; it was a liberal arts college. Rice summed up the concept:

A beginning is often best made by persuading the student to submit himself to the discipline of one or more of the arts. It is for this reason that no classes are allowed to conflict in the schedule with the elementary courses in Music, Dramatic, or the Fine Arts. There is no expectation that many students will become artists; in fact the College regards it as a sacred duty to discourage mere talent from thinking itself genius; but there is something of the artist in everyone and the development of this talent, however small, carrying with it a severe discipline of its own, results in the students becoming more sensitive to order in the world and within himself than he can ever be through intellectual effort alone.

[ … ]

… While the dictionary may define haptic as “relating to the sense of touch, in particular relating to the perception and manipulation of objects using the senses of touch and proprioception,” the word,, when used in reference to works of art, denotes those works that engage visuality through an appeal to tactility. Haptic objects intertwine visuality and tactility so thoroughly that they are inextricable from each other.

Such a recasting, away from the prioritization of visuality, allows us to think about the production of woodworking, architecture, collage, and pottery nonhierarchically. Thinking through the matrix of the haptic might offer a way around now-hackneyed classifications of art and craft to permit a full engagement with the stated aims of Black Mountain, which was to enable “learning through doing.”

[line break added] There is a tacit assumption that “learning through doing” means using one’s hands and one’s brain, a disruption of the Cartesian model of subjectivity that privileges the mind over the body. At Black Mountain, there was a desire to teach students to become more aware of the world around by instilling in them respect for the acts of both perception and process, all in the services of honing their critical skills.

In the following, Molesworth muses on her own motivations in how she’s writing this book:

… I know that my own desire for Black Mountain remains bifurcated: I wanted to debunk the myth as much as I wanted to prove it true. (Because in an era such as ours, dominated as it is by the monetization of art and education, to work on a small art school where almost no one got paid is a kind of Hail Mary pass.) I knew all of this in a flash when, as I neared the end of an interview with Black Mountain pottery instructor Karen Karnes, she said to me, benevolently, but with transparent exasperation: “You contemporary people have so many questions, because you think there are answers.”

My previous post from Molesworth’s book is here.




October 17, 2016

The Second Loneliness

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:41 am

… His still-life objects … have the intensity of meaning with which children invest their playthings.

This is from Giorgio de Chirico by James Thrall Soby (1966):

… Sometime in 1913 de Chirico began to populate the foregrounds of his Italian squares with inanimate objects, while retaining his deep background perspectives. The compositional antecedents of this practice are too well known to require comment; fifteenth-century Italian painting, as an unavoidable example, includes numerous works in which foreground figures loom up before a remote landscape.

[line break added] But the astonishing thing about de Chirico’s adaptation of this traditional device is the iconographical irrelevance between the near objects and their spatial setting. The huge artichokes in The Square, the bananas and plaster torso in The Uncertainty of the Poet — these objects look as though they had rained to earth from another, less reasonable planet.

The Uncertainty of the Poet, 1913

[ … ]

Every serious work of art contains two different lonelinesses. The first might be called “plastic loneliness,” that is, the beatitude of contemplation produced by the ingenious construction and combination of forms, whether they be still lifes come alive or figures become still — the double life of a still life, not as a pictorial subject, but in its supersensory aspect, so that even a supposedly living figure might be included. The second loneliness is that of lines and signals; it is a metaphysical loneliness for which no logical training exists, visually or psychically. —Giorgio de Chirico

If the appearance of commonplace vegetables and fruit amid de Chirico’s melancholy squares is disquieting, it is nonetheless immediately acceptable, first because of the artist’s talent for spatial organization, and, secondly, because of his genius for poetic dislocation. The latter is by far the more rare phenomenon in art, for in most cases where painters have disrupted the traditional affinities of subject matter, the new medley seems gratuitous and self-consciously fantastic (witness the pictures by imitators of the original surrealists).

[line break added] The violence done to logic appears arbitrary; one feels that the violence could easily have taken another and different form. Contrarily, the dislocation of reality in de Chirico’s early art is convinced and unique. His still-life objects, for example, have the intensity of meaning with which children invest their playthings. In thus depicting them in strange isolation, amid far unreal perspectives, de Chirico has in effect proclaimed the validity of a counter-reality which children accept with passionate faith.

The Square, 1913




October 16, 2016

How He Does It

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:35 am

… the question of how he does it is not answered by watching him at work.

This is from ‘Balanchine Choreographing’ [1962] found in Edwin Denby: Dance Writings, edited by Robert Cornfield and William MacKay (1986). I don’t think you need to know what “it” is in the first sentence (he had explained at length in previous paragraphs):

… At that first rehearsal, the choreographer did not mention that he intended it, or what he intended. Nor did the dancers ask. They concentrated on the moves he was making. They hurried to learn each figure as it was invented, to repeat it by counts, and to memorize the sequence by counts to the score. At the end of two and a half hours about one minute of the ballet had been made.


… Making a ballet takes an unbounded patience from everybody concerned. An outsider is fascinated to be let in on the minuteness of the workmanship. But then he finds no way out of that minuteness. Listening to the same few bars pounded again and again on the piano, watching the same movements started at top speed and broken off, again and again, the fascinated outsider after two hours and a half of that finds himself going stir crazy.

[line break added] Seeing a ballet in the theater one is carried into a world of zest and grandeur by the momentum of action and music. In performance the dancers look ravishing. In rehearsal they look like exhausted champions attempting Mount Everest, knowing how limited the time is, step by step, hold by hold, roped together by the music, with the peak nowhere in sight.

… At the start of the first rehearsal he chose a way of working which he kept until the whole piece had been created. At every point he took each role. The process looked like this. Standing near the dancer, he signaled the pianist to play ahead, and clapped his hands when he wanted him to break off. The pianist repeated the fragment once or twice while Balanchine listened intently.

[line break added] Then without music he took the position in which the dancer would have to start, and stood absorbed, sometimes turning his head very slightly in this direction or that, sometimes slightly moving his feet. He was inventing the next figure. He seemed to test the feel of it, and decide. That done, he glanced at the dancer, stressed the starting position, and without music showed the move.The first time he showed it, he did it from start to finish at full performance force and speed.

The dancers reproduced it, adding to it at once — in ballet style — the full extension of the body, the turnout of legs and feet, the toe step or leap he had merely implied. A nondancer might have wondered how they could guess so much; but they seemed to guess right almost always.

… looking for a new move he [Balanchine] seemed to find it by following an instinctive dance impulse of his body. Nearly always he trusted to his body’s first response, while he was concentrating on the exact force of momentum the music offered for the next move.

… This power of poetry has long been the glory of ballet, and Balanchine’s is that he succeeds in it so often. But the question of how he does it is not answered by watching him at work.

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




October 15, 2016

The Covenant

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:44 am

… The covenant has been recalled …

This is from the essay ‘Earthworks: The Landscape after Modernism’ by John Beardsley found in Denatured Visions: Landscape and Culture in the Twentieth Century edited by Stuart Wrede and William Howard Adams (1991):

For a time in this century, it appeared that American art had forgotten its covenant with landscape. In the nineteenth century, little mattered more. Not only was art then dominated by the image of landscape: more important, art was central to a process of national self-definition in which some of our prevailing cultural attitudes (political, theological, economic) were derived from, or inscribed upon, the landscape.

[line break added] All that America was, or could be, was in the landscape, it seemed, a point that nineteenth-century painting contrived to make plain. In our own century, by comparison, little has mattered less. The landscape did not entirely disappear from art; the subject continued to be of importance to certain photographers, especially, and was looked to as a source by those engaged in abstraction. But its explicit image was forsaken, even repudiated, by those we have come to venerate as modern.

[line break added] Its virtues turned to liabilities; its nationalist overtones, in particular, must have seemed parochial to a generation at once more cosmopolitan and more concerned with the primacy of the individual imagination. For the most part, landscape and modernity proved, in fundamental ways, to be mutually embarrassing.

It may prove, in hindsight, that nothing signaled the end of the modern era in art so much as the restoration of landscape to an important position among artists of a particularly venturesome character in the latter half of the 1960s. … [T]he restoration of landscape in the late 1960s can be traced to broad cultural forces as well as to those originating in the art world: it was then that we began reckoning with the awful repercussions of industrial progress, which for the most part we had previously only been celebrating. Consequently, landscape was very much on people’s minds — although artists would never achieve a unified or unambiguous position on ecological matters.

[line break added] In addition, there was a feeling among certain artists that paintings, especially, were economically overvalued (still a trenchant notion, as matters in this regard by now have become truly obscene) and superfluous. They would find their antidote to the commodity status of art in environmental projects, now commonly known as earthworks, in which art and site were inextricably linked. Landscape was not simply the subject of art, but also its locus and raw material.

[ … ]

… The suggestion that art could derive aspects of its form, material, and content from the topographical and cultural context in which it is made contributed to the emergence of a phenomenon known as sited or site-specific sculpture. The earthworks movement cannot alone account for sited sculpture — the phenomenon was implicit in earlier landscape projects of artists as diverse as Isamu Noguchi and Richard Serra.

[line break added] It was chiefly earth art, however, that precipitated the widespread engagement with landscape that is still a significant force among artists today. More important, site-generated art — sometimes looking like a cross between sculpture and architecture, sometimes a hybrid of sculpture and landscape architecture — plays an increasingly prominent role in the contemporary public space.

[line break added] The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC, for example, surely the most significant public monument of the past two decades, is inconceivable without the example of recent environmental sculpture. Its simple form, dug into the ground, its attenuated horizontal axes, and its symbolic alignments with the other memorials on the Mall all recall the precedent of earth art, although not earth art alone.

… The covenant has been recalled, and reformulated: art is now striving to reshape the landscape itself in some beneficial way. It is once more acknowledging the power of landscape to shape our cultural values and to address both our problems and our possibilities.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.




October 14, 2016

Pattern Theory

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:36 am

… [Game theory] is like approaching a painting or a musical composition from the point of view of its content. In other words, it is guaranteed to miss the central structural core of the experience.

This is from ‘Games: The Extensions of Man’ found in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man by Marshall McLuhan (1964, 1994, 2003):

… What disqualifies war from being a true game is probably what also disqualifies the stock market and business — the rules are not fully known nor accepted by all the players. Furthermore, the audience is too fully participant in war and business, just as in a native society there is no true art because everybody is engaged in making art.

[line break added] Art and games need rules, conventions, and spectators. They must stand forth from the over-all situation as models of it in order for the quality of play to persist. For “play,” whether in life or in a wheel, implies interplay. There must be give and take, or dialogue, as between two or more persons and groups.

… Sport, as a popular art form, is not just self-expression but is deeply and necessarily a means of interplay within an entire culture.

Art is not just play but an extension of human awareness in contrived and conventional patterns. Sport as popular art is a deep reaction to the typical action of the society. But high art, on the other hand, is not a reaction but a profound reappraisal of a complex cultural state.

… The form of any game is of first importance. Game theory, like information theory, has ignored this aspect of game and information movement. Both theories have dealt with the information content of systems, and have observed the “noise” and “deception” factors that divert data. This is like approaching a painting or a musical composition from the point of view of its content. In other words, it is guaranteed to miss the central structural core of the experience.

[line break added] For as it is the pattern of a game that gives it relevance to our inner lives, and not who is playing nor the outcome of the game, so it is with information movement. The selection of our human senses employed makes all the difference, say, between photo and telegraph. In the arts the particular mix of our senses in the medium employed is all-important. The ostensible program content is a lulling distraction needed to enable the structural form to get through the barriers of conscious attention.

… [Artists] know that they are engaged in making live models of situations that have not yet matured in the society at large. In their artistic play, they discovered what is actually happening, and thus they appear to be “ahead of their time.” Non-artists always look at the present through the spectacles of the preceding age.

… That games are extensions, not of our private but of our social selves, and that they are media of communication, should now be plain. If, finally, we ask, “Are games mass media?” the answer has to be “Yes.” Games are situations contrived to permit simultaneous participation of many people in some significant pattern of their own corporate lives.

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




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