Unreal Nature

July 28, 2021

The Responsible Gene

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:11 am

… What structural relation could there be between a nucleoprotein and an instinct?

This is from Neofinalism by Raymond Ruyer, translated by Alyosha Edlebi (1952; 2016):

… In all the cases where we know, at least in part, how a gene “controls” a trait, it is only ever a matter of a control through hormones, modifying one structure whose law is also given and to which no microstructure corresponds in the responsible gene.

…. From the gene to the hormone whose production it triggers, there is perhaps and even probably a certain structural continuity, but from the hormone to the organic structure, there is certainly none. This becomes obvious when we remember that the gene is supposed to control the emergence of instincts as well as organs. What structural relation could there be between a nucleoprotein and an instinct?

… By making a rate of differential growth control the amplifications and reductions, hormones control this rate and genes control the hormones in their turn, one has the illusion of explaining a structure by a chemical and indirectly by a gene.

[line break added] But although the sophism of the operation is disguised, it is quite visible: there must necessarily be as many genetic controls as there are details in the structure to be explained for the explanation to be effective. The theory in question is thus just a new avatar of preformationism.

… to see in allometry the universal key to the explanation of organic structure, as D’Arcy Thompson tends to do, is to conflate an indeterminate, unlimited theoretical possibility … with the bringing into play of precise phonetic or biological laws which do not dispense with the recourse to preexisting structure but, on the contrary, presuppose it.

The passage from genetic action to the somatic character (physiological genetics) represents the weak link in the chain of genetics. This weak link prevents it from supporting the weight of embryology or of evolution.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

July 27, 2021

Their Small Glistening Eyes

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:19 am

… Then it was clear …

This is from The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard (1922; 1965):

… Some six or seven killer whales, old and young, were skirting the fast floe edge ahead of the ship; they seemed excited and dived rapidly, almost touching the floe. As we watched, they suddenly appeared astern, raising their snouts out of the water.

[line break added] I had heard weird stories of these beasts, but had never associated serious danger with them. Close to the water’s edge lay the wire stern rope of the ship, and our two Esqimaux dogs were tethered to this. I did not think of connecting the movement of the whales with this fact, and seeing them so close I shouted to Ponting, who was standing abreast of the ship.

[line break added] He seized his camera and ran towards the floe edge to get a close picture of the beasts, which had momentarily disappeared. The next moment the whole floe under him and the dogs heaved up and split into fragments. One could hear the booming noise as the whales rose under the ice and struck it with their backs.

[line break added] Whale after whale rose under the ice, setting it rocking fiercely; luckily Ponting kept his feet and was able to fly to security. By an extraordinary chance also, the splits had been made around and between the dogs, so that neither of them fell into the water.

[line break added] Then it was clear that the whales shared our astonishment, for one after another their huge hideous heads shot vertically into the air through the cracks which they had made. As they reared them to a height of six or eight feet it was possible to see their tawny head markings, their small glistening eyes, and their terrible array of teeth — by far the largest and most terrifying in the world.

My most recent previous post from Cherry-Garrard’s book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

July 26, 2021

Between Public and Private Experience

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:14 am

… in which a body enters a physical space only to have its materiality seem to diminish and ultimately disappear within it.

This is from Bruce Nauman Going Solo by Robert Slifkin (2012):

… Like much Minimalist art of the period, Nauman’s corridor works emphasized the viewer’s bodily engagement with the work of art, activating the space in and around the object and, in turn, like the dispersed apparatus of video, complicated and expanded conventional notions of autonomous and pure artistic media.

… Several of the structures utilized actual mirrors, sometimes placed at the end of the corridor at an angle, which presented confusing views to approaching spectators. In other instances, Nauman placed video monitors at the end of passageways, further substantiating the connection not only between mirror and monitor, but between the corridors and the dynamics of the video apparatus.

[line break added] For instance, in Nauman’s Live Taped Video Corridor ( 1969-70) two monitors stacked vertically were placed at the end of a walkway. The top monitor showed a closed-circuit image of the narrow space between the walls, taken from above the entrance so that as a person approached the monitor they confronted an image of themselves from behind, producing an unnerving effect in which one’s body diminished in size the closer it came to the monitor; the lower monitor displayed a previously recorded image of the corridor empty.

[line break added] Like many of the works already discussed, Live Taped Video Corridor presented a situation in which a body enters a physical space only to have its materiality seem to diminish and ultimately disappear within it.

… If a central strategy of Nauman’s art has been to “give two kinds of information that don’t line up” in an effort to forge a productively thought-provoking confusion, the artist’s use of video, specifically, has aligned this approach with his equally strong interest in examining the dichotomy between public and private experience.

My previous post from Slifkin’s book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

July 25, 2021

All of Nature Is an Obstruction

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:00 am

… The only law is that of rest: of the level, the line, the measuring stick.

This is from The Birth of Physics by Michael Serres, translated by David Webb and William Ross (2018; 1977):

… Overall, in a region of space, objects as entanglements and complexes are throughout no more than temporary obstacles, thick screens, either more or less solid, more or less resistant to the general tendency of each of their elements to dissolve towards equilibrium. They impede each other with hooks, frictions, and viscosities.

[line break added] All of nature is an obstruction to its own canonical law, that of stability. It is, through its birth and through its time, this generalized deviation. The global fluency, as a state of the tide, is itself only a barrier to immediate access to the low point. The stream is its own dyke, the river its own wharves.

[line break added] Statics is triumphant, renewed, vigorous. Everywhere, in fact, only temporary, provisional, standstills form that defer the standstill. Obstacles, atoms, bodies, world, are in their turn just stabilities, but transient. The dynamics of force, unknown, introduces, by the minimal angle, collisions, interlacings, fabrics.

[line break added] It is reduced to friction. Far from being motive, it slows. And kinematics is calculated solely in relation to statics. The whole of the schema is reduced to the canon. The only law is that of rest: of the level, the line, the measuring stick. Time is simply what is necessary to attain it.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

July 24, 2021

All the Evil of the World

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:11 am

… In the place of religious faith, yet isomorphic with it, there is the faith in knowledge …

This is from The Madness of Knowledge: On Wisdom, Ignorance and Fantasies of Knowing by Steven Connor (2019):

… Michel Serres has repeatedly said that all the evil of the world comes from the libido d’appartenance, the libido of belonging: not nothing but evil, one should be careful to note, but still, all the evil there is going. I would prefer to say that all the evil of the world comes from the libido of truth, since libido is just the will to truth, and the libido of belonging is the fantasy of the truth of belonging.

[line break added] I cannot indulge that sense of belonging without building for myself the belief that there is some community to which I not only might but do belong. Most of the ceremonies that cement belonging depend upon investing some belief or tradition with the power of willed truth. If it is not true in itself, we invest it with our own power performatively to give it this status.

… More than ever before we have the sense of a collective archive of knowledge, maintained for the use of, and accessible by, the ‘we’ I have just invoked, which at once transcends any individual and is yet, in some abstract sense, available to them.

[line break added] In the place of religious faith, yet isomorphic with it, there is the faith in knowledge, the assumption amounting itself almost to certainty of the prodigious extent of the things that ‘we know.’ Though this knowledge is known only by this abstract ‘we,’ the knowing we, or first-person-plural supposed-to-know, is itself only the hypostasis, the imaginary bearer or, literally, ‘understander’ of the knowledge itself.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

July 23, 2021

Their Mother’s House

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:54 am

… one ought to be surprised that the world seems new only because we have forgotten it.

This is found in Lyrical and Critical Essays by Albert Camus, edited by Philip Thody and translated by Ellen Conroy Kennedy (1968):

… Here I leave order and moderation to others. The great love of nature and the sea absorbs me completely. In this marriage of ruins and springtime, the ruins have become stones again, and losing the polish imposed on them by men, they have reverted to nature.

[line break added] To celebrate the return of her prodigal daughters Nature has laid out a profusion of flowers. The heliotrope pushes its read and white head between the flagstones of the forum, red geraniums spill their blood over what were houses, temples, and public squares.

[line break added] Like the men whom much knowledge brings back to God, many years have brought these ruins back to their mother’s house. Today, their past has finally left them, and nothing distracts them from the deep force pulling them back to the center of all that falls.

… In a sense, it is indeed my life that I am staking here, a life that tastes of warm stone, that is full of the sighs of the sea and the rising song of the crickets. The breeze is cool and the sky blue. I love this life with abandon and wish to speak of it boldly: it makes me proud of my human condition.

[line break added] Yet people have often told me: there’s nothing to be proud of. Yes, there is: this sun, this sea, my heart leaping with youth, the salt taste of my body and this vast landscape in which tenderness and glory merge in blue and yellow.

… I never spent more than a day at Tipasa. A moment always comes when one has looked too long at a landscape, just as it is a long time before one sees enough of it. Mountains, the sky, the sea are like faces whose barrenness or splendor we discover by looking rather than seeing. But in order to be eloquent every face must be seen anew. One complains of growing tired too quickly, when one ought to be surprised that the world seems new only because we have forgotten it.

My most recent previous post from Camus‘ book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

July 22, 2021

The Concrete Conditions

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:06 am

… [the artist] alone knows what he would like to do, what he is permitted to do in the concrete conditions in which his art is brought to bear …

This is from Forms and Substances in the Arts by Étienne Gilson (1966):

… Let us recall that sculpture has existed, in an infinite diversity of styles, in all times and in all countries, to the measure in which men strove to create in space solid objects whose forms would be beautiful to behold, that is to say, the sight of which would be desirable for its own sake.

[line break added] Herein lies the essential element, the presence of which in any work makes sculpture of it. A Zeus, a Christ, a Buddha, an African fetish, all belong to the art of statuary if the beholder desires to prolong his view of them and to renew it when the object is no longer before him, independently of what they represent, provided only that the artist subjected the material on which they worked to the requirements of formal beauty.

… It is very difficult to be stirred by the image of Jesus Christ when we stand before Michelangelo’s Pietà. The aesthetic emotion occupies too much place to leave much more for the religious feeling, unless the very opposite occurs and a Christian heart is so moved at the very remembrance of the Passion of Christ that it no longer is concerned with the masterpiece.

The religious feeling in that case plays a role similar to that of natural beauty in other works; the emotion which it engenders is taken for aesthetic enjoyment of the beauty of art. And this is all to the good, for while the art-lover enjoys the work of art in his own way, the faithful enjoys it in his, and no doubt most people find in it this mixed, but often intense, gratification of a sensibility divided between its religious faith and admiration for the sculptured masterpiece which places the object before him.

… [the artist] alone knows what he would like to do, what he is permitted to do in the concrete conditions in which his art is brought to bear — in short, what he can in fact realize of that which he desires to accomplish. This explains why some masterpieces are still but compromises between the demands of art and those of the causes that an artist must serve in order to ensure his livelihood. The artist cannot live on commissions rejected by those who assign them to him and who pay for them.

My previous post from Gilson’s book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

July 21, 2021

Remote Control

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:15 am

… how could one or several genes remotely control the normal structure of the eye, the wing, or the nervous system … ?

This is from Neofinalism by Raymond Ruyer, translated by Alyosha Edlebi (1952; 2016):

… it is easy to see the crushing burden imposed on genetics by examining individual development. Because the inductive substance is an ordinary chemical, the whole “responsibility” for structural development is obviously assigned to the system of genes.

[line break added] It is the genetic structure that has to explain the structure of the adult organism. But this “explicative” structure has to be “nested,” with multiple overlays, because depending on the induction it will undergo, it has to produce organ a or organ b , and so forth.

[line break added] The theory of the mosaic had some plausibility when we were dealing with the egg or the young embryo, taken as a whole and experimentally untouched; it no longer has any when it claims to transport the “mosaic” into the genes.

[line break added] These genes cannot explain at once the frog-trait, the triturus-trait, or the axolotl-trait, on the one hand, and, on the other, the leg-trait, the kidney-trait, or the branchia-trait, or the countless organs that we can enumerate.

It is moreover a widely known fact that genes remain what they are in all the cells of all the organs of the body, because mitoses are genetically equal. They do not become the adult structure that they supposedly explain.

… how could one or several genes remotely control the normal structure of the eye, the wing, or the nervous system of the drosophila? And where are these so-called normal structure genes on the maps of the Morgan school?

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

July 20, 2021

Out Into Blackness

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:06 am

… it seemed impossible that the great mountain which is overtaking the ship will not overwhelm her …

This is from The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard (1922; 1965):

… ‘Ten minutes to four, sir!’

It is an oilskinned and dripping seaman, and the officer of the watch, or his so-called snotty, as the case may be, wakes sufficiently to ask: ‘What’s it like?’

‘Two hoops, sir!’ answers the seaman, and makes his way out.

The sleepy man who has been wakened wedges himself more securely into his six foot by two — which is all his private room on the ship — and collects his thoughts, amid the general hubbub of engines, screw and the roll of articles which have worked loose, to consider how he will best prevent being hurled out of his bunk in climbing down, and just where he left his oilskins and sea-boots.

… Owing to the fact that the seams in the deck above have travelled many voyages, and have been strained in addition by the boat davits and deck-houses built on the poop, a good deal of water from this part of the deck, which is always awash in bad weather, finds its way below, that is into the upper bunks of our cabins.

[line break added] In order that only a minimum of this may find its way into our blankets a series of shoots, invented and carefully tended by the occupants of these bunks, are arranged to catch this water as it falls and carry it over our heads onto the deck of the cabin.

… Watching his opportunity he slides down across the wet linoleum to the starboard side, whence the gangway runs up to the chart-house and so out on to the deck. Having glanced at the barograph slung up in the chart-room, and using all his strength to force the door out enough to squeeze through, he scrambles out into blackness.


… The big swell which so often prevails in these latitudes is a most inspiring sight, and must be seen from a comparatively small ship like the Terra Nova for its magnitude to be truly appreciated. As the ship rose on the crest of one great hill of water the next big ridge was nearly a mile away, with a sloping valley between. At times these seas are rounded in giant slopes as smooth as glass; at others they curl over, leaving a milk-white foam, and their slopes are marbled with a beautiful spumy tracery.

[line break added] Very wonderful are these mottled waves: with a following sea, at one moment it seemed impossible that the great mountain which is overtaking the ship will not overwhelm her, at another it appears inevitable that the ship will fall into the space over which she seems to be suspended and crash into the gulf which lies below.

But the seas are so long that they are neither dangerous nor uncomfortable — though the Terra Nova rolled to an extraordinary extent, quite constantly over 50° each way, and sometimes to 55°.

My previous post from Cherry-Garrard’s book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

July 19, 2021

To a Distant Audience

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:06 am

… due to the dulling effects of modern life with its various forms of distraction, most individuals cast off parts of themselves in the name of efficiency …

This is from Bruce Nauman Going Solo by Robert Slifkin (2012):

… The tension between the desire for communication — and as a possible analog, community — and, as Nauman put it, the “personal fear of exposing myself,” runs through much of Nauman’s oeuvre. In many ways, it would become the central theme of the remarkable body of work that Nauman produced between 1967 and 1973, in which the artist began to use film and video —

[line break added] media that, because of their capacity to automatically mirror the world back to the artist and correspondingly project or transmit it to a distant audience — serve as ideal formats through which to explore the agonistic duality between the appeal for an intimate, if not private, experience, and the acknowledgment that any successful artistic statement entails a degree of publicness that must transcend the boundaries of the individual subject.

… According to the authors [Frederick Perls, Ralph F. Hefferline, and Paul Goodman; Gestalt Therapy (1951)], due to the dulling effects of modern life with its various forms of distraction, most individuals cast off parts of themselves in the name of efficiency only to ultimately render themselves less psychically effective because of these losses.

[line break added] “Attention, concentration, interest, concern, excitement and grace are representative of healthy figure-ground formation, while confusion, boredom, fixations, anxiety, amnesias, stagnation and self-consciousness are indicative of figure-ground formation which is disturbed.

It is quite understandable why the book’s diagnosis of the blurred boundaries between self and the external world resonated with Nauman.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

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