Unreal Nature

May 29, 2020

What Can You Say?

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:53 am

… you are exposed to — and live — a time that you know not how to live.

This is from Passionate Being: Language, Singularity and Perseverence by Yve Lomax (2010):

You, you who are persevering in being, awake to a question stuck in your throat. You want to have the question ejected, and you sit up straight to do so, but you cannot spit the words out and have them heard spoken. You cannot throw the question out of your mouth, and you cannot do so because the words themselves have not already been formed.

Putting into words can be a risky thing to do; nonetheless, you are prepared to take the risk, and you are prepared to do so because you have a hunch that doing so is bound up with life — living — itself. But now, in the present that is this morning, not a word is uttered. Your mouth is open but language is not, at least not yet, happening. Does the question, by lodging in the throat, presuppose the existence of language? Your voice keeps silent.

… You are not calm; for, with the silence and the speechlessness and the powerlessness there has come the feeling that you have been singularly thrown into question.

And there, in question, you are exposed to — and live — a time that you know not how to live. You live what seems to be the decisive time of a critical moment, the time when a decision is being made but as yet hasn’t happened. It is an ordeal, but you, you who never have had a program for the future, live it. And living it, living the silence of not a word spoken, your hearing wanders into your eyes and starts seeing. What do you see? What you see isn’t something brought by sight. In fact, you are not seeing something; for, what you are seeing is more than you can bear to see. What you are seeing is the limit of the livable. It is an ordeal, but desire has not deserted you.

… To find out what you and language can say can only be found out by having you and language say. To know what you are capable of saying can only be known by enduring the interrogation that the question of what you can say brings. How can anyone tell, in advance, if they can endure it? What is required to endure it? Commitment? Critical activity? Desire? Just to be able, plain and simple? What can you say?

… To have had your voice and language’s speaking become silent, to have been thrown into question and become exposed to an unutterable stillness and unlivable time, to have found yourself powerless, has enabled — yes, enabled — the question of what you can say to come.




May 28, 2020

The Wild Type

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:01 am

… A reverse mutation (reversion to the ‘wild type’) that alters our vision …

This is from John Ó Maoilearca’s contribution to Bergson and the Art of Immanence: Painting, Photography, Film edited by John Ó Maoilearca and Charlotte de Mille (2013):

… As [François Laruelle] puts it: ‘to philosophize on X is to withdraw from X; to take an essential distance from the term for which we will posit other terms.’

As we saw above, Bergson, like Laruelle, can be seen as a critic of the circularity of (intellectualist) philosophical systems and the ever larger circles in which they ‘enclose’ reality. For Bergson, the inflexibility of ‘ready-made concepts’ carry within them a ‘practical question’ which can only be answered with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ — any nuance, the complex ‘shape’ of the Real, is lost.

… we will not speak for the philosophy in cinema (or any art, viewed immanently) by speaking of it directly (representing it and so transcending it). We can only relay an attitude, a suggested reviewing of this art as philosophy, while hopefully not reducing it to ready-made concepts (be they philosophy’s or anyone else’s — including even Bergson’s or Laruelle’s). A reverse mutation (reversion to the ‘wild type’) that alters our vision, the one that Laruelle’s Théorie des Identités describes as ‘more than an enlargement of the detail and a variation of the optical field’ but also as a ‘mutation in the conditions themselves of the “optic” of thought.’

… There are only directions, orientations, or vectors. Hence, again, there would be no one such thing as ‘metaphysics,’ but rather as many different kinds of metaphysics as there are objects in becoming. Philosophy is process, is the event of transformation: when the object mutates, there is the moment of philosophy, the intuition, the reflexive-feeling when the thing-within-us starts to think, as us. The effort of intuition is the effort of the ‘thing’ as well as the so-called ‘thinker,’ the ‘object’ and the ‘subject,’ re-integrating each other through movement.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.




May 27, 2020

The Mystery of All Primary Bonds

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:05 am

… That which forms itself or comports itself is necessarily a real, a ‘for-itself.’

This is from The Genesis of Living Forms by Raymond Ruyer, translated by Jon Roffe and Nicholas B. de Weydenthal (1958, 2020):

… The phrase ‘the freedom of the embryo’ means very little, and ‘the freedom of the molecule’ means even less. The true opposition in both domains is instead found between ‘functioning’ and ‘formative’ behavior, the key point is that ‘formative behavior’ is the only suitable expression in chemistry as in biology, and that ‘functioning’ is, in both domains, always secondary and derived.

… The price to be paid, if it is one, is clearly that of admitting that every molecule and even every atom is as ‘alive’ as a virus. An observer of this evolution inattentive to contemporary science might believe they find here a return to vague and outdated conceptions of animism, to the imaginary attribution of a consciousness to physical matter — a miniaturized human consciousness in the form of a small demon or homunculus, the bearer of freedom, memory and intention.

[line break added] We think that the fear of ‘verbalizing’ must not lead us to fear words. We must not be afraid, that is, of using the words ‘organism’ and even ‘consciousness’ apropos of molecules for it is no longer here a question of a careless use of words but, on the contrary, of an interpretation made possible by chemistry and modern microbiology concerning the reality that these words designate.

[line break added] Active bonding; structuring behavior; systemic formation; formative instinct; absolute domain; organic domain; domain of consciousness — all of these expressions are synonymous. Wherever there is non-functional formative activity, there is inevitably a ‘for itself,’ self-possession, self-given form bound to itself absolutely and not constituted by secondary step-by-step bonds.

[line break added] Wherever a being comports itself — that is, does more than function within the limits of a given structure — there is necessarily consciousness, that is, the improvisation of bonds according to a theme which is not given in space. That which functions can do nothing in itself, being just a mass or sequence whose unity is only given by others. That which forms itself or comports itself is necessarily a real, a ‘for-itself.’

… The mystery of life is nothing but the mystery of consciousness, which is in turn nothing but the mystery of all primary bonds, all birth of true form in morphogenesis, whether chemical or biological.

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




May 26, 2020

The Possibility of Music

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:05 am

… music is through and through a manifestation of tonal life …

This is from Man the Musician by Victor Zuckerkandl (1973):

… What a tone is, what constitutes the difference between one tone and another, cannot, strictly speaking, be defined. The only adequate answer to the question “What is a tone?” is to sing or play a tone.

… Those who question today the part the sense of hearing plays in musical experience simply take it for granted that they know what the sense of hearing is. They approach musical experience with settled convictions about sense organs in general, not least about the ear. Their convictions are popular-science convictions, involving such outmoded notions as the “fact” that all a sensory organ does is to react to an external stimulus and, via the nerves, carry its message to some center in the brain, which then produces some corresponding sensation in the mind. In this view, the function of the sense organ is to inform the organism about events external to it.

… Tone, as discussed in the preceding section, that is, as a specific aural sensation characterized by pitch, timbre, loudness, and duration, produced by vibrations in a physical medium and corresponding to these vibrations in every respect — in short, tone as an acoustical phenomenon — does not exist in the world at large. It is at home only in laboratories where in accordance with the rules of science, physicists and psychologists study its constituents and the conditions under which it is produced.

[line break added] The tone we know from musical experience is of a different kind — a musical phenomenon. Someone familiar only with the acoustics of the laboratory would never suspect that tones could also be something different, audibly different. And yet if our ears were capable of taking in acoustical sounds only, there would be no music.

The individual tone removed from its musical context, the laboratory product, is fully characterized by its acoustical qualities. But if the same tone is restored to its natural environment, that is, a musical context, something happens to it: it comes alive. Its being alive manifests itself in an additional quality, a quality nothing in the acoustical phenomenon has led us to expect. This is the tone’s dynamic quality. Because music is through and through a manifestation of tonal life, and because the very possibility of music rests ultimately upon this quality, we must recognize it as the specifically musical, as distinct from acoustical, quality of tones.

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




May 25, 2020

Round About Us Today

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:59 am

… In an hour of intellectual mob-thought and artistic mob-fashion …

This is from the essay ‘Rudolph Ruzicka: An Appreciation’ found in The Well-Made Book: Essays & Lectures by Danial Berkeley Updike; edited by William S. Peterson (2002):

It is dangerous business for a man who knows nothing of the technique of engraving, nor has anything new or interesting to say about its relation to printing, to write a paper on an engraver’s work. The profound remark of an architect — the late Mr. McKim — has not been lost on me. It may be remembered that he said — though if the reader does remember I shall be secretly disappointed — that he used to talk about music and painting, but that since he had been obliged to listen to what people said to him about architecture, he thought it wiser to hold his peace!

[line break added] So I shall spare Mr. Ruzicka the annoyance of an attempt to describe his work as an engraver would describe it, or as a printer might describe it, and prudently rely on what it suggests to me in relation to forms of artistic expression round about us today.

… As I looked at the collection of Ruzicka’s wood-engraving at the delightfully arranged exhibition at Newark, it did not occur to me to analyze the pleasure I felt. But as I have thought if it since, I perceive that much of my satisfaction was because the work so expressed the man who did it, was so little related to that of other engravers, and was so close to our time as our time is understood by a truthful, thoughtful, and original man.

[line break added] A phrase in some chance reading occurred to me in this connection — that “to work simply one must think simply.” These engravings result from thinking simply, seeing simply, working simply; and too, seeing very individually, or in other words, for oneself. Such qualities of mind and eye and hand are much needed today, when we see so much and feel so little.

… Through every piece of Ruzicka’s engraving and design runs a secure and sufficient quality — the sane, self-respecting individuality of a man who has something to say and says it simply, directly, calmly, and felicitously. In an hour of intellectual mob-thought and artistic mob-fashion, of open advertisement of self or tacitly permitted exploitation by others, he has the poise to let his work speak and be himself silent.

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




May 24, 2020

This Will Never Happen

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:01 am

… For the first time, beneath the clouds of the day, two men can finally understand each other …

This is from Geometry by Michel Serres, translated by Randolph Burks (2017, 1995):

… the real has never been anything but this world, concrete, floating, solid, fragile, precise and blurred, resistant or without hold. Nothing in the senses passes on to the understanding.

Thales, Pythagoras or no matter which of these first names for history or legend, suddenly places himself outside this world, outside the real. This is the maximal exteriority, the radical utopia, the anomaly, which surely all the others will only be varieties of.

What this first geometry invents is not of this world, neither of the objective world, on the side of nature, nor on the universe of discourse, on the side of custom or law: no points, straight lines, angles or triangles here; likewise no proof or univocity in what is said or in what circulates between us. Plato didn’t say anything else, in his language, and we’re saying the same thing, persuaded we’re claiming something entirely different.

[line break added] The noetic or intelligible site is separated as though by an ax from space or the sensible world, and the latter nonetheless participates in the former, as though it couldn’t exist without it, shot through as it is with the relativist whirlwind and the discursive contradictions of perceptual judgment.

… Mathematical formalities are non-existent and non-constructible: every time I draw them on the sand or the wax table I truly leave geometry. It is absolutely improbable that I might one day draw a straight line. It is even demonstrably impossible. From the viewpoint of public language the necessity obtained by proof is absolutely improbable; the language used by proof planes down the polysemy which we know even more is the flesh of words.

[line break added] For the first time, beneath the clouds of the day, two men can finally understand each other, through proof, and can comprehend each other, through language, something everyone agrees is the height of the unthinkable. This doesn’t happen, this will never happen. Yet it happened in Greece during those times.

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




May 23, 2020

Alleged Eyes of a Scientist

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:00 am

… a drawing may also be made to include, surreptitiously or not, conception to make sense of what is seen …

This is from Observing By Hand: Sketching the Nebulae in the Nineteenth Century by Omar W. Nasim (2013):

… [Wilhelm] Tempel … acknowledged the importance of familiarization. However, instead of intimate engagement with an unfamiliar object, he was referring to becoming more and more familiar with the techniques of drawing a nebula.

[line break added] Without the training and skills necessary for drawing these strange objects to begin with, that is, it may take many years of continually drawing an object to achieve the required skills. Tempel believed that the published pictorial representations not only of Herschel, but also of Rosse and Lassell, were not so much exact copies of an object as the result of this learning curve — which seems to have been very steep.

… His deep disappointment as an expert draftsman is plain here and in many other places throughout his notes. In the end, writes Tempel, the “uncritical acceptance and dissemination of so many curious and contradictory nebular forms is inexcusable.”

Unlike Herschel and Whewell, who believe that the scientist’s gaze always picks up more than is seen with an eye innocent of science, and unlike Stoney, who reminds a newly hired artist for the Rosse project to draw with the trained eyes of a scientist rather than those of an artist, Tempel emphasizes the acquired skills necessary for expertise and fluency in drawing what is seen.

[line break added] That is, one should draw not so much with some alleged eyes of a scientist, as with the eyes and hands of an expert copyist. But besides certain aesthetic effects, simplifications, and stylizations, a drawing may also be made to include, surreptitiously or not, conception to make sense of what is seen and to draw what is seen. Again, as Tempel puts it in yet another place and in relation to Lord Rosse’s spirals, the observers’ conception is at fault.

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




May 22, 2020

A Gift of Nothing

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:41 am

… Art is this gift.

This is from Typography: Mimesis, Philosophy, Politics by Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, edited by Christopher Fynsk (1989):

… Let us go back now and reconstruct the argument. “It is nature,” Diderot said at the start, “that gives the qualities of the person”; it is art “that perfects the gift of nature.” But what do we find at the conclusion? This: the gift of nature is the gift of impropriety, the gift of being nothing, even, we might say, the gift of nothing.

[line break added] I would add, to bring out what lies in this “nothing,” the gift of the thing itself. By this I mean nature’s gift of itself, not as something already there, or already present — “natured,” as one would have said at the time — but more essentially, as pure and ungraspable poiesis (in withdrawal, and always withdrawn in its presence): a productive or formative force, energy in the strict sense, the perpetual movement of presentation.

The natural gift — the gift of nature — is consequently the poietic gift. Or, what is the same thing, the gift of mimesis: in effect, a gift of nothing (in any case, of nothing that is already present or already given). A gift of nothing, or nothing other than the “aptitude” for presenting, that is, for substituting for nature itself; a gift for “doing” nature, in order to supplement its incapacity and carry out or effect, with the aid of its force and the power proper to it, what it cannot implement — that for which its energy alone cannot suffice.

Art is this gift. Diderot will call it “genius” — and the latter, as opposed to a gift that one “more or less” acquires, like taste, he will define as “belonging properly to nature.” A pure gift in which nature gives itself up and offers itself in its most secret essence and intimacy, in the very source of its energy, as the nothing it is once this energy is spent and has passed into the given. Pure gift, in other words, because it is the gift of the thing or of Being, of the secret and of the withdrawn, of the unassignable and the unrecognizable as such, to which nothing from our end, not even gratitude, could respond: because it is nothing, the thing of no economy and no exchange.

My most recent previous post from Lacoue-Labarthe’s book is here.




May 21, 2020

Mixing Up

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:55 am

… Something is leaving me or has left me to greet the image.

This is from the essay ‘Pasearse: Duration and the Act of Photographing’ by Stella Baraklianou in Bergson and the Art of Immanence: Painting, Photography, Film edited by John Ó Maoilearca and Charlotte de Mille (2013):

… Reflected back through the lens of the camera, the active state becomes a passive recording, an improbable, imperfect state: ‘the image captured and fixed on the photographic plate is like the image fleetingly recorded on the retina of the eye. The referent is not an object but a sensation.’ Furthermore, the subject’s continued existence, along with anything that she may have thought or felt about the sensation, becomes superfluous, unnecessary, the instant the shutter is released; the image separates itself irrevocably from those simultaneous thoughts to assume a ‘separate unthinking existence.’

… Entering this zone of immanence is like entering the ‘thickness of duration where our memories are forged.’ This notion of time has also been described by Michel Serres and Yve Lomax as entering into the ‘baker’s folds.’ Entering into the thickness of the folds, time becomes stretched, condensed yet malleable, palpable and shot through with light.

… Inserted between matter and memory, and supporting the idea of a constant creative present, is the movement of the body in the present: ‘This image [my body] occupies the center: by it all others are conditioned; at each of its movements everything changes, as though a turn of a kaleidoscope … the effect is always in proportion to the cause.’ The body works as a filter giving back representation via its constant movement, because it has this creative capacity.

… To go back to the act of photographing, via the enframing ability of the body. There is only the constant movement of the body as it addresses (its own) image.

… Now the moment comes to an end, I must close the image again. Something is leaving me or has left me to greet the image. In mixing up, messing up, the image I leave something of myself in the frame.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.




May 20, 2020

Inserted Into an Edifice

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:04 am

… ‘Life, even at its most primitive, is more than a system of sequential reactions.’

This is from The Genesis of Living Forms by Raymond Ruyer, translated by Jon Roffe and Nicholas B. de Weydenthal (1958, 2020):

… If we concede the thematic character of individual organic development and, furthermore, the identity of individual and species morphogenesis, we would seem to be led into pure mythology. Where does this formative theme come from, and at which moment does it intervene in processes of physical functioning?

… It would seem that a molecule functions according to its structure. Its chemical properties are theoretically deducible from its ‘developed formula.’ An adult organism, and above all a mature organism, also functions according to an acquired structure, but as we have seen, a young organism, and above all an organism in development, cannot be considered to be functioning by the same logic. How then can roles-functions come into being on the basis of molecular functioning? How can an individualizing formative theme come into being or come to be inserted into an edifice constituted, it would seem, by bonds that are linked edge to edge?

… While the structure of a molecule is independent of history for a chemist, depending only on timeless laws of structuration, the form of an organism or an organ, in spite of the transitional case of ‘synthetic’ bacteria, is maintained and enhanced throughout an evolutionary lineage. Without doubt, a human hand owes its present material consistency to the chemical solidity of bone, or the bonds of colloidal protoplasm — but the same is true for a wing or a fin.

[line break added] The question is knowing how the same chemical cohesions are employed in such different biological forms, forms which subsist over time while being progressively modified. It thus appears necessary that, at the level of sub-vital elements, something is added to chemical bonds which will be the primer for both this historical subsistence and properly organic forms: as J.D. Bernal remarks, ‘Life, even at its most primitive, is more than a system of sequential reactions. Characteristic material structures, including nuclei, cells, are formed and involved in indissoluble relations with both the chemical phenomena that produce them, and with their evolutionary origin.’

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




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