Unreal Nature

July 23, 2017

Who Only Sees and Loves

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:43 am

… for the most part, he does not act at all … he lives and experiences “every day,” and his self-activity is absorbed in observing and narrating.

Continuing through the essay ‘Author and Hero in Aesthetic Activity’ in Art and Answerability: Early Philosophical Essays by M.M. Bakhtin edited by Michael Holquist and Vadim Liapunov (1990):

… We turn now to the analysis of the second type of biography: the “social-quotidian” type. In this second type of biography, history is not present as a life-organizing force.

… In the historical conception of humanity, the axiological center is occupied by historical cultural values which organize the form of the hero and of heroic life (not happiness and prosperity, not purity and honesty, but greatness, strength, historical significance, exploits, glory, etc.). In the social conception, the axiological center is occupied by social values, and first and foremost — by familial values (not historical renown in posterity, but a “good name” among one’s contemporaries, the “good and upright human being”); these values organize the private form of life; quotidian life (familial or personal), with all its everyday details (not events, but workaday existence) …

… Love of life in biography of this type is a love for the prolonged abiding of loved persons, things, situations, and relations (the point is not to be in the world and to have significance in it, but to be with the world, to observe it and to experience it again and again).

… In the second type of biography, the manner of narrating is usually more individualized, but the activity of the main hero — the narrator — is confined to loving and observing: for the most part, he does not act at all (does not have a character appropriate to a fabula); he lives and experiences “every day,” and his self-activity is absorbed in observing and narrating.

… The biographical hero [of this kind] becomes someone who only sees and loves, and not someone who lives

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




July 22, 2017

Frustrated Work

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:49 am

… When disturbance and destruction occur intentionally, when they are “pragmatic,” their motive is impure and so not “pure evil.” And what is not pure evil is none at all but rather the frustrated search for freedom.

This is from the chapter on ‘Destroying’ in Gestures by Vilém Flusser (2014):

… Overturning the [chess] board is a “move” in the chess game, one of the gestures that can be made within the universe of the game. But it is a “move” against rules. So the disturber is not someone who “no longer is playing” but someone who has decided to continue to play, against the rules. Only the decision explains that the rules are disturbing him. If he really were no longer playing, then the rules couldn’t bother him. He decides to disturb the disturbing rules (to overturn the board and avoid the defeat to come) exactly because he was in the game when the decision was made.

In this example, Zerstõrung (disturbance) and Destruktion (destruction) part company. “To disturb” means to get rid of the rules that put things in order and so cause these things to fall apart. Nothing of this sort happens with the overturning of the chessboard. This movement does not undermine the rules of chess but rather confirms them by not following them (it dis-turbs, as a thief confirms the law). Disturbers (barbarians) are not necessarily destructive spirits. On the contrary, they can have a constructive effect.

[line break added] As the Germans disturbed the Roman Empire, they transferred its rules (its structures) into other areas, for example, into the Church. If destructive spirits (e.g. cynics or Epicurians) had triumphed, the empire would actually not have been disturbed, but it would have been destroyed. Disturbers disturb that which is disturbing; destroyers destroy structures. Disturbers are thieves and are unlike destroyers in that they do not deny the law. Disturbers are frustrated conservatives; destroyers are frustrated revolutionaries.

The player overturns the board because he is afraid he will otherwise lose. His motive is the avoidance of defeat through a rule averse “move.” His intention is to disrupt the game, to break it apart. He turns the board over “intentionally,” and for exactly this reason, the gesture is not evil. … Evil would be to overturn a board where two unknown players are sitting, whose game holds no interest.

[line break added] The motive for such a gesture would consist in a decision to disturb an uninteresting game. It would be a gesture with no intention. The motive would be “pure” (in a Kantian sense of disinterest, complacence). For what such a gesture disturbs, what provokes the gesture, is not a specific state of play, and not the rules of the game, as in the case of destruction, but the fact that this is a rule-governed activity.

[line break added] The decision does not mean “these rules are disturbing,” nor does it mean “these rules are wrong”; rather, it means “this game is disturbing because it has rules.” So, [it’s] not “made, but disturbing,” nor “badly made, and so disturbing,” but “made, therefore disturbing.” That would be “pure malice.” It is rare, because it is inhuman, that is, unintentional, a gesture with pure motives.

… Observing the gesture of destroying enables us to consider the question of evil. It lets us avoid the trap set by those who claim that disturbance and destruction are evil. … They are basically saying “disturbance and destruction are evil because the disturb me.” Disturbance and destruction are not evil, however, as long as they have an intention. Disturbance with intention is frustrated conservatism; destruction with intention is frustrated revolution. When they coincide, frustrated work is the result.

… When disturbance and destruction occur intentionally, when they are “pragmatic,” their motive is impure and so not “pure evil.” And what is not pure evil is none at all but rather the frustrated search for freedom. When they are without intention, however, when they occur with “pure motives,” then they are evil, which happens rarely because it is inhuman (as is “pure good,” regrettably). And then they are terrifying.

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




July 21, 2017

In the Lost Boyhood of Judas

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:30 am

… Goodness has only once found a perfect incarnation in a human body and never will again, but evil can always find a home there.

This is from the ‘The Lost Childhood’ by Graham Greene found in The Oxford Book of Essays edited by John Gross (1991):

Perhaps it is only in childhood that books have any deep influence on our lives. In later life, we admire, we are entertained, we may modify some views we already hold, but we are more likely to find in books merely a confirmation of what is in our minds already: as in a love affair it is our own features that we see reflected flatteringly back.

But in childhood all books are books of divination, telling us about the future, and like the fortune-teller who sees a long journey in the cards or death by water they influence the future.

… Yes, Gagool has remained a permanent part of the imagination, but Quatermain and Curtis [three characters from King Solomon’s Mines] — weren’t they, even when I was only ten years old, a little too good to be true? They were men of such unyielding integrity (they would only admit to a fault in order to show how it might be overcome) that the wavering personality of a child could not rest for long against those monumental shoulders.

[line break added] A child, after all, knows most of the game — it is only an attitude to it that he lacks. He is quite well aware of cowardice, shame, deception, disappointment. Sir Henry Curtis perched upon a rock bleeding from a dozen wounds but fighting on with the remnant of the Greys against the hordes of Twala was too heroic. These men were like Platonic ideas: they were not life as one had already begun to know it.

But when — perhaps I was fourteen by that time — I took Miss Marjorie Bowen’s The Viper of Milan from the library shelf, the future for better or worse really stuck. From that moment I began to write. All the other possible futures slid away: the potential civil servant, the don, the clerk had to look for other incarnations. Imitation after imitation of Miss Bowen’s magnificent novel went into exercise-books …

Greene was born in Berkhamsted School where his father taught

… Why? On the surface The Viper of Milan is only the story of a war between Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Duke of Milan, and Mastino della Scala, Duke of Verona, told with zest and cunning and an amazing pictorial sense. Why did it creep in and color and explain the terrible living world of the stone stairs and the never quiet dormitory?

[line break added] It was no good in that real world to dream that one would ever be a Sir Henry Curtis, but della Scala who at last turned from an honesty that never paid and betrayed his friends and died dishonored and a failure even at treachery — it was easier for a child to escape behind his mask. As for Visconti, with his beauty, his patience, and his genius for evil, I had watched him pass by many a time in his black Sunday suit smelling of mothballs.

[line break added] His name was Carter. He exercised terror from a distance like a snowcloud over the young fields. Goodness has only once found a perfect incarnation in a human body and never will again, but evil can always find a home there. Human nature is not black and white but black and grey. I read all that in The Viper of Milan and I looked round and I saw that it was so.

… I think it was Miss Bowen’s apparent zest that made me want to write. One could not read her without believing that to write was to live and to enjoy, and before one had discovered one’s mistake it was too late — the first book one does enjoy [writing]. Anyway she had given me my pattern — religion might later explain it to me in other terms, but the pattern was already there — perfect evil walking the world where perfect good can never walk again, and only the pendulum ensures that after all in the end justice is done.

[line break added] Man is never satisfied, and often I have wished that my hand had not moved further than King Solomon’s Mines, and that the future I had taken down from the nursery shelf had been a district office in Sierra Leone and twelve tours of malarial duty and a finishing dose of blackwater fever when the danger of retirement approached. What is the good of wishing? The books are always there, the moment of crisis waits, and now our children in their turn are taking down the future and opening the pages. In his poem ‘Germinal’ A.E. wrote:

In ancient shadows and twilights
Where childhood had strayed,
The world’s great sorrows were born
And its heroes were made.
In the lost boyhood of Judas
Christ was betrayed.




July 20, 2017

He Was Certain

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:50 am

… For more than forty years Stieglitz worked to achieve this goal …

This is from Modern Art and America: Alfred Stieglitz and His New York Galleries by Sarah Greenough (2000):

… He was a man of enormous intellect and passionate, often radical convictions. Yet, ironically, within the last thirty years he has been incorporated into the very establishment he once decried.

Stieglitz, though, was correct in his assessment of himself: he was, at the very core of his being, a revolutionist, and it was this characteristic that propelled him to a preeminent position in American art. Throughout his life he presented himself as a passionate individual who refused, even as a child, to play games according to prescribed rules but made new rules and even new games.

[line break added] An iconoclast who could not accept things on face value but insisted on challenging conventions, Stieglitz was intensely ambitious and highly competitive: he wanted, as he once admitted, to “beat everybody on earth,” but once victorious, he lost interest and moved on to other things. “Whenever I feel success coming,” he declared in the 1920s, “I walk around the corner.”

[line break added] His defiance of tradition, his willingness to experiment, his faith in the efficacy of radical action, and his desire to work outside of accepted structures won him supporters among avant-garde artists and intellectuals. Moreover, his restless nature, coupled with his incessant need to subvert expectations, endowed him with the ability to discover fresh, more compelling causes in the wake of old ones, and thus to repeatedly reinvigorate his mission by bringing new ideas and new converts into his fold.

Gertrude Käsebier, Alfred Stieglitz, 1902

… When Stieglitz opened the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession at 291 Fifth Avenue in New York in 1905, he had the audacious belief that America, as the most modern nation in the world, could and should be the world’s preeminent cultural force. And he was certain that New York, the city of ambition, the place where the hand of man — and the hand of modern man — was writ large, should be its center.

[line break added] For more than forty years Stieglitz worked to achieve this goal, mounting exhibitions, publishing brochures and periodicals, and steadfastly staying “on deck” at his galleries, as he phrased it, proselytizing to all who would listen. That time proved him correct bears witness to the strength of his paradigm; it is also evidence of his vision.

To be continued.




July 19, 2017

The Bond Between Effort and Achievement

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:50 am

… If, however, the crux of artistic production was purely a matter of seeing, then photography could render manual skill unnecessary …

This is from Photography and the Art of Chance by Robin Kelsey (2015):

Talbot knew from the start that chance was a problem. His concern surfaces in a book he wrote to describe and promote his invention, The Pencil of Nature, illustrated with salt-paper prints and published in installments between 1844 and 1846. A remarkably prescient defense of photography, The Pencil of Nature anticipates a wide range of uses for the medium, including photocopying, courtroom exhibits, and botanical illustrations. For some uses, the radical indifference of the process seemed a boon. But for others, it was a problem. This was especially true when it came to Talbot’s aspirations to see photography become a new art. To overcome this problem, he enlisted chance.

This enlistment responded to the implications of substituting an automatic chemical process for a traditional kind of labor.

Talbot proposes that art is a matter of the eye. He implies that sensitivity to the chance encounter binds the eye of the photographer to that of the painter. Both photographer and painter rely on a capacity to detect the potential of accident to stir the imagination or soul. Under this scheme, the true creative act in the pictorial arts is the arresting of the eye, the momentary cropping of a portion of a chanced-upon visual field. Talbot embraces the notion of the pictorial composition as a found object, whose aesthetic potential only the sensitive eye can discern.

The contrast between Talbot’s handling of the issue of chance in his accounts of his invention of photography, on the one hand, and in his discussion of the production of a picturesque photograph, on the other, is revealing. In the invention narratives, chance delivers curious results that spark an arduous process of scientific inquiry and technological improvement. Stumbling on the capacity of table salt to arrest the light sensitivity of his photographic papers is merely a catalyst to diligent experimentation and intelligent tinkering.

[line break added] But in the production of a picturesque photograph, stumbling across a broom in a doorway and apprehending the aesthetic potential of the scene supplants rather than inspires labor. By suppressing the considerable difficulty of the calotype process, Talbot suggests that once a serendipitous discovery occurs, only the brief use of a camera, some paper, and some chemicals is required. As an invention, photography emerges from great foresight and labor; as a modern commodity, its satisfactory use ostensibly requires only a little practice and, if aesthetically pleasing results are desired, an educated eye and a bit of luck.

[line break added] Talbot thus understood and exploited the inconsistency between espoused morality and the emergent consumer economy. His accounts associate photography as a product with a modern mode of opportunism that existed uneasily alongside Victorian moral affirmations of the bond between effort and achievement.

Talbot could have done otherwise. He could instead have emphasized the hard work that making aesthetically pleasing photographs required. Even without acknowledging the true difficulty of his photographic process, he could have posited a kinship between photographer and painter by stressing the aesthetic preparation that can inform the work of both. After all, there are good reasons to believe that he had not actually encountered the broom in the doorway by accident.

William Henry Fox Talbot, The Open Door, 1844

… The answer lies, I think, in Talbot’s investment in transferring the locus of creativity wholly to the eye. Such a transfer was necessary to reconcile his claim that photography was a labor-saving device with his claim that it was a medium of aesthetic value. For both claims to be sound, pictorial beauty could not be a function of work. If arranging brooms in doorways was the stuff of art, then presumably arranging paint on canvas would be as well, and issues of skill and manual facility would still loom large. If, however, the crux of artistic production was purely a matter of seeing, then photography could render manual skill unnecessary without forfeiting aesthetic potential.

[line break added] Talbot construes the real artistry of all pictorial art as an opportunism of sight. In his scheme, discovering a picturesque subject requires aesthetic sensibility and inspiration: transposing it to a surface, whether canvas or photographic paper, is merely a matter of mechanical industry. Talbot demotes the application of paint to canvas, or graphite to paper, to the status of ordinary labor, as if it were merely the burdensome execution of a creative perception.

… For … Victorians, drawing and taste, the felicitous hand and the aesthetic eye, were deeply entwined. Talbot pried them apart to exalt the power of photography as a labor-saving device.

… Once the photographic apparatus was set up and the lens cap removed, time did the work of making the image, and more or less became its subject. Photography embedded a moment of illumination on the reactive surface of the photographic plate.

My previous post from Kelsey’s book is here.




July 18, 2017

With Irony or Longing

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

… the muse of art history is as weighty a presence as the facts of nature.

This is from ‘A Postscript: Some Recent Neo-Romantic Mutations’ found in On Modern American Art: Selected Essays by Robert Rosenblum (1999):

No one, I am certain, will ever define Romanticism clearly, but then, no one will ever be able to drive a stake through the heart of the word that, for want of a better one, we cannot refrain from using when we try to describe the protean range of new forms and feelings that emerge in the late eighteenth century. Considering that it may be called into service for both West and David, Goya and Blake, Friedrich and Delacroix, Canova and Rude, logicians could surely tell us that Romanticism means either much too much or nothing at all.

[line break added] Nevertheless, most of us in the business of history know that something shattering happened in the late eighteenth century — T.E. Hulme called it “split religion” — and that ever since, the shock waves have been registering with varying intensities on the Richter scales of art. The word, of course, is so slippery that it can accommodate even the most ostensibly anti-Romantic aspects of the modern movement, embracing every contradiction.

[line break added] What could be more Romantic than Mondrian’s or Malevich’s dream of purging painting of everything but a distilled abstract purity, as untainted by the seen, material world as, say, Flaxman’s Homeric outlines? What could be more Romantic than the realization in 1927 of a harmonious community of low-budget houses in Stuttgart, a vision of social and aesthetic utopia in which geniuses as individual as Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe joined forces in a brotherhood of reformatory purpose and style whose pedigree could be tracked back to the likes of the Nazarenes or the Pre-Raphaelites?

[line break added] What could be more Romantic than Picasso’s or Matisse’s espousal of African art in an effort to reach under and beyond those moribund Western traditions that Romantic artists as different as Ingres and Blake had already hoped to undermine in a search for more vital and therefore more archaic sources of art? If we choose, the semantic fire of the infinitely molten concepts evoked by Romanticism can ignite speculation about any art of the last two centuries.

[line break added] Nevertheless, the nostalgic revivalist mode of the last few decades, best characterized by a word — postmodernism — as ungraspable as Romanticism itself, but at least restricted in time to the later twentieth century (until perhaps we start using it retroactively to characterize, say, the “proto-postmodernism” of Reynolds’s appropriations or Nash’s witty architectural eclecticism), has turned up a diverse spectrum of art that, instead of looking forward to the Brave New Worlds promised by modernism and worshiped at the shrine of progress, appears to resurrect with irony or longing (or a mixture of the two) a wide range of Romantic imagery and attitudes.

… Earthworks are surely the most spectacular and Romantically heroic efforts to establish some mystical contact between artists and the great universe of earth and heaven out there. As pilgrims to the sublime, breaking free from the confines of museums and galleries, these new voyagers have gone, often literally, to the ends of this earth in order to make a human mark so that we, and perhaps future extraterrestrials, will know that the impulses that produced Stonehenge and the great pyramids are still, against all odds, alive.

… The high seriousness of these artists, their total willingness to sacrifice earthly and urban pleasures in order to worship nature connects them to older Romantic traditions still filled with faith in the healing powers of art as virtually a substitute religion. But more familiar, especially in the restricted conventions of painting and drawing, is a sense of quiet retrospection about a lost world not only of real landscape but of its poetic equivalent in Romantic landscape painting.

… In most of these paintings the muse of art history is as weighty a presence as the facts of nature. Indeed, this kind of historicism permeates as broad a range of contemporary art as it did in the early nineteenth century and represents an about-face from the modern movements frequently willful rejection of the historical past as irrelevant to a new art for a new epoch of civilization.

[line break added] But now, for artists as well as for the rest of us, the past even includes the achievements of the heroic days of early-twentieth-century art, which may seem as remote from the younger generation as Greek or Gothic art was for the original Romantics. In the 1980s and 1990s, anything, from a Doric temple to a canvas by Clyfford Still or Bridgit Riley, exudes the seductive aura of past history.

It is fitting that the Neoclassic mode of the late eighteenth century, itself impregnated with longing, both melancholic and rebellious, for an irretrievable golden age, should once more be revived …

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




July 17, 2017

A Trébuchet

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:53 am

… It is with an extreme lucidity, an almost clinical precision, that Duchamp marks the missing link that constitutes the creative act and situates it in the infra-thin difference between what was decided on but does not make its way into the work, and what makes its way into the work but was not decided on.

Continuing through Pictorial Nominalism: On Marcel Duchamp‘s Passage from Painting to the Readymade by Thierry de Duve (1991):

… In Duchamp’s thought and vocabulary, there is a profound affinity between the infra-thin and aesthetic judgment. The choice of a readymade is a judgement expressed in the “total absence of good and bad taste.” … It is itself not a name. It summons the name, provokes the coming of the name at the same time that it rejects it, and results in a Januslike pact simultaneously validating it in the perspective of consensus and in the perspective of disagreement.

… “One can only give examples of it” is what Duchamp said about the infra-thin in response to Denis de Rougemont, who asked him for a conceptual definition of it.

Here are some examples: “When the tobacco smoke smells also of the mouth which exhales it, the 2 odors marry by infra thin.” “The warmth of a seat (which has just been left) is infra-thin.” “Velvet trousers — their whistling sound (in walking) by brushing of the 2 legs is an infra thin separation signaled by sound.” “Infra-thin separation between the detonation noise of a gun (very close) and the apparition of the bullet hole in the target.” And so on.

… The infra-thin cannot be a name if it is a decision suspended between two contrary decisions, one that cannot decide without immediately canceling itself.

… It is in vain that we, the viewers who do not know how to decide if the readymade must be named a painting, would expect their author to decide for us. Aesthetic judgment is as undecidable for the author as for the viewer. It is not the result of a decision, an intention, a project. Nor is it the result of an indecision, a failure of intentions, an uncertainty about the project. But it is definitely the infra-thin effect of an interval, of a difference and a lack:

[line break added] “Consequently, in the chain of reactions accompanying the creative act, a link is missing. This gap which represents the inability of the artist to express fully his intention: this difference between what he intended to realize and did realize, is the personal ‘art coefficient’ contained in the work. In other words, the personal ‘art coefficient’ is like an arithmetical relation between the unexpressed but intended and the unintentionally expressed.”

It is with an extreme lucidity, an almost clinical precision, that Duchamp marks the missing link that constitutes the creative act and situates it in the infra-thin difference between what was decided on but does not make its way into the work, and what makes its way into the work but was not decided on.

… Viewers who expect painting to satisfy their desire — their desire to see, their desire for the beautiful, their desire for craft, for example — can only be frustrated by the readymade and decide against it. Viewers who expect painting to at once cut off and reinitiate desire, who expect the unexpected, knowing that “vision,” “beauty,” and “craft” are suspect values, can open themselves to the opposite decision. For them, the missing link is the essential one: for them, it is essential that a link is missing.

… only if things remain undecided, only if we realize that in the undecidability of the readymade as of today lies its historical potential and that it grants painting, which it names and does not name, an open-ended reprieve.

… It is the bar between two names, an undecidable signifier and the signifier of an undecidability, a double-edged thing like a lapsus, a failed act, a Trébuchet.

Marcel Duchamp, Trébuchet, 1917

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




July 16, 2017

The Adventurer

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:03 am

… The adventurer’s individualism is unmediated and naive; adventure-value presupposes an established world of others, in which the adventure-hero is rooted …

Continuing through the essay ‘Author and Hero in Aesthetic Activity’ in Art and Answerability: Early Philosophical Essays by M.M. Bakhtin edited by Michael Holquist and Vadim Liapunov (1990):

… [In the first type of biographical value] I come to know a considerable portion of my own biography from what is said by others, by people close to me, as well as in the emotional tonality of these others: my birth and my descent, the events of family life and national life in my early childhood (that is, everything that could not have been understood or simply could not even have been perceived by a child).

… Without these stories told by others, my life would not only lack fullness and clarity in its content, but would also remain internally dispersed, divested of any value-related biographical unity. The fragments of my life as I experienced them from within myself (“fragments” from the standpoint of the biographical whole) are, after all, capable of gaining only the inner unity of my I-for-myself (the future unity of a task), or the unity of confessional self-accounting, and not the unity of biography.

[line break added] For only the yet-to-be-achieved unity of the I-for-myself is immanent to the life that is lived and experienced from within. The inner principle of unity is not suited to biographical narration: my I-for-myself is incapable of narrating anything. But the axiological position of the other, which is so indispensable for biography, is the position closest to me: I immediately become involved in it through the others who are the heroes of my life and through the narrators of my life.

… Striving for glory organizes the life of the naive hero, and it is glory that also organizes the story of that life — its glorification. To strive for glory is to gain consciousness of oneself within the civilized mankind of history (or within a nation), it means to found and build one’s own life in the possible consciousness of this civilized mankind, to grow in and for others, and not in and for oneself; to assume a place in the proximate world of one’s contemporaries and descendants.

… In rendering others heroic, in establishing a pantheon of heroes, I seek to become a participant in such a pantheon, to place myself in it, and to be guided from within it by the longed-for future image of myself that was created in the likeness of others. The heroic constituent in biographical value is characterized by this organic sense of oneself within the heroicized mankind of history, by the organic sense of being a participant in it, of experiencing one’s essential growth within it, of taking root in it and gaining full consciousness and understanding of one’s own works and days within it.

… The second constituent in the first type of biographical value is love. The thirst to be loved, the consciousness of oneself, the seeing of oneself, and the forming of oneself in the possible loving consciousness of another; the striving to turn the longed-for love of another into a force that impels and organizes my life in many of its constituents: all this, too constitutes growth in the atmosphere of another’s loving consciousness.

… My body, my exterior, my dress, various inner-outer particulars of my soul; certain details and particulars of my life that cannot have axiological significance and cannot be axiologically reflected in the historical-heroic context — in mankind or in a nation (everything that is inessential historically, yet is present in the context of my life): all this assume axiological weight and gains meaning and form in the loving consciousness of another. All narrowly personal moments are organized and regulated by what I would wish myself to be in the other’s loving consciousness — by the anticipated image of myself, which must be axiologically created in that consciousness.

… Let us now turn our attention to the third constituent in biographical value: the hero’s affirmative acceptance of life’s “fabular” possibilities. This is the thirst to live life’s “fabular” possibilities to the full — not a definite and distinctly completed fabula, but the manifold fabulas inherent in life; the thirst to live and experience the ontic particularity of life’s situations, their variability, their diversity, although this is a diversity that neither determines nor consummates the hero; life’s manifold fabulas that complete nothing and leave everything open.

… The adventurer’s individualism is unmediated and naive; adventure-value presupposes an established world of others, in which the adventure-hero is rooted and by the valued being of which he is possessed. The moment you deprive him of this soil and this atmosphere of otherness (of this earth, this sun, these human beings), adventure-value dies (for it has no air to breathe). Being adventurous and critical is impossible: what has the validity of meaning undermines adventurousness and breaks it up, or, alternatively, it becomes a desperate adventurousness (a matter of capricious contortions and excruciating strain).

… Biographical life of the first type is like a dance in slow tempo (lyric is like a dance in rapid tempo); everything inward and everything outward strives here to coincide in the other’s axiological consciousness — the inward strives to become the outward and the outward the inward.

… We turn now to the analysis of the second type of biography …

… that will be next week.

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




July 15, 2017

Gasoline and Cat Food

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:53 am

… Technoimaginary codes program us for sexual gestures which we often confuse with gestures of loving.

This is from the chapter on ‘Loving’ in Gestures by Vilém Flusser (2014):

A phenomenology of the gesture of loving must negotiate two dangers, sensationalism and prudery. They probably cannot be avoided. In any case, they immediately immerse the inquiry in an atmosphere that is unique to this gesture. For they show that what conceals this gesture from view is not a cover woven from habit, as is the case for most other gestures, but from repression. We don’t pay attention to most gestures because we don’t pay attention to what is familiar, and so when we concentrate on them, they seem new and surprising.

[line break added] But we don’t see the gesture of loving because social pressure demands that it be private, and private is by definition invisible, and if through some counterforce it becomes public, then it appears to be a controversial gesture, obviously changing its character, which has nothing to do with exhibitionism and ostentation.

… Any observation of the gesture of loving must start from its ubiquitous depictions in our environment. We practically live among images of this gesture, which is to say that our codified world is a sex shop, which differs from specialized businesses in its use of the gesture as a means of attraction and as a tool for selling nonsexual goods. This broadband sexualization of our codes (everything, even gasoline and cat food, has sexual connotations in posters and shop windows) conforms to a dialectic that in fact has little to do with the gesture of loving but of course affects the gesture through complicated feeback pathways.

[ … ]

… one of the distinctive qualities of the gesture of loving is exactly that one can’t want it, for it involves surrender of will. One must, as the English language suggests, allow oneself to fall in love. The gesture of loving does not occur within a program but rather moves away from a program and so cannot itself be programmed. But strangely, it does not mean that the gesture is any more likely to follow from letting oneself go than it is from self-discipline.

… Technoimaginary codes program us for sexual gestures which we often confuse with gestures of loving. Because sexual inflation devalues sex, the gesture of loving, too, is devalued as a result of the confusion. And because we are steadily losing the innocence required for serenity, becoming increasingly technical, imaginative, and critical, we have difficulty achieving the basics of the gesture of loving. It is individually and socially tragic. For the gesture of loving is the way we can lose ourselves in another and so conquer our alienation.

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




July 14, 2017

The Nose Can Do What It Likes

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:34 am

… all that lightness and tenderness which will at any moment brush away the present universe as an unwise dream.

This is from the ‘The Faces of Buddha’ by Sir William Empson found in The Oxford Book of Essays edited by John Gross (1991):

There is room for an amateur to say something about Buddha faces, because the experts tend rather to avoid so indefinite a topic, while there are two likely misunderstandings for a man in the street: that the Buddhas have no expression at all … or that they all sneer … .

… Certainly in each Buddhist country, after a few centuries, the type becomes conventional and is liable to be complacent; also one thinks first of the Buddhas of China, and as soon as the Buddha arrived in China he was given something of the polite irony of a social superior.

… it is the simplest conception of high divinity the human race has devised; people say it is monotonous, but there is a sort of democracy about its repetition. In a way Europe has agreed on the face of Christ, but you have to be a good artist to do it. Anyone who cares about the Lord Buddha can do his face in a few ignorant strokes on sand or blotting paper, and among all the crude versions I have walked past I do not remember one that failed to give him his effect of eternity. It is done by the high brow, soaring outwards; by the long slit eye, almost shut in meditation, with a suggestion of a squint, that would be a frighteningly large eye if opened; and by a suggestion of the calm of childhood in the smooth lines of the mature face — a certain puppy quality in the long ears helps to bring this out.

… the artists at Angkor no less than Ajanta seem to have amused themselves by putting the same face on to all the races of mankind.

The formula leaves much of the face free. The nose can do what it likes, and is used for anything between childishness, sensuality, and administrative power. The mouth can do what it likes, and varies from a rich sensual repose to the strained tight-lipped alert smile seen on flying aces and archaic Greek sculpture.

[line break added] This of course is not borrowed from Greece; the Greek influence was not archaistic, and anyway the typical thing about an archaic Apollo is not simply the mouth but a peculiar half-baked look about the jowl. The point about the archaic fixed smile, on Buddhas or elsewhere, is that it would be made by a pull of the main zygomatic, the muscle most under conscious control, leaving the others at rest; thus it is an easy way to make a statue look socially conscious, wilful, alert.

… you have only to sink the ends into the cheeks to give it an ironical or complacent character, and my example from Yun-kang, almost winking as it is, gets, I think, with these simple means, an extraordinary effect both of secure hold on strength and peace and of the humorous goodwill of complete understanding. The Koriuji example is traditionally a gift from Korea and can stand for the second main influence on early Japan; its very subtle mouth is not at all of this type, and the future Buddha has a plaintive and somewhat foxy elegance not yet developed as an active force in the world.

[line break added] In the Chuguji one, who will also when he is born bring a new revelation, it is rather the older convention for the mouth, toned down and with a couple of ripples on the smooth wood, that gives all that lightness and tenderness which will at any moment brush away the present universe as an unwise dream.




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