Unreal Nature

December 7, 2016

The Burden of Abundance

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:37 am

… What if it were all these things already seen and heard that cloud our thoughts and stop us from seeing straight … ?

This is from the essay ‘A Gate onto the River ‘ 1987 found in The Complete Essays 1973-1991 by Luigi Ghirri (2016):

… That’s how I remember Farrara, and how I still see it: not as an ungraspable suspended time, or as an unobtainable chimera of the past, or even as immobile stones without a future beyond this pervading feeling of melancholia. For the city seems to comprehend and circumscribe everything as if beyond its own walls there were nothing but nothingness — a cage in which imprisonment is strangely sweet.

What if melancholy and fear also arose when we remembered to many things? Too many inns and farmyards; too many peasants, all stereotypes of life; too many glasses of wine while playing briscola beneath the porticos; too much fog; too many lunches to seal friendships, stars twinkling in the ditchwater, couples courting on the riverbank or in cars or on bicycles; too many shouts across the Emilian plain, cries smothered by the clatter of hooves; too many amarcord [I remember] and nights from 1943 recalled, flags among the poplars, farmers and laborers; too many shutters and tiles, balconies, walls and fences, flowerpots on the windowsills; too many dance-halls, churches and factories; too many mosquitoes; too many watermelons; too many market squares; too many bollards along the dusty streets; too many archways, doorways, pilasters, frescoes; too many Preludes to the Traviata? Too much of everything, in this boundless common place.

What if it were this very excess of memory, of recollection, that makes our horizon invisible and uninhabitable? What if it were all this that turns the waters slimy, like the wastepipes of factories and chemical fertilizers used by the farms that poison them? What if it were all these things already seen and heard that cloud our thoughts and stop us from seeing straight, just as the herbicide and industrial waste poison our environment?

And what if the madding crowds of metropolis and dizzying proliferation of shiny cars and shop windows had not dazzled these places, and made tolerable the burden of abundance that seems to accompany our lives?

It seems that these places have brought all this together in a sort of miraculous equilibrium, so subtle and magical that it is able to remain hidden, not requiring a precise identity but poised between past and present, still invisible and unknowable — and that which we are allowed to know, tell and represent is nothing but a tiny ripple on the surface of things.


Luigi Ghirri, Pomponesco, 1985

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




December 6, 2016

The Picture Finds Its Focus in Him

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:29 am

… while the spectator may project himself into any picture, he must project himself into a late Klee.

This is from the ‘Klee — II’ in About Modern Art: Critical Essays 1948-96 by David Sylvester (1996):

… every point is as crucial as every other, and there is never a point on which the spectator’s eye is allowed finally to come to rest. Whatever sign it tries to come to rest upon, it is never able to take in the picture as a whole. And when it tries to grasp the part of the picture that eluded it, it is deflected towards some other sign and goes through the same process again. Soon the spectator finds that this movement of his eye from sign to sign is pulling him, in imagination, into the picture.

[line break added] He yields to this magnetic pull, enters the picture at some point and begins to move about within it. It is then that the picture begins to be legible and articulate. He encounters a sign and stops, then moves along it and finds that it indicates the direction he must take next, the sign he must next encounter. So he continues on his way, often returning to a sign already visited to find that it now means something other than what it meant when approached previously from a different direction.

[line break added] What forces him to go on circulating in the picture, constantly setting off in new directions, is that many of the marginal signs, though they point a way out of the picture, so that the continuation of the structure beyond its actual borders is suggested, also indicate a direction back into the picture other than that by which they were reached.

… the movement and direction of the signs are so regulated that the total equipoise can be apprehended from any point in the picture: the spectator, situated in imagination on one of these signs, can sense the convergence towards him or recession from him of each of the other signs — that is, the interplay of movement which surrounds him. In other words, wherever he is, the picture finds its focus in him. He becomes in a sense the focal point. And it is by this means that he apprehends the whole.

[line break added] All this implies that when the spectator explores a Klee, he does not merely get a close-up of an image which he had already seen as a whole, any more than he reads it bit by bit: he sees what was previously a decorative pattern as an articulate image. It follows that, while the spectator may project himself into any picture, he must project himself into a late Klee.

Intention, 1938

… if Klee had a genius for creating signs which immediately establish the identity of the object they signify, he was also unsurpassed in the creation of signs with multiple significations, that is, signs which signify two or more species of objects by abstracting and exhibiting their common features. Among Klee’s linear signs of this kind are one that is both flower and musical note, one that is boat and insect, one that is nipple and eye, one that is dying water lily and snail, one that is tree and archer, another that is tree and ostrich, another that is tree and antennae of a butterfly.

… [Klee’s primordial signs which are in addition to those described above] should not … be confused with those products of automatism which have primeval significations, such as forms of Arp with plasmic associations and early pictures by Kandinsky which evoke bacteria seen through the microscope. These are no more than evocations of actual primitive organisms, whereas the primordial signs of Klee are not at all evocative of primeval slime but infinitely suggestive of nature as a whole.

[line break added] The primordial signs usually appear in conjunction with simple and multi-evocative signs, but sometimes a whole picture is composed of them — for example, Harmonised combat (1937), in which quick black lines, some straight, some pronged, dancing on a red and yellow ground that is light itself, evoke the movement of all things that have ever moved concertedly in space, constantly threatening to collide and destroy one another, whether men, animals, fishes, birds, leaves, waves or comets.

[line break added] The splendor of this conception lies not so much in the breadth of suggestion of these forms, as in the fact that this breadth of suggestion conveys an idea of the universality of the forces which those forms manifest. Here Klee shows what he meant when, thirty years earlier, he wrote: ‘I seek out a remote point, the origin of creation, at which I divine a kind of formula serving, at one and the same time, for man, animal, plant, earth, fire, water, air, and all the rotating forces.’

Klee’s last works are a crystallization of human experience conceived as a process and viewed from within.

Harmonised combat, 1937

My previous post from Sylvester’s book is here.




December 5, 2016

Displacing Himself

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:13 am

“… I displace myself completely and with my Faber Number 2 pencil …”

Continuing through Giorgio de Chirico and the Metaphysical City: Nietzsche, Modernism, Paris by Ara H. Merjian (2014):

… “Measure,” Nietzsche writes in mocking paraphrase of modern creators, “is alien to us.” Against petit bourgeois caprice and the sham transcendence of Wagner, he champions “phases of asceticism [as] the means of damming them up.” His own writing increasingly bears out that asceticism in literal terms. A retreat into the aphorism — epigrammatic slabs of writing bounded by wide margins — formed a piece with his voluntary submission to the liberating finitude of consciousness, of language, of “perspective.”

[line break added] Abrupt, oracular, and anti-dialectical, Heraclitus’s aphorisms epitomized the “regal possession” of pre-Socratic insight. The concision of the aphorism — perhaps the closest verbal approximation of silence — bore for Nietzsche the salutary confines of bounded space.

The Enigma of a Day, 1914

… The Nietzschean “will to stand alone” obtains even in those Metaphysical images without statues or architectural monuments. Glasses and iron artichokes serve just as well. Exclusive of thematics or geography, de Chirico’s images increasingly isolate things — even those set in shallow spaces — as if “seen from the heights and in the sense of a great economy.”

… Three decades after his first Parisian sojourn, settled in Rome amid the accoutrements of a pedantic craft, de Chirico deflected (aside from the occasional self-serving salvo) alignment with any common cause:

The artist is granted a special permission as far as ‘displacing’ himself … . From point A, which represents the known world, and from point B, which represents the unknown world, and from the reciprocal exchange of good and evil (but more evil than good) that flows between these two points, I displace myself completely and with my Faber Number 2 pencil and pocket knife, my Elefante brand eraser and my drawing pad, I ensconce myself at a third point, C. From this secure strip of ‘relativity’ I delight in the pleasures of the observer, the spectator, and the creator.

The Anguishing Morning and The Enigma of a Day prove most Nietzschean in the practical ambivalence of their spaces: emulative of the dialectical frisson between unrelated objects, but deferential to the limits of representation, and all the syntactical and social hierarchy such limits afford. “Above all, even contrary capacities had to be kept from disturbing, destroying one another. An order of rank among these capacities; distance; the art of separating without setting against one another.”

The Anguishing Morning, 1912

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




December 4, 2016


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:52 am

… A meaning only reveals its depths once is has encountered and come into contact with another, foreign meaning …

This is from Speech Genres & Other Late Essays by M.M. Bakhtin (1986):

… Works break through the boundaries of their own time, they live in centuries, that is, in great time and frequently (with great works, always) their lives there are more intense and fuller than are their lives within their own time.

… It seems paradoxical that … works continue to live in the distant future. In the process of their posthumous life they are enriched with new meanings, new significance: it is as though these works outgrow what they were in the epoch of their creation. We can say that neither Shakespeare himself nor his contemporaries knew that “great Shakespeare” whom we know now. There is no possibility of squeezing our Shakespeare into the Elizabethan epoch. Belinsky in his day spoke of the fact that each epoch always discovers something new in the great works of the past.

[line break added] But do we then attribute to Shakespeare’s works something that was not there, do we modernize and distort them? Modernization and distortion, of course, have existed and will continue to exist. But that is not the reason why Shakespeare has grown. He has grown because of that which actually has been and continues to be found in his works, but which neither he himself nor his contemporaries could consciously perceive and evaluate in the context of the culture of their epoch.

… Genres are of special significance. Genres (of literature and speech) throughout the centuries of their life accumulate forms of seeing and interpreting particular aspects of the world. For the writer-craftsman the genre serves as an external template, but the great artist awakens the semantic possibilities that lie within it.

[line break added] Shakespeare took advantage of and included in his works immense treasures of potential meaning that could not be fully revealed or recognized in his epoch. The author himself and his contemporaries see, recognize, and evaluate primarily that which is close to their own day. The author is a captive of his epoch, and his own present. Subsequent times liberate him from this captivity, and literary scholarship is called upon to assist in this liberation.

It certainly does not follow from what we have said that the writer’s own epoch can somehow be ignored, that his creativity can be cast back into the past or projected into the future. One’s own present retains all of its immense and, in many respects, decisive significance. Scholarly analysis can proceed only from it and must always refer to it in its subsequent development. A work of literature, as we said above, is revealed primarily in the differentiated unity of the culture of the epoch in which it was created, but it cannot be closed off in this epoch: its fullness is revealed only in great time.

But even the culture of an epoch, however temporally distant from us it may be, cannot be enclosed within itself as something readymade, completely finalized, and irrevocably departed, deceased.

… Antiquity itself did not know the antiquity that we know now. There used to be a school joke: the ancient Greeks did not know the main thing about themselves, that they were ancient Greeks, and they never called themselves that. But in fact that temporal distance that transformed the Greeks into ancient Greeks had an immense transformational significance: it was filled with increasing discoveries of new semantic values in antiquity, values of which the Greeks were in fact unaware, although they themselves created them.

… We must emphasize that we are speaking here about new semantic depths that lie embedded in the cultures of the past epochs and not about the expansion of our factual, material knowledge of them — which we are constantly gaining through archeological excavations, discoveries and of new texts, improvement in deciphering them, reconstructions, and so forth. In those instances we acquire new material bearers of meaning, as it were, bodies of meaning.

[line break added] But one cannot draw an absolute distinction between body and meaning in the area of culture: culture is not made of dead elements, for even a simple brick … in the hands of a builder expresses something through its form. Therefore new discoveries of material bearers of meaning alter our semantic concepts, and they can also force us to restructure them radically.

There exists a very strong, but one-sided and thus untrustworthy, idea that in order better to understand a foreign culture, one must enter into it, forgetting one’s own, and view the world through the eyes of this foreign culture. This idea, as I said, is one-sided. Of course, a certain entry as a living being into a foreign culture, the possibility of seeing the world through its eyes, is a necessary part of the process of understanding it; but if this were the only aspect of this understanding, it would merely be duplication and would not entail anything new or enriching.

[line break added] Creative understanding does not renounce itself, its own place in time, its own culture; and it forgets nothing. In order to understand, it is immensely important for the person who understands to be located outside the object of his or her creative understanding — in time, in space, in culture. For one cannot even really see one’s own exterior and comprehend it as a whole, and no mirrors or photographs can help; our real exterior can be seen and understood only by other people, because they are located outside us in space and because they are others.

In the realm of culture, outsideness is a most powerful factor in understanding. It is only in the eyes of another culture that foreign culture reveals itself fully and profoundly (but not maximally fully, because there will be cultures that see and understand even more). A meaning only reveals its depths once is has encountered and come into contact with another, foreign meaning: they engage in a kind of dialogue, which surmounts the closedness and one-sidedness of these particular meanings, these cultures.




December 3, 2016

It Is Not Wind, Nor Is It Sand

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:42 am

… When the wind traces its impact on the sand [it] … is an active “contour” which both separates and connects the force of the wind and the resistance of the sand.

This is from Charles Morris’s essay ‘Man-Cosmos Symbols’ found in The New Landscape in Art and Science by Gyorgy Kepes (1956; 1967):

… Words and photographs have interpenetrated, and what is seen is no longer merely a differentiated surface, but the structure of a snail’s tongue or of a galactic system. The photographs have to this degree already become “post-language symbols,” symbols whose meaning is partly determined by the linguistic symbols which have been used upon them. What is seen is now perceived in terms of what was said.

Next is back to Kepes’s own text:

… Through repeated comparisons, we build the realm of things, of objects which have their separate existences in space framed by these axes. We fill the world with stones, mountains, leaves, trees, men and animals. These, even if they move, do not lose their fixed identities. We still see them as things and our self as the central thing — the subject — that observes, measures and understands all the others.

… Although it enables us to order our surroundings on the gross level of familiar experience, thing-seeing is too limited to help us discriminate on the extended scale of space and time, on the levels of the very large, the very small, the very fast, the very slow. The world measurable by our own bodies has been succeeded by a world with many unfamiliar configurations unrelated to our bodies. To bring coherence into this wider manifold of experience, we need new axes of reference, a new common denominator of the extended scale revealed by science and the gross scale of our unaided senses.

We may be guided by the new nature to structure as a common denominator. Structure brings together all the levels of experience that we know. But the structures that we find in nature are not independent, isolated “things.” They emerge from and disappear into other structures, both in space and in time. Molecules of water vapor become first a snowflake and then a raindrop. The fertilized egg develops into a child whose form, in turn, grows into that of a man. The patterns of structure are also patterns of action.

Although we see it as an entity — unified, distinct from its surroundings — a pattern in nature is a temporary boundary that both separates and connects the past and the future of the processes that trace it. Patterns are the meeting points of actions. Noun and verb must be seen as one: process in pattern, pattern in process.

… As our eyes range over the perceptual field, one part after another of the field becomes “figural,” and there is a constant shift of “figure” and “ground” to one part after another. Each figural part appears defined and delimited from the remainder of the field, its characteristic shape standing out as if contoured.

We may regard any configuration in nature — a physical object, a sensation, a thought — as the contour which marks the intersection of interpenetrating forces. We may find traces of force-interplay on one level alone, as in the physical pattern generated by physical events or the patterns of abstract thought generated by the interaction of the perceptual with the perceptual. There may be traces of interaction on intercepting levels, as in the perceptual pattern created by the interaction of physical with perceptual events.

When the wind traces its impact on the sand into waves and drifts, the sand pattern is not only a passive record of the wind’s activity; it is an active “contour” which both separates and connects the force of the wind and the resistance of the sand. It is not wind, nor is it sand; it is something new. In the same way, a crystal growth is not a fixed form that emerges from nowhere; it is a space-time boundary of energies in organization. The pattern of a branching tree is the trace of growth.

[line break added] And so are all the other graceful figures of equilibrium: a raindrop, falling through the air or splashing on a surface; the form of a bone; the fabric of a plant; the year-rings of a tree trunk or of a fish scale; the hills and valleys of the ocean bed; the geological stratification of a mountain; the shock wave in bullet-pierced air; the webs of spiders and of cosmic ray showers; the tree-like pattern of an electrical discharge.

A pattern may be a continuous linear path, like handwriting or the vapor trails of aircraft; a three-dimensional path, like the centrifugal motion of a potter’s wheel restrained by the potter’s hand; a discontinuous path, like footprints on snow, or puffs of smoke. The factor of time can predominate, or the factor of space. Patterns can be primary events: cells, crystals, bubbles or animal bodies.

[line break added] They can be mere secondary effects: shadows, the color patterns of sunsets, mirror images or perspective transformations. They can be generated from within, as in growth, or built from without and joined mechanically, as in coral deposits. Like volcanoes, they can be alive and durable, or, like fossils and seashells, the mere memories of live figures.

[line break added] They can reach their unique configuration through a forming process, like perceived images created through the excitation of brain cells; or they can gain separate and distinct existence as the boundary of other events, like snowdrifts. When we perceive, our perception structure is itself a force diagram of interacting systems — of optical stimulus and our sensory apparatus, of optical image and our store of memory images, of our immediate experience and our inner picture of ourselves or of the world.

Leading us away from the system of fixed things, and toward the system of spatio-temporal patterns, the newly revealed visible world brings us to the threshold of a new vision. We cannot relate its seen patterns to our familiar experiences of things that we know and touch and smell. The path of a cosmic ray, the growth of a crystal, the stroboscopic record of a raindrop are meaningful only as interrelations. We are compelled to interpret them as intersections of events.

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




December 2, 2016

What I Will Call Death

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:35 am

… It is the necessary finitude that gives us our oneness, but that also makes us non-finitely equivalent to every other one who has been born and died.

Continuing through In Defence of Quantity: Living by Numbers by Steven Connor (2016):

… To be a living entity is to have some kind of here and now, to occupy some particular portion of time and space. What we call life is perhaps no more or less than this quality of thisness, or itselfness. It is this thisness that number disperses. flattening it out into equivalence. Number gives control, because number requires and supplies distinctness, the possibility of series and finitude (distinguishability and countability).

[line break added] But it does so at the cost of the drastically asymmetrical, nonreversible world in which my meaning and value is never simply commutable into yours or hers. This absolute equivalence is what I will call death: death, not as nonbeing, but as absolute equivalence, the absence of any difference that would make any real difference between one mode of being and another.

… And yet, it is not one’s death that is unique, one’s own-most, in Heidegger’s terms, but one’s being-towards-death, or dying into death. Death is in fact always the swallowing of the singular by the multiple, the process by which a unique person concurs with the general ‘one’ of ‘one dies.’ It is the necessary finitude that gives us our oneness, but that also makes us non-finitely equivalent to every other one who has been born and died.

[ … ]

… The fact that numbers can never properly add up to anything, that number can never fully come to an end, is what makes number so deathly and yet allies it with a kind of craving agitation that can come close to rapture. This is the delirious horror of number.

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




December 1, 2016

Your Camera Catches Without Knowing What It Is

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:47 am

… What no human eye is capable of catching … your camera catches without knowing what it is, and pins it down with a machine’s scrupulous indifference.

This is from Notes on the Cinematograph by Robert Bresson (1975). Please note that cinematography for Bresson “has the special meaning of creative filmmaking which thoroughly exploits the nature of film as such. It should not be confused with the work of a cameraman.”:

[ … ]

No actors. (No directing actors.)
No parts. (No learning parts.)
No staging.
But the use of working models, taken from life.
BEING (models) instead of SEEMING (actors).

[ … ]

Cinematographer’s film where expression is obtained by relations of images and sounds, and not by a mimicry done with gestures and intonations of voice (whether actors’ or non-actors’). One that does not analyse or explain. That re-composes.

[ … ]

Cinematographer’s film where the images, like the words in a dictionary, have no power and value except through their position and relation.

If an image, looked at by itself, expresses something sharply, if it involves an interpretation, it will not be transformed on contact with other images. The other images will have no power over it, and it will have no power over the other images. Neither action, nor reaction. It is definitive and unusable in the cinematographer’s system. (A system does not regulate everything. It is a bait for something.)

[ … ]

In a mixture of true and false, the true brings out the false, the false hinders belief in the true. An actor simulating fear of shipwreck on the deck of a real ship battered by a real storm — we believe neither in the actor, nor in the ship nor in the storm.

[ … ]

… How hide from oneself the fact that it all ends up on a rectangle of white fabric hung on a wall? (See your film as a surface to cover.)

[ … ]

What no human eye is capable of catching, no pencil, brush, pen of pinning down, your camera catches without knowing what it is, and pins it down with a machine’s scrupulous indifference.




November 30, 2016

So That This Road Does Not Remain a Land of Babel

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:54 am

… we must establish an affection for these places, spaces and faces, in order for them to become recognizable, familiar, and inhabitable …

This is from the essay ‘How to Look at It. From the Road … ‘ 1986 found in The Complete Essays 1973-1991 by Luigi Ghirri (2016):

… our road moves at two different speeds: the movement of traffic and the continuous changing of the landscape. And yet, in order to photograph it, we need to discover the simple value of slowness, which does not simply mean stopping or going slow, but paying close attention while moving along this 260 kilometer stretch of the Via Emilia.

In order to grasp and to reveal differences and specificities, we need to wait patiently for the sun to go down, or for it to filter through the trees at dawn, accentuating the landscape of the Po River at Piacenza. And a few kilometers further on, you need to wait patiently for the watchman to accompany you to see the ‘Ecce Homo’ paintings by Antonello da Messina in the 18th century atrium of Alberoni College; here, taking great care, we might pick out, behind a crocodile with an open mouth, a sacred image — almost a scene from Fellini, a special synthesis of the two souls, profane and religious, of the land we are looking at.

[line break added] Likewise you need to stand at a very specific point in space to observe and photograph the façades of the Romanesque cathedrals you come across along the road, or to look at the skyline for a prolonged moment to pick out the spectacular double vault of St. Anthony the Abbot in Parma, or the weather vanes on top of the steeples.

If we are to describe the ceaseless, daily movement of the road, we cannot simply capture a repetitive sequence of factory walls, warehouses, supermarkets, bars and schools; but rather, we need to go into the buildings, or wait for the children or workers to come out, or wait for the light to strike the façades in a certain way so we may take their portrait.

[line break added] We need to wait for the sun to go down and the dusk light to pierce through the gloom, so that the churches, with their soft and delicate hues, might take on a special character; then, making our way along the road at night, we might come across sleepy atmospheres and vanishing landscapes, but also a number of ‘colors’ — artificial light illuminating things, faces, and spaces, like the dancehalls of Villacella, not far from Reggio Emilia on a feast day.

Or else, we need to seek out that atmosphere just before a rainfall, or right after it, when the fir trees in the aquatic gardens of Faenza explode in all their shades of green. In fact, we need to forget all about those ‘passing landscapes’ so that this road does not remain a Land of Babel — the zero degree of history and geography, or the locus where all possible histories and geographies merge — and so, we must establish an affection for these places, spaces and faces, in order for them to become recognizable, familiar, and inhabitable; or perhaps so that we may simply look upon them with new eyes.

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




November 29, 2016

You Must Look for It Yourself

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:55 am

… content absorbs experience from everywhere — both as agglomeration of distinct memories and as elucidation of the common, germinal elements and movements of the remembered physical world.

This is from the ‘Klee — I’ (that’s a one, not an I ) in About Modern Art: Critical Essays 1948-96 by David Sylvester (1996):

… Even the most diffuse compositions in the Renaissance tradition lead the eye to a single, usually central, point of focus, a point at which all formal and spatial relations are concentrated. If any points in a Klee are outstanding, they are not points of arrival but points of departure. Their predominance is therefore ephemeral. In the long run, all points are of equal importance. Indeed, they are of no individual importance because they are only stages, fixed by an arbitrary choice, in the journey which is the reality.

Tonal music always reverts to a home tonic; thus also, a painting in the tradition of Renaissance returns to its point of arrival. Every note of the atonal scale is equally important; likewise each point in a Klee, whose point of departure corresponds to the first note of a tone-row. In a late Klee, every point of arrival at once becomes a point of departure. The journey is unending.

Paul Klee, The Rumors, 1939

Many of Klee’s later paintings, like most of the earlier ones, have ‘literary’ titles. But the title is never a frame to the content, only its point of departure. As there are points of departure to the composition, from which the journey through the form begins, the title denotes a point of departure in your previous experience from which a journey through memory begins. As the physical point of departure is near the edge of the composition, the title’s meaning is near the edge of the total significance of the picture.

[line break added] As the composition has no single point of focus, the content is never a single object or emotion or idea. Composition is distributed equably anywhere, content absorbs experience from everywhere — both as agglomeration of distinct memories and as elucidation of the common, germinal elements and movements of the remembered physical world.

In journeying through a Klee you cultivate it. It grows because it is an organism, not a constructed form. Klee’s method of composition is diametrically opposed to that of the Renaissance, and therefore Picasso. For a Renaissance painting is a constructed form, it is architectural, that is: it is three-dimensional; it has a foundation of symmetry, affirmed or negated; it has a specific focal point, a point of arrival. Klee’s affinities are with Mexican picture-writing, Egyptian hieroglyphics, Sumerian cuneiform signs, Chinese ideograms, and German Gothic illumination.

The order of an architecturally composed picture is apparent from the start. The evident order of a Klee is only in the parts, as with a landscape, a forest, a hedge, a crowd of people. To find an overall order, you must look for it yourself by taking hints from the given sensation. It is useless to wait for the order to affect you. You must commune with the picture and its order will become manifest — not in space but in space-time.

… An organism has a future as well as a past. Likewise, a picture by Klee goes on becoming not only while he cultivated it but while you cultivate it. … To look at a Klee over a period of time is not to acquire a deeper understanding of the finished thing but to observe and assist in its growth.

… A Renaissance picture has a beginning and an end. In a late Klee, the end is the beginning.

Paul Klee, Error on Green, 1939




November 28, 2016

Divide and Separate

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:54 am

… How does de Chirico use modernist strategies against the very conditions of modernity: its “herd perspective,” its “foreground politics,” its nearest things?

Continuing through Giorgio de Chirico and the Metaphysical City: Nietzsche, Modernism, Paris by Ara H. Merjian (2014):

… At every turn, Nietzsche’s mature writings exalt a “will for economy,” a “pathos of distance” — in (literally) sharp opposition to modernity’s garrulous, dialectical proximity, its submission to “foreground meanings,” foreground approximations.” As a mode of consciousness and a metaphor for language itself, perspective is bound up in Nietzsche’s later philosophy with a refusal to equalize vision, to divide it into anything but the expression of a single will, even as it equivocates.

Nietzsche refuses to abolish the illusion of “outer supports” (language, religion, morality) simply because we know them to be deceptive. Rather than shatter the optical logic of Christian morality or overweening positivism, Nietzsche expropriates their basic mechanisms. “You have to learn that all estimations have a perspective, to learn the displacement, distortion, apparent teleology of horizons, and whatever else is part of perspective.”

… To put this in visual terms, any view of the world, no matter how distant, is always already a “closed system,” bounded by the invisible prison-house of consciousness. That confinement only occasionally makes itself felt in a literal or material sense, as when philosophical concepts call attention to their own linguistic sonority (or, as we shall see, when the unruffled transparency of perspectival recession hardens into an almost parodic self-consciousness).

[line break added] As the Florentine avant-gardist Giovanni Papini noted already in 1906, Nietzsche’s philosophy formed “an echo in reverse, but an echo nonetheless.” That echo — like the notion of recurrence at the heart os his entire, mature thought — lay in the eternal reverberations of language and time alike, a stubbornness epitomized in the trope of perspective.

[ … ]

Does Perspectivism entail that Perspectivism itself is but a perspective, so that the truth of this doctrine entails that it is false? Would this be what [Nietzsche] spoke of in The Birth of Tragedy as logic turning round on itself and biting its own tail? Or is this only a seeming paradox, soluble somehow or other? I do not believe Nietzsche ever worked it out, although I am convinced he was aware of it. [Arthur Danto]

If, in The Birth of Tragedy there is any doubt as to Nietzsche’s “perspectival” self-awareness, by the time of Ecce Homo‘s reflexive pinnacles — a philosophical meditation on his own philosophy, a compression and objectification of several books in a further book — self-consciousness has become the very substance of Nietzsche’s writing.

Giorgio de Chirico, The Anxious Journey, 1913

… “Men, gifted with great sensitivity, able to feel unknown things,” de Chirico writes in his Paris manuscripts, “renounce, know what they should renounce, and above all divide and separate, and not confuse the sensations particular to each of us, which we know someone else could never have.” Metaphysical painting in Paris emulates the selective initiation to which the artist felt privy while reading Nietzsche.

[line break added] How might painting convert that privilege into an image? How does de Chirico use modernist strategies against the very conditions of modernity: its “herd perspective,” its “foreground politics,” its nearest things? After 1912, Metaphysical space proves most restricted, as we shall see, through an openness only illusory and optical.

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




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