Unreal Nature

July 23, 2018

Showing Us Things, Putting Us in Situations

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:32 am

… it can ask them things they don’t want asked or make them think about things they aren’t in the habit of thinking about.

This is from the transcript of Robert Storr’s introductory presentation, ‘How We Do What We Do. And How We Don’t’ from the symposium Curating Now: Imaginative Practice / Public Responsibility (2001):

… My experience is typical to the extent that a lot of us — particularly among sixties- and seventies-era “baby boomers” (although the generational spread here today is quite wide) — entered the art world protesting what the museums did and the way the art world habitually went about its business. Ten, twenty, or thirty years later, depending on when we made our entrance, we discover that, to a greater or lesser degree we are the establishment. If the museums don’t function properly, if the art work is unresponsive to the needs and achievements of artists, there are all kinds of people to blame for that but mostly we must blame ourselves.

… I have abiding doubts about many aspects of the relation of modern and contemporary art to the museums and other venues devoted to them. Those doubts become specific when I consider the ways in which what I, in all good will, do as a curator may qualify or denature what the artist has tried to do. This is not a simple problem and walking away from it won’t help matters.

[line break added] All things considered, I would rather be in a position where I can test certain options in the service of what I believe in and what I think the artist believes in and use my intuition and expertise to try to minimize the mistakes that can be made in presenting their work than to stand back and let someone else run those risks and indulge myself in the luxury of being right about how they were wrong. The fact is I have been responsible for having “framed” or contextualized art in ways that subtly albeit unintentionally altered its meaning or diminished its impact.

… in spite of the vogue for talking about curators as artists I would strongly insist that they are not. I’ve been a painter, an unsuccessful painter, and I know the difference between that and being a fairly successful curator. The conflicts, the pain and the satisfactions of being the former are categorically different from those of being the latter.

[line break added] Notwithstanding that conviction, I do think curators have a medium and if they retain some humility and master their craft their relation to that medium and to art itself is like that of a good editor to a good novelist. Although it’s not the same thing as being a novelist, being an editor involves a deep identification with a living aesthetic. That aesthetic vantage point is as important or in many respects more important than what we usually call “ideas” about art.

… One of our principal tasks as curators and museum professionals is to see to it that what we do does not dampen spontaneous reactions to issues that are undecided. It is not our place to settle these matters among ourselves and pass our conclusions along to the public but rather, in Brechtian fashion, to articulate the disagreements that may exist among us as fully and as well as we can and then present our ideas about all the things the work might possibly represent and might possibly mean so that the public can make up its own mind and add its own thoughts.

… Too often art is explained and justified on the grounds that it is “good” — that is, not just of unimpeachable quality, which by the way we may not all agree is true in a given instance — but that it is also “good for you.” But some art is not really good for you. Some art does not love the art lover back. There is in fact a lot of art that respects the art lover, that treats him or her as equal, as someone capable of interpreting complex ideas and feelings but that also treats them roughly and addresses them only on the condition that the art can be nasty, that it can ask them things they don’t want asked or make them think about things they aren’t in the habit of thinking about.

… I remember that when Kathy Halbreich and Neal Benezra’s Nauman show came to MoMA we were concerned about its being attacked since it was a time when there was a furor in Washington over the use of government money to pay for shows that might be judged “obscene” by conservatives. We also were worried that, given the aggressive use of new media, people might simply stay away in droves. In reality, though, it was one of the most highly attended contemporary shows we have had.

During the exhibition I spent a lot of time in the galleries watching how people behaved. You could see them ping-ponging off all these unexpected works and absorbing the shock without difficulty. The show also demonstrated how people can connect with very contemporary art in ways that they don’t always do with historical modernism.

[line break added] In fact, it’s probably harder for most people to get Marcel Duchamp or even much of Picasso than it is for them to get Nauman. Which means that it’s time to rethink the museological habit of explaining the present by the past in an academic way as if the only way into new art was to know its lineage. During the Nauman show most people didn’t give a damn whether he came out of Duchamp or not; they were involved in what was right there in front of them.

… Although he is a conceptual artist he does not write syllogisms or argue points with the viewer; rather he is an artist who has found ingenious ways of showing us things, putting us in situations where we can see or hear or feel things that belong to these most hard-to-pin-down, indeed never-to-be-pinned-down areas of our consciousness. We as curators are faced with the responsibility of finding appropriate ways to show those artists who have this rare capacity to show things within this fluid realm.

… Antonio Gramsci, the Italian Marxist, described himself as a pessimist of the intellect and an optimist of the will. So am I. It is the only reasonable or at any rate the only livable position.




July 22, 2018

Impartiality Here Will Serve for Nothing

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… we are no longer dealing with the possible, but with what is existent …

Continuing through The Bad Conscience by Vladimir Jankélévich, translated by Andrew Kelley (2015):

… This effort of impartiality is difficult but not superhuman. The difficulty is to keep separated two adjoining experiences that everything puts together and which, being barely dissociated, immediately aspire to merge and to be totalized again; one often only holds onto them with a veritable tour de force. But in the end speculative introspection only exists to the extent that this distinction exists.

[line break added] In short, the problem would consist merely in seeing oneself without looking at oneself. One cannot look at oneself in the mirror without catching one’s own look in the act; and one must say, in this regard, that we ourselves have almost never seen ourselves objectively, since in all of these images this look — our look — pursues us, which is, in some way, the echo of our own operation, that is, the stigma of the subject.

… The problem of moral conscience is, on the contrary, a true metaphysical problem: is there a consciousness without any distance? All of our impartiality here will serve for nothing; it is not a question of effort. The moral conscience consists precisely in “participating” and, far from fleeing impurity, it professes this.

… That which, consequently, is established between myself and myself is no longer a superficial and indifferent tête-à-tête, it is the intimacy of one’s “heart of hearts.” Speculative consciousness — the good, the happy, conscience — is a contemplation, but the bad conscience is a condemnation; it is a consciousness that accuses itself, that loathes itself.

… The pain that in the end makes a spectacle out of this conscience testifies to an adventure in which we are effectively engaged; what is distinctive to this pain is to be an event that arrives for real, that is truly lived by the person, and that is the object of a privileged and absolutely real experience; we are no longer dealing with the possible, but with what is existent, no longer with concepts, but with a reality that is cruelly effective. Let people call it irrational as much as they want; moral pain is part of lived experience

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




Far Off in Darkness

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:45 am

… There at the blind / Blank labyrinthine turn of my personal time, / I met the beast

This is from the essay ‘Experience Redeemed in Knowledge’ by Cleanth Brooks found in Robert Penn Warren: A Collection of Critical Essays (1980):

… It [Brother to Dragons] is about Thomas Jefferson, or rather about Jefferson’s nephews, Lilburn and Isham Lewis, the sons of Jefferson’s sister, Lucy Jefferson Lewis. The Lewises removed from Virginia to western Kentucky. There, after the death of their mother and after their father, Dr. Charles Lewis, had returned to Virginia, the two young men, Lilburn and Isham, murdered one of their slaves.

[line break added] On the night of December 15, 1811, the night when the New Madrid earthquake shook the Mississippi Valley, Lilburn, having called the other slaves together into the meathouse to witness what he was going to do, butchered on the meatblock a slave named George. George’s offense had been to break a water pitcher on his way back from the spring to which he had been sent to fetch fresh water.

After some months, hints of the crime leaked out. Lilburn and Isham were indicted for murder, but before they could be arrested and put in jail, Lilburn was dead. Apparently the brothers had planned to stand, each on one side of their mother’s grave, and shoot each other. When the sheriff’s posse came up, Lilburn had been shot and was dying. Isham was captured, but while awaiting trial, broke jail and disappeared — to turn up, of all places, at the battle of New Orleans in 1815, one of the two Americans killed in the engagement.

… Thomas Jefferson must have been aware of the depths of wanton cruelty to which his nephews had sunk, but nowhere among the Jefferson Papers is there any reference to it.

… Here is the way in which Warren imagines Jefferson’s hopes for man as he sat down to write the Declaration of Independence:

……………………………We knew we were only men
Caught in our errors and interests. But I, a man,
Suddenly saw in every face, face after face,
The bleared, the puffed, the lank, the lean, all,
On all saw the brightness blaze, and I knew my own days,
Times, hopes, books, horsemanship, the praise of peers,
Delight, desire, and even my love, but straw
Fit for the flame, and in that fierce combustion I —
Why, I was dead, I was nothing, nothing but joy,
And my heart cried out, “Oh, this is Man!”

And thus my minotaur. There at the blind
Blank labyrinthine turn of my personal time,
I met the beast. …

……………………………But no beast then: the towering
Definition, angelic, arrogant, abstract,
Greaved in glory, thewed with light, the bright
Brow tall as dawn. I could not see the eyes.
So seized the pen, and in the upper room,
With the excited consciousness that I was somehow
Purged, rectified, and annealed, and my past annulled
And fate confirmed, wrote. And the bell struck
Far off in darkness, and the watch called out.
Time came, we signed the document, went home.
Slept, and I woke to the new self, and new doom.
I had not seen the eyes of the bright apparition.
I had been blind with light. That was my doom.
I did not know its eyes were blind.




July 21, 2018

This Is Not Trivial

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:40 am

… This picture of mind to be abandoned has dominated mainstream philosophical and scientific thinking …

This is from the Preface to Radicalizing Enactivism: Basic Minds without Content by Daniel D. Hutto and Erik Myin (2013):

Catching a swirling leaf, finding one’s way through unfamiliar terrain, attending and keeping track of another’s gaze, watching the sun rising at the horizon — the vast sea of what humans do and experience is best understood by appealing to dynamically unfolding, situated embodied interactions and engagements with worldly offerings.

Where we find such familiar activity we find basic minds. But, we propose, the nature of the mentality in question is not underwritten by processes involving the manipulation of contents, nor is it, in itself, inherently contentful.

… As things stand, there is great resistance even to the mere suggestion that the prominent forms of basic mentality of the sort that we discuss (which include human visual experience) might lack content. To many this is counterintuitive and plainly false.

… Let us be clear. In pressing for REC [Radical Enactive (or Embodied) Cognition], we do not say that CIC [Content Involving Cognition] is never true. We do not say that cognition is never informed by or never involves content. We have no truck with that claim. We are not advancing Really Radical Enactive or Embodied Cognition as a thesis about the nature of all minds.

[line break added] Some cognitive activity — plausibly, that associated with and dependent upon the mastery of language — surely involves content. Still, if our analyses are right, a surprising amount of mental life (including some canonical forms of it, such as human visual experience) may well be inherently contentless.

[line break added] If true this is not trivial, since such forms are often taken to definitively imply the existence of representational content. If REC is true, then CIC’s picture of basic minds must be surrendered completely. This picture of mind to be abandoned has dominated mainstream philosophical and scientific thinking, in one way or another, since the days of Descartes, Hobbes, and Locke.

To be continued.




July 20, 2018

Because: Who Cares?

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:31 am

You do realize that I love this work. As if that changes something.

Continuing through This Little Art by Kate Briggs (2017):

… The translator knows that the work she is translating is not hers: she knows that it didn’t originate with her; it is not something that she has already written or said. Indeed, she is not sure if she would be capable of writing or saying it herself, and perhaps this is precisely part of its appeal, of how it is appealing.

[line break added] Responding actively to its address is a way of opening her own writing up to its difference, its independence: to the instruction of its different energy, its unfamiliar thinking, its other rhythms. This, I think, is why so many writers translate, or have translated, and speak of translation as a special kind of negotiation of the passage from reading to writing, as its own way into other forms of writing, as a way to move their writing elsewhere.

… In [Barthes’s] lecture course titled How to Live Together, the fact that we can go too fast, or indeed too slow, for other people, for the person we are supposed to be accompanying, or is supposed to be keeping company with us, the person you are hoping will stay with you, your listener, your reader, the child you are trying to walk to school, is the central issue: the lecture course’s crystallizing theme.

[line break added] A theme embodied by the sight of a mother glimpsed from Barthes’s window, walking out of step with her son. Too fast. Dragging him along by the hand (so that he is forced to run to keep up). This fact and lived theme of what Barthes calls disrhythmy, and the power dynamics that are in play, and the disturbances it can cause.

[line break added] The question of the lectures, then, will be how to find a way of walking (being, living, also reading, writing and thinking) together that might somehow take account of our different rhythms, not through enforced synchronicity, but allowing for them: you read faster than I do, you get up earlier than I do, and eat later, you race ahead while I walk more slowly, and yet still (in this fantasy that Barthes is hoping to simulate in life) we’ll find ways of coming together, points in the day for companionship, offsetting, modulating, interrupting our competing desire for solitude.

… I am the decisive, skewering and ideologically skewed interpreter, laying down in print once and for all (or until the next translation, which may well never come) what, in my terms, this sentence says, what it does; what, in my terms, this work says, what it does.

I am among the hidden masters of our culture, as Maurice Blanchot put it.

I am passed over and profoundly influential; my work is fascinating and derivative and determining and necessary and suspect. It is everywhere taken for granted and then every so often singled out to be piously congratulated. Or taken apart.

… The story I am telling about my own impulse to translate is sentimental. And difficult, I know. In the way it lays claim to a certain kind of exclusive relation: You do realize that I love this work. As if that changes something. Because: Who cares? Who else really cares?

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




July 19, 2018


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:44 am

… It purges the sculptural form of individual naturalistic detail, but it holds fast to the principle of individuation, the basic quality that makes every living entity unmistakably unique.

This is from the essay ‘Brancusi: The Reality of Sculpture’ by Friedrich Teja Bach in Constantin Brancusi (1995):

… Constantin Brancusi’s work is overwhelmingly about life and aliveness. But how can aliveness become real in sculpture? The traditional (and especially the nineteenth-century) answer is roughly this: through the imitation of nature, through the mimesis of living form — as exemplified by the legend of Pygmalion, the sculptor who carves a female figure so life-like that Venus takes pity on him and causes her to take the one last tiny step from perfect imitation of nature to living nature itself.

[line break added] Brought to life, the figure steps down from the pedestal of her objecthood. It is one of the central insights of modernism that this last tiny step actually constitutes an unbridgeable gap, and that in art this kind of mimetic representation does not lead toward aliveness but away from it. Visual art — and sculpture in particular, in which the temptation of bodily mimesis is so acute — must pursue the goal of aliveness in a direction far removed from the traditional imitation of nature.

… what emerges is not so much a purified ideal as a complex interplay between pure formal creation and enlivening irregularity, between symmetry and aberrant emphasis. Examples of this interplay include Wisdom of the Earth (no.10), with its nonmatching breasts and asymmetrical face; the bird form Maiastra (no. 20), in which the “left corner of the squarish beak projects more than the right, the opening of the beak is further recessed on the right side and the hole of the right eye is larger than that of the left”; Flying Turtle (no. 107) and Leda (no. 88), in which the two volumetric forms are not in a single plane, and the upper curves of body and head are at an angle to each other.

[line break added] These asymmetries delineate the aliveness that is essential to the theme of animal life, and they are thus intrinsic to Brancusi’s idea of sculptural perfection. Once their significance has been recognized, such aberrations undermine the whole notion of formal reduction as the basis of Brancusi’s sculptural language.


Brancusi defined the simplicity of his essential form by saying: “Simplicity is complexity resolved.” Simplicity is thus the outcome of the artist’s effort to resolve the complexity of natural forms. But there is more to resolution than mere elimination: it is also the preservation, even the generation, of form. Brancusi’s words need to be read in the light of another saying traditionally attributed to him: “Simplicity is complexity itself.” Essential form in Brancusi is not reductive but productive. It is defined not by the precision of geometry but by the (in every sense) pregnant concision of life. “I never,” said Brancusi, “seek to make what they call a pure or abstract form.”

… It purges the sculptural form of individual naturalistic detail, but it holds fast to the principle of individuation, the basic quality that makes every living entity unmistakably unique. A sculpture “must be named,” at least if it is part of a life’s work which, as Brancusi once said, ultimately stands for “taking sides with nature.”

[ … ]

… The definition of modernism as a progressive linear, reductive process is obviously now in crisis. This gives rise to skepticism as to Brancusi’s automatic place in any modernistic process of reduction, dematerialization, and pristine, self-complacent abstraction; and the result is a keener perception of the heterogeneity, the aberrance, the tensions within his work.

[line break added] Brancusi’s work bypasses binary oppositions of representational and nonrepresentational, rational and intuitive, sensuous and nonsensuous, technological and organic. It breaks through the reductionist paradigm of modernist criticism and points the way to a necessary widening of the definition of modernity.




July 18, 2018

The Order Already Imposed

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:33 am

… photographs place us in someone else’s point of view.

This is from the essay ‘The FSA File: From Image to Story’ in Lincoln’s Smile and Other Enigmas by AlanTrachtenberg (2007):

The file is tangible: actual file cabinets, microfilm readers, card catalogs. It is public property, open to all in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress. We are free to visit it, open its drawers, browse among its images and captions; free to request any picture that catches our fancy or fills a need. Preserved here is an unexampled record of social observations, of visual detail awaiting absorption and interpretation.

… Are all photographs vagrant images in search of a context, of readers prepared to write meanings across their face?

Vanderbilt conceived the file as a facilitator, a structure of convenience. His metaphors stress the instrumental relation of means to end: the file was the dictionary to “a forceful, colorful book,” “a stock room of parts” to “the assembled useful machine,” a menu to the “well-balanced meal.” The pictorial richness of the collection lies in “the astounding juxtapositions, the sensitive and subtle details, the significant backgrounds” — connotative features the file makes no effort to reduce to number and class.

[line break added] The file is blind, in short, to pictures; it recognizes only subjects, facts, data, assuming (or pretending, in Vanderbilt’s metaphors) that a detail in a photograph is indeed a transparent copy of a thing in the world, a veritable fact to be filed away, rather than an image within a larger image that may qualify, modify, contradict, or cancel its presumed status as “fact.”

[line break added] The archival file limits itself to this pretense to ease the extraction of exactly those troublesome and complicating connotative values, thus allowing for “infinite variation in combination of photographs and in approach by users.” Rather than predetermine combinations that constitute a finished whole, the file traffics in component parts.

To Vanderbilt, his design was a rationalized facility for storage and retrieval, a machine apparently intending no meanings of its own, no interpretations or ideology.

… Once retrieved and delivered, the image might serve any purpose. Delivery liberates the image from its categorical confinement. Mere datum in the file, [once back] in the world it becomes a picture to be read.

… The collection could have been organized into an unlimited variety of different subjects and subdividings. Vanderbilt admits as much. “There is no such thing as an ideal general sequence of subject matter.” He intended an open-ended, ever-changing structure.

… The most telling lesson to be learned in the process of recombining and reordering images is that rather than providing objective facts of time and place, photographs place us in someone else’s point of view.

… This fluid openness within the boundaries of its master story makes the file less a solution than an opportunity. Vanderbilt encourages us to repeat his own act of myth making, of finding or inventing lines of force and resistance, patterns of order among discrete images. The opportunity has its treacherous passages, and we need an abundance of skepticism about the order already imposed.

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




July 17, 2018

There Is Only One Understanding

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:39 am

… whatever one meant doesn’t actually exist at all.

This is from ‘Foretaste of an Author with Two Editors’ in The Beginning of Heaven and Earth Has No Name: Seven Days with Second-Order Cybernetics by Heinz von Foerster, edited by Albert Müller and Karl H. Müller and translated by Elinor Rooks and Michael Kasenbacher (2014):

… I sit here and make these sounds with the air that blows across my vocal cords, with my mouth, in order to modulate something. And the other responds: “Yes, thank you very much,” “Do you really love me?” That is actually unbelievable.

So I hope that the other will be able to make something of it. That’s the game that we start. In a dance, first one person is leading, then the other. The music is there — they dance. Naturally I make my sounds in the hope that the other will be able to make something of them. And then I am so conceited that I even hope that he will make of them more or less what I hoped he would. He replies. Why does he reply? Because he too hopes that I understand him. He hopes that I will make of his sounds something that fits in with what I had hoped he would make of the sounds that I made. A very complicated sentence. But that is how I see the language game.

As a speaker, you learn from the listener’s reaction to what you had said.

I have only my interpretation of the listener’s reaction, not his reaction. I have no idea how he has reacted. I only see how I believe he has reacted. I would claim that misunderstandings, so-called misunderstandings, do not exist. There is only one understanding, namely, how I understood it. But maybe it is not what my counterpart had hoped I would understand. Then it is not a misunderstanding on my part. It’s not as if I can misguess something. All that I have are his signs and what I have just heard.

[ … ]

… whatever one meant doesn’t actually exist at all. The game of language consists of both parties having the intention of making something, inventing something, constructing something out of the grunts and sibilants that the other produces. Now both are designers, making something of the utterances of the other.

Now on to the ‘First Day’ of the book:

[ … ]

These many beginnings or these many stories of the beginning refer us on one hand to the problem of observation and the many contexts and cultures that generate these stories of the beginning. On the other hand, there is the question of whether such stories are meaningful at all. Is it possible to connect these stories of the beginning with decidable questions?

These stories belong to basically undecidable questions. They are mostly a game to find out who the actor is: “How did the universe come into being?” If I hear the answer “Big Bang,” I say, “Thank you, that’s astrophysicist talk” …

[ … ]

Astrophysicists and physicists coud now explain that, with the Big Bang, observations, conjectures, and counter-conjectures may be found so that the matter of the Big Bang will become a decidable question.

Why astrophysicists consider it decidable, I don’t know. I know it’s undecidable. I’ll draw a comparison. The situation is like in chess: You choose a move, and that is the moment when the undecidable question becomes a decidable one. You’re saying, “We want to play a certain game now; it’s called astrophysics.” What are the rules? We make observations with telescopes, we build space telescopes, we know spectroscopy. We know what Doppler wrote about wave movements, frequency movements, and so on. Within these rules we want to find out how the world came into being.

[line break added] Thus we could come to certain conclusions. That means that in the matter of beginnings, the unanswerable is a question of which game I should play. And if we all decide to play the game of astrophysics or physics or chess or checkers or backgammon, then the undecidable first decision is made. Because until then it was basically undecidable which game I should play — this, that or the other — maybe arithmetic, mathematics, or the numerical system.




July 16, 2018

Curatorial Assumptions

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… exhibitions that foreground their own sign structure … risk … “using art and artists as so many constituent fibers or pieces of syntax … “

Final post from The Culture of Curating and the Curating of Culture(s) by Paul O’Neill (2012):

… [The modern curator] is seen to be responsible for extracting art from its position or circulation, opening up a space where individual works of art gather new meanings and values by virtue of their regrouping for public consumption.

Watkins draws on Oscar Wilde’s idea that objects are transformed into art by the critic writing about them, in which it is the eye of the beholder that produces the work of art. Watkins argues for curating as a type of artistic practice, with individual artworks being analogous to Marcel Duchamp’s readymades (everyday found objects taken as art), their display aided by the curator’s “manipulation of the environment, the lighting, the labels and the placement of other works of art.”

… Within discussions around art, there has been a clear shift away from an artist-centered cultural hierarchy toward a postproductive discourse, in which the function of curating has become another recognized part of the expanded field of art making.

… [However] resistance to the curator-as-artist formulation remains active today.

… The critic (and sometime curator) Irit Rogoff and the curator Bart de Baere claimed in 1998 that, as identity-staging events, mobilizing different modes of audience participation, curatorial projects too often employ “curatorial strategies that dictate to audiences their mode of participation in the exhibition in the guise of a democratization of a cultural experience — [but instead they] work to achieve precisely the opposite — they close off the possibilities for a self-articulation” on the part of their audiences.

[line break added] Rogoff’s issue with curatorial projects that involve instructive viewer participation is not with their effect but with the curatorial assumptions that sustain them. Such assumptions — about the “processes of democratizing cultural institutions by giving audiences some mechanical task to carry out and involving the materials of everyday life; old clothes, chewed gum, newspapers, anonymous photographs, etc” — Rogoff claims, ensure that little attention is paid to the power bases of the institutions themselves, to audience needs, and to the potentiality of their legitimate voice; whereas the familiar, popular, and everyday nature of the material exhibited is “galvanized to act out some fantasy of democracy in action.”

[line break added] Such a perspective was echoed ten years later, in Boris Groys’s … assessment that curators ruin art and its experience in some degrading way: “The curator’s every mediation is suspect: he is seen as someone standing between the artwork and its viewer, insidiously manipulating the viewer’s perception with the intent of disempowering the public.”

Similarly, in 2003 Alex Farquharson (a curator since the late 1990s and now director of Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) questioned exhibitions that foreground their own sign structure, and thus risk, in his words, “using art and artists as so many constituent fibers or pieces of syntax subsumed by the identity of the whole” curatorial endeavor.

[ … ]

… To curate is no longer confined to a specific museum or gallery program or to the acts of selecting, organizing, and displaying only art. In the context of more recent projects, the triangular network of artist, curator, and audience is replaced by a spectrum of potential interrelationships. Such a shift in the understanding of art’s authorship, as something beyond the hand of an individual, acknowledges that art is not produced in isolation and that it should not be understood as being autonomous from the rest of life. Exhibitions are a coproductive, spatial medium, resulting from varying forms of negotiation, relationality, adaptation, collaboration between subjects and objects, across space and time.

My most recent post from O’Neill’s book is here.




July 15, 2018

The Worm Is in the Fruit

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:34 am

… all pleasures envelop their pain, that is, a possibility of consciousness that will poison them …

Continuing through The Bad Conscience by Vladimir Jankélévich, translated by Andrew Kelley (2015):

… instead of conscious souls breathing lightly again in the midst of friendly, obedient, and familiar things, conscientious souls, encumbered by problems from which they do not know how to detach themselves, multiply around themselves the causes of torments; they can no longer forsake this tunic of Nessus; they are like souls who are too loving, who, because they give of themselves too easily, end up being answerable to the whole universe.

[line break added] A conscience that is happy, lucid, and in good health is one for which objects remain absorbed in the distance of the exterior world; the bad conscience, on the contrary, is surrounded on all sides by reflective surfaces off of which problems bounce; everywhere things reflect back to it to its own image; it would like to get away from itself and everywhere it is itself that it encounters.

… moral pain, which is an inefficient reflection of the conscience on an event that is too close to our lives, differs in nature from the efficient consciousness; it differs from it on account of this invisible wall up against which the painful conscience comes to bump and which compels reflexive work to operate, in the manner of a vivisection, upon our still ‘warm’ experiences, and not on veritable objects.

[line break added] The suffering soul has just enough of what it requires from consciousness so that its affection is an object to it, but not enough, however, so that this affection no longer interests it: it comes and goes, panicked, between “knowing” and “being subjected.” Thus explains this type of cruel, sterile, and monstrous lucidity that is proper to pain — physical or moral.

… Just as joy is made for adventure, so pain revels in interminable deliberations; and the more that it becomes bogged down in them the more that it savors them: one would say that it finds in them a sort of special delight. “To suffer,” says Paul Valéry, “is to give something one’s highest attention.”

… And so it is for moral pain: a sentiment that was to be local or partial, was to fade into the harmonious choir of our lives, invades and occupies the totality of the field of consciousness.

… every sentiment envelops its nascent conscience, what one could also call one’s nascent pain. Instead of claiming, with pessimism, that there is no unmixed pleasure, it would rather be necessary to express oneself as such: all pleasures envelop their pain, that is, a possibility of consciousness that will poison them, tender them fragile, distrustful, and suspicious; no sooner have we begun to live them than they already project a shadow of themselves, infinitely light and fugitive, and this shadow is like their elementary conscience. To be perfectly happy, it would be necessary not to know anything of one’s happiness; but has there ever been a single human sentiment, pure as it may be, that did not brush against some imperceptible reflection?

… To become conscious of one’s pleasure is to realize that it is only a wretched pleasure lacking a tomorrow, that it leaves us eternally uneasy, wanting, and famished. Consciousness does not, thus, limit itself to making an object of pleasure: consciousness manifests the insufficiency of it; it brings with itself the first doubt that, slowly, cunningly, is going to erode our happiness. “The worm is in the fruit … and remorse is in love.”

… There is, in morality, no semi-conscience; every semi-conscience is a pseudo-conscience, and sincere men do not grow weary of denouncing in themselves and around them the larval sophisms that permit pleasure to be smuggled back in, all the while playing the game of virtue.

… our pleasures are absolutely original realities, and yet, virtue treats them as enemies, for virtue, here, represents the “order of the heart,” that is, a nonwritten law that has nothing in common either with individual hygiene or with social well-being or even with what we call, with an air of importance, “the higher interest of Truth.”

My previous post from Jankélévich’s book is here.




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