Unreal Nature

April 23, 2018

Unstable, Ironic, Ungraspable

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:45 am

… it is history-as-modernity — unstable, ironic, ungraspable in terms of lived reality — that is at stake here.

This is from Bathers, Bodies, Beauty: The Visceral Eye by Linda Nochlin (2006):

… Often known as the paysage composé and considered a much more noble and idealized genre than the mere landscape “sketch” (that first impression en plein air considered a mere “first step” toward authentic landscape creation), the heroic landscape of course included a justifying set of classical or biblical figures, usually with moral overtones. Nature — idealized nature, redeemed by uplifting historical narrative — might constitute one definition of the “composed landscape” as it existed and continued to exist in Manet’s time.


Edouard Manet, Déjeuner sur l’herbe, 1863

Could we not, within the context of the heroic landscape, read Manet’s Déjeuner as a parodic deconstruction of the paysage composé — a sort of paysage décomposé, with figures separated from one another, from the landscape background, from traditional narrative legibility, and above all from the tradition of moral uplift usually associated with this elevated genre?

[line break added] With its setting based on a Sunday outing to Argenteuil, the figures mockingly arranged to belie the high-toned mythological past to which they apparently refer, figures that are modern, all too modern in both their dress, their lack of it, and the lack of all traditional bienséance, or rules of good behavior, and their imperturbable, uncommunicative coolness, Manet’s painting comes close to approximating, in visual language, the acerbic critique Baudelaire had made of the historic landscape in his Salon of 1836.

[line break added] Baudelaire described a “good” historic landscape (“un bon paysage tragique”) as “an arrangement of patterns of trees, of fountains, of tombs and funerary urns. The dogs,” Baudelaire continues, “are cut from the pattern of the Historic Dog; the Historic Shepherd may not, under pain of dishonor, allow himself other possibilities. Every immoral tree which has had the temerity to grow all by itself in its own way is necessarily cut down; every pond with frogs or tadpoles is pitilessly filled in.” Note, by the way, the presence of a grinning frog, prominent, if you know it is there, in the left foreground of the Déjeuner.

… One might say that it is the sundering of the enforced harmony imposed by the traditional paysage composé that permits the entry of living (that is, unfolding) history into the scene. But this is not because the Déjeuner is, in any literal sense, a scene of contemporary life: its parodic oppositions make this impossible. Rather, it is history-as-modernity — unstable, ironic, ungraspable in terms of lived reality — that is at stake here.

My previous post from Nochlin’s book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

April 22, 2018

A Grain of Sand

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

… Boredom appears as a grain of sand, disrupting the silent mechanism of inauthentic time …

Continuing through Time and Freedom by Christophe Bouton, translated by Christopher Macann (2014). This is from his chapter on Heidegger:

… The moment is born of decision. But what gives birth to decision itself? In the inauthentic time of falling, dominated by passive awaiting, forgetfulness and an exclusive preoccupation with present things, authentic temporality is not entirely eliminated. It is still manifest in the form of a call, the call of conscience (Gewissen), which, from the most remote recess of forgetfulness silently invites Dasein to choose, and convokes it to its most authentic ability-to-be. At any moment, Dasein can then in principle break with the ruinous time of falling.

… Where does the moment come from? From resolute decision, says Being and Time. But the question has only been displaced: for where does resolute decision come from? Certainly, freedom is its own foundation; it refers to nothing other than itself, and that is why it is an abyss, according to the formula of The Essence of Reasons. … What makes it possible for the moment to arise is not to be found in anxiety but in boredom.

… The more Dasein gets involved in the world of beings, the more it becomes preoccupied with things, the more it is exposed to boredom, in particular each time it is frustrated in its activities. The first form of boredom (Langweile) consists in being bored by something (a book, a spectacle, a situation). It is recognizable in that Dasein‘s existence is dragged out — time goes by slowly (lange Weile) — and in that it leaves Dasein empty, in the sense in which things turn their backs on it, leave it cold, have nothing to offer it, as if the world of ready-to-hand beings itself put a stop to Dasein‘s frenzy.

[line break added] Dasein tries in vain to recover its busyness through a “pastime,” which only succeeds in increasing its boredom. Let us take the example cited by Heidegger of waiting in an isolated and empty station. In its first appearance, the time of boredom is marked by an awaiting that tries desperately to make its object present (the arrival of the train). This form of boredom merely reinforces inauthentic time, since it rests on Dasein‘s relation to the inauthentic future, and is derived from its frantic busyness.

[line break added] It is when we are the “slaves” of our daily preoccupations, when we make of time something that should not be “lost,” that a wait in a station can plunge us into a painful, even an intolerable, boredom. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that boredom is also a disturbance of inauthentic time. Awaiting refers to no present moment, the present no longer being available. Dasein never stops looking at his watch but only to confirm that the now-time is losing its apparent reality, since the lived time of boredom shares no features with the measurable time of the watch.

[line break added] In boredom, time passes slowly, minutes appear as long as hours and some “last an eternity.” The now-time is both posited (“the train will arrive in four hours,” “only an hour has gone by!”) and disqualified in its superficial uniformity. As for world-time, it loses its significance. The time of boredom is not a time to do this or that, it is a time of nothing, empty time, cut off from any possible activity. Boredom appears as a grain of sand, disrupting the silent mechanism of inauthentic time in both of its interconnected components, the now-time and the world-time.

… Time liberates Dasein by offering him the possibility of the moment of resoluteness, which breaks through the enclosure, the “entrancement” of time. The metamorphosis of deep boredom into freedom is the doubly conjugated effect of the possible and the moment, which is itself the “possibility of whatever is possible.” … The moment is what makes possible the choice of possibilities.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

April 21, 2018

Reversal of Cultural Priorities

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:54 am

… Where Brakhage had fought to liberate film from Hollywood, Warhol’s desire to find his own place in it provided the measure of the new times …

This is from the editor’s introduction to Stan Brakhage: Filmmaker edited by David E. James (2005):

… The baby who would become James Stanley Brakhage was born on 14 January 1933 in an orphanage in Kansas City, Missouri. He was adopted and named by a young couple, Ludwig, a college teacher of business, and his wife, Clara, who had herself been raised by a stepmother. The family moved from town to town in the Middle West and, sensitive to the stresses of his parents’ unhappy marriage, Stanley was a sickly child, asthmatic and overweight.

[line break added] His mother took a lover, eventually leaving her husband, who subsequently came to terms with his homosexuality and also himself took a lover. In 1941, mother and son found themselves alone in Denver. Put in a boys’ home, the child picked up the habits of a petty criminal, but before his delinquency became serious, he was placed with a stable, middle-class family in which he began to discover his gifts.

[line break added] He excelled in writing and dramatics and in singing, becoming one of the leading voices in the choir of the Cathedral of St. John’s in Denver. Retrieving her now-teenaged son, his mother tried to make a musician of him, but Stanley resisted his tutors, even attempting to strangle his voice teacher.

Skipping ahead, we now find Brakhage as an established filmmaker:

… By the end of the 1960s, Brakhage’s reputation was international. Retrospectives of his work and invitations to lecture became frequent, and he received many awards (including a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1978), and in 1969 he began teaching one semester a year at the Art Institute of Chicago, commuting there from his home.

… [According to an Artforum piece edited by Annette Michelson] he represented his culture by virtue of “his social function as defensive in the Self’s last-ditch stand against the mass, against the claims of any possible class, political process, or structure, assuming its inevitable assault on the sovereignty of the Self, positing the imaginative consciousness as inherently apolitical.”

… The exile of Brakhage [after the ’70s] and the aesthetic values he embodied reflected the diametric reversal of cultural priorities that we now summarize, at least partially, as the shift from modernism to postmodernism in U.S. culture. Political developments were fundamental, especially the New Right offensive againt the utopian cultural and social movements of the 1960s and the latter’s resultant decline and eventual extirpation.

… If in the early 1970s Brakhage’s oeuvre could be celebrated as the last (or perhaps the first) full flowering of modernism in film, by the late 1970s, the “Warholization” of postmodern culture relegated him to irrelevance, his preeminence preempted by his similarly totalized other.

For whether or not Warhol had been the “major precursor of structural film,” he was indisputably the major precursor of almost everything that came after it. Queer, fascinated with publicity and the psychic, material and social apparatuses of the mass-media, and especially with advertising, he epitomized the convergence of identity politics and the priorities of affirmative cultural studies in a cultural front administered jointly by the academy and entertainment industry cartels.

[line break added] Where Brakhage had fought to liberate film from Hollywood, Warhol’s desire to find his own place in it provided the measure of the new times, and over the last quarter of the twentieth century, his rise matched Brakhage’s decline in a cultural zero-sum game.

[line break added] The two main features of Brakhage’s work that the period thrust into high relief — his negative positioning in identity politics and the categorical incompatibility of his work with the aesthetics, mode of production, and the industrial insertion of corporate capitalist culture — excluded him from virtually all the developments in public taste and in academic film theory between the early 1970s and the end of the century, in the thirty years between Annette Michelson’s Artforum essay and the present project.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

April 20, 2018

In Spite Of

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:31 am

… In the midst of working, one must be content with the fact that what we think we have done is not what we have actually done.

This is from Selections from the Journals of Myron Stout edited by Tina Dickey (2005):

1954

How meaning comes into a painting:

It seems to appear there while [the artist] is working, and it either appears or doesn’t appear. And where it seems to appear, it may not really be there, but only seems to through a momentary or continuing standing fantasy. And when it doesn’t appear, it may be there but he may be blinded or blocked from recognizing it.

[ … ]

Talent is the ability to get what you want in what you do.

Artistry is the ability to want the right things, and the sensibility in the wanting.

[ … ]

1955

“Things” in themselves are not knowable to the mind; it’s as though we can know only by a kind of side effect. As one can see a star only by focusing a little to one side of where your sense tells us it is, we find it impossible to come to know an “essence” by focusing only on where we presume it to be. Its peripheral evidences are, so to speak, accessible to us. Its core, unknowable, in any exact sense.

[ … ]

The thing is to secure the meaning, and incidentally to find what the pleasure is that comes from the meaning, rather than to secure the pleasure and hope only that the meaning is there …

[ … ]

1956

It is a communion, not a communication. We communicate with each other for more practical needs than those for which we have communion. Communication is today typified by the telephone and radio and television. Communion is better carried on by the artist.

[ … ]

Every painting has to show you that you don’t know how to paint!

[ … ]

In the midst of working, one must be content with the fact that what we think we have done is not what we have actually done.

[ … ]

One must (or: “be ready to”) recognize the necessity that inhabits (inheres in) what one does — for it is there in spite of what one may otherwise want and believe.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

April 19, 2018

The Copper At the Center of the Mass

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

… The question is whether their only legitimacy is that they are articles in trade.

This is from CUTS: Texts 1959-2004 / Carl Andre edited by James Meyer (2005):

… As to truth to materials, I just like matter a great deal and the different properties of matter, the different forms of matter, different elements, different materials. To paint these things, for me, would be to exactly defeat my own desires as to my art. I don’t want to disguise it at all. I don’t want to make something else out of it. I want wood as wood and steel as steel, aluminum as aluminum, a bale of hay as a bale of hay. That’s not my idea for anyone else, that just reflects my desires as an artist …

**********

Was it surprising to you that people actually walked on the piece [at the Konrad Fischer Gallery in Düsseldorf in 1967] and did not notice it? [2002]

No, I had shown metal floor pieces at the Dwan Gallery in New York. To most people, empty walls meant an empty gallery. I also found that if you put work on both walls and floors, no one sees the floor pieces.

[ … ]

… you wrote that your very first visit to Düsseldorf was the luckiest trip you ever made. Why?

Had I never shown with Konrad Fischer I am quite sure that my life as an artist would have ended long ago. Art is quite dead in the United States. The love of great prices has driven out the love of art. Being an artist has become as boring and careerist as being a stockbroker. For Konrad, art was a way of becoming and remaining free.

**********

In the catalogue to your Guggenheim exhibition [1970], Diane Waldman wrote, “the conventional role of sculpture as a precious object, and its ownership, has been rigorously attacked by (Andre’s) oeuvre which refuses, by definition, to make such accommodations.” Do you agree? [from a 1978 interview with Peter Fuller]

No, of course not. It is the genius of the bourgeoisie that they can buy everything: collectors buy ideas and goldfish in bowls, all kinds of things. That is the genius of the capitalist system. If they set out to make a commodity out of you, there’s absolutely no way you can prevent it. There’s nothing wrong with precious objects. There are a lot of objects which I find precious. Other people do not find them precious. The question is whether their only legitimacy is that they are articles in trade.

**********

IT IS THE COPPER AT THE
CENTER OF THE MASS OF EACH
PLATE THAT MOST CONCERNS ME,
NOT THE COPPER AT THE SURFACE
OF ITS VOLUME.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

April 18, 2018

(now)

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

… they all cross, eventually, the threshold of the mill proper as they pass under the clock that watches over the mill’s acutely synchronized operation.

This is from the essay ‘The Ghost in the Machine’ by John Pemberton found in Photographies East: The Camera and Its Histories in East and Southeast Asia edited by Rosalind C. Morris (2009):

A photograph recalls the Netherlands East Indies governor-general A.C.D. de Graeff, his long arm stretched forward, hand held palm down, blessing sacrificial offerings prepared for machinery at the Tjolomadoe sugar mill in Central Java on 21 May 1928. De Graeff performs this gesture ostensibly in acknowledgement of the ceremonial attitude associated with setting in motion milling machines at the advent of each harvest season in Java.

[line break added] He is presented in the photograph as calm, confident. He is as reassuring that the mill’s enormous cogwheels of production will perform smoothly, without accident, profitably, as he himself appears reassured. It is as though he does not see the ghost in the machine, particularly Machine One.

This ghost does not have a name, or at least her name was no longer known by the time the photograph was taken. She is a spectral presence that appears momentarily, sometimes as a detached head, vaporously projected and enlarged within the cogwheels of the machinery, sometimes as a well-dressed figure, wholly intact, suspended in midair. She is Javanese. She never speaks. She wears a watch. Her sudden appearance threatens to induce distraction that turns fatal. Grasp slips, a machinist is drawn into the cogs, and the sugar for a while runs red.


modern photo of a sugar mill in Java

… From about 1900 on, palace [Mangkunagaran Palace in Surakarta, Java] archives were increasingly devoted to documenting, on the one hand, scenes self-consciously celebrated in the Indies as traditional ritual performances (weddings, shadow-puppet theater, princely coronations, village commemorations, funerals, harvest festivals) and, on the other, the machinery so emblematic of modern times (sugar mills, hydroelectric plants, locomotives, railway stations, telegraph lines, radio towers).

… what the archived albums reveal, time and time again, is an obsession of a different order, an obsession which would transcend traditional/modern or cultural/technological dichotomies, a truly singular obsession with a force that is (now) ritual, (now) mechanical, (perhaps always) habitual. This is the force of repetition, of repetition itself.

[ … ]

… Were one to retrace the various paths out of cane fields lined with ox carts, paved roads with bicycles and personnel, and railway lines tracking milled cane to storage and market, they all cross, eventually, the threshold of the mill proper as they pass under the clock that watches over the mill’s acutely synchronized operation. There is a precarious sense in which the convergence of routine labors and the geared coupling of the machines themselves reiterates the peculiar logic of coincidence conjoining such worlds.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

April 17, 2018

HEAVEN

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:51 am

… Both create territories where the dispossessed can enact their desires, making the appearance of the sublime become compensatory.

This is from the introductory essay ‘HEAVEN in the Tate Gallery Liverpool’ by Lewis Biggs found in HEAVEN (1999):

Heaven is not built on cloud nine, but on the firmer foundations of suffering. Oscar Wilde acknowledges that if life were perfect we would have no need of art (or the heaven promised by religious faith). The consolation of art, like that of religious faith, is to bring us some of the certainty that life denies us. This is an exhibition to break our hearts because Heaven is by definition elsewhere: the image of perfection returns us to our state of imperfection.

Religion has not disappeared, as Wilde thought it would, in the wake of Darwin and Renan. People visit art galleries with a hunger for experience, a thirst for refreshment, a desire to get a perspective on “real life,” that is far more than idle curiosity. The religious impulse, and certainly the artistic impulse, seem to be finding ever less celestial and more mundane objects.

[line break added] The multiplication of the objects of our faith is the mirror image of our diversification as individuals. As the essays in this publication say in so many ways, to be human is to be idolatrous, and in the century of Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Beuys none of us can escape the possibility that he or she is an artist.

… The engagement we bring to the image (dialogue, contemplation, meditation, prayer, devotion) is the process through which we release from the image and gain for ourselves our reward: renewal, consolation, insight, rejuvenation, a sense of self purified in the fire of emotion.

Next is from Doreet Levitte Harten‘s essay ‘Creating HEAVEN’:

… There are then two ways of building Jerusalem, either by being committed to the abstract or by pledging the fantastic, and in a world which lives by the truth of its simulation, that is by abstracting reality and virtualising it until the map stands for the territory, there seems to be no reason to re-abstract the abstracted, for it would be an act without logic. It is here that artists, by being compelled to point out the opposites arrive at new ways of showing the sublime.

Because art has become a religious phenomenon, artists do not even have to pursue such questions as to whether belief is a structure or a content, nor do they have to substitute in the name of a Grand Narrative, religious epiphanies with humanistic issues, or recognize religion as a paradigmatic error. Art as religion is the program of the dispossessed. Both give room for desire to be manifested through an admire-admired relationship. Both create territories where the dispossessed can enact their desires, making the appearance of the sublime become compensatory.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

April 16, 2018

Putting the Body in Its Place

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:53 am

… Nowhere can this mythology of the return of solid values be so convincingly deployed as in the case of the ambivalently approached female body.

This is from Bathers, Bodies, Beauty: The Visceral Eye by Linda Nochlin (2006):

… On the surface of it, nothing would seem less problematic than the late-nineteenth-century bather. It seems to be a natural “given” of art history; timeless, elevated, idealized, and as such central to the discourses of high art. Yet of course, it has become obvious already that the bather theme is anything but a given, the opposite of natural. On the contrary, it is a construction particular to a certain historical period, though based on and attaching itself to a long artistic tradition; and far from being natural, it is a highly artificial and self-conscious construction at that.


Adolphe-William Bouguereau, Bathers, 1884

I am now going to continue my attempt to problematize this apparently unproblematic and “natural” subject by putting the bather and bathing back into the history of social institutions, practices, and representations from which Renoir and most of the “high” artists of his time abstracted them. The point of this part of my investigation is not so much to discover anything new about Renoir’s Great Bathers but rather to consider what it has excluded: what about bathers and bathing during our “bathtime” of the late nineteenth century has the painting occluded?

[ … ]

… Ultimately, the discourses of bathing and swimming must be understood in connection with other regimes of reglementarianism — official government regulation — connected with the body and its practices, regimes brilliantly analyzed by Michel Foucault and by Alain Corbin in his studies of prostitution, smells, and garbage, as well as by Georges Vigarello in his histories of cleanliness, sports, posture, and deportment training. Bathing and its representation must be viewed as part of a more generalized politics and policy of “putting the body in its place”: a policy that had its origins during the later eighteenth century and was associated with Enlightenment ideals of control, hygiene, and civil order.

[line break added] As with the discourses of prostitution, sanitation, and wet-nursing, to which the discourses of swimming and bathing are related in that all are concerned with the body’s products, comportments, or employments, there is an evolving official government code of regulations, stipulating prohibitions, and approving practices in the realm of swimming and bathing. This official regulationism is accompanied by a stream of propaganda extolling the physical and social benefits of swimming and bathing and, at the same time, by a contradictory plethora of irreverent satire aimed at the foibles associated with water sports.

In none of this material, however, is the critique aimed at naked goddesses lolling about on the banks of classical or Edenic shores, but rather at modern women emerging from locker rooms, learning the strokes and the dives, taking showers before and after, and eyeing one another in bathing suits. Nakedness and the elevation of the nude is never an issue here, but rather the ludicrous effects of contemporary bathing costumes on less-than-perfect bodies.

[ … ]

… Of course high art had its own counter-discursive strategies during bathtime: that campaign of subversion from within which art history has always identified with Modernism itself. In both Courbet’s Bathing Women of 1853 and Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’herbe of ten years later, the traditional elevation of the bather theme is called into question with a “shock of the new.” In both cases, although differently, a disconcerting combination of alienation and reality effect is involved.

[line break added] In the Courbet, “reality” is signified by the coarse fleshiness of the fat body and the presence of abandoned clothing; but the meaninglessness of the gesture calls into question the naturalness of the topos itself and invokes alienation. In the Manet painting, abandoned clothing as well as the presence of modern, fully dressed men signify once more, contemporaneity; but the formal language in toto refuses the natural as a possibility of representation.


Gustave Courbet, Bathing Women, 1853

… But by the 1880s and 1890s, things had changed within the avant-garde itself. It was not just Renoir who was fleeing immediacy and contemporaneity but other vanguard artists as well, most notably Gauguin, who actually left France itself in search of more timeless, universal, indeed eternal values inscribed on the bodies of naked, dark-skinned females.

… The end of Impressionism, viewed from the vantage point of gender, coincides with a (possibly unconscious) rejection of the “feminine” toward the end of the century, and a return to “solid” values on the part of a certain fraction of the avant-garde. The nude, specifically the bather, inscribed in the order of the “natural,” stands for the return of value in art itself. Nowhere can this mythology of the return of solid values be so convincingly deployed as in the case of the ambivalently approached female body.

[line break added] It is here that aesthetic goals can coincide most productively with unconscious psychosexual factors, and these unconscious impulses in turn erased, modified, or sublimated. The bathers, freed from contemporary specificity and historical narrative alike, are now understood to be the primary realm of pure aesthetic — of course, masculine aesthetic — challenge.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

April 15, 2018

Choice Cannot Be Postponed

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:51 am

… If temporality is a weight, it’s a salutary weight that brings human being back down to the ground of experience and action.

Continuing through Time and Freedom by Christophe Bouton, translated by Christopher Macann (2014). This is from his chapter on Kierkegaard:

… The aesthetic moment is ephemeral, the ethical moment is serious, because the individual runs the risk of no longer having the same capacity for choice if he waits until the following moment. Choice cannot be postponed or drowned in an endless deliberation oscillating between different possibilities of equal value. Possibilities are not objects of contemplation, still less of fascination, they are tasks destined to be accomplished in reality.

[ … ]

… Existing is a difficult and absorbing task, and which consists in holding together time and eternity, in combining the one with the other without sacrificing either of the two terms. The ambiguity of Kierkegaard’s thinking about time stems from this quite specific conception of human existence, whose internal tension is best described with the help of the Platonic image of the winged harness (Phaedrus).

[line break added] [The] Existing human being is like a coachman whose carriage is drawn by two horses, an infinitely rapid “Pegasus” and an “old nag” who has difficulty in moving forward. The winged Pegasus symbolizes eternity, the nag symbolizes temporality. With Plato, the bad horse finishes up dragging the soul out of the field of truth and making it fall from the sky to the earth.

[line break added] In Kierkegaard’s rendering, each horse is necessary to release the passion of existence: “I have often thought about how one might bring a person into passion. So I have considered the possibility of getting him astride a horse and then frightening the horse into the wildest gallop, or even better, in order to draw out the passion properly, the possibility of getting a man who wants to go somewhere as quickly as possible (and therefore was already in something of a passion) astride a horse that can hardly walk.”

[line break added] Passion arises out of the combination of eternity, which accelerates, shortens, and intensifies existence, and temporality, which slows down, temporizes, and sharpens desire by differing it. If temporality is a weight, it’s a salutary weight that brings human being back down to the ground of experience and action: “in his fall, he understood that he was too heavy for his dream, and ever since he came to love the weight that made him fall” (Pierre Reverdy).

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

April 14, 2018

To Drive the Mind Beyond Words

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:51 am

… I write to exhaust language on a given subject, to drive the mind beyond words, so that I can begin, and begin again and again …

These bits are from various essays in Telling Time: Essays of a Visionary Filmmaker by Stan Brakhage (2003):

… There can, with suddenness or slowly, come upon a man or woman such tasks as estrange them from ordinary converse, render their actions, or the products of their acts, so incongruous in relation to those of fellow humans that they be in limbo, as it were, their very turns-of-tongue (albeit of beseeming plain speech) stirring immediate uneasiness in even closest colleague, and outright distrust from populace at large.

How is one then to know whether said tasks are fairly inherited, are part of one’s fate — intrinsic to one’s self — or whether perhaps they be impositions?

How, for that matter, can one say impositions are not as truly intrinsic, arising from unconscious desire, say, as the orderly communal inheritance of one’s sense of one’s self?

How is one to distinguish between possession and unconscious passion?

*******************

… I always said you’d [writing to Bruce Elder] inevitably win the argument between us about whether or not “thought” was possible without word [Brakhage believed thought was possible without words],” because “thought” is a word; but still, I continue to experience streams of sensation preclusive of language altogether. I can’t express it (even with the term “ineffable,” which also is a word) because “experience,” “streams,” etc. are spells of language at best, absolute definitions, framed, composed, beyond the purely visual phenomenon.

I very much respond to your “an image belongs to the realm of the caress,” for I sense imagery as prime source of wisdom, which I’ve always felt as a dance, i.e. reciprocal exchanges in the thrall of experience … not that one is impressed (as one can be by “picture”) but that one is “called upon” to respond, to be correspondent, as it were. As I shy away from any definitions of “aesthetic communication,” I tend to locate the aesthetic experience somewhere amidst this enthralling exchange that imagery/caress implies to me.

*******************

… Primarily I write to exhaust language on a given subject, to drive the mind beyond words, so that I can begin, and begin again and again where words-leave-off, veer their references into vision, each verbal connective synapse, to effect that my mind’s eye have full sway [over] so I can commence my work: I am a filmmaker.

I have found, across years of photography and editing, that the verbal can open into the visual, like a swing gate in the mind, or sprung door, revealing plethoras of inexplicable and often utterly unexpected visitations.

Text, above, is as given. Brakhage seems to like to leave out “a” and “the,” among other oddities in his writings.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

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