Unreal Nature

January 27, 2020

Charged Material

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:16 am

… save for a realization of the dichotomy between the dulled generalities of concept and the shimmering actualities of perception.

This is from Robert Ryman by Vittorio Colaizzi (2017):

… Unhappy with the term abstract, and unwilling to produce what in his plainspokenness he calls “pictures,” Ryman strives to rid his work of the tacit fissure between the painting and its surroundings. This desired continuity of space has been missed, Ryman notes, even by some of his admirers:

They don’t seem to know what the painting is … A few years ago I saw someone had two small paintings of mine and they were hanging in a hallway, maybe a foot apart, along with … pictures in frames, and it was totally misunderstood as to what they were. … But it’s odd that they seemingly like the painting but yet they don’t understand what it is. Or how it works.

Ryman’s paintings “work” by establishing their own particularity against the tradition of picturehood. In “prefer[ring] to put paint down and leave it as it is,” Ryman attempts with each painting to entice the viewer out of the virtual space that has been painting’s domain, exhorting him or her to cease looking for activity inside the painting, and instead attend to it as a thing in the material world.

… “I am not talking of the technical processes of painting, which in itself is important, but of the seeing of painting. This ‘seeing’ can be so complex that the possibilities for painting are endless.” The “problem,” than, as befits an artist who is ordinarily loathe to theorize his place in history, is ours as much as his, because it is not only one of making, but also one of perception.

[line break added] Seeing counts as doing for Ryman, and the onus falls to painter and viewer alike. He continues that although “it is not necessary to use paint to make an image,” many painters “could not ‘see’ any other way to use paint.” His quotation marks around the verb see alert readers to his expanded sense of the term, as a possibility of conceiving and envisioning a mode of painting beyond existing conventions.

[line break added] What he does with paint is to propose that the viewer sees it not as blank, but as rich and aesthetically charged material. Because one can easily mistake one of his works for a “white painting,” Ryman has always risked invisibility, save for a realization of the dichotomy between the dulled generalities of concept and the shimmering actualities of perception. Without such a moment of insight, or to use one of the artist’s favorite terms, enlightenment, the viewer will see only white.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 26, 2020

The Ferocious Presuppositions

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:25 am

… Do we always remember the ferocious presuppositions of excellent reason?

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

… Like a comet appearing in the sky, the new light of mathematics trails behind it an immense tail, almost as bright as it is, whose presence we don’t quite forget when we devote ourselves to hard and pure demonstration.

For the constriction at the level of the first basin, whose localization suddenly channels a now rational flow, remains like a forgotten violence. What terrible expulsion is still preserved in what we call, as though an admission, the excluded middle?

Do we always remember the ferocious presuppositions of excellent reason? Who among us hasn’t felt at some time an almost religious or mystical respect for the idealities of mathematics or something like a fear emanating from its lofty figures, an inmost experience whose memory, reconstructed here, explains to us how a knowledge, even the most abstract or independent from the things of the world and society, can remain mixed with a remainder of religious or sacrificial terror, of ecstasy, of attack and defense, of security, of difficult work and fecundity, of miracles shooting out like fountains from an old dryness, fossil adherences still attached to the origins …

Yes, why do we always feel such terrible fears toward and through theoretical knowledge? Or such joys?

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 25, 2020

Owned By a Few

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:59 am

… we encounter the techniques used to enhance what was seen, might be seen, would be seen, and should be seen.

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

… in addition to the significant social and cultural, religious and moral, and of course, aesthetic spheres, multiple scientific contexts are revealed by following the way an image and its many reproductions were used by astronomers and by scientists in general. In some ways the images were used as proxies for an object, as a means of “virtually witnessing” what otherwise could be seen only through the large telescopes owned by a few. There were also questions about the best ways to orient, present, and look at the images so as to properly see the phenomena thus secured. The images were meant to visualize explananda for scientific theory, which depended chiefly on the appearance displayed.

Bearing in mind that many of the published images constituted what scientists regarded as their finished, stabilized visual results, worthy of the attention they might receive as “immutable mobiles,” the widespread privileging of published visualizations of scientific phenomena is justifiable and understandable.

… My work, dealing with sketches found in the unpublished observing books, is not committed to the same approach. But to use the metaphor of language for the visual productions in the sciences, one may say, with all due caution, that I am concerned with the alphabet (working images) and the grammar (procedures) that make visual language possible.

The principal focus of this book will be on exploring the ways handmade drawings were produced, bit by bit, within the private observing books. Turning to the internal, material contexts of an observational program, we encounter the techniques used to enhance what was seen, might be seen, would be seen, and should be seen. So, for example, the multiple preliminary sketches of the same object in the observing books were often drastically different, but they were never used to prove that an object had actually changed.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 24, 2020

Every Man Is Man-plus-things

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:04 am

… he is a man inasmuch as he recognizes himself in a number of things, he recognizes the human that has been in things, the self that has taken shape in things.

This is from ‘The Redemption of Objects’ found in Collection of Sand: Essays by Italo Calvino, translated by Martin McLaughlin (2001; 1984) :

… The Indian poet [Tagore], in a lecture given in Florence,

singled out amongst the deplorable vices of the West ‘the foolish pride in furniture.’ In fact it seems absurd that one should be proud of an elegant little table or of a chair in a certain style or of a pair of candelabra: what good does it do to decorate a house till it becomes beautiful, when the human spirit, according to philosophers and poets, can still proceed as supreme ruler amidst four poor walls.

… Then suddenly Praz rushes to marshal the opposing argument:

But immediately a doubt arises. Because such is the nature of these dear material things amidst which we live our lives that you can’t deny one of them without denying all of them at the same time. To have set my soul on a little table or chair that has caught my eye is a sin that is only slightly worse than setting my soul on a landscape …

And yet the contemplation of natural landscapes passes for being the most spiritual thing possible: so why then is the contemplation of furniture not the same, especially as ‘furniture obeys a law of economics which is the same as that which controls landscape’?

Praz affirms what he calls his ‘materialism,’ in other words the rejection of any spiritual asceticism (‘the truth is that I have a soft spot for fine furniture but no soft spot for Rabindranath Tagore’), but also the rejection of any reduction of the human to the bare nature of a biological or vitalistic or existential or psychological or merely economic entity.

The human is the trace that man leaves in things, it is the work, whether it is a famous masterpiece or the anonymous product of one particular epoch. It is the continuous dissemination of works and objects and signs that makes a civilization the habitat of our species, its second nature. If we deny this sphere of signs that surrounds us with its thick dust-cloud, man cannot survive. And again: every man is man-plus-things, he is a man inasmuch as he recognizes himself in a number of things, he recognizes the human that has been in things, the self that has taken shape in things.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 23, 2020

Interruption

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:22 am

… the truth is the point or moment of interruption of the movement and opening up of sense.

This is from The Pleasure of Drawing by Jean-Luc Nancy, translated by Philip Armstrong (2013):

Form is the “idea,” recalling the word chosen by Plato to designate the intelligible models of the real. Idea signifies for Plato, according to the Greek term, nothing other than “visible form” (to which one might add that the “visible” is form’s primary register of reference, because that register maintains form in the foreground, distinct, and in this way “formed.” By contrast, and according to another distinction, drawing [dessin] opens form to its own formation).

[line break added] In fact, the most recent translations of Plato substitute “Form” for the more traditional “Idea.” “Intelligible form” takes nothing away from the field of the visible; it demands only that this visibility adapt, not to the immediate and interested perception of things, but to the judgment and aim [visée] of their sense and truth.

… in distinguishing these two terms [sense and truth], one could say that the truth is the point or moment of interruption of the movement and opening up of sense. Interrupted, suspended, the drawing/design of sense [le sens en son dess(e)in] reveals at once its tracing out [tracé] (its substance or bearing) and the truth, which is not its completion but, on the contrary, its very interruption.

…(Matter — to recall a word that remains inseparable from “form” — is the name of form’s resistance to its deformation. It is not a formless “content” that form comes to mold or model, but rather the thickness, texture, and force of form itself. … )

My previous post from Nancy’s book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 22, 2020

My Capacity

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:04 am

… an aesthetics of existence, a style or art of living, a manner of making one’s life into a work of art …

Continuing through The Incorporeal: Ontology, Ethics, and the Limits of Materialism by Elizabeth Grosz (2017):

… The question of ethics is how can I be worthy of the events that await me, how can I enter into events that sweep me up, preexist me, or that I cannot control? How can I be worthy of my destiny? How can what is impersonal in me be worthy of its impersonal fate?

… It is because of the sense that is mixed with events that thought is possible, that concepts can be created and conceptual means developed by which we can modify our behavior and environment, survive circumstances beyond our control, and create new orders by which to survive the chaos, the excess of forces, into which we are born. Thinking is thus ethics, one form of ethics (thinking is a form of action that accompanies material action), one mode of directing life in its ability to live up to what happens to it, to be worthy of what occurs, to prepare internally for what externally awaits, and to be impinged upon from the outside to draw out what is most active within.

… Ethics is not so much about living a “good life” (one cannot know a “good life” until it is lived, and living a good life does not require knowing it) as it is about facing what we cannot control and living — or dying — in the process of willing what we cannot control, willing the even without ressentiment, affirming the events with which one is bound. My birth, my death, the bad accidents and moments of good luck that occur to me — ethics is my capacity to affirm, enhance, and intensify them.

[line break added] Ethics represents my capacity to affect and be affected, the enhancement or diminution of my power to act, including my power to think. The greatest affirmation of freedom is the affirmation of the necessities that make me what I am (those both outside and inside me).

… Ethics is thus linked to a life, to every life, and every encounter that shapes, forms, interacts, and transforms the becomings that constitute a life. It is also linked, in a fundamental way, to aesthetics, an aesthetics of existence, a style or art of living, a manner of making one’s life into a work of art, an aesthetics without need of an external object.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 21, 2020

And Therefore Destroyed

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:06 am

… the theory is finally recognized and so used, rather than simply related to …

This is from Site-Writing: The Architecture of Art Criticism by Jane Rendell (2010):

… From the close-up to the glance, from the caress to the accidental brush, Site-Writing draws on spaces as they are remembered, dreamed and imagined, as well as observed, in order to take into account the critic’s position in relation to a work and challenge criticism as a form of knowledge with a singular and static point of view located in the here and now.

… In the [last chapter of the book], I return to a question introduced at the start of Site-Writing, to reflect on what it means to ‘use’ an object — a theory, an artwork, even perhaps an artist. Following my reading of Juliet Mitchell’s discussion of Winnicott’s concept of ‘using’ rather than ‘relating to’ an object, and her desire to ‘use’ theory, I came to realize that throughout the process of writing this book I had been producing a form of criticism which ‘used’ artworks while continuing to ‘relate to’ theoretical concepts.

[line break added] At this last moment, in response to the work of artists Bik Van Der Pol, the theory is finally recognized and so used, rather than simply related to, and therefore destroyed, thus transforming the relationship between the critical subject and her objects — artworks, essays and theories.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 20, 2020

Curling

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:12 am

… we are watching how paintings work, giving them the time to do their work …

This is from ‘Mary Heilmann: Painting, Her Way’ by Briony Fer found in Mary Heilmann: Looking at Pictures (2016):

… It’s hard for abstract painting not to call up the history of abstract painting (paintings always look more like other paintings than anything else). In some ways Heilmann’s work conjures up a history of geometric abstraction, but not in a straightforward way. It is more like paintings can remember other paintings, just as a line in a song can carry in it the recollection of another version of itself.


Crashing Wave, 2001

… A wave curling upwards, arching, breaking, in one continuous movement. It is almost as if Heilmann asks us to imagine the perceptual field as like a wave in some ways: as if it lifts, breaks and falls. Crashing Wave is a part of its installation environment: the mise en abyme at the heart of it: a small pictorial version of the larger movements happening in the visual field. Heilmann has often talked of the way paintings can be ‘watched,’ suggesting they take time to see.

[line break added] But what are we watching for? Well, in part, I think we are watching how paintings work, giving them the time to do their work; how over time they can contradict themselves in ways that correspond with the fairly precarious ways which we hold on to the object world we inhabit.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 19, 2020

The Excluded

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:18 am

… and then the pure space in which we devote ourselves to rigorous proofs …

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

… Have you, at some time, ever visited a source? The Vienne’s or the Garonne’s, the Danube’s or the Yukon’s? Most often it consists of a collection basin, natural like a bog or a hollow, otherwise artificial: a trough, tub, sink, basin or reservoir that has been built.

Your surprise went all the way to outrage: an origin would contradictorily reduce to an end or a mouth?

Yes, certainly, since the basin in question collects or recruits countless imperceptible trickles of water come from the mountain, from the neighboring meadows or glaciers, an arborescence that’s so fine, complex and intertwined that it wouldn’t give birth to a continuous flow without precisely the existence of this collection basin — which marks the threshold of percolation, whose status and construction resolves the easy and naïve paradox of the origin.

[ … ]

…But how did we start to cultivate the land?

…In this sort of constricting passage, does everything begin, as is written, with a gesture of sorting, of exclusion or expulsion?

Suddenly, I believe this gesture to be decisive and rigorously radical.

… Agriculture is born from this base square whose rupture of equilibrium achieved through expulsion constitutes a site of cleanliness [propreté], the originary foundation of all property. The first person who, having enclosed a piece of land or a field, took it into his head to exclude everything in it was the true founder of the following historical era.

… Denying, expelling even more and much better than its predecessors, our geometry therefore follows: excluding by the excluded third or middle.

On the same land, named once again by geo-metry, or the same page, renamed, as that of the writer, the operation of purification and giving form climbs back to the farmer who flows back to the soldier who appeals either to the priest, from the side of culture, or, on the natural riverbank, to the flooding.

Three origins in three persons in a single gesture at the same instant in the same locality: the temple, the camp and the field precede the page, and then the pure space in which we devote ourselves to rigorous proofs, themselves in the final analysis based on the principle of the excluded middle or third.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 18, 2020

The Face of the Indescribable

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:20 am

… the ways hand drawings were made also corresponded closely to the ways these phenomena were constituted.

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

… Why study the history of the nebulae under the lights proposed? Thanks to their utterly strange and enigmatic character, which lasted well into the twentieth century, these objects have continually demanded special attention. The challenge in particular was to visualize them, since other means — like description or numbers — simply failed or were clumsy in the face of the indescribable. Exactly what these astronomers were visualizing was for the most part unknown.

[line break added] On top of that, the visual products or the work that went into them rarely were governed by any generally accepted standards specific to the nebulae as scientific objects. They thus provide an exceptional opportunity to examine the multiplicity of strategies contrived specifically to stabilize and visualize these novel and mysterious phenomena. The strategies reveal an intersection, where the demand for mathematical precision — common in astronomical work — met another demand for visually capturing as many minutiae as possible, and this in a pictorial and mimetic fashion, rather than in a purely abstract or schematic one.

[line break added] Last, the nebulae are not strictly invisible, nor are they simply visible. With large enough telescopes they may faintly appear and are thus barely visible. But unlike other barely visible objects, like microscopic ones, the nebulae cannot be stained or dyed, manipulated, sliced, or sprayed. It is this feature of the nebulae that makes the materials, media, and processes used in drawing them such a crucial means of coming to know something about them.

… since there were no ready-made phenomena in the burgeoning field of sidereal astronomy, the ways hand drawings were made also corresponded closely to the ways these phenomena were constituted. This book is therefore about how phenomena were observed and recorded, prepared and constituted, and made suitable for the scientific gaze before entering the stage of publication and printing.

My previous post from Nasim’s book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

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