Unreal Nature

May 31, 2010

Prostitution

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:44 am

… The love that philosophy can teach is the power to accept intimacy without taking it personally. Its opposite is vanity, which takes every attention personally and none intimately. (Naturally, these states are commonly mistaken for one another.)

This is today’s second post from The World Viewed, Enlarged Edition by Stanley Cavell (1971, 1974, 1979):

… Evidently [Jean-Luc] Godard’s admirers read his withdrawal of feeling as a combination of knowingness and objectivity toward the corruption of the world. But objectivity is a spiritual achievement, and apart from it knowingness is only a sentiment. In that case, accepting Godard’s work is simply sharing that sentiment.

… If you believe that people speak slogans to one another, or that women are turned by bourgeois society into marketable objects, or that human pleasures are now figments and products of advertising accounts and that these are directions of dehumanization — then what is the value of pouring further slogans into that world (e.g., “People speak in slogans” or “Women have become objects” or “Bourgeois society is dehumanizing” or “Love is impossible”)? And how do you distinguish the world’s dehumanizing of its inhabitants from your depersonalizing of them? How do you know whether your asserted impossibility of love is anything more than an expression of your distaste for its tasks? Without such knowledge, your disapproval of the world’s pleasures, such as they are, is not criticism (the negation of advertisement) but censoriousness (negative advertising).

I do not wish to deny Godard’s inventiveness, and no one can ignore his facility. But the forms of culture he wishes to hold in contempt are no less inventive and facile. Take two examples of his inventiveness compromised. Godard has found a way to stage an eyes-on interview with his subject (in particular with Anna Karina). But he has not done this by justifying a subject’s acceptance of the camera — that is, by establishing a character capable in a given context of accepting her own self-awareness, knowing the effect she has on others (as, say, in Manet’s Olympia) — but by taking a subject with no character, from whose person he has removed personhood, a subject incapable of accepting or rejecting anything. That is the condition of prostitution, and of advertisement. And Godard has created it, not captured it. These interviews might be read as screen tests, which is a potentially neat declaration of the medium, but success here would depend upon justifying the woman’s submission to such a test and one’s right to apply it.

… Or take Godard’s use of the sound of philosophy, in those longish dialogues his women elicit from actual philosophers. It is a good perception that recognized this sound for the cinema, that found that in an environment of nonsense and insinuation and cynicism the sound of sense still falls sweetly upon the human ear. But Godard hasn’t seen it through, because he does not care whether what the philosopher says is valid or not — that is, he listens to it the way his girls do, or the way a bourgeois audience does, somewhere within embarrassment, envy, contempt, and titillation. And while his talent and wit lead him to remark that philosophy is now stimulated by pretty girls, either he fails to recognize the humor and sadness of this, or else he sees nothing further. From Plato on, sexual attractiveness has been an open motive to philosophy, as if to acknowledge the intimacy and mutuality of one soul’s investigation of another. And if sexuality is the dialogue’s conclusion, this need not mean that its point was seduction; it can acknowledge that the only successful conclusion of such investigation is mutual satisfaction, and that what remains between the participants is not a thing left unsaid. Where philosophy is foreplay, that at least refuses intellectuality as a substitute for sexuality (a more hilarious sense of “platonic”). The love that philosophy can teach is the power to accept intimacy without taking it personally. Its opposite is vanity, which takes every attention personally and none intimately. (Naturally, these states are commonly mistaken for one another.) Godard’s girls walk away intact from these confrontations. Is this supposed to show that they are unseducible? So are prostitutes. Anyway, they are seduced — by slogans, advertisements, and illicitness.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

The Space of Our Desires

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:39 am

… moon and water and meadows and beasts and snow peaks are not symbolic evasions but tracings of that universe of feeling in which each of us finds or loses the space of our desires.

Both of today’s posts are from The World Viewed, Enlarged Edition by Stanley Cavell (1971, 1974, 1979):

… The idea of and wish for the world re-created in its own image was satisfied at last by cinema. … But it had always been one of the myths of art; each of the arts had satisfied it in its own way.

… What is cinema’s way of satisfying the myth? Automatically, we said. But what does that mean — mean mythically, as it were? It means satisfying it without my having to do anything, satisfying it by wishing. In a word, magically. I have found myself asking: How could film be art, since all the major arts arise in some way out of religion? Now I can answer: Because movies arise out of magic; from below the world.

The better a film, the more it makes contact with this source of its inspiration; it never wholly loses touch with the magic lantern behind it. … Science presents itself, in movies, as magic, which was indeed one source of science. In particular, projected science retains magic’s mystery and forbiddenness. Science-fiction films exploit not merely certain obvious aspects of aventure, and of a physicality that special effects specialize in, but also the terrific mumbo-jumbo of hearsay science: “My God, the thing is impervious to the negative beta ray! We must reverse the atom recalcitration spatter, before it’s too late!” The dialogue has the surface of those tinbox-and-lever contraptions that were sufficiently convincing in prime Flash Gordon. These films are carried by the immediacy of the fantasy that motivates them (say, destruction by lower or higher forms of life, as though the precariousness of human life is due to its biological stage of development); together with the myth of the one way and last chance in which the (external) danger can be averted. And certainly the beauty of forms and motions in Frankenstein’s laboratory is essential to the success of Frankenstein; computers seem primitive in comparison. It always made more sense to steal from God than to try to outwit him.

How do movies reproduce the world magically? Not by literally presenting us with the world, but by permitting us to view it unseen. This is not a wish for power over creation (as Pygmalion’s was), but a wish not to need power, not to have to bear its burdens. It is, in this sense, the reverse of the myth of Faust. And the wish for invisibility is old enough. Gods have profited from it, and Plato tells it in Book II of the Republic as the Myth of the Ring of Gyges [also see Tolkien ].

[ … skipping to a much later chapter in the book … ]

… If inexplicitness in sexual matters invites the itch of suggestiveness, explicitness cuts feeling from an attachment to anything beyond itself. If you are William Blake, you might find visual equivalents of “The head Sublime, the heart Pathos, the genitals Beauty, the hands and feet Proportion” (you will of course want to include “The eyes of fire, the nostrils of air, the mouth of water, the beard of earth”). But if you’re merely D.H. Lawrence and you’re sickened, rightly, at the world’s furtiveness about certain words and deeds, then you may write Lady Chatterly’s Lover and try to exorcise the bad magic of certain words and deeds with a magic of repetition and literalness. Admirable enough. But it leaves the importance of the subject incomprehensible, the metaphysical facts of sexuality, as in his Women in Love, in which moon and water and meadows and beasts and snow peaks are not symbolic evasions but tracings of that universe of feeling in which each of us finds or loses the space of our desires. From the fact that the birds and the bees become insufficient it doesn’t follow that all we ever need are the ABCs. What you need is the tact in each case to be specific enough.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

May 30, 2010

Climate Change

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 8:18 am

This is from Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass by Bruno Schulz:

… It was my father who laid the foundations fo a skillful analysis of climatic trends. His Outline of General Systematics of the Autumn explained once and for all the essence of that season, which in our provincial climate assumed a prolonged, parasitical, and overgrown form known also by the name of “Chinese summer,” extending far into the depths of our colorful winters. What more can I say? My father was the first to explain the secondary, derivative character of that late season, which is nothing other than the result of our climate having been poisoned by the miasmas exuded by degenerate specimens of baroque art crowded in our museums. That museum art, rotting in boredom and oblivion and shut in without an outlet, ferments like old preserves, oversugars our climate, and is the cause of this beautiful malarial fever, this extraordinary delirium, to which our prolonged autumn is so agonizingly prone. For beauty is a disease, as my father maintained; it is the result of a mysterious infection, a dark forerunner of the decomposition, which rises from the depth of perfection and is saluted by perfection with signs of the deepest bliss.

[regretfully skipping over his luscious description of the paintings within the museums]

… That whole lumber room of ancient beauty has been subjected to painful distillation under the pressure of years of boredom.

“Can you understand,” my father used to ask, “the despair of that condemned beauty, of its days and nights?” … No wonder that the impatience and helplessness of beauty had at last to find its reflection in our sky, that it therefore glows over our horizon, degenerates into atmospheric displays, into these enormous arrangements of fantastic clouds I call our second or spurious autumn. That second autumn of our province is nothing but a sick mirage projected through an expanse of radiation into our sky by the dying, shut-in beauty in our museums. Autumn is a great touring show, poetically deceptive, an enormous purple-skinned onion disclosing ever new panoramas under each of its skins. No center can ever be reached. Behind each wing that is moved and stored away new and radiant scenes open up, true and alive for a moment, until you realize that they are made of cardboard. All perspectives are painted, all the panoramas made of board, and only the smell is authentic, the smell of wilting scenery, of theatrical dressing rooms, redolent of grease paint and scent. And at dusk there is disorder and chaos in the wings, a pileup of discarded costumes, among which you can wade endlessly as if through yellowed fallen leaves. There is great confusion: everybody is pulling at the curtain ropes and the sky, a great autumnal sky, hangs in tatters and is filled with the screeching of pulleys. And there is an atmosphere of feverish haste, of belated carnival, a ballroom about to empty in the small hours, a panic of masked people who cannot find their real clothes.

… On close, immobile evenings, golden after fiery sunsets, my father read us extracts from his manuscript. The flow of ideas allowed him sometimes to forget about Adela’s* ominous presence.

… In the stillness of these deep and beautiful days, the consistency of leaves changed imperceptibly, until one day all the trees stood in the straw fire of completely dematerialized leaves, in a light redness like a coating of colored confetti, magnificent peacocks and phoenixes; the slightest move or flutter would cause them to shed the splendor of their plumage — the light, molted, superfluous feathers.

Further from Bruno Schulz, this is to note that the father in his stories is (in one chapter, at least) a Fireman. Somebody else’s father is a Waterman. Coincidence? I think not:

… In the middle of the room stood a splendid knight clad in brass, a veritable St. George, looming large in a cuirass of polished golden tinplate, a sonorous armor complete with golden armlets. With astonishment and pleasure, I recognized my father’s bristling mustache and beard, which could be seen from under the heavy praetorian helmet. The armor was undulating on his breast, its strips of metal heaving like the scales on the abdomen of some huge insect. Looking tall in that armor, Father, in the glare of golden metal resembled the arch-strategist of a heavenly host.

“Alas, Adela*,” my father was saying, “you have never been able to understand matters of a higher order. Over and over again you have frustrated my activities with outbursts of senseless anger. But encased in armor, I am now impervious to the tickling with which you had driven me to despair when I was bedridden and helpless. An impotent rage has now taken hold of your tongue, and the vulgarity and grossness of your language is only matched by its stupidity. Believe me, I am full of sorrow and pity for you. Unable to experience noble flights of fancy, you bear an unconscious grudge against everything that rises above the commonplace.”

Adela* directed at my father a look of utter contempt and, turning to my mother, said in an angry voice, while shedding tears of irritation: “He pinches all our raspberry syrup! He has already taken away from the larder all the bottles of syrup we made last summer! He wants to give it all to these good-for-nothing firemen. And, what is more, he is being rude to me!” Adela sobbed.

“Captain of the fire brigade, captain of some crowd of layabouts!” she continued, looking at Father with loathing. “The house is full of them …”

[skipping to the end]

… At a sign from my father, two of them [the firemen that he had summoned with his tin whistle] got hold of a large carboy, full of raspberry syrup, and before Adela could stop them, ran downstairs with their precious loot.

… For a moment it seemed that Adela* would throw a fit: her beautiful eyes blazed with rage. But Father did not wait for her outburst. With one leap, he reached the windowsill and spread his arms wide. We rushed after him. The market square, brightly lit, was crowded. Under our house, eight firemen held fully extended a large sheet of canvas. Father turned round, the plate of his armour flashing in the light; he saluted us silently, then, with arms outspread, bright like a meteor, he leaped into the night sparkling with a thousand lights. …

*For more on Adela the maid, see the very end of this previous post.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

The Theatrical Space

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 8:12 am

… We have in mind the theatrical space, the emptiness of that space, and the manner in which it is filled and determined by the signs and masks through which the actor plays a role which plays other roles; we think of how repetition is woven from one distinctive point to another, including the differences within itself.

This is from Difference & Repetition by Gilles Deleuze (1968):

… If repetition is possible, it is due to miracle rather than to law. It is against the law: against the similar form and the equivalent content of law. If repetition can be found, even in nature, it is in the name of a power which affirms itself against the law, which works underneath laws, perhaps superior to laws. If repetition exists, it expresses at once a singularity opposed to the general, a universality opposed to the particular, a distinctive opposed to the ordinary, an instantaneity opposed to variation and an eternity opposed to permanence. In every respect, repetition is a transgression. It puts law into question, it denounces its nominal or general character in favour of a more profound and more artistic reality.

… There are two known ways to overturn moral law. One is by ascending towards the principles: challenging the law as secondary, derived, borrowed or ‘general’; denouncing it as involving a second-hand principle which diverts an original force or usurps an original power. The other way, by contrast, is to overturn the law by descending towards the consequences, to which one submits with a too-perfect attention to detail. … Repetition belongs to humour and irony; it is by nature transgression or exception, always revealing a singularity opposed to the particulars subsumed under laws, a universal opposed to the generalities which give rise to laws.

… [Kierkegaard and Nietzsche’s] objection to Hegel is that he does not go beyond false movement — in other words, the abstract logical movement of ‘mediation.’ They want to put metaphysics in motion, in action. They want to make it act, and make it carry out immediate acts. It is not enough, therefore, for them to propose a new representation of movement; representation is already mediation. Rather, it is a question of producing within the work a movement capable of affecting the mind outside of all representation; it is a question of making movement itself a work, without interposition; of substituting direct signs for mediate representations; of inventing vibrations, rotations, whirlings, gravitations, dances or leaps which directly touch the mind. This is the idea of a man of the theatre …

…. When we say … that movement is repetition and that this is our true theatre, we are not speaking of the effort of the actor who ‘repeats’ because he has not yet learned the part. We have in mind the theatrical space, the emptiness of that space, and the manner in which it is filled and determined by the signs and masks through which the actor plays a role which plays other roles; we think of how repetition is woven from one distinctive point to another, including the differences within itself. … The theatre of repetition is opposed to the theatre of representation, just as movement is opposed to the concept and to representation which refers it back to the concept. In the theatre of repetition,, we experience pure forces, dynamic lines in space which act without intermediary upon the spirit, and link it directly with nature and history, with a language which speaks before words, with gestures which develop before organised bodies, with masks before faces, with spectres and phantoms before characters — the whole apparatus of repetition as a ‘terrible power.’

Kierkegaard offers us a theatre of faith; he opposes spiritual movement, the movement of faith, to logical movement. He can thus invite us to go beyond all aesthetic repetition, beyond irony and even humour, all the while painfully aware that he offers us only the aesthetic, ironic and humoristic image of such a going-beyond. With Nietzsche, it is a theatre of unbelief, of movement s Physis, already a theatre of cruelty. Here, humour and irony are indispensable and fundamental operations of nature. And what would eternal return be, if we forgot that it is a vertiginous movement endowed with a force: not one which causes the return of the Same in general, but one which selects, one which expels as well as creates, destroys as well as produces? Nietzsche’s leading idea is to ground the repetition in eternal return on both the death of God and the dissolution of the self. However, it is a quite different alliance in the theatre of faith: Kierkegaard dreams of an alliance between a God and a self rediscovered. All sorts of differences follow: is the movement in the sphere of the mind, or in the entrails of the earth which knows neither God nor self? Where will it be better protected against generalities, against mediations? Is repetition supernatural, to the extent that it is over and above the laws of nature? Or is it rather the most natural will of Nature in itself and willing itself as Physis, because Nature is by itself superior to its own kingdoms and its own laws? Has Kierkegaard not mixed all kinds of things together in his condemnation of ‘aesthetic’ repetition: a pseudo-repetition attributable to general laws of nature and a true repetition in nature itself; a pathological repetition of the passions and a repetition in art and the work of art?

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

May 29, 2010

Drawing Together

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:10 am

… As Latour has argued, the fragile graphic and material qualities of paper inscriptions belie the power that they wield: “By working on papers alone, on fragile inscriptions that are immensely less than the things from which they are extracted, it is still possible to dominate all things and all people … This is the view of power we get at by following this theme of visualization and cognition in all its consequences. If you want to understand what draws things together, then look at what draws things together.”

… At the core of these projects [Susan Meiselas’s work with the Kurds and the Dani] is the way in which photographs remain active. They have long lives, and their infinite recodability opens a multitude of readings. … Ultimately, the photographs entangle lives — those of the subjects, the users, and the viewers.

That snip is from an essay Entangled Documents: Visualized Histories by Elizabeth Edwards.

In the last sentence quoted, “the users,” is an interestingly vague substitution for the usual third-party to a photograph, the photographer.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

May 28, 2010

Essence

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:58 am

… a time and a space that exist by piling up, by proliferation, by encroachment, by promiscuity — a perpetual pregnancy, perpetual parturition, generativity and generality, brute essence and brute existence, which are the nodes and antinodes of the same ontological vibration.

Here is a little more from The Visible and the Invisible by Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1964):

… A pure essence which would not be at all contaminated and confused with the facts could result only from an attempt at total variation [in order to find what must remain; what cannot be done without]. It would require a spectator himself without secrets, without latency, if we are to be certain that nothing be surreptitiously introduced into it. In order to really reduce experience to its essence, we should have to achieve a distance from it that would put it entirely under our gaze, without all the implications of sensoriality or thought that come into play in it, bring it and bring ourselves wholly to the transparency of the imaginary, think it without the support of any ground, in short, withdraw to the bottom of nothingness. Only then would we know what moments positively make up the being of this experience. But would this still be an experience, since I would be soaring over it? And if I tried to maintain a sort of adhesion to it in thought, is it properly speaking an essence that I would see? Every ideation, because it is an ideation, is formed in a space of existence, under the guarantee of my duration, which must turn back into itself in order to find there again the same idea I thought an instant ago and must pass into the others in order to rejoin it also in them. Every ideation is borne by this tree of my duration and other durations, this unknown sap nourishes the transparency of the idea; behind the idea, there is the unity, the simultaneity of all the real and possible durations, the cohesion of one sole Being from one end to the other.

[ … ]

… Where in all this is the essence? Where is the existence? … We never have before us pure individuals, indivisible glaciers of beings, nor essences without place and without date. Not that they exist elsewhere, beyond our grasp, but because we are experiences, that is, thoughts that feel behind themselves the weight of the space, the time, the very Being they think, and which therefore do not hold under their gaze a serial space and time nor the pure idea of series, but have about themselves a time and a space that exist by piling up, by proliferation, by encroachment, by promiscuity — a perpetual pregnancy, perpetual parturition, generativity and generality, brute essence and brute existence, which are the nodes and antinodes of the same ontological vibration.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

May 27, 2010

What Photographs Do

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:39 am

… they are artworks, evidentiary “proofs,” historical materials, and archival remains. But they also perform. As the video shows, they provoke events in the here and now, conjure up pasts, and constitute futures.

… The staging and the frame affect my understanding of the photographs even when they remain the “same.” Maybe that’s why these uncanny visitors have such a force when they reinsert themselves into the ever-changing public sphere and become part of people’s embodied experience.

This is from an essay Past Performing Future: Susan Meiselas’s Reframing History, by Diane Taylor:

“Photos are visitors.” They go back. Susan Meiselas’s photographs of the armed struggle between the Sandinistas and the U.S.-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua (1978-1979) return, twenty-five years later, to a place in which a violent history has faded imperceptibly into everyday life. Reframing History, a twelve-minute video of that return in 2004, documents the project of locating the original photos in the spot where Meiselas took them: nineteen photographs (symbolic for the July 19 celebration), blown up to 6 x 9 feet and printed on mesh, installed in four towns (Masaya, Matagalpa, Esteli, and Managua). … The return of the photos became a performance, a live encounter among Nicaraguans that refocused their past through their present. It also made visible the past future, the one that back in 1978-79 Nicaraguans thought they were fighting for, the unattainable future of social justice so far removed from the future they can aspire to today.

The narrative arc of Susan Meiselas’s Reframing History is straightforward. The video begins by showing the photos being installed in public places — on building facades, in the streets, along the roadside. Young men dig and climb and stretch to position and straighten the photographs while ordinary people move in closer, stop, watch, talk, and remember. They look at the photo and they look again at the place the photo occupies now as if seeing it back then. At times, they personalize this encounter with the present past. One young man takes a snapshot of one of the photos. Two young men run their fingers over the mesh of the iconic Molotov Man. A girl looks, trying to make sense of what she’s seeing … The video focuses on the actions prompted by the photographs, the seeing and seeing differently as people peer at their now through layers of mesh and political practice.

… The present is full of pasts, and the photographs participate in the haunting. The semitransparent mesh of the images at times allows today’s bodies and landscapes to seep through, belying any comforting illusion that the past is over. Then the video shows the photos coming down, being rolled up, and taken away. Where? We do not know. Who will be their new interlocutors? Will they mean the same thing, or prompt a similar response in their next location? While the narrative arc may reveal a simple visit, the video captures the multidimensionality of what photographs are and, as important, what they do.

Meiselas’s Nicaragua photographs, of course, are many things — they are artworks, evidentiary “proofs,” historical materials, and archival remains. But they also perform. As the video shows, they provoke events in the here and now, conjure up pasts, and constitute futures.

Reframing History shows photographs as “stable” historical materials and, at the same time, as radical performance actors. What photographs do can change dramatically over time.

… As I watch Reframing History again, many years after the original events took place, and years since the photographs returned to Nicaragua, I am struck at yet this other reframing of the “same” photographs for an international audience. I have seen the video screened at a scholarly conference, shown it to my students, and watched it alone on my home computer. As with the photographs, the video is the “same.” It lasts twelve minutes and takes us through the arrival, display, and departure of the photographic visitors. Yet in each case, the viewing means something very different to me — it sparks a different form of interaction and reflection. With my students, I engage the subject of cultural agency — the artists (photographer and videomakers) expand our imaginations; artistic images and gestus such as these amplify our repertoires of individuals and social movements. Social memory is not a thing but a process. At home, however, I feel the video confronts me with my own lost hopes for a better future. Ortega’s current government is just one of the many current political realities that jolts me into feeling that I may be past performing futures. The staging and the frame affect my understanding of the photographs even when they remain the “same.” Maybe that’s why these uncanny visitors have such a force when they reinsert themselves into the ever-changing public sphere and become part of people’s embodied experience. Photographs may be archival but they function as vital “acts of transfer” that help us constitute (rather than represent) past, present, and future.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

May 26, 2010

Its Heavy Movement

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:17 am

” . . . I was considering the hopes I had formed for life. The one which appeared the most important, or the most affecting, was the desire to acquire a way of seeing life (and, what was related, of being able, by writing, to convince others) in which life would keep its heavy movement of rise and fall, but would at the same time be recognized, and with a no less admirable clarity, as a nothing, a dream, a drifting state.” (Kafka)

This is from an essay Deliberation by Roland Barthes (1979):

… “The writer, by his pains, those dragons he has fondled, or by a certain vivacity, must set himself up, in the text, as a witty histrion” (Mallarmé). What a paradox! By choosing the most “direct,” the most “spontaneous” form of writing, I find myself to be the clumsiest of ham actors.

… “When I say something, this thing immediately and definitively loses its importance. When I write it here, it also loses it, but sometimes gains another importance” (Kafka). The difficulty proper to the Journal is that this secondary importance, liberated by writing, is not certain: it is not certain that the Journal recuperates the word and gives it the resistence of a new metal.

… What the Journal posits is not the tragic question, the Madman’s question: “Who am I?”, but the comic question, the Bewildered Man’s question: “Am I?” A comic — a comedian, that’s what the Journal keeper is.

In other words, I never get away from myself. And if I never get away from myself, if I cannot manage to determine what the Journal is “worth,” it is because its literary status slips through my fingers: on the one hand, I experience it, through its facility and its desuetude, as being nothing more than the Text’s limbo, its unconstituted, unevolved, and immature form; but on the other hand, it is all the same a true scrap of that Text, for it includes its essential torment. This torment, I believe, consists in this: that literature is without proofs. By which it must be understood that it cannot prove not only what it says but even that it is worth the trouble of saying it. This harsh condition (Play and Despair, Kafka says) achieves its very paroxysm in the Journal. but also, at this point, everything turns around, for out of its impotence to prove, which excludes it from the serene heaven of Logic, the Text draws a flexibility which is in a sense its essence, which it possesses as something all its own. Kafka — whose Journal is perhaps the only one that can be read without irritation — expresses this double postulation of literature to perfection: Accuracy and Inanity: ” . . . I was considering the hopes I had formed for life. The one which appeared the most important, or the most affecting, was the desire to acquire a way of seeing life (and, what was related, of being able, by writing, to convince others) in which life would keep its heavy movement of rise and fall, but would at the same time be recognized, and with a no less admirable clarity, as a nothing, a dream, a drifting state.” Yes, that is just what the ideal Journal is: at once a rhythm (rise and fall, elasticity) and a trap (I cannot join my image): a writing, in short, which tells the truth of the trap and guarantees this truth by the most formal of operations, rhythm.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

May 25, 2010

What Would Maurice* Say?

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:24 pm

Sunday afternoon, we were having serial thunderstorms here. Wind, downpours and then a brief calm followed by more wind and another downpour with the power flickering on and off. I wanted to go for a hike up onto a mountain some way off where they’ve been building a new,  (hideous) radio tower. I go up on the weekends when the workers aren’t there. I waited as late as I could for the storms to pass over and it did seem a little bit quieter at about 3:00 so I checked the NexRad radar online to see where the storms were. To my amazement, there was no rain whatsoever on the map! It must have just blown itself out; all fallen or dispersed or … something. The map shows Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia, and there was not a drop of water anywhere (never mind that there is heavy cloud cover outside and I can still hear thunder).

So I hot foot it up the first little mountain, and along a connecting ridge to the mountain with the tower on it. As I’m going farther from home, I’m hearing more and more thunder which doesn’t make sense given the NexRad map. I walked ever higher, now on a fairly wide access road that is next to and sometimes  under a powerline with more and more thunder and now some showers and occasional smallish lightning — trying to remember if it’s a good or bad thing to be under a powerline in a lightning storm. And if it’s a good or bad thing to be under a big metal tower on top of an otherwise bald mountain top in a lightning storm. Happily, by the time I got to the top, the thunder and lightning had moved away though the rain persisted.

Upon returning home, I looked again at the NexRad map online. Still no rain! It must be very … quick or not the ‘right kind,’ I thought. Not until Monday morning — when it was still raining and the map was still completely clear — did I notice the message posted above the NexRad map saying that their radar was down (apparently since Saturday) and they hoped it would be right by that (Monday) afternoon.  If the map says it’s clear, dammit, it’s clear; I don’t care what’s falling on my head.

Okay … moving on to this evening. I’m standing in the bathroom, in front of the (large) mirror, brushing my teeth and thinking to myself that I need to remember to run the tracking number of a package I’m expecting from L.L. Bean. I had ordered a sweater it seemed like ages ago, and where was the package? As I’m thinking this, I look in the mirror and notice that I’m wearing the sweater.

[*Maurice Merleau-Ponty]

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

Beneath the Yes and the No

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:29 am

… It is necessary to comprehend perception as this interrogative thought which lets the perceived world be rather than posits it, before which the things form and undo themselves in a sort of gliding beneath the yes and the no.

This is from The Visible and the Invisible by Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1964):

… The effective present, ultimate and primary being, the thing itself, are in principle apprehended in transparency through their perspectives, offer themselves therefore only to someone who wishes not to have them but to see them, not to hold them as with forceps, or to immobilize then as under the objective of a microscope, but to let them be and to witness their continued being — to someone who therefore limits himself to giving them the hollow, the free space they ask for in return, the resonance they require, who follows their own movement, who is therefore not a nothingness the full being would come to stop up, but a question consonant with the porous being which it questions and from which it obtains not an answer, but a confirmation of its astonishment. It is necessary to comprehend perception as this interrogative thought which lets the perceived world be rather than posits it, before which the things form and undo themselves in a sort of gliding beneath the yes and the no.

… “gliding beneath the yes and the no” — that are untouched by “the yes and the no.”

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

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