Unreal Nature

June 30, 2010

Is That All It Takes?

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 8:14 am

This is from the end of an essay The Rustle of Language by Roland Barthes (1975):

… The other evening, watching Antonioni’s film on China, I suddenly experienced, at the end of a sequence, the rustle of language: in a village street, some children, leaning against a wall, reading aloud, each one a different book to himself but all together; that — that rustled in the right way, like a machine that works well; the meaning was doubly impenetrable to me, by my not knowing Chinese and by the blurring of these simultaneous readings; but I was hearing, in a kind of hallucinated perception (so intensely was it receiving all the subtlety of the scene), I was hearing the music, the breath, the tension, the application, in short something like a goal. Is that all it takes — just speak all at the same time in order to make language rustle, in the rare fashion, stamped with delectation, that I have been trying to describe? No, of course not; the auditory scene requires an erotics (in the broadest sense of the term), the élan, or the discovery, or the simple accompaniment of an emotion: precisely what was contributed by the countenances of the Chinese children.



Tiny Cries of Birds

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 8:12 am

…The Text is plural. This does not mean only that it has several meanings but that it fulfills the very plurality of meaning: an irreducible (and not just acceptable) plurality. The Text is not coexistence of meaning, but passage, traversal; hence, it depends not on an interpretation, however liberal, but on an explosion, on dissemination.

This is from an essay From Work to Text by Roland Barthes (1971). Continuing from the above:

… The plurality of the Text depends, as a matter of fact, not on the ambiguity of its contents, but on what we might call the stereographic plurality of the signifiers which weave it (etymologically, the text is a fabric): the reader of the Text might be compared to an idle subject (who has relaxed his image-repertoire): this fairly empty subject strolls (this has happened to the author of these lines, and it is for this reason that he has come to an intense awareness of the Text) along a hillside at the bottom of which flows a wadi (I use the word to attest to a certain alienation); what he perceives is multiple, irreducible, issuing from heterogeneous, detached substances and levels: lights, colors, vegetation, heat, air, tenuous explosions of sound, tiny cries of birds, children’s voices from the other side of the valley, paths, gestures, garments of inhabitants close by or very far away; all these incidents are half identifiable: they issue from known codes, but their combinative operation is unique, it grounds the stroll in a difference which cannot be repated except as difference. This is what happens in the Text: it can be Text only in its difference (which does not mean its individuality); its reading is semelfactive (which renders any inductive-deductive science of texts illusory: no “grammar” of the text) and yet entirely woven of quotations, references, echoes: cultural languages (what language is not cultural?), antecedent or contemporary, which traverse it through and through, in a vast stereophony. The intertextuality in which any text is apprehended, since it is itself the intertext of another text, cannot be identified with some origin of the text: to seek out the “sources,” the “influences” of a work is to satisfy the myth of filiation; the quotations a text is made of are anonymous, irrecoverable, and yet already read: they are quotations without quotation marks.



The Reader

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 8:09 am

… reading perverts structure …

This is from an essay On Reading by Roland Barthes (1976):

… there is an origin of graphic reading: this is the apprenticeship to letters, to written words; but, on the one hand, there are readings without apprenticeship (images) — at least without technical, if not cultural apprenticeship — and on the other hand, once technè is acquired, we do not know where to halt the depth and the dispersion of reading: at the apprehension of a meaning? Which meaning? Denoted? Connoted? These are artifacts, I shall call them ethical artifacts, since denoted meaning tends to pass for the simple, true meaning and to found a law (how many men have died for a meaning?), while connotation permits (this is its moral advantage) positing a law with multiple meanings and thereby liberating reading: but how far? To infinity: there is no structural obligation to close my reading: I can just as well extend the limits of the readable to infinity, decide that everything is finally readable (unreadable as this seems), but also, conversely, I can decide that in the depths of every text, however readable its conception, there is, there remains a certain measure of the unreadable. Our knowing how to read can be determined, verified at its inaugural stage, but it very quickly becomes a knowledge without basis, without rules, without degrees, and without end.

This difficulty in finding a pertinence, from which to establish a coherent analysis of reading, we must assume we are responsible for simply because we lack genius. But we can also suppose that non-pertinence is somehow congenital to reading: something, statutorily, comes to blur the analysis of the objects and levels of reading, and thereby checkmates not only any search for a pertinence in the analysis of reading, but even, perhaps, the very concept of pertinence (for the same thing seems to be happening in the realm of linguistics and narratology). This something I believe I can name (in a quite banal fashion, moreover): it is Desire. It is because every reading is steeped in Desire (or Disgust) that anagnosology* is difficult, perhaps impossible — in any case, that it is likely to be achieved just where we do not expect it, or at least not exactly where we expect it: by – recent — tradition, we expect it in the realm of structure; and no doubt we are partly right: every reading occurs within a structure (however multiple, however open), and not in the allegedly free space of an alleged spontaneity: there is no “natural,” “wild” reading: reading does not overflow structure; it is subject to it: it needs structure, it respects structure; but reading perverts structure. Reading is the gesture of the body (for of course one reads with one’s body) which by one and the same movement posits and perverts its order: an interior supplement of perversion.

I’m not sure perversion is not the same as the “overflow” that he has just disallowed.

*Neither I nor Google know what anagnosology means. Perhaps it’s from nosology?



June 29, 2010

Why There Are Never Any Flowers In My Flower Garden

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 9:13 am

Because it’s a bedroom, not a garden! Duh!

Look how pissed she is that I woke her up:

Well excuuuuuuuse me!



The Problem of Perspective

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:52 am

… The computer is changing the way we make and understand images …. With its help, multiple viewpoints — multiwindow perspective — can now return to pictures. It also brings back drawing, the artist’s hand, to the lens image …

This is from the book, Secret Knowledge: New and Expanded Edition: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters by David Hockney (2006):

… The ‘problem’ of perspective is one that has reoccurred and has been discussed at many different times in the last six hundred years. But today it hardly seems important to imagemakers, though it is deeply connected to optics. It is now almost a hundred years since art journals last addressed the question of perspective in any meaningful way. Cubism was seen as the first rearrangement of pictorial space since the Renaissance. In 1912, Jacques Rivière wrote:

Perspective is as accidental a thing as lighting. It is the sign not of a particular moment in time, but of a particular position in space. It indicates not the situation of the objects, but the situation of a spectator … hence, in the final analysis, perspective is also the sign of an instant, of the instant when a certain man is at a certain point. What is more, like lighting, it alters them, it dissimulates their true form. In fact, it is a law of optics — that is, a physical law.

Certainly, reality shows us those objects mutilated in this way. But in reality, we can change position: a step to the right, a step to the left completes our vision. The knowledge we have of an object is … a complex sum of perceptions. The plastic image does not move: it must be complete at first sight, therefore it must renounce perspective. [ellipses in that Rivière quote are in the original]

[… ]

… The importance of the ‘optical look’ is in its influence on imagery — and that influence exists even in paintings by artists who have never seen, let alone used, optical projections. Once the look was established, no artist needed actually to see a projection in person — he had only to see the work of other artists who might have seen projections themselves.

So when were optical projections first seen by artists? As I demonstrated earlier in the book, the visual evidence suggests that the beginning of the fifteenth century is when you begin to see the optical look. If we attempt to make a history of the optical projection of nature, that is a good place to start [they would have used convex mirrors; Hockney describes and illustrates this exhaustively earlier in the book]. Nevertheless, there are written descriptions of the phenomenon before that, unsupported by contemporary images; and there are even earlier images that display the optical look — Hellenistic and late Roman — unsupported by texts. Once the optical look emerged, it simply got bigger and more dominant. It is used today more than ever — indeed it is now almost the only way we see the world. Photography, video, film and television are regarded as ‘real.’ This to me is a problem. I don’t think the world looks like a photograph.

… What do we see when looking at the three-dimensional world? Lines and surfaces, certainly, and mass, but also this fascinating thing called space, the thing between my body ending and your body beginning. Most of the thrill to me in landscape is space — whether it be the Grand Canyon or some nook and cranny. The camera, on the other hand, sees lines and surfaces, not space. This is very apparent in landscape photographs: they are flat in ways that painting need not be.

[ … ]

… There’s an awful lot at stake commercially in the depiction of the real. We may seem a long way from art history, yet to me the history of picture-making in Europe, from the fifteenth century to today, is heavily involved with the camera. When a friend was surfing TV channels, I pointed out to him that when The Simpsons appeared on the screen it seemed more real to me. Why? Because for that moment one saw the first reality in front of you — the TV screen. The picture was on the screen. All the other images tried to tell you the screen wasn’t there: look through the glass and this is reality. Really?



June 28, 2010

Do Your Photographs Subjectify?

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:06 am


William Wegman; Photo Under Water; (1971)

(More Wegman here.)



In The Process

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:02 am

… There are so may other things to look at other than iconography, so many other things to experience. Style is often embedded in process and not connected to iconography. A signature style is about how it happened, not what is made.

These quotes are from two separate conversations Reduction Linoleum and Scribble Etching in which Chuck Close is talking about those printmaking methods. They are found in the book Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration by Terry Sultan (2003). From the first:

Chuck Close: I always know that a finished print is going to look a lot like the photograph I work from. An art historian once said that the difference between my work and, say, Jackson Pollock’s was that Pollock didn’t know what his next painting was going to look like, but he knew what he was going to do in the studio that day. I know what my painting is going to look like, but I don’t know what I am going to do in the studio. My art is an invention of means rather than an invention of interesting shapes and interesting colors. It is a belief that ideas are generated by activity.

Now from the Scribble Etching conversation:

Chuck Close: I came of age in the 1960s when minimal, reductive, and process issues were certainly in the air, like those wonderful Sol Lewitt wall drawings with blue lines one way and other lines another way. That is something I was always aware of, and it interested me a great deal. I really did believe that process would set you free. Instead of having to dream up a great idea — waiting for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike your skull — you are better off just getting to work. In the process of making things, ideas will occur to you. If it isn’t right the first time, you alter the variables and do something else. You never have to be stuck. I have never had painter’s block in forty years, because all I have to do is alter one variable, and I have a whole new experience in the studio. I have plenty of time to dream up other things that I want to do. showing how the prints got made really interests me. It’s like exploding the singular view of things into a sequential plan. There are so may other things to look at other than iconography, so many other things to experience. Style is often embedded in process and not connected to iconography. A signature style is about how it happened, not what is made. I think of myself as an orchestrator of experience. I make experiences for people to look at.



How To Talk To Your Fellow Artists

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:00 am

Chuck Close: … I had sent a watercolor gouache over to Japan for the master printer to work on it ahead of time, and I was shocked to see when I got there that it had become his piece. Then I had to wrest it away and make it mine again. The printer I was working with, Tadashi Toda, is very highly regarded in Japan. With us also was Hidekatsu Takada, a printer who had spent the first twenty-one years of his life in Kyoto working with a printer, and another twenty years working with American artists in California as an etching printer with Crown Point. He was acting as translator. When we arrived a lot of work had already been done. I pointed to a specific shape and said to Takada, “Tell him it is too green.” He started talking and talking, and there was an intense reaction from Mr. Toda. Finally I asked, “Why is it taking so long?” Takada said, “You don’t understand, what I have to say is, ‘Chuck is thrilled with what you have done, he thinks you are a genius. He thinks it is perfection. Beyond his wildest dreams. Nothing could be done to improve it. However, in the interest of intellectual curiosity, not that it would be better than what you have done, just to see what would happen, could you possibly make it a little less green?'”

That’s from a conversation Japanese-Style Woodcut in which Chuck Close is talking about that printmaking method. It’s found in the book Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration by Terry Sultan (2003).



June 27, 2010

October 17, 1959

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:53 am

This is from the book The Jazz Loft Project: Photographs and Tapes of W. Eugene Smith from 821 Sixth Avenue 1957-1965 by Sam Stephenson (2009):

October 17, 1959

Gene Smith walked fourteen blocks up Sixth Avenue to Forty-second Street.

There, across from Bryant Park, he spent $186.89 (about $1,400 in 2009 money) at Marboro Books, a local chain. He bought more than fifty books, a dozen art prints, some art stencils, and a 1960 calendar.

Various artists and writers were represented in the purchase: Aristide Maillol, Albrecht Dürer, Raoul Dufy, Paul Klee, Marc Chagall, Henry James, Marquis de Sade, Bertolt Brecht, Stéphane Mallarmé, Eartha Kitt, and George Bernard Shaw.

Additional book titles included:

The Art Director at Work: How 15 Medal-Winning Exhibits Were Conceived and Executed
Language and Myth
English Poetry
Treasury of American Drawing
Your Memory: How to Remember and Forget
Scientist of the Invisible: An Introduction to the Life and Work of Rudolf Steiner
Mind the Stop: A Brief Guide to Punctuation
Think Before You Write
Unconscious Motives of War: A Psychoanalytical Contribution
Painting and Reality
Learn to Draw
Work and Its Discontents
The Seven Lively Arts
Man and Shadow: An Allegory
Thistle and Pen: An Anthology of Modern Scottish Writers
Magic and Schizophrenia
The Tulane Drama Review
The Naked God: The Writer and the Communist Party
What Life Should Mean to You
Art as Experience
Essays in Philosophy
Man into Wolf: An Anthropological interpretation of Sadism, Masochism, and Lycanthropy
The Parade: A Story in 55 Drawings

Two weeks later, on November 3, Smith took a box full of camera lenses to the Joseph Miller pawn shop at 1162 Sixth Avenue (at Forty-fifth Street) and received two hundred dollars in exchange. He parted with a Hasselblad wide-angle lens, a 400mm Canon, a Schneider 10.5 cm, a Telesena, and a 300mm Kilfitt, among others.

… On November 30, 1959, Smith pawned another $500 worth of camera equipment at Joseph Miller ($3,600 in 2009 money), and on December 4 another $165 ($1,200).



Deep Tissue Memory

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:50 am

… Baker shores up a wrinkle in what would seem to be the endlessly smooth fabric of abstraction ad infinitum. Call it atavism if you like. (I quite enjoy the perversity of thinking of the implications of embedded DNA that is carried along over generations, but I would like also to challenge the genealogical model, which begs its own set of problems — teleological, patriarchal, ect. …) Perhaps I’d call it something else: deep tissue memory or, even more overdetermined, battle scars.

… against all odds, something exceeds the parameters of “second degree abstraction,” jams the machine that would seem to find a use-value for everything

This is from a forum response by Johanna Burton to a George Baker essay, Photography and Abstraction, in the book Words Without Pictures. I’m not going to give any of the Baker essay (which I didn’t particularly like) but I’m giving Burton’s reaction almost in its entirety because I think it’s good:

I will happily sign on to George Baker’s characterizations of abstraction as it has operated (and now operates) with regard to photography; these are (if I read Baker correctly) signposts, not meant as entirely stable or iron-clad, but postulates, abstractions if you will, that nonetheless hint at the shape of things as they articulate themselves and are articulated (and re-articulated) over time. Such an operation allows us to throw a net, to make sense, if only in order to unsettle it again. My signing on as such does not mean we couldn’t debate Baker’s terms; I would like to discuss with the author, for instance, the ways in which abstraction is not only a “voiding and recoding of objects” but also a wholly necessary tool for human comprehension (as it allows for the illusion of graspability), and the ways in which abstraction flirts with notions of “essence.” But to sign on lets me get to his essay’s big questions, the ones that I want to think about most.

Indeed, here’s what I find so valuable in “Photography and Abstraction”: it’s an experiment in trying to imagine what changes when everything does (but when everything also seems to stay the same). If, five years ago, Baker’s question to himself was “What would an abstraction of an abstraction look like?,” then he was writing from within a context that yielded — in its perfect metaphor of money as abstraction — a force both omnipotent and absent. Looking back at that situation from the one we now find ourselves in, where that very omnipotence and absence would seem to have forcefully inverted [she is writing in December 2008] (though, in fact, there is evidence that they are really only gathering a new kind of speed), Baker shores up a wrinkle in what would seem to be the endlessly smooth fabric of abstraction ad infinitum. Call it atavism if you like. (I quite enjoy the perversity of thinking of the implications of embedded DNA that is carried along over generations, but I would like also to challenge the genealogical model, which begs its own set of problems — teleological, patriarchal, ect. …) Perhaps I’d call it something else: deep tissue memory or, even more overdetermined, battle scars.

But no matter, whether atavistic outgrowth or site of reparation, Baker’s postulation argues that against all odds, something exceeds the parameters of “second degree abstraction,” jams the machine that would seem to find a use-value for everything. Whether these breakthroughs are, as Baker suggests, instances of “true realism” is a question, but they are certainly contradictory, in the sense that they offer up material and historical arguments (which is to say that they are contentious) in their very being. In hauling the past into the present, they insist on a layered futurity, a strangely hybrid heap. Unlike second order abstraction (or to return to a related model, Roland Barthes’s “secondary mythification”), which promises to undo an operation but often-times only redoubles its effects, Baker’s atavism promises nothing at all; but it does believe that things and ideas surface spontaneously, erratically, productively.

Lacan reminds us that “there is nothing missing in the Real,” … That there is nothing missing in the Real we know (and Lacan knew) only because we cannot access the Real; we cannot represent it. That this is the most profound space of the “unrepresentable” does not, however, align photography so neatly with the unconscious, with the traumatic, nor does it mean we should think of the Real as wholly abstract. But there is something important about these overlaps, and about the way they dialogue with Baker’s atavism, a model which, like the unconscious, seems to let previously inaccessible elements drift up and into representation — as in atavism, in unwanted horns, or tails, or feet; and as in the unconscious in slips of the tongue, in dreams, and in desire. …



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