Unreal Nature

July 31, 2016

You Always Come Back to Me

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:53 am

… You felt its private individual life, its life before and after the glimpse of it you were catching.

This is from ‘Ashton’s ‘Ballet Theatre; Graham’s “Punch and the Judy” ‘ [1942] found in Edwin Denby: Dance Writings, edited by Robert Cornfield and William MacKay (1986):

… The other star ballerina, also new to the Ballet Theatre [the first was Markova, whom Denby loves], is the sumptuous Baronova, who used to be a very fine dancer indeed. Of her present style I can find nothing good to say. She hams with a heartlessness that is frightening. She ogles, flounces, capers, and cuddles, jumps, turns, and stands, slapping down each effect like a virago operating a cash register. She seems to want the title of “Miss Ironpants.” I hope so intelligent a dancer as she is will quickly get over this phase, or else team up with the Three Stooges, where her present manner properly belongs.

Next is from Denby’s piece ‘Carmen Amaya; Isadora Reconsidered; Dance Photographs; “Punch and the Judy” Revisited’ [1942]:

On the Carmen Amaya question, it was her comic “Hay que tu” number that convinced me she is an extraordinary dancer. A gypsy girl sings to her lover, “You can’t make me jealous; you go on pretending to make love to others, but you always come back to me and say, ‘There’s only you, beautiful, there’s only you.’ ” Amaya was wearing the typical flamenco dress, with its many flounces and a long train, but she looked like a girl of thirteen, angular as a boy, in her first evening gown.

[line break added] She fought her train into place like a wild-animal trainer. Her voice was hoarse and small, her gesture abrupt and awkward. All this with the defiance of the song made the dance comic. But the figure of the tough slum girl Amaya suggested was as real to you as the stranger sitting next to you in the audience. You felt its private individual life, its life before and after the glimpse of it you were catching. And there was nothing pathetic, no appeal for help in it.

Carmen Amaya

[ … ]

… even in disappointing numbers Amaya has first-rate personal qualities. She has sometimes for instance a wonderful kind of rippling of her body in movement, more like a young cat’s than a girl’s; she has an extraordinary cutting quality in her gesture, too, as if she meant: here only, and never elsewhere. She has a thrilling speed of attack.

[line break added] But these impressions of real moments were confused by others when she seemed to be faking: forcing her “temperament,” or driving her dance into the floor, like a pianist who pounds too hard. Or she would lose control of the continuity of her dance, put all her fire into half a minute of it and not know what to do with the remaining two minutes, so they went flat.

[line break added] Sometimes she seemed determined to cow her audience, and I had the feeling I was watching not a dancer but an ambitious person. On the other hand, that in the course of her first recital she could adjust herself to the glum expanse of Carnegie Hall and finally take charge was a proof of her personal stage power. But Amaya’s unevenness does not bother me anymore.

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




July 30, 2016

Shrewd and Tactical

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:50 am

… mapping is not the indiscriminate, blinkered accumulation and endless array of data, but rather an extremely shrewd and tactical enterprise …

Concluding the essay ‘The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention’ by James Corner found in Mappings edited by Denis Cosgrove (1999):

… ‘All perceiving is also thinking, all reasoning is also intuition, all observation is also invention,’ wrote Rudolph Arnheim. Moreover, these activities are not without effect; they have great force in shaping the world. It is in this inter-subjective and active sense that mappings are not transparent, are instead extremely opaque, imaginative, operational instruments.

[line break added] Although drawn from measured observations in the world, mappings are neither depictions nor representations but mental constructs, ideas that enable and effect change. In describing and visualizing otherwise hidden facts, maps set the stage for future work. Mapping is always already a project in the making.

If maps are essentially subjective, interpretative and fictional constructs of facts, constructs that influence decisions, actions and cultural values generally, then why not embrace the profound efficacy of mapping in exploring and shaping new realities? Why not embrace the fact that the potentially infinite capacity of mapping to find and found new conditions might enable more socially engaging modes of exchange within larger milieu?

[line break added] The notion that mapping should be restricted to empirical data-sorting and array diminishes the profound social and orienting sway of the cartographic enterprise. And yet the power of ‘objective analysis’ in building consensus and representing collective responsibility is not something to be abandoned for a free-form ‘subjectivity’; this would be both naïve and ineffective. The power of maps resides in their facticity.

[line break added] The analytical measure of factual objectivity (and the credibility that it brings to collective discourse) is a characteristic of mapping that ought to be embraced, co-opted and used as the means by which critical projects can be realized. After all, it is the apparent rigor of objective analysis and logical argument that possesses the greatest efficacy in a pluralistic, democratic society.

[line break added] Analytical research through mapping enables the designer to construct an argument, to embed it within the dominant practices of a rational culture, and ultimately to turn those practices towards more productive and collective ends. In this sense, mapping is not the indiscriminate, blinkered accumulation and endless array of data, but rather an extremely shrewd and tactical enterprise, a practice of relational reasoning that intelligently unfolds new realities out of existing constraints, quantities, facts and conditions. The artistry lies in the use of the technique, in the way in which things are framed and set up

[ … ]

… Given the complex nature of late capitalist culture, together with the increased array of competing interest groups and forces, it is becoming ever more difficult for urban designers and planners to play a role in the development of cities and regions beyond scenographic or environmental amelioration. There is a kind of inertia and leveling of possibilities as it becomes politically impossible in a mass democracy to do anything out of the ordinary.

[line break added] While there is no shortage of theories and ideas for addressing this condition more critically, there has been very little development of new operational techniques for actualizing them. In other words, the difficulty today is less a crisis of what to do than of how to do anything at all. It is precisely at the strategic and rhetorical level of operation, then, that mappings hold great value.

My most recent previous post from Corner’s essay is here.




July 29, 2016

Something Other Than

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:32 am

… what, if anything, is natural anyway.

This is from Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel, by Amna Malik (2009):

… The obvious, explicit and ordinary nature of this set of objects denoting sexual organs contrasts starkly with the sophistication implied by the title of the work — Au Naturel is a French expression that means ‘in the raw’ and ‘of nature.’ No one has ‘made’ the melons, the oranges and the cucumber. However, they are seen here not as they might be found in nature, on trees or on the ground, but are placed in particular positions in relation to other objects.

… The occupation by Au Naturel of an absent space is important, because it makes us aware of the 90-degree angle between the floor and the wall that supports it. You might even argue that without this angle the work could not exist. The mattress as the ‘surface’ of the assemblage that also supports the bodily surrogates relies for its existence as ‘art’ — as something other than a mattress — on the wall and floor of the gallery, which function as though they together formed a plinth or an armature.

Sarah Lucas, Au Naturel, 1994

… The temporality of the work emerges as a dominant aspect of its meaning, as the work is subject to the laws of nature — in contrast to the space of the white cube, which acts as a hermetic seal in which art becomes static, timeless and autonomous. In this respect, there is a form of exchange being enacted here that links the autonomy of the white cube, set apart from the contingencies of everyday life, to the instability of the organic and the natural, which will inevitably decay.

… For the materials to be continually replenished repeated purchase is required, which directly and explicitly links Au Naturel to a system of exchange in the world outside the gallery. It could be called an ‘open work,’ but not in Umberto Eco’s sense. Instead of the work of art having an open-ended meaning that brings it into a permanent state of movement (for example, by allowing for multiple perspectives that result in an artist and spectator for whom perception and consciousness are in constant flux), Au Naturel‘s openness is the result of its direct connections with systems of exchange and of the way this displaces the construction of the work from Lucas herself — as her permanent availability cannot be guaranteed in the maintenance of the piece, this task must inevitably be taken over by the owner or gallery staff.

[line break added] The emphasis on a continuous need for maintenance is interesting in this regard, because it suggests that a condition of stasis is always being artificially met. That is, in order for the work to exist through constant replenishment, it must always be arrested in a state of constant vitality that is at odds with the movement towards decay and disintegration, towards the putrefaction of fruit that, like the human body, leaks and is porous.

… What is natural or of nature here, we might ask? If Lucas often inserts the spectator into a culturally specific vernacular in relation to the object, then we cannot but assume that the natural does not exist here. Indeed, Au Naturel makes us consider what, if anything, is natural anyway.

… Rather than locating the spectator in a specific subject position — such as that of the ladette — we might view the precarious balance of the objects in Au Naturel and their equally precarious positions as the starting point for thinking about play as a structure rather than a form of behavior. In approaching balance as play we can also consider how the aspiration to defy gravity in the work, the balancing act of objects placed on top of another, may also evoke the lightness of the work of art attempting to escape the confines and weight of theory.




July 28, 2016

A Theme of Struggle

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:52 am

… Once memory enters into our consciousness, it is hard to circumvent, harder to stop, and impossible to run from.

This is from the essay ‘Third Cinema as Guardian of Popular Memory: Towards a Third Aesthetic’ by Teshome H. Gabriel found in Questions of Third Cinema edited by Jim Pines and Paul Willemen (1989):

In an interview given to the New Left Review, the Cuban novelist Alejo Carpentier relates an anecdote about a small fishing village in Venezuela where all the inhabitants are black. As he got to know the village people, they often told him about the Poet who enjoyed a great deal of prestige among them. The Poet had been away for quite a while, and they missed him. One day the Poet, a colossal man, reappeared. That night by the sea all the villagers, from children to old folk, gathered to hear him recite.

[line break added] With a ritual gesture and deep voice, he told the story of Charlemagne, in a version similar to that of the ‘Song of Roland.’ ‘That day,’ Carpentier says, ‘I understood perhaps for the first time that in our America, wrongly named Latin, an illiterate man, descendant of the [slaves], recreated the “Song of Roland” in a language richer than Spanish, full of distinctive inflections, accents, expressions and syntax.’

This Poet, in a sense, replicates the anonymous legendary storytellers of traditional times. The peasant, the tiller of the soil, the traveller, the explorer and the hunter all combine the lore of the past with the lore of faraway places, to conserve and deposit into popular memory what has transpired in life and in everyday social existence.

Once memory enters into our consciousness, it is hard to circumvent, harder to stop, and impossible to run from. It burns and glows from inside, causing anguish, new dreams and newer hopes. Memory does something else beside telling us how we got here from there: it reminds us of the causes of difference between popular memory and official versions of history.

Official history tends to arrest the future by means of the past. Historians privilege the written word of the text — it serves as their rule of law. It claims a ‘centre’ which continuously marginalizes others. In this way its ideology inhibits people from constructing their own history or histories.

Popular memory, on the other hand, considers the past as a political issue. It orders the past not only as a reference point but also as a theme of struggle. For popular memory, there are no longer any ‘centres’ or ‘margins,’ since the very designations imply that something has been conveniently left out.

[line break added] Popular memory, then, is neither a retreat to some great tradition nor a flight to some imagined ‘ivory tower,’ neither a self-indulgent escapism nor a desire for the actual ‘experience’ or ‘content’ of the past for its own sake. Rather, it is a ‘look back to the future,’ necessarily dissident and partisan, wedded to constant change.

My previous post from this book is here.




July 27, 2016

A Personal Coming to Terms

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

Baltz’s vision is … a personal coming to terms with viewing the present world landscape, which has become progressively one of “uncertain continuums and conjunctions of affects” as opposed to one of linear certainty and logical clarity.

This is from what was the introduction by Adam D. Weinberg to a prior three volume set of The Tract Houses reprinted in volume of that title in the multi-volume Lewis Baltz (2010):

… In 1967 he began a series of images he refers to as prototypes. These images, while all of recognizable subjects — a vacant storefront, the exterior wall of an industrial building, an anesthetic-looking hotel room complete with bed and matching side-table lamps — were not so much descriptions of things but, as the term prototype indicates, something that is the first of its kind, “an original model on which something is based.” These works do not primarily depict the particular but rather the generic.

… His pictures are object-images, physical presences themselves, not representations of things. Although they are signs of real-world objects, they are also independent, archetypal forms. They are among those images by a relatively small group of artists, among them Sol LeWitt and Ed Ruscha, that suggested a new avenue for what were the increasingly moribund aesthetics of 1960s photography, which was more and more obsessed with the fetishization of craft, the search for the spiritual or the sensationalist depiction of events.

[line break addedBaltz’s low-key, understated and elemental works reveal subjects that are inexorably temporary, yet they have an inevitability, an inscrutability, a permanence, even a stateliness. His images demand more than contemplation and delectation: they demand reckoning.

The following is from the essay ‘Terminal Documents: The Early Desert of Lewis Baltz’ by Robert A. Sobieszek from the Nevada volume in the set:

The landscape underwent rather grave changes between 1956 and 1979. Between the release of John Ford’s desert epic The Searchers and that of Andrei Tarkovsky’s post-apocalyptic film Stalker, the landscape was increasingly perceived with far more than a simple loss of innocence and only a bit less than a complete surrender to cynicism.

[line break added] Of course the real landscape during these years was progressively scarred, mutilated, poisoned, sterilized of all life forms and made, over the course of a couple of decades, to truly resemble T.S. Eliot’s “stony rubbish” filled with “broken images.” But, much more important, our very idea of the landscape (and “landscape” after all is nothing but a perception) changed utterly and without, it would seem, redemption.

[line break added] In that nearly quarter of a century, a “death of nature” (pace Nill NcKibben) took place in which the classic laws of thermodynamics were turned upside down, the notion of natural sublimity was reduced to the literary trope it had always been, and the idea that there was a nature apart from human culture and alteration was rendered preposterous. It is within this change, this fundamentally radical shift in perceiving the landscape that Lewis Baltz’s Nevada, a series of black-and-white photographs made in 1977, and a monograph published by Castelli Graphics in 1978, may be located.

… Ford’s desert of the American West, a vast, dry void in which anything is possible and nature remains the one transcendent constant had been transformed into Tarkovsky’s irradiated desert of shallow lagoons lined with rusting scrap and rotting detritus and endless paths through overgrown weeds and collapsing structures where nothing is constant.

… In Nevada Baltz’s focus is no longer on the sterile architecture of an equally sterile late-century environment, but on an entropic terrain vague where what is built is merged with what is unbuilt, where “sprawl” and “blight” have become the picturesque norm, where the positions of observer and inhabitant have become confounded, and where past and present are intermingled.

Nevada 33, looking west

… Once thought to “blossom like a rose” following development in the last century, the desert of the American West has become, for Baltz and others, the backdrop for a lingering, inescapable entropy occasioned by avarice and some sort of Manifest Destiny. But Baltz’s vision is not in the service of any anti-development propaganda, as some have claimed, nor of any politics except those encompassing a personal coming to terms with viewing the present world landscape, which has become progressively one of “uncertain continuums and conjunctions of affects” as opposed to one of linear certainty and logical clarity. To deal with such a landscape, Baltz redefined documentary photography and its approach to landscape at precisely the same time that he came to understand that what was generally thought of as “landscape” never existed.




July 26, 2016

He Would Not Take No for an Answer

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

… “We learned from the processes and saw other possibilities.”

This is from the essay ‘Changing Expressions: Printmaking’ by Deborah Wye in Chuck Close by Robert Storr (1998):

“Resistance and edge are the key, keeping you off balance … it’s not knowing what you’re going to do, and having to solve a new problem.”

… Such encounters [with Japanese printmakers] gave Close “a whole other notion of what dialogue really means.” His description sums it up: “You present the thing you want to do. They wrest control away from you, and they work on it. Now the project is theirs. Then you come back in and realize that you’ve got to get control again. That’s what collaboration really means.”

[line break added] The Japanese printer for the Crown Point Press project, Tadashi Toda, also gained new insights from the Americans. “As I have worked with the artists, I have realized that my understanding of woodblock printing has been completely explored and expanded, and I accept that as a gift. The artist and printer become one, and two energies are engaged to make one print.”

Close believes these encounters influenced all his future relationships with printers. “I think it made me think differently about printers from then on. While the care and feeding of the artist is always thought about, we don’t always think of the care and feeding of the printer.” He points out that this lesson has taken on new importance now that he is handicapped and depends even more on other people’s help in the execution of a print project.

Collaboration came to its greatest realization for Close in his projects with the late master printer Joseph Wilfer (1943-1995). As is often the case in printmaking, Wilfer had to cajole Close into agreeing to work with him. At first, Close outlined all sorts of likely problems as reasons for his hesitation, but Wilfer simply went away and returned with solutions. Finally, he convinced Close to try to create handmade paper editions.

[line break added] “Eventually it got to the point where he would not take no for an answer, so we just started doing some stuff,” says Close. He was so pleased with the results that he subsequently convinced his publisher, Richard Solomon of Pace Editions, to have other artists take advantage of Wilfer’s skills. Wilfer became master printer of the Spring Street Workshop for Pace Editions, and offered a wide range of printing options there.

[line break added] Close describes Wilfer as “the single greatest problem-solving mind I’ve ever worked with. He never panicked. I would always get really crazy and hysterical and nervous and Joe would remain calm.” Eventually he oversaw, or “mother henned,” all of Close’s editioned projects, even when other printers and shops were involved. He came up with “thousands of ideas … he kept things going. We learned from the processes and saw other possibilities. … That was my dialogue with Joe,” says Close.


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




July 25, 2016

To Draw a Line Is to Have an Idea

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:40 am

… philosophy and science are descriptive disciplines whereas art and religion are not.

This is from a 1976 interview with Liza Béar titled ‘Sight Point ’71-’75/Delineator ’74-’76’ [1970] in Richard Serra: Writings Interviews (1994):

[ … ]

Liza Béar: Okay … What does making sculpture mean to you right now?

Richard Serra: [long pause] I guess it means a lifetime involvement, that’s what it means. It means to follow the direction of the work I opened up early on for myself and try to make the most abstract moves within that … To work out of my own work, and to build whatever’s necessary so that the work remains open and vital and challenging to myself, and hopefully to others who’re interested in the direction that I’m working in.

[ … ]

RS: … one of the things that you get into as you become more in tune with articulating space is that space systems are different than linguistic systems in that they’re nondescriptive. The conclusion I’ve come to is that philosophy and science are descriptive disciplines whereas art and religion are not.

LB: Well, they’re experiential, aren’t they?

RS: Yes. What happens with Delineator is that the only way to understand this work is to experience the place physically, and you can’t have an experience of space outside of the place and space that you’re in. Any linguistic mapping or reconstruction by analogy, or any verbalization or interpretation or explanation, even of this kind, is a linguistic debasement, in a sense, because it isn’t even true in a parallel way.

The following is from a 1977 interview with Lizzie Borden titled ‘About Drawing: An Interview’:

Richard Serra: Drawing is a way of seeing into your own nature. Nothing more. There are certain formal processes that one learns — learned methods that end up being a hindrance. There is no way to make a drawing — there is only drawing.

Lizzie Borden: Don’t all disciplines require some formal language?

RS: Yes, but if formal hand-me-downs, methodological preoccupations become the content of one’s investigation, then the work ends up being a reformulation of formalist strategies. If the art is so tightly bound to and contingent upon a historical referential tradition, it will be severely limited and susceptible to obvious formal analyses. Drawings which do not accept a static definition, which do not give over easily to analyses or categorizations, drawings which negate traditional definitions, exist outside of formalist values even though they remain self-referential.

[ … ]

RS: … Drawing creates its own ordering. To draw a line is to have an idea. More than one line is usually construction. Ideas become compounded as soon as you make the second line. Drawing is a way for me to carry on an interior monologue with the making as I’m making it.

[ … ]

RS: What I continually find to be true is that the concentration I apply to drawing is a way of tuning or honing my eye. The more I draw, the better I see and the more I understand. There’s always been a correlation between the strength of the work and the degree to which I’m drawing.

My previous post from Serra’s book is here.




July 24, 2016

This Way of Seeing

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:49 am

… he has the professional experience which turns dancing from a thing you buy readymade into a thing you make yourself.

This is from ‘Ashton’s “Devil’s Holliday” and More Monte Carlo’ [1939] found in Edwin Denby: Dance Writings, edited by Robert Cornfield and William MacKay (1986):

Ghost Town won an ovation. Rodger’s music is Rodgers at his own best; it is catchy and unpretentious and keeps going, and I enjoyed the clarity of it. It also sounded repetitious and orchestrally sour and melodically saccharine, but that is not the point; it does say something of its own. The set and costumes (du Bois) too are musical comedy, and yet they have a callow freshness that isn’t fake.

[line break added] The Picasso, the Derain, the Berman or Bérard decorations [of other productions] all have space under wonderful control; and their colors even during dancing stay in place, so to speak, and don’t mess up the stage. There is nothing of that in this du Bois, which is obviously awkward and keeps going all the time all over the place, without rest or coherence; but it’s not an imitation any more than the Rodgers is. You can call it vulgar, but in its own way it is sincere.

The choreography, which is Platoff’s first work, strikes me as much more interesting than either the music or the décor, although it is even less orderly. It too keeps going all over the place, messes up dances by realistic gestures, by awkward spacing and operatic arm waving. But there is an exuberant energy in it.

Next is from ‘Lifar as a Writer’ [1940]:

… He is the best dance critic living. It isn’t that I subscribe to his decisions. To be sure, it’s fun when he demolishes a stage rival with a few appreciative words; but I often violently disagree. No, it’s not Lifar’s opinions I stand up for; it’s his attack. Because, first, he has the professional experience which turns dancing from a thing you buy readymade into a thing you make yourself.

[line break added] And second, he sees dancing with the eyes of intelligence, as an ordinary person sometimes sees a friend or see the weather; sees and believes at the same time. “The eyes of a poet,” people say who know what poetry is about. If criticism makes any sense at all, which I often doubt, the sense it makes is that it suggests to others this way of seeing. And opinions are no more than one of the ways of doing it.

The following is from Denby’s piece ‘Kurt Jooss: The Monte Carlo Ballet’ [1941]:

… Many people are dissatisfied with a kind of hoppitiness in classic ballet. They point out that there is a fraction of a second between steps, between arm positions, that goes dead in the way a harpsichord goes dead, but not an orchestra, or even a piano. Jooss has stretched a movement to fill the time space completely; he uses a pedal. It was Dalcroze who thirty years ago made us most conscious of this possibility in moving.

When a dancer makes his gesture coincide as closely as possible with the time length and time emphasis of musical rhythm, he is apt to be as pleased as a hen is who has laid an egg. He tells everybody “Look how musical I am,” and everybody cackles back “Isn’t he just the most musical thing!” Rationally it seems odd to confuse the metrics of music with musicality. And also to assume that the metrics of dancing are identical with those of music. It strikes me that there is in fact an inherent disparity.

[line break added] The proportioning of time, as well as the proportioning of emphasis, between the stress and the follow-through of a single metric unit is much more regular in music than it is in movement. Apart from theory, in practice this kind of measured gesture draws attention to itself and away from the body as a whole. In practice, too, the dancer loses a certain surprise of attack, which is one of his characteristic rhythmic possibilities.

Well, in point of musicality, listen to the music Jooss uses. True, the dancers obey the metrics of music, but the music in its rhythmic development obeys beat by beat the rhythmic detail of the dance. The piece makes no musical sense. It is merely a cue sheet for the dancers. It sound like a spoken commentary in a documentary film that names every object we see while we’re looking at it.

[line break added] Music that can’t make any decision on its own is functioning on a bare subsistence level, and it is apt to be as glum as that. Poor Frederic Cohen’s voluble cue-sheets for Jooss are utterly depressing; they reminded me most of cafeteria soup gone sour. I don’t think much of the musicality of a director who makes me listen to such poverty. If this is collaboration, it must be the Berlin-Vichy kind. I detest a dancer who is satisfied with it.

I don’t go to the theater to see a servant problem solved. Jooss of course isn’t the only choreographer who has music in to do the dirty work and keeps all the dignity for himself. … For a while it was fun enough to listen to a new manner, and affix at least an ideological, a historical meaning. But the historical significance of style is a parlor game that gets tiresome.

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




July 23, 2016

A New System of Play

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:51 am

… mapping strategies propose organizational field-systems that both instigate and sustain …

Continuing through the essay ‘The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention’ by James Corner found in Mappings edited by Denis Cosgrove (1999):

… Plotting entails the ‘drawing out’ of new and latent relationships that can be seen amongst the various extracts within the field. There are, of course, an infinite number of relationships that can be drawn depending upon one’s criteria or agenda. [ … ] In addition to geometrical and spatial plotting, taxonomic and genealogical procedures of relating, indexing and naming can often be extremely productive in revealing latent structures. Such techniques may produce insights that have both utility and metaphoricity.

[line break added] In either case, plotting entails an active and creative interpretation of the map to reveal, construct and engender latent sets of possibility. Plotting is not simply the indiscriminate listing and inventorying of conditions, as in a tracing, a table or a chart, but rather a strategic and imaginative drawing-out of relational structures. To plot is to track, to trace, to set-in-relation, to find and to found. In this sense, plotting produces a ‘re-territorialization’ of sites.

… A relatively new development in the design of large-scale urban and landscape fabrics has been ‘layering.’ This involves the superimposition of various independent layers one upon the other to produce a heterogeneous and ‘thickened’ surface.

… When these separate layers are overlaid together, a stratified amalgam of relationships amongst parts appears. The resulting structure is a complex fabric, without center, hierarchy or single organizing principle. The composite field is instead one of multiple parts and elements, cohesive at one layer but disjunct in relation to others.

[line break added] Such richness and complexity cannot be gained by the limited scope of the single master-plan or the zoning plan, both of which group, hierarchicalize and isolate their component parts. Unlike the clear order of the compositional plan, the layering of independently structured conditions leads to a mosaic-like field of multiple orders, not unlike the combination of different colored paint delineations for the playing of games superimposed on a gymnasium floor.

[line break added] One layer becomes legible only through the lens of the game or rules of use that apply to it. But, of course, the possibility of ‘hybrid’ games becomes possible here too — not only may things occur simultaneously side-by-side, but they may also merge as a new event structure (as in many children’s games where throwing, hitting, passing and running are combined into a new system of play).

… Another way one can characterize the multiplying functions of layering is in terms of indeterminacy. Unlike a traditional plan, the layered field remains open to any number of interpretations, uses and transformation in time. Just as upon the gymnasium floor, almost anything can happen; the layered structure provides little restraint or imposition.

[line break added] Unlike traditional plans, maps share this open-ended characteristic. Maps are not prescriptive but infinitely promising. Thus, as constructed projects, mapping strategies propose organizational field-systems that both instigate and sustain a range of activities and interpretations in time.

My most recent previous post from Corner’s essay is here.




July 22, 2016

The Unusualness of What Is Usual

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:41 am

… Wonder is ‘between’ the usual and the unusual insofar as it is in wonder that the usual is unusual and vice-versa.

This is from Fischli and Weiss: The Way Things Go, by Jeremy Millar (2007):

… The philosopher Arthur C. Danto, in his brilliance, writes essays on it; my four-year-old daughter, in her brilliance, asks to watch it on TV. It is a work — and this is a rare thing indeed — about which I have yet to hear a bad word spoken, a work whose public popularity has not diminished the seriousness with which it is regarded by people within the ‘art world.’

… the objects within The Way Things Go — the actors, or those that act — are no more than they need to be; if they are required to roll down a slope, then that is what they shall do, and no more. A chair tips up because it has been knocked off balance; a candle lights a fuse because it has been rolled underneath it; a pair of shoes waddle down a slope. Here there is no need for athletic bodies, for heads raised, arms outstretched, legs readied, steadied; Hermes’s winged sandals are superfluous when all that is required is that a pair of trundling loafers clatter into an oil drum.

[ … ]

… If it is the rigidity of that which is alive that makes us laugh — ‘something mechanical encrusted on the living’ — then the same is also true when the terms are reversed, viz. when something inanimate takes on the characteristics of the living. I would suggest that this is what occurs in The Way Things Go, and is one of the reasons for its humor.

[line break added] There are moments when, instead of acting automatically and with immediacy, simply falling or rolling, the objects seem to hesitate, as if reflecting on what it is they are about to do: the tyre resting among the burning newspapers before moving on, and resting again before rolling on once more; the can being filled with water before sliding down the orange slope; the lazy unfolding of the inflatable bed, like an arm stretching during a yawn.

[line break added] Of course, this is not always the case, and often the objects act exactly as we would expect, but there are occasions enough when the supposed symmetry of classical causality — ‘to every action there is always opposed an equal reaction,’ in the famous formulation of Newton’s third law of motion — does not occur, and the object falters, or fails to respond for some time, or seems to respond disproportionately.

… Descartes himself thought astonishment ‘makes the whole body [and mind] remain immobile like a statue [ … ] and therefore cannot acquire any more particular knowledge,’ while Bacon scorned the natural philosophers whose enquiries ‘ever breaketh off in wondering and not in knowing.’ These concerns grew ever stronger, and by the middle of the eighteenth century wonder and curiosity were once again opposed to one another, although now their respective statuses were the opposite of those they’d held in the age of Augustine.

[line break added] Now, ‘noble curiosity worked hard and shunned enticing novelties; vulgar wonder wallowed in the pleasures of novelty and obstinately refused to remedy the ignorance that aroused it.’ Curiosity had become earnest application; wonder little more than gaudy spectacle.

Heidegger explores three terms that he believes are incorrectly viewed as synonymous with wonder — amazement, admiration and astonishment — but he is also keen to show how different they are from what must have originally been meant by the concept.

… As Brad Stone has remarked in his commentary on the lectures of Heidegger:

Unlike curiosity, which presupposes that there is a difference between the usual and the unusual (the extraordinary), wonder is an attunement in which one finds even the usual to be extraordinary. The wondrous is not the extraordinary; instead, it is the unusualness of what is usual. As Heidegger states, ‘in wonder [ … ] everything becomes the most unusual [ … ] Everything in what is most usual (beings) becomes in wonder the most unusual in this one respect: that it is ‘what it is.’ [ … ] The extraordinary is right under our noses; what is wondrous is that beings ‘be.’

I think that this is perhaps as succinct and accurate a summation of the practice of Fischli and Weiss as I have found. In denying a distinction between the usual and the unusual, between the ordinary and the extraordinary, wonder allows no escape into, or retreat from, the unusualness of usual beings. As Stone points out, if everything is unusual, then there is no ‘usual’ to which we can return once we tire of the unusual, nor is there a ‘usual’ for us to flee in our pursuit of curiosity. He continues:

Once in this attunement, there is no way to overcome or to avoid wonder; one must think. Wonder shows that the usual and the unusual are two sides of the same coin: that beings ‘be,’ whether we take them for granted as merely being ‘usual,’ or by philosophically thinking of them in their extraordinariness. Wonder is ‘between’ the usual and the unusual insofar as it is in wonder that the usual is unusual and vice-versa.





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