Unreal Nature

October 29, 2016

Touch the Ground

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:52 am

… Spun out of our heads, science and art remain anemic and without root, and need strengthening contact with nature once again.

This is from the Preface and the Introduction to The New Landscape in Art and Science by Gyorgy Kepes (1956; 1967):

… this book has an admittedly ambitious purpose. The customary modes of presentation are inadequate to realize this purpose; and an attempt is made here to develop a new form of communication.

Principles that C.S. Peirce asked of logic: “… to trust rather to the multitude and variety of its arguments than to the conclusiveness of any one. Its reasoning should not form a chain which is no stronger than its weakest link, but a cable whose fibers may be ever so slender, provided they are sufficiently numerous and intimately connected.”

The method — for which preparing this book has served as a kind of laboratory experiment — fuses visual images and verbal communication in a common structure. The visual images — the pictures brought together here — are the content. The verbal statements — comments and documents — are illustrations. They do not constitute a connected, systematic account. The quotations touch the subject from one angle, the comments from another, with the visual images forming the basis of the interrelated structure that alone tells a connected story.

… It is not with tools only that we domesticate our world. Sensed forms, images and symbols are as essential to us as palpable reality in exploring nature for human ends. Distilled from our experience and made our permanent possessions, they provide a nexus between man and man and between man and nature. We make a map of our experience patterns, an inner model of the outer world, and we use this to organize our lives. Our natural “environment” — whatever impinges on us from outside — becomes our human “landscape” — a segment of nature fathomed by us and made our home.

When unprecedented aspects of nature confront us, our world-model inherited from the past becomes strained; the new territory does not belong to it. … We are denied the pleasures of experiencing the sensed form-patterns of this new world until we have traced the paths by which this poetry of form become meaningful.

That is our situation today. The strength of oak, the ferocity of the tiger, the swiftness of the eagle are expressions which are out of place in the new world of form revealed to us by modern science.

… The images and symbols which can truly domesticate the newly revealed aspects of nature will be developed only if we use all our faculties to the full — assimilate with the scientist’s brain, the poet’s heart, and the painter’s eyes. It is an integrated vision that we need; but our awareness and understanding of the world and its realities are divided into the rational — the knowledge frozen in words and quantities — and the emotional — the knowledge vested in sensory images and feelings. Artists and poets on the one hand, scientists and engineers on the other, appear to live in two different worlds. Their common language, their common symbols, do not exist.

To develop a vision which brings the inner and outer worlds together, we need common roots once more. We are like Antaeus of old, whose strength, ebbing whenever he lost contact with the Earth, his mother, became renewed each time he touched the ground. Spun out of our heads, science and art remain anemic and without root, and need strengthening contact with nature once again. The natural world remains the common basis for all of us, even though it is changed beyond recognition from the world of nature known to our fathers.

[line break added] It still starts for us where we come in contact with it — through our senses. Science has opened up resources for new sights and sounds, new tastes and textures. If we are to understand the new landscape, we need to touch it with our senses and build the images that will make it ours. For this we must remake our vision.

-Julie

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