Unreal Nature

January 23, 2018

Following the Process

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:06 am

… it is not a question of memorializing a favorite state, catching the work’s best profile, but of following the process.

This is from the essay ‘Artists and Photographs’ (1970) found in Topics in American Art Since 1945 by Lawrence Alloway (1975):

… The documentary photograph is grounds for believing that something happened.

Photographs used as coordinates, or as echoes, soundings that enable us to deduce distant or past events and objects, are not the same as works of art in their operation. Max Bense has divided art and photography like this: “the aesthetic process of painting is directed towards creation: the aesthetic process of photography has to do with transmission.” “Painting reveals itself more strongly as a ‘source’ art, and photography more strongly as a ‘channel’ art.”

… Only by photography can the temporal route of a work of art be recorded in terms homologous to the original events. It should be stressed that it is not a question of memorializing a favorite state, catching the work’s best profile, but of following the process.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 22, 2018

Conditions of Operation

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:52 am

… its meaning, its ambition, its quality — depend[s] on the most explicit recognition of its actual conditions of operation.

Continuing through Kant after Duchamp by Thierry de Duve (1996):

… The role of the author of a readymade was to trip over the object of a choice that chose him. The role of the spectator is to determine the weight of the work on the aesthetic scale.

[ … ]

… If Manet inaugurates modernism by the fact that he paints for the museum, then Duchamp ends it because he understands that the real museum comes second in relation to the museum-without-walls, for which it is nothing any longer but the referent, the way the gold lying in the vaults of central banks is nothing but the symbolic guarantee for the money in circulation. The artistic patrimony of the world has nothing in common but the statement, “this is a work of art.” It is shown in museums of objects, which is where one can see it with one’s own eyes and take pleasure in it.

[line break added] But it is only in the museum of images that the patrimony is a patrimony, that it is worldwide and that it circulates in the “sequence [or reproductions] — which brings a style to life, much as an accelerated film makes a plant live before our eyes,” as Malraux said. And Malraux, again: “For all alike — miniatures, frescoes, stained glass, tapestries, Scythian plaques, pictures, Greek vase paintings, ‘details’ and even statuary — have become ‘colorplates.’ In the process they have lost their properties as objects; but, by the same token they have gained something: the utmost significance as to style that they can possibly acquire.”

[line break added] It is only in reproduction that Scythian plaques and Greek vase paintings, that a Rembrandt and an African fetish assemble without resembling each other; elsewhere the fetish returns to is sacred function or its ethnological meaning, and Rembrandt becomes once again a Dutch seventeenth-century painter, the one who made the author an introspective psychologist rather than a technician of paint-application …

We still have to wonder whether an elsewhere besides the museum-without-walls still exists; if Malraux hasn’t written the first and last of the great aesthetic tracts on style founded on the precedence of the reproduction over the original; if the history of art, become fiction about itself through Malraux, isn’t in the process of becoming, as it is more and more widely perceived, a simulacrum of itself; and if the antidote for the museum-without-walls that Georges Duthuit had called, in a violent attack on Malraux, The Off-the-Wall Museum (Le musée inimaginable), hasn’t become, indeed, unimaginable.

[line break added] It has if, as for Duthuit, what one means by “art” must recede back beyond modernism, and if one dreamt that the work as objects, opus, visual phenomenon, and institutionalized value should seek refuge in “the neutral warehouse of the heteroclite,” as way back then, before the museum, in the Wunderkammer. It hasn’t at all if, as with Duchamp, one makes the practice of art — its meaning, its ambition, its quality — depend on the most explicit recognition of its actual conditions of operation.

… But understood this way, the name “art” is only a status, and has nothing honorific about it. And that of “artist” will only sanction the success of an opportunistic strategy with nothing honorable about it. … Every object that is a candidate for art status — and God knows there have been enough of them on the heels of Duchamp — should be submitted to the test of the Reciprocal Readymade = Use a Rembrandt as an ironing board.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 21, 2018

A Conversation with an Internally Persuasive Word

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:50 am

… Within the arena of almost every utterance an intense interaction and struggle between one’s own and another’s word is being waged …

Continuing through the essay ‘Discourse in the Novel’ found in The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M.M. Bakhtin edited by Michael Holquist (1981):

… Internally persuasive discourse — as opposed to one that is externally authoritative — is, as it is affirmed through assimilation, tightly interwoven with “one’s own word.” In the everyday rounds of our consciousness, the internally persuasive word is half-ours and half-someone else’s. Its creativity and productiveness consist precisely in the fact that such a word awakens new and independent words, that it organizes masses of our words from within, and does not remain in an isolated and static condition.

… it enters into an intense interaction, a struggle with other internally persuasive discourses.

… The importance of struggling with another’s discourse, its influence in the history of an individual’s coming to ideological consciousness, is enormous. One’s own discourse and one’s own voice, although born of another or dynamically stimulated by another, will sooner or later begin to liberate themselves from the authority of the other’s discourse. This process is made more complex by the fact that a variety of alien voices enter into the struggle for influence within an individual’s consciousness (just as the struggle with one another in surrounding social reality).

[line break added] All this creates fertile soil for experimentally objectifying another’s discourse. A conversation with an internally persuasive word that one has begun to resist may continue, but it takes on another character: it is questioned, it is put in a new situation in order to expose its weak sides, to get a feel for its boundaries, to experience it physically as an object.

… It should be noted that the novel always includes in itself the activity of coming to know another’s word, a coming to knowledge whose process is represented in the novel.

… Rhetoric is often limited to purely verbal victories over the word; when this happens, rhetoric degenerates into a formalistic verbal play. But, we repeat, when discourse is torn from reality, it is fatal for the word itself as well: words grow sickly, lose semantic depth and flexibility, the capacity to expand and renew their meanings in new living contexts — they essentially die as discourse, for the signifying word lives beyond itself, that is, it lives by means of directing its purposiveness outward.

… Within the arena of almost every utterance an intense interaction and struggle between one’s own and another’s word is being waged, a process in which they oppose or dialogically interanimate each other. The utterance so conceived is a considerably more complex and dynamic organism than it appears when construed simply as a thing that articulates the intention of the person uttering it, which is to see the utterance as a direct, single-voiced vehicle for expression.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 20, 2018

The Presence of Stars

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:50 am

… There is no reciprocity between us and them.

This is from ‘Man and the Night’ found in Selected Writings of Paul Valéry (1950; 1964):

I have sometimes tried to observe in myself, and to pursue into the realm of concrete thought, the mysterious effect that a clear night and the presence of stars generally has on men.

Then we only notice objects that have nothing to do with our bodies. We are strangely simplified.

… We can count these stars, and yet we cannot believe that we exist as far as they are concerned. There is no reciprocity between us and them.

… This darkness is threaded through and through with inaccessible brilliance. With difficulty one refrains from thinking of houses where people are awake. Unconsciously we people the darkness with luminous, unidentifiable creatures.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 19, 2018

A Human Being Is Personified by His or Her Voice

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:35 am

… When that persona begins to spread and multiply and come apart … there’s a very strong identification of a human being going through this uncommon magic.

This is from Writings on Music 1965-2000 by Steve Reich (2002). This is from the ‘Early Works (1965-68)’ section of the book:

… By using recorded speech as a source of electronic or tape music, speech-melody and meaning are presented as they naturally occur. It is quite different from setting words to music where one has to fit a number of syllables to a number of notes and decide what their melodic relation will be. In speech, questions of how many notes to a syllable or what their melody will be do not arise; the speech just comes out. Instead of setting words to music, I simply chose the exact segments of recorded speech I was intuitively drawn to as musical material. My original interest in electronic music was the possibility of working with recorded speech.

… I remember it seemed disappointing that tape music, or musique concrète as it was called, usually presented sounds that could not easily be recognized when what seemed interesting to me was that a tape recorder recorded real sounds like speech as a motion picture camera records real images. If one could present that speech without altering its pitch or timbre one would keep the original emotional power that speech has while intensifying its melody and meaning through repetition and rhythm.

Constant repetition through tape loops produces just such a rhythmic intensification.

… I discovered that the most interesting music of all was made by simply lining the loops up in unison, and letting them slowly shift out of phase with each other. As I listened to this gradual phase shifting process, I began to realize that it was an extraordinary form of musical structure. This process struck me as a way of going through a number of relationships between two identities without ever having any transitions. It was a seamless, uninterrupted musical process.

In retrospect, I understand the process of gradually shifting phase relationships between two or more identical repeating patterns as an extension of the idea of infinite canon or round. Two or more identical melodies are played with one starting after the other as in traditional rounds, but in the phase shifting process the melodies are usually much shorter repeating patterns and the time interval between one melodic pattern and its imitation(s), instead of being fixed, is variable. Nevertheless, that this new process bears close family resemblance to the thirteenth century musical idea of round seems to give it some depth. Good new ideas generally turn out to be old.

… The experience of that musical process is, above all else, impersonal; it just goes its way. Another aspect is its precision; there is nothing left to chance whatsoever. Once the process has been set up it inexorably works itself out.

… I realized it was more interesting than any one particular relationship because it was the process (of gradually passing through all the canonic relationships) making an entire piece and not just a moment in time.

… Using the voice of individual speakers is not like setting a text — it’s setting a human being. A human being is personified by his or her voice. If you record me, my cadences, the way I speak are just as much me as any photograph of me. When other people listen to that they feel a persona present. When that persona begins to spread and multiply and come apart … there’s a very strong identification of a human being going through this uncommon magic.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 18, 2018

The Suspension of Decision

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:47 am

… the mind, eye, and hand sometimes shift in and out of synchronization.

This is from ‘Drawing’ (1981) found in Solar System & Rest Rooms: Writings and Interviews, 1965-2007 by (of) Mel Bochner (2008):

“What you see,” he said, pointing to the wall of drawings, “is the cinema of my sensibility.” — Matisse

Drawing couples a directness of means with an ease of revision. This gives thought and feeling a direct access to visibility. The tools are simple … something to make a mark, an eraser, a sheet of paper. Each material has a particular quality, the choice of which gives a drawing its “color.” Charcoal is dry and burnt, pastel is thick and luminous, conté crayon is crisp and translucent. Different papers are dense or light, resistant or absorbent, bright or dull. The flexibility of these materials in combination is essential to the unique content of drawing.

Drawing can present conclusions. It can record the spontaneous appearance of a thought. It can contain the results of an investigation into the nature of relationships. Or, it can be the clear declaration of a complex idea.

Drawing is also a process of testing differences. In the process of questioning distinctions, the mind, eye, and hand sometimes shift in and out of synchronization. Speculation, or the suspension of decision, leads below the surface of order into the ambiguity of conflicting perceptions. Drawing becomes a meditation on the meaning of certainty. Erasures pile up. Containing the archaeology of its own doubts, the work cuts across the conventions of finish. A tissue of overlaid impulses, the tangle of contradictions suddenly implodes into a drawing.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 17, 2018

Becoming Aware

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:56 am

… The act of becoming aware is, ultimately, nothing less than an affirmation of existence.

This is from the essay ‘Walker Evans, Rhetoric, and Photography’ by Daniel A. Lindley, Jr. (1978) found in Reading Into Photography: Selected Essays, 1959-1980 edited by Thomas F. Barrow, Shelley Armitage and William E. Tydeman (1982):

… In Evans’ photographs of the interiors of the Alabama sharecroppers’ houses, for example, are we not moved primarily by the unconscious artistry of the people who lived in those houses? Has the photograph per se anything to do with the perfect arrangement of silverware and containers on a kitchen wall?

… In the process of painting or sculpting or composing music, the artist is engaged in a cybernetic relationship with the work itself. That is, the artist works slowly, and each new gesture adds to, and therefore changes, what has gone before, both in the work itself and in the mind of its creator. The work teaches the artist, the artist changes and adds to the work, learns something new from these changes or additions, adds something else, learns, adds, and so on.

[line break added] Creation and growth become synonymous and inseparable as the work proceeds toward completion. It is a circular process, a cybernetic loop, often with a life of its own. Novelists, for example, often tell of the feeling that the characters they have created “take over” the motion of the plot. Clearly, then, the maintenance of this loop is fascinating, difficult, and (more important here) only possible over a period of time.

… the most important work in photography seems to take place (1) almost entirely in the mind, and (2) before (just before) or even during, the split second of the exposure. The elegant maintenance of the artist’s cybernetic loop through a long composing process is simply never done in behalf of any one photograph. If it is done at all, it is done as part of the general obligation of the photographer to stay aware of the world and alert to its nuances of light and form. But this is no different from similar obligations imposed by their work upon the writer or the painter. The specifically momentary work of “taking” a picture seems very casual by comparison.

… The act of becoming aware is, ultimately, nothing less than an affirmation of existence. Statements, or images, which are already familiar do not have the power to do this. The power of photographs in the high mimetic mode is derived from a sense of continual movement from a state of inchoate but powerful intuition to a state of a definitive, concrete image.

… Much recent photography, particularly that done in the more advanced settings for photographic studies, seems to me to fail precisely because it does not reaffirm our own insight in this way. It is, instead, idiosyncratic, reflecting a strained effort to look innovative. It is self-conscious without being conscious of the self; it is photography about photography, rather than photography about the resonance between the outside world and our understanding of it.

… this is what the medium of photography finally requires: it demands, on the one hand, the taking of a stance toward the world; and, on the other, the knowledge that light and understanding are, at bottom, the same. Evans has both. There are photographers who know more of light and of the medium, and there are photographers who have developed a stance that serves them well. But the combination is so rare that, when we find it, we know we are in the presence of a body of work which clarifies both our world and ourselves.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 16, 2018

Points of Departure

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:55 am

… The still point of a painting at which figurative imagery becomes mute … [is] … our awareness of the interaction of representation with medium, the coalescence of presence and absence.

This is from the essay ‘Art as Likeness’ (1967) found in Topics in American Art Since 1945 by Lawrence Alloway (1975):

… The success or, better, successes of abstract art have put figurative painting under various pressures. It is not that figurative art has ceased to be produced; on the contrary it is a statistical part of the multi-style abundance of this century’s art. (It is this abundance, this quantity, of artists and styles which is modern about modern art, and not one particular slice of the cake, not one privileged corner.

[line break added] Simple choices of one main line, one way, are nostalgic simplifications of present experience which is nothing if not copious.) In the early twentieth-century polemics of realism versus abstraction, all the vigor, all the subsequent influence, was with abstract artists, but there is no reason that texts, written by artists in defence of their own early work, should continue as limiting cases.

[line break added] To Malevich, realism belonged to the under-developed centuries or to the country; to Mondrian it was an adulteration of pure visual structure; and to Kandinsky the specificity of a realist work destroyed art’s universality and spiritual élan. Thus modernity, concentration and spirituality came to be reserved for abstract art and critics have on the whole accepted, either as cultural reflex or in sophisticated reworkings, these primitive views which of course are no longer adequate to abstract art.

Much of the art criticism devoted to figurative art has been based on a tacit acceptance of the domination of abstract art. Hence those short-lived and embarrassing slogans about a return to the figure or about a New Figuration or Other Figuration. The first claim delegates realism to be merely the revival of an interrupted tradition and the second term tries to claim the rhetoric of abstraction for figurative art.

[line break added] The so-called Monster School of Chicago was presented some years ago as if it were a return (that word again) to deep feelings and real passion after an interim of merely ornamental abstract art. Such crude efforts to turn the tables came to nothing as group promotion but individual artists in the group have prospered (and others have not).

[line break added] Bay Area Figurative painting is probably the best-known and longest-lived figurative group, parallel in certain respects to the East Hampton painters who have existed as an enclave within Abstract Expressionism for years. The common point of the two groups is a rediscovery of Manet and the substitution of him for Cézanne, the previously mandatory model of art and ethics. The adoption of Manet led to a more sensually unified style than was reachable from other points of departure while retaining legible imagery.

The East Hampton realists expanded Manetesque handling into an assertion of the autonomy of paint; it is as if they were enacting for their friends the abstract painters, the Ortega y Gasset – André Malraux view of Manet as the first modern painter (more paint than people). Alex Katz is the tough and adaptive artist to come out of this Long Island – Downtown New York group.


Alex Katz, White Lilies (1966)

… Apropos the position of the East Hampton painters, except for Katz, Fairfield Porter is absolutely their emblem: what is needed are less gestures of special tolerance towards “realists we like,” than a recognition of present stylistic diversity. Only a pluralistic aesthetic is adequate for the first move towards seeing figurative painters straight and not as marginal courtiers or saboteurs around the thrones of abstract artists.

… The still point of a painting at which figurative imagery becomes mute, where action is suspended, is not a result of the triumph of form over content but of our awareness of the interaction of representation with medium, the coalescence of presence and absence.

In figurative painting all events occur in a perpetual present; even the past is only another present …

… Mirror-held-up-to-nature and loving-transcription-of-incredible-event theories are static constructs, quite inadequate to present experience. An art that deals in likeness deals with problems, double-takes, illusions.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 15, 2018

Decided Here and Now, Locally

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:32 am

… To be modernist is to be a work that takes its own conditions of possibility for its subject matter …

Continuing through Kant after Duchamp by Thierry de Duve (1996):

… Here, finally, is a third interpretation of the [‘do whatever’] modern imperative: ‘do whatever so that …’

… When, from inside this empirical domain — which as such doesn’t need to stake a claim to universality, only to culture — the universality of art has become its impossibility and its impossibility nonetheless remains prescribed as a duty vis-à-vis universality, then art as a whole must be judged case by case. When it is more than doubtful that there exists in every man and woman on earth a universal faculty of taste and — even more doubtful — a universal conflation of taste with genius, then we must hold on to the built-in claim to universality of the sentence “this is art” in full consciousness of its impossibility to realize itself in society and in history.

[line break added] When the postmodern is also the posthistorical, when the presupposition or the postulate of history’s direction is categorically abandoned for having been all too materialized as systematic or totalitarian menace, then history’s direction must be decided here and now, locally and in what Walter Benjamin called “the instant of peril.”

… There is a tradition of the whatever, there is a history of the whatever …

… This history or this tradition is transmitted from one artist to another, from one art movement to another, from one historical moment to another, and from one work to another as judgments are transmitted, that is, through judgment: as rejudged prejudices retrospectively constituting a jurisprudential record.

[ … ]

… What about a modernist mayonnaise presenting itself to a formalist culinary critic’s judgment of taste? He finds it awful but he doesn’t stop with his own judgment. This mayonnaise is put together in such a manner, he says to himself while tasting it, that something of the pure ingredients that go into it are to be found in the final results. It brings off the feat of displaying its composition to me, of taking the “conventions of mayonnaise” for its subject matter, of being a self-referential mayonnaise, a “mayonnaise about mayonnaise,” in short, a critique of mayonnaise brought about by the means of mayonnaise itself, “not to subvert it, but to entrench it more firmly in its area of competence” [parodying Greenberg].

[line break added] Perhaps it isn’t very successful, tasting something like Heinz. But it has “taken,” and the emulsion is all the more mysterious in that the cook’s handiwork is not apparent, even though it ends up telling me, if I examine it closely enough, that the necessary and sufficient conditions of mayonnaise-in-general are four in number: egg yolk, oil, vinegar, and mustard.

… not all modern art is modernist. To be modernist is to be a work that takes its own conditions of possibility for its subject matter, that tests a certain number of the conventions of the practice it belongs to by modifying, jettisoning, or destroying them, and that in so doing renders the conventions or conditions thus tested explicit or opaque, revealing them to be nothing but conventions. At the end of this process we should find isolated — stripped bare — the “essential conventions,” otherwise called the necessary and sufficient conditions of the given practice, visible or legible in the work itself.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 14, 2018

Partiality

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:40 am

… The speech of another, once enclosed in a [different] context, is — no matter how accurately transmitted — always subject to certain semantic changes.

Continuing through the essay ‘Discourse in the Novel’ found in The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M.M. Bakhtin edited by Michael Holquist (1981):

… In real life we hear speech about speakers and their discourse at every step. We can go so far as to say that in real life people talk most of all about what others talk about — they transmit, recall, weigh and pass judgment on other people’s words, opinions, assertions, information; people are upset by others’ words, or agree with them, contest them, refer to them and so forth.

… We need only keep our ears open to the speech sounding everywhere around us to reach such a conclusion: in the everyday speech of any person living in society, no less than half (on the average) of all the words uttered by him will be someone else’s words (consciously someone else’s), transmitted with varying degrees of precision and impartiality (or more precisely, partiality).

It goes without saying that not all transmitted words belonging to someone else lend themselves, when fixed in writing, to enclosure in quotation marks. That degree of otherness and purity in another’s word that in written speech would require quotation marks (as per the intention of the speaker himself, how he himself determines this degree of otherness) is required much less frequently in everyday speech.

… The speech of another, once enclosed in a [different] context, is — no matter how accurately transmitted — always subject to certain semantic changes. … Given the appropriate methods for framing, one may bring about fundamental changes even in another’s utterance accurately quoted.

… In order to assess and divine the real meaning of others’ words in everyday life, the following are surely of decisive significance: who precisely is speaking, and under what concrete circumstances? When we attempt to understand and make assessments in everyday life, we do not separate discourse from the personality speaking it (as we can in the ideological realm), because the personality is so materially present to us. And the entire speaking situation is very important: who is present during it, with what expression or mimicry is it uttered, with what shades of intonation?

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

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