Unreal Nature

February 20, 2018

The Committed Critic’s Only Audience

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:50 am

… he will open doors only for those who want them opened enough to push a little.

This is from ‘Prefatory Notes’ found in Changing: essays in art criticism by Lucy R. Lippard (1971):

Reading over the essays included here I have wondered if any of them need see the light again. In less than five years of writing I have frequently changed my mind — not often about the stature of specific artists, but about the place of their work in the network of ideas and objects that constitutes current art.

… Not very far beneath the surface of these essays is an almost daily frustration and doubt about the role of criticism itself. On the one hand, the core of the matter, the core at which the artist is working, usually evades elucidation; on the other, attempts at elucidation are clearly necessary, providing the art audience, the artist, and the would-be artist with an arena in which to disagree and to clarify the issues. Recently I have seen vital, growing art scenes in other cities, bereft of good criticism and the artists themselves are the first to complain, since they have the most to lose.

[line break added] I can bemoan the rapid pace forced upon a freelance critic who does not want to teach, or write for the mass media. But the serious working critic (as opposed to the serious but less regularly writing curator or scholar) is subjected to the same pressures, insights, and quick changes as the artist, and as the art world in general; the resulting flexibility has a value not merely sociological, and a character not merely sensational or superficial. It can provoke an acute openness, an irregular but penetrating manner of seeing and writing about what is seen.

… I have no critical system, which should be patently obvious from the contents of this book. At times I wish I did, but then I think of the distortions that occur when a critic has a system and must cram all the art he likes into those close quarters. Criticism, like history, is a form of fiction. Moreover, so-called objective criteria always boil down to indefinable subjective prejudices, which are the plagues of writing about the immediate present.

[line break added] When cornered, I describe my own criteria as clarity, directness, honesty, lack of pretense and prettiness, even a kind of awkwardness (for which I have been chastised, since that is supposed to be the worst kind of romantic Americanism). But then, no one will admit that the work he likes is muddy, indirect, dishonest, pretentious, or pretty, so such word lists mean very little.

The following is from the first essay in the book, ‘Change and Criticism: Consistency and Small Minds’ (1967):

… The artist’s published material, out of the horse’s mouth or not, must be rigorously dealt with by the professional writer, who must beware of taking all of an artist’s assertions of purpose or influence at face value. It is, after all, forgivable for an artist not to know or care about his historical debts, but it is unforgivable for a critic not to recognize the exhausted or undeveloped form, the degrees of influence and originality.

… Criticism has little to do with consistency; for consistency has to do with logical systems, whereas criticism is or should be dialectical and thrive on contradiction and change.

Thus the contemporary critic’s real task is not simply a superficial combination of the historian’s and the aesthetician’s. Categorization, placement, attribution, and the stabilization of universal criteria are secondary to constant adjustment, immediate recognition of the change within the art itself.

… One need not like the new. The well-informed, “well-seen” reader need only disagree intelligently. Yet far more common is the armchair amateur who comes to new art and its commentary bowed under preconceptions of unchanging definitions of Art and Beauty. He does not understand, and he will rant about how the cult of the new is being put over on him, forgetting that only the ignorant are easily “put on.”

… The responsibility of even the most casual art observer and reader of criticism to think, to look thoughtfully, is practically unacknowledged. The burden is left on the critic’s shoulders, and if the critic shrugs it off in order to settle down to serious work, he cannot be blamed. If he is to face issues directly and honestly rather than through a simplified veil of explanation to others, he will open doors only for those who want them opened enough to push a little. Difficult art generates ideas and issues difficult to articulate. If criticism really comes to grips with these ideas, it is not likely to be particularly entertaining. A committed, and even professional audience is ultimately the committed critic’s only audience.




February 19, 2018

My Inability to Process Everything That I’m Confronted With

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:58 am

… “Where does it start and where does it stop?”

This is from the Tom Friedman interview (1995) found in Robert Storr: Interviews on Art edited by Francesca Pietropaolo (2017):

[ … ]

Robert Storr: The first things of yours I saw — for example, the identical twin pieces of crumpled paper or the bar of soap with a hair spiral [both 1990] — were simple in appearance compared to some of the more recent works that are in this show. Is there a conscious shift taking place in your approach that explains that impression, or am I mistaken?

Tom Friedman: I’ve been thinking a lot about complexity lately. I know that it is something that has been thought about before, but what interests me is the fact of my inability to process everything that I’m confronted with and the idea of the parts of something being very separate from the idea of the whole. That explains how I got involved in dealing with the dictionary; how individual words fit in and the sheer quantity of them. What unifies what I do is the phenomenon of taking something that is crystal-clear to me, something I seem to know, and finding that the closer I get and the more carefully I inspect it, the less clear it becomes.

[ … ]

TF: … I think about the objects and the way they have evolved in terms of how they reveal themselves to the viewer. My interest is in how things categorize information, and how one deciphers an object. It revolves around the questions that you ask, and how you process all that information and come to some kind of conclusion. The way that I began thinking about the work, then, was as a direct line of questioning that you go through when you are presented with something unfamiliar and think, “Well, what is it? How is it made? Why is it like this?” What’s most specific to me is that process of discovery.

Next is from Storr’s interview with Robert Gober:

[ … ]

Robert Gober: For years my sculptures — the sinks and after that the beds and the cribs — were objects that were waiting for people. They were objects that transformed people as well, from dirty to clean, from waking to sleeping. I remember the moment when I knew I wanted to make a sculpture of a man’s leg. I was sitting on a plane and across the aisle from me was a very handsome businessman whose pants were pulled up [showing part of his leg].

[line break added] I was riveted by that moment because it’s a moment that you’re not supposed to see. Whenever you see that on television, like on a talk show, you imagine that, during the commercials, someone is going to run to the person concerned and tell him, “Pull up your sock!” [both laugh] So I became fixated: how do you make a sculpture about that moment? For me part of the job of making sculpture is about asking myself, “Where does it start and where does it stop?”

[line break added] When I make stuff I grab what’s around me. I had a talented mold maker working for me and he made a mold of my leg. We put a shoe on it, and we figured out how to implant hairs, one by one, developing a needle specifically for that. Recently, I was doing some work on the leg in the studio and my assistant, all of a sudden, started laughing at the absurdity of it.

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




February 18, 2018

Brought Into Being

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:50 am

… Between us, as it were, I am insulated from falling into ‘non-being,’ from living life as an ’empty possibility’ — from being finalized, ‘determined, predetermined, bygone and finished, that is, essentially not living.’

This is from Mikhail Bakhtin by Alastair Renfrew (2015):

Bakhtin’s subject is a “concrete,’ bodily person, who thinks and acts in the stream of once-occurent events against the background of a constantly changing series of contexts. It is clear from this that he intends a philosophy of human being, thought and action that is inimical to the broad sweep of Western philosophy since Plato preferred ‘eternal truth’ to ‘our transitory and deficient temporal life,’ the ideal life of the mind over the external, ‘real’ world (which was for Plato merely a ‘world of external appearance.’

Bakhtin’s subject does not simply mediate between mind and world, or at least does so in a very particular way: the subject acts, performs a deed, and in so doing makes concrete and gives value to any particular form of knowledge: ‘the knowledge of the content of the object-in-itself becomes a knowledge of it for me.’ Being-as-event, as we have seen, is not accessible from the theoretical transcription of the performed act (its ‘content/sense’), but only from the performed act itself, the ‘historical act of actualization’ of that content/sense — ‘for the act is actually performed in Being.’

[line break added] In the performance of such acts — which can, we must remind ourselves, be acts of thought or speech, as well as physical ‘action — the once-occurent event of being is no longer something that is thought of, but something that is, something that is being actually and inescapably accomplished through me and others.’

The only ‘being’ that has value, that is not a false, abstracted version of lived experience, is literally brought into being — performed — by the subject or ‘bearer’ of that being in his or her interaction with objects and other people in the external world.

This ‘real’ life is therefore not something that passively or automatically just ‘is’: it requires an active commitment, in the absence of which life is lived merely as an ’empty possibility.’ The subject of this real life, who has the ability to give value to knowledge, make it knowledge and understanding ‘for me,’ is not just a consciousness, but an answerable consciousness, who ‘undersigns’ his or her own action in the process of consciously performing it.

… A refusal of this active commitment on the part of an individual subject, what Bakhtin terms an ‘alibi in being,’ living ‘by … passivity alone’ and choosing or affecting to ignore the implications of one’s unique, concrete locatedness in respect of the world verges on being a kind of fiction, a form of non-life, a condition Bakhtin struggles to imagine as an actual possibility: ‘every movement, gesture, lived-experience, thought, feeling’ must be rooted in my acknowledgement of my own participation in being-as-event.

… but what use might a thousand potentially conflicting ‘truths’ be, in everyday life as much as in law or science? This problem is never resolved ‘philosophically’ in Bakhtin, but as we will see generates a number of attempted solutions …

[ … ]

Bakhtin’s other is always the-other-for-me, and it always implies its imbrication in the event of intersubjective contact.

… I am, essentially, an object for the other, albeit a particular kind of object, and my openness-for-myself is maintained and renewed by the openness bestowed upon me by the other, for whom I am ‘a constituent moment of the living ongoing event.’ Between us, as it were, I am insulated from falling into ‘non-being,’ from living life as an ’empty possibility’ — from being finalized, ‘determined, predetermined, bygone and finished, that is, essentially not living.’




February 17, 2018

Every Dream We Have

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:05 am

… openness to all experience is the defining attribute of our earliest life in the world.

This is from On Life’s Journey: Always Becoming by Daniel A. Lindley (2006). At the author’s implied request, I am willing to accept his interpretation of the idea of ‘archetypes’ for the duration of his book. I do this in order to consider and enjoy his ideas, whether or not I agree with or believe in them:

… Almost every dream we have is fresh; we have never had it before. Each night brings a new adventure. And even though this is true, the “I” within the dream — that is, the dream ego — almost always accepts the dream without questioning it or thinking about it, no matter how strange or frightening or blissful it may be. The dream ego, in short, apprehends the dream the way an infant apprehends everything: the world of the dream is just there as it is, as long as the dream goes on.

… The fact is that a completely open person is always with us. He or she is to be found, in the character of the dream ego, in every dream we have. The dream ego never judges or reflects or decides not to experience what’s going on around it. In this way the dream ego is different from our waking ego. Our waking ego is almost always, so to speak, two people at once: one who does things and another who reflects or judges or stands aside and watches.

… Wordsworth was, as I have suggested, on to this, but not explicitly — that is, not consciously. Note again:

There was a time when meadow, grove and stream
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Appareled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.

Exactly so. A dream. And then he asks: “Where is it now, the glory and the dream?” Thus, running along underneath but parallel to the theme of loss, is the image of the dream, the dream world being the place where everything is purely taken in and never thought about or judged. Events, for the infant and the dream ego, simply yet deeply confirm existence itself, what D.W. Winnicott calls “going on being,” which means exactly what it says: the assurance, through the five senses, that one continues to exist. For an infant, subject to periods of terrifying aloneness, going on being is nothing less than life itself. And no matter what happens in a dream, the dream ego also goes on being.

[ … ]

… Home is the primary setting for the flowering of feelings even when they are contradictory and puzzling or mysterious. Everywhere else is to some degree public; only home is private space, space in which feelings, whatever they may be, are free to grow. I do not mean that those feelings will be necessarily positive; only that they are there: associations to rooms, to a clock or a china bowl or the odors of cooking, fears of sounds from down the hall. In the public realm all of us are constrained to a certain degree by the expectations of the anonymous public itself. At home this constraint diminishes, or even vanishes.

Thus home, not the larger world, is the scene of emotional possibilities. The outside world demands of us that we live for the most part by concealing emotion, the more so as we grow older. In the outside world, we must live what W.H. Auden termed “the necessary impersonal life.”

… The baby, even the baby alone, is surrounded by eternal structures. Waves and tides, rocks and stars; not literally, but symbolically, awaiting language. Without a shred of evidence, I can imagine that I, even as a newborn, had dreams. Those dreams were waiting for me to dream them. I was given time and space in which to do so. That, alone, is no small thing.

The larger point is that openness to all experience is the defining attribute of our earliest life in the world.

… In “Fern Hill,” Dylan Thomas presents us with a description that captures the essence of the heaven that lies about us in our beginnings:

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
The sky gathered again
And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
Out of the whinnying green stable
On to the fields of praise.

The infant, just by seeing and hearing and feeling, creates the world.

My previous post from Lindley’s book is here.




February 16, 2018

How to Get Started Again

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:39 am

… I move on, restless, slow, unexcited, but quietly curious.

This is from Under the Gowanus and Razor-Wire Journal: The making of two paintings 5.9.99 – 11.15.99 by Rackstraw Downes (2000). (The abbreviations for some words are as writtten in the text.):

Dear Lewis,

Once you asked me to keep a journal of how a particular painting got painted. Well, here it is. As yet there is no painting, only an intention to start working again, wch. will yield something — a painting, a pair of paintings, a group of paintings, drawings or something. It’s May. I just returned from a winter in Texas.

[line break added] First, I futz around the studio for a few days, clearing things up, throwing away. You don’t work, but you are close to your work, pulling last year’s starts, evaluating the winter harvest, wondering how to get started again, reluctant to do so. Once it starts it will be intense & all-consuming. To dawdle is delicious to a workaholic, an obscene luxury.

Yesterday, May 8th, I went to a show in Brooklyn — inexplicably, the gallery was closed. The way to get to the next venue, PS1, meant — so a street informant told me — taking the F train to Smith St. & changing to the G. So, I got off at Smith St. & wandered around. Last year I started 2 oil sketches near there, wch. might be worth continuing with, so I looked at these sites, unimpressed. Possible, but not alluring.

[line break added] Last week I went to the Bronx to see the ‘Urban Mythologies’ show, and tho’ I have sometimes called myself a sociological rather than a landscape painter, I realized I had not been (as the curators are) interested in the ‘sociology’ of the Bronx at all — not the fortunes or misfortunes of the inhabitants, not the dereliction or the rehabilitation of the neighborhood — it was the wonderful mix of topography, engineering, transportation

[line break added] — it’s a fantasy combination of all these elements of urbanism in a spectacular combination — river, railway tracks, artisans’ shacks & shanties, bluffs, rocks, landmarks, towers, bridges, clover-leafs — the subject, in a way, is the vantage point, the Washington Bridge as a look-out point, a Belvedere onto countless elements that make up city life: it’s the panoramic point of view, as in Whitman, where the individual life counts for little, but the collective life is an extraordinary meal of endless courses, rich.

[line break added] So what am I doing at Smith St.? It’s the two great elevated systems, the subway overhead on one hand, the highway on the other. Two types of El — I think, cd. I get them both in one picture? I think of Gerhard Richter, ‘there are no single images anymore,’ and I think of how annoyed I was with him, but how (perhaps with his thought quietly marinating in the unconscious) I made a seven part painting including six different views of 2 objects at Chinati. And it occurred to me I wld. make, not one panorama combining the 2 Els, but a pair of images with one El in each.

[line break added] I sat down and tried to draw the underside and the supporting structure of the Smith St. El, with a minute vignette of the Gowanus Expressway off in the distance. It was an apathetic performance, unconvinced & half-hearted, and I soon got up from the very uncomfortable curb I was punishing my ass on, and walked off — I approached McDonald’s from the rear — here was a subject, the golden arches very dark & beautiful & austere against the light, everything — the lamp posts, the El with its tiny progress of vehicles its tall slender piers — all was crisp, sharp, like a ‘new’ photographer wld. make it, one of the ‘new contingency’ guys.

[line break added] The colors are crisp, too. I think of working there but without an easel, which I don’t have with me, it wd. be hard. I walk on, planning to try this some other day. I walk along a U-shaped walk ending up again under the Smith St. Station but on the other side of the Gowanus Canal. Here are interesting things, again that supporting structure, and later on, another view of it — with the new drawbridge not quite finished, shiny & modern, sitting tight under the superstructure of the El like one of those ‘nests of tables’ that were around when I was a child.

[line break added] There are 2 tenses juxtaposed; the El is funky, steel covered with concrete — to preserve the steel? — & the bridge is sleek, but the water, the old tires on the banks, the weeds, it’s all too known & sweet, too sentimental, the urban grunge picturesque all over — I move on, restless, slow, unexcited, but quietly curious.

To be continued.




February 15, 2018

Going Through

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:39 am

… most people hold back from going through — experiencing — the new …

These are fragments from the chapter ‘Documents from LACMA Art & Technology Collaboration (1968-69)’ found in Robert Irwin: Notes Toward a Conditional Art edited by Matthew Sims (2011, 2017):

… We have begun our project with the precept that art is not object — it is experience — in each case a particular experience defined by the artist. Although much/most art depends on an object to convey or mediate the experience, this is a condition we have sought to alter by choosing the realm of perception as our art form.

Our involvement has led us to define a non-objective situation, one that would be unmediated by object, objective thought or structure or verbal-literal description, thus setting up unique boundaries of perception to create a unique experience. In doing such, we intend to bring the individual an awareness of perception — making the sense of the senses the experience — the reality. In building forms unique to perception we hope to allow the mechanisms of perception to be perceived — to each person the awakening to something which was always already there.

[ … ]

… The works of previous artists have come from their own experiences or insights but haven’t given the experience itself. They had set themselves up as a sort of interpreter to the layman. A change of this trend began with non-objective painting, the abstract expressionists, who were involved with the idea of “it is the thing itself.” Today, Pop artists are into extension (applications) of this thinking. Our interest is in a form where you realize that the media is just perception.

Dealing with states of consciousness is like a drug experience: most people hold back from going through — experiencing — the new until they have correlated it to something already known, whereas the artist may be unique in that he seeks the new experience, and lets himself go accepting it as a unique experience.

… Instructions to visitors?
that’s asking them to make enough of a change from their normal state.

The quality of their involvement is dependent on the degree they play the game, but we need something where the setup of the thing makes them want to play the game. Hit them at the level of expectancy so they become engaged and then manipulate them to our level — a seductive act.




February 14, 2018

A Medium Characterized By Slowness

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:05 am

… Ceding the present tense to video, reportage photography now exploits its status as a missed encounter with the real …

Continuing through Art and Photography edited by David Campany (2003):

… This splicing of photography into art practice took place in the shadow of a largely separate boom in interest in specialist art photography. A market was being developed for fine art prints of the past and their imitations. This was accompanied by an unlimbering for the public for criteria for the aesthetic judgment of photographs — letting them know which were art and which were not.

[line break added] Big museums began to put on occasional shows of art photography, and a few dedicated galleries began to open. There was a proliferation of books on the great ‘masters’ (Henri Cartier-Bresson, Edward Weston, André Kertész and others). The leading art magazines devoted whole issues to photography and these too reflected the gap between specialist art photography and the more critical social reflection on the medium by artists.

… In some senses that wide gap between art photography and artists using photography can be read as an ideological one: aesthetic conservatism versus radical vanguardism; or formalism versus post-formalism; or a defence of the ‘soul’ of photography against the claim that it doesn’t have one; introversion versus social engagement. The gap was real in the sense that the audiences were quite split and the networks of exhibition were fairly distinct.

[line break added] To a large degree specialist art photography was bound up with an idea of both artist and medium possessed of a coherent and given core, conventionally defined. Vanguard art was destabilizing that artistic identity and this was intimately linked to its ad hoc and indirect destabilizing of photography as a distinct medium.

… Popular image culture has accelerated and become largely electronic, so that photography is now grasped as a medium characterized by slowness. Where once it might have been the pinnacle of cultural speed, it now seems a more deeply contemplative medium, detached even while it describes. This has left it with the chance to reflect at a much greater distance and with less anxiety than before. Its audiences are beginning to approach it in that way too. These are the conditions under which those older differences between specialist art photography and artists using photography have begun to dissolve.

… Whatever its indexical primacy, photography is now a secondary medium of evidence. It is no longer the sole mediator of events or the sole source of visual authority. Its slow slippage from the center of visual culture was well under way by the late 1960s. Photography was already beginning to be supplanted by other image technologies and in some respects it was this decentralizing that opened up photography to art’s investigation of it as a social medium. (Prior to television, when photography was the medium of the day, art photography aimed to distance itself from mass media.)

[line break added] This is the source of the eclipse of the realist reportage of ‘events’ and the emergence of a photography of the trace or ‘aftermath.’ Ceding the present tense to video, reportage photography now exploits its status as a missed encounter with the real by recording traces which are themselves the mark of the real. This is increasingly visible in magazine editorials in which photography returns to the sites and the people of world events.

… Here photography comes not just in the aftermath of events but in the aftermath of television. The directness of traditional reportage is replaced by indirect commentary. The trace becomes allegorical.

My previous post from Campany’s book is here.




February 13, 2018

Breath of Life

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:42 am

… They are the organic, and often monstrous, progeny of social life and value systems.

This is from Overlay: Contemporary Art and the Art of Prehistory by Lucy R. Lippard (1983):

… Discussing or even exploring the prehistoric sites today is like visiting a museum or peering around a church as a tourist. For all the formal beauties that are accessible, the essence of life is elusive. Contemporary artists are looking to ancient forms both to restore that breath and also to take it for themselves. The animating element is often ritual — private or public, newly created or recreated through research and imagination (in itself a breath of life). Artmaking is a ritual, perhaps the most valid — if elitist — one left to this society. It is, however, in danger of becoming as disengaged as institutionalized religion.

… the alienation of art and work from life has led some contemporary artists to a conscious restoration of severed connections. … The result has been an increased dialogue between them and their specialized art audiences. Too often, however, a broader audience remains out of reach, even to those artists most resistant to the erosion of art’s communicative functions, because available forms are not easily understood.

Immateriality and impermanence, for instance, though sometimes valid strategies against commodification, have often backfired, leading to the same kind of isolation and inaccessibility the artists hoped to overcome.

… When a ritual doesn’t work, it becomes an empty, self-conscious act, an exclusive object involving only the performer, and it is often embarrassing for anyone else to witness. When a ritual does work, it is inclusive, and leaves the viewer with a need to participate again.

[ … ]

… If the human race continues to be part of nature, then neither parks nor cities are “finished landscapes.” They are the organic, and often monstrous, progeny of social life and value systems. Only when the art that forms their spiritual core can respond to and change with social life can it be restored to its original communal meanings.

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




February 12, 2018

The Utterly Invisible Quality of Integrity

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:42 am

… The question is how truthful human beings really are; do they go along with the gang thing or do they do their own thinking?

This is from the Buckminster Fuller interview (1981) found in Robert Storr: Interviews on Art edited by Francesca Pietropaolo (2017):

[ … ]

Buckminster Fuller: … I had very bad eyesight — I was very farsighted. That made me cross-eyed: I didn’t have glasses then and my family just found my eyes to be goofy. And the family doctor said, “We don’t know much about eyes [nowadays] and they are a complicated subject. Hopefully, as he gets a little older, the muscles will take over and straighten out in a parallel fashion. If the situation doesn’t clear up by the time he is four years old, then as soon as he is four and a half you should take him to the eye doctor.”

[line break added] And that’s what happened. I was very farsighted and all we needed was for me to use some lenses to correct it. In recent years the lenses for glasses have reached a greater amplification power, but the degree of correction for my eyes is exactly the same. So all I have to do is take off my glasses to see what I saw before I was four and a half years old. I just get color. My mother couldn’t understand why I used to be in love with colors.

[line break added] When I went to kindergarten — this was before I wore glasses —one day the teacher brought wooden toothpicks and semi-dried peas — we didn’t have plastic in those days or things like that — and she told us kids to use those peas and stick the toothpick into them so that they would hold their shapes. She told us to make structures. All the other children with good eyesight saw rectilinear buildings and immediately made rectilinear structures, boxes. I didn’t see it and therefore I felt with my hands what would hold its shape. And only a triangle holds its shape.

[line break added] The fact that the peas semi-held it didn’t suit me at all, and so I made triangles and soon began to build a tetrahedron, and went on to make all these different structures out of triangles. This comes out of what I call the tetrahedron truss. Today it would be the isotropic vector matrix, the very essence of the core system of nature. At any rate, I made that with my hands and I remember the teacher calling all the other teachers to look at the strange thing this kid had done.

[ … ]

BF: … I had learned early on that there are different ways of seeing things. So when things seemed to be going badly for me, I’d always say to myself: “You know you’re able to lay down and see this very differently.” I think it has really helped me to grow and overcome through some terrifically difficult periods that most people would not, because they would see things and would not be used to the idea that you may see things in a completely different way. Psychologically it must have a very powerful effect on my life.

Robert Storr: There was a period like that in the 1920s when you had extreme difficulty making your ideas known to people, wasn’t there?

BF: Well, in fact there were several factors. First of all, I had a sister three years older than me. And she’d continually tell me what she could see, and I couldn’t see it, therefore, I assumed that she was making it up. And I wanted to respond and so I would tell her things that I could see, and I always got enormous laughs because [laughs] it was truly make believe.

[line break added] When I finally got my sight I realized that she hadn’t been making it up at all, but by this time I had a reputation for being funny and making up things and people would enjoy that. Now, this also brought about the fact that people did not tend to take me seriously or believe me. So when I had a serious invention and I found that people paid no attention yet, I said, “It’s going to be very important for people to get oriented by what is the truth.”

[ … ]

RS: I would like to read you a quote from your writing and ask if you could comment and enlarge on it. It says, “The great aesthetic that will inaugurate the twenty-first century will be the utterly invisible quality of integrity of the individual in doing the scientific discovery.” Could you expand on that a little?

BF: Aesthetic used to be visual. We are going completely into the invisible world. Think of all the chemistries, the alloys, the electronics that you can’t see. In the invisible world of electronics people make discoveries with the computer. But we [have] got to do it in such a way that we can have the confidence that the computer is not being corrupted. In dealing with the invisible, we have to have more and more confidence in the integrity of those operating in it.

[line break added] So I said that the great aesthetic will be integrity. And it will not be the integrity of corporations — they don’t have integrity anyway because they are simply drawn by how to make money or how to avoid taxes. The question is how truthful human beings really are; do they go along with the gang thing or do they do their own thinking?

My previous post from Storr’s book is here.




February 11, 2018

Its Essential Human Character

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

… from behind its words, forms, styles, nationally characteristic and socially typical faces begin to emerge the images of speaking human beings.

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

… we must learn how to develop a sensitivity toward the brute materiality, the typicality, that is the essential attribute not only of actions, gestures and separate words and expressions, but the basic ingredient as well in points of view, in how the world is seen and felt, ways that are organically part and parcel with the language that expresses them. Such a perception is possible only for a consciousness organically participating in the universum of mutually illuminating languages.

… external multi-languagedness strengthens and deepens the internal contradictoriness of literary language itself; it undermines the authority of custom and of whatever traditions still fetter linguistic consciousness; it erodes that system of national myth that is organically fused with language, in effect destroying once and for all a mythic and magical attitude to language and the word. A deeply involved participation in alien cultures and languages (one is impossible without the other) inevitably leads to an awareness of the disassociation between language and intentions, language and thought, language and expression.

By “disassociation” we have in mind here a destruction of any absolute bonding of ideological meaning to langauge, which is the defining factor of mythological and magical thought.

… This verbal-ideological decentering will occur only when a national culture loses its sealed-off and self-sufficient character, when it becomes conscious of itself as only one among other cultures and languages. It is this knowledge that will sap the roots of a mythological feeling for language, based as it is on an absolute fusion of ideological meaning with language; there will arise an acute feeling for language boundaries (social, national and semantic), and only then will language reveal its essential human character; from behind its words, forms, styles, nationally characteristic and socially typical faces begin to emerge the images of speaking human beings.

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




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