Unreal Nature

April 30, 2018

Matter of Fact

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:57 am

… Irrelevance is indeed a prime feature of the intractable there-ness of things as they are …

This is from Bathers, Bodies, Beauty: The Visceral Eye by Linda Nochlin (2006):

… I will be talking about the realist body and its relation to — or more often, rejection of — conventional beauty. I will position “real” beauty as “realist” beauty, and therefore as a kind of antibeauty. By this I do not necessarily mean ugliness, although I might at times. But a contrary is not a contradictory. And all nonbeauty is not ugliness: there is a wide range of possibilities, including attractiveness (no, she’s not beautiful but she is attractive), piquancy, sensuousness, elegance, and so on.

[line break added] As to the antibeauty which is involved in the realist project, we might think, for purposes of argument, of realism as a vertical continuum, with the sublime, whether Longinian or Burkean, at the top, the concrete, the contemporary, and the ordinary in the middle, and the abject or the grotesque — the latter especially in antibeauty’s more recent, Postmodern manifestations — at the bottom.

The production of the realist body as I figure it is impelled by two quite different impulses: that of magic and that of critique. Realism as magic is the time-honored quest for the bodily presence of the absent, or the dead, as a bulwark against danger and dread.

… I would like to reiterate that realism is not merely a question of accuracy nor a certain category of subject matter. In some ways, it is better accounted for in terms of what the realist rejects — harmony, poncif, the ready-made gesture, universal ideals of beauty. Realism at its best is a critical practice in terms of both formal language and viewpoint.

… Whereas the nonrealist may work through distillation and exclusion, the realist mode implies enrichment and inclusion. Realism has always been criticized by its adversaries for its lack of selectivity, its inability to distill from the random plenitude of experience the generalized harmony of plastic relations, as though this were a flaw rather than the whole point of realist strategy.

[line break added] The “irrelevant” distractions characteristic of realist styles are not naive mistakes in judgment but are at the heart of metonymic imagery, the guarantors of realist veracity. Irrelevance is indeed a prime feature of the intractable there-ness of things as they are and as we experience them.

… One might say that reality itself, in the largest sense, changed in the twentieth century. Certainly an artist’s notion of his or her relation to reality was altered as other representational modes, especially photography and cinema, intervened between vision and imagery. But also the artist’s self-awareness of what he or she is doing was heightened over the course of the century. Perception, once an absolute, is, for the contemporary artist who bases his whole enterprise upon it, the most fluid, relative, and elusive of phenomena.

Jenny Saville, Propped, 1992

… It is helpful, in approaching her paintings, to think of Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus and the idea, current in the last century, of art as a kind of fatal spiritual illness, painterliness as a kind of disease of the pictorial, a symptom of some deep disturbance in the relation of paint to canvas. As a young student, Saville was impressed with the fact that women were equated with looked-at-ness, she confided in a recent lecture. They were supposed to be petite and supportive.

[ … ]

Alice Neel, Self-Portrait, 1980

… “More beautiful than a beautiful thing is the ruin of a beautiful thing,” Rodin is said to have proclaimed apropos of Ce qui fut la belle haulmiere. Rubbish! Where the human form is concerned, at least. Neel’s aging body droops, sags, bulges; it is far from ideal, certainly not beautiful in the pathos-full way that Rembrandt’s old women are said to be beautiful. But there is nothing tragic about it; it is not meant to represent the ruin of a beautiful thing.

[line break added] What Neel is after in this portrait is what realists have always in their varying ways been after, and that is a certain notion of truth: unflinching, matter of fact, provocative. In a way, one might consider this nude self-portrait as a realist testament, a literal tribute to that naked truth, magic or critical or both, which has always been at the heart of the realist project.

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




April 29, 2018

Between the Possible and the Act

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:59 am

… each of our states, at the moment of its issue, modifies our personality, being indeed the new form that we are just assuming.

… There exists an irreducible difference between imagined action and its realization, between the possible and the act.

Continuing through Time and Freedom by Christophe Bouton, translated by Christopher Macann (2014). This is from his chapter on Bergson:

… The motives examined by deterministic psychology are only capable of rigorously explaining the banal, everyday actions of the social ego, prisoner of the automatisms of language and habit, but they do not infringe upon the profound ego, with its thoughts, its intimate and inexpressible feelings, from which proceeds the genuinely free decision.

[line break added] Cast in the flux of duration, decision is not a hesitation between two possibilities but a dynamic progress, where the ego is in a continual process of becoming, carrying along with it its inspiring motives, until the free act materializes like “an over-ripe fruit.” By the same token, the decision can never be anticipated in advance. As a unique individual event, it can only be lived out following the meandering stream of its continuous temporality: “As far as deep-seated psychic states are concerned, there is no perceptible difference between foreseeing, seeing, and acting.”

… To risk a metaphor, we will say that the decision is, like Angelus Silesius’s rose, “without a why.” Determinist causality has no hold over the duration of the ego. If we reflect retrospectively on our action, “we find that we have decided without any reason, and perhaps even against every reason,” and this absence of any tangible reason or cause is the most striking mark of our freedom.

[line break added] Bergson offers us here a new version of what I have called the principle of insufficient reason. Any reason, all the motives identified by psychology, can perhaps explain the acts of the superficial and everyday ego, but they do not suffice to untie the indefinable knot that attaches a free decision to the pure duration of the profound ego.

Bergson emphasizes the fact that freedom is first of all the creation of the future, not a creation ex nihilo, but a creation out of duration, a “creation of self by self” (création de soi par soi), thanks to which the ego is able to make itself what it is:

And just as the talent of the painter is formed and deformed — in any case, is modified — under the very influence of the works he produces, so each of our states, at the moment of its issue, modifies our personality, being indeed the new form that we are just assuming. It is right to say that what we do depends on what we are; but it is necessary to add also that we are, to a certain extent, what we do, and that we are creating ourselves continually.

Even if we are not the artists of our life, we are at least its artisans, in the sense that we never stop modeling our past through our memory and modifying our future by our own acts.

[ … ]

… We know how Bergson deconstructs this theory of the possible. Just as nothingness presupposes being, the possible contains more than the real; it includes not just the real that has taken place but also a mental act that projects its image into the past retrospectively. The possible is the mirage of the present in the past, an illusion prolonged into the future through a kind of reasoning.

… Duration being an inexhaustible welling up of unpredictable novelty, the future could not preexist in the present like a seed, a still unknown potential possibility ready to enter upon the scene of existence. Far from realizing a project, the truly free action surprises its own author and escapes him to a certain degree. There exists an irreducible difference between imagined action and its realization, between the possible and the act.

… According to Bergson, it is useless to think of the future as a tree of possibilities, to make of it the preferred locus of human freedom. On the contrary, such a conception overlooks the intrinsic creativity of duration. Freedom, which consists in keeping as close as possible to duration, close to a source whose destiny it is to create, runs not from the possible to the real, from the future to the present, but, on the contrary, from the past to the present, or better, from the present to the present, the latter accumulating all the time in a continual creation of self by self …

… For Bergson, the indetermination of the future is total, precisely there where it gets rid of the notion of possibility, which always implies, in his view, a pre-determination of the future in the present.

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




April 28, 2018

Streaks Through the Black Night

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:51 am

Brakhage’s shadow hovers over light emerging through door and window, the brilliance of car lights streaks through the black night; a garden is seen as light reflected from its green, a rainbow forms in the water of a garden hose.

This is from the essay ‘Camera Lucida/Camera Obscura’ by Annette Michelson found in Stan Brakhage: Filmmaker edited by David E. James (2005):

Wonder Ring, a film of the Third Avenue El shot in 1955 for Joseph Cornell must have served a crucially educative purpose [for Brakhage]. For the movement of the train itself, the framing of its windows, the reflective surfaces of both windows and doors, the distortions produced by unevenness in those surfaces, all propose a composite inventory of the resources in the camera itself. Dispersed throughout the structure and the trajectory of the elevated railway, they are reassembled, as it were, and the sequence of formal strategies available is discovered as the course of a journey.

It is, however, in Anticipation of the Night — still tied, ever so tenuously, to the narrative theme of suicide contemplated — that Brakhage reaches the threshold of his major innovations. This film is, in a way, his October. In it his distinctive editing style will emerge. If Eisenstein’s cinema of intellection depends upon the unity of the disjunct, sensed as disjunct, the cinema of sight will be, from this point on, incomparably fluid. It will be, as well, the cinema of the hypnagogic consciousness aspiring to a rendering of a totally unmediated vision, eluding analytic grasp.

… The cinema of the hypnagogic consciousness, of the image inaccessible to analysis, devours in its constant renewal both memory and expectation, projecting that “continuous present” which Brakhage had sensed in Gertrude Stein’s great and particular lesson for him. The agents of its sustained instantaneity are camera movement, light, and the editing process itself.

[line break added] In Anticipation then, Brakhage’s shadow hovers over light emerging through door and window, the brilliance of car light streaks through the black night, a garden is seen as light reflected from its green, a rainbow forms in the water of a garden hose. In the dark of night, the complex play of lights animating an amusement park move — spinning, circling, whirling — in a space of infinite depth and total ambiguity. The camera moves with and against light. An image is reversed and that movement of reversal flattens, transforms the space of the garden in the image.

[line break added] Pans shot away from the light, from within the park’s ride, send light careening across the screen and into the obscurity of its surface. The camera gains from that obscurity the ability to reverse the reality of its own movement into the illusion of the object’s motion so that a moon and a temple-like structure are seen in pans to streak across the screen.

Brakhage posits optical space as the “uncorrupted” dwelling of the Imagination which constitutes it.

My previous post from this book is here.




April 27, 2018

It Never Occurs But Once

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:34 am

… Afterwards, it is a memory, an echo which reverberates, weakening and dying out.

This is from Selections from the Journals of Myron Stout edited by Tina Dickey (2005):


… What you want will not be proven by the harmony and ease which you feel with regard to what you do or have done, but more likely the disturbance and dis-ease that you feel about it, coupled with some intimations of how, perhaps, even that is capable of becoming what you want in the largest sense.


… You can’t be “experimental” in the midst of an experiment. You have to be practically dogmatic with what you are experimenting with! You must stick to the premise of the experiment and not try a new process in the middle of the experiment.


… It may be that you really discover more of what you can do in the negative realization of what it is you haven’t been doing that you thought you were. Somehow this negative realization often seems more positive than the positive ones. It dissolves the obstacles. Perhaps it is just that realization is, in itself, a positive thing, whether it’s about what we classify either as right or as wrong. Our framework of right-wrong classification is wrong in that it is a classification at all.


… We have multiple points of view — are, in fact, made up of them. The singleness of the wholeness of our viewpoint is always an assumption, something we seek rather than something we have. I believe it much easier to demonstrate that we are multiple than that we are single.


… It’s not the line you ware “bending” — but the line is, so to speak, the only thing you have that indicates that you are having any effect on the space the line inhabits.



… In gaining access, so to speak, to works of art, there is often, perhaps always, what seems like a generalized manifestation of a particular spirit or spiritual quality of the thing which communicates itself to you. … It is a sort of dream state, in which all the anxiety of consciousness is missing.

It has, however, its limit, and all the pleasure of spiritual realization is present; it never occurs but once with all the sharpness and vital, overwhelming quality with which it is originally invested. Afterwards, it is a memory, an echo which reverberates, weakening and dying out. It is as though, afterwards, it is not the thing itself that occurs or recurs to you, it is only the knowledge that it has occurred to you that stays with you. Here one is left only with the wonder about it, and intellectually, inevitably the question: what was it anyway? (This is not to say that the spontaneous experience cannot occur at another time, of course.)

The life of real, … substantial, continuing aesthetic experience is its rebirth in manifestations approximating the original one, at successive moments in other aspects, from other spiritual stances.

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




April 26, 2018


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:59 am

… We experiment to test what and how much our methods will discover … to harden our methods.

This is from CUTS: Texts 1959-2004 / Carl Andre edited by James Meyer (2005). This first is from a back-and-forth with Hollis Frampton (1962):

[ … ]

Hollis Frampton: … wherever two or three Newman paintings are gathered together in the name of exhibition, I find the old sensation awaits me: just some more damn paintings. Another slough of rectangles that a pack of chromatic snails have walked around on, leaving the glairy trails of the painter’s endlessly permuted hesitancy. One bare India ink drawing of Newman, along with a little de Kooning pastel twenty years old were the rewards of that trip uptown. Newman laid on his ink, then ripped off the masking tape. He wanted to see what it looked like.

Carl Andre: I want to see what it looks like, too. That is the conscious motive which causes me to make sculpture or anything else. Don’t you take photographs, develop them and print them, in order to see what they look like?

HF: Sometimes. And sometimes I know full well what it looks like, but go ahead with the process anyway. The camera makes documents whether we want them or not; sometimes the problem is to know which the documents are. And I admit that photography is a means for examining one’s subject more fully.

CA: There is also the reciprocal case: knowing how one wants to make something look and then proceeding to find the ways to make it look that way.

[ … ]

HF: We experiment to find something out. Experimentation in art, as in science, is thinking in the concrete. Michelson and Morley performed an experiment with mirrors and mountains to ascertain the precise limits of an important constant, the speed of light. In the arts we experiment to determine limits and constants. We experiment to test what and how much our methods will discover … to harden our methods.

[line break added] We experiment to discover our own limits, effective and affective. This dialogue is an experiment. Nearly all your work and nearly all mine to date has been experiment. Perhaps the finished work is simply the last term in a series of experimental approximations. The equivalent of the physicist’s law or the mathematician’s constant in art is some quality of the series so terminated rather than a final discrete aesthetic “number” …

Andre doesn’t like photography:

… I hate photography; I hate photographs; I hate to take photographs; I hate to be photographed; I hate my works to be photographed. … I think the condition of art, the rise of Conceptualism and the “dematerialization of the object,” has to do with the fact that people quite unconsciously are driven to make works which look like pages of magazines — not even like photographs, but works that will look good in a photograph. [1972]


… Art students would eagerly read the essays in Artform magazine, and this led them to make works of art that were like the essays and not like the art. This is part of the linguistic terrorism in our culture now. We are educated in this linguistic way and that’s necessary. But it’s not the nature of art. [1976]

It’s not the nature of his art.

Back to “what it looks like” (rather than what photographs of it look like):

… The rise of abstraction associated with the development of neolithic culture out of paleolithic culture is the result of the failure of the shapes created by the mind to satisfactorily account for the new social and economic universe and the replacement of those shapes made by the mind by the shapes of the materials of the mind itself. [undated]

I think that last is nonsense, but I nevertheless think I know what he means. It all depends on what you think “materials” can be without it leaking into amorphous everything-ness.

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




April 25, 2018

Power’s Image

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

… In each case of looking, the beholder sees the image of that which allows him or her the feeling of knowing who he or she is or is not.

This is from the essay ‘Photography and the Power of Images in the History of Power’ by the editor (Morris) found in Photographies East: The Camera and Its Histories in East and Southeast Asia edited by Rosalind C. Morris (2009):

… Power, as Pascal told us and as Marin reminds us, is force put into reserve, force which does not expend itself or annihilate all other forces, but rather institutes the potential deployment of force as law, and indeed as the threat of violence that makes an apparent peace possible.

[line break added] Marin observes that the rule which attends absolute monarchy is the prohibition on naming and locating the king, for to do so is to imply not only where he is but also where he is not. In other words, identifying the king means pointing out his finitude, his non-universality. Ideally, of course, absolute monarchy would be omnipresent. It would not have to assert its capacity for force but would have only to be recognized by those who are its subjects.

… One can imagine that any technology which can appear to transmit the presence of the king to locations in which his actual body is absent would augment his power, while also risking it. In Siam [now Thailand] the era of photography marks the end of the king’s absolute withdrawal from public space and his increasing emergence into the public sphere.

[line break added] Where before he lived cloistered in the palace, seen only by other royals and ministers, the middle of the nineteenth century saw the commencement of a fully processional and even ritually peripatetic monarchy, one that asserted itself not by claiming an absolute gaze but by demanding recognition in the looks of commoners (albeit a nonreciprocal kind of look). Not incidentally, this change was accompanied by the development of a new genre of royal historiography. It was also accompanied by the widespread appearance of images and narratives about the king in the popular media, a tradition that continues today.

… in twentieth-century Thailand at least, the fortunes of the monarchy have waned time and again, only to be reconsolidated through the careful staging of imagery, or rather through the theatricalized reading of images that depict the king in the role of transcendent peacemaker. This theatrical staging of power’s image is, however, itself buttressed by other kinds of looking and, perhaps more perplexing, by the habitual looking at images that depict the effects of force when it is unrestrained in and by power.

[line break added] In clandestine alleys and dubious magazines in contemporary urban Thailand, alongside carefully staged pictures of statesmen at the feet of the king there is a circuit of images of death and dismemberment. Comprising mainly photographs from police files and official accident reports as well as journalistic documents of catastrophe, these circuits are especially active and are indeed available to be activated in times of political unrest when military confrontations, police actions, and protests produce violent death and the corpses which, though they fail to signify power, nonetheless testify to the deployment of force.

… Just as the king exists in the perpetuity of kingship by virtue of his portrait, so the collective comes into being by virtue of its self-imag(in)ing. In this sense, it matters not if the portrait is grasped with gold-dusted fingers and looked at with awe and submission or if it is purchased in a market and carried in a wallet.

[line break added] Or, as is increasingly the case, if this portrait stands guard above temples that double as military bases and increasingly seems to mark the boundary between territories still under royal oversight and those that exceed the monarch’s capacity for encompassment. In each case of looking, the beholder sees the image of that which allows him or her the feeling of knowing who he or she is or is not.

[line break added] It may be that the failure (or at least the incomplete status) of the drive to self-representation in southern Thailand has something to do with the fact that, unlike monarchical nationalism or even the populist democracy uprisings of the early 1990s (which had Chamlong Srimuang as their personal and imaginal figurehead), the insurgency in the South has no face with which to present itself, no individual who can publicly claim to be a representative.

My previous post from this book is here.




April 24, 2018

Adjust to the Darkness

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

… they actually proposed a renewed form of seeing that reflected deep transformations within the culture.

This is from the essay ‘Lost Horizons: Nocturens and the Crisis of Images at the Turn of the Twentieth Century’ by Hélène Valance found in Night Vision: Nocturnes in American Art, 1860-1960 edited by Joachim Homann (2015):

… In his famous Ten O’Clock lecture, Whistler explained the crucial role of night in his art:

And when the evening mist clothes the riverside with poetry, as with a veil, and the poorer buildings lose themselves in the dim sky, and the tall chimneys become campanili, and the warehouses are palaces in the night, and the whole city hangs in the heavens, and fairy-land is before us — then the wayfarer hastens home; the working man and the cultured one, the wise man and the one of pleasure, cease to understand, as they have ceased to see, and Nature, who for once has sung in tune, sings her exquisite song to the artist alone, her son and her master — her son in that he loves her, her master in that he knows her.

James McNeill Whistler, Nocturne in Black and Gold, the Falling Rocket, 1875

[ … ]

… Nocturnes did not simply turn away from vision, they actually proposed a renewed form of seeing that reflected deep transformations within the culture. If they can be called anti-modern, then they were so only in the sense that historian Jackson Lears has given to the term: by offering a “complex blend of accommodation and protest” toward modernity. In their ambivalence, the artists who made them at once rejected the sights of their transformed environment and opened up a transitory space where the eyes of their viewers could adjust to the darkness.




April 23, 2018

Unstable, Ironic, Ungraspable

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:45 am

… it is history-as-modernity — unstable, ironic, ungraspable in terms of lived reality — that is at stake here.

This is from Bathers, Bodies, Beauty: The Visceral Eye by Linda Nochlin (2006):

… Often known as the paysage composé and considered a much more noble and idealized genre than the mere landscape “sketch” (that first impression en plein air considered a mere “first step” toward authentic landscape creation), the heroic landscape of course included a justifying set of classical or biblical figures, usually with moral overtones. Nature — idealized nature, redeemed by uplifting historical narrative — might constitute one definition of the “composed landscape” as it existed and continued to exist in Manet’s time.

Edouard Manet, Déjeuner sur l’herbe, 1863

Could we not, within the context of the heroic landscape, read Manet’s Déjeuner as a parodic deconstruction of the paysage composé — a sort of paysage décomposé, with figures separated from one another, from the landscape background, from traditional narrative legibility, and above all from the tradition of moral uplift usually associated with this elevated genre?

[line break added] With its setting based on a Sunday outing to Argenteuil, the figures mockingly arranged to belie the high-toned mythological past to which they apparently refer, figures that are modern, all too modern in both their dress, their lack of it, and the lack of all traditional bienséance, or rules of good behavior, and their imperturbable, uncommunicative coolness, Manet’s painting comes close to approximating, in visual language, the acerbic critique Baudelaire had made of the historic landscape in his Salon of 1836.

[line break added] Baudelaire described a “good” historic landscape (“un bon paysage tragique”) as “an arrangement of patterns of trees, of fountains, of tombs and funerary urns. The dogs,” Baudelaire continues, “are cut from the pattern of the Historic Dog; the Historic Shepherd may not, under pain of dishonor, allow himself other possibilities. Every immoral tree which has had the temerity to grow all by itself in its own way is necessarily cut down; every pond with frogs or tadpoles is pitilessly filled in.” Note, by the way, the presence of a grinning frog, prominent, if you know it is there, in the left foreground of the Déjeuner.

… One might say that it is the sundering of the enforced harmony imposed by the traditional paysage composé that permits the entry of living (that is, unfolding) history into the scene. But this is not because the Déjeuner is, in any literal sense, a scene of contemporary life: its parodic oppositions make this impossible. Rather, it is history-as-modernity — unstable, ironic, ungraspable in terms of lived reality — that is at stake here.

My previous post from Nochlin’s book is here.




April 22, 2018

A Grain of Sand

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

… Boredom appears as a grain of sand, disrupting the silent mechanism of inauthentic time …

Continuing through Time and Freedom by Christophe Bouton, translated by Christopher Macann (2014). This is from his chapter on Heidegger:

… The moment is born of decision. But what gives birth to decision itself? In the inauthentic time of falling, dominated by passive awaiting, forgetfulness and an exclusive preoccupation with present things, authentic temporality is not entirely eliminated. It is still manifest in the form of a call, the call of conscience (Gewissen), which, from the most remote recess of forgetfulness silently invites Dasein to choose, and convokes it to its most authentic ability-to-be. At any moment, Dasein can then in principle break with the ruinous time of falling.

… Where does the moment come from? From resolute decision, says Being and Time. But the question has only been displaced: for where does resolute decision come from? Certainly, freedom is its own foundation; it refers to nothing other than itself, and that is why it is an abyss, according to the formula of The Essence of Reasons. … What makes it possible for the moment to arise is not to be found in anxiety but in boredom.

… The more Dasein gets involved in the world of beings, the more it becomes preoccupied with things, the more it is exposed to boredom, in particular each time it is frustrated in its activities. The first form of boredom (Langweile) consists in being bored by something (a book, a spectacle, a situation). It is recognizable in that Dasein‘s existence is dragged out — time goes by slowly (lange Weile) — and in that it leaves Dasein empty, in the sense in which things turn their backs on it, leave it cold, have nothing to offer it, as if the world of ready-to-hand beings itself put a stop to Dasein‘s frenzy.

[line break added] Dasein tries in vain to recover its busyness through a “pastime,” which only succeeds in increasing its boredom. Let us take the example cited by Heidegger of waiting in an isolated and empty station. In its first appearance, the time of boredom is marked by an awaiting that tries desperately to make its object present (the arrival of the train). This form of boredom merely reinforces inauthentic time, since it rests on Dasein‘s relation to the inauthentic future, and is derived from its frantic busyness.

[line break added] It is when we are the “slaves” of our daily preoccupations, when we make of time something that should not be “lost,” that a wait in a station can plunge us into a painful, even an intolerable, boredom. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that boredom is also a disturbance of inauthentic time. Awaiting refers to no present moment, the present no longer being available. Dasein never stops looking at his watch but only to confirm that the now-time is losing its apparent reality, since the lived time of boredom shares no features with the measurable time of the watch.

[line break added] In boredom, time passes slowly, minutes appear as long as hours and some “last an eternity.” The now-time is both posited (“the train will arrive in four hours,” “only an hour has gone by!”) and disqualified in its superficial uniformity. As for world-time, it loses its significance. The time of boredom is not a time to do this or that, it is a time of nothing, empty time, cut off from any possible activity. Boredom appears as a grain of sand, disrupting the silent mechanism of inauthentic time in both of its interconnected components, the now-time and the world-time.

… Time liberates Dasein by offering him the possibility of the moment of resoluteness, which breaks through the enclosure, the “entrancement” of time. The metamorphosis of deep boredom into freedom is the doubly conjugated effect of the possible and the moment, which is itself the “possibility of whatever is possible.” … The moment is what makes possible the choice of possibilities.

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




April 21, 2018

Reversal of Cultural Priorities

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:54 am

… Where Brakhage had fought to liberate film from Hollywood, Warhol’s desire to find his own place in it provided the measure of the new times …

This is from the editor’s introduction to Stan Brakhage: Filmmaker edited by David E. James (2005):

… The baby who would become James Stanley Brakhage was born on 14 January 1933 in an orphanage in Kansas City, Missouri. He was adopted and named by a young couple, Ludwig, a college teacher of business, and his wife, Clara, who had herself been raised by a stepmother. The family moved from town to town in the Middle West and, sensitive to the stresses of his parents’ unhappy marriage, Stanley was a sickly child, asthmatic and overweight.

[line break added] His mother took a lover, eventually leaving her husband, who subsequently came to terms with his homosexuality and also himself took a lover. In 1941, mother and son found themselves alone in Denver. Put in a boys’ home, the child picked up the habits of a petty criminal, but before his delinquency became serious, he was placed with a stable, middle-class family in which he began to discover his gifts.

[line break added] He excelled in writing and dramatics and in singing, becoming one of the leading voices in the choir of the Cathedral of St. John’s in Denver. Retrieving her now-teenaged son, his mother tried to make a musician of him, but Stanley resisted his tutors, even attempting to strangle his voice teacher.

Skipping ahead, we now find Brakhage as an established filmmaker:

… By the end of the 1960s, Brakhage’s reputation was international. Retrospectives of his work and invitations to lecture became frequent, and he received many awards (including a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1978), and in 1969 he began teaching one semester a year at the Art Institute of Chicago, commuting there from his home.

… [According to an Artforum piece edited by Annette Michelson] he represented his culture by virtue of “his social function as defensive in the Self’s last-ditch stand against the mass, against the claims of any possible class, political process, or structure, assuming its inevitable assault on the sovereignty of the Self, positing the imaginative consciousness as inherently apolitical.”

… The exile of Brakhage [after the ’70s] and the aesthetic values he embodied reflected the diametric reversal of cultural priorities that we now summarize, at least partially, as the shift from modernism to postmodernism in U.S. culture. Political developments were fundamental, especially the New Right offensive againt the utopian cultural and social movements of the 1960s and the latter’s resultant decline and eventual extirpation.

… If in the early 1970s Brakhage’s oeuvre could be celebrated as the last (or perhaps the first) full flowering of modernism in film, by the late 1970s, the “Warholization” of postmodern culture relegated him to irrelevance, his preeminence preempted by his similarly totalized other.

For whether or not Warhol had been the “major precursor of structural film,” he was indisputably the major precursor of almost everything that came after it. Queer, fascinated with publicity and the psychic, material and social apparatuses of the mass-media, and especially with advertising, he epitomized the convergence of identity politics and the priorities of affirmative cultural studies in a cultural front administered jointly by the academy and entertainment industry cartels.

[line break added] Where Brakhage had fought to liberate film from Hollywood, Warhol’s desire to find his own place in it provided the measure of the new times, and over the last quarter of the twentieth century, his rise matched Brakhage’s decline in a cultural zero-sum game.

[line break added] The two main features of Brakhage’s work that the period thrust into high relief — his negative positioning in identity politics and the categorical incompatibility of his work with the aesthetics, mode of production, and the industrial insertion of corporate capitalist culture — excluded him from virtually all the developments in public taste and in academic film theory between the early 1970s and the end of the century, in the thirty years between Annette Michelson’s Artforum essay and the present project.




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