Unreal Nature

October 31, 2018

Seeing by Means of Fixation

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:56 am

… the separate picture loses its identity as such and becomes a detail of assembly, an essential structural element of the whole which is the thing itself.

This is found in Moholy-Nagy: An Anthology edited by Richard Kostelanetz (1970):

[ … ]

The Eight Varieties of Photographic Vision

1. Abstract seeing by means of direct records of forms produced by light: the photogram which captures the most delicate gradations of light values, both chiaroscuro and colored.

2. Exact seeing by means of the normal fixation of the appearance of things: reportage.

3. Rapid seeing by means of the fixation of movements in the shortest possible time: snapshots.

4. Slow seeing by means of the fixation of movements spread over a period of time: e.g. the luminous tracks made by the headlights of motor-cars passing along a road at night: prolonged time exposures.

5. Intensified seeing by means of:

a) Micro-photography
b) Filter-photography, which, by variation of the chemical composition of the sensitized surface, permits photographic potentialities to be augmented in various ways — ranging from the revelation of far-distant landscapes veiled in haze or fog to exposures in complete darkness: infrared photography.

6. Penetrative seeing by means of X-rays: radiography.

7. Simultaneous seeing by means of transparent superimposition: the future process of automatic photomontage.

8. Distorted seeing: optical jokes that can be automatically produced by:

a) Exposure through a lens fitted with prisms, and the device of reflecting mirrors; or
b) Mechanical and chemical manipulation of the negative after exposure.

[ … ]

… Thanks to the photographer humanity has acquired the power of perceiving its surroundings and its very existence with new eyes.

… There is no more surprising, yet in its naturalness and organic sequence, simpler form than the photographic series. This is the logical culmination of photography. The series is no longer a “picture,” and none of the canons or pictorial aesthetics can be applied to it. Here the separate picture loses its identity as such and becomes a detail of assembly, an essential structural element of the whole which is the thing itself. In this concatenation of its separate but inseparable parts a photographic series inspired by a definite purpose can become at once the most potent weapon and the tenderest lyric.

My previous post from this book is here.




October 30, 2018

Refusal to Have Anything to Do with the Public

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:54 am

… Modern art became homeless and began to lose all practical function.

This is from The Social History of Art, volume IV by Arnold Hauser (1962; 1951):

… After the failure of all ideals [1848], of all Utopias, the tendency is now to keep to the facts, to nothing but the facts. The political origins of naturalism explain in particular its anti-romantic and ethical features: the refusal to escape from reality and the demand for absolute honesty in the description of facts; the striving for impersonality and impassibility as the guarantees of objectivity and social solidarity; activism as the attitude intent not only on knowing and describing but on altering reality; the modernism which keeps to the present as the sole subject of consequence …

… But did the naturalists really represent the contemporary world, or at least an important part of the contemporary art public? They certainly did not represent the majority of the people who ordered, bought or publicly criticized pictures, who directed the art academies and had to decide which works were to be exhibited.

… [These people] had no room for the creations of naturalistic painting either in their homes crammed with furniture and draperies, nor in their official halls built in one or the other of the favorite historical styles. Modern art became homeless and began to lose all practical function. The same distance that separated naturalistic painting and the elegant ‘wall decoration’ of the time also divided serious and light literature, serious and light music, from each other.

[line break added] The literature or music which did not serve to entertain was just as devoid of function as the progressive painting of the time. Previously even the most valuable and most serious productions of literature, such as the novels of Prévost, Rousseau and Balzac, had formed the reading of a relatively large strata of society, some of which were quite indifferent to literature as such. The dual role of literature as an art and an entertainment at the same time, and the satisfaction of the requirements of different levels of culture by means of the same works, now comes to an end.

[line break added] The artistically most valuable literary products are hardly any longer suitable for light reading and have no attraction at all for the general reading public, unless they draw public attention to themselves for some reason and become successful by creating a scandal, like Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, for example. Only a quite small stratum of intellectuals appreciates such works adequately and therefore even this literature may be classed as ‘studio art,’ like the whole school of progressive painting: it is intended for specialists, for artists and connoisseurs.

[line break added] The estrangement of the whole body of progressive artists from the contemporary world and their refusal to have anything to do with the public goes so far that they not only accept lack of success as something perfectly natural, but regard success itself as a sign of artistic inferiority and consider being misunderstood by their contemporaries a precondition of immortality.

My previous post from Hauser’s book is here.




October 29, 2018

A World We Hardly Knew

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:53 am

… ‘It was only the appearance of vitality that mattered.’

This is from ‘Foreclosed Homes’ by Geoff Manaugh found in issue #20 of the independent quarterly magazine, Volume (2009):

In the otherwise unwatchable 2005 film Fun with Dick and Jane actors Jim Carrey and Téa Leoni watch in dismay as their front lawn is repossessed. The turf if literally peeled off the surface of the earth, rolled up like wallpaper and carted away in the back of a pick-up truck. The natural landscape of their suburban world is revealed as very literally superficial.

[line break added] It is not a landscape at all, you could say, but a commercial product whose lifespan has nothing to do with biology and everything to do with affordability. The couple has fallen behind on their payments so their prosthetic terrain is taken away. ‘Not everybody could afford a landscape like that, eh?’ says Hector, the gardener, as he packs an armful of turn onto his truck. Not everybody, indeed.

I’m reminded of an article by Charles Montgomery from the October/November 2008 issue of The Walrus. On a visit to Stockton, California, a town particularly hard-hit by foreclosures, Montgomery stumbled upon a bizarre growth industry: painting the dead lawns of foreclosed homes green using athletic turf dyes.

[line break added] ‘It seemed fitting that realtors in Stockton should consider it normal to paint these lawns green,’ he explained to me by email. ‘It was only the appearance of vitality that mattered. Homes that looked palatial from the street were fragile inside: thin walls, cheap lights, shelves pinned to cardboard-thin drywall. Everything about Stockton’s suburbs felt temporary, as though the place was a movie set — built to be consumed and abandoned.’

[ … ]

… There is no moment in the end when it will all make sense. We’ll evacuate a world we hardly knew, a purgatory of broken drywall and reclaimed lawns constructed by ancestors we will pretend not to understand.




October 28, 2018

This Time

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:54 am

… its depth calls out to ours.

This is from Music and the Ineffable by Vladimir Jankélévitch translated by Carolyn Abbate (1983):

… Music is entirely ludic in that it remains on the margins of any prosaic or utilitarian existence; and nonetheless, with regard to its immanent meaning, music is serious absolutely serious, as distant from comedy’s fragmentation as from tragedy’s engagement. Frivolous? Not frivolous? It depends. Music represents more a sort of “other Seriousness” a second kind of Seriousness, paradoxically foreign to Seriousness pure and simple, that is, foreign to the “real” Seriousness we associate with perception and action.

… Considering its naïve and immediate truth, music does not signify anything other than what it is: music is not an exposé, revealing some nontemporal truth; rather, it is exposition itself that is the only truth, the serious truth.

… is the notion of depth applicable to music: yes or no? Once more, I need to answer in a noncommittal way: yes and no. As sonorous presence, music could be said to correspond, in its entirety, to the superficial actuality of the process of hearing it. In other words, music could occupy its phenomenal aspect as appearance perceptible to the senses: in this initial sense there would be nothing to look for behind the façade, no conclusion to be drawn, no consequence to deduce; the magic has a natural end since it is its own meaning and raison d’être. Music, from this standpoint, is exactly what it appears to be, without secret intentions or ulterior motives.

… [But] A musical work does not exist except in the time of its playing.

… there is a time for sinking in and this time, perpendicular to the time of the performance (if one dares to use such language), is the time that the listener spends in delving into the thickness of this meaning devoid of meaning.

… There is no unfathomable depth, but there is an inexhaustible, unfailing, unflagging possibility of emotion. In their resistance to seeming weary, in the permanent newness of great works, the miracle of eternal youth fulfills itself. In music, is repetition not often innovation?

… And since a musical work itself performs itself, lets itself be heard along the axis of time, it is hardly surprising that the richness of its nonsignifying signification, or its inexpressive expressiveness, is not flaunted in space, all at once in its entirety, but unfolds itself little by little, for patient, attentive ears: its depth calls out to ours.

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




October 27, 2018

The Image of Themselves That Has Hardened

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:49 am

… On the occasions that it is possible to penetrate this shell, it is like smashing the picture on a television set.

This is from The Empty Space by Peter Brook (1968):

… actors, once launched, have nothing whatsoever to help them to develop their talents. If this is seen most alarmingly in the commercial theatre, the same applies to permanent companies. After he reaches a certain position the actor does no more homework. Take a young actor, unformed, undeveloped, but bursting with talent, full of latent possibilities.

[line break added] Quite rapidly he discovers what he can do, and, after mastering his initial difficulties, with a bit of luck he may find himself in the enviable position of having a job which he loves, doing it well while getting paid and admired at the same time. If he is to develop, the next stage must be to go beyond his apparent range and to begin to explore what really comes hard. But no one has time for this sort of problem.

[line break added] His friends are little use, his parents are unlikely to know much about his art, and his agent, who may be well-meaning and intelligent, is not there to guide him past good offers of good parts toward a vague something else that would be even better. Building a career and artistic development do not necessarily go hand in hand; often the actor, as his career grows, begins to turn in work that gets more and more similar.

… Time after time I have worked with actors who, after the usual preamble that they ‘put themselves in my hands,’ are tragically incapable, however hard they try, of laying down for one brief instant even in rehearsal the image of themselves that has hardened round an inner emptiness. On the occasions that it is possible to penetrate this shell, it is like smashing the picture on a television set.

My previous post from Brook’s book is here.




October 26, 2018

What Really Happened

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:35 am

… experience is what really happens to you in the long run; the truth that finally overtakes you.

This is from ‘St. Augustine and the Bullfight’ by Katherine Anne Porter:

… W.B. Yeats remarked — I cannot find the passage now so must say it in other words — that the unhappy man (unfortunate?) was one whose adventures outran his capacity for experience — capacity for experience being, I should say, roughly equal to the faculty for understanding what has happened to one.

[line break added] The difference then between mere adventures and a real experience might be this? That adventure is something you seek for pleasure or even for profit, like a gold rush or invading a country; for the illusion of being more alive than ordinarily, the thing you will to occur; but experience is what really happens to you in the long run; the truth that finally overtakes you.

… Adventure may be an afterthought, something that happens in the memory with imaginative trimmings if not downright lying, so that one should suppress it entirely or go the whole way and make honest fiction of it. My own habit of writing fiction has provided a wholesome exercise to my natural, incurable tendency to try to wrangle the sprawling mess of our existence in this bloody world into some kind of shape: almost any shape will do, just so it is recognizably made with human hands, one small proof the of the validity and reality of the human imagination.

[line break added] But even within the most limited frame, what utter confusion shall prevail if you cannot take hold firmly and draw the exact line between what really happened and what you have since imagined about it. Perhaps my soul will be saved after all in spite of myself because now and then I take some unmanageable, indigestible fact and turn it into fiction; cause things to happen with some kind of logic — my own logic, of course — and everything ends as I think it should end …

… Literary art, at least, is the business of setting human events to rights and giving them meanings that, in fact, they do not possess, or not obviously, or not the meanings the artist feels they should have — we do understand so little of what is really happening to us in any given moment.




October 25, 2018

This Is a Live Thing

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:55 am

… One must not worry about whether a painting will last, but whether it has planted seeds that give birth to other things.

This is from Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews edited by Margit Rowell (1986):

… The spectacle of the sky overwhelms me. I am overwhelmed when I see a crescent moon or the sun in an immense sky. In my paintings there are often tiny forms in vast empty spaces. Empty spaces, empty horizons, empty plains — everything that has been stripped bare has always made a strong impression on me.

In the visual climate of today, I like factories, night lights, the world seen from an airplane. One of the most exciting experiences I ever had was flying over Washington at night. Seen at night from an airplane, a city is a marvelous thing. And then, from an airplane, you can see everything. A small person, even a tiny dog, you can see them. And this takes on an enormous importance when you’re flying in total darkness over the countryside at night, for example, and you see one or two lights from a farm below.

… For me, an object is alive. This cigarette, this box of matches — they contain a secret life more intense than that of many human beings. When I see a tree, I get a shock, as though it were something that breathes, that talks. A tree is also something human.

Immobility strikes me. This bottle, this glass, a big stone on a deserted beach — these are immobile things, but they unleash a tremendous movement in my mind. I do not feel that when I see a human being moving around like an idiot. People who go swimming at the beach and who move around touch me much less than the immobility of a pebble. (Immobile things become enormous, much more enormous than things that move.) Immobility makes me think of vast spaces that contain movements that do not stop., movements that have no end. As Kant said, it is a sudden irruption of the infinite into the finite.

… What I am looking for, in fact, is an immobile movement, something that would be the equivalent of what we call the eloquence of silence — or what Saint John of the Cross, I believe, called soundless music.

… In my paintings, there is a kind of circulatory system. If even one form is out of place, the circulation stops; the balance is broken.

When a painting does not satisfy me, I feel physically uncomfortable, as though I were sick, as though my heart were not working properly, as though I couldn’t breathe anymore, as though I were suffocating.

… I begin my paintings because something jolts me away from reality. This shock can be caused by a little thread that comes loose from the canvas, a drop of water that falls, the fingerprint my thumb leaves on the shiny surface of this table.

In any case, I need a point of departure, whether it’s a fleck of dust or a burst of light. This form gives birth to a series of things, one thing leading to another.

… I think of my studio as a vegetable garden. Here, there are artichokes. Over there, potatoes. The leaves have to be cut so that the vegetables can grow. At a certain moment, you must prune.

… Things follow their natural course. They grow, they ripen. You have to graft. You have to water, as you do for lettuce. Things ripen in my mind.

… If I attack a piece of wood with a gouge, that puts me in a certain frame of mind. If I attack a lithographer’s stone with a brush, or a copper plate with an etching needle, that puts me in another frame of mind. The encounter between the instrument and the material produces a shock, and this is a live thing …

… One must not worry about whether a painting will last, but whether it has planted seeds that give birth to other things.

A painting must be fertile. It must give birth to the world.

… Two and two do not make four. Only accountants think that. But that is not enough: a painting must make this clear; it must fertilize the imagination.




October 24, 2018

To Buy Other People’s Energy

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:42 am

… everything within the spheres of human existence becomes suffocated by the tinsel of a seemingly easygoing life.

This is found in Moholy-Nagy: An Anthology edited by Richard Kostelanetz (1970):

… People are taught that the best way of living is to buy other people’s energy, to use other people’s skill. In other words, a dangerous metropolitan dogma developed that the different subject matters are best handled by experts and no one should violate the borders of his specialized work or profession.

[line break added] So through the division of labor and the mechanized methods not only the production of daily necessities and goods has passed into the hands of specialists but almost every outlet for the emotional life as well. Today the artist-specialists have to provide for emotions. They are paid — if they are — for that.

[line break added] The sad consequence is that the biological interest in everything within the spheres of human existence becomes suffocated by the tinsel of a seemingly easygoing life. Man who has biologically the potential to comprehend the world with the entirety of his abilities, to conceive and express himself through different media, the word, tone, color, etc., agrees voluntarily to the amputation of these most valuable potentialities.

[line break added] Nothing proves better the lost feeling for the fundamentals of human life than the fact that has to be emphasized today: feeling and thinking and their expression in any media belong to the normal living standard of man; to live without them means starvation of the intellectual and emotional side of life as missing food means starvation of the body. The non-verbalized expression of feeling is what we may call art, but not art on a pedestal. Art is a community matter transcending the limitations of specialization. It is the most intimate language of the senses, indispensable for the individual in society.




October 23, 2018

In the Place of Reality

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:55 am

… How can we participate in this purpose?

This is from The Social History of Art, volume IV by Arnold Hauser (1962; 1951):

… ‘L’art pour l’art’ is, in fact, partly the expression of the division of labor which advances hand in hand with industrialization, partly the bulwark of art against the danger of being swallowed up by industrialized and mechanized life. It signifies, on the one hand, the rationalization, disenchantment and contraction of art, but simultaneously the attempt to preserve its individual quality and spontaneity, in spite of the universal mechanization of life.

‘L’art pour l’art’ indubitably represents the most involved problem in the whole field of aesthetics. Nothing expresses so acutely the dualistic, spiritually divided nature of the artistic outlook. Is art its own end or only the means to an end? This question will be answered differently, not only according to the particular historical and social situation in which one happens to find oneself, but also according to which element in the complex structure of art one concentrates on.

[line break added] The work of art has been compared to a window through which life can be seen without the necessity of accounting for the structure, transparency and color of the window-pane itself. According to this analogy, the work of art appears to be a mere vehicle of observation and knowledge, that is, a pane of glass or an eye-glass of no consequence in itself and merely serving as a means to an end.

[line break added] But just as one can concentrate one’s attention on the structure of the window-pane, without paying any attention to the picture displayed on the other side of the window, so the work of art can be thought of as an independent formal structure existing for its own sake, as a coherent and significant entity, complete and perfect in itself, and in which all transgressing interpretations, all ‘looking through the window,’ prejudices the appreciation of its spiritual coherence.

[line break added] The purpose of the work of art constantly wavers between these two points of view, between an immanent being, detached from all reality beyond the work itself, and a function determined by life, society and practical necessity. From the standpoint of the direct aesthetic experience, autonomy and self-sufficiency appear to be the essence of the work of art, for only by cutting itself off from reality and putting itself completely in the place of reality, only by forming a total, self-contained cosmos, is it able to produce a perfect illusion.

[line break added] But this illusion is in no way the whole content of art and often has no share in the effect it produces. The greatest works of art forego the deceptive illusionism of a self-contained aesthetic world and point beyond themselves. They stand in an immediate relationship to the great problems of their age and are always searching for an answer to the questions: How can a purpose be gained from human life? and : How can we participate in this purpose?




October 22, 2018

Its Social Use

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:50 am

… Once the genre is bound to its social use as discourse there is little or no artistic identity to be lost — only the displaced tokens and impostures from which contemporary art fashions the episodes that keep capital interested.

This is from ‘The Prediction in the Age of Post-Exhibition’ by Qiu Zhijie (2001) found in Exhibition edited by Lucy Steeds (2014):

… relationships between artists were never this tense historically. A creator in ancient times did not even wish to hold a signatory right. Under a clear and bright sky in late spring, they would sit on the riverbank for a calligraphy gathering. They exchanged rhymes and verses. We must possess other ways of playing a game aside from the exhibition.

Because the competition has become this furious, people make strenuous efforts to be memorable. We have begun to take measures similar to advertisements in order to manipulate and calculate the responses of the audience. Aside from the ‘hardware’ of an exhibition, such as an exhibition space and a catalogue publication, the ‘software’ of an exhibition has also developed: you need to repeat that particular image or that medium, and you even need to repeat showing that particular piece so that it becomes your competitive product (trademark). Your developments have to take place within a recognizable degree. Then you can earn a unique label, finally ready to be compiled neatly into the pages of art criticism and history.

Next is from ‘The Air-Conditioning Show Conference’ by Art & Language (2008):

… Consider then, the idea of the work of art as an essay that gives voice — often a ventriloquist’s voice and form — to a project. Consider further that this form is a fragment lopped off from a conversation — a performance of sorts that is always under the pain of erasure, conceived as both form and social reality.

… Once the genre is bound to its social use as discourse there is little or no artistic identity to be lost — only the displaced tokens and impostures from which contemporary art fashions the episodes that keep capital interested.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.




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