Unreal Nature

January 31, 2019

The Dark Corner

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:53 am

Flavin had so transformed our understanding of light in space that he could simply replace an existing overhead track with continuous strip lighting …

This is from Dan Flavin: A Retrospective by Michael Govan and Tiffany Bell (2004):

… The dark corner, rarely used by other artists, was for Flavin a site of endless possibilities: pressing a single 8-foot fixture into a corner, framing a corner, or putting light simultaneously into and out of a corner. By leaning a fixture into a corner, he could have room to mount a smaller lamp of contrasting color (or colors) on its back to light the corner and part of the floor in a triangle of light. In its most sophisticated form, Flavin’s engagement with the dark corner produced incredibly simple and beautiful constructions, such as the one dedicated to the real Dan Hill


untitled (to the real Dan Hill)1b, 1978

[ … ]

… In 1994, for the Kunstbau — a long underground passageway that was once a rail station and is now an extension of the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich — Flavin utilized existing lighting tracks suspended from the ceiling to install four very long, gently curving lines of fluorescent light in pink, yellow, blue, and green — echoing his overhead lighting of the train platforms of New York’s Grand Central Terminal, which also expanded upon an existing functional lighting system.

[line break added] Almost exactly thirty years after rescuing fluorescent light from the eternal obscurity of overhead lighting systems and commercial shop windows and signage illumination, Flavin had so transformed our understanding of light in space that he could simply replace an existing overhead track with continuous strip lighting in his four primary colors and have his art felt and understood.

My previous post from this book is  here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 30, 2019

Becoming More Conscious of the World

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:44 am

… photography is important to the future of our civilization, not solely as art, but also photography as individual expression, and also photography as communication between people throughout the world.

This is from ‘Pre-Training, First Year, a Basic Approach’ by Oscar Bailey found in SPE: The Formative Years edited by Nathan Lyons (2012). This book reprints documents from the “invitational teaching conference held at The George Eastman House in 1962.” (SPE stands for Society for Photographic Education.):

… photography can play an important role in personal development — in the humanization of human beings. It seems to have its own unique means of maturing the individual. Early in the humanization process must come the realization that a person has a direct relationship to his fellow man and his whole environment, and that these contacts shape his character and his thinking. We all tend to go through the world, daily, rather unconsciously and unseeing.

[line break added] To grow we must consciously examine our world and see it as clearly as possible. The student photographer, by the act of selecting a segment from the world, looking at the print and examining the motives or forces which prompted his selection, then deciding on the meaning it has for him, is becoming more conscious of the world and his relationship to it. As the student begins to grow and develop awareness his life and his expression become more meaningful and worthwhile. He will become surer of himself and his place in the scheme of things.

In the ‘resume of discussion’ after Bailey’s presentation, the following is noted:

… We realize we have images by default, by accident; we also have images by intent: in students’ work, which is which is hard to say.

We pointed out children’s great concern for pictures and imagery — this is the way they begin to learn, they are quite wrapped up in imagery. Somewhere along the line in our formal schooling awareness of imagery tends to disappear. Photography could bring this concern back. It should, in fact, attempt to bring back to the student an awareness of the power of pertinent images.

[line break added] We can point out to the student that one photograph shows an idea or conveys a feeling very clearly, very understandably, while another photograph, superficially the same, shows the same idea in a confusing manner. We also can point to two photographs; one makes a single, specific statement — we look at it, we receive the information, that’s the end. We point to the other photograph, more subtle with a wide range of meaning and a different meaning for each viewer. This is important.

… The discussion concluded with the idea that we should think of photography not as an occupation that pays the bills, or a hobby, but as a part of everything we do. A basic course has this responsibility to the student and to the medium of photography; to point out that photography is important to the future of our civilization, not solely as art, but also photography as individual expression, and also photography as communication between people throughout the world.

My previous post from this book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 29, 2019

Emotional Distance

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:47 am

… the successful representation of emotional states presupposes a certain emotional distance …

Continuing through The Sociology of Art by Arnold Hauser, translated by Kenneth J. Northcott (1982):

… Art … shows this strange combination of spontaneous and unspontaneous forces in relation to the sincerity of the feelings it expresses. The contradiction — which Diderot observed and which he dubbed the “paradox of the actor” — between what the artist appears to feel and what he actually feels revolves entirely around the presuppositions of the artistic illusion.

[line break added] The true meaning of Diderot’s thought does not actually consist in the discovery that the false and insincere can produce a quite spontaneous and natural effect in art but in the recognition that this effect is produced only because it is more or less false and unspontaneous, carefully thought out and exactly calculated.

[line break added] Diderot recognized that the successful representation of emotional states presupposes a certain emotional distance rather than too strong an emotional link, and he does not hesitate to declare that the artistic expression is often that much weaker, the stronger and more genuine feelings are which have to be expressed. The dilettante generally has more feeling and is more honest than the artist.

[line break added] Furthermore, even if the truth value of a poem does not necessarily stand in an inverse proportion to the truthfulness of the poet, a work of literature with fictive emotions is on firmer ground than one with genuine ones. The mouth twitching with emotion and the eyes wet with tears are that much more expressionless, the more uncontrolled the passion which grips the heart. The artist is concerned not with feelings but with the presentation, the imago, of feelings.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 28, 2019

Ripe for Exploitation

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… how can we be critical … ?

This is from ‘Digital Distraction: Towards a Technological Criticism’ by Colin Ripley in issue #36 (2013) of the independent quarterly magazine, Volume:

In his 2009 A Brief History of the Future, Jacques Attali characterizes the history of progress as one of the conversion of service industries into consumer goods. In recent years we have seen this notion taken one step further, as consumer goods such as CDs and books — physical congellations of the music and storytelling industries — have vanished before our eyes, converted this time into pure information. What we are witnessing is a double change of state: relational to solidified to indexical; however, unlike the changing states of matter, these changes are irreversible.

… maybe there is something inherent in technological development that disenfranchises the critical voice. Walter Benjamin seems to have suggested this: writing in another world, about earlier, more primitive technologies, he pointed out the ability for technological development to penetrate deeply into reality, to reshape and reform our understanding of the world, to induce a state of a critical distraction ripe for exploitation. If this was true for film in the 1920s, it is surely even truer for our digital technologies today and in coming years, with their ability to reform the social and material realities of our world in front of our eyes — almost without our even noticing.

So: has this new wave of intensified technological development produced a new state of critical distraction in the twenty-first century?

… how can we be critical when the object of our criticism, the position we take, and the function of our critical activity all risk being obsolete before we can even write them down?

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 27, 2019

The Sounds of Life

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:53 am

… Can you imagine placing an LP on the turntable that contains the sound of your first words, your grandfather’s diary or the sounds of the social function that you attended last weekend?

This is from Sound by Artists by Dan Lander (1990):

… it is difficult to identify an art of sound precisely because of its historical attachment to music. Although music is sound, the tendency has been to designate the entire range of sonic phenomena to the realm of music. With the introduction of noise — the sounds of life — into a compositional framework tending towards the ephemeral and avoiding the referential, artists and composers have created works based on the assumption that all sounds uttered are music.

… The imposition of a ‘musical template’ onto the sounds that otherwise, in a day-to-day context, have meanings other than musical ones, leads us to a dead-end conclusion: all sound is music.

… The stripping away of meaning from the noise of our world constitutes a refusal — fetishizing the ear, while ignoring the brain — to engage ourselves in dialogue with the multiplicity of meanings conveyed by the sounds we produce, reproduce and hear. If a critical theory of sound (noise) is to develop, the urge to ‘elevate all sound to the state of music’ will have to be suppressed. Noise your lover’s voice, a factory floor, the television news — is ripe with meaning and content distinguishable from the meaning and content of musical expression. It is this content that constitutes any possibility for an art of sound.

… Although photography, for which theories of representation are well established, preceded that of sound recording, a theory of phonography (recorded sound) has yet to emerge. … [P]honography, as a form of cultural and social representation, exists in a vacuum, devoid of any substantial critical discourse.

… The potential of the microphone/tape recorder is boundless — compact, battery operated, inexpensive and readily available — as an instrument for artistic and social expression. Any social or private activity that emits sound can be recorded. Can you imagine placing an LP on the turntable that contains the sound of your first words, your grandfather’s diary or the sounds of the social function that you attended last weekend?

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 26, 2019

Waiting for a Performance to Begin

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:51 am

… wanting to be interested, hoping to be interested, persuading itself that it ought to be interested.

Continuing through The Open Door: Thoughts on Acting and Theatre by Peter Brook (1993):

… within us at every moment, like a giant musical instrument ready to be played, are strings whose tones and harmonies are our capacity to respond to vibrations from the invisible spiritual world which we often ignore, yet which we contact with every breath.

… the basic material presented, the story or the theme, is above all, there to provide a common ground, the potential field in which each member of the audience, whatever his age or his background, can find himself united with his neighbor in a shared experience.

… The first step is all-important and it is more difficult than it seems. Surprisingly this preliminary step is not given the respect it deserves. An audience may sit waiting for a performance to begin, wanting to be interested, hoping to be interested, persuading itself that it ought to be interested. It will only be irresistibly interested if the very first words, sounds or actions of the performance release deep within each spectator a first murmur related to the hidden themes that gradually appear.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 25, 2019

The Only Thing That Permits Us to Live

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:40 am

This is from:

Gatsby’s Theory of Aesthetics
by Amiri Baraka

… Poetry aims at difficult meanings. Meanings not already catered to. Poetry aims at reviving, say, a sense of meaning, or meaning’s possibility and ubiquitousness.

Identification can be one term of that possibility. That is, showing a thing with its meaning apparent through the act of that showing. Interpretation can be another term. That is, supporting a meaning, with one’s own life. That is, under, standing. And using that position as a map, or dictionary. Depending on whether you move or sit.

I write poetry only to enlist the poetic consistently as apt description of my life. I write poetry only in order to feel, and that, finally, sensually, all the terms of my life. I write poetry to investigate my self, and my meaning and meanings.

… Arbitrariness, or self imposed meaning, is the only thing worth living for. It is the only thing that permits us to live.

 


I think the above is exactly wrong. I like it for making me notice and think about how I think it’s exactly wrong. That’s good writing.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 24, 2019

Uncharted Provinces of That Space

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:55 am

… they possess a physical reach that … encompasses part or all of the space of the room.

This is from Jeffrey Weiss’s ‘Preface’ to Dan Flavin: A Retrospective by Michael Govan and Tiffany Bell (2004):

… With the turn of the century … perspective has begun to shift, and the radical aesthetic challenge represented by the generation of the 1960s is now finding its place in relation to the history of modernism as well as the broader history of art. Flavin’s work in particular almost symbolizes the meaningful intractability of abstract art from that period in relation to the kinds of categories that had formerly prevailed.

[line break added] To begin with, his works are composed of nothing but standardized, commercially produced fluorescent tubes — they are, in their materials, decidedly unexalted, even banal. Further, while they possess properties belonging to both painting and sculpture, they cannot be assigned to either medium.

[line break added] For example, while they take the form of constructed objects, like painting they exploit the optical nature of color and light; conversely, deploying phenomenal rather than depicted light, they possess a physical reach that (in a manner exceeding the material limitations of painting) encompasses part or all of the space of the room. With the extension of the work into new types or genres — the “corner” piece, the “corridor,” and the “barrier” — Flavin claimed previously uncharted provinces of that space, thereby establishing the physical coordinates and dynamics of an unprecedented installation art.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 23, 2019

This New Tempo

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:42 am

… If sensing “tomorrow” is as important in art as it is in science and human affairs, then this is a period of desperation in the structuring of education for the creative arts.

This is from ‘Environments for Creativity (Photography in an Institution)’ by Bill Hanson found in SPE: The Formative Years edited by Nathan Lyons (2012). This book reprints documents from the “invitational teaching conference held at The George Eastman House in 1962.” (SPE stands for Society for Photographic Education.):

… Creative photography in an institution can be a very grim prospect. It is no fun being in a parenthesis. Nonetheless, there is much that keeps us hemmed between these dangerously curving walls.

… Then why do I suggest the college art department as the f/1.9 matrix for photography? First, simply because the photograph is a visual image. I hope you agree that visual images at their noblest aspire to art. Second, visual art today is generally myopic and somewhat lost, and maybe the camera can help it clear its senses. Third, it is possible to easily imagine photography as a vertical level or organization relating the visual arts to the sciences. To put it mildly, this could be exciting.

… Unfortunately, and sometimes unwillingly, many art departments will flounder knee-deep in the cut-paper and paste of first year basic design. Formal values of point, line, plane, texture and color often become totally divorced from psychological levels of meaning. Caught in the clichés of a most unfortunate dehydration of the grand old Bauhaus into a shriveled new academy students cannot harness this stereotyped patterning to a real message.

[line break added] Enamored of but half an art, they remain impoverished of image in what is probably the most picture-saturated period in the history of the world. And when we think of the design sensitivity and knowledge necessary to sequence within the dynamic format of the motion picture film we cannot but be dismayed at a very real lack of “design” teaching techniques, as well as the experimental programs which could develop them. Is it time to take a new look at our programs for teaching visual structure?

[ … ]

… Being generally too busy to exhaust themselves in skirmishes involving Photography as Journalistic Craftiness versus Photography as Finest Art, certain students will graduate (or not graduate) and grow to become the avant-garde of evolving culture. They will add a new rung to that none-too-steady ladder.

[line break added] As teachers we can help keep their youthful big guns from pointing at one another. This can be a useful service. No one can know “all” sides or even “all” questions and so we do, naturally, wear our limits on our sleeves. Granting this, we can still attempt to be constructive, hopeful and courageous so that the student will not atrophy before his time.

I am often haunted by Edward Weston’s clear statement that “composition is the strongest way of seeing.” Are our students seeing? Do we orient them extensionally? We are in the midst of an age when miracles of creativeness (and destructiveness) sometimes take but instants of time. Art does not yet speak at this new tempo.

… as Nathan Lyons has said, “The eye and the camera see more than the mind knows.” Can we and our students domesticate this wonderful machine?

The fact of photography, a visual art technique with incredible immediacy, presents a many-leveled challenge to educational institutions as well as to the individual artist-photographer. How do we structure teaching programs which will develop the kind of mind capable of broadly pre-visualizing? If sensing “tomorrow” is as important in art as it is in science and human affairs, then this is a period of desperation in the structuring of education for the creative arts. Can photography help?

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 22, 2019

Kant’s Pigeon

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:49 am

… The artist must perceive his own identity, his most personal experiences and innermost feelings as something apart from himself, something foreign to him, and something which opposes his will to form so that he can express them in concrete terms.

Continuing through The Sociology of Art by Arnold Hauser, translated by Kenneth J. Northcott (1982):

… It is the riddle of Kant’s pigeon — the atmospheric pressure which seems to hinder its flight is what makes it possible. Artistic expression comes about not in spite of, but thanks to, the resistance which convention offers to it. The artist must possess a formal language which is not too flexible so that others will understand him and so that he can understand himself.

… Cognitive perception is generally represented as an essentially passive attitude which tries to portray reality as faithfully as possible; artistic creation, on the other hand, is seen as something completely original which changes the picture of reality capriciously. Both ideas call for correction, and even if Kant did point to the role of the spontaneous elements of cognition as coming out of the observing consciousness itself, the corresponding problem in relation to art had still to be solved. In contrast, the subjectivization of knowledge would insist that artistic spontaneity be kept within its proper bounds.

[line break added] This spontaneity encounters rigid barriers not only in the conventions of expression to which it has to adjust but also in objective reality and, again, not only in an external reality but also in an inner one which has to be accepted and reproduced, so that subjective self-expression revolves around a hard core of inevitable reality. This reality places limits upon the capriciousness of the creative impulse, the blind urge to communicate oneself and the unbridled outpouring of subjectivity, and gives it direction.

[line break added] In the face of pure striving for expression and the drive to communicate, even the most intimate feelings and the most fleeting emotions assert themselves as an objectivity which is to be occupied and preserved in its own quality. The artist must perceive his own identity, his most personal experiences and innermost feelings as something apart from himself, something foreign to him, and something which opposes his will to form so that he can express them in concrete terms.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

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