Unreal Nature

March 31, 2019

Made and Unmade

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:17 am

… They embody a desperate immanence, as if what is given is not good enough but will have to do.

This is from ‘A Time Apart’ by Paul Chan (2010):

The Greeks had two notions of time: chronos and kairos. Chronos, which we are more familiar with, is the concept of time as measure, a quantity of duration that changes in a uniform and serial order. Chronos is, in a sense, empty; without content or meaning beyond its own linear progressing. It is when nothing happens, and goes on not happening.

Kairos, on the other hand, is a kind of time charged with promise and significance. It is time that saturates time. The dimensions that characterize kairos are neither uniform nor predictable.

[ … ]

… If chronological art stands for the endless, and ultimately empty, serialization of a few traditional ideas that serve to enforce the values of the good life (this is especially the case with art that debases those values for the sake of romanticizing them through their sacrifice), then what does a kairological art look like?

At a glance kairological artworks look no different than other works. They use the same materials and show in the same shows. They say and mean nothing in particular. But it is how they say it (and mean it) that sets them apart. They embody a desperate immanence, as if what is given is not good enough but will have to do.

[line break added] They seize time the way a beat holds a song, to evoke the vertiginous feeling of seeing something emerge by being made and unmade at the same instant. They last as experiences by not staying whole as forms. They radiate an inner irreconcilability about what they are and what they want to be with serious and unrestrained abandon, which is as close as it comes to an honest insight about the plight of living today.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

March 30, 2019

Narrowness

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:21 am

… Narrowness, condition of all revelation …

This is from Henri Bergson by Vladimir Jankélévitch, translated by Nils F. Schott (1959, 2015):

… matter alone is capable of narrowing life, to render it present to itself. … Like the Absolute, the organism is a closed masterpiece, a monadic totality, and a microcosm. The fundamental utility of perception consists, as we saw, in narrowing consciousness. Our memory is infinitely vast; but who knows whether infinity does not sometimes mean powerlessness? An outsized memory does not ordinarily help us at all to confront the urgent problems of existence, and there is no creative effort without a systematic narrowing of knowledge. “Wisdom knows the proper limit of things,” Seneca says.

… Matter thus serves to concentrate life, to make it attentive and vigilant, at the same time as it serves to separate consciousnesses. Like practical perception, instinct, which is life itself, bears the constraining charitableness of this narrowness. Not that it depends, as perception does, on the brain’s policing. The limitations of instinct, necessitated by matter in general, is not as distorting as that of utilitarian perception; it is only restrictive. Narrowed down to itself, it acquires lucidity and precision. It gathers itself and makes the operation of life visible to us. Narrowness, condition of all revelation …

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

March 29, 2019

In the Beginning Was Not the Word, Nor the Flesh

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:56 am

… It was film / that taught me the rules of the imagination …

This is from Sweet Nothings: Notes and Texts by Marlene Dumas, edited by Mariska van den Berg (2015). For those of you not familiar with her, Dumas is a painter:

You change the color
of something and
everything changes
(especially if you’re a painter).


It’s not the fallen woman
nor the temptress I’m after.
It’s not the babydolls I want
nor the Amazons. It’s everything
mixed together to form
a true bastard race.


It was film
that taught me the rules of the imagination
not reality
nor painting.


If you can identify with ‘the pictures’ generation
and with those who’ve seen more reel love than real love
and if you can appreciate Stage,
where the two shall never meet,
because they were in different scenes and on separate screens all along;
you realize that in the beginning was not the word, nor the flesh
but the Editor, who cut the frames, who gave the names and said,
‘Not tonight, Josephine.’

My most recent previous post from Dumas‘ book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

March 28, 2019

Light Spills Out the Doorway

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:15 am

… the air seems suffused with light and color, almost as if one could breathe it.

This is from ‘In Another Light’ by Richard Kalina (1996) found in It Is What It Is: Writings on Dan Flavin Since 1964 edited by Paula Feldman and Karstan Schubert (2004):

Flavin’s tubes carry with them not only the generalized atmosphere of the industrial, but also the quite specific aura of the milieus they most often illuminate — the supermarket, the office, the factory, the hardware store, the lighting shop, the building supply house. Fluorescent lights are cheap, impersonal, replaceable, modular. They are cool, simple in shape, and they radiate virtually without shadow, emitting only a low hum. They are industrial artifacts poised midway between the old idea of a machine and the new one.

… The corner dissolves, the edges are elegantly demarcated, and the square space turns into a subtly modulated, glowing Color Field painting — an Olitski you could walk through.

Flavin puts his color through all its formal paces as well. He takes advantage of advancing and receding hues, of pure and mixed tones, of direct and reflected light, and of sharp contrast and subtle tonal interplay.

… In a big Flavin installation the air seems suffused with light and color, almost as if one could breathe it. You have a sense of anticipation and of being led along as light spills out the doorway of an adjacent room. Shadows cut floors and walls, corners dissolve; forms are blurred and doubled on polished floors; ceiling beams seem spray painted; and small architectural details — the space between two radiator strips, for example — are highlighted with the most complex blend of colors. As you look, the sculptures expand.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

March 27, 2019

The Body as Anagram

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:12 am

Bellmer’s ultimate aim is the reintegration of the human body — body and mind, conscious and unconscious, senses and imagination …

This is from Hans Bellmer by Peter Webb with Robert Short (1985):

… To condemn the work of Bellmer to the flames — and both male puritans and misguided feminists have loudly expressed their desire to do so — is crassly to misunderstand the nature of his project; by implication, it is to want to emasculate desire itself, to want ‘to make a desert and call it peace.’ Bellmer’s art is tragic rather than lubricious.

[line break added] Mortality alone ensures that desire’s furious and infinitely tortuous struggle assumes the appearance of a terrible despair. Fortunately, it is not only men who have recognized the human, and not just the male, import of Bellmer’s project. Even Xavière Gauthier, who is generally hostile to surrealist eroticism, understands that the latent content of his work is not the same as its manifest content. She finds in his very perversity a powerful and salutary challenge to inherited and phallocratic notions of gender.

[line break added] Bellmer’s work is never simply destructive. Like Surrealism in general, it operates on a dialectical principle which requires preliminary disintegration as a prelude to rearticulation. All that Bellmer has to say about anagrams and about the body as anagram is proof of this. And Bellmer’s ultimate aim is the reintegration of the human body — body and mind, conscious and unconscious, senses and imagination — rather than celebration of their incoherence.

[line break added] To quote Nora Mitrani in the first major expository work devoted to Hans Bellmer, ‘All his research is directed towards elucidating, perfecting and extending this mode of correspondence of the physiological to the psychic and of the psychic to the objective.’

My most recent previous post from this book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

March 26, 2019

Only One

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:18 am

… for a creative work of art there is only one single valid form — that which is discovered by the unique and individual psychological subject.

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

… The unique, incomparable, and final character of artistic creations also explains why the nature of evidence in art is so different from what it is in science and that the representation of reality in one work of art can never be contradicted by another. For this reason the experiences and perceptions gained by art are never vitiated by their ideological prejudices. It is not in the least disturbing that many observations made by art often quickly lose their validity and never actually achieve universal recognition.

[line break added] They contain statements which are neither objectively binding nor susceptible of proof and which indeed do not permit discussion of their factual content, even though they do represent insights into the meaning of life which are otherwise essential, invaluable, and apparently irreplaceable. Artistic representations of reality aim to be, and should be, relevant, revealing, and inspiring, but their relevance does not depend on their being correct or indisputable and has nothing in common with the role of validity in science.

… if such an “essential form” [of validity] were at all conceivable, even though not acceptable with respect to theoretical or moral values, it would have no basis in reality as far as aesthetic values are concerned. These not only make their initial appearance in individual concrete works of art but only acquire substance by means of them.

[line break added] There is no artistic value separate from a work of art which could have any validity or which could become the object of a “phenomenology.” The same truth can appear in the most varied contexts and be subject to the most diverse modifications and yet assert its validity; but for a creative work of art there is only one single valid form — that which is discovered by the unique and individual psychological subject.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

March 25, 2019

It Wasn’t Just a Benign Presence

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:17 am

… it wasn’t just a benign presence, but that it had really strong reactions of both love and hate.

This is from a conversation between Matthew Plummer-Fernandez, Ben Schouten and Nick Axel in issue #49 (2016) of the independent quarterly magazine, Volume:

[ … ]

Ben Schouten: The notion of failure of course has to do with value systems. You can only fail according to certain values; so if you don’t have values you can never fail. What value systems are at play in your work?

Matthew Plummer-Fernandez: The value system for my projects is the context in which it operates. So if it’s a project about art criticism, then that’s the value system. If it’s about generating sculptures, then it’s about good or bad sculpture.

[ … ]

BS: So you create something that you don’t know what the end results will be, kind of like when you paint, you have a painting, and you only know it’s done when you’re ready and you hang it.

MPF: Exactly. I mean I did that project almost as a reaction to being pulled into a more contemporary art world, where discourse was already in a gallery space, where everything was acceptable because it was art; it had a certain audience who was already sold on going to the gallery in the first place.

[line break added] But when you put work into some sort of community who isn’t expecting it, and it directly links to the work theat they’ve contributed, it opens up a lot of unknowns. I mean it did eventually evolve into very healthy conversation with people arguing for both sides of whether this is good or bad or whether it is art or not, but for the first two weeks it was very one-sided.

In the end it found the right allies. That’s one of the things I like the most about the project, that the social element was so extreme, that it wasn’t just a benign presence, but that it had really strong reactions of both love and hate. To get that you have to dare to push boundaries in both directions.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

March 24, 2019

In Its Time

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:15 am

… messages about time or memory, about the gods or the creation, about first things or last things …

This is from ‘The Plural Temporality of the Work of Art’ by Alexander Nagel and Christopher Wood (2010):

… No device more effectively generates the effect of a doubling or bending of time than the work of art, a strange kind of event whose relation in time is plural. The artwork is made or designed by an individual or by a group of individuals at some moment, but it also points away from that moment, backward to a remote ancestral origin perhaps, or to a prior artefact, or to an origin outside of time in divinity. At that same time it points forward to all its future recipients who will activate and reactivate it as a meaningful event. The work of art is a message whose sender and destination are constantly shifting.

… A materialist approach to historical art leaves the art trapped within its original symbolic circuits. It tends not even to notice that the artwork functioned as a token of power in its time, precisely by complicating time, by reactivating prestigious forebears, by comparing events across time, by fabricating memories.

[line break added] The only time-bending agency made available to the historical work by a materialist approach is one that reproduces its token-like existence in the symbolic economy of luxury and taste: namely, as an absurdly overvalued heirloom of a modern, consumption-based society; a collector’s item or museum piece in other words. Such an approach will not help us interpret the messages about time or memory, about the gods or the creation, about first things or last things phrased in the wordless plastic language or embedded in the material make-up of paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings and buildings.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

March 23, 2019

Quality

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:12 am

… Perhaps the single fact of existing by itself is already a primordial originality, a kind of radical contingency whose mystery we would rather not go into more deeply …

This is from Henri Bergson by Vladimir Jankélévitch, translated by Nils F. Schott (1959, 2015):

… The bitterness of deliverance consists precisely in this, that to dominate things and to act on them one must renounce knowing them singularly. Working with memory … the intellect inserts between thoughts and things the distance without which there can be no leisure and thus no foresight. In a given landscape, for example, a geographer will show us a certain physical configuration, a soldier will show us a “ground” more or less easily defended, an agronomist a given “soil” with its own cultures: only the artist sets out to adhere to the landscape itself and to find, if we may say so, its haecceity, the original and truly unique physiognomy.

[line break added] For beyond the abstract sketches that the engineer, the tactician, or the geographer superimpose on it from their respective points of view, there is still something inimitable that makes it such that one landscape never resembles another, and it finds itself absolutely defined when its individuality has been expressed.

… thought tends to render itself indifferent to its matter as much as possible. Concerned above all with foresight and economy, it seeks to get as much as possible from as little as possible and sets out to bring to reason the recalcitrant givens that still refuse to be absorbed by our laws. Nothing, in fact, distresses the scholar as much as the necessity to admit a qualitative given that must be thought apart.

This is how it seems that quality is “irrational.” But we could just as calmly decree that all existence is irrational. Is not our dearest ambition to act as if nothing existed? For we are very much resolved to not be burdened by singularities too original. Perhaps the single fact of existing by itself is already a primordial originality, a kind of radical contingency whose mystery we would rather not go into more deeply, since formal and hypothetical understanding has no means to account for the quoddity or effectiveness of being.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

March 22, 2019

Many, Many

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

This is from Sweet Nothings: Notes and Texts by Marlene Dumas, edited by Mariska van den Berg (2015). For those of you not familiar with her, Dumas is a painter:

… My paintings are not the executions of ONE idea or emotion that goes from (a) intention to (b) artwork. (Our notions of cause and effect are also in bad shape.) Drawings are closer and quicker in conveying immediate feelings. The more you move towards paintings the darker the wood becomes through which Little Red Riding Hood goes and it’s not only the wolf but also the wicked witch and the seven dwarves and Judas and Jesus and the journalists that she has to face.

[ … ]

In Europe I eventually discovered the dead artists.
Those who were more alive than most of the living ones,
like Goya, Holbein, Manet, Degas, and Courbet. Most
important I could see them in the flesh. It became clear
that (for example) my dislike for Impressionism was based
largely on ignorance and prejudice. What I thought (was
told, read) was not what I saw.
I do not have artists or painters as heroes. I like and use
bits and pieces of many, many artists and non-artists.
I cannot exist without others. They are my audience, my
burden, my inspiration, my subject-matter and object-matter.

My most recent previous post from Dumas‘ book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

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