Unreal Nature

May 31, 2019

Slipped Away from Everydayness

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:04 am

… The term “outside world” does not refer to objects that are known data but to the unknown qualities of an uncertain world.

This is from The Art of Encounter by Lee Ufan (2018):

… Nature is familiar but full of mystery. It is known and visible but connected to the unknown and invisible. It exists within innumerable lives and coexists with innumerable deaths. A single tree or a single stone are not limited objects. They are necessarily linked to the things that surround them — air, sounds, time, life, death, and dreams. They are part of an endless continuity.

When human beings make things, they cut them off from such relationships, producing a limited object by rational procedures.

… The objectivity of works of art without frames or bases is made ambiguous or dissolved so that they enter into a relationship with the conditions that surround them, and their actual substance seems to be fading away. What constitutes the artwork? How far does it extend? What does it express? How can you distinguish the work from what it is not? No one can say exactly. Sometimes the work is assimilated to things around it and buried in the horizon of the everyday, and at other times aspects of the space are changed by the unusual qualities of the work, perplexing the viewer.

These are signs of complicated events that have accompanied the process of breakdown in modern art and the beginning of a new art. A process of trial and error was needed to find methods corresponding with a new age, and it was natural for a chaotic situation to occur.


… As a site of encounter between inside and outside, painting has to mediate and make connective leaps by means of things and forms that are abstract and suggestive. The components of the work must fulfill the contemporary role of creating continuity in discontinuity through mediation and leaps of perception. Paintings are intermediary sites of communication with the outside world, which has slipped away from everydayness.

… Today, no one is foolish enough to think that the outside world can be directly transferred to the canvas. The term “outside world” does not refer to objects that are known data but to the unknown qualities of an uncertain world.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

May 30, 2019

To Dream the Myth Onward

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:23 am

… It is simply a way of controlling, of ordering, of giving shape and a significance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history.

This is from ‘Surrealist and Not Surrealist in the Art of Jackson Pollock and His Contemporaries’ by Philip Leider:

… Molly Bloom’s soliloquy is perhaps a more prominent feature of the intellectual and early 1940s than, say, Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams or the First Papers of Surrealism. It is also perhaps the supreme example of the “aller et retour” done well, the exact opposite of the “childish, fatuous game” Louise Bogan so detested. It is therefore doubly interesting that a critic who found “a flood of Dadaism” in Ulysses was the one who brought forth Eliot’s sharp defense of Joyce’s method:

In using the myth, in manipulating a continuous parallel between contemporaneity and antiquity, Mr. Joyce is pursuing a method which others must pursue after him … It is simply a way of controlling, of ordering, of giving shape and a significance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history. … Psychology … ethnology, and the Golden Bough have concurred to make possible what was impossible even a few years ago. Instead of narrative method, we may now use the mythical method. It is, I seriously believe, a step toward making the modern world possible for art.

[ … ]

… Characterized by a sense of restless searching, as if they wished to appropriate for themselves some of the depictive authority of the ancient images they draw upon, they undertake to “dream the myth onward,” in Jung’s words, an ambition that would in the next year or two be articulated repeatedly in the writings and remarks of the abstract expressionists, Rothko and Gottlieb in particular.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

May 29, 2019

Talking to a Toll Taker During an Eight-hour Haul

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:04 am

… I set up the camera but found the picture impossible to render. I couldn’t make it not feel fake.

This is from the essay ‘Highway Gothic’ by Time Davis found in the beautiful new book of photographs, Somewhere Along the Line by Joshua Dudley Greer (2019):

I love falling asleep at the wheel. The insatiable gravity of it; the inability to resist. Like the poison drip up your nervous system when you’re stung by a bee, it reminds you that you have a body. Last night I felt myself nod off a few times and it was pretty magical. After ten minutes of just skirting sleep (and death I guess), I pulled into a truck stop north of the B&M baked bean factory in Portland (whose caramel offgassing you can smell for miles).

[line break added] I parked out in a dark spot beyond the humming 18-wheelers and passed out. I awoke at 5:15 with dawn alight like a pet store aquarium, hit the ignition and glid [sic] onto the highway with the most mediocre radio turned up full blast. I immediately burst into tears.
Excerpt from author’s road trip notebook, 1998

[ … ]

I spend so much time on 95 between New York and New Haven and it’s a highway of death. Dead buildings, dead economies, dead bodies. Today I climbed an embankment of broken plastic and slag to check out a stretch in Bridgeport. Came across a perfectly intact dead pit bull with collar and leash, lying right next to the guardrail surrounded by abandoned lamps. Late rush hour traffic only a cowlick away, I set up the camera but found the picture impossible to render. I couldn’t make it not feel fake.
Excerpt from author’s road trip notebook, 2001

Who wants to spend their free hours — weekends, vacations, sabbaticals — climbing the tainted hills behind filling stations, following downtrodden access roads, leaving all their precious things in the car under an overpass? Seekers. Of course, all photographers are, but some are hungry for harsher truths. Ansel Adams took many of his celebrated photographs from the highway itself, but left us feeling weightless and far away, in the dreamland of form.

[line break added] Greer’s pictures smell of white pine and french fry grease. You can feel the rush of a grown man huffing across a parking lot with heavy equipment, and hear the sound of Gitzo [tripod] legs grinding into gravel. They are events and occurrences. Someone has stopped to smell the significance in places designed to be hurtled past. These pictures feel like the human thrill of talking to a toll taker during an eight-hour haul.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

May 28, 2019

Rejection

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:18 am

… Under the burden of such a fiction, art must collapse and the next step can only be its more or less far-reaching rejection.

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

… The crisis of romanticism marks one of the sharpest changes in the variegated history of the social role of the artist, of the constantly changing relationship between the creator of icons and pictures of the gods and the priesthood, the court artist and the prince, the poet and the patron, the autonomous master creating his works of art and the anonymous collector, the professional writer and the reading public with its fluid limits and vacillating expectations.

[line break added] In no previous age had there been such a revolt of the artist against society, so fundamental a refusal to participate in the performance of even the simplest tasks, and such an antipathy to bow to any authority. It probably happened that under cover of a conformist art, the artist [had always] concealed a nonconformist attitude. The nonconformity of romantic and postromantic art is, however, without parallel in its unruliness.

[line break added] Its most remarkable characteristic is certainly not its opposition to the bourgeoisie, long after the aristocracy had ceased to play a role as an intellectual force. What is more remarkable is that the antibourgeois romanticism is itself essentially a bourgeois movement; indeed, it is the bourgeois art movement. It is the movement which finally clears away the conventions of classicism, court art and rhetoric, the elevated style and refined attitudes.

[ … ]

… The essence of an authentically artistic creation consists in the inseparability of its aesthetic and social functions; when, about the time of the First World War, it ceases to fulfill its social function, we witness the beginning of the crisis of art which is now upon us.

… The purely contemplative aesthetic attitude which is expressed in Impressionism reaches its zenith at the end of the century. The feeling dominates that art is useless and has no function — the fatal romantic renunciation. The renunciation is still more exaggerated not only when life is rejected on account of art, but when it is asserted that in art is to be found the only justification for life.

[line break added] It appears not only as the only compensation for the disappointments we have suffered, but also as the actual realization and completion of an existence which is in itself incomplete and without substance. Not only is the effect of life, in the forms of art, as Proust suggests, more beautiful, significant, and conciliatory than otherwise, but it is only complete and meaningful in recollection, in the artistic vision, and in the aesthetic form.

[line break added] Such a view of art had in mind a public which is composed entirely of actual or potential artists, a public for which reality forms the mere substratum of aesthetic experiences. Works of art are made for artists, and the object of art is now only art itself, the world sub specie artis, just as it appears to the artist as artist. Under the burden of such a fiction, art must collapse and the next step can only be its more or less far-reaching rejection.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

May 27, 2019

Imagination Awakens These Accumulated Elements

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:15 am

… Those who insist on the intransigence of materials do not allow for the fact that their objectifications pander to each other.

This is from ‘Wood — Figuring Problems of Material’ by Wolfgang Kemp (1976):

… I would like to place [this] at the heart of a theory of material as a motivating, activating principle: the historicity of materials. … Adorno described the issue in general:

Clearly there exists, perhaps imperceptible in the materials and forms which the artist acquires and develops something more than material and forms. … For the forms, even the materials, are by no means merely given by nature, as an unreflective artist might easily presume. History has accumulated in them, and spirit permeates them. What they contain is not a positive law; and yet, their content emerges as a sharply outlined figure of the problem. Artistic imagination awakens these accumulated elements by becoming aware of the innate problematic of the material.

Adorno talks about ‘history’ accumulating in material; he does not talk about ‘art history.’ … All kinds of material exist in a broader historical context that we must understand as the material’s historical use.

… in the figurative sense, it should be the case that the modern artist like the bricoleur creates by drawing on a stock of individual elements that were not prepared for any artistic purpose, but which were clearly sourced from another sphere ‘where they already possess a sense which sets a limit on their freedom of manoeuver’ and that every selection of an element ‘will involve a complete reorganization of the structure, which will never be the same as one vaguely imagined nor as some other which might have been preferred to it.’ [Claude Lévi-Strauss]

… Where natural and synthetic materials are ‘seemingly’ totally subject, that is subject to the aims of appearance, where the shaping only achieves smoothness, art creates resistance. In these resistances … decisions concerning form and material coincide. Those who insist on the intransigence of materials do not allow for the fact that their objectifications pander to each other.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

May 26, 2019

Imagine You Are Falling

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:13 am

… for all these calculations to operate, we must necessarily assume an observer standing on a stable ground looking out toward a vanishing point on a flat, and actually quite artificial, horizon.

This is from ‘In Free Fall: A Thought Experiment on Vertical Perspective’ by Hito Steyerl (2011):

Imagine you are falling. But there is no ground.

Many contemporary philosophers have pointed out that the present moment is distinguished by a prevailing condition of groundlessness. We cannot assume any stable ground on which to base metaphysical claims or foundational political myths. At best, we are faced with temporary, contingent, and partial attempts at grounding. But if there is no stable ground available for our social lives and philosophical aspirations, the consequence must be a permanent, or at least intermittent state of free fall for subjects and objects alike. But why don’t we notice?

[ … ]

… space defined by linear perspective is calculable, navigable and predictable. It allows the calculation of future risk, which can be anticipated and therefore managed. As a consequence, linear perspective not only transforms space, but also introduces the notion of linear time, which allows mathematical prediction, and with it, linear progress.

[line break added] This is the second temporal meaning of perspective: a view onto a calculable future. As Walter Benjamin argued, time can become just as homogenous and empty as space. And for all these calculations to operate, we must necessarily assume an observer standing on a stable ground looking out toward a vanishing point on a flat, and actually quite artificial, horizon.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

May 25, 2019

Riddled

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:29 am

… Our current memories, those that give us form and identity, are fabricated productions …

This is from ‘The Sadness of the Machine’ by Ollivier Dyens (2001):

… Technologies give access to different, multiple and unknown levels of reality, and by its mere presence, this access alters the encoding of our world. Of course, this is not a new phenomenon (technologies are as old as living beings). However, what is new is the proliferation of technologies and their adaptability to particular and specific needs.

[line break added] New technologies are drawing closer to us. They adapt to us as much as we adapt to them. With current technologies, each of us may choose how to live, die and pray — even how to give birth and create life. New technologies enable each of us to erect a world that responds to our particular perception and understanding.

… Today, our memories almost never originate from our own decoding but are almost exclusively machine-recorded events. How will that affect our structuring of both the world and our individual psyche? How will we be remodeled by our multiplying worlds and relinquished memories? Is this what theoreticians of technological culture are talking about? When we examine the entanglement of biology and culture, are we witnessing the offloading of our phenomenology onto technology?

What are we becoming as we empty more of our memories into culture and technology? How will we perceive the world when even our most intimate memories become device-dependent?

… We live in a world that is riddled, inundated and infested with memories of both men and machines. We live in a world where memories no longer belong exclusively to us. The memories that we now have are ahuman, created and manipulated events, preserved outside ourselves. Our current memories, those that give us form and identity, are fabricated productions; their recording, storage, recall and modification are all operations performed by machines.

[line break added] We live in a world of mostly inhuman memories. If there is a memory of the world today, it is a memory of machines. Without them, I do not exist, for without them I personally have no memories. Our existence, in its most intimately human structure, now belongs to machines.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

May 24, 2019

Both Sides of This Game

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:51 am

… There is great beauty in the fierce conflict between the forces that try to bring things into existence and the forces that try to nullify them.

This is from The Art of Encounter by Lee Ufan (2018):

… I want to pay renewed attention to how the conditions of painting are established (how it is given an intermediary role) by means of the body.

For example, one spot or a number of spots of paint may be added to a plain canvas. That is the beginning, the thing that establishes a relationship between the painted and the unpainted. The phenomenon of empty, resonant space, produced through the intervening effects of tension and interaction between the places that are touched and those that are not touched, makes the painting open-ended.

The conditions of painting must be established dynamically so that it can leap in either direction, toward reality or toward ideas.


… There is great beauty in the fierce conflict between the forces that try to bring things into existence and the forces that try to nullify them. That is why I do not like works that are too perfect or proclaim themselves too strongly. I want to make paintings with a tenuous balance where both sides of this game are visible.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

May 23, 2019

Out of This Misunderstanding

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:17 am

… the wholesome effect of surrealism was to free both the hand and the imagination to the extent that artists felt free …

This is from ‘Crisis and Perpetual Resolution’ by Dore Ashton (1986):

… in the 1940s, he [Arshile Gorky] began to reconsider his earlier premises. In a letter to his sister shortly before his death, he wrote:

Surrealism is an academic art under disguise and anti-aesthetic and suspicious of excellence and largely restrictive because of its narrow rigidity. To its adherents the tradition of art and its quality mean little. They are drunk with psychiatric spontaneity and inexplicable dreams … Really they are not as earnest about painting as I would like artists to be.

Gorky was the first of many abstract expressionists who, having found an initial release through the tenets of surrealism, later retracted this allegiance and in so doing greatly modified surrealism itself (for no matter how much the abstract expressionists did protest, they had drawn heavily upon their surrealist sources).

[line break added] The modification, which eventuated in an identifiable point of view called abstract expressionism, was wrought by artists who, like Gorky, could not finally accept the element of play in surrealist life. Earnestness was essential to the abstract expressionist project, and although it certainly was subtly present in the European surrealists, it could not be discerned by the more sober American acolytes. Out of this misunderstanding, as so often happens, came something new.

[ … ]

… It can be said, finally, that the wholesome effect of surrealism was to free both the hand and the imagination to the extent that artists felt free to enlarge and finally modify surrealist propositions. Most American artists could say with [André] Masson: “Fundamentally I am more a sympathizer with surrealism than a surrealist or a non-surrealist.”

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

May 22, 2019

You Are Not There Long

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:19 am

… Where does it wait when it’s not in the space that’s between us?

This is from the essay ‘The Light on the Stairs: The Sondra Gilman Collection’ by Marianne Wiggins found in From the Heart: The Power of Photography — A Collector’s Choice by Adam D. Weinberg (1998):

Being human is contagious.
Consider This:

You are somewhere spacious, some place of massive space, perhaps enclosed like an airport or open like a park. You are in public, yours is not the only figure in the landscape, there are other people with you in this picture, nearby, not too close, walking past you, talking. How many people doesn’t matter. More than ten. Maybe hundreds. All are strangers to you.

[line break added] What you’re doing in this place doesn’t matter either. You decide. Maybe it’s a supermarket and you’re shopping. Maybe it’s an intersection and you’re on your way to work. Maybe you have a date in fifteen minutes and you’re late. The sun is beating on your head. You’re in a hurry. Or you’re sitting on the aisle in a row of seats waiting for whatever is supposed to start to start.

Suddenly a toddler pitches forward to the ground.
Or two lovers lock in amorous embrace.
Or that guy in the corner pulls a fist on the person shouting at him.

And before you know what’s happening your eyes meet the eyes of a total stranger and the two of you exchange a look and instantly you know you’re feeling the same thing. That look — that jolt of recognition — where does it come from? Does it leave a trace? Does it have a shape? What is its color? Where does it go when it doesn’t exist? Where can we find it? Where does it wait when it’s not in the space that’s between us?

[ … ]

… [Walker Evans’] mother had taught him that to stare was impolite, so he had to teach himself to do it. “Stare,” he wrote his friend (and I’ll end with his beautiful advice):

It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not there long.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

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