Unreal Nature

October 31, 2019

Man Within Man

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:58 am

… The man of this god … conforms to the essential withdrawal of his own figure.

This is from Portrait by Jean-Luc Nancy, translated by Sarah Clift and Simon Sparks (2018):

Autos, or self, is what survives after the gods — that is, the others — have withdrawn and no longer set the standard (other than formally or conventionally), once their mythos is declared a “fiction.” Autos survives precisely at the site and in the movement of this retreat. It takes on the full force of this retreat as well as its whole enigma: it is from the self, and no longer from others, that language must speak, the city must be organized, and the figure must be presented.

… the portrait not only consists of the excellence of an imitation: it is an imitation of what imitates itself or expresses itself in its body and particularly in its face. The portrait represents this representation-of-self or this representation-to-self that makes up the “self.” Put otherwise, it represents the representation of an un-representable: my sameness is not a figure that could be externalized in an image but at the same time, the image of my figure carries the return of the non-figure that I “myself” am. The portrait goes hand in hand with the invention of an “interiority” that becomes the “object” of mimesis, and that becomes that object in such a way that this interiority will end up being sought in all mimesis, be it in a landscape or an inanimate object.

… the god of Augustine inherits the god of Moses — that is, the god whose presence remains withdrawn from all (re)presentation, and this god is also the one who makes man in his own image. The man of this god thus conforms to the essential withdrawal of his own figure.

… The mystery is henceforth in man; it is the identity of the other to man within man, and the identity of this other that man is shown to be or is suspected of being: it is on this theme that the singular adventure of Western art begins.

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




October 30, 2019

The State That Comes Upon Him

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:25 am

… I am not talking here of something that exists purely in language …

Continuing through The Incorporeal: Ontology, Ethics, and the Limits of Materialism by Elizabeth Grosz (2017):

… Although lekta have often been considered as psychological, they can more consistently be regarded as a sense that adheres to bodies and their mixtures that minds are capable of comprehending and words are capable of articulating, a mediation between different kinds of body, those making up language, those composing human language speakers and listeners, and the body and qualities about which they speak. Moreover, lekta adhere to events, independent of language: they are the ongoing possibility of sense whether such a sense is thought or said or not.

Lekta, sayables, enable humans to articulate and understand predicates, what can be said of things, changes in states of affairs, and especially effects.

… The predicate depicts the action or event that occurs to a subject, a subject which abides (as a body) while the changes occur to it. “Cato walks.” That is to say, the state of affairs of walking, the event of walking, is something that occurs to the subject rather than an effect of the subject’s action or a modification the subject undergoes. Cato abides while walking or not. Walking is the state that comes upon him when he walks, a predicate.

[line break added] It is capable of being represented in language with the statement “Cato walks,” but Cato himself remains unchanged in the walking. Cato and walking are each bodies, but Cato’s walking is an incorporeal effect, an event that subsists even in the separation of Cato from walking. I am not talking here of something that exists purely in language, a purely propositional relation (this returns us to the Ideal).

My previous post from Grosz’s book is here.




October 29, 2019

The Narcotics of Culture

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:59 am

… They are together in space but do not belong together …

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

… The mass public does not represent an integration but — in contrast to its apparent concept — an atomization of the receptive group. It consists entirely of individuals essentially isolated from one another without a true intellectual community and significant common experiences. The audience in a cinema still show signs of a communal character, thanks to their origin in the theater and their participation in large numbers in the receptive process.

[line break added] They also show a manifest, though generally superficial solidarity of interests which the attitude of the radio listener or the television viewer no longer does. The one unmistakable sign of the mass public for art consists in the blend of social subjects and the loss of their individual character, which is not replaced by a consciousness of community. They are together in space but do not belong together …

… what is the greater evil in this hypertrophy of production? Reading too much or too little? Having too large or too small a part in the culture industry? The answer is by no means as simple as it might seem to be from the purely civilizatory point of view. The danger of saturation and paralysis with which the narcotics of culture threaten their victims was recognized by Coleridge as early as the beginning of the nineteenth century. “For as to the devotees of the circulating libraries,” he wrote, “I dare not compliment their pass-time, or rather kill-time, with the name of reading.”

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




October 28, 2019

Where Meanings Can Be Manipulated

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:14 am

This is an extract from The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Janes (1976) found in Jessica Stockholder (1995):

… We have said that consciousness is an operation rather than a thing, a repository, or a function. It operates by way of analogy, by way of constructing an analog space with an analog ‘I’ that can observe that space, and move metaphorically in it. It operates on any reactivity, excerpts relevant aspects, narratizes and conciliates them together in a metaphorical space where such meanings can be manipulated like things in space.

[line break added] Conscious mind is a spatial analog of the world and mental acts are analogs of bodily acts. Consciousness operates only on objectively observable things. Or, to say it another way with echoes of John Locke, there is nothing in consciousness that is not an analog of something that was in behavior first.


Jessica Stockholder, Lay of the Land, 2014

My previous post from this book is here.




October 27, 2019


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:43 am

… Live with germs.

Continuing through The Incandescent by Michel Serres, translated by Randolph Burks (2003; 2018):

… If I knew how to express it, morality would reveal the difficult-to-find secret of setting fire to Evil. What then is the Good if not the flame itself, the one that consumes in me, without me requiring it from anyone else, the Evil I am never lacking? Against it, it’s best to start with an exercise of individual symbiosis: living with. How can we negotiate this mire? I make it into my best fuel; I draw energy from it. I burn from it, incandescent. Evil implies in itself this only solution, eminently local.

… We don’t know of any site that’s axenic, totally devoid of microbes, completely sterilized; supposing such a place existed, billions of bacteria would be ready to swoop down on it at the first breach; it could even serve as an emblem, a paradoxical one, for extreme danger, for the exposed place because, to exist, it would require barriers, defenses and protections that would be calculably infinite.

[line break added] For just this once, a metaphysical and moral question can be settled by arithmetic: the law of large numbers shows the stable existence, the ineradicable perpetuation of the sewer. Risk, danger, in sum Evil, remain ineliminable, linked with the very functioning of life, with existence itself, with the numerous collective, with the innumerable species.

… The sowing of a certain rot on milk sometimes has a delicious result: cheese. Thus a certain cooking turns putrefaction to our advantage. Take this cheese or wine, the gift of the gods, as examples. Wash yourself, wash yourself well, don’t wash yourself too much, or you will fall ill.

… Get yourself vaccinated; welcome the illness inside you in small doses so that some special defenses will arise. Experience violence in the playground, a reduced model; practice boxing, fencing, rugby, which contain violence in their rules; expose yourself to the miasmas of rainforests and mosquito-filled swamps; travel in space and across the social body; go to tragedy; don’t be loath to frequent ghettos; consider power not to be the social pinnacle but its cesspool … . Experience fortifies: what doesn’t kill makes stronger. Live with germs.

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




October 26, 2019

Because the Wind and Water Have Moved Them

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:19 am

… All relations are felt relations.

This is from Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture by Tim Ingold (2013):

… In our studies of everyday walking, my colleague Jo Vergunst and I [ … ] found that walking abreast was generally experienced as a particularly companionable form of activity. Even while conversing, as they often did, companions would rarely make immediate eye-to-eye contact, at most inclining their heads slightly towards one another, while coordinating their gait and pace by means of peripheral vision, which is especially sensitive to movement.

[line break added] Direct face-to-face interaction, by contrast, was found to be far less sociable. A key difference is that in walking along together, companions share virtually the same visual field, whereas in face-to-face interaction, each can see what is behind the other’s back, opening up possibilities for deceit and subterfuge. As they turn to face one another, stopped in their tracks, each blocking the other’s path, they appear to be locked in a contest in which views are no longer shared but batted back and forth.

… In a recent meditation … , Lars Spuybroek imagines that as he walks through a field, he comes across a little group of stones with a seedling growing between them, and he likes what he sees:

Clearly the stones are lying there in a certain correspondence, if not accordance, because the wind and water have moved them, rolled them over the ground and made them find an impression, create a little group, a little nest where a plant could start growing and be protected — but where does my liking fit in? Is it merely in me, subjectively enjoying the sight, or is it an … extended correspondence? I am with the stones and plant immediately, fitting in with them … What … flows in and out, like the enjoyment of the stones? Feeling does. All relations are felt relations.

… To correspond with the world, in short, is not to describe it, or to represent it, but to answer to it. Thanks to the mediating work of transduction, it is to mix the movements of one’s own sentient awareness with the flows and currents of animate life.

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




October 25, 2019

Drive the Pen Across the Page

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:57 am

… We dream our own dreams. No one else dreams them for us.

This is from Writing Lives: Principia Biographica by Leon Edel (1984; 1959):

… the biographer reminds himself … that every comma, every period, every inflection, every word has been placed on the page by the living, glowing, creating being. If he reads the words of the novelist, he soon begins to see that certain types of story — regardless of the adventitious circumstances of creation — certain significant characters, certain solutions and certain ethical views — have a way of recurring, always in new and artful disguises. However much a great work is independent of its creator and may be judged independently, invisible threads remain — many more than anyone can discover and disentangle — which bind it to the fashioning mind.

… We dream our own dreams. No one else dreams them for us. No one puts them into our heads. Indeed everything we put into the dreams, however brilliant or absurd, pleasant or painful, is the work of our unconscious imagination. When a writer sits down to write, all his past sits behind his pen. His muscles and his nerves, and above all his emotions — and no one else’s — drive the pen across the page.

… Yeats recognized that writers must accept from posterity the writing of their lives. “We may come to think,” wrote Yeats, “that nothing exists but a stream of souls, that all knowledge is biography.”

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




October 24, 2019

The Darkness at the Base of Its Eyes

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:58 am

… the gesture of the portraitist is being pulled toward this darkness.

This is from Portrait by Jean-Luc Nancy, translated by Sarah Clift and Simon Sparks (2018):

… That which is most invisible in perception is not darkness — for after all, we do see darkness, even if we see nothing in it. What is most invisible is rather vision itself, which by definition cannot look back on itself. It could be that the heart of the problematic of self-relation, of presence to self and in itself, is to be found in the relation of the look to itself.

[line break added] More than any other sense, vision escapes from outside and moves away from its place of operation whereas hearing, touch, taste, and smell all intermingle their “outside” with their “inside” and function entirely within a chiasm or resonance of the one and the other. The eye is as if lost for vision because it is projected in it and as if expelled in it; the eye cannot see itself and yet what it wants to see is vision, its vision.

Perhaps the portrait must be considered in terms of the way the look returns to itself, not in the mode of reflection but in that of penetration into itself that makes more than its appearance visible: this very invisibility from which it looks, its macula, its blind spot — that makes of its art a blind task, a labor that gropes around in the dark abyss of the “self” or the “ipse“.

… It could very well be that the heart of visual art (“visual” as well as, or even more so, “visionary” … ) is constituted by a double authority: on the one hand, the active intervention into the visible, that is, the formal theme, the wavy or broken line, the rhythmic mark, the surge of the line and the burst of the spot, and on the other hand, the eye experiencing itself in the movement or the pushing that pulls the line, that accentuates the planes and the relations, that casts the smudge or bleeds it.

[line break added] The eye, withdrawing in some way from the views projected in front of it, palpating within itself the texture and the energy of its seeing — just as a portrait never ceases to withdraw into itself the view that it offers to whoever looks at it, a view that in the end belongs only to the portrait, to the darkness at the base of its eyes, and the gesture of the portraitist is being pulled toward this darkness.

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




October 23, 2019

Non-things That Frame Things

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:13 am

… Every materialism, whether this is acknowledged openly or not, requires an incorporeal frame.

This is from The Incorporeal: Ontology, Ethics, and the Limits of Materialism by Elizabeth Grosz (2017):

… What intellectual maneuvers must materialism develop to hide what it must assume — concepts, processes, frames that are somehow different from and other than simply material? What must materialism assume, what terms must it develop, in order for it to explain what appears to be immaterial or extramaterial? How, for example, do materialist models consider concepts, thoughts, ideas? Are they simply activated neuronal connections?

[line break added] Isn’t there something about concepts, whatever neuronal activity their generation and understanding requires, that is not reducible to even extremely complex material, that is, neurological, alignments? How do materialists understand the conditions of appearance of matter, such as space and time, materially? How do materialists understand meaning or sense in terms beyond their materiality as sonorous or written trace? How can sense, in both its senses, as meaning and as orientation, be possible without some direction in matter itself?

… What is peculiar about the Stoic tradition, what enables it to exceed its own materialism, is the place it accords to nonexisting things, things that are not objects or subjects but what they sometimes call “incorporeals” or not-somethings. While incorporeals (asomata) do not exist, they are not nonexistent; they are not-nothing. They still belong to the category of “something.”

[line break added] However, unlike something, they do not exist but subsist as the incorporeal conditions for the appearance and operation of somethings, objects, subjects, and their qualities and relations. This idea of a nonexisting not-something is the object of ridicule in the writings of Alexander, Sextus Empiricus, and Galen. However, it is central not only to the materialism developed by the Stoics, but, as I will argue in the following chapters, for any kind of materialism that aims to function nonreductively.

[line break added] Every materialism requires a frame, a nonmaterial localization, a becoming-space and time, that cannot exist in the same way and with the same form as the objects or things that they frame. Every materialism, whether this is acknowledged openly or not, requires an incorporeal frame. The appeal of the Stoics, even today, lies in the audacity with which they develop the concept of the incorporeal as the subsisting condition of material existence.

[line break added] Their materialism is rigorous and thoroughgoing, but they are among the very few philosophers in the history of Western thought to openly acknowledge that materialism, their own philosophical commitment, cannot be self-inclusive or self-limiting. The Stoics admit into their ontology not only things with their active and passive, causally structured, relations but also the non-things that frame things, put them in the same field and create a plane or context for their actions and being acted upon.

… It is not so much that the universe is composed of an active divine principle and a separate passive material principle: rather, active and passive, divine and material, are completely blended. Pneuma is not distinct from matter but rather matter is always already infused with pneuma.




October 22, 2019

At One and the Same Time

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:29 am

… For all the happiness which people owe to art, they nourish a secret, though often ill-concealed, suspicion and anger about it.

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

… Examples of the rule which says that almost nothing can be asserted about art of which the opposite cannot also be said, the contradiction that it is at one and the same time individual and supraindividual, spontaneous and conventional, historical and ahistorical, close to and removed from nature, that it has purpose and does not have purpose, can be extended to the thesis that it can have both positive and negative social effects.

[line break added] Art which serves the need for communication and understanding as well as the task of socialization and unification, at the same time becomes the substratum of the most personal, intimate, untranslatable experiences, a means of concealing jealously guarded secrets, and the source of a pleasure which is the more intense the greater the demands it makes upon the people enjoying it.

[line break added] For all its practical expediency, it acts as an anesthetic, often developing a lack of responsibility to the most burning questions of life, and as something by which we make light of the wretchedness of so many of the conditions of our existence. It may become the object of a cult which permits us to forget that we no longer really believe in anything, or the instrument to simulate sympathy, which moves us to shed noncommittal tears.

… The suspicion nourished by masters and clients about the artist are just as justified as those which artists who are employed or commissioned have about their masters and clients. They need one another, make contracts with one another, make forced concessions to one another, and live together for the most part in a precarious armistice. They praise and extol each other in order to be praised and extolled, but there is seldom any cordiality in their relations. For all the happiness which people owe to art, they nourish a secret, though often ill-concealed, suspicion and anger about it.

… The problem of the relationship between the producer and the consumer of art is not a question of particular works, styles, or trends in taste, but simply of art, namely of the question as to whether society, as it is, can allow itself the pleasure of art at all.

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




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