Unreal Nature

January 29, 2020

A Life

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:07 am

… Art expresses the affects that a life focuses or diffracts.

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

… Each life lives in a world, opens up and elaborates a world through what it perceives and how it acts: each living thing is an artist (some better or worse at their creations) that invents an ethos, a way to live, a style of living in their habitat or milieu.

Life is thus both natural and material, an organization (and deterritorialization) of bodily form, but also conceptual (a condition for any ethics) and artistic creation or invention. It is because each life is affected by and affects its world that it has an ethical existence, one based on its interrelations with a world that includes all sorts of others, in which its capacities are enhanced or diminished.

[line break added] Numerous affective relations mark every living thing: the expression and framing of affect are also the conditions under which art becomes possible, not merely human art with its systems of monetary value but also the creative and artistic productions of animals — nests, elaborate dances and techniques for attraction, competitions for sexual success, the production of various architectural structures, the differentiation and elaboration of sexually pleasing characteristics.

… Ethics aims to create an order in which a being can act for its health, well-being, and expansion, and art aims to create an order in which a being can express, and others can find expressed, this power of expansion and this capacity for more. Art expresses the affects that a life focuses or diffracts.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 28, 2020

We Are Tricksters Tricked

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:38 am

… all culture is trickery, … we are tricksters tricked …

This is from Martin Pawley’s introduction to The Shape of Things: A Philosophy of Design by Vilém Flusser (1993):

… The words design, machine, technology, ars and art are closely related to one another, one term being unthinkable without the others, and they all derive from the same existential view of the world. However, this internal connection has been denied for centuries (at least since the Renaissance). Modern bourgeois culture made a sharp division between the world of the arts and that of technology and machines; hence culture was split into two mutually exclusive branched: one scientific, quantifiable and ‘hard,’ the other aesthetic, evaluative and ‘soft.’

[line break added] This unfortunate split started to become irreversible towards the end of the nineteenth century. In the gap, the word design formed a bridge between the two. It could do this since it is an expression of the internal connection between art and technology. Hence in contemporary life, design more or less indicates the site where art and technology (along with their respective evaluative and scientific ways of thinking) come together as equals, making a new form of culture possible.

… If in fact design increasingly becomes the center of attention, with the question of Design replacing that of the Idea, we will find ourselves on uncertain ground. To take one example: plastic pens are getting cheaper and cheaper and tend to be given away for nothing. The material they are made of has practically no value, and work (according to Marx, the source of all value) is accomplished thanks to smart technology by fully automatic machines.

[line break added] The only thing that gives plastic pens any value is their design, which is the reason that they write. This design represents a coming together of great ideas, which — being derived from art and science — have cross-fertilized and creatively complemented one another. Yet this is a design we don’t even notice, so such pens tend to be given away free — as advertising, for example. The great ideas behind them are treated with the same contempt as the material and work behind them.

How can we explain this devaluation of all values? By the fact that the word design makes us aware that all culture is trickery, that we are tricksters tricked, and that any involvement with culture is the same thing as self-deception. True, once the barrier between art and technology had been broken down, a new perspective opened up within which one could create more and more perfect designs, escape one’s circumstances more and more, live more and more artistically (beautifully). But the price we pay for this is the loss of truth and authenticity.

… A confession is called for here. This essay has had a specific design in mind: it set out to expose the cunning and deceptive aspects of the word design. This it did because they are normally concealed. If it had pursued another design, it might, for example, have insisted on the fact that ‘design’ is related to ‘sign’: a sign of the times, a sign of things to come, a sign of membership. In that case, it would have given a different, but equally plausible, explanation of the word’s contemporary situation. That’s the answer then: everything depends on Design.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 27, 2020

Charged Material

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:16 am

… save for a realization of the dichotomy between the dulled generalities of concept and the shimmering actualities of perception.

This is from Robert Ryman by Vittorio Colaizzi (2017):

… Unhappy with the term abstract, and unwilling to produce what in his plainspokenness he calls “pictures,” Ryman strives to rid his work of the tacit fissure between the painting and its surroundings. This desired continuity of space has been missed, Ryman notes, even by some of his admirers:

They don’t seem to know what the painting is … A few years ago I saw someone had two small paintings of mine and they were hanging in a hallway, maybe a foot apart, along with … pictures in frames, and it was totally misunderstood as to what they were. … But it’s odd that they seemingly like the painting but yet they don’t understand what it is. Or how it works.

Ryman’s paintings “work” by establishing their own particularity against the tradition of picturehood. In “prefer[ring] to put paint down and leave it as it is,” Ryman attempts with each painting to entice the viewer out of the virtual space that has been painting’s domain, exhorting him or her to cease looking for activity inside the painting, and instead attend to it as a thing in the material world.

… “I am not talking of the technical processes of painting, which in itself is important, but of the seeing of painting. This ‘seeing’ can be so complex that the possibilities for painting are endless.” The “problem,” than, as befits an artist who is ordinarily loathe to theorize his place in history, is ours as much as his, because it is not only one of making, but also one of perception.

[line break added] Seeing counts as doing for Ryman, and the onus falls to painter and viewer alike. He continues that although “it is not necessary to use paint to make an image,” many painters “could not ‘see’ any other way to use paint.” His quotation marks around the verb see alert readers to his expanded sense of the term, as a possibility of conceiving and envisioning a mode of painting beyond existing conventions.

[line break added] What he does with paint is to propose that the viewer sees it not as blank, but as rich and aesthetically charged material. Because one can easily mistake one of his works for a “white painting,” Ryman has always risked invisibility, save for a realization of the dichotomy between the dulled generalities of concept and the shimmering actualities of perception. Without such a moment of insight, or to use one of the artist’s favorite terms, enlightenment, the viewer will see only white.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 26, 2020

The Ferocious Presuppositions

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:25 am

… Do we always remember the ferocious presuppositions of excellent reason?

This is from Geometry by Michel Serres, translated by Randolph Burks (2017, 1995):

… Like a comet appearing in the sky, the new light of mathematics trails behind it an immense tail, almost as bright as it is, whose presence we don’t quite forget when we devote ourselves to hard and pure demonstration.

For the constriction at the level of the first basin, whose localization suddenly channels a now rational flow, remains like a forgotten violence. What terrible expulsion is still preserved in what we call, as though an admission, the excluded middle?

Do we always remember the ferocious presuppositions of excellent reason? Who among us hasn’t felt at some time an almost religious or mystical respect for the idealities of mathematics or something like a fear emanating from its lofty figures, an inmost experience whose memory, reconstructed here, explains to us how a knowledge, even the most abstract or independent from the things of the world and society, can remain mixed with a remainder of religious or sacrificial terror, of ecstasy, of attack and defense, of security, of difficult work and fecundity, of miracles shooting out like fountains from an old dryness, fossil adherences still attached to the origins …

Yes, why do we always feel such terrible fears toward and through theoretical knowledge? Or such joys?

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 25, 2020

Owned By a Few

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:59 am

… we encounter the techniques used to enhance what was seen, might be seen, would be seen, and should be seen.

This is from Observing By Hand: Sketching the Nebulae in the Nineteenth Century by Omar W. Nasim (2013):

… in addition to the significant social and cultural, religious and moral, and of course, aesthetic spheres, multiple scientific contexts are revealed by following the way an image and its many reproductions were used by astronomers and by scientists in general. In some ways the images were used as proxies for an object, as a means of “virtually witnessing” what otherwise could be seen only through the large telescopes owned by a few. There were also questions about the best ways to orient, present, and look at the images so as to properly see the phenomena thus secured. The images were meant to visualize explananda for scientific theory, which depended chiefly on the appearance displayed.

Bearing in mind that many of the published images constituted what scientists regarded as their finished, stabilized visual results, worthy of the attention they might receive as “immutable mobiles,” the widespread privileging of published visualizations of scientific phenomena is justifiable and understandable.

… My work, dealing with sketches found in the unpublished observing books, is not committed to the same approach. But to use the metaphor of language for the visual productions in the sciences, one may say, with all due caution, that I am concerned with the alphabet (working images) and the grammar (procedures) that make visual language possible.

The principal focus of this book will be on exploring the ways handmade drawings were produced, bit by bit, within the private observing books. Turning to the internal, material contexts of an observational program, we encounter the techniques used to enhance what was seen, might be seen, would be seen, and should be seen. So, for example, the multiple preliminary sketches of the same object in the observing books were often drastically different, but they were never used to prove that an object had actually changed.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 24, 2020

Every Man Is Man-plus-things

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:04 am

… he is a man inasmuch as he recognizes himself in a number of things, he recognizes the human that has been in things, the self that has taken shape in things.

This is from ‘The Redemption of Objects’ found in Collection of Sand: Essays by Italo Calvino, translated by Martin McLaughlin (2001; 1984) :

… The Indian poet [Tagore], in a lecture given in Florence,

singled out amongst the deplorable vices of the West ‘the foolish pride in furniture.’ In fact it seems absurd that one should be proud of an elegant little table or of a chair in a certain style or of a pair of candelabra: what good does it do to decorate a house till it becomes beautiful, when the human spirit, according to philosophers and poets, can still proceed as supreme ruler amidst four poor walls.

… Then suddenly Praz rushes to marshal the opposing argument:

But immediately a doubt arises. Because such is the nature of these dear material things amidst which we live our lives that you can’t deny one of them without denying all of them at the same time. To have set my soul on a little table or chair that has caught my eye is a sin that is only slightly worse than setting my soul on a landscape …

And yet the contemplation of natural landscapes passes for being the most spiritual thing possible: so why then is the contemplation of furniture not the same, especially as ‘furniture obeys a law of economics which is the same as that which controls landscape’?

Praz affirms what he calls his ‘materialism,’ in other words the rejection of any spiritual asceticism (‘the truth is that I have a soft spot for fine furniture but no soft spot for Rabindranath Tagore’), but also the rejection of any reduction of the human to the bare nature of a biological or vitalistic or existential or psychological or merely economic entity.

The human is the trace that man leaves in things, it is the work, whether it is a famous masterpiece or the anonymous product of one particular epoch. It is the continuous dissemination of works and objects and signs that makes a civilization the habitat of our species, its second nature. If we deny this sphere of signs that surrounds us with its thick dust-cloud, man cannot survive. And again: every man is man-plus-things, he is a man inasmuch as he recognizes himself in a number of things, he recognizes the human that has been in things, the self that has taken shape in things.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 23, 2020

Interruption

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:22 am

… the truth is the point or moment of interruption of the movement and opening up of sense.

This is from The Pleasure of Drawing by Jean-Luc Nancy, translated by Philip Armstrong (2013):

Form is the “idea,” recalling the word chosen by Plato to designate the intelligible models of the real. Idea signifies for Plato, according to the Greek term, nothing other than “visible form” (to which one might add that the “visible” is form’s primary register of reference, because that register maintains form in the foreground, distinct, and in this way “formed.” By contrast, and according to another distinction, drawing [dessin] opens form to its own formation).

[line break added] In fact, the most recent translations of Plato substitute “Form” for the more traditional “Idea.” “Intelligible form” takes nothing away from the field of the visible; it demands only that this visibility adapt, not to the immediate and interested perception of things, but to the judgment and aim [visée] of their sense and truth.

… in distinguishing these two terms [sense and truth], one could say that the truth is the point or moment of interruption of the movement and opening up of sense. Interrupted, suspended, the drawing/design of sense [le sens en son dess(e)in] reveals at once its tracing out [tracé] (its substance or bearing) and the truth, which is not its completion but, on the contrary, its very interruption.

…(Matter — to recall a word that remains inseparable from “form” — is the name of form’s resistance to its deformation. It is not a formless “content” that form comes to mold or model, but rather the thickness, texture, and force of form itself. … )

My previous post from Nancy’s book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 22, 2020

My Capacity

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:04 am

… an aesthetics of existence, a style or art of living, a manner of making one’s life into a work of art …

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

… The question of ethics is how can I be worthy of the events that await me, how can I enter into events that sweep me up, preexist me, or that I cannot control? How can I be worthy of my destiny? How can what is impersonal in me be worthy of its impersonal fate?

… It is because of the sense that is mixed with events that thought is possible, that concepts can be created and conceptual means developed by which we can modify our behavior and environment, survive circumstances beyond our control, and create new orders by which to survive the chaos, the excess of forces, into which we are born. Thinking is thus ethics, one form of ethics (thinking is a form of action that accompanies material action), one mode of directing life in its ability to live up to what happens to it, to be worthy of what occurs, to prepare internally for what externally awaits, and to be impinged upon from the outside to draw out what is most active within.

… Ethics is not so much about living a “good life” (one cannot know a “good life” until it is lived, and living a good life does not require knowing it) as it is about facing what we cannot control and living — or dying — in the process of willing what we cannot control, willing the even without ressentiment, affirming the events with which one is bound. My birth, my death, the bad accidents and moments of good luck that occur to me — ethics is my capacity to affirm, enhance, and intensify them.

[line break added] Ethics represents my capacity to affect and be affected, the enhancement or diminution of my power to act, including my power to think. The greatest affirmation of freedom is the affirmation of the necessities that make me what I am (those both outside and inside me).

… Ethics is thus linked to a life, to every life, and every encounter that shapes, forms, interacts, and transforms the becomings that constitute a life. It is also linked, in a fundamental way, to aesthetics, an aesthetics of existence, a style or art of living, a manner of making one’s life into a work of art, an aesthetics without need of an external object.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 21, 2020

And Therefore Destroyed

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:06 am

… the theory is finally recognized and so used, rather than simply related to …

This is from Site-Writing: The Architecture of Art Criticism by Jane Rendell (2010):

… From the close-up to the glance, from the caress to the accidental brush, Site-Writing draws on spaces as they are remembered, dreamed and imagined, as well as observed, in order to take into account the critic’s position in relation to a work and challenge criticism as a form of knowledge with a singular and static point of view located in the here and now.

… In the [last chapter of the book], I return to a question introduced at the start of Site-Writing, to reflect on what it means to ‘use’ an object — a theory, an artwork, even perhaps an artist. Following my reading of Juliet Mitchell’s discussion of Winnicott’s concept of ‘using’ rather than ‘relating to’ an object, and her desire to ‘use’ theory, I came to realize that throughout the process of writing this book I had been producing a form of criticism which ‘used’ artworks while continuing to ‘relate to’ theoretical concepts.

[line break added] At this last moment, in response to the work of artists Bik Van Der Pol, the theory is finally recognized and so used, rather than simply related to, and therefore destroyed, thus transforming the relationship between the critical subject and her objects — artworks, essays and theories.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

January 20, 2020

Curling

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:12 am

… we are watching how paintings work, giving them the time to do their work …

This is from ‘Mary Heilmann: Painting, Her Way’ by Briony Fer found in Mary Heilmann: Looking at Pictures (2016):

… It’s hard for abstract painting not to call up the history of abstract painting (paintings always look more like other paintings than anything else). In some ways Heilmann’s work conjures up a history of geometric abstraction, but not in a straightforward way. It is more like paintings can remember other paintings, just as a line in a song can carry in it the recollection of another version of itself.


Crashing Wave, 2001

… A wave curling upwards, arching, breaking, in one continuous movement. It is almost as if Heilmann asks us to imagine the perceptual field as like a wave in some ways: as if it lifts, breaks and falls. Crashing Wave is a part of its installation environment: the mise en abyme at the heart of it: a small pictorial version of the larger movements happening in the visual field. Heilmann has often talked of the way paintings can be ‘watched,’ suggesting they take time to see.

[line break added] But what are we watching for? Well, in part, I think we are watching how paintings work, giving them the time to do their work; how over time they can contradict themselves in ways that correspond with the fairly precarious ways which we hold on to the object world we inhabit.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

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