Unreal Nature

December 14, 2019

In the Midst of Things

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:05 am

… not so much an exterior connection of rigid elements as an interior condition of correspondent movement …

This is from The Life of Lines by Tim Ingold (2015):

… Knots are always in the midst of things, while their ends are on the loose, rooting for other lines to tangle with. Tying and articulation, then, look like two ways of joining that rest on precisely opposite principles. And the carpenter? What principle does he adopt? You might think, at first glance, that he must opt for articulation. After all, whoever heard of knotting beams or planks of wood?

… the necessity of the knot is not a brittle necessity that admits to movement as both its condition and its consequence. That is to say, it is not the necessity of predetermination, whose antonym is chance, but a necessity born out of commitment and attention to materials and to the ways they want to go. Its antonym is negligence.

In this regard, the carpenter’s joint is absolutely not an articulation. For it, as in the knot, materials offer themselves to one another on the inside, yet without losing their identities in the composite whole. In cutting a mortise and tenon, for example, one piece is made ready to receive the other, such that their subsequent interpenetration, hidden away in the interiority of the joint, is an enduring condition.

[line break added] Indeed, [Gottfried] Semper’s argument regarding the joint, in the field of material relations, runs parallel to what Mauss had to say about the gift, in the field of social relations. Just as the hand I offer you in greeting remains fully mine, so the tenon cut in one piece, and that is offered to the mortise cut in the other, remains fully with the first even as it is received into the second. So it is too with the constituent lines of the knot. As with the latter, we might say that the pieces of timber are joined, but not joined up. For the adverb ‘up’ connotes a finality that is belied by the ongoing life of the thing. It is no more joined up than used up. On the contrary, it carries on.

… For the living being, the joint — which, like the rest of the skeleton, was never assembled but has rather grown with the person to whom it belongs — is not so much an exterior connection of rigid elements as an interior condition of correspondent movement, bonded on the inside by means of a linear mesh of ligaments.

My previous post from Ingold’s book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

December 13, 2019

The Tiny Bit of Ice / That Burning Candle

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:11 am

… Everything is a miracle.

This is from Understanding Systems: Conversations on Epistemology and Ethics by Heinz von Foerster / Bernhard Pörksen translated by Karen Leube (2002):

[ … ]

Bernhard Pörksen: … You mentioned that you see the encounter between people and mutual understanding as a miracle that is permanently taking place but which is impossible to explain. You might say that this justifies a whole new attitude of humility toward the fact that the world’s structure resists being dissected and understood by us.

Heinz von Foerster: In fact, I’m touched by your association with the notion of the miracle and am in complete agreement. Of course there is a connection between the notion of the miracle and the fundamental inexplicability of functioning interactions. The miracle cannot be explained. In fact, in attempting to explain it one often tries to push it aside or even destroy it. It would be great if people could warm up to the concept of not knowing.

[line break added] I would go so far as to propose that we allow miracles to come about by not attempting to explain some phenomena in the first place, because in a deeper sense, we are simply not in a position to do so. It seems to me that our knowledge of the world is just the tip of the iceberg. It is like the tiny bit of ice that juts out of the water, while that which we do not know extends down to the vast depths of the ocean.

[ … ]

BP: One last question. What is a miracle?

HF: If memory serves me correctly, Socrates was once asked this same question. A burning candle was on a table. Socrates pointed to the candle and said, “That burning candle over there is a miracle.” I tend to agree with Socrates. Everything is a miracle.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

December 12, 2019

Those Greek Statues

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:12 am

… what the nude reveals is that there is nothing to be revealed, or that there is nothing other than revelation itself …

This is from Being Nude: The Skin of Images by Jean-Luc Nancy and Federico Ferrari, translated by Anne O’Byrne and Carlie Angelemire (2014):

… Our interest in the nude is the most widely shared thing in the world — at least, in the world of Western art, since other regions and periods of art have made nudity serve other interests. In fact, one might say that everywhere else, nudity seems to be understood in erotic and/or sacred terms, whereas the Western nude seems to be exposed for its own sake and to offer an interest in itself that is not related to the ends of knowledge or pleasure.

… Of course, it always also awakens some movement of curiosity or desire, but is never reduced to it. This movement is so obvious and conventional that it is clear that the nude wants something else — or that it wants nothing but to be nude.

… It is not a sense to be discerned or deciphered behind all the signs and strokes, but above all something true right at the skin.

Something true right at the skin as truth: neither the beyond-the-skin sought by desire, nor the underside that science aims for, nor the spiritual secret of flesh revealed. For us, the nude is neither erotic nor anatomical nor authentic. It remains on the edge of or beyond these three postulations. The truth right at the skin is only true in being exposed, in being offered without reserve but also without revelation. After all, what the nude reveals is that there is nothing to be revealed, or that there is nothing other than revelation itself, the revealing and what can be revealed, both at once.

… Today nudity has become a relentless motif of thought: perhaps it goes back to Nietzsche, the first contemporary thinker to scoff at Europeans in their “moral clothing,” unable to get undressed without shame. Perhaps it goes back much further, to those Greek statues whose nudity seems to us to have been divinity itself and whose artful nudity undoubtedly still retains a memory mixed with Christian anxiety about flesh, as well as the sense of an exposition that is both fragile and precious.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

December 11, 2019

Some Inner Orientation

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:11 am

… Will is the direction(s) of the world that we can make our own.

Continuing through The Incorporeal: Ontology, Ethics, and the Limits of Materialism by Elizabeth Grosz (2017). In this chapter, Grosz is writing about Nietzsche:

… Life is ethics; life affirmed fully, each in its own way, each with its own nature and fate, is what ethics reflects on and philosophizes. Philosophy, at its best — Nietzschean philosophy — is how one comes to understand the nature of the world, the nature of life, and the nature of this particular life. It expresses and articulates, sometimes in poetry, sometimes in aphorisms, sometimes in exclamations or even arguments, the inner wills’ affirmation of the external causal chains that confront them and which they must address.

[line break added] A new kind of philosophy will rely on “inspiration,” revelation, or intuition, that is, what is sensual in life, what we feel, some inner orientation; and its cohesion and force comes from outside, from the world itself: “The concept of revelation — in the sense that suddenly, with indescribable certainty and subtlety, something becomes visible, audible, something that shakes one to the last depths and throws one down — that merely describes the facts. One hears, one does not seek; one accepts, one does not ask who gives; like lightning, a thought flashes up, with necessity, without hesitation regarding its form — I never had any choice.”

… Will is the direction(s) of the world that we can make our own.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

December 10, 2019

There Are No Longer Places

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:25 am

… People go to rock concerts not to listen, because you cannot hear the music, but in fact to become part of the environment.

This is from Written Into the Void: Selected Writings 1990-2004 by Peter Eisenman (2007):

… Traditionally, architecture was place-bound, linked to a condition of experience. Today, mediated environments challenge the givens of classical time, the time of experience. For example, on a Sunday afternoon anywhere in the world, whether it be at the Prado in Madrid or the Metropolitan Museum in New York, there are literally hordes of people passing in front of artworks, hardly stopping to see, at best perhaps merely photographing their experience.

[line break added] They not only have no time for the original but even less for the experience of the original. Because of media, the time of experience has changed; the sound bite — infinitesimal, discontinuous, autonomous — has conditioned our new time.

Architecture can no longer be bound by the static conditions of space and place, here and there. In a mediated world, there are no longer places in the sense that we used to know them. Architecture must now deal with the problem of the event. Today, rock concerts might be considered the only form of architectural event. People go to rock concerts not to listen, because you cannot hear the music, but in fact to become part of the environment. There is a new type of environment being projected, composed of light, sound, movement. But this kind of event structure is not architecture standing against media, but architecture being consumed by it.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

December 9, 2019

Make Room

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:53 am

“… a possibility for expansion lurking in the background of everything we make.”

This is from Miwon Kwon’s essay in Jessica Stockholder: Kissing the Wall: Works, 1988-2003 by Nancy Doll and Terrie Sultan (2004):

… The ongoing realization of the consistency and discrepancy that coexist in the exchange between visual recognition and bodily encounter — of colors, objects, structures, and spatial modalities — is the dramatic reward for viewers of Stockholder’s stagings (who inevitably become the works’ “actors”). Her installations are simultaneously abstract and literal, pictorial and material, representational and real, decorative and structural, and available for haptic and*** optic apperception.

[line break added] And these oppositions flip-flop throughout a viewer’s experience of any one installation. What produces these unstable doublings, engendering what the artist describes as “a struggle between different ways of viewing contribut[ing] to the rise of a kind of blur, a confusion of boundary,” is that no one element , be it an object, a color, or an architectural structure (thus, by extension, spatial modality), is allowed to maintain its integrity or to fully accommodate another element.

Stockholder’s use of color is particularly exemplary in this regard. Just as it is impossible to find a stable objective sense of spatial orientation to inside/outside or front/back in her work (these relations continuously alter depending on the movement of the viewer), the presence of color as a surface condition is often undercut by color as volume and vice versa.

… This interest in the play between the materiality of color ant the color of materials is central to Stockholder’s artistic effort. As she admits in a 1995 statement: “Color drives me. I make art to play with color, to see it work … [But] I experience color as sculptural, as something that collects onto things and takes up space, a physical event existing next to physical objects.”

… Positioned somewhere between painting and architecture, or compositing the terms of each, Stockholder’s work produces an “experience having to do with the difficulty of having things cohere, a lack of definition, or a possibility for expansion lurking in the background of everything we make.” Just as the artist seeks to upset her own clarity of vision to “make room for new thoughts,” she offers the same to her audience.

My previous post from this book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

December 8, 2019

To Cause Ourselves to Be Born

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:12 am

… we made ourselves happen, let’s confront ourselves.

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

… Modern philosophy began with this precept from Bacon: ‘commanding nature by obeying it.’ Up until a recent time, this nature was limited to local inert things and the laws of physics. But nature, as I’ve said from the beginning, also means: ‘in the nascent state.’ We are beginning to cause the living to be born, soon to cause ourselves to be born, and to cause ourselves to survive in a global environment we give rise to: so nature takes on its third meaning, a global meteorological and world one.

… What, from Kant to Sartre, we called personal autonomy or the creation of oneself by oneself moves from morality to fate, from short time to long time, from the I, formal and abstract, to living flesh, from the individual to the world and to humanity: from history to evolution, from mind to incarnation.

Who can deny that this fate, long announced but newly appearing and now present to our vision of the world and especially to our practices, causes us anxiety and elates us, that it faces us with unexpected responsibilities whose scope shakes habits, moralities and religions, politics and timid philosophies, the social sciences lastly? We made it happen; let’s confront it. No, we made ourselves happen, let’s confront ourselves.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

December 7, 2019

A Whole Rope

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:03 am

… but so long as life goes on, there must always be loose ends.

This is from The Life of Lines by Tim Ingold (2015):

… minds and lives are not closed-in entities that can be enumerated and added up; they are open-ended processes whose most outstanding characteristic is that they carry on. And in carrying on, they wrap around one another like the strands of a rope. A whole that is made up from individual parts is a totality in which everything is articulated or ‘joined up.’

[line break added] But the rope is always weaving, always in process and — like social life itself — never finished. Its parts are not elementary components but ever-extending lines, and its harmonies reside in the way each strand, as it issues forth, coils around the others and is coiled in its turn, in a countervalence of equal and opposite twists which hold it together and prevent it from unravelling.

… We should, however, resist the temptation to equate holism with finality or completion. The meeting of minds weaves a whole rope, but so long as life goes on, there must always be loose ends.

… in the study of social phenomena — as [Marcel] Mauss concludes … — ‘we see groups of men, and active forces, submerged in their environments and sentiments.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

December 6, 2019

Dreams of a Predictable World

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:44 am

… They destroy our dreams of a predictable world.

This is from Understanding Systems: Conversations on Epistemology and Ethics by Heinz von Foerster / Bernhard Pörksen translated by Karen Leube (2002):

[ … ]

Heinz von Foerster: … “Act always as to increase the number of choices.” That is my ethical imperative, although once again one might have the impression that I am trying to order people around, and this is just not right. I didn’t choose my words very carefully when I said that. It would have been better if I had written, “Heinz, act always as to increase the number of choices.”

[ … ]

HF: We have before us a system, a machine, or a living being. And the analytical problem is as follows: how does this system, this machine, or this living being function? And can you use a finite series of experiments to determine the operative properties that can be read using the relationship of stimulus and reaction and cause and effect? Can the rule of transformation be identified? In the case of nontrivial machines the analytical problem is in principle unsolvable. I have already mentioned this. Their rules of transformation are dependent on history and the past. They are completely unpredictable — and that is what makes them so incredibly unpopular. They destroy our dreams of a predictable world.

Bernhard Pörksen: Can you give an example? Who or what is a nontrivial machine?

HF: In my opinion, we are always surrounded by nontrivial machines everywhere we look. Sometimes we manage to trivialize something for a period of time, until everything explodes in our face. … The way I see it, the entire world is a nontrivial machine.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

December 5, 2019

When All the Figures Began to Slip Away

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:18 am

… a face is a moveable play of reflections and angles, an essential instability that is always effacing or transforming itself.

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

… Whether we designate the stakes of the portrait as the un-representable of the face, as the dis-or trans-figuration of the figure, or else as the indeterminate slippage of a face barely glimpsed, these diverse modes remain linked to each other by that which makes the portrait into the “absolute of the image.” The “absolute” designates that which is detached, ab-solutum, from everything.

[line break added] The image detached from everything is the image that bears no connection to a morphological referent (a model) but that offers the idea — to repeat it once more, the true “form,” the coming to presence of a line or a flash, whose cut or clarity originates from afar, “high above ordinary existence,” as Yves Bonnefoy puts it, alluding to the style of Giacometti’s portraits: “His great feverish intention to make the model exist, to ‘sustain’ it in being — and yet all the same, to sustain it above ordinary existence — gave birth to the trance.”

… As Merleau-Ponty writes in an entirely different context, “after all, a face is only shadows, lights, and colors.” This means that a face is a moveable play of reflections and angles, an essential instability that is always effacing or transforming itself.

[ … ]

… The art we call “contemporary” is not simply art from the present day. It is called “contemporary” because it inherits no form or reference: it can no longer be the art of the sacred or that of public or private glory, or that of a supposed nature or destiny of peoples. It inherits only the enigma borne by this word — art — that was invented at the moment when all the figures of a possible “representation” began to slip away.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

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