Unreal Nature

April 20, 2019

Champions of Forgiving

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:23 am

… We would do him a small favor by slapping him.

This is from Forgiveness by Vladimir Jankélévitch, translated by Andrew Kelley (1967, 2005):

… The egoist knows the art of turning the insults that he receives to his advantage and turns snubs and humiliations into profitable lessons. Injuries themselves serve to enrich his experience. He knows how to use snubs in the way ascetics know how to use temptations and trials with an eye to spiritual formation. Who knows, for such champions of forgiving, maybe a snub that is received is an occasion for becoming more perfect!

[line break added] The one who turns the other cheek, not out of love of man as Jesus demanded, but in order to exercise his will and resistance to vindictive temptation, in order to soften his faculties of adaptation, in order to diversify the synthesis, and in order to integrate food that is particularly difficult to stomach into a totality that is always richer is a cunning and voracious man. This is not a generous man. We would do him a small favor by slapping him.

[line break added] His project is to exploit everything, to devour everything, and to lose nothing, not even the windfall of a slap in the face. Is this forgiving? No, this captivating and annexationist synthesis is not opened toward the other. Here, it is only a matter of me, of my profit, of my beautiful soul. Hypocrisy and complaisance, philauty and pleonexy are the true ulterior motives of closed forgiveness.




April 19, 2019

Spinning Around in Your Head

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:00 am

… you … go through endless labyrinths of the past, sometimes dressed up as the future. Or is it the other way round?

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:

It’s hard for me to work next to and with someone whose work I like, not that it’s not exciting. Although I work alone and with printed matter as my models, I’ve always been attracted to photographers who work with real people. But it doesn’t seem to bring out the best in me. It’s the same with live models (whatever their occupation). I worry about what they think of me and I get even more worried about what they think I think of them. And then I lose the freedom of the amoral touch which for me is requisite for making good painting.

Sometimes when you dream you know that you are almost awake and dawn is on its way and yet you get stuck in a nightmare that keeps on repeating itself. Images of different times spinning around in your head in a frenzy, forcing you to go through endless labyrinths of the past, sometimes dressed up as the future. Or is it the other way round? Gothic versions of stories you’ve once read somewhere, pictures you saw or tales you’ve been told in the dark.

… I recently heard someone quote the German director Werner Herzog. He was filming in the South American jungle in 1982 and was asked to comment on the beauty of the nature around him. ‘Ze birds are in misery. I don’t zing zey zing, zey just screech in pain.’

And then there is this fragment from the story of the Brothers Grimm, The Juniper Tree: ‘A bird rises up from a mysterious fire that appears in the tree, like a mist, and sings, ‘My mother she killed me. My father he ate me. My sister Marlinchen, she gathered up my bones. Tweet, tweet, what a lovely bird I am!”‘

That last segment was from Dumas’ commentary on the work of Natasja Kensmil.

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




April 18, 2019

From Its Invisible Musculature

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:24 am

… That body may be eclipsed by its own representations; it may disappear, like a god, in the abundance of its attributes; but …

This is from ‘The Invisible Body’ by Norman Bryson (1983):

Towards the end of his life, Matisse, like Picasso, consented to be filmed at work in his studio. Part of the film was shot in slow motion, distending the movement of hand and brush in time so that each stroke seemed a gesture of consummate deliberation; as though in slowing the movements down the film were able to demonstrate for the first time a dimension of intention and decision that would never otherwise become known.

… Looking at the [tenth-century Chinese scroll of Chu-jan at the Cleveland Museum of Art], I can imagine all of these gestures; no film is necessary for me to locate these movements, for the silk is itself a film that has recorded them already; I cannot conceive of the image except as the trace of a performance.

[line break added] In part, the performance has been fully advertent, directed to the gaze of the spectator in the same way that a dancer projects his movements through the four sides of the proscenium to the audience beyond; the four sides of the scroll contain a spectacular space, where everything exists for consumption by the gaze, im Augenblick, as a scaena, a backdrop.

[line break added] But in part, the performance is inadvertent, for although the strokes are so displayed that from their interlocking structure I can visualize a scene, a monastery in stream and mountain landscape, the strokes also exist in another space apart from the space of spectacle; a space not so much convergent with the silk (though the silk intersects with it, it is a section of that other space) as with the body of the painter; it is his space, and in a sense it is blind; the movements executed there will, as they touch the silk, leave marks I can construct as scaena, a spectacle but these marks are also simply taches, traces left behind in the wake of certain gestures, but remaining below the threshold of intelligibility (recognition) …

[ … ]

… That body may be eclipsed by its own representations; it may disappear, like a god, in the abundance of its attributes; but it is outward, from its invisible musculature, rather than inwards from its avid gaze, that all the images flow.




April 17, 2019

Like Some Beautiful Ship Crossing the Sea of Time

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:15 am

… When my thoughts moved in such directions …

This is from ‘Bleached Journal’ by Hiroshi Sugimoto:

… The photograph of the sea is encircled by a fine-grain-like pattern (or nanako), which mimics the shapes of powerful flames; the bronze is gilded (as is the line of the lotus root), all proof that it was the work of the expert metal craftsmen of the Kamakura period.

I found this object about twenty years ago, in the corner of a small antique shop in Osaka’s Oimatsu-cho. There was a cardboard box marked “Buddhist Art Fragments.” The ashes and the remains and the feratory were all missing.

That day, while in the shinkansen [bullet train] heading back from Osaka, I looked at the missing area that was supposed to be at the center of this nimbus. I began to think the sea would be appropriate replacement for the ashes that were missing from this amazing gilt bronze nimbus. (It would have to be a sea with rich density.)

[line break added] I usually take photographs of the sea with a large-format camera and then enlarge the image when making prints — but this time I decided to do the opposite, and shrink the image. In this way I was able to make an artwork of the Buddha’s ashes nimbus that had traveled across the sea of time.

In the middle of the flames, burning furiously, is the quiet sea. It stands still and makes one imagine the very first scene, soon after the birth of this planet.

[ … ]

… When I was young, there was a text about time consciousness that just floored me. It was the following passage from Yukio Mishima’s novel The Temple of the Golden Pavilion:

I used to think of the copper-gold phoenix, which crowned the roof of the Golden Temple and which had remained there year after year exposed to the elements. This mysterious golden bird never crowed at the break of dawn, never flapped its wings — indeed, it had itself no doubt completely fortotten that it was a bird.

[line break added] Yet it would be untrue to say that this bird did not look as if it were flying. Other birds fly through the air, but this golden phoenix was flying eternally through time on its shining wings. … When my thoughts moved in such directions, the Golden Temple would seem to me like some beautiful ship crossing the sea of time.




April 16, 2019

A Singer’s Throat

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:19 am

… the artist may find his talent … not only a help but a hindrance and an inhibition …

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

… Everything individual and particular in the phenomena of life remains nature and pure potentiality. The humanity of man, his existence as a historical being, and his participation in culture begin with the dissolution of the rigidity of his natural gifts and the change of his particular activities into parts of a unified totality.

In contrast to humanity’s cultural possessions is the whole psycho-physical equipment which serves for their acquisition — something objective and external, an empty vehicle or an instrument which is first silent and has to be made to sound, like, for example, a violin or a singer’s throat. It belongs to the person but is a foreign body, a tool, a machine with its own mechanical, spiritually alien conditions of functioning.

[line break added] As historically indeterminate and socially indifferent data, not only a person’s physical but also his psychic constitution is an apparatus which is idling, which leads to the production of meaningful and culturally valuable products only by the introduction of concrete temporally, spatially, and socially determined experiential material. Thus the artist may find his talent, strictly limited and sharply delineated as it is, not only a help but a hindrance and an inhibition which he has to master and which he has to disregard.

[line break added] This is not only because of the inflexibility of the direction that is more or less part of every talent and often increases with the magnitude of the talent, but also because of the singularity with which it opposes, as a mere instrument, the artist’s intention, intervenes between his self and his work, and alienates the former from him.

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




April 15, 2019

Utter Dependence

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:07 am

… these experiences amount to a revealing X-ray of the present.

This is from Four Walls and a Roof by Reinier de Graaf (2017):

It is life that is right and the architect who is wrong.
— Le Corbusier (toward the end of his life)

[ … ]

Why write this book? Most architects are lousy theorists; I am no exception. Whenever we offer theories, they should be mistrusted. We go where our work leads us and develop thoughts along the way. Revelations about the larger things in life, if they come at all, are incidental by-products of our (often banal) labor.

That doesn’t mean, however, that what architects have to say is without value. Architecture’s utter dependence on outside forces provides it with intimate knowledge of those forces. Professional experiences give architects eyes and ears, even if they mostly insist on using their hands. Recorded and collated, these experiences amount to a revealing X-ray of the present.

… Perhaps the overriding myth debunked by this book is that of the architect as a hero. Serving the same powers that it strives to critique, architecture is condemned to a perpetual conflict of interest. Together, architects, clients, politicians, and consultants make up an embroiled world in which it is forever unclear who calls the shots.




April 14, 2019

The Productive Technique of Presence

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:14 am

… But presence is the act that subtracts a thing as it passes.

This is from ‘The Technique of the Present’ by Jean-Luc Nancy (1997):

Poetry, before being the name of a particular art, is the generic name of art. Techne poietike: productive technique. This technique, that is, this art, this calculated operation, this procedure, this artifice produces something not with a view to another thing or a use, but with a view to its very production, that is, its exposition. The production of the thing puts the thing forward, presents and exposes it.

To expose is to depart from a simple position, which is always also a disposition, a relinquishing of the contingence of a passing moment, a circumstance or a point of view. What is exposed is placed in the order of absolute, immutable and necessary presence. The word poiesis is derived from a word family that designates ordering, arrangement or disposition. Poetry disposes. Art is disposition. It disposes the thing according to the order of presence. It is the productive technique of presence.

Presence is not a quality or a property of the thing. Presence is the act by which the thing is put forward, prae-est. It is put forward or in front of its nature as a thing, and everything which immerses this nature in the world of its connections: origins, relations, process, finalities and becomings. The nature of the thing is in its birth, as the word ‘nature’ indicates, and in its unfurling within these relations. It can subsist only in this movement, and its permanence is in the passing. But presence is the act that subtracts a thing as it passes.




April 13, 2019

The Miraculous Coincidence

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:16 am

… you need to create to create.

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

… Intellectualism … declares that one must conceive before one speaks, deliberate before one decides. … [But] one can think in speaking, deliberate in choosing, or, like the poet, create the poem in making it and in having made it! … In the poetic act, expression and counter-expression, direct wave and induced wave, interfere.

… It is by playing the lyre that one becomes a lyrist, and yet one must already be more or less a lyrist to play the lyre … While one must see, to find, one must already have found to be able to seek! Pascal, speaking for those who seek anxiously, considered the search itself to be a first indication of the find. And Lequier, in search of freedom, also thought that the search is already a discovery …

In truth, the precedence of totality, in intellection and action, has already resolved the vicious circle: beyond the intellect that seeks without finding as well as beyond the instinct that finds without ever seeking any other thing, intuition is the miraculous coincidence of the worried search and the joyous find.

… To want, my God, you have to want it, the same way you need to create to create. This is a circle, though not at all a vicious one: a virtuous one, a healthy tautology, and the “beautiful danger” (kalos kindunos) par excellence.

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




April 12, 2019

What Makes It Different from a Hobby

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:53 am

… culture is not just this sweet, warm, noble thing …

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:

As a child I was fascinated by portraits of (female) film stars.
A movie star can love, cry and die and then get up and do it all
over again …

… Life is incomprehensible. There’s a constant clash between the senses, between nonsense, senselessness and sensuality. That’s why a good work of art is essentially elusive. It is not out of arrogance that artists don’t want to ‘explain’ their work (as for me, just ask and I’ll go on forever).

… I know that people get frustrated because art keeps striving to change its rules or expand its horizon. That is precisely what makes it difficult and special, and what makes it different from a hobby.

… Art is not a case of innocent taste. A neutral gaze does not exist. Art is there to liberate us from the tyranny of our culture (Lionel Trilling), note, our own culture, not from the outside but the inside.

… In private you feel as if you are the subject of everything. That’s why isolation and segregation (why not call it apartheid) is very bad for most artists. Among others you realize your objectivity [your object-ness]. You realize your interrelatedness and/or dependence, whether you like it or not. You realize that culture is not just this sweet, warm, noble thing but a constant ongoing struggle between people.

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




April 11, 2019

The Nature of This Color

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:22 am

… color in the modern city is almost entirely new and completely unnatural.

This is from ‘Dan Flavin‘ by David Batchelor (2001) found in It Is What It Is: Writings on Dan Flavin Since 1964 edited by Paula Feldman and Karstan Schubert (2004):

It is an obvious but often unremarked fact that our experience of color has been transformed over the past 100 or so years. This revolution, a small but highly visible part of the larger revolutions in industry, electrification and electronics, has meant that color in the modern city is almost entirely new and completely unnatural.

[line break added] Most of the color we now see is chemical or electrical; it is plastic or metallic, it is flat, shiny, glowing or flashing (or it is broken, switched off and as if it wer never there). It is intense, but also ephemeral; it is vivid but also contingent. And it is ubiquitous: always and everywhere allied to commerce and the street.

[line break added] It is perhaps equally obvious — and also largely unremarked — that for most of the last century the traditional forms of art fail to acknowledge and respond to this aspect of modernity. With a few important exceptions in Dada and Constructivism, it was not until the late 1950s and early 1960s that a few artists in Europe and the Americas began seriously to enquire into the nature of this color and its characteristic materials. Among them was Dan Flavin.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.




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