Unreal Nature

July 21, 2018

This Is Not Trivial

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:40 am

… This picture of mind to be abandoned has dominated mainstream philosophical and scientific thinking …

This is from the Preface to Radicalizing Enactivism: Basic Minds without Content by Daniel D. Hutto and Erik Myin (2013):

Catching a swirling leaf, finding one’s way through unfamiliar terrain, attending and keeping track of another’s gaze, watching the sun rising at the horizon — the vast sea of what humans do and experience is best understood by appealing to dynamically unfolding, situated embodied interactions and engagements with worldly offerings.

Where we find such familiar activity we find basic minds. But, we propose, the nature of the mentality in question is not underwritten by processes involving the manipulation of contents, nor is it, in itself, inherently contentful.

… As things stand, there is great resistance even to the mere suggestion that the prominent forms of basic mentality of the sort that we discuss (which include human visual experience) might lack content. To many this is counterintuitive and plainly false.

… Let us be clear. In pressing for REC [Radical Enactive (or Embodied) Cognition], we do not say that CIC [Content Involving Cognition] is never true. We do not say that cognition is never informed by or never involves content. We have no truck with that claim. We are not advancing Really Radical Enactive or Embodied Cognition as a thesis about the nature of all minds.

[line break added] Some cognitive activity — plausibly, that associated with and dependent upon the mastery of language — surely involves content. Still, if our analyses are right, a surprising amount of mental life (including some canonical forms of it, such as human visual experience) may well be inherently contentless.

[line break added] If true this is not trivial, since such forms are often taken to definitively imply the existence of representational content. If REC is true, then CIC’s picture of basic minds must be surrendered completely. This picture of mind to be abandoned has dominated mainstream philosophical and scientific thinking, in one way or another, since the days of Descartes, Hobbes, and Locke.

To be continued.




July 20, 2018

Because: Who Cares?

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:31 am

You do realize that I love this work. As if that changes something.

Continuing through This Little Art by Kate Briggs (2017):

… The translator knows that the work she is translating is not hers: she knows that it didn’t originate with her; it is not something that she has already written or said. Indeed, she is not sure if she would be capable of writing or saying it herself, and perhaps this is precisely part of its appeal, of how it is appealing.

[line break added] Responding actively to its address is a way of opening her own writing up to its difference, its independence: to the instruction of its different energy, its unfamiliar thinking, its other rhythms. This, I think, is why so many writers translate, or have translated, and speak of translation as a special kind of negotiation of the passage from reading to writing, as its own way into other forms of writing, as a way to move their writing elsewhere.

… In [Barthes’s] lecture course titled How to Live Together, the fact that we can go too fast, or indeed too slow, for other people, for the person we are supposed to be accompanying, or is supposed to be keeping company with us, the person you are hoping will stay with you, your listener, your reader, the child you are trying to walk to school, is the central issue: the lecture course’s crystallizing theme.

[line break added] A theme embodied by the sight of a mother glimpsed from Barthes’s window, walking out of step with her son. Too fast. Dragging him along by the hand (so that he is forced to run to keep up). This fact and lived theme of what Barthes calls disrhythmy, and the power dynamics that are in play, and the disturbances it can cause.

[line break added] The question of the lectures, then, will be how to find a way of walking (being, living, also reading, writing and thinking) together that might somehow take account of our different rhythms, not through enforced synchronicity, but allowing for them: you read faster than I do, you get up earlier than I do, and eat later, you race ahead while I walk more slowly, and yet still (in this fantasy that Barthes is hoping to simulate in life) we’ll find ways of coming together, points in the day for companionship, offsetting, modulating, interrupting our competing desire for solitude.

… I am the decisive, skewering and ideologically skewed interpreter, laying down in print once and for all (or until the next translation, which may well never come) what, in my terms, this sentence says, what it does; what, in my terms, this work says, what it does.

I am among the hidden masters of our culture, as Maurice Blanchot put it.

I am passed over and profoundly influential; my work is fascinating and derivative and determining and necessary and suspect. It is everywhere taken for granted and then every so often singled out to be piously congratulated. Or taken apart.

… The story I am telling about my own impulse to translate is sentimental. And difficult, I know. In the way it lays claim to a certain kind of exclusive relation: You do realize that I love this work. As if that changes something. Because: Who cares? Who else really cares?

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




July 19, 2018


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:44 am

… It purges the sculptural form of individual naturalistic detail, but it holds fast to the principle of individuation, the basic quality that makes every living entity unmistakably unique.

This is from the essay ‘Brancusi: The Reality of Sculpture’ by Friedrich Teja Bach in Constantin Brancusi (1995):

… Constantin Brancusi’s work is overwhelmingly about life and aliveness. But how can aliveness become real in sculpture? The traditional (and especially the nineteenth-century) answer is roughly this: through the imitation of nature, through the mimesis of living form — as exemplified by the legend of Pygmalion, the sculptor who carves a female figure so life-like that Venus takes pity on him and causes her to take the one last tiny step from perfect imitation of nature to living nature itself.

[line break added] Brought to life, the figure steps down from the pedestal of her objecthood. It is one of the central insights of modernism that this last tiny step actually constitutes an unbridgeable gap, and that in art this kind of mimetic representation does not lead toward aliveness but away from it. Visual art — and sculpture in particular, in which the temptation of bodily mimesis is so acute — must pursue the goal of aliveness in a direction far removed from the traditional imitation of nature.

… what emerges is not so much a purified ideal as a complex interplay between pure formal creation and enlivening irregularity, between symmetry and aberrant emphasis. Examples of this interplay include Wisdom of the Earth (no.10), with its nonmatching breasts and asymmetrical face; the bird form Maiastra (no. 20), in which the “left corner of the squarish beak projects more than the right, the opening of the beak is further recessed on the right side and the hole of the right eye is larger than that of the left”; Flying Turtle (no. 107) and Leda (no. 88), in which the two volumetric forms are not in a single plane, and the upper curves of body and head are at an angle to each other.

[line break added] These asymmetries delineate the aliveness that is essential to the theme of animal life, and they are thus intrinsic to Brancusi’s idea of sculptural perfection. Once their significance has been recognized, such aberrations undermine the whole notion of formal reduction as the basis of Brancusi’s sculptural language.


Brancusi defined the simplicity of his essential form by saying: “Simplicity is complexity resolved.” Simplicity is thus the outcome of the artist’s effort to resolve the complexity of natural forms. But there is more to resolution than mere elimination: it is also the preservation, even the generation, of form. Brancusi’s words need to be read in the light of another saying traditionally attributed to him: “Simplicity is complexity itself.” Essential form in Brancusi is not reductive but productive. It is defined not by the precision of geometry but by the (in every sense) pregnant concision of life. “I never,” said Brancusi, “seek to make what they call a pure or abstract form.”

… It purges the sculptural form of individual naturalistic detail, but it holds fast to the principle of individuation, the basic quality that makes every living entity unmistakably unique. A sculpture “must be named,” at least if it is part of a life’s work which, as Brancusi once said, ultimately stands for “taking sides with nature.”

[ … ]

… The definition of modernism as a progressive linear, reductive process is obviously now in crisis. This gives rise to skepticism as to Brancusi’s automatic place in any modernistic process of reduction, dematerialization, and pristine, self-complacent abstraction; and the result is a keener perception of the heterogeneity, the aberrance, the tensions within his work.

[line break added] Brancusi’s work bypasses binary oppositions of representational and nonrepresentational, rational and intuitive, sensuous and nonsensuous, technological and organic. It breaks through the reductionist paradigm of modernist criticism and points the way to a necessary widening of the definition of modernity.




July 18, 2018

The Order Already Imposed

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:33 am

… photographs place us in someone else’s point of view.

This is from the essay ‘The FSA File: From Image to Story’ in Lincoln’s Smile and Other Enigmas by AlanTrachtenberg (2007):

The file is tangible: actual file cabinets, microfilm readers, card catalogs. It is public property, open to all in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress. We are free to visit it, open its drawers, browse among its images and captions; free to request any picture that catches our fancy or fills a need. Preserved here is an unexampled record of social observations, of visual detail awaiting absorption and interpretation.

… Are all photographs vagrant images in search of a context, of readers prepared to write meanings across their face?

Vanderbilt conceived the file as a facilitator, a structure of convenience. His metaphors stress the instrumental relation of means to end: the file was the dictionary to “a forceful, colorful book,” “a stock room of parts” to “the assembled useful machine,” a menu to the “well-balanced meal.” The pictorial richness of the collection lies in “the astounding juxtapositions, the sensitive and subtle details, the significant backgrounds” — connotative features the file makes no effort to reduce to number and class.

[line break added] The file is blind, in short, to pictures; it recognizes only subjects, facts, data, assuming (or pretending, in Vanderbilt’s metaphors) that a detail in a photograph is indeed a transparent copy of a thing in the world, a veritable fact to be filed away, rather than an image within a larger image that may qualify, modify, contradict, or cancel its presumed status as “fact.”

[line break added] The archival file limits itself to this pretense to ease the extraction of exactly those troublesome and complicating connotative values, thus allowing for “infinite variation in combination of photographs and in approach by users.” Rather than predetermine combinations that constitute a finished whole, the file traffics in component parts.

To Vanderbilt, his design was a rationalized facility for storage and retrieval, a machine apparently intending no meanings of its own, no interpretations or ideology.

… Once retrieved and delivered, the image might serve any purpose. Delivery liberates the image from its categorical confinement. Mere datum in the file, [once back] in the world it becomes a picture to be read.

… The collection could have been organized into an unlimited variety of different subjects and subdividings. Vanderbilt admits as much. “There is no such thing as an ideal general sequence of subject matter.” He intended an open-ended, ever-changing structure.

… The most telling lesson to be learned in the process of recombining and reordering images is that rather than providing objective facts of time and place, photographs place us in someone else’s point of view.

… This fluid openness within the boundaries of its master story makes the file less a solution than an opportunity. Vanderbilt encourages us to repeat his own act of myth making, of finding or inventing lines of force and resistance, patterns of order among discrete images. The opportunity has its treacherous passages, and we need an abundance of skepticism about the order already imposed.

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




July 17, 2018

There Is Only One Understanding

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:39 am

… whatever one meant doesn’t actually exist at all.

This is from ‘Foretaste of an Author with Two Editors’ in The Beginning of Heaven and Earth Has No Name: Seven Days with Second-Order Cybernetics by Heinz von Foerster, edited by Albert Müller and Karl H. Müller and translated by Elinor Rooks and Michael Kasenbacher (2014):

… I sit here and make these sounds with the air that blows across my vocal cords, with my mouth, in order to modulate something. And the other responds: “Yes, thank you very much,” “Do you really love me?” That is actually unbelievable.

So I hope that the other will be able to make something of it. That’s the game that we start. In a dance, first one person is leading, then the other. The music is there — they dance. Naturally I make my sounds in the hope that the other will be able to make something of them. And then I am so conceited that I even hope that he will make of them more or less what I hoped he would. He replies. Why does he reply? Because he too hopes that I understand him. He hopes that I will make of his sounds something that fits in with what I had hoped he would make of the sounds that I made. A very complicated sentence. But that is how I see the language game.

As a speaker, you learn from the listener’s reaction to what you had said.

I have only my interpretation of the listener’s reaction, not his reaction. I have no idea how he has reacted. I only see how I believe he has reacted. I would claim that misunderstandings, so-called misunderstandings, do not exist. There is only one understanding, namely, how I understood it. But maybe it is not what my counterpart had hoped I would understand. Then it is not a misunderstanding on my part. It’s not as if I can misguess something. All that I have are his signs and what I have just heard.

[ … ]

… whatever one meant doesn’t actually exist at all. The game of language consists of both parties having the intention of making something, inventing something, constructing something out of the grunts and sibilants that the other produces. Now both are designers, making something of the utterances of the other.

Now on to the ‘First Day’ of the book:

[ … ]

These many beginnings or these many stories of the beginning refer us on one hand to the problem of observation and the many contexts and cultures that generate these stories of the beginning. On the other hand, there is the question of whether such stories are meaningful at all. Is it possible to connect these stories of the beginning with decidable questions?

These stories belong to basically undecidable questions. They are mostly a game to find out who the actor is: “How did the universe come into being?” If I hear the answer “Big Bang,” I say, “Thank you, that’s astrophysicist talk” …

[ … ]

Astrophysicists and physicists coud now explain that, with the Big Bang, observations, conjectures, and counter-conjectures may be found so that the matter of the Big Bang will become a decidable question.

Why astrophysicists consider it decidable, I don’t know. I know it’s undecidable. I’ll draw a comparison. The situation is like in chess: You choose a move, and that is the moment when the undecidable question becomes a decidable one. You’re saying, “We want to play a certain game now; it’s called astrophysics.” What are the rules? We make observations with telescopes, we build space telescopes, we know spectroscopy. We know what Doppler wrote about wave movements, frequency movements, and so on. Within these rules we want to find out how the world came into being.

[line break added] Thus we could come to certain conclusions. That means that in the matter of beginnings, the unanswerable is a question of which game I should play. And if we all decide to play the game of astrophysics or physics or chess or checkers or backgammon, then the undecidable first decision is made. Because until then it was basically undecidable which game I should play — this, that or the other — maybe arithmetic, mathematics, or the numerical system.




July 16, 2018

Curatorial Assumptions

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… exhibitions that foreground their own sign structure … risk … “using art and artists as so many constituent fibers or pieces of syntax … “

Final post from The Culture of Curating and the Curating of Culture(s) by Paul O’Neill (2012):

… [The modern curator] is seen to be responsible for extracting art from its position or circulation, opening up a space where individual works of art gather new meanings and values by virtue of their regrouping for public consumption.

Watkins draws on Oscar Wilde’s idea that objects are transformed into art by the critic writing about them, in which it is the eye of the beholder that produces the work of art. Watkins argues for curating as a type of artistic practice, with individual artworks being analogous to Marcel Duchamp’s readymades (everyday found objects taken as art), their display aided by the curator’s “manipulation of the environment, the lighting, the labels and the placement of other works of art.”

… Within discussions around art, there has been a clear shift away from an artist-centered cultural hierarchy toward a postproductive discourse, in which the function of curating has become another recognized part of the expanded field of art making.

… [However] resistance to the curator-as-artist formulation remains active today.

… The critic (and sometime curator) Irit Rogoff and the curator Bart de Baere claimed in 1998 that, as identity-staging events, mobilizing different modes of audience participation, curatorial projects too often employ “curatorial strategies that dictate to audiences their mode of participation in the exhibition in the guise of a democratization of a cultural experience — [but instead they] work to achieve precisely the opposite — they close off the possibilities for a self-articulation” on the part of their audiences.

[line break added] Rogoff’s issue with curatorial projects that involve instructive viewer participation is not with their effect but with the curatorial assumptions that sustain them. Such assumptions — about the “processes of democratizing cultural institutions by giving audiences some mechanical task to carry out and involving the materials of everyday life; old clothes, chewed gum, newspapers, anonymous photographs, etc” — Rogoff claims, ensure that little attention is paid to the power bases of the institutions themselves, to audience needs, and to the potentiality of their legitimate voice; whereas the familiar, popular, and everyday nature of the material exhibited is “galvanized to act out some fantasy of democracy in action.”

[line break added] Such a perspective was echoed ten years later, in Boris Groys’s … assessment that curators ruin art and its experience in some degrading way: “The curator’s every mediation is suspect: he is seen as someone standing between the artwork and its viewer, insidiously manipulating the viewer’s perception with the intent of disempowering the public.”

Similarly, in 2003 Alex Farquharson (a curator since the late 1990s and now director of Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) questioned exhibitions that foreground their own sign structure, and thus risk, in his words, “using art and artists as so many constituent fibers or pieces of syntax subsumed by the identity of the whole” curatorial endeavor.

[ … ]

… To curate is no longer confined to a specific museum or gallery program or to the acts of selecting, organizing, and displaying only art. In the context of more recent projects, the triangular network of artist, curator, and audience is replaced by a spectrum of potential interrelationships. Such a shift in the understanding of art’s authorship, as something beyond the hand of an individual, acknowledges that art is not produced in isolation and that it should not be understood as being autonomous from the rest of life. Exhibitions are a coproductive, spatial medium, resulting from varying forms of negotiation, relationality, adaptation, collaboration between subjects and objects, across space and time.

My most recent post from O’Neill’s book is here.




July 15, 2018

The Worm Is in the Fruit

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:34 am

… all pleasures envelop their pain, that is, a possibility of consciousness that will poison them …

Continuing through The Bad Conscience by Vladimir Jankélévich, translated by Andrew Kelley (2015):

… instead of conscious souls breathing lightly again in the midst of friendly, obedient, and familiar things, conscientious souls, encumbered by problems from which they do not know how to detach themselves, multiply around themselves the causes of torments; they can no longer forsake this tunic of Nessus; they are like souls who are too loving, who, because they give of themselves too easily, end up being answerable to the whole universe.

[line break added] A conscience that is happy, lucid, and in good health is one for which objects remain absorbed in the distance of the exterior world; the bad conscience, on the contrary, is surrounded on all sides by reflective surfaces off of which problems bounce; everywhere things reflect back to it to its own image; it would like to get away from itself and everywhere it is itself that it encounters.

… moral pain, which is an inefficient reflection of the conscience on an event that is too close to our lives, differs in nature from the efficient consciousness; it differs from it on account of this invisible wall up against which the painful conscience comes to bump and which compels reflexive work to operate, in the manner of a vivisection, upon our still ‘warm’ experiences, and not on veritable objects.

[line break added] The suffering soul has just enough of what it requires from consciousness so that its affection is an object to it, but not enough, however, so that this affection no longer interests it: it comes and goes, panicked, between “knowing” and “being subjected.” Thus explains this type of cruel, sterile, and monstrous lucidity that is proper to pain — physical or moral.

… Just as joy is made for adventure, so pain revels in interminable deliberations; and the more that it becomes bogged down in them the more that it savors them: one would say that it finds in them a sort of special delight. “To suffer,” says Paul Valéry, “is to give something one’s highest attention.”

… And so it is for moral pain: a sentiment that was to be local or partial, was to fade into the harmonious choir of our lives, invades and occupies the totality of the field of consciousness.

… every sentiment envelops its nascent conscience, what one could also call one’s nascent pain. Instead of claiming, with pessimism, that there is no unmixed pleasure, it would rather be necessary to express oneself as such: all pleasures envelop their pain, that is, a possibility of consciousness that will poison them, tender them fragile, distrustful, and suspicious; no sooner have we begun to live them than they already project a shadow of themselves, infinitely light and fugitive, and this shadow is like their elementary conscience. To be perfectly happy, it would be necessary not to know anything of one’s happiness; but has there ever been a single human sentiment, pure as it may be, that did not brush against some imperceptible reflection?

… To become conscious of one’s pleasure is to realize that it is only a wretched pleasure lacking a tomorrow, that it leaves us eternally uneasy, wanting, and famished. Consciousness does not, thus, limit itself to making an object of pleasure: consciousness manifests the insufficiency of it; it brings with itself the first doubt that, slowly, cunningly, is going to erode our happiness. “The worm is in the fruit … and remorse is in love.”

… There is, in morality, no semi-conscience; every semi-conscience is a pseudo-conscience, and sincere men do not grow weary of denouncing in themselves and around them the larval sophisms that permit pleasure to be smuggled back in, all the while playing the game of virtue.

… our pleasures are absolutely original realities, and yet, virtue treats them as enemies, for virtue, here, represents the “order of the heart,” that is, a nonwritten law that has nothing in common either with individual hygiene or with social well-being or even with what we call, with an air of importance, “the higher interest of Truth.”

My previous post from Jankélévich’s book is here.




July 14, 2018

What Is Certain Cannot Be Repeated

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:40 am

… evidence perpetually surprises us because of the perpetual novelty of the material world, from which rationality tries to protect us. The rationalist prefers his dream.

This is from the essay ‘Art and Scientific Method’ (1969) found in Art in Its Own Terms: Selected Criticism 1935-1975 by Fairfield Porter (1979):

A good work of art can in its entirety be represented only by itself. — Tolstoy

… What is wrong is that the scientific notion of reality, which is at the bottom of technology, is inadequate. It is inadequate because it is limited by the idealism of the scientific method. The practical successes of science come from a reduction of the totality of “everything that is the case” to what can be used. … This view of reality ignores the specific quality of facts, which are notoriously arbitrary.

… in the material world one comes against the intractability of fact. Since a fact is specific, as part of a generalization it will lose specificity: its integrity will be destroyed.

A scientific proposition which has to keep the connection with material fact requires, to persuade one of its truth, the assumption that what is almost certain (almost capable of truth) is true enough. It follows that a scientific proposition is almost communicable. But when one’s concern is, like an artist’s, with the arbitrary and the particular, there can be no “logical” communication at all, for the arbitrariness of the original experience will not survive a generalization that is necessary for logical communication.

… The form of the arbitrary, the order of the material world of fact that is there as it stands, being insusceptible to depiction by logic, cannot be part of the world of either mathematics or science. It is a world in which what is certain cannot be repeated. I believe this is the world of art.

Art connects us with the material world, from which mathematics, science and technology separate us. It is concerned with the particular; it reconciles us to the arbitrary. Artistic particularity has no connection with technological generality.

… If you compare, say, an aerial photograph with a map of the same area, the difference is striking. No matter how carefully the surveyor follows his technical procedures, what he presents as the shape of the world will give a configuration well along in entropic degradation in comparison to the configuration revealed by the photograph. The photograph taken from the air shows relationships that one couldn’t imagine exist.

[line break added] It shows an order to the sequence of bays, beaches, hills, and rivers in which, though nothing repeats, you have a sense of the integrity of the whole made out of the immeasurable diversity of nature. The surveyor puts in a logic that is the inevitable consequence of the rationality of his methods, and yet the whole configuration does not have the integrity shown in the photograph. Photography is a possible artistic medium because it puts one in contact with a formality too large to be contained by the human mind.

… evidence perpetually surprises us because of the perpetual novelty of the material world, from which rationality tries to protect us. The rationalist prefers his dream.

… What is called the materialism of modern civilization is not materialism at all, but consists in our putting our faith in ideas that can only be connected to the immediacy of experience within limits of tolerance, inaccurately, like the replacement parts os mass-produced machines. A rapidly mounting accumulation of inaccuracies that separates the world of technology more and more widely from the facts is the reason for the destructiveness of technology.

… for me, painting does not illustrate or prove anything; neither “realism” nor “abstraction” nor any of the categories invented by journalists. It is a way of expressing the connections between the infinity of the diverse elements that constitute the world of matters of fact, from which technology separates us in order to control it and control us.

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




July 13, 2018

The Vast Dying Sea

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:31 am

… Arguably, it’s now a better line.

Continuing through This Little Art by Kate Briggs (2017):

… I imagine for you too, there must be a sentence. A paragraph. Or a longer part of someone else’s work that you feel you know well. You like it. You love it, even. Or perhaps you don’t. Perhaps it hurts you. But you are, nevertheless, for a complex of reasons, attached to it. Let’s say that it acts upon you. You find that it acts and has acted upon you. But it would appear that you have already, also, acted upon it. It addresses you. Or is it that you have made it address you?

[line break added] And now you love or are wounded by it because it addresses you, because it looks, reads or sounds as if it were written for you. At some point in the process of becoming attached to the work you have misrepresented the work to yourself and now you have come to love your misrepresentation more, in a process of productive mis-attachment that the novelist Nicholson Baker makes into the hook of U and I, his extended love letter to the work of John Updike, written as a 32-year-old published but still a self-described ‘beginning novelist.’

[line break added] There’s this line in particular, writes Baker. This one line from somewhere: vast, dying sea. Baker deliberately chooses not to go back and reread the Updike novels he has read and loves, nor even to read for the first time those he hasn’t yet. His project is explicitly unscholarly, anti-philological. It is to pay homage to Updike’s writings as Baker discovers himself in the act of thinking of them. As they are now lodged in his brain and his body and in the degree to which they have inspired and are continually inspiring (directing, fashioning, remotely controlling) his own writerly gestures.

[line break added] Among all the sentences Updike wrote, there is this one line, this small collection of lines. They might not be exactly what Updike wrote. This one — the vast, dying sea — is misheard, misread, misremembered. But it’s a really good line. Arguably, it’s now a better line. Certainly, it does something different.

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




July 12, 2018

You Didn’t Get Any Tail

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:44 am

… No crescendo, no fade, no “The End.”

This is from Joan Simon’s 1987 interview in Please Pay Attention Please: Bruce Nauman’s Words: Writings and Interviews edited by Janet Kraynak (2003):

[ … ]

Bruce Nauman: There is a tendency to clutter things up, to try to make sure people know something is art, when all that’s necessary is to present it, to leave it alone. I think the hardest thing to do is to present an idea in the most straightforward way.

What I tend to do is see something, then re-make it and re-make it and re-make it and try every possible way of re-making it. If I’m persistent enough, I get back to where I started. I think it was Jasper Johns who said, “Sometimes it’s necessary to state the obvious.”

Still, how to proceed is always the mystery.

[ … ]

Joan Simon: What do you think about when you’re working on a piece?

BN: I think about Lenny Tristano a lot. Do you know who he was? Lenny Tristano was a blind pianist, one of the original — or maybe second generation — bebop guys. He’s on a lot of the best early bebop records. When Lenny played well, he hit you hard and he kept going until he finished. Then he quit. You didn’t get any introduction, you didn’t get any tail — you just got full intensity for two minutes or twenty minutes or whatever. It would be like taking the middle out of Coltrane — just the hardest, toughest part of it. That was all you got.

From the beginning I was trying to see if I could make art that did that. Art that was just there all at once. Like getting hit in the face with a baseball bat. Or better, like getting hit in the back of the neck. You never see it coming: it just knocks you down. I like that idea very much: the kind of intensity that doesn’t give you any trace of whether you’re going to like it or not.

Next is from a Michael Auping interview in 2001:

[ … ]

BN: … So I was sitting around the studio being frustrated because I didn’t have any new ideas and I decided that you just have to work with what you’ve got. What I had was this cat and the mice and I did have a video camera in the studio that happened to have infrared capability. So I set it up and turned it on at night when I wasn’t there, just to seen what I’d get.

[ … ]

BN: … What I’ve felt in watching it is almost a meditation. Because the projection image is fairly large, if you try and concentrate on or pay attention to a particular spot in the image, you’ll miss something. So you really have to not pay attention and not concentrate and allow your peripheral vision to work. You tend to get more if you just scan without seeking.

[ … ]

Michael Auping: Since I haven’t seen the final cut, I’m curious how the piece ends.

BN: It ends pretty much how it starts. It begins with a title and a few credits, and then basically it just starts and then it ends. No crescendo, no fade, no “The End.” It just stops, like a long slice of time, just time in the studio.

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




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