Unreal Nature

July 18, 2016

The Work Establishes a Measure

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… I have chosen the structure of a relation. I have chosen certain conditions (rules that I have made up) that reveal themselves in the logic of the procedure.

This is from ‘Play it Again, Sam’ [1970] in Richard Serra: Writings Interviews (1994):

… The perception of the work in its state of suspended animation, arrested motion, does not give one calculable truths like geometry, but a sense of presence, an isolated time. The apparent potential for disorder, for movement endows the structure with a quality outside of its physical or relational definition.

… “We experience more than we can analyse” (A.N. Whitehead). “Sensibility is inclusive and precedes analytic awareness.” (Anonymous). In San Francisco they say, “Flash on it.”

There is no general rule as to which formal properties suffice to determine the structure of a relation. I have chosen the structure of a relation. I have chosen certain conditions (rules that I have made up) that reveal themselves in the logic of the procedure.

There is a difference between definite literal fixed relationships, i.e., joints, clips, gluing, welding, etc. and those which are provisional, non-fixed, “clastic.” The former seem unnecessary and irrelevant and tend to function as interposed elements.

This next is from ‘Shift’ in the same book:

… The boundaries of the work became the maximum distance two people could occupy and still keep each other in view.

… What I wanted was a dialectic between one’s perception of the place in totality and one’s relation to the field as walked. The result is a way of measuring oneself against the indeterminacy of the land. I’m not interested in looking at sculpture which is solely defined by its internal relationships. When you bounce a ball on a shifting ground, it doesn’t return to your hand.

… The work establishes a measure: one’s relation to it and to the land. One walks down the hill into the piece. As one does, the elements begin to rise in relation to one’s descending eye-level.

… The machinery of renaissance space depends on measurements remaining fixed and immutable. [By contrast] These steps [in his work ‘Shift’] relate to a continually shifting horizon, and as measurements, they are totally transitive: elevating, lowering, extending, foreshortening, contracting, compressing, and turning. The line as a visual element, per step, becomes a transitive verb.

Richard Serra, Shift, 1971-72




July 17, 2016

I Smell a Führer Somewhere

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:36 am

… they don’t even look as if they enjoyed dancing.

This is from ‘Argentinita; Some Musicals; Graham’s “American Document” ‘ [1939] found in Edwin Denby: Dance Writings, edited by Robert Cornfield and William MacKay (1986):

… Even when she [Argentinita] hardly moves, there is in the air that extra sense of well-being all over that is dancing. And especially her waist; if you haven’t noticed how beautiful the middle of a dancer is, you can learn from her.

La Argentinita

It’s the bearing of any Spanish gypsy dancer that makes me feel so good, the lift of the waist, the expressive stretch from the pit of the stomach to the small of the back. It’s the bearing of a bullfighter too, when he makes his passes. It lifts the hips and lightens the feet, it settles the shoulder, eases the arm, and frees the head. And it seems to heighten the dancer’s visibility. Perhaps expression in dancing, the sense of an impulse, comes from the diaphragm, as Isadora said.

[line break added] A flamenco dancer always seems to have more expressiveness than he needs for a gesture, a kind of reserve of it that gives him an independent distinction — or dignity, as I have heard Spaniards say, who are very sensitive to this quality. Perhaps, looking at it technically, it is the strictness of this fundamental position that gives coherence and point to everything within the flamenco range; that gives the dancer the freedom to shift from serious to funny; that keeps the male dancer from getting all wet with stagey glamor.

[line break added] You see, these are all problems that the modern dancer is puzzled by. Another thing that a gypsy dancer can do is go into or come out of a dance without embarrassment. She walks up to the guitarist and stands there clapping her hands a few times and then starts, or she stops dancing and sings a little, or she stops and lets someone else dance while she merely stands around or walks. This change between heightened movement and ordinary movement is a wonderful contrast on the stage; it puts the performer on an equal footing with the audience, it makes him a casual human being and his big moment all the more interesting.

[ … ]

Martha Graham’s American Document is a major work, as everybody knows, with a moral to which everyone subscribes, stated by a narrator. It wants “to capture the feeling of America.” I see Miss Graham’s sincerity, her fine technique, her intensity. But I am troubled by the monotony of equal thrusts, the unrelaxed determinations. There is something too constantly solemn, too unhumorous, too stiff about it; something sectarian.

The following is from Denby’s essay ‘Modern Dancers as Human Beings’ [1939]:

… When you see six of them on the stage, all you can do is count six, you can’t tell six what. They don’t seem to be girls combining with other girls, they don’t seem to have any human relation to one another. They seem artificially depersonalized, and their bodies operated from offstage. I smell a Führer somewhere, and I get uncomfortable. I wish our dance groups would look as if they were free agents. I wish they would look as if they liked being together, at least as much as folk dancers do, or lindy-hoppers.

Well, another thing that makes me uncomfortable with modern groups is that they don’t even look as if they enjoyed dancing. We all know that expression of sobriety they wear not only on their face but on their body, too. It covers a group of them like an unattractvie army blanket. From their programs, from their choreographies, they mean to express all sorts of things; but they don’t show them. They seem to be thinking of the next movement as though they were afraid they’d forget it. When I think of the natural kind of dancing, or folk dancing, I notice it doesn’t express anything but the pleasure of being in a dance.

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




July 16, 2016

To Engage What Remains Hidden

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… Whereas the plan leads to an end, the map provides a generative means, a suggestive vehicle that ‘points’ but does not overly determine.

Continuing through the essay ‘The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention’ by James Corner found in Mappings edited by Denis Cosgrove (1999):

… For the landscape architect and urban planner, maps are sites for the imaging and projecting of alternative worlds. Thus maps are in-between the virtual and the real. Here, Winnicott’s question, ‘Did you find that in the world or did you make it up?’ denotes an irrelevant distinction. More important is how the map permits a kind of excavation (downward) and extension (outward) to expose, reveal, and construct latent possibilities within a greater milieu.

[line break added] The map ‘gathers’ and ‘shows’ things presently (and always) invisible, things which may appear incongruous or untimely but which may also harbor enormous potential for the unfolding of alternative events. In this regard, maps have very little to do with representation as depiction. After all, maps look nothing like their subject, not only because of their vantage point but also because they present all parts at once, with an immediacy unavailable to the grounded individual. But more than this, the function of maps is not to depict but to enable, to precipitate a set of effects in time. Thus, mappings do not represent geographies or ideas; rather they effect their actualization.

Mapping is neither secondary nor representational but doubly operative: digging, finding and exposing on the one hand, and relating, connecting and structuring on the other. Through visual disclosure, mapping both sets up and puts into effect complex sets of relationship that remain to be more fully actualized.

[line break added] Thus mapping is not subsequent to but prior to landscape and urban formations. In this sense, mapping is returned to its origins as a process of exploration, discovery and enablement. This is less a case of mapping to assert authority, stability and control, and more one of searching, disclosing and engendering new sets of possibility. Like a nomadic grazer, the exploratory mapper detours around the obvious so as to engage what remains hidden.

… mapping differs from ‘planning’ in that it entails searching, finding and unfolding complex and latent forces in the existing milieu rather than imposing a more-or-less idealized project from on high. Moreover, the synoptic imposition of the ‘plan’ implies a consumption (or extinguishing) of contextual potential, wherein all that is available is subsumed into the making of the project. Mapping, by contrast, discloses, stages and even adds potential for later acts and events to unfold. Whereas the plan leads to an end, the map provides a generative means, a suggestive vehicle that ‘points’ but does not overly determine.

Robinson and Petchenik claim that ‘in mapping, one objective is to discover (by seeing) meaningful physical and intellectual shape organizations in the milieu, structures that are likely to remain hidden until they have been mapped … plotting out or mapping is a method for searching for such meaningful designs.’ In other words, there are some phenomena that can only achieve visibility through representation rather than through direct experience.

[line break added] Furthermore, mapping engenders new and meaningful relationships amongst otherwise disparate parts. The resultant relational structure is not something already ‘out-there,’ but rather something constructed, bodied forth through the act of mapping. As the philosopher Brand Blandshard observes, ‘space is simply a relation of systematized outsideness, by itself neither sensible nor imaginable’; it is created in the process of mapping.

To be continued.

My previous post from Corner’s essay is here.




July 15, 2016


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:35 am

… the scene always seems to slip from our sight before it comes fully into focus … ‘the moment of actuality slips too fast by the slow, coarse net of our senses.’

This is from Michael Snow: Wavelength, by Elizabeth Legge (2009):

In 1966, at the height of Minimalist art and its objects, Michael Snow, a Canadian artist, filmmaker and musician then living in New York, chose not to make another object to be places in a room, but instead planned a film of a room.


Wavelength has functioned ever since as a touchstone for contemporary art and film studies, and as a blue screen in front of which a range of ideological and intellectual dramas have been played.


… For most of the film, the camera does not itself move or advance, but the zoom creates a sense that it is heading somewhere and getting closer — even though the zoom only means a lens is being turned, or that the visual field is narrowing. The effect is a gradual compression of the space, as if it were being shovelled against the far wall and displaced to the sides, in an unseen leak at the edges of the screen.

[line break added] (Our eyes keep moving to the sides to see if we can see the advance of the lens, as if we were watching a shadow lengthen.) This flattening intensifies when the initially oblique angle of the zoom changes to its final head-on approach. Yet, in spite of this strange collapsed spatiality, we also experience the zoom as our own virtual movement into depth — not quite bodily, but through a feeling of being pulled forward by our eyes, merely by looking.

[line break added] At the end, when the zoom closes in on a smaller and smaller area of the waves [in a photograph of the ocean on the far wall], we feel that it is actually carrying us into the photograph, in something like a dream of flying, as if there were no barrier, as if the zoom could puncture the photograph, wall and screen and move beyond them, out into and over the waves.


… Yet as the zoom persists and pushes forward into the space, we become vaguely aware of the interruptive shifts in the zoom’s focal length, which give it a speculative volition, as if new decisions were continually being entertained. In effect, the screen image seems to respond to the depicted events in the room, creating the sense that the room is itself an organism responding to entrances and intrusions, perhaps mimicking or cuing our own responses …

… Does Wavelength somehow constitute an ontology of film, or does it just raise the idea of ontology? Does it restore a ‘transcendent subject’ with mastery over the perceptual field, both as author and as viewer, or does it block that suspect entity? Does it somehow enact consciousness by provoking an intensified phenomenological experience in the viewer, or does it interfere with our sensory immersion by stimulating a disruptive undertow of self-awareness?


Snow’s zoom could work as an allegory of apperception, the process by which the mind brings experiences and memories to bear on our senses, unifying the flow of sensation, or of film itself as a succession of stills in which the perceptible adjustments of the lens stand for the imperceptible modification of successive film frames. The zoom is a kind of scale marking our experience of time as one of both loss and accumulation.

… The zoom can be taken in two ways: as either coring out the territorial power of space by invasive temporal turns of the lens, or as spatial interruptions of time conceived as linear inexorability.

… perspective in Wavelength would be a cliché used as a ‘probe’ (Snow noted ‘room probe’) into the hidden environmental structures of culture. In the film, the apparent mastery implied by a fixed, raised vantage point is played against a cool exclusion, as the scene always seems to slip from our sight before it comes fully into focus — or, to use George Kubler’s words, ‘the moment of actuality slips too fast by the slow, coarse net of our senses.’

[line break added] The passages of intense color and flashing light make us feel that the world is being transmuted into new substances — with light itself giving up its ordinary role of making other things visible while being invisible, and instead shaking apart into its component spectral colors, taking on mote-like textures, turning into a particle accelerator and prism.




July 14, 2016

That Carries the Burden

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:51 am

… ‘It is the “inter” — the cutting edge of translation and negotiation, the in-between space — that carries the burden of the meaning of culture.’

This is from the essay ‘Art and Cinema: Some Critical Reflections’ by Mark Nash, found in Art and the Moving Image: A Critical Reader edited by Tanya Leighton (2008):

… ‘Video and film installations have now introduced deepest night or dusk into the museum.’ The artist, as Groys points out, now controls the light by which we see their work. [Groys’s] second [point] concerns a shift in the temporal conditions influencing our perception of art. Moving pictures have begun to suggest to the viewer how much time they should spend on contemplation.

[line break added] However, should we ‘interrupt our contemplation of some video or film work in order to return to it at a later point, we will inevitably be filled with that very same feeling of having missed something crucial and will no longer be sure what is really happening in the installation.’ Moving images, in other words, return us to the experience of real life, ‘that familiar place … where one is forever haunted by the feeling of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.’

[line break added] Moving-image installations create an anxiety in the viewer for which there is no adequate and satisfactory solution: ‘Whatever the individual’s decision, either to stay put or to keep moving, his choice will always amount to a “poor compromise.” ‘ In the cinema, on the other hand, the audience is traditionally immobile, secure in the knowledge that, provided they don’t miss the beginning of the film, they will have seen everything they need to see to understand the work.

… But I will argue that there can be no necessary connection between a particular formal approach to the conditions in which a work is experienced (e.g. creating a mobile spectator) and a presumed radicality.

The key question is whether the new physical mobility that the spectator is offered in gallery and museum installations really involves a critique of dominant spectatorial regimes of cinema. Do gallery-based moving-image practices participate in the construction and problematisation of the subject in this way?

Homi K. Bhabha proposed the concept of a ‘third’ space which he made the condition for the articulation of cultural difference: ‘It is the “inter” — the cutting edge of translation and negotiation, the in-between space — that carries the burden of the meaning of culture.’ In seeking to overturn the dualism underlying much contemporary and theoretical practice, Bhabha further sets out the enunciative terms for a vanguard artistic practice, supplementing those of Kapur:

The language of critique is effective not because it keeps forever separate the terms of the master and the slave, the mercantilist and the Marxist, but to the extent to which it overcomes the given grounds of opposition and opens up a space of translation.

[ … ]

… If one is too much the native informant, one is too close. If one is too much the ethnographer, one is too far. The struggle for the artist is to find the correct distance.

… to what extent are we still involved in the paradox of what Walter Benjamin called the ‘optical unconscious’ — namely, the move to a subjective register which accompanies depiction once it is separated from a critical frame? Benjamin critiqued the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) photography as saying ‘the world is beautiful,’ in opposition to Bertolt Brecht’s imperative that ‘the point is to change it.’

[line break added] One might argue that much of the work involved in the contemporary ‘documentary turn’ is involved in an analogous but dystopian move. This time the affect produced is one of horror rather than wonder: the world is no longer beautiful, and we are in the process of witnessing the destruction of the world as we know it. Crucially then, where is the position for critical engagement in all this?

My most recent previous post from this book is here.




July 13, 2016

Dirty Subject Matter

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:37 am

… for him, dirt is “matter out of place,” unpleasant, unsuitable, a taboo.

This is from the essay ‘An Obscene Aesthetic: From the Grand Facade to the Sublime Dirt’ by Susanne Figner found in Lewis Baltz (2013):

… The concept of the industrial or technological sublime first emerged in the 1960s, in Leo Marx’s popular book, The Machine in the Garden among other places. Marx explained how the mixture of attraction and repulsion that is characteristic of the sublime had been transferred from natural to industrial objects in the service of an American ideology.

[line break added] Originally derived from the Romantic era in Europe, the concept of the sublime describes aesthetic experiences in nature that are simultaneously perceived as monstrous and fascinating. This combination of contradictory emotions is found with landscapes of immense dimensions (the Alps, for example) or events with potentially catastrophic consequences (avalanches, volcano eruptions).

[line break added] In the United States during the same period, the sublime was applied to industrial developments such as canals, bridges, and steam-driven locomotives. This transfer was a consequence of American settlement policies and the discovery of gold on the West Coast, in the wake of which businessmen, politicians, and journalists began to glorify the American machine as an instrument of freedom and democracy.

[line break added] The rhetoric was at once utopian and ideological: industrial inventions were considered signs of a progressive spirit, while landscapes left to grow wild were equated with a backward intellect. The authors of progress — engineers — were celebrated as the new heroes who generated prosperity for all at home and demonstrated America’s superiority abroad.

… For many artists who participated in the protests against the Vietnam War, the industrial rhetoric had an insipid aftertaste, and they began to address the negative consequences of the technological sublime. Robert Smithson photographed sewer pipes and heaps of earth in New Jersey, calling them the new monuments.

[ … ]

Lewis Baltz, Park City, interior, 3, 1980

Lewis Baltz has himself used the word “obscene” for his visual presentation of social dirt: for him, dirt is “matter out of place,” unpleasant, unsuitable, a taboo. Applying a sublime vocabulary to dirty subject matter means referring to an aesthetic otherwise used for the sale of a product or the dissemination of an ideology. Baltz layers this universally understood visual language with antisublime subject matter to make a contrary statement.

[line break added] Although he does not refer explicitly to Smithson, when using the term obscenity he also seems to allude to the anthropomorphic and sexualized language with which Smithson described his own industrial objects and the sculptures of Robert Morris and Claes Oldenburg. The dialectic of a monstrous object that should not be shown but is shown anyway describes the combination of horror and fascination inherent in the dynamic of the sublime.

… For Baltz, the postmodern sublime is a means to point to an ideological aesthetic and to infiltrate it with dystopian motifs. The sublime is thus subjected to a dual demystification: the continuity of ideological patterns is reinforced, while the inevitability of its failure is revealed.




July 12, 2016

Detached and Meticulous Attention

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:41 am

Close has created a psychological zone where it is possible to violate the physical privacy of another human to an unprecedented degree.

This is from Chuck Close by Robert Storr (1998):

Self-Portrait, 1997 [detail]

… Portraiture, as a genre, bears the stigma of mixed motives. Historically, portraits have predominantly been work for hire, which in virtually every instance dictates that the task of the artist, whatever his or her independent creative objectives may be, is to make the sitter look good or resemble some prescribed image. The art of commissioned portraits is, therefore, as much a matter of social and psychological manipulation as it is of aesthetic considerations, and rarely has it reached its peak without indulgence on the part of the subject.

… modern portraiture became a laboratory for stylistic experimentation and for the form-altering analysis of personality and milieu. [as examples, Storr points to Picasso, Matisse, Giacometti, and Francis Bacon]

… With these and similar examples in mind, Close’s statement “I tried to purge my work of as much of the baggage of traditional portrait painting as I could” is both provocative and logical.

Linda, 1975-76

Close’s impatience with cliché intended to speak to “the human condition” declares itself. “I consider myself a humanist, but why must all humanists deal with blind people, or bloated dead bodies, or man’s inhumanity to man? Why can’t we reflect on less dramatic or less primitive situations? I’m interested in approaching the subject flat-footedly, very unemotionally. Lack of highly charged emotion doesn’t mean no emotion. It means that I’m not cranking it up for its maximal emotional impact.”

… Everything about these faces, from misshapen features to the smallest blemish or lapse in grooming, is recorded, inspected millimeter by millimeter by the artist, and blown up to giant scale. Detached and meticulous attention explains the intrusiveness of Close’s gaze rather than unkindness. Nevertheless, the effect, especially in chill tones of gray, can be simultaneously mesmerizing and off-putting if not positively repulsive.

Mark, 1978-79

… The photo-maquette guarantees the coherence of the images while the artist works, but, as he paints, he sees in only in pieces. This incremental hard-by-the-surface approach gives the completed heads a sense of precarious integrity even when they are fully described, as in the continuous tone paintings of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The viewer is drawn toward details that require stepping up to the canvas to the point that other details move to the periphery of vision and begin to lose clarity along with the overall coherence of the image.

[line break added] When the features of a faced are atomized into paint bursts, dots, crossbars, fingerprints, or the hook-rug weave of color circles and lozenges that Close has employed since the mid-1980s, that instability increases to the verge of dissolution, calling into question the perceptual threshold at which image recognition is achieved or lost.

[ … ]

… By refraining from moral or psychological commentary and by withholding personal sympathy, Close has created a psychological zone where it is possible to violate the physical privacy of another human to an unprecedented degree.

Self-Portrait, 1997

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




July 11, 2016

Why Bother?

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:47 am

… Art has to be new every time. If you’re being repetitive, it’s not a contribution, so why bother?

This is from Heizer’s conversation with the editor in Michael Heizer: Altars, edited by Kara Vander Weg (2015:

[ … ]

Kara Vander Weg: Can you talk about the title of your show, Altars, and its meaning for you?

Michael Heizer: You know how it is with altars — people put fancy chalices and objects on them. An altar would be anything ceremonial: Obama’s desk, for example. If art isn’t spiritual, it is decoration.

[ … ]

MH: … I have this sculpture, a little ceramic head with a wire mounted into it and placed on a huge piece of wood. The so-called base is six hundred times more dominant than the artwork, but it puts a lot of energy into the little deity. Alone on the table, the ceramic element would be a piece of junk, but the wood enables it, it articulates it. That’s a pedestal, that’s an altar.

Everyone thought that a Calder sitting on the ground was modern because it was freestanding and a victory over pedantic pedestals, but sometimes it can be super modern to utilize a pedestal.

[ … ]

KVW: You once said, “My sense is that you see art sequentially.” But isn’t the idea that a full knowledge of the sculpture only exists in the viewer’s mind?

MH: We have to see a sculpture in time. There aren’t very many people who understand sculpture. You would think it would be the most available and easiest art form to contend with, but it isn’t. Movies and photography aren’t a way to see art; they are a way to illustrate it. I don’t like kinetic work that moves around; I like static art. I am peaceful around it. What I do is Zen contemplative. My work has contained energy, not a momentarily present energy.

[ … ]

Displaced/Replaced Mass (1/3), 1969

KVW: Can you talk about the creative decisions behind the rocks?

MH: Each rock is, in my mind, a work of art, but there has to be something more to it. I decide how to present it, rotate it, decide what side is up and what side is down, then put it in the box and have it poking out of the box, but make the box tight around it. The rocks have been bolted and pinned in, and in the case of Potato Chip it has been suspended so that it can swing. That rock has a percussion surface, a wave that goes edge to edge, which shows the power of the shear where it snapped off. The granite faces in Yosemite Valley are percussion surfaces.

Potato Chip, 2015

As far as evolution, the rocks in boxes with backs evolved before Potato Chip, which doesn’t have a front or a back. If you build a wall around it, it becomes a hole in the wall. Negative space is where you find it or invent it. And this is Displaced/Replaced Mass, where you take out a mass and replace it with something else — a rock. It is about volume and mass, like all of my rock sculptures. It’s also like the medieval painting by Hans Holbein that shows a dead Jesus inserted on a slab in the wall.

Displaced/Replaced Mass (3), 1994

KVW: How do you want people to feel when they walk in the space and see your work?

MH: I hope that they have never had an experience like it. It has to be transcendent. If it isn’t, there is no point. Art has to be new every time. If you’re being repetitive, it’s not a contribution, so why bother?

Hans Holbein the Younger, The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb, 1521




July 10, 2016

Too Neat

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:39 am

… It is showmanship with a vengeance, it is a drill of automatons.

This is from ‘Graham’s Chronicle; Uday Shankar’ [1937] found in Edwin Denby: Dance Writings, edited by Robert Cornfield and William MacKay (1986):

She believes in unexpectedness of composition, and she succeeds in keeping up an unremitting intellectual tension. There is no slack anywhere, physically or intellectually. She has, besides, an emotional steadiness in projection that binds together her constantly explosive detail, a determination which controls what might otherwise seem unrelated and fragmentary.

These are certainly rare qualities. I think anyone who likes dancing will admire her. But it seems to me her courage could go even further. She seems to watch over her integrity with too jealous an eye. She allows her dance to unfold only on a dictatorially determined level. But a dance unfolds of its own accord on a great many contradictory levels. And I miss the humanity of these contradictions.

To speak more in terms of dance, it seems as though Miss Graham were too neat.


This next is Denby’s essay ‘Massine and the New Monte Carlo’ [1938]:

… As a pictorial arranger Massine is inexhaustible. But dancing is less pictorial than plastic, and pictures in dancing leave a void in the imagination. They arrest the drama of dancing which the imagination craves to continue, stimulated by all the kinetic senses of the body that demand a new movement to answer the one just past.

… Take the Seventh. Every gesture is visually clear, but every gesture is at the same pitch, hit equally hard. The picture changes, but the tension remains the same. It’s all very agitated. There are sometimes more, sometimes fewer people on the stage; they get on top of each other, lie down, run around, jump, crouch, whirl, pose, wave, or huddle, and they never give any sense of getting closer together or farther apart, of getting lighter or heavier, more open or more shut in, more soft or more hard. It is showmanship with a vengeance, it is a drill of automatons.

… Because Massine’s tension is static he can never make us feel the curious unfolding that is like tenderness. Like a Hollywood director, he gives us no sense of human growth (there isn’t time), he keeps everything at a constant level of finish; everything is over as soon as it starts. He has no equivalent for mystery except to bring down the lights. So the Seventh, though danced with fervor and transfigured by the most wonderful sets and costumes in the world, leaves a sense of cheapness …

My previous post from Denby’s book is here.




July 9, 2016

Uncovering Realities Previously Unseen or Unimagined

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:49 am

… mapping is perhaps the most formative and creative act of any design process, first disclosing and then staging the conditions for the emergence of new realities.

This is from the essay ‘The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention’ by James Corner found in Mappings edited by Denis Cosgrove (1999):

Mapping is a fantastic cultural project, creating and building the world as much as measuring and describing it. Long affiliated with the planning and design of cities, landscapes and buildings, mapping is particularly instrumental in the construing and constructing of lived space. In this active sense, the function of mapping is less to mirror reality than to engender the re-shaping of the worlds in which people live.

[line break added] While there are countless examples of authoritarian, simplistic, erroneous and coercive acts of mapping, with reductive effects upon both individuals and environments, I focus in this essay upon more optimistic revisions of mapping practices.

… We have been adequately cautioned about mapping as a means of projecting power-knowledge, but what about mapping as a productive and liberating instrument, a world-enriching agent, especially in the design and planning arts?

… its agency lies in neither reproduction nor imposition but rather in uncovering realities previously unseen or unimagined, even across seemingly exhausted grounds. Thus, mapping unfolds potential; it re-makes territory over and over again, each time with new and diverse consequences. Not all maps accomplish this, however; some simply reproduce what is already known. These are more ‘tracings’ than maps, delineating patterns but revealing nothing new.

… Map devices such as frame, scale, orientation, projection, indexing and naming reveal artificial geographies that remain unavailable to human eyes. Maps present only one version of the earth’s surface, an eidetic fiction constructed from factual observation. As both analog and abstraction, then, the surface of the map functions like an operating table, a staging ground or theater of operations upon which the mapper collects, combines, connects, marks, masks, relates and generally explores.

… What remains overlooked in this sequence, however, is the fact that maps are highly artificial and fallible constructions, virtual abstractions that possess great force in terms of how people see and act. One of the reasons for this oversight derives from a prevalent tendency to view maps in terms of what they represent rather than what they do.

… mapping is perhaps the most formative and creative act of any design process, first disclosing and then staging the conditions for the emergence of new realities.

… I am less interested in maps as finished artifacts than I am in mapping as a creative activity. It is in this participatory sense that I believe new and speculative techniques of mapping may generate new practices of creativity, practices that are expressed not in the invention of novel form but in the productive reformulation of what is already given.

More from this essay next week. My most recent previous post from this book is here.




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