Unreal Nature

August 14, 2016

That Which Is Able to Change the Heart Proves Itself

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:51 am

… how far they choose to go in contrast to how far they might go.

This is from ‘Dudley-Maslow-Bales’ [1943] found in Edwin Denby: Dance Writings, edited by Robert Cornfield and William MacKay (1986):

… What I sincerely like in modern dancers is the thoughtful way they keep attacking such fundamental questions of dance form from all sorts of novel angles. They are willing to make it hard for themselves. They don’t really take anything for granted; they leave all kinds of possibilities open. They intend, at least, to make every kind of experiment in person.

From ‘A Forum on Dance Criticism’ [1944]:

… A good critic will tell the dancer which elements in a work get across and which do not. But that alone does not necessarily indicate the most productive, the most sincere direction for the dancer to take. An artist will find his own real strength not by listening to what is said about his work, but in the creative process itself. And it is safer for him to rely on himself to find his own identity; for it is unlikely that anyone else can find it for him.

From ‘Marianne Moore on Pavlova‘ [1944]:

An album of Pavlova photographs with “accompanying notes” by Marianne Moore is the very astonishing contents of the latest issue of Dance Index — price, one quarter; admirers of Miss Moore will not want to miss so remarkable an item.

… it is by her private moral perceptions, appearing for an instant and at rare intervals, that Miss Moore gives us the sharpest equivalent for the actual fact of classic dancing. She notes on a picture of twelve-year-old Pavlova “the erectness of the head, the absolutely horizontal brows, indicating power of self-denial; the eyes, dense with imagination and sombered with solicitude; the hair, severely competent; the dress, dainty more than proud.”

[line break added] And after describing a hand pose, “These truthful hands, the most sincere and the least greedy imaginable,” she notes Pavlova’s use of the passive voice when the dancer wrote: “I was permitted to style myself Première Danseuse … later I was granted the title Ballerina.” This classic modesty Miss Moore refers to: “She had power for a most unusual reason — she did not present as valuable the personality from which she could not escape.” And later, suggesting the quality of Pavlova’s expression, Miss Moore asks, “Why should one so innocent, so natural, so ardent be sad?

[line break added] If self-control is the essential condition of conveying emotion and giving is giving up, we still cannot feel that renunciation had made Pavlova sad; may it have been that for lives that one loves there are things even love cannot do?” And later Miss Moore herself answers, “That which is able to change the heart proves itself.”

From ‘About Ballet Decoration’ [1944]:

… The dramatic power of a ballet is in its visual impact. You feel it by seeing just how the dancers move, seeing their impetus in relation to each other and also their force in relation to the entire stage — how far they choose to go in contrast to how far they might go.

The force with which dancers approach, touch or separate, come forward toward you or retire, take possession of stage center or pause isolated near the wings, these changing intensities are meant to have a cumulative effect. You appreciate this best if you sit far enough back to view the whole stage at a glance, so that its height and width can act as a fixed frame of reference. Ballet scenery and costumes are meant to make the action of the dance distinctly visible at a distance and also to give a clear coherence to its variety, a livelier common term to its action than the mere empty stage area.

For this purpose a décor so busy that it confuses or so stuffy that it clogs the animation of the dances is of no use. But it cannot be timid. It must have power enough to remain interesting and alive as the dancing gradually sharpens the visual susceptibility of the audience. One of our finest sets — Pierre Roy’s Coppélia — does this without attracting any notice to itself at all.

[line break added] The effect of a décor is right when as the ballet gathers momentum the dancers seem to have enough air all around to dance easily; when you see their long dance phrases in clear relation to stage center; when the flats keep the force of the gesture from spilling aimlessly into the wings; then the dancers — no matter how odd they looked at first — can come to look natural in the fanciful things they do, the natural fauna of the bright make-believe world they move in.

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




August 13, 2016

A Loss of Nearness

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:49 am

… things and places can be properly understood only through nearness and intimacy …

This is from the essay ‘Three Tyrannies of Contemporary Theory’ found in The Landscape Imagination: Collected Essays of James Corner 1990– 2010 (2014):

For, if without prophecy there is no hope, then without memory there can be no communication. — Colin Rowe, Collage City (1978)

… Faith has been superseded by reason in a world now governed primarily by the logic of modern technology and global economics. Heidegger refers to the resulting human condition as a “loss of nearness” or a loss of intimacy between humans and their environment as well as between people and their communities. Clearly much of built environment today reflects this estrangement and is perpetuated by most contemporary attitudes toward theory and practice in landscape architecture and the related arts.

… “contemporary thought is now endangered by the picture drawn by science,” wrote theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg. “This danger lies in the fact that the picture is now regarded as an exhaustive account of nature itself, so that science forgets that in its study of nature it is merely studying its own picture.”

… On what grounds may we discover an alternative, especially one pertaining to landscape architecture? The answer can be found in the articulation of a critical (that is, nondogmatic) and interpretive attitude toward history, culture, tradition, nature, and art, the basis of which lies in three working assumptions.

First, the world is not omniscient, as modern technology might have us believe. Luminous and opaque, the lifeworld does not fit neatly into any one viewpoint. In an indeterminate, poetic world resistant to full capture, the disclosure of one aspect necessarily conceals another. In any understanding there is simultaneously light and shadow, giving and withdrawing. This means that all previous understanding is not in itself wrong, untrue, or without value, even though it may have long been discarded.

… interpretation is always in response to a particular situation, replete with specific sets of circumstances. While much of today’s theory is derived from a scientific approach — which tends to produce an ideal from a hypothetical or artificial arrangement — interpretation is always situated within particular contexts and must respond flexibly to the specific circumstances within which the interpreter operates.

… because interpretation is situated and circumstantial, it never presumes to be anything more than interpretative and partial.Interpretation recognizes its own incompleteness, working with smaller units of inquiry as opposed to grand utopian models or holistic schemata.

… things and places can be properly understood only through nearness and intimacy, through bodily participation. A theory and practice that simultaneously emerges from and engages in this realm of perception is therefore qualitatively different from the application of a priori conceptual orders, which are analogous to mathematical logic or rational planning and always precede action.

[line break added] It is only through the actual undertaking of perception based work — imaginary drawings, models, artifacts, and the actual building of landscapes — that the landscape architect can best find access to the cinematic richness of landscape space and time. Only through the temporal and phenomenal processes of doing and making can revelation occur.

… Landscape is not only a physical phenomenon, but is also a cultural schema, a conceptual filter through which our relationships to wilderness and nature can be understood.

It is the well-formed world of occupied places as opposed to the world outside of that — the unplaced place. In other words, prior to language, “landscape” is a phenomenon beyond immediate comprehension; it is not until we choose a prospect and map what we see, marking some aspects, ignoring others, that the landscape acquires meaning. Such interventions include paintings, poems, myths, and literature, in addition to buildings and other interventions upon the land. These works are the encodings that set and frame human situations. They are the posts that map out a “landscape.”

… The landscape architect as plotter is simultaneously critic, geographer, communicator, and maker, digging to uncover mute and latent possibilities in the lived landscape.

My previous post from Corner’s book is here.




August 12, 2016

The Character of the Medium

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:38 am

… the “content” of a medium is like the juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind.

This is from ‘The Medium is the Message’ found in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man by Marshall McLuhan (1964, 1994, 2003):

… Many people would be disposed to say that it was not the machine, but what one did with the machine, that was its meaning or message. In terms of the ways in which the machine altered our relations to one another and to ourselves, it mattered not in the least whether it turned out cornflakes or Cadillacs. The restructuring of human work and association was shaped by the technique of fragmentation and is the essence of machine technology. The essence of automation technology is the opposite. It is integral and decentralist in depth, just as the machine was fragmentary, centralist, and superficial in its patterning of human relationships.

… the “message” of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs. The railway did not introduce movement or transportation or wheel or road into human society, but it accelerated and enlarged the scale of previous human functions, creating totally new kinds of cities and new kinds of work and leisure. This happened whether the railway functioned in a tropical or a northern environment, and is quite independent of the freight or content of the railway medium. The airplane, on the other hand, by accelerating the rate of transportation, tends to dissolve the railway form of city, politics, and association, quite independently of what the airplane is used for.

… it is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action. The content or uses of such media are as diverse as they are ineffectual in shaping the form of human association. Indeed, it is only too typical that the “content” of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium. It is only today that industries have become aware of the various kinds of business in which they are engaged. When IBM discovered that it was not in the business of making office equipment or business machines, but that it was in the business of processing information, then it began to navigate with clear vision.

… I am in the position of Louis Pasteur telling doctors that their greatest enemy was quite invisible, and quite unrecognized by them. Our conventional response to all media, namely that it was how they are used that counts, is the numb stance of the technological idiot. For the “content” of a medium is like the juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind. The effect of the medium is made strong and intense just because it is given another medium as “content.” The content of a movie form is not related to its program content.

… a society configured by reliance on a few commodities accepts them as a social bond quite as much as the metropolis does the press. Cotton and oil, like radio and TV, become “fixed charges” on the entire psychic life of the community. And this pervasive fact creates the unique cultural flavor of any society. It pays through the nose and all its other senses for each staple that shapes its life.

My previous post from McLuhan’s book is here.




August 11, 2016

To Displace the Determining Effects

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:42 am

… ‘It is thus imperative … to maintain the ambivalence of their terms … ‘

This is from the essay ‘Debating the Third Cinema’ by Ashish Rajadhyaksha found in Questions of Third Cinema edited by Jim Pines and Paul Willemen (1989):

… The question of revolutionary identity — as distinct from ‘identifying with the revolution’ — is necessarily a question of political choice. But it is not a choice of this or that alternative within a ‘given’ framework: the more ‘given’ the political framework, indeed, the more it accepts the basic premises of the system it is supposed to oppose. It is a question of challenging the very terms in which reality is conventionally portrayed (including all the radical gestures the conventions usually include); the choice is of the extent to which we wish to open the debate, the extent to which we demand change.

[line break added] In the absence of such an effort which would interrogate the viewer/filmmaker, the terms of mediation, as much as the reality itself, what usually happens is that the artists/activists take upon themselves the entire moral burden of articulating exploitation and of doing something about it. … It is inevitably so trapped within the economic realities shaping it that every act it performs becomes self-annihilating …

… ‘Opposed to this creative urge towards a transformed future is the stabilizing force of an immutable present, overlaid, as this present is, by stagnating slime which stifles life in its tight, hard mould …’ [Jakobson on Mayakovsky]

… ‘It is as if the logic of systems constructed by us leave us all the time in partial realizations that militate against each other. Each art and each tradition of the art, linking itself to history and to nature, tries in despair to break itself down to re-integrate the whole of existence’ (Kumar Shahani). It is when the moral burden takes its toll, including its stagnant languages of an ‘immutable present’ and the heroic acts that sacrifice themselves to this stagnation, that a revolutionary ethics will re-place us once again in the world.

… I know of no place in the world today where anyone can claim a ‘direct,’ unmediated relationship with ‘the people.’ … [W]e have to fight just to hold our own in the face of a mass-cultural onslaught that respects nothing, weighing everything from soap to revolution as merely items of marketable merchandise.

… How is one to ‘displace’ the determining effects of textural procedures?

… Even as the film [Jukti Takko Ar Gappo (1974)] liberates us from the drift into an instantly ‘enfolding’ moralist identification, Ghatak liberates ‘reality’ from its reductive captivations (e.g. ‘miserabilism,’ ‘Third Worldism,’ etc.) and restores to it the confusions, knowledges and experiences of the one who encounters it.

As Kumar Shahani has written: ‘To apply a reductionist approach to myths, and to saturate their meanings, as is done more often in analysis than in practice, is again to find in them a concreteness that can only become exploitative. It is thus imperative both to maintain the ambivalence of their terms, their poetry, and to place them alongside history, fact and facts, their relationship, the epic. Not the concrete. But its immanence.’

My most recent previous post from this book is here.




August 10, 2016

This Violent Light

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:39 am

… He remembered the final day of the war, the cloudless blue sky …

This is from Beyond Japan: A Photo Theatre by Mark Holborn (1991):

… An objective strategy was the inevitable course for a Japanese photographer in the aftermath of 1945. The nation had been moving towards mass sacrifice as if in a trance. After two flashes of destruction the trance was over and the Emperor had uttered the unthinkable. General MacArthur had arrived on Japanese soil wearing sunglasses and black men driving jeeps were cruising what was left of the Ginza.

[line break added] To record this boundless loss and the extent of the rubble was impossible. Ken Domon of the Shudan Group who practised an objective documentary style, began his heroic record of Hiroshima. Thirteen years after the war, his book was published. It addressed the world with a jacket designed from a painting by Joan Miró. Domon’s photographs were reproduced in gravure, as if they were illustrations of precious artefacts.

[line break added] He moved his camera close into surgery and scar tissue. He photographed the subject of pain as if the flesh was as inanimate as classical sculpture — an accumulation of gestures, or wrists, hands and masks. The language was monumental.

[ … ]

… This archaeology, this digging for artefacts or shards of history with which to chart identity, was defined by Kikuji Kawada in his work Chizu (The Map, 1965).

Kikuji Kawada, 90-Year-Old Japanese, A Memorial Decoration from the Showa Emperor, from the series The Map, 1960-1965

… In an introduction to Chizu, the writer Kenzaburo Oë referred to the violent light of the work. Yukio Mishima later referred to the same light in his essay Sun and Steel (1970), when he described his encounter with the Sun:

My first — unconscious — encounter was in the summer of the defeat, in the year 1945. A relentless sun blazed down on the lush grass of that summer that lay on a borderline between the war and the post-war period — a borderline, in fact, that was nothing more than a line of barbed wire entanglements, half broken down, half buried in summer weeds, tilting in all directions …

That same sun, as the days turned to months and the months to years, had become associated with a pervasive corruption and destruction. In part, it was the way it gleamed so encouragingly on the wings of planes leaving on missions, on forests of bayonets, on the badges of military caps, on the embroidery of military banners.

Kawada was making a similar set of poetic equations in the midst of the relics: the iris of an eye in a shattered dome, the crumpled sun in the flag, the insignia, the memory of the chrysanthemum, the Imperial crest, dead kamikaze pilots, an ancient map, the concrete of abandoned defences and black walls bleached by this violent light.

Kikuji Kawada, The Ruin of a Stronghold, from the series The Map, 1960-1965

[ … ]

… In 1962 [the architect] Isozaki created a photomontage he called Future City in which new architecture was integrated with historical ruins. He added the caption, ‘The Incubator Process. Ruins lie in the future of our city, and the future city itself will lie in ruins.’ He was attacking a flawless idealism of the future, prevalent in the architectural aspiration of Japan in the early Sixties, where no vestige of the past or rubble of history remained. It was impossible for Isozaki to conceive of a city that did not accommodate ruins.

[line break added] He remembered the final day of the war, the cloudless blue sky, the shadows and the brilliant sunlight. ‘As my gaze returned to earth, my widened eyed beheld as they could see an almost uniform plane of broken, jagged, charred and burnt-out ruins.’ An unblemished, shadowless Utopian future did not correspond to what he or his generation had witnessed.

To be continued.




August 9, 2016

My Own Little Trajectory

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:52 am

… It’s really a conversation with the work …

This is from Storr’s interview with Close in Chuck Close by Robert Storr (1998):

[ … ]

Chuck Close: … I’m as interested in the distribution of marks on a flat surface and the articulation of that and the patterns and the beat that comes up as I am with the thing that ultimately gets depicted. My tendency is to see things formally, but I think some people when they read a poem or novel or whatever, the narrative line is so important for them that they lose touch with the fact that it’s actually built out of a series of words, and the words are pushed up against each other, and slowly an image is built.

[line break added] Other people like the way the words trip off the tongue and really get interested in the syntax and the physical experience of just forming words and making something out of them. I guess I always liked operating in the tension between those two extremes, where there are times when it’s just the sheer joy of marks falling next to each other and then “oops” that it shifts into an image, and so that what was flat ends up spatial. It’s that dichotomy shifting from one to the other that really interests me.


[ … ]

CC: … You know people say they’d like to see me keep a painting unfinished. I would never leave it unfinished. [ … ] I am keeping progressive proofs, and I would love to do an exhibition in which all the progressive proofs are laid out, but in the end I want it to be done.

Robert Storr: What I am asking is why is “done” defined in those terms always? Aesthetically aren’t there other “dones”?

CC: There are other “dones” for other folks, but “done” for me is done. It may be because of all the years that I spent as a junior Abstract Expressionist in which I never knew when anything was finished, and I went with my so-called taste and intuition and good sense of design and whatever. I felt so unequipped to make a painting that way.

[line break added] Its lack of doneness or overdoneness, where you go beyond what you should have done and wish you could back up: “If only I hadn’t put that big orange stroke on top of everything.” I think I wanted to find a way to work where that didn’t happen. I get to the lower right-hand corner. It’s done and it’s clear and I know it. It relieves the anxiety and concern.

[ … ]

RS: After you had made your first group of heads, did you look forward and anticipate where they were likely to lead you, or did you just proceed from one empirical experiment to the next without an overall project in mind?

CC: I’m either dumber than the average painter, which is a pretty scary thought, or maybe there’s something about my learning disabilities or whatever that I am really of the moment. I don’t think much about the past, and I really don’t think about the future. I am surprised often that I’m still painting portraits at all to tell you the truth. I don’t predict what I’m going to do. I don’t plan ahead that much.

[line break added] It doesn’t matter where the whole art world is going. I’ve got my own little trajectory. I guess the thing about the way I work that is most important is that the things I make answer particular problems that I have posed for myself. They are my private solutions, and I get a hell of a kick out of it. It’s one of the great things about the dialogue an artist has with his or her own work. It’s you alone in the room. Now I have other people around me, but I still try and make the studio just me and the canvas.

[line break added] I see something that makes me do something. Then I realize that I did something I hadn’t thought I was going to do, or I see some aspect of it that I didn’t recognize before, or I start to take advantage of some accident that happened. It’s really a conversation with the work, with the piece. I like the amount of change in my work, the progress and the development. It may be too slow for everybody else, or it may feel that I’m plowing the same ground endlessly, or as I’ve heard people say or critics write, “God, he’s still making those goddamn heads,” you know.

[line break added] Sometimes that one worries me. Sometimes I wonder if I’m not constipated or stuck. On the other hand, as long as the process feels rich enough and engaging enough, that dialogue can continue, I think. “Why mess with this?” This feels right. This is how it ought to feel to be an artist. Does that make any sense?

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




August 8, 2016

To Rely on My Own Experience

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:53 am

… It is the distinction between the prefabricated weight of history and direct experience which evokes in me the need to make things that have not been made before.

This is from ‘Weight’ [1988] in Richard Serra: Writings Interviews (1994):

… Weight is a value for me, not that it is any more compelling than lightness, but I simply know more about weight than lightness and therefore I have more to say about it, more to say about the balancing of weight, the diminishing of weight, the addition and subtraction of weight, the concentration of weight, the rigging of weight, the propping of weight, the placement of weight, the locking of weight, the psychological effects of weight, the disorientation of weight, the disequilibrium of weight, the rotation of weight, the movement of weight, the directionality of weight, the shape of weight.

[line break added] I have more to say about the perpetual and meticulous adjustments of weight, more to say about the pleasure derived from the exactitude of the laws of gravity. I have more to say about the processing of the weight of steel, more to say about the forge, the rolling mill, and the open hearth.

… The constructive process, the daily concentration and effort appeal to me more than the light fantastic, more than the quest for the ethereal. Everything we choose in life for its lightness soon reveals its unbearable weight. We face the fear of unbearable weight: the weight of repression, the weight of constriction, the weight of government, the weight of tolerance, the weight of resolution, the weight of responsibility, the weight of destruction, the weight of suicide, the weight of history which dissolves weight and erodes meaning to a calculated constriction of palpable lightness. The residue of history: the printed page, the flicker of the image, always fragmentary, always saying something less than the weight of experience.

It is the distinction between the prefabricated weight of history and direct experience which evokes in me the need to make things that have not been made before. I continually attempt to confront the contradictions of memory and to wipe the slate clean, to rely on my own experience and my own materials even if faced with a situation which is beyond hope of achievement. To invent methods about which I know nothing, to utilized the content of experience so that it becomes known to me, to then challenge the authority of that experience and thereby challenge myself.

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




August 7, 2016

Serious Dancing

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:37 am

… Any child knows by now that there is no money in it, and little enough glory. But young people do it just the same, with the obstinate generosity that keeps turning up in our species.

This is from ‘Ashton’s ‘Balanchine and Tchaikovsky: “Ballet Imperial”; Carmen Amaya; Doris Humphrey’ [1943] found in Edwin Denby: Dance Writings, edited by Robert Cornfield and William MacKay (1986):

Balanchine has an extraordinary gift for bringing performers to life on their own personal terms, so that the unconscious grace that is in each one of them can shine out in the work they do, giving it the momentary and mortal expression of beauty. The plan of a choreography is a great pleasure.

[line break added] But it is the brilliancy of young dancers entirely in the present, the unique liveliness of each dancer caught entirely in the present instant that at once, we all know it, will be past and irretrievable forever — it is this clear sharp sense of our own natural way of living that makes a moment of ballet speak to the complete consciousness that makes choreography look beautiful. As Balanchine’s has again and again.

[ … ]

Angna Enters, who is of course a realistic mime and not specifically a dancer, appeared in new and old impersonations. The clarity and unobtrusiveness of her action, the elegance of her accessories, her pointed sense of “genre,” and a certain rhythmic instinct in forming a scene — all this is expert and high class. So is the extremely intelligent piano tinkling offstage. The evening is a specialty of understatement and inference. But the emotion is not always distinct and it is mostly small.

[line break added] For me, grateful though I am for so much good taste and so little pretentiousness, I find an entire evening of it gives me an impression of timidity. Of course I know that for a century or more a notable characteristic of the American school in art and in taste has been timidity of expression. But now and then it seems to me an absurd standard for grown-up people.

[ ,,, ]

… Five years ago they [modern dancers] were chiefly concerned with the emphatic aspect of movement: they socked the active phases of gesture, stamp, jerk, thrust, or stop, they gave slow motion a knife edge or contracted with paroxysmal violence. A dance seemed like a series of outcries. The moderns had always cultivated continuity in their intellectual concepts of dancing, but they did not build their dances out of a continuity of expression.

[line break added] Now they are interested in the value of the unemphatic phrases as well, in the continuous support on which the continuous dance line rests (as in singing or piano playing). I think they are interested in the confidence the continuous line can express, and in the melody of a continuous movement.

Modern dancing is not dead, of course, not. It has an appreciative public. Its intentions are extremely intelligent. Its execution varies from the student-like to being fresh and real. But it sets itself the highest standards. … Even when modern dancing is conventional, we who watch are happy over the disinterested love of serious dancing that motivates it. Any child knows by now that there is no money in it, and little enough glory. But young people do it just the same, with the obstinate generosity that keeps turning up in our species.

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




August 6, 2016


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:38 am

… Motivation … necessitates the definition of a particular stance toward life …

This is from the essay ‘Sounding the Depths: Origins, Theory, and Representation’ found in The Landscape Imagination: Collected Essays of James Corner 1990– 2010 (2014):

… [Some] people may tell us of the lifetime commitment necessary to learn and master myriad technical skills, in which case theory would just get in the way. This may be true. In much of contemporary discourse, there is considerable divergent rhetoric having little to do with a profession that is primarily a material endeavor, striving toward a greater artfulness and grace in its attendant skills.

However, there is a distinction between craft and motivation, between the skill of making and the purpose that motivates the skill. Craft may often win professional design competitions. It can be repeated and, to a degree, taught. Its skills can be deployed without any reference to feelings, history, or ideas. Motivation, however, necessitates the definition of a particular stance toward life — some idea of a culture’s relationship toward the world and existential problems.

[line break added] It employs the feeling found in cultural memory and personal experience to generate meaning, wonder, and expression. Motivation engenders a heightened sense of purpose. At its greatest, it is an epiphany, a revelation, a new way of seeing the world. A built landscape [Corner’s field is landscape architecture] may well survive blemishes of craft, but will rarely survive a creative stillbirth.

This relation between craft and motivation, the how and the why, is the forgotten role of theory.

[ … ]

… Theory’s original mediatory role between the human and the divine, the immediate and the eternal, appears to have ended. Theory today has been functionalized into a set of operational rules and procedures of primarily technological character: design methodologies, typologies, linguistic rules of formalism, functionalism, behaviorism, and so on. The result is that, for us as human beings, the mythical, metaphoric depth of the natural and cultural worlds has been neutralized, subject now to instrumentation and control.

… Today, stillborn landscapes are produced en masse around the globe. In the topography of pure reason, homogenous and without hiding places, the enigmatic encounter with things and places is flattened, without depth or horizon, devoid of imagination or greater meaning.




August 5, 2016

They Can No Longer Be Contained

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:28 am

… They are now involved in our lives, as we in theirs …

This is from the Introduction to the first edition of Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man by Marshall McLuhan (1964, 1994, 2003):

… In the mechanical age now receding, many actions could be taken without too much concern. Slow movement insured that the reactions were delayed for considerable periods of time. Today the action and the reaction occur almost at the same time. We actually live mythically and integrally, as it were, but we continue to think in the old, fragmented space and time patterns or the pre-electric age.

… As electrically contracted, the globe is no more than a village. Electric speed in bringing all social and political functions together in a sudden implosion has heightened human awareness of responsibility to an intense degree. It is this implosive factor that alters the position of the Negro, the teenager, and some other groups. They can no longer be contained, in the political sense of limited association. They are now involved in our lives, as we in theirs, thanks to the electric media.

Marshall McLuhan, c. 1936

The following is from the Introduction to the second edition of the book:

… As our proliferating technologies have created a whole series of new environments, men have become aware of the arts as “anti-environments” or “counter-environments” that provide us with the means of perceiving the environment itself. For, as Edward T. Hall has explained in The Silent Language, men are never aware of the ground rules of their environmental systems or cultures. Today technologies and their consequent environments succeed each other so rapidly that one environment makes us aware of the next. Technologies begin to perform the function of art in making us aware of the psychic and social consequences of technology.

Art as anti-environment becomes more than ever a means of training perception and judgment. Art offered as a consumer commodity rather than as a means of training perception is as ludicrous and snobbish as always.

To be continued.




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