Unreal Nature

April 18, 2017

Handed On

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

Duchamp handed on the freedom to the audience, and with it uncertainty.

This is from ‘Picasso and Duchamp’ (1989) in About Modern Art: Critical Essays 1948-96 by David Sylvester (1996):

… Picasso’s desire that we do recognize the source of the fragments of reality which he absorbed and transformed suggests that he would have felt the same about the existing art which he absorbed and transformed — that we should be conscious of the prototype and thus of the extravagance of the adaptation. It is like a composer writing a set of variations on an existing tune: if we don’t identify the original, part of the meaning is lost. Nothing was more central to Picasso’s art than his obsession with metamorphosis, and the efficacy of a metamorphosis depends absolutely on our knowing what the thing was before it was changed.

… The time when Picasso was making his first junk sculptures was also the time when Duchamp made his first sculpture from ready-made materials. It was a bicycle wheel placed upside down on a stool. … The stool and the wheel are the origins of civilization, and Duchamp rendered them both useless. Picasso took junk and turned it into useful objects such as musical instruments; Duchamp took a useful stool and a useful wheel and made them useless.

Duchamp renders the bicycle wheel and the stool useless, but neither more nor less useless than art is. He turns them into things that are there only to be looked at. Where Picasso seems to be saying that bicycle parts can become sculpture through the force of his personal magic, Duchamp seems to be saying that bicycle parts can become sculpture simply by being treated as sculpture.

[ … ]

… Since the onset of the Romantic movement, artists have made a demand for total freedom. In our time freedom has come to be demanded of the artist by his public. The artist’s position has become that of someone to whom we say: ‘Stand up over there and make a five-minute speech about anything you like and if I’m amused I’ll give you a present.’ This approach, at once over-indulgent and uninvolved, has been an encouragement to the artist to develop an attitude of not taking responsiblity for how he is read.

[line bread added] It was an attitude totally repugnant to Picasso, who is quoted by Françoise Gilot as saying to Matisse while looking at some Pollock reproductions that it was all very well for Valéry to affirm that he wrote half a poem while the reader wrote the other half, but that he for his part did not want there to be three or four or a thousand possibilities of interpreting a work of his; he wanted there to be one.

Given the modern artist’s freedom, Picasso gloried in the possibilities it opened for unconfined and unambiguous self-revelation; Duchamp handed on the freedom to the audience, and with it uncertainty. The Dionysian and the Apollonian.

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




April 17, 2017

Your Life Right Now Is as Real as It Will Ever Be

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:51 am

… In fact, the things keeping you back — these embarrassing, boring, stupid obstacles — are the heart of what it is to be human. They’re the whole reason for making and needing art.

This is from Miranda July”s chapter in Akademie X: Lessons in Art + Life (2015):

Dear Reader,

My plan was to write ten pieces of advice for you, ten helpful hints that would be universally useful. The first one was easy, but after that I stalled. It just seemed so unlikely that this would be a good way to teach anything. I’ve always learned best by watching how other people live, the parents of friends, the woman with the giant handbag in line ahead of me. Everyone has some trick you can steal, or mistake you can avoid. I’ll tell you my origin story.

[line break added] Take what’s useful — never mind the rest. Mostly, the job of making things comes down to why — a very personal why that will never be completely understood, but surges through you, making you itchy and curious and nervous and wildly overconfident. You can feel it right now as you read this, humming in your chest, curling in your thighs. You might even want to skip this and just get to it.

[skipping over July’s life story to the end of the piece]

… It isn’t obvious how to become a person. There isn’t one way, and the path isn’t straight or logical. It worked out in the end. After the peep-shows I worked for a company called Pop-A-Lock, unlocking car doors with special tools when people accidentally locked their keys in. After that I decided I didn’t need a job. Not that I could live off my art quite yet, but I thought that if I stayed in perpetual motion I wouldn’t fall. Like a cartoon character jumping between roofs that were a little too far apart, I just hovered there, in mid-air, legs frantically churning.

Best of luck,

Miranda July

P.S. Here’s my piece of advice, the only one I could come up with: your life right now is as real as it will ever be. It won’t be more real in the future, when you get into or out of college or into our out of a relationship or a job or a financial quagmire or a health problem. In fact, the things keeping you back — these embarrassing, boring, stupid obstacles — are the heart of what it is to be human. They’re the whole reason for making and needing art. So you might as well go ahead and begin in whatever way you can right now.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.




April 16, 2017

A Clothing of Meaning with Inner Flesh

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:52 am

… it can be and should be made secure, given a form, regarded with loving-mercy, cherished with our inner eyes, and not our physical, outward eyes.

Continuing through the essay ‘Author and Hero in Aesthetic Activity’ in Art and Answerability: Early Philosophical Essays by M.M. Bakhtin edited by Michael Holquist and Vadim Liapunov (1990):

… From within my own consciousness — as a consciousness participating in being — the world is an object of my acts: acts of thinking, acts of feeling, acts of speaking, acts of doing. The center of gravity in this world is located in the future, in what is desired, in what ought to be, and not in the self-sufficient givenness of an object, in its being-on-hand, not in its present, its wholeness, its being-already-realized.

[line break added] My relationship to each object within my horizon is never a consummated relationship; rather, it is a relationship which is imposed on me as a task-to-be-accomplished, for the event of being, taken as a whole, is an open event, my situation must change at every moment — I cannot tarry and come to rest.

[line break added] The object’s standing over against me, in space and in time, is what constitutes the principle of the horizon: objects do not surround me (my outer body) in their presently given makeup and their presently given value, but rather — stand over against me as the objects of my own cognitive-ethical directedness in living my life within the open, still risk-fraught event of being, whose unity, meaning, and value are not given but imposed as a task still to be accomplished.

If we turn our attention to the world of objects in a work of art, we should have no difficulty in ascertaining that the unity and structure of this object-world is not the unity and structure of the hero’s lived horizon, and that the fundamental principle of its organization and ordering is transgredient to the hero’s own actual and possible consciousness.

… this relation in its essential aesthetic principle is not a relation that is given from within the hero’s lived-life consciousness.

… As a combination of colors, lines and masses, the object has an independent status: it acts upon us alongside of the hero and around him. That is to say, it does not stand over against the hero within the hero’s own horizon; it is perceived as an integral object and, as such, allows us to walk around it, as it were.

… The aesthetic interpretation and organization of the outer body and its correlative world is a gift bestowed upon the hero from another consciousness — from the author/contemplator; it is not an expression of the hero from within the hero himself, but represents the author-other‘s creative, constructive relationship to the hero.

… The other human being is situated outside me and over against me not only outwardly, but also inwardly. By using an oxymoron, we could speak here of the other’s inward outsideness and over-against-ness.

… Lived experiences, when experienced outside myself in the other, possess an inner exterior or countenance adverted toward me, and this inner exterior or countenance can be and should be lovingly contemplated, it can be and should be remembered the way we remember a person’s face (and not the way we remember some past experience of our own), it can be and should be made secure, given a form, regarded with loving-mercy, cherished with our inner eyes, and not our physical, outward eyes.

[line break added] It is this exterior of another’s soul (an inner flesh of the subtlest kind, as it were) that constitutes an intuitively palpable artistic individuality (character, type, personal situation, etc.), that is, a particular realization of meaning in being, an individual realization and embodiment of meaning, a clothing of meaning with inner flesh — that which can be idealized, heroicized, rhythmicized, etc.

This self-activity of mine in relation to another’s inner world (from outside this world) is usually called “sympathetic understanding.” What should be emphasized is the absolutely incremental, excessive, productive, and enriching character of sympathetic understanding.

… the other‘s suffering as co-experience by me is in principle different (different, moreover, in the most important and essential sense) from the other’s suffering as he experiences it for himself and from my own suffering as I experience it in myself. The only thing these experiences of suffering have in common is the logically self-identical concept of suffering — an abstract movement that is never and nowhere realized in its pure form, for even the word “suffering” is, after all, characteristically intonated in our thinking within lived life.

[line break added] The other’s co-experienced suffering is a completely new ontic formation that I alone actualize inwardly from my unique place outside the other. Sympathetic understanding is not a mirroring, but a fundamentally and essentially new valuation, a utilization of my own architectonic position in being outside author’s inner life. Sympathetic understanding recreates the whole inner person in aesthetically loving categories for a new existence in a new dimension of the world.

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




April 15, 2017

The Tenderness of Growing Life

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:33 am

… He realized how constantly the tenderness of growing life is at the mercy of personal tyranny and he hated the tyranny of persons over each other.

Continuing through the essay ‘Henry James at Work’ by Theodora Bosanquet found in The Hogarth Essays (1928):

I knew nothing of Henry James beyond the revelation of his novels and tales before the summer of 1907. Then, as I sat in a top-floor office near Whitehall one August morning, compiling a very full index to the Report of the Royal Commission on Coast Erosion, my ears were struck by the astonishing sound of passages from The Ambassadors being dictated to a young typist. Neglecting my Blue-book, I turned round to watch the operator ticking off sentences which seemed to be at least as much of a surprise to her as they were to me.

[line break added] When my bewilderment had broken into a question, I learnt that Henry James was on the point of coming back from Italy, that he had asked to be provided with an amanuensis, and that the lady at the typewriter was making acquaintance with his style. Without any hopeful design of supplanting her, I lodged an immediate petition that I might be allowed the next opportunity of filling the post, supposing she should ever abandon it.

[line break added] I was told, to my amazement, that I need not wait. The established candidate was not enthusiastic about the prospect before her, was even genuinely relieved to look in another direction. If I set about practising typewriting on a Remington machine at once, I could be interviewed by Henry James as soon as he arrived in London. Within an hour I had begun work on the typewriter.

… The business of acting as a medium between the spoken and the typewritten word was at first as alarming as it was fascinating. The most handsome and expensive typewriters exercise as vicious an influence as any others over the spelling of the operator, and the new pattern of a Remington machine which I found installed offered a few additional problems. But Henry James’s patience during my struggles with that baffling mechanism was unfailing — he watched me helplessly, for he was one of the few men without the smallest pretension to the understanding of a machine — and he was as easy to spell from as an open dictionary.

[line break added] The experience of years had evidently taught him that it was not safe to leave any word of more than one syllable to luck. He took pains to pronounce every pronounceable letter, he always spelt out words which the ear might confuse with others, and he never left a single punctuation mark unuttered, except sometimes that necessary point, the full stop. Occasionally, in a low “aside” he would interject a few words for the enlightenment of the amanuensis

… “It all seems,” he once explained, “to be so much more effectively and unceasingly pulled out of me in speech than in writing.” Indeed, at the time when I began to work for him, he had reached a stage at which the click of a Remington machine acted as a positive spur. He found it more difficult to compose to the music of any other make. During a fortnight when the Remington was out of order he dictated to an Oliver typewriter with evident discomfort, and he found it almost impossibly disconcerting to speak to something that made no responsive sound at all.

[ … ]

John Singer Sargent, Portrait of Henry James, 1912

… Wherever he might have lived and whatever human interactions he might have observed, he would in all probability have reached much the same conclusion that he arrived at by the way of America, France, and England. When he walked out of the refuge of his study into the world and looked about him, he saw a place of torment, where creatures of prey perpetually thrust their claws into the quivering flesh of the doomed, defenseless children of light.

[line break added] He had the abiding comfort of an inner certainty (and perhaps he did bring that from New England) that the children of light had an eternal advantage; he was aware to the finest fiber of his being that the “poor sensitive gentlemen” he so numerously treated possessed a treasure that would outlast all the glittering paste of the world and the flesh; he knew nothing in life mattered compared with spiritual decency.

We may conclude that the nationalities of his betrayed and triumphant victims are not an important factor. They may equally well be innocent Americans maltreated by odious Europeans, refined Europeans fleeced by unscrupulous Americans, or young children of any race exposed to evil influences. The essential fact is that wherever he looked Henry James saw fineness apparently sacrificed to grossness, beauty to avarice, truth to a bold front.

[line break added] He realized how constantly the tenderness of growing life is at the mercy of personal tyranny and he hated the tyranny of persons over each other. His novels are a repeated exposure of this wickedness, a reiterated and passionate plea for the fullest freedom of development, unimperilled by reckless and barbarous stupidity.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.




April 14, 2017

An Outdoor Composition

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:33 am

… Musicians dress like various birds, use assorted bird whistles, sit in trees.

This is ‘The Backs of All the Trucks Passed While Driving from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, Calif., Sunday Jan 20.’ (1963) found in More Than You Wanted to Know About John Baldessari Vol. 1 (2013):

I was intrigued by how much the backs of trucks resembled paintings I had done — basically a rectangle broken up into an infinite variety of possibilities, that is, variety within a standard shape in dialogue with the edge. My painting investigation was merging with my work in photography.

Next is ‘Fifteen Musical Projects: An Exchange with Pauline Oliveros’ (1970):

  1. What are all the possible sounds from a paper box? From all the objects in a room? From a still life?
  2. One hundred people say UMBRELLA.
  3. Hot and cold showers (on stage) or other various stimuli to affect behavioral forms of performers.
  4. Fix word fragments and musical notes in box, make collage score and play.
  5. If musical scores look good to artists, can paintings be played?
  6. Musicians dress like various birds, use assorted bird whistles, sit in trees. An outdoor composition.
  7. Play notes in essay written by musical critic of choice.
  8. An entire workshop on stage replete with operators that are not musicians, i.e. a woodshop, cabinet shop, etc. Composer-conductor would operate console of switches that control all machines. When machine is on, operator performs, drills, saws, planes, etc.
  9. Prior idea can be extended with using a farm, all animals wearing contact mikes.
  10. Or a recorder shop on stage, with several players in booths. Members of audience are invited to come onto stage and sample records. Composer-conductor orchestrates sounds by opening and closing booth doors partially, completely, and in various combinations.
  11. Violinist imitates human voice, human voice imitates violin. A duet.
  12. Films and sounds of botanical growth orchestrated.
  13. Alternate seating in hall — musician, audience member, musician, etc. Musicians should not look like musicians and vice versa.
  14. Members of quartet are located about city by dropping knotted string on city map. They are separately televised playing separate parts of single piece. Random member of audience orchestrates piece by controlling switches to four TV sets on stage.
  15. Orchestra improvises upon any sound member of audience gives.




April 13, 2017

The Impact of Idea Upon Material

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:53 am

… so that meanings will not depart fitfully as they do from the mind, so that thinking and belief and attitudes may endure as actual things.

This is from the title essay found in The Shape of Content by Ben Shahn (1957; 1985):

… Form arises in many ways. Form in nature emerges from the impact of order upon order, of element upon element, as of the forms of lightning or ocean waves. Or forms may emerge from the impact of elements upon materials, as of wind-carved rocks and dunes. Form in living things too is the impinging of order upon order — the slow evolving of shapes according to function and drift and need. And other shapes — the ear, the hand — what mind could devise such shapes! The veining of leaves, of nerves, of roots; the unimaginable varieties of shape of aquatic things.

Forms of artifacts grow out of use too, and out of the accidental meetings of materials. Who again could dream of or devise a form so elegant as that of the chemical retort, except that need and use, and glass and glass-blowing all met to create form? Or the forms of houses, the Greek, the Roman, the extremely modern, or the gingerbread house; these the creations out of different materials and tools and crafts and needs — the needs of living and of imagining.

a chemical retort [image from Wikipedia]

Forms in art arise from the impact of idea upon material, or the impinging of mind upon material. They stem out of the human wish to formulate ideas, to recreate them into entities, so that meanings will not depart fitfully as they do from the mind, so that thinking and belief and attitudes may endure as actual things.

I do not at all hold that the mere presence of content, of subject matter, the intention to say something, will magically guarantee the emergence of such content into successful form. Not at all! How often indeed does the intended bellow of industrial power turn to a falsetto on the savings bank walls! How often does the intended lofty angels choir for the downtown church come off resembling somehow a sorority pillow fight!

For form is not just the intention of content; it is the embodiment of content. Form is based, first, upon a supposition, a theme. Form is, second, a marshaling of materials, the inert matter in which the theme is to be cast. Form is, third, a setting of boundaries, of limits, the whole extent of idea, but no more, an outer shape of idea. Form is, next, the relating of inner shapes to the outer limits of the theme. It is the abolishing of excessive materials, whatever material is extraneous to inner harmony, to the order of shapes now established. Form is thus a discipline, an ordering, according to the needs of content.

… We have seen so often in past instances how content that was thought unworthy for art has risen to the very heights. Almost every great artist from Cimabue to Picasso has broken down some pre-existing canon of what was proper material for painting. Perhaps it is the fullness of feeling with which the artist addresses himself to his theme that will determine, finally, its stature or its seriousness. But I think that it could be said with certainty that the form which does emerge cannot be greater than the content which went into it. For form is only the manifestation, the shape of content.

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




April 12, 2017

In the Crowds

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:43 am

… “I live in the crowds of jollity, not so much to enjoy company as to shun myself.”

Continuing through New York: Capital of Photography by Max Kozloff (2002):

… It’s appropriate to have mixed feelings about the moral stance of much New York photography of the 1960s and 1970s. Ambivalence, in fact, is a legitimate response to photographic aesthetics ridden with inner conflict. To people acculturated to the absurdist fiction of Terry Southern and Joseph Heller, or the poker-faced decadence of Andy Warhol, the steeliness and grotesquerie of Diane Arbus’s images appeared as a parallel shock.

[line break added] But fiction and painting are not arts comparable to photography, where the relations between subject and object take place in the real world. If you snap pictures in a madhouse, for instance, you must exploit inmates (even those enjoying your attention) who cannot react to your presence with any social understanding. Quite often — too often — the outlook of the photographic campaign is quasi-anthropological, which implies condescension.

[line break added] However, when you’re out on the streets, and at your own risk, among people in possession of their wits, power relations are more equitable. We often have the impression that “power” (the power of looking) is placed at the service of the subject, who is then shown to exercise another power — the power of presence and fascination.

… when he was asked why he photographed, Winogrand said, “I get totally out of myself. It’s the closest I come to not existing, I think, which is the best — which to me is attractive.”

… Long before psychoanalysis, Dr. Johnson expressed a kindred thought: “I live in the crowds of jollity, not so much to enjoy company as to shun myself.”

In the Gotham of the 1960s and 1970s, the almost feverish jollity of the times masked a fear of solitude. It was an era that saw a spectacular rise in urban crime, a breakdown of communal values, the faltering of the nuclear family, domestic conflict over the Vietnam War, and the burning of the South Bronx.

… In these photographs, the old civic issue of racial or ethnic differences, still unassimilated, takes second place to the more painful recognition that a society such as New York’s is everywhere composed of flawed human beings — they are us, and we are not yet naturalized to our condition.

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




April 11, 2017

Soft Surfaces

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:50 am

… It invites us into it, yields itself up, envelops us, makes us part of it.

This is from ‘De Kooning II’ (1993) in About Modern Art: Critical Essays 1948-96 by David Sylvester (1996):

Woman I is not meant to be a resolved work, as Mark Stevens has emphasized: “Modernists had long appreciated the open-ended quality of unfinished art. The purposefully not-finished, however, is not the same thing as the unfinished. Woman I was not unresolved out of indecision or weakness, but out of strength: it was left to its imperfections by the aggressive decision of a great artist, in order to increase the work’s disruptive, expressive power. In the rapid succession of Woman paintings that followed, de Kooning was becoming more interested in loosening the compositional joints of painting than in bringing them together.”

Willem de Kooning, Woman I

Woman I could be compared to certain of Monet’s façades of Rouen Cathedral. (I am not bringing in Monet because I think he has any special relevance to de Kooning but to exemplify a way of handling pictorial space.) The rectangle of the canvas is filled with highly charged brushmarks presenting a certain amount of tonal variation but little emphatic contrast; the rectangle of the image is almost entirely filled by the mass of the compact motif. Between this and ourselves there is a very limited space into which we can move before we come up against the looming wall which has certain shallow recesses but nonetheless confronts us with an impenetrable barrier which there is no way through and no way round.

[By contrast] In a typical Monet of the following decade, one of the Water Gardens, with the motif, a pond and the sky reflected in it, inevitably filling the rectangle of the canvas, the space before us offers no resistance. It invites us into it, yields itself up, envelops us, makes us part of it. An analogous enveloping space appears in de Kooning’s Women of the decade after that of Woman I. In, for example, Woman in Landscape III of 1968 we too are in the landscape, in it, not looking at it, and we are enveloped, moreover, not only by the landscape but by the figure of the woman.

[line break added] (This receptivity of the space, as with the Monet, is achieved without any sacrifice of the integrity of the picture-plane.) All this is typical of de Kooning’s later paintings of Women, paintings which, by the way, are usually much warmer in palette, as in, say Amityville of 1971. There was a vivid sentence about them by Marla Prather in a wall notice at the Washington showing of the current exhibition. “At times the figure seems virtually formless, engulfed by the wet, slippery medium of oil paint de Kooning has developed.”

I take this to be a metaphor as well as a description. These close-ups of the female body are marvelous in their evocation of soft surfaces and entrances and liquid desires, their intimation of fusion, tender and violent, with another body. Their meaning is not at all elusive or ambiguous, and what they so palpably signify throws light on the problem of the unconscious meanings of Woman I. Seen in that light, Woman I can only be what Elaine de Kooning famously said it was. “That ferocious woman he painted didn’t come from living with me. It began when he was three years old.”

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




April 10, 2017

Work Emerging

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:43 am

… ‘I’m doing something’ versus ‘what am I doing?’

This is from Liam Gillick’s chapter in Akademie X: Lessons in Art + Life (2015):

It is necessary to consider:
The gap between rhetoric and practice. Contradictions between behavior/appearance and practice. Mode of refusal. Levels of natural talent (can these factors be recognized and analyzed?). Incompatibility with the rest of the school/art context in general. Studio conditions. Continuity of form/practice media. The extent to which the artist appears incapable of anything other than what they do. The productivity level of the artist.

[line break added] The completion percentage. Levels of commodification of the practice. What is perceived as idiosyncratic and what is pan-culturally recognizable. Withholding of trajectory and veiling of the future path of the work. The extent to which not knowing is potentially an asset to the practice. The degree to which the artist self-consciously mines historical reference points.

… The doubled quality of aesthetic experience. A developed self-conscious relation to the mainstream formal context. Taste: on the edge? Fast/utterly tasteful? Outsiding (moving from in to out and back again). Constant self-consciousness in the social landscape. Painting as a highly artificial act. Expressive translation of the excessively known. Claiming of the postmodern dilemma as a starting point. False dilemmas. Insolent historicism versus the street.

… The specifics of the work are crucial despite non-profound starting point. Potential of refusal to control the space around the work. Things are always assumed to be the way the artist intended them even if the artist did not intend them to be understood that way. Lack of room for speculation in art provokes anxiety. The sense of shutting down meaning production. No recognition of intention within the work or attempt to draw you in or trick you but a constant pushing back to exteriority.

… Bypassing what it looks like in favor of what it is. Reactions feeding the very status/conditions of the work. Indexical responsibility of the artist. Responsibility is the choosing of things by the artist. Self-consciousness of transmission in neo-conceptual practice. The notion of a better way. Finding a ‘way that works.’ Studio as laboratory. Critique of the laboratory. Importance of the kind of place of work and the products of that specific place. Creation of scenarios where the work itself only just happens to exist. Unstable state of the work.

… The value will also be determined by people other than the artist anyway. Space of expectation as an artist’s territory. Being conscious of avoiding the processes of recent art history. Delay in recognition — art out of sync with perception. Time shifts in the moment of comprehension. Element of surprise for oneself and the viewer.

… Making meaning and description, thereby avoiding problems of representation. Creating a theory trap. The thing that appears to be the subject is not the focus or the heart of the work.

… ‘I’m doing something’ versus ‘what am I doing?’ Moral/ethical component of doing something from yourself in order to find out something. Process versus theory.

… Shift of focus rather than big moves, sense in which merely shifting focus is viewed as a paradigm shift in over-reaching analysis. The rift between an idea and how it gets displayed (rather than how it gets constructed). Work emerging from problems within the work alone (art as a feedback loop self-generator).

My previous post from this book is here.




April 9, 2017

To Fill His Exterior with Content and Give It Life

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:55 am

… it is only on the boundaries of two consciousnesses, on the boundaries of the body, that an encounter is actually realized and the artistic gift of form is bestowed.

Continuing through the essay ‘Author and Hero in Aesthetic Activity’ in Art and Answerability: Early Philosophical Essays by M.M. Bakhtin edited by Michael Holquist and Vadim Liapunov (1990):

… To what extent does verbal art have to do with the spatial form of the hero and his world? There can be no doubt, of course, that verbal art deals with the hero’s exterior and with the spatial world in which the event of his life unfolds. What gives rise to considerable doubts, however, is the question of whether verbal art has to do with the spatial form of the hero as an artistic form; in most cases, the problem is resolved in a negative sense. To resolve the problem correctly, it is necessary to take into account the twofold sense of aesthetic form.

… Man’s outer body is given; his outer boundaries and those of his world are given (given in the extra-aesthetic givenness of life). This is a necessary and inalienable moment of being as a given. Consequently, they need to be aesthetically received, recreated, fashioned, and justified. And this is precisely what is accomplished by art with all the means at its disposal — with colors, lines, masses, words, sounds.

[line break added] Inasmuch as the artist has to do with man’s existence and with his world, he has also to do with the givenness of man in space as a necessary constituent of human existence. And in transposing this existence of man to the aesthetic plane, the artist must transpose to this plane man’s exterior as well, within the bounds which are determined by the type of material he utilizes (e.g. colors, sounds, etc.).

… it is necessary to emphasize especially that both content (i.e. what is put into the hero — his life from within) and form are unjustified and unexplainable on the plane of a single consciousness; that it is only on the boundaries of two consciousnesses, on the boundaries of the body, that an encounter is actually realized and the artistic gift of form is bestowed.

[line break added] Without this essentially necessary reference to the other, i.e. as a gift to the other that justifies and consummates him (through an immanent-aesthetic justification), form fails to find any inner foundation and validation from within the author/contemplator’s self-activity and inevitably degenerates into something that simply affords pleasure, into something “pretty,” something I find immediately agreeable, the way I find myself feeling immediately cold or warm. By using a certain technique, the author produces an object of pleasure, and the contemplator passively affords himself this pleasure.

Without the application of the mediating value-category of the other, the author’s emotional-volitional tones that actively constitute and produce the hero’s exterior as an artistic value cannot be brought into immediate accord with the hero’s own directedness from within his own lived life. It is only thanks to this category of the other that it becomes possible to transform the hero’s exterior into an exterior that encompasses and consummates him totally, that is: to fit the hero’s own directedness to meaning in living his life into his exterior as into a form; to fill his exterior with content and give it life; to create a whole human being as a unitary value.

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




« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

Blog at WordPress.com.