Unreal Nature

November 27, 2016

History Happens In the Midst of Life

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:00 am

… what does the artist know that seems so difficult to know?

This is from the essay ‘Anarchéologie: Object Worlds & Other Things, Circa Now’ by Bill Brown found in The Way of the Shovel: On the Archaeological Imaginary in Art by Dieter Roelstraete (2013):

… Archaeology per se it the carrier place within the field of knowledge production of the relationship between people and objects. It is the epistemological scene within which, however tentatively and spectrally, objects summon the past, including a human past, into the present. Insofar as art shares this animation (or reanimation) of the person-thing nexus, it does so with its own anarchéological pulsion, a drive that seeks to unearth, to retrieve, and to display (to stage, to dramatize) without re-covering: without covering things back up with the story named culture.

… Art’s anarchéological function both evokes and revokes the disciplinary practice of archaeology itself. Anarchéologie names an archaeology without end: the perpetual act of re-excavating and re-sorting and re-contextualizing.

… the object form of history, irrupting into the now, brings with it a different kind of consciousness (a bodily consciousness) of how life goes on despite history and of how history — rupture — happens in the midst of life.

… When … in 1910, the Futurists lashed out against the “affected archaeologists with their chronic necrophilia,” or when one of the founders of Dada, Tristan Tzara, proclaimed (in 1918) that Dada stands for “the abolition of archaeology,” these artists were demonizing an archaeology obsessed with the Classical world, fixated on the past as the site for establishing artistic criteria and obstructing any full-bore engagement with the now and the new. They didn’t fathom (as the surrealists would) how the object forms of history could be recast through the waking dream-work of the present.

… Appreciating how art and archaeology converge as the carrier place of the relationship between people and objects entails the recognition that this relationship is, not least, the relationship between human history (the history of the world) and nonhuman history (the history of the earth). Why is the artist digging and digging? What if the archaeological imaginary, or the anarchéologie within it, both responds to historical rupture and anticipates the rupture to come?

[line break added] Shovel in hand, what does the artist know that seems so difficult to know? Simply that, in the midst of the repatriation debates over one artifact or another, the ground (that is, the earth) is always in the midst of filing its own claim, which is to have all the objects back. Call it a claim on behalf of nothing that is almost everything at once.

My previous post from this book is here.




November 26, 2016

A Simple Emotional Hunger

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:41 am

… Disguise after disguise has been lifted away from the landscape …

This is from Richard Wilbur’s essay ‘Poetry and the Landscape’ found in The New Landscape in Art and Science by Gyorgy Kepes (1956; 1967):

… “They’re millows,” he [Wilbur’s three-year-old son] told me. “Look at all the millows.” No hesitation; no bravado; with a serene Adamite confidence he had found a name for something nameless, and brought it under our verbal control. Millows they were.

I, of course, was aware that there must be a right name for those plants, and was not wholly easy until I had got it from a Harvard botanist. The right generic name was Lycopodium (the vulgar term was club-moss).

… I was left with two versions of one plant on my hands. On the one hand there was the millow, a plant named on a certain day in April in the Lincoln woods, and involved, for me with my feeling for my son, and with all the thoughts and sensations I was having on that day. On the other hand there was a plant of the genus Lycopodium, a pteridophyte distinguishable from the mosses through its possession of well-developed stems and leaves and true roots; a plant of a certain description and presumptive history, which bore no necessary relation to any place, day, person, thought, or feeling.

It is the millow with which we are more familiar; it is the Lycopodium which we are more disposed to believe. So that however personally we may take the landscape, however much sympathy and meaning we may discover in it, there is always a suspicion that our words are not anchored in the objects at all — that the word tree does not harpoon and capture the tree, but merely flies feintingly towards it and, like a boomerang, returns to hand.

… we are a long way from Isis; from the shield of Achilles, with its organic view of man-and-nature; from the myth of Chiron’s mentorship; from the landscape conceived as a book in which to read divine truths — “sermons in stone”; from the vaguer and more diluted analogical thought of the German romantics, of Shelley, Poe, Baudelaire, Emerson, Thoreau … . Disguise after disguise has been lifted away from the landscape; its latest disguise, but surely not its last, is a naked irrelevance.

… In various ways, all of the arts have now “received” the industrial revolution. It would now seem one important need of our culture to repair its relations with the natural world — to feel our surroundings as an ensemble and to take them personally. (I assume that any sensitive person feels this as a simple emotional hunger, and I don’t propose to argue with anyone who does not.)

… If I write of the landscape as it ribbons past the train window, fusing it with my thoughts and feelings and interpreting it through my human senses, it does not trouble me that my words do not essentialize it. What I write, as my words energetically unravel and shape themselves, is a part of the truth of things, and a gesture toward the sources of form and energy.

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




November 25, 2016

Made Explicit

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:28 am

… we live in number and also between the implicit and explicit conditions of number.

This is from In Defence of Quantity: Living by Numbers by Steven Connor (2016):

… numerical relations are not just exactly equivalent, but also orderable and therefore manipulable, because ordering otherwise equivalent units puts them into a navigable space.Numbers are atoms with names.

… Digital encoding is as powerful as it is because it is the extension, or, as we might say, the inward intensification, of a principle of organization that is everywhere at work already in all organized language, if not always to the same degree. And this form of organization is numeric, sharing with number the twin principles of divisibility and orderability, which is to say compressibility. Divisibility tends towards and depends on the principle of equivalence, which makes individual units maximally interchangeable with one another. Orderability makes variability possible, because what can be ordered can be reordered, and to reorder is always easier than to order the unordered …

… There might be another way for living creatures to have evolved the vast range of form and function that makes up the design space of evolution, but there seem good reasons why the permutation of just four elements in DNA coding is both necessary and sufficient for this.

… Perhaps we might sum up the process of making the latent manifest with the word intelligence — which signifies both the capacity to understand and the process of communicating that understanding. Intelligence, as a kind of making known, will always involve telling, in two senses: the counting out involved in Fairfax’s talecraft, and the articulation of that counting. … The implicit can never be made explicit except through greater precision, and that precision must almost always involve the move from quality to quantity.

[ … ]

… Undoubtedly, we live in number and also between the implicit and explicit conditions of number. If they are to be good for anything, the humanities must shape up to what I have called quantality — the quality of quantity or the feel for figures — the agitated, affective, philosophical and political imaginary number.

But taking account of the feeling for number must not bypass the most intense feeling of all provoked by number, namely that of horror.

To be continued.

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




November 24, 2016

Aspects of Life I Might Feel More Comfortable Ignoring

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:54 am

… And everything continues on as though the public were not actually interested in the truth, but in its rhetorical alibis, not in the message, but in that part of entropy that muddles.

This is from Babette Mangolte’s piece in the section ‘Filmmakers on Bresson‘ found in Robert Bresson edited by James Quandt (1998):

… I see works which are as current as if made yesterday. They have a directness which transcends fashion, and they have a great efficacy of means. The emotion is contained, insidious, digging inside you, and like a cancer, it grows. It takes you a while to realize that Bresson made you think, by weaving for your eyes and ears a fabric of effects. But our thinking is done after viewing the film.

[line break added] Bresson shows you the immanence of fleeting fragments. He takes the distinction and separation of image and sound out of film. He literally merges the two. We hear what we see and we see what we hear. He doesn’t illustrate but manufactures a machine for your use. He makes you think that you can use it for yourself.

When I see his films, I feel empowered with feeling. It is as if what I have seen is now part of my own past life, has been integrated into my own experience. It stops being a movie.

This next is from Jacques Rivette:

… It seems that no other filmmaker has ever pursued — so ardently — such direct communication with the viewer (that is, a relation of equality, not one of submission as Hitchcock). Next to Bresson, in this aspect, even Buñuel and Rossellini seem rhetorical.

Here than are the most “public” films, the most commercial films that could exist: it is clear what we are dealing with. And everything continues on as though the public were not actually interested in the truth, but in its rhetorical alibis, not in the message, but in that part of entropy that muddles.

The following is from Martin Scorsese:

It’s a strange experience to watch a Bresson film at this particular moment in history, because a great deal of today’s popular cinema is so big, loud, kinetic and, in many cases, grotesque. In other words, the antithesis of Bresson’s cinema. I saw A Man Escaped again recently, and it’s such a completely pure experience, with absolutely nothing extraneous — it functions like a delicate and perfectly calibrated hand-made machine.

… Once Elvis Costello said that whenever he’s writing a song he asks himself: is it as tough as Hank Williams? Meaning: is it as ruthlessly pared down, as direct, as unflinching in its gaze at aspects of life I might feel more comfortable ignoring? Young filmmakers might ask themselves: is it as tough as Bresson?

My most recent previous post from this book is here.




November 23, 2016

The Feeling of Separation

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:53 am

… with his work we enter into an affectionate rapport, almost like the early states of falling in love.

This is from the essay ‘King Midas in a Blind Alley’ 1982 found in The Complete Essays 1973-1991 by Luigi Ghirri (2016):

… she cursed him with the following words: ‘May everything you touch turn to gold!’ Midas makes his escape, but soon realizes that he cannot touch or love another. One day, having fallen in love with a woman, and feeling desperate because he cannot draw her close, he abandons himself to these thoughts: ‘My life is made up only of instants, and these instants represent something only because I live in hope that someday they will unite. But that day never comes. I only see beauty in things and in men; indeed, my life has been granted sight alone, and so I only look on, and never take part. My life is like a golden statue: it is separated from everything else, and has neither a past nor a future …’

On one level, this is symbolic of the creative process of man in general, but it’s even more compelling if we consider the magical power of the camera as the modern King Midas, used to see (i.e. record) and transform the entire visible world. Photography has become an opaque layer, thick with images which are superimposed on reality itself — the debris of our age, which if examined by an archaeologist of the future, would be difficult to interpret. Just as King Midas was unable to draw close to reality because his touch transformed the world around him, our reality has already been transformed.

The chance of finding intervals of clarity and transparency, or of rediscovering a center, seems to be more remote than ever. Targets move at increasing speed. Those who attempt to reclaim an image ‘of man’ or ‘on man’ fall into cliché, and look increasingly like romantics or amateurs in search of a personal alibi.

Next is from ‘Still-Life: Topography-Iconography’ 1982:

… Photography is not mere duplication, nor is the camera simply an optical device that brings the physical world to a halt; photography is a language in which the difference between reproduction and interpretation, however subtle, exists and gives rise to an infinite number of imaginary worlds. Even the objects that seem to be entirely described by our own seeing, once represented may turn out to be like the blank pages of a book yet to be written.

I could have called this work ‘In Search of the Lost Original,’ or named it after a journey in which history and geography blend into one, in which collective and personal notions are mixed together, in which deliberately trivial photographs are to be found alongside others we brood upon — a journey into the immutable accompanied by a longing for the miraculous.

This next is from a 1984 review of the work of another photographer (Franco Vimercati):

… Description is not the ability to describe from the outside, but rather it is that moment of descriptive capacity to be found within the image itself. Here, we no longer have worlds to be interpreted, no more strategies, but the subtle fascination of the image itself. The capacity of the image to reveal the invisible to us — not exposing the unknown or the unseen, but rather discovering an aspect in things and objects that is lost in the depths of our own perception.

The following is from ‘The World Caressed by Walker Evans‘ 1985:

… The feeling of separation, of extraneousness, that we feel when looking at the vast majority of photographs is due to a sense of disorientation; those are images that do not pertain to us, images that are not necessary to us. With Evans there is none of this at all — with his work we enter into an affectionate rapport, almost like the early states of falling in love. The places, spaces and faces are immediately recognizable, familiar, habitable.

No violence, no shock, visual or emotional, no mawkishness; what we have with Evans is a state of tenderness for the world, a sense of unity and harmony. Every part of the landscape, from the roofs of the houses to signs on walls, seems to await recognition via his loving eye.

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




November 22, 2016

The Pulse Continues

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:54 am

… We keep on moving till it stops and the movement goes on alone.

This is from the essay ‘In, around and about The Black Mountain Review: Robert Creeley and Company’ by Kevin Power, in Black Mountain College: Experiment in Art edited by Vincent Katz (2013:

Duncan is already recognizing that incoherence is part of any event and that it has its own coherence because it is of the man who makes it. Both Duncan and Creeley want a writing that can lead on following the sounds. Both men also share the sense that you can begin anywhere and that almost anything can enter the compositional field if it does so with enough intensity, literally earns its place. It is worth stressing that Duncan sees the word as autonomous and apocalyptic and the image as a natural emergence from the poetic organism, “something actually seen in the process of the poem, not something pretended or made up.”

[ … ]

… there is a surprisingly critical review of Howl by Rumaker that Creeley feels is one of the most balanced pieces of writing to have been written on this emblematic text:

The poem does not contain itself.

A listing of horrors described with inaccurate adjectives sheared would have produced greater shock — the cumulative adjectives exhaust whatever fine tension of feeling the poet may have had in the concept — but it is reduced to hysteria and the force of the poem loses by waywardness, thrashing about. The right words (found, culled) and not overloaded with adjectives for fear the point will be missed if too spare. It’s spareness that’s needed here, to let the poem emerge from its adjectival obfuscation.

The poem builds to hysteria. The last section is chaos, the logical conclusion to the build-up. The poem scatters itself, finally, on its own pitiful frenzy. A way has not been found.

[ … ]

… What was it that Creeley found at Black Mountain that so attracted him? Creeley convincingly suggests that the answer may well be a group of “highly volatile and articulate people in rather extraordinary circumstances of isolation,” people who matched and echoed his own personal extremity. Rumaker addresses the man and his work, the significant evidences of his writing:

[line break added] “His is a scrupulous and highly exact examination of conscious processes. His own clearances, then as now, are in areas of excruciating wakefulness. If his demons are ‘conscious’ ones, they are, paradoxically, no less real and terrifying than those lurking in the dark under-roots of the unconscious. Yet much of his writing has the quality of dreams, in definitions of consciousness so newly realized that they have an other-worldly aura, so foreign are they, seen from the prospect of his unique and stripped-down acute angle of vision …”

[ … ]

… And to conclude, should I have to look for a phrase that holds so much of the intent, the desire, the energy, perhaps I’d select that remark of Duncan’s, “conception cannot be abstracted from doing.” It serves as the quintessence of an American aesthetic, allowing the poet to catch the energy pulsing in a single word, the painter in a single brushstroke. Black Mountain, like a poem or a painting, came to an end when it had nothing else to say, or when the energy ran out, or when there was no more money.

[line break added] But then again, at another level, it clearly didn’t end. The pulse continues until we stop. This is the place wherever we are: “All that would matter to me, finally, as a writer, is that the scale and the place of our common living be recognized, that the mundane in that simple emphasis be acknowledged.” We keep on moving till it stops and the movement goes on alone. Here is a man and here are his words, and in paying attention to the latter the former takes shape.

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




November 21, 2016

Dreamed with Open Eyes and in the Full Light of Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:42 am

… We are dealing not with the boundless escapism of fantasy, then, but a voluntary imprisonment “in this madhouse of the sane by circumstances and the obligation of ordinary speech.”

Continuing through Giorgio de Chirico and the Metaphysical City: Nietzsche, Modernism, Paris by Ara H. Merjian (2014):

… Beginning with Human, All Too Human, his [Nietzsche’s] prose assumes a clipped, aphoristic mode, bounded by empty spaces. As he argues in this writing itself, silence bears as much meaning as the utterances it buffers. What is excluded from the page rivals in importance the contents of its epigrammatic slabs.

… Unlike other examples from the last (or perhaps any) century, Metaphysical painting aims not to depict any philosopher, or the act of philosophizing, so much as to enact them. To have the image serves as a medium, in every sense. More than any coded constellation of objects, it is the composition’s absences and silences that bear out, I argue, a late Nietzschean apprenticeship — a visual idiom in which the painter’s point of view merges (or presumes to merge) with that of the philosopher.

Carlo Ludovico Ragghianti dismissed them … as “verbal illustrations.” Instead of fleeing from such literary epithets, this book tackles them head on. Literature can presume and perform an almost offhand intersubjectivity — a clairvoyant sounding of linguistic consciousness from the inside out — to which painting is ostensibly denied access. Yet it is precisely that oracular intersubjectivity to which the Metaphysical image aspires.

… An inventory of iconographies — at the expense of their spatial interplay and division — misses crucial dimensions. Rather than simply depict heraldic symbols, how do the paintings evince the prophetic potential of drained surfaces, framed voids, equivocal perspectives?

Still Life: Turin Spring, 1914

… while Nietzsche privileges the non-sense of dreams over the arthritic binary of truth and lie, he never isolates irrationality from waking states. The Gay Science, for example, exalts “these men of former times [who] knew how to dream and did not find it necessary to go to sleep first”; insists upon “the power of the dream [to] overcome us … with our eyes open.” Beyond Good and Evil champions the transformation of perception “even in broad daylight and in the most cheerful moments of our wide-awake spirit.” In short, the optical procedures of Nietzsche’s poetics are rarely unconscious. Their aim and agency is “wakefulness itself.”

“We flee” de Chirico notes, well before his ill-fated rendezvous with the Surrealists, “from seeking a source of inspiration in the dream.” Equally unremarked in scholarship (and unavailable in English), [de Chirico’s] essay “Metaphysical Art and Occult Science” spurns the notion of:

a mundus alter, one much stranger than that which surrounds us and which falls under our everyday senses; we are inclined to believe that it exists only in unreachable spaces, or at the very least, quite far from where we find ourselves, and that to transport ourselves there we must undergo a complete metamorphosis of our physical being … But art, which is a beautiful dream dreamed with open eyes and in the full light of day, in the wake of inexorable reality, recommends to us more than ever the framing and the total consolidation of the universe.

… Vital to these strategies is a “wide-awake day-wisdom” applied to line and light, to framing and displacement, to a lucid confusion set within visible limits. Anything but otherworldly, architecture doubles for the strictures of consciousness and of language in general: conditions to which we are all submitted eternally, but from which only a few find lyrical release.

[line break added] We are dealing not with the boundless escapism of fantasy, then, but a voluntary imprisonment “in this madhouse of the sane by circumstances and the obligation of ordinary speech.” De Chirico’s painting needs sanity for surprise, physics for metaphysics, the ordinary for its opposite. Like Nietzsche’s “concealed man,” his imagery needs speech for silence. It finds it in architecture.

… A use of philosophy to read these painted buildings, streets, and squares — to help reckon their abidingly strange sensations — is a methodological bias. Yet it is no more tendentious than the “Nietzschean method” by which the spaces were wrought to begin with. Studying that method’s distillation of earnestness and irony, arrogance and uncertainty, does not mean swallowing it whole.

[line break added] It means, instead, weighing the peremptory ambition of word against the mute actuality of image. In the end, de Chirico’s painting tells us as much about the metaphorical structure of Nietzsche’s mature philosophy — and its paradoxical consequences for modernism — as those writings help us come to terms with Metaphysical architecture.

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




November 20, 2016

A Multitude of Other Histories

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:41 am

… Art and archaeology alike remind us of both the irreducible materiality of the world in the age of its purported dematerialization and the nonnegotiable historicity of all life in the age of forgetting.

This is from The Way of the Shovel: On the Archaeological Imaginary in Art by Dieter Roelstraete (2013):

… Crucially, the point is not necessarily, or not always, recovery of some long-forgotten artifact; much of the work in this vein is in fact often preoccupied with disappearance, with the trauma of irreversible loss, of dispersal and dissolution — hence the pervasive atmospheric presence of a certain melancholy mellowness throughout this field (the whirring of 16mm film projectors and other trademark sounds of obsolete technologies obviously help quite a bit to establish such an ambiance).

[line break added] For what cannot be recovered can at least be remembered — or, more ambitiously as well as more ambiguously, reconstructed, reenacted, repeated. … Indeed, if the past truly is a foreign country, as British novelist L.P. Hartley famously put it, it is certainly one many artists feel called upon to rediscover from afar — the only terra incognita left to map, perhaps, in a world of total transparency in which everything is always immediately “known” (again, the emphasis here is very much on whatever is incognito).

… here we must qualify our grand sweeping statement with regard to these artists’ interrogation of history as a monolithic whole (or one unmapped continent), for more often than not what they are interested in are, above all, those facts and fictions of the past that have mostly been glossed over in the more official channels of historiography, such as, indeed, the so-called History Channel itself.

[line break added] The primary interest here is in an “other” history, or a multitude of other histories, and in this sense the global art world could be viewed either as an alternative History Channel or as an alternative to established History Channels — not so much a site for mere memory as the home-away-from-home of what Svetlana Boym, in her discussion of samizdat intellectual life in Soviet Russia, has called a countermemory.

… what many of these works either want or try to remember is often that which mainstream historiography either asks or compels us to forget. And the more forceful the demands made upon us to forget or otherwise outsource our memory (and not just to ever-expanding external memory drives), the greater art’s passion for remembering, for digging up a past everyone else seems in a suspicious rush to leave behind.

… If “progress” in contemporary culture is predicated in part on accelerated oblivion, it is typically art’s role to go against the grain of such dominant, homogenizing trends and slow down the spiral of forgetfulness, and even to occasionally turn back the clock.

… A great many artists refer to their work as a labor of meticulous uncovering, unearthing buried treasures and revealing the ravages of time’s passage in the process; works of art are construed as shards, fragments of an unknown, irretrievable whole (once again, acting as the Benjaminian ciphers of a revelatory truth), as traces preserved in sediments of fossilized meaning no longer legible to the present.

[line break added] In a great many of these cases, that which is dug up appears more “real” and therefore also more “true” than all that has come after, accruing to form the fallacious delusion that is the now. The current project’s titular shovel, in other words, provides privileged access to historical truth — one that is entangled in the messy business of matter, of stuff, the ever returning “real.”

… Finally, and most importantly perhaps, art and archaeology also share a profound understanding of the primacy of the material in all culture, the overwhelming importance of mere “matter” and “stuff” in any attempt to intuitively grasp and read the cluttered fabric of the world, the cuneiform of things. Art and archaeology alike remind us of both the irreducible materiality of the world in the age of its purported dematerialization and the nonnegotiable historicity of all life in the age of forgetting.

[line break added] It is in this tangle of tropes — the “haptic” method of close-up viewing; the researcher’s laborious, time-consuming scrutiny; and a base materialist take on the facts of historical life — that art and archaeology meet to produce one of the defining metaphors of our time: the way of the shovel.




November 19, 2016

The Ugliness That Surrounds Us

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:13 am

… The modern metropolis, a giant focus of our unsettled world, spreads out upon the land in widening rings of visual disorder.

This is from The New Landscape in Art and Science by Gyorgy Kepes (1956; 1967):

… We do not walk upon the earth but on pavements outlined with mechanical precision; the sun is caught in giant canyons between skyscrapers; the streets are rivers of trucks and motor cars. The rhythm of our human movement and respiration is syncopated with the beats of steel muscles driven by electricity or gasoline. Giant machines compete with the coordination and power of beasts; buildings of steel and glass outstrip the energy and strength of nature’s structures. Small electronic tubes rival with flowers in their delicacy and order; and, in the early evening, when all coarse details dissolve in the dusk, skyscrapers are purified to elemental shapes and like giant Christmas trees decorate the sky.

But the full benefit of this richer world is not yet ours. To open the way to a new unison with nature, man and technique, we need a common key for the old and new. Our civilization has not provided it.

The industrial world sprang up without regarding our human need to find what Walt Whitman called the “primal sanities of nature.” Our technical wonders have not provided us with the wide visions of harmony and order but, increasing without plan, have jumbled the basic wealth of the mechanical era into a dazzling kaleidoscopic pattern which shocks and numbs our sensibilities.

The modern metropolis, a giant focus of our unsettled world, spreads out upon the land in widening rings of visual disorder.

… This is the world we continue to reproduce, and this is the world that shapes our vision. For the face of our environment has always influenced us profoundly, inspiring our imagination and renewing or destroying our self-confidence. The first snow of the year, as it brightens the streets, brightens our minds and hearts. Our distorted surroundings, by distorting us, have robbed us of the power to make our experience coherent. When visual responses are warped, visual creativeness is impaired.

… And so artists made first principles their first concern: clear, strong colors; shapes pared down to geometric simplicity; forms true to the movements that generate them and to the functions that they perform. Their search was consistent; and they attained a unified vision built up with the images to which they restricted themselves. In this way, their forms became symbols for natural order. Abandoning nature in its subject matter, their art became nature again by its organic quality. Artists use this integrated vision to re-enter their environment, in order to reshape our surroundings and restore them to nature — a higher nature informed by human understanding.

… But, as Ruskin noted in their day, and Mondrian in ours, the world that is painted is only a fragment of the landscape. Its positive impact on us is not enough to counterbalance the ugliness that surrounds us and overwhelms us.

… The technical landscape must be brought into harmony with the rhythms of the seasons, the breadth of the sky, the resources of the land. It must be made to correspond to the biological and psychological requirements of men.

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




November 18, 2016

Access to a Vast Multiplicity of Different Kinds

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:21 am

… number is always in the middle of things.

This is from In Defence of Quantity: Living by Numbers by Steven Connor (2016):

… Number is that to which, and through which, time moves, for time is nothing without, and so nothing but, the movement of nothing into number. Time is not only necessary for number to emerge, number is equally necessary for time itself to be able to pass, or to be the movement that it is. For time to pass, there must be entities by which one might tell the time, where telling means counting as well as recounting: when Nathaniel Fairfax needed a Germanic word for mathematics in his strange project of delatinizing metaphysics, he called it ‘talecraft.’

… Most mathematicians are Platonists in that they believe that mathematical truths are given and eternal, which must mean that they are already, somehow, even maybe somewhere, in existence. For such mathematicians, mathematical truths are worked out in the sense that they are driven out from hiding, rather than undergoing some change into themselves by being brought out of latency into actuality. But where are all the places of π, exactly, or all the prime numbers?

[line break added] It is hard to believe they are really stored up somewhere, as though on some celestial, super-cerebral hard drive. Philosophy of mathematics divides between those who believe that things like prime numbers are disclosed by mathematical reasoning, and those who believe they are produced by it. What I have been arguing puts me in the second group. The word ‘produced’ should not be understood here to mean arbitrarily fabricated out of thin air.

[line break added] The decimal expansion of an irrational number is produced in the sense in which a play is produced — it is drawn out of a script, or a set of prescribed conditions, which limit without fully determining the actualization of that script, which will always nevertheless be the making-actual of that script specifically. Every Hamlet is a different Hamlet, but, and even because, all of them are stagings of Hamlet.

… It seems obvious to many of us that, if you count something, you reduce its complexity to one dimension alone, taking account only of its numerical aspect, with everything else dropping out of consideration. But this reduction is by no means the end of the process. For the reduction effected by quantification gives access to a vast multiplicity of different kinds of mathematical relation (that, for example, of multiplication itself), performable on different scales and across different periodicities.

[line break added] One might imagine the objection that these relations are nevertheless pure mathematical relations, and therefore lack the richness and complexity of qualitative relations, between things like colors, hopes and difficulties. But ours is a world in which the interchange between quantities and qualitative states is richer than ever before.

[line break added] We do not any more have to regard numbering as final or definitive, a putting-to-death through exactness. Number is no longer the end of any story. To say that we have become more quantitative than ever before is not to say that everything must be rendered up as number, without remainder, and then abandoned: it is to say that number is always in the middle of things.

My previous post from Connor’s book is here.




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