Unreal Nature

November 8, 2018

Unless I Am Looking at It

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:51 am

… the piece to another person will be invisible.

This is from Richard Long: Selected Statements & Interviews edited by Ben Tufnell (2007):

… I felt art had barely recognized the natural landscapes which cover this planet, or had used the experiences those places could offer. Starting on my own doorstep and later spreading, part of my work since has been to try and engage this potential. I see it as abstract art laid down in the real spaces of the world. It is not romantic; I use the world as I find it.

… I like the idea of using the land without possessing it.

[ … ]

Betty van Garrel: … Is it not enough to appropriate those landscapes in an art historical sense as the Zero artists and the Nouveau Realistes did during the sixties?

Richard Long: No, I want to touch the landscape … feel it …

[ … ]

William Furlong: One other way you’ve worked is through the publications. What role or function do you see your books as having?

RL: Well, that’s another way of putting the work out in the world. It just does that job, it makes the ideas available to the people very cheaply and easily. The work is not about possession, so to say “to know it is to possess it’ is not quite right. But it’s like people can know a fact of life, that knowledge is common to everyone, no one actually possesses it on their own.

[ … ]

… And then another thing, I suppose, about my work is that unless I am looking at it — unless by taking a photograph, I am drawing attention to it — the piece to another person will be invisible. There is a line of stones somewhere through the desert in Bolivia, you can really only see that line if you are standing at one end looking down and if you know where to look.

My previous post from Long’s book is here.




November 7, 2018


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… As in a fever, mind and eye conquer the new dimensions of vision …

This is found in Moholy-Nagy: An Anthology edited by Richard Kostelanetz (1970):

… The immanent mind seeks light — light! The detour of technology finds pigment — an intermediate state which only becomes real through the impact of light.

… The earliest accidental use of pigment established the concept of color as a sort of light terminus, crassly material. Occidental painting is caught to this day in this technological detour. And this despite our knowledge, since the first Laterna Magica, that light is continuous creation, a direct path to kinetic pigment: projected or reflected lightplays with liquid, waving, suspended, transparent, translucent colorfalls in luminescent swathes, vibrations of iridescent light-emulsion in space.

Detours of technology: from manual presentation to the photographic still; from still to cinematography; from planar to molded; from silent to talking; from opaque to translucent; from continuous to simultaneous; from pigment to light. As in a fever, mind and eye conquer the new dimensions of vision which today already are indicated by photo and film. Details can wait for tomorrow. Today the mind exercises a new vision.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.




November 6, 2018

Violently and Desperately

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:45 am

… Both felt that art was the torment of their life, that it stood between them and the enjoyment of life …

This is from The Social History of Art, volume IV by Arnold Hauser (1962; 1951):

… Art lost its spontaneity in its conflict with romanticism and became the prize in the artist’s fight against himself, against his romantic origins, against his inclinations and instincts. Hitherto artistic activity had been regarded, if not as a process of letting oneself go, at any rate as that of letting oneself be guided by one’s own talent; now every work seems to be a ‘tour de force,’ an achievement that has to be wrung from oneself, obtained by fighting against oneself.

… ‘You don’t know what it means to sit all day long with your head in both hands, trying to squeeze a word out of your brain,’ [Flaubert] writes to George Sand in 1866.

… When the meaning of romanticism became problematical, the whole questionableness of modern man was revealed — his escape from the present, his constant desire to be somewhere different from where he has to be, his unceasing yearning for foreign lands, because he is afraid of the proximity and responsibility for the present.

[line break added] The analysis of romanticism led to the diagnosis of the disease of the whole century, to the recognition of the neurosis, the victims of which are incapable of giving an account of themselves, and would always prefer to be inside other peoples’ skins, who do not, in other words, see themselves as they really are but as they would like to be. In this self-deception and falsification of life, this ‘Bovaryism,’ as his philosophy has been called, Flaubert seizes hold of the essence of the modern subjectivism that distorts everything with which it comes in contact.

[line break added] The feeling that we possess only a deformed version of reality and that we are imprisoned in the subjective forms of our thinking is first given full artistic expression in Madame Bovary. … With his interpretation of romanticism, Flaubert is one of the great revealers and unmaskers of the century, and therefore, one of the founders of the modern, reflexive outlook on life.

[ … ]

… It was not without reason that for many of the most sensitive minds of the century, [Richard Wagner’s] work signified the very essence of art — the paradigm which first revealed the meaning and underlying principle of music to them. It was certainly the last and perhaps the greatest revelation of romanticism, the only form of it that is still alive today. No other allows us to apprehend so intimately with what intoxication of the senses it impressed itself on the contemporary public, and how much it was felt to be a revolt against all dead conventions and the discovery of a young, blissful and forbidden world.

… Apart from his overstrained nerves, his passion for narcosis and narcotizing effects, Wagner shares with Baudelaire the same quasi-religious feelings, the same romantic yearning for redemption. And apart from a weakness for glowing colors and exuberant forms, he is related to Flaubert by a kind of dilettantism and a thoroughly reflexive relationship to his own work.

[line break added] He has just as little natural, spontaneous talent, he forces his works just as violently and desperately from himself and has just as little genuine faith in art as Flaubert. Nietzsche points out that none of the great masters was still such a bad musician as Wagner at twenty-eight, and with the exception of Flaubert, certainly no great artist doubted his own ability for so long.

[line break added] Both felt that art was the torment of their life, that it stood between them and the enjoyment of life, and both regarded the gulf between reality and art, between ‘avoir’ and ‘dire,’ as unbridgeable. They were members of the same late romantic generation that fought a fight as unremitting as it was hopeless against their egotism and aestheticism.

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




November 5, 2018

Shockingly Beautiful

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:47 am

… one shouldn’t allow oneself to be aesthetically moved by such scenes, it doesn’t seem right.

This is from ‘Constructive Guilt’ by Arjen Oosterman (editor-in-chief) in issue #31 of the independent quarterly magazine, Volume (2012):

‘… sometimes they are still there, the trees, the forest’s edge and the trees, the same place they were at that time; do not think they have moved on, they’re still standing there like indifferent eyewitnesses. I observe them, I look at them, and something frightful occurs: they are beautiful, I think them beautiful [ … ] The beauty of sites where the enemy was, where the enemy was located, where the enemy housed and ravaged, where the enemy exercised terror, where traces of the enemy’s terror are still to be found. Right there. Beauty should be ashamed.’ — Armando, 1988

… Living in Amersfoort before during and after the Second World War, close to a concentration camp situated in the woods, he [Armando] was very aware that the innocent forest of his youth had witnessed the horrors of war and the Holocaust. As the quote indicates, the experience of this place (and of such places) is complex; the beauty of the site is intensified by the knowledge of what happened.

[line break added] Nature as a place of retreat and relaxation, experience of beauty and peace, is complicated by memory and knowledge. The resulting aesthetic experience produces feelings of guilt; one shouldn’t allow oneself to be aesthetically moved by such scenes, it doesn’t seem right.

This captures the first impression of most of the guilty landscapes included in this issue: shockingly beautiful. Most of them not related to warfare, but to exploitation.

My previous post from another issue of Volume is here.




November 4, 2018

Given to Us

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:34 am

… when the piano or the orchestra raises its voice, something that is of an entirely different order assails us …

This is from Music and the Ineffable by Vladimir Jankélévitch translated by Carolyn Abbate (1983):

… No one, ever, will be done with this Charm, which interminable words and innumerable musics will not exhaust, where there is so much to do, to contemplate, to say — so much to say, and in short, and again and again, of which there is everything to say. Among the promises made by ineffability is hope of a vast future that has been given to us. One delves without end into such transparent depths and into this heartening plenitude of meanings: if this plenitude is infinitely intelligible, it is also infinitely equivocal.

… Consciousness, with its subconscious ulterior motives and its unconscious ulterior intentions, does not know the principle of contradiction: neither does music.

[ … ]

… Making is of an entirely different order from Saying. Composing music, playing it, and singing it; or even hearing it in recreating it — are these not three modes of doing, three attitudes that are drastic, not gnostic, not of the hermeneutic order of knowledge?

… The second time, though without chronological priority, is often as much an inaugural and inceptive instance as the first.

… when the piano or the orchestra raises its voice, something that is of an entirely different order assails us, something diffluent and vague, where the voice of nature and that of humanity are still indistinct, something that is no longer chaos but is also not the world’s planisphere: this “something” is the efficient, irrational order of music.

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




November 3, 2018

What For?

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:50 am

… the colossal bandwagon of culture trundles on, carrying each artist’s traces to the evermounting garbage heap.

This is from The Empty Space by Peter Brook (1968):

… if one starts from the premise that a stage is a stage — not a convenient place for the unfolding of a staged novel or a staged poem or a staged lecture or a staged story — then the word that is spoken on this stage exists, or fails to exist, only in relation to the tensions it creates on that stage within the given stage circumstances.

[line break added] In other words, although the dramatist brings his own life nurtured by the life around him into his work — the empty stage is no ivory tower — the choices he makes and the values he observes are only powerful in proportion to what they create in the language of theatre. Many examples of this can be seen wherever an author for moral or political reasons attempts to use a play as the bearer of a message.

[line break added] Whatever the value of this message, in the end it only works according to values that belong to the stage itself. An author today can easily cheat himself if he thinks that he can ‘use’ a conventional form as a vehicle. This was true when conventional forms still had life for their audience.

[line break added] Today when no conventional forms stand up any more, even the author who doesn’t care about theatre as such, but only about what he is trying to say, is compelled to begin at the root — by facing the problem of the very nature of dramatic utterance. There is no way out — unless he is prepared to settle for a second-hand vehicle that’s no longer in working order and very unlikely to take him to where he wants to go. Here the author’s real problem and the director’s real problem go hand in glove.

When I hear a director speaking glibly of serving the author, of letting a play speak for itself, my suspicions are aroused, because this is the hardest job of all. If you just let a play speak, it may not make a sound. If what you want is for the play to be heard, then you must conjure its sound from it.

[ … ]

… War or peace, the colossal bandwagon of culture trundles on, carrying each artist’s traces to the evermounting garbage heap. Theatres, actors, critics and public are interlocked in a machine that creaks, but never stops. There is always a new season in hand and we are too busy to ask the only vital question which measures the whole structure.

[line break added] Why theatre at all? What for? Is it an anachronism, a superannuated oddity, surviving like an old monument or a quaint custom? Why do we applaud, and what? Has the stage a real place in our lives? What function can it have? What could it serve? What could it explore? What are its special properties?

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




November 2, 2018

Wait for Me

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:35 am

… But they fade away, smiling faintly. I don’t hold it against them.

This is from ‘What Are You Doing in My Dreams?’ by Dawn Powell:

… Do you know how some people’s lives seem to stop like a clock at a certain mark? They go on living, get married, have families, save money, travel around the world, trade in their cars and houses and jobs, but all that is their dead life. Their life really stopped the year they were captain of the high school football team, the year they had the lead in the college play, the day they quit Paris or the army or the newspaper job.

[line break added] Other jobs and mates come and go, babies grow up and have babies, the exercise horse is mounted each day as if it was really going somewhere, but all the time the rider is transfixed in an old college song or in Tony’s speakeasy or in that regiment.

You can run into one of these frozen riders on the street after twenty years and if you belong in that old picture he will pounce upon you with delight, cling to your hands for dear life, introduce you ecstatically to his companion.

… When he gets home he can’t wait to tell his wife guess-who-he-ran-into, of all people, and does she remember the time … But before he can repeat all the same old stories, she interrupts to ask how you looked, what were you doing now, where were you living? Why, he doesn’t know, he says, giving her a wounded look, hurt that she doesn’t share his sentimental love of an old pal.

… In a way something like that happened to me when I ran away from Ohio. People and places froze into position and nothing I’ve seen or heard of them since makes any impression on that original picture. It isn’t that I’m crazy about the picture or even that I dislike it. It’s just that I live in that picture whether I want to or not when I fall asleep at night.

It’s as if the day I left Ohio I split in two at the crossroads and went up both roads, half of me by day here in New York and the other half by night with the dead in long-ago Ohio. This has been going on so many years I wonder how I survive.

… In dreams the sky is always gray, anyway, like the world seen through a chicken’s eyes or so they say, and it’s a very low sky with hardly enough headroom even for us children. The grass is gray, too, as we run along just above it, feet not touching it …

… Sometimes a new face appears, someone fresh from yesterday’s obituary page, a New York friend, and this is a problem. It’s hard to mix friends with family, live or dead, and I’m torn between them. Wait for me at the corner bar till I get rid of the folks, I whisper to Niles or La Touche or Gene or Jacques, I won’t be forever. Wait for me and I’ll tell you how I ran away from home.

But they fade away, smiling faintly. I don’t hold it against them.




November 1, 2018

Stones Are What the World Is Made Of

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:58 am

… it follows an idea, it follows the day and the night.

This is from Richard Long: Selected Statements & Interviews edited by Ben Tufnell (2007):

I like the simplicity of walking,
the simplicity of stones.

I like common materials, whatever is to hand,
but especially stones. I like the idea that stones are what the world is made of.

I like common means given
the simple twist of art.

[ … ]

I like to use the symmetry of patterns between time,
places and time, between distance and time,
between stones and distance, between time and stones.

[ … ]

A walk traces the surface of the land,
it follows an idea, it follows the day and the night.

[ … ]

The creation in my art is not in the common
forms — circles, lines — I use, but the
places I choose to put them in.

Mountains and galleries are both
in their own ways extreme, neutral, uncluttered;
good places to work.




October 31, 2018

Seeing by Means of Fixation

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:56 am

… the separate picture loses its identity as such and becomes a detail of assembly, an essential structural element of the whole which is the thing itself.

This is found in Moholy-Nagy: An Anthology edited by Richard Kostelanetz (1970):

[ … ]

The Eight Varieties of Photographic Vision

1. Abstract seeing by means of direct records of forms produced by light: the photogram which captures the most delicate gradations of light values, both chiaroscuro and colored.

2. Exact seeing by means of the normal fixation of the appearance of things: reportage.

3. Rapid seeing by means of the fixation of movements in the shortest possible time: snapshots.

4. Slow seeing by means of the fixation of movements spread over a period of time: e.g. the luminous tracks made by the headlights of motor-cars passing along a road at night: prolonged time exposures.

5. Intensified seeing by means of:

a) Micro-photography
b) Filter-photography, which, by variation of the chemical composition of the sensitized surface, permits photographic potentialities to be augmented in various ways — ranging from the revelation of far-distant landscapes veiled in haze or fog to exposures in complete darkness: infrared photography.

6. Penetrative seeing by means of X-rays: radiography.

7. Simultaneous seeing by means of transparent superimposition: the future process of automatic photomontage.

8. Distorted seeing: optical jokes that can be automatically produced by:

a) Exposure through a lens fitted with prisms, and the device of reflecting mirrors; or
b) Mechanical and chemical manipulation of the negative after exposure.

[ … ]

… Thanks to the photographer humanity has acquired the power of perceiving its surroundings and its very existence with new eyes.

… There is no more surprising, yet in its naturalness and organic sequence, simpler form than the photographic series. This is the logical culmination of photography. The series is no longer a “picture,” and none of the canons or pictorial aesthetics can be applied to it. Here the separate picture loses its identity as such and becomes a detail of assembly, an essential structural element of the whole which is the thing itself. In this concatenation of its separate but inseparable parts a photographic series inspired by a definite purpose can become at once the most potent weapon and the tenderest lyric.

My previous post from this book is here.




October 30, 2018

Refusal to Have Anything to Do with the Public

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:54 am

… Modern art became homeless and began to lose all practical function.

This is from The Social History of Art, volume IV by Arnold Hauser (1962; 1951):

… After the failure of all ideals [1848], of all Utopias, the tendency is now to keep to the facts, to nothing but the facts. The political origins of naturalism explain in particular its anti-romantic and ethical features: the refusal to escape from reality and the demand for absolute honesty in the description of facts; the striving for impersonality and impassibility as the guarantees of objectivity and social solidarity; activism as the attitude intent not only on knowing and describing but on altering reality; the modernism which keeps to the present as the sole subject of consequence …

… But did the naturalists really represent the contemporary world, or at least an important part of the contemporary art public? They certainly did not represent the majority of the people who ordered, bought or publicly criticized pictures, who directed the art academies and had to decide which works were to be exhibited.

… [These people] had no room for the creations of naturalistic painting either in their homes crammed with furniture and draperies, nor in their official halls built in one or the other of the favorite historical styles. Modern art became homeless and began to lose all practical function. The same distance that separated naturalistic painting and the elegant ‘wall decoration’ of the time also divided serious and light literature, serious and light music, from each other.

[line break added] The literature or music which did not serve to entertain was just as devoid of function as the progressive painting of the time. Previously even the most valuable and most serious productions of literature, such as the novels of Prévost, Rousseau and Balzac, had formed the reading of a relatively large strata of society, some of which were quite indifferent to literature as such. The dual role of literature as an art and an entertainment at the same time, and the satisfaction of the requirements of different levels of culture by means of the same works, now comes to an end.

[line break added] The artistically most valuable literary products are hardly any longer suitable for light reading and have no attraction at all for the general reading public, unless they draw public attention to themselves for some reason and become successful by creating a scandal, like Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, for example. Only a quite small stratum of intellectuals appreciates such works adequately and therefore even this literature may be classed as ‘studio art,’ like the whole school of progressive painting: it is intended for specialists, for artists and connoisseurs.

[line break added] The estrangement of the whole body of progressive artists from the contemporary world and their refusal to have anything to do with the public goes so far that they not only accept lack of success as something perfectly natural, but regard success itself as a sign of artistic inferiority and consider being misunderstood by their contemporaries a precondition of immortality.

My previous post from Hauser’s book is here.




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