Unreal Nature

February 13, 2019

In Spite of All the Police Forces on Earth

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

… “An object that is identical with itself is without reality.”

This is from Hans Bellmer: Photographs by Stephen S. Prokopoff and Maarten van de Guchte (1991):

Bellmer’s selection of the doll as principle vehicle for his artistic and philosophical concerns … can be situated within the wider context of early twentieth century European culture. The doll is a powerful metaphor in many cultures. Whether figuring as “double,” companion, “soul,” ritual prototype, toy, or fetish, the doll is an institution, pivot and playmate in a network of religious, ritualistic and other symbolic relationships.

Bellmer published his photographs in limited editions, in small volumes resembling prayer books. They conform to a bibliophile’s aesthetic and continue the medieval tradition of the book of hours, executed with exquisite care and taste. The book’s format, easily hidden and seductive, reiterated the clandestine character of the doll’s creation.

[line break added] Bellmer ran his creation through an inventory of emotions, teasing the viewer by fleshing her out and dressing her, then destroying the dream by taking her apart, as one takes a sentence apart, separating nouns from verbs, adjectives from articles. The doll is not an automaton in the classical sense, but rather dependent on Bellmer’s stage directions with their goal finally, of subverting bourgeois conventions.

… The ball joint added the most important feature to his doll. He wrote: “However close or far it may be positioned and swing in the confusion of animate and inanimate, it will always be a question of the personified, mobile, passive, adaptable, and incomplete object; it will, finally … be a question of the mechanical factor of its mobility, of the Joint.”

… [Bellmer] wrote to Tristan Tzara on February 7, 1947: “The year 1946 was hell for me: it was impossible to do what I wanted … It was a brutal combat every day for food and heating (and lawyers).” In 1948, Nora Mitrani, Bellmer’s companion for the previous two years, assessed Bellmer’s artistic practice in these lines:

Erotic representations, if they fail to provoke disequilibrium and tears, are despicable. … Bellmer looks forward to the time when the liberated imagination will rediscover its corporeal imaginations and destroy the contradiction between the interior and exterior. … In spite of all the police forces on earth, we will always welcome with the same hope those men who know how to illuminate the drama with their brutal light, by indicating to us the practical means not to resolve it but to transpose it.

[line break added] The only real poetry is the experimental verification of that truth which is so simple that it needs to be rediscovered at every instant: the world is one, and the interconnections between its various component parts are multiple.

… In The Anatomy of an Image Bellmer writes: “The starting point of desire, with respect to the intensity of its images, is not in a perceptible whole but in the detail. … The essential point to retain from the monstrous dictionary of analogies/antagonisms which constitute the dictionary of the image is that a given detail such as a leg is perceptible, accessible to memory and available, in short is real, only if desire does not take it fatally for a leg. An object that is identical with itself is without reality.”




February 12, 2019

Divided and United

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:39 am

… the attention of the public … turns from the work to the artist.

Continuing through The Sociology of Art by Arnold Hauser, translated by Kenneth J. Northcott (1982):

… Vital art, like the vital living language, forms a variously tangled web of relationships in which many participants are involved. The tangled threads of the web lead from one participant to another until finally, it is almost impossible to discern how give-and-take, property and loan, initiative and routine are divided and united.

… The artist, however sure he is of his own method of creation, is scarcely able to give himself an account of where and when he found a particular motif, took possession of an event he did not immediately experience, or picked up a glance, an image, or a word which became the seed of so unhoped for a fruit.

[line break added] He hardly ever has an idea of what he owes to his public, his opponents, or his followers, or what part is played in his task by the understanding he finds or hopes to find there, the criticisms for which he is prepared and over which he silently triumphs, the applause which intoxicates him ahead of time, the goal of pleasing, of communicating himself, and of forming an imaginary family with all those who agree with him.

[ … ]

… the most obvious mark of the arrival of the Renaissance is the turning point in the history of individualism. It is marked not only by the fact that the creative individual becomes totally aware of his specialness and demands his special rights, but also by the fact that the attention of the public undergoes a corresponding change in orientation and turns from the work to the artist.

[line break added] This is the beginning of the crisis of individualism — the increasing tension between artist and public and the mutual suspicion which finally makes rebels and reactionaries out of both. The cult of genius which marks the peak of individualism in the Renaissance and from which the artist derives the right to rebel against tradition, doctrine, and rules not only introduces a reconsideration of values, as a result of which the artist tends to be placed above his works, but also prepares the arena for the conflict which threatens from the very beginning to upset the precarious equilibrium existing between the pretensions of the individual and the demands of society.

[line break added] The shift of accent from achievement to the ability to achieve, from success and completion to artistic idea and intention — in short, the one-sided judgment that genius is the authoritative principle — leads to the destruction of that harmony between work and personality which dangled as a goal before the Renaissance but which it unavoidably robbed of any meaning as soon as it saw the individual no longer as the mere messenger but as the embodiment of the message itself.

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




February 11, 2019


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:47 am

… There is … a new mode of wordless, purely visual design critique emerging …

This is from ‘Losing My Illusions About Open-Source Criticism’ by Naomi Stead in issue #36 (2013) of the independent quarterly magazine, Volume:

… The online conversation would be wild and unruly, we thought, it would be unpredictable and enlivening, critical and popular, inclusive and incisive; it would constitute a new critical culture and strengthen architecture’s place in the world.

But it seems we were wrong. By and large the blogs didn’t eventuate, the comments didn’t come, or if they did, they were likely to be in the form of a flippant one-liner or a nasty unfounded attack.

… By late 2011, cracks were appearing in the mirage of a brave new world of online interactive media generally, and a picture of the messier, more brutal and corrupt side of user-generated content was beginning to appear. Already by then, advertisements were appearing on freelancer websites for people to write fake reviews. By now, it’s an epidemic — Australian journalist Malcolm Knox recently described how “one-third of all [user-generated] web reviews are now fake, either with the purpose of boosting or denigrating a product … ”

… The very inclusiveness of the online conversation had a dark side: the comments section that comprises the ‘bottom half of the internet’ quickly devolved into a swill of stridently uninformed opinion and mob rule spiked with rancid misogyny.

… What had seemed to an optimistic eye as the potential for collective wisdom quickly revealed itself as a space for collective punishment and bullying.

… amongst the ruins of our utopia of communal digital architectural discourse, it seems there might still be some fragments to be salvaged. For one thing, the online realm really has spawned a new mode of humor in design and architectural criticism — there has never been a print equivalent of Unhappy Hipsters or the hilarious, existential critique of design décor that is FYNCT.

[line break added] There is also a new mode of wordless, purely visual design critique emerging through platforms Instagram and Pinterest. So while the first flush of optimism may have passed, it still seems to me that there are smaller, more modest and contingent opportunities for architectural criticism in the online realm.




February 10, 2019

It Is Sound

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

This is from ‘The Music of the O.M. Theatre’ by Hermann Nitsch (1985):

… The silencing of the tone colors that enrich the orgy makes way for the calm, wide, infinite tonal space of the night. In an almost vegetative manner, tones and sounds step forward from the immense sphere of the organic, the creatural, the human. They permeate the silence, they veil it, they fill it with a finely tuned world of tones and sounds.

[line break added] Music has become perceived reality. THE SOUNDS OF THE NIGHT, the cry of a bird, the barking of a dog, faraway music from a tavern, the sound of a plane flying past high above without lights; human voices and cries, the singing of drunks, the drone of the faraway city, the scent of watered flowers, wet earth. Rain, shrubs in bloom, the taste of the flesh of fruits, the stars shining brightly, the dynamics of the stellar orbits; it all becomes music. The creation produces noise and sounds, it is sound, the thundering, jubilating, light-bright mating call of the universe.




February 9, 2019

Cutting Down Glare

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:42 am

This is found in the title story in the collection of stories, The Patch by John McPhee (2019):

… Under each eye, chain pickerel have a black vertical bar, not unlike the black horizontal bars that are painted under the eyes of football players, and evidently for the same reason, to sharpen vision by cutting down glare. A pickerel’s back is forest green, and its sides shade into a light gold that is overprinted with a black pattern of chain links as consistent and uniform as a fence. This artistic presentation is entirely in the scales, which are extremely thin and small. On a filleting board, a couple of passes with a scaler completely destroy the art, revealing plain silver skin.




February 8, 2019

My Own History

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:38 am

… I write because I am screening my own inconsistencies.

This is from ‘Why do I write (about Art)’ found in Sweet Nothings: Notes and Texts by Marlene Dumas, edited by Mariska van den Berg (2015). For those of you not familiar with her, Dumas is a painter:

[ … ]

I write because I enjoy writing.
I write about art because it supplies a (safe) context. It is a
privilege to be able to read and to be read. What a pleasure to have
conversations with human beings (dead and alive) without having
to see them.

I write because I instinctively respond to the already written.
I am affected by the LAW. The LAW is already written. Being from South Africa, you
know that a comma or a bracket, more or less, can cost a person’s life. A good lawyer
(an interpreter of the law) is essential for survival. You don’t have to respect it,
but you have to know its loopholes in order to escape it: or remake it.

[ … ]

I write about my own work because I want to speak for myself.
I might not be the only authority, nor the best authority, but I want to participate in
the writing of my own history.

[ … ]

In the beginning comes the description containing the prescription
and the unacknowledged prejudice.

[ … ]

… For me the past is always present
even though I don’t know anything about most of it. E.g. Jesus is still the most erotic
male image in painting today.

I write about art not to promote, defend or explain the work, but rather as an apology.
Since I participate in ‘the Artworld’ I have felt ashamed. (Shame is the
Cinderella of the unpleasant emotions, having received much less attention than
anxiety, guilt and depression! And I’m definitely not a melancholic!) Recognition by
those you feel ambivalent towards is unhealthy and feeds feelings of insignificance.
I write because I am screening my own inconsistencies.

To write or not to write.
I like to read about art. It also stimulates me to go and do something totally different
in the middle of a sentence, or afterwards, like picking up a paintbrush for example.

Marlene Dumas, For Whom the Bell Tolls, 2008




February 7, 2019

Any True Sense

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:43 am

… his work is a case study in art criticism without any cross-references …

This is from editor Schubert’s introductory essay to It Is What It Is: Writings on Dan Flavin Since 1964 edited by Paula Feldman and Karstan Schubert (2004):

… It is virtually impossible to faithfully photograph Flavin’s works in a way that conveys a truthful sense of their vibrant and extraordinary presence. The camera tends to turn emitted light either into a solid form surrounded by darkness or into a pale washed-out glow drowned in daylight. The optical lens is unable simultaneously to pick up artificial light and ambiance (daylight) with any accuracy.

[line break added] Instead, one or the other always appears over-emphasized: in reproduction Flavin’s work looks either loudly theatrical or plainly underwhelming. Compounding this, differently colored fluorescent tubes, though appearing to the eye to have the same light output, in fact register as different intensities to the camera, making works seem to be in urgent need of maintenance. There is, to my knowledge, no photographic record that conveys any true sense of the reality of Flavin’s art.

How does one write about work that is without precedent? Flavin posed a formidable challenge to writers because there was no already rehearsed discourse on which to fall back. … The inexplicable gulf between cause and effect, the beguiling discrepancy between the economy of materials deployed and the simplicity of layouts on the one hand and the poetic effect achieved on the other, made matters again more puzzling and complicated.

A further aspect that is absolutely unique to Flavin’s work is its particular temporality and (lack of) physicality: it is strangely without the look of history or the patina of age (the work knows no past-tense). Even the term ‘work’ seems to be indicative more of a process than an actual physical object; for his installations Flavin preferred the equally fluid term ‘situation.’

Flavin’s use of light is so unique and radical that many writers could only offer a frustrating tautology. In a way his work is a case study in art criticism without any cross-references: unable to appropriate from other discourses (contemporary or historical), writers had to start from scratch.




February 6, 2019

Outside and Beyond

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:36 am

… new blood that allows any creative field to become something new and something richer must come from outside of the medium.

This is from ‘Commitment’ by John Szarkowski found in SPE: The Formative Years edited by Nathan Lyons (2012). This book reprints documents from the “invitational teaching conference held at The George Eastman House in 1962.” (SPE stands for Society for Photographic Education.):

… I think that the teacher is committed to open for the student as wide as possible a world of concern, and not confine him to formal and closed concept of what art is, now and forever.

… I am sure that you are all familiar with the exhibition upstairs, “The Art of Photography.” It’s a great exhibition, and each time I have seen it, I have left feeling proud of the fact that I am involved with photography. But it’s necessary to remember that the cohesiveness apparent in this exhibition is made visible by historical perspective. It was surely less evident to those who made the pictures.

[line break added] In fact, every man who is represented in the exhibition is there because he redefined what creative photography was. I think this nourishment, this new blood that allows any creative field to become something new and something richer must come from outside of the medium. An art is not like the snake with its tail in its mouth. We cannot expect to find all of the nourishment that we need within the works of the tradition.

Revolutions in art come from concerns that are outside and beyond art. I believe that dedication to the subject, with all its non-photographic, all its humanistic implications, is not a handicap to the young photographer. I feel that it is a profound advantage, and it is a function of the teacher to encourage such dedication.

… If we commit our work, then our students may commit theirs, to the business of probing and exploring life, including all those intuitively sensed realities for which we have not yet found formal expression.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.




February 5, 2019

Tied to a Fixed Theme

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:36 am

… conventionalism is a force of the dialectic of artistic creation: it not only limits spontaneity but also gives it wings.

Continuing through The Sociology of Art by Arnold Hauser, translated by Kenneth J. Northcott (1982):

… The tension between spontaneous feelings and traditional forms, on one hand, and original forms and conventional feelings, on the other, is one of the most effective forces in artistic development. The antithesis between these forces is the motor which the dialectic of the history of art most frequently and most persistently sets in motion.

[line break added] If the change in sentiments, inclinations, and dispositions were always to go hand in hand with formal renovation, and if it were not the case as it more generally is that sometimes forms outlive the vitality which underlies them and that sometimes new spiritual dispositions and attitudes proclaim themselves before proper modes of expression are available to them, the historical development of art would be as unproblematic, but just as “incomprehensible,” as the growth of a plant.

… conventionalism is a force of the dialectic of artistic creation: it not only limits spontaneity but also gives it wings. Just as the power of musical invention is nowhere more apparent than in the variation, where it is tied to a fixed theme, so the repeated musical formula, the Wanderthema or the leitmotiv, is often the most fruitful source of invention.

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




February 4, 2019

Red Thread

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:50 am

… criticism could also be understood as a kind of pause: you don’t just continue the way you do …

This is from the interview of Markus Miessen by Brendan Cormier and Arjen Oosterman in issue #36 (2013) of the independent quarterly magazine, Volume:

[ … ]

Markus Miessen: … But what I’m wondering is whether this kind of one-off situation can be changed towards a learning-from scenario, where critique actually is a way to, slowly through a process, change realities rather than simply just comment on them.

Arjen Oosterman: Do you see ways to?

MM: The only way to do this is if there’s a personal agenda that supersedes the individual project. There needs to be some kind of red thread of a particular interest that you can test through different projects and different contexts, and this turns into an ongoing learning process for yourself. Maybe this is also the question of critique.

[ line break added] It doesn’t necessarily need to be a critique about something or someone else; we can understand critique as some auto-critical vehicle. Use your projects or practice to somehow try to get closer to the agenda that you’re interested in, which of course sounds very ego-driven, but that’s not how I mean it. It’s more about how you can use the way that you practice to develop and critique an agenda that you’re interested in, and also somehow showcase that things can be done in a different way.

[ … ]

MM: … The moment that you’re emotionally involved, it can trigger things that on a more pragmatic scale are simply not possible. The moment you’re affected by something, you’re also willing to give much more than you would usually.

[ … ]

MM: … Maybe criticism could also be understood as a kind of pause: you don’t just continue the way you do, but you also give it a bit of time and space to really rethink what’s going on.




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