Unreal Nature

June 13, 2017

Intruders Upon a Still Unpopulated Land

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… It is an experience that runs counter to the French sense of layered social history in a territory that has long been inhabited and civilized.

This is from ‘What is American about American Art?’ found in On Modern American Art: Selected Essays by Robert Rosenblum (1999):

… even granting the obvious internationalism of so many artists who hold firm places in American biographical dictionaries, there is always the nagging question of whether their art does not somehow disclose a distinctively American inflection that would single it out from a multinational crowd. The question is relatively easy to answer in the case of such American classics as Winslow Homer and Thomas Eakins.

[line break added] Both of them had experienced art in Paris — Homer on a ten-month visit in 1966-67, when he showed at the Paris world’s fair; and Eakins, in a more sustained and influential way, since he studied there between 1866 and 1869 with Jean-Léon Gérome and Léon Bonnat, two masters whose imprint can often be discerned in his work. In the case of Homer, paintings like Breezing Up and Northeaster might strike even Europeans as quintessentially American images of the salt-sprayed rigors of the North Atlantic coast, but other paintings of his beg revealing comparisons with their European counterparts.

[line break added] For example, his 1869 view of the salubrious beach resort at Long Branch, New Jersey (which, for chic, had been dubbed “the American Boulogne”), instantly recalls, in its tonic breeze and glare, the Channel coast scenes of vacationers painted by Monet and Boudin in the same decade. But, this said, we also intuit a very different mood in which even such a scene of overt pleasure and camaraderie reveals a bare and lonely emotional skeleton.

[line break added] The two fashion-plate ladies in the foreground, each with a parasol, are aligned in tandem but appear as strangely isolated from each other as the lone male figure on the cabin porch surrounded by drying linens; and the relationship of these figures to this place on the American continent, which juts out into the immensity of the ocean, is almost that of intruders upon a still uninviting and unpopulated land. It is an experience that runs counter to the French sense of layered social history in a territory that has long been inhabited and civilized.

[line break added] Moreover, the white intensity of the sunlight, rather than pulverizing and fusing figures and landscape, produces quite the opposite effect, starching clothing, hardening earth and grass, clarifying simple architectural shapes pitted against the rawness of nature. Looked at from an American rather than a European angle of vision, the feeling here is less akin to Monet than it is to Edward Hopper, whose figures, whether in city or country, similarly seem to intrude upon a bleak environment of blanching light and primitive geometric order.

Winslow Homer, Long Branch, New Jersey, 1869

As for Eakins, this dour mood of lonely human presences in an environment that reaches out to nowhere is equally apparent, especially in the company of French parallels. His 1873 painting of the Biglen brothers in a scull on the Schuykill River reveals in unexpected ways Eakins’s training with Gérome, who constructed many exotic boating scenes on the Nile with the same perspectival precision and photographic detail that characterize the quasi-scientific approach of Eakins to the facts of the seen world.


[line break added] But the American painter has turned these Orientalist travelogues into a scene of inwardness and solemnity in which each of the two scullers, brothers though they are, seems alone and in which the river and the far bank suggest such vast expanses of water and land that the few people we see recall early settlers on unfamiliar soil. Inevitably, Eakins’s boating scenes echo the many French paintings of the 1870s and 188s that depict sportily dressed men and women rowing on the Seine; but here, too, the Parisian mood of cheerful, breezy conviviality on a bustling waterway underlines the austere silence of Eakins’s American view.

Thomas Eakins, Biglen Brothers

[ … ]

… When we look at a painting by Rothko, we may well be reminded of many European masters, from Turner to the late Monet, but we also sense indigenous roots whose ancestry might take us not only to the realm of American Luminism but to such oddball visions of American eternity as provided in Elihu Vedder’s Memory.

[line break added] And when we look at Eric Fischl’s The Old Man’s Boat and the Old Man’s Dog, even though the painting finds its home in an international collection of contemporary art in London, we would be hard put to understand it without recalling the marine paintings of Winslow Homer in which the dramas of American nature and American passions are played against each other. Like American people, American art lives both at home and abroad.

Eric Fischl, The Old Man’s Boat and the Old Man’s Dog




June 12, 2017


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:51 am

… he knew that painterly qualities are not a matter of taste but of strategies that displace taste …

Continuing through Pictorial Nominalism: On Marcel Duchamp’s Passage from Painting to the Readymade by Thierry de Duve (1991):

… The subjective question, “Where does painting begin?” is always already being asked, even when its answer is not yet available. Ever since his first faltering attempts, the first manifestations of his desire to paint, the painter has asked it of himself. Even if one was not born a painter, it is futile to want to assign a birthdate to the decision to become one, just as it is futile to want to assign to some pictorial “element” — such as the virgin canvas — the reductive status of an absolute beginning.

[line break added] One cannot escape the recurrence of some “primal scene” that starts the painter off on the rails of an irreversible becoming-painter. It is not the completion of the painting that he has before him, but, quite the contrary, its beginnings; it is not the virginity of an initial decision that he has behind him but, quite the contrary, the weight of an entire history in which he is born and that will condition his entire journey.

… even before a person makes the “decision” to become a painter, that “decision” is shaped, rendered specific, possible or impossible, fertile or sterile, by the historical conditions in which it is taking place. Duchamp, who must have had a sharp awareness of the conditions — personal as well as historical — that were handicapping his becoming-painter, would develop out of his Munich period a series of artistic strategies that would increasingly and more explicitly take these very conditions — conditions of impossibility or, better yet, conditions of indecidability — for the object of his own aesthetic life —

[line break added] “decisions”: to become a painter / cease to paint, to play the artist / to produce “anti-art,” to shut up / to let others speak about oneself, and so on. These strategies would always refer the pictorial product to its conditions of production, art movements to the history that orients them, the cubist train in which the sad young man is moving to the “laziness of railway tracks between the passage of two trains.”

Duchamp’s feelings for painting were very ambiguous or, better yet, ambivalent: he loved it / he detested it. He was enough of a painter that his eye was his privileged organ, the gaze his favorite “object a,” but he was not enough of a painter for his hand to passively follow the dictates of his gaze. His appreciation of the painting of others was sharp, and his judgments were well founded (as the catalog for the Société Anonyme demonstrates, despite some indulgences, always recognizable as such); his appreciation of his own work was lucid enough for him to know that he was not born a painter.

[line break added] He had a sharp perception of the historicity of modern painting, and he knew that painterly qualities are not a matter of taste but of strategies that displace taste; but he also knew that these strategies, if they were to be historically significant, nonetheless had to be neither voluntary nor manipulable. He was not unaware of the cathartic, hedonistic, and therapeutic value of art for himself and for others, but he had the intuition that its truth was more on the side of desire than of pleasure.

[line break added] He was aware that his century was engaged in the search for a pure visuality that would be a sort of essence of painting, but he refused to believe that pictorial thought could be invested entirely at the level of the retina. He liked the cosa mentale of painting, but he knew that the mental must be incarnated in the visible if it is not to run the risk of becoming literary or philosophic and thereby cease to be painting.

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




June 11, 2017

The World’s Mortal Flesh

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… Everything that already exists exists without justification: it has dared, as it were, to become already determinate and to abide (obstinately) in this determinateness within a world, the whole of which is yet-to-be in respect of its meaning and justification …

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):

… What is already present-on-hand in all of being or the countenance of being that has already determined itself in respect to its content (i.e. the “thisness” of being) needs a justification outside the realm of meaning. For a relation to the yet-to-be-attained fullness of meaning of the event of being, the “thisness” of being is only factual (obstinately present-on-hand).

[line break added] Even where meaning and obligation (the ought-to-be) are anticipated as determinate with respect to their content (in the form of images or concepts), such determinateness of anticipation passes immediately and of itself into the domain of being, the domain of what is present-on-hand. Any embodiment of the yet-to-be meaning of the event of being is only factual in its determinateness (i.e. in the finished expressedness of its countenance) and, as such, is unjustified precisely in respect to that which is already present-on-hand in it.

[line break added] Everything that already exists exists without justification: it has dared, as it were, to become already determinate and to abide (obstinately) in this determinateness within a world, the whole of which is yet-to-be in respect of its meaning and justification — like a word that seeks to become totally determined within a sentence we have not yet finished saying and thinking through to the end. The entire world, insofar as it is already actual, already present-on-hand, fails to stand up to a meaning-directed criticism immanent to the very same world.

… To me, the world presents itself in the aspect of a world still-to-be-achieved, a not-yet-fulfilled world. It constitutes the horizon of my act-performing (forward-looking) consciousness: the light of the future decomposes the stability and intrinsic value of the corporeality of the past and the present. With respect to its total givenness, the world gains positive validity for me only as the surrounding world or environment of another.

… All characterizations and determination of present-on-hand being that set it into dramatic motion blaze with the borrowed axiological light of otherness. Birth and death and all the stages of life between them: this is the scale of any valuational statement about present-on-hand being. The world’s mortal flesh has validity with respect to value only when it has been vivified by the mortal soul of the other; in the realm of spirit, the world’s mortal body disintegrates (the spirit does not vivify it, but judges it).

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




June 10, 2017

Purple Shadows

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:50 am

… Purple is frailty and force, both.

This is from The Secondary Colors: Three Essays by Alexander Theroux (1996):

… It is an elite, at time histrionically pious, severe color, a hue, like blue, that, absorbing light, is passive, retreating, and cold.

… As black gospel singers might put it, purple has a lot of “church” in it.

… Gerard Manley Hopkins in his poem, “Henry Purcell” describes a beach this way: “The thunder-purple seabeach plumed purple-of-thunder.” And in his incomparable “The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air We Breathe,” he calls upon Mary to be “his atmosphere,” assuring us of the beauty and holiness of the air and the sky, and indicates power in the richness of a purple sky: “Yet such a sapphire-shot / charged, steeped sky will not / stain light.” Purple rain, according to Edith Sitwell, is a reality: “The mauve summer rain / Is falling again — / It soaks through the eaves / And the ladies sleeves.”

… The tiny fingernails on starving black children and babies, ironically, turn a weirdly beautiful yet ghastly purple. Purple shadows or pouchy rings under the eyes often prove in older people that circulation is sluggish, usually from fatigue or convalescence, and it is common in those who have had malaria.

… “I tremble with pleasure when I think that on the very day of my leaving prison both the laburnum and the lilac will be blooming in the gardens,” writes Oscar Wilde, “and that I shall see the wind stir into restless beauty the swaying gold of the one, and make the other toss the pale purple of its plumes, so that all the air shall be Arabia for me.”

… Purple is frailty and force, both. Neither should come as a surprise.

My previous post from Theroux’s book is here.




June 9, 2017

To Alter Egos

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:33 am

… there will have been a lot of joy on the way.

The following are letters — or portions of letters — found in Between the Lines: A History of Poetry in Letters, 1962-2002 compiled and edited by Joseph Parisi and Stephen Young (2006). Henry Rago was the editor of Poetry at the time these particular letters were exchanged:

James Dickey to Henry Rago ………………………………………….. Portland Ore., 3 March 1963

Dear Henry,

… Could you help me with a problem? I want to write some poems under another name — a couple of other names, in fact — to see if I can take on different “writing personalities” in case I get tired of the one I have. I’d like to send some of these to you and see what you think of them, but in case of publication, I wouldn’t want my real identity known. Is this a legitimate pursuit, in letters? A Portuguese poet name [Fernando] Pessoa did this some time ago — he had four alter egos! — and I wanted to try it, just to see what would happen. On the other hand, I don’t want to submit poems to my editors — such as yourself — without letting them in on what I am doing; that would somehow seem wrong to me. Could you advise me on this?


Leonard Nathan to Henry Rago ………………………………………….. New Delhi, India, 24 December 1966

Dear Henry Rago,

Some more from India, though not, I guess, Indian. This place is incredible, not the least for its literary life. Ginsberg left quite a trail, but there is an Indian twist to it. For Beats, they have their “anti-poets” writing, obviously “anti-poetry.” I am to address these people soon, mostly young. In Calcutta a group of free-wheelers — I guess of the Beat variety — began a monthly magazine for verse. It soon became a weekly, then a daily, then — so help me God — an hourly; they printed, so I hear, seven in one day. I guess the poets lined up in front of their door, with poems hot off the pan, or finishing them up right there.

… What chiefly they lack — so far as I can tell — is a good practical criticism, a thing we may have too much of. And then politics gets in the way, not just poetic politics. The tendency is for the manifesto to substitute for thinking hard about individual poems and poems in general. But nobody is curling up in silence and that means, if nothing else, there is plenty of life. And out of the collision of east and west — it is no less than that — something may come that is larger than either. If it doesn’t, there will have been a lot of joy on the way.




June 8, 2017

Their Ignored Seams, and Forgotten Vistas

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:58 am

… These momentary openings, the pockets between, their ruins, their transitory spaces …

This is from the essay ‘Absolu avec Vache (and the Spectre of the Gun)’ (2006) found in Walead Beshty: 33Texts: 93,614 Words: 581,035 Characters: Selected Writings (2003-20015) edited by Lionel Bovier (2015):

… individual producers are relegated to one more modular element, the social field appearing as a static constellation of interchangeable parts. The citizen subject realized as a relational component, a unit of measure, an abstraction. But what of the visceral residues of work? Where labor’s vulgar bodily exertions are required, it exists out of view, in off-hours, backrooms, cellars, and distant factories, negotiated in private communications and invisible transports, sanitized by aggregation, illegible in seductive surfaces.

As viewers, our role is to dissolve into these frames, into an aggregated mass: out of time, out of space, and into an abstract gleaming world. yet seeing ourselves as part of the mass, our individuality in a perpetual vacillation between disappearance and reappearance, does not have to be debilitating. Rather, it can be a source of strength. Autonomy has historically merged from marginal zones: pirates and radicals hide like rats in the walls, housewives stage mini-revolutions in their kitchens, office workers in their cubicles.

[line break added] An understanding of this can make it clear that production is a common fact, a daily ritual of compromise enacted with various levels of awareness, but present nonetheless as a lingering force. We can be both inside and outside of the picture, one of its parts, and one of its producers; there need not be a stratified hierarchy in our relationship to aesthetics. The embedded compromises and negotiations present in any production and their subsequent lack of authorial solidity need not be seen as dirty secrets.

[line break added] This would not be an absolutist proclamation of the corruption of authorship, but rather an assertion that this authorial position is a communal one of transparency and subterfuge at once. In this realization, there is a middle ground of negotiation. All production — even “authorship” — is comprised of myriad transit points and competing forces, which deceptively assume the appearance of solidity.

The world we see from traditional spaces — the world outside the window; the world from the perspective of escalators, people movers, monorails, and shopping centers — has become an intellectual bogeyman — a storage container for all our alienations. These infrastructural interstitial zones stand as compromised, indeterminate way stations between chimerical destinations. As an open field they occupy the space of bare fact, which we should approach with suspicion, but they are also undecoded, unprocessed, and this has potential.

… Seemingly monolithic expressions of power are a similar accumulation of compromise and negotiation containing gaps where any visitor may assert their own agenda. We too are collaborators, even if we choose to relinquish our place in the credits. These momentary openings, the pockets between, their ruins, their transitory spaces, their ignored seams, and forgotten vistas promise a site from which the either/or of utopian and apocalyptic thinking — or a political/formalist opposition — can be dismantled, and production can be both symbolic and literal at once.

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




June 7, 2017

A New Reality

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:56 am

… what was in front of the camera?

This is from The Photograph: A Strange Confined Space by Mary Price (1994):

… The fashion among abstract painters to call their works Untitled had its origin in a reaction against words as corrupting agents that obscured rather than clarified vision. Indeed, when the content of a painting is not representational, use of conventional description limits the interpretation. A new vocabulary of criticism had to be invented to describe without limiting, one emphasizing sensations, feelings, dreams, and their connection with thickness of paint, color of paint, and its texture on surface — all the physical characteristics that could be described without attributing to their disposition any specific prototype in the world of objects. The use of Untitled is a tribute to the power of words.

… But what has this to do with photographs? The photograph is not a constructed artifact comparable to a sculpture or a painting, or not comparable in its constructed aspect. The sculpture or painting reflects the intention and the handiwork of its maker. Both the intention and the instrumentality are integral to the final work. The eye as well as the hand is instrumental. But in photographing, the hand is virtually absent, and only the intention and the eye govern the result. It is literally impossible to photograph what is not there, although it is entirely possible to distort or arrange subjects and pervert or destroy scale.

[line break added] The intentional use of a camera, with resultant photograph, requires questions that are not asked of other constructed works of visual interest. One legitimate question is, what is it?, meaning, what was in front of the camera? Was it arranged or selected? Is this to be taken simply as literal, or does it have a meaning beyond the elements in it? For a painting or sculpture, what is it? means both what did the maker intend us to see and what do you see. It is taken as given that the painting or sculpture was purposeful, with a meaning beyond its elements, even when the observer cannot instantly tell precisely what that meaning is. The very act of painting or making a sculpture requires intention.

[ … ]

… Art and illusion are not restricted to one form of image-making. Making and matching are ways of creating available to all makers. Photographs transcribe some reality, but the photographer has to determine what reality it will be. He makes the photograph by using the convention that it is impossible for him to do anything except transcribe conventional reality and then makes it possible to see in his transcription the new forms that he saw. What the viewer thinks he recognizes as reality is effectively a new reality.

… Even now, when the critical tendency is to discount the trustworthiness of the photograph, there is an equal and opposite tendency to believe what is seen in it. The question is then removed one step to ask not whether what is seen can be trusted but first to name what is seen and then to interpret it. That way of proceeding, that way of talking about the photograph, gives the power of words back to the viewer. When the words complement the photograph, any deception no longer deceives.

[line break added] If photography were a field in which anyone were as good as anyone else, achievement would be accidental and mechanical. It is better to begin with the generous assumption that the photographer transcribes what he sees and that he does so because what he sees is in some way memorable, remarkable, moving, sensational, or typical. To describe and to name is to continue the process of seeing by interpretation. Naming is interpretation, even when the name is Untitled.

My previous post from Price’s book is here.




June 6, 2017

The Willingness to Sustain a Thought

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:56 am

… the language has changed because the thought that went into it allowed the invention to occur.

This is from three interviews with Richard Serra made between 1997 and 1999, found in David Sylvester’s Interviews with American Artists (2001):

[ … ]

David Sylvester: … I think that artists generally don’t think about whether the thing is going to be beautiful. I think the artist is rather like a cat crossing the floor to get its food and thinking of what it wants, not thinking of how it looks. But in moving towards what it wants, it looks beautiful to others. And I think a lot of art is like that. The artist is not thinking at all if the thing is going to be beautiful; he’s thinking of dealing with making something that he wants to make. It’s only others who perceive beauty in it.

Richard Serra: Yes I can go with that. I think you have a need to follow some instinct you have in form-making, and using one form leads to the other, and you have a need to follow your curiosity about what you don’t know. And I think you start probing at areas that you don’t know. And you find yourself wanting to make something that you haven’t seen before. There wouldn’t be much point in making something you already knew.

DS: No, it is exactly the curiosity. And I imagine that this series [Torqued Ellipses] must have been one of the things that you have felt most curious about. I mean, you are really working in unknown territory.

RS: And we’ve been on them four years. And at one point, after about two-and-a-half years, particularly when the first one broke … first, we couldn’t find a place to work, and we thought we would never be able to make them. And architects were telling me to make them in concrete and I thought maybe they would just end up being models, that they really wouldn’t be able to be realized. And I think that there is something about the willingness to sustain a thought and the effort it takes to sustain a thought.

[line break added] And maybe the sheer wilfulness or obstinacy that it takes to sustain a thought oftentimes is discernible in the resultant work. Not that the work is an expression of the thought, but that some things, even when the expression disappears, seem to be of more critical substance because of the decisions that were made and excluded, than other things that seemed lesser. Some things seem trivial, some things don’t, and it’s almost discernible in given works of art, that you can read the thought that went into it, often because it has evaporated from the form.

[line break added] (The other kind of thing that we see a lot of still is heavy-handed Expressionism trying to pass for thought and form.) I do think sustained effort has a lot to do with the manifestation of form. And it doesn’t matter if the form is minuscule or large. It has nothing to do with it. It’s almost the qualification of the invention and sustaining of thought that becomes relevant in the form.

DS: Is that what you like about Giacometti?

RS: Well, I think it’s what I like about works that we can say have more substance — and we can qualify them that way — than works which we find more trivial. I mean, I think one kind of admires some sort of critical distance in being able to reduce some problem to a point where an invention occurs. And one can go there and have the experience that the language has changed because the thought that went into it allowed the invention to occur.

[line break added] And that to me isn’t any historical imperative, it’s something that goes on in terms of people’s inquisitiveness, whether it’s in poetry or science or art or music or whatever. Some things are just more profound because they’re more thoughtful. It’s pretty obvious. I don’t think less thought ever made anything better.

I do think there’s something else to it. I think that at certain points you open a kind of feedback to yourself in relation to either a problem or an experience or a sensation in the experience or in the problem that in and of itself is interesting, and you feel a compulsion to follow it. And I think those are things you have to see through.

[ … ]

DS: … When you’re making these pieces, are you so focused on the problem of making them that you have no time to think at all of what their emotional impact might be, of what their ‘affective content’ might be?

RS: No, I think what happens is that it becomes like a residue of the problem, but as soon as you make one you see the potential to articulate the problem in terms of what you want them to convey, and then you adjust the axis, the major and minor, whether you want it to be longer or shorter, which then affects the overhang, and then you can control more or less to a degree how you want them to move, how you want the compression of the space to be felt. And there are things that you an adjust to, but initially there’s no way of knowing that.

[line break added] And then you just work the problems out of the problems, you see which are useful ideas and which are ideas that are extraneous, and if you want to produce works that both hold and torque the volume and don’t dissipate out, the more you build, the more knowledge you have to make adjustments in what you need to do. But I had no way of programming that to begin with, and didn’t even think about it. If you ask whether the pieces were predicated on evoking some kind of feeling: no, not at all.

Torqued Ellipses

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




June 5, 2017

Point of No Return

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:45 am

… where does painting start, what is its raw matter?

This is from Pictorial Nominalism: On Marcel Duchamp’s Passage from Painting to the Readymade by Thierry de Duve (1991):

Virgin, the virgin canvas, the point of departure for the painter and the initial site in which his desire and his anguish are invested. How to become a painter, how to begin the painting? This was a crucial question for Duchamp, much more important than the completion of the painting. The Large Glass, Definitively Unfinished shows Duchamp’s lack of anxiety over the final decision, which, in contrast, was the major decision for all the “retinal” painters and, especially, for the American Abstract Expressionists.

[line break added] All art that comes from expression naturally privileges suspension, the achievement of inachievement, because it is in this pictorial moment that the artist tries to immobilize the spectators and to hold them within the fascination of an expressiveness that sums up the artist’s “inner self.” Duchamp, who did not believe in expression or in the distinction of interior and exterior (the Glass is transparent), knew that the final decision is relatively irrelevant: in any case, it is the onlooker who finishes the painting. In contrast, the initial decision was a moment of high importance, especially if one were convinced, like Duchamp, that the colors of the painting derive above all else from the painter’s “gray matter.”

[line break added] To worry about the ways to start a painting is to pose a double general question about a singular case. The first concerns the identity of the object that one is trying to construct: where does painting start, what is its raw matter? The second (but it is really the same question) concerns the identity of the painting subject: what is the first gesture a painter makes, and where and when does the painting begin to validate its creator’s ambition to be a painter?

… In 1912, there was no painter (not even Matisse) destined to play a significant role in the history of modern art who was not extremely aware of [the] necessity for aesthetic innovation. The Futurists would make an ideology out of this, confusing the specific irreversibility of art with a lyrical — and dubious, by the way — notion of technological progress.

[line break added] Soon, Dada itself would be able to mark its radical opposition to Futurism only by simultaneously refusing any projection into the future and any return to the past, entertaining instead the fantasy — itself at once aesthetic and historical — that it could put an end to the history of art. And when art historians came to gather under a single term all the avant-gardes that came out of Cubism — Futurism, Constructivism, Suprematism, Simultaneism, Orphism, Neoplasticism, Dadaism, Unism, and so on — they coined a tautological term: the “historical avant-gardes.”

The Passage from the Virgin to the Bride declares in the clearest possible way the feeling of irreversibility that gripped Duchamp’s practice in August 1912. Duchamp was aware that if his becoming-painter was to have some historical resonance, it had to forbid retreat. The move beyond Cubism reached its point of no return here: the painter that Duchamp wanted to become would have to find his identity ahead of himself, like the “headlight child,” this “comet which would have its tail in front.”

The Passage from the Virgin to the Bride, 1912

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




June 4, 2017


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… it is from here that any event began and forever begins for me.

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):

… No one can assume a position toward the I and the other that is neutral. The abstract cognitive standpoint lacks any axiological approach, since the axiological attitude requires that one should occupy a unique place in the unitary event of being — that one should be embodied. Any valuation is an act of assuming an individual position in being; even God had to incarnate himself in order to bestow mercy, to suffer, and to forgive — had to descend, as it were, from the abstract standpoint of justice.

[line break added] Being is, as it were, once and for all, irrevocably, between myself as the unique one and everyone else as others for me; once a position has been assumed in being, any act and any valuation can proceed only from that position — they presuppose that position. I am the only one in all of being who is an I-for-myself and for whom all others are others-for-me — this is the situation beyond which there is and there can be nothing axiological for me: no approach to the event of being is possible for me outside that situation; it is from here that any event began and forever begins for me.

[line break added] The abstract standpoint does not know and does not see the movement of being as an ongoing event, does not know and does not see being as a still open process of axiological accomplishment. One cannot be neutral within the unitary and unique event of being. It is only from my own unique place that the meaning of the ongoing event can become clearer, and the more intensely I become rooted in that place, the clearer that meaning becomes.

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




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