Unreal Nature

December 1, 2017

Who?

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:28 am

… Far away, / dark before the shining exit-gates, / someone or other stood, whose features were unrecognizable.

This is from Flesh of My Flesh by Kaja Silverman (2009):

… When Ovid’s account of the myth was revived in the twelfth century, Orpheus was transformed into an ascetic, and his backward look became a momentary lapse in an otherwise exemplary life; when he gazed at Eurydice, he returned like “a dog to his vomit,” but then — fortunately — he abjured her, and “ascend[ed] the mountains of virtue.”

[line break added] Although Eurydice continued to pay the price for Orpheus’s volte-face, the backward look was no longer treated as a danger to her ; it was depicted, rather, as a danger to him. This placed a new moratorium on the act of looking at her. It also made the act of turning away from Eurydice both necessary and commendable.

[ … ]

… In “Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes.” Rilke adds the “god of speed and distant messages” to the cast of characters, but reduces the story to the movement of these three figures through a mysterious cavern. He also isolates each of them from the others. Eurydice walks beside Hermes, and behind Orpheus, but she doesn’t notice either of them; Orpheus is uncertain whether he is hearing her footsteps or his own; and Hermes is unable to bridge the distance between the two of them. Orpheus has also forgotten that he is a musician: “his hands at his sides, / tight and heavy, out of the falling folds, / no longer conscious of the delicate lyre / which ha[s] grown into his left arm.”

The fifth stanza ends with the word “she,” and this pronoun ushers in an extended celebration of Eurydice, first as “a woman so loved that from one lyre there came / more lament than from all lamenting women,” and then as someone who is no longer “that man’s property.” Since most of the rest of the poem is also focalized through her, Orpheus drops out of the picture until the very end, when Hermes draws him to her attention, and even then he remains a small figure on the horizon.

[line break added] “And when, abruptly, / the god put out his hand to stop her,” Rilke writes, “saying / with sorrow in his voice: He has turned around — , / she could not understand, and softly answered / ‘Who? ‘ / Far away, / dark before the shining exit-gates, / someone or other stood, whose features were unrecognizable.”

My previous post from Silverman’s book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

November 30, 2017

On the Edge of the Earth

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:53 am

… I guess that space that is between what they call heaven and earth — out there in what they call the night — is as much it as anything.

This is from My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, Volume 1, 1915-1933 edited by Sarah Greenough (2011). These bits are from the beginning of their relationship, when O’Keeffe had just arrived in Texas, to teach art at West Texas State Normal College:

Alfred Stieglitz • [New York City] • [December 21, 1916]

… — This afternoon — towards five someone came in, a man I have known for twenty-five years! — Kerfoot, Zoler, Walkowitz, & Benn were present. — The friend asked me why I was so hard on American & never had a good word to say about it. — Well, I wish you could have heard me. — I’m sorry tens of thousands didn’t hear me. — America never had a better friend — real America — not the flim-flam America — I hate patriotism — I hate all that seems so holy to so many “good” & “blind” Americans — Well, I let loose for fair, telling him what I felt as an American — as a man of the whole world —

… When all were gone — all except Walkowitz, he said: “They’ll never understand … ”

[ … ]

Georgia O’Keeffe • [Canyon, Texas] • [March 11, 1917]

… There is something so merciless about the Canyon — so tremendous — I love it —

The big cedar trees were very nice too — the grass is very short and brown — no underbrush — such clean ground under the trees — clean ground and rocks and trees and a very clean stream — And we could see for miles and miles and miles — and nobody —

When we cam out — way off on the edge of the earth against the sunset were a lot of cattle in a string — We could see daylight under them — Like a dark embroidery edge — very fine — on the edge of the earth —

Georgia O’Keeffe • [Canyon, Texas] • [March 15, 1917]

… More — I want to say — but — what —

I guess that space that is between what they call heaven and earth — out there in what they call the night — is as much it as anything. So I send you the space that is watching the starlight and the empty quiet plains — .

My most recent previous post from this book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

November 29, 2017

Radical Openness

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:58 am

… Or is it about a kind of immediacy, presence and immanence of the artwork, an experience that cannot be denied?

This is from Why Art Photography? by Lucy Soutter (2013):

… In Lacan’s psychoanalytic theory, the real is described as always just out of reach. It is the primal state of nature that we can never regain because we have entered language. [Hal] Foster describes photography as perpetually restaging the trauma of our missed encounter with the real.

… Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault famously demolished the unquestioned authority of the author over the text, giving power of interpretation to the reader. Yet Foucault argued in “What Is an Author?” that rather than being abandoned altogether the notion of the author should be “analysed as a complex and variable function of discourse.” In other words, he proposed that the author is less interesting as the origin of meaning than as a persona generated by and through the work of art.

… Authenticity has traditionally been a moral mode, its goal is — at least to some extent — didactic. As Lionel Trilling describes it in his book Sincerity and Authenticity, “The authentic work of art instructs us in our inauthenticity and adjures us to overcome it.” The project is not merely to be at one with ourselves but to revise ourselves for the better. Even if we choose not to commit to the idea that art can improve us, we might still want to take a stand for art as something that unfolds.

… Contemporary art photography can be read as offering openings onto the real, not merely representations of events taking place in another time and place but also sensory encounters that are present in themselves. The trouble with these terms is that they are so open as to let in just about any image.

Perhaps this radical openness lies at the heart of the matter. Is authenticity really about interpretation, moral efficacy or value judgments? Or is it about a kind of immediacy, presence and immanence of the artwork, an experience that cannot be denied?

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

November 28, 2017

Life is Beautiful. Live It

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:43 am

… Of course, Sol would never say such a thing, but I hear it in his work all the time.

This is from Sol LeWitt: 100 Views edited by Susan Cross and Denise Markonish (2009):

Gary Garrels, Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

… Two … sentences [from LeWitt’s “Sentences on Conceptual Art”], the first and fifth, … help one to grasp the heart of LeWitt’s approach to art:

Conceptual Artists are mystics rather than rationalists; they leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach …
Irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically.

… Of the many artists active in the second half of the twentieth century, LeWitt was one of the most rigorous in terms of his thought; he was simultaneously one of the most open. His expansive intellect allowed him to find the simplest and most elegant ideas and solutions for art, circumvent dead ends and foregone conclusions, and embrace paradox and contradiction, essential qualities of art for our time.

[ … ]

Mike Glier, Artist

What comes to mind when thinking about the art of Sol LeWitt, surprisingly, are images of rivers rippling silently underground and radio waves moving invisibly through space.

LeWitt convincingly posits that embracing an array of possibilities is more pleasurable and generative than limiting those possibilities. Difference, in this world view, is not threatening or destabilizing in itself, but is instead a prompt to curiosity, a catalyst for experimentation, and potentially, a source of delight.

[ … ]

Mel Kendrick, Artist

… Think of his “Sentences of Conceptual Art (1969). I completely misinterpreted them when I first encountered them in the 1970s. They fit easily into the then current dialogue of the end of painting, the death of the art object. An idea alone could be art? This created a dilemma similar to that created by Duchamp’s readymades: great for discussion and theory, but how did you continue working?

It is clear to me, reading the sentences now, that they are, in fact, all about working. Sol did not denigrate painting or sculpture. He simply said that to think in those categories was limiting. He did say that new materials do not constitute new ideas, and that you cannot make good art from a banal idea, no matter how well it is executed. How could you disagree with that?

[ … ]

Stephen L. Lloyd, Architect

[Lloyd worked with LeWitt in designing the Temple Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek in Chester, CT]

… I see the star [that LeWitt designed for the front of the sanctuary, on the doors concealing the Torahs] as a new set of instructions, which in word form might say:

Life is beautiful. Live it.

Of course, Sol would never say such a thing, but I hear it in his work all the time.

My previous post from this book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

November 27, 2017

A Would-Be Picture

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:14 am

… they sensed its promise.

Continuing through Kant after Duchamp by Thierry de Duve (1996):

… Unlike Duchamp’s bottle rack or urinal, the blank canvas is a specific ready-made.

… Even before it is touched by the painter’s hand, it already belongs to the tradition of the Renaissance. While it is prepared to receive the traces of the painter’s brush and is thus no more than a support, as part of the artist’s materials, it has already incorporated, ready-made, the one convention established during the Renaissance — that one is to paint on a stretched canvas.

… You may become an artist without being a painter, but hardly without having been one. As we have seen, this holds true for all minimal and conceptual artists.

… The blank canvas is not a picture; it was one. It was a picture, a viable would-be picture, a potential picture, in the days when modernist painting had its tradition ahead of itself. For the modernist sensibility striving for purism and attuned to the “elements” of painting, the blank canvas’s potential to become a painting had an extraordinary aesthetic appeal.

[line break added] From Malevich to Mondrian, there is not one pioneer of abstract painting who didn’t respond to the appeal of the bare canvas. They were breaking with the past, relinquishing the strongest of all “expendable conventions,” namely figuration; they also thought of themselves as laying down the basic alphabet of a future culture. Although none of them actualized the blank canvas, they sensed its promise. Kandinsky, for example, in 1913, praised “this pure canvas that is itself as beautiful as a picture.” This sensibility accompanied the history of modernist painting all along.

[line break added] When, as early as 1940, Greenberg spoke of “the pristine flatness of the stretched canvas,” he was still surrendering to its magnetic appeal. In fact it is the Mallarmean seduction of the virgin canvas that is the secret center of convergence of modernism as “self-critical tendency” with formalism as “tropism towards aesthetic value as such.” And of course, it could keep this attractive power only as long as it was itself taboo.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

November 26, 2017

The Inability to Understand Stupid Conventions

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:55 am

… They grant the right not to understand, the right to confuse …

Continuing through the essay ‘Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel’ found in The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M.M. Bakhtin edited by Michael Holquist (1981):

… The novelist stands in need of some essential formal and generic mask that could serve to define the position from which he views life, as well as the position from which he makes that life public.

And it is precisely here, of course, that the masks of the clown and the fool (transformed in various ways) come to the aid of the novelist. These masks are not invented: they are rooted deep in the folk. they are linked with the folk through the fool’s time-honored privilege not to participate in life, and by the time-honored bluntness of the fool’s language; they are linked as well with the chronotope of the public square and with the trappings of the theater.

[line break added]  All of this is of the highest importance for the novel. At last a form was found to portray the mode of existence of a man who is in life, but not of it, life’s perpetual spy and reflector; at last specific forms had been found to reflect private life and make it public. (We might add here that the making-public of specifically nonpublic spheres of life — for example, the sexual sphere — is one of the more ancient functions of the fool. … )

… The primary level, the level of where the author makes his transformation, utilizes the images of the clown and the fool (that is, a naiveté expressed as the inability to understand stupid conventions). In the struggle against conventions, and against the inadequacy of all available life-slots to fit an authentic human being, these masks take on an extraordinary significance.

[line break added] They grant the right not to understand, the right to confuse, to tease, to hyperbolize life, the right to parody others while talking, the right to not be taken literally, not “to be oneself”; the right to live a life in the chronotope of the entr’acte, the chronotope of theatrical space, the right to act life as a comedy and to treat others as actors, the right to rip off masks, the right to rage at others with primeval (almost cultic) rage — and finally, the right to betray to the public a personal life, down to its most private and prurient little secrets.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

November 25, 2017

To Become Endlessly

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:55 am

… it is expressly designed to be born again from its ashes and to become endlessly what it has just been.

Continuing through the essay (taken from a speech) ‘Poetry and Abstract Thought’ found in Paul Valéry: An Anthology (1956: 1977):

… The world of the art of music, a world of sounds, is distinct from the world of noises. Whereas a noise merely rouses in us some isolated event — a dog, a door, a motor car — a sound evokes, of itself, the musical universe. If, in this hall where I am speaking to you and where you hear the noise of my voice, a tuning fork, or a well-tempered instrument began to vibrate, you would at once, as soon as you were affected by this pure and exceptional noise that cannot be confused with others, have the feeling of a beginning, the beginning of a world; a quite different atmosphere would immediately be created, a new order would arise, and you yourselves would unconsciously organize yourselves to receive it.

[line break added] The musical universe, therefore, was within you, with all its associations and proportions — as in a saturated salt solution a crystalline universe awaits the molecular shock of a minute crystal in order to declare itself.

[ … ]

… Walking, like prose, has a definite aim. It is an act directed at something we wish to reach. Actual circumstances, such as the need for some object, the impulse of my desire, the state of my body, my sight, the terrain, etc. which order the manner of walking, prescribe its direction and its speed, and give it a definite end. All the characteristics of walking derive from these instantaneous conditions, which combine in a novel way each time. There are no movements in walking that are not special adaptations, but, each time, they are abolished and, as it were, absorbed by the accomplishment of the act, by the attainment of the goal.

The dance is quite another mater. It is, of course, a system of actions; but of actions whose end is in themselves. It goes nowhere. If it pursues an object, it is only an ideal object, a state, an enchantment, the phantom of a flower, an extreme of life, a smile — which forms at last on the face of the one who summoned it from empty space.

It is therefore not a question of carrying out a limited operation whose end is situated somewhere in our surroundings, but rather of creating, maintaining, and exalting a certain state, by a periodic movement that can be executed on the spot; a movement which is almost entirely dissociated from sight, but which is simulated and regulated by auditive rhythms.

But please note this very simple observation, that however different the dance may be from walking and utilitarian movements, it uses the same organs, the same bones, the same muscles, only differently coordinated and aroused.

… But here is the great and decisive difference. When the man who is walking has reached his goal — as I said — when he has reached the place, book, fruit, the object of his desire (which desire drew him from his repose), this possession at once entirely annuls his whole act; the effect swallows up the cause, the end absorbs the means; and, whatever the act, only the result remains.

… The poem, on the other hand, does not die from having lived: it is expressly designed to be born again from its ashes and to become endlessly what it has just been. Poetry can be recognized by this property, that it tends to get itself reproduced in its own form: it stimulates us to reconstruct it identically.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

November 24, 2017

His Sunshine

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:30 am

” … for his sake all of history is put on the scale again.”

This is from the Introduction to Flesh of My Flesh by Kaja Silverman (2009):

Somewhere between the ages of six and eighteen months, we have been told, the typical infant is held up to a mirror by a parent or caretaker and encouraged to identify with its reflection. This identification creates something that did not previously exist: a self. But since the child is sunk in “nursling dependence” and is little more than a disorganized mass of motor responses, this identification is impossible to sustain. As soon as the mirror asserts its exteriority, the infant self begins to disintegrate.

[line break added] Only by overcoming the otherness of its newly emergent rival can the child reassemble the pieces. And because the subject’s identity will continue to be propped upon external images, its battle-to-the-death with its own mirror image is only the first installment in a life-long war between itself and everything else. This rivalry makes similarity even harder to tolerate than alterity, since the more an external object resembles the subject, the more it undercuts the latter’s claim to be unique and autonomous. Sometimes all that it takes to get the war machine up and running is a whiff of likeness.

… Although we are linked to each other through reversible and ontologically equalizing similarities, these similarities have no social efficacy unless they are acknowledged, and there is something within us that does not want to provide such acknowledgement. As Lacan helps us to see, this resistant force is the desire awakened in us by the impossible-to-satisfy demand that humanism makes upon us: the demand to be an “individual.” Since this aspiration cannot be satisfied as long as there are other beings, it turns them into rivals and enemies. It also gives us a dystopic view of our own multiplicity; when we fail to coincide with the mirrors in which we seek to find ourselves, we feel as if we are falling into ‘bits” and “pieces.”

A little bit from the first chapter of the book:

… “Only one man ever understood me,” Hegel is reputed to have said on his deathbed, “and [even] he didn’t understand me.” Although this story may not be historically verifiable, it conveys an allegorical truth: it reminds us that although the author of The Phenomenology of Spirit reifies the categories of master and slave, he never ceases to insist that the former depends upon the recognition of the latter. In Nietzsche’s late work, this is no longer the case. Zarathustra’s defining attribute is solitude. This does not mean that he has opted out of history; on the contrary, he is the maker of history.

[line break added] However, he does not need to live among other human beings to effect social change, because he has interiorized the categories of “master” and “slave.” Through a series of self-overcomings, in which each master turns into the slave of a new one, he will lift mankind to a higher level of development and bring the past into “his sunshine.” As Nietzsche remarks in The Gay Science, “Every great human being exerts a retroactive force: for his sake all of history is put on the scale again.”

Solitude is also the defining attribute of a number of other important figures from this period, including Proust, who spent the last three years of his life in a cork-lined room, and whose great novel begins “For a long time I would go to bed early”; Cézanne, who was too busy painting to attend his mother’s funeral, and Rodin, whose life was “stunted, like an organ [he] no longer need[ed].”

[line break added] These figures also inhabited the strange liminal temporality described by Nietzsche’s madman; they lived after God had died but before his corpse had arrived. Monotheism was in decline, but something closely related had taken its place; something that might be called “monomania.” That this self-preoccupation was almost always unhappy only functioned to strengthen its grip on the male psyche — to make it richer, deeper, and more exclusionary.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

November 23, 2017

And Made Me Feel So Full of Sun —

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:05 am

— The letter — just then — Everything about it — was just right — When it came — what it contained —

This is from My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, Volume 1, 1915-1933 edited by Sarah Greenough (2011). These bits are from the beginning of their relationship, when O’Keeffe had just arrived in Texas, to teach art at West Texas State Normal College:

Georgia O’Keeffe • [Canyon, Texas] • [November 4, 1916]

Tonight I’d like to paint the world with a broom — and I think I’d like great buckets of color like Hartley’s to start it with — lots of red — vermillion — and I don’t want to be careful of the floor — I just want to splash —

… And I worked all day after I went to school — that is four hours and at three we had Faculty Meeting —

Well, I like Faculty Meetings — I always get so riled up — I want to scalp someone — Education is such a mess when it’s bottled like they bottle it —

I want to live about three hundred years and see what happens — I think it’s terrible that I can’t —

— And I came home in the moonlight — still bright — warm moonlight — not even a coat — just my green smock — it’s absurd the way I love this garment — I had a bunch of Courses of Study from Middle West Normal that I’m going to study — I want to see if they are all stupid ( … I’m afraid they are … ) I just want to know how stupid —

And then I’m going to decide if it’s worth the trouble to fight and try to do some things here my way — I’m not sure that it’s worth the trouble — I get so terribly riled when I start to fight — it wears me all out —

And is it worth it? — I don’t know — They like things as they have it —

[ … ]

Georgia O’Keeffe • [Canyon, Texas] • November 13, [1916]

[ … ]

Why aren’t you here to argue with me — maybe tell me —
I’m glad you are not — I like to do it alone —
You couldn’t tell me anyway — I can only know by living — that’s why I want to live three hundred years — Maybe I’d know something.

[ … ]

Alfred Stieglitz • [New York City] • [November 18, 1916]

[ … ]

— It was late for lunch — but as we four were about leaving to go for a bite — the elevator boy handed me an envelope — four green stamps — two big official seals patching tears through the face of the envelope — The envelope must have burst open from the life within it. Fortunately — yes, very fortunately — the postal authorities discovered the gash in time to save the latter from dropping out — never reaching anyone —

And I wouldn’t have wanted to have that letter lost to me for anything in the world.

— The letter — just then — Everything about it — was just right — When it came — what it contained —

Perhaps it’s lucky for you you didn’t come yourself just then. — Something would have happened – Something that has never happened before. Perhaps I would have stood on my head in the middle of the Little Room! —
Something quite as mad — or funny —

— You may smile —

The lunch tasted fine. All were hungry. — Occasionally I took a peep at a page of the letter — I had taken some before we had left 291 — here & there — just to get the spirit — and the first few words I struck gave me the key —
And made me feel so full of sun —

[ … ]

Georgia O’Keeffe • [Canyon, Texas] • [November 30, 1916]

… This morning I got up while it was starlight and walked over to the cattle pens — Saw the cattle come in yesterday — about five hundred two-year-old white-faced Herefords — The noise they were making was great — I climbed up on top of the fence — it’s very high as fences go — watched them a long time — and the coming morning — They were afraid of me — open plains all round — town off on one side — daylight coming on the other —

When I got off the fence only two stars were left — I walked northeast — A train was coming way off — just a light with a trail of smoke — white — I walked toward it — The sun and the train got to me at the same time — It’s great to see that terrifically alive black thing coming at you in the big frosty stillness — and such wonderful smoke — When I turned — there was the sun — just a little streak — blazing in a moment — all blazing —
— I thought of you —

Supper — Tired —
The charcoal came — thanks —
I found my hat!
Be good to my little blue streaks on the wall — I feel as if I ought to stand up in front of them and hide them from some of the eyes —
Goodnight —
The hand — reaching for warmth — what — does anyone ever get it — anyway it reaches to tell you —
Goodnight —

My most recent previous post from this book is here.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

November 22, 2017

Lived Experience

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:57 am

… [Fiction] can provide tools for describing, testing and creating experience.

This is from Why Art Photography? by Lucy Soutter (2013):

… This [‘Fictive Documentary’] is not merely a reiteration of the postmodern idea of representations replacing reality but rather an argument about the validity of fiction as a mode of discovery and experience in and of itself.

… While fiction is a device for inventing characters and events that have never actually existed, many fictional worlds are realistic. In other words, fiction is fake, but its goal is to reflect something about the way in which life is experienced. Fiction is not experienced as a lie, because audiences recognize its artifice. We offer what Kermode calls our “conditional assent.” … Problems arise when the line between fictional and non-fictional genres is crossed.

… The mid-twentieth century model of documentary dovetailed with a belief in the autonomy of the work of art and in the photographer as an agent of political activism. The photographers in this chapter operate in a different model in which meaning is socially produced and works of art are contingent texts, potentially activated by the interpretations of their viewers. … [T]hey bring their viewers into an awareness of the circumstances surrounding the making of documentary images. In each case, we are not dealing merely with symbols and simulations but also with aspects of lived experience. As well as documenting real events to greater or lesser extent, these fictive documents provide the viewer with different models of experience.

Tangled up with political ideology, realism has been in constant crisis throughout the modern period. Writers and filmmakers have questioned and tested realist conventions in their own forms as photographers have in theirs. Photography’s physical, chemical link to patterns of light and shade in the world has too often fooled viewers into thinking that it was a medium of transcription rather than construction.

[line break added] The works described in this chapter do not discount or replace photographs made with more traditional documentary agendas but they begin to suggest some of the possibilities for photography as a medium for fiction. Fiction is not merely a mode for frivolous, diverting confections; it can provide tools for describing, testing and creating experience. Alain Robbe-Grillet, one of the theorists of the nouveau roman in the 1960s, made an eloquent pitch for fiction in his essay “From Realism to Reality”:

not only does each of us see in the world his own reality … the novel is precisely what creates it. The style of the novel does not seek to inform, as does the chronicle, the testimony offered in evidence, or the scientific report; it constitutes reality. It never knows what it is seeking, it is ignorant of what it has to say; it is invention, invention of the world and of man, constant invention and perpetual interrogation.

Contemporary photographers and audiences are exploring the ways in which photography might participate in this project of discovery.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

 

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

Blog at WordPress.com.