the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

Archive for September, 2010

quotes: shakespeare’s genius

Posted by rigorousm on September 23, 2010

Style is… a penetration of the world, an adventuresome safari through daily life. …
A self is a frightening thing to waste, it’s the lens through which one’s whole life is viewed, and few people are willing to part with it, in death, or even imaginatively, in art. Shakespeare was a master of empathy and surrender, who gave himself to the human dramas he saw daily, figuring out how he would feel if doing or saying certain things. He became a crowd. I don’t imagine this is something one turns on and off very easily, or suddenly decides to try; he probably imagined himself as others often, secretly, from childhood on. … Most people won’t be pried loose from the single word I, which is, in the end, our only possession.

– Diane Ackerman, An Alchemy of Mind: The Marvel and Mystery of the Brain, p. 225.


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quotes: on repetition

Posted by rigorousm on September 23, 2010

‘Repetition is a form of change,’ Brian Eno once said, summing up the minimalist ethos. Repetition is inherent in the science of sound: tones move through space in periodic waves. It is also inherent in the way the mind processes the outside world. So, in a sense, minimalism is a return to nature. At the same time, repetition underpins all technological existence. Robert Fink, in a cultural study of the movement, acknowledges that minimalism often mimics the sped-up, numbed-out repetitions of consumer culture, the incessant relations of commercial jingles on TV. But he argues that the minimalists deliver a kind of silent crtique of the world as it is. They locate depths in surfaces, slowness in rapid motion. Borrowing a nelogism from the musicologist Christopher Small, Fink writes: ‘Repetitive musicking rarely express a longing for authentic relationships that don’t exist, and in this way has at least the virtue of honesty that more traditionally avant-garde music often lacks. More often repetitive music provides an acknowledgement, a warning, a defense — or even just an aesthetic thrill– in the face of the myriad repetitive relationships that, in late-capitalist consumer society, we all must face over and over (and over and over…). We repeated ourselves into this culture. We might be able to repeat ourselves out.

– Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise, p. 511.

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quotes: wyeth on materials

Posted by rigorousm on September 23, 2010

To me, pencil drawing is a very emotional, very quick, very abrupt medium…. Any medium is an abstract medium, I suppose, but to me pencil is more abstract because is is an outline. … You must not be afraid of it, though. Pencil is sort of like fencing or shooting. You make a thrust at your opponent yet you must be ready to recover into the on-guard position, and when you thrust you must not think that you will miss the mark… Either you hit it or miss it, but you must have no hesitation. (31)
The only virtue to a watercolor is to put down an idea very quickly without too much thought about what you feel at the moment… Watercolor shouldn’t behave…. (32)
I really like tempera because it has a coccon-like feeling of dry lostness — almost a lonely feeling.
There’s something incredibly lasting about the material, like an Egyptian mummy, a marvelous beehive or hornet’s nest. The medium itself is a very lasting one, too, because the pure method of the dry pigment and egg yolk is terrifically sticky…. It takes tempera about six months or more to dry and then you can take a scrubbing brush to it and you won’t be able to scrubb of that final hardness. (34)
Emotion is my bulwark… it’s the only thing that endures, finally. If you are emotionally involved, you’re not going to be easily changed. But if it’s a purely technical experience that’s going to be very short-lived. Both technical and emotional have got to be on even terms to be good. (41)

– Thomas Hoving – The Two Worlds of Andrew Wyeth: A Conversation with Andrew Wyeth

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quotes: californiac

Posted by rigorousm on September 23, 2010

…Within two miles of the Pacific rounding
this long bay, sheening the light for miles
inland, floating its fog through redwood rifts and over
strawberry and antichoke fields, its bottomless mind
returning always to the same rocks, the same cliffs, with
ever-changing words, always the same language
— this is where I live now. If you had known me
once, you’d still know me now though in a different
light and life. this is no place you ever knew me.
But it would not surprise you
to find me here, walking in fog, the sweep of the great ocean eluding me,
even the curve of the bay, because as always
I fix on the land. I am stuck to earth. What I love here
is old ranches, leaning seaward, lowroofed spreads between rocks
small canyons running through pitched hillsides
liveoaks twisted on steepness, the eucalyptus avenue leading to the wrecked homestead, the fog wreathed heavy-chested cattle on their blond hills… These are not the roads
you knew me by.

– Adrienne Rich, “I.” from An Atlas of the Difficult World: Poems 1988-1991.

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quotes: naming/abstraction

Posted by rigorousm on September 23, 2010

What is naming for? It has to do, surely, with the primal power of words, to define, to enumerate, to allow mastery and manipulation; to move from the realm of objects and images to the world of concepts and names. A drawing of an oak tree depicts a particular tree, but the name “oak” denotes the entire class of oak trees, a general identity– “oakhood” — that applies to all oaks. Giving names, then…. was his first grasp of a generalizing power that could transform the entire world….

– Oliver Sacks – Seeing Voices: a journey into the world of the deaf, p. 48.

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quotes: on sharing yrself

Posted by rigorousm on September 23, 2010

… as immunologist Gerald N. Callahan observes in Faith, Madness, and Spontaneous HUman Combustion, we safely trade bits of self with loved ones all the time. Couples pick up some of each other’s mannerisms, accents, habits, ideas. But we also absorb people in more visceral ways. When we pass along a flu or cold sore, for instance, viruses pack some of our proteins and lipids in the viral envelope and release them inside another person, who will store some in his or her lymph nodes. Retroviruses — such as AIDS, for instance– can install pieces of someone else’s DNA in one’s chromosomes. But we’re probably swapping gene fragments with peopleĀ  all the time because “over the course of an intimate relationship, we collect a lot of pieces of someone else…. Until one day what remains is truly and thoroughly a mosaic, a chimera — part man, part woman, part someone, part someone else.” Little by little, as bits of DNA make it to our chromosomes, intimate relationships help shape the immune system’s cameo of us, and modify the brain, altering the self whose continuity we cherish. We don’t just get under each other’s skin, we absorb people. Everyone we’ve ever loved remains with us, and we’re invisibly changed for having known them. That will make some people feel queasy, I suppose, but it warms me.

– Diane Ackerman – An Alchemy of Mind: The Marvel and Mystery of the Brain, pp. 129-130.

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quote: sensationalism as art

Posted by rigorousm on September 8, 2010

Because, in this war of mentalities, normality is presented as a crime, art qua crime-fighting medium is able to invoke extraordinary intervention orders. (80)

…the so-called postmodern is not toally wrong to define itself as the anti-explicit and anti-extremist reaction to modernity’s aesthetic and analytic terrorism. (80)

Aesthetic modernity is a procedure of applying force not against people or things, but against unexplained cultural relations. (79)

Before long many moderns appeared to have forgotten Hegel’s fundamental principle of modern philosophy, whose analogues in aesthetic production would be: that the depth of a thought can be measured only by its power of elaboration — otherwise depth is no more than an empty symbol of unresolved latency. (75)

Dali also clung to a decidedly anti-critical romantic concept of the ambassador-artist qua delegate of a profoundly meaningful “great beyond” who wanders among the unenlightened. But this gesture betrays Dali as an imperious amateur, given over to the illusion of using an exacting technical device for the expression of metaphysical kitsch. Such is exemplary of the user mindset; whereby, in childlike fashion, one leaves the technical side of one’s own performance to specialists, the competence of whom one has not bothered to verify. Moreover, the fact that the scene [in which Dali gave a lecture while wearing a diving suit and was nearly suffocated by the lack of oxygen flow as the audience watched him struggle with uncomprehending delight] was unrehearsed betrays the artist’s merely literary competence with technical structures. (77)

– Sloterdijk, Terror from the Air

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