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What happened to nature?
Olena {The Wizard} Shmahalo (29)
New York
Immortal since Aug 5, 2009
Uplinks: 0, Generation 3

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    Geometry in The Garden

    I felt that "White on White" was important, but I couldn't explain it. I kept talking and jumping, not sure which histories were familiar and which were totally foreign, what could be grasped, what needed detailing... and finally we got somewhere, but I wasn't sure if it was the same place.

    I hate talking, I always get lost, forget things, and try to reach for things like they're floating somewhere just above my head but... where did they go? So I write, and pin them down, and take out the Google and the dictionary and the thesaurus and my archives, and they help me catch the floating things.

    Then I tried to write about "White..." and it sat in my email for a week or so and it felt pretentious and I kept thinking about how it felt that way because thinking too heavily about anything feels that way, probably as a result of democratic flattening.

    And then there was { A coincidental map }:

    { dvdp } › { The Divided Brain } › { TM&HE Wiki } › { Origin of Consciousness }
    { wildcat } › { Origin of Consciousness }

    Iain McGilchrist juxtaposed drawings (in his { original lecture }, ~ 15:00) executed be the left and right hemispheres together, then one or the other activated. The images from both hemispheres working together were closest to what we see, actually, while the left-only were symbol-like and the right-only were more illustrative, picture-like.

    This all doesn't suggest that we should pay attention, again, to that (wrong) model of a separated brain that was popular and still hasn't been properly halted due to that momentum, but, to summarize the { animated "Divided Brain" lecture }, the left hemisphere narrowly focuses while the right keeps broadly vigilant, and the point is to keep a balance of the two.

    But, what reminded me most of what I tried to say, were the pictures at { 15:05 }.

    That whole section, actually, is like a brief caricature of the push-and-pull in the arts and the understanding of the arts between (what's popularly perceived as)-realism and the abstract.

    And I thought, initially, that writing about it would be better... but instead I want to just set some things in motion, because writing seems too committed, too archaic. It's from a time when things were printed, pressed, and permanence was sort of believed in. Because, actually, I'm not confident that this won't change, won't need change... is anything, now, not a notebook? Then...

    The problem is, most people think that modern art, if not art in general, is bullshit, and/or that it isn't for them to understand. Although I can't say it's entirely wrong, it's more like a myth made up from some few facts, blown out of proportion, and that has gained too much momentum.
    "Art is a lie that tells the truth" — Picasso's phrase can be applied to most works. Art can and often means to tell something that is otherwise silenced or ignored, or unnoticed. It means to suggest something, like a new perspective.

    In my mind, I kept juxtaposing { "White on White" } with Seurat's { "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island..." } — totally different, yet they stem from a common goal. They share a common suggestion: that 'the world is not all that is the case.' { (A Madman...vs Wittegenstein) }.

    I'm not sure why I thought of "A Sunday Afternoon...". Maybe the colors, since it contrasts the monochrome white. But I think, mostly, that for me that image symbolized the arbitrary as it's held up by that middle class, pictured, lazy on a Sunday afternoon, and having no conception that their setting is totally unreal. By arbitrary, I mean those "things" that mean nothing outside of a particular space-time, that are accidents in the universe. By held up, I mean that it's taken seriously, as if its reality had the same kind of consistency and solidity as a physical law. For those people in the image, their costume, their parasols, and their behavior are concrete — they tell something about who those people are, and they're actually important, especially socially. Because of that immediate importance, it seems like that woman, standing in the dress with the butt-pouf, can scarcely imagine wearing anything else or behaving in any other way. Her likeness indicates that she's probably educated, polite, maybe a member of the gentry. If she could imagine anything else, she'd never act on it — it would be wrong, morally.

    For the subjects, their scene is solid, and they behave accordingly within it. That's funny, considering the manner of depiction — pointillism. { Pointillism } stemmed from impressionism: like the latter, it was a way of communicating that (except for the few humans in the world with photographic memories) what we see is fleeting and what we take away from what we've seen is an impression. An impression of a woman there, something large and orange there, someone whose face we can't quite make out after the fact.

    (...I was going to say that our memory is composed of "big pictures" and that it's actually hard to remember details unless they're important but... it isn't true. It's sort of true, some of the time. And other times I do actually remember that the flower in her hat was orange. Or red? Anyway.)

    In conversation, a person expressed to me his opinion of impressionists; something like: "They're full of shit; I don't see that way!" in response to the idea that those painters were trying to paint as they actually saw, rather than the theater expressed by the realists, prior to modern art. Realism aimed to convince that paint on a canvas was actually sort of a window, and it had to be convincing for the sake of its power — the closer to reality, the more immersive a thing can be, the more it can hold on to its viewer and again, convince him that he should participate (mentally) in the pictured events, as if they're real life. That's an important ability, especially in terms of religion and politics, the two main sources of patronage for the arts until modernity. (even religion, primarily Christianity and its variations, whose focus is on the non-physical, explained the world in entirely local, human terms. God was modeled after humans, and proclaimed it was the other way around.)

    In that aforementioned conversation, the gap that wasn't bridged was that the person expected "seeing" to mean the literal kind of seeing, which we talk about when we go to the eye doctor, versus the kind that means "to experience".

    Contrast all that with "White on White". There's nothing in it, nothing recognizable from nature. (But it's like those left-hemisphere drawings of cubes, so maybe it is recognizable, if only for the Left.) It proclaims itself to be an image, while simultaneously reaching for the infinite. Like the pointillism of "A Sunday Afternoon...", the Suprematism & abstraction of "White..." asks us, as viewers, to suspend out belief not only in images in general, but actually in the image of our world. There's much more to { Suprematism } (and abstraction) than this, but it does say, "your experience, which seems solid, is false". It reminds me of Eames' film, { "The Powers of Ten" }: it begins at a picnic, and proceeds out into space and back into the most basic constituents of our being. Neither in space, nor in the atom world, is a picnic actually real. It's only human, and in terms of the universe, it's totally arbitrary. It would never matter, if a picnic never existed, because nothing depends on it except in a very local, one-dimensional way. (This is also counter to Plato's { Theory of Forms }). But the atom and the universe — they are closer to the abstract, their worlds are sometimes "shapeless" (globular), sometimes geometric, sometimes invisible, sometimes mathematical only... and those are the only things that last, that have always been, that will always be (as far as we know). What exists as we perceive it, only has to follow the rules of those abstract worlds. Their physical laws. Everything else is re-arrangeable, and except to those arrangements with a certain level of consciousness (which arises, most likely, from their physical capacities to experience), it doesn't matter.

    Malevich's paintings, radical in 1918, are familiar now. But they, and abstraction in general, or modern art even more generally, as still not understood. Even when, infrequently, they are understood, it's only in a detached way. A dismissive way. The person understanding might acknowledge the proposed perception, but they don't bring it into themselves, don't "try it". (To paraphrase McGilchrist, you cannot just "transmit" knowledge to another; they must have it within.) It's too far away from what's known, and it's hard to imagine what to do if you accept that your most immediate experience, your most familiar, is arbitrary. And, it's dangerous. How could we behave well in our societies, how could we live, if we're no longer convinced of our own surroundings, our things, the pictures of our selves?

    But how can we continue to live, having been introduced to the infinite, knowing that our perception is so flat and limited, if we don't admit that it's not solid? That actually, there are no floating images in the sky, serving as a basis for our chairs, our sweaters, our selves? That actually, outside of the human world, "A Sunday Afternoon" is every bit as abstract as a white square?

    When the conviction of solidity evaporates, creativity is left. The system is left. The fact that one still must experience the world in whatever form they formed into, is left. What can a human, with his abilities and limitations, do in this physical universe-system? What do we actually want, in universal terms? To live, to experience, to grow, to evolve, to follow our curiosity, to what?

    I can't help it... I keep thinking about { The System }: the massive universe-system of invisible non-things that move and gather and assemble into larger non-things and then things and all of their/its levels — all of the Universe's levels — function and move some more and follow branches only sort of randomly into various points of complexity and those complex things struggle to understand themselves, or they don't — some of them just eat, sleep, and maybe don't understand. What are they doing? What does it want, if anything?

    And isn't that type of perception — the simultaneous focusing on any and all magnifications of "reality"/the system — a type of balancing of the hemispheres?


    But it feels so incredibly far away, when faced with immediate reality. Socks, chairs, work, money, umbrellas, petticoats, etc.

    How can the thing experience itself if it does so only locally, only by creating arbitrary mimicries, distractions, things?


    "White on White" via { futureness }
    "Un dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte" { Wiki }

    Mon, Nov 21, 2011  Permanent link

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    Wildcat     Tue, Nov 22, 2011  Permanent link
    Your thoughtful rumination is highly conductive and interesting Olena, thanks.

    "How can the thing experience itself if it does so only locally, only by creating arbitrary mimicries, distractions, things? "

    this question demands further exploration, down the rabbit hole (whole?), primarily a resolution to the understanding of self-experience - does the thing in fact experience itself? maychance the idea that no thing experiences itself but through the agency of other things can help..
    Olena     Tue, Nov 22, 2011  Permanent link
    I think I take it for granted (but only sort of, since it's also questionable) that the universe-thing does experience itself... but that's a Sagan-ism. "We are a way for the Cosmos to know itself". You know.

    The idea that a thing experiences by way of other things... that reminds me of the "Man vs Nature" paradigm [I keep blogging about]. Because, it's funny... I have no problem with that idea; I think it's true especially in terms of physics (it reminds me of the way Gell-Mann talks about measurements/observations in The Quark and the Jaguar: there's an example of something like a vein in a rock, caused by some atoms passing through... that's a thing happening, being measured, observing itself by way of another thing)

    Anyway, the funny part is that I think we, and thus the things we create, should be considered no less natural than any space rock or tree, but since the things we create are part of a narrative, like props in a play, I have trouble connecting with the play itself. I don't know if the play is "natural", because of how arbitrary it can be. Any immersive scene can be a reality, but does it have anything to do with what's "outside"? That's just the Cave analogy, now.

    Maybe it's just sheer boredom at some point. We have no idea how to be "universe", but we're complex enough to invent all sorts of other roles and storylines, so we can wear pants and go to the bank and that replaces just staring at the sky and eating.

    So if the universe-thing is self-experiencing through it's limbs (and we are one of those branches) then, does our theater actually reflect it? In a basic way, I think, yes. If you look at us as complex animals doing things that seem very complicated, but at the bottom of which there are actually just very basic, universal goals. Kind of like this game, Osmos: the point is, basically, to become large.

    ...But if you look at it in the way where you're convinced of the theater, convinced of wearing a neck-tie and of the importance of Elvis... I don't know about all that. It seems like some branch of the universe, then, just going off in some direction, into itself... I'm not sure if we can call it growing, yet, because it hasn't created anything self-sufficient, besides reproducing amongst itself, and it's doing all that while wearing these weird gloves and calling it Serious Business.
    gamma     Tue, Nov 22, 2011  Permanent link
    Let me just mention the photograph above. I opened this post because it had comments and was favored. Wham! White on white is excellent! Who would think something like that would happen. I see depth, squares within squares. The inner square is the bottom, but it also represents a layer that is wider than the inner square. It is a window into a new world.

    The second painting is socially safe, but as a semi-transparent, colored window, it is perfectly colored. It has nice Windows colors, so it speaks about the outside even though it is spoiling it completely. The world is not all that is the case. Let us include the subconscious, whose modulations are changing the world.

    Anyway, the funny part is that I think we, and thus the things we create, should be considered no less natural than any space rock or tree, but since the things we create are part of a narrative, like props in a play, I have trouble connecting with the play itself.

    Well, I consider having conversations free from my personal interest in which I do not question the person formally about his work and history. Then the person would be just a phenomenon, free from what he can or cannot be in my vicinity. The choices will occur, I estimate - I need to use wit and effort to arrive even to such situations, hence I am influencing the speakers. Maybe there is a better, freer observation of a man, whom I'd call an event full of jerky muscle twitches.

    "Motor control could be our best capability"

    (To paraphrase McGilchrist, you cannot just "transmit" knowledge to another; they must have it within.)

    I think that no one thinks today that anything other than the brain thinks. Thinking comes from the chaos that ranges right down to the motion of molecules. Perception seems to include hierarchical interpretation of data. In my opinion, the integration of data into the conscious experience, conveniently called WhAmAlLaMaN!, is based on copying sets of data around the brain from one zone to another.