the whole world burns

Archive for category 'aesthetics'

Art and the unsynthesised manifold

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The "unsynthesised manifold" is, in the original sense, everything that is out there, regardless of whether we perceive it or not. As we can't sensibly talk about matters of which we are unaware, we can use the expression more usefully to describe the endless flood of undifferentiated sensory data we accumulate throughout our waking hours. Our conscious and subconscious attempts at organising this stuff and getting it to make a kind of sense are attempts at synthesis. Because of the way the brain routinely edits and translates the raw data, what we perceive is not reality itself but a model of reality as encoded by our individual software, even before we start trying consciously to make sense of it. Most of what we perceive evades conceptualisation, and is neither dreamed nor recollected, though sometimes we can fish it out under hypnosis.

If we are to comprehend the art object, we must turn off as much of the incoming noise as we can, and enter the silent space created by the work. It is as if, out of the roar of spam that is cyberspace, we were to receive a single one-word email. We have to agree, if only momentarily, to read it, even though the one word might be "nothing". Every time an artist constructs a word in neon and hangs it on the wall of a gallery, she or he invokes this moment of silence.

Walter Pater, in the the conclusion of "The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry"

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The service of philosophy, of speculative culture, towards the human spirit, is to rouse, to startle it to a life of constant and eager observation. Every moment some form grows perfect in hand or face; some tone on the hills or the sea is choicer than the rest; some mood of passion or insight or intellectual excitement is irresistibly real and attractive to us, -- for that moment only. Not the fruit of experience, but experience itself, is the end. A counted number of pulses only is given to us of a variegated, dramatic life. How may we see in them all that is to seen in them by the finest senses? How shall we pass most swiftly from point to point, and be present always at the focus where the greatest number of vital forces unite in their purest energy?

To burn always with this hard, gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.

Small things, links and miscellany, sparkling with light. Sam's tumblelog.

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