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Art: The Watch that Ticks Fast?

Found posted over at antagonist, this recounting of something Kafka said in passing on Picasso:

Recalling a visit with Kafka to an exhibition of French painting, Janousch reports that, in answer to a comment he made on on Picasso’s “rose coloured women with gigantic feet” which was to effect that Picasso was a “wilfull distortionist” Kafka replied: “I do not think so… He only registers the deformities which have not yet penetrated our consciousness. Art is a mirror, which goes ‘fast’, like a watch – sometimes”.

(from The Tremendous World I Have Inside My Head by Louis Begley)

Its odd that when you work to uncover an idea such as that which I excavated from Spinoza’s Letter 17, here: Spinoza’s Scheme of the Prophetic Imagination and here Omens of the Future: Intellection and Imagination, one stumbles upon it an even more extraordinary form. Here in the image of the fast clicking watch we have a romantic condensation of just that thought that governed Spinoza’s reasoning on affects of the future. And more, it was my unstated desire to suggest that indeed such a logic could underwrite some of the powers of art and political visioning. (It should be noted that Kafka has at least a tentative connection to Spinoza through the Jewish Prague circle with included Einstein: The Prague Esprit de Spinoza and Einstein’s Inception of General Relativity.)

But Kafka’s diagnosis of Picasso’s powers of depiction are eruptive. It is not merely the future that comes through the fast-ticking lens of the artist, but deformities which have not yet penetrated our consciousness. Amazing. Like long delayed stars’ light the great contortions of what we cannot imagine present themselves, and possibly those beauties. What seems conferred by art is a possibility from the potential of affects which totalize the soul, selected out through a logical intimacy with the times. What we CAN feel draw from the yet imagined possible of what we WILL feel.

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The Hockney-Falco Thesis: New Space

Ever Wonder How They Made that Fabric So Real?

 

I must write briefly here, but highly recommended is artist David Hockney’s Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters. I’ve had it for a few months as part of my investigation into Spinoza and lenses, but only today did I enter it. It enters like a film. First, it is a gorgeous book, filled which large format, glossy copies and enlarged details of some of the greatest painted images in Western History, (at a fairly inexpensive price). Second, is just the investigative and painterly-minded search that Hockney conducts. Apart from its value as a historical thesis (is it correct or not?), the simple following of an intuition and visual perspicuity across the centuries is invigorating in the most mental of senses. One sees through the track-finding eyes of a man who stakes his claim as a seer of images. But thirdly, and most importantly, is the intrusion of the lens and mirror upon the growing rational scene of Dutch thinking and art. Hockney documents a literal refiguration of space, the construction of new internal and aesthetic relations sprung up from the capacities of a found realist, representational technique. Not only are the possible technes of detail capture outlined and exhibited, but these technical discoveries are nuanced by Hockney to the degree that the restrictions and distortions that accompany the machine of a lens and mirror are made evident. As a space and figuration evolved, it was no longer simply a matter of capture or exactness, in expression, but the artist at that time had to synthesize his vision to his lens/mirror, synergistically, along with the newly imposed compositional restraints. The lens/mirror became a part of the eye-hand-brush-palette-easel-model-light source assemblage, creating a recursive event. As such there was, if Hockney is correct, such profusion of lens and mirror in the Dutch Republic in the 17th century, especially within the field of craft and aesthetic, one really cannot underplay the relation between these devices (and their compositional, experiential characteristics) and the philosophical conceptions of representation and perception that were one the rise. To represent was to focus.

Details of the Hockney-Falco Thesis can be found here, and wikiAlso Philip Steadman’s optical study of Vermeer Vermeer’s Camera, is painstakingly accurate and of very good use. Perhaps, for me, a conclusion will follow as to how this lens/mirror relation to aesthetic production helped shape the ideas of Spinoza, the lens-maker.

Ever Wonder How Space Could Be So Stablized by Detail, But Still Could Wobble?