Monday, 17 December 2012

willeme / sedan / 1870

Photographer: F. Willeme. Ruins in the town of Bazeilles after the battle of Sedan during the Franco-Prussian War. 1870.

Ni dieu ni maître!

The Commune of 1871

On 12 April 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel into outer space. In his space capsule he carried the remnant of the red flag flown over the Hotel de Ville in the heart of the Paris Commune in 1870.
the French insurrectionist Louis-Auguste Blanqui (1805-81), ... spent most of his adult life in prison, and whom Walter Benjamin (writing in the 1930s) judged the most famous revolutionary before Lenin. Blanqui was elected as leader in absentia by the Paris Communards who offered to release hostages in exchange for him, but were refused, and it was in the wake of the Commune’s failure that Blanqui wrote his cosmological treatise L’Eternite par les astres (1873). In an infinite universe made from atoms of a finite number of types, Blanqui argues, the same combinations must arise again and again.
“The entire universe is composed of stellar systems. In order to create them nature has only one hundred simple bodies at its disposal… Every star, whatever it might be, thus exists in infinite number in time and space, not only in one of its aspects, but as it is found in every second of its duration, from birth until death… What I write now in a cell in the fort of Taureau I wrote and will write under the same circumstances for all of eternity, on a table, with a pen, wearing clothing… The number of our doubles is infinite in time and space… These aren’t phantoms: they are the now eternalized.”
Whereas Tegmark emphasises spatial repetition and variation (the idea that there is another “you” reading this article right now), Blanqui additionally highlights temporal repetition, leading him to conclude that progress is illusory; everything that can possibly happen has already occurred. It was this aspect that led Benjamin to see Blanqui’s cosmology as a precursor to the doctrine of eternal recurrence in Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra (1883-5).
In The Arcades Project, Benjamin considers Blanqui’s significance as both revolutionary conspirator and pseudo-scientist, concluding that Blanqui’s cosmology is a capitulation to the principles of bourgeois capitalism that Blanqui had spent all his life fighting against. Blanqui’s multiverse is, says Benjamin, “the phantasmagoria of history”, a nightmare projection of capitalism itself. 

Andrew Crumey

burke // the radical's arms

monument mobbed

The equestrian statue of Frederick the Great in Berlin is decorated – and mobbed – in celebration of the German victory over the French at the Battle of Sedan, September 1-2, 1870.

Lost allegorical sculpture /// work of Francois Willeme // l'angleterre venant au secours de la France 

At no point in time, no matter how utopian, will anyone win the masses over to a higher art; they can be won over only to one that is nearer to them. And the difficulty consists precisely in finding a form for that art such that, with the best conscience in the world, one could hold that it is a higher art. This will never happen with most of what is propagated by the avant-garde of the bourgeoisie. … The masses positively require from the work of art … something that is warming. Here the flame most readily kindled is hatred.   WB konvolut K

There is one notable dead tree . . . the inscape markedly holding its most simple and beautiful oneness up from the ground through a graceful swerve below (I think) the spring of the branches up to the tops of the timber. I saw the inscape freshly, as if my mind were still growing, though with a companion the eye and the ear are for the most part shut and instress cannot come.  GMH


Saturday, 15 December 2012

time travel// parallel photography

one moment /// many points of view
reversed panopticon
the crowd executes the sovereign
a revolutionary device

“The idea is a monad. The being that enters into it, with its past and subsequent history, brings – concealed in its own form – an indistinct abbreviation of the rest of the world of ideas, just as, according to Leibniz’s Discourse on Metaphysics (1686) , every single monad contains, in an indistinct way, all the others… The idea is a monad – that means briefly: every idea contains the image of the world. The purpose of the representation of the idea is nothing less than an abbreviated outline of this image of the world.”
Benjamin encapsulates his monadological theory in a famous astronomical metaphor: “Ideas are to objects as constellations are to stars”. The constellation becomes Benjamin’s term for the configuration or network of ideas that create, so to speak, a holographic image (an “abbreviation”) of the world in its entirety. His subsequent career was to be devoted to mapping such constellations. 
The constellation became the “dialectical image”, a view of history reachable only from a particular perspective, in much the same way that a stellar constellation such as Orion can take the form we see, only when viewed from our own planet at this particular time (since its stars are actually unrelated, lying at very different distances from Earth, and are all in motion with respect to each other). The image is “dialectical” in the sense of our engagement with it: we actively bring it into being, and the knowledge it produces can bring about change. Despite the apparent idealism of Benjamin’s theory, the constellation or dialectical image remains an abbreviation of objective fact and historical truth. Leibniz had already expressed something like this in Monadology (1714): "And just as the same town when seen from different sides will seem quite different, and as it were multiplied perspectivally, the same thing happens here: because of the infinite multitude of simple substances it is as if there were as many different universes; but they are all perspectives on the same one, according to the different point of view of each monad."

Benjamin Arcades    Y PHOTOGRAPHY / 689

It was the pantograph, whose principle is equally at work in the physiognotrace, that undertook to transcribe automatically a linear scheme originally traced on paper to a plaster mass, as required by the process of photosculpture­. Serving as model in this process were 24 simultaneous views taken from different sides. Gautier forsees no threat to sculpture from this process. What can prevent the sculptor from artistically enlivening the mechanically produced figure and its ground? “But there is more: for all its extravagance, the century remains economical. Pure art seems to it something expensive. With the cheekiness of a parvenu, it sometimes dares to haggle over masterworks. It is terrifeied of marble and bronze.. But photosculpture is not so daunting as statuary… Photosculpture is used to modest proportions and is content with a set of shelves for pedestal, happy to have faithfully reproduced a beloved countenance.. It does not disdain an overcoat, and is not embarrasses by crinolines; it accepts nature and the world as they are. Its sincerity accommodates everything, and though its plaster casts of stearin can be transposed into marble, into terracotta, into alabaster, or bronze… it never asks, in return for its work, what its elder sister would demand in payment; it requsests only the cost of materials.’ Theophile Gautier / Photosculpture: 42 Boulevard de L’Etoile 

The Seven Old Men

To Victor Hugo

Teeming, swarming city, city full of dreams,
Where specters in broad day accost the passer-by!
Everywhere mysteries flow like the sap in a tree
Through the narrow canals of the mighty giant.

One morning, while in a gloomy street the houses,
Whose height was increased by the mist, simulated
The quais of a swollen river, and while
— A setting that was like the actor's soul —

A dirty yellow fog inundated all space,
I was following, steeling my nerves like a hero,
Arid arguing with my already weary soul,
A squalid street shaken by the heavy dump-carts.

Suddenly an old man whose tattered yellow clothes
Were of the same color as the rainy heavens,
And whose aspect would have brought him showers of alms
If his eyes had not gleamed with so much wickedness,

Appeared to me. One would have said his eyes were drenched
With gall; his look sharpened the winter's chill,
And his long shaggy beard, like that of Judas,
Projected from his chin as stiffly as a sword.

He was not bent over, but broken; his back-bone
Made with his legs a perfect right angle,
So that his stick, completing the picture,
Gave him the appearance and clumsy gait

Of a lame quadruped or a three-legged Jew.
He went hobbling along in the snow and the mud
As if he were crushing the dead under his shoes;
Hostile, rather than indifferent to the world,

His likeness followed him: beard, eye, back, stick, tatters,
No mark distinguished this centenarian twin,
Who came from the same hell, and these baroque specters
Were walking with the same gait toward an unknown goal.

Of what infamous plot was I then the object,
Or what evil chance humiliated me thus?
For I counted seven times in as many minutes
That sinister old man who multiplied himself!

Let him who laughs at my disquietude,
And who is not seized with a fraternal shudder,
Realize that in spite of such decrepitude
Those hideous monsters had an eternal look!

Could I, without dying, have regarded the eighth,
Unrelenting Sosia, ironic and fatal,
Disgusting Phoenix, son and father of himself?
— But I turned my back on that hellish procession.

Exasperated like a drunk who sees double,
I went home; I locked the door, terrified,
Chilled to the bone and ill, my mind fevered, confused,
Hurt by that mysterious and absurd happening!

Vainly my reason tried to take the helm;
The frolicsome tempest baffled all its efforts,
And my soul, old sailing barge without masts,
Kept dancing, dancing, on a monstrous, shoreless sea!

— William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)

speculum obscurum

1. Cor. 13.12
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

Hold up a dark glass with a light behind it, and you will see whatever is on the other side, if only dimly or partially, as in St. Paul's speculum obscurum . If the light is in front of the glass, nothing behind it will be visible, but your reflection will be discernible on its surface, as in a polished mirror. Shattter the glass, and each broken shard will be transparent or reflective, depending upon its position. The human face acts like a dark glass that is alternately transparent, reflective and fractured.

Preface // Ghost in the Shell // Photography and the human soul// Sobieszek // MIT Press

black holes/ white walls ... D/G

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Sculpture as the Sum of Its Profiles:François Willème and Photosculpture in France, 1859-1868

Between 1859 and 1868, the French sculptor François Willème perfected two distinct methods for producing sculptural portraits by photographic and mechanical means. Both were founded on the principle that the reassembly of the various "profiles" of a subject would yield a recognizable and complete likeness. The use of mechanical tools, derived in part from those of Collas and Sauvage, would provide for a realistic objectivity, while the finishing of the model by hand would guarantee the final product as a work of art. The apex of photosculpture's popularity and the critical discussions about it - by Théophile Gautier and others - coincided with the early work of Auguste Rodin in which he shared with Willème a fundamental system of "profiles comparées."

 Robert A. Sobieszek The Art Bulletin Vol. 62, No. 4 (Dec., 1980), pp. 617-630

our reconstruction of Willème's apparatus

Photosculpture de la comtesse Walewska

8000 years old

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness

And he said unto them, Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness. And they could not in three days expound the riddle.

See here a helmet which a fearless soldier previously wore and which was often spattered with enemy blood. After peace was won, it retired to be used as a narrow hive for bees; it holds honey-combs and nice honey. - Let weapons lie far off; let it be right to embark on war only when you cannot in any other way enjoy the art of peace.

Samson went down to Timnah together with his father and mother. As they approached the vineyards of Timnah, suddenly a young lion came roaring toward him. The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat. But he told neither his father nor his mother what he had done. Then he went down and talked with the woman, and he liked her.
Some time later, when he went back to marry her, he turned aside to look at the lion’s carcass, and in it he saw a swarm of bees and some honey. He scooped out the honey with his hands and ate as he went along. When he rejoined his parents, he gave them some, and they too ate it. But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey from the lion’s carcass.
10 Now his father went down to see the woman. And there Samson held a feast, as was customary for young men. 11 When the people saw him, they chose thirty men to be his companions.
12 “Let me tell you a riddle,” Samson said to them. “If you can give me the answer within the seven days of the feast, I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes. 13 If you can’t tell me the answer, you must give me thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes.”
“Tell us your riddle,” they said. “Let’s hear it.”
14 He replied,
“Out of the eater, something to eat;
    out of the strong, something sweet.”
For three days they could not give the answer.
15 On the fourth day, they said to Samson’s wife, “Coax your husband into explaining the riddle for us, or we will burn you and your father’s household to death. Did you invite us here to steal our property?”
16 Then Samson’s wife threw herself on him, sobbing, “You hate me! You don’t really love me. You’ve given my people a riddle, but you haven’t told me the answer.”
“I haven’t even explained it to my father or mother,” he replied, “so why should I explain it to you?” 17 She cried the whole seven days of the feast. So on the seventh day he finally told her, because she continued to press him. She in turn explained the riddle to her people.
18 Before sunset on the seventh day the men of the town said to him,
“What is sweeter than honey?
    What is stronger than a lion?”
Samson said to them,
“If you had not plowed with my heifer,
    you would not have solved my riddle.”
19 Then the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. He went down to Ashkelon, struck down thirty of their men, stripped them of everything and gave their clothes to those who had explained the riddle. Burning with anger, he returned to his father’s home. 20 And Samson’s wife was given to one of his companions who had attended him at the feast.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Levinas /// Trace /// Other

But a trace in the strict sense disturbs the order of the world. It occurs by overprinting.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

spaces between

He can boast an extraordinary discovery; he was the first to perceive the revolutionary energies that appear in the "outmoded", in the first iron constructions, the first factory buildings, the earliest photos, the objects that have begun to be extinct, grand pianos, the dresses of five years ago, fashionable restaurants when the vogue has begun to ebb from them. The relation of these things to revolution - no one can have a more exact concept of it than these authors. No one before these visionaries and augurs perceived how destitution - not only social but architectonic, the poverty of interiors, enslaved and enslaving objects - can be suddenly transformed into revolutionary nihilism ... Breton and Nadja are the lovers who convert everything we have experienced on mournful railway journeys ... on Godforsaken Sunday afternoons in the proletarian quarters of the great cities, in the first glance of the rain-blurred window of a new apartment, into revolutionary experience, if not action. They bring the immense forces of "atmosphere" concealed in these things to the point of explosion.