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mfa: Aesthetic

mfa: [Intro] [Aesthetics] [creativity] [modeling] [tools] [Text] [ZeitRaum - Time/Space] See also: On this page: Part 1: {Introduction} {Line} {Shadow and Light} {Time} {Surface} {Repetition {Authenticity} {Sound and Silence} {Gesture} -_ {Movement} {Stillness} Part 2: {The Aesthetics of Words} {The Aesthetic of Poem} {The Aesthetics of Text} {The Aesthetics of Story} {The Aesthetics of Spoken Silence} Part 3: {The Aesthetics of Being} {The Aesthetics of Thought} {The Aesthetics of the Subjective and The Objective} {The Aesthetics of the Hidden} (and other mysteries) Part 4: {The Aesthetics of the Creative Process} {Translation from one Medium to Another} {creation} {Destruction} {The Creative Process -- Redux} -^_6

Part 1


Aesthetics is of course at the heart of what we do as artists, but more specifically the particular version of aesthetic that we use as our base from which all of our works spring is quite reduced. I would maintain that we have a starting point of the way in which we see the world. Part of this is thru training, and part of it is inherrent in the kind of artist that we are. For instance, i do not particularly think in terms of 3-d; although, i have studied the cannon of art literature, and am at least slightly versed in the ideas inherent in THAT way of thinking. So the purpose of this work is to explore the several natures of the newer areas of art (as if there ever were such things) that are concerned with: Light and shadow as drawing elements; either in 2-d, 3-d, or 4-d. Sound and Image as elements in art. Air, smoke, and reflection as elements in art. Naturally, we must start at the beginning of so-called "traditional" art. I start with the elments that art historians and narrators, such as the late, great Helen Gardner would agree were the essentialls. Although, i am certain that she would quickly embrace the newer elements that are available to the modern artist.

The Aesthetics of Line

In one sense, line must have a surface upon which to be. However, as we know we can create a line with a laser light and or a beam of ordinary light using smoke. Traditionally, line has had the qualities of thickness, texture, and of course colour. (We take it as read that both white and black are colours although not in the strict, classical sense.) If we add at least 2-d to the equation, then a line can be a curve (and in 3-d, it can become a curve in space). A line can aloso intersect (or not) other lines. These are the basic geometric ideas of line that we then blend with other aspects of a composition to create the aesthetic sense that we are seeking. Ever sense dada and all of the various forms of that tumltuous period of human history, the idea of collage has been firmly entrenched as a possible aesthetic concept. Indeed, we might consdier some the "serial" sculptures of Donald Judd to be an expression of line. Indeed, we could use found objects (eg, transparent plastic drinking cups) as "dots" to make up a line. These could be takced to a wall and thus, from a line as much as any pencil, charcoal, or other traditional drawing material might be. In the same sense, we might take acrylic paint and apply very flatly to a matrix (a canvas, a wall, an assemblage) to create lines. Or we might take very thickly applied oil paint or small cast items to create lines. The limit of this process is of course to create so many lines in a speac that they then become cross-hatching, and thus a surface rather than "just a line". Again turning our attention to light, we can create lines of light with light and if so-desired, use coloured light (obeying the physics of Red-Green-Blue, rather than the subtractive rules of Red-Yellow-Blue) to form lines. These lines (for the present, due to the limitations of technology) can only form intersection or fields of light with little possibility of stoping the light to make "dots" out of it. We might consider one beam of light passing thru a space (or along a wall, and an array of other beams of light intersecting it at regular points along it's path to change the colour or intensity of the light. Thus, we would have one primary beam and a series of spaced out light sources intersecting it at regular (or not) intervals. But, with the introduction of light comes the implicit introduction of shadow; which, we now disucuss.

The Aesthetics of Shadow and Light

We know from traditional techniques that when we draw a line on almost any surface, we create immediately to the side of it an implied bit of shadow. This was exhautively (but probably not completely) investigated by artists such as Joseph Albers and ??name?? Seurat. Of course, they were primarily concerned with the way that the eye mixes colours not not necessarily shades of light and dark. For that, the sculptor enters the picture. We are all familiar with the classic example of the lighting of the Statue of Lincoln, as well with numerous examples in various cathedrals with their portrature in 3-d of the Saints, etc. When we think about it, we can see that light has varying shades of intensity, and that when an object (solid or translucent or transparent) is placed in the beam's path, then shadow is formed. That we can have shadow within shadow is but a small leap in aesthetic thinking. One of the most at-hand examples is the shadows of leaves caused by the sun striking them various angles and intensities. Clearly one of the earlist artists to think about such things was Paul Ceszane ??sp?? and other impressionists. Along this line of reasoning, Vincent Van Gogh wrote to his brother, Theo, saying that if he was painting a picture of a newspaper, then why shouldn't he just use white and black; as opposed to "mixing" some near-white and near-black paint which was the cassical way of thinking about colour. Note too that the "value" of the line has considerable lee-way as well. It can of course be with traditional materials; eg, pencil, chalk, charcoal, paint, ink. However, line could be a fold in the paper/canvas, etc. It could be cut (with a knife or torn) thru the matrix (sub-strate). It could be black on white, or vice-versa. It could be with colour. It could be of a constant or varying value (thick/thin, light/dark, textured/steady, etc). It could be comprised of found objects laid out to from the "dots" of its construction. It could be bits of paper, canvas, blotchs of paint, crayons, light, etc. And as we shall see, it can consist of things introuced during its production. When we then take to LIGHT this line (surface, volume, etc), then we are again given many choices. The concepts of stage lighting come to mind (foot lights, key light, spot light, back lighting, and of couse all manners of side, top and bottom lighting, etc.). We might then think about the use of transparancy as well. Is the object on a sheet of glass and lit from below? Behind a scrim? Next to a brightly coloured wall, curtain, backdrip, object, person? We could "paint" people and they could "be" the refelcting wall. Light could pass between them -- if we "design their behaviour" such that they purposefully leave gaps between them, with transmitted light penetrating the negative space between them. This space could be sculpted (freeze frame, dynamic, "dansed", choreographed, etc.). And then when take the SHADOW(s) that can be used to change the appearance of the objects. An important thing to remember is that the shadow itself can have a shadow. For example, if i stand next to a store window and the sun (quite bright) shines past me to the window, it will reflect my shadow onto the sidewalk. But, the light striking the window directly will also be reflected onto the sidewalk. It will naturally be brighter, than the other light; thus, my shadow acts as a negative on the sidewalk. It is the actual absense of reflected light that is showing up as the quite faint shadow on the sidewalk. In the same way, by using various lighting sources (and using or not various colours) we can create shadows within shadows; ie, these partially illuminated shadows. And naturually into the mix of light and shadow, we could introduce light directly thru the use of a spot light. Imagine the shadow of a person, and at the centre of that shadow out-line introducing a "heart" made with light passing thru a cut-out shape in a filter. The colours could be almost endless -- a red light source passing thru a blue filter, casting a blue halo around a red heart. Then imagine that this was done with a projector, using some sort of animation (eg, a "Flash" animation). Then, one could imagine the variety of "pulses" (beats, tempos, music?) that could be brought in to play as well. This conveniently brings us to; time.

The Aesthetics of Time

Now consider what happens when we introduce the elment of time (often refered to as 4-d) into the equation. NOTE: We take it as read that 4-d (for better or worse) refers to art that uses time as part of its composition. Not-wiht-standing the work of Salvador Dalih's having used the "net" version of a geometric 4-d hypercube as the cross. At the time, starting from the later 1800's there was a fascination with the fourth dimension. And then when Albert Eisnstein used it as part of this theory of relativity, there was no longer the possibility of completely ignoring the fourth dimension either as a time axis, or simply a hyper-space axis continuing the geometric series (x, y, z, ...) with "w" being the most common representation of this fourth dimension. That is we have: x, y, z, t -- space-time (space being sherical in its properties, with t (time) begin cylindrical. Thus, the Earth revolving about the Sun, forms a 4-dimensional helix, of 3-d circle (approximiately) moving thru time perpendicualrly. and x, y, z, w -- four-dimensional space, with all co-ordinates being of equal importance. As i have mentioned, the first of these two *views* is the more commonly accepted use of the idea of "4-d". Clearly, when we use time we get the possiblity of art that changes. This could be as simple and common as the preservatory practices of art conservators in maintaining paintins, sculptures and other art works entrusted to their care. It can also clearly be seen that the shadows of trees almost never reamain static; shifting with the gentelist of breezes, and of course their grown in teim, as well as defoliation of the leaves during autumn, etc. Also, consider that a person walking along various places, might stop and read a bit of poetry. Thus, "introducing sound into" the space. Walking to where the next "dot of sound" is to be placed, they might then read a bit more poetry, or play a bit of music on an instrument, or boom-box. We could also imagine a line already in place as being composed of several boom-boxes arranged along the wall (or across a floor, up into space, requiring the use of lift); the artist, then travels from each boom-box to the next and plays (or selects and plays) a track on a CD (or a DVD) and that "some-how" illuminates or changes a series of other art works on the wall, placed on pedistals. The objects could as well be poets who would speak, etc. By the same manner, we might think of a "drawing" consisting of danses who emulate dots. They might be brought into the viewing space (a stage, a side street, or any public space) and "placed" there by the artist. An excellent example of this kind of transforming art is given in the case of four planters outside the art building at UT Dallas. When winter approaches, the plants (usually banana plants) are removed and the pots are left empty. At times the large pots (about 1 metre acroos, and shapped like traditional, round plant pots) are removed and the place where they stand is filled with gravel. That this "implied" line is so strong could make for an interesting aethetic experience if four people (overtly dansers, but not necessarily) could perform some sort of danse inside the art building (commonly, and lovinngly refered to as "The Art Barn") and at some time, the artist (a line artist rather than a danser artist) leads them outide and places (draws) them onto each gravel mound. That this could be accompanied by music, sound, poetry, text-speech would bring in an additional element. But, alas; i, digress. For the most part we think of time in several ways: 1) A non-repeating flow of events. (Which may be connected causally, although we well recall the early Russian Montagist experiments that humans are so tied to causality, that placeing one event after another quite strongly implies cause and effect. This is of course at odds with much of creative efforts; eg, if i film a cup of coffee and show the liquid flowing in circles in the cup (close up), and then next cut to an atomic explostion, the viewer's first impression is that of causality, when in fact i may be wanting to compare the similarities in chaotic motion. 2) A re-occuring event that is brought in to re-anchor a scene or state of mind. In the movie "Pi", the sequence of "Max" (played by Sean Gillette ??sp??) taking his medication indicates the re-occurence of his migrane headaches. So prevalent is this idea of re-occurence in our own lives, that it is used as a standard in most film work. Notice too that since the various episodes that occur as part of Max's migrane heedaches are so VARIED that the use of the exact same footage him taking the pills creates what should be the start of the same series of actions (so firmly is the concpet of causality embedded in our minds). Thus, the use of the un-varying pill taking followed by vastly different and un-controllable migrane episodes intensifies the migrane experience for the viewer. 3) Abstract time. The most common of this is history or the future. In terms of the present, we tend to negate space; eg, if we read about something in today's paper that just happened, we will for a brief moment "be there" -- both in the time it occured and the exact space. This rarely happens in abstract time -- we must make a conscious effort to "be there" either in the past or the future. Also, note that a "dillution effect" occurs (law of diminshing returns, or familiarity, etc) so that we find it easier to think about an event the more often that we think about it. This is particularly true of some future event that we can cast a "model" of in terms of our past experience. The outcome of such reasoning is of course to reduce "abstract time" to "experience time" and thus make it (events, things, ideas) more tangable. 4) Time as un-structured events. In the pure form of time-collage, we would not see any connection to the events. This is of course in keeping with the principles of classic Dada, fluxist events, etc. Regardless, as we know the viewer/participant will try to bring some order to the events -- in keeping with the basic survival skills inherent in humans. How we bring these elements to bear in a performance or even in a static work of art (with at least some time element; eg, a slide show), is of course the question to answered. Also note, that while i might refer to a "film" or a "performnace", these can all be mixed and matched in numerous combinations. At one end, tradtional theatre, at the other "happenings" as well as computer-interactive pieces (eg, the "exploratorium" concept of some museums. [
Exporatorium] (dictionary) From one extreme (traditional theatre) to the other (pure dada, or possibly the surrealist game of the "extreme corpse") the types of interplay are almost endless. To explore these concepts in their entirity is beyond the scope of the present work, so a few ideas are presented. a) A sequence of events (being consciously built up) can be broken only with diffictulty. At some point one might insert a "card" with the phrase on it "The following has nothing to do with what you have just seen". This attempt to "de-centre" the action from the viewer's experience was used by George Lukas ??sp?? in his film "Star Wars" with the phrase "In a galaxy long, long ago, far, far awayt". b) A sequence can be built into a non-sequence with any kind of unifying event. This was accomplished in the BBC TV series "Monty Python's Flying Circus" by using a common start of the show: "And now for something completely different". This could be used anywhere in the show to stop the show and re-start it, or to connect the viewer back to the fact that it WAS a show. Similarly, their use of "Start again" as a break had much the same effect. One should also know that two or more sequences could be placed in progress inter-mixing these. This is the much over-used "cutting between Story A and Story B" used in film today. In the end, the stories converge to a single series of events. One of the masters of this (who had the saving grace of having done it early on) was Arthur Haley ??sp?? and can be seen as an exemplar in "Airport" -- sadly, imitated until the only way out was farce; eg "Airplane!" by the Zucker brothers and company. The inter-twining sequences need not be connected, and in fact this led writers such as ??name?? Stoppard to develop his play "Rosencrantz and Guildernstern are Dead" ??sp??. Along this same line of reasoning also lay hyper-medial references to the production itself. For example, in an episode of "Saturday Night Live" enttitled "The Kill Crhistmas Trees", one of the detectives says, "Yes, but what about him?" (refering to the person holding up the killer xmas tree which has just stabbed another victim. The other detective replies, "Oh, never mind him. He's just a stage hand." And of course, this could lead to a play "about nothing" down the line of our old friend the "self-referential paradox". c) Time sequencing can of course be used to "bound" pieces in the same way that a canvas's frame and space between paintings do. This can be accomplished easily with music. One of the best examples is in Modest Musorgski's "Pictures at an Exhibition", where in the musical experience is to create a "walk" along the pictures in a museum, with each "piece" being indicative of the painting -- a translation from visual art into musical terms. A linking piece called "promenade" is used to break from one piece to the next. Note that this is DIFFERENT than a musical "seque". In this case, the linking piece borrows from the previous part and then slowly transforms into the next piece. This is the equivalent to a "slow fade" or disolve. Also, think about using a "built-up" image as a bridging device. For example, we could show a jumble of childs blocks on the table, as the "film" progresses (again this could be live performance, etc), the blocks are "built up" into a words. A "corny" example would be where the final placement of blocks spells out "The End". Similarly, a painting could be painted progressively as the "film" progresses. d) Finally, don't forget the use of "non-time". That is, freeze frame (or motion or sound, etc). And then either the use of text, sound, motion, etc -- as a contrasting element; eg, a frozen tone, then light coming into play. The cross products for this are pretty clear: SOUND LIGHT SHADOW TEXT MOTION IMAGE 0 0 0 0 0 0 -- a blank screen 0 0 0 0 0 1 -- a slide 0 0 0 0 1 0 -- probably just a blur 0 0 0 0 1 1 -- a movie ... 1 0 0 0 1 1 -- a "Talkie" (eg, "The Jazz Singer) ... 1 1 1 1 1 1 -- a melage? a mess? just mud? or genius? Again depending on how each is brought in both in terms of timing and intesnsity, we get different mixes in terms of time as an aesthetic element.

The Aesthetics of Surface

As we have seens, suface is a consequence of the substrate (matrix) onto which the lines are drawn. The limiting case of a line being either its erasure into a single dot (or nothing at all) --or-- the area of the line filled in so completely that it becomes a 2-d dot or small blotch of texture, colour, in the extreme limiting case, a worn (or cut) hole thru the substrate. From a 2-d POV (Point of View), 3-d is simply an extension of the 2-d step. Note that there are two dicotomies at work here: That the lines cross or crowd each other to form a blotch and That the lines can curve and thus instead of requireing only 2 (or 3) dimensions to "be". Note that in the case of 3-d space, the line will create at least one plane and then "jump out of it" -- this is the miminum requirement of the geometry of 3-dimensional space. And if we admit the use of non-traditional materials, then we see that we can "draw" lines with almost any medium as making up its compostion. I am particularly reminded of the "thread" drawings of Lienna Glatt ??sp??. These comprise geometic "folia" in the manner of the spiro-o-graph drawing tool. These shapes are (or can not be, as required) produced by the varying use of geometric means. The limiting case would be the circle, oval, and of course any randomly drawn closed curve or loop. Note that if a form is closed (its endpoints meet) then it may be of a convex or concave nature; as per geometry, again. And of course the normal concept of "tension" arises in the case of the "almost touching" end points. This aesthetic elemetn can be done by creating any shapes (incudling text, blocks, etc) that "almost touch"; thus, giving rise to the tension caused by the "need for closrue" -- literally. In 3-d space, one can imagine making surfaces in the viewing space. In the limit, these become sculpture and inherit (if only slightly or very greatly) the aesthetic prinicples of that way of "drawing". Recall also, that we might have people as the "dot" or "surface" elements. How they are clothed/painted/etc also comes into play. And they can either be un-moving, moving, or "placed in place" by the artist -- thus, the artist paints "using the people as compositional elements'. In the limit, this becomes of course choreography in the form of danse. If we push past that, introducing either random, chaotic, or other patterns/non-patterns, then we create the possiblity of "abstract danse" in much the same way that Jackson Pollock created "abstract paintbrushes" out of sticks, and such. Remember: Limiting cases are almost always of interest -- either where the rules are rigorously adhereed to or aboloshied altogether. We can now imagine the combination of lines drawn to create either 2-d or 3-d (or combinations of both), expressions of line-ness and then mixing into these the elements of sound, music, spoken text, etc. One particular concept comes to mind (bringing in, the element of time), that the drawing (in part or whole) might be made by the artist(s) as the audience watches. At this point the process of drawing incorporates the elements of music and danse. Thus, we could imagine that the work might consist of laying out yarn on a wall by one artist, and this yarn (or same or differing colour, texture, etc) being tacked to the wall (or held in place to lift out of the 2-d plane) by another artist, and then at the end of the process, a third artist (or the first one), removing the tacks (staples, tape, nails, etc) and re-rolling the yarn onto a spindle. This art work could continue only once or many times, thus introducing repetition.

The Aesthetics of Repetition

An array or a grouping of objects clearly depends on their spatial distribution. (Again, we take it as read that the element of time might be introduced; ie, how (in time) the ojbects are placed.) But, in addition, we have the concept of repetition. One of the best examples of this are many of the installed works Donald Judd. The element the metal boxes in a regular spacing (or not), indicates the nature of the line, and yet (like a line of un-varying value) uses repetition as one of its "drawing elements". Note that one of the essential aspects of Judd's work is the look of "manufactured objects" that is: The LOSS of authenticity. (see next section) In terms of time, repetition can include a set of performed and repeated acts (this is the basis for much of danse's aesthetic). Note that it is the variation of the acts that gives danse and this kind of line drawing much of its dynamic aesthetic. We might well create tension in the acts, by repeating them (rule of 3), and then breaking the pattern thus created. Again, the use of cicularity by "closing" the performance/drawing using the same acts at the end of the piece brings us to the idea of infinity. An excellent example of this, is the waltz by Johaan Strauss, Jr in his work, "Perpetuum immobile" (perpetual motion). As well as in the play by Samuel Beckett ??sp?? in his work, "Waiting for Godot". Note too that the concept of serialisation as being (or not) a part of the repetition is only one aspect. Consider the way that we "choreograph" lines by drawing them with different postition. Thus, we can create a series of identical drawings (as free-hand, printing, photography, sound recordings, light play, etc) and thus establish a serial feel for the work. In the limit, we can create the feeling of having no beginning and no end.

The Aesthetics of Authenticity

Seeing as i have spent a major portion of my professional life as an artist wrestling with the concepts of authenticity, copies, autographic vs. allographic, and such topics -- this seems as good a place as any to address this concept. Two of the key players (as far as i know so far) are [
Linda Nochlin] and [Nelson Goodman]. A key element is the "value" that we attach to a copy of a work of art. We know that a copy of a dollar bill is worthless (and in fact illegal; but that's another story). But, an original print that is in the manner of a dollar bill (there are several artists that do this -- produce "fake" dollar bills, that are in fact original art work). If indeed, "repetition is the death of art", then surely, Shirly, original art must be its life. Then we are confronted with the concept of the "art factory" whose job it is is "roll art out" -- but in an *authentic* manner. Then comes the problem of the print -- an artform that Mary Cassat felt would allow even the poorest memembers of society to have actual, fine art in their homes. A very egalatiarian idea -- clearly eschewed by not necessarily the "art loving public", but rather by the "art collecting public" (and major collectors at that). Well known, is the story of Richard Serra who had produced an edition of one of his prints, and then was prompted to bring out an additional edition (wonderfull alliteration, alas not?). Consequently, he was taken to court. In response, he hired an excellent rifle-person to shoot holes thru the second edition. Natch, this made them even more valuable than the first. But. They were in fact a "print variant" of the first edition and so (by any legal and even moral standard), they constituted a unique and original work of art -- the first and original edition not-with-standing. It is also, well know that many artists have produced several versions of the same painting (not even counting the "working papers" or "preliminary sketches", etc). Thus: the problem of repetition, reproduction, and of course copying. During a previous project, i took it upon myself to create an "altar to Americana". This was to be a contrasting element to a fellow artist whose work consisted of a holy shrine of religious artifacts including his own personal copy of his holy book; which as i understand it had been presented to him when he was quite young -- and thus had not only a spiritual but a very personal context to it. Part of my display had an altar with the "holy relic" (a car hub cap with manufacturerer logo clearly embossed into it), as well as photos of the holy aspects of Americana (cars, cafes, sports, etc). Adjacent to this was a reproduction of Warhol's "The 50 Maryilns" of which i created an array of 5x5 -- all in black and white trying to emulate the fading effect that graces the *original* work (silk screen). Alas, modern photo copiers compensate for the "copy of a copy of a copy..." and most of the (carefully numbered) copies in the SEQUENCE were pretty much identical to the original. As a last gasp (without resorting to computer trickery, tools, or such), i ended up having a fragmented copy of Maryln for all of the photos (black and white xerographic) and one 4-colour Maryln in the middle. Very nice. Which brings us back to what it is that we do as artists. We create unique works (hopefully: but when the rent is due, i'm as willing as the next starving artist to purchase a "sofa-sized canvas" and get out the bright oh-so-sellable *bright and cheery* colours...). And hopefully, we maintain some sense of what we are "about" -- usually, refered to as the "soul of this artist" or "the deepest sense of the artist's inner aesthetic" and (again hopefully): The integrity of the aritist AS artist. Now, we face the problem of authentic vs allographic art. Now, we face the problem of reproduction. Now, we face the problem of authorised copies. The manuscript of Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony is not authentic is is allogrraphic -- except (assumein such) the original manuscript itself. The playing of his Fifth Symphony IS autographic. A copy of the performance is allographic. Thus, we have dealt with the problem; and consequently, can sleep peacefully at night. Well. Mostly. I mean.... All that don't worry about such things, ... err, ah.. Like the Lady or the Tiger. (night all) INSERT CARTOON HERE Mepo: Yes, yes. But, that piano piece is trivial! A child of Nine could do better! Why is everyone applauding so??? Gleeba: That's because she's not a musician; but a photographer. Mepo: And what was all that mush about "The Soaring of the Human Spirit"??? What tripe! Gleeba: You just don't understand Quantum Mechanics. Mepo: (blink, blink) FADE FROM SCeNe Formal conclusion: It is when we attempt to "cross boundaries" -- that's when the real magic happens. Step off the cliff! Cross anything into anything else. Count two; and on until morning.

The Aesthetics of Sound & Silence

The Aesthetics of Silence

The author would especially like to thank Professors Dufour and Riccio for many fruitful disucssions that led to much thinking (ah,that again!) about sound. First off there is both sound and non-sound. Even when we would say that it is silent, there is almost inevitably SOME sound present. In the limiting case, we would certainly be aware of the sounds of our own body; eg, breathing, pulse, ambient sounds, that we make, etc. Thus, in the same way that by even having a blank canvas, we have created a distinguishing mark that creates the canvas (art) vis a vis the non-canvas (and presumably the non-art). Thus, in any area of spece, by introducing sound(s) into it, we create the sound vis a vis non-sound dichotomy. And of course we must be aware of the surfaces onto which the sounds are falling/reflecting/etc. A solid concrete wall reflects sound most directly, open-faced insullation covered with canvas absorbs almost all sound. Pitch and tone, as well as the source of the sound (timbre) will determine its effects as well. To proceed to a less theoretical level, let us look at a few sound methods. Musical instruments, the human voice, the body itself, are all tradtional sound sources. Into this we can of course introduce single events (dots) or repetition (line? surface? volume?) and of course repetition of patterns. Many musical sensibilities are based on the concept of "rule of three" -- three things being the usual minimum to establish a pattern. If we look at the human voice, then we can consider words as one of the primary components. This could be speech/conversation/monolog/etc, lists of meaningless words, text "blocked out" with gestures or not, poetry, folk music, rap, slam, all the way up to complex operetic arias, choirs, etc. These can be then combined (or not) with instrumentation. These range from penny whistel tunes, to orchestral arrangemetns with voice. Not to forget the work of Cage and others in "tuned piano" experiments, as well as stomp (where even a brick wall becomes an instrument), etc. In the same way that we think of "contrasting" and "complementary" elements in visual design, so to we use the ideas in sound design. Additionally, we then see how the VISUAL and AUDIAL elements work together: Enhancing or dis-enhancing, re-enforcing or negating, etc. The (current?) limitiation of sound, is that don't (yet?) have the equivalent of a "sound laser" where we could create a beam of sound thru which the person could pass. Or a surface of sound. In the same way that we can drape down ribbons of colour to create walls thru which the spectator can pass, we would eventually like to be able to do the same with sound. At present, we are limited to created ROOMS into which sounds are carefully introduced, and (hopefully) contained. We could think of a series of rooms in the first one is a certain kind of music, then as the person passed into the next room (a segue room) containing some sort of linking music or sound to the third room, where-in a new kind of sound would be experienced. Naturally, we can control the TIME-ING of sound. We can blend many sounds together, slowly reducing one or another to "sculpt" (cause to emerge) the sound as we wish. Also, don't forget the work of Charles Ives when he had two bands start playing the same music at the same time, then they marched off in different directions, and when they returned, they were SLIGHTLY out of time with each other. This can be accomplished by having two different recordings of the same music played on two boom boxes -- just slightly out of time. In a particular piece i did ("In memory of a dead bird") i used two different recordings of Beethovan's 4th symphony. As the recording progresssed, they would at times come back into sync, even though the two recordings were by different orchestras and conductors. This could be applied to ANY music. As it turns out, there are the two works "Throw Your Hands in the Air" (which i discovered while watching the film "Mystery Men") has exactly the same rhythms as the Concord Night Concert of Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" -- the effect of using these radically different kinds of music (hip-hop & orchestral jazz) in the same "sound canvas" staggers the imagination (well, at least mine!). And these things aren't just going to happen! Get out there and experience as much and many kinds of music and sound as you can; otherwise, you'll never understand the myteries of the "Third eye vision; five star dimension". And remember a typewriter and a siren are NOT musical instruments, after all how can one trust Erik Satie who warned us never to visit people who didn't own furniture music? Especially on a tuesday? (thanks for TOm Robbins for that one)

The Aesthetics of Gesture


The Aesthetics of Movement

motion as fiction -- Zeno's paradox. motion as life -- motion is frozne by a camera, but then the aesthetic of motion enter into it, and multiple-exposrues are sought, etc. motion redux {

The Aesthetics of Stillness


Part 2

The Aesthetics of Words

At the very centre of the aesthetic of words are the aesthetic of a single word and the aesthetic of a poem. Everything else is text, and therfore a form of story not poem. To briefly contradict Plato: The one thing that we as (visual) artists must do is lie. The one thing that we as poets must doe is to tell the truth. Consider the absurdist words "wibble" ["Black Adder Goes Forth"] and "hope" ["Waiting for Godot"]. In both cases, the words are actually of extreme importance to the narrative (story)

See also: -{
The Aesthetics of Poetry}- In this section: {Intro} {Lines} {Lines: Redux} {Text} {Sound and Spoken Silence} -^_6




Most of this section is a block quote from the poet Brewster Ghislin on the poem "The Birth of Aphrodite". The section after it deals with taking this process of almost clinical (surgical?) examination of the poetic process and dealing with that in more abstract and general manner. Note: Much of this section owes its contents to several anti-histamine tablets, a long sleepless night (extending thru to about 3pm) and "74" by John Cage. My own personal feeling about poetry is that it is the most difficult of all of the arts to express, well. The following extensive extract is from "The Creative Process" by Brewster Ghiselin. Oddly enough Gheiseli is listed as a "editor Brewster Ghiselin" on the cover of the paperback edition (ISBN 0.520.05453.9, Univ. California Press, 1985, Berkley, CA, formerly London, England). Thus is the "high regard" with which poets are held in general. This is from the essay "Birth of a Poem". Hopefully, it will illustrate the nature of the problem of poetry. Pay close attention to the myths of time and word. MOTE: Note [1] (local) is a sort of Monarchs/Cliffs notes to the poem (which i rather shakily as an artist stand behind). References to it are noted by [*] following a word or phrase. BEGIN BLOCK QUOTE

The Birth of a Poem[*]

[P. 127] No doubt poems may be written in different ways; and one of these precludes much examination, since the poem sems to issue from some dark of the mind without much awareness of how it comes. As John Peale Bishop has observed, all writing is to some degree automatic. But there is some-times a very full consciousness of the process, of of such of its aspects as are open to introspection. ...
[P.128] Once the work is begun, a poem may be completed in a few minutes or it may take years. "Bath of Aphrodite"[*] was [Note 1] produced in four writings: Two pieces of vers, one of prose, and the final compostion of thirty-three lines of verse, in which were included some of the meaning and substance of the earlier efforts, augmented and re-formed[*]. The first fragment, "Anadyomene"[*], was set down with only a few changes in September, 1938: In the autumn of this glass-sharp sea Her thighs curved like the Venus'-shell[*] Wade and submerge, shine Wavering in trapped light;[*] She returns to her own mystery The sea from which she arose. ... It may seem strange that so short a poem[* complete text] should take so much time to write. The condition f the crowded two pages iof the penciled manuscript explains why: It is blurred with repeated erarusres, strawed with delections, spattered with glosses[*] and variants. [Indeed the creative process can be seen more clearly in the evolution of the second line of the poem. As Gishlin points out:] [P. 133] ... The earliest legible reading was: Lapped in he struggle of the silken wind. In writing the prose passage of the story, I had intended to suggest, as I have said, a certain feeling of acceptance. In this line I tried to suggest that feeling by giving a sense of touch and pressure upon the flesh of the enclosing and dynamic air. The word "struggle" gave the willful violence of the wind, "silken" smoothed the touch to sensousness, "lapped"made the rouch everywhere complete, so that the relations was nowhere demied. But line was never-the-less not quite satisfying. I tried another form: Lapped in the silken struggles of the air. This opened the line out at the end: The long vowel of "air" trailed off in the sofen continuant of the "r". And this gave a sense of the open extent of the atomsphere: Space widented and I could feel the sky. But, "silken struggles" seemed over-sensuous. This was not what I wanted and I restored the earlier version. ... I knew, moreover, that I was going to build my poem to give expression to thatn sense of coming into touch with the natural world, most finally and fully through the symbolic immersion of my swimmer in the sea. ... Enough, if I could anticipate the water in the handling of the image of the wind. Instead of the wide air, I put the wind-rebuffing cliffs behind the woman, the hard and fixed forms of the land which she is about to turn away from to the flow of the wind and water: In freshets the seacliff wind she stands. -- "The Birth of a Poem" in "The Creative Process", edited and with an introduction by [and a contribution from/of] Brewster Ghiselin, Copywrite (undoubtedly and with three flips of a certain unix penguin's, flipper) to "The Regents of University of California"). END BLOCK QUOTE All of these finally led to the following, opening stanza: She rises among boulders. Naked, alone, In freshets of the seacliff wind she stands; She comes rose-golden over the color of stones, Down to the wide plane of the seaward sand. [OpCit, P. 131]


(this section only) -^_6[1] I have taken the liberty of supplying a sort of "Monarchs/Cliffs Notes" to the ideas behind the myth of Aphrodite. Even i was astounded by my ignorance once i starte delving into something that "surely i already know that!". Anadyomene -- Birth of Aphrodite -- The Birth of a Poem -- I take it as read that the title of the essay (ie, "The Birth of a Poem") and the subject of the essay (ie, the writing of the poem "The Birth of Aphrodite") having the theme of "the birth of" means that the title of the essay is NOT random. Curiouser, and curiouser these poets! Glosses and Variants -- I am reminded of a poem by Emily: Shall I take thee, The Poet said To the propounded word? Be stationed with the Candidates Till I have finer tired - The Poet searhed Philology And when about to ring For the suspended Candidate There came unsummoned in - That portion of the Vision The Word applied to fill Not unto nomination The Cherubim reveal - -- "Emily Dickinson's Poem's: Final Harvest", ed/sel by: Thomas H. Johnson) Note that this same process is readily appartent in the writing of music, especially if we contrast Mozart - writing everything down once and only once (it being clear in his mind) and Beethoven - writing and re-writing everything (even during a performance). For the painter, all of these "revisions" are normally covered over with layers of paint as the canas speaks and forces the painter to transform a line here or there. This is especially true of oil painting. However, note that this aesthetic is NOT the case with the minimalists. There are no hidden contents (unless a word written with charcoal or sketches on the canvas). The only possible way to "revise" a minimalist painting/sculpture is to totally re-make it. In a sense, the aesthetic of minimalist development is the PRELUDE to the work itself. Indeed as Picasso put it that, the act of creation (itself) is nothing, that it is the drama that leads up to the creation that is the essence of the work. Light & Mystery -- Again taking as a task for the poet to reveal the hidden nature of things. I think that it is farily clear that much of the mystery is that associated with the mystery of birth -- not only that of an imortal such as Venus but with that of the entire Earth and all of its "myriad things" as the Tau puts it: The tau gave birth to the one, The one gave birth to the two, and the two gave birth to all the myriad things. But, again it is the tau (both zero and infinity at the same time) gives birth to all that is: Both material and spiritual. re-formed -- this word has two distinctly different meanings. One is to re-structure/re-cast a thing into a new form. Thus, we might start a painting in a geometric style (straigh lines only, fields of solid colour, little or no shading or change in the value of any one colour area), etc. The other is to correct/change a person from old habits (as in "to reform a criminal"). I think that Ghislin's usage here is the latter, but i could of course be wrong. Venus's-shell -- almost certainly a reference (Ghislin refers to it in the text, see below) to the painting by Botticelli known as "The Birth of Venus". The reference is in two parts: Poetic and Symbolic. Or as Hazzard Adams puts it in "Critical THeory Since Plato": [Shelley's "A Defense of Poetry" was [w]ritten in answer to Peacock's attack on poetry [viz: "The Four Ages of Poetry"], Shelley's
Defense of Poetry makes perhaps greater claims for the poet than anyone had ever dared. Beginning with familiar Romantic distinction between *imagination* (synthesis) and *reason* [emphasis mine] (analysis), Shelley proceeds to t attribut to the products of imagination immense spirtual and cultural powers. [P. 498] Thus the two aspects of a poet are revealed in the two treatments of the Myth of Aphrodite by Ghislin: [Ghislin, OpCit, P. 128] The image of Venus; perhaps like the Botticellian figure standing on the shoreward shell, which can never cease to affect our sensibility. But now [ie, the now-ness of Ghislin's poem] she is seen advancing into the waves. Behind her is the land, where she has sojourned and become human. Now she rides no magical shell blown by rose-scattering winds. She is only a woman wading into the ocean on an autumn morning. Yet in that image of a woman are qualities which the divine Aphrodite was created to embody. Her thighs are curved like the Venus'-shell, the antique cowry, whose wave-shedding form suggest the collaborations of life and sea and whose wheat-grain shape is the natural symbol of fecundity and of love. Entering the water, she is returning to something obscured or lost while she was on land: Her own mystery,k her proper self. In a return to her Anadyomenean nature, without ceasing to be woman in the real and present world, she is made whole again. The form, therefore, is a comment on our knowledge and on the abstracitons [P.128/129] by which we live. It is a way of saying that a woman may be something more than our current defintions comprehend. [Pp. 128-129, Ghislin, OpCit] Indeed, by examinging the various aspects -- whether we limit our selves to ONE view (eg, artistist, spiritualist, fractalist, etc) -- we then explode the thing observed using the juxtapostion of cross-product ideas. I treat the aesthetics of "the hidden" in a separate section of this paper: -{The Aesthetics of The Hidden}- However, we can see that part of the poet's job is to reveal these multiple views to us. In the same way the surrealists tried to "get at" these multiple views of an object using visual dynamics (multiple points of view, simultaneous representations of motion captured on a still canvas - but not in the way that a camera freezes motion), dream-recovery (eg, Odilon Redon), autonomous writing/painting (eg, "Kublah Kahn" by Colledridge, trance painting, etc), as well as translation from one medium to another. Additional reading (when we get time) Mythology: "The Three" Edith Hamilton, Robert Graves, and of course Bullfinch. {Back to the TEXT} -^_6

Poem: Lines: Redux

In the previous section, we examined (or rather allowed a poet to show us via the process self-examination) the process of creating a line of poetry. Where as in music, a single note (and so many possible voices to give it) is the "atom" from which the work is constructed, for the poet these atoms are word, but more so word in the content of a sentence. Thus, while every word has its own life, and each sentence is the "corpse" into which the poet wishes to breath life, that life must come from word alone. While we might imagine a "good" reading of a poem, ultimately the words themselves - stark and sterile upon the page - must carry themselves. Thus, in a sense the primary aesthetic of poem is minimalist. If the poet layers us with so many words that seem to beat the horse to death, then the blue rider of poem remains a meer photograph of an animal, muscle and sinew layed out in surgical detail. This destroys the American Indian idea that "the horse was formed from the wind itself". Thus, the horse become a decomposed block of granite with a "Brectian" sign on it stating: "HORSE". That is the job of the artist (especially in the realm of Dada) or the biologist (especially in the role as instructor of vetranary surgery). The horse must be subdued and not moving if the injuries are to be repaired. But, the poet, like Mary Wolestonkraft-Shelley's Dr. Frankenstein, wishes the dead, inert lump of flesh/granite to live, breath and above all else to run, and at last to GALLOP. Thus, while the reducitonist must necessarily anaethetise the horse, the artist must invigorate the block of granite with super-natural powers beyond ANY understaning -- even the understanding of the poet/creator of the art work themself. Thus, where as, Susan Rochenberg's ??sp?? horses sweep the very redness from the sky, and Picasso's Guernican horse is forever tormented and in pain, Ghislin's Androgyne ??sp?? is in the continual process of renewal and perhaps (just, perhaps; for there is always hope) brings a Mingus beauty to Camus' Sisaphus. And indeed, on Parnassus do all who seek the creative way dwell.

Poem: Sound

This section examines some of the poetic devices used to create the patterns of colour and danse. mechanical devices Spoken silence the choice of words forms - patterns of lines -^_6

Poem: Text

The choice of subject matter

One key element of the choice of material is the way in shich it will be "read". We have touched on this here and there - especially with the discussion of text as art object. Now, we must deal with the content of the poem itself and how it is to be read. As pointed out before, a poem may be read aloud (in a so-called "reading") but it "should" ultimately reside on the printed page. Here in, it differs totally from text as story, text as dialog (eg, a play), etc. It thus, becomes a visual art object that is given the form (layout, font, etc) that the poet wishes to use to convey part of the menaing of the poem. Thus a read-alound poem can be totally different from the printed form that the reader encounters, alone with just the book of poetry. A well-known progenitor of the concept of altering the physical appearence of a poem on the page is of course e.e. cummings I give the following example by the beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti (best if read while listening to Charles Mingus' "Astrophithicus Africanus", etc)



Constantly risking absurdity and death whenever he performs above the heads of his audience the poet like an acrobat climbs on rime to a hight wire of his own making and balancing on eyebeams above a sea of faces paces his way to the other side of day performing entrechats and sleight-of-foot tricks and other high theatrics and all without mistaking any thing for what it might not be For he's the super realist who must perforce perceive taut truth before the taking of each stance or step in his supposed advance toward that still higher perch where Beauty stands and waits with gravity to start her deah-defying leap And he a litle charleychaplin man who may or may not catch her eternal form spreadeagled in the empty air of existence [faithfully (in the Sartre'ian sense) reproduced from "The Portable Beat Reader", edited by Ann Charters, (Penguin Books, 1992, New York, New York), Pp. 248-249.] A further example was given by the vistual artist Michael ??name?? in his thesis work at The University of Dallas. Which used a fan blowing across a aquarium filled with water. There were two projected pages of poetry. When the fan was NOT on the water, the poem was rather straigh foreward. But, as the rotating fan turned and disturbed the water, the following poem appeared (with the other words obscured): You still don't know who I am

Poem: Text: The story to be told

The poet of course "could always" just right it out and be done with it. And as we have seen, the choice of rhthym, metre, poetic devices and such add textures and flabour to the words themselves. But, of course ulitimately the story itself must emmerge. Whether the story (or even sub-stories) emerges from just one reading, or from several is another tool of the poet in the choice of the story and how to tell it. An importanht point is to rember the absurdist point of view as well, the poet may choose words just for thir sound with no real intenition of telling a story at all. Viz the following bit of beatnik poetry by "The Poet 'T'"

(untitled; "The Infinite Library")

It was always there when you didn't look like a cat chasing a fish in some strange book. And all the while, you -- when you knew it, It was everything that you might have had to in-tuit. Yet it has always been as simple as that, No fiction, no quibble, just a matter of plain, simple fact. THE INFINITE LIBRARY It has always existed, outside of time outside of space. And so far as we know, it is a real, imaginary place. And those that doubt that it exists, are not faithless -- just undoubtedly very pissed. That they can not see it, though others can and only know one knows how to get in. It's THE IN-FIN-IH-T LIE-BRARE-EE And now it's time to read a book, and get in touch with real ree-al-ih-tee. It's the Infinite Library ?Can you dig it? I knew that you could, I knew that you could. The story is rather thin, the main "content" being carried by the rhythmic structure. Furhter, the pattern of several stories can be woven together to create an over arching greater story; ie, a "story arc" in traditional writing. This is usually not the case in poetry, since the point is that poem is a coherent whole in and of itself. But, like the musician who composes several variations on a theme while trying to find "the one best one", we have the jazzist whose sole point is to explore ALL possible variants of a work. Thus, taking a simple song (eg, "My Favorite Things") and then going as far as possible from the basic theme and then returning to recap. Further, another aspect is the extent to which the poet wishes to expose the mysteries as opposed to meerly hinting at the hidden. But, of course this is part of the aesthetic of ALL of the arts. -^_6

The Aesthetics of Poetry

So, what then is this thing called poetry? Poetry as word-art Poetry as a different approach than prose -- why a poem and not an essay or story? One of the primary methods of poetry is brevity. After all, if the poet can not express something in one line, then it can not be expressed in less than 10 pages of essay and an associated 3 million pages of commentaries, references, cticisms and coutner-criticsms. Thus, we have Ogden Nash's gloss of a rather a well known poem by Joyce Jillmer ??sp?? : I think that I shall never see, A billboard as loverly as a tree, And unless the billboards fall, I might not see a tree a'tall.

The Aesthetics of Text

For the moment we shall set asside the FONT, COLOUR, TEXT-SIZE, TEXTURE, etc of the PHYSICAL expression of a text word. Hence, help! HELP! are taken to be the same. Text can take several forms" 1) Formal writing; eg, a sientific paper, a work of literary criticism, a newspaper story, a newpaper review, etc. 2) Creative writing; eg, a poem, an essay, a short story, a novel. 3) Exposition; eg, an essay, a dictionary entry, etc. 4) Descriptive guides; eg, a screen play text, a musical score, assembly instructions for a vacuum cleaner, driving directions, etc. The boundaries of these rather arbitraryily chosen categories are quite fluid of course. Except in the case of creative writing there "should be" no hidden agenda, symbolism, secondary story, moral tale, etc. Thus, we might create two categories: Direct and In-direct text Direct text is what it is and in-direct text represents something else. We could easily use the classifcations "text" and "meta-text", but that wouldn't solve the problem since we would then have to talke about "meta-meta-text" and so forth; etc, a poem as text and then its meaning as meta-text, dn the way that the meaning is carried by the poem as meta-meta-text. Thus, creative writing becomes in-direct text and most everything else is direct text. This dinstinction is necessary so that we can talk about how direct the direct text is; ie, how "well" (usually meaning how clearly) the text conveys its message. Note, that in making this distinction, we create two categories of text: Creative writing becomes "art" and all other text is "techne" or explantion. Part of my new investigations (at least new for me) into the idea of text as an art object is the way that we relate to the text itself. The idea goes back to an old poem by Ogden Nash (as a "take" on a poem by Joyce Kilmer) I think that i shall never see A billboard as lovely as a tree, And unless the billboards happen to fall, I might not see a tree at all. But, Barbara Kruger (as well as others of course) showed us that the text CAN be art. One of her most famous "paintings" was done in an artistic style with the words: "I shop, therefore i am". Thus, the text becomes the art message just as the horse, the lantern and the woman holding the child become the message of Picasso's "Guernica". Thus, the way that we relate to text can be of SEVERAL ways at once. Just as we react to many of the neo-realistic forms of paintings of the French masters during 1800c (19th century) who were supposedly patrons of art -- Degas lambasted them. When we look at works by the masters such as Francois Gerard (eg, Cupid and Psyche), we react to the nakedness of the two figures; but Gerard is not the pornographer that Degas refered to (one only has to look Gerard's "Jean Baptiste Isabey, miniaturist and his daughter" to see that). Degas in his beloved paintings of the young balerinias preparing for danse, and always the older men leering at them. This was his indightment of Bourgeoise prosscholst mediocraty. Thus, while propagandists use words as a thin veil for the hidden message (often not quite so hidden), we as textual artists owe the viewer "something more". Just as Beethoven, the neo Raphelites, and many philosophers thought that they could change the world with their works -- one only has to read "The Doctor's Dilemma" by Bernard Shaw or the works by the other Fabians (eg, H.G. (George) Welles) works to see that. [

The Aesthetics of Story

A brief note on story (thanks to Kyle-1.0 of the UTD Atec program) The narrative is: The Queen died, and then the King died. The story is: The Queen died, and then the King died of a broken heart.

Part 3

The Aesthetics of Being

The Aesthetics of Thought

The Aesthetics of the Objective and The Subjective

The Aesthetics of the Hidden

(and other mysteries) -^_6

Part 4: The Creative Process

In this section: {
The Aesthetics of the Creative Process} {creation} {Destruction} {The Creative Process -- Redux} -^_6

The Aesthetics of the Creative Process

Translation from one Medium to Another



The Creative Process -- Redux