Circular 1/22/20

PROSE

From Fictive Dream: Delirium by John C. Mannone.

“The brick-lumps sifted through the black morph into swarms of fire ants with glassy-grit teeth.” (Delirium)

From Spelk: Letters to Dead People by Foster Trecost.

“I sometimes write letters to my father, but he doesn’t read them.”

“How do you know?”

“Because dead people can’t read letters.” (Letters to Dead People)

From The Drabble: Dreams of Unspecified Crimes by Howie Good.

“I think it was Freud who said dreams are the day’s dark residue.” (Dreams of Unspecified Crimes)


VERSE

From Caliath: To Taste of Salt by João-Maria.

“What’s it like to bow up?, that rotten soliphsism of yours by which suns dawn merely to candle your rooms…” (To Taste of Salt)


ESSAYS

From Art & Crit: “The Death of the Author” Debunked by Eric Wayne.

The belief that “the author is dead” is one of the unquestioned bad ideas that has become gospel in the art world. It’s usually just asserted — along with its companion notions that originality is impossible, and the artist’s intent is irrelevant — as if to deny it is as hopelessly naive as denying evolution. (Wayne)

From New Pop Lit: Do Awards Matter? by Karl Wenclas.

Awards ceremonies, like hall of fames– sports, music, and otherwise– are in reality highly successful PR appendages to their particular industry. (Wenclas)


 

Music Archive Updates

New tracks (in wav file format) added to our patreon music archive include:

Note: Other previously published tracks will be continuously added to the archive on a daily basis. New compositions will now be uploaded to the music archive prior to publication on Logos. A ebook pdf archive is also being developed.

Silent Symphony Of Soaring Steel: The Photography Of Margaret Bourke-White

“… industrial forms were all the more beautiful because they were never designed to be beautiful. They had a simplicity of line that came from their direct application of purpose.” —Margaret Bourke-White, 1963

Few photographers, to my knowledge, captured the imposing majesty of 20th century industrialism with as much deftness and clarity as American journalist, Margaret Bourke-White (1904–1971).

White was a war-correspondant during WWII and came to be known to the staff of Life magazine as ‘Maggie the Indestructible’ for surviving a number of extraordinary circumstances, including abandonment in the artic, strafing by the Luftwaffe, a chopper crash in Chesapeake Bay, and the German bombardment of Moscow.

Presented below is a small selection of White’s prints of industrial scenes, ordered by date (20s to 30s), with historical commentary.

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Tower and Smokestacks of Otis Steel Co., Cleveland, 1928. The company is notable for being the first to build a open-hearth steel furnace, in 1875, and which massively contributed to Ohio’s transformation into the second-largest producer of steel in the United States by the end of the 19th Century. Otis merged with the Jones & Laughlin Steel Co., 1942, which itself merged with  Youngstown Sheet & Tube, 1977.
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Untitled (Industrial Scene, Otis Steel Co., Cleveland)
1928.
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Blast Furnace Operator with “Mud Gun,” Otis Steel Co., Cleveland
1928. Film of the era was sensitive to blue, but insensitive to orange and red (colors typical of steel mills like Otis Steel Co.) and so, to achieve shots such as the one above, White utilized a magnesium flare, that the image would be picked up with clarity, prevented from coming out all black.
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Untitled (Train with Oil Cars, Otis Steel Co., Cleveland)
1928.
Hot Pigs (1928) MB White.png
Hot Pigs, Otis Steel Company, Cleveland
1928.
Heaped ore outside steel plant, brought by shipping along Great Lakes (1930) MB White.png
Heaped ore outside steel plant, brought by shipping along Great Lakes
1930.
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Ludlum Steel Company of Watervliet, New York, 1928 – 1931, a specialty steel manufacturer. The company merged with Allegheny Steel Company of Brackenridge, Pennsylvania, 1938.
Steel support struts inside several newl
Steel support struts inside newly constructed pipes to be installed in the diversion tunnel to carry the Missouri River around Fort Peck Dam construction, 1936.
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Margaret Bourke-White takes a photo from the 61st floor of the Chrysler Building, New York City, 1934.

If you appreciate our work and wish to support it, you can do so here (our site is completely reader-funded).

Experimental Archaeologist Wulf Hein’s Remarks Concerning The Hohlenstein-Stadel Löwenmensch

§00 The Löwenmensch of Hohlenstein-Stadel, discovered in the Lone River valley, in Southern Germany (which was occupied from the Middle Palaeolithic through the Neolithic), is the oldest known piece of man-made figurative art ever discovered. Given this, a considerable number of theories have been developed in a attempt to explain the statuette’s role in ancient Aurignacian society.
§01 Experimental archaeologist Wulf Hein of Archaeo-technik, who, in 2009 was commissioned to create a replica of the Löwenmensch, was, despite his busy schedule, kind enough to share his thoughts concerning the importance of the ancient work of art with me.
“Personally,” Hein remarked during our correspondence, “I believe that the LM [lion-man] was object to some kind of worshipping, most probably functioning as a hunting charme, because according to the latest research the mouth region of the statuette was frequently rubbed with some red substance, perhaps blood.”

Sources
  1. João Zilhão & Francesco d’Errico. (2003) An Aurignacian «garden of Eden» in southern Germany? An alternative interpretation of the geissenklösterle and a critique of the Kulturpumpe model. Paleo. Revue d’archéologie préhistorique.
  2. Thomas Wynn, et al. (2009) Hohlenstein-Stadel and the Evolution of Human Conceptual Thought. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 19:1, 73-83.
  3. Wulf Hein. (2013) Ivory Experimentation. Companion book to the exhibition The Return Of The Lion Man: History, Myth and Magic. Ulmer Museum.
  4. Wulf Hein. (—) Tusks & Tools. Private research manuscript to be published in l´anthroplogie.

Roger Scruton & Aesthetics: Beauty & Utility

§00 In a July 29th episode of the New Culture Forum Peter Whittle engaged in a discussion with English philosopher, author and perpetual comb-eschewer, Sir Roger Scruton on the topic of beauty. It is a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion, covering everything from contemporary art to political censure. One recurring issue caught my attention, however, as deserving of some critical attention: Scruton’s characterization of beauty as both fundamental and antithetical to utility. The topic of beauty is one which Scruton has given much careful thought to and so I do not wish to be dismissive to such assertions, but one of his chief contentions is, I shall argue, wrong, and wrong in a very simple way.

§01 For example, he noted, “What I would say is the most important aspect of beauty is that we are at home with it. Even when it shocks us, or challenges us. You just go back to the great challenging works of art, like Picasso’s middle period stuff or the Stravinsky ballets… there, whatever we think about it, we stand back after a while and think, ‘Yes I can bring this into my life. And it is part of me and its inviting me to be part of it and it a part of me.’ That invitation is, I think, essential to our sense of beauty. In ordinary life were not aesthetes, most of us, we don’t go around the world looking for the sublime experience that you can get from the Shakespeare sonnets or Tristan and Isolde or whatever, we go around the world wanting to find the places where we could be—places which don’t repel us, which don’t say ‘go away.’ Which, on the contrary, open some kind of inner door, and I think that’s what everyday beauty is like and we’re all able to produce it. When we’re given a room and a bit of furniture, we start arranging it, so it is like that. So that we belong and it belongs. And I think that is what the instinct for beauty is and why its absolutely necessary for us and more necessary today than its ever been before, precisely because its so rare and also because the surrounding world is dominated by a utilitarian culture—everything is conceived in functional terms, as a means to an end. Certainly you see that in architecture. You know, its all straightforward, simple engineering devices to perform a particular function but which don’t have any ability to put the surrounding people at ease with them.”

I find Scruton’s description of beauty (and, to a lesser degree, contemporary ‘utilitarian culture’) to be exceptionally deft, but would contend that being “at home” with beauty is its utility. And if this is the utility, then in what way is it beyond or otherwise removed from the functional? Further, what, precisely is the problem with functional terminology? Everything is, in some sense, functional. Regardless of the abstractness or concreteness of a particular conceptualization, it serves some functional purpose precisely because meaning is noetically confined (ie. what would it mean to say that rocks are good in and of themselves?). The narrow deployment of “utility” as expressed in those modernist/postmodernist cultural milieus against whose currents Scruton swims, may very well put their prospective or current inhabitants ill at ease, but this is due to their lack of utility for generating comforting and secure atmosphere, not their overabundance thereof. That is to say, their problem is misapprehending what functions need to be fulfilled.

§02 “The first lesson that you learn when you begin to study the philosophy of beauty is that there is a utility in the useless. That’s what we most need to cultivate. In our own lives as well. We don’t become lovable objects by being useful, although we should lend our help to others and so on. We become lovable by enjoying the world and radiating our appreciation of it. And that is something we look for in buildings too. I always take Paris as an example.”

Here I more strongly disagree, for is not a strong determinate of whether or not one is beloved whether or not they are useful to his fellow man? I would contend that this is indeed so. The fashion of his usefulness can be manifold, but it cannot be said that any terribly useless man, however radiatingly appreciative, was found “loveable.” And so it is with buildings also. What we might say instead is that architecture should reflect the collective dreams and follies and aspirations of its inhabitants, whether transitory or permanent, and in this way might make them feel more “at home.” The quality of concordant ambiance is the hidden function, that which Scruton refers to as the “utility in the useless.” We might more curtly describe this quality as environ’d resonance.


Sources

  1. New Cultural Forum. (2019) Sir Roger Scruton: Professing Right Ideas for 50 Years. Discussing Beauty, Academia & Conservatism.
  2. Roger Scruton. (2009) Beauty. Oxford University Press.

Art & Ancestral Decision

§.00 Artistry is nothing without technicity, for the artist is nothing without his tools. Given that all tools are, at the first, conceptual, the ontological enterprise necessarily subtends both. Philosophy (as mental technicity) determines by way of an analysis of the haecceity of one’s muse(s) and subjects(s), which thus determines the technical venue(s) by which pertinent qualia may be internally refined and externally expressed (in art).

§.01 What is interesting to me, in light of this realization, is the way in which the artist (and not merely the designer) as a general matter, takes ontologic assertions (the real purpose of art is X but not Y), as givens, without consideration. The horror writer considers the nature of his work, but does not consider the collective, inter-generational enterprise which brought the entire genre into being and so must fail to apprehend its previous purpose(s), and thus what previously worked in the genre (what linguistic tactics to deploy) even if he has a solid grasp of its present purposes[s]). The painter does not generally realize, or, at the least, does not generally remark upon, the fact that his art is based upon the primacy of a particular privileging of objects (such as Futurism privileges of speed and the machine), if the issue is raised, such a consideration is likely to be considered trivial, when it is anything but, as the ordering of objects in a painting of is central important to the purpose of the painting itself (and there is one, even if it is visible only one’s muse and thus opaque to the self). And so it is with the author, the sculptor, the illustrator, the actor, the dancer and any other type of artist. Implicit internalization and affirmation of this kind should, if recognized, be given to critical reconsideration, for failure to do so can result in a concretized implicit conceptual frame, born of unspoken ontological decision (decision is not, of necessity, the truth and most ‘ontology’ is merely psychological gratification and defense)—what we might call the ancestral decision—which vitiates the very pathways by which one’s desired or considered art would, in their absence, profligate.

 

Notes on Schopenhauer’s The Art of Literature (1893)—II

† continued from part I


§.08—Our author continues, remarking upon material modalities.

“Unless an author takes the material on which he writes out of his own head, that is to say, from his own observation, he is not worth reading. Book manufacturers, compilers, the common run of history writers, and many others of the same class, take their material immediately out of books; and the material goes straight to their finger-tips without even paying freight or undergoing examination as it passes through their heads, to say nothing of elaboration or revision. How very learned many a man would be if he knew everything that was in his own books! The consequence of this is that these writers talk in such a loose and vague manner, that the reader puzzles his brains in vain to understand what it is of which they are really thinking. They are thinking of nothing. It may now and then be the case that the book from which they copy has been composed exactly in the same way; so that writing of this sort is like a plaster cast of a cast; and in the end, the bare outline of the face, and that, too, hardly recognisable, is all that is left of your Antinous¹.” (A. Schopenhauer, The Art of Literature, p. 6)

§.09—“… a plaster cast of a cast,” how perfectly apt is this description; how many stories of ‘chosen ones,’ or the ‘girl interrupted,’ wherein the distinctive attributes are merely cosmetic—a name, a setting, a hairdo, a historical reference—yet the form and function is essentially the same as popular narratives preceding it. However, I differ from Schopenhauer in holding authors who “take their material immediately out of books” in such totalizing contempt; what is of paramount importance in the question of textual information acquisition is the quality of the information contained and (as he notes) its verification (for whatever qualities). Given that the information acquisition and exploitation from a text is fundamentally no different than any other kind of information acquisition and exploitation, it is mistaken to vitiate information derived from a text and information derived from studying a tree or a stone (ie. one’s own observation”). That is to say that the writer is always writing “out of his own head” a distinction that may seem trivially semantic, but which is conceptually crucial.


Sources

  1. Arthur Schopenhauer. (1893) The Art of Literature. Swan Sonnenschein & Co.; MacMillan & Co.
  2. Elena Martinique. (2016) Is Consumerism Depicted in Art Relevant a Relevant Critique of Contemporary Society and Culture? Widewalls.
  3. Farooq A. Kperogi. (2016) Myth of the Decline in Standard of English Usage and Grammar. Nigeria Village Square.
  4. Ranulf Higden, trans. John Travisa. (1364; eng. trans. 1865) Polychronicon Ranulphi Higden Maonachi Cestrensis.
  5. R. L. S. (2015) Johnson: Language anxieties: A Long Decline. The Economist.
  6. Sabina Nedelius. (2017) The Myth of Language Decay: Do Youths Really Not Know How To Speak? The Historical Linguist Channel.
  7. Sarah Waters. (1995). The Most Famous Fairy in History: Antinous and Homosexual Fantasy. Journal of the History of Sexuality. University of Texas Press. 6 (2): 194–230.
  8. Steven Pinker. (2014) The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide To Writing In The 21st Century. Penguin.
  9. Stuart Henry. (1897) Hours With Famous Parisians. Way & Williams.
  10. Thomas Adajian. (2018) The Definition of Art. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

End Notes

¹ Antinous (also Antinoüs or Antinoös) was a Bithynian Greek, friend and lover of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. After his mysterious death, the emperor deified Antinous and organized a cult in his honor. Schopenhauer, in the passage above, utilizes ‘Antinous’ as a metaphor for the artist’s creation.

NKTP Building Designs (1934)

§.00—The Comte de Buffon in his epigram Discours sur le style, declared, “Style is the man himself.” Schopenhaur echoed the sentiment in The Art of Literature, wherein he wrote, “Style is the physiognomy of the mind.” Which is to say: The philosophy of a designer is imbued in their constructions; whether a book or a building. Thus, the study of a work of art is also a study of its creator’s mind and the more immediate the apprehension of the style, the more forceful the character.

§.01—A prime example of this can be found amidst the 1934 concepts for the architectural competition of the People’s Commissariat of Heavy Industry (Narkomtiazhprom; NKTP) building, the finer examples of which, exhude order, precision, and sprawling, uncompromising potency. The NKTP was the successor to the VSNKh (which was split into three commissariats in 1932) and initiated the contest amidst a backdrop of industrial decentralization and administrative specialization. In total 120 entries were submitted.

The NKTP building was never constructed—some scholars contend the state never intended to see it built but only to tease out the avant-gardists from the neoclassicists—had it been, according to specifications, it would have occupied 40,000 square meters in built-out area and 110,000 square meters of usable floor area, along the Kitay-gorod (Great Possad) in Central Moscow.

§.02—Below is a small selection of some of the finer entries.

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“I consider that the architecture of the Kremlin and St. Basil’s Cathedral should be subordinated to the architecture of the Narkomtiazhprom [Commissariat of Heavy Industry], and that this building itself must occupy the central place in the city.” —Notes to the Narkomtiazhprom competition


Sources

  1. Arthur Schopenhaur. (1891) The Art of Literature.
  2. Dominique Dhombres. (2008) “The style is the man himself.” Le Monde.
  3. Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon. (1753) Discourse on Style.
  4. Kathleen Kuiper et al. (2013) Stylistics. Encyclopedia Britannica.
  5. Khlevnyuk, O. (1997). The People’s Commissariat of Heavy Industry. Decision-Making in the Stalinist Command Economy, 1932–37, 94–123.
  6. Robert A. Lewis. Science & Industrialization In The U.S.S.R.: Industrial Research & Development 1917–1940. Palgrave Macmillan.