Art must be tangible
"Art is made up, not of the artist's intentions, but of works of art.... In order to exist at all, a work of art must be tangible. It must renounce thought, must become dimensional, must both measure and qualify space." pg. 3. Henri Focillon: The Life of Forms in Art. 1948, George Wittenborn, Inc. N.Y.N.Y.
Form is itself
" We are always tempted to read into form a meaning other than its own, to confuse the notion of form with that of image and sign. But whereas an image implies the representation of an object, and a sign signifies an object, form signifies only itself. And whenever a sign acquires any prominent formal value, the latter has so powerful a reaction upon the value of the sign as such that it is either drained of meaning or is turned from its regular course and directed toward a totally new life. For form is surrounded by a certain aura: Although it is our most strict definition of space, it also suggests to us the existence of other forms... Form has meaning - but it is a meaning entirely its own, a personal and specific value that must not be confused with the attributes we impose upon it. Form has significance, and form is open to interpretation.... fundamental content of form is a formal one. Form is never the catch-as-catch-can garment of subject-matter. No, it is the various interpretations of subject-matter that are so unstable and insecure." pgs. 3-4. Henri Focillon: The Life of Forms in Art. 1948, George Wittenborn, Inc. N.Y.N.Y.
Art is form and content
"A work of art is an attempt to express something that is unique, it is an affirmation of something that is whole, complete, absolute.... And a work of art is ... both matter and mind, both form and content." pg. 1, Henri Focillon: The Life of Forms in Art. 1948, George Wittenborn, Inc. N.Y.N.Y.
A work of art is the measure of space
"...the study of a work of art, we must,... isolate it...For art is made primarily for sight. Space is its realm - not the space of everyday life, say, a soldier or a tourist - but space treated by a technique that may be defined as matter and as movement. A work of art is the measure of space. It is form, and as form it must first make itself known to us." pg. 2, Henri Focillon: The Life of Forms in Art. 1948, George Wittenborn, Inc. N.Y.N.Y.
"... forms are not their own pattern, their own naked representation. Their life develops in a space that is not the abstract frame of geometry; under the tools and at the hands of men it assumes substance in a given material. It is there and not elsewhere that form exists, i.e., in a highly concrete, but highly diversified world. An identical form keeps its dimension, but changes its quality according to the material, the tool, and the hand. A text does not change because of the different papers on which it chances to be printed: the paper is but the support for the text. In a drawing, however, the paper is an element of life; it is the very heart of the design. A form without support is not form, and the support itself is form. It is essential, therefore, to bear in mind how immense is the variety of techniques in the genealogy of a work of art, and to show that the principle of all technique is not inertia, but activity." pg.15. Henri Focillon: The Life of Forms in Art. 1948, George Wittenborn, Inc. N.Y.N.Y.
"The man who believes that the secrets of the world are forever hidden lives in mystery and fear. Superstition will drag him down the rain will erode the deeds of his life. But that man who sets himself the task of singling out the thread of order from the tapestry will by the decision alone have taken charge of the world and it is only by such taking charge that he will effect a way to dictate the terms of his own fate." pg 199, Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy, Vintage International, 1985
Wind, Sand and Stars: Antoine de Saint Exupery
"If anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away, when a body has been stripped down to its nakedness."
"In this spirit do engineers, physicists concerned with thermodynamics, and the swarm of preoccupied draughtsmen tackle their work. In appearance, but only in appearance, they seem to be polishing surfaces and refining away angles, easing this joint or stabilizing that rendering these parts wing, rendering these parts invisible, so that in the end there is no longer a wing hooked to a framework but a form flawless in its perfection, completely disengaged from its matrix, a sort of spontaneous whole, its parts mysteriously fused together and resembling in their unity a poem.
Meanwhile, startling as it is that all visible evidence of invention should have been refined out of this instrument and that there should be delivered to us an object as natural as a pebble polished by the waves, it is equally wonderful that he who uses this instrument should be able to forget that it is a machine.
There was a time when a flyer sat at the centre of a complicated works. Flight set us factory problems. The indicators that oscillated on the instrument panel warned us of a thousand dangers. But in the machine of today we forget that motors are whirring: the motor, finally, has come to fulfill its function, which is to whirr as a heart beats-and we give no thought to the beating of our heart. Thus, precisely because it is perfect the machine dissembles its own existence instead of forcing itself upon our notice.
And thus, also, the realities of nature resume their pride of place. It is not with metal that the pilot is in contact. Contrary to the vulgar illusion, it is thanks to the metal, and by virtue of it, that the pilot rediscovers nature. As I have already said, the machine does not isolate man from the great problems of nature but plunges him more deeply into them."
"It seems to me that those who complain of man's progress confuse ends with means. True, that man who struggles in the unique hope of material gain will harvest nothing worth while. But how can anyone conceive that the machine is an end? It is a tool. As much a tool as is the plough. The microscope is a tool. What disservice do we do the life of the spirit when we analyze the universe through a tool created by the science of optics, or seek to bring together those who love one another and are parted in space?
"Agreed!" my dreamers will say, "but explain to us why it is that a decline in human values has accompanied the rise of the machine?" Oh, I miss the village with its crafts and its folksongs as much as they do! The town fed by Hollywood seems m me, too, impoverished despite its electric street lamps. I quite agree that men lose their creative instincts when they are fed thus without raising a hand. And I can see that it is tempting to accuse industry of this evil.
But we lack perspective for the judgment of transformations that go so deep. What are the hundred years of the history of the machine compared with the two hundred thousand years of the history of man? It was only yesterday that we began to pitch our camp in this country of laboratories and power stations, that we took possession of this new, this still unfinished, house we live in. Everything round us is new and different-our concerns, our working habits, our relations with one another.
Our very psychology has been shaken to its foundations, to its most secret recesses. Our notions of separation, absence, distance, return, are reflections of a new set of realities, though the words themselves remain unchanged. To grasp the meaning of the world of today we use a language created to express the world of yesterday. The life of the past seems to us nearer our true natures, but only for the reason that it is nearer our language.
Every step on the road of progress takes us farther from habits which, as the life of man goes, we had only recently begun to acquire. We are in truth emigrants who have not yet founded our homeland. We Europeans have become again young peoples, without tradition or language of our own. We shall have to age somewhat before we are able to write the folksongs of a new epoch.
Young barbarians still marveling at our new toys-that is what we are. Why else should we race our planes, give prizes to those who fly highest, or fastest? We take no heed to ask ourselves why we race: the race itself is more important than the object.
And this holds true of other things than flying. For the colonial soldier who founds an empire, the meaning of life is conquest. He despises the colonist. But was not the very aim of his conquest the settling of this same colonist?
In the enthusiasm of our rapid mechanical conquests we have overlooked some things. We have perhaps driven men into the service of the machine, instead of building machinery for the service of man. But could anything be more natural? So long as we were engaged in conquest, our spirit was the spirit of conquerors. The time has now come when we must be colonists, must make this house habitable which is still without character.
Little by little the machine will become pan of humanity. Read the history of the railways in France, and doubtless elsewhere too: they had all the trouble in the world to tame the people of our villages. The locomotive was an iron monster. Time had to pass before men forgot what it was made of. Mysteriously, life began to run through it, and now it is wrinkled and old. What is it today for the villager except a humble friend who calls every evening at six?
The sailing vessel itself was once a machine born of the calculations of engineers, yet it does not disturb our philosophers. The sloop took its place in the speech of men. There is a poetry of sailing as old as the world. There have always been seamen in recorded time. The man who assumes that there is an essential difference between the sloop and the airplane lacks historic perspective.
Every machine will gradually take on this patina and lose its identity in its function.
Air and water, and not machinery, are the concern of the hydroplane pilot about to take off. The motors are running free and the plane is already ploughing the surface of the sea. Under the dizzying whirl of the scythe like propellers, clusters of silvery water bloom and drown the flotation gear. The element smacks the sides of the hull with a sound like a gong, and the pilot can sense this tumult in the quivering of his body. He feels the ship charging itself with power as from second to second it picks up speed. He feels the development, in these fifteen tons of matter, of a maturity that is about to make flight possible. He closes his hands over the controls, and little by little in his bare palms he receives the gift of this power. The metal organs of the controls, progressively as this gift is made him, become the messengers of the power in his hands. And when his power is ripe, then, in a gesture gentler than the culling of a flower, the pilot severs the ship from the water and establishes it in the air."
Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint Exupery, Reynal & Hitchcock, N. Y., 1940, pg. 66-73
The Art of Memory, Frances A. Yates
" 'He inferred that persons desiring to train this faculty (of memory) must select places and form mental images of the things they wish to remember and store those images in the places, so that the order of the places will preserve the order of the things, and the images of the things will denote the things themselves, and we shall employ the places and images respectively as a wax writing-tablet and the letters written on it.' " Cicero, De oratore, II, lxxxvi, 351-4; The Art of Memory, Frances A. Yates, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1966, pg. 2.
"In order to form a series of places in memory... a building is to be remembered, as spacious and varied a one as possible, the forecourt, the living room, bedrooms, and parlours, not omitting statues and other ornaments with which the rooms are decorated. The images by which the speech is to be remembered - as an example of these Quintilian says one may use an anchor or a weapon - are then placed in imagination on the places which have been memorized in the building. This done, as these places are visited in turn and the various deposits demanded of their custodians. We have to think of the ancient orator as moving in imagination through his memory building whilst he is making his speech, drawing from the memorized places the images he has placed on them. The method ensures that the points are remembered in the right places in the building." The Art of Memory, Frances A. Yates, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1966, pg. 3.
"If we wish to remember much material we must equip ourselves with a large number of places. It is essential that the places should form a series and must be remembered in their order, so that we can start from any locus in the series and move either backwards or forwards from it. If we should see a number of our acquaintances standing in a row, it would not make any difference to us whether we should tell their names beginning with the person standing at the head of the line or at the foot or in the middle. So with memory loci. 'If these have been arranged in order, the result will be that, reminded by the images, we can repeat orally what we have committed to the loci, proceeding in either direction from any locus we please'. The formation of the loci is of the greatest importance, for the same set of loci can be used again and again for remembering different material. The images which we have placed on them for remembering one set of things fade and are effaced when we make no further use of them. But the loci remain in the memory and can be used again by placing another set of images for another set of material." The Art of Memory, Frances A. Yates, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1966, pg. 7.