Wednesday, July 14, 2021

A Mere Hint of Outer Meaning

"This essential connection between color and form brings us to the question of the influences of form on color. Form alone, even though totally abstract and geometrical, has a power of inner suggestion. A triangle (without the accessory consideration of its being acute — or obtuse — angled or equilateral) has a spiritual value of its own. In connection with other forms, this value may be somewhat modified, but remains in quality the same. The case is similar with a circle, a square, or any conceivable geometrical figure [which has] a subjective substance in an objective shell…

The mutual influence of form and color now becomes clear. A yellow triangle, a blue circle, a green square, or a green triangle, a yellow circle, a blue square—all these are different and have different spiritual values.
Form often is most expressive when least coherent. It is often most expressive when outwardly most imperfect, perhaps only a stroke, a mere hint of outer meaning.
Every object has its own life and therefore its own appeal; man is continually subject to these appeals. But the results are often dubbed either sub- or super-conscious. Nature, that is to say the ever-changing surroundings of man, sets in vibration the strings of the piano (the soul) by manipulation of the keys (the various objects with their several appeals)."

- Wassily Kandinsky (1866 - 1944)

Postscript. My apologies to subscribers who expect - rightfully - to receive an image, quote, and/or other musings on a regular basis! Due to the inevitable vagaries of "day job" responsibilities, it has been difficult to find time to re-acquaint myself with my camera ... so, please be patient, as I'll likely be "offline" for the next few weeks as well 😞 In the meantime, the lone image(s) I've managed to expose in well over a month, and arranged in triptych form above, provide a bit of solace. They are each (almost) undisturbed patterns I found under my feet as I was reading a research paper in my mother-in-law's garden in Florida. Followers of my blog may recall that I had - up until the age of 10 (i.e., 50 years ago!) - the most common form of synesthesia (a "crossing of the senses"), wherein I "saw" even numbers as "warm tones," and odd numbers as "cold" tones. But I also have a vestigial remnant of perceiving certain patterns as sound. It has never been as pronounced as my memory of the "visual/number - color" crossing, but it has been with me throughout my life. However, never have I had as intense a synesthetic experience as I did in mother-in-law's garden when eyes/brain glanced at the arrangement you see up above. I literally hear jazz-like music as I look at them. The Kandinsky quote appears of necessity in this context, since he was an acknowledged synesthete (and whose abstracts the natural “random” assemblies shown above remind me so much of!). For those of you who want a quick and fun read about what is currently known about synesthesia, a good place to start is a non-technical discussion by one of synesthesia's pioneer researchers, Richard Cytowic.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Universe as a Whole

"It would be indeed unusual if it turned out that the set of orders that our mind is able to construct and accept, having as it does a deep sense of 'understanding the essence of things,' matches precisely the set of all possible orders to be detected in the Universe as a whole. We should admit that this is not impossible, yet it does seem highly improbable. This way of thinking, so modest in its assessment of our abilities, is probably the only way recommended, given our lack of knowledge, because we are not aware of our limitations.
As long as Nature’s actions in the animate and inanimate world fill us with wonder and offer an unmatched example for us, a realm of solutions that exceeds in its perfection and complexity everything we can achieve ourselves, the number of unknowns will be bigger than our knowledge. It is only when we are eventually able to compete with Nature on the level of creation, when we have learned to copy it so that we can discover all of its limitations as a Designer, that we shall enter the realm of freedom, of being able to work out a creative strategy subordinated to our goals."

- Stanislaw Lem (1921 - 2006)
Summa technologiae

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Withered But Still Strong

 "All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king."

- J.R.R. Tolkien (1892 - 1973)
The Fellowship of the Ring

Monday, May 17, 2021

And He Built a Crooked House

"I don't think of a house as an upholstered cave; I think of it as a machine for living, a vital process, a live dynamic thing, changing with the mood of the dweller—not a dead, static, oversized coffin. Why should we be held down by the frozen concepts of our ancestors? Any fool with a little smattering of descriptive geometry can design a house in the ordinary way. Is the static geometry of Euclid the only mathematics? Are we to completely disregard the Picard-Vessiot theory? How about modular system?—to say nothing of the rich suggestions of stereochemistry. Isn't there a place in architecture for transformation, for homomorphology, for actional structures?"
"'Blessed if I know," answered Bailey. 'You might must as well be talking about the fourth dimension for all it means to me.'"
"...the house was no longer there. There was not even the ground floor room. It had vanished. The Baileys, interested in spite of themselves, poked around the foundations with Teal. 'Got any answers for this one, Teal?' asked Bailey. 'It must be that on that last shock it simply fell through into another section of space. I can see now that I should have anchored it at the foundations.' 'That's not all you should have done.' 'Well, I don't see that there is anything to get down-hearted about. The house was insured, and we've learned an amazing lot. There are possibilities, man, possibilities! Why, right now I've got a great new revolutionary idea for a house—'Teal ducked in time. He was always a man of action.'"

- Robert A. Heinlein (1907 - 1988)
And He Built a Crooked House

Sunday, May 16, 2021

A Borgesian Window

"As afternoon progresses and I look up from my work to gaze out this window, I may be invaded by springtime, or if it’s summer, by the perfume of jasmine or the scent of orange blossom, mingled with the aroma of leather and book paper, which brought Borges such pleasure.

The window has one more surprise. From it, I can see the garden of the house where Borges once lived, and where he wrote one of his best-known short stories, “The Circular Ruins.’’ Here, I can move back and forth between two worlds. Sometimes, following Borges, I wonder which one is real: the world I see from the window, bathed in afternoon splendor or sunset’s soft glow, with the house that once belonged to Borges in the distance, or the world of the Library of Babel, with its shelves full of books once touched by his hands?"

- Maria Kodama (1937 - )
Mr. Borges’s Garden

Saturday, May 15, 2021

A Mere Door

"How concrete everything
becomes in the world of
the spirit when an object,
a mere door, can give
images of hesitation, temptation,
desire, security, welcome
and respect. If one
were to give an account
of all the doors one has
closed and opened,
of all the doors one
would like to re-open,
one would have to tell the
story of one's entire life."

- Gaston Bachelard (1884 - 1962)
The Poetics of Space

Friday, May 14, 2021

Entropic Melodies

"The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell's equations - then so much the worse for Maxwell's equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation - well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the Second Law of Thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it to collapse in deepest humiliation."

Arthur Stanley Eddington (1882 - 1944)

Postscript. One of the first major publications that some of my work was featured in was Black & White magazine, way back in issue #41 (Feb 2006). The images were from what I called my "entropic melody" series. But the "melody" part applies equally to the images (as in "living melodies of otherwise visibly decaying parts") as it does to the - still ongoing - process of creating them (on a vastly different space and time scale). Though I like to think of my "synesthetic landscape" series as my longest "in progress" portfolio, the truth is that - having started "only" in 2009 - it takes a back seat to something I believe I'll never tire of: finding "life" in lifelessness. And so, on a recent "long weekend" vacation with my wife and youngest son (also a photographer), and armed with this spur-of-the-moment self-reflection, I found my eye and lens trained not (entirely) on the natural beauty in the West Jefferson area of North Carolina (of which there is plenty to be had, to be sure!), but rather on the regions' splendors of human-created and now neglected decaying beauty. Looking over the 30 or so "keeper shots" I returned home with, no less than 25 of them are of nothing but "withered but beautifully decrepit" sentinels - and occasional palimpsests - of  times past. And, for the photographer, a glimpse of a longer-term "melody" playing out in an always evolving aesthetic landscape. I will be featuring a few of my favorites from this short-much-too-short trip in the coming days.