May 14, 2010KR BlogKR

Things You Only See Through Other Things

Things you only see through other things (so begins at least a thousand words, over several posts, to get at the reason my girlfriend loves Cordwainer Smith). For example:

Magritte, in a letter, wrote of this painting:

My latest painting began with the question: how to show a glass of water in a painting in such a way that it would not be indifferent? Or whimsical, or arbitrary, or weak–but, allow us to use the word, with genius? (Without false modesty.) I began by drawing many glasses of water, always with a linear mark on the glass. This line, after the 100th or 150th drawing, widened out and finally took the form of an umbrella. The umbrella was then put into the glass, and to conclude, underneath the glass. Which is the exact solution to the thought that Hegel (another genius) would have been very sensitive to this object which has two opposing functions: at the same time not to admit any water (repelling it) and to admit it (containing it). He would have been delighted, I think, or amused (as on a vacation) and I call the painting Hegel’s Holiday.

My friend Alex gave me this photocopied note and I swooned on the purity of Surrealism: the faith in the non-logical relation, the mysticism, the undividedness of its creative environment. What an era!

(Noted the great Surrealism-nourished poet Barbara Guest: “those of us who shared this atmosphere brightened by Apollinaire, ??luard, Val??ry, Breton, considered ourselves part of a hemisphere where all the arts evolved around one another, a central plaza with roads which led from palette to quill to clef.”)

And Magritte? He believed the “genius” of a thing (an apple, a seascape, a night street) was only visible when that thing was next to another thing, a non-logical neighbor (a bowler-hatted head, a ship silhouette, a noon sky). Between the two, like a difference tone between two notes just off enough, was a third thing, this genius (genie, presiding spirit), a fundamental truth “meaningless but not indifferent” (since “Mystery means nothing”), impossible to see directly, to name directly, but around us all the time.

So good to love a sort of god!

Like the bravura brushstroke Barbara Guest balances her “Dissonance Royal Traveller” upon:

     music imagines this cardboard

horse in cardboard jacket

     flagrant the ragged grove

          red summit red.

dissonance royal traveller

          altered the red saddle.

The red saddle altered. Have you become agitated enough in a caf??, or in some crazy market at sunset, to love Surrealism like Magritte and Guest do?

This matters if you wish to see past common sense, if you buy that “fundamental” of mine above (or the “truth” after it). If you make what you see, you see through what you look at, you believe in experiment, you hear the music, you’re made by what you hear.

(Has anyone seen the slideshow from Cassini’s recent swing around Saturn?)

I miss the time I felt one experiment–dropped line or shapely rupture–away from fundamental truth. And what if those artists were right?–If all around us are these geniuses-in-passing, throughs we don’t break, a consciousness permanently altered or at least (like Magritte and his 150 drawings) remade into a monastic commitment? A kind of love? (Should I quit my job?) (I kind of love Surrealism.)

So why, complementarily, does my girlfriend love Cordwainer Smith? I’ll tell you more–sport-Sinologist, psychological warrior, consumptive, odd prophet–next week.

Have you ever become agitated enough in a caf??, or in some crazy market at sunset, to love Surrealism like Magritte and Guest do?

This matters if you wish to see past common sense, if you buy that “fundamental” of mine above (or the “truth” after it). If you make what you see, you see through what you look at, you believe in experiment, you hear the music, you’re made by what you hear.

(Has anyone seen the slideshow from Cassini’s recent swing around Saturn?

http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2010/04/19/science/042010-cassini_index.html?ref=space

I miss the time I felt one experiment–dropped line or shapely rupture–away from fundamental truth. And what if those artists were right?–If all around us are these geniuses-in-passing, throughs we don’t break, a consciousness permanently altered or at least (like Magritte and his 150 drawings) remade into a monastic commitment? A kind of love? Should I then quit my job? I kind of love Surrealism.

So why, complementarily, does my girlfriend love Cordwainer Smith? More on him–sport-Sinologist, psychological warrior, consumptive, odd prophet–next week.