Saturday, December 31, 2022

Gouwens again. "What Posthumanism Isn’t: On Humanism and Human Exceptionalism in the Renaissance" page 45 in Renaissance Posthumanism

Pico’s so-called “Oration on the Dignity of Man” represents a high point of eclecticism in its appropriation of non-Christian works from antiquity in the service of what he conceived as a Christian enterprise. Here Pico drew upon not only patristic and classical precedents but also the Hebrew Cabala and Hermetic texts. More often than not, this work has been taken as an unqualified assertion of anthropological optimism. Among its most-cited lines is the following: “We [i.e., God] have made thee neither of heaven nor of earth, neither mortal nor immortal, so that with freedom of choice and with honor, as though the maker and molder of thyself, thou mayest fashion thyself in whatever shape thou shalt prefer.” Such passages, indeed, have frequently been taken as a synopsis of Humanist thought. Thus, a leading authority on humans’ relationship to animals in Renaissance England has even referred to Pico’s “Oration” as the “manifesto” of Humanism.

Closer examination of Pico’s oration, however, reveals a less sanguine appraisal of human nature. In a series of important articles, Brian Copenhaver has shown how badly German Enlightenment philosophers and their later followers, notably Ernst Cassirer, misrepresented the work. Incorrectly believing that De hominis dignitate (Concerning the Dignity of the Human Being) was the title Pico gave to the text, Cassirer cast him as (in Copenhaver’s words) “the thoroughly liberated pre-Kantian thinker who set philosophy on its progressive course”; he was “humanity’s encomiast and also its liberator; he put his mark on Renaissance thought with praise for human liberty and the ‘glorification of man.’”

Ok then.

Cassirer, The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy, p 59  

Only one generation separates the philosophical works of Cusanus from those of Ficino and Pico. And yet, as soon as we compare them, we see immediately that a transformation has taken place both in the abstract Problematik and in the tone of the thought, that is to say, in the whole intellectual attitude. If we remember this, we shall see the error in the belief that the liberation of the Renaissance from the ‘Middle Ages’ took place as a steady development, moving in a straight line. No such quiet and even unfolding, no simple growth from within is observable at all. In the conflict of forces that takes place, only a temporary, thoroughly unstable equilibrium is ever achieved. 

p 62

If we were to judge the attitude towards life of the Florentine circle mainly by the hymns or by the canti carnascialeschi of Lorenzo the Magnificent, we should be badly misled indeed. To be sure, the cult of art and beauty became a cult of this-worldliness and of sensuality; joy in the 'here and now' expressed itself strongly and uninhibitedly. But soon, other notes were added to the expression of this sentiment. The dark shadow of Savonarola was, so to speak, discernible in this circle even before he himself appeared, even before his actual historical influence. The leading minds of the Florentine Academy finally succumbed to Savonarola and bowed before him almost without resistance. That they should do so is understandable only if we pay attention to the ascetic features that were present from the start in the Florentine Academy's view of the world. In the life of Ficino these features played a strong and ever-growing role in determining the form of his mind, as well as his general moral attitude. Ficino himself reported how, during a grave illness that befell him in his forty-fourth year, he vainly sought for consolation in philosophy and in the reading of the profane writers. His recuperation is supposed to have come about after he made a vow to the Virgin Mary, asking her for a sign of recovery. Thereupon he interpreted his illness as a divine sign that philosophy alone does not suffice for the true salvation of the soul. He throws his commentary on Lucretius into the fire, so as not to be guilty of pagan errors. He decides to dedicate all his philosophy and his literary activity completely to the service of religion, to the strengthening and propagating of the faith.  Gradually, the deep, dark shadows also begin to fall over Pico della Mirandola, a man who appeared to his contemporaries so light and shining, a true phoenix among the minds'. After the first, promising period of his career, filled with a nearly unlimited faith in the power of the human mind and in humanistic ideals of life and culture, Pico's ascetic features start to become more prominent. The notes of negation and contempt of the world resound with particular force and clarity in his correspondence.  For no soul did Savonarola fight more stubbornly, more passionately, more fanatically than for Pico's—and he finally won the fight. Shortly before his death, PicoIwas about to follow Savonarola's constantly repeated admonition to enter the monastery of San Marco. Thus, his life ends with renunciation, with a resigned return to religious dogma, to the sacraments of the church, and to the Christian-medieval forms of life.

If the Platonic Academy had been nothing but a completely retrogressive movement, we could never explain the strong and immediate influence it exerted on all the great Florentines--an influence that even affected the sceptical and cold mind of Machiavelli for a while. It is true that religious and theological interests determined the whole attitude and development of philosophical thought in the Academy. But it is also true that the religious spirit itself entered into a new phase. The intellectual labours of the first half of the Quattrocento, out of which grew a new, 'modern' concept of religion, were not lost on the Florentine Academy. It is certainly difficult to distinguish and follow the individual threads connecting the Platonic Academy to these intellectual labours; but the general, the immediate connection is quite obvious. One important connection between the doctrines of Ficino and Cusanus is apparent in the way they both pose and solve the problem of knowledge. But even more clearly than in these basic logical matters, the connection becomes visible in questions concerning metaphysics and the philosophy of religion. The speculations of Cusanus had established a new relationship between God and the world—a relationship that gave these speculations their distinctive character.

Cassirer, "Giovanni "Pico della Mirandola A Study in The History of Renaissance Ideas"  [JSTOR]

There is no doubt that Pico belongs among the great representative thinkers of his epoch; but at the same time he falls outside it in many of his characteristics. The intellectual ancestry of his philosophy is to be sought in the ancient world and in the Middle Ages, not in the Quattrocento. In many respects he seems to represent and announce a new way of thinking. But on the other hand we find him still completely bound up with and even restricted to a century-old tradition drawn from the most divergent sources. The frame of this tradition Pico never tried to burst asunder. If we understand by "originality" the individual's ability to break through in his thinking and action the limits of what has already been achieved, we cannot in Pico's case look for even the disposition or the will to attain such originality. His intention was to be neither "original" nor "unique"; such originality would have stood in sharpest contradiction to the idea of truth that pervades and inspires his philosophy. For Pico the criterion of philosophic truth consists in its constancy, in its uniformity and sameness. He understands philosophy as philosophia perennis as the revelation of an enduring Truth, in its main features immutable. This Truth is handed down through the ages; but it is generated by no age, by no single epoch, because, as something which eternally is, it is beyond time and beyond becoming.

The Individual and the Cosmos...,  p 83

This solution to the problem of the prescience of human action is similar to the one offered by Valla. But Pomponazzi attaches little importance to that other problem, left unsolved by Valla, viz., the problem of the compatibility of divine omnipotence with human freedom and responsibility. Although he does not quite dare to express himself unambiguously on this point, Pomponazzi's judgment tends unmistakably towards a strict determinism. In his work on natural philosophy, De naturalium effectuum admirandorum causis, the causality of events is interpreted in a strictly astrological sense. The world of history and the world of nature are both viewed as necessary results of the influence of the heavenly bodies. And elsewhere too, whenever he is speaking freely, Pomponazzi considers Fate in the Stoic sense the relatively most satisfactory and rational solution. What makes the acceptance of this solution difficult are not so much logical as ethical objections. A substantial part of the work is dedicated to the removal of these objections. In his De voluptate, Valla had striven to adapt the form of his completely world-oriented ethics to the form of religious meta-physics; now, with an energetic blow, Pomponazzi severs the bond that had hitherto conjoined metaphysics and ethics. In principle, each is completely independent of the other. Our judgment concerning the value of human life is not dependent on our ideas concerning the continuation of life or the immortality of the human soul; and similarly, the question of the value or non-value of our actions must be considered from a point of view other than what caused these actions. No matter how we may decide this latter question, the ethical-practical judgment remains free. This freedom is what we need, not some chimerical causelessness.

Pomponazzi's work is separated from Valla's by more than eight decades; the one was composed in 1520, the other seems to have been written in about 1436. It was precisely in these decades that the Platonism of the Florentine Academy transformed the philosophical thought of the Renaissance. And not only temporally, but systematically, too, the doctrines of the Academy stand directly between humanism and that late blossom of Scholasticism represented by the Paduan school. But at the same time, the formation of these doctrines was deeply affected by the influence of Cusanus on Florentine Platonism. Pico's famous oration, which was to serve as the introduction to his defence of the nine hundred theses in Rome, clearly reveals this intellectual filiation. When Pico Ichooses the 'dignity of man' as his central theme, he is merely taking up certain motifs which the older humanism had again and again treated rhetorically. The treatise De dignitate et excellentia hominis, already written in 1452 by Gianozzo Manetti, is constructed according to the same formal and intellectual schema that Pico's oration follows. To the world of nature, the world of that which has become, Manetti opposes the intellectual world of becoming, the world of culture. The human mind is at home only in this latter world, in which man can demonstrate his dignity and his freedom.

My first reaction was pure reflex. I call bullshit before thinking, because at this point I take academic pedantry as a given. It's good to be right.
If we were to judge the attitude towards life of the Florentine circle mainly by the hymns or by the canti carnascialeschi of Lorenzo the Magnificent, we should be badly misled indeed. 

You're left thinking that academics now think the poems of Lorenzo il Magnifico are of no historical importance at all. 

Gouwens p 41

Moreover, the values that Humanist education aimed to instill, when not explicitly Christian, were usually treated as complementary to Christianity. Thus Guarino argued that his charges needed to know classical literature in order to understand the Church Fathers aright (Augustine, after all, had been a professional rhetorician before his conversion). In addition, he required that they regularly attend mass and go to confession. It was exceedingly rare for Humanists to advocate agnosticism, let alone atheism as the word is now used.

Unsurprisingly, a yawning chasm existed between the claims of the most entrepreneurial pedagogues and the goods they actually delivered, a point made to withering effect by Anthony Grafton and Lisa Jardine. 

From Lorenzo to Pietro Aretino again, a man who drank with Charles V. (aka the Holy Roman Emperor)

Here Aretino lies, a Tuscan poet; Evil he spoke of all, except of God; When questioned why, he said 'Him I don't know'

I'm yawning. But I'm thinking of changing my preferred epitaph.

Grafton and Jardine's book is about academia. I'm trying to find Panofsky's joke about the difference between scholars and teachers, the IAS and the defense of "useless knowledge", and the opposition to von Neumann's computer—also now here—because it actually did something. For the rest, Grafton and Jardin's argument is more than a little absurd. Maybe more proof that the 20th century was an anti-humanist age. Somehow I thought Grafton would be better. There's a reason van de Waal called Panofsky the last humanist.

Grafton and Jardine, From Humanism to the Humanities: Education and the Liberal Arts in Fifteenth and Sixteenth-Century Europe 

xii-xiv as cited by Gouwens

We do, however, claim that they are linked together in a single argument: that the triumph of humanist education cannot simply be explained by reference to its intrinsic worth or practical utility. On the contrary, the literary education of the humanists displaced a system far better adapted to many of the traditional intellectual and practical needs of European society. Scholasticism was very much a going concern in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. At the level of the school, it offered literacy in Latin of a sort to thousands of boys. At the higher level of the university arts course, it provided a lively and rigorous training in logic and semantics. At the higher level still of the professional faculties of law, medicine and theology, it trained men for employment in powerful and lucrative occupations. And on its fringes, in the severely practical courses on the arts of the notary, it even taught the future estate manager, government clerk or solicitor how to keep books, draw up contracts and write business letters. This curriculum, in short, equipped students with complex skills and fitted them to perform specialised tasks. Its immense success is clearly visible from the enviable placement record enjoyed by the medieval alumni of Oxford and Cambridge, and more generally from the rapid expansion it was undergoing for at least a century before the humanists had any substantial impact. Above all, we know now that it was no sterile indoctrination in the authoritative messages of a few selected texts. Recent research in the history of fields as divergent as natural philosophy and political theory has brought to light vast, unsuspected veins of insight and speculation, long buried in forgotten summas and commentaries. The liquidation of this intellectual system was clearly the murder of an intact organism, not the clearing away of a disintegrated fossil.

We do not seek to tarnish the reputations of individual humanist teachers. The secondary works on which we have relied most heavily—chiefly monographs by classicists and literary historians—confirm the brilliance of the humanists' work in their favourite fields. Their rigorous empirical investigation and codification of the grammar and syntax of the classical languages laid the foundation for modern philology. Their equally rigorous schooling in prose and verse composition, in the artful allusion and the striking metaphor, was a necessary precondition for the flowering of the modern European vernacular literatures. The prose of Rabelais, the lyrics of Ronsard and the plays of Shakespeare ]are only the most succulent of the fruits that grew from deep roots in the training the humanists offered. To have been the progenitors of modern scholarship and modern literature is no small achievement, and we would be among the first to claim it for the subjects of this book.

What we would not accept is the traditional claim that these solid merits enabled humanism to win its battle against scholasticism. The older system had fitted perfectly the needs of the Europe of the high middle ages, with its communes, its church offices open to the low-born of high talents and its vigorous debates on power and authority in state and church. The new system, we would argue, fitted the needs of the new Europe that was taking shape, with its closed governing lites, hereditary offices and strenuous efforts to close off debate on vital political and social questions. It stamped the more prominent members of the new lite with an indelible cultural seal of superiority, it equipped lesser members with fluency and the learned habit of attention to textual detail and it offered everyone a model of true culture as something given, absolute, to be mastered, not questioned - and thus fostered in all its initiates a properly docile attitude towards authority. The education of the humanists was made to order for the Europe of the Counter-Reformation and of late Protestant orthodoxy. And this consonance between the practical activities of the humanists and the practical needs of their patrons, we argue, was the decisive reason for the victory of humanism. Scholasticism bred too independent an attitude to survive. In the Renaissance as in other periods, in sum, the price of collaboration in the renewal of art and literature was collaboration in the constriction of society and polity.

p 131-2

The idea of the exercises in Aphthonius is to produce a total routineness of imaginative writing by reducing its variety systematically to a sequence (graded according to difficulty) of specified (and supposedly key) types of verbal composition, including both narrative forms and argument forms.

Each type is expected to become second nature to the student, so that his public utterances will be pre-shaped to the requirements of public debate—the lynch-pin skill for social and political life. While we are concerned here with the large-scale impact of such 'system' on arts education, it is to be readily detected in the occasional detail of Renaissance literary composition (litterae). Specifically, the prominence of worked examples in the text means that there is a particular quality of almost banal familiarity about the subsequent use of (or reference to) the same examples by writers for whom they had formed part of an intensive classroom-drilling. Two examples taken from the work of William Shakespeare (a product of humanistic pedagogy whose works continue to be 'popular', that is, read by non-specialist readers) will, we hope, make this point clearly. 

p 199

As philology became value-free and pedagogy became pragmatic, the larger value of both enterprises was called into question. Why study the ancient world if not to become more virtuous? But a training in virtue now seemed to be one quality that neither scholars nor teachers could offer. Since Montaigne—one of the first to offer these criticisms in a cogent form—the claim that the liberal arts would produce 'new men', men of an enhanced virtuous disposition, has often been repeated; and new generations of believers in the ideals of early humanism have tried to show that some new form of literary education could achieve this goal. For all their brilliance, and for all their formative influence upon practitioners of the liberal arts, neither Wilhelm von Humboldt nor Lionel Trilling, neither F.R. Leavis nor G. Gentile has had an impact on anything but a small segment of élite education in the West, or satisfied more than a handful of critics with the intellectual centrality of their enterprise. Like them, we watch as our most gifted students master the techniques and methods of textual analysis, the command of ancient and modern languages (which they can transpose effectively to new and developing disciplines), but in the main discard that over-arching framework of 'civilised values' by which teachers of the humanities continue to set such store. Whether we like it or not, we still live with the dilemma of late humanism: we too can only live in hope, and practise the humanities.

I'm willing to bet if Grafton had been teaching in 1967 he would've one of the ones who disdained the teach-ins

"the dilemma of late humanism", atomization, and Sputnik. Alfred Kazin in 1960, when Grafton was a 10-year-old. 

Whatever Greenwich Village may once have been or may now be supposed to have been, anyone who has recently strayed down MacDougal Street on a Saturday night knows that now it is a playground. What Coney Island was once to the honest workingman, Greenwich Village is now to the unmarried or ex-married young professional. The Village streets, pads, coffee houses, and bars are jammed with people who look a million times more sensitive, artistic, and "interesting" than William Faulkner or Igor Stravinsky, but who live by teaching economics, analyzing public opinion, writing advertising copy, practicing psychoanalysis, or "doing research" for political candidates. They are not intellectuals, but occasionally dream that they will be. 
another repeat, of a repeat, of a...
"The Learning Knights of Bell Telephone"
Perhaps the most exciting component of the curriculum was the series of guest lecturers the institute brought to campus. “One hundred and sixty of America’s leading intellectuals,” according to Baltzell, spoke to the Bell students that year. They included the poets W. H. Auden and Delmore Schwartz, the Princeton literary critic R. P. Blackmur, the architectural historian Lewis Mumford, the composer Virgil Thomson. It was a thrilling intellectual carnival. 
...What’s more, the graduates were no longer content to let the machinery of business determine the course of their lives. One man told Baltzell that before the program he had been “like a straw floating with the current down the stream” and added: “The stream was the Bell Telephone Company. I don’t think I will ever be that straw again.” 
...But Bell gradually withdrew its support after yet another positive assessment found that while executives came out of the program more confident and more intellectually engaged, they were also less interested in putting the company’s bottom line ahead of their commitments to their families and communities. By 1960, the Institute of Humanistic Studies for Executives was finished.

Copenhaver is the author of the Stanford Encyclopedia entry on Pico. He really is a fan.

Friday, December 30, 2022

 Campbell, again., p. 77-8

The spacing interval of the gaze, which generates pictorial depth, which generates the coherence and distinctness of bodies as they regard each other at a distance, continues to be charged with eros—as in the other works from the Ovid series, such as the Danae (versions in Naples, Capodimonte, and Madrid, Prado) and the Rape of Europa (Boston, Gardner Museum). At the same time, there is a growing sense of the insufficiency of Eros, and of the gendered codes of seeing and touching through which it is sustained. Thus, the gendering of sensory experience is taken to near parodic levels in the several versions of Venus with a Musician, a playfully bathetic and in some ways pointedly vulgar take on pictorial synaesthesia where sight, touch, and now also hearing are represented as analogous—even as seeking to transform themselves into each other—but irrevocably dichotomous. Here, the interval is what is at stake: that which defines the frankly prurient gaze of the musician, who turns to gape at the mons veneris of the reclining goddess (herself in a state of haptic absorption in Cupid’s kiss or the caress of a lap dog) as his hands are occupied with lute or pipe organ. In two of the versions (both Madrid, Prado) the (pleasurable?) discontents of specular non-possession are driven home for the beholder as his own gaze is drawn into and contained by a rigidly perspectival garden landscape, a receding line of trees picking up the diminishing row of organ pipes in the foreground. The viewer’s prospect, and the musician’s, has a mutually intersecting “climax” in the form of an upward thrusting statue of a satyr, the centerpiece of a sputtering fountain in the distance above the hand of Venus.

"Hey, lady!"

 "...the (pleasurable?) discontents of specular non-possession." Believe it or not, he's an art historian

"Thus, the gendering of sensory experience..." Just call it heteronormative. There are enough boys out there.

It's all about the feet and the lower back. This one's not my favorite but I love them all. 

Titian has a tag.


Titian has progressed from a pursuit of painting as drama—narratives of passion and violence, of the suffering and desiring body, all staged to move the beholder—to a mode of painting as the imaging of other modes of bodily engagement with the world; toward an experience of embodiment without boundaries, as an experience of continuum. The Flaying of Marsyas is thus where two preoccupations of his art come together, are imposed on each other—the interest in the parahuman, the analogy of human beings with animals on one hand, the idea of painting as a sensory continuum on the other.44 The intersection of these two preoccupations stands behind the painting’s ritual or sacrificial as opposed to tragic character: flaying, the animal-human hybrid, and openness of the body to space are all states of being that are conjoined here, albeit obtained at a price, where some- thing whole is torn apart in the process.

The Flaying of Marsyas is the culmination of this preoccupation with bodies that might overcome their boundaries; the dissolution of bodies—not just that of Marsyas—and the radical equivalence between figure and ground, object and void—produces the sense of a flow of energy or vitality within a stable or monumental pictorial structure, which—as Panofsky correctly noted, no longer depends on the “interval,” the intersubjective vector. The viewer himself vacillates between the impact of the horrific subject and the perception of a radically new kind of pictorial order: We compare rivers of blood to the blood-colored ribbons that bind the satyr’s feet: a harmony, a near identity, between fixity and flow, where one looks like the other. Painting is pushed to its limits but we respond to a stable structure, as if the painting was itself a kind of body that addressed itself to our own, that demands to be perceived with more than just the eye. The painting, as Richard Wollheim observed about late Titian, has a skin: The skin is not smooth and impermeable but an endlessly open process of unblended matter, disquieting, but perhaps no longer “abject”: “The truth is that in this work the vitality of the human frame is projected beyond all recognizable bounds.”45

At a distance, the spectacle of the abject, suffering body is appalling; close at hand, it becomes absorbing, and solicits an array of other responses, which the figures surrounding Marsyas seem to model in their postures of immersive sensory engagement, melancholy rumination, or wonder. And let’s notforget a whole other dimension of non-human engagement here, which is scarcely de-privileged—the engagement through taste and smell (the dogs), through the indeterminate but at least anthropomorphic emotion of the satirino, and finally through Marsyas. From his expression, this is not the Marsyas in Ovid who screams “why are you stripping me from myself?” This is a Marsyas who accepts an annihilation of boundaried personhood. The Marsyas serves as a dream of shattering, of the undoing/unfolding of the figure in its boundaries, of continuum of the body with matter, attained through an impossibly “non-violent violence,” as it was dreamed of in Dante’s invocation of Apollo and Marsyas.46 It is one thing for a poet to declare this, and quite another to paint it. Titian manages to do so beyond the language of allegory, by finding other ways of making such a transformation visible.

44. Wollheim, Painting as an Art, 326, on the “shift in perspective” in late Titian: “That Titian should, in connecting the body so powerfully with suffer- ing, retain the connection between the body and vitality is what establishes the shift in perspective” characteristic of the Flaying of Marsyas. The presence of animals can be seen to stand for this transfer from a human response of shock or horror to a “posthuman” seeing in terms of vitality.

45. Wollheim, Painting As an Art, 326. 

6. Paradiso, I.20:

Entra nel petto mio, e spira tue
sì come quando Marsïa traesti
de la vagina de le membra sue.
So massive is the element of condensation in this startling work that we have to tread carefully if we are to retrieve its meaning. To a greater degree than ni any of the other three pictures metaphorical content is entwined with representational, expressive, and
textual, content, so that the precise conception under which this painting metaphorizes the body has to be sifted out from these other forms of meaning.
On this issue, iconology, left to itself, would have little difficulty in enlightening us. Classical antiquity, Christianity,and the thought of the Renaissanceconcurred in finding ni the imposition of Apollo's will upon the brutish body of Marsyas the victory of what is higher ni its nature over what is lower. Over the centuries this understanding of the event came to be articulated on a number of different levels.

Taken as a piece of narrative, the destruction of Marsyas was seen as the punishment inflicted by an angry god upon a mortal creature who had of fended him through arrogance, or at least through gross imprudence. To this description of the event other interpretations of a more allegorical sort accrued. One interpretation, which went back to antiquity, saw ni the outcome of the musical contest the victory of the superior arts, or of those touched with rationality, exemplified by the music of the stringed lyre, over the inferior or coarser arts, of which the shrill tones of the pipes or flute, which excite the senses without appealing to the intellect, would be typical. This interpretation is to be found in the ancient philosophers.17 Again, the victory of Apollo over Marsyas was taken to symbolize the ascent of man from the world of confusion into the realm of universal harmony: man enters upon the sunlit domain of reason. Finally, the victory of Apollo stood ni for the soul's escape from its earthbound condition. The Christian evaluation of this terrifying story fully bursts upon us when, listening to Dante at the beginning ofthe Paradisoas he places himself under the protection of Apollo, we hear him apostrophize hte god, hte 'buono Apolo', specifically as the tormentor of Marsyas:  
Entra nel petto mio, espira tue
sí come quando Marsia traesti
della vagina dele membra sue.
(Paradiso, Canto 1, lines 19-21) 
'Enter my breast, and breathe there as you did when you tore Marsyas from out of what sheathed his limbs.'

There are however few if any scholars who would in the context of Titian's painting follow the lead of iconology unconditionally, and would without reserve equate the meaning of the picture with the meaning, the gradually acquired meaning, of the event that it represents. If this reluctance cannot be directly ascribed to the considerations that I advanced in Lecture IV—that is, that we should not, just because a picture represents an event associated with a certain text, infer that the picture means that text, unless the picture also discloses what the text meant to the artist—nevertheless a related consideration is undoubtedly at work. Scholars have been deterred by the fact that, if we accept the interpretation that iconology urges, we shall be required to see the picture in ways that perception cannot negotiate. We shall have to see it as expressive of joy, elation, and triumphant righteousness. That we cannot manage.

It would. of course be unjustified to jump to the conclusion that Titian transvalued the ancient myth, or that from his depiction of the event Marsyas emerges as the hero, Apollo as the wrongdoer. Such an interpretation would be historically untenable. However asuggestion which has its appeal, is free of anachronism, and is also fully in keeping with what we otherwise know of Titian, ii that in The Flaying of Marsyas he brought about, not a reversal of values, but a radical shift in perspective.For if Titian still continued to understand the mythological event in terms of texts that the centuries had associated with it—and just how many of these texts he wished to incorporate into the painting is not something that I need settle in detail—he thought of them in a new  way. Their emphasis was displaced. In telling us what lies above or beyond our mortal embodied condition, they were taken by Titian to be showing us, primarily, something about this condition of ours: that it is not merely what precedes, it is a necessary preparation for, indeed it is a way of bringing about, what lies ahead of itself. These texts are not just texts about the soul, they are as much texts about the body: they are, fundamentally, texts about what the body does for the soul. This is what I mean by a shift in perspective, 1 and my claim is that this shift is crucial for grasping the conception of the body under which this great painting metaphorizes it.

The Flaying of Marsyas is given over to the suffering of the body, but in Titian's hands suffering is shown to be fully compatible with the vitality that erupted so buoyantly in the earlier works. The truth is that ni this work the vitality of the human frame is projected beyond all recognizable bounds. Marsyas's body, defeated, degraded, in its final throes, has been so placed upon the canvas that, at any rate before the support was unevenly extended,19the navel lay at the very centre of the picture, and from this vantage point the body then swells out to assume control of the picture as a whole. It does so by various means. It does so through the blood that, running out of Marsyas's wounds, is carried by Titian's brush, or by his fingertips, with which eh also applied the paint, to the farthest parts of the canvas. It does so through the other figures who, ni the savage unremitting attention they give to its destruction, acquire a kind of dependency upon it, like leeches upon the ailing frame of an invalid. And ti does so through Titian's flickering brushstrokes which, in tumult across much of the pictorial surface, attain an equilibrium as they mark the great cylindrical carcass, flaying it into incandescence. The inverted pose of Marsyas, which has the effect, unless we invert ourselves too, of obscuring from us the expression on his face, makes more mysterious, hence makes more potent, the spell that this enormous polluted body casts over the total painting.

That Titian should, in connecting the body so powerfully with suffering, retain the connection between the body and vitality is what establishes the shift in perspective of which I have spoken. For if the defeat of the flesh is not just what prefaces higher things, but is that through which they are won, then this defeat must somehow be shown as achievement. This Titian does when he presents suffering, massive suffering, as the supreme occasion on which man can, through his determination and the straining of his body, wrest activity out of passivity. If, this activity communicating itself to us, we do invert ourselves and we try to make out the expression on Marsyas's face, a shock is now in store for us. Titian has given Marsyas the features of a young loose-limbed peasant, a farmer or a gardener's boy. The features are distorted by fear and incredulity. But in the great haunted eyes there is also a totally unexpected look of acceptance - acceptance triumphant over suffering. fI it is the victory of the soul over the body that we are watching, what makes it possible is the victory of the body over itself. 

Modern man that I am, I can't help thinking about Kafka

Enlightenment comes to the most dull-witted. It begins around the eyes. From there it radiates. A moment that might tempt one to get under the Harrow oneself. Nothing more happens than that the man begins to understand the inscription, he purses his mouth as if he were listening. You have seen how difficult it is to decipher the script with one's eyes; but our man deciphers it with his wounds. To be sure, that is a hard task; he needs six hours to accomplish it. By that time the Harrow has pierced him quite through and casts him into the pit, where he pitches down upon the blood and water and the cotton wool. Then the judgment has been fulfilled, and we, the soldier and I, bury him."

"We were the essence of good, and they, nothing, human dust. And it was almost charity to fight them.” 

I worked at a fabrication shop a few years ago. It was 10-12 hours a day, seven days a week. One of the other workers was in his late 20s, a skateboarder, builder, dude. He worked on projects at Burning Man every year. He had a kind of openness about him. It took me a week to figure out where that went. He was gay and he liked real pain. We didn't talk about it but it was all there.

I'm not done.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Amwaj: Inside story: Amid protests, talk of reform crosses political divide in Iran 

Groups of politicians from across the political spectrum within the Islamic Republic are debating reforms to Iran’s governance system amid the ongoing anti-establishment protests. Yet there are differences in perceptions of possible changes based on partisan stances. Broadly, Reformists are hoping for structural changes, while conservatives are looking at more limited adjustments.

Regardless of their political affiliation, however, all those mulling reforms are stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, it is not clear whether they can overcome supporters of the status quo. Nor is it known whether any proposed reforms will satisfy a public that is hungry for fundamental change.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Kenneth Gouwens, "What Posthumanism Isn’t: On Humanism and Human Exceptionalism in the Renaissance", in Renaissance Posthumanism

My head's spinning, and I'm not sure it's the booze. It's always fun to have your predictions confirmed.


The time may be at hand for postmoderns to imitate the intellectual model of Renaissance Humanists. The “openness from close” that Cary Wolfe identifies as vital to the project of posthumanism was in many respects integral to Renaissance thought, not antithetical to it. Like the Renaissance Humanists, we too confront an uncertain intellectual landscape in which one has to forge a path amidst competing discourses and incommensurable approaches to the truth.95 Such terrain, whatever its pitfalls, may prove an invaluable site for creativity and innovation. Following the example of the Renaissance Humanists, we too may benefit from grounding our understandings of the present by creatively juxtaposing those conceptions, be they ever so posthumanist, in a responsible reconstruction of what has come before—a past whose relevance for us may, after all, be such that it figures as more than just a genealogical antecedent.


Cary Wolfe, What is Posthumanism? And we're back to Latour?

But this is fascinating

The autistic’s body boundary problem is at the core of another remarkable moment in Thinking in Pictures, which dramatizes in an especially powerful way many of the themes I have been discussing thus far. Grandin was hired to redesign an extremely cruel system used for the kosher slaughter of cattle, replacing it with a chute that would gently hold the animal in a standing position while the rabbi performed the final deed. “It worked best when I operated the hydraulic levers unconsciously, like using my legs for walking,” she writes.

I had to force myself to relax and just allow the restrainer to become part of my body....Through the machine, I reached out and held the animal. When I held his head in the yoke, I imagined placing my hands on his forehead and under his chin and gently easing him into position. Body boundaries seemed to disappear....The parts of the apparatus that held the animal felt as if they were an extension of my own body, similar to the phantom limb effect....During this intense period of concentration I no longer heard noise from the plant machinery....Everything seemed quiet and serene. It was almost a religious experience....I was able to look at each animal, to hold him gently and make him as comfortable as possible during the last moments of his life....A new door had been opened. It felt like walking on water. (41–42)

[The ecstasy of killing. I almost came in my shorts] 

Now, many things could be said about this passage,18 [see below] but for the moment I would simply like to draw our attention to how here, disability becomes the positive, indeed enabling, condition for a powerful experience by Grandin that crosses the lines not only of species difference but also of the organic and inorganic, the biological and mechanical. In a kind of dramatization of the category meltdowns identified canonically in Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto,” disability here positively makes a mess of the conceptual and ontological coordinates that Grandin’s rendering of the passage surely reinstates rhetorically on another level.

This realization—that what we traditionally think of as disability can be a powerful and unique form of abledness—is a fundamental assumption for recent work in disability studies.19 [below] Here, however, I want to interpret the significance of this moment in Grandin’s work, and her case in general, in a way that diverges from some of the dominant paradigms of recent disability studies. At first blush, the most obvious way for animal studies and disability studies to make common cause might seem to be within a shared liberal “democratic framework,” which, as philosopher Luc Ferry puts it, “counts on the progress of ‘the equality of conditions’” to gradually increase the sphere of legal rights and ethical recognition. In this view—and this is essentially the procedure of Martha Nussbaum’s Frontiers of Justice, discussed in chapter 3—nonhuman animals and the disabled would be seen as simply the latest traditionally marginalized groups to have ethical and legal enfranchisement wholly or partially extended to them in an expand- ing democratic context that entails what Nancy Fraser has called the “politics of recognition.”20

But a fundamental problem with the liberal humanist model is not so much what it wants as the price it pays for what it wants: that in its attempt to recognize the uniqueness of the other, it reinstates the normative model of subjectivity that it insists is the problem in the first place. I am not suggesting that working to liberalize the interpretation by the courts of the Americans with Disabilities Act is a waste of time, or that lobbying to upgrade animal cruelty prosecutions from misdemeanor to felony status is a bad thing. What I am suggesting is that these pragmatic pursuits are forced to work within the purview of a liberal humanism in philosophy, politics, and law that is bound by a historically and ideologically specific set of coordinates that, because of that very boundedness, allow one to achieve certain pragmatic gains in the short run, but at the price of a radical foreshortening of a more ambitious and more profound ethical project: a new and more inclusive form of ethical pluralism that it is our charge, now, to frame. That project would think the ethical force of disability and nonhuman subjectivity as something other than merely an expansion of the liberal humanist ethnos to ever newer populations, as merely the next room added onto the (increasingly opulent and globalizing) house of what Richard Rorty has called “the rich North Atlantic bourgeois democracies.”

Derrida is especially forceful on this point in a recent interview on what he has called “the question of the (so-called) animal,” which we explored in chapter 3. “For the moment,” he suggests, “we ought to limit ourselves to working out the rules of law [droit] such as they exist. But it will eventually be necessary to reconsider the history of this law and to understand that although animals cannot be placed under concepts like citizen, consciousness linked with speech . . . etc., they are not for all that without a ‘right.’ It’s the very concept of right that will have to be ‘rethought.’” Derrida’s point here is not just the obvious one that we “cannot expect ‘animals’ to be able to enter into an expressly juridical contract in which they would have duties, in an exchange of recognized rights,” but rather—and more pointedly—that “it is within this philosophico-juridical space that the modern violence against animals is practiced, a violence that is at once contemporary with and indissociable from the discourse of human rights.” And from this vantage, it makes perfect sense to conclude, as Derrida does, that “however much sympathy I may have for a declaration of animals rights that would protect them from human violence,” it is nevertheless “preferable not to introduce this problematic concerning the relations between humans and animals into the existing juridical framework.”22

Footnotes 18 and 19 This is the best Wolfe can do.

18. For example, its echo, if only between the lines, of the ancient religious rites of animal sacrifice (which one might well gloss in light not only of Derrida’s “Eating Well” but also of Bataille’s The Theory of Religion); the rhetorical decision to designate the slaughtered animal with the generic pronoun “he”; the obvious ethical issues that present themselves around the unnecessary killing of animals, however comfortably or compassionately carried out, for human consumption, the mechanization of that process as part of the larger regime of factory farming and agribusiness, and so on—something we would surely want to explore in another context.

19. For example, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, a leading disability scholar, notes that in the artistic careers of Claude Monet and Chuck Close, disability was not an impediment but rather “enabled what we think of as artistic evolution” toward their most important work; “they were great artists not in spite of disability but because of disability.” “Disability and Representation,” PMLA 120, no. 2 (March 2005): 524.

The passage from Grandin reads as sociopathy, autistic Sadean anti-humanism. Grandin is who she is and she's not the issue. Wolfe's defense and celebration is. His argument that posthumanism is the opposite of transhumanism is based on the assumption that futurism is an extension of humanism, which can only make sense if it's an extension of the 18th century fantasy of the perfectibility of man, which older humanists knew to be absurd. But his posthumanism is retains the optimism, which is why he responds to Grandin as he does. 

Stephen Campbell, following Gouwens, in the same volume, writes about Panofsky's response to Titian's Flaying of Marsyas, using a passage I've quoted a dozen times, and ignoring the most important part.

For, though the word Humanität had come, in the eighteenth century, to mean little more than politeness and civility, it had, for Kant, a much deeper significance, which the circumstances of the moment served to emphasize: man’s proud and tragic consciousness of self-approved and self-imposed principles, contrasting with his utter subjection to illness, decay and all that implied in the word ‘mortality.’

Kant on his deathbed was already a creature from the past. 

All their arguments are confused. Nussbaum's programmatic liberalism vs Derrida's common sense! Hilarious. But the pretense that they and what write about can be divided between bourgeois and not is silly. It all depicts/makes manifest the changing of bourgeois self-description.

Wolfe again, and Michael Fried. 

Yet precisely here an interesting problem manifests itself. While Coe is certainly within her rights to see the ethical function of (her) art, at least in one sense, as drawing our attention, as powerfully as possible, to the untold horrors of the slaughterhouse, on another level—and it is this level that will be handled with considerable sophistication, I think, in Eduardo Kac’s work—that ethical function and the representationalism it depends on rely on a certain disavowal of the violence (what Fried calls the “disfiguration”) of representation itself, which immediately leads to an obvious question we might ask of Coe: If the ethical function of art is what Coe thinks it is, why not just show people photographs of stockyards, slaughterhouses, and the killing floor to achieve this end? To put it another way, what does art add? And what does it mean that her art has to be more than real to be real? Isn’t the “melodrama of visibility” (to use Fried’s phrase) that we find in Dead Meat, which is calculated to “give the animal a face,” also, in another sense, an effacement of the very reality it aims to represent, one that quite conspicuously manifests itself in the hyperbole, disfiguration, and melodrama of Coe’s work? The paradoxical result for Coe’s work, then, is that it appeals to us to read it as directly (indeed, melodramatically) legible of the content it represents, but the only way it achieves that end is through its figural excess, which is precisely not of the slaughterhouse but of the interposing materiality of representation itself.

We can unpack the implications of this point by remembering Fried’s discussion of “what might be called a drama, some would even say a melodrama, of visibility” in Eakins’s The Gross Clinic, which may be brought into sharp contrast with the very different “melodrama” we find in Coe’s Dead Meat project.11 My point here in calling Coe’s work “melodramatic” is not that it exaggerates what really goes on in a slaughterhouse but that in Coe’s work, nothing is hidden from us. On the contrary, the paintings seem to form a kind of theater calculated to produce a “surefire effect” (to use Fried’s characterization of “theatricality”) by “playing to the audience,” as the figures in the paintings— human and animal—repeatedly look out at us, imploringly, fearfully, or sadistically, as if the entire affair inside the space of the painting is staged only for us.12 Unlike the experience of the viewer in what Fried calls the “absorptive” tradition in painting that culminates in modern- ist abstraction, the viewer in Coe’s work isn’t “denied,” as Fried puts it, but rather addressed and held responsible, even culpable, for what is being shown inside the frame.

Here—to return to The Gross Clinic—two conspicuous features of Eakins’s painting noted by Fried are very much to the point: the rendering of the surgical patient’s body, and the cringing figure of an older woman, usually taken to be the patient’s mother. As for the first, Fried notes that “the portions of the body that can be seen are not readily identifiable, so that our initial and persisting though not quite final impression is of a few scarcely differentiated body parts rather than of a coherent if momentarily indecipherable ensemble.”13 In fact, Fried likens this presentation to something like a dismembering, an act of “deliberate aggression” and even “sadism” that ultimately is an index of “the attitude toward the viewer that that rendering implies”—an especially intense version of the attitude typical of what Fried elsewhere famously calls the “absorptive” tradition in painting (59). Similarly, the cringing figure dramatizes “the pain of seeing,” in both “the emphatic emptiness of her clawlike left hand,” the “violent contortion” of which is “apprehended by the viewer as a threat—at a minimum, an offense— to vision as such,” and “the sightlessness that . . . she so feelingly embodies” . In these “aggressions,” as Fried calls them, these gestures of “disfiguration,” Fried finds in the painting “an implied affront to seeing,” a “stunning or, worse, a wounding of seeing—that leads me to imagine that the definitive realist painting would be one that the viewer literally could not bear to look at” 

Here we get a precise sense of the differences between the force of “disfiguration” at work in Eakins’s representationalism and in Coe’s. In Coe, although there is disfiguration aplenty, it is never a disfiguration that resists vision or interpretation—quite the contrary, it invites a single, univocal reading. The violence of Eakins’s “affront to seeing” that manifests itself in The Gross Clinic as incision, deformation, and even, in a sense, dismemberment (a violence displaced and contained by being thematized, as Fried notes, in terms of the “necessary” surgery being performed) is matched by the reverse dynamic in Coe. The almost nightmarish, infernal scenes of violence before us hide nothing, and for that very reason, the artist, as it were, has no blood on her hands. (That is reserved, of course, for the forces of capitalism and Taylorization referenced in the work’s semantic content.)

In this light, we can sharpen our sense (if you’ll pardon the expression) of the difference between Coe’s representationalism and Eakins’s by reminding ourselves of the signifying force of the surgeon’s scalpel in The Gross Clinic as glossed by Fried. If Eakins represents himself allegorically through the figure of Gross, then the scalpel serves to remind us—rather startlingly, even traumatically—that Eakins is “divided or excruciated between competing systems of representation.” On the one hand, the scalpel, “being hard and sharp, an instrument for cutting, be- longs unmistakably to the system of writing/drawing”; on the other, because the scalpel is marked by an outré, almost three-dimensional drop of blood on its tip, it “refers, by means of an irresistible analogy,” to the system of painting—almost as if the drop of blood were paint and the surgeon/painter carefully and dramatically deliberates its violent application.  

The "posthumanist" Wolfe, defending the high modernist Fried: promoting positivist philosophic art, but not illustration. He doesn't get the joke. The Gross Clinic is a higher form of moralizing melodrama.

Fried, Absorption and Theatricality Painting and Beholder in the Age of Diderot 

For a long time now it has been traditional, almost obligatory, to remark that we, the modern public, no longer find it in ourselves to be moved by the sentimentality, emotionalism, and moralism of much of Greuze's production. But the truth is chat we take those qualities at face value, as if they and nothing more were at stake in his pictures; and that we therefore fail to grasp what his sentimentalism, emo­tionalism, and moralism, as well as his alleged mania for plotting, are in the service of, pictorially speaking-viz., a more urgent and extreme evoca­tion of absorption than can be found in the work of Chardin, Van Loo, Vien, or any ocher French painter of the time.  


And this systematic violence against the animals is itself doubled by a less brutal, though no less systematic, violence that attends the workers who are forced by the nature of capitalism itself to do such work—a point graphically captured in Coe’s rendering of the meatpacking workers in painting after paint- ing and explicitly thematized in works such as “Capital/Labor.”

The page breaks in the book in the middle of the word "nat...ture" and begins again below a reproduction.

Sue Coe, Goat outside Slaughterhouse P.A., 1990. Copyright 1990 Sue Coe. Courtesy of Galerie St. Etienne, New York.

Art, philosophy, and luxury boutiques. That should be a tag! 

2012, still repeating

I said it all before but it bears repeating now:
The "postmodern" critique of the enlightenment was based on a fallacious definition of humanism, but marks the beginning of a humanist critique of enlightenment and modernist anti-humanism, in the mockery by teenage children, full of insecurity, pose and pretension, directed against the moralizing authoritarianism of their parents.

If posthumanism is the new humanism, I'll take it


When the great Japanese filmmaker Ozu was dying of cancer, his films were being forgotten. His producer came to visit him and neither said what they both knew: his home dramas were being overshadowed by Samurai epics.  As he was leaving, Ozu called him back. 
"What is this?" he said. "Home drama"

Mizoguchi is better, but that's another conversation.

Stephen J Campbell, "Titian’s Flaying of Marsyas: Thresholds of the Human and the Limits of Painting", in Renaissance Posthumanism 

Yet Panofsky’s humanist art history ultimately conceded little quarter to any ambivalence (not to mention outright differences) on the part of Renaissance humanists about the nature of the human, nor was Panofsky willing to countenance other humanisms discontinuous with the modern or the post-Kantian liberal ideal of the rational and the humane. The book Problems in Titian, Mostly Iconographic from 1969 was to be the ultimate litmus test of his self-consciously humanist iconological method (many would now regard it as an exposure of its shortcomings) as well as a bid to claim the great Venetian painter for a humanist pantheon of Dürer, Erasmus, Ficino, Botticelli, and Michelangelo. Yet the astonishing Flaying of Marsyas (see Figure 2-1), one of the most singular mythological paintings of the sixteenth century, was almost completely excluded from a lengthy chapter on “Titian and Ovid.” It appears only in the footnote quoted previously, in which the scholar expressed misgivings over Titian’s authorship of the picture, as troubling in formal terms as its subject was disturbing in its extreme cruelty. Artistic representation had in both respects been pushed beyond an acceptable limit; if this were Titian’s work, it would appear, it would make of Titian something other than a “humanist.” “Gratuitous brutality” has replaced “tolerance and responsibility."
Panofsky, Problems in Titian, p 171 fn.
85. Since I have never seen the original, which comes from the collection of Thomas Howard Earl of Arundel and  Surrey (died 1646) and is now in the Archiepiscopal Palace at Kroměříž, formerly Kremsier, in Czechoslovakia, I do not dare pronounce on the authenticity of  the now almost generally accepted Flaying of Marsyas (V., II, Pl. 143; cf. J. Neumann, Titian, The Flaying of Marsyas, London, 1962 [German translation, Prague, 1962];  P. Fehl, “Realism and Classicism in the Representation of a Painful Scene:  Titian’s ‘Flaying of Marsyas,”’ Czechoslovakia Past and Present [Czechoslovakia Society of Arts and Sciences in America],  scheduled for publication in the near future). It is admittedly difficult to attribute this painting to anyone else (although in  View of the Pietà in the Accademia one might  think of the very versatile Palma Giovane);  but it is equally difficult to accept Titian’s  responsibility for a composition which in  gratuitous brutality (the little dog lapping  up the blood) not only outdoes its model, one of Giulio Romano’s frescoes in the  Palazzo del Tè at Mantua (for its connection with the Kroměříž picture see F. Hartt, Giulio Romano, p. 111, Fig. 172, where the authenticity of the Flaying of Marsyas is doubted as it is in Hetzer’s article in Thieme-Becker), but also, and more importantly, evinces a horror vacui normally foreign to Titian who, like Henry James’  Linda Pallant, “knew the value of intervals.” In the Kroměříž picture no square inch is vacant. If the Flaying of Marsyas were  rejected it would also be hard to accept the  Boy with Dogs in the Boymans Museum at  Rotterdam (17., 11, Pl. 140) which is apparently by the same hand and from the same period. Director Ebbinge-Wubben  was kind enough to impart to me the  results of a recent examination of the  Rotterdam canvas. As conjectured by  Tietze (T., p. 392), it is not a complete  composition but a mere fragment, roughly  torn off from rather than cut out of a  larger painting; and it measures only 99.2  by 111 cm. while all available references  give its dimensions as 128 by 180 cm. For the  subject, one may think of Cupid mastering  two dogs of different temper as in a painting  by Paolo Veronese in the Alte Pinakothek  at Munich; cf. also A. P. de Mirimonde,  “La Musique dans les Allégories de  l’Amour,” Gazette des Beam-Arts, Series 6,  LXIX, 1967, pp. 319ff, Figs. 11 and 12. 

Titian, The Flaying of Marsyas, c. 1575
Giulio Romano

Was Panofsky really unable to discuss violence, or was it something more specific? 
Panofsky was wrong, but violence itself wasn't the issue. Titian and Charles V
Panofsky describes Titian’s relation with Charles V “extending to his whole family and entourage… [as] almost unique in the annals of art”.  He dismisses the story that Charles, “to the pained surprise of his courtiers” once stooped down to pick up Titian’s dropped brush, but says he treated Titian as “an equal in spirit if not in rank… their correspondence occasionally reads like that of two great and equal powers.”[vii]He also writes about Titian’s “best friend”, Pietro Aretino “the scourge of princes”, blackmailer, and pornographer.  With Aretino and Jacopo Sansovino “Titian contracted, almost immediately, a life-long friendship. A formidable alliance of the "Three Arts of Design" with literature, this "Triumvirate" wielded an enormous influence and its members were united by genuine affection as well as self-interest.”  Sansovino immortalized the three of them on the doors of the Sacristy of St. Mark's. Aretino died in 1556
…allegedly at a dinner party in his own house: when one of the guests had told a particularly funny and indecent story, it was said, Aretino roared with laughter and threw himself back in his chair with such violence that the chair tipped over and he broke his head. There is no shred of evidence for this story… but it throws light on Aretino's reputation — a reputation summarized in a famous "epitaph"… 
"Questo è Pietro Aretino, poeta Tosco, 
Che d'ogni un disse male, eccetto the di Dio;
Scusandosi con dir 'non lo conosco’ "
 ("Here Aretino lies, a Tuscan poet; Evil he spoke of all, except of God; When questioned why, he said 'Him I don't know' “)…

Aretino was perhaps the first publicist to make a living by misrepresentation and extortion; and — in return for praise or, no less often, for silence — he received honors, presents and huge sums of money from nearly all the princes of his time — including the two eternal adversaries, Charles V and Francis I of France. He led a loose life. He wrote indecent sonnets and equally indecent, often extremely amusing comedies while posing as a fervent believer and even aspiring to a Cardinal's hat….

It was indeed only in Venice, governed with an extraordinary combination of discipline and permissiveness… where life was strictly regulated in theory but very free in practice, and where political action was rigorously controlled while the liberty of thought, the liberty of speech and the liberty of the press were protected even against the Inquisition, that a man like Aretino could flourish.
Kenneth Gouwens, "What Posthumanism Isn’t: On Humanism and Human Exceptionalism in the Renaissance", on Charles V
Those with both Humanistic and Scholastic training could be the most formidable critics of scholars who possessed only the former, as the distinctly second-rate Ciceronian stylist Pietro Alcionio (ca. 1480s?–1528) found out to his chagrin.25 In April of 1521, Alcionio published with the Aldine Press in Venice a volume comprising several translations of Aristotle, including ten books from the philosopher’s writings about animals. The following year, however, he came under direct fire from the prominent Spanish scholar Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda (1490–1573). Best known today for a later polemic in which he asserted on Aristotelian grounds that the Indians of the New World were natural slaves, Sepúlveda was deeply learned not only in classical philosophy but also in Humanist methods. Later on, in fact, the Emperor Charles V would appoint him his official chronicler. 

This post continues, back and forth. 

Related: the second of three posts from 2017 on Dana Schutz' painting Open Casket, and other, related, things.

On Titian and Henry James, since I forgot to add it.

When Panofsky writes that Titian, “like Henry James’ Linda Pallant, ‘knew the value of intervals’”[v] he’s describing Titian’s focus on the space between objects and people, and implicitly between viewer and canvas.  The connecting line isn’t a formal cue, an arrow or the edge of a table or the stripes on a piece of fabric; space is crossed often only by a line of sight. As in the theater, actors’ success or failure isn’t measured in inches or millimeters to match the perfect ratio of  the sides of a triangle, but in faces and gestures directed at each other. And Titian makes sure the space isn’t so cluttered that things get in the way. The sense of time as the our eyes move observing others’ eyes, the fleeting sense of intimacy is beyond anything in Florence.  It’s an an art that doesn’t even try to give us an illusion of perfection, except perhaps as a ‘perfect’ description of its lack.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

I guess I'm just having fun piling on. Fun and frustration.

Riegl, Late Roman Art Industry 

The greatest adhesion to the pure sense perception of the (seemingly objective) material individuality of objects and, therefore, the possible greatest assimilation of the material appearance of the work of art to the plane, yet not the optical plane, imagined by our eye at a distance from the objects, but the tactile plane suggested by the sense of touch, because on this level of development, to be certain about (touchable) impenetrability also means having the convinction of the material individuality. From the optical point of view, this is the plane which the eye perceives when it comes so close to the surface of an object, that all the silhouettes and, in particular all shadows which otherwise could disclose an alteration in depth, disappear.2 The perception of objects, which characterizes this first level of the ancient Kunstwollen, is thus tactile, and in as much as it has to be optical to a certain degree, it is nahsichtig; ancient Egyptian art expresses it in almost its purest form.3 Foreshortenings and shadows (disclosing deep space) avoid this as painstakingly as the expression of mental states (disclosing the subjective psychic life). The main accent, however, is placed on the silhouettes which are kept as symmetrical as possible, because symmetry reveals to the exterior an uninterrupted tactile connection within the plane in the most convincing manner. Symmetry inherently belongs to the dimensions of the plane, it is limited, if not destroyed, by depth; for that reason in the visual arts of all of antiquity symmetry became the essential instrument of bestowing completeness on material entities on plane surfaces.

2) One can test this, for example, with ancient Egyptian statues by looking first from a distance where they make a flat and absolutely lifeless impression and then gradually from greater proximity, where the planes become increasingly lively, until eventually the fine modelling can be felt entirely, when one lets the tip of the fingers glide over them.

3) As can be understood from its development over a thousand years, ancient Egyptian art also developed at various points beyond this indicated degree; on the other side the Greeks, even during an advanced period were still partly constrained by it.

"...until eventually the fine modelling can be felt entirely, when one lets the tip of the fingers glide over them."

He knows because he's done it. I've done it. Riegl's not writing from an abstracted rationalized empiricism. He's fucking great.
That's the simple way to put it. The more complex way is to say he belongs fully to an academic milieu while still describing the the richness and immediacy of his own experience
The primacy of perception 

Christopher Wood, Introduction to Panofsky,  Perspective as Symbolic Form

This antagonism between the historicist scruple and the structuralist  imagination is revealed most graphically in Panofsky’s awkward chronological coordinations of art history and intellectual history. Synchrony is never better than approximate. Modern projective geometry as worked  out by Desargues corresponds to the directionless space of Descartes,  but it also corresponds to Alberti’s costruzione legittima and to Kantian  epistemology. The conceptions of space of Democritus, Plato and Aristotle all correspond to Greco-Roman landscape painting. The Aristotelian revival of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries correSponds to High  Gothic sculpture. These are great blind spots in Panofsky, spectacular  moments of irresponsible synthesis, forgiven because they serve as mere  rhetorical punctuation of lengthy and substantive arguments. But what  do they reveal about those arguments? The two kinds of events, philosophical and artistic, run in parallel because they derive from a common Weltanschauung. Because their relationships to that Weltanscbauung are  different — one is logical, the other symbolic — the time scales may  diverge. But once they are out of synchrony, we lose our grip on the  Weltanschauung. We are reduced to coordinating entirely unrelated sequences of events without any sense of Why they should be coordinated. The Weltanschauung is stripped of its historical reality, exposed as the  hypothetical least common denominator between art and philosophy. 15
15. One is not necessarily more confident when the synchrony is exact: see for instance Panofsky’s comments on Cubism and Einstein s relativity in Early Netherlandish Painting (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1953), p. 5, n. 1.

Panofsky, Early Netherlandish Painting, p. 5, n. 1.

In spite of all the changes in accident to which space was subjected from ca. 1400 to the end of the nineteenth century, it remained unaltered in substance. Even Mannerism and Raroque, even Matisse, Gauguin and Cezanne do not defy the assumption that space, whatever happens within it, is three-dimensional (cf. Cezanne's famous injunction to "treat nature by the cylinder, the sphere, the cone, everything in proper perspective so that every side of an object or a plane is directed towards a central point"), continuous and, therefore, static. It was only with Picasso, and his more or less avowed followers, that an attempt was made to open up the fourth dimension of time so that the objects cease to be determinable by three co-ordinates alone and can present themselves in any number of aspects and in all states of either "becoming" or disintegrating. In the present discussion the use of the term "modern" is naturally limited to a pre-Picassian or non-Picassian interpretation of space.

Stephen G. Brush, Physics Today, 2001

The French mathematician Henri Poincaré provided inspiration for both Einstein and Picasso. Einstein read Poincaré’s Science and Hypothesis (French edition 1902, German translation 1904) and discussed it with his friends in Bern. He might also have read Poincaré’s 1898 article on the measurement of time, in which the synchronization of clocks was discussed—a topic of professional interest to Einstein as a patent examiner. Picasso learned about Science and Hypothesis indirectly through Maurice Princet, an insurance actuary who explained the new geometry to Picasso and his friends in Paris. At that time there was considerable popular fascination with the idea of a fourth spatial dimension, thought by some to be the home of spirits, conceived by others as an “astral plane” where one can see all sides of an object at once. The British novelist H. G. Wells caused a sensation with his book The Time Machine (1895, French translation in a popular magazine 1898-99), where the fourth dimension was time, not space.

 I'm ignoring the stupid title of the book and the art/science, beauty/truth crap.

Spending the day reading Wood above and his introduction to The Vienna School Reader. These people depress me. I just don't pay enough attention or I would have known sooner. 

p 47.  Interesting, but unsurprising, history and lazy thought.

Both Panofsky and Sedlmayr, for instance, aimed at a totalizing comprehension of historical phenomena. Both rejected the choice implied by the conventional dichotomies of connoisseurship and history, form and content. Both took the risk of extending Riegl’s project and trying to make the individual work of art do more historiographical work than it was capable of. Both trusted in the fundamental, deep-structural affinity between works of art and the world at large, what Charles Rosen calls the “unified stylistic field-theory.” One could argue that the links that Panofsky posited between work and world under the quasi-philosophical rubric “symbolic forms” were as irrational and unprovable as any of Sedlmayr’s. Peter Betthausen gave the example of the juxtaposition of Neoplatonic ideas and Michelangelo’s drawings in the article “The Neoplatonic Movement and Michelangelo” (1939). Many aspects of the Many aspects of the “Viennese” Panofsky survived the emigration to America and his turn to plain English and common sense. Indeed none of Panofsky’s eidetic intuitions was more creative, and more difficult to prove, than the extended analogy between the Gothic cathedral and the Scholastic encyclopedia in Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism (1951). This is not such a different kind of book from the treatise on the cathedral written the year before by his methodological “evil twin” Sedlmayr.

Only a decade later the comparison between the two methods was explicitly drawn by George Kubler when—in order to dismiss them both as wishful thinking, basically—he described iconology and Strukturanalyse (“configurational analysis”) as two modes of inquiry into “adherent meaning," with Strukturanalyse slightly preferable for being more  “perplexed” about discontinuities in the cultures under study.  

In the end, it is impossible to normalize Sedlmayr. The totalitarian vision is intrinsic to his art history. Joseph Koerner showed this in a reading of Sedlmayr's essay “Bruegel’s Macchia.” Sedlmayr, in his formal analysis of the atomized blobs of subhumanity on Bruegel’s picture surfaces, recapitulated the pitiless vertical  pitch of Bruegel's own society and the inhumanity of his original  aristocratic patrons and admirers. In this sense Sedlmayr was truly  re-creating the work of the historical artist, just as he had promised to do in “Toward a Rigorous Study of Art “ (pp. 147-48). His Bruegel essay is a chilling, anachronistic reanimation of a lost ideological world. Interpretative violence, which we prize in Riegl, Warburg, or Piicht, here converges with ideological violence.

But it is important to realize that the objection is not to Sedlmayr’s historical interpretation of Bruegel as such, but to the role that he forces Bruegel to play within his own grandiose, bitter critique of modernity. Sedlmayr's historical reading of Bruegel’s  paintings is powerful and not so easy to overturn. And that  reading is the direct product of the insight into the meaning of the color patch in the encyclopedic paintings. Empirical research  on its own could never have arrived at the link between the color  patch and the worldview. Empiricism is supposed to provide a  methodological guarantee against subjective, “interested” interpretations and pernicious ideological mystifications. Many today doubt that empiricism can actually do this. But even if it could,  it is not clear that it would be worth sacrificing the historical  insights yielded by the anti-empiricist, allegorical method. One  might well decide to take one’s chances with allegory. 

Even more disquieting than this comparison of art historical methodologies is the comparison between the attitudes of Sedlmayr, on the one hand, and of the liberal émigré art historians, on the other, toward modern art. What is striking is Sedlmayr’s extreme sensitivity, to the point of inflammation, to modernity and to modern art. Whereas Panofsky and Gombrich, as has often  been noted, made no serious effort to understand the art of their  time or the function of art in modern life, Sedlmayr hated modern art and wrote quite a lot about it. Not only that, but in his excoriating commentary on modern painting, sculpture, and  architecture he managed to hit almost all the right targets. Sedlmayr derided the eighteenth-century French architects Ledoux, Boullée and Lequeu for detaching their utopian buildings from  their natural base on the earth.  He chose a Duchamp readymade, the Porte-Bouteilles (1914), as the first illustration in his book Die Revolution der modernen Kunst. He saw how Walt Disney’s cartoons transformed the oneiric, crossbred fantasies of Grandville—sickly, unlawful, and terrifying to Baudelaire—into  “an idiom of innocence, a fairy idiom of pure fun.” The antiheroes of Art in Crisis: The Lost Center are Bosch, Bruegel, Goya, Ledoux, Friedrich, Cézanne. Sedlmayr's vilification of modern art  was even more perspicacious than the National Socialists’ Degenerate Art exhibition eleven years earlier.

Sedlmayr lamented the tumult of postwar European society  but refused to acknowledge how it had all come about. insolently  he compared the images of the European cities reduced to rubble  by total war to the “dc-compositions” of surrealism, as if all  nations somehow shared the responsibility for the war, as they  surely did share the blame for surrealism. For modernism was,  of course, a European disease: a cosmopolitan and urban condition. Sedlmayr did not even look to German culture as a source of aesthetic salvation, except possibly in architecture. In fact  for Sedlmayr the trouble had begun in the age of the ascendant  nation-state. The solution was to be found, if anywhere, in the  feudal, Christian Middle Ages.

It is hard for us today to understand the impact Sedlmayr’s  book had in 1948.” At the time, he was the only German art historian of premodern art writing about the function and meaning of modern art and was recognized as such even by his enemies.  There was no German equivalent to Meyer Schapiro. Sedlmayr’s  theses were publicly debated at the Second Conference of German Art Historians in 1949. In 1950 he was one of two featured speakers, alongside the Bauhaus artist and teacher Johannes Itten,  on the first evening of the Darmstadter Gespra'ch, a major conference of artists, art historians, philosophers, theologians, sociologists, and scientists. The topic of the conference was “The Image  of Man in Our Time.” Sedlmayr’s lecture was interrupted by whistling, stamping, heckling, including the cry “Heil Hitler!,” but also applause. Sedlmayr’s surprising ally at the conference turned out  to be none other than Adorno, who had returned from the United  States only the year before. It has been suggested that Sedlmayr was perhaps one of the few participants who had any clear idea of who Adorno was. In his lecture Sedlmayr cited Adorno on Schoenberg. Later, in 1955 and 1976, he would again quote Adorno in his writings. At the Darmstéidter Gesprach, Adorno sided with Sedlmayr against Franz Roh and others who spoke of the reconciliatory function of art: “As much as I object to the cultural pessimism Sedlmayr brings to bear, he does on this point quite correctly  define something otherwise neglected by a too unbroken and  naive belief in progress. Speaking dialectically, I would say that  the harmony of an artwork consists in its bringing the riven, itself unreconciled, to unmisplaced expression, and that it withstand the  riven.” Adorno conceded in 1958-1959 that some of his writing on modern music ran “parallel to the work of Sedlmayr.” Werner  Hofmann has pointed out that Sedlmayr's entire polemic was a  partly understandable response to the ubiquitous postwar apologetics for autonomous art, which wanted to insulate art and exempt it from any “interrogation" whatsoever. [footnote to Kuspit attacking Fried] Many artists were sympathetic. Georg Grosz, for example, saluted Sedlmayr in a letter in 1955. Even Gerhard Richter has commented ruefully on the  “loss of the center" in modern art, with deliberately perverse reference to Sedlmayr but without irony. It has to be admitted that with his instinct for distortion, degradation, catastrophe, chaos,  deadpan evacuations of meaning, and Nietzschean mismatches  between subject and object, and his fascination with the ruin, the  fragment, and the spectacle, Sedlmayr never lost sight of “art." 

The contrast with. Panofsky is sharp. After reading Sedlmayr,  one starts to wish that Panofsky’s neat analogies between modernist painting and the early twentieth-century “worldview” had been somehow more anguished. Panofsky the cultural historian simply absorbed Picasso into the “unified stylistic field" by comparing cubism to Einstein’s theory of relativity. In 1933 Panofsky (with his co-author Fritz Saxl) expressed the naive confidence  that artistic and cultural crisis could be “overcome" by the “recourse" to classicism, as it always had been; here too he invoked Picasso. It is as if Panofsky and Sedlmayr were recognizing the  same crisis, but that one of them considered Picasso part of the solution and the other considered him part of the problem. Gombrich for his part has affected blasé or supercilious indifference to the art of his own time. His standard model of “making vs . matching" — conformity to schemata vs. direct imitation of nature  - leaves little room for a transfiguring artistic vision. Panofsky  and Gombrich’s discreet response to modern art’s promulgation  of the abject, the entropic, and the anarchic was to ignore it. Sedlmayr, by contrast, did not repress his panic but rather let it spill out into tasteless, gothic demagoguery. 

Panofsky and Saxl, “Classical Mythology in Medieval Art,” Metropolitan Museum Studies 4 (1932-1933),  JSTOR 

Thus  the classical past, while it was more and more  thought of and investigated as a concrete historical phenomenon, simultaneously developed into an enchanting Utopia that was surrounded with a halo of sweet and melancholy resignation, as in some of the paintings by Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorraine. The idea of antiquity developed into a dream of bliss and happiness; the classical past became a visionary harbor of refuge from every distress. A paradise lamented without having been possessed and longed for without being attainable, it  promised an ideal fulfillment to all unappeased desires. From this we can understand why, from the crisis of the Counter Reformation in the sixteenth century, when the classicism of  the Carracci led the way out of Mannerism into the baroque style, down to the crisis of  our own days, which, among other phenomena, has given rise to the classicism of Picasso, almost every artistic and cultural crisis has been  overcome by that recourse to antiquity which we know as Classicism.
An old friend and colleague of Panofsky, now as far as I can tell a cynic—he's given up—told me Panofsky was too generous. I don't question him on that. Panofsky always wanted to accentuate the positive. His refusal to accept  The Flaying of Marsyas as Titian's surprised me, but it makes sense. He even quotes Henry James in defense of his decision to exclude it. [I need to add the context in the manuscript] Picasso's turn to classicism in fits Panofsky's model perfectly, but it was shallow.  I doubt he took Picasso's work in 1932 that seriously, but the  article was published one month before Panofsky was dismissed from his position in Hamburg. 

The rest is old news for me but not for anyone who drops by, so why not?

Panofsky, 1934

Today there is no denying that narrative films are not only “art”—not often good art, to be sure, but this applies to other media as well—but also, besides architecture, cartooning and “commercial design,” the only visual art entirely alive.

The belief that Panofsky "made no serious effort to understand the art of [his] time or the function of art in modern life" is absurd. Wood should know better. But he has a limited notion of "art"

The canonical account is that Panofsky was approached by Iris Barry in 1934, who was in the process of gathering support for a new Film Department at the Museum of Modern Art of which she would later become the founding curator....

In terms of the history of film theory, Panofsky’s film essay manifests many of the hallmarks of the first generation of theoretical writings on the cinema, which are, by and large, the product of the silent cinema era.  

Panofsky, 1938 

If the anthropocratic civilization of the Renaissance is headed, as it seems to be, for a Middle Ages in reverse—a satanocracy as opposed to the mediaeval theocracy—not only the humanities but also the natural sciences, as we know them, will disappear, and nothing will be left but what serves the dictates of the subhuman. 

Panofsky, 195? 

They are not subversives, they are mass murderers! We are the subversives” 

Wood is a Zionist and an an admitted critic of humanism as defined by Panofsky, who was a universalist opposed to Zionism and nationalism as such. And I'm tired of defenses of Benjamin. There's of a lot of information in the passage above.

"Even Gerhard Richter" That's good for a laugh. He used to be a nihilist but he sold out. 

Looking through earlier reference to Grosz, I found this too. A good fit. Arguing with philosophers, and with Wood:

Instead of treating art as a unique creation that requires reason and refined taste to appreciate, Elizabeth Grosz argues that art-especially architecture, music, and painting-is born from the disruptive forces of sexual selection. She approaches art as a form of erotic expression connecting sensory richness with primal desire, and in doing so, finds that the meaning of art comes from the intensities and sensations it inspires, not just its intention and aesthetic.

Find and Replace

Instead of treating scholarship as a unique creation that requires reason and refined taste to appreciate, Elizabeth Grosz argues that intellectual activity-especially theory, philosophy, and the humanities as such-is born from the disruptive forces of sexual selection. She approaches the humanities as a form of erotic expression connecting sensory richness with primal desire, and in doing so, finds that the meaning of works comes from the intensities and sensations they inspire, not just their intention.

At some point in the 50s [George] Grosz have a lecture in NY earnestly defending figurative art and criticizing abstraction. The audience started to laugh, and he ended up reading his speech as a travesty. The audience loved it. He was humiliated. His estate has never allowed it to be published.

And since The Vienna School Reader is published by Zone,  I'll add the tag for Design as Crime

I'm going to be returning to this to add some of the footnotes I stripped from Wood's text. This is all just public notetaking.

It's obvious reading Sedlmayr that like all "philosophically" minded thinkers on "fine art" he's disgusted by the rise of fictions against eternal truths: the hieratic vs the demotic.

Art vs Theater. Thomas Crow vs Jean-Christophe Agnew. Worlds Apart. Going back to the beginnings of my manuscript in the late 80s

Panofsky isn't a snob. Adorno and Sedlmayr are equally opposed to democracy. Negative dialectics is a preference for ironic self-destruction. It gets boring. Grosz is a tragic figure.

Wood: "[Sedlmayr's] Bruegel essay is a chilling, anachronistic reanimation of a lost ideological world." 
The language of an angry schoolmaster staring out at the chaos of the playground.  
The mask—this “most profound deception” that disguises a  form and changes its meaning—is, as it were, the essence of this  process of estrangement concretized as a device, a process that  can take hold of any object or event whatsoever. Even without  the aid of the device of disguise, everyday things can be made to  appear no less fantastic and bizarre, suspicious and unfathomable than the masked actors representing “Carnival.” Such an active attitude consists in shedding all knowledge of the usual and self-evident sense of the course of everyday life, acting as if one knew  nothing of the meaning and function of persons and things —an  artificial and abstract attitude. Then the everyday world discloses  its hitherto concealed fantastic qualities.13 The first and classic  product of this estranged vision turned onto the everyday is Children’s Games. If one disregards what children’s games are, and what they mean for us and for children, then what children do  when engaged in these games is as absurd, uncanny, and suspicious as the behavior of a band of lunatics or other beings incomprehensible to us. There are monsters with ten legs and three  heads. The blindfolded boy looking for a pot with a staff is reminiscent of an executioner, the stilt walker of a cripple, the contortions produced by the games of epileptic seizures, the strange toys  of magical apparatuses -— the whole scene is one of “indescribable  mania.”
This is so easy. George Bernard Shaw: 
… Search [in Shakespeare] for statesmanship, or even citizenship, or any sense of the commonwealth, material or spiritual, and you will not find the making of a decent vestryman or curate in the whole horde. As to faith, hope, courage, conviction, or any of the true heroic qualities, you find nothing but death made sensational, despair made stage-sublime, sex made romantic, and barrenness covered up by sentimentality and the mechanical lilt of blank verse.

"Brighouse’s philosophy, like Cohen’s, like all the liberalism of ideas, is deeply anti-social, laced with the melancholy superiority of a schoolmaster of a school for wayward youth."  

"In the end, it is impossible to normalize Sedlmayr." By that logic it should be impossible to normalize Plato or the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

The landscape garden had its origin in England about 1720 as a conscious protest against the architectural gardens of France. The French product's use of geometric forms in its layout was now rejected as something unnatural. From 1760 onwards the 'English Garden' swept the Continent with a rapidity and completeness which, in a matter of this kind, was wholly without precedent. Under the hands of artists of note its early and uncertain attempts to take shape gave place to creations of unparalleled grandeur. Everywhere the French parks were transformed, often at enormous expense, into English ones. Towards the end ofthe epoch- say, around 183o-whole stretches of territory began to be trans- formed into nature parks. Enthusiasm for the new art infected the widest circles. Even at the end of the epoch Prince Armin von Plickler-Muskau, who had twice attempted to transform his great Silesian properties into a single landscape and had ruined himself in doing so, could still speak of a prevailing 'Parkomania '.

Since the time of the Renaissance the rivalry of the arts for precedence had been a constant theme of discussion among artistic theorists. Now for the first time the gardener's art claimed the primacy. The artistic theory of the day bases this claim on a variety of grounds. Firstly, the art of the gardener is of all the most comprehensive since it comprises, and in a spatial sense actually contains, both sculpture and architecture, even as architecture contains sculpture, painting and decoration. It therefore brings into being the most comprehensive o f all imaginable works of art-a work of art that may well be termed 'super-comprehensive'. Yet there is a deeper sense in which the term comprehensive may be applied to this form of art, for it is indeed a rival to architecture, which it surpasses above all in the sheer size of its productions; moreover, it brings into being free creations in space of superlative magnificence. It composes with such organic masses as groups of bushes and trees, with hills and great expanses of lawn and with ponds and streams, it entwines among these tree masses the decorative element provided by flowering plants. Out of the constituent elements of nature it builds nature pictures which the painter can only hold fast within a two-dimensional framework; further-and here it is comparable to music-it creates entire successions of such pictures, an advantage to which other arts than music cannot aspire. In the different scenes that it calls into being it can ring the changes on all our feelings, can present us with grandeur, with charm, with the genial, the melancholy and the wild. Finally-and this is the weightiest ground of all-this art is most intimately connected with nature herself, and is, like nature, elusive and changing. 'None of the imitative arts is as interwoven with nature as is that of the gardener, none approximates to her more closely.' Such theoretical justification of the landscape gardener's primacy among the arts would mean but little did not the actual facts of the case clearly show landscape gardening to have aroused an enthusiasm far exceeding that felt for any other art at the time. 'Everywhere we find expressions of a veritable passion for these novel works of art, a passion comparable to the building passion of the Baroque.

All this proves that the landscape garden was something much more than a new kind of garden. It implied a revolt against the hegemony of architecture. It implied a wholly new relationship between man and nature and a new conception of art in general.

One condition was essential if the landscape garden was to come into being. The active relation of man to nature had necessarily to become a passive one!  

It's hard not to laugh. 

Wood: "At the time, he was the only German art historian of premodern art writing about the function and meaning of modern art and was recognized as such even by his enemies."

How is it the model of academia that scholars of the past are seen to have authority over the culture of the present? Isn't that what he was arguing against: a programmatic art? Panofsky didn't write about film as a man granting permission. He wrote as a hobbyist, and a lifelong member of the audience.

But that's the problem all reactionaries have: the need to burn the village to save it. It would really help if people like Wood would see themselves as aspects of their times. Riegl's sympathetic understanding of the human experience of touch belongs with Panofsky and Auerbach 

"It differs from the factual one in that it is apprehended, not by simple identification, but by "empathy". To understand it, I need a certain sensitivity, but this sensitivity is still part of my practical experience that is, of my everyday familiarity with objects and events. "

"He liked to quote Erich Auerbach’s assertion that in reading literature we need an ‘empirical confidence in our spontaneous faculty for understanding others on the basis of our own experience’."

And both were Jewish humanists who forswore Zionism, not as radicals but as liberals. That's never mentioned anywhere, because their principled liberalism is forgotten. Compared to that the debate over iconography or interpretation of form is a friendly game. I don't pick sides.

Kids these days don't know shit.  The parallel in Sedlmayr is Gombrich and The Preference for the Primitive; along with Wood, varieties of decadence in denial.  

Now I'm going to get drunk and read the Roger Kimball introduction.

In 1937, the Nazis mounted a show of modernist art and called it “Degenerate Art.” They were wrong about the art, but does that mean we are henceforth forbidden from describing any art as “degenerate”? Consider the photographs in Robert Mapplethorpe’s notorious “X Portfolio”: would “degenerate” be out of place in describing them?... 

Sedlmayr writes as an Augustinian Catholic. For him, the underlying motive for the pursuit of autonomy is pride. The “lost center” of his original title is God. Autonomy, for finite, mortal creatures, is a dangerous illusion. “Autonomous man,” he writes, “does not and cannot exist—any more than can autonomous art, architecture, painting and so on. It is of the essence of man that he should be both natural and supernatural. . . . Man is fully human only in so far as he is a repository of the divine spirit.”

Seeing ourselves as a part of nature, even a English gardener, isn't enough. Self-hatred is key. Mapplethorpe said it himself: “There's this clock in Hell that chimes every hour, You will never get out . . . you will never get out . . . you will never get out."

Why is this so easy? Shouldn't I be able to make a living at this shit by now?