Art Comes from the Future 1
The joys of a few days off in bed though not at all sick, instead basking in word shapes and sounds in English coming out of Timothy Morton’s mouth as he holds a meeting with his superlative agenda to converse about pre-Kantian precepts, is the delight of finding Morton strengthening his confidence with this ( pre-Kantian philosophy). Where is it he comes from, academically speaking? The Shelleys, diet and the spice trade, do you recall? Morton knows he can’t think (really) without interaction, so, is at his best with participatory culture, coffee, standing up, with some movement and lots of excitement, when he is invited to lecture. In this mode, to top it, he does what he calls his “Nixon thing”(hilarious) and records himself so that he can preserve the word plums for his blog.
What a gift is he! Back in 2012 he was emphasizing the importance of placing the capital N for Nature in scripts so that we could all get down to thinking about Ecology without it (Nature). “Wobbles and clunky theories” he raises, too, to give us enthusiasm for theory via descriptive infusions. He assured us then to be brave with printed and spoken worded statements such as The End of The World, flipping these as counter text tropes as Orwell did before 1949 for 1984 and what Bradbury did when he was inspired to write FAHRENHEIT 451 in 1953 as a ‘library man’.2 There, the representations presented monstrous administrative authority in conflict with the spirit of humanity and the Humanities.
Morton draws us into the embrace of Dark Ecology (a Noir phase he says he is now trialing to obsolescence) almost like no other human. He aims for the exquisiteness of tropes with his sounds, when there is no knock on the door to halt his flow. He gives us permission to shudder.
Point yourself towards Arnold’s lines. In Dover Beach here:
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.
Arnold’s poem closes with
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
What are stones sucked on sand sea slopes for, otherwise? What is standing alone staring out inwardly for, otherwise? We all need to be sad, to feel our finitude, to take in the notion of dust to dust and what we give and leave behind. After reveries we snap out, we take fresh breath, we clap our hands and busy ourselves, usually. We find companionship and laughter, again, usually.
Writers imagine epic poems. They are learning aids. Help me here. Epic games play this role too. We connect the ideologies with present concerns when we dare. What did “they” feel like, ”then” and “do”, and, as we have” this” and “that”, now, how do we adjust? Taking it as a given that the vulnerable mind requires a break as much as any athlete in training, we all know delicacy when we see it, even in the commercial realm. We note, for example, that a Terminator movie was delayed close to the events of 9/11, or that Scorcese’s choices of motifs in Shutter Island were challenged. One reviewer of that film in 2010, reminded us to free up about film. Bai9038 said, There are a couple of moments where the story gets lost within itself. Things become a bit too complicated. At this point you might begin to lose faith in its viscosity” 3 Thanks, Bain9038. Viscosity. Great word. That word ecologically speaking, sign-posted life in my world differently through most of the making of this film out here. But that is a different aside.
So, slam, what is one thing Kant said? “every event has a cause”. 4 Well, for a start, that is pretty wack, now, as Morton might say. If we must get rid of Kant’s idea of Nature, we had better get rid of it quick. For, by crikey, he seems to have been the initiator of the Death Culture or I’m no beginner reader of Philosophy. Yes, our forebears did get us all to settle down and kill off species so as to procreate. We are all of us are breathing, needing to get to empathy, even during rules of war. My generation was still receptive to behaviours of melancholy. This seemed to come out as tendencies in Arnold’s poetry when he made time to be still. I was always told my mother had that. She passed when I was fifteen. I did not know much of that. I was mostly away at school being vigorous, diving, swimming, playing hockey. I do recall her standing still staring out of the sitting room window on winter days quietly for periods, but, then what are grey swirling skies and the infinitude of twigs on winter flowering cherry trees whilst protected safely behind temperature fogged glass for but to allow a person to go inward? I emulated this. And then, you see, it was the qualities of the English teacher that emulated retrospection and critique. Fiction was our conveyance to truths.
What I enjoy is the paradigmatic recall of Arnold, too. For example, the portrayal of him in a Punch magazine of the day. In his writings, “he often baffled and sometimes annoyed his contemporaries by the apparent contradiction between his urbane, even frivolous manner in controversy, and the "high seriousness" of his critical views and the melancholy, almost plaintive note of much of his poetry. "A voice poking fun in the wilderness" was T. H. Warren's description of him. 5
What I respond to with gratitude is Morton’s serpentine reach in time. This allows a perspective and an assurance that to think more vastly and deeply about our great privilege to be alive is, without question, a responsibility seeking constant awareness. Assuring too, is his etiquette with the smaller things, Take low-case and high case lettering. At University the first time our design teacher mesmerized us with Helvetica in the 1970’s, poems from the graphic department burst forth playing with this new use of line, impact and sensitivity towards cleaner spaces. A recall a graphics student scaling and playing with these fonts with elan, setting up an edition of poems. It was an imaginative response well before commercial demand more deliberately seemed to tune the fork on these points of aesthetic. Helvetica cleaned away decoration, calmed the mind for a while… except, then, Morton now reminds us of Modernity and loops and how we need beware of non-inclusion.. …so now it has been the cupcake generation moment too somewhere, and in the popular press, curlicues, swashes and serifs sentimentally abound; or there have been mass weddings there, or the use of the Periodic Table ( Yes!) there, or even wonder about gravity or elliptical orbits and we admit we get in loops all the time.
So, then, we slam through to more present years and three of Morton’s books later and we are floating amidst lucid glimpses and sobering “shake ups” of ourselves subsisting or living just above ground zero to a few degrees of half full, Anthropocenically speaking.
Face up to this. For example, Candy Crush as a metaphor equated to agri-logistics. We are called to think about the loops, the loops, the loops. Now, where in conservatism may we get off? Now, perhaps, here we are, where we say things such as, ”Let’s not get intoxicated” Or, better still, ask, why make objects for addiction?
No, I had not fully thought of it, that our first written language was ostensibly accounting....back when our forebears sat around designing granaries. Yes, we are, as fridge, rubber frog, clothes hanger, ship. Yes, in the Anthropocene we are all in together…think of the floating debris in the Pacific, jellyfish and chick Albatross choking on polymer chains and why United States health warning advise, “pregnant women, nursing mothers and children limit their intake of tuna and other types of predatory fish” 6
What I like is the role of the humanities and how what we think about for thoughts follow actions and vice versa. We atrophy when we are passive. We are politically active when we hesitate. “Hesitate” 7 Thank you again, Timothy. That is why we pause from time to time whilst at the task of the scythe (Tolstoy). My mother put it into knitting, pearl, plain, pearl, plain, Fair Isle harmonies… Some others put it to mind jot a word or two... have discourse… care. But, care about what? Not harmony. it is soporific. It’s the disharmony we had to learn to live with from the 1950’s on. Harmony is the loop. It is just the loop. Disharmony is the reality. So, we got Cage. We had had indeterminacy. We had had Rimbaud, as Perloff has said.
I think of uncanny acquaintances I have made in life. Echoes of poets have been there. Which brings me to shuddering, programming and reasons why. And to topics on the aesthetics of containment, or, from whence comes inspiration and imagination and why?
Perhaps there shall be some on this in the next missive.
The Poetics of Indeteminacy. Avant-Garde& Modernism Studies. Northwestern University Press.1999. First Printed, Princeton University Press,1981.
1.Timothy Morton talk. 6.min 15 seconds in. http://ecologywithoutnature.blogspot.co.nz/2014/07/the-anthropocene-seminar-mp3.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+EcologyWithoutNature+(Ecology+without+Nature)
2. Ray Bradbury on the inspiration for Fahrenheit 451. http://youtu.be/7aKItfLeso4
4. The purpose of Nature. Kant. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant/#PurNat
5. Arnold’s character. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Arnold
6. Pregnant women. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marine_pollution#Plastic_debris