Skip to main content


Showing posts from March 29, 2009

voltaire's triumph

The naked and the nude – Robert Graves, that master of buncombe and poetry, wrote a poem contrasting the two, and giving all the props to the former – because the latter is of course, having gone through the cultural clutter since Winckelmann and come out of the trenches, all too classical, not grounded in the real White Goddess stuff: For me, the naked and the nude (By lexicographers construed As synonyms that should express The same deficiency of dress Or shelter) stand as wide apart As love from lies, or truth from art. But if we cut back, of course, love and lies switch places, and the nude stands for the discovery that breaks the chains of enlightenment boudoir pinup. Given the sensualism of the 18th century, founded on attraction at a distance, on the one hand, and a materialism of something like atoms of touch – atoms like infinitely small hands, atoms that fill space with a feeling, an omnitactility, to which all that is spirit must be brought back – the distance between the nu

what makes a goddess laugh?

According to Alain Roger, a philosopher, art continually references nature and continually denaturalizes it. When we look at art, then, we should be looking for the methods of denaturalization: "In whatever manner it operates, art always proceeds by denaturalization. But this is in turn covered by two opposing forms: by excess or default. The same support, such and such a part of the body, for instance, could, according to the place and the epoch, be made the object of a dilation or as well a reduction, which can go as far as annihilation. Nature erased, or hyperbolized. This is what we see, in a fashion particularly spectacular, in the artistic treatment of vulvas.” Roger makes his case by going far back as we can go in finding representations of the vulva – he goes back to 30,000 BC and the first “Venus” statuettes found in many digs, such as Laugerie Basse. Roger believes that there is a structural constant here – when the statuette depicts the vulva, it dilates it and abolish

Artists and Models

In the 1852 biography of David, Delécluze gives us some invaluable testimony about the atmosphere in the atelier in which the Sabines project was going on. The ‘wind was changing” as he puts it in 1797. Two of David’s assistants, Mulard and Gautherot, were Jacobins. During the “rest times of the models”, “they did not fail to harangue” the rest of the students concerning republican doctrines. However, on the other side was another student, Roland, a “Creole from Martinique, honest, brave, not very witty, excessively strong, who worked like a galley slave at painting to make himself a profession and repair the losses incurred by his family when the revolution ruined the colonies.” Roland was nicknamed the Furies, and he once encountered Gautherot in a café and, at the end of their political argument, challenged him to a duel. Which did not take place. While Gautherot was brave as against the attack by Roland, he had perceived that public opinion was no longer with him, and suddenly ce

Putting a syllogism to your throat

In 1755, when Winckelmann wrote his essay on the imitation of Greek sculpture and painting, he had experienced, in his own life, little Greek sculpture and no Greek painting. He had not yet gone to Italy. He relied for his knowledge on the antiquities collected in Dresden – coins, drawing, copies of sculptures. However, his enthusiasm for the Greeks was all the greater for not his having trespassed on their reality. The book was so successful it made Winckelmann almost instantly famous. Diderot could be confident that his readers would know who Winckelmann was when, in the Salon of 1765, he compares him, at the beginning of the section on sculpture, to Rousseau, under the heading of the fanatic. Diderot’s sketch of the fanatic is worth citing, since one sees, here, definite intersignes with the Nephew of Rameau. “I love the fanatics: not those who present you with some absurd formula of faith, and who, putting a knife to your throat, yell: Sign, or die; but those instead who, taken str

Booty 2: that convenient sword, that neckline

I say, there are background assumptions that we operate with. I say, there are routines, there are moral sanctions that fade into the background. How does something “fade”? Here no doubt I could produce a story of use, or repetition, of the wearing away of novelty. Like the metaphors that become metaphysical concepts in one, materialist reduction of metaphysics, like the natural events that become Gods, in one early anthropological account of the gods, the everyday moral synthesis – say, operating on the binary naked/clothed to let us sort through the situations in which nakedness is allowed and the situations in which it is sanctioned – becomes a matter not of our election so much as of our imitation. It is the powerful weight of what other’s do that determines, for the most part, what we do. And how do the others decide? Well, we could tell a number of stories here. This is the naïve sociological view. It is the view of, for instance, Hume, when he attributes to custom what he takes