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John Berger | The Essay Prize
"THE TEN GREATEST ESSAYS, EVER
JOHN BERGER

Italo Calvino, “Exactitude”
(from Six Memos for the Next Millenium, Harvard University Press, 1988)

Rebecca Solnit, “After Ideology”
(from Hope in the Dark, 2005)

Simone Weil, “Evil”
(from Gravity and Grace, 2002)

Arundhati Roy, “The Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire”
(from The Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire, 2004)

Iona Heath, “Ways of Dying”
(from Matters of Life and Death, 2007)

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, “Eye and Mind”
(from The Primacy of Perception, 1964)

Walter Benjamin, “On Language as Such and On the Language of Man”
(from One-Way Street, 1928)

D.H. Lawrence, “The Dance of the Sprouting Corn”
(from Mornings in Mexico, 1927)

George Orwell, “The Art of Donald McGill”
(from Collected Essays, 1941)

Soren Kierkegard, “The Immediate State of the Erotic”
(from Either/Or, 1843)"

[via:
"Nilanjana Roy calls this a "'How to be Human' Playlist," and I agree: John Berger's ten favorite essays"
https://twitter.com/tejucole/status/366912570600333312 ]
lists  readinglists  toread  johnberger  italocalvino  rebeccasolnit  canon  simoneweil  arundhatiroy  ionaheath  mauricemerleau-ponty  walterbanjamin  dhlawrence  georgeorwell  kierkegaard  nilanjanaroy  tejucole 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Against Interpretation
[before quoting the entirety, quoting one line:

"What is important now is to recover our senses. We must learn to see more, to hear more, to feel more."]

"“Content is a glimpse of something, an encounter like a flash. It’s very tiny - very tiny, content.”
- Willem De Kooning, in an interview

“It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.”
- Oscar Wilde, in a letter

1

The earliest experience of art must have been that it was incantatory, magical; art was an instrument of ritual. (Cf. the paintings in the caves at Lascaux, Altamira, Niaux, La Pasiega, etc.) The earliest theory of art, that of the Greek philosophers, proposed that art was mimesis, imitation of reality.

It is at this point that the peculiar question of the value of art arose. For the mimetic theory, by its very terms, challenges art to justify itself.

Plato, who proposed the theory, seems to have done so in order to rule that the value of art is dubious. Since he considered ordinary material things as themselves mimetic objects, imitations of transcendent forms or structures, even the best painting of a bed would be only an “imitation of an imitation.” For Plato, art is neither particularly useful (the painting of a bed is no good to sleep on), nor, in the strict sense, true. And Aristotle’s arguments in defense of art do not really challenge Plato’s view that all art is an elaborate trompe l’oeil, and therefore a lie. But he does dispute Plato’s idea that art is useless. Lie or no, art has a certain value according to Aristotle because it is a form of therapy. Art is useful, after all, Aristotle counters, medicinally useful in that it arouses and purges dangerous emotions.

In Plato and Aristotle, the mimetic theory of art goes hand in hand with the assumption that art is always figurative. But advocates of the mimetic theory need not close their eyes to decorative and abstract art. The fallacy that art is necessarily a “realism” can be modified or scrapped without ever moving outside the problems delimited by the mimetic theory.

The fact is, all Western consciousness of and reflection upon art have remained within the confines staked out by the Greek theory of art as mimesis or representation. It is through this theory that art as such - above and beyond given works of art - becomes problematic, in need of defense. And it is the defense of art which gives birth to the odd vision by which something we have learned to call “form” is separated off from something we have learned to call “content,” and to the well-intentioned move which makes content essential and form accessory.

Even in modern times, when most artists and critics have discarded the theory of art as representation of an outer reality in favor of the theory of art as subjective expression, the main feature of the mimetic theory persists. Whether we conceive of the work of art on the model of a picture (art as a picture of reality) or on the model of a statement (art as the statement of the artist), content still comes first. The content may have changed. It may now be less figurative, less lucidly realistic. But it is still assumed that a work of art is its content. Or, as it’s usually put today, that a work of art by definition says something. (“What X is saying is . . . ,” “What X is trying to say is . . .,” “What X said is . . .” etc., etc.)

2

None of us can ever retrieve that innocence before all theory when art knew no need to justify itself, when one did not ask of a work of art what it said because one knew (or thought one knew) what it did. From now to the end of consciousness, we are stuck with the task of defending art. We can only quarrel with one or another means of defense. Indeed, we have an obligation to overthrow any means of defending and justifying art which becomes particularly obtuse or onerous or insensitive to contemporary needs and practice.

This is the case, today, with the very idea of content itself. Whatever it may have been in the past, the idea of content is today mainly a hindrance, a nuisance, a subtle or not so subtle philistinism.

Though the actual developments in many arts may seem to be leading us away from the idea that a work of art is primarily its content, the idea still exerts an extraordinary hegemony. I want to suggest that this is because the idea is now perpetuated in the guise of a certain way of encountering works of art thoroughly ingrained among most people who take any of the arts seriously. What the overemphasis on the idea of content entails is the perennial, never consummated project of interpretation. And, conversely, it is the habit of approaching works of art in order to interpret them that sustains the fancy that there really is such a thing as the content of a work of art.

3

Of course, I don’t mean interpretation in the broadest sense, the sense in which Nietzsche (rightly) says, “There are no facts, only interpretations.” By interpretation, I mean here a conscious act of the mind which illustrates a certain code, certain “rules” of interpretation.

Directed to art, interpretation means plucking a set of elements (the X, the Y, the Z, and so forth) from the whole work. The task of interpretation is virtually one of translation. The interpreter says, Look, don’t you see that X is really - or, really means - A? That Y is really B? That Z is really C?

What situation could prompt this curious project for transforming a text? History gives us the materials for an answer. Interpretation first appears in the culture of late classical antiquity, when the power and credibility of myth had been broken by the “realistic” view of the world introduced by scientific enlightenment. Once the question that haunts post-mythic consciousness - that of the seemliness of religious symbols - had been asked, the ancient texts were, in their pristine form, no longer acceptable. Then interpretation was summoned, to reconcile the ancient texts to “modern” demands. Thus, the Stoics, to accord with their view that the gods had to be moral, allegorized away the rude features of Zeus and his boisterous clan in Homer’s epics. What Homer really designated by the adultery of Zeus with Leto, they explained, was the union between power and wisdom. In the same vein, Philo of Alexandria interpreted the literal historical narratives of the Hebrew Bible as spiritual paradigms. The story of the exodus from Egypt, the wandering in the desert for forty years, and the entry into the promised land, said Philo, was really an allegory of the individual soul’s emancipation, tribulations, and final deliverance. Interpretation thus presupposes a discrepancy between the clear meaning of the text and the demands of (later) readers. It seeks to resolve that discrepancy. The situation is that for some reason a text has become unacceptable; yet it cannot be discarded. Interpretation is a radical strategy for conserving an old text, which is thought too precious to repudiate, by revamping it. The interpreter, without actually erasing or rewriting the text, is altering it. But he can’t admit to doing this. He claims to be only making it intelligible, by disclosing its true meaning. However far the interpreters alter the text (another notorious example is the Rabbinic and Christian “spiritual” interpretations of the clearly erotic Song of Songs), they must claim to be reading off a sense that is already there.

Interpretation in our own time, however, is even more complex. For the contemporary zeal for the project of interpretation is often prompted not by piety toward the troublesome text (which may conceal an aggression), but by an open aggressiveness, an overt contempt for appearances. The old style of interpretation was insistent, but respectful; it erected another meaning on top of the literal one. The modern style of interpretation excavates, and as it excavates, destroys; it digs “behind” the text, to find a sub-text which is the true one. The most celebrated and influential modern doctrines, those of Marx and Freud, actually amount to elaborate systems of hermeneutics, aggressive and impious theories of interpretation. All observable phenomena are bracketed, in Freud’s phrase, as manifest content. This manifest content must be probed and pushed aside to find the true meaning - the latent content - beneath. For Marx, social events like revolutions and wars; for Freud, the events of individual lives (like neurotic symptoms and slips of the tongue) as well as texts (like a dream or a work of art) - all are treated as occasions for interpretation. According to Marx and Freud, these events only seem to be intelligible. Actually, they have no meaning without interpretation. To understand is to interpret. And to interpret is to restate the phenomenon, in effect to find an equivalent for it.

Thus, interpretation is not (as most people assume) an absolute value, a gesture of mind situated in some timeless realm of capabilities. Interpretation must itself be evaluated, within a historical view of human consciousness. In some cultural contexts, interpretation is a liberating act. It is a means of revising, of transvaluing, of escaping the dead past. In other cultural contexts, it is reactionary, impertinent, cowardly, stifling.

4

Today is such a time, when the project of interpretation is largely reactionary, stifling. Like the fumes of the automobile and of heavy industry which befoul the urban atmosphere, the effusion of interpretations of art today poisons our sensibilities. In a culture whose already classical dilemma is the hypertrophy of the intellect at the expense of energy and sensual capability, interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art.

Even more. It is the revenge of the intellect upon the world. To interpret is to impoverish, to deplete the world - in order to set up a shadow world of “meanings.” It is to turn … [more]
art  interpretation  philosophy  theory  essays  susansontag  plato  artistotle  film  representation  innocence  nietzsche  proust  kafka  tennesseewilliams  jean-lucgodard  rolandbarthes  erwinpanofsky  northropfrye  walterbenjamin  yasujirōozu  robertbresson  culture  thought  senses  oscarwilde  willemdekooning  content  appearances  aesthetics  invisibile  myth  antiquity  karlmarx  freud  jamesjoyce  rainermariarilke  andrégide  dhlawrence  jeancocteau  alainresnais  alainrobbe-grillet  ingmarbergman  ezrapund  tseliot  dgriffith  françoistruffaut  michelangeloantonioni  ermannoolmi  criticism  pierrefrancastel  mannyfarber  dorothyvanghent  rndalljarrell  waltwhitman  williamfaulkner 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Your guide to California in the Pacific world, past, present, and future
"via: https://twitter.com/the_wrangler/status/567023408064778240
"California is a queer place... it has turned its back on the world and looks into the void Pacific."—D.H. Lawrence: http://hosted.verticalresponse.com/1862325/d14d0bdf66/572442965/353d17b409/ "

"At Boom, we think of our mission as opening up conversations about California in the world and the world in California. California was part of the Pacific world long before it was part of the United States. Today, we live in many worlds. The Pacific is not the only one. But it is arguably most important for California—and one we are still trying to figure out.

We put together our new issue looking backward and forward on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco to try to provoke, inspire, and sustain a conversation about California in the Pacific world: 1915 | 2015 | 2115.

In the process, we found a strong current we didn’t anticipate running from the past through the present and into the future: the quest for a California cosmopolitanism in the Pacific world.

Our spring issue, in the mail to subscribers now, is divided into three sections. Colin Marshall, Wendy Cheng, Robert Gottlieb, and Jean Melesaine kick things off by exploring the state of California in the Pacific world—or Latin-Pacific world—today. Elizabeth Logan, Abigail Markwyn, Phoebe S.K. Young, and Suzanne Fischer explore the 1915 roots of California’s cosmopolitanism in an optimism for peace and prosperity on the eve of World War I, but also in the deeply troubling scientific racism that underpinned imperial aspirations abroad and segregation at home. And then we look ahead to 2115, with help from Gustavo Arellano, Alex Steffen, Alexis Madrigal, and Annalee Newitz. Will Silicon Valley's view of itself and California still at the center of the Pacific world prevail, or will a broader Pacific cosmopolitanism win out, one in which California may not be the center, but will always be a part?

The full issue is already available on JSTOR, and over the coming weeks we’ll be rolling it out at www.boomcalifornia.com, where historian Thomas Osborne’s introductory essay [http://www.boomcalifornia.com/2015/02/california/ ] is up now, along with my letter from the editor's desktop, the full list of contributors, and our quarterly Boom list of things to do, see, and read around California this spring. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to be sure you don't miss a thing."

[See also: http://www.boomcalifornia.com/2015/02/from-the-editors-desktop-4/
and http://www.boomcalifornia.com/2015/02/contributors-spring-2015/
and http://www.boomcalifornia.com/2015/02/spring-2015/ ]
california  pacific  2015  history  dhlawrence  1915  2115  cosmopolitanism  colinmarshall  wendycheng  roberthgottlieb  jeanmelasaine  elizabethlogan  abigailmarkyn  phoebeyoung  suzannefischer  optimism  gustavoarellano  alexsteffan  alexismadrigal  annaleenewitz  boomcalifornia  thomasosborne 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Mexico celebrates its unique street sounds this week - USATODAY.com
"MEXICO CITY — From the earsplitting whistles of yam vendors to the squeeze horns of bakers delivering bread, Mexico can be a cacophony of strange sounds.
A series of four notes on a pan flute means the scissor-sharpening man is in the neighborhood. A ringing hand bell means the garbage truck is here. In parks on weekends, balloon vendors announce themselves with a buzzing plastic whistle.

The sounds are not just noise, say some. They are part of Mexico's culture, and the government is celebrating them, including "sound walks" through cities, performances of recorded street noise and a contest to choose "The Most Beautiful Sound in Mexico."

"People who come from other countries may be bothered by all this noise, but for Mexicans, these sounds are part of our identity," said Álvaro Hegewisch, director of Mexico's Fonoteca Nacional, or National Audio Archive.

GALLERY: The sounds of Mexico
To capitalize on the street sounds, the government has declared this week to be National Sound Week, which runs through Sunday.

During the week, government-run radio stations will play two-minute segments featuring Mexico's "endangered sounds," such as the tip-tap of cobblers hammering nails into leather or the notoriously out-of-tune organs played by Mexico City's organ grinders.

One spot features the sound of typing on manual typewriters used by public scribes or typists who serve illiterate Mexicans. The scribes fill out legal documents, government forms or take dictation for letters for customers and are found seated behind desks on sidewalks next to government offices and courts. The scribes are becoming fewer in number as literacy rises in Mexico.

'Most Beautiful Sound'

In Mexico City's Chapultepec Park — one of the few quiet corners in this metropolis of 20 million — listeners will gather to hear "soundscapes," or compilations of street noise, from India, Vancouver, Canada, and Mexico City itself. Other soundscapes feature the forests of Mexico's Michoacan state, the jungles of Chiapas and Indian dances from Papantla.

At an event in the east coast city of Veracruz, audiences will listen to sound effects re-creating events from the 1910-20 Mexican Revolution.

The National Audio Archive is inviting citizens to describe their favorite Mexican sounds through a page on its website. The sound mentioned the most will be named "The Most Beautiful Sound in Mexico" next Monday.

Mexico's unique sounds have long inspired outsiders.

Author D.H. Lawrence described the hum of a Mexican market as sounding "as if all the ghosts in the world were talking to one another."

The sounds of a Mexico City dance hall inspired composer Aaron Copland to write the tone poem El Salon Mexico.

In Calling Mexico, a short story by Ray Bradbury, a dying man in Illinois dials Mexico City just to hear the street noise: "a thousand people in another sunlight, and the faint, tinkling music of an organ grinder playing 'La Marimba.' "

Many of Mexico's sounds are kept alive by the country's street vendors. In Mexico City, thousands of roaming tamale carts play the same recording, a froggy voice that shouts "Riiiiiiiiiicos tamaaaaaaales oaaaaaaxaqueños!" ("Delicious Oaxacan tamales!")

Ice cream vendors ring a set of six small bells mounted on their carts. Sellers of roasted yams use a steam whistle attached to their rolling ovens.

"It's like a code that everyone knows. I make a certain sound, and everyone knows it's me," said Eleuterio Hernández, a bread seller.

He honked a squeeze horn while navigating a cart full of muffins and rolls through Mexico City's Coyoacan neighborhood.

In many cities, a loudspeaker can often be heard intoning "Refrigerators ... air-conditioners ... mattresses ... metal drums" with no explanation. It's a junk collector, looking for metal to buy.

Starting preservation efforts

Many parts of Mexico still have a town crier who shouts the day's headlines, or a community watchman who speeds through neighborhoods at 1 a.m., tooting a slide whistle to let everyone know all is well.

There are websites decoding the sounds. Cancunassist.com, a website for foreigners in Cancun, lists them under a section titled "What's all the noise in the street?"

In recent years, the government has started trying to preserve the country's sounds.

In 2008, it opened the National Audio Archive to computerize recordings and protect the originals in climate-controlled vaults. The agency now has some 274,000 tapes and records, from radio soap operas to recordings of dying Indian languages made by anthropologists.

"People from abroad have no idea what all these sounds mean to us," said Georgina Sanabria, academic director for the audio archive. "But for us, they're important, and we want to preserve them.""

[Gallery: http://mediagallery.usatoday.com/The-sounds-of-Mexico/G1725]
publicscribes  mexico  sound  cities  urban  urbanism  street  2010  raybradbury  dhlawrence  vendors  knifesharpeners  recordings  audio  soundscapes 
september 2014 by robertogreco
The Call of the Feral | HiLobrow
"Like weeds, we grow in disturbed soil, subsiding between progress and collapse. And yet the very qualities of the feral, qualities that condition our thriving — anonymity, wariness, curiosity — have a way of shading imperceptibly into liabilities.…In London’s Wild we find much that is glowering and judgmental —a gospel of the strong — an exaltation of the primordial qualities of the Law.

The feral, by contrast, is the quality of having no qualities…

we should presume that the feral will only gain in importance in years to come. For as power evades the work of politics, infiltrating the circuits that connect consciousness to consciousness; as the planet urbanizes, filling up with walls to hem us in; as the climate tilts inexorably under the deranging influence of that preeminent domesticated species, Homo sapiens; all creatures must learn to cultivate the feral qualities."

[See also: http://hilobrow.com/tag/feral-muse/ ]
matthewbattles  feral  anarchism  anarchy  literature  jacklondon  animals  deschooling  consciousness  zizek  anonymity  4chan  wariness  curiosity  callofthewild  tovejansson  dhlawrence  zygmuntbauman  jeanstafford  refugees  liquidtimes  thetruedeiver  themountainlion  thefox  progress  collapse  wilderness  wild 
september 2011 by robertogreco
Angela Ritchie's Ace Camps - Why We Travel - Pico Iyer
"We travel…to lose ourselves…to find ourselves…to open our hearts & eyes & learn more…to bring what little we can, in our ignorance & knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed…to become young fools again—to slow time down & get taken in, & fall in love once more…

…travel…is just a quick way to keeping our minds mobile & awake. As Santayana…wrote, “There is wisdom in turning as often as possible from the familiar to the unfamiliar; it keeps the mind nimble; it kills prejudice, & it fosters humor.” Romantic poets inaugurated an era of travel because they were the great apostles of open eyes. Buddhist monks are often vagabonds, in part because they believe in wakefulness. And if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end."

[Wayback: http://web.archive.org/web/20110526050656/http://www.ritchieacecamps.com/why-we-travel-pico-iyer ]
picoiyer  travel  learning  identity  glvo  self  knowledge  tcsnmy  ignorance  slow  time  love  santayana  thoreau  ralphwaldoemerson  wakefulness  awareness  noticing  observation  familiarity  transformationcompassion  empathy  work  life  freedom  proust  language  camus  fear  disruption  odyssey  grahamgreene  dhlawrence  vsnaipaul  brucechatwin  samuelbutler  paultheroux  oliversacks  petermatthiessen  marcelproust  albertcamus 
august 2010 by robertogreco
Why the Novel Matters
"Nothing is important but life. & for myself, I can absolutely see life nowhere but in the living. Life with a capital L is only man alive. Even a cabbage in the rain is cabbage alive. All things that are alive are amazing. & all things that are dead are subsidiary to the living. Better a live dog than a dead lion. But better a live lion than a live dog. C'est la vie!"

[Updated 20 May 2012 after a Charlie Loyd reference to the article: http://twitter.com/vruba/status/203976280343973889 ]

"For this reason I am a novelist. And being a novelist, I consider myself superior to the saint, the scientist, the philosopher, and the poet, who are all great masters of different bits of man alive, but never get the whole hog.

The novel is the one bright book of life. Books are not life. They are only tremulations on the ether. But the novel as a tremulation can make the whole man alive tremble. Which is more than poetry, philosophy, science, or any other book-tremulation can do."

"Let us learn from the novel. In the novel, the characters can do nothing but live. If they keep on being good, according to pattern, or bad, according to pattern, or even volatile, according to pattern, they cease to live, and the novel falls dead. A character in a novel has got to live, or it is nothing."

"Let us learn from the novel. In the novel, the characters can do nothing but live. If they keep on being good, according to pattern, or bad, according to pattern, or even volatile, according to pattern, they cease to live, and the novel falls dead. A character in a novel has got to live, or it is nothing.

We, likewise, in life have got to live, or we are nothing.

What we mean by living is, of course, just as indescribable as what we mean by being. Men get ideas into their heads, of what they mean by Life, and they proceed to cut life out to pattern."

"To be alive, to be man alive, to be whole man alive: that is the point. And at its best, the novel, and the novel supremely, can help you. It can help you not to be dead man in life. So much of a man walks about dead and a carcass in the street and house, today: so much of women is merely dead. Like a pianoforte with half the notes mute."
dhlawrence  via:cburell  writing  novels  life  philosophy  importance  literature 
june 2010 by robertogreco
Hotels Hostels Accommodation Reviews For Hotel Montecarlo Mexico City Mexico Lonely Planet
"A relic of a hotel in the very centre of town, the Montecarlo seems little altered since DH Lawrence and W Somerset Maugham resided there in the 1920s, and therein rests its elusive charm."
hotelmontecarlo  travel  mexico  df  mexicodf  literature  dhlawrence  mexicocity 
june 2007 by robertogreco
Vieja grandeza mexicana - René Avilés Fabila
"D. H. Lawrence, el novelista inglés que se enamoró de México tanto o más que Malcom Lowry o alguno de los miembros de la generación beat, quien se hospedó en República de Uruguay 69 en el Hotel Montecarlo"
mexico  df  hotelmontecarlo  travel  literature  mexicodf  dhlawrence  mexicocity 
june 2007 by robertogreco

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