The “circular” relationship between seer and seen. “Techniques of the Observer” February 3 rd and February 8 th 2011. “Circles”.
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The “circular” relationship between seer and seen
“Techniques of the Observer”
February 3rd and February 8th 2011
The eye is the first circle; the horizon which it forms is the second; and throughout nature this primary figure is repeated without end. It is the highest emblem in the cipher of the world. St. Augustine described the nature of God as a circle whose centre was everywhere, and its circumference nowhere. We are all our lifetime reading the copious sense of this first of forms. One moral we have already deduced, in considering the circular or compensatory character of every human action. Another analogy we shall now trace; that every action admits of being outdone. Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning; that there is always another dawn at mid-noon, and under every deep a lower deep opens (Emerson 403).
In what sense do “circles” figure prominently in Turner’s work?
“His love affair with gauzy obscurity, his resistance to customary definitions of contour and line, his shameless rejoicing in the mucky density of oils or in the wayward leaks and bleeds of watercolors—these were condemned as reprehensible self-indulgence” (Schama).
Joseph Mallord William Turner (English, 1775–1851)Snow Storm—Steam Boat off a Harbour's Mouth Making Signals in Shallow Water, and Going by the Lead. The Author Was in this Storm on the Night the Ariel Left Harwich, exhibited 1842. (Image courtesy of metmuseum.org.)
Image courtesy of http://history.hanover.edu/courses/art/turnss.html
…Standing on the bare ground, -- my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, -- all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God. The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental: to be brothers, to be acquaintances, -- master or servant, is then a trifle and a disturbance. I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature. (“Nature” 10).
“He seems to have understood picturing as a collaborative process between the artist’s hand and the beholder’s eye, in which the former laid down suggestive elements and the imaginative observer assembled them in his mind to make a coherent subject. Sometimes he would help the process along, sometimes not. But he was much taken by the indeterminacy of the exercise, by forms that escaped resolution. The sobriety of the hard edge became, one has to think, a sign of conceptual banality, a weakness in the mind’s eye. For him the purest form, and one that he repeatedly returned to, was also the most naturally unstable: the rainbow” (Schama, my emphasis).
Light and Colour (Goethe's Theory) - the Morning after the Deluge - Moses Writing the Book of Genesis exhibited 1843. (Image courtesy of www.tate.org).
critique in 1936. The modern age of
mechanical reproduction has introduced the “culture of the copy.” “The world, in short, appears ever nearer and more ‘real’ by virtue of these copies, even as the world ‘in reality’ paradoxically recedes in the face of an onslaught of virtual representations” (in this sense, the “aura” of the “real” is just another convincing illusion) (Schwartz and Przyblyski 11).
if the camera obscurais the model for the camera, then one could say that visual culture is based on a “monocular” way of thinking about vision (one-eyed, focused on captured a single object in perspective—a single, consistent, unified point of view).