Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Function of Poets and Artists ...

“It is the social function of great poets and artists to renew continually the appearance nature has for the eyes of men.

Without poets, without artists, men would soon weary of nature’s monotony. The sublime idea men have of the universe would collapse with dizzying speed. The order which we find in nature, and which is only an effect of art, would at once vanish. Everything would break up in chaos. There would be no seasons, no civilization, no thought, no humanity; even life would give way, and the impotent void would reign everywhere.

Poets and artists plot the characteristics of their epoch, and the future docilely falls in with their desires.”

(Guillaume Apollinaire, “On painting,” The Cubist Painters.)

Profane Illuminations ...

“But the true, creative overcoming of religious illumination certainly does not lie in narcotics. It resides in a profane illumination, a materialistic, anthropological inspiration, to which hashish, opium, or whatever else can give an introductory lesson. (But a dangerous one; and the religious lesson is stricter.)”

“And the most passionate investigation of the hashish trance will not teach us half as much about thinking (which is eminently narcotic), as the profane illumination of thinking about the hashish trance. The reader, the thinker, the loiterer, the flâneur, are types of illuminati just as much as the opium eater, the dreamer, the ecstatic. And more profane. Not to mention that most terrible drug – ourselves – which we take in solitude.”

(Walter Benjamin, “Surrealism: The Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia.” Trans. Edmund Jephcott)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

black & white ...

Copyright © 2007 Marco Alexandre de Oliveira

Me, Myself, and I ...

“Each of us is various, many people, a prolixity of selves. Which is why the person who disdains his world is not the same as the person who rejoices or suffers because of his world. In the vast colony of our being there are many species of people, thinking and feeling differently. . . . And like a diverse but compact multitude, this world of different people that I am projects a unique shadow …”

“My God, my God, whose performance am I watching? How many people am I? Who am I? What is this space between myself and myself?”

(Bernardo Soares / Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet. Trans. Alfred Mac Adam)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Embryonic Abstractions ...

“Perhaps that ideal enigma that the modern would desire to solve is, ‘what would we know about anything, if we didn’t know anything about it?’ . . . to track intellection back to the embryo.

For the spiritual record of the race is this nostalgia for the crystallization of the irreducible surplus of the abstract. The bankruptcy of mysticism declared itself in an inability to locate this divine irritation, and the burden of its debt to the evolution of consciousness has devolved upon the abstract art.”

(Mina Loy, “Gertrude Stein”)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

"why is there that scissor"

“Why is a pale white not paler than blue, why is a connection made by a stove, why is the example which is mentioned not shown to be the same, why is there no adjustment between the place and the separate attention. Why is there a choice in gamboling. Why is there no necessary dull stable, why is there a single piece of any color, why is there that sensible silence. Why is there the resistance in a mixture, why is there no poster, why is there that in the window, why is there no suggester, why is there no window, why is there no oyster closer. Why is there a circular diminisher, why is there a bather, why is there no scraper, why is there a dinner, why is there a bell ringer, why is there a duster, why is there a section of a similar resemblance, why is there that scissor.”

(Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons.)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Key to Happiness

A wise man once asked me:
“Do you know the key to happiness?”
Being the fool that I was,
I showed him the door …


The 4th Dimension ?!?

“Your being a person is due to the illusion of space and time; you imagine yourself to be at a certain point occupying a certain volume; your personality is due to your self-identification with the body. Your thoughts and feelings exist in succession; they have their span in time and make you imagine yourself, because of memory, as having duration. In reality time and space exist in you; you do not exist in them. They are modes of perception, but they are not the only ones. Time and space are like words written on paper; the paper is real, the words merely a convention.”

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

Friday, September 14, 2007

Dada Fragments ...

“The image differentiates us. Through the image we comprehend.”

“The word and the image are one. Painting and composing poetry belong together. Christ is image and word. The word and the image are crucified …”

“We have developed the plasticity of the word to a point which can hardly be surpassed. This result was achieved at the price of the logically constructed, rational sentence, and therefore, also, by renouncing the document (which is only possible by means of a time-robbing grouping of sentences in a logically ordered syntax). . . . We have charged the word with forces and energies which made it possible for us to rediscover the evangelical concept of the ‘word’ (logos) as a magical complex of images …”

(Hugo Ball, “Dada Fragments)

“A work of art should not be beauty in itself, for beauty is dead.”

Order = disorder; ego = non-ego; affirmation = negation: the supreme radiations of an absolute art.”

“Dada is the signboard of abstraction; advertising and business are also elements of poetry.”

(Tristan Tzara, “Dada Manifesto 1918”)

“The expression of a picture cannot be put into words, any more than the expression of a word, such as the word ‘and’ for example, can be painted.”

“Art is a primordial concept, exalted as the godhead, inexplicable as life, indefinable and without purpose.”

“The medium is as unimportant as I myself. Essential is only the forming.”

(Kurt Schwitters, “Merz”)

“The obscurity of our words is constant. The riddle of meaning must remain in the hands of children. Reading a book to learn something denotes a certain simplicity. The little that the most famous works can teach us about their authors, or about their readers, should rapidly dissuade us from trying this experiment. It is the thesis that disappoints us, not its expression. I regret having to pass through these unclear sentences, receiving confidences without object, feeling at every moment, through the fault of some blabbermouth, a sense of knowing it already. The poets who have recognized this hopelessly flee the intelligible: they know that their work has nothing to lose. One can love an insane woman more than any other.”

“Some have spoken of systematically exploring the unconscious. For poets, it is nothing new to let oneself go and write according to the vagaries of one’s mind. The word inspiration, which for some reason has fallen into disuse, was once seen in a favorable light. Almost every true imagistic innovation, for example, strikes me as being a spontaneous creation.”

(André Breton, “For Dada”)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Message (Preliminary Note)

"The understanding of symbols and (symbolic) rituals demands that the interpreter have five qualities or conditions, without which the symbols would be dead to him, and he dead to them.

The first is sympathy; I won’t say the first in time, but the first as I go on citing, and I cite by grades of simplicity. The interpreter has to feel sympathy for the symbol that he proposes to interpret. The cautious, ironic, or displaced attitude – all deprive the interpreter of the first condition to be able to interpret.

The second is intuition. Sympathy can aid it, if it already exists, but not create it. Intuition is understood to be that type of understanding with which one feels what is beyond the symbol, without it being seen.

The third is intelligence. Intelligence analyzes, decomposes, orders, reconstructs the symbol on another level; it nonetheless has to do so after sympathy and intuition have been used. One of the ends of intelligence, in the examination of symbols, is to relate on high what is in accordance with the relation that is below. It will not be able to do this if sympathy has not remembered this relation, if intuition has not established it. So intelligence, from being discursive as it naturally is, will become analogical, and the perfect symbol will be interpretable.

The fourth is comprehension, understanding this word to mean the knowledge of other subjects, which permit the symbol to be illuminated under various lights, related to various other symbols, since, at bottom, it’s all the same. I won’t say erudition, like I could have said, since erudition is only a sum; I won’t even say culture, since culture is a synthesis; and comprehension is a lifetime. As such, certain symbols can’t be well understood if there is not beforehand, or at the same time, the understanding of different symbols.

The fifth is less definable. I will say, perhaps, telling some it is grace, telling others it is the hand of the Supreme Unknown, telling even others that it is the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, understanding each one of these things, that they are the same thing in the way that those who use them, speaking or writing, understand them."

(Fernando Pessoa, Message. Trans. gringocarioca)

Saturday, September 08, 2007

On the Art of Prose . . .

“All art is contained in prose – in part because the whole world is contained in language, in part because words set free contain all possibilities for expression and thought. In prose we give everything by transposition: the colors and forms painting can only give directly, in themselves, without any intimate dimension; the rhythm that music cannot give except directly, in itself, without formal body, without that second body that is an idea; without the structure the architect has to form from hard, given, external things that we erect out of rhythm, indecision, duration, and fluidity; without the reality, which the sculpture must leave in the world, without any aura or transubstantiation; without, finally, poetry in which the poet, like an initiate in a secret society, is subject, albeit voluntarily subject, to an order and a ritual.”

“And there is also in prose convulsive subtlety in which a great actor, the Word, rhythmically transforms the untouchable mystery of the Universe into its corporeal substance.”

(Bernardo Soares / Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet. Trans. Alfred Mac Adam)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

What "the age" demanded . . .

“The age demanded an image
Of its accelerated grimace,
Something for the modern stage,
Not, at any rate, an Attic grace;

Not, not certainly, the obscure reveries
Of the inward gaze;
Better mendacities
Than the classics in paraphrase!

The ‘age demanded’ chiefly a mould in plaster,
Made with no loss of time,
A prose kinema, not, not assuredly, alabaster
Or the ‘sculpture’ of rhyme.”

(Ezra Pound, from Hugh Selwyn Mauberly)

Saturday, September 01, 2007


Copyright © 2007 Marco Alexandre de Oliveira