“What do we want Matter to say to Us?” Some Scattered Thoughts

I wrote this post in the middle of the night due to some neurotic insomnia. In fact, I had thought I hit the publish button, but I hit the save key instead. Anyways, what follows are some scattered thoughts, loose connections and possibilities for further interrogation all because in my insomniac state I came across this interesting article, “On Plasticity: Sound Cartographies,” by Miguel Leal via Fido the Yak, who links plasticity to the image:

There is some cause for linking the idea of the plastic with the idea of the image. The word plastic comes from the Greek πλαστῐκός which means “fit for molding” and also, when said of persons, “gifted in sculpture.” (I’m relying upon the Greek-English Lexicon of Liddell and Scott for the meaning of Greek words.) It is related to πλάσσω, which means “to form, to mold” and, in one of its senses, “to form an image of a thing in the mind, to imagine.” (Mold, btw, comes to us by way of the French mouler which means “to hug the figure.”) Another meaning of πλάσσω is “to mold or form by training or education.” A πλάσμα is, among other things, an image or figure. The Greeks thus help us think of the image as something shaped and also, perhaps, shaping. What qualities must the sculpted possess in order to sculpt the sculptor? Leal touches on the idea of a thickness necessary for any plasticity. He says that “in order for matter to show its plasticity it is above all necessary to grant it thickness.” (emphasis mine) The double movement of imagination hugs the figure and draws out the form, unfolding in a milieu the emotional thickness of Play-Doh or the temporal thickness of the plasmatic stream. It is perhaps utlimately the thickness of metaphor, which, in kindness to Leal, I will regard as a πλαστῐκή τεχνῶν.

This idea of thickness is touched upon by Emmanuel Levinas in some of his early writing so I decided to have a closer look at Existence and Existents. Continue reading

John Currin in The New Yorker


There is a profile of painter John Currin in this week’s issue of The New Yorker and it’s well worth picking it up. If you’re in London, hecurrin.jpg has a forthcoming show there, I believe at the Serpentine Gallery, I had seen a large mid-career retrospective of his work at the Whitney in 2003 in NY and found it to be quite good. He has a kind of very classical style that he mixes with paintings of disproportionate bodies, a sarcastic and twisted sense of humor, and slightly surrealistic takes on Norman Rockwell along with references to painters as diverse as Vermeer, Lucien Freud and Goya. As Tomkins writes in the article, “More than any artist I know, John Currin exemplifies the productive struggle between self-confidence and self-doubt.” From the New Yorker: “Currin’s work ranges from riffs on high-school-yearbook head shots–reminiscent I think of Richter’s Nurse Paintings used most recently by Sonic Youth for the cover art to their album Sonic Nurse–to scenes inspired by Internet pornography, to portraits of family members, including his wife, Rachel, and his son Francis.

The New Yorker has a portfolio of some of Currin’s recent work online here.