Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Visitor



Yesterday, like many of you, I received, an email advertisement for Bill Berkson's book of art criticism, or witticism, or 'art writing' or whatever, called For the Ordinary Artist: Short Reviews, Occasional Pieces and More from Blazevox books which I suppose is Geoffrey Gatza. I guess what first grabbed me was the cover art by George Schneeman, some sort of a collage number using part of a Vargas girl, the part that rumbas and the part that holds a telephone, and then to that is hooked some heroine in distress from out of a Jack London looking setting. You get the picture: A hotty with a cellphone! Well, I'm thinking this is all peachy and interesting,
and I read down and see the Robert Storr quote which really piques my interest because I had just been watching the Alice Neel documentary on Netflix which has Robert Storr in it. Wow! hehe. You know what I mean. So THEN, I start thinking, maybe I will have a peek at this Bill Berkson's art writing or whatever. I used to have a Bill Berkson book or two, may still have. So I go to read this example they have listed about Vermeer's milkmaid girl called The Visitor. You can read it, too, here. So I read it, and I am thinking, this is pretty good, he's seeing resonances in the figure and other figures, he's doing that intertextuality thing, and he's joining in with some of the current discourse on the thing, and mentioning this guy Liedtke. He's doing some contextualisation within our contemporary period, etc. So then, I am reading this, and Berkson, sort of slightly nudges you into this small controversy surrounding this footwarmer element, but he's like just sort of commenting on it without going into it all. This is more or less all we get: (In no way is she about careless sex – no matter how many corollaries to that effect women of her station may have in the iconography of her time.) Huh? So, I poked around trying to figure out what the background story was on the 'iconography', and I came up with this which is I think pretty good for the blogger world, here. This is a much more explicit and humorous take on what Liedtke's talking about. And I really started to get into this PAINTING at this point. I start to here my inner Spock say things like "Fascinating".. Well, Berkson, to his credit doesn't exactly gloss over what to me might be a more interesting thread about the piece, but let's see it


and the incongruity of the line of tiles that forms a kind of predella – Cupid and bow, a traveler with his staff and two others less legible, like animation figures. 


Okay, like, I can see how you might just leave it at that, and he does go into the compositional elements in a way similiar to what I would do, but look at this thing, the detail, here. Do you notice, that straw or stylus in the foreground? Also, do you notice that the perforations are slightly reminiscient of trigrams from the I Ching? Now before I go into that, let's throw up these 3 characters that Bill so strangely doesn't call 'cartoons', but 'animation figures'.




Now I am no Art Historian, but that top character could be a predila or it might not. It might be a snake-handler, and the lower ones immediately remind me of Callot figures, or the kind of miniscule figure painting that Canaletto did, but that's a painting thing. Just pour ris, let's say, the one on the left is a clown with a crutch, and the right one, is an angel riding a bicycle, or a sort of wild strider wearing an enormous conch.
The one on the left could be a bird-headed caterpilar using its long beak like a crutch and supporting a little house on its shoulders. That's what I see. Maybe the top guy is wearing a kind spacesuit with the helmet, or head piece flopped back. Maybe that thing like a tail is an airtank or some form of enviro machinery. These are ideograms. And the entire section, is a composition within a composition, and you guessed it, it's subject is syntaxis. The 'footwarmer' isn't a symbol of arousal, in the ordinary sense, but something closer to irronism, it's an index-warmer, a polyvalency machine, a prototype for the computer, in which regularly spaced tiles encoded with symbols pass through a processing chamber with an outer housing and an inner unit, a recapitulation of the brain and skull instrumentalized. 

Now I am not making this claim in the same room with a Liedtke, but more or less as a follow up to my piece on pour ris.. As the milkmaid can be said to be pouring out our meaning, I am linking that "pouring out" to the 
libation of risibilities upon the web stone.

But to continue, look to the composition in the upper world of the maiden, look at the subtlety, and if we
use say color symbolism there is almost a sentence to be read.

The green in her sleeves is nearly the same green as the table cloth and verges on the green of the character tiles below. Earth is our table and our strength, and the landscape itself is a computation. The table? Look how that table becomes a microcosmal element. The Milk that is poured does not stop in the jar, but compositionally continues down in the form of that oddly placed blue fabric which is the same as her skirt.
It is as if the table has become a kind of landscape. And the tile area below is certainly a landscape.

Now what I started toying with next was the connection between Vermeer and the trigrams. I knew that Vermeer and Leibniz were roughly contemporaries, but Leibniz was off in Germany. Now, one has to remember that Vermeer is part of another controversy namely the Hockney-Falco thesis. There is also the
connection to Antonie Philips van Leeuwenhoek, and the connection is noted here:


Van Leeuwenhoek was a contemporary of another famous Delft citizen, painter Johannes Vermeer, who was baptized just four days earlier. It has been suggested that he is the man portrayed in two of Vermeer's paintings of the late 1660s, The Astronomer and The Geographer. However, others argue that there appears to be little physical similarity. Because they were both relatively important men in a city with only 24,000 inhabitants, it is likely that they were at least acquaintances. Also, it is known that Van Leeuwenhoek acted as the executor of the will when the painter died in 1675.[23]

In A Short History of Nearly Everything (p. 236) Bill Bryson alludes to rumors that Vermeer's mastery of light and perspective came from use of a camera obscura produced by Van Leeuwenhoek. This is one of the examples of the controversial Hockney–Falco thesis, which claims that some of the Old Masters used optical aids to produce their masterpieces. 

Now, what I am going to propose next may seem a bit far-fetched and it is, but here goes, the perforation on the top of the footwarmer are code. Exactly what the code is I haven't worked out. But if we look at the ying yang coding principle of the I Ching Itself, Yang lines are solid and Ying are broken.

There are four full whole 乾 qián (creative force) trigrams. You can read along here. If we use a two axis system, like an X, we might say the qián trigram emblem is just used to call our attention to "trigrammity" but that we should proceed onto to trigram 4 震 zhèn (arousing shake).. 

Arousing snake? hmm.

There is another 乾 qián trigram on the other axis, and maybe 2 more, or maybe the single hyphens are meant to symbolize a broken line in which case we would get 離 lí, the clinging radiance.

Now, besides that fact that there appears to be a character with a broken leg using a crutch, I never finished the thing about Leibniz. Leibniz was interested in the I Ching. And then there is the mention of a performance done at Cardiff called: The conversion of essence into series: a dance of repetition from Vermeer to Leibniz.

Well! well done Google. The conversion of essence into series? Spectacular!

Okay, maybe just weird. (damn italics button)! :)

The one dangling thread I guess is the stylus.. Now, I know something about the I Ching that might not be common knowledge, and it might not even be knowledge!  :) In Robert K.G. Temple's book Oracles of the Dead he presents an historical meditation on the Book of Changes which I hope you will read (first of all)
because its length and complexity are rather impossible to summarize completely, but the footwarmer
is square, and the Book of Changes or the I Ching does have some major tie ins with magic squares, early algebraic function. In fact the foot warmer might even refer to something like the Great King Wen sequence.

There is also Z.D. Sung's extraordinary diagram entitled "the cube of three quadrinomial dimensions"


The book that this came from is here. But the stylus! Is it a yarrow stalk? You really just have to read the Temple to get the whole context of the I Ching and the Yarrow thing. I guess this milk baby is all poured out.
You can carry symbolism just about anywhere, and when dealing with a Vermeer, you might be right! The upshot of that that Vermeer / Leibniz paper had things like this in it:

It endlessly produces folds… So begins Deleuze’s book on Leibniz and the Baroque; the title of our Conversions project referring directly to G.W.Leibniz and his attempts to reinterpret the world as a fluid state, where the static object/image is energised and perceived as a sequence of states constituting an event, essentially in constant flux. This process is made up of consecutive moments framed as movement through repetition and difference. In the case of the ‘conversions’ 18 non-representational events that attempt to serialise the essential qualities of Vermeer’s painting, which are imagined, situated in the pose of the girl.

The concept as it was first posited was to interpret the questions the painting inferred beyond its materiality. The encrypted messages that were held in the frozen visage of the young woman as her moment collided with our own, not through any sense of essence as it resides in the static materiality of the painting but through the multiple interpretations that it holds secret. The many psychological perspectives and inflections that produce vibrations, possible ‘events’, constituting a multiplicity (infinity) of harmonics and rhythms that stir the individual and collective consciousness.

That line:

The many psychological perspectives and inflections that produce vibrations, possible ‘events’, constituting a multiplicity (infinity) of harmonics and rhythms that stir the individual and collective consciousness.

The Temple book has a chapter called Higher Order Events which talks about the sturucture of space and events, etc.. I'm not here to carry it all that way. I'm content to just re-draw some of Vermeer's old cartoons,
to find a picture within a picture and call it a day. I can see it. I'm interested. Maybe I'll write Robert and see what he thinks!

I guess some other stuff I left rough was, I meant to say that the blue cloth was like a waterfall, and that
Yarrow stalks were used in divination w/ the I Ching, and that maybe Leeuwenhoek knew something of Leibniz's work on the I Ching. This could be checked. I don't know Leibniz's publication history, but somebody would.

What if space/ time itself is a computer in the context of earth. There is something weird going on here,
and that's what the Jellybean Weirdo is here to notice!