Saturday, April 28, 2012

An Endlessly Variable Style

TLS March 23 2012

from Randall Anderson's review of Franco Mormando's Bernini: His life and his Rome:

The explosive exuberance of the Baroque signalled the evolution of Renaissance and Mannerist styles, and through Bernini achieved its greatest heights. For Benedetto Croce, Baroque decadence produced an art of bad taste (cattivo gusto artistico), but for Luigi Barzini, Jr it embodied something more liberating: "Baroque is when you can draw a straight line, but you prefer to draw a curve". The "plastic abundance", corporeality and expansive force identified by Wylie Sypher as hallmarks of Baroque style appear in surplus with Bernini, from his ecstatic St. Teresa, afloat on her own garments as much as buoyed by the Holy Spirit, to the yards of fabric, inflated by invisible winds, billowing around his busts of Francesco d'Este and Louis XIV.

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From Commentary "Meaning in the margins: Victoria Lady Welby and significs" by John E. Joseph:

In the 1930s, Basic English attracted the interest of Eric Blair, who corresponded with [C. K.] Ogden about it. But on reflection, Blair came to agree with Welby: in order to resist mind control by tyrants, one needs variation, more words rather than fewer. To contradict false claims requires rephrasing them in a way that exposes duckspeak an doublethink. Under his pen name George Orwell, Blair produced his devastating satire of Basic English: Newspeak, Victoria Welby's revenge from beyond the grace on her protege's treachery.

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from Matthew Reynolds' review of Lars Spuybroek's The Sympathy of Things: Ruskin and the Ecology of Design:

Spuybroek develops an idea from The Stones of Venice: that the Gothic is an endlessly variable style. "The pointed arch", Ruskin wrote, "admitted millions of variations...for the proportions of a pointed arch are changeable to infinity, while a circular arch is always the same." The variety continues through the groupings of shafts to form columns and the patternings of tracery in windows. Spuybroek notes that "variability within an element leads to variability between elements": a column becomes a rib becomes an arch; an arch can split into multiplicitous strands of decoration. This is what allows him to extend the argument to computer-aided design: "the digital constitutes the realm of self-generating and self-drawing forms".

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Spuybroek understands sympathy not as fundamentally emotional or cognitive, but as an instinctive bodily reaction: "sympathy is what things feels when they shape each other". He gives an example from Bergson: the Ammophila wasp which, in response to the wriggling of a caterpillar, stings it accurately in nine different nerve centres. This is how it can make sense for Spuybroek to talk of feeling "sympathy" with a wall.

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