Saturday, September 23, 2017

Aesthetics of Clarity/Allure of Obscurity

Aesthetics of Clarity

Let us recall any of those musical compositions that barely introduce their theme, only to plunge into a thicket of variations,teasing the ear with few bars of the theme and running immediately into the labyrintine escapes,digressive traps of over-talkative cadenzas. We are led astray and when finally the theme reasserts itself the listener is manipulated to experience the relief and gratifying sense of finding lost gold watch or expensive dentures.
First example is of clarity in prose,where progression of story goes as if each step said "sequitur,sequitur...."
Plutarch in Dryden's translation
“.......It was a matter of general wonder, when people saw him joining Socrates in his meals and his exercises, living with him in the same tent, whilst he was reserved and rough to all others who made their addresses to him, and acted, indeed, with great insolence to some of them. As in particular to Anytus, the son of Anthemion, one who was very fond of him, and invited him to an entertainment which he had prepared for some strangers. Alcibiades refused the invitation; but, having drunk to excess at his own house with some of his companions, went thither with them to play some frolic; and, standing at the door of the room where the guests were enjoying themselves, and seeing the tables covered with gold and silver cups, he commanded his servants to take away the one-half of them, and carry them to his own house; and then, disdaining so much as to enter into the room himself, as soon as he had done this, went away. The company was indignant, and exclaimed at his rude and insulting conduct; Anytus, however, said, on the contrary, he had shown great consideration and tenderness in taking only a part when he might have taken all......”
And choice sample of crystalline clarity as if cut diamond in poetry:

A Broken Appointment

You did not come,
And marching Time drew on, and wore me numb.
Yet less for loss of your dear presence there
Than that I thus found lacking in your make
That high compassion which can overbear
Reluctance for pure lovingkindness' sake
Grieved I, when, as the hope-hour stroked its sum,
You did not come.

You love not me,
And love alone can lend you loyalty;
-I know and knew it. But, unto the store
Of human deeds divine in all but name,
Was it not worth a little hour or more
To add yet this: Once you, a woman, came
To soothe a time-torn man; even though it be
You love not me.

Thomas Hardy 

Allure of obscurity

Just to make the stylistic division emphatic let's see example from a text at the opposite end of clarity:
"Speaking more generally,the theoretical hallucination of desire,with its defuse libidinal psychology,serves as a backdrop to that simulacrum of seduction which one now finds everywhere.Having replaced the world of surveillance,it characterize the vulnerability of both individuals and masses to soft injunctions. Distilled in homeopathic doses throughout all personal and social relation,the seductive shadow of this discourse hovers today over the desert of social relations,and of power itself."
from "Seduction" by Jean Baudrillard.Before any serious expedition in search for sense-making should be undertaken here , it would be right to accept that in this lunar use of concepts,connections,intellectual impressionism the term "theoretical hallucination" is explaining a lot.

Language has various sub-languages: scientific,technical,poetical and above all the ordinary colloquial language within that totality. Colloquial speech is so dedicated to conveying meaning that it burns itself upon completion of relaying the message. Poetical language refuses such self-emmolation . It is made to outlast release of message and indeed reaffirms its endurance. The better the poetry the more indestructible is its language. Poet faces the opposition of tasks-to communicate and to save his language from instant self-emmolation.To use a whole arsenal of poetical devices,reaching into wild associations,surprising analogies,convulsive grammatical structures-all that carry a serious risk of losing the reader who senses that the author is not interested in communicating.
Looking closely at poetical text one senses that apart from what is well understood a certain darker shadow of obscurity remains.It seems to want obstinately to remain inscrutable lest the poetical charm would disappear.In poetry the balance of clarity and obscurity is tipped toward the Clarity scale,but Obscurity is never empty.
Beyond the known and well-traveled land mass of language,far away,beyond Aleutian Islands of communicating , there is „more”. There are wild associations,obscurities that would burn holes in our brains,uses of words so bizarre,so untamed and violent to logic that those who reached there came back damaged,clinging to the land of Clarity ever more.
As an example of alluring obscurity is „City that does not sleep” by Federico Garcia Lorca in R.Bly translation:

In the sky there is nobody asleep.  Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
The creatures of the moon sniff and prowl about their cabins.
The living iguanas will come and bite the men who do not dream,
and the man who rushes out with his spirit broken will meet on the 
            street corner
the unbelievable alligator quiet beneath the tender protest of the
Nobody is asleep on earth.  Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
In a graveyard far off there is a corpse
who has moaned for three years
because of a dry countryside on his knee;
and that boy they buried this morning cried so much
it was necessary to call out the dogs to keep him quiet.
Life is not a dream.  Careful!  Careful!  Careful!
We fall down the stairs in order to eat the moist earth
or we climb to the knife edge of the snow with the voices of the dead
But forgetfulness does not exist, dreams do not exist;
flesh exists.  Kisses tie our mouths
in a thicket of new veins,
and whoever his pain pains will feel that pain forever
and whoever is afraid of death will carry it on his shoulders.
One day 
the horses will live in the saloons
and the enraged ants
will throw themselves on the yellow skies that take refuge in the
            eyes of cows.
Another day
we will watch the preserved butterflies rise from the dead
and still walking through a country of gray sponges and silent boats
we will watch our ring flash and roses spring from our tongue.
Careful!  Be careful!  Be careful!
The men who still have marks of the claw and the thunderstorm,
and that boy who cries because he has never heard of the invention 
            of the bridge,
or that dead man who possesses now only his head and a shoe,
we must carry them to the wall where the iguanas and the snakes
            are waiting,
where the bear’s teeth are waiting,
where the mummified hand of the boy is waiting,
and the hair of the camel stands on end with a violent blue shudder.
Nobody is sleeping in the sky.  Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is sleeping.
If someone does close his eyes,
a whip, boys, a whip!
Let there be a landscape of open eyes
and bitter wounds on fire.
No one is sleeping in this world.  No one, no one.
I have said it before.
No one is sleeping.
But if someone grows too much moss on his temples during the
open the stage trapdoors so he can see in the moonlight
the lying goblets, and the poison, and the skull of the theaters.

Why would clarity be appealing to an artist? Are clearly,plainly ,un-obstructedly shown forms preferable ? The answer is not as simple as "yes" because the clarity of presentation has to have tension.It cannot simply peel itself of all outer wrappings,skins and shades.Instead the artist wants to use dynamic result of agon for the coming to light.
Surely,someone might say-no,there is no need for tension and great light may awash the content of an artwork evenly abolishing any sense of darkness anywhere.True,but most successful paintings are build by dynamic tensions between opposites.Cool colors contrast warm colors.Big volumes are placed with small ones.Verticalities are interwoven with horizontals. Billowy oblongs demand some jagged angularities.Complexities need plain,un-interrupted saharas.The same intuited need governs careful distribution of light and darkness.
One of the most primordial antinomies is Darkness and Light,and Darkness is older,perhaps truly at the irremovable"it"of existence.Light always happens as breaking the darkness.Picture it as gloom and impenetrable magma at the first orchestral part of Brahms's Violin Concerto and suddenly a sharp ribbon of violin bursts like light ascending ever higher and brighter.First Light of the

What is darkness?Is it really just an absence of light,or is there something more substantial there?Imagine a more substantial darkness,more corpusculatory dark like falling into a mine-shaft of
blackberries ,like black ink so strong that even the daylight cannot wash away.
However,,after reflection,maybe that we need to distinguish between darkness and black color.In my experience darkness is not quite „black” in color.It has more complex color.One name comes to mind: murk.Not black.
When we read of black object that it „absorbs” all the rays of light what happens to those millions of photons?Are they trapped inside of black surface? Are they somehow annihilated,turned to something else? Turned perhaps to rust of light?Does nobody care what happens to all those „absorbed” light rays ? Perhaps it is time to look for them;first observe the place where photons hit the surface and then have some clever combs to recover them in flurries of cascading liberation of photons.
In visual arts the aesthetic taste for un-clarity could manifests itself as confusing complexity,and at times by obscuring much or even most of the presentation.Background is dark and dissolving details.Out of the gloom a part comes to light .In dramatized chiaroscuro the lighted part glows as if with its own,inner light.

                            Jean de la Hey and François-Emile Barraud give us examples of great clarity.


And for examples of  obscurity or "un-clearness " Cornelius Bega
                                                       and Jan Gerritsz van Bronckhorst

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