The Live Creature
2 “Art is remitted to a separate realm, where it is cut off from that association with the materials and aims of every other form of human effort, undergoing, and acheivement. A primary task is…to restore continuity between the refined and intensified forms of experience that are works of art, and the everyday events, doings, and sufferings that are universally recognized to constitute experience.”
4 “Many a person who protests against the museum conception of art, still shares the fallacy from which that conception springs. For the popular notion comes from a separation of art from the objects and scenes of ordinary experience…”
“The factors that have glorified fine art by setting upon a far-off pedestal did not arise within the realm of art nor is their influence confined to the arts. For many persons an aura of mingled awe and unreality encompasses the ‘spiritual’ and the ‘ideal’ while ‘matter’ has become by contrast a term of depreciation, something to be explained away or apologized for.”
6-7 “There must then be historic reasons for the rise of the compartmental conception of fine art…An instructive history of modern art could be written in terms of the formation of the distinctively modern institutions of museum and exhibition gallery…Most European museums are, among other things, memorials of the rise of nationalism and imperialism…They testify to the “connection between the modern segregation of art and nationalism and militarism.”
8 A peculiar aesthetic “individualism” results. Artists find it incumbent upon them to betake themselves to their work as an isolated means of “self-expression.” In order not to cater to the trend of economic forces, they often feel obliged to exaggerate their separateness to the point of eccentricity…”
12 re: ecological conception of “the place of the esthetic in experience”: “Every need, say hunger for fresh air of food, is a lack that denotes at least a temporary absence of adequate adjustment with surroundings…[and at the same time] a demand, a reaching out…to make good the lack and to restore…at least a temporary equilibrium.”
13 These biological commonplaces…reach to the roots of the esthetic in experience.” “There is in nature, even below the level of life, something more than mere flux and change. Form is arrived at whenever a stable, even though moving, equilibrium is reached. Changes interlock and sustain one another. Whenever there is coherence there is endurance. Order is not imposed from without but is made out of the relations of harmonious interactions that energies bear to one another.
14 The rhythm of loss of integration with environment and recovery of union not only persists in man but becomes conscious with him; its conditions are material out of which he forms purposes. Emotion is the conscious sign of a break, actual or impending…Desire for restoration of the union converts mere emotion into interest in objects as conditions of realization of harmony. With the realization, material of reflection is incorporated into objects as their meaning. Since the artist cares in a peculiar way for the phase of experience in which union is achieved, [s/]he does not shun moments of resistance and tension…[but] cultivates them…because of their potentialities.”
“The difference between the esthetic and the intellectual is thus one of the places where emphasis falls in the constant rhythm that marks the interaction of the live creature with his surroundings. The ultimate matter of both emphases in experience is the same, as is also their general form. The odd notion that an artist does not think and a scientific inquirer does nothing else is the result of converting a difference of tempo and emphasis into a difference in kind. The thinker has his esthetic moment when his ideas cease to be mere ideas and become the corporate meanings of objects. The artist has his problems and thinks as he works. But his thought is more immediately embodied in the object.”
15 “There are two sorts of possible worlds in which esthetic experience would not occur. In a world of mere flux, change would not be cumulative; it would not move toward a close. Stability and rest would have no being. Equally it is true, however, that a world that is finished, ended, would have no traits of suspense and crisis, and would offer no opportunity for resolution.
16-17 “Most mortals are conscious that a split often occurs between their present living and their past and future. Then the past hangs upon them as a burden; it invades the present with a sense of regret, of opportunities not used, and of consequences we wish undone. It rests upon the present as an oppression, instead of being a storehouse of resources… But the live creature adopts its past; it can make friends with even its stupidities…
18 “To grasp the sources of esthetic experience it is, therefore, necessary to have recourse to animal life below the human scale. The activities of the fox, the dog, and the thrush may at least stand as reminders and symbols of that unity of experience which we so fractionize when work is labor, and thought withdraws us from the world.”
“As you watch [the live animal], you see motion merging into sense and sense into motion…what the live creature retains from the past and what it expects from the future operate as directions in the present. The dog is never pedantic nor academic; for these things arise only when the past is severed in consciousness from the present and is setup as a model to copy or a storehouse upon which to draw.”
Then, sadly, a descent into the familiar, and problematic equation of the “animal” and “creature”—with the “savage.”
The Live Creature