It won’t be long before pilots will be doing this

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‘The aesthetic relation of art to reality’

Celestial Fireworks: Into Star Cluster Westerlund 2

‘As the illustrative animation begins, the greater Gum 29 nebula fills the screen, with the young cluster of bright stars visible in the centre. Stars zip past you as you approach the cluster. Soon your imaginary ship pivots and you pass over light-year long pillars of interstellar gas and dust. Strong winds and radiation from massive young stars destroy all but the densest nearby dust clumps, leaving these pillars in their shadows – many pointing back toward the cluster centre. Last, you pass into the top of the star cluster and survey hundreds of the most massive stars known.’

Source

‘Defence of reality as against fantasy, the endeavour to prove that works of art cannot possibly stand comparison with living reality – such is the essence of this essay. But does not what the author says degrade art? Yes, if showing that art stands lower than real life in the artistic perfection of its works means degrading art. But protesting against panegyrics does not mean disparagement. Science does not claim to stand higher than reality, but it has nothing to be ashamed of in that. Art, too, must not claim to stand higher than reality; that would not be degrading for it. Science is not ashamed to say that its aim is to understand and explain reality and then to use its explanation for the benefit of man. Let not art be ashamed to admit that its aim is to compensate man in case of absence of opportunity to enjoy the full aesthetic pleasure afforded by reality by, as far as possible, reproducing this precious reality, and by explaining it for the benefit of man.’

N.G. Chernyshevsky, ‘The Aesthetic Relation of Art to Reality’, MA thesis, 1855, in Selected Philosophical Essays, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1953, 379

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Zamyatin: We – 4

Yevgeny-Zamyatin-We

Daylight. Clear. Barometer at 760.

Can it be that I, D-503, really wrote all these hundreds of pages? Can it be that at one time I felt all this – or imagined that I had felt it?

The handwriting is mine. And what follows is in the very same handwriting – but, fortunately, only the handwriting is the same. There are no ravings whatsoever, no preposterous metaphors, no emotions whatsoever. Facts only. Because I am well; I am perfectly, absolutely well. I smile; I cannot help but smile: they have extracted some sort of a sliver out of my head; my head is light, empty. To be more exact: it is not empty, but there is nothing extraneous in it, nothing that would interfere with smiling (smiling is the normal state for a normal human).

Here are the facts. That evening my neighbour, who had discovered the finitude of the universe, and I, and all the others there with us, were seized for not having certifications of fantasiectomy and hauled off to the nearest auditorium (its number, 112, was for some reason familiar). There we were bound to the operating tables ands subjected to the Grand Operation.

The next day, I, D-503, appeared before The Benefactor and imparted to Him all I knew about the enemies of our happiness. Why could this possibly have seemed difficult to me? It is incomprehensible. The only explanation lies in my former malady, the soul sickness.

On the evening of the same day – seated with Him, The Benefactor, at the same table – I found myself for the first time in the famous Chamber of the Gas Bell Glass. That woman was brought in. She was to give her testimony in my presence. This woman remained contumaciously silent – and smiled. I noticed that her teeth were sharp and very white – and this created a beautiful effect.

Then she was led in under the Gas Bell Glass. Her face became very white and, since her eyes were dark and large, this created an extremely beautiful effect. When they started pumping the air out of the Gas Bell Glass she threw he head back, half closing here eyes and compressing her lips: this reminded me of something. She kept looking at me as she gripped the arms of her seat – kept looking until her eyes closed altogether. Thereupon she was dragged out, quickly brought back to consciousness with the aid of electrodes, and was again made to sit under the Gas Bell Glass. This was gone through three times – and she still had not uttered a word. Others, who had been brought in with this woman, proved more honest: many of them started talking after the first treatment. Tomorrow all of them will mount the steps leading to the Machine of The Benefactor.

There can be no postponement, because the western districts of the city are still full of chaos, roaring, corpses, and – regrettably – a considerable body of numbers who have betrayed rationality.

We have, however, succeeded in constructing a temporary wall of high voltage waves on the transversal 40th Prospect.

And I hope that we will conquer. More than that: I am certain that we shall. For rationality must conquer.

Yevgeny Zamyatin, We, (1920) Trans., Bernard Guilbert Guerney, Penguin, London, 1984, 220-221

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Zamyatin: We – 3

old-painted-wooden-chair

…The whole night was beset by wings of some sort, and I kept on the go all the time, with my hands and arms protecting my head from these wings. And then – a chair. Not one of our modern chairs but of an ancient style, and wooden. With a horselike gait (right foreleg and left hindleg, left foreleg and right hindleg) this chair trotted up to my bed and climbed up on it; it was uncomfortable, painful – and I loved that wooden chair.

It is amazing: is it really impossible to contrive any remedy against this dreaming disease that would cure it or make it rational – perhaps even put it to some use?

Yevgeny Zamyatin, We, (1920) Trans., Bernard Guilbert Guerney, Penguin, London, 1984, 126

Part three/to be continued…

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Zamyatin: We – 2

belle 1

Our poets no longer soar in the empyrean; they have come down to earth, they are striding side by side with us, keeping in step with the austere, mechanical March issuing from the Musical Factory; their lyre is the matutinal swishing of electrical tooth-brushes, and the awesome crackling of sparks in the Machine of The Benefactor, and the majestic echo of The Hymn of The One State, and the intimate tinkling of a night pot shaped like a vase and made of sparkling crystal, and the exhilarating clatter of falling window blinds, and the joyous voices of the latest cook book, and the barely audible susurration of the listening membranes under the streets.

Our gods are here, below, in our midst: in the Bureaus, in the kitchen, in the workshop, in the lavatory – the gods have become even as we; ergo, we have become even as the gods. And we shall come to you, my unknown planetary readers – we shall come to you to make your life even as divinely rational and regular as ours.

Yevgeny Zamyatin, We, (1920) Trans., Bernard Guilbert Guerney, Penguin, London, 1984, 78

Part two/to be continued…

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Zamyatin: We – 1

Salvador Dali, ’Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man’, oil on canvas, 1943

Salvador Dali, ’Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man’, oil on canvas, 1943

The idea had never come into my head before – but then the thing is precisely thus: we who live on this earth are constantly walking over a burbling, blood-red sea of fire hidden there, deep within the maw of the earth. But we never think of that. But now suppose that this thin shell under our feet were suddenly turned to glass, that we were suddenly to see –

I had turned to glass. I saw into myself, deep within me. There were two Is. One I was my former self, D-503, the number D-503, while the other…Up to now he had merely shoved his shaggy hands just a little out of the shell, but now all of him was crawling out; the shell was cracking, any minute now it would fly into smithereens and…and what then?

Yevgeny Zamyatin, We, (1920) Trans., Bernard Guilbert Guerney, Penguin, London, 1984, 67-68

Part one/to be continued…

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Five Russian souls 4

Filipp Maliavin, Peasant Women, 1904. Oil on canvas, The Russian Museum

Filipp Maliavin, Peasant Women, 1904. Oil on canvas. The Russian Museum

Konstantin Somov, Portrait of Anna Ostroumova, 1901. Oil on canvas. The Russian Museum

Konstantin Somov, Portrait of Anna Ostroumova, 1901. Oil on canvas. The Russian Museum

Konstantin Korovin, Portrait of Nikolai Chichagov, 1902. Oil on canvas. The Tretyakov Gallery

Konstantin Korovin, Portrait of Nikolai Chichagov, 1902. Oil on canvas. The Tretyakov Gallery

Alexander Yakovlev, Portrait of Nikolai Radlov, 1912. Sanguine on paper. The V. Andreyev Collection

Alexander Yakovlev, Portrait of Nikolai Radlov, 1912. Sanguine on paper. The V. Andreyev Collection

Source: Russian Portrait of the late 19th-early 20th centuries, I. Pruzhan, V. Kniazeva, Izobrazitelnoye Iskusstvo Publishers, Moscow, 1980

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Red Army Choir: Dark Eyes

Please remain seated during the performance

At harvest time

At harvest time

Peasants harvesting hay

Peasants harvesting hay

Crew of the steamship Sheksna

Crew of the steamship Sheksna

A man and a woman pose in Dagestan

A man and a woman pose in Dagestan

Emir Seyyid Mir Mohammed Alim Khan, the Emir of Bukhara

Emir Seyyid Mir Mohammed Alim Khan, the Emir of Bukhara

The photography of Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky, a pioneer in colour photography

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Images: the excellent blog of Miep von Sydow

Art and social life: the Russian Revolution and the creative power of idealism 13

Sergei Chekhonin, The Union of Art Workers Aids the Starving. Poster, 1921. ‘In 1921 the Volga region was hit by a terrible famine - the result of an unprecedented drought. Posters, slogans, and newspaper articles called on people to help the starving and to share their last crust of bread with them. People did everything they could and more.’

Sergei Chekhonin, The Union of Art Workers Aids the Starving. Poster, 1921. ‘In 1921 the Volga region was hit by a terrible famine – the result of an unprecedented drought. Posters, slogans, and newspaper articles called on people to help the starving and to share their last crust of bread with them. People did everything they could and more.’

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Image: Art of the October Revolution, Compiler, Mikhail Guerman, Trans., W.Freeman, D.Saunders, C.Binns, Aurora Art Publishers, Leningrad, 1986

Art and social life: the Russian Revolution and the creative power of idealism 8

Konstantin Yuon, ‘A New Planet,’ 1921. Tempera on cardboard, The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Konstantin Yuon, ‘A New Planet,’ 1921. Tempera on cardboard, The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

‘…it is not difficult to see that ours is a birth-time and a period of transition to a new era. Spirit has broken with the world it has hitherto inhabited and imagined, and is of a mind to submerge it in the past, and in the labour of its own transformation. Spirit is indeed never at rest but always engaged in moving forward. But just as the first breath drawn by a child after its long, quiet nourishment breaks the gradualness of merely quantitative growth – there is a qualitative leap, and the child is born – so likewise the Spirit in its formation matures slowly and quietly into its new shape, dissolving bit by bit the structure of its previous world, whose tottering state is only hinted at by isolated symptoms. The frivolity and boredom which unsettle the established order, the vague foreboding of something unknown, these are the heralds of approaching change. The gradual crumbling that left unaltered the face of the whole is cut short by a sunburst which, in one flash, illuminates the features of the new world.’

G.W.F.Hegel, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, Trans., A.V.Miller, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1977, 6-7

*

In beginnings and in ends,

artists, let your faith be strong.

Know where hell and heaven await us.

It is your gift to measure all you see

with dispassionate eyes.

Let your gaze be firm and clear.

Rub out the incidental details

and you’ll see the splendour of the world.

Find out where the light shines

and you’ll know where lies the dark.

Let all that’s sacred in the world,

and all that’s wicked, pass in unhurried flow

through the fire of your heart and the cool of

your mind.

Alexander Blok, from the poem ‘Retribution’

Art of the October Revolution, Compiler, Mikhail Guerman, Trans., W.Freeman, D.Saunders, C.Binns, Aurora Art Publishers, Leningrad, 1986

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