“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Rothko Chapel

It's hard to describe just how fun it was to hang out with Cary Wolfe and Alexander Regier. Cary asked the most extraordinarily good questions and had very interesting things to say about my view of melancholy and objects, which I'll be pursuing further. Alex pressed me on the issue of humor and we had a good conversation about how Harman uses humor as a way into thinking about causality. It struck me that there are indeed many modes of humor in philosophy, the most obvious being the threatening eiron-style sarcasm of Socrates. Imagine him telling you how great your ideas were. You would know you were about to be toast.

Alex took me to the Rothko Chapel, which I've been thinking about for at least twenty years. It was far more affecting than I thought. I've sat in front of many Rothkos but this was something else. You could feel your insides beginning to resonate and you could begin to see magical colors emerging out of the velvety purple black darkness of the paintings. And the dark ceiling that radiates light around it from a skylight. I wasn't ready for that. Or the rugged simplicity of the place, the way it almost smelt of raw plaster. A highly sensuous place. And a black hole...that octagonal darkness floating below the skylight evokes a black hole smoking with light.

If you haven't already you should listen to Morton Feldman's Rothko Chapel. The embedded video is the third part of a series but it includes a shot of the chapel.


Rachael London said...

this is why i read your work, i love that church and think it is exactly the sort of aesthetic experience that connects to your writing

Rachael London said...


Timothy Morton said...

Thank you! Hey that blog looks very good.