Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Monday, April 25, 2011

OOO Painting Corner

Yes it's The Fall of Icarus by Breughel. The lack of a totalizing perspective makes the viewer float around the picture space as if in zero G (why Tarkovsky used another Breughel in Solaris). And Icarus is by no means a central figure. That prize goes to a rough assemblage of water and rocks, as the painting invites us to peer over the unseen cliff edge. The imagery does not imply a single attitude or vanishing point—in a way perspective is a correlationist mode of drawing. It is as if the picture is asking us to see that the objects in it have other sides to them.

The image is also a good example of what Meillassoux calls “the rich elsewhere”—his description for Graham Harman's initial statement about objects. No wonder U of C press chose it (wisely) for the cover of volume 1 of Braudel's series on capitalism, that particular volume and that particular series being great examples of a history that includes nonhumans, as far as was possible at the time. Auden captures some of it well:

About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

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