eternity


The method of reckless and uncontrolled private use and waste has done for us all the good it ever can; and it is time to put an end to it before it does all the evil it easily may. We have passed the time when heedless waste and destruction … are longer permissible. Henceforth we must seek national efliciency by a new and better way, by the way of the orderly development and use, coupled with the preservation, of our natural resources, by making the most of what we have for the benefit of all of us, instead of leaving the sources of material prosperity open to indiscriminate exploitation. These are some of the reasons why it is wise that we should abandon the old point of view, and why Conservation has become a great moral issue in becoming a patriotic duty.

– Theodore Roosevelt, “Natural Resources” (1910). In The New Nationalism, p. 79.

I thought of a labyrinth of labyrinths, of one sinuous spreading labyrinth that would encompass the past and the future and in some way involve the stars. Absorbed in these illusory images, I forgot my destiny of one pursued. I felt myself to be, for an unknown period of time, an abstract perceiver of the world. The vague, living countryside, the moon, the remains of the day worked on me, as well as the slope of the road which eliminated any possibility of weariness. The afternoon was intimate, infinite. The road descended and forked among the now confused meadows. A high-pitched, almost syllabic music approached and receded in the shifting of the wind, dimmed by leaves and distance. I thought that a man can be an enemy of other men, of the moments of other men, but not of a country: not of fireflies, words, gardens, streams of water, sunsets.

– Jorge Luis Borges. “The Garden of Forking Paths.” Trans. Donald A. Yates. In Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings. New York: New Directions, 1964, p. 23.

Let us … look at that land, where, although not perhaps its birthplace, the cinema found the soil in which to grow to unprecedented and unimagined dimensions.

We know from whence the cinema appeared first as a worldwide phenomenon. We know the inseparable link between the cinema and the industrial development of America. We know how production, art and literature reflect the capitalist breadth and construction of the United States of America. And we also know that American capitalism finds its sharpest and most expressive forms in the American cinema….

[Yet] in the [American] metropolis, … the high-powered automobiles are so jammed together that they can’t move much faster than snails creeping from block to block …. As you make your merely minute progress amidst a tightly packed glacier of other humans, sitting in similarly high-powered and imperceptibly moving machines, you have plenty of time to ponder the duality behind the dynamic face of America, and the profound interdependence of this duality in everybody and everything American…. as your eyes wander over the smooth surfaces of the skyscrapers …. you suddenly realize what “trick” the skyscrapers play on you: although they have many floors, each floor is quite low. Immediately the soaring skyscraper appears to have been built of a number of small-town buildings, piled up on top of each other….

The threads of both Americas are interwoven in the style and personality of [D.W.] Griffith–as in the most fantastic of his own parallel montage sequences.

– Sergei Eisenstein. Film Form: Essays in Film Theory. Translated by Jay Leyda. New York: Harcourt, 1979, pp. 195-198.

What parades as progress in the culture industry, as the incessantly new which it offers up, remains the disguise for an eternal sameness; everywhere the changes mask a skeleton which has changed just as little as the profit motive itself since the time it first gained its predominance over culture.

Theodor W. Adorno. “ Culture Industry Reconsidered” [1967]. New German Critique 6 (1975): 14.

… the Nazis … mass-distributed images of [Albert] Speer’s models in the form of postcards. The monumental effect of architecture could just as easily, perhaps even better, be achieved, say, by a high-angle, totalizing image of architecture. No need to even build the real thing. For years after the war, many Germans mistakenly believed that Speer’s Berlin projects had actually been built and then destroyed in the last stages of the war.

Thus fifty and some years later, our own monumental seduction may be no longer tied up with real built space at all, certainly not with the mammoth shopping malls in the middle of nowhere, nor with international airports and their mass circulation of people and commodities, both of which are physically uncoupled from the traditional site of public space: the living city. No wonder, then, that some will look for the new public space on the Internet, our very own monumental seduction that holds the promise of conquering both time and space and that gives new meaning to McLuhan’s phantasm of an electronically unified global culture. Monumentality today may all be in cyberspace and the information highway. The Germans, at any rate, in seamless and oblivious continuity with another monumental Nazi project – the building of the Autobahn – call it Infobahn, and Deutsche Telekom, in a recent ad in the New York Times, has described without hesitation as the ‘fast lane to the future’. Monumentality is alive and well. We may in fact have to consider a monumentality of miniaturization, for the world wide web is in principle the most gigantic undertaking of our age, as promising to some and threatening to others as any monumentalism has ever been.

– Andreas Huyssen. “Monumental Seduction: Christo in Berlin.” In Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 2003: 47-48.

The Hagley Postcards of Motels and Roadside Attractions Collection, contains a postcard of the original location and possibly first building of the first hotel in the Holiday Inn hotel chain. An archivist notes that the inn was “designed to be clean and predictable.” On the back of the card includes the text, “450 Rooms – 450 Baths – 100% Air-Conditioned – Steam Heat – Pleasure Eating – Bridal Suite – Free Swimming Pool for Guests Only. Your Host from Coast-to-Coast.”

Progress.

A standard is necessary for order in human effort….

All great works of art are based on one or other of the great standards of the heart….

Civilizations advance. They pass through the age of the peasant, the soldier and the priest and attain what is rightly called culture. Culture is the flowering of the effort to select. Selection means rejection, pruning, cleansing; the clear and naked emergence of the essential….

… we [pass] from the elementary satisfactions (decoration) to the higher satisfactions (mathematics)….

it remains to use the motor-car as a challenge to our houses and our great buildings…

 

Decoration is of a sensorial and elementary order, as is colour, and is suited to simple races, peasants, and savages. Harmony and proportion incite the intellectual faculties and arrest the man of culture….

And beauty? This is an imponderable which cannot function except in the actual presence of its primordial bases: the reasonable satisfaction of the mind (utility, economy); after that, cubes, spheres, cylinders, cones, etc. (sensorial). Then … the imponderable, the relationships which create the imponderable: this is genius, inventive genius, plastic genius,  mathematical genius, this capacity for achieving order and unity by measurement and for organizing, in accordance with evident laws, all those things which excite and satisfy our visual senses to the fullest degree.

Then there arise those multifarious sensations, which evoke all that a highly cultivated man may have seen, felt and loved; which release, by means he cannot escape, vibrations he has already experienced in the drama of life: nature, men, the world.

Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture [1923]. Frederick Etchells’ translation. New York: Dover, 1986, pp. 138-143.

“… Colouring the world is always a means of denying it (and perhaps one should at this point begin an inquiry into the use of colour in the cinema). Deprived of all substance, driven back into colour, disembodied through the very glamour of the ‘images’, the Orient is ready for the spiriting away which the film [The Lost Continent] has in store for it. … our studio anthropologists will have no trouble postulating an Orient which is exotic in form, while being in reality profoundly similar to the Occident, at least the Occident of spiritualist thought. Orientals have religions of their own? Never mind, these variations matter very little compared to the basic unity of idealism. . . . “It is this same ‘all things are alike’ which is hinted at by our ethnographers: East and West, it is all the same, they are only different in hue, their essential core is identical. . . . If we are concerned with fishermen, it is not at all the type of fishing which I shown; but rather, drowned in a garish sunset and eternalized, a romantic essence of the fisherman, presented not as a workman dependent by his technique and his gains on a definite society, but rather as the theme of an eternal condition, in which man is far away and exposed to the perils of the sea, and woman weeping and praying at home. . . . All told, exoticism here shows well its fundamental justification, which is to deny any identification by History. By appending to Eastern realities a few positive signs which mean ‘native’, one reliably immunizes them against any responsible content. A little ‘situating’, as superficial as possible, supplies the necessary alibi and exempts one from accounting for the situation in depth. Faced with anything foreign, the Established Order knows only two types of behaviour, which are both mutilating: either to acknowledge it as a Punch and Judy show, or to defuse it as a pure reflection of the West. In any case, the main thing is to deprive it of its history. We see therefore that the ‘beautiful pictures’ of The Lost Continent cannot be innocent …. ”

From “The Lost Continent” in Roland Barthes, Mythologies [US ed. 1972], pp. 94-96.

This is the privilege coveted by every society, whatever its beliefs, its political system or its level of civilization; a privilege to which it attaches its leisure, its pleasure, its peace of mind and its freedom; the possibility of unhitching, which consists … in grasping, during the brief intervals in which our species can bring itself to interrupt its hive-like activity, the essence of what it was and continues to be, below the threshold of thought and over and above society: in the contemplation of a mineral more beautiful than all our creations; in the scent that can be smelt at the heart of a lily and is more imbued with more learning than all our books; or in a brief glance, heavy with patience, serenity and mutual forgiveness, that, through some involuntary understanding, one can sometimes exchange with a cat.

From Claude Lévi-Strauss. Tristes Tropique [1955]. John Weightman and Doreen Weightman, trans. New York: 1974, pp. 414-415.

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