Thursday, November 29, 2007

Kulchural Studies I: Vortex

"Every concept, every emotion," said Ezra Pound, "presents itself to the vivid consciousness in some primary form." Vorticism was simply the artist's insistence on approaching experience through these "primary forms" of concepts and emotions. Thus we have "points of maximum energy" and "works of first intensity".

Where I differ with Pound is in his coordination of primary forms with particular arts.

If sound, to music; if formed words, to literature; the image, to poetry; form, to design; colour in position, to painter; form or design in three planes, to sculpture; movement, to dance or to the rhythm of music or verses.

There is something immediately odd about distinguishing between the primary forms of literature and poetry, and to call "form or design in three planes" a "primary form" is not especially elegant. My solution is to say that the primary form of any concept or emotion is always the image, and it may be acoustic, or visual (optical), or manual (haptic), perhaps even visceral and digestive.

Vorticism is not just one among many ways of approaching art. Is is a proposed aesthetic theory: an account of all art. In fact, it is the proposition that we approach our experience artfully. Any proposed study of culture (kulchural studies) would do well to begin with the images that instantiate it. When Gaudier-Brzeska said that he would "derive [his] emotions from the arrangement of surfaces" this is what he meant (GK, p. 69).

It is an attempt to engage with culture as it presents itself to the "vivid consciousness" or to think about the age in which we live on that part of our brain that "will register", as Pound put it.

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