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Notebook

Notebook, 1993-

APPROACHES - In The Words Of . . . .

From: Ferrier, Jean-Louis, Director and Yann le Pichon, Walter D. Glanze [English Translation]. Art of Our Century, The Chronicle of Western Art, 1900 to the Present. New York: Prentice-Hall Editions. 1988.

Lewis Mumford

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Art and Technology
1934 - Writings and Theories

The early printers hesitated to let the type speak for itself. They thought machine ornaments were better than no ornaments, whereas they should have realized that a certain chastity of statement, a certain reserve and underemphasis, is characteristic of good machine art; it is the function itself that addresses us, and the esthetic appeal must always be within the compass of a rational judgment . . . .

As a result of our mechanical reproductive processes, we are now creating a special race of people: people whom one may call art-consumers. From earliest youth they are trained to conduct the normal activities of living within the sound of the radio and the sight of the television screen; and to make the fullest use of our other facilities for reproduction, they are taken, in a big cities at least, in troops and legions through the art galleries and museums, so that they may be conditioned, with equal passivity, to the sight of pictures. The intimate experiences, the firsthand activities, upon which all the arts must be based, are thrust out of consciousness: the docile victims of this system are never given enough time alone to be aware of their own impulses or their inner promptings, to indulge in even so much as a daydream without the aid of a radio program or a motion picture; so, too, they lack even the skill of the amateur to attune themselves more closely to the work of art . . . .

Expressive art, just in proportion to its value and significance, must be precious, difficult, occasional, in a word aristocratic. It is better to look at a real work of art once a year, or even once in a lifetime, and really see it, really feel it, really assimilate it, than to have a reproduction of it hanging before one continually. I may never, for example, see the Ajanta cave paintings. From reproductions, as well as from travelers who have been in India, I well know that these paintings are worth seeing: and if ever I made the journey I expect to carry away a unique impression, reinforced by the strange faces, the different languages and customs, I shall meet on my pilgrimage. But better a few short hours in the cave, in direct contact with the work of art itself, than a lifetime in looking at the most admirable reproductions. Though here, as in many other places, I shall be grateful for the mechanical reproduction, I shall never deceive myself by fancying that it is more than a hint and a promise of the original work . . . .

Unless we can turn the water itself into wine, so that everyone may partake of the creating, there is in fact no miracle, and nothing worth celebrating in the marriage of art and technics. On the other hand, if we establish this personal discipline, this purposeful selectivity, then nothing that the machine offers us, in any department, need embarrass us.

Lewis Mumford, Art and Technics

[An Exerpt From: Ferrier, Jean-Louis, Director and Yann le Pichon, Walter D. Glanze [English Translation]. Art of Our Century, The Chronicle of Western Art, 1900 to the Present. New York: Prentice-Hall Editions. 1988. p. 335]




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