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Notebook

Notebook, 1993-

RELATIONSHIPS

Arnheim, Rudolf. "A Review of Proportion." In Module, Proportion, Symmetry, Rhythm. Vision and Value series. Gyorgy Kepes, ed. New York: George Braziller, 1966.

A Review of Proportion

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"One of the basic visual experiences is that of right and wrong. In particular, the subdivisions of lines or other linear distances and the shape of rectangular surfaces or bodies impress us not only as what they are but also tell us whether or not they are what they ought to be. The shape of a house, a shelf . . . .

How are we to account for our capacity of judging spatial relationships? We may contend that, like all other kinds of ethical judgment, this capacity is imposed upon the individual by authorities and thus declare the sense of proportion a gift of the superego: good shape is simply what we have been taught is good. But this theory nips curiosity in the bud. It passes the problem to the science of social interaction and declines to ask why some patterns, rather than others, are selected for transmission. It is ill suited to explain the universal validity of such judgments, which enables us to understand and appreciate the art work of other individuals and civilizations, regardless of whether or not they agree with our own preferences . . . .

Preference for the particular degree of rationality to which a given pattern aspires is in itself the expression of a deep-seated attitude. The range from Mondrain, Nicholson, and Albers to, say, Rodin, reaches from an extreme need for safety, order, and reason to an equally radical enjoyment of lively complexity; and the demands of the Pythagorean adepts of the yardstick and the compass do not lead to absolute beauty but are only the manifestation of a particular style. As long as the analysis of rational shape remains a tool of the fully developed mind it can help to make perceived order explicit. When it replaces vision and stifles expression it becomes a game in vacuo"

[Arnheim, Rudolf. "A Review of Proportion." In Module, Proportion, Symmetry, Rhythm. Vision and Value series. Gyorgy Kepes, ed. New York: George Braziller, 1966.]





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