Sunday, September 15, 2013

Michael Brown at the Mike Weiss Gallery in Chelsea

I think that Novalis is definitely a writer who should be revisited.  Looking at Brown's work at the Weiss Gallery, a few of his quotes ran through my mind:

"The path of mystery leads inwards..."  and "The world becomes a dream and the dream becomes reality."  I also recalled Schelling's "Nature is visible spirit; spirit is invisible nature."  Yes, I still read the German 'Romantic' writers.

If you go to Mike Weiss' web page, you can read details about how Brown creates these pieces. What I liked was that Brown first sketches a scene from nature.  Basically he sketches a barren landscape.  Over this sketching he then places rusty iron bars curved into circular shapes.  In many of his pieces the circles overlap each other in various patterns.

I took the above photo from Weiss' web page (so I hope he doesn't sue me) but you can see a closeup of one of Brown's pieces below.  My friend Tomoko might have been a little tipsy because the photo is crooked, but that's OK, I was tipsy too considering that it was the big opening night in Chelsea when we saw this work and free alcohol abounded.

Yes, we were both a bit tipsy.

Giulia A. took this photo while she and I were completely sober (am I ever completely sober?)

So why do I like these pieces so much?  Well, to me two processes are represented here. I would argue that two inner processes are represented here.  I think that every meaningful work of art is about our inner lives or inner reality and I believe Brown's work can be interpreted in this manner. I think he is illustrating two processes that occur when we perceive aspects of our inner life.  I guess a person could describe these processes as 'perception' and 'reaction,' or 'perception' and 'construction.'

Initially, in these pieces, we get 'nature' in the form of a landscape sketch.  To me, the perception of an aspect of inner nature necessarily leads to a cognitive process akin to Novalis' idea that a 'dream' becomes 'reality.'  We conceptualize what we perceive or feel.  

When language was created or developed, it must have been created or developed to express what happens in the outer world, because when we attempt to describe processes in the inner world, we are forced to use metaphors or symbols from the outer world.

When we conceptualize, we use metaphors or symbols and this leads us away from 'nature' and into another inner process altogether.  This new inner process can be represented by the curving and rusty iron. Like the circular pieces of iron, this process is a coherent whole.  And regardless of the differences that can be perceived, the process is always the same for every aspect in regard to trying to understand the nature of our inner lives.  

The aspects of our inner world exist for us independently of the nature of the aspects, through cognition, and they become other entities.  Like the rusty iron, our conclusions about what we perceive in our inner nature become separate from nature in a coherent and identifiable (and mostly useless) manner.

One can even mention Hume's Law or George Moore's "Naturalistic Fallacy" here.  Hume pointed out that often when we describe a situation, a judgment about that situation often then occurs.  I can't remember his exact quote, but he said something like, "How is it that we jump so easily from an 'is' to an 'ought'?"

So if I engage in some form of introspection and perceive some type of motive or emotion or inner conflict or something I feel to be problematic about how I am responding to the world, this perception leads to a type of transmutation whereby the natural becomes cognitive. I like Brown's work because, to me, it represents this process whereby nature becomes cognition or the 'dream' of the world becomes the 'reality' of the world.

So the cognition about nature becomes a thing in itself, and not necessarily a reflection of the individual details of nature.  The sketches represent 'nature' to me, while the rusty iron hoops represent our 'cognition' of nature and the new, empty world this divorce from nature brings.

The Mike Weiss Gallery traditionally shows thought-provoking work!  Here's their web page: