Friday, December 6, 2013

What is Momentum?

All that moves in the body of a dancer is momentum. But where does this impetus come from? From where does it arise? Does it have mass and velocity or does it merely act upon those things that do? Is it a desire, a way in search of a rhythm? 

A reading of Le Clézio's first works in which the characters have already discovered that rhythm is a mathematical binary palpitation tied to the heart beat will arise within you a consciousness about the origin of this life-giving linear momentum or force. 

In Le Clézio's short story entitled L'homme que marche, his protagonist Paoli has found the mechanical rhythm he had been looking for since the morning. 

Tout à coup, il lui sembla entendre les détonations, quel que part au fond de sa tête; cela sortait lentement, et cela tombait régulièrement, avec une alternance de graves et d'aigus. La joie envahit alors Paoli, et avec un enthousiasme fébrile, il se mit à crier, pour lui tout sel, pour personne d'autre que lui: "C'est le rythme! c'est le rythme! j'ai retrouvé le rythme!"  C'était le rythme du début de la journée, en effet, le bruit mathématique des percussions de l'eau sur la bassine renversée, là-bas, au fond de son studio, et qu'il retrouvait maintenant, sur la route (F. 131). 

After having discovered rhythm deep in the experiments performed in his studio, Paoli discovers its identicalness on the street. Was he consciously in search of this quest, for a knowledge that would bring about the accomplishment of intention? 

Consider music...

From where do Handel's notes arise? Are these sounds found in nature, somewhere along our everyday routes? Is the music lover's quest to find their identicalness along the street? Are musical experiences made out of everyday nature before being crafted into their designed logic? 

I have yet to hear the clouds or trees playing any portion of Handel's Concerti. Maybe I just don't hear their broken-up notes in the world in order to return home to my studio and put them back together again.

Consider art...

The Mirror of Venus (1877)
Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1883 - 1898)
Provenance: Frederick R. Leyland Collection. Bought from Arthur Ruck, London, on September 29th, 1924. Calouste Gulbenkain Museum, Portugal

Where can momentum be found? In this pre-Raphaelite Movement, formed in England in 1848, which fostered a cult for medieval mysticism, Gothic art and 15th century paintings, the aesthetic principles on which it was based sprang mainly from the new Aestheticism trend that emerged in the 1860s. The subject of this composition, sometimes called the exaltation of ideal beauty, the unreal atmosphere of the scene depicted fits into an aesthetic perspective on the search for momentum. 

With minimal narrative discourse, and dream-like figures wearing Greek-inspired pseudo-classical clothes in a linear frieze-like fashion, we adorn ourselves with thoughts and ideas pertaining to our intentions and head out into the world in search of their aesthetic likeness. 

Lady and Child Asleep in a Punt under the Willows (1887)
John Singer Sargent (1856 - 1925)
Provenance: Mrs. Seymour Tower. Bought through Colnaghi, Sotheby's Sale, London, July 20th, 1921, no. 223.
Calouste Gulbenkain Museum, Portugal

Perhaps it is that our heart behaves like a sort of metronome, regulating our breathing, as we learn to pause until we find the rhythm that allows us to forget ourselves. This forgetting of self is a component part of an initiatory journey where we learn how to walk, run, march, and then softly tiptoe through the world in search of our own rhythm. 

Motivated by our own sense of momentum, we each seek that ethereal or delicate balance between walking and flying, breathing and dyspnea, that teaches us to listen to ourselves so that we might find an aspect of ourselves mirrored in the world. This finding of oneself outside oneself is akin the realization of a quest, a journey toward self-discovery that has nothing to do with "truth" and everything to do with "being". 

Boy playing the Flute (1660)
Judith Leyster
Provenance: Queen Louisa Ulrike (of Sweden) (as attributed to Frans Hals); Duke Frederick Adolf; Count Brahe; Queen Desideria; King Oscar II; given by him to the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm

In Le livre des fruites the initiatory part of music is clearly put to advantage. It is a matter of listening to a child playing a tune on a flute of symbolic values:

Devenir pur. Dépouillé de tous ses bourdonnements, devenir le simple souffle de l'homme, que ne veut pas décrire le monde, qui ne veut pas imiter le vent ou la pluie, qui n'a plus rien à voir avec le réel. La vraie respiration (...) que est elle, magnifique elle, elle pour elle, elle d'elle (LF, 261). 

Atlantic Storm (1876)
John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)
Painted on the return voyage of Sargent's first visit to the United States in 1876 on board the S.S. Algeria; Provenance: Auguste Hirsch, Paris; Mrs. Hirsch M. Knoedler & Co., Paris, 1914; P.J. Gentner Frank Smith, Worchester, Massachusetts (sale: American Art Association-Anderson Galleries, New York, December 3, 1936, lot 60 Acquired by the present owner's father at the above sale $100,000-150,000

This impetus that we find, often evoked, touches then a link to the immortal cosmos and to its elements where we must "percevoir le rythme de la mer et du vent" "lentement, sûrement respirer avec eux" "respirer avec le reste du monde. Respirer dans la mer, au coeur des rochers, dans les nimbes des nuages, au milieu du vide noir" (D, 173). 

The elements we find, be them music in water or waves, or momentum found in the natural falling and rising of things, have their origin in that impetus that gets the entire world and everything in it going. 

The Birth of Venus (c.1484-85)
Alessandro Filipepi, known as Sandro Botticelli (1445 - 1510)
Provenance: Villa di Castell0 (at least from 1550, up to at least 1761); Palazzo Vecchio, Guardaroba (1815); Uffizi (1815)

What we find along our route is as unique as where we exist; the thread that leads us from the sea to the wind is as fragile as the language these links symbolize. Seduced by the anachronism of the moment, belonging to an antenatal rhythm so reassuring; the music, gestures, wishes and imaginings suggest a crescendo, a musical momentum found in a cloudburst, animated by a rapid movement of rotation, and represented in almost every metronomical way possible.

Forgetting the truth found in the 'real' context, rushing over ourselves to decipher why anything in the world moves, we find the dream vanish within the fall only to be revived in the "à-coup" of life we serve ourselves.

A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882)
Édouard Manet
Institute of Art Gallery, London

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