Dialectics-As-Process

February 3, 2009

dinosaur-fossil-scelidotherium_leptocephalum_side

The context that postmodern aesthetics takes into account, traced back to Frederick Law Olmsted’s creation of parks in New York City in the 19’th Century, developed into a massive dialectical relationship of the landscape to human activities, be it social, political, and natural. The vastness of the context, for some post modernists, spans all the way back to the paleolithic era encased in permeable glass in museums – the bones of a triceratops still undergoing the culturally emergent notion of entropy – to the extrapolated second law of thermodynamics, that says, in the future, the universe will become an all-encompassing sameness, all the way to the irreversability of eternity. The context encompasses our (biased) epistemic evolution along with the actual landscape in a dialectic-as-process that is never finished.

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I think dialectical relationships need to be specific. For instace, a dialectic between a landscape and a map must consider a broad contextual range, meaning that the physical sciences must be employed to establish the “side” of the landscape in the dialectic and its relation to the “side” of the map. Physical history, like geological time, of a particular landscape (site) is in a continual relationship with the human activities (social, political and natural). The primordial eras are entombed in permeable glass cases, where heat can escape the fossils of dinosaurs. We have a relationship with the primordial era through the archeological digs that brought up the fossils from rock layers in the earth. They are now entombed in museums. The entropic geological time, then, might be said to be in a relationship with the social, political and natural human (cultural) activites manifested in the “landscape” of the architecture, and design of a history museum. The preserved history is what some postmodern artists were interested in, as they could use a physical landscape of a museum to establish a dialectic with the maps. The social, political, and natural (i.e. biological evolution) histories are found in ruins like pompey, cathedrals in europe, Mayan Pyramids, and even the deteriorating archtecture of today. History proper, is a fiction to some. The people that hold this view become interested in the ruined landscapes of past civilizations, fossils found in the rocks, hieroglyphs, language entombed in books – all real stuff – even the buildings erected today that “rise into ruin, rather than erected for the future.” (paraphrasing Smithson) The future becomes forgotten in the past – meaning in the instant a brick is layed, it is already in ruin. The future is remembered through the past.  The history museums are an actual landscape undergoing physical processes alongside cultural processes. This way, a map of the past can be developed from a transitory landscape evolving along with human cultural activities.

In simpler terms, All of the physical Sciences, aesthetics, semiology, architecture, and art are employed on actual landscapes to make maps of history. It is a deconstruction of Idealistic historical dialectics, through the belief in material reality. Alot of artists were reading Borges, Merleau Ponty, Levi-Strauss, Olmsted, physicists, biologists, chemists, geologists, etc., which reconstructed this deconstruction of history-as-an-idea.

All of these sciences are themselves an historically contingent cultural emergence that change alongside with the landscape. The landscape is no longer a “thing-in-itself” but a “thing-for-us”.

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