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    Eseuri: Stefan Arteni. The East-Central European Cultural Model. 9
    Scris la Thursday, January 07 @ 14:44:32 CET de catre asymetria
    Etnografie In “Genesis of the Metaphor and the Sense of Culture” Blaga writes: “To exist as a human being means firstly to distance oneself from the present-at-hand by situating oneself within mystery. The present-at-hand exists for humans only in order to be surmounted. The present-at-hand exists for humans only as a passage, as symptom of something else, as signal of a beyond…
    …A work of art is a cosmoid, a special world with a revelatory intent which tends to substitute itself for the perceptible world. The total perceptible world appears downgraded when compared with the work of art”.

     

    Stefan Arteni

    The East-Central European Cultural Model. 9. Romania, Borderland of The Byzantine Semiosphere.
     
    Motto.
    …eyes on the figertips…
    (Magda Ursache)
    Isarlâk, you heart of mine,

    All daubed white, like a rayyah

    In a day with plague and quick-lime,

    Vegetating nest of stone

    -         Eden bliss, be as you are.

    Be a townlet feared and trifling,
    Balkan and peninsular.
      (Ion Barbu)  
    We will be following Lucian Blaga on his path of thought. In “Genesis of the Metaphor and the Sense of Culture” Blaga writes: “To exist as a human being means firstly to distance oneself from the present-at-hand by situating oneself within mystery. The present-at-hand exists for humans only in order to be surmounted. The present-at-hand exists for humans only as a passage, as symptom of something else, as signal of a beyond…
    …A work of art is a cosmoid, a special world with a revelatory intent which tends to substitute itself for the perceptible world. The total perceptible world appears downgraded when compared with the work of art”.

     
    In “Horizon and Style” Blaga writes about the work of the often anonymous zographer: “In order to see all things and creatures the way God sees them, the Byzantine painter had to step outside himself, to take a theocentric position by means of a leap into extasis. Byzantine metaphysics (that is to say, metaphysics of the church of the ecumenical councils) weighs heavily upon the individual seeking deification, that is, upon the human who ceases to be himself in order to become a vessel for divine revelation”.

     
    A kenotic space destabilizes perception, repositions and deploys an open-ended experience which gathers the meanderings of memory. "In cybernetic terms, observer and observed are unconsciously merged during the act of making…this stage depends upon procedural memory," writes Terry Marks-Tarlow. Lotman’s concept of auto-communication allows us to see that some communication does not operate primarily to transmit information or persuade others.  Instead it forms an internal dialogue, an I-I communication, that shapes the identity of the self by means of a creative self-transcending and also restructures formalization systems – the act of chiseling out an idiolect.  
    Aaron Gurwitsch remarks that visual appearance, the perceptual datum, "has its phenomenal identity only within a contexture" - a culture is often observed to be latent, a tacit knowledge or habitus. Vittorio Benussi argues that "mental habit is a simulation of evidence". Primacy of the eye establishes and legitimizes a visual paradigm - visual parainformation, the primordial elemental type of information, and structural information composed of pieces of parainformation. Vision becomes haptic and generates a haptic space. The eye is trained to navigate through the complex visual semiosphere - the act of seeing is not instantaneous, it spans through time and it is associated with ocular motility. "Seeing consists of a series of gestures," remarks Brian Rotman.

     
    The interest in non-verbal manifestations of Lakoffian culture-specific idealized cognitive models, accounting for visual prototype effects by means of
    image-schemata, metonimy and metaphor models, is still a fairly recent development. Investigating and theorizing pictorial and other non-verbal models is important not only as a means to test, and elaborate, George Lakoff's  project of charting idealized cognitive models,  but also as an instrument to help integrate cognitivist approaches with culture-oriented ones, that is with thought styles or cognitive models where particular modes of experience are favored.

     
    Speaking about aesthetics and cognition in the Byzantine cultural area, Jostein Bortnes observes that “imagination and thinking in mental images was a cognitive activity.  They were absolutely in keeping with modern neurologists, who have established that the human brain in subtle ways stores sensory impressions, words and musical impressions in the form of images”.  While proposing a science of neurosemiotics and describing the construction of representema,  Donald Favareau writes that “the eye…is a sign-vehicle” whose activity is a “recursively generating semiosis”.  John Deely indicates that “a sign is neither a thing nor an object but the pattern according to which things and objects interweave to make up the fabric of experience”.
    Mary Carruthers expatiates on the concept of making art:  “An orthopraxis can never be completely articulate…it relies upon…ritualized behavior…Any craft develops an orthopraxis…it must be learned by practicing over and over again…It is ‘practice’ both in the sense of being ‘preparation’ for a perfect craft mastery that can never fully be achieved, and in the sense of  ‘working in a particular way’ “.  As Constantin Noica writes: “…there is no art without craft, that is to say without ‘techne’, which signified, for the ancient Greeks, both art and craft”.

     
    The Latin repetere means to seek again. The power of tradition has to be rediscovered anew by every generation. At this point we feel it is pertinent to quote Zissimos Lorentzatos: "Originality means to remain faithful to the originals, to the eternal prototypes, to extinguish 'a wisdom of [your] own' before the common Word, as Heraclitus says…in other words, to lose your soul if you wish to find it, and not to parade your originality or to do what pleases you." (Zissimos Lorentzatos, "The Drama of Quality", tr. Liadain Sherrard, Denise Harvey Publisher, Limni, Evia, Greece, 2000, p. 15.)

     
    Ernst von Glasersfeld makes reference to the apophatic view in connection with the seed of radical constructivist ideas. By modulating emptiness through a calculus of distinctions, all form may be seen to arise from a void. The indeterminacy of signification noted by the Schoolmen became a component of Peirce's theory, drawing attention to an apophatic trend grounded in what Gregory of Nyssa named diastema  (distance, ontological gap,)  a concept that may be used as a metaphor for the distinction between the graphic identity of visually presented marks and  content.
    Byzantine legacy is a  way of being in the world, a high-context matrix of visual, intuitive, contemplative, indirect communication, releasing visual events into a mytho-cultural appreciation  which privileges material instantiation of images over informational pattern. The field of perception was conformed by an oral-plus-chirographic culture. J.P.Lewis suggests that fuzzy structures or class of patterns specified by example may lead to novel visual constructs. This is achieved by means of a sort of creative computation which 'refines' random creations in correlation with the input pattern. The archetypal imagic constitutive similarity and otherness subsist in spite of the many physical-material variations from one instantiation to the other. Figuration as trans-figuration rests on the relational aspect of the image, on a notion of equivalence, not on an exact resemblance. This has as direct effect a ritual dimension of any activity, a ritual cultural imprinting, where the expressiveness of the style conceived as an interplay of directed visual tensions and ocular memory is syntactically strengthened. As Frits Staal has pointed out, a ritual culture gives greater importance to practice than to doctrine.  In other words, a ritual culture includes a conspicuously performative dimension of art practices, based on assumptions which are at variance with those of Western aesthetic interpretations.
    Painting, zographia, was not meant to stand in isolation like the works hanging on a museum wall. The visual was part of a complex strategy: the total art-installation-performance. Writing from the Eastern Orthodox perspective, Petru Ursache has offered in his “Short Treatise on Theological Aesthetics” (first edition 1999, second edition 2009) a systematic account of an art concerned with the five senses: what imposes itself is a presence, an awareness of form, of a mesh of powers concentrated in a figure, a gesture, a voice, a sound. We cannot in this brief space do justice to Ursache’s remarkable book which encompasses an impressive range of philosophical and theological sources. We shall only quote a few brief excerpts. Says Ursache:  “The Beautiful is an open concept and, therefore, universal…Seen from a theological perspective, the Beautiful, understood also as ‘truth of faith’ (D.Staniloaie), is situated, because of its complex divine-human nature (Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite), on a high metaphysical plane, becoming a heavy burden for our power of understanding. There is a suggestion of a unitive and correlative reality which we may call ‘the Beautiful of faith’…
    …There are two types of creation: ex nihilo, justified only in cosmogony or when there is an absolute beginning, possible only at the divine and genius level, and creation by synthesis and adaptation of preexisting forms, which, by means of ‘emptying’ and re-elaboration, are incorporated within the edifice of new creations…”
    ‘Aisthomai’, I perceive, with the substantive ‘aisthesis’,  is based on the Homeric ‘aistho’,  I gasp,  I breathe in. Ritual performance (a set of recursively applicable formal procedures), the enactment of the Orthodox liturgy, becomes a unique Gesamtkunswerk: a complete aesthetic experience involving vision, audition, gustatory experiences, tactile and olfactory senses, an overawing aesthetically mediated encounter with the redemptive spiritual mystery.

     
    With the main line of the argument now in mind, we return to Petru Ursache’s “Short Treatise on Theological Aesthetics”. Ursache sheds light on the role of Icons:  “Of course, after many struggles, detours and even defeats, Christian art has reached the understanding that the Icon fulfils many-sided aesthetic-theological functions and that it is incorporated into the liturgy, like poetry, song, prayer…
    …The Icon co-participates in the liturgical act, this is why it has a precise place in the architectural space as well as in the structure of ritual. Since the rite represents an unfolding of moments, in time, in space and in spirit, the Icon does not appear to be isolated, for it is integrated into a well structured syntax of images and gestures. Dogmatic poetic language says that the Church is the House of the Lord, that is, a sacralized cosmos where the Beginning meets the End, East meets West, Alpha meets Omega…”
    A few pages later, Petru Ursache draws attention to the faultless enactment of ritual performance: “The Cross, the Gospel and the Icon stand for specialized aspects of the liturgical language and converge toward a unique meaning, the mystery of the Nativity and Resurrection. They are not placed in relations of subordination or juxtaposition within the liturgical ritual: the Icon makes its presence felt contrapuntally or in unison with the other elements of the liturgical language in the same way as, in a symphony, a musical theme is transferred from one instrument to another or between groups of instruments, changing its timbre imprint, tonality and rhythm; this is called the Icon’s participative function within the liturgy, an explicit participation of a somewhat technical nature, for it can be viewed sequentially like a performance unfolding in full sight. At certain moments, the believer also becomes involved in the celebration, joining the priests in actualizing the ritual pageant through song and prayer”.

     
    Vintilă Horia once said: “All empires decay; only the eternal empire of the spirit survives”.
     Stefan Arteni

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