quotes on systems/art and life

“I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.”

― Umberto Eco

Order is a sign of lack, not of abundance

– Bertolt Brecht


“Disorder is merely the order you are not looking for.” Henri Bergson

“Memory is imitation, or a model. All thought is a copy of something, remembered, recombined in new ways. Thinking – is duplication.”
Alice Fulton

“Celebrate Complexity”

Donella meadows “Dancing with Systems”

The question is: Is my thought changing? It is and it isn’t. One evening after
dinner I was telling friends that I was now concerned with improving the world. One
of them said: I thought you always were. I then explained that I believe—and am
acting upon—Marshall McLuhan’s statement that we have through electronic
technology produced an extension of our brains to the world formerly outside of
us. To me that means that the disciplines, gradual and sudden (principally
Oriental), formerly practiced by individuals to pacify their minds, bringing them
into accord with ultimate reality, must now be practiced socially—that is, not just
inside our heads, but outside of them, in the world, where our central nervous system
effectively now is.
This has brought it about that the work and thought of Buckminster Fuller is
of prime importance to me. He more than any other to my knowledge sees the
world situation—all of it—clearly and has fully reasoned projects for turning our
attention away from “killingry” toward “livingry.”

John Cage “A Year from Monday” Foreword p1

“The emergin new paradigm may be called a holistic or an ecological worldview, using the term ecological here in a much broader and deeper sense than it is commonly used.  Ecological awareness, in that deep sense, recognizes the fundamental interdependence of all phenomena and the embeddedness of individuals and societies in the cyclical processes of nature.

Ultimately, deep ecological awareness is spiritual or religious awareness.  When the concept of the human spirit is understood as the mode of consciousness in which the individual feels connected to the cosmos as a whole, which is the root meaning of the word religion(from the Latin religare, meaning “to bind strongly”), it becomes clear that ecological awareness is spiritual in its deepest essence.  It is, therefore, not suprising that the emerging new vision of reality, based on deep ecological awareness, is consistent with the “perennial philosophy” of spiritual traditions, for example, that of Eastern spiritual traditions, the spirituality of Christian mystics, or with the philosophy and cosmology underlying the Native American traditions.”

Fritz Capra “Systems theory and the New Paradigm” — Part VII Postmodern Science.

same author:

“3. Shift fromm objective to “epistemic” science

in the old paradigm, scientific descriptions are believed to be objective, that is, independent of the human observer and the process of knowing.  In the new paradigm, it is believed that epistemology – the understanding of the process of knowledge-has to be included explicitly in the description of natural phenomenon. . .As Heisenberg put it, “What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning”

— is this subjectivity? epistemic science.

Jacques Tati

“you cannot make fun in a swimming pool, unless you know how to swim”

“Adaptation is a dubious notion, for in the real world the environment, to which the organisms are adapting, is determined by their neighbors’ activities rather than by the blind forces of chemistry and physics alone. In such a world, changing the environment could be part of the game, and it would be absurd to suppose that organisms would refrain from changing their material environment if by so doing they left more progeny. ”

James Lovelock, Geophysiology, the Science of Gaia

“Pay attention to the cost of belief”

Harrisons “Shifting positions towards the earth: Art and Environmental Awareness”

“This text, guided, armed by a notion of the unpublishable, would require the following response; i can neither read nor write what you produce, but i receive it, like a fire, a drug, an enigmatic disorganization”

Roland Barthes

“It seems we cannot manage without an enemy.  The figure of the enemy cannot be abolished from the processes of civilization.  The need is second nature even to a mild man of peace.  In his case, the image of the enemy is simply shifted from a human object to a natural or social force that in some way threatens us and has to be defeated, whether it be capitalistic exploitation, environmental pollution, or third-world hunger.  But though these are “virtuous” cases, even hatred of injustice, as Brecht reminds us “makes the brow grow stern”

Umberto Eco Inventing the Enemy, p,18

“Satre provides the most pessimistic vision in this respect in No Exit.  We can recognize ourselves only in the presence of an Other, and on this the rules of coexistence and submission are based.  But it is more likely that we find this Other intolerable because to some degree he is not us.  In this way, by reducing him to an enemy, we create our hell on earth.  When Satre locks up three people, who have died, who didn’t know each other in life, in a hotel bedroom, one of them realizes the terrible truth: “Wait! You’ll see how simple it is.  Childishly simple.  Obviously there aren’t any physical torments.  You agree, don’t you?  And yet, we’re in hell.  And no one else will come here.  We’ll stay in this room, the three of us, for ever and ever . . . In Short, there’s someone absent here, the official torturer. . . It’s obvious what they’re after – an economy of manpower . . .each of us will act as torturer of the two others” (translated by Stuart Gilbert)

(ibid. p 21)

Everything that is dead quivers. Not only the things of poetry, stars, moon, wood, flowers, but even a white trouser button glittering out of a puddle in the street…Everything has a secret soul, which is silent more often than it speaks. Wassily Kandinsky (1977)

Quotes from the book “Babylon electrified”

“at noon precisesly the electric fluid arrived like an impetuous flood at the extremity of the wires. From the wires it was caused to pass into the accumulators, which were to be charged successively” p212

“what steam has already begun towards bringing the nations together and for the fusion of the races, will soon be finished by electricity”p227

“For science there is nothing wonderful. Man is surrounded by overflowing force uselessly spent. Tehe rule of progress consists in utilizing this force better and better. That which is wonderful for the common run of people is only very natural for the scientist.” P227

“More than once I too have stopped, pensive, before the iron wires of a telegraph . . . is it possible that at this moment words, sentences are circulating in this wire?

“His dream was more grandly developed than before; science completed admirably that which had been inspired by his imagination”

“I bow before science and before the figures,” said Miss Nelly, smiling, “and I make a most humble apology to the sun. I certainly did not suspect that he possessed such power” on solar energy in Babylon electrified.

Science is a hunger for the new, to discover, and to coax nature into new paradigms of A. Blenard (1889)

“These men, who appear so small and so mean in the presence of the boundless space which surrounds them on all sides, these men possess the lever which moves the world – they had faith. They believe in the almost illimitable power of science. They have confidence in the word which has promised to man the empire of the world: “Replenish the earth and you shall subdue it” That is to say, make use of the very forces of nature itself for subduing it and compelling it to execute the very orders of intelligence and thought A day would come when the wind, which now uselessly raised the sands of the desert, would serve to illuminate the reconstructed cities ; when the waves which were dying away at the feet of Badger and of Jack Adams would serve to move the railways which would place the Mediterranean and the Indies in communication. (p199)

Alert, intent, you intercept them and decipher them. The palace is all whorls, lobes: it is a great ear, whose anatomy and architecture trade names and functions: pavilions, ducts, shells, labyrinths.  You are crouched at the bottom, in the innermost zone of the palace-ear, of your own ear; the palace is the ear of the king.

Italio Calvino ( Th King Listens – online source : http://www.ruanyifeng.com/calvino/2010/11/a_king_listens_en.html)

Perhaps the threat comes more from the silences than from the sounds. How many hours has it been since you heard the changing of the sentries? And what if the squad of guards faithful to you has been captured by the conspirators? Why has the familiar banging of pots not been heard from the kitchens? Have your trusted cooks perhaps been replaced by a team of killers, accustomed to sheathing all their actions in silence, poisoners now silently steeping the foods in cyanide. . . ?

ref: Athanasius Kircher’s Panacousticon

  • Oh wearisome condition of Humanity!
    Born under one law, to another bound,
    Vainly begot and yet forbidden vanity,
    Created sick, commanded to be sound:
    What meaneth Nature by these diverse laws?
    Passion and reason self-division cause.
    Is it the mask or majesty of Power
    To make offences that it may forgive?

    • Act V, Sc. 4. [

      Mustapha (1609)]

      Fulke Greville

The human being knows himself only insofar as he knows the world; he perceives the world only in himself, and himself only in the world. Every new object, clearly seen, opens up a new organ of perception in us.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Mueller 1952 p. 235)

“It seems the Piraha make no distinction between a man and a group of men, between a bird and a flock of birds. . . a solitary macaw is a small flock; the flock, a big macaw.   In his metaphysics, Aristotle shows that counting requires some prior understanding of what ‘one’ is.  To count five, or ten or twenty-three birds, we must first identify one bird, an idea of “bird” that can apply to every possible kind.  But such abstractions are entirely foreign to the tribe.

With abstraction, birds become numbers. . . We can look at a scene and say, ” There are 2 men, three birds” . . . The Piraha do not think this way.  They ask, ” What are these things?”, “Where are they?” “What do they do?”  A bird flies, a man breathes, and a manioc plant grows.  It is meaningless to try to bring them together.  Man is a small world.  The world is a big manioc.

It is little surprise to learn the Piraha perceive drawings and photographs only with great difficulty. . . Drawing a picture is no easier for them, not even a straight line.  They cannot copy shapes with any fidelity. . . Instead . . produce only repeating circular marks on the researcher’s sheet of paper, each mark a little different from the last.

Perhaps this also explains why the Piraha tell no stories, possess no creation myths.  Stories, at least as we understand them, have intervales: a beginning, a middle and an end.  When we tell a story, we recount; naming each interval is equivalent to numbering it.  Yet the Piraha talk only of the immediate present: no past impinges on their actions; no future motivates their thoughts.  History, they tol Everett, is “where nothing happens, and everything is the same”.

In common with most Aboriginal language speakers, the Guugu Yimithirr have only a handful of number words: nubuum(one), gudhirra(two), and guunduu(three or more).  This same language, however, permits its speakers to navigate their landscape geometrically.  A wide array of coordinate terms attune their minds intuitively to magnetic north south east and west, so they develop an extraordinary sense of orientation.”

Counting to Four in Icelandic in Thinking in Numbers” Daniel Tammet pp29-30


“Pythagoras is reputed to have taught that the identities of all existing objects depended on their form rather than on their substance, and could consequently be described using numbers and ratios.  The entire cosmos constituted some vast and glorious musical scale.  The Pythagoreans thus became the first to understand the world not via tradition (religion), or observation (empirical data), but through imagination- the prizing of pattern over matter.”


“Let the Sperm of a man by itself be putrified in a gourd glasse, sealed up, with the highest degree of putrefaction in Horse dung, for the space of forty days, or so long untill it begin to bee alive, move, and stir, which may easily be seen. After this time it will be something like a Man, yet transparent, and without a body. Now after this, if it bee every day warily, and prudently nourished and fed with the Arcanum of Mans blood, and bee for the space of forty weeks kept in a constant, equall heat of Horsedung, it will become a true, and living infant, having all the members of an infant, which is born of a woman, but it will be far lesse. This wee call Homunculus, or Artificiall [Man?]. And this is afterwards to be brought up with as great care, and diligence as any other infant, until it come to riper years of understanding. Now this is one of the greatest secrets that God ever made known to mortall, sinfull man. For this is a miracle, and one of the great wonders of God, and secret above all secrets, and deservedly it ought to be kept amongst the secrets until the last times, when nothing shall be hid [the apocalypse], but all things made manifest.”

Paracelsus (via Sandrovigius), Of the Nature of Things, 8.


Francesco Patrizi : La deca ammirabile (1587),

12 sources of wonder available to the poet:  ignorance, fable, novelty, paradox, augmentation, departure from the usual, the extranatural, the divine, great utility, the very precise, the unexpected, and the sudden.

DXARTS200 Notes:

 “In a telematics art, meaning is not something created by the artist, distributed through the network, and received by the observer. Meaning is not the product of interaction between the observer and the system, the content of which is in a state of flux of endless change and transformation. In this condition of uncertainty and instability, not simply because of the crisscrossing interaction of user of the network but because content is embodied in data that is itself immaterial, it is pure electronic difference, until it has been constituted at the interface as image, text or sound.”[4]

is there love in the telematic embrace?

(1) In Roy Ascott’s article The Cybernetic Stance: My process and Purpose, he said “But now change is everywhere apparent. Human beings are mobile geographically and socially; the scientist not only observes an experiment, he participates in it; the artist’s interest lies more in the process of working than in the finished art work, and his audience expects, not a fixed attitude or viewpoint to the work, but a field of uncertainty and ambiguity in which they can, endlessly, take part.”

“Adso: “But how does it happne,” I said with admirations, ” that you were able to solve the mystery of the library looking at it from the outsdie, and you were unable to solve it when you were insdie? “

William of Baskercille: “Thus God knows the world, because He conceived of it hin His mind, as if from the outside, before it was created, and we do not know its rule, because we live inside it, having found it already made.”

Umberto Eco “The Name of the Rose”

“a growing self confidence of the primordial and a reminder to modernity that the urban would eventually be overtaken by the natural ” Cildo Meireles

“Society is like a stew. If you don’t stir it up every once in a while then a layer of scum floats to the surface” -Edward Abbey

“Science as culture also depends on mythology because the presentation of scientific knowledge often relates intimately to a mythological picture of the world” Alexej M Ghilarov
http://ac.els-cdn.com/016953479290194G/1-s2.0-016953479290194G-main.pdf?_tid=60fd0078-a0f2-11e4-a86e-00000aacb360&acdnat=1421792539_87ee8a16d781d42b3beb9087479d28f8 [ Ecology, mythology and an organismic way of thinking of limnology]

“Science is the product of organized fantasy about the real world, tested constantly by an internal logic of necessity, and external public record of expectations”  Kenneth E Boulding (1980) [pioneering systems theorist]

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