Still Life in Motion

“We have to remember that what we observe is not nature herself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning”
Werner Heisenberg

 
 

Naturaleza muerta viviente (Living Still Life), Salvador Dalí, 1956

 
 

Living Still Life, or Nature Morte Vivante (1956) is a hand oil painting on canvas by the Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí. The painting was originally known as Nature Morte Vivante and is considered to be one of Dalí’s masterworks. It is his sixth grand masterpiece. Dalí described the work as illustrating “the decomposition of a fruit dish”. The painting is a variation of Floris van Schooten‘s Table with Food (1617).

 
 

A Dutch Breakfast, Floris Gerritsz van Schhoten, date unknown

 
 

Schooten’s work is rearranged into objects that rotate and float across the piece. While the picture can be termed a still life, Dalí incorporates irony by making it evident that nothing in the image is actually still. Even the knife on the table, for example, although not seemingly moving at all, is interpreted by the human brain to be in motion. The Heisenberg Principle of Uncertainty is referenced in the piece. The mind infers that no everyday object can simply hover in the air and that gravity must be pulling down on it; therefore, the knife must be in a falling motion.

This painting also depicts the importance of the spiral, which Dali believed was nature’s most perfect form, using it as a symbol of cosmic order. Spiral structures can be found throughout this work, from the rhinoceros horn in the upper left, to the twisting fruit dish in the center, to the meteor-like head of cauliflower on the right. While working on this painting, Dali was thrilled to hear of the discovery that the DNA molecule – the blueprint for all life – had a spiral shape. The double spiral balcony railing to the left is Dali’s acknowledgment of DNA. “For the first time in the history of science,” Dali said, “physics was providing proof of the existence of God.”

By the time Dali painted this work, he had left Surrealism behind and was fully immersed in what he called “Nuclear Mysticism.” Dali felt that the art of his contemporaries was spiritually barren, and he was determined to reanimate art with spirituality. He was convinced that the emerging theories of physics and molecular biology could reveal the mysteries of religion.

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Vinoanalysis

Illustration by Jiří Slíva

 
 

Sensory analysis (also referred to as organoleptic analysis) is a scientific discipline that applies principles of experimental design and statistical analysis to the use of human senses (sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing) for the purposes of evaluating consumer products.

There are five basic steps in tasting wine: color, swirl, smell, taste, and savor. These are also known as the “five S” steps: see, swirl, sniff, sip, savor. During this process, a taster must look for clarity, varietal character, integration, expressiveness, complexity, and connectedness.

The results of the four recognized stages to wine tasting:
appearance
“in glass” the aroma of the wine
“in mouth” sensations
“finish” (aftertaste)

– are combined in order to establish the following properties of a wine:
complexity and character
potential (suitability for aging or drinking)
possible faults

Creative Optic

Illustration by Jiří Slíva

 
 

First row: А. П. Че́хов (Anton Chekhov); J.R.R. Tolkien; Franz Kafka; Betty MacDonald (misspelled McDonald)

Second row: Jack Kerouac; Marcel Proust; Antoine de Saint-Exupéry; R. Kipling

Third row: Marcel Duchamp; Stendhal; Karl May; Karl Marx

Fourth row: Magritte; S. Freud; Louis Pasteur; Günter Grass

Fifth row: Salvador Dalí; E.M. Remarque; Jaroslav Hašek; Isaac B. Singer

Enthralled by Psychoanalytic Theory

“Please — consider me a dream.”
Franz Kafka

 
 

Illustration by Jiří Slíva

 
 

A Dream is a short story by Franz Kafka. In the short piece, the narrator describes a dream, where Joseph K. is walking through a cemetery. There are tombstones around him, and the setting is the typical misty and dim atmosphere. Soon he sees someone carving out a name on a stone, and as he approaches he soon notices it is his own name.
Kafka was known to be enthralled by psychoanalytic theory primarily due to his fascination with dreams. As we already know, one of his most famous stories, The Metamorphosis, starts with the main character waking from a dream. He felt there was great power, both creatively and emotionally, with dreams. The story is also an example of the theme of mortality, lack of power among the living, and the struggle to stay alive while aware of one’s impending death.

 
 

“Josef K. was dreaming:It was a beautiful day and K. wanted to go on a walk. But no sooner had he taken a few steps than he was already at the graveyard.Its paths were highly artificial, impractical in their windings, yet he glided along such a path as if hovering unshakably over raging water. From far away, he spotted a freshly dug burial mound at which he wanted to halt. This burial mound exerted an almost enticing effect on him, and he felt he could not get there fast enough. At times, however, he could barely glimpse the mound, it was covered with flags that twisted and flapped powerfully against one another; the flag bearers could not be seen,but there appeared to be great rejoicing.While his eyes were still riveted in the distance, he abruptly saw the burial mound next to the path – indeed almost behind him by now. He hastily leaped into the grass. Since the path continued rushing along beneath his feet as he leaped off, he staggered and fell to his knees right in front of the mound. Two men were standing behind the grave,holding a headstone between them in the air; the moment K. showed up, they thrust the stone into the earth, and it stood there as if cemented to the ground. Instantly,a third man emerged from the bushes, and K. promptly identified him as an artist. He was wearing only trousers and a misbuttoned shirt; a velvet cap was on his head; in his hand, he clutched an ordinary pencil, drawing figures in the air even as he approached.He now applied this pencil to the top end of the stone;the stone was very high, he did not even have to lean down, but he did have to bend forward,since he did not wish to step on the burial mound, which separated him from the stone. So he stood on tiptoe, steadying himself by propping his left hand against the surface of the stone. Through some extremely skillful manipulation, he succeeded in producing gold letters with that ordinary pencil; he wrote: “Here LIES—” Each letter came out clean and beautiful,deeply incised and in purest gold. After writing words, he looked back at K.; K., who was very eager to see what would come next in the inscription, gazed at the stone, paying little heed to the man. And in fact, the man was about to continue writing, but he could not, something was hindering him, he lowered the pencil and turned to K.again. This time,K. looked back at the artist, who, he noticed, was very embarrassed but unable to indicate the reason for his embarrassment. All his earlier liveliness had vanished. As a result, K. likewise felt embarrassed; they exchanged helpless glances; there was some kind of misunderstanding between them, which neither of them could clear up. To make matters worse, a small chime began tinkling inopportunely from the tomb chapel,but the artist waved his raised hand wildly, and the chime stopped.After a brief pause,it started in again; this time very softly and then promptly breaking off with no special admonition from him; it was as if it merely wanted to test its own sound. K. was inconsolable about the artist’s dilemma, he began to cry, sobbing into his cupped hands for a long time. The artist waited for K. to calm down, and then, finding no other solution, he decided to keep writing all the same. His first small stroke was a deliverance for K., but the artist obviously managed to execute it only with utmost reluctance;moreover, the penmanship was not as lovely — above all,it seemed to lack gold, the stroke moved along pale and unsteady, only the letter became very large. It was a J, it was almost completed; but now the artist furiously stamped one foot into the burial mound, making the dark soil fly up all around. At last, K. understood him; there was no time left to apologize;with all his fingers he dug into the earth, which offered scant resistance;everything seemed prepared; a thin crust of earth had been set up purely for show; right beneath it a huge hole with sheer sides gaped open, and K.,flipped over on his back by a gently current, sank into the hole. But while, with his head still erect on his neck, he was welcomed down below by the impenetrable depth, his name, with tremendous embellishments, rushed across the stone up above.Enraptured by this sight, he woke up.”

The Beetle and the Fly

Text by David Cronenberg

 
 

 
 

I woke up one morning recently to discover that I was a seventy-year-old man. Is this different from what happens to Gregor Samsa in The Metamorphosis? He wakes up to find that he’s become a near-human-sized beetle (probably of the scarab family, if his household’s charwoman is to be believed), and not a particularly robust specimen at that. Our reactions, mine and Gregor’s, are very similar. We are confused and bemused, and think that it’s a momentary delusion that will soon dissipate, leaving our lives to continue as they were. What could the source of these twin transformations possibly be? Certainly, you can see a birthday coming from many miles away, and it should not be a shock or a surprise when it happens. And as any well-meaning friend will tell you, seventy is just a number. What impact can that number really have on an actual, unique physical human life?

In the case of Gregor, a young traveling salesman spending a night at home in his family’s apartment in Prague, awakening into a strange, human/insect hybrid existence is, to say the obvious, a surprise he did not see coming, and the reaction of his household—mother, father, sister, maid, cook—is to recoil in benumbed horror, as one would expect, and not one member of his family feels compelled to console the creature by, for example, pointing out that a beetle is also a living thing, and turning into one might, for a mediocre human living a humdrum life, be an exhilarating and elevating experience, and so what’s the problem? This imagined consolation could not, in any case, take place within the structure of the story, because Gregor can understand human speech, but cannot be understood when he tries to speak, and so his family never think to approach him as a creature with human intelligence. (It must be noted, though, that in their bourgeois banality, they somehow accept that this creature is, in some unnamable way, their Gregor. It never occurs to them that, for example, a giant beetle has eaten Gregor; they don’t have the imagination, and he very quickly becomes not much more than a housekeeping problem.) His transformation seals him within himself as surely as if he had suffered a total paralysis. These two scenarios, mine and Gregor’s, seem so different, one might ask why I even bother to compare them. The source of the transformations is the same, I argue: we have both awakened to a forced awareness of what we really are, and that awareness is profound and irreversible; in each case, the delusion soon proves to be a new, mandatory reality, and life does not continue as it did.

Is Gregor’s transformation a death sentence or, in some way, a fatal diagnosis? Why does the beetle Gregor not survive? Is it his human brain, depressed and sad and melancholy, that betrays the insect’s basic sturdiness? Is it the brain that defeats the bug’s urge to survive, even to eat? What’s wrong with that beetle? Beetles, the order of insect called Coleoptera, which means “sheathed wing” (though Gregor never seems to discover his own wings, which are presumably hiding under his hard wing casings), are notably hardy and well adapted for survival; there are more species of beetle than any other order on earth. Well, we learn that Gregor has bad lungs they are “none too reliable”—and so the Gregor beetle has bad lungs as well, or at least the insect equivalent, and perhaps that really is his fatal diagnosis; or perhaps it’s his growing inability to eat that kills him, as it did Franz Kafka, who ultimately coughed up blood and died of starvation caused by laryngeal tuberculosis at the age of forty. What about me? Is my seventieth birthday a death sentence? Of course, yes, it is, and in some ways it has sealed me within myself as surely as if I had suffered a total paralysis. And this revelation is the function of the bed, and of dreaming in the bed, the mortar in which the minutiae of everyday life are crushed, ground up, and mixed with memory and desire and dread. Gregor awakes from troubled dreams which are never directly described by Kafka. Did Gregor dream that he was an insect, then awake to find that he was one? “‘What in the world has happened to me?’ he thought.” “It was no dream,” says Kafka, referring to Gregor’s new physical form, but it’s not clear that his troubled dreams were anticipatory insect dreams. In the movie I co-wrote and directed of George Langelaan’s short story The Fly, I have our hero Seth Brundle, played by Jeff Goldblum, say, while deep in the throes of his transformation into a hideous fly/human hybrid, “I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it. But now the dream is over, and the insect is awake.” He is warning his former lover that he is now a danger to her, a creature with no compassion and no empathy. He has shed his humanity like the shell of a cicada nymph, and what has emerged is no longer human. He is also suggesting that to be a human, a self-aware consciousness, is a dream that cannot last, an illusion. Gregor too has trouble clinging to what is left of his humanity, and as his family begins to feel that this thing in Gregor’s room is no longer Gregor, he begins to feel the same way. But unlike Brundle’s fly self, Gregor’s beetle is no threat to anyone but himself, and starves and fades away like an afterthought as his family revels in their freedom from the shameful, embarrassing burden that he has become.

 
 

 
 

When The Fly was released in 1986, there was much conjecture that the disease that Brundle had brought on himself was a metaphor for AIDS. Certainly I understood this—AIDS was on everybody’s mind as the vast scope of the disease was gradually being revealed. But for me, Brundle’s disease was more fundamental: in an artificially accelerated manner, he was aging. He was a consciousness that was aware that it was a body that was mortal, and with acute awareness and humor participated in that inevitable transformation that all of us face, if only we live long enough. Unlike the passive and helpful but anonymous Gregor, Brundle was a star in the firmament of science, and it was a bold and reckless experiment in transmitting matter through space (his DNA mixes with that of an errant fly) that caused his predicament.

Langelaan’s story, first published in Playboy magazine in 1957, falls firmly within the genre of science fiction, with all the mechanics and reasonings of its scientist hero carefully, if fancifully, constructed (two used telephone booths are involved). Kafka’s story, of course, is not science fiction; it does not provoke discussion regarding technology and the hubris of scientific investigation, or the use of scientific research for military purposes. Without sci-fi trappings of any kind, The Metamorphosis forces us to think in terms of analogy, of reflexive interpretation, though it is revealing that none of the characters in the story, including Gregor, ever does think that way. There is no meditation on a family secret or sin that might have induced such a monstrous reprisal by God or the Fates, no search for meaning even on the most basic existential plane. The bizarre event is dealt with in a perfunctory, petty, materialistic way, and it arouses the narrowest range of emotional response imaginable, almost immediately assuming the tone of an unfortunate natural family occurrence with which one must reluctantly contend.

Stories of magical transformations have always been part of humanity’s narrative canon. They articulate that universal sense of empathy for all life forms that we feel; they express that desire for transcendence that every religion also expresses; they prompt us to wonder if transformation into another living creature would be a proof of the possibility of reincarnation and some sort of afterlife and is thus, however hideous or disastrous the narrative, a religious and hopeful concept. Certainly my Brundlefly goes through moments of manic strength and power, convinced that he has combined the best components of human and insect to become a super being, refusing to see his personal evolution as anything but a victory even as he begins to shed his human body parts, which he carefully stores in a medicine cabinet he calls the Brundle Museum of Natural History.

There is none of this in The Metamorphosis. The Samsabeetle is barely aware that he is a hybrid, though he takes small hybrid pleasures where he can find them, whether it’s hanging from the ceiling or scuttling through the mess and dirt of his room (beetle pleasure) or listening to the music that his sister plays on her violin (human pleasure). But the Samsa family is the Samsabeetle’s context and his cage, and his subservience to the needs of his family both before and after his transformation extends, ultimately, to his realization that it would be more convenient for them if he just disappeared, it would be an expression of his love for them, in fact, and so he does just that, by quietly dying. The Samsabeetle’s short life, fantastical though it is, is played out on the level of the resolutely mundane and the functional, and fails to provoke in the story’s characters any hint of philosophy, meditation, or profound reflection. How similar would the story be, then, if on that fateful morning, the Samsa family found in the room of their son not a young, vibrant traveling salesman who is supporting them by his unselfish and endless labor, but a shuffling, half-blind, barely ambulatory eighty-nine-year-old man using insectlike canes, a man who mumbles incoherently and has soiled his trousers and out of the shadowland of his dementia projects anger and induces guilt? If, when Gregor Samsa woke one morning from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed right there in his bed into a demented, disabled, demanding old man? His family is horrified but somehow recognize him as their own Gregor, albeit transformed. Eventually, though, as in the beetle variant of the story, they decide that he is no longer their Gregor, and that it would be a blessing for him to disappear.

When I went on my publicity tour for The Fly, I was often asked what insect I would want to be if I underwent an entomological transformation. My answers varied, depending on my mood, though I had a fondness for the dragonfly, not only for its spectacular flying but also for the novelty of its ferocious underwater nymphal stage with its deadly extendable underslung jaw; I also thought that mating in the air might be pleasant. Would that be your soul, then, this dragonfly, flying heavenward? came one response. Is that not really what you’re looking for? No, not really, I said. I’d just be a simple dragonfly, and then, if I managed to avoid being eaten by a bird or a frog, I would mate, and as summer ended, I would die.

 

This essay appears as the introduction to Susan Bernofsky’s translation of The Metamorphosis.

A Miraculous Part of the Natural World

Stag Beetle, Albrecht Dürer, 1505

 
 

“It is indeed true,” wrote Albrecht Dürer, “that art is omnipresent in nature, and the true artist is he who can bring it out.” The Stag Beetle is one of Dürer’s most influential and most copied nature studies.

 
 

Stag Beetle, Hans Hoffmann after Albrecht Dürer, 1574

 
 

Georg Hoefnagel appropriate the Stag Beetle on not fewer than three occasions. Archetype studiaque patris Georgii Hoefnagelii shows close-up portraits of plants, insects, and small animals. It initiated at the time of its publishing in 1592 (Frankfurt) an immediate admiration of the art and nature lovers. The designs were created by Georg Hoefnagel and engraved by his son, Jacob who was said to be 17-years old at the time of the publishing (in reality he was 19-years old).

 
 

Singling out a beetle as the focal point of a work of art was unprecedented in 1505, when most of Dürer’s contemporaries believed that insects were the lowest of creatures. Dürer’s keen interest in nature, however, was a typical manifestation of the Renaissance. This beetle, rendered with such care and respect, seems almost heroic as he looms above the page.

Seen up close, the creature’s legs and spiky mandibles suggest its kinship to imaginary beasts in late Gothic depictions of Hell or the temptation of Saint Anthony Abbott.

 
 

Madonna and Child with a Multitude of Animals, Albrecht Dürer, 1503

 
 
Landscape with the Virgin and child seated at centre, several animals in foreground (e.g. dog, beetle, slug, butterfly, dragonfly, fox on a leash, frog, owl in tree trunk, spider crab), an angel addressing a group of shepherds in background at right, a bay with a city in background at left

In antiquity, insects had been included in trompe l’oeil and memento mori paintings to demonstrate technical virtuosity and as symbols of evil and death, while butterflies represented transformation and resurrection. Insects in themselves were considered unworthy of consideration as subjects for painting.

By the 17th century, the obsession with natural history —and with insects as a miraculous part of the natural world— took precedence, and symbolism was left behind. Insects became subjects of study and fascination. Dürer, as always, ahead of his time, brings his masterful draughtsmanship to his watercolor, of a beetle—which he considered a finished work of art, not a study. Durer’s realistic rendering of this humble bug is a tribute to the minutest in nature, that which is often overlooked or summarily destroyed, its importance lost to ignorance or neglect.

A Significant Effect

Single cover designed by Storm Thorgerson

 
 

Change,
Everything you are
And everything you were
Your number has been called
Fights, battles have begun
Revenge will surely come
Your hard times are ahead

Best,
You’ve got to be the best
You’ve got to change the world
And you use this chance to be heard
Your time is now

Change,
Everything you are
And everything you were
Your number has been called
Fights and battles have begun
Revenge will surely come

Your hard times are ahead

Best,
You’ve got to be the best
You’ve got to change the world
And you use this chance to be heard
Your time is now

Don’t,
Let yourself down
Don’t let yourself go
Your last chance has arrived

Best,
You’ve got to be the best
You’ve got to change the world
And you use this chance to be heard
Your time is now

 
 

Butterflies and Hurricanes is a song by English alternative rock band Muse from their third studio album, Absolution (2003), and was the last single released from the album. It was one of two songs recorded with a studio orchestra during the initial stages of production. The song is also notable for its Rachmaninoff-esque piano interlude.

The title and theme were mainly inspired by the butterfly effect of chaos theory. The theory describes how even the smallest of changes in present conditions, like the flapping of a butterfly’s wings, can cause a chain reaction and have a significant effect in the future, like a hurricane.

Matthew Bellamy declared about the song: “It’s about hope, about trying to find the strength to get through any given situation. I was trying to find a classical type of piano style that would be heavy and work with bass and drums. It had that sort of mechanical paradiddle thing all the way through, and then it breaks down into this kind of romantic, flowing weird bit in the middle”.

 
 

To watch the music video please check out The Genealogy of Style’s Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228

The Sensitive Dependency on Initial Conditions

“We adore chaos because we love to produce order.”

M. C. Escher

 
 

Photo by Storm Thorgerson

 
 

In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependency on initial conditions in which a small change at one place in a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state. The name of the effect, coined by Edward Lorenz, is derived from the theoretical example of the details of a hurricane (exact time of formation, exact path taken) being influenced by minor perturbations equating to the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly several weeks earlier.The idea that one butterfly could eventually have a far-reaching ripple effect on subsequent historic events first appears in A Sound of Thunder, a 1952 short story by Ray Bradbury about time travel.

In 1963 Lorenz published a theoretical study of this effect in a well-known paper called Deterministic Nonperiodic Flow. Elsewhere he said that “One meteorologist remarked that if the theory were correct, one flap of a sea gull’s wings would be enough to alter the course of the weather forever. The controversy has not yet been settled, but the most recent evidence seems to favor the sea gulls.” Following suggestions from colleagues, in later speeches and papers Lorenz used the more poetic butterfly. According to Lorenz, when he failed to provide a title for a talk he was to present at the 139th meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1972, Philip Merilees concocted Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas? as a title. Although a butterfly flapping its wings has remained constant in the expression of this concept, the location of the butterfly, the consequences, and the location of the consequences have varied widely. The phrase refers to the idea that a butterfly’s wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado or delay, accelerate or even prevent the occurrence of a tornado in another location. Note that the butterfly does not power or directly create the tornado. The Butterfly effect does not convey the notion – as is often misconstrued – that the flap of the butterfly’s wings causes the tornado. The flap of the wings is a part of the initial conditions; one set of conditions leads to a tornado while the other set of conditions doesn’t. The flapping wing represents a small change in the initial condition of the system, which causes a chain of events leading to large-scale alterations of events (compare: domino effect). Had the butterfly not flapped its wings, the trajectory of the system might have been vastly different – it’s possible that the set of conditions without the butterfly flapping its wings is the set that leads to a tornado. The butterfly effect is most familiar in terms of weather; it can easily be demonstrated in standard weather prediction models, for example.

Best Recognized from Above

Emblemata-Butterfly, 1938

 
 

Butterflies, 1950

 
 

Circle Limit with Butterflies, 1950

 
 

Symmetry Watercolor 70 Butterfly, undated

 
 

In 1948, the Dutch artist Maurits Cornelis Escher created his Regular Division Drawing number 70, a repeating Euclidean pattern of butterflies.Escher was well known for his repeating patterns, which had two characteristics: they filled the plane without gaps or overlaps, and they exhibited color symmetry. M. C. Escher became fascinated with the geometric processes of tessellation and his imagery took a biased towards asymmetrical natural forms of which insects were often his subject matter. He made the comment that insects are generally best recognized from above.

An Inquisitive Butterfly

“Did I ever mention that her bare arm bore the eight of vaccination? That I loved her hopelessly? That she was only fourteen? An inquisitive butterfly passed, dipping, between us.”

Vladimir Nabokov
Lolita

 
 

Handwritten draft dedicated to Vera Evseevna Slonim, Nabokov’s wife. In the summer of 1948, Nabokov wrote the firsts texts of a novel, drafted on the back of his entomology index cards. This drafts were for his most famous work: Lolita.

 
 

Vera ended her own budding career as a writer to support her husband as critic, reader, and typist, and sustained the family through her work as secretary and translator. After moving to the United States of America in 1940, she learned to drive and chauffeured her husband on many field trips, notably in the North American West, to hunt butterflies. To protect him she carried a handgun. Nabokov relied on her in his work and “would have been nowhere without her.” During his lectures, she would sit in the front row. She was his inspiration, editor, and first reader; all his works are dedicated to her. Lolita was saved by her from the flames more than once. However, personal letters pertaining to her and her marriage were destroyed.

 
 

The Two Sweetest Passions

“Literature and butterflies are the two sweetest passions known to man.”

Vladimir Nabokov

 
 

Photo portrait of Vladimir Nabokov by Phillippe Halsman, circa 1968

 
 

Vladimir Nabokov, 1972

 
 

Nabokov’s career as an entomologist was as distinguished as his novels. His interest in this field had been inspired by books of Maria Sibylla Merian he had found in the attic of his family’s country home in Vyra. Throughout an extensive career of collecting he never learned to drive a car, and he depended on his wife Véra to take him to collecting sites. During the 1940s, as a research fellow in zoology, he was responsible for organizing the butterfly collection of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. His writings in this area were highly technical. This, combined with his specialty in the relatively unspectacular tribe Polyommatini of the family Lycaenidae, has left this facet of his life little explored by most admirers of his literary works. He described the Karner Blue. The genus Nabokovia was named after him in honor of this work, as were a number of butterfly and moth species (e.g. many species in the genera Madeleinea and Pseudolucia bear epithets alluding to Nabokov or names from his novels). In 1967, Nabokov commented: “The pleasures and rewards of literary inspiration are nothing beside the rapture of discovering a new organ under the microscope or an undescribed species on a mountainside in Iran or Peru. It is not improbable that had there been no revolution in Russia, I would have devoted myself entirely to lepidopterology and never written any novels at all.”

Metaphysical and Transcendent Cubism

Corpus Hypercubus (Crucifixion), Salvador Dalí, 1954

 
 

Salvador Dalí’s inspiration for Corpus Hypercubus came from his change in artistic style during the 1940s and 1950s. Around that time, his interest in surrealism diminished and he became fascinated with nuclear science, feeling that “thenceforth, the atom was [his] favorite food for thought.” His interest grew from the bombing of Hiroshima at the end of World War II which left a lasting impression on him. In his 1951 essay Mystical Manifesto, he introduced an art theory he called “nuclear mysticism” that combined Dalí’s interests in Catholicism, mathematics, science, and Catalan culture in an effort to reestablish Classical values and techniques, which he extensively utilizes in Corpus Hypercubus. That same year, to promote nuclear mysticism and explain the “return to spiritual classicism movement” in modern art, he traveled throughout the United States giving lectures. Before painting Corpus Hypercubus, Dalí announced his intention to portray an exploding Christ using both classical painting techniques along with the motif of the cube and he declared that “this painting will be the great metaphysical work of [his] summer.” Juan de Herrera’s Treatise on Cubic Forms was particularly influential to Dalí.

Corpus Hypercubus is composed of oil on canvas, and its dimensions are 76.5 x 43.75 inches. Consistent with his theory of “nuclear mysticism”, Dalí uses classical elements along with ideas inspired by math, science, etc. Some noticeably classic features are the drapery of the clothing and the Caravagesque lighting that theatrically envelops Christ, though like his 1951 painting Christ of Saint John of the Cross, Corpus Hypercubus takes the traditional Biblical scene of Christ’s Crucifixion and almost completely reinvents it. While he did attempt to distance himself from the Surrealist movement after his development of “nuclear mysticism”, Dalí still incorporates dream-like features consistent with his earlier surrealist work in Corpus Hypercubus, such as the levitating Christ and the giant chessboard below. Jesus’ face is turned away from the viewer, making it completely obscured. The crown of thorns is missing from Christ’s head as are the nails from his hands and feet, leaving his body completely devoid of the wounds often closely associate with the Crucifixion. With Christ of Saint John of the Cross, Dalí did the same in order to leave only the “metaphysical beauty of Christ-God”. Dalí sets the painting in front of the bay of Port Lligat in Catalonia, Dalí’s home, which is also the setting of other paintings of his including The Madonna of Port Lligat, The Sacrament of the Last Supper, and Christ of Saint John of the Cross. One’s eyes are quickly drawn to the knees of Christ which have a grotesque exaggeration of realism detail. If one observes the original painting closely, 5 different images of Gala appear in Christ’s right knee and 5 different images of Salvador appear in his left; the most prominent two being Gala’s back/neck/back of head with right arm extended upward and Salvador’s face replete with trademark up swept mustache. Additional knee images translate extremely poorly to reproductions/prints.

The most striking change Dalí makes from nearly every other crucifixion painting concerns the cross. Instead of painting Christ on a wooden cross, Dalí depicts him upon the net of a hypercube, also known as a tesseract. The unfolding of a tesseract into eight cubes is analogous to unfolding the sides of a cube into six squares. The use of a hypercube for the cross has been interpreted as a geometric symbol for the transcendental nature of God. Just as God exists in a space that is incomprehensible to humans, the hypercube exists in four spatial dimensions, which is equally inaccessible to the mind. The net of the hypercube is a three-dimensional representation of it, similar to how Christ is a human form of God that is more relatable to people. The word “corpus” in the title can refer both to the body of Christ and to geometric figures, reinforcing the link Dalí makes between religion and mathematics and science. Christ’s levitation above the Earth could symbolize His rise above Earthly desire and suffering. The motif of the cube is present elsewhere: Gala is standing on one and the chessboard is made up of squares.

On the bottom left of the painting, Dalí painted his wife Gala as Mary Magdalene looking up at Jesus. Dalí thought of her as the “perfect union of the development of the hypercubic octahedron on the human level of the cube”. He used her as a model because “the most noble beings were painted by Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez and Francisco de Zurbarán. [He] only [approaches] nobility when painting Gala, and nobility can only be inspired by the human being.”

Upon completing Corpus Hypercubus, Dalí described his work as “metaphysical, transcendent cubism.” The union of Christ and the tesseract reflects Dalí’s opinion that the seemingly separate and incompatible concepts of science and religion can in fact coexist, which has been lauded by viewers and has been widely considered one of Dalí’s masterworks. A reproduction of the painting is mentioned in J. G. Ballard‘s 1969 surrealist novel, The Atrocity Exhibition.

Spread Love Around the World

Robert Indiana on coach with Andy Warhol in Warhol’s studio, Vogue, March 1965. Photo: Bruce Davidson

 
 

At the helm of the Pop art movement were Andy Warhol and Robert Indiana. The two artists exhibited work together at the same gallery and even posed together holding their cats in a Vogue photo spread. Indiana has been a theatrical set and costume designer, such as the 1976 production by the Santa Fe Opera of Virgil Thomson’s The Mother of Us All, based on the life of suffragist Susan B. Anthony. He was the star of Andy Warhol‘s film Eat (1964), which is a 45-minute film of Indiana eating a mushroom in his SoHo loft. But while Indiana embraced Pop, the movement didn’t suit him in many ways. He wasn’t interested in the personality cults or media attention that swirled around Warhol, and Indiana shied away from the sex, drugs, and fame.

 
 

 
 

Indiana first public commission—a 20-ft.-tall, light-studded “EAT” sign for the 1964 New York World’s Fair—referenced his mother’s years working in roadside diners, as well as her last words to him, “Did you have something to eat?” But the flashing EAT sign so resembled familiar cafe signage that people flocked to it, assuming it was a restaurant. It wasn’t the last time Indiana’s work would become simultaneously popular and misunderstood.

 
 

Book of Love Poems, printed in 1996

 
 

Robert Indiana’s experiment with LOVE started in 1958, when he began playing with poetry, placing the letters “LO” above “VE.” He translated the idea into paintings, and in 1965, he hit pay dirt when the Museum of Modern Art commissioned him to do a version of LOVE for a Christmas card. His simple composition of vibrant red letters against a green and blue background became one of the museum’s most popular items.

The first serigraph/silk screen of Love was printed as part of an exhibition poster for Stable Gallery in 1966. A few examples of the rare image, in bold blue and green with a red bottom announcing “Stable May 66” are known to exist. Twenty-five of these, without the red announcement, were signed and dated on the reverse by Indiana. Sculptural versions of the image have been installed at numerous American and international locations. In 1977 he created a Hebrew version with the four letter word Ahava (אהבה “love” in Hebrew) using COR-TEN steel, for the Israel Museum Art Garden in Jerusalem, Israel.

 
 

In time for the holidays, the O of the famous love sculpture by Robert Indiana was lowered. November 29, 1971.

 
 

Although it wasn’t a critical success, LOVE was so popular with the general public that NBC televised the exhibition. In an era of love-ins and peace protests, the image struck a nerve with the spirit of the 1960s. Hippies were all about love, and for the next decade, so was Robert Indiana.

As Indiana’s LOVE spread, his name didn’t. “Everybody knows my LOVE,” he told an interviewer in 1976, “but they don’t have the slightest idea what I look like. I’m practically anonymous.” Because Indiana hadn’t wanted to disrupt his initial design with his signature or a copyright notice, he had no legal protection against imitators. He also enjoyed little financial gain as his image was ripped off in countless ways. One company sold a line of cheap cast aluminum LOVE paperweights in bookstores on college campuses; another offered LOVE and HATE cufflinks. As the number of parodies increased, Indiana eventually copyrighted some variants of his creation. But by that time, it was too late to file suit against the flood of false LOVEs on the market.

Indiana’s best known image is the word love in upper-case letters, arranged in a square with a tilted letter O. The iconography first appeared in a series of poems originally written in 1958, in which Indiana stacked LO and VE on top of one another. Then in a painting with the words “Love is God”.

LOVE is an iconic Pop Art image by American artist Robert Indiana. It consists of the letters LO over the letters VE; the O is canted sideways so that its oblong negative space creates a line leading to the V. Its original rendering in sculpture was made in 1970 and is displayed in Indiana at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The material is COR-TEN steel Indiana’s LOVE design has since been reproduced in a variety of formats for rendering in displays around the world. Versions of the sculpture now exist in Hebrew, Chinese, Italian and Spanish as well as the original English.

MoMA historian Deborah Wye describes Indiana’s image as “full of erotic, religious, autobiographical, and political underpinnings” that make it “both accessible and complex in meaning. Megan Wilde offered more detail about the autobiographical origins in an article for Mental Floss magazine, “The word love was connected to [the artist’s] childhood experiences attending a Christian Science church, where the only decoration was the wall inscription God is Love. The colors were an homage to his father, who worked at a Phillips 66 gas station during the Depression.” She quotes Robert Indiana as describing the original colors as “the red and green of that sign against the blue Hoosier sky.”

 
 

Rage_Against_The_Machine-Renegades-Frontal

oasis she is love

 
 

The image has been rendered and parodied in countless forms. The original book cover for Erich Segal‘s novel Love Story alluded to the design, and the TV series Bridget Loves Bernie included a shot of the Sixth Avenue sculpture in its opening credits. The United States Post Office issued an eight-cent stamp in 1973 featuring the image. Parodies of the image appeared on covers of records by Rage Against the Machine (Renegades), Oasis (Little by Little single) and Acen (75 Minutes). Evan Greenfield’s sculpture “I’m Lovin’ It” alludes to Indiana’s image.

The first serigraph/silk screen of Love was printed as part of an exhibition poster for Stable Gallery in 1966. A few examples of the rare image, in bold blue and green with a red bottom announcing “Stable May 66” are known to exist. Twenty-five of these, without the red announcement, were signed and dated on the reverse by Indiana. Sculptural versions of the image have been installed at numerous American and international locations. In 1977 he created a Hebrew version with the four letter word Ahava (אהבה “love” in Hebrew) using COR-TEN steel, for the Israel Museum Art Garden in Jerusalem, Israel.

 
 

In 1995, Indiana created a “Heliotherapy Love” series of 300 silk screen prints signed and numbered by the artist, which surrounds the iconic love image in a bright yellow border. These prints are the largest official printed version of the Love image.

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

Stills from Lisa the Skeptic (Directed by Neil Affleck and written by David X. Cohen)

 
 

Lisa the Skeptic is the eighth episode of The Simpsons‘ ninth season, first aired on November 23, 1997. On an archaeological dig with her class, Lisa discovers a skeleton that resembles an angel. All of the townspeople believe that the skeleton actually came from an angel, but skeptical Lisa attempts to persuade them that there must be a rational scientific explanation. The episode’s writer, David X. Cohen, developed the idea after visiting the American Museum of Natural History, and decided to loosely parallel themes from the Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tennessee, which dealt with issues of separation of church and state and the debate between creationism and evolution. The episode received generally positive reviews.

It has been discussed in the context of virtual reality, ontology, existentialism, and skepticism; it has also been used in Christian religious education classes to initiate discussion about angels, skepticism, science, and faith.

 
 

Un señor muy viejo con unas alas enormes (A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings), is a short story by author Gabriel García Márquez written in 1955. It was inspired by a young boy named Armand Tait and his life as a farmer.

 
 

A group of The Simpsons enthusiasts at Calvin College have also analyzed the religious and philosophical aspects of the episode, including the issue of faith versus science. The episode has been compared with Gabriel García Márquez’s short story A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings and utilized as a teaching tool in a Saugerties, New York grade school class. In an exam on the subject, students were asked to use details from both  A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings and Lisa the Skeptic, in order to analyze the quotation “Appearances can be deceiving”.

The Eternal Recurrence of All Things

Photographs by Chema Madoz

 
 

“Whoever thou mayest be, beloved stranger, whom I meet here for the first time, avail thyself of this happy hour and of the stillness around us, and above us, and let me tell thee something of the thought which has suddenly risen before me like a star which would fain shed down its rays upon thee and every one, as befits the nature of light. – Fellow man! Your whole life, like a sandglass, will always be reversed and will ever run out again, – a long minute of time will elapse until all those conditions out of which you were evolved return in the wheel of the cosmic process. And then you will find every pain and every pleasure, every friend and every enemy, every hope and every error, every blade of grass and every ray of sunshine once more, and the whole fabric of things which make up your life. This ring in which you are but a grain will glitter afresh forever. And in every one of these cycles of human life there will be one hour where, for the first time one man, and then many, will perceive the mighty thought of the eternal recurrence of all things:- and for mankind this is always the hour of Noon”.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Die fröhliche Wissenschaft (The Gay Science)*

 
 

*The book’s title uses a phrase that was well-known at the time. It was derived from a Provençal expression (gai saber) for the technical skill required for poetry-writing that had already been used by Ralph Waldo Emerson and E. S. Dallas and, in inverted form, by Thomas Carlyle in “the dismal science”. The book’s title was first translated into English as The Joyous Wisdom, but The Gay Science has become the common translation since Walter Kaufmann‘s version in the 1960s. Kaufmann cites The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1955) that lists “The gay science (Provençal gai saber): the art of poetry”.