Beautiful for us


Ayn Rand’s Romantic Manifesto: Installment 25


A Philosophy of Literature
Revised Edition

Chapter 1: The Epistemology of Art
Installment 1, Installment 2, Installment 3,…

Chapter 2: Philosophy and Sense of Life
Installment 4, Installment 5, Installment 6,…

Chapter 3: Art and Sense of Life
Installment 7, Installment 8, Installment 9, Installment 10, Installment 11, Installment 12,…

Chapter 4: Art and Cognition
Installment 13, Installment 14, Installment 15, Installment 16, Installment 17, Installment 18, Installment 19, Installment 20, Installment 21, Installment 22, Installment 23, Installment 24, …
… contd.

Chapter 5: Basic Principles of Literature

The most important principle of the esthetics of literature was formulated by Aristotle, who said that fiction is of greater philosophical importance than history, because “history represents things as they are, while fiction represents them as they might be and ought to be.”

This applies to all forms of literature and most particularly to a form that did not come into existence until twenty-three centuries later: the novel.

A novel is a long, fictional story about human beings and the events of their lives. The four essential attributes of a novel are: Theme – Plot – Characterization – Style.

These are attributes, not separable parts. They can be isolated conceptually for study, but one must always remember that they are interrelated and that a novel is their sum. (If it is a good novel, it is an indivisible sum.)

These four attributes pertain to all forms of literature, i.e., of fiction, with one exception. They pertain to novels, plays, scenarios, librettos, short stories. The single exception is poems. A poem does not have to tell a story; its basic attributes are theme and style.

A novel is a major literary form – in respect to its scope, its inexhaustible potentiality, its almost unlimited freedom (including the freedom from the physical limitations of the kind that restrict a stage play) and, most importantly, in respect to the fact that a novel is a purely literary form of art which does not require the intermediary of the performing arts to achieve its ultimate effect.


Sparking Practitioner Tendencies

Practicing Bikram Yoga in the nude every day

For almost a year I practice every day
Bikram of course, in the nude, on the nude
For almost a year I look myself in the raw
My eyes find myself beautiful in my own eyes
Physical honing catching up with my spiritual perfection
Precisely because I seek my own improvement above others

Learning, comparing, connecting
The dots behind the religions
Over a year in the quiet
Remembering …

A young girl selling her evangelical belief
In return for her friendship in sincere earnest
Please take my belief seriously! I recite it daily to myself!
I recite it to as many others as I can!

Her artistic eyes saw clearly her own practice
A practice of an ancient dance she spoke of with passion
– A half-empty pot to be filled with next day’s practice

For over ten years I practice Bikram yoga
My eyes learns to look at others as they truly are
Dressed skimpily or not, (no nudes in the studio, darling)
In the practice room none can hide what they are
Distractions abound always, yet the truth lies revealed
Quickly hidden as they leave the room relieved
Relaxed they revert back to what they want to be
Remain struggling between their own potential and their desire

Learning, comparing, connecting
The dots behind the religions
Over a year in the quiet
Remembering …

A young woman, her line
Full of grace and elegance, I saw her
First in a long dress of deepest queenly blue
She looked to her duties with full possession of her faculties
I was glad to have her as a friend and confidante
Yet a young girl lay hidden who stole my painting
And used it as a stick to beat her parents for their ignorance
If she had but asked I’d have fleshed it out better
– Not just in stark black with no face nor feature.

For almost a year I practice every day
Bikram of course, in the nude, on the nude
For almost a year I look myself in the raw
My eyes find myself beautiful in my own eyes
Physical honing catching up with my spiritual perfection
But only in movement, and only in action
Do I see this beauty!

Beautiful for Him was only a placeholder
for him who grew more handsome with years
But the truth remains unsaid
Beautiful in My Own Eyes
Is what this Vain Yogi desires

So my daily practice continues
Catching up on those days missing
With doubles on days to fall in my hand
So recommends Bikram’s instructions
For a continued life of truth and beauty for us.

Fighting Christian Tendencies

Practicing Bikram yoga in the nude

For almost a year
I practice my fave yoga
Bikram of course,
In the nude
On the nude (no mat nor towel darling)

Any position
Testing spine bends
In all four directions
In alignment, in tandem
First the right, then the left
Bottom goes forward, bottom goes up
No chained scribbles to hold them back

Practice goes better, than in class
Some distractions, some accidents
Learning in leaps and bounds
Every time, no thought to begin
Husband asleep, without a care
No holding up silly straps

Learning, comparing, connecting
The dots behind the religions
Over a year in the quiet
Remembering …

That desperate recitation of the old WalMart greeter
A recitation of some old Vedic hymns
Is it time yet? I’ve had all the knowledge lying here

That offer of a pie and an invitation to the church
Videos of indigenous tribes in Northeast India
Converting to Christianity in repentance for their barbarity
Come! It will be fun! You will be saved too!

That proselytization of a young Evangelical girl
While waiting for the mid-morning fast local to college
Deaf to the church bells around her
Blind to the devout praying before a full work day
Believe in Christ! He will save you!

A proselytization of a young Evangelical boy
To us girls relaxing in between learning how to build
Not a boy really, but a fighter in a grove of knowledge
Deaf to the treasures on art, architecture, technology
Blind to the flowering of his own magnificent culture
Believe in Christ! He is The Savior! There is none to come after Him!
Oh yes there is! Another was born about 200 years ago! Why not accept him!

A proselytization turns into an argument
A foreshadow of things to come, in our lives!
No revealing of the truth!
Just another bloody war!

Fought for whom? And why?
That pie-wielding old lady gleefully awaiting an ignorant convert?
A vanguard of some upcoming granny state law?
That babbling young girl earnestly hoping for a proof of promised revelation?
A vanguard of the coming big-tent-burkha-hijab revolution?
Both of them against that fighting young boy in their aims
The one proscribing his actions, the other his vision!
Yet all three seemingly the same, ain’t religion wonderful?

Practice in a warm-not-hot room
Alone with my old problems
Being broken down one after another
Practice in a cool or cold room
Alone with the same problems now intertwined
Being solved, dissolved in the acid of an awakening mind

Learning, comparing, connecting
The dots behind the religions
Over a year in the quiet
Remembering …

Watching the Passion of Christ with my husband and wondering
Was it necessary to flog and crucify a cross-bearing Jesus?
To demonstrate his credentials? To prove his point?

Thinking about the life of his father Joseph and questioning
Was it necessary to raise a child not his own?
To show his love and support for his pregnant bride?

Pondering what sort of woman might Mary be
Accepting such gruesome sacrifices of those nearest to her?
A Kali reborn on a different battlefield?
Satisfied with nothing but the slow-drawn blood of Man?

Practice in private, practice in public
Learn to sketch graceful ballet dancers
See the elegance of a stretched out limb
An arm, a leg, a hand, a foot
Against its actual length and ponder
Remember my own beauty revealed only in an asana

Learning, comparing, connecting
The people, the practitioners of the religions
Over a lifetime in the melee
Remembering …

A boy in the rear seat watching his father
Return to an abandoned home, no warning, nothing
Was it not cruel to take one man’s child and give it to another?
Was it really so necessary to express solidarity with women at the expense of a child?

A girl in a new home watching her mother return and go away
Wondering if this really was her mother, so unlike her loving father
Was it not cruel to take one man’s child and give it to strangers?
Was it so very necessary to express solidarity with women at the expense of a child?

A strong willed child carrying its father’s strength and determination
Ignorant of his identity, but knowing of his reputation through its mother
Was it wise of you to keep me if I am my father’s child carrying half his genes?
Are you not afraid because you don’t know precisely what blend I inherited?

And these mothers answer as follows:
It is still our intention to sacrifice men, to sacrifice Man
We did it before to Jesus, we’ll do so again to his followers
And as they fall by the wayside, as they surely must
We’ll bring on the big-tent-burkha-hijab revolution
To create a new world of restrictions, darkness, and ignorance
‘Cos its our nature
we are unrestrained (don’t be so old-fashioned!)
we are blind (we rely on relative positioning in the pecking order!)
we don’t know ourselves (we change much more than you!)

And you!
You can’t teach us!
Try as you might
You can’t reach us!
You are not us!

Fighting Islamic Tendencies

Practicing Bikram Yoga in skimpy clothes

On a fine day I practice my fave yoga
Bikram of course,
In a lacy yellow underwired top
& a red-orange-yellow bottom

Front row position
Tested spine bends in all four directions
Top held firm
Underwire inspired a high chest lift
Bottom remained firm
Customized with orange chained scribbles

Class went well
No distractions, no accidents
Went back the next day
Class still went well
No distractions, no accidents

Both times, a thought remained
In mind – my husband
Was holding up the straps
Teacher was focused on teaching
Practitioners were focused on following
So it proved
Both times.

This caused major acid reflux
To a few hens in class
There are a few clucking denizens
Here too!

A few days later
When I went back
I was reprimanded
About dress code
Published in some FuckBitch,
Sorry! FaceBook denizen’s page!

Wonder if the hens were on Islamic payroll?
A vanguard of the coming hijab ruling?
Wonder if the hens had no trust in themselves?
A vanguard of some upcoming nanny state law?
Wonder if the hens hated their own femininity?
A vanguard of some new biological asexuality?
All wearing tents, burkhas, hijab to you Westerners!
Hiding all curves, all weapons – AK-47, Uzi, anyone?
A new twist on the old
Conceal-and-carry weapon, natch!

Next I practiced
In peachy-orange-red halter top
And the red-orange-yellow bottom
A few days later

Class went well again
No distractions, no accidents
Same thought as before
Remained in mind
Evil lay not in the teacher
Evil lay not in the teaching
But in the minds of hens on Islamic payroll
Wanting, oh so desperately,
To bring on the big-tent-burkha-hijab revolution!

Today I practiced
At home in that oh-so-objectionable
Lacy yellow top & red-orange-yellow bottom
Top strap slipped
Many times
Bottom distracted
Times too numerous to mention

Where were the hens to object?
Or does it not matter
If errors, mistakes, sins
Are committed, hidden
From public eyes?
Is this the much vaunted
Maternal protection provided
By these clucking protectors of morality?

Not really! It’s still about wanting
To wear those tents, burkhas, hijabs
To hide their corporeal sins
To convey conceal-and-carry weapons
How do you know
Who is inside that tent?
A man? A woman? Both?

Me! I like to wear
Fitting clothes
A Bikram yogi
Hides no sins
But reveals
To remove

As for those hens
Their intentions
Ain’t that clear
Hidden behind
Sins too numerous
To mention.

Becoming Partners

Becoming Partners - the beginning of a window of opportunity

Becoming Partners – the beginning of a window of opportunity

In sketching this piece, I stayed here for quite a while – lost in admiration at how this duo was emerging. Sometimes the result of one’s own efforts is so amazing as to seem miraculous. The line work itself without the shadow-work was exquisite in its clarity of delineation. But the shadows emerging were proving to be something else.

Flame of the West

The Flame of the West - A Young Ayn Rand

The Flame of the West – A Young Ayn Rand

The only flame of the west that I know of, worthy of the title.

Sketched today, Friday, August 22, 2014.

A Window Of Opportunity

A Window Of Opportunity, sketched by me through a process of delight in catching the expressions on the dancers' faces.

A Window Of Opportunity, sketched by me through a growing process of delight in catching the expressions on the dancers’ faces.

The model used for the sketch is a photograph by Leslie E. Spatt (copyright 1968 Leslie E. Spatt) taken of Antoinette Sibley and Anthony Dowell in The Sleeping Beauty, 1968.

Antoinette Sibley joined The Royal Ballet in 1956 and became one of the foremost ballerinas of her time. When Anthony Dowell created the role of Oberon opposite her Titania in Frederick Ashton’s The Dream in 1964, he was yet to achieve fame as one of the century’s leading classical dancers. Their performances together propelled them to fame as one of the Company’s most successful dance partnerships.

- Ballet Calendar 2013 sponsored by the Royal Ballet titled Great Ballet Partnerships – Photo sourced from Royal Opera House Collections

When two dancers tap in time
To a melody created by one
For the pleasure of the other
A window of opportunity emerges
Through the flames of the purges.

A fire in the mind of one
Lights an answer in the other
The window glazes with their heat
As an inferno blazes to his melody
The window tightens to her swaying feet.

The sleeping beauty laughs
The sleeping beauty smiles
The two dancers tap
The tap dancers skip
As two friends rejoice
And tap to a new beat.

Ayn Rand’s Romantic Manifesto: Installment 24


A Philosophy of Literature
Revised Edition

Chapter 1: The Epistemology of Art
Installment 1, Installment 2, Installment 3,…

Chapter 2: Philosophy and Sense of Life
Installment 4, Installment 5, Installment 6,…

Chapter 3: Art and Sense of Life
Installment 7, Installment 8, Installment 9, Installment 10, Installment 11, Installment 12,…

Chapter 4: Art and Cognition
Installment 13, Installment 14, Installment 15, Installment 16, Installment 17, Installment 18, Installment 19, Installment 20, Installment 21, Installment 22, Installment 23, …
… contd.

If a gang of men – no matter what its slogans, motives or goals – were roaming the streets and gouging out people’s eyes, people would rebel and would find the words of a righteous protest. But when such a gang is roaming the culture, bent on annihilating men’s minds, people remain silent. The words they need can be supplied only by philosophy, but modern philosophy is the sponsor and spawner of that gang.

Man’s mind is much more complex than the best computer, and much more vulnerable. If you have seen a newspaper photograph of brutes smashing a computer, you have seen a physical concretization of the psychological process now going on, which is initiated in the plate glass windows of art galleries, on the walls of fashionable restaurants and of multibillion-dollar business offices, in the glossy pages of popular magazines, in the technological radiance of movie and television screens.

Decomposition is the postscript to the death of the human body; disintegration is the preface to the death of a human mind. Disintegration is the keynote and goal of modern art – the disintegration of man’s conceptual faculty, and the retrogression of an adult mind to the state of a mewling infant.

To reduce man’s consciousness to the level of sensations, with no capacity to integrate them, is the intention behind the reducing of language to grunts, of literature to “moods,” of painting to smears, of sculpture to slabs, of music to noise.

But there is a philosophically and psychopathologically instructive element in the spectacle of that gutter. It demonstrates – by the negative means of an absence – the relationships of art to philosophy, of reason to man’s survival, of hatred for reason to hatred for existence. After centuries of the philosopher’s war against reason – they have succeeded – by the method of vivisection – in producing exponents of what man is like when deprived of his rational faculty, and these in turn are giving us images of what existence is like to a being with an empty skull.

While the alleged advocates of reason oppose “system-building” and haggle apologetically over concrete bound words or mystically floating abstractions, its enemies seem to know that integration is the psycho-epistemological key to reason, that art is man’s psycho-epistemological conditioner, and that if reason is to be destroyed, it is man’s integrating capacity that has to be destroyed.

It is highly doubtful that the practitioners and admirers of modern art have the intellectual capacity to understand its philosophical meaning; all they need to do is indulge the worst of their subconscious premises. But their leaders do understand the issue consciously: the father of modern art is Immanuel Kant (see his Critique of Judgment).

I do not know which is worse: to practice modern art as a colossal fraud or to do it sincerely.

Those who do not wish to be the passive, silent victims of fraud of this kind, can learn from modern art the practical importance of philosophy, and the consequences of philosophical default. Specifically it is the destruction of logic that disarmed the victims, and, more specifically, the destruction of definitions. Definitions are the guardians of rationality, the first line of defense against the chaos of mental disintegration.

Works of art – like everything else in the universe – are entities of a specific nature – the concept requires a definition by their essential characteristics, which distinguish them from all other existing entities. The genus of art works is: man-made objects which present a selective re-creation of reality according to the artist’s metaphysical value-judgments, by means of a specific material medium. The species are the works of the various branches of art, defined by the particular media which they employ and which indicate their relation to the various elements of man’s cognitive faculty.

Man’s need of precise definitions rests on the Law of Identity: A is A, a thing is itself. A work of art is a specific entity which possesses a specific nature. If it does not, it is not a work of art. If it is merely a material object, it belongs to some category of material objects – and if it does not belong to any particular category, it belongs to the one reserved for such phenomena: junk.

“Something made by an artist” is not a definition of art. A beard and a vacant stare are not the defining characteristics of an artist.

“Something in a frame hung on a wall” is not a definition of painting.

“Something with a number of pages in a binding” is not a definition of literature.

“Something piled together” is not a definition of sculpture.

“Something made of sounds produced by anything” is not definition of music.

“Something glued on a flat surface” is not a definition of any art. There is no art that uses glue as a medium. Blades of grass glued on a sheet of paper to represent grass might be good occupational therapy for retarded children – though I doubt it – but it is not art.

“Because I felt like it” is not a definition or validation of anything.

There is no place for whim in any human activity – if it is to be regarded as human. There is no place for the unknowable, the unintelligible, the undefinable, the non-objective in any human product. This side of an insane asylum, the actions of a human being are motivated by a conscious purpose; when they are not, they are of no interest to anyone outside a psychotherapist’s office. And when the practitioners of modern art declare that they don’t know what they are doing or what makes them do it, we should take their word for it and give them no further consideration.

(April – June 1971)

Ayn Rand’s Romantic Manifesto: Installment 23


A Philosophy of Literature
Revised Edition

Chapter 1: The Epistemology of Art
Installment 1, Installment 2, Installment 3,…

Chapter 2: Philosophy and Sense of Life
Installment 4, Installment 5, Installment 6,…

Chapter 3: Art and Sense of Life
Installment 7, Installment 8, Installment 9, Installment 10, Installment 11, Installment 12,…

Chapter 4: Art and Cognition
Installment 13, Installment 14, Installment 15, Installment 16, Installment 17, Installment 18, Installment 19, Installment 20, Installment 21, Installment 22, …
… contd.

The question asked at the start of this discussion was: What are the valid forms of art – and why these? It can now be answered: the proper forms of art present a selective re-creation of reality in terms needed by man’s cognitive faculty, which includes his entity-perceiving senses, and thus assist the integration of the various elements of a conceptual consciousness. Literature deals with concepts, the visual arts with sight and touch, music with hearing. Each art fulfills the function of bringing man’s concepts to the perceptual level of his consciousness and allowing him to grasp them directly, as if they were percepts. (The performing arts are a means of further concretization.) The different branches of art serve to unify man’s consciousness and offer him a coherent view of existence. Whether that view is true or false is not an esthetic matter. The crucially esthetic matter is psycho-epistemological: the integration of a conceptual consciousness.

This is the reason why all the arts were born in prehistoric times, and why man can never develop a new form of art. The forms of art do not depend on the content of man’s consciousness, but on its nature – not on the extent of man’s knowledge, but on the means by which he acquires it. (In order to develop a new form of art, man would have to acquire a new sense organ.)

The growth of man’s knowledge makes possible an unlimited growth and development of the arts. Scientific discoveries give rise to new subcategories in the various branches of art. But these are variants and subcategories (or combinations) of the same fundamental arts. Such variants require new rules, new methods, new techniques, but not a change of basic principles. For example, different techniques are required to write for the stage or screen or television; but all these media are subcategories of the drama (which is a subcategory of literature) and all are subject to the same basic principles. The wider a given principle, the more innovations and variations it permits and subsumes; but it itself is changeless. The breach of a basic principle is not a “new form of art,” but merely the destruction of that particular art.

For example, the change from Classicism to Romanticism in the theater was a legitimate esthetic innovation; so was the change from Romanticism to Naturalism, even if motivated by false metaphysical views. But the introduction of a narrator into a stage play is not an innovation, but a breach of the theater’s basic principle, which demands that a story be dramatized, i.e., presented in action; such a breach is not a “new form of art,” but simply an encroachment by incompetence on a very difficult form, and a wedge for the eventual destruction for that particular form.

A certain type of confusion about the relationship between scientific discoveries and art, leads to a frequently asked question: Is photography an art? The answer is: No. It is a technical, not a creative, skill. Art requires a selective re-creation. A camera cannot perform the basic task of painting: a visual conceptualization i.e., the creation of a concrete in terms of abstract essentials. The selection of camera angles, lighting or lenses is merely a selection of the means to reproduce various aspects of the given, i.e., of an existing concrete. There is an artistic element in some photographs, which is the result of such selectivity as the photographer can exercise, and some of them can be very beautiful – but the same artistic element (purposeful selectivity) is present in many utilitarian products: in the better kinds of furniture, dress design, automobiles, packaging, etc. The commercial art work in ads (or posters or postage stamps) is frequently done by real artists and has greater esthetic value than many paintings, but utilitarian objects cannot be classified as works of art.

(If it is asked, at this point: But why, then, is a film director to be regarded as an artist? – the answer is: It is the story that provides an abstract meaning which the film concretizes; without a story, a director is merely a pretentious photographer.)

A similar type of confusion exists in regard to the decorative arts. The task of the decorative arts is to ornament utilitarian objects, such as rugs, textiles, lighting fixtures, etc. This is a valuable task, often performed by talented artists, but it is not art in the esthetic-philosophical meaning of the term. The psycho-epistemological base of the decorative arts is not conceptual, but purely sensory: their standard of value is appeal to the senses of sight and/or touch. Their material is colors and shapes in non-representational combinations conveying no meaning other than visual harmony; the meaning or purpose is concrete and lies in the specific object which they decorate.

As a re-creation of reality, a work of art has to be representational; its freedom of stylization is limited by the requirements of intelligibility; if it does not represent an intelligible object, it cease to be art. On the other hand, a representational element is a detriment in the decorative arts: it is an irrelevant distraction, a clash of intentions. And although designs of little human figures or landscapes or flowers are often used to decorate textiles or wallpaper, they are artistically inferior to the nonrepresentational designs. When recognizable objects are subordinated to and treated as a mere pattern of colors and shapes, they become incongruous.

(Color harmony is a legitimate element, but only one out of many more significant elements, in the art of painting. But, in painting, colors and shapes are not treated as a decorative pattern.)

Visual harmony is a sensory experience and is determined primarily by physiological causes. There is a crucial difference between the perception of musical sounds and the perception of colors: the integration of musical sounds produces a new cognitive experience which is sensory-conceptual, i.e., the awareness of a melody; the integration of colors does not, it conveys nothing beyond the awareness of pleasant or unpleasant relationships. Cognitively, the sensation of color qua color is of no significance because color serves an incomparably more important function: the sensation of color is the central element of the faculty of sight, it is one of the fundamental means of perceiving entities. Color as such (and its physical causes) is not an entity, but an attribute of entities and cannot exist by itself.

This fact is ignored by the men who make pretentious attempts to create “a new art” in the form of “color symphonies” which consist in projecting moving blobs of color on a screen. This produces nothing, in a viewer’s consciousness, but the boredom of being unemployed. It could conceivably produce an appropriate decorative effect at a carnival or in a night club on New Year’s Eve, but it has no relation to art.

Such attempts, however, can be classified as anti-art for the following reason: the essence of art is integration, a kind of super-integration in the sense that art deals with man’s widest abstractions, his metaphysics, and thus expands the power of man’s consciousness. The notion of “color symphonies” is a trend in the opposite direction: it is an attempt to disintegrate man’s consciousness and reduce it to a pre-perceptual level by breaking up percepts into mere sensations.

This brings us to the subject of modern art.

To be continued …

Ayn Rand’s Romantic Manifesto: Installment 22


A Philosophy of Literature
Revised Edition

Chapter 1: The Epistemology of Art
Installment 1, Installment 2, Installment 3,…

Chapter 2: Philosophy and Sense of Life
Installment 4, Installment 5, Installment 6,…

Chapter 3: Art and Sense of Life
Installment 7, Installment 8, Installment 9, Installment 10, Installment 11, Installment 12,…

Chapter 4: Art and Cognition
Installment 13, Installment 14, Installment 15, Installment 16, Installment 17, Installment 18, Installment 19, Installment 20, Installment 21, …
… contd.

Music is an independent, primary art; the dance is not. In view of their division of labor, the dance is entirely dependent on music. With the emotional assistance of music, it expresses an abstract meaning; without music, it becomes meaningless gymnastics. It is music, the voice of man’s consciousness, that integrates the dance to man and to art. Music sets the terms; the task of the dance is to follow, as closely, obediently and expressly as possible. The tighter the integration of a given dance to its music – in rhythm, in mood, in style, in theme – the greater its esthetic value.

A clash between dance and music is worse than a clash between actor and play; it is an obliteration of the entire performance. It permits neither the music nor the dance to be integrated into an esthetic entity in the viewer’s mind – and it becomes a series of jumbled motions superimposed on a series of jumbled sounds.

Observe that the modern anti-art trend takes precisely this form in the field of the dance. (I am not speaking of the so-called modern dance, which is neither modern nor dance.) Ballet, for instance, is being “modernized” by being danced to inappropriate, undanceable music, which is used as a mere accompaniment, like the tinkling piano in the days of the silent movies, only less synchronized with the action. Add to it the vast infusion of pantomime, which is not an art, but a childish game (it is not acting, but expository signaling), and you get a form of self-affronting compromise more abject than anything seen in politics. I submit in evidence Marguerite and Armand as presented by the Royal Ballet. (Even the pratfalls or the walking-heels-first of the so-called modern dance seem innocent by comparison: their perpetrators have nothing to betray or to disfigure.

Dancers are performing artists; music is the primary work they perform – with the help of an important intermediary: the choreographer. His creative task is similar to that of the stage director, but carries a more demanding responsibility: a stage director translates a primary work, a play, into physical action – a choreographer has to translate a primary work, a composition of sounds, into another medium, into a composition of movements, and create a structured, integrated work: a dance.

This task is so difficult and its esthetically qualified practitioners so rare that the dance has always been slow in its development and extremely vulnerable. Today, it is all but extinct.

Music and/or literature are the base of the performing arts and of the large-scale combinations of all the arts, such as opera or motion pictures. The base, in this context, means that primary art which provides the metaphysical element and enables the performance to become a concretization of an abstract view of man.

Without this base, a performance may be entertaining, in such fields as vaudeville or the circus, but it has nothing to do with art. The performance of an aerialist, for instance, demands an enormous physical skill – greater, perhaps, and harder to acquire than the skill demanded of a ballet dancer – but what it offers is merely an exhibition of that skill, with no further meaning, i.e., a concrete, not a concretization of anything.

In operas and operettas, the esthetic base is music, with the libretto serving only to provide an appropriate emotional context or opportunity for the musical score, and an integrating line for the total performance. (In this respect, there are very few good librettos.) In motions pictures or televisions, literature is the ruler and term-setter, with music serving only as an incidental, background accompaniment. Screen and television plays are subcategories of the drama, and in the dramatic arts “the play is the thing.” The play is that which makes it art; the play provides the end, to which all the rest is the means.

In all the arts that involve more than one performer, a crucially important artist is the director. (In music, his counterpart is the conductor.) The director is the link between the performing and the primary arts. He is a performer in relation to the primary work, in the sense that his task is the means to the end set by the work – he is a primary artist in relation to the cast, the set designer, the cameraman, etc., in the sense that they are the means to his end, which is the translation of the work into physical action as a meaningful, stylized, integrated whole. In the dramatic arts, the director is the esthetic integrator.

This task requires a first-hand understanding of all the arts, combined with an unusual power of abstract thought and of creative imagination. Great directors are extremely rare. An average director alternates between the twin pitfalls of abdication and usurpation. Either he rides on the talents of others and merely puts the actors through random motions signifying nothing, which results in a hodgepodge of clashing intentions – or he hogs the show, putting everyone through senseless tricks unrelated to or obliterating the play (if any), on the inverted premise that the play is the means to the end of exhibiting his skill, thus placing himself in the category of circus acrobats, except that he is much less skillful and much less entertaining.

As an example of film direction at its best, I shall mention Fritz Lang, particularly in his earlier works; his silent film Siegfried is as close to a great work of art as the films have yet come. Though other directors seem to grasp it occasionally, Lang is the only one who has fully understood the fact that visual art is an intrinsic part of films in a much deeper sense than the mere collection of sets and camera angles – that a “motion picture” is literally that, and has to be a stylized visual composition in motion.

It has been said that if one stopped the projection of Siegfried and cut out a film frame at random, it would be as perfect in composition as a great painting. Every action, gesture and movement in this film is calculated to achieve that effect. Every inch of the film is stylized, i.e., condensed to those stark, bare essentials which convey the nature and spirit of the story, of its events, of its locale. The entire picture was filmed indoors, including the magnificent legendary forests whose every branch was man-made (but does not look so on the screen). While Lang was making Siegfried, it is reported, a sign hung on the wall of his office: “Nothing in this film is accidental.” This is the motto of great art. Very few artists, in any field, have ever been able to live up to it. Fritz Lang did.

There are certain flaws in Siegfried, particularly the nature of the story which is a tragic, “malevolent universe” legend – but this is a metaphysical, not an esthetic, issue. From the aspect of a director’s creative task, this film is an example of the kind of visual stylization that makes the difference between a work of art and a glorified newsreel.

Potentially, motion pictures are a great art, but that potential has not as yet been actualized, except in single instances and random moments. An art that requires the synchronization of so many esthetic elements and so many different talents cannot develop in a period of philosophical-cultural disintegration such as the present. Its development requires the creative cooperation of men who are united, not necessarily by their formal philosophical convictions, but by their fundamental view of man, i.e., by their sense of life.

Whatever the variety and the vast potential of the performing arts, one must always remember that they are a consequence and an extension of the primary arts – and that the primary arts give them the abstract meaning without which no human product or activity can be classified as art.

To be continued …