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Mark Cohen - Quotes

To understand that which we see, we see ourselves. To know the nature of what we encounter, we invent its nature—we create the sense and insight into something that seems like us, and instigate ourselves that we have found a truth, that we have discovered in depth.
Cohen, Mark Daniel.

But all we have done is fabricate a fairy tale, conjure ourselves into speciously perceiving that all we witness is secretly, inwardly like us—rife with and driven by an inner self that observes and wills, and responds, and lives. And so thereby, we delude ourselves into knowing that we are not alone.
Cohen, Mark Daniel.

But we are alone. We observe a mirror and perceive it a window—we are walled by glass. We propound a universe that appears to look back as we look at it, which is a close definition of the uncanny.
Cohen, Mark Daniel.

Yet with an irony that bears no touch of ironic sensation, it is we who decorate the uncanny to feel we are among the familiar, and the universe withholds and protects its secret: that it is mysterious, that it is incomprehensible, but there is in no sense in which it is specifically uncanny.
Cohen, Mark Daniel.

All art is emblematic of a state of affairs within. All art is tinctured and leaned into a posture of the soul, composed and made radiant with a hue of inclination, a coloration of a passion. It is the heightened, vivifying intent and instigation that notes the nature and function of art, and to speak of an unimpassioned art is to commit a contradiction in terms. Such work is just poor journalism and meager editorializing.
Cohen, Mark Daniel.

And ever have they been the soul of art, for the purpose of art has always been to encapsulate and convey the moods of experience felt as a living quantity, of experience as it is fully known, with all our senses engaged. It is a purpose that cannot change, and we see it today, as much as ever, in the works of every strong, mature, and bracingly vivid artist, in the works of artists such as Alberta Cifolelli.
Cohen, Mark Daniel.

The most extraordinary and compelling mood in the exhibition may be in Tribute — Cifolelli’s one dark vision and a work done in memory of the September 11 tragedy at the World Trade Center. As an image, it is simple: two floral bouquets stood before a vaguely rendered cityscape. But as an artistic imagining of orchestrated mood, it is stunning. The detonation of color — like gems set in darkness, shimmering in a near void — is like a cracking of the heart. The purity of mood here is a purity of pathos.
Cohen, Mark Daniel.

This the feeling of tragedy: it is the beauty of heartbreak, and the heartbreak of beauty, for true beauty is never without a central sadness. It is a crucial accomplishment, for oddly, there is little tragic art in our time, and ours is a time of tragedy. Not just of calamity, but of tragedy — of wreckage that comes and feels inescapable, as if it were the will of the gods. It is strange that contemporary artists have been slow to pick this up. It is the challenge of the moment. But then, perhaps it is not so strange, for tragedy is not for the young. It requires artists of maturity and inner strength, artists of achievement, artists capable of doing what is difficult — artists like Alberta Cifolelli.
Cohen, Mark Daniel.

I expect a lousy story is nothing other than a suspended syllogism, and I know that every argument is a musical composition - you need only feel its structure. And therefore, I would humbly and inappropriately suggest what I ever suggest to myself - finish it.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "Frag/Ments Theorem." (Response to Camelia's blog) in: Blogspot. May - June 2010.

The only humiliation I know is self-betrayal, which of course does not arise with the uncompromising dedication to a purpose. And I am baffled - not in dispute but baffled - by the Menuhin posture you recount about obtaining energy from the crowd - depending on their energy as far as I can tell. I simply do not understand this kind of thinking, this kind of feeling. It eludes me utterly - I do not sense the allure of it.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "Frag/Ments Theorem." (Response to Camelia's blog) in: Blogspot. May - June 2010.

To be dependent on others for the achievement of one's own goal - to be dependent in this - and what then has one discovered, and what has one to offer as a gift, for that matter? What good is one to oneself, or to anyone else if that becomes the issue - where is the generosity in that? Not to show people how to climb a mountain but to give them the chance to go there with you. Am I missing something here? Sounds strangely similar, to adopt someone else's form of thought, to giving someone a fish rather than teaching him how to fish. A further failure. But then - I study Nietzsche far more than I adopt him - or anyone else in fact - but if ever he was indispensable, it was in this: "Neither rule nor obey" - and there is something of both in this.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "Frag/Ments Theorem." (Response to Camelia's blog) in: Blogspot. May - June 2010.

My mission, my real work, is poetry - as I understand poetry, which is very English language, very traditional, very Shakespearean in sound and technique. It is also very Beckett, I believe - there are perhaps a thousand ways to go about explaining this, which means I shouldn't try, so I'll save that for another time - reading it is the most explanatory.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "Frag/Ments Theorem." (Response to Camelia's blog) in: Blogspot. May - June 2010.

If the purpose of art is to punish its palms against the doors of perception, then a rail is wanted to channel, past every possibility of ingress, to corridor the revelation around the faults of nothing more than madness, to guide it down the braiding line to something of the truth.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "Introduction: Changing the Geometry of Thought." in: Hyperion. 2010. (English).

It is not an inclination towards rationality over feelings, for reason can wind as feverish and frenzied as the more familiar, no more frequent rages of affection. It is rather a rigor for the mind, a necessary discipline to deter us in our urge to the insanity of unending self-delusion, to patronize ourselves, to pander every thought to our constant desire for blandishment and commiseration, and to head the intellect, untrusting of the ballast of common observation, around the drop zones of nothing but psychology.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "Introduction: Changing the Geometry of Thought." in: Hyperion. 2010. (English).

The heart of the thought, and thus the heart of the scientific view, is that the truth of things is as they are understood from the outside, not from within, the truth of them is not how they appear to be unto themselves but how they comport with the systematics of a larger reality—not as they are appreciated, but as they are conceived. It is as much as to move (as once we needed to) from the view that physical laws are comparable to human statutes to the realization that they are nothing related. (Only one requests obedience; planets do not choose their orbits.)
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "Introduction: Changing the Geometry of Thought." in: Hyperion. 2010. (English).

The more direct attempt to escape from the provinciality of our perspective—to elude not merely the Ptolemaic system but the human-centered viewpoint, the appearance of the world that the positioning and functioning of our sense organs compels it to possess—was conducted probably first by Helmholtz in his mathematical and scientific investigation into Kant’s Transcendental Idealism, his attempt to determine how our sense organs and our minds construct the space, time, and causal relations we perceive and, from that, infer what we can say about the raw material they begin with—what the world is like apart from our perception of it.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "Introduction: Changing the Geometry of Thought." in: Hyperion. 2010. (English).

It was thoroughly evident to Helmholtz, for one, that alternate geometries, such as n-dimensional geometry and non-Euclidean geometry, would be impossible to perceive if they were the pattern of our world—space must appear flat to us, not simply because we mentally, or even physiologically, construct it that way, but because the physics our perceptual apparatus obey force the illusion. If space were curved, light would curve with it, and our eyes still would seem to track the light back along an apparent straight line, as we now know does in fact happen.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "Introduction: Changing the Geometry of Thought." in: Hyperion. 2010. (English).

Objects appear to be, as they self-evidently must, directly behind the point at which the light from them hits our eyes, even if the object is somewhere very else and the light bent with space on its way to us so as to hit our eyes as it does. Far more simply—light is appearance.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "Introduction: Changing the Geometry of Thought." in: Hyperion. 2010. (English).

One can strike hard and deep, and not make a dent. One can aim true and drum up falsities for every move one commits—for every truth one has voiced, or sung, or carved. One can dedicate a life to blowing the dust from piling estimates of dulling wits and be greeted at every turn by nothing but the nullity of the dead eye and the soundlessness of the mincing ear. One can clarion the foment of insight and be handed only the fearful yawn of the vacuum of marketplace thought and the haggle of pedestrian value.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "The Form of Feeling: Raoul Hague: Selected Sculptures 1962 – 1975." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 4, December 2008. (English).

The absence of guarantee is the expenditure we commenced from the start, for it is the toll at the gates of freedom. There is no one to insure our outcomes, and no expenses we can pay that reserve our due, for nothing is owed us, and no one would save us who would not control us. And if we feel we have been assured of our success, it was a self-assurance, and hushed in a false breath.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "The Form of Feeling: Raoul Hague: Selected Sculptures 1962 – 1975." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 4, December 2008. (English).

There have been artists of all periods, no doubt, and most to the point, for we know the victims, ours who have been overlooked, who have committed works of extraordinary accomplishment, who have fulfilled the demands of both their personal visions and the requirements of the general acknowledgement of the vocation and have suffered ignorance and the barbaric disregard of simple inattention. And that is to say that, in all likelihood, we bury many of our Michelangelos, our Shakespeares, our Beethovens, unknown. There is a stubborn, ill-mannered obliviousness of appreciation that the manners of keenest vision accrue—the redemption for their volunteerism to Herculean labor.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "The Form of Feeling: Raoul Hague: Selected Sculptures 1962 – 1975." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 4, December 2008. (English).

Artistic reputations are made, and the histories of art are written, by dint of marketing, promotion, and self-promotion.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "The Form of Feeling: Raoul Hague: Selected Sculptures 1962 – 1975." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 4, December 2008. (English).

We examine what has been put before us, what has been previously portioned out, and what has been chosen is what the art market throws up, what someone at some point has placed his money on. Because our attention is curtailed, regardless of what we dismiss, whatever we applaud almost invariably is what someone has shown us for the sake of his bet. And to say anything, or nothing, is to work for him or for one of his competitors.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "The Form of Feeling: Raoul Hague: Selected Sculptures 1962 – 1975." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 4, December 2008. (English).

One Sunday afternoon not long ago, I saw a fish in that pool raise itself to an astonishment. At a time when the waterfall fell, a marble white fish covered with alabaster orange spots swam directly under the churning plash. It hovered there for a moment, then drew itself up and lifted its head out of the water to bathe in the air under the glistening spell of the spilling shower. Like a transformative figment of legend, the fish entered the air to feel the cleansing of the falling of water.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "The World of Scholars’ Rocks." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 4, December 2008. (English).

The scholar’s retreat is like a fairy tale kingdom.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "The World of Scholars’ Rocks." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 4, December 2008. (English).

It is a place I have visited for years, a place of relief and enthusiasm and restorative charms. It is a magical place, in which lost chances seem to return and impossibilities appear to be likely. And it is also something else. It is a place most appropriate for study and thought, and for following the bread crumb trail of the mind. It is a place for the magical appearance of inklings and implications, for unsuspected notions arriving unbidden, where secret thoughts dart and levitate, as if another and a better mind had preceded you there.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "The World of Scholars’ Rocks." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 4, December 2008. (English).

Study is meet for the scholar’s garden, for study is a descent into the mind, and the depths of the mind are where magic transpires.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "The World of Scholars’ Rocks." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 4, December 2008. (English).

This is an impression that comes all the more clearly from the examples of the rocks themselves, which are clearly the core of the exhibition. They possess an immediacy of fascination, a beckoning fluidity that seeks through their cavities and ingresses, their recessions and permeations that seem to hold within them suggestions and soft impressions that will flow forth only given the most delicate of pressures, only given the gentlest of touches that can brought by the inquiry of the eye and the hovering instigation of the most fleeting of thoughts—a touch as gentle as a whisper.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "The World of Scholars’ Rocks." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 4, December 2008. (English).

Obviously, there is something perilous in the drawing of inferences and the propounding of responses to art from a foreign tradition. No one but a resident of the culture from which an artistic genre originates—the cultural milieu in which it was created and by which it was nurtured and within which it took its meanings and granted its indigenous reactions—can possibly understand the intrinsic nature of such works.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "The World of Scholars’ Rocks." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 4, December 2008. (English).

That passion infuses the mind which beholds it. The tenor of the movement of the stone carries to the imagination, for the movement of water is keyed to a movement of the mind, a motion re-invoked by the vision of the scholars’ rocks. It is the movement of reverie, of the easy chasing of the mind after the phantoms of its own making, a pursuit like the pleasure of water following itself—a natural motion, for the mind is a natural thing. The mind fabricates and forces within the world of its own making, within the world of its own visions, but within the natural world itself, the mind is an object of nature, as natural as a cloud, as a waterfall, as a fish seeking air, as a moisture-invested rock. In its every gesture, its every investment, the mind dreams in a pleasure of reverie, discovering what is unexpected, finding magic around the edge of every stone.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "The World of Scholars’ Rocks." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 4, December 2008. (English).

The aesthetic may be difficult to define, it may be ultimately impossible to specify and may elude forever our efforts to theorize it. But it is a fact that we pursue, a stable reality that we may harken toward or dismiss, and if artists turn away from what such scholars found in these rocks, then they turn away from art itself. And artists may do so, for art is hard. It is hard for art is everywhere about us, and what is all about us is what is hardest to find. But to falter in the face of the difficult is not to deny it, it is merely to avoid it.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "The World of Scholars’ Rocks." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 4, December 2008. (English).

What we see when that is what we see is merely us, reflected. And we impute intent, an attitude, a purpose, a role in the drama through which we live, the drama we invent to understand ourselves as alive, imbue it all with import of significance to our lives—with “meaning,” as if it meant something in our regard—with ramifications for us, as we become the measure of all things. In all we see, we inject implications of hope and despair, possibility and frustration, promise and denial, optimism and dejection—judgment and judgment. But none of it is real. It is merely us: alone and fearful that we are alone, incapable of perceiving that there is nothing like us other than us, and that our uniqueness signifies nothing. Beyond our inner lives, it is just a stockpiling of facts.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "The Plummet-Measured Face: Ronald Bladen: Sculpture of the 1960s & 1970s." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 4, December 2008. (English).

Much of art has gathered its power and applied its effect through anthropomorphization—through treating that which is inanimate as alive and that which is not human as like the human. Literature in particular distinguishes figurative writing from the purely and dryly descriptive through the application of human attributes to that which does not possess them—it is where much of the imagination in the composition goes.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "The Plummet-Measured Face: Ronald Bladen: Sculpture of the 1960s & 1970s." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 4, December 2008. (English).

For in the end, Phenomenology is of necessity a subspecies of Idealism.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "The Plummet-Measured Face: Ronald Bladen: Sculpture of the 1960s & 1970s." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 4, December 2008. (English).

To assert a fact is rather to assert the assertion of a fact, nothing more can be inferred, and so there is no truth, which by sleight of intellectual hand becomes again ontological at the last moment, in order to be denied.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "The Plummet-Measured Face: Ronald Bladen: Sculpture of the 1960s & 1970s." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 4, December 2008. (English).

It is the quality of moment, as if each of these works had selected the perfect millisecond in a continuously changing action to represent the action in its essence—despite the fact that these are abstract works, works of pure geometric form and not representations of figures in identifiable actions. The principle of the perfect moment applies to figurative work, and most notably, potently, Michelangelo—to select the moment that embodies the intention and meaning of the action represented.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "The Plummet-Measured Face: Ronald Bladen: Sculpture of the 1960s & 1970s." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 4, December 2008. (English).

The nearly figurative, the gestural, is how Bladen often is taken.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "The Plummet-Measured Face: Ronald Bladen: Sculpture of the 1960s & 1970s." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 4, December 2008. (English).

But it is not this we are provoked to see, not when these works are taken at their best—the way we ought to take all works of art—seen for what they might be claimed to disclose, what they might spontaneously reveal, regardless of what has been said of them, even by the artist. The challenge they present is to see in their atmosphere of moment, of presence, something that is not figurative, not human (at least not the normally human), not us (or at least what we think we are). The challenge is not to “overwrite” the works by seeing figures that are not there, just as Sontag warned us not to overwrite works of any art, of any mode, with interpretations designed to install our own intended meanings in place of those of the artist.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "The Plummet-Measured Face: Ronald Bladen: Sculpture of the 1960s & 1970s." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 4, December 2008. (English).

The decorum is genius, and it is the ultimate protocol of incomparability. It is the principle of the inhuman—or if one likes, the uncanny—for it has nothing in common with any of the defining characteristics of the human. One could well think that such as Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Beethoven do what others are capable of, only better, immeasurably better, but an element is omitted from the formula, the result is a mere compound, and the quiddity has been missed. There is more to this than a difference of degree so extreme that it amounts to a difference in kind. There is something further, something of the essence without which nothing of genius would appear to be genius and would indicate the essential nature of genius. There is something beyond these considerations that is unlike all else.
Cohen, Mark Daviel. "Michelangelo: A Rage to Create." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 3, June 2008. (English).

Genius does not solve problems, it does not answer questions, it does not devise ideas, for problems are mere symptoms, questions are simply mice, and ideas are only splinters.
Cohen, Mark Daviel. "Michelangelo: A Rage to Create." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 3, June 2008. (English).

Genius knows nothing of these fragments, these piecemeals. Its curiosity is global, its grasp is comprehensive, its reach unimpeded by self-restraint, by self-doubt, by self-perpetuating inability. It does not address—it steps back and transforms. It does not inch; it hurtles. It takes every opportunity for discovery as an impetus to reconceive the world—as the chance to begin again. It takes all it receives of past advances as material for a completely new conception, as moments of insight that require a return to zero in order to deliver their promise. Genius deals only in axioms, never in theorems. It accepts nothing that was seen before, and uses everything that was previously known. It is intrinsically universal, for it thinks only in terms of the universe. Which is to say there is a sense in which genius creates, and it creates always in works of art, for, regardless of its field of endeavor, it deals only in comprehensive conceptions. Its works are worlds unto themselves—they are complete and self-contained acts of imagination.
Cohen, Mark Daviel. "Michelangelo: A Rage to Create." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 3, June 2008. (English).

Genius takes no companions, even when it desires them—it has no choice but to renege human society.
Cohen, Mark Daviel. "Michelangelo: A Rage to Create." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 3, June 2008. (English).

Genius thirsts for no ease and takes no rewards in rest. It has no investment in happiness, for the tirelessness of its dedication is to the final degree of fulfillment: self-completion. It seeks only to become what it is.
Cohen, Mark Daviel. "Michelangelo: A Rage to Create." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 3, June 2008. (English).

It may well be that it is genius that takes us, and not art, for if the extraordinary is the matter, it is genius that is the essential category, and not art.
Cohen, Mark Daviel. "Michelangelo: A Rage to Create." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 3, June 2008. (English).

Art was merely one of the repositories where we once reliably found it, and nothing more, and all of aesthetics was the analysis, more accurately, of power of mind, and the Dionysian is what genius does.
Cohen, Mark Daviel. "Michelangelo: A Rage to Create." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 3, June 2008. (English).

It is of course impossible to estimate the curatorial contention from the material presented. There was no comparison, or possibility of comparison, of the disegno with the frescos to which they contributed, and in more cases than not, the drawings were not those that made the contribution, for in many cases, the artists were not those who made the contributions. It is argued in the press materials that all the artists in the exhibition contributed works to the Palazzo Vecchio, at one time or another, which is a somewhat different contention from the stated purpose.
Cohen, Mark Daviel. "Michelangelo: A Rage to Create." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 3, June 2008. (English).

The purpose of observations such as these is not to trash reputations or to be dazzled into unknowing and substitute breathlessness for some measure of understanding. It is rather to observe the staggered nature of achievement and to note the internal consistency of capability—more to the point, the internal consistency of conception, of vision, of imagination. There is an identifying stamp to the work of any artist, and any thinker, a manner of formulation, a style, and it is fractal—it is seen complete in every piece and portion of the conceiver’s work.
Cohen, Mark Daviel. "Michelangelo: A Rage to Create." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 3, June 2008. (English).

It is the principle of the quality and the caliber of the idea applied, and it is a principle of mind, for it is distinct as the mind that is brought to bear on the generation of the idea, and is as written into the idea as is that which the idea concerns.
Cohen, Mark Daviel. "Michelangelo: A Rage to Create." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 3, June 2008. (English).

This is why such observations matter. For what is at issue is not the quality of the reproduction but the integrity of the form. It is not the accuracy of appearances represented that is of significance in drawing, but the specificity and comprehensiveness of the form created. For the form is the idea, the thing foreseen and then committed, and the integrity of form is the result of and remark upon the clarity of inner vision and of the following through of implication.
Cohen, Mark Daviel. "Michelangelo: A Rage to Create." in: Hyperion. Vol. 3, No. 3, June 2008. (English).

The thought is the heart of the history of thought, and the history of thought is but the hovering of a thought. There is no progress of thought but to the diversions from the thought.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "The Century of Beckett." in: Hyperion. Vol. 2, No. 1, February 2007. (English).

There comes a point for some artists, there comes a point for some thinkers (for here it amounts to the same thing) when one wishes to take on not merely subjects that provide the opportunity or the excuse for committing art or subjects for which one feels a particular personal interest (for here it amounts to the same thing), but instead one wishes to take on the subject of the most dire import, the subject that is compelled by its intrinsic imperatives, the subject that puts its stamp upon personal viewpoint, that defines the artist and is not defined by the artist, the subject that forces its place as the central human concern. There comes a point for some at which one does what must be done—one does what one has no choice but to do.
Cohen, Mark Daniel. "The Century of Beckett." in: Hyperion. Vol. 2, No. 1, February 2007. (English).