Further Deepening the 'Natural Imagination'

1   b   c   d   e

Latent imagery of form
It is significant that, to Stokes, each of these two psychological 'positions' is charged, at the time of our first exposure to them, with emotional drama. The security (enjoyed in the position of Envelopment is destroyed by the exposure of Detachment: and out of this conflict there is said to follow a whole scenario of frustration, aggression and remorse. Furthermore, it is claimed by this school of psychoanalysis that the process by which the infant repairs the psychological damage caused by aggression and re-builds a figure of balance and self-confidence is both the beginning of objectivity and the source of all creativity.6

These ideas certainly help to suggest a possible source for the otherwise unexplained intensity of emotion underlying the experiences that we are seeking to explore. And in Stokes' Greek Culture and the Ego he further develops this interpretation to claim that through this sublimation of aggression and through the ability of the artist to tolerate extreme experience of 'otherness' he is able to project in his work a concrete image of wholeness and balance to which Stokes assigns the title of 'Ego-figure'. 'I see it,' he writes, 'as an epitome of balance or stable corporeality, more concrete, more object-seeming, than any image of what is called the personality' . . . 'a witness of the ego's power to project a good image of its own balance that incorporates under this figure a symposium of meanings, many of which would else have suffered envelopment by one meaning'7 'In regard to human constructions, ugliness, badness as such, is not most feared, but emptiness, that is to say, lack of identity, lack of focus, promoting a feeling of unreality as may be transmitted, for instance, by an illproportioned flashy apartment yet designed, it seems, to banish space and time and so the sense of any function to be performed there. A crack in the plaster would be a relief. The squalid, the ugly, do not necessarily lend themselves to this numbing sense of unreality, deeply feared as proclaiming lack of relation, disintegration, the undoing of the ego-figure.'8

Clearly there are profound implications in ascribing to art such a fundamental role in establishing for each culture its form of stability, the images of reconciled conflict and integration that strive to make us, in Hegel's phrase 'Einhausung'--at home in the world. What is remarkable in this thesis is the claim that the concept of contradiction introduced here is grounded not just in aesthetics but in the resolution of certain subconscious dispositions of primary importance.

At this point, it is as well to recall that this essay set out to account for the emotion provoked by such ostensibly innocent experiences as the ascent of the staircase in the portico of the Altes Museum in Berlin, an emotion whose strength could not be accounted for at the level of the manifest evidence. It is presumably therefore not unreasonable to assume, in conventional psycho-analytical terms, that those manifest forms carry a significant charge of latent subject matter.

I think that it is to this tension below the aesthetic surface that Stokes alludes when he talks about the paintings of Piero and Cézanne in terms of the 'image in form' as distinct from the 'imagery of the subject-matter'. In other words there is an archetypal story latent in these conflicting form themselves which has nothing to do with the story-telling of conventional anecdotes. And here once more we see Stokes' great originality. For Freud and all the other writers (except perhaps Kris and Ehrenzweig) who have brought psycho-analysis to bear upon art have exercised themselves mightily with interpretation of the anecdotal subject matter where Stokes, truer to the nature of the art, has read the inseparable message woven into the form itself. 'Formal relationships themselves entail a representation of imagery of their own though these likenesses are not as explicit as the image we obtain from what we call the subject matter.'9 Form itself takes on the property of being a code and thereby becomes deep content: in architecture as in painting.

It is worthwhile, at this point, to look again at the introductory quotations of Aalto and Le Corbusier.

'The newest phase of architecture tries to project rational methods from the technical field out to human and psychological fields.' - Aalto

'physical-subjective facts which exist because the human organism is as it is'
- Le Corbusier

Both architects emphasize the effect of the corporal on architectural aesthetics.

In the theory of chronosomatics the body represents the entire scope of humanity's past and future history, thus, it is the ultimate symbol, the ultimate bearer of meaning. Based on this premise, it then follows logically that the operations of the mind and the workings of the human imagination originate corporeally. Like the body and its physiological functions, the mind can be fertile as well as assimilating, pregnant and at the same time destroying while it creates, endeavor to find all things equal, and, even experience enlightenment. The only thing that sets the mind apart from the rest of the body is the super high frequency with which the mind can manage all these operations at the same time.

Artistic condensation
What this mechanism is doing precisely is to resolve a contradiction: and this it does not by logic but by the forms of condensation that are possible to art. 'A pervasive theme embodies more than one unity: each formal quality has further function in the pulsation of the whole. A doubling of roles characterises the masterpiece by which we experience the sensation of having the cake and yet eating it. Form harmonises the contradiction: it is the setting for the evocative ambiguities, for the associative collusion, of imagery.'10

William Empson has exposed certain aspects of the workings of this resolution in terms of types of ambiguity, demonstrating that the moments of greatest poetic intensity gather around points of ambiguity and thereby confirming once more the inseparability of form from latent content. The distinction between manifest and latent content is, of course, borrowed from Freud's interpretation of dreams: and it was Freud who pointed out that the treatment in dreams of the category of contradiction is simply 'to reduce two opposites to a unity or to represent them as one thing'.11

The analogy with dreams raises another question: for there the translation or coding of the latent content into the more innocent form of manifest content is an evasion carried out on material which the mind has censored. So we must ask if it is in the nature of the work of architecture to deal in censored material.

I believe that this is so and that it is precisely the quality of those works about which Stokes writes most eloquently (of Romanesque architecture, of Piero, Alberti, Laurana, Palladio and Michelangelo) that the 'distance' between the patently ordered surface and the deep laid phantasy beneath is directly proportional to the haunting power that these works possess. 'Architecture, the more abstract of the visual arts, can afford to dignify those experiences with less disguise.'12

And what stirs most deeply in the latent imagery of architectural forms is the memory of the human body.

It is a marked property of the art most loved by Stokes that architecture and the human figure were linked as the supreme metaphors in a code through which all that is most urgent in human conflict and its resolution could be represented--the 'body-figure', Michelangelo's sole metaphor not only in sculpture and painting but also in architecture.

The code acts so directly and vividly upon us because it is strangely familiar. It is in fact the first language we learned, long before words; for it is that body of sensations and appetites and responses experienced by the infant in passing through the two polar 'positions'.
Such body-images must have been the only metaphors available to the infant in its projection of phantasies and from this conjunction must have gained a yet greater emotional charge. It is a language drawn from a wide range of sensual and spatial experience, of rough and smooth, warm and cold; of being above or under, inside, outside or in-between, exposed or enveloped. But then it is intrinsically these sensations that are the primary vehicle for architectural experience.

So that the very language in which these early and dramatic conflicts are being experienced by the infant is precisely the language in which throughout the rest of our lives we experience and interpret architecture.

It is of the essence of this body-language that it engages the whole sensorium; we hear space, we can smell it and in Louis Kahn's vivid phrase 'to see is only to touch more accurately'.

Literature bears witness here and there to this body language. Baudelaire pointed to a fusion of all the senses that speak to each other like the mingling of echoes from afar that blend into profound unison:

'Comme de longs échos qui de loin se confondent,
Dans une tenebreuse et profonde unité,
Vaste comme la nuit et comme la clarté,
Les parfums, les couleurs et las sons se répondent.'

When Proust, to avoid an oncoming vehicle, steps back on to uneven flagstones the memory of the uneven levels of the floor of St. Mark's in Venice instantly floods into his mind. But it is in Wordsworth above all that we find intuitions of a pre-verbal language of the senses that yet taps the roots of the imagination. Furthermore this 'dim and undetermined sense of unknown modes of being' is also related back to the experience of infancy.

"In simple osmosis the driving force is the 'escaping tendency' of the solvent; when these forces are unequal on the two sides of a semipermeable membrane solvent molecules move in such a way as to establish equilibrium."
Merkel Henry Jacobs, "Osmosis" in Encyclopedia Britannica (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1969), vol. XVI, p. 1141.

equilibrium 1: a state of balance between or among opposing forces or processes resulting in the acceleration or the absence of net change: as 1b: a state of dymanic balance attained in a reversible chemical reaction when the velocities in both directions are equal 1e: a state of a system where no spontaneous change can take place, the temperature and pressure being the same throughout 2a: a state of adjustment between or among opposing or divergent elements 2d: a state of society characterized by a balance of antagonistic or noncomplementary elements (as attitudes, sentiments, and associations) and the stable operation of a common system of social norms 3: BALANCE.

'Those hallowed and pure notions of the sense
Which seem, in their simplicity, to own
An intellectual charm: that calm delight
Which, if I err not, must belong
To these first-born affinities that fit
Our new existence to existing things.'

In his pursuit of the body metaphor Stokes is careful to disclaim any attempt 'to anthropomorphise building in a literal sense. It would be indeed destructive to the architectural significance.'15 Instead he is concerned to elicit 'the feel of a body surviving in a remote transportation.'16 in 'which architectural forms are a language confined to the joining of a few ideographs of immense ramification'.17

It is of course the very essence of the Humanist interpretation of Classical Antiquity that idealisation of the human body, like a mandala, contain the key to the fundamental order of the Universe. In our own time, the Modulor of Le Corbusier is an attempt to win back some of this long-lost aura. And the most extraordinary demonstration of this ''remote transportation' is in the paintings of Picasso where the iconic power of the body image defies the very violence of its abstraction: behind the most extreme distortion we still sense the human body in all its wholeness and self-sufficiency.

The Diagram of Circle/Square Junctures

The diagram first appears in an analysis inspired by Sabastiano Serlio's first Book on Architecture: Geometry.

The diagram was subsequently compared with da Vinci's Vitruvian Man.

And then found to be apparent within art, architecture, and even the immediate cosmos.

Ultimately, the diagram of circle/square junctures was incorporated into The Timepiece of Humanity, the Calendar Incarnate.

The diagram below demonstrates how the circle/square juncture diagram also coincides with the human body's principle physiological regions.

super high frequency

osmosis &






Quondam © 2016.11.20