Monday, November 23, 2009

Sri Aurobindo thought Ravi Varma’s use of realistic style was like using the cast off clothes of the west

pareltank Sunday, November 22, 2009 Of Mallus, Bongs, Van Gogh and Don Mcleans

I remember being very angry with Sri Aurobondo for ridiculing Raja Ravi Varma who was my hero because he, Ravi Varma, was a mallu. Mr. Aurobindo thought Ravi Varma’s use of realistic style was like using the cast off clothes of the west! The western artists had already graduated from the realistic to impressionistic.

I found umpteen numbers of explanations which smacked of ignorance and parochialism and the fire of youth to explain away Mr. Aurobindo’s take. He was a bong, I once argued heatedly with my friend during a seminar, when Mr. Aurobindo’s article came up for discussion. Bongs think that only what they have adopted from the west are worth it, I snapped. They behave as tho the rest of India has no right to appropriate anything of the west, I snarled. And they claim to be the seat of the renaissance in India during India’s miserable colonial days - the ones who lit the lamp of creativity in the Indian soul darkened and skewed by centuries of colonial subjugation. I’d have none of it, no matter what Mr. Aurobindo said.

I argued that Bengal’s creativity smacked of slavishness and slavery, for Calcutta was the seat of the Company and the Empire for long years. I remember the lecturer intervening at that point and asking both of us (my rival, by the way, was not a bong but a tambram who was just trying to needle the usually silent-as-death mallu that was me) to shut up as neither of us knew anything of what we were talking - one more uninformed than the other, she fumed !

Needless to say, I later felt ashamed of my unusually vocal performance, but I justified myself to myself on the grounds that this mallu needling had gone too far this time! Posted by kochuthresiamma p .j at 3:47 PM Labels: , ,

Friday, October 09, 2009

Partha Mitter has completed his trilogy on Indian art

Based in Oxford, noted art historian Partha Mitter has completed the third part of his trilogy on Indian art. He spoke with Romain Maitra about modernist and contemporary Indian art:

What were the main features or tendencies of modernism in Indian art during pre-independent period?

By the modernism, I mean the particular discourse of the avant-garde that arose in the West and then spread globally (in literature, for instance, Eliot, Proust or Joyce; in music, the dissonance of Schoenberg, Stravinsky or Bartok; in art, cubism, surrealism or expressionism), representing rebellion against classical taste. Its nature and inflections changed radically outside the West.

In India, even though Gaganendranath used the syntax of cubism to construct his fairy-tale world, far more significant was the primitivist tendency. It was a form of critical modernity that challenged capitalist urban modernity which lay at the base of colonial empires.

What was avant-garde in the works of India’s artists during that time?

Gaganendranath’s poetic cubism brought a new era of modernism in India. However, from the naive art of Sunayani Devi to Amrita Sher-Gil’s melancholic images of peasants, Rabindranath Tagore’s animals, masks and other compositions, and Jamini Roy’s creation of a new collective art that repudiated the ‘aura’ of a work of art and artistic genius, as well as the art teaching of Nandalal that led to Benodebehari Mukherjee’s moving representations of common folk and Ram Kinkar’s heroic image of the Santhals — all these went against the historical and nationalist allegories of the previous gene-ration and were self-consciously avant-garde and radical.

Does contemporary Indian art have any real appeal in the mainstream artistic appreciation in the West?

Let us not forget that most of the enormously expensive paintings are bought by the NRIs. Even today apart from a few open-minded art critics and historians in the West most are indifferent to what goes on outside New York, Paris and London art markets. This situation can only change from constantly scrutinising the underlying assumptions of western modernism.

Please comment on M F Husain’s paintings which have generated fundamentalist reactions.

Husain is not anti-Hindu. On the contrary, he is one of the few who constantly engages with Hindu mythology with bold imagination and creativity. Hindu deities have been depicted in the nude and semi-nude since at least the 2nd century AD and similarly in the texts their physical descriptions are explicit. This is because in Hindu tradition, there is a constant intermingling of sacred and profane love and the erotic has never been denied.

Unfortunately, during the colonial period we imported Victorian prudery and now seem to be thriving on it. Finally, Husain’s depictions of Hindu goddesses are hardly erotic.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Bratin Khan has embraced Sri Aurobindo's famous speech to be his inspiration

Finding the soul within - "Home > Lifestyle > Report
Sujata Chakrabarti DNA ednesday, September 30, 2009 23:59 IST Mumbai:
Kolkata-based artist Bratin Khan has embraced Sri Aurobindo's famous speech to be his inspiration. This memorable historical event that took place in the pre-independence era was epoch-making.It was one of the most significant speeches in the revolutionary turned spiritual leader's lifetime. The speech -- his first after his release from the Alipore Jail in Kolkata -- announced his exit from the ongoing revolutionary freedom movement.
Khan says, 'Unlike Sri Aurobindo's regular speeches, this one was non-political and announced his adoption of the sanatan dharma that propagated that every object had a soul within.' ... His show In A Silent Way is on view at the Point of View art gallery in Colaba.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Presentation-cum-interactive display on Tribal Art by Lokesh Khetan

Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts
Schedule of Programmes September 2009

1. 3rd September, 2009 (5.30pm) Illustrated talk by Prof. Adam Hardy on “Temples, Templates, Texts : making monuments in medieval India” K.D. Main Exhibition Hall, Ground Floor, 11, Mansingh Road
2. 4th to 13th September, 2009 Veena Navarathri & Viswa Veena Yagna (Shri V. Raghurama Ayyar) K.D. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai
3. 8th September, 2009 (6.00pm) Seminar in collaboration with Bharat Soka Gakkai on Dr. Daisaku Ikeda’s 2009 Peace Proposal titled “Toward Humanitarian Competition : A New Current in History” J.S. Main exhibition hall & ground floor Kalakosa building
4. 8th September, 2009 (4.00pm) Lecture by Prof. P.S. Filliozat on “The Heart of the Temple according to Saiva Siddhanta” K.K. NMM Hall, 3rd floor, 11, Mansingh Road
5. 9th September, 2009 (4.00pm) Lecture by Prof. Vasundhara Filliozat on “Musicality and Dance in Kannada epigraphs of 12th & 13th centuries” K.K. NMM Hall, 3rd floor, 11, Mansingh Road
6. 10th September to 15th September, 2009 (10.00am to 8.00pm) Documentation of Bharai Ramakatha J.S. Stage, 3, Dr. R.P. Road
7. 15th September, 2009 Presentation-cum-interactive display on Tribal Art by Shri Lokesh Khetan K.D. Auditorium, Media Centre, No.3, Dr. R.P. Road
8. 24th September-20th October, 2009 11:00AM Exhibition on “Monasteries of Rinchen Zango” in collaboration with Shri Benoy K. Behl K.D. Exhibition Hall, Ground floor 11, Mansingh Road
9. 25th September, 2009 4.00pm Tattvabodha Lecture NMM NMM’s Hall, 3rd Floor, 11, Mansingh Road Schedule subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances: For details contact: 011 - 23388341 [ Home Search Contact Us Index ]

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dharmesh Jadeja, calligraphist and architect lives in Auroville

Home > Lifestyle > Indian calligraphy makes a mark
Riddhi Doshi DNA Sunday, August 9, 2009 23:59 IST Calligraphist Dharmesh Jadeja who has been exploring his art for the last 20 years has been invited by the University of Sunderland to talk about his subject. Mumbai:

Dharmesh Jadeja, a calligraphist and architect who lives in Auroville is the first artist of his ilk to be invited to be a part of the residency at the University of Sunderland in the United Kingdom. The university's faculty of design, media and culture has an International Centre for Research in Calligraphy where which has been exploring the links between the different cultures and researching deeper insights in to the calligraphy traditions of different cultures. It is mainly run by two Your browser may not support display of this image. well-known calligraphers and researchers in Europe, Ewan Clayton and Manny Ling. [...]

Dharmesh concentrates on the letter forms, their combinations, formation, and structure and explores the ideas behind the forms of ancient Indian letters, in particular, the Devanagari script. He explains, "I have worked on the beauty of these forms for many years, exploring the relation of the phonetic traditions with the written traditions among other things."

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Spellbound expressions of Rasa have been truthfully bought out by Sangeeta Dash

Photo Exhibition of Indian Classical Dance forms
by Dr. Susil Pani, Sri Geetagovinda Pratisthana, Puducherry
7th - 30th March, 2009
at the art gallery of DakshinaChitra

The photo exhibit on Indian classical dances begins with Shiva and Parvati in Ardhanarieswara in Odissi style, denoting that the manifest (Parvati) and the unmanifest (Shiva) are one and can not be separated. Next to it is Shiva in his supreme Ananda Tandava Murti, again in Odissi, Shiva as Nataraja is the cosmic dancer and is the source of all art forms including all dance, theater, music poetry, painting etc. A brief write-up about Nataraja inspires the viewer at the entrance of the exhibition hall. As soon as one enters inside the rasika is invited by an offering of pushpanjali (flower offering) by Sangeeta Dash to Shakti (Durga) without whom even Shiva can not manifest.

The artist tries to immerse the rasika into the RASA of life with a splendid presentation of Navarasa, the nine rasa with a brief description of each rasa. The spellbound expressions of Rasa have been truthfully bought out by none other than Sangeeta Dash, foremost Odissi dancer. The Odissi section continues with a rare presentation of Bhramari, again by Sangeeta Dash, frozen in eternity by the artist (usually seen and easily captured in Kathak but never yet presented in Odissi) Sangeeta Dash's dedication and personal care to details even for her students are beautifully captured in two photos she is seen doing makeup for a little girl. Sonal Mansingh is seen at the end of the Odissi section in classic sculpturesque posture. At the beginning of each section a very brief description of the style of Indian classical dance is well written for the lay person.

The next series on Bharatanatyam is complete in itself with Shiva in Ananda Tandava, a beautiful child artist in classic posture, Chitra Visweswaran as Sakhi of Radha trying to persuade her to go to Krishna for Rasakrida is also seen.

Radha forms and symbolizes 'Complete Surrender' to her lord, the lord of the universe 'Sri Krishna' which forms the essence of true love, is presented in three pictures of Manipuri Dance. Rani Kannam, the doyen of Kathak dance graces the exhibition by her total devotion to the Lord. Sobhana Narayanan is the leading contemporary Kathak dancer is seen as the "Abhimanaini". There are few more pictures of Kathak showing the essence of the art form both the science and the art of it as movements, Radha and Krishna, Ardhanarieswara etc.

Kuchipudi dance from Andhra Pradesh transports the viewer to different moods of love, happiness etc. The graceful dance of lord Vishnu as MOHINI has been most beautifully presented by none other than Shivaji Bharati in Mohiniattam. The last photo symbolizes that all Indian classical dances may appear to be different in costume; makeup style and presentation etc. but essentially are one, as the source is only The Divine. Three great artists Kiran Segal from Odissi, Shivaji Bharati from Mohiniattam and Shobana Narayanan from Kathak have come together in a classical dance posture at the end of the exhibit. All Indian dances are essentially spiritual in nature trying to represent the divine and its manifestations in its myriad forms. The artist has made a sincere attempt to present his own quest for Moksha in this exhibition. Home 4:36 PM

Friday, May 08, 2009

Auroville is one of the major active fulfillments of 1960s social idealism that was totally planetary-minded

Art Robert Lawlor with Christopher Bamford and Dorothea Rockburne Brooklyn Rail - New York, NY, USA
After an absence of many years, Robert Lawlor, who began as a sculptor, and whose book Sacred Geometry has had a great influence in reawakening us to the importance of geometrical principles, symmetries, and proportions—not only for art and architecture but also for science and consciousness studies—was recently back in New York for a few days. Dorothea Rockburne, the painter, who had come to know Robert through his work in geometry and had worked with it herself intensely, arranged a reception for him to meet a few old artist friends and others. One of these was Publisher Phong Bui. Dorothea and Phong thought Rail readers would be interested to hear what Robert had been up to. Because I have known Robert for many years, I was asked to come along and help facilitate the conversation. So, one Sunday, Phong picked us up in Manhattan and drove Dorothea, Robert, and I out to the Rail Headquarters to talk.
—Christopher Bamford

Chris Bamford: Robert, you’ve been away from America for many years, so we welcome you back. You began here, in New York, as an artist. Your life journey then took you out of that world into another, the world of ideas and spiritual exploration. You went to India. You fell in love with it, exploring it inwardly and outwardly. Finally, after many adventures, you found your way to Pondicherry, to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, where, by a stroke of destiny, you discovered the work of Hermetic Egyptologist R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz. These works revealed to you the profound geometric and metaphysical knowledge—the temple wisdom—of Ancient Egypt. You returned to the U.S. where you and your (then) wife Deborah worked tirelessly to transmit that wisdom. You both even learned French from scratch, and translated many of Schwaller’s books, including his massive masterpiece, The Temple of Man. That done, you went to Australia. You explored the indigenous world and cosmology of the aborigines. You wrote Voices of the First Day. My first question is: how do you tie all these elements together?

Robert Lawlor: I was thinking about that this morning after we talked. It made me recall sitting in the south Indian desert in a grass hut as part of an international community that was one of the major active fulfillments of 1960s social idealism. It was called Auroville and the plan was to build an international city where people could divorce themselves from their national identity and become part of a group that was totally planetary-minded. It was led by two spiritual figures: Sri Aurobindo, who had passed away in 1950, and his counterpart, known as “the Mother.” It was a highly idealistic place. By that time I had been in India about six years, and someone said to me one day, “if you stay in India very much longer, India will either absorb you or destroy you” and I didn’t feel I was ready for either one of those options. I had by that time come to know someone who had been friends with Schwaller de Lubicz, and through this contact I became aware of his work. There were only fifty copies of his major work in the world at that time, but one copy was in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Library and I was able to get it out. At the same time I was getting to know a French disciple of Sri Aurobindo and she happened to have another of the only 49 remaining copies. She loaned me that copy and there I was sitting in this avant-garde futuristic community almost compelled to translate this book. Simply to enable me to read it, Deborah and I found ourselves often cycling seven miles a day to take French lessons so we could sit there that night by candlelight trying to translate this work. This enormous cross-fertilization of traditions (such as those of Egypt and India) gave some new shape and meaning to our lives. I realized: No, I cannot live by ideals alone, I have to involve myself in ideas.

Dorothea Rockburne: That’s quite a statement.

Lawlor: Yes, it was a big realization. Until then I hadn’t realized that I was by nature a highly idealistic person, someone who threw all his energy into an enclosure of mind that might be called an idealistic tunnel. But here I was, reading Schwaller’s work—it made me aware of the difference between ideas and ideals. Both of those words, by the way, are derivative from a goddess—Dia, a female deity.

Bamford: Ideals usually come from ideas, but all-too-often those trying to bring the ideals into practice have forgotten the ideas.

Lawlor: And that becomes a big problem in the world, because then you get the evolution of ideologies, which govern religious or socio-political groups. That’s one of the reasons why it’s really important to keep the two—ideals and ideas—in contact so you know what the underlying ideas really are.

Dorothea Rockburne, “Pascal, State of Grace” (1986-87). Oil and gold leaf on gessoed linen, 6´ × 5´. ©Dorothea Rockburne. Image courtesy of the artist and Greenburg Van Doren Gallery.

Bamford: Then there is the question of doing, acting. Previously, in New York, you had been making sculpture, which is about making. Then you pursued ideals, which led you to discover ideas. When you did so, was there still a need to connect ideas to work, to making?

Lawlor: Well, in India what I had found very appealing was making village architecture—how they just cut palm leaves and bamboo shoots with mud foundations to make buildings. I thought it was so beautiful and so remarkable that every man had to make his own home. There was a whole platform of indigenous values under that. So I started making buildings with palm leaves and bamboo. I would start living in one, and then more people would come from another part of the world, and I would build another one. I had to learn how to stabilize the earth, and stabilize the leaves because there were termites. The minute you got a building up you heard munching. The houses would cave in so that people were always re-building their buildings. I worked out a way of using bitumen to make earth adobe permanent. As far as I know it works, because I saw a photograph of a wall I had made. It was still intact twenty years after I built it. The whole thing was totally an experiment, I bought drums of bitumen, I had many village men working with me and they were all covered in black tar. To make the leaves permanent I worked out a way of dipping the leaves. I was really hungry for color, so I dipped leaves in paints of various colors—thinning them with kerosene and using local pigments. Some people thought it was really gross! But in the end, I covered the land with a number of these buildings. I learned how to soak the bamboo to make curved structures.

Bamford: That’s interesting because the Schwaller de Lubicz book you discovered was not only about Egypt and geometry, but also about architecture, and, in a sense, building these little dwellings has to do with space and architecture and structure.

Lawlor: But, unfortunately, I didn’t know about proportion.

Bamford: Proportion is inherent in the creation of space.

Rockburne: Robert, last night you spoke of how you came to write the book Sacred Geometry from an experience you had at the Pondicherry library. You mentioned André Vandenbroeck, who introduced you to Schwaller.

Lawlor: André came to know Schwaller toward the end of Schwaller’s life. Later he went to Pondicherry where I met him. He started teaching me sacred geometry. André wanted to write a book [Philosophical Geometry (Inner Traditions, 1987)] on that subject. I stayed in India for four years then left and came back to the States in 1972. I met up with André again and continued to study geometry with him. It really intrigued me. It was very basic stuff. So I left the ideals to begin chasing ideas.

Bamford: Interestingly enough André too had been a painter.

Lawlor: So had Schwaller.

Bamford: Schwaller had studied with Matisse, so this link between art and number and geometry is very tight. Schwaller was also an alchemist, which is the royal art—as much of an art as a science or spiritual path. This all harks back to ancient times when art, science, and religion were one—a single gesture.

Lawlor: The other person I discovered during that period in India was the distinguished Indologist, Alan Daniélou who was a linguist, like André, and an artist. He painted, he danced, he was a musician, and at one time he was completely involved in the Parisian art world. When he got to translating Indian work, ancient Indian ideas, he also got involved in numbers.

Bamford: In this unity—of science, art, and religion—number and geometry were fundamental. They were the initiatory technology, if you would. But many people still don’t understand what number and geometry are in this initiatory sense. So I have to ask: what in this sense is sacred geometry?

Lawlor: It is an examination of the inherent laws of time and space that are embedded in the symmetry of geometric forms. I should add that as the principles of time and space are embedded in the symmetry of form—so are the principles that underlie consciousness. That is a definition that I have synthesized from the work in general. That was one of the things that Danielou pointed out in his translations of the Puranas: Indian thought is dominated by a sacred trinity—the trinity of consciousness, space, and time—and these three are bonded so that you can never really consider one separately. That idea really stuck with me: that is, in the triangulation of number we observe a genesis. One (as Unity) becomes Two (as Duality), Three (as the principle of Trinity), Four (as Manifest Reality). The triangulation of number holds the passageway of the mysteries that are embedded in form, and which move our level of awareness, our consciousness of time and space.

Bamford: So time and space really have to do with the ontological principles present in consciousness and creation, because consciousness and creation are one.

Lawlor: They are the essentials of being.

Rockburne: But back to the subject of making, what interests me about your book, Robert, as compared to other books on sacred geometry, is that pragmatically it can be used as a possible inherent structure in painting. Since sacred geometry is no longer taught in art schools, I recommend that every artist read your easy and lucid, but profound, book. Using the golden mean, if properly understood, can present an open sesame to successful work. Other books I’ve read on the subject seem only to relate to nature and natural progressions. They don’t explain its use in painting. For me that represented a huge difference. Then, too, the specific quotes you gave, such as that of Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), stating that there should be no decoration, only proportion spoke to me in the language of mathematics, a language I was seeking. Some time later I came across a book titled The Plan of St. Gall, which, as I looked into the evolution of medieval monasteries, led me to realize that many of them, especially those designed by St. Bernard, were designed as a series of acoustically resonating rooms, based on sacred geometry. When the monks sang at one end of the Abbey their voices resonated from room to room throughout the whole Abbey. I was so fascinated and moved by their discoveries that I made a work called The Plan of St. Gall based on that study.

Lawlor: It must have been my previous interest in painting. When I discovered geometry, I discovered that all painting in almost every culture, right up until the 17th Century, was involved in a geometric grid that is called a “canevas”—a previous structuring of the space in proportional units before any painting began. All Renaissance painters did this, and that was a real revelation. I had been through the whole education of arts in America and no one ever even said the word “proportion,” nor gave any indication that there was a systematic method underlying the entire history of art. And then in the 17th and 18th Centuries, it was forcibly removed from the arts. Teaching proportion in art academies in France was prohibited at that time, so there was a strange, almost conspiratorial, attack on people who had that kind of knowledge in the visual field. I don’t know who, or what their motivations were, but it’s very interesting.

Bamford: If we go back only to the Middle Ages, to medieval music, for instance, everything was proportion. Proportion was the expression of living relationships and at the same time the harmony of these relationships.

Lawlor: Living in the sense that it connected everything that is a part of man to the creation of nature and to the metaphysical. Life was defined by the connection between those levels. Once we became a material culture of industrialization we lost that knowledge.

Bamford: That, and the reality that a living proportion becomes invisible when it’s alive—it is the spiritual. When you increasingly identify it with the fixed form, the proportion itself ceases to bring life into it. Art becomes dead when it uses proportion mechanically. Proportion is a living thing: a spiritual thing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Vertical fins on the facades to block the direct sun while enabling cross ventilation

India Today Story Bricks and mortar Purvi Malhotra January 10, 2008

The hour glass moves at its pace, drifting through civilizations, dynasties, kingdoms and wars, leaving behind eternal symbols like temples, stupas, monasteries, forts and tombs. After Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic traditions came colonial influence and post independence, the legacies of Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn prevailed. In the 70s, ethnicity was the call of the hour and the 80s was the era of post modernism. “The contemporary architecture of India is an interaction between a global culture and our rich past,” says Brinda Somaya.

In the last 15 years, Indian architecture has seen a huge change in terms of trends. It has taken great leaps ahead in terms of technology, material and design. Architects have branched out to various realms like Brinda Somaya who restored the St. Thomas Church in Mumbai, Pratima Joshi plans slums in cities and Anupama Kundoo works with low energy building technologies. They are not alone. The ratio of men and women architects has increased to 60 and 40 today. Though still few in number, women architects have tried to be different rather than be typecast as ladies who lunch and occassionally do home interiors.

“India produces quality women architects but very few trend setters,” says Abha Narain Lambha, architect. Iconic architects like Zaha Hadid and Gae Aulenti are hard to find. Being a demanding profession, many women opt out due to family pressure. But these architects have gone against the tide and created a niche for themselves. [...]


Her work is slotted as contemporary vernacular, many of her projects built with low energy technologies such as water harvesting and renewable energy sources. But this aspect of Anupama Kundoo’s work emerges more from an attraction to efficiency. “My designs are not driven by the worry that the world will end, but by finding ways to make the most with what one has,” says the 40-year-old, who has been practising for 17 years.

After graduating from Sir J.J College of Architecture, Mumbai, in 1989, she found the creative options, which were to become interior designers or to produce facades of buildings without working on the interiors, either frivolous or boring. She didn’t surrender to either and headed off to travel, landing in Auroville. Some of her projects include Creativity, an attempt at an urban eco-community in 2003 in Auroville and Keystone Foundation in the Nilgiris in 2005. She describes her work as natural, without any make-up. The other area of her expertise is housing, where she recently researched tropical high-rise housing for the urban area. After working in Berlin during the building boom she got a chance to teach at the Technical University, Berlin, and Darmstadt in Hesse, in 2005.

Year 1990-1991
Concept Exploring alternatives to the regular RCC slab, out of environmental and socio-economic concerns.
Challenges There were design innovations that meant having to teach masons things I myself didn’t know, but was determined to learn along the way. Like learning how to prefabricate high quality ferro-cement panels that we had to produce on the site. These are used as vertical fins on the facades to block the direct sun while enabling cross ventilation.
Cost Rs 25 lakh for 450 sq.m

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Salingaros supports Alexander’s tying religion to geometry

Nikos Salingaros
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Nikos A. Salingaros (born in Perth, Australia) is a mathematician and polymath known for his work on urban theory, architectural theory, complexity theory, and design philosophy. He has been a close collaborator of the architect and computer software pioneer Christopher Alexander, with whom Salingaros shares a harsh critical analysis of conventional modern architecture. Like Alexander, Salingaros has proposed an alternative theoretical approach to architecture and urbanism that is more adaptive to human needs and aspirations, and that combines rigorous scientific analysis with deep intuitive experience.

Influence [edit] Architecture
Salingaros has had a significant theoretical influence on several major figures in architecture. Christopher Alexander, author of the seminal treatises A Pattern Language and Notes on the Synthesis of Form, describes Salingaros' influence: “In my view, the second person who began to explore the deep connection between science and architecture was Nikos Salingaros, one of the four Katarxis editors. He had been working with me helping me edit material in The Nature of Order, for years, and at some point -- in the mid-nineties I think -- began writing papers looking at architectural problems in a scientific way. Then by the second half of the nineties he began making important contributions to the building of this bridge, and to scientific explorations in architecture which constituted a bridge.” [5]

Prince Charles, an influential critic of contemporary architecture, expressed Salingaros' influence in his own preface to Salingaros’ A Theory of Architecture: “Surely no voice is more thought-provoking than that of this intriguing, perhaps historically important, new thinker?” [6]

The End of Tall Buildings (2001), co-authored with James Kunstler, [7] argued that the age of skyscrapers is at an end, and that 9/11 marks the beginning of the end of modernist typologies dominating urban form. While the world has not stopped building skyscrapers, this became one of the most cited and controversial essays on the topic. Referring to this essay, Benjamin Forgey of The Washington Post said: “What many are feeling today goes right to the marrow: the fear of being a target. And who today can deny that tall buildings such as the World Trade Center towers make ideal targets?” [8] [edit]

Salingaros contributed to the New Athens Charter of 2003, which is meant to replace the original 1933 Athens Charter written principally by the highly influential modernist architect-planner Le Corbusier. That blueprint segregated urban functions and contributed to generating post-war urban typologies such as monoculture and sprawl. Through this and other writings Salingaros sought to retrofit suburbia, and reconnect US and European cities at the human scale. This work can be seen as allied with the New Urbanism movement to replace sprawling development with compact, walkable cities and towns.

Salingaros has been a harsh critic of deconstructivism in architecture, and its uncritial application of the philosophy of post-structuralism. His essay “The Derrida Virus” [15] argues that the ideas of the French philosopher Jacques Derrida, applied in an uncritical way, effectively form an information "virus" that dismantles logical thought and knowledge. Salingaros employs the meme model earlier introduced by Richard Dawkins to explain the transmission of ideas. In so doing he provides a model that validates earlier claims by philosopher Richard Wolin that Derrida’s philosophy is logically nihilistic.

Even though Salingaros uses Dawkins’ ideas, he nevertheless strongly disagrees with Dawkins’ evaluation of religion as just another meme, as expounded in Dawkins’ book The God Delusion. Supporting Alexander’s most recent work tying religion to geometry, Salingaros argues for the important historic contribution of religious tradition to human understanding, both in architecture and in philosophy.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Geometry is not merely a technical device; it is the very means by which to infuse inner meaning

Joy Sen: The Search for Unity: the Goal of Indian Aesthetics - Viewpoints from Architecture Muse India Issue 15, Sep-Oct 2007

“This aesthetic side of a people’s culture is of the highest importance and demands almost as much scrutiny and carefulness of appreciation as the philosophy, religion and central formative ideas which have been the foundation of Indian life and of which much of the art and literature is a conscious expression in significant aesthetic forms.” Sri Aurobindo The Foundations of Indian Culture

Introduction: Study on Built environments show that they have layers of purposes. One, to shelter people and their activities and possessions from the elements, from human and animal enemies, and from supernatural powers; two, to establish place; to create a humanized, safe area in a profane and potentially dangerous world; to stress social identity and indicate status; and so on. Thus the origins of built-environment or architecture are best understood if a wider view of causal factors is taken into consideration. These factors indeed are more important than climate, technology, materials, and economy as they form the inner core of human existence. It is this inner core that gradually evolves surpassing the outer influences of economy, climate, materials and technology and other external factors. In effect, the highest expressions of human mind-interaction and communication skills are only then formed, of which art, literature, music and architecture and even sciences becomes a conscious truthful expression.

In view of above, the purpose of organizing space and time in architecture is to structure communication (human interaction, avoidance, dominance, and so on). Through ritualized behaviors (or habits) and various ways of marking territories explaining these habits, meanings after meanings are given to places (habitations) and behaviors (habits). From lower to higher, complementarities are achieved, one after one, shades after shades till the highest raptures are formed. This takes the search of creative instincts through layers of lower to higher reasons and logic to a crescendo of poetry that is embedded in the fountainhead and heart of an all-embracing creative inspiration.

Habit-Habitation Complementarities: In the case of human beings, when environments are being organized, it is these four elements – space (sparsha-sabda), meaning (artha), communication (bhava-bhasa), and time (kala-parikrama) – that are being organized. That is, the organization of environment as a series of relationships between things and other things, things and people, and between people and other people are established. These relationships are complementary and orderly; they have pattern and structure; and it is finally realized that the human environment is not a random assemblage of things but a conscious expression of a settled and ever-expanding human mind.

The nature of organizations can vary from space to space; from one level of interaction to another level of interaction and it is finally available as a tangible physical expression of domains. In fact, in the scheme-making of built-environmental design at all levels and their variations, from vast regions to furniture arrangements, the structuring and organization of space in effect reflect the needs, values, and desires of the groups of individuals doing the organizing. Complementarities of the two – inner habits and expressed habitations are effected.

Symbolism Embedded in Complementarities: In India for centuries and ages, a deep-set system of tradition has evolved through experiments happening in the inner laboratory of the human mind. That is the Indian way. But the outward was exempted. The experiments of contemplation had held the key to realizations of the powers of human mind that does not deny the world and its material expressions but is the very driver-fashioner of complementarities of the two – between all external sustainable traditional situations and the sustainable minds behind the bearing of these traditions.

This is particularly true when one attempts to penetrate and understand the very origins of Indian system of art-aesthetics and architecture. In effect, an ordering schema has evolved based on the sacred, since the realization termed as ‘religion’ and the externalities as support termed as ‘rituals’ are central to such schemas. In the level of highest complementarities of built environments and the true humanization of these environments, livable places tend to become sacred or sanctified. In Indian traditional set-up of religious built-environments – which encode and manifest ideals – the tangible expression that are formed are also expected to encode the sacred, since that represents the most significant inner meaning. So a journey from the outer to the innermost is established to retrace the ‘trickle-down’ from the inner-most to the outer. In the icon there are contrasts i.e the inner-most, which is a dot (a bindu) is the whole, where as the outermost, which is a large visible schema over space (kshetra) is only a part of that whole. This inversion is the very heart of Indian ethos and the root of the symbolic model.

Symbolism of complementarities: American Architect-anthropologist Amos Rapoport has viewed the traditional system of Indian Art-Architecture as dynamism of space, time and matter. In this dynamism manifestations are that of an all-pervading creative mind and in that mind material space and material things (bhuta-akâsha) make visible the centrality, the pivotal and ideational role of that universal schema (realized as interconnected universal spaces called chida-akâsaha). This is the model of the universe called the Mandala. In his words, the art-architectural environment is a reflection of this model and this has three necessities:

It stresses limits of control: one changes oneself rather than the environment. Thus, building –which is a major modification of the environment – requires rigorous adherence to the appropriate cosmological model and also requires stress on ritual purity. Behavioral change complements evolving environmental situation from chaotic to orderly.

In effect a cosmological model is realized emphasizes the centrality and the peripherals, which are the two classes of akashas or spaces. Centrality is most and this is expressed socially (ritually) and aesthetically (materially).

Ideational space are transformed by symbols (like stupas, mandalas, yupas, skambha) and the various physical-mental rituals (like darshana-âswadana, pradakshinâ, parikramâ, tirtha-yâtrâ, pranâma, dhyâna-chestâ) are embedded in the model that the makes the divine visible in material reality. This is the whole purpose of Indian creative surge encoded in ‘Vâstu Stahaptya Vidyâ’ and ‘Nandan Kalâ Vidyâ’.

To understand this universal science of art-architecture, we must understand this divine cosmological model that underlies the design components like sculpture (bhaskarayam), axis (yupa) and grid (panjarâ) to erection of house-units (nibâsam and prâsâdam), temples (mandirams), landscapes (bithis), villages (purams); and finally to towns (nagaris) and settlement conurbations or regions (mahâjanapadas or mahâkhetras).

Even secular architecture (lokavâstu, grhavâstu) carries in them the implication and strengths of the ancient tradition of India. The parallelism of Sulva and Silpa is constantly demonstrated, as in the case of the Yupa, or sacrificial post, and its anthropomorphic transformation in the image of the Purusha or the universal spirit behind the cosmological model. Again, the common element which justifies the title Vâstusutra (the tread of construction or nirmâna) is the sacred geometry underlying sacrificial altars (Sulva), anthropomorphic images and image-panels (Silpa) and sacred or secular architecture (Vâstu). But here geometry is not merely a technical device; it is the very means by which to infuse inner meaning (bhâva and artha) into the work of art-architecture. This infusion is the spirit of Indian aesthetics.

The Crescendo: It is a psychological fact that sense-impressions through the eyes and ears have a more compelling, a more direct action on the sub-conscious strata of the soul (inner Koshas) than discursive arguments. The subconscious obeys and is directly dependent on universal cosmic laws. When art forms take their being from fundamental cosmic principles, they participate in the essential structure of the universe and contain a natural symbolism to which unsophisticated human beings respond instinctively, unconsciously. Thus in effect one arrives at a transcendental unity of all art-manifest body-forms at the higher level of human mind and spirit. Frijtof Schuon, in his book: ‘The Transcendent Unity of All Religions(De l’unite’ Transcendente des Religions, Gallimard, 1948) says that the sensible form is what corresponds most directly to the intellect, by reason of the inverted analogy (by a step-by-step evolutionary ordering of human behavior) which plays between the ‘Principle’ and the manifest (order of things), so that the highest realities (summits of cultural expression) manifest themselves in the most striking manner in their most distant reflection, which is the sensible or ‘material’ order (built-environment).

In India, art and sciences, even the every mundane realities of domestic life, are covered with a mass of poetic conceptions [(marriage of ameliorated rhythms (chhanda-rasa) with refined mental attributes (bhâva-artha)]. This is the very basis (cause) and intent (effect) of a deep-set aesthetics system, which are pressed forward till the material-sensuous (personal) touches the universal-super-sensuous (impersonal) and the real (the small) gets the rose-hue of the unreal (the vast). It is this aesthetic side of a collective people’s culture is of the highest importance and demands very careful appreciation as the philosophy, religion and central formative ideas which have been the foundation of Indian life and of which much of the art and literature is a conscious expression in significant aesthetic forms.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The "naturalistic" or "illusionistic" is no less subjective than the "expressionistic"

Re: Corrections to textual excerpts of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs
by Debashish on Thu 16 Oct 2008 09:24 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link the issue of cultural representation is more important and interesting. There seem to be accumulated responses of taste here.

During the period of the Indian nationalist struggle, this in fact became one of the major stakes for distinction of identity. The Greco-Roman Gandhara Buddha was preferred by the western critics for its naturalism. Coomaraswamy would argue that the less naturalistic, more "ideal" Mathura images were more authentic to the Indian consciousness. Sri Aurobindo's response to Archer is also keyed along similar lines. In fact, this becomes in some ways the cornerstone of his argument for national freedom from colonial rule - the right to express its own subjective tastes free from the standards and constraints of alien subjection. [...]

It's interesting though, that in the genre of portrait painting, I have yet to come across a "subjective" interpretation of Sri Aurobindo or the Mother. It seems here that the closer to reality the painting, the truer to the "divine image." But then, if this "reality" betrays any "physiological blemishes", it is not considered satisfying. If there is anything to these cultural histories of taste, then we have to ask the question as to whether these are unchanging essences and "never the twain shall meet" or whether they can be related or even synthesized? And if the second is possible, is there only one way to relate and synthesize them or many?

Contemporary western art practice also grapples with issues of this kind. The mid-19th c. saw a wholesale rejection of "naturalism" in art in favor of "subjectivism." But contemporary practice has come to assert that the "naturalistic" or "illusionistic" is no less subjective than the "expressionistic." The photographic signifier hides and discloses the subjective signified. Our practices of reading have tuned to an objective-subjective taste as a result. This indeed is one kind of synthesis... Perhaps our friends with the so-called "Indian look" can try to do the same in their own way, instead of this sad rejection and aggressive hostility? DB Reply 7:32 PM