Tentatively, Convenience's Reviews > Art Forms in Nature

Art Forms in Nature by Ernst Haeckel
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it was amazing
bookshelves: art, nature, philosophy

A. Maz. Ing. A. Stound. Ing. Do words fail me? I fail words. I wdn't rate this bk, it's invaluable - wch isn't to say w/o value. Haeckel is my new favorite artist. I 'discovered' him thanks to a documentary called "Proteus - A Nineteenth Century Vision" by David LeBrun. I loved the movie. If you check it out, make sure to also check out "The Making of PROTEUS" wch I, as a film & vaudeo maker, found particularly compelling. The amt of work that LeBrun was driven to in order to complete the movie is IMPRESSIVE.

& Haeckel's incredible energy, his drive for a thorough worldview, his meticulousness, is BEYOND IMPRESSIVE. This edition has introductory essays by Olaf Breidbach & Irendäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt. I liked them both. BUT, it was Eibl-Eibesfeldt's essay that really GRABBED ME. The background on research into our perceptual mechanism(s) & their relevance to Haeckel were fascinating, engrossing. Eibl-Eibesfeldt is obviously another man w/ a vision pursued w/ profound dedication.

Eibl-Eibesfeldt quotes Haeckel at length:

"Purely speculative metaphysics, which were further developed from theories of apriorism established by Kant and which found its most radical advocate in Hegel, ultimately led to the utter rejection of empiricism and claimed that all knowledge is in fact acquired through pure reason, independent of all experience. Kant's great mistake, which had such serious consequences for all of philosophy that followed, largely lies in the fact that his critical "Theory of Cognition" did not take into account physiological and phylogenetic principles which were only acquired sixty years after his death through Darwin's reform of the theory of evolution and through the discoveries of the physiology of the brain. He regarded the human soul with its inborn characteristics of reason as a ready-made being and did not inquire into its historical origins ... he did not consider that this soul could have developed phylogenetically from the most closely related mammals. However, the wonderful ability to make a priori judgements has arisen through the inheritance of cerebral structures, which the vertebrate ancestors of humans acquired slowly and in stages (through adaptation and synthetic association of a posteriori experiences and perceptions). Moreover, the firmly established perceptions of mathematics and physics, which Kant explained as synthetic a priori judgements, originated by means of the phyletic development of the faculty of judgement and may be traced back to continually recurring a posteriori experiences and conclusions based thereupon. The "necessity," which Kant ascribed to a particular characteristic of these a priori judgements were these phenomena and conditions fully known."

Genius, pure genius. Alas, Eibl-Eibesfeldt goes on to develop his wonderful essay w/ this: "Is it not possible that the aesthetic sensibilities of people who have grown up in what many would find ugly, artificial environments of the industrial fringes of modern metropolises, have also been altered as a result of such new environments? If this were so, would it not explain, at least in part, the acceptance of assemblages made from found objects and other ignoble materials?" Oh well.. weren't Haeckel's radiolarian ALSO "found materials"? & "ugly" & "ignoble"? These terms reek too much of "decadent art" for me! Still, Eibl-Eibesfeldt's essay is fantastic.

BUT THE ART!!!!! Haeckel's devotion is praiseworthy in the extreme by my standards. This man was not lazy. These drawings-turned-prints are DETAILED. DDDDDEEEEETTTTTAAAAAIIIIILLLLLEEEEEDDDDD!!!!! The centerpiece of plate 61, Phaeodaria, is an alchemist's latticework if I've ever seen one. a geodesic dome, an a priori grasping of biomorphic geometry. Or something. & plate 87? What's this perspective-receding Brion Gysin-like quasi-rectangle underneath it all?

I don't care whether this man has been somewhat discredited by modern science - he's made an impression on me that once again demonstrates that the greatest minds are interspersed throughout time & aren't the flavor-of-the-month. STUDY THIS BK! STUDY EVERYTHING BY HAECKEL!
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Reading Progress

November 23, 2008 – Shelved
December 26, 2008 – Shelved as: art
December 26, 2008 – Shelved as: nature
December 26, 2008 – Shelved as: philosophy
Started Reading
December 27, 2008 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)

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message 1: by lisa_emily (new)

lisa_emily Have you read this book or heard of it?


message 2: by Tentatively, (last edited Nov 24, 2008 02:20PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tentatively, Convenience No, I'm not familiar w/ it. Haeckel's a new discovery for me but I'm learning that some of my more scientifically inclined artist friends are knowledgeable about him. What exposed me to him is a great documentary called "Proteus - A Nineteenth Century Vision". I was so excited by it that I had to read a bk by Haeckel ASAP. The statement "Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" (is that correct?) is so elegant & ripe w/ significanace that it was love at 1st sight!

message 3: by lisa_emily (new)

lisa_emily Haeckel's science is a little out of date- (they no longer consider Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny as a valid idea) but his drawings are indeed quite wonderful. I picked up my copy at the Museum of Jurassic Technology bookstore- of all places. I love trying to draw out some of the creatures in there.

I would love to see that documentary.

Tentatively, Convenience Yeah, I think in the doc it's mentioned that "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" is outdated.. but I still love it anyway! I keep hearing about the Museum of Jurassic Technology.. still haven't had a chance to get there.

message 5: by lisa_emily (new)

lisa_emily MJT is pretty damn cool, I must say. For a good substitute is this book:
MJT is among my favorites along with The Art Brut Museum- (in Lausanne) but Art Brut has more of a visceral hit.

message 6: by Eddie (last edited Nov 26, 2008 08:41AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eddie Watkins The MJT is one of my favorite places. I've only been there once, and that was about 10 years ago, but it lingers in my mind, which is appropriate as it's not only a museum but also a "state of mind".

I like the Weschler book. There's also a book put out by MJT itself that is a catalogue of their exhibits, with pictures and a lot of the texts that accompany the exhibits. It's a lovely little hardback.


Might as well say I like the Haeckel book too, as well as Proteus. I do I do.

message 7: by Phyllis (new) - added it

Phyllis netflix has the movie. Cheers!

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