The art of movement

One of the concepts on which philosophy has been most focused throughout history is, without doubt, that of movement. Everything in this universe is subject to a continuous becoming, a continuous evolution, which has to do with the formal aspect of what composes it, as much as with the essence of everything. From planets, cells, stars, to our feelings, everything moves, literally, and everything changes, changes, breaks up and reforms. A vivacity of which we are witnessed, in the first instance, by the arts. This is how the theme of movement has influenced painting, starting from antiquity, passing through artists like Umberto Boccioni and Jackson Pollock, to reach those who are doing, today, dynamism in the pictorial field.
"No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." - Heraclitus of Ephesus said (535 B. C.), the philosopher of the physis who had the reputation of a cryptic intellectual among the contemporaries and posterity who were inspired and influenced by his work. Testimonies and fragments remain of his thought which are scattered in the form of aphorisms, but man nevertheless went down in history as the philosopher of becoming and pantheism, understood as "unity of the opposites, continuous change and generating fire"; and his poetics came down to us in the synthetic expression - to be attributed to one of his students - of the Panta Rhei, the whole that flows.

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In the same years Zenone of Elea (489 B. C.) formulated the four paradoxes aimed at demonstrating the logical impossibility of conceiving the effects of movement on phenomena, arriving at the legitimate conclusion that reality is essentially immobile and movement can be grasped by the human mind only in relation to space. I believe that more or less all those who had to do with philosophy broke their heads on the unequal battle between Achilles and the Turtle who, according to Zenone, given the animal's initial advantage over the fast start, would have crossed the finish line before mankind. Many of us, arguably, have not yet understood what the philosopher wanted to tell us but, fortunately, his thought has been re-elaborated by illustrious minds who have managed to go straight to the heart of the problem: the space that, to be understood as progression, must be broken down into an infinitesimal series of points where each point reproduces the initial situation of departure, but placed in a temporal elsewhere.
No fear: if the concept were clear, it would not be paradoxical, something that by its very definition will never be limpid and crystalline. Let's take for good the basic suggestion, as did the sculptor Mirone di Eleutere who reveals the same interest in naturalism and contingency with his Discobolum (460 B. C.), the statue that represents a young athlete in the moment of maximum effort and concentration, when he collects all his energies before launching the plate. The Discobulum is naked, immobile, frozen in an out of time pose, the left arm resting on the right knee and the right arm lifted backwards, with the hand holding the disc soon to be thrown elsewhere. The right foot is well fixed on the ground, the left leg rests on the tip of the foot, bends and twists in search of the static balance indispensable to the imminent dynamism of the figure.

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Panta Rhei, everything flows: movement is by its nature unstoppable. We can predict it, contemplate it while it is being fulfilled; we can freeze it in a static image, break it down into an infinitesimal series of moments in which the being remains immobile, as suspended between what it is and what it will be, but we cannot stop it: movement is an intrinsic characteristic of being, an archè - that is, an imperishable and immutable principle that defines the very essence of being in the world. It is for this reason that we take it for granted and it is for this reason that man has scope to tell it rather than to understand it - although it was the great dismay of the thinkers of Ancient Greece, who wondered about the essence of the principle that governs the mutability of being and redefines the state of things.
Researching the immanent and transcendental principle that founds the figure of our lives, was the ambition of the most inspired minds in the history of thought, as well as the most incorrigible vice of art. During classicism and up to the early Middle Ages, the end of the figurative arts was to evoke the transcendent and pay homage to the divine motion, and for this reason stylistics and language were elaborated that deliberately neglected the search for an objective realism in images. Only at the end of the twentieth century did the camouflage of reality and the body of representation become themes of primary interest, and the search for expedients and procedures aimed at obtaining figurations corresponding to the visual perception of the human being began. Until everything changed and a new transcendence imposed itself on the consciences of modern man, creator of a progress that was at times docile and familiar as a domestic animal, at other times violent and unpredictable as a wild creature.

Movement is art

Movement is art and our body is the instrument. #trainyourdream

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The wheel of life
Art does not reproduce what we see; rather, it makes us see”. Paul Klee teaches that art - a tangible manifestation of the creative interpretation of reality - does not respond to the imperatives of sight but rather to the demands of vision, as it embodies the need to discover and tell the story of what is beyond what we can reach with our gaze. Wherever there was a desire to measure and put reality in an orderly grid, Giotto came with perspective. And when, centuries later, order, discipline and figurative realism seemed to be no longer suitable to explain things, new artistic languages were imposed.
Arriving at the dawn of the nineteenth century, the romantic man is destroyed. He has capitulated under the existential weight of the sturm und drang and no longer understands anything: reality is too complicated, it is unthinkable that the finished mind can come to understand it in depth. The language breaks out (dadaism), reality breaks down into tiny particles of light that impact on things, that tremble when the sun is at zenith and become dark and elusive when the darkness of reason falls (luminism). The structured form loses its logic (cubism), the canvas houses the artist's path that expresses the obscure force of being (expressionism).
It is necessary to make the invisible that lives and moves beyond the thicknesses, not the small square of life artificially closed as between the scenarios of a theatre”. In the Futurist Manifesto published in 1909 in Le Figaro, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti became the theoretical promoter of the new revolution in progress.
The Futurists subverted the millenarian principles of the arts by striving to obtain the interpenetration of figure and context; they destroyed the laws of verisimilitude and perspective; they snatched the viewer from his position of contemplation to carry him into the picture. The figure object of the representation was no longer a closed reality, but rather the meeting point of forces and energies.

“We will sing of the great crowds agitated by work, pleasure and revolt; the multi-colored and polyphonic surf of revolutions in modern capitals: the nocturnal vibration of the arsenals and the workshops beneath their violent electric moons, bridges with the leap of gymnasts flung across the diabolic cutlery of sunny rivers. It is in Italy that we are issuing this manifesto of ruinous and incendiary violence, by which we today are founding Futurism, because we want to deliver Italy from its gangrene of professors, archaeologists, tourist guides and antiquaries. […] Literature has up to now magnified pensive immobility, ecstasy and slumber. We want to exalt movements of aggression, feverish sleeplessness, the double march, the perilous leap, the slap and the blow with the fist.”

Speed, simultaneity and dynamism are the principles of life and the foundations of Futurist art. In the works of Boccioni, Balla, Severini, the colour is violent, the figure broken down. In "Girl running on a balcony" (1912), through the use of dissociated tones and stains of colour, Balla evokes dynamism through the repetition of gestures; on the canvas the head, body and feet of a girl immortalized in her progress multiply in succession. The "Dynamism of a dog on a leash" (1912) is told through the unstoppable legs of an animal that seems electrified. And in the "Nude descending a staircase" (1912) Duchamp represents the body of a woman with a technique similar to the chronophotography of Etienne Jules Marey, the French physiologist who, in order to study the flight of birds, invented an instrument able to record on a single plate, in a single image, various positions of the same moving subject, in correspondence of different temporal differences.
Images are now diagrams where the physical object is not as decisive as the idea of pure movement. The continuity of the existential motion is broken into a series of discontinuous shots, calculated to reconstruct in a credible and convincing way the temporal flow. Life is broken down into frames and placed at the wheel - like in the zoetropium, the wheel of life, the first device for animation of static images. Until the separation between the movement we are and the movement we produce fell definitively.
"At a certain point in art history, the artist began to interpret the canvas as an arena in which to consume an action. What goes on canvas is no longer painting but an event"; in the words of the critic Harold Rosenberg, we trace the figure of abstract expressionism, an artistic current that collected and brought to the extreme the inheritance of the Futurist years.
Spontaneous, automatic, unconscious creations: canvas is understood as an extension of being, the work results from physical action, from the gesture of the artist who sinks into his painting. The gesture that arises from the union of mind, spirit and action generates the sign; the apparent randomness of the hand movement determines the birth of the visual panorama. Abstract expressionism feeds on rebellion and anarchy; it has the same sensuality as a tribal dance and the underlying nihilism characteristic of the twentieth century.
Jackson Pollock's dripping, which drew trajectories of flowing colour; Emilio Vedova's action painting, which created disturbing panoramas by scaraventando painting on textile and wooden supports; De Kooning's primitivism, which violates and reinterprets the form; Hartung's frayed lines and Rothko's intense colour backgrounds.
Art - which wanted to tell the story of movement - is itself motion and action.
It is impossible to ignore the body. As in the work of Shiraga, Gutai's representative of Japanese abstract expressionism, which fills up with colour and slides on the canvas; and as in the works of Ushio Shinoara and Omar Hassan, contemporary artists who replace the brush with boxer gloves, punching the canvas and creating works in which the creative process counts as much as the final result.

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