Issue 2005/3 (270) - The Eye, Sight, the Look

Zbigniew Benedyktowicz 2
Wojciech Michera 3
Francoise Frontisi-Ducroux The Eye, Sight, the Look – Several Greek Depictions. Translated by Wojciech Michera 5

Is the eye the projector or rather the receptor of light rays? Both conceptions – active and passive – coexist in Greek reflections and are frequently supplementary: the eye is rendered metaphorical both as a lamp and a mirror. The author of this article followed Greek views about the process of seeing by analyzing mythological, poetic, and philosophical opinions as well as literature which may be described as scientific, in an attempt at reconstructing the views commonly held by the Greeks. She also ascertained that the complementariness and reciprocity of the passive and active aspect of seeing is revealed in Greek vocabulary, with identical linguistic forms describing both “seeing” and “being seen”. This physiological and linguistic equivalence of sight projection and reflection is a conceptual structure defining the Greek social praxis of all ages.

Mauro Menichetti he Mirror, the Reflection and the World of Dionicius. Translated by Wojciech Michera, co- operation: Anna Dudzińska-Facca 12

In the ancient world the mirror appears into images related to woman as gynaeceum or wedding. These scenes don’t show real life but a symbolic code regarding gestures and attributes of the figures. In this view the mirror is a magical object related to the charis, the power of fascination that belongs to Eros and Aphrodite. The mirror can see “beyond”, it guarantees the woman has got a beauty such as Helena, Aphrodite etc. My work deals with two vases from Magna Graecia that show this power of transformation of the mirror. One image shows us several types of “mirrors”, the other one shows the meeting between mirror and the world of Dionysos. The maenad and the mirror are symbols of the woman and of her dangers. In the ancient world the vision of woman is always connected to the man’s sight.

Krystyna Bartol Correspondence of the Arts. Simonides and Others 23

The author of this essay on reflections about art cites the well-known maxim devised by Simonides:  painting is silent poetry, and poetry is vocal painting. For the Greeks (of the archaic and classical era) the conviction about the community of both domains of the arts imposed a certain manner of formulating thoughts about art. Silent poetry and vocal painting were always, and continue to be, a source of discussion which contributes to a better comprehension of the two arts and their mutual relation.

Wiesław Juszczak The Imagined Ecphrase the Helena Eidolon 27

The author of the article discusses the term “ecphrase”, which today refers essentially to works of art, although initially such a restriction was not applied. By way of example, Hermogenes of Tarsus (circa 160 – 230) rendered the ecphrase a strictly defined literary genre, associated with training orators but deprived of a more distinct thematic range. The ecphrase could have, therefore, been a description of anything as long as its characteristic feature was clarity guaranteeing a distinct view of the object described in words. A significant supplement of the definition maintained that the object of the ecphrase could be either “real” or “imagined”, “conceived”. This division and, simultaneously, expansion of the scope of the literary ecphrase was excellently demonstrated by Johannes T. Karkidis, a Greek classical philologist, in a work containing ten studies about Homer, including the Imagined Ecphrases discussed by the author of the article. Karkidis declared that imagined ecphrases should be examined regardless of the object which they portray, and that they could be mutually compared only within the range of the boundaries established by them. The abolition or “confusion” of the borderline between reality and its depiction is a permanent element of the Greek ecphrase.

Katarzyna Pietruczuk The Blind and the Spectator – Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles 37

An analysis of the staged situation in Sophocles’ tragedy built upon the basis of a play with the concepts of mimesis and diegesis: the audience watches a mimetic performance, while the leading dramatis persona – the blind man – learns about all that is ”enacted” in front of the spectators through accounts, i. a. via diegesis. The author examined the way in which the text applied connotations with which the character of the blind man was encumbered for his addressee, i. e. an Athenian member of the audience from fifth century B. C., in order to conduct a meta-theatrical game with the spectator. This task was carried out on the level of the narration, by distributing knowledge between the audience and the characters from the depicted world, and on the level of the plot, by means of a specific construction of the action.

Jerome Baschet The Inventiveness and Serial Nature of Mediaeval Visual Depictions. Toward an Expanded Method of Studying Iconography. Translated by Jan Mackiewicz 49

A combination of research methods suitable for history and the domain of visual qualities constitutes a prominent element of a wider conception of examining the reality of historical sources perceived through the prism of a complex game involving social interactions. The purpose of the presented research approach is not so much extracting an effect produced by comparing two types of research procedures, as emphasis placed on cultural quality-the outcome of differentiation, i. e. the ideological divergencies, confrontations and rents observed in research material collected by historians and historians of art. This is the reason why it is fitting to reject the methods of traditional iconography in favour of the conception of iconographic qualities. In this case, studying an image becomes a complex of tasks encompassing all the activities which the researcher is capable of capturing, and which are associated with the origin and displays of the iconographic depiction, its surrounding, reception and the value of chromatic and syntactic elements, i. e. all significant elements decisive for the contents of the cultural message. In other words, the crucial task entails determining the sense (meaning) of the visual communique, and overcoming a concept which promotes the divergence of form and contents and which deforms the perception of iconography. Permanent stylistic meanings should be replaced by an appreciation of ambivalence and fluidity (indetermination). One of the elements of this research model is the structural sense, which includes the aforementioned multiplicity of viewpoints that comprise a model of concentric circles emergent around the conception of a research project playing the part of a centre. Another important domain of the method in question is to determine the relation between the significance and effect of the art work decisive for the reception of the iconographic depiction not so much via creating an unambiguous transition, as within a game making it possible to avoid certainty. In this research perspective, foremost significance is attached to the method of a serial examination of iconographic depictions. It opposes the classical ascertainments proposed by the history of art, linked with a thematic-stylistic interpretation of the transmission of visual qualities, as well as a stereotypical perception of mediaeval art envisaged as an expression of the dogmatic contents proclaimed by the doctors of the Church. Both these approaches must be refuted. During the Middle Ages the Church doctrine and the message contained within the work of art remained constantly variable. The inventiveness of the art of this period should be exploited by constructing series upon the basis of three centers: an individual work of art, a project pursued by the researcher, or the so-called hyper-theme, i. e. several scales of depictions intertwining thematic interpretations and motif configurations.

Kornelia Binicewicz The Best Picture. An Ecphrasis of the Resurrection by Piero della Francesca 71

The Best Picture is a brief essay written by Aldous Huxley recounting the writer’s journey to Sansepolcro; its crowning point was to be a meeting with the most magnificent artwork of all times – the Resurrection fresco displayed at the local Museo Civico. Following closely in the author’s footsteps we identify the sources of his viewpoint (Berenson, Lawrence, Stendhal, Vasari), and recognize the contexts of the myth of an Englishman’s journey to Italy as well as of traveling as such. We also obtain a wider perception of a journey experienced by a man of letters to his desired destination by becoming familiar with texts by authors equally enthralled with the art of Piero della Francesca (Muratov, Tatrai, Herbert, Karpiński, Pollakówna, Mayes).  Aldous Huxley embarked upon a task hazardous by its very nature – to describe a painting with words. The selection of words and stylistic measures play a prominent part in a depiction of a work of art since only a few words, discovered wisely and with feeling, are capable of coming close to the meaning of the composition without destroying its fragile structure. Thanks to the directives provided by Roland Barthes, Huxley’s short text – an affirmation of only a single work of art – proves to be a confession of love. An interpretation of its ecphrasis, conducted according to the logic of a love discourse, as proposed by Roland Barthes, demonstrates that Huxley’s story brims with tautology and affectation suitable for the language of the enamoured. Huxley wished to describe the Resurrection but being deeply involved in the object of his desire he became incapable of discovering an appropriate language which would evoke “the painting before our eyes”. From the ecphrasis point of view, Huxley failed – the word does not reach the work of art which was the object of his endeavours. In addition, he sought refuge from his linguistic impotence in a formal analysis of the Resurrection, and concentrated on the construction of the composition and the formal scheme based on a triangle. By doing so, Huxley did not arrive at the very contents of the painting or its message contained in in-depth contemplation. Hence the representation proposed by Aldous Huxley had not articulated the mute nature of the painting, as comprehended by Wiesław Juszczak. The text by Aldous Huxley benefit from the accompaniment of numerous other attempts at representing a painting with the aid of verbal language. Different points of views and sensitivity to the image and word indicate the difficult nature of the task of translating the language of art into its verbal counterpart; at the same time, it demonstrates the force with which this desire for realisation is embedded in everyone who has experienced proximity with great art.

Marta Steiner Opera from a Fragrant Port 91

The Cantonese opera (Mandarin: yueju) is one of the regional genres of the traditional Chinese music theatre, featured in the province of Guangdong (south-east mainland China ), Hong Kong and Macao . Recently, the local authorities of these three regions have suggested to UNESCO to include yueju into the world cultural heritage list – hence the enormous interest which this genre encounters among experts on the theatre, ethno-musicologists, and researchers dealing with culture. Although yueju is firmly enrooted in traditional Chinese culture, it has undergone turbulent changes at the time of British colonization, under communist rule, and in contemporary post-colonial Hong Kong . The outcome of those transformations includes a division into secular (town) and religious (rural) spectacles. Both versions may be staged by the same actors who are expected to meet identical requirements: adherence to dramatic conventions associated with certain types of roles and the presentation of vocal, acting, and acrobatic skills. Political and cultural conditions also affect the actors’ career, daily training, and social rank. The body technique attained in the course of training sessions should be interpreted not merely as a set of “theatrical tricks” but as concepts borrowed from traditional Chinese physiology, medicine, and the martial arts. Despite the fact that yueju appears to be the most extravagant among the assorted genres of the Chinese opera, it shares a similar repertoire of staged stories, derived from old popular epics and folklore.

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