Monday, July 30, 2012

Symbols Are Containers (Arp)

Symbols are containers of the various levels of knowledge.  They represent metaphysical insight into the organizing principle of life itself.   

At their most condensed and when logically understood for what they are, symbols possess enormous power as sources of psychic energy.  They recapitulate the ontology of natural growth, and more specifically, the evolution of the human race and the intellectual and emotional development of every child.  In effect, the code of human universals resides in two contrasting forms:  the first is in each human brain, the second is in all artifacts comprising the man-made world.  

In terms of practical function and iconicity, every manufactured object and spatial enclosure represents a deductible imprint of specific universals.  Consequently, this code is carried from generation to generation by two separate means: organically through the brain of every living individual and inorganically through the trans-lingual relationships embodied in every artifact, writing, or spatial relationship.  

This invites a great paradox.   


All profound art and writing lies in conflict between being as the essence of spiritual revelation and the illusional permanence of the written word, the icon or the sacred space.

Jack Burnham, “Objects and Ritual: Toward a Working Ontology of Art”, in Great Western Salt Works, Essays on the Meaning of Post-Formalist Art, New York, George Braziller, 1974.

  Illustrations by Jean Arp:

          1. Head-Flag, 1926.
          2. The Navel-Bottle, 1923.
          3. Automatic Drawing, 1916.
          4. Tristan Tzara’s 25 Poems, 1918.
          5. Untitled, 1951.
    6. Lion, 1916.


  1. Arp, pure genius. The work, arrived at late or early, in a state of joy or of boredom (or for that matter of pure I-kid you-not unmitigated agony), unfailingly excites, enthralls, and... invites ruminations upon that great paradox.

  2. Yes. All I can say (but you've said it already) is "isn't he just great?" Curtis