Such an effort to hit the trail for running as autumn, the compound interest of shorter days upon the pressing consideration of motivation and lack thereof, the dynamic of gravity and general inertia, and ultimately, a Viktor Frankl style will to meaning that invokes some deeper, yet unkonwn and perhaps ambivalent reason for lacing up the shoes and try to innovate what ostensibly appears to be a ritual of the cross country run. The experience always conjures up getting inside the dynamics that Bruegel was exploring in his Hunters in the Snow. Perhaps its the colors of dusk, or the sentiment of being empty handed of quarry, a material void, yet somehow a triumphant return, one filled with hope nonetheless, that only a hint of spirituality and a yearning to love and be love can hold such promise amid such despair.
What is interesting is a return to a social environment. A return from an exile back to a perceptible world of social relations, of the use of language and the complexity of communication after a period of silence, and perhaps dialogue with the silence, and the language of quiet with its visual metaphors abundant in the complexity and minimalism of the act of going to nature. It also heralds an end to nature, the absence of food signifying an end to a way of life; pointing itself to the burgeoning mercantilism and banking that would define our relationship with trade and exchange: intermediaries and markets.
Another point is the hunter’s viewpoint as spectator of games and activity. A trivial pursuit? And the danger of playing these games and leisure activities on ice with its concomitant risk of falling through the ice, winter being a fragile season in Holland. Also, the grown up game being played of curling- let he who casts the first stone form the Bible- and children’s games being similar, yet different perhaps in their sophistication; the counterpoint of the geometric bases of composition Bruegel uses with the inherent and sometimes peculiar geometry of curling with all the vagaries and surprises the science of throwing stones that the game is famous for the unexpected to happen, a metaphor for life.
Finally, the realization that the hunters have attained the status of children. Before, they were not even children, simply acting out games without thinking, unconscious of the role of ritual in their life.There is also something revolutionary in this picture. Maybe its the absence of material possession they have not succeeded in capturing. One notices the walking sticks cut from a tree, and having no value…
( Walter )Benjamin himself wrote that [e]very childhood achieves something great and irreplaceable for humanity. By the interest it takes in technological phenomena, by the curiosity it displays before any sort of invention and machinery, every childhood binds the accomplishments of technology to the old worlds of symbol.
…the ‘great and irreplaceable’ achievement of children and their capacity to reconcile modern technology and ancient symbolism—point to the powerful example Benjamin saw in the toddler’s interaction with the objects of the world (‘messy antics’ as we will call them). Children approach the objects of the world as things imbued with remarkable—indeed revolutionary—possibilities. For children, the most valuable objects are the very things that adults consider useless trash.
Benjamin saw in children and child’s-play the emancipatory potential that was once the promise of the Marxist project of social renewal and economic transformation. Although Benjamin was pessimistic about the historical domination of mass technological culture, he had hoped that
returning to the ‘matter’ of history could awaken the ‘new nature’ of technology, and thus reawaken the slumbering forces of the proletariat
revolutionary consciousness. Benjamin was convinced that children not only pointed toward this revolutionary potential, but that in childhood
revolutionary emancipation was both a theoretical potential and empirically actualizable.
The world and language of children stood as a kind of prototype or model (or rather potential reality) for the historian’s search for the ‘matter’
of history. For one thing, hidden within the child’s fascination for discarded, forgotten objects was a radical openness to and consciousness of the objects themselves. Benjamin argued that the historical materialist, too, must take up what has been left behind, examine it—explore it—and engage it as an active thing; ‘activate’ it, ‘animate’ it, breathe ‘life’ back into it (or allow its life to breathe onto/into ours). The materialist historian, like the infant, must open herself up to the historical possibilities of the object at hand.
The significant point for Benjamin is that, in having been forgotten, the discarded object nonetheless continues to exist apart from the continuum of progressive historical time. In being discarded, the object that had once been a part of the historical process as a reified or fetishized commodity, dies a social death; but it
precisely at the juncture in which it exists as a ‘has-been’ that its potential to reveal the ‘not-yet’ emerges (its chance to be ‘born[e] again’). This two-fold movement opens up within the object itself, and therefore it points to two dimensions: on the one hand, as an extinct and bygone object it is able to demystify the structure of progressive history by exposing its ‘mythic’ dimension.
The once-fetishized object in its decayed and disabused/used form exposes the collective fantasy or ‘wish-image’ that had once made it a valued object of social desire. On the other hand, this demystification or demythification also points to the potential for change inherent in the obsolete object itself. This latter aspect constitutes its redemptive dimension: although it is ‘fallen’ or abjected, in the sense that the object is deemed no longer socially valuable, as an obsolete object or ‘ruin’, it nonetheless outlives its conventional collective social function. That which has been abjected or abandoned is addressed again or redressed (and thereby revived) through its extramythic or countermythological potential—its potential, in short, to stand outside the homogeneous continuum and mythological narrative of historical progression. These forsaken and forgotten objects simultaneously expose the ideological structure of bourgeois capitalist commodified culture (by falling into its margins and/or out of them completely) and also contain within them “a precious but tasteless seed”: the seed of their own temporal redemption. Read More:http://www.janushead.org/11-1/MellamphyandMellamphy.pdf
The Hunter in the Snow
William Carlos Williams
The over-all picture is winter
in the background the return
from the hunt it is toward evening
from the left
sturdy hunters lead in
their pack the inn-sign
hanging from a
broken hinge is a stag a crucifix
between his antlers the cold
inn yard is
deserted but for a huge bonfire
that flares wind-driven tended by
women who cluster
about it to the right beyond
the hill is a pattern of skaters
Brueghel the painter
concerned with it all has chosen
a winter-struck bush for his
complete the picture
Nancy Huntting:All the best critics of Bruegel speak of the greatness of this composition, which Helen Gardner describes in Art through the Ages:
A clearly enunciated diagonal movement, marked by dogs and hunters, and trees, starts from the lower left-hand corner and continues, less definitely but none the less surely, by the road, the row of small trees, and the church far across the valley to the jutting crags of the hills. This movement is countered by an opposing diagonal from the lower right, marked by the edge of the snow-covered hill and repeated again and again in details.
That great diagonal from the hunters to the mountain crags takes in all the up and down and diversity of the valley in between, joins the things nearest to us and the things farthest away, gathers all the difference in the painting. And the other diagonal, in a different direction, joins the lowest part in the foreground to the highest point. The diagonals are the same and different, what makes them up is all the different things in the painting. And this crossing of diagonal lines is repeated in details – in the hunters’ spears, in the roofs of the houses, where the flying bird crosses the horizon, in the branches of the trees, and even in the tiny figures skating. There is more and more sameness, with more and more difference, and the accumulation gives me a sense of wonder at the complexity and order of reality as seen by Bruegel.
I think the thing people most need to know is what Aesthetic Realism teaches and this painting confirms — that the world in all its richness is not an interference — it is a completion, an affirmation of ourselves. In his book Self and World,Mr. Siegel describes the kind of composition every person wants:
In all beautiful arrangements, difference works with sameness, separateness with togetherness. According to Aesthetic Realism, the self is trying to come into composition with the world, and at the same time be different, individual, separate, free. Read More:http://www.nancyhuntting.net/Bruegel-Talk.html