JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 529
Jeff Donlan from Salida, Colorado, sparked this post with his comment from yesterday*. I don't think that Matyushin really knew where he was going , either, even though he was writing in the years (1896-1916) when this issue of time and space and motion was being hammered on god's holy anvil. The thinking that the artist of this time were in some way responsible for shaping the social vessel necessary for the scientific development of these ideas has never been attractive to me. Frankly this image wound up in the dead idea cemetery (along with the cemeteries of lost ideas, the cemeteries of blind ambitions, of fear, of lust-conquered-love and vice versa; the cemeteries of hollow illusion, near-achievement, and good will; the cemeteries of childhood despairs, of extra vowels, of dropped change, of the thoughts behind bad thoughts, and of ill-gotten gains. There are no cemeteries evidently for incompetencies or mediocracies, as these things, in addition to being lifeless, cannot be killed.)
This issue is strongly entertained by Linda Dalrymple Henderson in her Princeton-published doorstopper The Fourth Dimension and Non-Euclidean Geometry in Modern Art, where she prettily and exhaustively declares "nope" to the egg-chicken possibility of the space/time issue being born in art and nurtured-up in the sciences, which is fine with me.
That's not to say that the art produced in the sciences to illustrate fourth- and nth-dimensional space weren't without (great) artistic qualities.W.L. Stringham ("Regular Fgures in n-Dimensional Space", 1880), E. Jouffre (Traite elementaire de geometrie a quatre dimensions, 1903), H.P. Manning (Geometry of Four Dimensions, 1914) are excellent and early examples of gorgeous illustration illuminating complex issues, and are also published many years before the works of Braque and Picasso and Metzinger and Gleizes and Le Fauconnier and of course Duchamp. These artists are all producing their important work before 1912, but are also definitely coming after some of the major work in the history of the fourth dimension.
But getting back to Matyushin and to the title of this post: I wondered when the first painted images depicting future action was painted. "God" comes into this because, I think, a case might be made for the depcition of future action via the depiction of the progression to life-after-death states (and marching towards heaven/hell.) Removing god from the equation takes us, maybe, to the backwards spelling of god: "dog".
Giacomo Bella's Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (1912) may well be the god-reverser, the first painting of the future, with simultaneous views of space and time, wrapped up in the gift of speed. Whether this is accurate or not I really don't know--Duchamp's Nude Descending was painted and almost and nearly exhibited in this same year (having been throw out of the art exhibition by friend and foe alike because his work was too risky)--I really like that this "first" involved the picture of a doggie, even though it is vastly inferior to the Duchamp and all.
This is a complex issue that I'm just passing quickly through--I'm not sure that this whole issue wasn't dealt with first(artistically) in the comics, the space/time bit perhaps getting an early cover in places like Windsor McKay's Little Nemo in Slumberland (1908) and Lyonel Feininger's The Kin-der-Kids (1909). Then there's the issue of Etinne Marey's beautiful studies of motion, which look a tremendous lot like the things to come in Duchamp et cie twenty years later, but that's another story. But I think it highly poetic that this issue boils down to a stumpy dog, Little Nemo, a French polymath with a gun camera, and M. Duchamp (who didn't take any of it seriously).
* "Pictures like these are porn for the unhappy multitasker. What Matyushin could not know in 1915 is that when we rush fast enough, our left brain shuts down and the right brain takes over suffusing us with an intense feeling of oneness. We don't really see the totality; we just feel we do. I don't know that this is true, but I feel that it is as I rush through this so I can write my library column before I forget..." This was said in response to the following: "Mikhail Matyushin, in 1915: "Only motion cystallizes outward appearance into a single whole...a speeding train fuses the separatness of the cars into a compact mass..." He goes on to say that "when at last we shall rush rapidly past objectness we shall probably see the totality of the whole world", though I think that he got that part of it backwards, or perhaps inside out."