“…every person, place and thing in the chaosmos of Alle anyway connected with the gobblydumped turkey was moving and changing every part of the time:…” (James Joyce, Finnegan’s Wake)
I first encountered the term “chaosmos” in a book by Gilles Deleuze called The Fold. Upon further investigation I discovered that Umberto Eco had written a book titled with the phrase: The Aesthetics of Chaosmos, The Middle Ages of James Joyce (translated by Ellen Esrock, Harvard University Press, 1989). According to a note to the translated edition, this book started as the final chapter to Eco’s seminal work of 1962, The Open Work. Many of the considerations in the book are considerations of great interest to me and have been so for decades. They form the considerations that started the idea of the small paintings. Engagement with these ideas as found in the Eco book refined my understanding and my presentation of the work to the point that I titled it in honor of this lineage of under-discussed aesthetic considerations. To help the viewer of my work, “Chaosmos,” access my considerations and interests through the work itself, I include here some brief quotes from the above mentioned edition with corresponding page numbers. These are meant to act almost as footnotes and not descriptions…grains of salt to give the individual viewer of the work added flavor in the visual tasting. It is by no means comprehensive or definitive on the subject. Just a few grains of salt. Enjoy!
(Author’s note, vi) “To me [Eco] Joyce was the node where the Middle Ages and the avant-garde meet, and the present book is the story and the historical-theoretical foundation of such a paradoxical meeting.” [Aside: I cannot stress the significance of this concept. I first came across it during my junior year of college. I was writing a lengthy paper on early Cistercian architecture. A photobook I encountered captured artistic shots of the remnants of the 12th century buildings. The turning point for me, however, was the preface to the book written by Le Corbusier. He spoke of the influence upon him of the sensibility of the architectural forms and materials and pervading aesthetic…a direct influence that spoke from a not-so-direct 700 years prior. That is where it began for me. Since I am aware of it, I see how pervasive the connection was…time folded on itself to have to seemingly unrelated epochs share the relationship of first cousins.]
(2) “Approached in this way, our research needs a guiding thread, a line of investigation, an operative hypothesis. We take, therefore, the opposition between a classical conception of form and the need for a more pliable and ‘open’ structure of the work and of the world. This can be identified as a dialectic of order and adventure, a contrast between the world of the medieval summae and that of contemporary science and philosophy.”
(3) “…offers us the development of a continuous polarity between Chaos and Cosmos, between disorder and order, liberty and rules, between the nostalgia of Middle Ages and the attempts to envisage a new order. Our analysis of the poetics of James Joyce will be the analysis o a moment of transition in contemporary culture.”
(7) “The medieval thinker knows that art is the human way to reproduce, in an artifact, the universal rules of cosmic order. In this sense art reflects the artist’s impersonality rather than his personality. Art is the analogon of the world. Even if Joyce had discovered the notion impersonality in more modern authors such as Flaubert, it goes without saying that his enthusiasm for this theory had medieval sources.”
“This framework of Order provides an unlimited chain of relations between creatures and events…. It is the mechanism which permits epiphanies, where a thing becomes the living symbol of something else, and creates a continuous web of references. Any person or event is a cypher which refers to another part of the book.”