Nietzsche, T.S. Eliot and Antoni Gaudi

There are some things that have to be experienced. Being at sea. Being in a desert. Seeing Mount Everest (for real – not a picture). In a similar way the buidings of Antoni Gaudi the doyenne of Catalan Modernism, Barcelona’s answer to Art Nouveau need to be experienced not just seen as jpegs.

This “de-reductionsism” … going from our digitised, “information”-ised, pseudo-experience of the world back to “real” life can be perhaps seen be re-reading the following TS Eliot quotation in reverse order. We have gone frmo life to information – but run the process in reverse and we can get from information to life…

Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

Nietzsche in his analysis of Greek tragedy identified two tendencies in Greek culture – the “Apollonian” – thinking, reason, human culture and order (so very much our “modern era” and science), and on the other hand “Dionysian” – feeling, ecstatic, nature and chaotic.

He saw the original Greek tragedies (Aeschylus, Sophocles) as managing to balance these two opposing factors . The Stanford.Encyclopedia of Philosophy says:

“Nietzsche, having by this time absorbed the German romanticist, and specifically Schopenhauerian, view that non-rational forces reside at the foundation of all creativity and of reality itself, identifies a strongly instinctual, wild, amoral, “Dionysian” energy within pre-Socratic Greek culture as an essentially creative and healthy force. Surveying the history of Western culture since the time of the Greeks, Nietzsche laments over how this Dionysian, creative energy had been submerged and weakened as it became overshadowed by the “Apollonian” forces of logical order and stiff sobriety. He concludes that European culture since the time of Socrates has remained one-sidedly Apollonian, bottled-up, and relatively unhealthy.”

In our heavily classically-based, “Greek” rooted culture Architecture was – and is – the most “Apollonian” of all the arts. The “Golden Ratio” survives today as the rationalist way of making things look “nice”, pleasing.

But nature has no straight lines. The straight line is an invention of man. There is surely no finer architect of the natural, organic approach to building than Antoni Gaudi.

The 19thC Romantic movement was a return to our true roots in nature, of nature and from nature rather than our head-trip of abstraction. The Arts Nouveau were about incorporating this organic quality into design. I have previously always liked them (and their offspring Art Deco) but having seen the Gaudi would now see them as still essentially captured in the same rationalist orbit. Or put another way its like a sunny day in Paris compared to Spanish heat near the Med. Only that far south can we get the apparent craziness of Salvador Dali and Picasso – both heavily indebted to Gaudi.

Anyway to be true to TS Eliot there is no point me squirting information at you (like so many tour guides who feel their job is to pass on “facts”). Either you have experienced Gaudi in the real and know what I mean, have been struck on some deep resonant level by a “wow” – someone who “went all the way”. Or you haven’t – in which case I urge you to add “yet” to that – as in you “havent’ yet” experienced Gaudi in the real.

Mind you nothing is as neat as my left-brained, rationalist connections here.. 😉

The irreducible “unsquarability” of reality, its inability to fit into two boxes is in this case shown by a couple of things. First that unlike Nietzsche’s dualistic split into two camps Gaudi – who started a dandy – ended as a puritanical, ascetical Catholic – run over by a bus he wasn’t recognised as he looked like a tramp. Secondly despite my excess of admiration for his works I couldn’t face the queue for his greatest work Sagrada Familia which queue stretched along one end and down one whole side of the enourmous cathedral (it sould have taken hours).

So like many of you I know this final picture only from the internet 🙂

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