[NetBehaviour] creativity net works! Doesn't it?

Max Herman maxnmherman at hotmail.com
Wed Aug 11 19:04:28 CEST 2021

Hi Simon,

I like how these crafts are part of the sea and sky, intermixed.  Webs can catch and tangle but sails are webs too!

The boat I'm most often reminded of these days is predictably that in Leonardo's dog and eagle allegory:


Who is the dog?  Leonardo, a tiller-wielding Fortune as kybernetes?  What is the tree and where is it going?  Who is the French-crowned eagle guiding the compass and perched atop the world?  Why do the boat and eagle look so similar to Botticelli's illustrations of Purgatorio 9 and 3?


It is widely accepted that Leonardo was referencing Botticelli's illustration of Matelda, the vita activa, from Purgatorio 28 in his drawing Woman Standing in a Landscape, changing the viewer's person from third to second.  Is he using a language that blends word and image into both, and neither?  Is Leonardo's boat escaping Purgatorio, arriving there as drawn by Botticelli, or something totally unrelated?




Dante's blocking is remarkably specific in Purgatorio 28-33, and the metaphor of dance is immediately invoked:

"As, when she turns, a woman, dancing, keeps
her soles close to the ground and to each other
and scarcely lets one foot precede the other,
so did she turn"

Matelda and Dante face each other from opposite sides of Lethe, and while conversing walk along their respective banks to Dante's right, so he sees her on his left.  She sees him to her right, as in Leonardo's drawing.  When Beatrice, the vita contemplativa, appears shortly thereafter, she is by the left wheel of the chariot which approaches from Dante's right.  She turns to her left, to face Dante across the river, as the ML turns to face the viewer.  In the ML as with Woman Standing in a Landscape, the viewer is in the seconda persona.  This creates something perhaps comparable to Cassie Thornton's Hologram of three: Leonardo, the depicted viewer, and the live viewer.


The non sequitur "time crystal" reference I made previously was supposed to have been explained by this inexplicable link, which I forgot to include in the Notes.  I don't quite understand how you can discover a crystal in a computer but apparently you can!



Regarding that other way of crossing rivers, bridges, we know that Leonardo was familiar with Islamic knot patterns from Venezia (akin to the Mona Lisa's neckline embroidery) and with Islamic optical, astronomical, and anatomical treatises.  Was he aware of the Bifrost, Brig o' Dread, Chinvat, or As-Sirat bridges between worlds?  Possibly not, but more research would clarify.  We do know he proposed to build a bridge -- the largest in the world had it been built -- across the Bosphorus for Sultan Bayezid II in 1502, one year before he started painting the Mona Lisa.  (The Brig o' Dread is a "wake" song, and of course Finnegans Wake, which has absolutely no apostrophe, alludes to the ship between worlds in the afterlife.)


The Milanese courtier Niccolo da Correggio gave Leonardo, before he returned to Firenze to start work on the ML among other things, this advice with a hint of Icarian caution:

“If Zeuxis, Lysippus, Pyrgoteles or Apelles
Had to paint this lady on ‘paper’ [in carte],
Having to gaze at each of her features
And at the grace with which they are then infused,

Like when one looks at the sun or counts the stars,
His eyes and his art would fail him,
Because nature does not grant to the eye
The powers in what nature herself excels.

So my dear LEONARDO, if you want
To be true to your name, and conquer [vince] and surpass everyone,
Cover her face and begin with her hair,

Because if you happen to see all her beauties at once
You will be the portrait, not her, since
They are not for the mortal eye, do trust me.”

What Correggio meant is that no single Daedalus, poet or painter, should try to portray all of Philosophy, that is, all science and all art, because the project belongs to many (or even all) including past and future generations, and for various other reasons.  Did Leonardo make his bridge too narrow, too wide, or just right?  Have enough people been virtuous enough to get enough across in time?  Did he paint in Esperienza not his own face, but yours and mine, escaping the curse of both Narcissus and history?

Dante didn't see time as too much of a constraint beyond its changing things, and being something not to waste.  But he wrote in Paradiso 1:

70  Trasumanar significar per verba
71  non si poria; però l’essemplo basti
72  a cui esperïenza grazia serba.

My translation is that of an amateur or guesser and needs more research:

70  Transhumanization’s signification in words
71  isn't possible; however example suffices
72  to whom experience grace provides.

And Dante does see Beatrice's face unveiled, in Purgatorio 31, there is no question about that:

"O splendor of eternal living light,
who’s ever grown so pale beneath Parnassus’
shade or has drunk so deeply from its fountain,

that he’d not seem to have his mind confounded,
trying to render you as you appeared
where heaven’s harmony was your pale likeness—

your face, seen through the air, unveiled completely?"

All best,


PS -- I finally found a relevant reference to Calvino's Six Memos, in a 2019 essay by Barbara Fanini titled "The Library of a 'Man Without Letters'" from the Leonardo and His Books exhibition at the Museo Galileo in Florence that same year.  She refers to the memos very tellingly as "Lezioni Americane" or "American Lessons," not their published title Six Memos for the Next Millennium.  They are, truly, literature lessons for the USA (as symbolized by Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street") -- the new Rome as it were, as Calvino was to have addressed it via the Norton Lectures at Harvard in 1985.  Fanini mentions Leonardo's stated intention to become an author or "autore," though he changed the spelling for some unknown reason to "altore."  Could this have been a word-splice with "altro," meaning other, or "alto," meaning high, that is to say a different kind of author, other and above?  That would certainly suit Leonardo's aspiration to combine the visual and the verbal in all arts and all sciences.  Fanini also quotes in full, to start her essay, Leonardo's prominently labeled "Proemio" or foreword (to what we can only wonder):  "I am fully aware that the fact of my not being a lettered man may cause certain arrogant persons to think that they may with reason censure me, alleging that I am a man without letters.  Foolish folk!  Do they not know that I may retort by saying, as did Marius to the Roman patricians: 'They who themselves go adorned in the labour of others [italics mine] will not permit me my own?' They will say that, because of my lack of book learning, I cannot properly express what I desire to expound upon. Do they know that my subjects are based on experience [italics mine] rather than the words of others? And experience has been the mistress [maestra, as in maestro] of those who wrote well. And so, as mistress, I will acknowledge her and, in every case, I will give her as evidence."  Who would the ML be a portrait of, if not Leonardo's own maestra?  And who better to illuminate paths for every art and every science, in complex dynamic systems, throughout long time durations as far forward as today?

PPS -- Another essay in the Leonardo and His Books catalog, "Leonardo and his Books" by Carlo Vecce, argues persuasively: "Leonardo was no passive reader.  He subjected the texts with which he was confronted to a critical and original revision, and manipulated them with great freedom, without being intimidated by the illustrious names of the 'altori' [authors].  His transcriptions were always rewritings, re-elaborations, syntheses, 'translations.'  For Leonardo, textuality was something alive, in motion...."  This of course aligns with how Leonardo conceptualized the earth, nature, living organisms, human history, etc., and is moreover very modern or even beyond modern in tune with the revolving turbulent patterns of ancient, medieval, and modern all in a jumble.

From: NetBehaviour <netbehaviour-bounces at lists.netbehaviour.org> on behalf of Simon Mclennan via NetBehaviour <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>
Sent: Sunday, August 8, 2021 3:21 PM
To: NetBehaviour for networked distributed creativity <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>
Cc: Simon Mclennan <mclennanfilm at gmail.com>
Subject: [NetBehaviour] creativity net works! Doesn't it?

The finished drawing in this link - https://www.instagram.com/p/CSUwlAHI9qQ/

- …this is the Turboprop

You have the turbo prop control

I have the paddle

Got it?

- Yeah - thinks so..

B scratched her chin and grimaced. She threw down the bits of honeycomb she was nibbling and

regarded the contraption while gingerly poking and prodding at the tangled mass of string, twigs,

horse hair and feathery lattices.

- When I say go I’ll paddle furiously so the coracle starts to spin, and then when we are spinning quite fast, you pull that rope,

and thus kick in with the turboprop.

- Jeez, wish I stayed at home today - she muttered and to Leonardo - Fair dos mate, just give me the signal..

As the little coracle picked up speed in its dizzying twist, L shouted - Fire - and B yanked

at the hemp rope.

- Freak this - B exclaimed as the engine fired up and started to spit out bits of burning twig and

coal, the lattice of small propellers began to fizz and tremble then buzzed and settled into a very

loud hum.  Quickly the craft spun faster and careered across the lake, dangerously missing a small barque

and a brig tethered mid-water.

- Up-we-go shouted L as the boat lifted off and spiralled up and outwards, defying laws of known physics.

Faster it span, then crackled and burst into a great plume of blue flame - cool flames licked at the intrepid

pair, and then  -Flup! - The craft shot straight up accelerating several gravities compressing the drivers into

the bottom of the basket work.

Next thing they were out of the Earth’s atmosphere and free of gravity, and luckily a bubble

seemed to have formed around the boat allowing easy breathing conditions.

- Ok, now we are off to that bright dot over there..

L pointed and moved the paddle a bit, so they headed roughly in this direction.

- Thither we go. May as well kick back init…

And they zoomed off leaving a trail of tinkling bubbles behind...

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