Tuesday, July 08, 2008

50 moons of Saturn & the Third Law of Planetary Motion

Johann Dieter Wassmann, HARMONISCH, 1895.

“The heavenly motions are nothing but a continuous song for several voices, to be perceived by the intellect, not by the ear; a music which, through discordant tensions, through syncopations and cadences as it were, progresses towards certain predesigned six-voiced cadences, and thereby set landmarks in the immeasurable flow of time.”


In her renowned essay "A Carpenter's Tale," the art historian Maime Stombock makes the point that it was Johann Dieter Wassmann’s friendship with the physicist Max Planck, and their mutual interest in the epistemology of music, that directed their initial thoughts on a unified theory of space and time:

"The late night dialogues Johann records between himself and Planck more often than not centered around music. But then, he was a Leipziger: Wagner, Mendelssohn, Strauss, Liszt, Schumann, Brahms, Grieg, Mahler, they all spent crucial years in the city (as well as in Weimar) during the course of Johann’s life, allowing him to come in contact with each, as well as to see all but Wagner and Schumann either conduct or perform. It would be impossible to overstate the importance of music in his work, despite there being only a handful of direct musical references in his boxes.

"For Johann, music and only music could create such an idealization of space as to transcend time, while still existing within it as an undivided whole. Music is at once truth and form, knowledge and sensation. Music defies absolute space and time by not only transcending the boundaries, but by suggesting the very boundlessness of the universe itself.

"Another to have passed through Leipzig—in this case on his way to Vienna—was Sigmund Freud. In Freud, Johann found his journey had come full circle. Where Johann had begun by challenging his students to question the veracity of truth through his enigmatic displays on human physiology, he ended by proffering that truth is neither supreme nor absolute; our universe may be governed by laws, he suggests, but truth resides just outside our reach, amidst the deepest dark corners of a world we have only just begun to unravel: that of the human mind."

50 Moons of Saturn
Curator: Daniel Birnbaum
Torino Triennale
6 November 2008 – 18 January 2009

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