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1o. Causation: Las Meninas


Image: Detail: Diego Velázquez, Las Meninas,1656.


Slide 1: Causation: Las Meninas (1656)

Slide 2: Diego Velázquez (1599 – 1660) was the leading artist of the court of King Philip IV. Las Meninas, (The Maids of Honor), painted in 1656, depicts what the King and Queen (reflected in the mirror) see. Multiple actions include, among others, Velázquez stepping out from behind his canvas, the smile of the princess, the man in the back turning to look, which all appear to be caused by our presence as observers.

Slide 3: Once we discover we are stand-ins for the King and Queen, we experience ourselves we are invited to be the Royal Couple causing a series of actions, as we allow the meaning of the painting to emerge as an embodied "felt" coherence.

Slide 4: King Philip IV and his second Queen, Mariana of Austria.

Slide 5: As observers, when we metaphorically causing things to happen in the wake of our presence, we do as our complex embodied participation is experienced conceptually (metaphorically) and emotionally (physically).

Slide 6: Causality is our aesthetic dimension (Mark Johnson). Once we become aware of the presence of an event (something is happening here) we become involved (not unlike a detective entering a crime scene), where we want to discover what caused what to happen.

Slide 7: Las Meninas was known in Europe as the "Theology of Art" or "The True Philosophy of Art". Foucault suggested that the idea of man "is a quite recent creature" and in response to Diego Velázquez' stepping out from behind the canvas in Las Meninas, Foucault imagines that man "had been waiting for thousands of years in the darkness for that moment of illumination in which he would finally be known" (Foucault: 1966). Velázquez steps out from behind his painting (action) to acknowledge the King and Queen (purpose) because in our phenomenal world we want to believe"things happen for a reason."

Slide 8: Causes are not things we can see in the world. Stuff happens, things change, forces affect things, but the "causes" we assign to events are embodied. Causes are assigned experientially based on our memories and emotional understanding,  the values of our linguistic community, our histories as physical "live creatures" (Johnson 1987).

Slide 9: Consider that the 5-year-old, Infanta Margarita Teresa could be the primary cause of the existence of Velázquez's painting, especially if she is it's subject and therefore, why the King and Queen are present to see what is going on.

Slide 10: Causation is Conceptualized as Correlation.

Slide 11: The open door on the other side of the room is caused by a man holding a curtain back, which reveals a light beyond, (a void?). Is this a way out or a way forward (enlightenment)? The man seems to hesitate; it is not clear if he is coming or going.

Slide 12: Consider Art as a meditation on causality: 'what is happening to what,' what correlates with what. This is how we engage the Hermeneutic Method (loops and spirals) to arrive at embodied understanding.


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