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Speculative Art HistoriesAnalysis at the Limits$
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Sjoerd van Tuinen

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474421041

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474421041.001.0001

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Gothic Ontology and Sympathy: Moving Away from the Fold

Gothic Ontology and Sympathy: Moving Away from the Fold

(p.131) 8 Gothic Ontology and Sympathy: Moving Away from the Fold
Speculative Art Histories

Lars Spuybroek

Edinburgh University Press

Lars Spuybroek proposes an ‘ill-disciplined’ reading of John Ruskin’s vitalist, anti-classicist theory of Gothic architecture. By discussing three of the six characteristics that Ruskin uses to define the nature of Gothic architecture, namely savageness (a form of rough variation), changefulness (a form of smooth variation), and rigidity (a form of structural activity), Spuybroek develops a Gothic ontology. At the heart of this ontology lies the relation between figures and configurations in which figures are variable and active parts that relate to each other in order to form collaborative entities. The figure-configuration relation transcends the aesthetic opposition between structure and ornament, an opposition that is upheld by Classicism and its varieties. In Gothic architecture, ornament is not ‘added on’ to structure, but rather generates structure by configurational behaviour such as bundling, weaving, and webbing. This flexible form of agency allows the fundamental element of the Gothic, the rib, to create an enormous variety of patterns. As an entity the Gothic rib takes position between the classical atom and the baroque fold, adhering to the discreteness of the former and the flexibility of the latter. Subsequently, Gothic ontology does not differentiate between beauty and workings, conflating both in a realm of sympathy, a concept of interiority based on readings which connect the work of Ruskin to that of Worringer, Lipps and Whitehead.

Keywords:   Gothic architecture, sympathy, figure, configuration, mimesis, Worringer, Lipps, Whitehead

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