After Vasari

writings on artists and artworks and where they exist

Tag: Norte Maar

Extra curricular: science

by A.L. McMichael

Editors’ note: Sometimes presumably simple questions are the most elusive to address. A deeply storied and likely eternal example of such a question is the following:
What is art?

Writings on After Vasari bearing the new heading, “extra curricular” are attempts to explore this query in various ways, to probe the ever-nebulous boundaries of ‘art’ in hopes of grasping, however fleetingly, why it is that some endeavors and objects merit such a name.


In The Brodmann Areas ballet from Norte Maar, dancers interact with video projection and sound by After Vasari’s own Paul D’Agostino.
PHOTO: Norte Maar.

Science and art are, at times, uneasy bedfellows—one explores the concrete and measurable while the other incorporates our entire realm of possibility and fantasy. This was not always the case, of course. In Renaissance Florence painters were incorporated into the guild of physicians and pharmacists, emphasizing their skills in mixing and measuring pigments. Leonardo da Vinci became the essence of a ‘Renaissance man’ with his plans for a helicopter and anatomical sketches created alongside his painted masterpieces. His anatomical drawings, on exhibition at Buckingham Palace, were produced with near-photographic accuracy, capturing the nuances of how a spine supports the body and how the heart pumps blood.

Dancers are often at the forefront of exploring the human body and its movements as a nexus of art and science. The Brodmann Areas, a recent collaborative ballet at Norte Maar, was named for a map exploring the cerebral cortex. Choreographer Julia Gleich introduced the final performance by sharing with the audience, “the dances are experiments.” And in that phrase, she summed up aspects of scientific experimentation that are driven by human creativity.

Each piece danced was a meditation on kinesis and memory. In a section called “Motivi esteriori e cosi via,” a film of collaged images was projected behind the dance floor. Each figure on the stage danced a response, emphasizing the temporal nature of fleeting images and the physical presence of the studio wall. As the images disappeared or changed, the movement continued, incorporating our memories of the images as an additional medium in the work.

In a segment titled “Folium: a wrinkles on the surface of the cerebellum,” Jace Coronado danced a solo with a small ladder strapped to his back. His jubilant leaps were a manifestation of pure human achievement. The accompanying clack of castanets in Antonio Martin y Coll’s music referenced the flapping ladder. Stepping away from clinical references to the brain, the piece offered instead metaphors for subtlety, subconscious connections, repeated thoughts. The ballet was an ever-changing incorporation of dance, visual stimulation, music, and vocals that speak to the myriad connections and collaborations in the activity of the human brain.

Harnessing neuroscience is also a way to decipher creative impulses. An Xiao of Hyperallergic has recently pondered the scientific impetus for art, exploring “what’s going on in artists’ brains” while they create. Jeremy Dean has pointed out that embodied metaphors such as “jog one’s memory,” can be put to literal use: movement, gesture, and even posture are connected to problem solving.

But what about the inherent element of science that is creativity? Experiments, even when tightly controlled are the result of intellectual curiosity, of innovative problem solving. My response is to contemplate and challenge my own notions of medium and materials in the construction of art. Leonardo’s painstaking draughtsmanship was a vehicle for both scientific observation and visual expression; perhaps it offers the most tangible example of the human body as a loca sancta of both science and of art.

Schizzo: Aloft

by Paul D'Agostino

Futuro anteriore VI: Si sarà sempre trattato di partenze, scoperte, rovine / Future Perfect VI: It Will Have Always Been a Matter of Departures, Discoveries, Ruins. Mixed-media collage and drawing, with ink and acrylic mediums on layered gessoed paper, 2012. Private collection.*


“As language refers to its own taking place via shifters, the “this”
and the “now,” [it] produces the sensible expressed in it as a past and
at the same time defers this sensible to the future. In this fashion,
it is always already caught up in a history and a time.”
– Giorgio Agamben**



The plight of beauty
might indeed
for artistry
to lose love almost
or even entirely,
any longer
able solely
to adore.

Whence verses and chapters
and pictures yield
whatever truths any things
may yield.

Grand fictions of
laughter, of magic, of wars,
tales told and retold ever curled into
folds in history’s pleats, distant and deep,
to unfold and refurl into scrolls,
the variant texts of recrafted
worlds, the compassed flights and
magnetic maps and sapient talons of
messenger birds
in a time.


Artwork & text, P. D’Agostino


* This collage is currently featured in my exhibition at Norte Maar Gallery, Appearance Adrift in the Garden, on view through March 4th. More information at

** From The Time That Remains: A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans (Stanford University Press, 2005).

Schizzo: Abbild / Likeness

by Paul D'Agostino

Apparenza vagando nel giardino / Appearance Adrift in the Garden, 3/4. From a set of serialized monoprints with diminishing palette, oil on paper, 2011.*


“Passing away is the figure, the way of being of this world.”
–  Paul the Apostle, 1 Corinthians 7:31

“Man is enclosed in his image and he does not know it.”
–  Pierre Legendre, Dieu au miroir**


Eine Sache
die sich immer
noch weiter verwandelt,
obwohl sie immer
im Grunde
die gleiche bleibt:

wie wir bezeichnen
was wir sehen
als Abbild,
unsere Sehnsucht
nach als ob,
nach als ob nicht.



One thing
that is always
yet further transformed,
though it remains ever
the same:

how we designate
what we see as
a likeness,
our longing
for as if,
for as if not.


Artwork & texts, P. D’Agostino.


* This set of serialized monoprints will soon be among the new works featured in D’Agostino’s solo exhibit, Appearance Adrift in the Garden, at Norte Maar Gallery. Curated by Jason Andrew, the exhibit will run from 3 February 2012 to 4 March 2012. Opening reception on Friday, 3 February. More information available soon at

** The citation from Pierre Legendre’s Dieu au miroir (Fayard, 1994) appears as referenced by Michael Francis Gibson in his book The Mill and The Cross (Acatos Editions, 2000). The citation from the writings of Paul the Apostle appears as referenced by Giorgio Agamben in The Time That Remains: A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans (Stanford University Press, 2005).

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