life

“Life, is simply self-reproduction with variations.”
Discussion on Journal of Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics


Born in 1870 in Brno, Moravia, his stonemason father died when he was only nine. A rebellious, disorientated boy, he failed in various attempts to get through architecture school. Contracting syphilis in the brothels of Vienna, by 21 he was sterile and in 1893 his mother disowned him. He went to America and for three years and did odd jobs in New York, somehow finding himself in that process and returning to Vienna in 1896 a man of taste and intellectual refinement, immediately entering the fashionable Viennese intelligentsia. His friends included Ludwig Wittgenstein, Arnold Schönberg, and Karl Kraus. He quickly established himself as the preferred architect of Vienna’s cultured bourgeoisie. Diagnosed with cancer in 1918, his stomach, appendix and part of his intestine were removed. For the rest of his life he could only digest ham and cream. He had several unhappy marriages. By the time he was fifty he was almost completely deaf; in 1928 he was disgraced by a paedophilia scandal and at his death in 1933 at 63 he was penniless[2]. He died in Kalksburg near Vienna.


Adolf Loos: “Ornament and Crime


Davis (1996, emphasis added):

“I’ve gradually smoothed over this more radical [ontological panpsychic] stance by strategically adopting methodological views (Arjun Appadurai and Igor Kopytoff’s cultural biographies of things, Stanley Fish’s reader-response theory of literary meaning) that would enable me to tell my biographical stories, and would at the same time domesticate my living objects within acceptable Western intellectual approaches. “Biographies” thus becomes a strategic metaphor for narrating the historical processes that surround objects over time, rather than the dead serious, non-metaphorical telling of an actual life of an embodied iconic being. Yet I don’t think that means that I entirely abandon my images to Western conceptualizations. In centering the book around stories, lives of individual objects that have led and continue to lead interesting and varied lives, I hope that there is a cumulative persuasive effect that I’m not using “lives” metaphorically or ironically, but as the expression of a serious ontological premise. My aim is that an accomodation between two different ideas of how images might in fact be alive will emerge over the course of the book.”

WRITING AS IF ICONS ARE REALLY ALIVE
(C.A.S.I. Position Paper)
Richard H. Davis
24 June 96