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THE ACTIVITY OF EXTERNALIZATION, TECHNIQUE
AND THE THEORY OF THE ARTS
The practical THE fact of the production of the physically ternalization. beautiful implies, as has already been remarked, a vigilant will, which persists in not allowing certain visions, intuitions, or representations, to be lost. Such a will must be able to act with the utmost rapidity, and as it were instinctively, and also be capable of long and laborious deliberations. Thus and only thus does the practical activity enter into relations with the æsthetic, that is to say, in effecting the production of physical objects, which are aids to memory. Here it is not merely a concomitant, but really a distinct moment of the æsthetic activity. We cannot will or not will our æsthetic vision: we can, however, will or not will to externalize it, or better, to preserve and communicate, or not, to others, the externalization produced.
This volitional fact of externalization is pre
ceded by a complex of various kinds of knowledge. The technique These are known as techniques, like all knowledge which precedes the practical activity. Thus we talk of an artistic technique in the same metaphorical and elliptic manner that we talk of the physically beautiful, that is to say (in more precise language), knowledge employed by the practical activity engaged in producing stimuli to asthetic reproduction. In place of employing so lengthy a phrase, we shall here avail ourselves of the vulgar terminology, since we are henceforward aware of its true meaning.
The possibility of this technical knowledge, at the service of artistic reproduction, has caused people to imagine the existence of an æsthetic technique of internal expression, which is tantamount to saying, a doctrine of the means of internal expression, which is altogether inconceivable. And we know well the reason why it is inconceivable; expression, considered in itself, is primary theoretic activity, and, in so far as it is this, it precedes the practical activity and the intellectual knowledge which illumines the practical activity, and is thus independent alike of the one and of the other. It also helps to illumine the practical activity, but is not illuminated by it. Expression does not
employ means, because it has not an end; it has intuitions of things, but does not will them, and is thus indivisible into means and end. Thus if it be said, as sometimes is the case, that a certain writer has invented a new technique of fiction or of drama, or that a painter has discovered a new mode of distribution of light, the word is used in a false sense; because the so-called new technique is really that romance itself, or that new picture itself. The distribution of light belongs to the vision itself of the picture; as the technique of a dramatist is his dramatic conception itself. On other occasions, the word "technique" is used to designate certain merits or defects in a work which is a failure; and it is said, euphemistically, that the conception is bad, but the technique good, or that the conception is good, and the technique bad.
On the other hand, when the different ways of painting in oils, or of etching, or of sculpturing in alabaster, are discussed, then the word "technique" is in its place; but in such a case the adjective "artistic" is used metaphorically. And if a dramatic technique in the artistic sense be impossible, a theatrical technique is not impossible, that is to say, processes of externalization of certain given æsthetic works.
When, for instance, women were introduced on the stage in Italy in the second half of the sixteenth century, in place of men dressed as women, this was a true and real discovery in theatrical technique; such too was the perfecting in the following century by the impresarios of Venice, of machines for the rapid changing of the scenes.
The collection of technical knowledge at the The theoretic service of artists desirous of externalizing their the individual expressions, can be divided into groups, which may be entitled theories of the arts. Thus is born a theory of Architecture, comprising mechanical laws, information relating to the weight or to the resistance of the materials of construction or of fortification, manuals relating to the method of mixing chalk or stucco; a theory of Sculpture, containing advice as to the instruments to be used for sculpturing the various sorts of stone, for obtaining a successful fusion of bronze, for working with the chisel, for the exact copying of the model in chalk or plaster, for keeping chalk damp; a theory of Painting, on the various techniques of tempera, of oil-painting, of water-colour, of pastel, on the proportions of the human body, on the laws of perspective; a theory of Oratory, with
precepts as to the method of producing, of exercising and of strengthening the voice, of mimic and gesture; a theory of Music, on the combinations and fusions of tones and sounds; and so on. Such collections of precepts abound
in all literatures.
And since it soon becomes impossible to say what is useful and what useless to know, books of this sort become very often a sort of encyclopædias or catalogues of desiderata. Vitruvius, in his treatise on Architecture, claims for the architect a knowledge of letters, of drawing, of geometry, of arithmetic, of optic, of history, of natural and moral philosophy, of jurisprudence, of medicine, of astrology, of music, and SO on. Everything is worth knowing learn the art and lay it aside.
It should be evident that such empirical collections are not reducible to a science. They are composed of notions, taken from various sciences and teachings, and their philosophical and scientific principles are to be found in them. To undertake the construction of a scientific theory of the different arts, would be to wish to reduce to the single and homogeneous what is by nature multiple and heterogeneous; to wish to destroy the existence as a collection of what was put together precisely to form a