How did beauty begin? Earth-cult, supressing the eye, locks man in the belly of mothers. There is, I insist, nothing beautiful in nature. Nature is primal power, coarse and turbulent. Beauty is our weapon against nature; by it we make objects, giving them limit, symmetry, proportion. Beauty halts and freezes the melting flux of nature.
Beauty was made by men acting together. Hamlets, forts, cities, spread across the Near East after the founding of Jericho (ca. 8000 B.C.), the first known settlement in the world. But it was not until Egypt that art broke its enslavement to nature. High art is nonutilitarian. That is, the art object, though retaining its ritualism, is no longer a tool of something else. Beauty is the art object's license to life. The object exists on its own, godlike. Beauty is the art object's light from within. We know it by the eye. Beauty is our escape from the murky flesh-envelope that imprisions us.
The masculine art form of construction begins in Egypt. There were public works before, as in the fabled walls of Jericho, but they did not cater to the eye. In Egypt, construction is male geometry, a glorification of the visible. The first clarity of intelligible form appears in Egypt, the basis of Greek Appolonianism in art and thought. Egypt discovers foursquare architecture, a rigid grid laid against mother nature's malting ovals. Social order becomes a visible aesthetic, countering nature's chthonian invisibilities.
1990, ed. Vintage
Imagem: Tempo de Hatshepsut (XVIII Dinastia), do arquitecto Senenmut, 1490-1460 a.C.