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Li - Dynamic Form in Nature

1 IntroductIon There is a haunting if deceptive modernity in the notion, so often celebrated by baroque poets and thinkers, that arteries and the branches of trees, the dancing motion of the microcosm and the solemn measures of the spheres, the markings on the back of the tortoise and the veined patterns on rocks, are all ciphers. George Steiner, Lifelines The images presented in this book derive from a broad range of naturally occuring formations of a kind that have long been of interest and a source of inspiration to artists and designers but which have never been systematically investigated in the West, and have not even aquired the dignity of a common term. The expression Li, which I have applied to these configur ations, has been appropriated from the Chinese where it has been used for a very long time indeed. In common with many Chinese expressions translations are various, but as a concept it falls between our notions of pattern and principle. It should become clear from even the most casual glance through the pages of this book that these formations have a certain universality, a quality which undoubtedly underlies their aesthetic appeal. In fact Li can be seen as a manifestation of the gestalt, the inherent pattern of things. In its earliest Chinese usage the term was applied to such phenomena as the markings in Jade and the pattern of fibres in muscle, but it gradually acquired the more extended meaning of an innate principle. What we are dealing with here then are graphic expressions of a great range of archetypal modes of action, whose traces A positive Lichtenberg figure, obtained when a block of plastic is charged with static electricity.
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