Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for March 8th, 2015

The life and death of John Doe

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Louis H. Sullivan

Now, it stands to reason that a thing looks like what it is, and, vice versa, it is what it looks like…For instances: the form, oak tree, resembles and expresses the purpose or function, oak; the form, pine tree, resembles and indicates the function, pine; the form, horse, resembles and is the logical output of the function, horse; the form, spider, resembles and is the tangible evidence of the function, spider. So the form, wave, looks like the function, wave; the form, cloud, speaks to us of the function, cloud…And so does the form, man, stand for the function, man; the form, John Doe, means the function, John Doe; the form, smile, makes us aware of the function, smile; so, when I say: a man named John Doe smiles,—we have a little series of functions and forms which are inseparably related, and yet they seem very casual to us…

John Doe lived. He did not know or care anything about form or function; but he lived them both; he disbursed them both as he went along through life. He lived and he died. You and I live and we shall die. But John Doe lived the life of John Doe, not of John Smith: that was his function and such were his forms.

Louis H. Sullivan, Kindergarten Chats

Written by nevalalee

March 8, 2015 at 9:00 am

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