Archive for the ‘esteetika’ Category

Jacques Rancière “Figures of History”

January 12, 2016 Leave a comment

Rancière, Jacques 2014. Figures of History. Cambridge; Malden: Polity Press.

Part 2 – Senses and figures of history
History is first an anthology of what is worthy of being memorialized. Not necessarily what was, and what witnesses testify to, but what deserves to be focused on, meditated upon, imitated, because of its greatness. Legends offer such a brand of history as much as chronicles do, and Homer more than Thucydides. No matter what has been claimed, it is not events that lie at the heart of this kind of history, but examples. (61)

Examples of fortune and misfortune, of virtue and vice. Not that far removed, in a sense, from the concern of the new history with moments and gestures that signal a way of occupying a world. Only, memorial-history doesn’t propose reading the sense of a world through that world’s signs. It proposes examples to imitate. This supposes a continuity between the scene that is worthy of being imitated and the act of imitating in its double sense: the work of the painter and the lesson drawn by the involved spectator. (62)

History secondly means a story. In a painting, a specific moment, significant for the action, commands attention. The movements of the characters converge on this central point or reflect its effect right to the outer edges of the scene. Eyes stare at it, outstretched arms direct us to it, faces broadcast its emotion, mimed conversations comment on its significance. In short, the painting itself is a story – that is, an arrangement of actions, a meaningful fable endowed with appropriate means of expression. (63)

In the meantime, a third type of history was to secure its dominion by destroying the harmony between the expressive disposition of bodies over a canvas and the effect of an exemplary grandeur communicated by the scene. This is History as an ontological power in which any ‘story’ – any represented example and any linked action – finds itself included. History as a specific mode of time, a way in which time itself is made the principle behind sequences of events and their significance. History as movement directed towards achievement of some kind, defining conditions and tasks of the moment and promises of the future, but also threats for anyone who gets the sequence of conditions and promises wrong; like the common destiny that men make for themselves but that they only make to a certain extent, since it constantly eludes them and its promises are constantly reversed as catastrophes. (66)

[…] as a matter of principle, no action or figure can ever be adequate to the sense of its movement. The distinctive feature of this form of History is that none of its scenes or figures is ever equal to it. (67)

History with a capital H is not just the power of sense to exceed action which is turned upside-down as a demonstration of non-sense, referring form to the material from which it emerges and to the gesture that pulls it from that material. History is not just the saturnine power that devours all individuality. It is also the new fabric in which each and every person’s perceptions and sensations are captured. Historical time is not just the time of great collective destinies. It is the time where anyone and anything at all make history and bear witness to history. (68-69)

Anthology of examples; arrangement of fables; historial power of necessary, common destiny; historicized fabric of the sensible. Four different types of ‘history’, at least, come together or come apart, contrast or interlace, variously reshaping the relationships between pictorial genres and the powers of figuration. (71)

But the opposite of the representational system is not the unrepresentable. The system is not, in fact, based on the sole imperative to imitate and make the image like the model. It is based on two fundamental propositions. One defines the relationships between what is represented and the forms its representation takes; the other defines the relationship between those forms and the material in which they are executed. The first rule is one of differentiation: a specific style and form are suited to a given subject – the noble style of tragedy, the epic or history painting for kings, the familiar colour of comedy or of genre painting for the little people. The second rule, on the contrary, is one of in-difference: the general laws of epresentation apply equally no matter what the material medium used in the representation, whether it be language, painted canvas or sculpted stone. (73)

The first poetics, which we might call abstract symbolist, deals the most radically with the collapse of the representational world as a whole and settles on art the historic task of replacing that world with an equivalent order: an order that produces a system of actions equivalent to the old order of mimesisand plays a role in the community equivalent to the banished vanities of representation. It contrasts the imitation of things or beings with the exact expression of the relationships that link them, and with the outline of the ‘rhythms of the idea’ that are able to serve as a foundation for a new ritual, sealing the duty that links the ‘multiple action’ of men. (75-76)

The second poetics is quite specifically dedicated to revoking the principle of the indifference of matter. It identifies the power of the work of art and of history as a bringing to light of the capacity for form and idea immanent in all matter. This poetics of nature, as ‘unconscious poem’ (Schelling), locates the work of art within the continuous movement by which matter already takes form, sketches its own idea in the folds of the mineral or the prints of the fossil and rises to ever higher forms of selfexpression and self-symbolization. Let’s agree to call this poetics, whose features are set out in the theoretical texts of Auguste Schlegel and the ‘naturalist’ works of Michelet, expressionist symbolist. (76)

[…] this poetics establishes one of the main processes by means of which the art of the twentieth century was to ‘catch up with history’ – namely, the play of metamorphoses through which what is represented, matter and form, change places and exchange their powers. (77)

The third poetics emphasizes the destruction of the relationship between form and subject. It not only plays on the equality of all those represented but, more broadly, on the multiple forms that the de-subordination of figures to the hierarchy of subjects and dispositions may take. (77)

Let’s agree to call this poetics (sur)realist to indicate the following: ‘realism’ is not a return to the triviality of real things as opposed to the conventions of representation. It is the total system of possible variations of the indicators and values of reality, of forms of connecting and disconnecting figures and stories that their destruction makes possible. (78)

The age of History, then, is not the age of a kind of painting that is driven by world catastrophe, and by its own movement, towards rarefaction and aphasia. It is rather the age of the proliferation of senses of history and the metamorphoses that allow the interplay of these to be staged. (79)

If every object immediately has the potential to become subject, form or material, this is not only, as has sometimes been suggested a bit too hastily in the age of Pop, because of its ‘documentary’ value, which turns it into a vehicle of a critical function. It is because, in the age of history, every object leads a double life, holds a potential for historicity that is at the very heart of its nature as an ordinary perceptual object. History as the sensible fabric of things is doubled by history as fate-dealing power. Freeing historyas-example and (hi)story-as-composition from their subjection to representation, it multiplies the figurative possibilities which all forms of defiguration then enjoy. And this multiplication supports the various forms of historicization of art, making compossible, or co-existent, two ‘fates for art’: the constructivist-unanimist project of ‘transforming the whole world into one gigantic work of art’ (Schwitters), but also its apparent opposite – the critical project of an art that eliminates its own lie in order to speak truthfully about the lie and the violence of the society that produces it. (80-81)

The completion and selfelimination of art go together, because it is the very particularity of history as a fate-dealing power that, in it, any existing form aims for a completion that is identical to its own elimination. And the age of History also confers upon all formless matter, just as it does on all established writing, the possibility of being turned into an element in the play of forms. The age of the anti-representation is not the age of the unrepresentable. It is the age of high realism. (81)

Freddy Decreus “La notion de “valeur esthétique” dans l’esthétique structurale de Jan Mukarovsky”

September 13, 2014 Leave a comment

Decreus, Freddy 1986. La notion de « valeur esthétique » dans l’esthétique structurale de Jan Mukarovsky. Application au poème 56 de Catulle. Philosophica 38(2) : 77-106.

Au centre de ce mouvement “formaliste” (1916-1930) se manifeste en tout cas un désir très fort de ne plus analyser la dimension esthétique par des modèles extrinsèques (d’origine génético-positiviste), mais, par contre, d’en décrire la spécificité à l’aide d’un modèle sui generis : la science littéraire se réserve comme objet d’étude la “littérarité”, ou, selon les mots de Jakobson, “ce qui fait d’une oeuvre donnée une oeuvre littéraire” (1921: 15). (77-78)

Ainsi M. a été le premier à vraiment mettre en rapport le structuralisme et les études esthétiques (6). Remarquons pourtant qu’il n’a jamais pensé à cet égard développer une théorie ou une méthode bien déterminée, mais qu’il a toujours soutenu qu’il ne s’agit que d’un point de vue épistémologique, d’où peuvent sortir des règles ou des questions méthodologiques. (78-79)

Cette thèse dialectique de la relation entre un tout et ses parties exclut aussi la possibilité de concevoir la structure comme une “Gestalt” (à cause d’une “Gestalt qualität” supplémentaire, qui se situe en dehors des caractéristiques des parties), ou comme une “composition” (ses principes organisateurs comme les proportions, les symétries, ou les relations concentriques ne se pénètrent pas mutuellement) (1945: 20-24). (80)

M. a soutenu depuis l’année 1940 que la structure est d’un caractère énergétique et dynamique. Par “énergétique” il entend dire que tous les éléments ont une certaine fonction à remplir dans une unité qui leur est commune; par l’aspect “dynamique” du tout structural il veut indiquer que les différentes fonctions et leurs relations mutuelles sont assujetties à des changements continuels. La structure du tout se situe donc, à vrai dire, dans un mouvement ininterrompu, ce qui n’est point le cas pour un tout d’ordre additif, ni pour une composition ou un schème, puisque ceux-ci ne sont perturbés par aucun changement (1940a: Il). (80)

Ce qui caractérise la survie de la structure est précisément le fait que son équilibre interne est perpétuellement perturbé, mais qu’il est aussi chaque fois (re )construit. L’unité de la structure doit pour cela toujours être considérée comme un “wechselseitiger Ausgleich der energien” (1947: 8), qui assume le caractère d’un véritable procès (11). De là on comprend que la structure est à chaque moment aussi bien elle-même et pas elle-même: elle est “virtuell ein Abklingen des vergangenen Zustandes und der Beginn des Künftigen” (1947: 8). (80-81)

L’art est ensuite conçu comme le domaine dans lequel la fonction esthétique domine les autres fonctions d’ordre pratique (16). “L’esthétique elle-même est définie comme “l’étude de la fonction esthétique, de ses manifestations et de ses véhicules” (Steiner”, 1978, XXVII). Cette définition est d’importance, ne fût-ce que pour la position anti-essentialiste et anti-substantialiste qu’elle véhicule (17). (83)

Dans un sens très général, M. comprend par le terme de fonction, la relation active soit entre un objet et le but dans lequel cet objet est employé, soit entre un sujet et sa propre réalisation dans le monde extérieur. (83)

Dans ses premières études M. accorde beaucoup’ d’importance à définir la notion de fonction appliquée à un objet. A l’encontre de toutes les fonctions pratiques la fonction esthétique renvoie à l’objet même au lieu de renvoyer à un autre objet ou sujet. Avant lui, Tynjanov avait pris soin de définir la “Synfunktion” et 1″‘Autofunktion” d’un élément littéraire, mais il l’avait surtout fait dans les limites d’un système à deux entrées (synchronie – diachronie), sans perdre de vue toutefois qu’elle était susceptible d’évoluer. (83)

Dans un de ses articles du début des années ’40 – une époque, dans laquelle il s’est distancié clairement de son esthétique immanente d’autrefois pour s’orienter plutôt dans des pistes phénoménologiques – il rattache la notion de fonction à celle du sujet. Sa conception du sujet comme la source vivante des fonctions illustre bien son nouveau point de départ dans un sens sociologique et anthropologique. (84)

[…] M. propose alors de séparer la dimension matérielle du signe littéraire, “das Artefakt”, de ce que le sujet en fait lors de l’interprétation, c-à-d. lorsqu’il le transforme en “objet esthétique” (1934a: 387-391). (84)

En ce qui concerne les trois composantes du système axiologique de M., voilà une première définition: “By function we understand an active relation between an object and the goal for which this object is used. The value then is the utility of this object for such a goal. The norm is the rule or set of rules which regulate the sphere of a parlicular kind or category of values”. (85)

En effet, en dehors de l’art, la valeur est subordonnée aux normes, mais dans le domaine de l’art, il se trouve que c’est la norme qui est subordonnée à la valeur. En dehors de l’art, remplir la norme veut dire autant qu’obtenir la valeur; par contre, dans les manifestations artistiques la norme est dépassée à beaucoup de reprises. En ce qui .concerne sa nature, la norme artistique est aussi beaucoup plus dynamique et changeante que les normes disons. éthiques ou linguistiques. Ce qui caractérise aussi la norme est son désir de validité illimitée; en même temps, néanmoins, elle doit reconnaître que cett~ tâche est impossible à réaliser. (86)

Dans un premier moment il rejette l’idée que les constantes anthropologiques puissent être considérées comme responsables de l’émergence d’une valeur objective (permanente, indépendante); en effet, l’oeuvre d’art a un caractère sémiotique très prononcé et renvoie donc à l’homme en tant que membre d’un groupe social bien organisé (1936c: 83) et non à l’homme comme simple constante anthropologique (Steiner, 1978: XXX). Dans une publication citérieure, étudiant ‘les valeurs esthétiques “universelles” (et non plus “objectives”), M. a repris l’analyse des constantes anthropologiques, tout en y intégrant plus étroitement le “sujet”. La base de la valeur esthétique universelle doit être cherchée dans la constitution anthropologique de l’homme, mais elle ne se réalise d’une façon esthétique que sous certaines conditions. C’est pourquoi il examine comment l’oeuvre d’art est en état de s’adresser à la totalité des expériences du sujet et comment l’attitude générale du sujet aide à la détermination des fonctions esthétiques. (88)

Jeremy Proulx “Nature, Judgment and Art: Kant and the Problem of Genius”

Proulx, Jeremy 2011. Nature, Judgment and Art: Kant and the Problem of Genius. Kant Studies Online: 27-53.
In §46 of the Critique of Judgment Kant defines genius as ‘the innate [angebornes] mental predisposition [Gemütsanlage] (ingenium) through which nature gives the rule to art.’ (27)
If art is to be considered beautiful – if fine art is to be possible – then it must in some way be ‘natural’. Kant needs a conception of artistic genius that can account for art objects that are at once products of artistic intention and yet conceal this intention by appearing as necessary products of natural mechanism. (27)
[…] I will argue that since Kant seems to understand the genius’ connection to nature as a relationship in which creativity mirrors nature’s original productivity, the peculiar talent of the genius lay in an ability to find ‘natural’ expression for aesthetic ideas. (29)
‘[A]rt,” so the famous passage goes, ‘can be called fine [schön] art only if we are conscious that it is art while yet it looks to us like nature.’ Art is at once an opus of the artist and an effectus of natural fecundity (Fruchtbarkeit). The special relationship between the genius and nature is here explained by pointing out that on Kant’s model of aesthetic appreciation nature is the paradigm case of beauty, so that if art can be called beautiful at all it is only insofar as it appears as a natural product. (30)
[…] Kant wavers between the more radical claim that genius can produce natural effects and the claim that art is always guided by the intentions of the artist. For if art is just an opus, then the artist must employ a judgment of taste to ensure that his intentions are communicable to others. (33)
I suggest that the tension between genius and taste is not evidence of ambiguity (at least not only ambiguity) on Kant’s part, but is rather a tension internal to genius itself […] (33)
There are three basic ways that Kant defines genius: 1) originality; 2) exemplarity and communicability; and 3) naturalness. (34)
Genius is a natural phenomenon, a result of nature’s original productivity. Kant’s term in the third Critique is ‚Naturgabe’. ‘Art,’ so Kant’s reflection continues, ‘is like a garden, in which everything happens according to a method […]’. Genius is the avenue through which nature becomes subject to rules that have their origin in human reason. On this conception, fine art is a mediated form of nature itself. (35)
A necessary condition for fine art is thus 1) that nature acts through the genius, and 2) that it is this natural force that is the source of creativity. (35)
Kant, 1772-1773: ‘Not the imitation of nature, but rather the original fruitfulness of nature is the ground of beautiful art.’ (36)
So when Kant identifies the artistic genius with nature, he seems to mean: 1) that artistic beauty, just like natural, can be given at least a partial explanation in terms of determinate concepts; and 2) that such a mechanical explanation cannot explain the beauty that results from what on some level at least seems to be governed by determinate rules. (37)
But simply cobbling together conceptual components does not make a fine work of poetry just like any old natural form does not amount to natural beauty. The artistic genius may create ‘another nature out of the material that actual nature gives’, but this is more than simply putting together elements according to the laws of the understanding because, as Kant says, the work of genius must proceed without the guidance of any rule. (37)
To be ingenious is to expand concepts by creating new associations, new connections between concepts that expand the concepts themselves. Kant uses the example of the concept of the sublimity and majesty of creation. (37-38)
The talent of the genius consists in the ability to find ‘natural’ expression for such concepts, an expression that, while completely novel, completely unpredictable, seems to follow necessarily from what we mean by a concept. In this, we can understand what Kant means when he requires that fine art is both original and exemplary: art must be new, but it cannot be nonsense, it must serve as an example. A great work of art strikes us as original; it gives us a new, exemplary aesthetic way to think a concept. (38)
The peculiar talent of the genius consists in the ability to render a rational concept in such a way that it strikes us as ‘natural’, a necessary implication of the concept. (38-39)
To create art is quite literally to create another nature, a nature populated by ideas that exceed the bounds of sense, and held together by the aesthetic ingenuity that yet finds a sensible expression to capture such ideas. (39) – „a nature of ideas”
In reflective judgment, the order of operations from apprehension to comprehension to exhibition is short-circuited because that which is apprehended (beauty) resists comprehension. (40)
Before the third Critique, Kant had always maintained that imagination and understanding take on a relation of cooperation that unifies a manifold into a structured object. Now we learn that imagination and understanding can take on a new relation, a relation characterized by ‘harmonious free play’ rather than cooperation. This means that the typical relationship between imagination and understanding – the relationship in which imagination provides content that the understanding logically comprehends – is unhinged; that is, the imagination is no longer bound to the laws of the understanding, leaving its manifold free from the conceptual rule of the understanding and consequently from the imposition of determinative judgment. (40)
Without going into any of the necessary details, reflective judgment is not concerned to exhibit some concept of this state of the freedom of the imagination, but rather to reflect on it. The object of reflection is not, then, some object of experience (for to be an object at all in the Kantian sense is to be conceptually determined) but rather the purposive relation between imagination and understanding itself. (41)
In the case of empirical cognition, the relationship between imagination and understanding is purposive in that its purpose is to determine an object by exhibiting a concept that fits a given manifold. When confronted with the beautiful, this purpose of determining an object to be an instance of a concept is replaced by a purposiveness without a purpose because while the purpose of concept exhibition is absent, the purposive relation itself remains. That which is apprehended, though it cannot be comprehended, still harmonizes with the understanding. (41)
In the case of the experience of the sublime, the imagination is given even more freedom in that it is charged with the task of coming up with some supersensible meaning for what is a purely sensible given content. But when it comes to Kant’s account of artistic genius, imagination is charged with the even more challenging task of coming up with a sensible version of a supersensible idea. (43)
Indeed, Kant claims that artistic genius is characterized by an ‘ability to exhibit aesthetic ideas’, and defines an aesthetic idea as ‘the counterpart (pendant) of a rational idea’. A rational idea is a concept that cannot be exhausted by any intuition; an aesthetic idea is an imaginative presentation that cannot be thought determinatively. An aesthetic idea gives sensible life to that which is purely rational. (44-45)
An aesthetic idea is, as Kant says, a ‘presentation of the imagination’ that exceeds any possible determination by concepts. (45)
It is striking that Kant’s understanding of ‘spirit’ is so similar to the function of concept exhibition that he assigns to determinative judgment. Just as the latter is charged with the task of exhibiting a concept that the understanding comprehends out of an apprehended manifold of imagination, the function of spirit is to exhibit a rational concept in an aesthetic way, as an aesthetic idea. “When the imagination is used for cognition,” Kant says, “then it is under the constraint of the understanding […] [b]ut when the aim is aesthetic, then the imagination is free.” (48)
That which is presented in the imagination is conceptually grasped and determined by judgment to be an instance of a concept. The process of creativity on the other hand moves from reason to imagination to judgment. Here, the process begins with a rational concept or an idea that needs to find expression. (48)
So art is beautiful only when it is natural; only when, that is, it employs judgment to arrive at an expression that is meaningful to others and that gives aesthetic life to ideas that for most of us are only rational. And just as nature is not some inconceivable jumble, if art is to be successful in communicating a supersensible idea, then it is necessary that it too cannot be an inconceivable jumble; it is necessary, in short, that it be subject to a judgment of taste. (49)
“Taste,” Kant says, “is the basis of judging, genius however of execution.” The idea here seems to be that genius is the creative force behind the work, while taste makes the judgments that keep the work within the realm of comprehensibility. Thus, Kant continues,
“[T]aste without genius brings dissatisfaction with oneself; […] in contrast, much genius brings crude yet valuable products.” (50)
Kant: „Genius is not some sort of demon that gives out inspirations and revelations. If genius is to have matter, then one must have learned much or formally and methodically studied. Genius is also not a special kind and source of insight; it must be able to be communicated and made understandable to everyone. Genius only comes in where talent and industry do not reach; but if the illuminations presented amant obscurum and do not want to be seen and examined in the light at all, when they do not yield any graspable idea: then the imagination is raving, and, since its product is nothing (Nichts ist), it has not arisen from genius at all, but is only an illusion (Blendwerk).” (51-52 – Notes and Fragments, 15:393, 899.)
I shall conclude simply by pointing out that all of this supports the interpretation that genius is not some separate faculty, but rather a manner in which the faculties are set into motion. Kant makes this point explicitly in a reflection from 1776-78: “Genius […] is a principium of the animation of all the other powers through whatever idea of objects one wants.” And in the Anthropology Kant claims that genius, talent and spirit constitute a certain animation of the faculties. (52)

Jan Mukařovský “The Esthetics of Language”

April 15, 2014 Leave a comment

Mukařovský, Jan 1964. The Esthetics of Language. – Paul Garvin (ed). A Prague School Reader on Esthetics, Literary Structure, and Style. Washington: Georgetown University Press, 31-69.

The esthetic function makes of the object which is its carrier an esthetic fact without any further classification; therefore it often manifests itself as a fleeting stroke touching the object, as an accident stemming from a single momentary rapport between the subject and the object.
The esthetic norm, on the other hand, is the force regulating man’s esthetic attitudes towards things; therefore the norm detaches the esthetic from the individual object and the individual subject and makes it a matter of the general relationship between man and the world of things. (31)
[…] we will henceforth call the pole constituted by the pure and unbridled esthetic function, the unstructured esthetic [esteticno nenormované], and the opposite pole of the esthetic norm, the structured esthetic [esteticno nenormované]. (31)
There remains finally the esthetic value. It is a dialectical synthesis of the two poles of the esthetic. It shares with the unstructured esthetic the trend to uniqueness, with the structured esthetic the requirement of supraindividuality and stability. (32)
And this feeling of momentary equilibrium between the uniqeu and the general, between accident and lawfulness, which at the next moment is replaced, both in the poet and the reader, by the desire for a new equilibrium, is the mental equivalent of the esthetic value. (32)
The esthetic attitude, by contrast, has a negative character in the sense that, by denying the external objective, it makes of the thing a purpose in itself. (32)
Both beauty and ugliness belong, however […] only in the area of the structured esthetic and do not hold for the unstructured esthetic where pleasure and displeasure coalesce into an inextricable mixture. (35)
[…] the esthetic consists in the fact that the listener’s attention, which has so far been turned to the message for which language is a means, is directed to the linguistic sign itself, to its properties and composition, in one word, to its internal structure. (35-36)
The unstructured esthetic in language, however, also finds a direct route to the entire community: wihtout losing its essence it may of itself become a social fact by means of imitation. If we hear or read an expression or phrase that we find esthetically pleasing, we are willing, sometimes too willing, to imitate it. (40)
The unstructured esthetic can, however, not merely become temporarily generalized, but may achieve permanence in the form of tradition. (41)
The unstructured esthetic can thus become general, even permanent, without losing its essentially unbounded character as long as it is not subject to systematization. It may, on the other hand, become systematized to a certain extent without ceasing to be unstructured if it is not generalized in this systematicity, but remains confined to a single individual. (42)
A norm, however, at least in the proper sense of the word, presupposes a generally obligatory lawfulness, and therefore the esthetic becomes structured [normované] only in the supraindividual parole. By passing on to this parole we bridge an important boundary: from the free and unique esthetic we procedd to the regulated and impersonal esthetic. (44)
A deliberate effort may contribute to the clarification and systematization of the norms, but not to their creation: the source of the norms is the joint life of the society. (45)
The structured esthetic thus appears even in those forms of language which are not, nor have been in the past, the objects of deliberate cultivation. (46)
Let us first remember that the supraindividual parole is not in itself undifferentiated, but is stratified into a variety of functional forms, such as intellectual and emotional speech, standard and conversational speech, written and spoken language, etc. Each of these functional forms has its own regularity, and the esthetic norms are different for each functional dialect. (46)
What the ethnograpger [Bogatyrev] says here is very interesting for us. The „beauty” of the mother tongue, as is shown by his statement, is not a purely esthetic matter, but is given by the function of „ourness” which is superordinate to all functions including the esthetic. (51)
The differentiation of the esthetic norm in terms of the functions of language, which we have discussed above, is another proof of its modifiability: the esthetic norm, being dependent on something as variable as the purpose of the verbal response, will obviously also vary with time. (52)
The perfection of the esthetic norm does not occur, as has been just stated, by abrupt changes in the development, but by a consistent effort which usually occupies a more extended developmental period. (53)
The esthetic perfection of language is thus a matter of common consensus. Therefore a throughly worked out set of esthetic norms for the language becomes a shackle for the individuality. (54)
The basic part played by the unstructured esthetic is to counteract the automization of the act of speech, to individualize it over and over again, with regard to both the personality of the speaker and the uniqueness of the linguistic and extralinguistic situation from which the act of speech stems. (61)
The unstructured esthetic finally furthers in both the individual and society the taste for constant changes in language […] (62)
These two aspects of the esthetic thus appear before us as two mutually opposite forces, ever struggling for dominance without the complete victory of either; their mutual relation can be called a polarity, or in other words, the structured and unstructured esthetic in language […] form a dialectic antinomy which at the same time holds them together and keeps them separate. (63)


Jean-Francois Lyotard “The Inhuman”

Lyotard, Jean-Francois 1993. The Inhuman: Reflections on Time. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Introduction: About the Human

In 1913, Apollinaire wrote ingenuously: “More than anything, artists are men who want to become inhuman.” (2)

To go fast is to forget fast, to retain only the information that is useful afterwards, as in ‘rapid reading’. But writing and reading which advance backwards in the direction of the unknown thing ‘within’ are slow. One loses one’s time seeking time lost. (3)

That it always remains for the adult to free himself or herself from the obscure savageness of childhood by bringing about its promise – that is precisely the condition of humankind. (4)

‘Development’ is the ideology of the present time, it realizes the essential of metaphysics, which was a thinking pertaining to forces much more than to the subject. (6)

1. Can Thought Go on without a Body?

Dehumanized still implies human – a dead human, but conceivable: because dead in human terms, still capable of being sublated in thought. (10)

Human death is included in the life of human mind. (11)

You decide to accept the challenge of the extremely likely annihilation of a solar order and an order of your own thought. And then the only left you is quite clear – it’s been underway for some time – the job of simulating conditions of life and thought to make thinking remain materially possible after the change in the condition of matter that’s the disaster. (11-12)

So the problem of the technological sciences can be stated as: how to provide this software with a hardware that is independent of the conditions of life on earth. That is: how to make thought without a body possible. A thought that continues to exist after the death of the human body. This is the price to be paid if the explosion is to be conceivable, if the death of the sun is to be a death like other deaths we know about. (13-14)

[…] what makes thought and the body inseparable isn’t just that the latter is the indispensable hardware for the former, a material prerequisite of its existence. It’s that each of them is analogous to the other in its relationship with its respective (sensible, symbolic) environment: the relationship being analogical in both cases. (16)

Thinking, like writing or painting, is almost no more than letting a givable come towards you. (18)

In what we call thinking the mind isn’t ‘directed’ but suspended. You don’t give it rules. You teach it to receive. You don’t clear the ground to build unobstructed: you make a little clearing where the penumbra of an almost-given will be able to enter and modify its contour. (19)

The unthought hurts because we’re comfortable in what’s already thought. And thinking, which is accepting this discomfort, is also, to put it bluntly, an attempt to have done with it. That’s the hope sustaining all writing (painting, etc.): that at the end, things will be better. As there is no end, this hope is illusory. So: the unthought would have to make your machines uncomfortable, the uninscribed that remains to be inscribed would have to make their memory suffer. Do you see what I mean? Otherwise why would they ever start thinking? (20)

2. Rewriting modernity

A secret would not be a ‘real’ secret if no-one knew it was a secret. For the crime to be perfect, it would have to be known to be perfect, and by that very fact it stops being perfect. To make the point differently, but within the same order of memory, à la John Cage, there is no silence that is not heard as such, and therefore makes some noise. (28)

By endeavouring to find an objectively first cause, like Oedipus, one forgets that the very will to identify the origin of the evil is made necessary by desire. For it is of the essence of desire to desire also to free itself of itself, because desire is intolerable. So one believes one can put an end to desire, and one fulfils its end (this is the ambiguity of the word end, aim and cessation: the same ambiguity as with desire). One tries to remember, and this is probably a good way of forgetting again. (29)

3. Matter and time

The soul has at its disposal the only language. The body is a confused speaker: it says ‘soft’, ‘warm’, ‘blue’, ‘heavy’, instead of talking straight lines, curves, collisions and relations. Matter thus denied, foreclosed, remains present in this violently modern thinking: it is the enigmatic confusion of the past, the confusion of the badly built city, of childhood, ignorant and blind, of the cross-eyed look of the little girl loved by René Descartes as a child. Of everything that comes to us from behind, ‘before’. Confusion, prejudice, is matter in thought, the disorder of the past which takes place before having been wanted and conceived, which does not know what it is saying, which must be endlessly translated and corrected, currently and actively, into distinct intuitions. Childhood, the unconscious, time, because ‘then’ is ‘now’, the old, are the matter that the understanding claims to resolve in the act and actuality of the instantaneous intuitus. All energy belongs to the thinking that says what it says, wants what it wants. Matter is the failure of thought, its inert mass, stupidity. (38)

Pragmatism, as its name suggests, is one of the many versions of humanism. The human subject it presupposes is, to be sure, material, involved in a milieu, and turned towards action. The fact remains that this action is given a finality by an interest, which is represented as a sort of optimum adjustment of subject to environment. But if one looks at the history of the sciences and techniques (and of the arts, of which I have said nothing, even though the question of matter, of material especially, is decisive for them), one notices that this was not, and is not – especially today – in fact their finality. (44)

An immaterialist materialism, if it is true that matter is energy and mind is contained vibration. One of the implications of this current of thinking is that it ought to deal another blow to what I shall call human narcissism. Freud already listed three famous ones: man is not the centre of the cosmos (Copernicus), is not the first living creature (Darwin), is not the master of meaning (Freud himself). Through contemporary techno-science, s/he learns that s/he does not have the monopoly of mind, that is of complexification, but that complexification is not inscribed as a destiny in matter, but as possible, and that it takes place, at random, but intelligibly, well before him/herself. S/he learns in particular that his/her own science is in its turn a complexification of matter, in which, so to speak, energy in itself comes to be reflected, without humans necessarily getting any benefit from this. And that thus s/he must not consider him/herself as an origin or as a result, but as a transformer ensuring, through techno-science, arts, economic development, cultures and the new memorization they involve, a supplement of complexity in the universe. (45)

4. Logos and Techne, or Telegraphy

Current technology, that specific mode of tele-graphy, writing at a distance, removes the close contexts of which rooted cultures are woven. It is thus, through its specific manner of inscription, indeed productive of a sort of memorization freed from the supposedly immediate conditions of time and space. The question to follow here would be as follows: what is a body (body proper, social body) in tele-graphic culture? It calls up a spontaneous production of the pas in habit, a tradition or transmission of ways of thinking, willing and feeling, a sort of breaching, then, which complicates, counters, neutralizes and extenuates earlier community breachings, and in any case translates them so as to move them on too, make them transmissible. If the earlier remain there at all, resist a bit, they become subcultures. The question of hegemonic teleculture on a world scale is already posed. (50)

It is perfectly possible to say that the living cell, and the organism with its organs, are already tekhnai, that ‘life’, as they say, is already technique: the fact remains that its ‘language’ (genetic code, say) not only limits the performance of this technique but also (in fact it’s the same thing) does not allow it to be objectified, known and complexified in a controlled way. The history of life on earth cannot be assimilated to the history of technique in the common sense, because it has not proceeded by remembering but by breaching. (52)

5. Time Today

The event makes the self incapable of taking possession and control of what it is. It testifies that the self is essentially passible to a recurrent alterity. (59)

Why do we have to save money and time to the point where this imperative seems like the law of our lives? Because saving (at the level of the system as a whole) allws the system to increase the quantity of money given over to anticipating the future. This is particularly the case with the capital invested in research and development. The enjoyment of humanity must, it is clear, be sacrificed to the interests of the monad in expansion. (67)

Capital is not an economic and social phenomenon. It is the shadow cast by the principle of reason on human relations. Prescriptions such as: communicate, save time and money, control and forestall the event, increase exchanges, are all likely to extend and reinforce the ‘great monad’. That ‘cognitive’ discourse has conquered hegemony over other genres, that in ordinary language, the pragmatic and interrelational aspect comes to the fore, whilst ‘the poetic’ appears to deserve less and less attention – all these features of the contemporary language-condition cannot be understood as effects of a simple modality of exchange, i.e. the one called ‘capitalism’ by economic and historical science. They are the signs that a new use of language is taking place, the stake of which is that of knowing objects as precisely as possible and of realizing among ordinary speakers a consensus as broad as that supposed to reign in the scientific community. (70)

Being prepared to receive what thought is not prepared to think is what deserves the name of thinking. (73)

7. The Sublime and the Avant-Garde

The inexpressible does not reside in an over there, in another world, or another time, but in this: in that (something) happens. (93)

Art does not imitate nature, it creates a world apart […] (97)

The avant-gardist attempt inscribes the occurrence of a sensory now as what cannot be presented and which remains to be presented in the decline of great representational painting. Like micrology, the avant-garde is not concerned with what happens to the ‘subject’, but with: ‘Does it happen?’, with privation. This is the sense in which it still belongs to the aesthetics of the sublime. (103)

The availability of information is becoming the only criterion of social importance. Now information is by definition a short-lived element. As soon as it is transmitted and shared, it ceases to be information, it becomes an environmental given, and ‘all is said’, we ‘know’. It is put into the machine memory. The length of time it occupies is, so to speak, instantaneous. Between two pieces of information, ‘nothing happens’, by definition. A confusion thereby becomes possible, between what is of interest to information and the director, and what is the question of the avant-gardes, between what happens – the new – and the Is it happening?, the now. (105-106)

‘Strong’ information, if one can call it that, exists in inverse proportion to the meaning that can be attributed to it in the code available to its receiver. It is like ‘noise’. It is easy for the public and for artists, advised by intermediaries – the diffusers of cultural merchandise – to draw from this observation the principle that a work of art is avant-garde in direct proportion to the extent that it is stripped of meaning. Is it not then like an event? (106)

8. Something like: ‘Communication … without Communication’

In the conflict surrounding the word communication, it is understood that the work, or at any rate anything which is received as art, induces a feeling – before inducing an understanding – which, constitutively and therefore immediately, is universally communicable, by definition. Such a feeling is thereby distinguishable from a merely subjective preference. This communicability, as a demand and not as a fact, precisely because it is assumed to be originary, ontological, eludes communicational activity, which is not a receptiveness but something which is managed, which is done. This, in my view, is what governs our problematic of ‘new technologies and art’, or, put differently, ‘art and postmodernity’. This communicability, as it is developed in the Kantian analysis of the beautiful, is well and truly ‘anterior’ to communication in the sense of ‘theories of communication’, which include communicative pragmatics […] This assumed communicability, which takes place immediately in the feeling of the beautiful is always presupposed in any conceptual communication. (109)

In the reception of works of art, what is involved is the status of a sentimental, aesthetic community, one certainly ‘anterior’ to all communication and all pragmatics. The cutting out of intersubjective relations has not yet happened and there would be an assenting, a unanimity possible and capable of being demanded, within an order which cannot ‘yet’ be that of argumentation between rational and speaking subjects. (110)

Any industrial production pays homage to this profound and fundamental problematic of re-presentation, and aesthetic feeling presupposes something which necessarily is implied, and forgotten, in representation: presentation, the fact that something is there now. (111)

[…] what is hit, first of all, and complains, in our modernity, or our postmodernity, is perhaps space and time. What is attacked would be space and time as forms of the donation of what happens. The real ‘crisis of foundations’ was doubtless not that of the foundations of reason but of any scientific enterprise bearing on so-called real objects, in other words given in sensory space and time. (112)

We find sublime those spectacles which exceed any real representation of a form, in other words where what is signified is the superiority of our power of freedom vis-à-vis the one manifested in the spectacle itself. In singling out the sublime, Kant places the accent on something directly related to the problem of the failing of space and time. The free-floating forms which aroused the feeling of the beautiful come to be lacking. In a certain way the question of the sublime is closely linked to what Heidegger calls the retreat of Being, retreat of donation. For Heidegger, the welcome accorded something sensory, in other words some meaning embodied in the here-and-now before any concept, no longer has place and moment. This retreat signifies our current fate. (113)

What we live by and judge by is exactly this will to action. If a computer invites us to play or lets us play, the interest valorized is that the one receiving should manifest his or her capacity for initiative, activity, etc. We are thus still derivatives from the Cartesian model of ‘making oneself master and possessor …’ It implies the retreat of the passibility by which alone we are fit to receive and, as a result, to modify and do, and perhaps even enjoy. This passibility as jouissance and obligatory belonging to an immediate community is repressed nowadays in the general problematic of communication, and is even taken as shameful. But to take action in the direction of this activity which is so sought-after is only to react, to repeat, at best to conform feverishly to a game that is already given or installed [gestellt?]. Passibility, in contrast, has to do with an immediate community of feeling demanded across the singular aesthetic feeling, and what is lost is more than simple capacity, it is propriety. Interactional ideology is certainly opposed to a passivity but it remains confined in a completely secondary opposition. (117)

Not to be contemplative is a sort of implicit commandment, contemplation is perceived as a devalorized passivity. (118)

Jacques Rancière “The Politics of Aesthetics”

Rancière, Jacques 2011. The Politics of Aesthetics. London; New York: Continuum.

I call the distribution of the sensible the system of self-evident facts of sense  perception  that  simultaneously  discloses  the  existence  of something in common and the delimitations that define the respective parts and positions within it. A distribution of the sensible therefore establishes at one and the same time something common that is shared and exclusive parts. (12)

If the reader is fond of analogy, aesthetics can be understood in a Kantian sense – re-examined perhaps by Foucault – as the system of a priori forms determining what presents itself to sense experience. It is a delimitation of [14] spaces and times, of the visible and the invisible, of speech and noise, that simultaneously determines the place and the stakes of politics as a form of experience. (13)

It is on the basis of this primary aesthetics that it is possible to raise the question of‘aesthetic practices’ as I understand them, that is forms of visibility that disclose artistic practices, the place they occupy, what they ‘do’ or ‘make’  from the standpoint of what is common to the community. Artistic practices are ‘ways of doing and making’  that intervene in the general distribution of ways of doing and making as well as in the relationships they maintain to modes of being and forms of visibility. (13)

The arts  only ever lend to projects of domination or emancipation what they are able to lend to them, that is to say, quite simply, what they have in common with them: bodily positions and movements, functions of speech, the parcelling out of the visible and the invisible. (19)

There is first of all what I propose to call an ethical regime of images. In this regime,  art’ is not identified as such but is subsumed under the question of images. As a specific type of entity, images are the object of a twofold question: the question of their origin (and consequently their truth content) and the question of their end or purpose, the uses they are put to and the effects they result in. (20)

In this regime, it is a matter of knowing in what way images’ mode of being affects the ethos, the mode of being of individuals and communities. This question prevents art’ from individualizing itself as such. (21)

The poetic – or representative – regime of the arts breaks away from the ethical regime of images. It identifies the substance of art – or rather of the arts – in the couple poieis mimesis. The mimetic principle is not at its core a normative principle stating that art must make copies resembling their models. It is first of all a pragmatic principle that isolates, within the general domain of the arts (ways of doing and making), certain particular forms of art that produce specific entities [29] called imitations. (21)

I call this regime poetic in the sense that it identifies the arts – what the Classical Age would later call the ‘fine arts’ – within a classification of ways of doing and making, and it consequently defines proper ways of doing and making as well as means of assessing imitations. I call it representative insofar as it is the notion of representation or mimesis that organizes these ways of doing, making, seeing, and judging. (22)

A regime of visibility is at once what renders the arts autonomous and also what links this autonomy to a general order of occupations and ways of doing and making. (22)

The aesthetic regime of the arts stands in contrast with the representative regime. I call this regime aesthetic because the identification of art no longer occurs via a division within ways of doing and making, but it is based on distinguishing a sensible mode of being specific to artistic products. The word aesthetics does not refer to a theory of sensibility, taste, and pleasure for art amateurs. It strictly refers to the specific mode of being of whatever falls within the domain of art, to the mode of being of the objects of art. (22)

The aesthetic regime [33] of the arts is the regime that strictly identifies art in the singular and frees it from any specific  rule,  from any hierarchy of the arts, subject matter, and genres. Yet it does so by destroying the mimetic barrier that distinguished ways of doing and making affiliated with art from other ways of doing and making, a barrier that separated its rules from the order of social occupations. The aesthetic regime asserts the absolute singularity of art and, at the same time, destroys any pragmatic criterion for isolating this singularity. It simultaneously establishes the autonomy of art and the identity of its forms with the forms that life uses to shape itself. (23)

Jacques Rancière “Poliitilise kunsti paradoksid”

February 15, 2013 Leave a comment

Rancière, Jacques 2012. Poliitilise kunsti paradoksid. Vikerkaar 4-5: 99-127.

Esteetiline mõjusus tähendab nimelt niisugust mõjusust, mis tuleneb igasuguse otsesuhte peatumisest kunstiliste vormide tootmise ning kindlale publikule teatava mõju avaldamise vahel. (104)

Nõnda on esteetiline lahkulöömine tekitanud ühe eripärase mõjuvormi: mõju, mis tuleneb lahtiseotusest, sideme katkemisest kunstilise oskustöö viljade ja kindlaksmääratud ühiskondlike eesmärkide vahel; meeleliste vormide, loetavate tähenduste ja nende võimalike toimete vahel. Seda võib nimetada ka teisiti: dissensuse mõjuks. Dissensuse all ei pea ma silmas ideede või tunnete konflikti. Selleks on mitme meelelisusrežiimi konflikt. Just seeläbi hakkab kunst oma esteetilise eraldatuse režiimis puutuma poliitikasse. Sest dissensus on poliitika tuum. Tõepoolest, poliitika ei seisne esmajoones võimu teostamises ega võimuvõitluses. Poliitika raamistikku ei määratle esmajoones seadused ja institutsioonid. Esmatähtsaks poliitiliseks küsimuseks on see, milliseid objekte ja subjekte need institutsioonid ja seadused puudutavad, millised iseomased suhete vormid määratlevad poliitilise kogukonna, milliseid objekte need suhted puudutavad ning millised subjektid on võimelised neid objekte tähistama ja nende üle vaidlema. Poliitika on tegevus, mis kujundab ümber selle meelelise raamistiku, millesse ühikondlikena määratletavad objektid asetuvad. (104-105)

Poliitika tõttu kaotab meelelise evidentsuse see „loomulik“ kord, mis määrab üksikisikud ja rühmad võimu- või alluvuspositsioonile, avalikku või eraellu, omistades neile juba ette ühe või teise aja- ja ruumitüübi, need või teised olemis-, nägemis- ja eneseväljendusviisid. Selles avaliku ja privaatse jaotuses – mis on ühtlasi nähtava ja nähtamatu, kõne ja müra jaotus – omal kohal asuvate kehade loogika tähistamiseks olen ma pakkunud välja termini police. (105)

Kui esteetiline kogemus poliitikaga seondub, siis seepärast, et ka tema on määratletav dissensuse kogemusena, mis vastandub kunstitoodete mimeetilisele või eetilisele kohandamisele sotsiaalsete eesmärkidega. Kunstitooted kaotavad siin oma funktsionaalsuse, väljuvad seoste võrgustikust, mis oli andnud neile otstarbe ning ennetanud nende toimeid; neid esitatakse neutraliseeritud aegruumis ja pilgule, mis on korraga ära lõigatud igasugusest kindlapiirilisest sensomotoorsest pikendusest. Selle tulemusena ei inkorporeerita mingit teadmist, väärtust ega habitus’t, vaid – vastupidi – lahutatakse koost teatav kogemuskeha. (105)

[…] allutatute jaoks pole kunagi olnud küsimuseks, kuidas teadvustada võimumehhanisme, vaid kuidas olla midagi muud kui allumiseks kõlblik keha. (106)

Kunst ja poliitika on teineteisega seotud kui dissensuse vormid, mis kujundavad ümber meelelist ühiskogemust. Võib kõnelda poliitika esteetikast, mõeldes neid poliitilise subjektivatsiooni akte, mis määratlevad ümber selle, mis on nähtav, selle, mida nähtava kohta saab öelda, ning selle, millised subjektid on võimelised seda tegema. (107)

Kunsti poliitikaks nimetame me niisiis erisuguste loogikate põimingut. Esmajoones võiks „esteetika poliitikaks“ nimetada kunstirežiimile omaste meelekogemuste struktureerimise vormide mõju poliitilisel väljal. Kunsti esteetilises režiimis tähendab see neutraalsete ruumide moodustumist, teoste otstarbekuse kadu ning nende üldist kättesaadavust, eri aegade osalist kattumist, kujutatud teemade võrdväärsust ja teoste adressaatide anonüümsust. […] Need tingivad ka esteetilise lahutuse paradoksaalse kaaslase: kunstiteoste eneste immanentsete kriteeriumide puudumise, eraldusraja puudumise kunsti kuuluvate ja mittekuuluvate asjade vahel. Nende kahe omaduse seos määratleb teatava esteetilise demokratismi, mis ei sõltu kunstnike kavatsustest ja millel puudub kindlapiiriline mõju poliitilisele subjektivatsioonile. (107-108)

Fiktsioon ei ole kujuteldava maailma loomine vastukaaluks reaalsele maailmale. Fiktsioon on töö, mis teostab dissensust, mis muudab meelelise esitamise viise ning lausumise vorme, muutes raame, mastaape või rütme, konstrueerides uusi seoseid näivuse ja tegelikkuse, ainulise ja ühise, nähtava ja selle tähenduse vahel. See töö muudab representeeritava koordinaate. See muudab ka seda, kuidas me meelelisi sündmusi tajume, seda, kuidas me seostame neid süžeedega (sujets), ning seda, kuidas meie maailm on sündmuste ja figuuridega täidetud. (108)

Kui poliitika tavatähendus seisneb subjektide tootmises, kes annavad nimetutele hääle, siis kunstile omane poliitika esteetilises režiimis seisneb meelelise anonüümsusmaailma ning selle ja mina sääraste laadide väljatöötamises, millest tärkavad poliitiliste meie’de maailmad. (108)

Nii põimuvad „kunsti poliitika“ moodustumisel kolm loogikat: esteetilise kogemuse vormide, fiktsioonitöö ja metapoliitiliste strateegiate loogika. See põiming eeldab ühtlasi, et need kolm mõjuvormi, mida üritasin määratleda, põimuksid kokku ainulaadsel ja vastuolulisel viisil: representeerimisloogika, mis püüab mõjuda representatsioonidega, esteetiline loogika, mis mõjub representatiivsete eesmärkide peatumise kaudu, ning eetiline loogika, mis soovib, et kunsti ja poliitika vormid otseselt samastuksid. (109)

Konsensus tähistab kooskõla (aistilise) meele ja (mõistelise) meele vahel, teisisõnu, meelelise esitusviisi ja selle andmete tõlgendamise režiimi vahel. Ta märgib seda, et hoolimata meie ideede ja püüdluste kõikidest lahknevustest me tajume ühtesid ja samu asju ning anname neile ühe ja sama tähenduse. (110)

Niisiis ei suuda kunsti poliitika lahendada oma paradokse sekkumisega „reaalsesse maailma“ väljaspool kunstile määratud paiku. Kunstivälist „reaalset maailma“ ei ole olemas. On vaid ühise meelelisuse koe kurrud ja krooked, milles esteetika poliitika ja poliitika esteetika ühinevad ja lahknevad. Pole reaalsust iseeneses, vaid selle konfiguratsioonid, mis on antud meile reaalsusena, meie tajude, mõtete ja sekkumiste objektina. Reaalsus on alati fiktsioon ehk sellise ruumikonstrueerimise objekt, milles nähtav, öeldav ja tehtav omavahel sõlmuvad. See on domineeriv fiktsioon, konsensuslik fiktsioon, mis oma fiktsionaalset iseloomu eitab, lastes end pidada reaalsuseks eneseks ning vedades lihtsa eraldusjoone reaalsuse valla ning representatsioonide ja nähtumuste, arvamuste ja utoopiate valla vahele. […] Niisamuti ei ilmne kunsti suhe poliitikasse üleminekuna fiktsioonilt reaalsusse, vaid suhtena kahe fiktsiooniloomise viisi vahel. (117)

Nüüdisaegne poliitiline film tähendab võib-olla ka filmi, mida tehakse ühe teistsuguse filmi asemel, see on film, mis demonstreerib oma distantsi sellest sõnade, helide, piltide, žestide ja tunnete käibimisviisist, millele ta oma vormidega mõju võiks avaldada. (125)

Kriitiline kunst on kunst, mis teab, et tema poliitiline mõju avaldub esteetilise distantsi kaudu. Ta teab, et see mõju pole millegagi tagatud – et sellesse jääb alati osake otsustamatust. (125)