aesthetics, becoming, difference, disaster, laughter, machine

Risk

Paul Klee, “Insula Dulcamara” (1938); Oil on newsprint, mounted on burlap

I began writing this before disaster struck very close to home; and so I finish it without finishing it. A disaster never really ends; it strikes and strikes continuously — and so even silence is insufficient. But yet there is also no expression of concern, no response which could address comprehensively the immense and widespread suffering of bodies and minds and spirits. I would want to emphasize my plea below upon the responsibility of thinkers and artists and writers to create new ways of thinking the disaster; if only to mitigate the possibility of their recurrence. (Is it not the case that the disaster increasingly has the characteristics of the accident; that the Earth and global techno-science are increasingly co-extensive Powers?) And yet despite these necessary new ways of thinking and feeling, I fear it will remain the case that nothing can be said about a disaster, if only because nothing can ultimately be thought about the disaster. But it cannot be simply passed over in silence; if nothing can be said, then perhaps everything may be said.

Inherent to the notion of risk is the multiple, or multiplicity. The distance between the many and the multiple is nearly infinite; every problem of the one and the many resolves to the perspective of the one, while multiplicity always singularizes, takes a line of pure variation or difference to its highest power. A multiplicity is already a life, the sea, time: a cosmos or style in terms of powers and forces; a melody or refrain in its fractured infinity.

The multiple is clear in its “being” only transitorily — as the survey of a fleet or swarm or network; the thought which grasps it climbs mountains, ascends vertiginously towards that infinite height which would finally reveal the substrate of the plane, the “truth” of its shadowy depths, the mysterious origins of its nomadic populations.

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aesthetics, beauty, escape, God, kant, psychoanalysis

Soul

World War I, Wasily Kandinsky

World War I, Wasily Kandinsky

A man like Kant can explain the beautiful in terms of a pure disinterested pleasure — such a knotted definition is not in itself surprising, nor is the kind of cynicism about the potential and limitations of life which is quite effectively communicated thereby. What is curious is that he in fact means to enhance the importance of artistic creation by converting the unsettling power of the artist into a kind of channel to a familiar universality. Is the beautiful not, then, grasped – but grasped in precisely at its most narrow and isolated state, through a transcendental enframing, even as an annihilation of life itself: as a kind of dazzling infinition which nonetheless does not interact with our conscious interest but with our immaterial, intangible “soul”?

There is even almost a kind of foundational axiom of psychoanalysis embedded in Kant’s definition (of course a paradox): there is no pleasure except in losing the possibility for pleasure — the glare of infinite Being when one has finally completely lost one’s identity, and dissolved oneself into the universal (father-mother)… The deep pessimism expressed in this kind of escape, this resentment of life which is by no means peculiar to Kant, is nevertheless quite clearly the pulsing thread underlying his patchwork labor in his “critiques” of the mournful becoming of things. We find in psychoanalysis as well such a stoic willingness to defend the infinite ‘metaphysical’ essence which refuses to escapes its container: and always he leaves open the possibility that human beings are indeed the receptacles of divine messages, channels of pure truth. Frames…

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aesthetics, beauty, birth, decay, learning, leonardo da vinci, light, noise, parasite, psychology, semiotics, surrealism, truth

The Monstrosity of Dreams: Beauty after Surrealism

stars-surrealism.jpg

If narcissism could in any sense be said to be the basis for a proto-aesthetics, a necessary condition for the production of any aesthetic intervention whatsoever — if not the outer eclipse of the primordial movement of creativity itself… Then this is because beauty captures, absorbs, exhumes. It fascinates. It opens up new distances, illuminates novel depths, original styles. It pierces a depth whose distance is infinite, the absolutely other. Beauty, what else? –but null futurity, the brutal light of the ultimate apocalypse.

Beauty is extinction.

Both a pure white emptiness and a heterogeneous black abyss: beauty, always a grotesque transfiguration. Without Da Vinci this uglier aspect of narcissism would have gone unnoticed even longer. The history of the theory of art has been about drawing this glittering, distracting line, ultimately proving it not indeed to be a line at all, certainly leading nowhere and anyways, not a thin line.

Nor a no-man’s-land.

But rather a discontinuous movement, a gesture: a non-linear, free, undetermined, anonymous gesture, a suffering and powerful movement of expressivity. (Perhaps even a foundational motion, genesis…?) This creation of an uninterruptible channel for the distribution and division of energies –Is beauty but the tool-building hominid’s dream of infinite celerity, of pure mobilities, that is, a total category of absolute transport?

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aesthetics, art, beauty, becoming, chaos, human, will

Aesthetics, Asymmetry and Weakness: Nietzsche and the Beautiful


Improvisation (Kandinsky)

“I owe to you the most beautiful dream of my life.”
– Nietzsche, [from a letter to Lou Salome]

I cannot help but admire Nietzsche when he writes in Twilight of the Idols that there is nothing beautiful but man. For Nietzsche, vanity is ‘the first truth of aesthetics.’ He even supplies a corollary: ugliness is precisely the ‘degeneration of the human.’ Here Nietzsche method allows us to see possibility for new forms of humanity, but he skirts dangerously close to anthropomorphisizing the entire universe as isomorphic to our social spectacle. Is beauty a vain preoccupation — or an elevation of the human to the cosmic? What is left of beauty, human or otherwise — outside of what we customarily associate with it?
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aesthetics, Bakhtin, chronotope, dialogic imagination, event, genre, literary theory, novel, other, space, time, Todorov

Bakhtin’s Chronotopic Events: Notes on Novelistic Space-Time

Bakhtin, Mikhail. Form of Time and Chronotope in the Novel.” The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Ed. Michael Holquist. Austin: UTP, 1981. 84-258.

I apologize ahead of time for the informality of this post, but “Form of Time and Chronotope in the Novel” is an incredible piece of theory, and it’s a shame that it’s size will prevent many readers from engaging with it fully. Thus the need for some hardcore notes.

Bakhtin’s chronotope is all about the relations and implications of space-time. For Bakhtin, the chronotope “defines genre and generic distinctions,” which may explain his approach throughout the essay as well as Todorov’s own interest in Bakhtin (84-85). If we can think Bakhtin with Bergson, the chronotope can be considered a material assemblage of images with a duration that contracts them into a volume. Analyzing the various forms of chronotope leads to producing a problematics of narrative types.

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aesthetics, culture, Eternal Return, Human All Too Human, Nietzsche, religion, Science / Mathematics / Technology, universal politics

‘A Chain of Necessary Rings of Culture': Nietzsche and the Ability of Science


In sections 4 and 5 of Human All Too Human, Nietzsche develops a non-linear train of thought that attempts to analyze and reconstruct the experiences and concepts of religion, art and science. There are developmental factors and connections among these three, for “art raises its head when religion relaxes its hold,” and the “scientific man is the further evolution of the artistic” (150; 223). Poets, for example, construct bridges to distant ages and dying religions, creating metaphysical alleviations that only serve to quell the truly revolutionary energy flowing beneath the surface of the social body (148). Continue reading

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aesthetics, art, horizon, universal, void

In the end?

Perhaps the most subtle instant of artistic insight: knowing when the work is complete. Knowing a thing is done is always a decision, a superego injunction to believe, to accept; art lives precisely in this deception, that it is possible to be told what to believe, or put another way, that we can ever know what other people actually want from us. What is the terminating stroke if not precisely the final “cutting” of the art-work out of its particular mode of being into the “universal,” the work of art: a subtraction which makes whole. This point bears elaboration. From what is the sculpture subtracted? The raw materials of artistic production. From what is the work of art subtracted? From the artistic universal– and we can think this in two ways, either as the “sublime” moment of deep sensitivity to the beauty of the universe, or as the universal artistic indeal, that unabashedly subjective universal; in fact, we can also conceive of this “from-what” of the work of art as the “universe” of the painting, that non-existent/empty reality in which the inversions and distortions of the artistic presentation are finally placed into a bizarre-enough context to make sense. So the art work betrays a lack, a cut which would otherwise go unnoticed, precisely by disguising it; yet there is no lack at all. Art persists in this lie as a stain, a horizon: an untameable pulse oscillating in the deep empty void of an (otherwise) still and silent universe.

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