The Predicament of Immanence

"I saw an angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." Michelangelo "Nature produces similarities; one need only think of mimicry. The highest capacity for producing similarities, however, is man’s. His gift for seeing similarity is nothing but a rudiment of the once powerful compulsion to become similar and to behave mimetically. There is perhaps not a single one of his higher functions in which his mimetic faculty does not play a decisive role." Walter Benjamin (On The Mimetic Faculty) The relationship of art and ideology is very complex. At the most rudimentary level the idea of agit-prop theatre, for example, is nothing except ideology. That is its intention. Does that … [Read more...]

I Can’t See The Back of My Head

"The Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz." Zvi Rex "Bourgeois anti-Semitism has a specific economic purpose: to conceal domination in production." Adorno and Horkheimer "Mimetic desire does not always result in conflict, but it frequently does so for reasons that the tenth commandment makes evident. The object I desire in envious imitation of my neighbor is one he intends to keep for himself, to reserve for her own use; she will not let someone snatch it away without combat. My desire will be thwarted, but in place of accepting this and moving on toward another object, nine times out of ten my desire will resist this and become even more intense in imitating the desire … [Read more...]

The Stare of Empty Eyes

"All work is a crime." Herman Schuurman (1924) "Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition." Jacques Barzun "Art is the tree of is the tree of death." William Blake Jacques Barzun wrote a sort of fascinating small book titled The Use and Abuse of Art (echoing Nietzsche). It is interesting not least because of its clarity. Like Kenneth Clark, Barzun is terribly out of fashion. And yes, he's pretty conservative, too. But he is also a deeply perceptive observer of culture, at times. At the beginning of the book he writes, in light of Schiller's book on poetics... "What does Schiller tell us? First, that modern man is is split -- or as we … [Read more...]

Already Written

"Dislocation can do the job of analysis {Le dépaysement fait office d'analyse}. Being a white man among the blacks is like being an analyst among the whites." Octave Mannoni "Guilt feelings may be considered a subtle form of death. Time passes by slowly, tearing us to pieces. We foresee a sentence already written out and unalterable. The event is unredeemable, almost like an ancient and cursed action." Giancarlo Signorini The role that aesthetics plays in the overall cultural drama of society is complex. Aesthetics affect everything and are often overlooked completely. I have been struck recently with how pervasive are the effects on a society without any real aesthetic … [Read more...]

The Knowledge of the Snake

"The mother’s silence—whatever reasons motivate it—is an experience that every child has in a repetitive way, an experience that will be fantasised as the mother’s refusal to offer the sound object that is a source of pleasure; moreover, this experience is very often something that the mother does not think that she has to justify, that she may impose without knowing that she is imposing it." Piera Aulagnier “The incomparable language of the death's-head: total expressionlessness- the black of the eye sockets- coupled with the most unbridled expression- the grinning rows of teeth.” Walter Benjamin "The knowledge to which the snake seduces, that of good and evil, is nameless. It … [Read more...]

Repeat After Me

"The idea of fine art which emerged in the eighteenth century, symbolized by Kant's aesthetics—and there was no concept of aesthetics in traditional philosophy—and then by the discourses by Reynolds, that that's on the way out, it's going. I think art is becoming very ideological, and it's less interested in mediating this special experience called the "aesthetic," which you can get outside of art but which is intensified and more concentrated within the, so to say, closed circle of discourse which is art." Donald Kuspit "The double nature of pleasure is something that I wanted to trace out. For pleasure to be what it is, it has to exceed a limit of what is altogether wholesome and … [Read more...]

The Shadow of the Executioner

"The central fact for me is, I think, that the intellectual is an individual endowed with a faculty for representing, embodying, articulating a message, a view, an attitude, philosophy or opinion to, as well as for, a public, in public. And this role has an edge to it, and cannot be played without a sense of being someone whose place it is to raise embarrassing questions, to confront orthodoxy and dogma (rather than to produce them), to be someone who cannot easily be co-opted by governments or corporations, and whose raison d'etre is to represent all those people and issues who are routinely forgotten or swept under the rug." Edward Said “He who affirms the Devil creates or makes the … [Read more...]

Listening for Silence

"The relationship between the intellectuals and the world of production is not as direct as it is with the fundamental social groups but is, in varying degrees, "mediated" by the whole fabric of society and by the complex of superstructures, of which the intellectuals are, precisely, the "functionaries." Gramsci (Prison Notebooks) "Art is always in some kind of relation with non-art. It does not, indeed it cannot, take place in a bubble cut off from the rest of culture." David Campany "If it is true that little boys bring back the past with bows and arrows, it is also true that youths easily become cliquish, seeking friends and above all a father, which their own one often was … [Read more...]