The politics that inform these actions, where not entirely opaque, are based on a semi-spiritual belief that the right recipe of symbolism, passion, and powerful visuals will inspire significant political action that will alter the course of this or that unjust policy or state of affairs. Organizers want to inspire the people who view their protest images on their phones.
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The social bases of political conflict thus erased, consensus historians go on to suppress the significance of antislavery politics, even to the point of denying that politics played any role in whatsoever in the destruction of slavery. These crucial erasures are once again explained by reference of a broad political consensus—not the liberal consensus of Hofstadter and Hartz, but the smothering, all-consuming consensus in favor of “white male supremacy.” It’s still consensus history; it’s just a different consensus.
The “white working class,” like the “black community,” is an abstraction that does not exist anywhere in the real world. The U.S. working class is broad and diverse. It’s not even all that white any more and certainly not all that male. Its conditions are determined by its position within a political economy but, like everyone else, the experience and consciousness of individual workers is formed by a whole series of contingent relationships and experiences. The recent use of the trope of the angry white working class attempts to extract white workers from these class dynamics and present them as a demonized and marginalized natural group.
These three texts are a small part of a significant body of unpublished and uncollected work by the poet and critic Allen Grossman.
The death of Martin Luther King leaves, in my imagination, no liberal position. Only a radical critique of learning and, if that is still worthwhile, of political life, is sufficient.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Iliad does not believe in you, the Aeneid does not regard you as real, the Divine Comedy does not understand you — and yet each demands of you that you believe in it, understand it, and regard it as real.
“Where is it?” “In this mist.”
Nonsite is pleased to announce the publication of Promesse du Bonheur, a collection of new poems by Michael Fried accompanied by more than thirty photographs by James Welling. The book is appearing under the double aegis of nonsite.org and David Zwirner Books, and is available through David Zwirner Books and Amazon. To mark its publication, we offer an essay by Fried analyzing one of the poems in the collection, “September Sky,” along with an abstract photograph by Welling which serves, in the book, as an introduction to the collection.
Aravena’s entire Biennale, then, its emphasis on “natural” materials—the omnipresence of earthen brick and tile—its insistence on the collaboration among state and humanitarian actors, all lead to the quayside behind the Arsenale, to a Catalan vault through which a starchitect advances his brand and a global conglomerate advances its sales.
Formalism assumes that the features being picked out are part of a “best possible” construction of what was done when the work was created. In this way formalism can work equally well for those who see intention as equivalent to meaning and those who see intention as a naïve and unworkable construct. In the latter case it is able at once to attribute significance through the quasi-intentionalist mode of writing described here, and to pass in everyday description as “anti-intentionalist,” as writers from Wölfflin and Shklovsky to Clement Greenberg have combined this general way of operating with explicit denials of the admissibility of artists’ actual, consciously made, statements about their own work.
I buy a few months. I try to behave.
Everyone will get one.
Tomorrow. They are tomorrow’s apples,
And they are sweet.
Drawn from coroner’s inquests and newspaper reports from England between the 1770 and 1920 — very much in the spirit of Charles Reznikoff, nothing invented.
Imagine two surfaces: one, a flat stretch of canvas secured to a physical support; the other, a picture plane. What’s the difference? The canvas is an actual piece of fabric upon which a painter will apply physical material with brushes, rags, and trowels to render an image, whether abstract or representational. The picture plane is an immaterial and intangible screen of pictorial projection. The image that sustains the virtual reality of the depiction is neither identical to nor reducible to the pigment and canvas that literally constitute its configuration.
For a long time, magic lanterns were thought to be educational toys, mere trifles of entertainment. Those who posited some greater significance to these objects—by, for instance, drawing a connection to madness—paid scant attention to questions of structure and form. Jill Casid uncovers a different story in Scenes of Projection. Her goal is to uncover a deeper, and more difficult, political history of these devices that cuts across the terrain of colonialism and gender.
It might be a huge stretch for some anti-racists to view Trump voters as something other than “deplorables,” or, rich, white, racists—but, the hope with this case study is that we might stop and reflect on who gains when we write off not just half the country but a large portion of the working class as racists.
The most immediate challenge we face now is to prepare for what is going to be the political equivalent of a street fight that we’ll have to wage between now and at least 2018 just to preserve space for getting onto the offensive against the horrors likely to come at us from Trump, the Republican congress, and random Brown Shirt elements Trump’s victory has emboldened. At the same time, however, we need to reflect on the extent to which progressive practice has absorbed the ideological premises of left-neoliberalism.
Contrary to how he was portrayed in the mainstream media Trump did not talk only of walls, immigration bans, and deportations. In fact he usually didn’t spend much time on those themes. Don’t get me wrong, Trump is a racist, misogynist, and confessed sexual predator who has legitimized dangerous street-level hate and his administration will almost certainly be a terrible new low in the evolution of American authoritarianism. But the heart of his message was something different, an ersatz economic populism that spoke directly, clearly and emotionally to legitimate working class concerns.
Proliferation of this Kabuki theater politics among leftists stems in part from the dialectic of desperation and wishful thinking that underlies the cargo-cult tendency; it is commonly driven by an understandable sense of urgency that the dangers facing us are so grave as to require some immediate action in response. That dialectic encourages immediatist fantasies as well as tendencies to define the direct goal of political action as exposing, or bearing witness against, injustice.
The trivial truth is that what they mean by challenging the operation of capitalist markets (i.e. massive downward redistribution) would indeed reduce racialized poverty, for the obvious reason that (as Adolph and I and millions of others keep on tiresomely repeating) precisely because black people are disproportionately poor all efforts of redistribution will disproportionately benefit them. The totally false idea is that a challenge to racial disparities gets you out from under what Reed calls “neoliberalism’s logic.” In fact, unlocking inherited inequality (racialized or not) and achieving real equality of opportunity (hence more upward mobility) is left neoliberalism’s wet dream.
The Anscombian response to this worry is that it’s a mistake to break the act down into component parts, a mistake to think of the intention as something that’s outside of the physical act, either as its cause or as a mental state existing either prior to or alongside it. That’s why she says your hug isn’t given its meaning by the words “you silly little twit” “occur[ring]” to you while you embrace your old acquaintance, they have to be “seriously meant.” And you could mean the hug to be ironic even if you were thinking only affectionate thoughts at the time you administered it, or thinking nothing at all. The correct answer to the question, “why did you hug him?” would still be, to show my contempt.
Combine a deflationary theory of photographic agency with a richly intentionalist approach to understanding what photographers mean by making photographs. We are now equipped to make sense of Winogrand’s practice of discovery. The photographer takes a picture of a beggar on the street, not intending that the scene look precisely so. Its looking precisely so is his discovery—it goes to his credit, not the camera’s. At the same time, by making the photograph, he means to tell us something about the beggar and how we should see him. Maybe he also means to tell us something about being a photographer, who means by making, even as what he makes is not just what he means.
The basement has always depressed us.
Free State of Jones reminds us of this core truth of class with respect to labor, whether paid or unpaid—the shared material conditions and shared interests of those who are compelled by force or necessity to work.
A politics whose point of departure requires harmonizing the interests of the black poor and working class with those of the black professional-managerial class indicates the conceptual and political confusion that underwrites the very idea of a Black Freedom Movement. The prevalence of such confusion is lamentable; that it go unchecked and without criticism is unacceptable. The essays that appear in this section will critique this tendency and offer in its stead a vision of what we think ought to be.
My point is not in any way to make light of the gravity of the injustice or to diminish outrage about police violence….However, noting a decline—or substantial change in either direction for that matter—in the rate of police killings does underscore the inadequacy of reified, transhistorical abstractions like “racism” or “white supremacy” for making sense of the nature and sources of police abuse of black Americans. Racism and white supremacy don’t really explain how anything happens. They’re at best shorthand characterizations of more complex, or at least discrete, actions taken by people in social contexts; at worst, and, alas, more often in our political moment, they’re invoked as alternatives to explanation
Our little group of papers, however, is more directed toward what it still makes sense to call the ultraleft: from those who think that Sanders should never have run as a Democrat to those who, disdaining electoral politics, don’t care who runs as what, from those who think that socialism is insufficiently attentive to the particularities of a universe of paramecially fissioning identities to those who sign up for TIDAL under the impression that corporate mass culture is revolutionary popular culture.
The voices from below ring with malicious joy. They do not conceal it; they chuckle gleefully and shout: “He’ll fall in a minute! Serve him right, the lunatic!”
The political farce perpetrated against the Brazilian people on Sunday, April 17, when the country’s national congress approved the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff is a critical moment in an ongoing class war against the left, labor and the poor. Instead of an exercise in democratic political sovereignty, as the center-right coalition would prefer the rest of the world believe, the congressional vote is a de-facto political coup.
The view that capitalism is a style of thinking, progress is a myth, and political contestation is irrelevant to “true” social change belongs not just to this one book but to all the commentators who found nothing to criticize. That’s the real problem.
This is to say that the strictly documentary character of Adams’s work, which by and large claimed viewers’ attention at the time of New Topographics, has somewhat receded in importance. And it is also to suggest that the theoretical issue of the non-representational nature of the photograph as well as of the problematic status of the photographer’s intentions owing to the photograph’s indexicality…turns out to be not quite relevant to the present case. Or rather, more precisely, it is as if the “weak intentionality” of the photograph…turns out to throw into relief the extraordinary strength and efficacy of Adams’s esthetic perfectionism…with respect to the appearance of the final print, the esthetic artifact as such.
Indeed, over the course of the nineteenth-century, two temporalities became increasingly recognizable in modernizing societies. The “lived time” of premodern and natural cycles oriented to the sun, the tides, the moon became the “measured time” of the clock and the workday, of shipping times and railroads connecting major cities. Although the conventional view would have it that speed and instantaneousness decisively came to dominate with the advent of the railroad and the telegraph, a deeper analysis indicates that only a small percentage in the nineteenth century felt the rigors of measured time decisively undoing an older, natural time.
In my imagined temporary community on the stage, in that ring and in those lights, we would have started with a single set of questions, a single set of definitions, and disagreed from there until we came to new sets of questions, and so that is what I will do here, sitting literally alone, around my hearth, and without tribe. The artist always fights herself, in the end. I relax, so I can strike myself harder. I establish my balance, so I can stay on my feet.
So there is a sense in which Winogrand’s personal crisis expresses a theoretical position, just as there’s an equally important sense in which that theoretical position and the alternatives to it (what it might mean to intend something, and especially what it might mean not to or what it might mean for your reasons to be treated as causes) were becoming at the time of that crisis central to literary theory and aesthetic production. Indeed, in what is now an aesthetic and a political as much as a philosophical sense, the structure of intentional action has recently emerged as a crucial issue.
I do not mean here to refer to the issue familiar in philosophy since Plato, the way the psyche can be shaped in very different ways by the education it receives and by the context of some particular regime. Democratic souls for democracies; oligarchic souls for oligarchies. Plato and many others keep the soul’s structure constant in such accounts, concentrating on the effects of the formation process on that structure. I think something much more radical is implicitly suggested by these films—that what counts as such a structure is at issue and open to real variation. This is particularly true of the psychological structure assumed in “explaining actions” or “assigning or accepting responsibility.” How we have come to think of that issue, the range of possible answers, may, if the brothers are right, have more to do with the imperatives of a particular social organization of power than it would be comfortable to admit.
If I understand Emerson correctly, his allegory of photography contends that, while photography may look like shopping at a flea market, it’s really more like standing a round at the bar.
In an advertisement, the only intention that matters is to sell a product. All manner of decisions can and do saturate an advertising image, but these are subordinate to the purpose (Zweck) of selling the product. In a successful work of art, all kinds of decisions are subordinate to a larger intention as well; but that intention is analytically identical with the meaning (Zweckmäßigkeit) of the work, so it makes sense to speak of the work as a whole as saturated with intention. As we saw, art-commodities may well bear the marks of industrial processes. A work of art may, on the other hand, choose to exhibit them, which is a different matter altogether. We can tell the difference between bearing marks and exhibiting marks because works of art tell us how to tell the difference, each time.
Everyone involved in this discussion appears to live by the difference between art and life. To my knowledge, no one has suggested that Gone with the Wind is something other than a novel or that Tweeting Gone with the Wind is something other than a work of art. (No reader misrecognized it as a different kind of Twitter account – for example, a moment by moment record of the passing thoughts of Vanessa Place). Nor has anyone started a liberation movement to protect the rights or advance the interests of fictional persons.
But in a world where inequality has been increasing and where the fastest growing jobs are mainly the lowest paying ones, why should we be inspired by a vision that instead of promising to pay people better, promises only to make sure that the badly-paid are not disproportionately black or Latino? And that men are just as fucked as women? It’s easy to see the attractions of bourgeois anti-racism and bourgeois feminism for white women and people of color seeking to establish themselves among the (shrinking) bourgeoisie. From their standpoint we should be as concerned that black, Latino, or female-owned businesses are relatively poorer than their white or male counterparts as we are with the growing power of employers to obtain labor on increasingly exploitative terms.
The deeper appeal of reparations talk for its proponents is to create or stress a sense of racial peoplehood as the primary basis for political identity. This movement’s psychological project is grounded on two beliefs: first, that rank-and -file black people suffer from an improper or defective sense of identity, and second, that an important task of political action is to restore or correct racial consciousness that the legacy of slavery is supposed to have distorted or destroyed.
This doesn’t mean that gay marriage isn’t a good thing, and it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be vigilant in fighting all kinds of discrimination. It just means that fighting discrimination has nothing to do with fighting economic inequality, and that the commitment to identity politics has been more an expression of our enthusiasm for the free market than a form of resistance to it. You can, for example, be a feminist committed to equal pay for men and women and also be committed to equality between management and labor but, as the example of everyone who’s ever campaigned against the glass ceiling shows, you don’t have to be and aren’t likely to be.
In the fall of 1943 Max Horkheimer composed multiple drafts of an essay entitled “On the Sociology of Class Relations.” The essay was intended for inclusion in the collaborative project with Theodor W. Adorno which came to be called The Dialectic of Enlightenment. One indication that the essay was crucial to their project was that Horkheimer solicited several responses to the working drafts including comments from Franz Neumann and Herbert Marcuse (on the East coast) and Friedrich Pollock and Adorno (in Los Angeles with Horkheimer).
Here for the first time is Horkheimer’s original essay in full and in its original English-language format plus five contemporary responses.
Both as intellectual and as literary history — as an account of the relation between the two in the mid-20th century and an attempt to reimagine the relation between the two in the early 21st century — Mark Greif’s The Age of the Crisis of Man: Thought and Fiction in America, 1933-1973 (Princeton University Press, 2015) is an important and original book. We asked a number of critics working in related areas to say what they thought about it, and Greif to respond.
From the beginning of Picasso’s career to the end, he depicted life-size figures. An essential aspect of this way of working is made curiously prominent in Boy Leading a Horse—because an effortful, first moment of learning reinstalls itself in an uninvited fashion. Recall that the palmar grasp affords a longer range but simultaneously deprives the artist of his ability to maintain the hand in a flowing continuous movement across the surface (as evident in the photograph of the École).
Take, for example, Turrell’s description of one of his recent ganzfeld chambers at the Henry Moore institute in Halifax, England: “It could induce an epileptic fit. You could really render someone useless if you choose to. The Henry Moore Institute had to have a neurologist from London…. It is serious business from that point of view. But there have been art pieces, by Christo and Serra, that actually killed people. I don’t in any way intend that…. It is invasive, closing your eyes will not stop this…”
Injured bone. Blynken and Nod.
Visor your irises, handle with tongs.
We all think the Mandate of Heaven belongs
To him who gets-away-with.
Is damaged art still art? There are two ways to approach the question. The first is ontological; it is a question of how much a work of art can be changed, damaged, or altered (the water-logged painting, the shattered sculpture, the abridged novel) and still be thought of as the same work. The other way […]
What should the revolutionary poet be doing, when crisis – whether it be economic, social, environmental, or for that matter, aesthetic – appears increasingly frequent, inevitable, and irreversible? Or to ask the question in a slightly different form: What poetic forms do these conditions of crisis seem to require?
Art as such does not pre-exist capitalism and will certainly not survive it, but rather presents an unemphatic alterity to it: art is not the before or after of capitalism, but its determinate other.
Poets and critics have had some trouble discussing Vanessa Place’s piece Tweeting Gone with the Wind. I have a suggestion. Why not say that her piece is poorly written?
It is of course a complete accident that the same year that marks the tenth anniversary of the failure of federally maintained levees, incompetent disaster relief, and rampant profiteering in the face of a relatively pedestrian hurricane known as Katrina should also mark the fiftieth anniversary of the publication by an obscure Assistant Secretary of Labor named Daniel Patrick Moynihan of The Negro Family: The Case for National Action…The chance of history that brought the anniversaries of the Moynihan Report and Hurricane Katrina together helps elucidate both the long-term implications of Moynihan’s dominance over a large portion of American discourse regarding inequality—a discourse that bears a great deal of responsibility for the effects of that fairly mundane storm—and the long historical temporalities that produced Katrina as a storm of unthinkable tragedy. Indeed, Katrina did not form to the southeast of the Bahamas on August 22, 2005. It formed when Moynihan helped consolidate the culture of poverty thesis in 1965. It formed when a conception of freedom grounded in contract, work-discipline, and various versions of moral economy defeated its multiple historical alternatives. It formed when American politics ceased to effectively challenge these defeats. In fact, if we further widen our lens, we can see its beginnings in the monumental transition from slavery to freedom that is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.
Even a cursory read of the Moynihan Report makes clear that Moynihan is not guilty of crass victim blaming. Indeed, as William Julius Wilson eloquently stated, Moynihan’s “presentation certainly lacked elegance, but it was an attempt to synthesize structural and cultural analyses to understand the dynamics of poor black families and the plight of low-skilled black males.” But while Wilson proffered that statement as a defense of Moynihan, his formulation functions equally well as a critique of the Moynihan Report. Specifically, Moynihan’s efforts to synthesize a cultural and structural analysis of poverty revealed a conception of structure rooted not in political economy but in ethnic pluralism. Simply put, what Moynihan meant by structural sources of inequality was racism (which established barriers to black social and economic progress) and the damage it inflicted on the institutions that regulated cultural norms among African Americans. To be sure, Moynihan’s conception of “structural inequality” offers some insulation against the facile charge of “victim blaming;” nevertheless, Wilson’s formulation ultimately highlights a more significant problem with the Moynihan Report. Moynihan was not particularly concerned about the impact of structural changes in the nation’s economy on black unemployment and poverty. As I will discuss below, the Moynihan Report’s indifference to the consequences of automation and mechanization on black life was consistent with the perspectives of Democratic policymakers who opposed a more robust War on Poverty. Indeed, the Moynihan Report’s emphasis on racism and black culture complemented the conservative antipoverty agenda of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), which—believing African American poverty to be exceptional— identified tax cuts, anti-discrimination legislation, and targeted programs, rather than redistributive policies, as the appropriate remedy for black poverty.
Depicting federal aid as the only means by which to pursue an antipoverty agenda, the mayor [Moon Landrieu] also argued that diminishing program funds required the city to grow in ways that reflected the vested interests of those fleeing the city center in order to facilitate their return. Already in the process of shepherding tourism and real estate development interests to the city, this narrative willfully erased material inequalities produced by codified segregation and unequal access to housing, employment, and education as well as hardened conceptualizations that blamed poverty on individual choices. Thus, this logic rationalized the market relations of a gentrification economy by implying it was imperative to defray costs for serving the poor. Ultimately, local governing officials deployed these assumptions to sanction their own participation in the making of middle-class neighborhoods.
The protestors, through chants, speeches and pamphlets, highlighted the glaring contradiction of a gathering dedicated to “equitable development and social justice” that was simultaneously honoring Richard Baron because of his role in overseeing the destruction of public housing in New Orleans and across the country. Policylink managed this contradiction by redefining social justice as the creation of “communities of opportunity,” rather than ones that guaranteed a right to housing and other basic needs, including the “right to stay put.” Thus, through this lens, “deconcentrating poverty” by refashioning public housing as “mixed income” developments that would include only a fraction of the previous public housing apartments, represented progress. How could they arrive at such an assessment? How did destroying poor people’s homes, and dispersing the former residents, become part of “best practices” for progressive social policy?
Most political discussions of New Orleans since the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster have relied heavily on notions of the city’s exceptionalism. Right-wing pundits pointed to the city’s reputation for corruption and its citizens’ alleged complacency and poor planning decisions (e.g., “Why would they build below sea-level?”) as central causes for the disaster, rather than the austerity or hubris of the Bush White House. This image of New Orleans as a political backwater or banana republic was used by some Congressional Republicans to discourage further federal investment in rebuilding the city. Liberal activists and city boosters, in turn, reached for notions of cultural particularity to stake their claims for the city’s reconstruction, arguing that the Crescent City’s unique colonial heritage, architecture, and sundry contributions to American music and foodways were all precious national resources. The trope of native cultural authenticity ultimately served to unite right of return advocates who insisted that New Orleans would not be the same without its black working class neighborhoods, and the various commercial interests that comprise the tourism-entertainment complex, around a recovery agenda that has still reproduced inequality and segregation. This essay explores and rejects another prevalent notion of exceptionalism, the underclass myth that has been central to the defeat of welfare statism in the United States, and especially influential in shaping the market-oriented reconstruction of New Orleans.
She explains that much liver damage is drug-induced because the liver functions as a chemical purifier, stripping the blood of toxins by splitting poisons into less destructive chemical building blocks. The resulting toxins are excreted while the cleansed blood recirculates. When an overwhelmed liver fails to break down the blood’s contaminants (even beneficial ones, such as painkillers), the pollutants poison the liver cells instead.
Let me be clear, the problems I raise do not stem from a dissatisfaction with the way October authors repeat a kind of party line. In fact, I envy the unity and consistency of the resolve and of course their massive impact on the discipline (what is there, politically speaking, besides anti-hierarchy in the humanities?). My point is that the basic set of claims shared by many of these authors is mistaken.
Pictures from all stages of Dzubas’s art since the 40’s will in time to come thrust themselves increasingly into attention: enough of them to establish him once and for all where he belongs, which is on the heights.
I propose bearing as a marker of an artwork’s purposive comportment in and toward the world whose various relations and dimensions the work engages and discloses. I have chosen this term because at least five of its senses apply to artworks as I understand them.  Artworks have a manner of comportment, a bearing, e.g. bold, reflective, ironic, etc.  They are generative (in the sense of ‘bear fruit’) in that they provide disclosures.  They are purposively oriented and thus have bearings, principally toward an addressee, but also toward some determinate end, e.g. to be beautiful, to please, to rework culture, to witness suffering, etc.  Works of art also make use of the very world that they disclose, which leads me to say that artworks bear, in the sense of carry, extant possibilities, transforming them until they coalesce into a phenomenon that is bindingly eloquent.  Finally, artworks also bear (or fail to bear), in the sense of endure, the world they absorb in order to disclose whatever possibilities they are able to bear.
Interpretations of the idea of problematization cut to the heart of different ways of engaging with Foucault’s ideas. It seems at first sight to provide a refined model of critical practice. On closer inspection, it turns out to be better interpreted as a contribution to a more descriptive understanding of the tasks of social inquiry.
It’s important to understand that for the greater part of thirty years, Greenberg believed in this artist. But by 1977, his claim was that Dzubas had yet to construct a solid foundation for his future artistic development; that he had failed to “follow up on his achievements and achievedness”; that, instead, he had “let it all lie scattered.”
Most readers will know that Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a longtime progressive and respected elected official, after deciding to enter the mayor’s race at the urging of Karen Lewis, the Chicago Teachers Union President whose illness prevented her from running herself, forced Rahm Emanuel into a runoff. Many of you no doubt also know that in a recent poll Chuy scored in a virtual dead heat with Rahm with the election a few days away, on April 7.
The victory condensed in the forms of participation enabled by the VRA is necessary—a politics that does not seek institutional consolidation is ultimately no politics at all—but not sufficient for facing the challenges that confront us in this moment of rampant capitalist offensive against social justice, but neither are the essentially nostalgic modalities of protest politics often proposed as more authentic than the mundane electoral domain. It is past time to consider Prof. Legette’s aphorism and engage its many implications. And that includes a warrant to resist the class-skewed penchant for celebrating victories won in the heroic moment of the southern civil rights movement as museum pieces disconnected from subsequent black American political history and the broad struggle for social justice and equality.
B-Side Modernism is almost here. For more information click on the image below or visit our events page.
The idea behind “B-Side Modernism” is to consider the work of 20th century poets and artists whose meaning and value have yet to be fully realized. The Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University is an amazing resource; more than any other collection, it represents the richness and diversity of English language poetry in the 20th century and beyond. For nonsite.org, the collection – and the Mellon Foundation’s support of this project – presents a fantastic opportunity, not just to support new scholarly work, but to open up a major archive to meaningful public conversation.
In June of 2014, nonsite.org, with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, sponsored four fellows to do research in the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University. Danowski’s synoptic ambition—to collect literally all poetry in English published in the 20th century, including the independent journals, short-run chapbooks and broadsides that gave modernism its distinctive energy—has created an opportunity to examine the materials out of which our accounts of the century have been made, without the influence of a shaping hand.
The work of our B-Side Fellows, presented here, takes the shapelessness of “everything” as a provocation to investigate the divergences between canonical accounts of modernism in poetry; to explore the many roads not taken, whether they manifest in the unedited arc of a career, in the one-off achievement, or the unclassified ephemera of a moment. What else might modernism have been? And how do such reconsiderations of modernism bear on what happens on the flip side of the mid-century divide? Edited by Jennifer Ashton and Oren Izenberg
Attunement and transaction — rather than forcible replacement— are the preferred metaphors here for describing a good translation. And neither “attunement” nor “transaction” invokes a scenario in which something is being forcibly or forever transformed or deformed into something else.
Like Ed Sanders’s antagonistically and aptly named Fuck You Press, whose publication list includes bootleg mimeograph printings of W.H. Auden and Ezra Pound, little magazines from 1964 serve as case studies for an avant-garde scene that grapples with the enshrinement of/resistance to previous avant-gardes…and an engagement with social antagonism….Ultimately, these scenes’ interest in social self-documentation is propelled by an attempt to get around the problem posed by the relegation of poems (of whatever aesthetic genealogy) to the cultural sphere.
While we don’t tend to think of William Burroughs in terms of his engagement with the interview, in fact the form underpins much of his (and his collaborators’) work from the 1960s forwards, including the cut-up. Taking the Beat concept of self-interviewing to its extreme conclusion, Burroughs and frequent collaborator Gysin, turn the form’s interrogative function on the artist and the artwork. In doing so they highlight the interview’s potential to be a critically engaged, radical form.
A comic that merely uses Nancy, rather than a painting that appropriates Nancy, does not seek to elevate its subject matter. Instead, as is so often the case with Brainard’s Nancy drawings and paintings, the point is to devalue painting, to turn painting into a valueless form, by folding painting into comics.
An exhibition of images from The Raymond Danowski Poetry Library, selected by our B-Side Fellows to accompany the essays in Issue 15.
Nonsite’s conference on Photography and Philosophy is just a few months away. Our submission deadline is November 15th. For more information on how to be involved, click on the image below or see our Events page.
Foucault was highly attracted to economic liberalism: he saw in it the possibility of a form of governmentality that was much less normative and authoritarian than the socialist and communist left, which he saw as totally obsolete. He especially saw in neoliberalism a “much less bureaucratic” and “much less disciplinarian” form of politics than that offered by the postwar welfare state. He seemed to imagine a neoliberalism that wouldn’t project its anthropological models on the individual, that would offer individuals greater autonomy vis-à-vis the state.
In this issue, nonsite features new work on 19th-century French art and visual culture, from telegraphy to lithography, Orientalists to Post-Impressionists, Manet to Degas. Edited by Bridget Alsdorf.
It is to the afterlife of optical telegraphy that this article turns, less to trace a linear technical history characterized by patterns of evolution and decay, rupture and regress, than to suggest that visuality continued to inflect the subject of telegraphy in France after the 1850s, and to draw out some of the ways in which telegraphy provided a means of conceptualizing the historical meaning of diverse media. As the century progressed, the emergence of other media with an ability to conjure the past—most notably photography, in its various forms—did not lead to a decline in telegraphic metaphors: rather, it gave them new life.
What did Degas intend by choosing to depict these men, at this location, murkily performing a “clandestine commerce”? Or more precisely what kind of financial transaction are they performing, and with what significance for a beholder of the work at the time? Ultimately, the argument will turn on whether the painting’s representation of their business dealing can be understood without a more precise accounting of its location. It will also hinge on the historical retrieval of the nature and significance of finance capitalism at the moment of the painting’s production in 1879.
Bonnard produced over one hundred paintings and prints in the 1890s that capture the bustling pace and brisk energy of Paris. He later referred to this subject as “the theater of the everyday,” and it is his particular vision of this sidewalk theater, and the viewer’s involvement in it, that I will investigate here, with particular attention to how his engagement with new media mattered to developing this vision. Playing off the chromatic constraints of lithography and echoing concurrent developments in early cinema, Bonnard shuttles the viewer between foreground and background, intimate proximity and distance. In so doing he explores the duality of the street as a disorienting amalgam of schematic backdrops and looming intrusions into our personal space, both seemingly captured at the limits of our visual field.
Orientalist painters left the world under varied circumstances – violent, painful, peaceful, or in ways simply unknown, in other words just like anyone else. And yet the basic argument of this essay is that how Orientalists died is not only an empirical but discursive question. From this latter perspective, their manner of passing would be mediated across a rich poetics of mortality whose shape and texture these remarks explore.
As they reconsidered the role of surface and depth in art, both Gérôme and Rodin took their cue from, and attempted to reinvigorate, earlier theories about the contiguity between the exterior and the interior in sculpture. In the process, both stumbled upon a new approach to facture. If there is an aura to be talked about in this new facture, it is not one of immediacy, but of an invisible interior. The resulting works imagine grounds that are highly charged as interfaces—between the present moment inhabited by the viewer, and the past buried below.
Here we have a dynamic, not only of a new image culture of fashion and its free-wheeling play with different genres and image forms, but also of the operations of a new phase of capitalist development gaining ground in the early nineteenth century – particularly with regard to the development, production, and distribution of semi-luxury consumer commodities.
We need to look more specifically at the kinds of formal effects typical of photography at mid-century in order to see Manet’s profound engagement with this new image paradigm. We also need to think about the photograph as an image whose source was not human, but optical and mechanical, and thus mysterious. Like Balzac, Manet was primarily concerned with the human, social world, but in Manet’s case, the ommatophore of the camera—the automatism of an eye on a stalk—has a greater presence than we have previously acknowledged.
In nonsite’s thirteenth issue, we turn to the contemporary relationship between literature and politics in Latin America today. Edited by Eugenio Di Stefano and Emilio Sauri.
Both these pieces betray a really naïve or underdeveloped understanding of electoral action, its costs and benefits, the unavoidable messiness of engaging in it. And, by the way, the same messiness applies to all efforts to build and maintain broad alliances, all of which require finding ways to navigate locating points of agreement and looking the other way at least temporarily at potentially serious differences and contradictions.
This conception of art, however, is not just limited to fiction; and indeed, it also underlies a dominant strain of Latin Americanist thought that comprises the focus of this essay, and for which this unframing has been conceived as a point of departure for a host of theoretical positions not just on art, nor on literature alone, but on politics as well. These positions includethe testimonio criticism, affect theory, postautonomy, and posthegemony. Despite apparent differences between these, we argue that what has unified Latin Americanist criticism and theory at least since the 1980s, is this question of the frame, or more precisely, the effort to imagine how the text dissolves it.
My claim is not only that La diáspora has nothing to do with failed cynicism or even with cynicism as such but that it gives us, even if in an imperfect, inconclusive way, as it happens frequently with first novels, the beginnings of a literary endeavor that I would consider the very opposite of a cynical enterprise for contemporary times. And, beyond that, it also gives us a new figure of the Central American writer—one that, by running frontally against all kinds of prejudices held by so-called first-world intellectuals and their clients, may have something important to teach us regarding the function of literary narrative today. Or at least the function of Castellanos Moya´s literary narrative.
It is perhaps in the link between the open structure of a fictional institution and a potential democracy that literature connects to a form of promise—in other words, to the fact of being able to create a space in what is instituted as a given (as “non-fiction”) so as to translate it into other modes of being.
Likewise, if meaning is made by the reader, then the difference between the two texts could never be the kind that Borges’s narrator identifies which essentially derive from the difference between two authors and their intentions and not the difference between two contexts of reading, or two experiences of reading. Specifically, like in Cortázar text above, the differences would have to include everything that is part of the reader’s experience of them, including, for example, the typographical differences between Cervantes’s Don Quixote and Menard’s.
Without a representation of the operation of the credit system and the knowledge that comes from it, we are limited to sensing debt as simply part of our own experiences, as something natural and determined. In a period in which credit is absorbed into the flow of everyday life, where debt is both everywhere invisible and indeterminate, how can we see capital and map our relation to it?
There is certainly an important place for what we might call experiential heuristics—the empiricist teasing out of emotional ontologies on the basis of experience to define what it means to be a sentient living being. There is an equally important place for the definition of a politics of feeling, as distinct from a politics of reasoning. What I suggest in the present intervention is that to engage with affect on either of these planes without considering the epistemological basis for our current cultural interest in and privileging of affective logic and inquiry is tantamount to missing the forest of knowledge construction for the trees of knowledge subsets.
A dominant “knowing irony” can suggest the kind of uncertainty, or reluctance to take any side in some important dispute, which is inconsistent with the high seriousness and mythic ambition of great Westerns. In the crisis situations portrayed in Westerns, indulge such an irony and you begin to sound like a Lee Marvin character, a cynic. The great problem in great Westerns is the possibility of and the nature of and especially the cost of civilized life itself.
In nonsite’s 12th issue, a collection of views on the meaning and uses of postcolonial theory in and around modern Poland, plus photography and ’sixties Paris and a feature essay on Thomas Piketty’s celebrated Capital in the Twenty-First Century.
Like the ideology undergirding Occupy Wall Street, Piketty’s book exhibits a marked lack of historical consciousness and complexity. Like Occupy Wall Street, it confuses capitalism with capitalist social relations. And thus both protest and text imagine solutions without politics, lack coherence regarding the necessity for a revaluation of labor and a shrinking of the moral confines of the market, and hope for a better world sans class politics as a mechanism.
How do we decide what factors are wheat and what are circumstantial chaff? Once we have, can we say that we are attending to history, or should we rather say that we are producing a carefully counterfactual story of our past history with the right features to motivate action in the present that suits our present sensibilities? Or, to put the matter in terms of the question I want to ask, does history provide evidence of historical consciousness (as opposed to antihistoricism) as a necessary condition of class-driven politics? This is the matter Adams assumes, and which I want to make explicit.
Even the seeming agency of individual taste becomes an ossified representation of categorized, predictable choices and habits such that, according to class, education, and political leanings, individuals could be predicted to demonstrate affinities for Bach or Brassens, Le Monde or Le Figaro, tennis or football, a tidy or a harmoniously designed home.
The notion of postcolonial theory has been floating around the Polish intellectual scene for the last ten years like a colorful balloon that nobody can ever quite capture or claim. Given the country’s experience of foreign occupation and domination throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries – and an earlier quasi-colonial history of its own in present-day Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine – postcolonial theory seems at first glance to open some intriguing possibilities in Polish historical, political, sociological, cultural and literary studies. Indeed, various scholars in all these fields have advocated a turn towards it, though the discussion has generally failed to advance far beyond repeated prefatory remarks and prolegomena. Postcolonial theory in Poland increasingly resembles an unrealized possibility that has somehow already exhausted its creative potential – a stillborn theory.
The ideas and convictions expressed by the Polish conservative adherents to postcolonial theory that Bill so eloquently analyzes are just a new articulation of an attitude long established in Polish culture: the one of an alternative and indigenous modernity sharply contrasting with the content of Western modernism, to use above-mentioned Jameson’s notion. What the Polish adherents of the postcolonial studies advocate is not a simple rejection of modernity tout court, an attitude that can nowadays be found in such places as Bhutan, but rather a perverse deviation from modernity: modernization without modernism.
Let’s start from fundamental, and at the same time quite obvious remark: literature operates with language, which in its nature is national, or ethnic (which of course is not the same). Literature, including modern literature, is always mediated by language, whether it would be a language of the colonized, or the colonizer. Participation in modern culture, universal, cosmopolitan “imagined community,” thus, is always mediated by language, or languages, i.e. “indirect” in its nature.
Doesn’t the image’s power lie in its proliferation of meanings? So what is the point of arguing for such autonomy? Is it possible to separate ourselves from all the forces that teach us how to act in a room with an artwork?
Another way of putting this is to say that the violence of the frame consists above all in making our lives as irrelevant as hers, and it’s in this indifference to our particularity (this allegorizing of its irrelevance) that I locate the politics of Kydd’s work.
Study death. Learn it by heart.
Following to the rules of spelling
Spell it together
like commonwealth or toadflax.
Do not split it
among the dead.
For admirers of the work of Walter Benjamin, a translation of Paul Scheerbart’s Lesabéndio: An Asteroid Novel is a major event. Benjamin’s interest in Scheerbart spans the whole of his career, from Gershom Scholem’s gifting him the book at his wedding to an essay on Scheerbart written near the end of his life. Most significantly, Benjamin intended to write an extensive essay on the book that was meant as a fulfillment of the claims set out in “The Destructive Character” and was to be provocatively entitled “The True Politician.” As the Benjamin literature grows, so does Scheerbart’s reputation.
Deschenes then begins to build into the logic of each of her photographs a specific quality – scale, frame, posture, and sometimes color. This is what abstraction means, in case we have forgotten: a work of art does not “look abstract” and it “is” not “an abstraction.” A work of art abstracts a specific quality. Sometimes such qualities derive from observation: a subject can be abstracted, but that does not mean that it is rendered blurry or otherwise stylistically abstract.
We will have had to forget García Márquez in order to read García Márquez, that is, to read in his texts the chronicle of his own decline and death foretold, and thus to read in these texts the very body of literature itself. That would be the condition of his works’ potential actuality.
The six essays included in nonsite’s 11th issue are intended as three exchanges around three topics—the autonomy of the photographic image, automatism, and time and meaning—that will be the themes of three panels in a two-day conference at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, March 13 and 14, 2015.
The conference is sponsored by the museum and by the Mellon Foundation and is being organized by nonsite.org. We are looking for creative approaches to these themes that will engage with works in the Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection at LACMA. Send proposals for session papers to email@example.com. Proposals must be submitted by November 15, 2014.
Photography is—as I hope to demonstrate—radically anti-Cartesian. It shows us that there really is a world, that it wants to be seen by us, and that it exceeds our capacity to know it. Photography also shows us that the world is structured by analogy, and helps us find our place within it….Each of us is connected through similarities that are neither of our making or our choosing to countless other beings. We cannot extricate ourselves from these relationships, because there is no such thing as an individual; the smallest unit of Being is two interlocking terms. There is also nowhere else to go.
Photography helps us to see and to feel what we are but cannot know. Then again, knowing when to trust our feelings—when we feel them to be right and not just ours—is not just a matter of affect, but of assertion, about what we think others could have meant. Not knowing what they could have meant does not mean they did not mean something or that we cannot know it. Properly acknowledging one’s “kin” requires that we risk the public and corrigible claim to understanding what was said.
It will, I want to argue, be hard to describe Owen Kydd’s practice as appealing to the plurality of the medium against Art; on the contrary, it will be better understood as doing just the opposite, as redeploying the idea of the medium precisely on behalf of the idea of Art—and against a pluralism that is not only aesthetic but political.
I do not have this privilege because I have seen the works only on the small screen that, to many of us, is the whole world. These screens in our offices and homes are more isolating than even the whitest of white walls in the most pristine of white cubes. They are much more theater-like than even those small project spaces which resemble theaters—ones in which patrons are constantly walking in late and leaving early—which Kydd presumably meant to reject in favor of placing his works on gallery walls. An increasing number of artists with access to technology and a gallery have made a similar choice.
It has been a defining and enduring feature of photographic discourse up to now that automaticity and automatism have been available to us through photography. An important task for the history of photography will be not just to invoke photography’s automaticity, but to describe—for any photographic work or enterprise it takes up—the nature and importance of its automaticity in that instance or set of instances.
I am going to abstract, here, from the ideas of “automatic” and “automaticity,” and from “mechanism” and “mechanicity,” in order to focus on the following question: how should the idea of “automatism” be understood, and what theoretical resources can be used to illuminate it?
This brings us back to Jameson and realism. Jameson continues to insist upon the idea of meaninglessness in Zola’s abundant descriptive lists; in referring to the copious description of the cheeses in the shop in Le Ventre de Paris, he speaks of “their veritable liberation from meaning in all their excess.” The pungent cheese passage indeed shows a “delirious multiplicity,” but the cheeses are far from being meaningless or “autonomous.” For what does it mean when it is said that an element of a literary work is meaningless? Can it be true that multiplicity or excess leads to meaninglessness? Or that the moment something exists in the bodily realm, it does not signify?
What needs to be understood about my distance from those debates around affect polemics is that I still believe in the binary opposition, and am in that sense, I guess, some kind of structuralist Hegelian, or better still, that I include Hegel in Marx and structuralism in the dialectic. “Oppositions without positive terms”: such was Saussure’s great formula, his reinvention of the dialectic on a linguistic basis. Concepts do not exist in isolation, they are defined by their opposites: it is a dialectical lesson as well as a structuralist one, and in the best of worlds the latter should lead back to the former, which it reinvents in a new and contemporary way.
The wolf prowls the hills, kills what it kills.
Once the door had been opened onto the phenomena of the chronically unemployed, it appeared there was no closing it. Which is to say, even though the intervening period—at least between 1945 and 1979—was characterized by something wildly different than rank unemployment, nothing about this fact altered the vision of revolutionary progress centered on the figure of the precariat. It would be fairer to say exactly the opposite. The “affluent society,” as Kenneth Galbraith described it in 1958, was the source of endless lament on the Left (the Right’s attitude toward the growing equality in wealth is another, but related, story).
In nonsite’s tenth issue, we revisit the work of Bertolt Brecht and assess its relevance for today.
Nonsite brings you a special dossier of new translations of Brecht on painting and art including On Painting and the Painter, Critique of Empathy, The Blue Horses, The Worker Who is a Painter, On Chinese Painting, and the Prospectus of the Diderot Society.
If it’s true that many of our contemporaries and immediate predecessors – and particularly poets — haven’t been interested in Brecht, it isn’t quite right to say that it must be because Brecht’s work is “too didactic or too plain in its political motivations” (or, we could say, too committed). Rather, if Brecht has held little interest, with respect to aesthetics and politics alike, it’s because aesthetics and politics alike have been “strictly personal,” transformed into a matter of “talking about oneself” – of expressing one’s attitudes and “special feelings” — instead of what they were for Brecht: impersonal, a matter of accuracy and normative judgment.
As critics have ceaselessly argued, the core problem with Brecht’s art and theory is his didacticism. Brecht undoubtedly saw art in moral and political terms. Moreover, he thought that morality was a consequence of his works. He described all works of art as “necessarily…bound to release emotional effects.” The only difference between his moralism and the moralism of “bourgeois” art was that he believed his effects could fail. Even though all works produce emotional effects, the job of the (non-bourgeois) artist was to defeat the free play of affect. Brecht’s art continually thematizes open-ended affect as the thing to be overcome, or to show how it had not been overcome by his characters, making that failure a problem to be resolved outside the theater.
We are concerned with the problem of securing meaning against the ideological horizon of a fully market-saturated society. Meanings circulate or fail to circulate, compel or fail to compel. Success in the former, which is easily quantifiable, does not guarantee success in the latter, which is not.
The Threepenny Novel is not just a book about capital. It is also a book about Kapital. Brecht’s commentators have amply documented The Threepenny Novel’s numerous borrowings from Marx’s opus, such as the passage describing the death of Mary Ann Walkley, which Brecht quotes virtually verbatim from Marx. But, beyond the content and imagery, correspondences between the two works can also be found at a deeper structural level. Indeed, far more intriguing for our inquiry are certain parallels in the construction that raise questions about the aesthetic strategies Brecht borrowed from Marx to represent capital.
I don’t notice the sky on my way to work. I couldn’t say what colors my neighbors’ flowers are. In fact, I’m not even sure that they have flowers…But if, as Scarry argues, the flowers in books are in constant danger of dying for want of the solidity of real flowers, then what is killing the real flowers? And what is the medicine? The analysts of literary effects from Edmund Burke through Viktor Shklovsky, from Scarry to the latest cognitive critics, have been distracted by formal features, structures, and techniques. The sickness of literary flowers may be a problem for literary technique. The sickness of living flowers is a problem for philosophy. And this philosophy, as I will argue, has been the constant practice of a literature that doesn’t want to imitate life, but to transform it.
Eventually the Park Avenue series will be recognized as one of the major triumphs of Caro’s long and distinguished career, and in particular as a knockdown demonstration of the continued viability of high modernist abstraction in the face of the widespread assumption that no such thing is any longer even conceivable.
The central problem with which we are confronted today, in other words, may be less the conflict between labor and capital, and more, as Margaret Thatcher put it, the antagonism between a privileged “underclass” with its “dependency culture” and an “active” proletariat whose taxes pay for a system of “entitlements” and “handouts.”
…the black lead of his carpenter’s pencil has been pressed into the paper with tremendous force, far exceeding the demands of the form or the requirements of the shading in that precinct of the image…
Putting aside the one-dimensional account of artworks as “reifications”—“mediums lead to objects, and thus reification”—it would take only a moment’s reflection to see that the distribution of wealth in the “era of art,” at precisely the moment Joselit’s “reframing, capturing, reiterating, and documenting” paradigm first emerged (a set of procedures exemplified for him by the work of Sherrie Levine) was also the moment at which the US economy began its most aggressive turn away from equality.
Nonsite’s 9th issue focuses on working conditions in higher education. Edited by Victoria H.F. Scott.
Far from spelling the end of neoliberalism, the economic crisis now marching into its fifth year has intensified it, proof that this increasingly dystopian order will not collapse under the weight of its own contradictions. Its fate depends, above all, on the balance of class forces in this country, and tilting that in our favor requires diligent organization and capacity building.
An insistence on autonomy, here, is not about continuing to valorize the self as a site of all meaning and value. The opposite is true. Autonomization is a fundamentally social process. It is a matter of vigorously and loudly arguing for the necessary existence of modes of inquiry, styles of life, and ways of organizing creative and scholarly activity that reveal the limitations of the neoliberal market as an arbiter of what is valuable to know and do.
For, when the neoliberal state has been absorbed by the market, how is it possible to resist it? Or, to put the question in a simpler form, how does one “resist” the market (essentially, the question posed by “Bartleby”)? Neoliberalism, of course, has no interest in answering this question; its account of political resistance is not resistance to the market, but resistance in the market. In other words, resistance itself essentially becomes privatized, as political principles find their primary expression in market preferences.
Video of Todd Cronan and Simon Critchley in conversation at The Photographic Universe II.
Gullar gave primacy to the word as the locus of meaning of the non-object poem, and the visual, whether the materiality of language or the sculptural turn of his Neoconcrete art, opened up additional meanings contained in the word. According to Gullar the non-object as anti-dictionary cannot be reduced to one meaning or limited to only an arbitrary sign. Like the visual non-object, the verbal non-object avoids sameness or commonness and rejects the ability of language to only designate. And yet paradoxically, are not all words readymades themselves?
That was the day Corydon became Corydon.
Bernhard can link a Bourdieu-style sociological critique of art to an anti-theatrical critique of art because both the sophisticated collector and the actor depend on the pretense that they are not doing what in fact they are doing: asking you to recognize them. People make judgments of taste in order to be recognized by others. Painters paint paintings, actors deliver lines, poets write poems in order to be recognized by others. The objects they create come into the world deformed by their attention-grabbing fineness of line, color, and phrase.
Araeen’s “ecoaesthetics” insists that artists can and should make a difference in a world beset by environmental emergencies. He shows one way to move in this direction, by collectively implementing artistic ideas. Thinking of his polemic and of the many and various ecoart projects realized in recent years, we could be forgiven for wondering how much of a difference in this direction is “enough.”
So why is a tale about a manumitted slave/homicidal black gunslinger more palatable to a contemporary leftoid sensibility than either a similarly cartoonish one about black maids and their white employers or one that thematizes Lincoln’s effort to push the Thirteenth Amendment through the House of Representatives? The answer is, to quote the saccharine 1970s ballad, “Feelings, nothing more than feelings.”
In our newest issue nonsite turns its attention to music.
In this issue, nonsite turns its attention to music.
The technological form we have already encountered: “the dials…the dials.” “Dial twiddling is in its limited way an interpretive act.” The reduction of performance, from public to private, from the sorts of manipulation required by a piano or a guitar or a string section to the sort of manipulation required by a Tascam console can seem to be a great loss, hard to distinguish from the onanistic regression that Adorno ridiculed in “The Fetish-Character in Listening”—those “countless radio listeners play[ing] with the feedback or the sound dial.” The dial is the barest index of interpretive will. For Adorno, that reduction is a falling away from the challenges of real listening; for Gould, the attenuation of effort opens up the possibility of analysis. For analysis to take hold, then, it needed more than technological support; it also required a temporal form: ABA, counterpoint, Romantic revelation.
Fair is foul, and foul is fair;
Hover through the fog and filthy air.
Thus chant the three witches at the beginning of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Now it’s clear enough that the witches weren’t talking about formalism; they had more sinister, bloodier business to attend to. But suppose for a moment that they were talking about formalism–in aesthetics in general, or about formalism in musicology, music theory, and composition in particular. What then might their words mean?
Perhaps it makes sense, then, to acknowledge that the impersonal has always been part of the personal; perhaps the generic and anonymity have been part of the private all along. When, in his discussion of Clarissa, Ian Watt describes the cult of letter-writing that motivated Fielding as a “microphone already tuned to the tones of private experience,” we might be tempted to claim that all novels, at least as filtered through Watt, are rock novels.
When Suzan Philipsz won the 2010 Turner Prize, it was the first time in the award’s history that it went to a sound artist. The mere fact of Philipz’s victory often overshadowed critical assessment of Lowlands, her winning piece. It was as if her victory were not simply her own, but a victory for sound art altogether.
My point, of course, is an anti-reductionist one. No amount of mapping of which synaptic vectors alight when can explain why I think that I should interpret a passage (or character, or author) one way rather than another. Nor can visual mapping, in and of itself, explain what I mean to do by interpreting a passage one way rather than another. And that’s because neither normative significance nor meaning is something that synapses, simply, have, and so normative significance and meaning aren’t things that we can, simply, see. Stating the position a bit more carefully: at least in the case of human perception—say, listening to a work of art or, more ordinarily, conversing with a familiar foe—there certainly are cases when normative significance and meaning can be seen and heard straightaway. Moreover, there are interpretive contexts when would-be explainers immediately perceive, and so can intelligibly claim to know, that a given subject is herself immediately perceiving the meaning of some object. But our best account of those instances proceeds…by placing those instances in the space of reasons.
So we have two modes of politics. One that depends on your subject position and one that doesn’t. And we have two kinds of art: one that depends on your subject position and one that doesn’t. And they align themselves, one with the other, according to what they assume about representation and about truth. Which kind of art is Miró’s? Or is it another kind altogether? And what kind of politics does it embody?
A review of Lisa Siraganian, Modernism’s Other Work: The Art Object’s Political Life. Oxford University Press, 2012.
…if we wanted the unrich to stop being such a (vastly) underrepresented minority in our universities, we’d have to throw most of our current students out. From this standpoint, the most effective version of an occupy movement on campuses like Michigan’s would be one in which the students stopped occupying it and made way for not the 99% but the 75% who have been systematically denied admission.
Video from talk given at Publishing and the PhD, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, October 18.
It is a facsimile. It is facial angle: European woman. It is stomach simple, similar to a box. It is on either side of inside. It is grapple. It is extracted from lignite and peat. It is worn by women. It is whether with gloves, a moveable roof. It is concerned with whalebone. It is a […]
New accounts of Picasso, Léger, Beckmann, Pollock, Bearden and we ask: What are the stakes of formalism today?
Bearden wanted his collages to conjure. Of course, all representational images conjure in the sense that they gather together colors and shapes to form an image of the world and in so doing call to the minds of their viewers various ideas, emotions, associations, and memories. But in making the conjur woman so prevalent in his imagery and in adopting the medium of collage, which by its very nature extracts material from the world and then transmutes it, turning so many scraps of paper into a novel physical form, Bearden suggested that he had in mind for his art an instrumentality beyond the norm, a capacity, akin to that of the conjur woman, that exceeded human limits and approximated new ways of seeing and being.
In excavating the optische Schichten in which artworks—that is, drawings, paintings, sculptures, and so on—are constituted…post-formalist art history calls for histories of the aesthetic orders and structures (as it were the “art”) of human vision, of imaging and envisioning, that is, of its active imaginative force whether or not any actual historical artwork was (or is) in vision or in view. The optical appearance of visual artworks—the supposed object of Wöfflinian formalism—is becoming less important analytically than the configuring force of imaging, regardless of what is imaged.
The combination of flatness, enframing, and the implied interchangeability of consumer goods that we see in Warhol’s Soup Cans is both characteristic and telling. In front of such works, I can only think of what the philosopher Martin Heidegger referred to as the “standing reserve.” Insofar as our present sense of reality is shaped by the technological age in which we live, we increasingly treat all entities, Heidegger claimed, as intrinsically meaningless “resources,” a “reserve” standing by merely to be optimized and ordered for maximally flexible use.
In the case of Ballet mécanique, however, it is no longer a question of competing with or dominating spectacular vision from within painting. Opting for a different strategy, Léger works against cinematic absorption and the pseudo-intensity of cinema from within cinema itself.
There is a deep schism within Pollock criticism. Taking Pollock’s marks to index the artist’s activity elevates the causes of his paintings over their meanings, with the consequence that his works of art are reduced to intentionless surfaces that just register his “traces.” That position implicitly requires us to reject the status of a painting as a medium of expression, and treat it instead as an occasion for a viewer’s experience. But Pollock’s project–one that finds its most rigorous articulation in formalist accounts of his art–is based on demarcating the actual from the representational, the literal surface from pictorial meaning.
When Max Beckmann (1884-1950) painted The Synagogue in 1919, he could not have anticipated the ways in which it would come to be viewed and interpreted. His critics were the first to weigh in after World War I with poetic analyses. Subsequent viewers – including museum and municipal officials – placed less emphasis on the painting’s purely formal values. Since 1945, The Synagogue’s prophetic quality and historical function as well as its political uses and pedagogical applications have shaped its reception. Eschewing an interpretive mastery of the painting, this essay considers the viewer’s varied response to Beckmann’s picture as evidence of its radical authenticity.
In one of his last interviews Michel Foucault famously said “As far as I’m concerned, Marx doesn’t exist.” What he meant was that “Marx” as an author was something largely fabricated from concepts borrowed from the eighteenth century, in particular the writings of David Ricardo. From Ricardo he derived his most crucial idea: the labor theory of value. As Clune explains, neoliberalism has made that theory obsolete and with it, Marxist analysis. For Foucault there were several Marxisms in Marx.
What is the individual’s ongoing relation–how does she belong–to the national culture she may serve or criticize, but which has also helped shape her life and thought? This is the question embodied by Jasper Johns’s Flag. It has never been more relevant than in the new millennium–a political moment that is the backdrop to the themes of this book.
This issue is loosely the result of a double session on Intention and Interpretation at the College Art Association meeting of February 2010. (The original call for papers appears below.) The line-up of speakers was somewhat different from the authors of this special issue, but these remarks describe the developments to which both sets of […]
Like Lacan’s woman, painting for Hantaï comes to be defined by its condition of pas-tout, “not-all.”
One now routinely reads rote refusals of intentional interpretation and insouciant claims for the spectator’s prerogative in making meaning. Such refusals and claims may be right—that’s a question we may discuss today—, but their reexamination, which is to say this conversation, is overdue.
It is, typically, an aesthetic intuition. Aesthetic intuitions are first of all intuitions, in the everyday sense of hunch, in the psychological sense of an act of perception, and in the philosophical sense of an act of the imagination. What characterizes them not just as intuitions but as aesthetic is that they share with aesthetic experience their subjective, affective, non-conceptual nature, and with aesthetic judgments their reflexivity and their claim to universal validity, most often expressed as a claim to reflect factual truth.
All fluorescent bulbs will eventually go out; only Flavin’s intentions can make some of them also be about the fact that they will eventually go out. All of us may think of the ephemeral when we look at a fluorescent bulb flickering; only the belief that this (or something else) is what Flavin meant us to think turns our responses into interpretations.
As I try to make this out I may find myself hesitating among several possibilities: that Manet simply took advantage of the earlier painting’s meaninglessness; that he was in some way actively interested in the palpable discontinuity within the painting between artist’s intention and unrealized meaning; that his own painting stands as a reading of Velázquez’s, where reading means something distinct from but not without relation to interpretation.
The battle that Marx fought against “milieu theory” was against the idea that culture determined consciousness. His great achievement was to see that economics was not a matter of culture but of exploitation. Which is to say Adorno’s emphasis on domination and difference (how bourgeois culture shapes being), rather than exploitation and the proletariat, is pre-Marxist in orientation.
Meaning, no less than intention, matters. But to the extent it isn’t all or above all what interpretation, indeed appreciation, of an artwork aims at, or is in any event of a different, less linguistic order than those in search of it tend to suppose, then, their intentions notwithstanding, in a relevant sense both intentionalism and the do-or-die debate about it might not be all that any more than where it’s at.
This is what we might say about Philosophical Instigations, a collection of slips of paper in the nachlass of an important philosopher, Wittstein, that were taken to be paragraphs he wrote as expressions of a new philosophical theory, but which in fact were his collection of student in-class responses to the repeated assignment, “Write something short and interesting about language.”
In these terms, the account of the making of this photograph is a description of the more or less necessary historical conditions from which it (and many others) arose. These conditions did not determine the image, rather they made the image possible, and they made it possible in terms very different from those that made other artifacts possible. Every artifact has arisen and arises from such a concrete set of possibilities, and all of these sets of possibilities have their own histories.
In the language of insurance, “inherent vice” is the natural tendency of an object to self-destruct for no apparent reason. The inherent vice of glass or marble objects, for instance, is that they can collapse at any moment; the material is structurally unstable. For photography, and particularly for color photography, the inherent vice of the photograph is that it inevitably tarnishes, no matter how hard we try to slow it down.
Nonsite presents new poetry: “Spy Poem” by Samuel Amadon and three poems by Maureen N. McLane: “Invitation to a Voyage,” “A Situation,” and “OK Fern.” Click on the Poetry tab to see our archive and new arrivals.
I don’t know how I found you—like red dots spread across lines, pages before I noticed I read them as if I read them—like when turns of plot arise in shows I watch while thinking how I thought them there—
this is the hour of the small ear & the sea’s all a case of minds. the splotched ginkgo leaves attest nothing more than dogshat sidewalks.
In this issue Michael Fried, Ruth Leys, and Robert Pippin look at aspects of the relation between our agency–our actions, or emotions, our character–and our experience–of the world, of ourselves, of each other.
It is often said by scientists that our understanding of the neural basis of empathy is in its infancy, the suggestion being that it is only a matter of time before problems will be solved, as if the difficulties facing the research field are merely technical. But the implication of my paper is that the issues confronting empathy theorists are as much theoretical or, say, philosophical, as they are technical or scientific.
As we shall see though, once she allows the question of whether this trust and faith are justified to arise, the possibility of answering it immediately changes, as her relation to Dix just thereby changes; he notes the change, is wounded, he changes, and then, and only then, does he begin to evince what could be, and are taken to be, indications that he really is “capable of murder.”
In other words, following some difficult sentences on contingency, the play drive will “introduce form into matter and reality into form. To the extent that it deprives feelings and passions of their dynamic power, it will bring them into harmony with the ideas of reason; and to the extent that it deprives the laws of reason of their moral compulsion, it will reconcile them with the interests of the senses.”
The works’ achievement—“triumph,” we might even say—resides precisely in their ability to make both things simultaneously apparent. Admission or acknowledgement alone would have amounted to mere acceptance, resulting in something simply, flatly decorative, and detached from any engagement with the world. Conversely, antipathy or avoidance on its own would have been tantamount to a denial of how much painting (and the world around it) had changed in the first decade or so of the twentieth century. It is finally this doubledness, I would argue—the works’ acknowledgement of loss and their stubborn refusal to be reconciled to it—that makes them the compelling, occasionally haunting, images they are.
We see two figures, entwined. What appears to be a woman, at left—tall and hulking, her right, striped pant leg forcefully set down—puts her arms around a smaller figure at right, probably a man, who responds with a kiss. Perhaps the kiss is joyous, enough to have the man raise what looks like his left foot, a kick in ecstasy. But something else is apparent.
Affects are, Berlant insists, “radically private, and pretty uncoded,” and like the fetishized commodity, they make their dazzling appearance with the labor behind them obscured. These private experiences are in fact beyond analysis—an affect, after all, “is just a fact.”
What I’ve been calling the work’s performance is nothing other than the causal account of its production, the kind of account you can give for any work of art. The difference is just that Chang has folded the process through which the work was produced into the experience of seeing it. This is a difference that matters.
Whatever previous ages might have fancied, we are wise enough to know that the work of art is a commodity like any other. Chances are that we don’t have any very clear idea what we mean by that. Marx, however, does.
The critic can embrace aesthetic attention to the specifics of “how” the work unfolds and still avoid any trace of formalism: art is a means of combining and re-orienting imaginative spaces that attach us to features of the world.
But the question is deeper: whether an illusion, on the order of some post-Cartesian misdirected agenda in epistemology, is a proper matrix for understanding the sort of suffering chronicled in the modern literature of loss, absurdity, alienation, meaninglessness and simple heartlessness. (For that matter, the larger question here: could McDowell be right that the Cartesian agenda is simply an illusion, to be recovered from, to be exorcised? Is not that image itself telling, as if it is something like possession, witchcraft? Could that be right?)
London is alienated from itself in its artificial opposition to the otherness of nature. But it can also be rendered alien or other by its deep historical past, a past still visible within it. This is a temporal dislocation rather than the geographical and ontological one that Wordsworth envisions in The Prelude.
An aristocratic nature does not like to be constrained
to the fewest syllables. His subjects encompassed
gods and men and horses, all victorious.
Part 2 of our “No Quarrel” feature on literature and philosophy. Edited by Oren Izenberg and Rob Chodat.
[W]e frequently do not, strictly speaking, hear the meaning of a poem so much as we hear a poem as occasioning a question of meaning, a question we devote ourselves to answering if we are to make sense of the encounter with meaning a poem initiates. In the context of poetry, we usually take meaning to be a destination and not a point of departure.
But how can one person actually feel another person’s a? More plausibly, we might think that the causal chain involves a proliferation of effects from the same a — not different subjects having the same feelings about a, but the same a producing different feelings in different subjects. But then we also have a different source of pathos — how can I tell if my a is the same as your a? Not how can I feel another person’s a, but how can I know another person’s a?
Do literary conditions have their own forms of entitlement? Would such conditions—say, Wittgenstein’s particular scene-setting, thought experiments, aphorisms, and dialogues—amount to an alternative form of justification? Could a tactful or artful (or beguiling or captivating or worrisome) ordering of words—what we might simply call a style—itself generate the criteria for claiming? How exactly can, as Cavell puts it, “an ordering of words [be] its own bottom line, [and] see to its own ground?”
Just as “confidence” is hope cut free from its surrounding dangers, so too a “reminder” is an invitation cut free from a discursive environment of argument and persuasion. It is a performance of knowledge that causes anxiety to lapse, that opens our eyes to the obvious without insisting upon it. Or to put the point slightly differently, the idea of a reminder is the idea of a poetry of ease.
As a boy, Stendhal searched for the perfect mathematical equation: “At the age of fourteen, in 1797, I imagined that higher mathematics, which I have never known, contained every or almost every aspect of objects, so that by going on I would come to know certain, indubitable things, which I could prove to myself whenever I wanted, about everything.” But the inescapable pressures of the social world turn even mathematics into an occasion for hypocrisy, rather than knowledge. Stendhal’s development of a theory of vagueness seeks to redress the failure of certainty and indubitability, to explain all the ways language can go right in a social situation, and all the not-unrelated ways it won’t.
[T]alk of universal themes glazes the eyes because such themes always disappear when looked at closely. And they do so because they have neither formal nor phenomenal properties. But we needn’t be detained by themes in order to soften the habitual detachment of critical reading. Neither critical reading nor philosophical argument has to forswear literary experience; indeed it is likely such experience has a form illuminated by each.
[T]he Cartesian points to the source in the inner world; the behaviorist points to the embodied movements of the outer world; the classical expressionist points with the Cartesian to the inner determinants of content; the appearance emotionalist points with the behaviorist to the outward determinants of content. Simply put, both pairs of theorists have buried in their conceptual substrates a picture that they share in common beneath their more visible differences.
This issue of nonsite presents a conversation between literary scholars and philosophers, revisiting the ancient quarrel between literature and philosophy in a modern disciplinary context. Edited by Oren Izenberg and Rob Chodat.
Narratives are indeed a crucial tool by which many of us make sense of our lives. The problem comes in identifying selves too directly with the lives they live. If we drop the insistence on life-long autobiographies in favor of many short overlapping stories, we can hew more closely to the role narratives typically play in everyday self-representations; but then we also stand in need of a new criterion for unifying those stories into a coherent self.
The dominant question that has troubled readers of both Wordsworth and Wittgenstein on the topic of common language, its forms of expression, and its situatedness in the world consequently has been similar: Whose language shall count as the “real” or “everyday” one, and with what authority or under which criteria do I assert the commonality and commonness of this language? Put differently: Which words are to act as representative of real or everyday language, what is supposed to be, as Wordsworth has it, the very (the “empirical,” let’s say) or what J. L. Austin might have called the actual language of men?
There is, so to speak, an internal relation between our theories of psychological expression and our theories of aesthetic expression. If we therefore want to hold on to the thought that art is, in fact, expressive, a great deal will depend on how we understand the expressiveness of the human figure. Yet at the same time, if we are convinced that art is not expressive (for whatever theoretical reasons), then that may, in turn, influence the way we see the human body itself: perhaps draining not only works of art, but the human body too, of their expressive powers.
To suggest that literature is simply another genre of fiction, like the Western or the Romance, is to ignore a fact that…genres are distinguished from one another principally by looking at the story-type, the plot. Insofar as works of literature fall into distinct types, they do so on the basis of features other than plot, such as theme or character. So different kinds of great literature may indeed be categorized as falling into certain “types,” but these types are not thereby genres, because genres are distinguished from one another according to their plot. This matters because plots are powerful emotion-producing machines.
It is the scientist’s “being-in-the-world” that allows her to describe planets and bacteria, “things and subhuman organisms,” but the “being-in-the-world” of the layman occupies what Percy calls a “different sort of reality,” resting upon the linguistic and social ties that constitute a “non-material, non-measurable entity.” And what holds true of our triadic relationships also goes for us as individuals. A “material substance cannot name or assert a proposition,” which accordingly means, Percy concludes, that “the initiator of a speech act” is also something that the natural sciences are incapable of recognizing: “The agent is not material.”
There is not not anything true here; there is not no thought
whose single attention might burn as the day burns, holding
in flame and in fury to longing, or stuck to the nub
of some one refusal, some stubborn remainder of thought.
Unemployment is both a problem and a solution. It’s a problem for the unemployed, who want work, a solution for employers who not only want workers but also want the cheapest ones they can get.
Welcome to the opening of the Tank, into which we drop a published work or a work-in-progress (or some piece of one or the other) and see what happens when the water starts churning. In our first installment, Oren Izenberg steps into the water.
My new asshole’s official candy
is cola-flavored, fish-shaped.
Marie Claire and affect theory; Gombrich and neoliberalism; reparations for the ugly and the continuing hold of Degenerate art.
Not only is everything that was good about The Wire, such as use of silence and nuance to make points and to evoke the effects of deep structural forces and a narrative that is decidedly and proudly not moved along by music or soap operatic plot devices, bad about Treme; Simon is also in way over his head. His vision has been captured and colonized by the touristic discourse of “real” authenticity.
The dimension of a free life that Hegel is interested in has not, by virtue of these critiques, been superseded or gone away, unless we have some way of understanding what it would be to actually acknowledge such a departure in life. The postmodernist critique of subjectivity is “overdone” to the extent that it leaves us with no concrete way to understand what the actual position of subjectivity should look like to an agent.
On screen and soundtrack, The New World stages internal relations and disjunctions while revealing them to be constitutive of a cinematic world. Yet the purpose of the film is precisely not to articulate a defensible thesis about “worldhood.” It is to effect nothing less than a conversion of the gaze—a purpose inimical to an academic industry that takes positive knowledge as its goal.
So one easy way to put it would be to say that for many people, photography perfectly embodied the theory and practice of the postmodern, whereas for some people, it created the possibility or felt necessity for a critique of postmodernism. Or, to put the point in terms of intentionality: for many people, the photograph embodies the critique of the intentional that we find in theorists as different as Barthes and Derrida, Crimp and Rancière; for others it embodies something like the opposite – the opportunity to re-imagine intentionality.
The hypothesis of neurovisuality may allow a general theory of visual culture to be coordinated with a general science of vision. Possibly it can help make sense of unresolved problems in art history, including the question of the “power of images” and their “agency” in human perception.
Charles Palermo writes: Things remain visible to people outside the visuality within which they were intentionally produced, though what is visible in an artifact in this context (or what is visible about it) may differ from what is visible in the context of visuality. By the same token, people can succeed to many visualities, though […]
It thus seems as if the very problem which is at the center of the mind/brain debate, namely, the nature of intentionality, is now being offered as the solution: the claim is that intentional agency just is the biological process that can produce the desired-for “gaps” or differences that characterize freedom.
At the center of Picasso’s Guernica, a woman’s arm thrusts an illuminated candle over a screaming horse in the direction of a bull’s head. Long recognized as a mirror-reversal of the artist’s Minotauromachy etching of two years earlier, this compositional arrangement and its mythological reference at a certain point came to structure interpretations of this […]
…we can reason our way out of a deontological stance into a utilitarian one. In fact we moderns are called on to do that every day. But the cognitive load required to apply the brakes on our fast and frugal heuristics is intense. So the stories I love most offer some kind of relief from the rational self-restraint I’m forced to exercise all the time—on the road, in the office, at home.
…if we’re thinking like Mark Johnson, we can simply add these examples to our bucket of evidence that the human mind is structured by our bodily orientation in space, and hence so is our art. Put that way, the difference between having an account of the meaning of the work and having an account of its causes is not only easy to see, but, I would argue, an easy strike against the kinds of neuro approaches I’ve been describing thus far.
Cognitive scientists have found out quite a lot about the psychology of intention. We humans are intentional to our core. Do we come into the world trailing clouds of glory? Maybe. But we definitely come trailing clouds of concepts. Far from experiencing the world as “one great blooming, buzzing confusion,” babies start detecting patterns only […]
On this question Einstein and Kahnweiler held diametrically opposed positions. Moreover–and this is my main interest–their respective positions correspond to successive phases in the developing neuroscientific understanding of the visual brain. Kahnweiler’s interpretation of cubism was shaped by the neuroscience of his day while, remarkably, Einstein’s account of seeing, as he believed it to be embodied in cubist paintings, anticipates by half a century a fundamental breakthrough in the neuroscientific understanding of vision.
An excerpt from the Los Angeles Review of Books Symposium on “What is African American Literature?”
…I could agree with Mark Johnson, if his claim were simply descriptive in character. That is, I would find nothing objectionable if he were only claiming that we require multiple, often inconsistent structures (or habits, or preferences, or norms) to describe musical works. But Johnson’s claim is not intended to be descriptive; image-schematic theory is intended to explain how such experiences are conceptualized in the first place, i.e. how they are structured.
In a special dossier, contributors present claims for and against neuro-, cognitive, and evolutionary aesthetics. Edited by Todd Cronan.
Nonsite presents new poetry. Three prose poems by Michael Fried: “The Divergence,” “An Essay in Aesthetics,” and “Akhmatova Looks Up.”
Nonsite’s first offering in poetry. Two poems by Nicholas Liu: “Bridge to Nowhere” and “Sleepers Awake”.
James Welling and Walter Benn Michaels discuss photography, neoliberalism and aesthetics in a conversation from a recent conference at Parsons, entitled The Photographic Universe and we’ve got the video.
We’re happy to announce that James Welling has joined nonsite.org as our art editor. In the coming months, we will be featuring portfolios and exhibitions unique to nonsite.
Walter Benn Michael’s “Neoliberal Aesthetics: Fried, Rancière and the Form of the Photograph,” published in our first issue, has generated responses from Michael Clune, Nicholas Brown, and Todd Cronan.
February 10, 2011. In the midst of a cold winter, nonsite.org was launched in order to raise the temperature. If our first issue doesn’t make you unseasonably hot, perhaps the next will make you feel a springtime chill. In the meantime, look out for upcoming editorials, reviews, poems and articles. And read on.
We present nonsite’s inaugural issue.
…for me much of what is most immediately gripping in June 8, 1968 turns on the contrast or say the felt difference between the stagedness plus residual “magic” of absorption of the “mourners” and the wholly unselfconscious albeit dramatic, in certain scenes one might say over-the-top beauty of the natural world…
The political meaning of the refusal of form (the political meaning of the critique of the work’s “coherence”) is the indifference to those social structures that, not produced by how we see, cannot be overcome by seeing differently. It’s this refusal of form…
Poet and critic Paul Valéry held two strong and conflicting views of literary meaning. On the one hand, he affirmed his “verses have whatever meaning is given them.” And in a phrase that entered into the post-modern literary canon, he declared “Once a work is published its author’s interpretation of it has no more validity than anyone else’s.” On the other hand, he suggested that “One is led to a form by a desire to leave the smallest possible share to the reader.” Valéry’s career can be divided along these lines of anti-intentionality and intentionality. My larger claim is to show the primacy, or perhaps the invention of a dominant mode of twentieth- and twenty-first century thought.
W.G. Sebald’s long poem Nach der Natur (1988) contributed significantly to the swift recognition of his literary talent among fellow writers and poets, yet it received scant attention by the larger public and literary scholars alike. To the English-speaking world it was not even available until 2002, a year after its author’s death, when it […]
We should give ourselves up to the lies of art to deliver ourselves from the lies of myth: it is by this very paradoxical and singular way of absorption into the framework of one of the “great works” of the Occident that Picasso belongs to myth. For if it is true that he always sought to combat myth, making him even more dependent on it, he only succeeded by turning myth’s own arms onto itself—that is, the “lie.”
Picasso’s early work—his so-called Blue Period, in the present case—responds to a concern, widespread in the symbolist milieu from which the young Picasso emerged, with authority. By authority, this essay understands one’s ability to believe in and respond to a truth as one finds it represented. In this moment, the tasks of representing truth by art and by religion found themselves in dialogue, or even, as one might say, in a relation of mutual self-definition. Charles Morice’s explanations of Eugène Carrière’s works provide the background against which to understand some of Picasso’s Blue Period works, Morice’s remarks on them, and Apollinaire’s vindication of Picasso. Their exchange raises, furthermore, important problems for those of us who write histories and interpretations of art.
Paul Cézanne famously observed to Joachim Gasquet that “The landscape thinks itself in me and I am its consciousness.” “Nature is on the inside,” Cézanne further reflected. He clearly felt landscape painters before him were insufficiently responsive to—too detached from—the natural world and he hoped to break down the barriers that separated observer from the […]