Tuesday, August 29, 2006

what I'm thinkin' on these days....

From Astradur Eysteinsson's The Concept of Modernism:

"Adorno has sought a solution to a paradox mentioned earlier in this chapter; he has gone far toward reconciling the oppositional conceptions of modernism as, on the one hand, an autonomous aesthetic practice and, on the other, a historical-cultural force. But on at least one level, it seems to me, this solution may have been bought at too high a price. While Adorno's outright rejection of intentionality and the validity of authorial-subjective expression may be justified, he goes too far in erasing the notion of any kind of social consciousness behind the creation of the work. Artists and writers, according to Adorno, should not think of themselves as critical agents, they should concentrate on formal matters, for what is socially determinant in works of art 'is content that articulates itself in formal structures'. Through the socially unconscious wielding of form, history would find its way into works of art, since it is an inherent part of them, whereby the works constitute themselves as an unconscious historiography of their age. There is a sense in which this certainly holds true, but as a general rule it borders on an essentialist reflection theory, and even though we may agree that form, in one way or another, is always historical, we do not have to share Adorno's rejection of artists and writers, such as Brecht, who self-consciously use their formal constructions as vehicles of more 'obtrusively' foregrounded social issues" (44).

I think he (Eysteinsson) doesn't quite get right how the dialectical relationship between the artist and the work, according to Adorno, does in fact include a socially conscious intentionality even as it inscribes this relationship formally. That is, Adorno is concerned with the relations of production, and the construction of works of art takes place within and outside these relations. Adorno's description of the modern artwork's evolution puts dialectical materialism at the service of Kantian aesthetics (or vice versa). There is a critical dynamic at work in the construction of the aesthetic object that includes both its maker and the objective reality of its form:

and here's Adorno in Aesthetic Theory:

"In emphatic opposition to the illusion of the organic nature of art, the material concept of the modern implies a conscious control over its means. Even here material production and artistic production converge"( 35).


"[T]he artists's metier never originates wholly out of a single work. No artist approaches his work with nothing but the eyes, ears, or linguistic capacity for just it. The realization of a specific work always presupposes qualities gained beyond the spell of the work's specification; only dilettantes confuse orginality with tabula rasa. Although it appears to be merely subjective, the totum of forces invested in the work is the potential presence of the collective according to the level of available productive forces: Windowless, it contains the monad. This is most strikingly evident in the critical corrections made by artists. In every improvement to which he is compelled, often enough in conflict with what he considers his primary impulse, the artist works as social agent, indifferent to society's own consciousness. He embodies the social forces of production without necessarily being bound by the censorship dictated by the relations of production, which he continually criticizes by following the rigors of his metier. In the many particular situations with which the work confronts its author there are always many available suultions, but the multiplicity of solutions is finite and surveyable as a whole. Metier sets boundaries against the bad infinity in works. It makes concrete what, in the language of Hegel's Logic, might be called the abstract possibility of artworks. Therefore every authentic artist is obsessed with technical procedures; the fetishism of means also has a legitimate aspect" (44-45).

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Camo-life

I "stole" this image of a piece by the Dutch artist Guda Koster from Ashley Benigno's blog. It's from an exhibit in Amsterdam in 2004. Check out more of Guda's work.

From Daniel Deronda

For Shashi

"It happened that the very vividness of his impressions had often made him the more enigmatic to his friends, and had contributed to an apparent idefiniteness in his sentiments. His early-awakened sensibility and reflectiveness had developed into a many-sided sympathy, which threatened to hinder any persistent course of action: as soon as he took up any antagonism, though only in thought, he seemed to himself like the Sabine warriors in the memorable story--with nothing to meet his spear but flesh of his flesh, and objects he loved. His imagination had so wrought itself to the habit of seeing things as they probably appeared to others, that a strong partisanship, unless it were against an immediate oppression, had become an insincerity for him. His plenteous, flexible sympathy had ended by falling into one current with that reflective analysis which tends to neutralize sympathy. Few men were able to keep themselves clearer of vices than he; yet he hated vices mildly, being used to think of them less in the abstract than as a part of mixed human natures having an individual history, which it was the bent of his mind to trace with understanding and pity. With the same innate balance he was fervently democratic in his feeling for the multitude, and yet, through his affections and imagination, intensely conservative; voracious of speculations on government and religion, yet loath to part with long-sanctioned forms which, for him, were quick with memories and sentiments that no argument could lay dead. We fall on the leaning side; and Deronda suspected himself of loving too well the losing causes of the world. Martyrdom changes sides, and he was in danger of changing with it, having a strong repugnance to taking up that cue of success which the order of the world often forces upon us and makes it treason against the common weal to reject. And yet his fear of falling into an unreasoning narrow hatred made a check for him: he apologized for the heirs of privilege; he shrank ioth dislike from the loser's bitterness and the denunciatory tone of the unaccepted innovator. A too reflective and diffuse sympathy was in danger of paralyzing in him that indignation against wrong and that selectness of fellowship which are the conditions of moral force; and in the last few years of confirmed manhood he had become so keenly aware of this that what he most longed for was either some external event, or some inward light, that would urge him into an definite line of action, and compress his wandering energy. He was ceasing to care for knowledge--he had no ambition for practice--unless they could be gathered up into one current with his emotions; and he dreaded, as if it were a dwelling-place for lost souls, that dead anatomy of culture which turns the universe into a mere ceaseless answer to queries, and knows not everything, but everything else about everything--as if one should be ignorant of nothing concerning the scent of violets except the scent itself for which one has no nostril. But how and whence was the needed event to come? --the influence that would justify partiality, and making him what he longed to be yet was unable to make himself--an organic part of social life, instead of roaming in it like a yearning disembodied spirit, stirred with a vague social passion, but without fixed local habitation to render fellowship real? To make a little difference for the better was what he was contented to live without; but how make it? It is one thing to see the road, another to cut it. He found some of the fault in his birth and the way he had been brought up, which had laid no special demands on him and given him no fixed relationships except one of a doubtful kind; but he did not attempt to hide from himself that he had fallen into a meditative numbness, and was gliding farther and farther from that life of practically energetic sentiment which he would have proclaimed (if he had been inclined to proclaim anything) to the best of all life, and for himself the only life worth living. He wanted some way of keeping emotion and its progeny of sentiments--which make the savours of life--substantial and strong in the face of a reflectiveness that threatened to nullify all differences. To pound the objects of sentiment into small dust, yet keep sentiment alive and active, was something like the recipe for making cannon--to first take a round hole and then enclose it with iron; whatever you do keeping fast hold of the round hole. Yet how to distinguish what our will may wisely save in its completeness, from the heaping of cat-mummies and the expensive cult of enshrined putrefactions?"

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I'm *it*

I was tagged by Kasey. (Hi Kasey!).

1. What is a book that changed your life?

There are so many... I'll just go with the first two that come immediately to mind, and are diametrically opposed. Plato's Republic, read at age 18 in an intro to political theory course in college. It was a big reason behind my decision to major in pol. theory, and my secret desire to be a philosopher king (queen). And Mary Daly's Beyond God the Father, which I read in my early twenties and which nicely conflicted with my lingering patriarchal/religious sentiments.

2. What is a book you've read more than once?

I try to read everything at least twice; there's all this stuff you miss the first time around, so this is hard to answer. But a few that I have read over the years so many times I've lost count: all the Little House on the Prairie books ( I mean from age 7 to about 13 I read them over and over and over, and I still read them once in a while), all the Louisa May Alcott books, Jane Eyre, The Godfather (I have no idea why, but I was really into mafia shit when I was teenager), The Queen's Confesssion (a cheesy but very entertaining book by the romance novelist Victoria Holt about Marie Antoinette. It's a page turner. And I learned a lot about the historical facts and characters surrounding the French Revolution. Seriously. Historical biographies rule.) Anna Karenina, Foucault's Madness and Civilization, Swann's Way. MFK Fisher's The Gastronomical Me.

3. What is a book you'd want with you on a desert island?

Proust I guess, tho I don't really have an essential book.

4. What is a book that made you giddy?

Swann's Way. Those amazing sentences.

5. What is a book that made you sad?

Well, Paul Bowles's A Sheltering Sky made me depressed. Does that count?

6. What is a book you wish had been written?

Whenever I'm reading a good book I wish I'd written it.

7. What is a book you wish had never been written?

The bible.

8. What is a book you're currently reading?

I'm generally in the habit of reading several at once. Right now it's: The Portable Hannah Arendt, Daniel Deronda, Clark Coolidge's Space, Fredric Jameson's A Singulsr Modernity, Raymond Williams's Marxism and Literature.

9. What is one book you've been meaning to read?

Ha! Let's make this easier. Here's my Amazon wishlist

10. Now tag five bloggers.

Michael Schmidt, Shashi Thandra, Mr. Waggish, Kaplan Harris, Sarah Ruddy

Saturday, August 05, 2006