The modern sense of the human being. The eternal sense of the individual condition as essentially one of individual conflict and torment, caught in some nasty crosswinds between building and demolition- often simultaneously- the regression and enlightened, the hysterical and the collected, the irrational and the lucid; and above all a furtive gaze fixed upon the clock, the artificial construction which both obsesses and controls, seduces and manipulates, time, instead of bursting through to a “now time”, a piercing of the veil and glimpsing into eternity. …
Perhaps the most important of the modern humanist artists was Alberto Giacometti, especially because his work shows the conflict — which he never entirely resolved — between surreally inspired art pour l’art, that is, suggestive abstraction, and the attempt to re-articulate the human being in modern terms, that is, to articulate the situation and mentality of the modern self-tortured human being. Giacometti had briefly been a Surrealist (1930-34) and became a painter and sculptor of all-too-human figures, using people who were personally meaningful to him, such as his wife Annette and brother Diego, as well as, after the Second World War, Jean-Paul Sartre and Jean Genet, to make his existential point. Brilliantly reconciling the Surreal sense of the mystery hidden in every human being with the tragic sense of human vulnerability, these uncanny portraits, whether in two or three dimensions — each figure is in fact simultaneously flat and rounded, as though to convey the tension between its mental reserve and its body, its seemingly flat affect and unequivocally mortal presence — are dream pictures of human suffering at its most subtly intense, even as each solitary figure seems to epitomize the miseries of modern social history. Read More:http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/kuspit4-25-06.asp
Humanity is constantly enthralled with the idea of utopia, an attractive force, redemptive, a reward, where the individual can finally kick off his shoes and enjoy life’s game now that the outcome is known. This utopia is “magical” since it appears to leap beyond time, but this perfect society, this fantasy, is wholly dependent on its time.
Accordingly, redemption, defies the linear progression of time since it entails an interpretive leap into the past, which determines how we conceive the present; not relying on a revolutionary rejuvenation of dredging up past episodes of exploitation but on saving the memories of the oppressed, unredeemed in the past and creating a new structure in the process. It is almost a spiritual devotion, devoid of rhetoric and ideology in which a struggle for redemption of the defeated is undertaken. The defeated of the past are redeemed from oblivion, and the defeated in the contemporary are redeemed from manipulation by the powers that be in the current order. Redemption, based on Walter Benjamin and Nietzsche, turns out to be the interpreter as artist, a giant and virtual piece of conceptual art, encompassing the aesthetic institution of the “now-time.”
This interpreter also seeks his own salvation,thw “new frontiersperson” is at risk of withering away, marinating in the vagueness and emptiness between channeling the past and the inert aggressiveness of current false consensus. In Benjamin’s thinking, what he termed “the messianic time” inevitably bursts into the “now-time.” It is said to momentarily disrupt the continuity of the vanity and egotism, so-called “progress of catastrophic time”, the folly and trap, and creates within a unique and perhaps non-recurring extra-temporal point, where traditional chronological time simply stops or the stream currents change direction or branch off unexpectedly, and an unexpected, unforseen redeemed space of time is constituted, where a whole new vocabulary and visual language is created in opposition to what he would term “evil celebrating its victory” – an almost science fiction of a Lucas Cranach -like Dance of Death….
The struggle for knowledge turns out to be a moral struggle for the good life by an isolated individual, who at most can hope to break the continuum which in the way things are scripted, is always the ultimate winner. Maybe it better to change the reference; a simply good struggle, a murder of the “nice” replaced by moxie and elan and a trip through the backwoods avoiding the dilemma of historical “progress” that has been the dogma and ideology of all ideologies since the “first sin.” or at least its invention. Within an adjusting of context, redemption is implied as given, a won struggle,in the overcoming of history, and as a rescue of the possibility wasting time and energy on moral struggle for the structurung of authentic selfhood through defeating of the principles of individuation; personal expression through the commodity- and by regarding “the other” as an figure for manipulation for dubious purposes of realizing selfish goals as an expression of individuation. Its a salvation of sorts, but more an intimate dialogue, that relies on a type of knowledge that is distinct from the accepted, the violent, the victorious bases of knowledge, which seems always founded and produced out of the vain ideas of progress, echoes of the voice of myth; always on guard against what Benjamin would call the “appearance of the messianic” ; a dubious , long-shot and underdog phenomenon since we tend to be imprisoned in the present where myth is a monopoly, both absolute king and queen of reality where the proffered truths and evidence are like offering of stale bread crumbs under the guise of a starving persons banquet.
Kuspit:Like the Surrealists and Neue Sachlichkeit artists, Giacometti struggled with the trauma of world war, but while they revealed, with whatever defensive irony and graphic ingenuity, its disastrous effects on human life, suggesting that there was no way to repair it and thus in a sense capitulating to their own trauma, Giacometti showed human beings holding their own against the meaninglessness the war left in its wake — human beings with enough ego to emotionally survive, however traumatized they were. Giacometti’s portraits are an amazing act of faith in humanity at a time there was no reason to have any. In a sense, the disillusionment that began with the First World War, which betrayed the civilizing ideals of reason, morality and beauty, reached its inevitable climax with the Second World War, whose atrocities destroyed the last vestiges of faith and hope in modern life. Giacometti’s empathic re-affirmation of human dignity, in the face of overwhelming emotional as well as physical annihilation, and the anxiety that accompanied it — annihilati
nxiety is what makes the skin of Giacometti’s figures crawl and crumble, for all their apparently invincible uprightness — is a triumph of human belief in a situation in which there is nothing human to believe in.( Kuspit ) Read More:http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/kuspit4-25-06.asp
In fact, in the final, 1939 version of his exposé of the Passagenwerk he granted the last word–in his text and about the nineteenth century–to the messengers of the eternal recurrence. In his final paragraph, following a quote from Blanqui’s L’eternité par les astres, Benjamin concludes:
The century was incapable of responding to the new technological possibilities with a new social order. That is why the last word was left to the errant negotiators between old and new who are at the heart of these phantasmagorias. The world dominated by its phantasmagorias–this, to make use of Baudelaire’s term, is “modernity.” Blanqui’s vision has the entire universe entering the modernity of which Baudelaire’s seven old men are the heralds. In the end, Blanqui views novelty as an attribute of all that is under sentence of damnation. Likewise in Ciel et enfer, a vaudeville piece that slightly predates the book: in this piece the torments of hell figure as the latest novelty of all time, as “pains eternal and always new.” The people of the nineteenth century, whom Blanqui addresses as if they were apparitions, are natives of this region.Read More:http://xpoetics.blogspot.com/2009/04/eternity-no-more-walter-benjamin-on.html
…I will begin with Blanqui, whose text is likely to be unfamiliar to many. As already mentioned, Blanqui’s text is centered on the view that given a finite number of basic elements in the universe and an infinity of spatial extension and time, then every entity, every event must exist in countless copies dispersed over these spatial and temporal expanses. In this cosmos, we may find consoling that our lost loves are being embraced by our doubles an infinite number of times, yet at the same time, every defeat and instance of suffering in history are also replicated throughout eternity. Contemporary commentators in newspaper notices and reviews of Blanqui’s book did not fail to point out the logical inconsistencies in the argument…. Benjamin, however, in keeping with his materialist interests in the structure of experience and the framing of historical time, takes a different tack. On the one hand, unlike previous commentators, he tends to take the idea of eternal return not as a psychological metaphor or regulative moral idea, but rather as a literal experience; accordingly, he seeks to understand what are the social preconditions and phenomenological characteristics of eternal return as an experience of reality. On the other hand, he interprets the eternal return metahistorically and theologically, as a critique of progress, a recurrence to myth within modernity, and a post-Christian secularization of the theo-political topos of hell. ( ibid.)