new frontier

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. …

Giacometti. Portrait of Caroline. 1962.---Kuspit:Today one cannot help wondering what exactly the status of art is—if it has any status apart from the status its commodification and mass reproduction confer upon it--especially since they seem to mock its presumably high status by popularizing it in the mass culture. Everything in it is subject to the common denominator consciousness of ideologizing publicity. Clearly mass reproduction and corporate capitalism work in strange, miraculous, dialectically slick ways, indicating their absolute power over consciousness. Read More:

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:

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.

--- It can also be argued that Expressionism spectacularized emotion and Surrealism spectacularized the unconscious. One of the founders of Zurich Dadaism was a vaudeville performer, implying its indebtedness to spectacle. Indeed, it can be argued that the Dadaists turned social entertainment into anti-social spectacle, as Huelsenbeck’s Memoirs of a Dada Drummer implies. From Monet’s water lily murals to Pollock’s all-over paintings spectacle has become standardized in abstract painting. No doubt the murals on the walls and ceiling of the Sistine Chapel are also spectacular, but they enlisted spectacle in the service of transcendence, which is why they are more elevating than entertaining. ---Read More: image:

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.

---Giacometti stated he was attempting to render his models, which tended to be his brother, Diego, his wife, Annette, or his mistress, Caroline (why did all the great 20th century artists have mistresses?), exactly the way he saw them, and the way he thought they ought to be seen. Academics suggest that this was a reflection of a 20th century existentialist view that focussed on the notion that modern life is increasingly devoid of meaning. One must also consider that Giacometti’s work would have been affected not only by the seeming absurdity, chaos, and destructive force of WWII but also the deep seeded belief that all life could very possibly be distinguished through nuclear holocaust. His figures; drawings, paintings and sculptures all convey feelings of alienation in a hostile world very much in line with the mentality of a mid 20th century zeitgeist. --- Read More:

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 — annihilative anxiety 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:

Giacometti . Portrait of David Sylvester. ---His pessimism discloses the presence of violence within the continuity of "the whole time everything is the same" as a cosmic fate, a fate grounded in mystic necessity. He regards reality as essentially tragic, jet not as a partial historical stage or as an accident, but as normality itself. "The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the 'state of emergency', in which we live is not an exception, but a rule." The fact that "everything continues as usual" is the eternal "catastrophe," which according to Benjamin discloses the boundless dominance of the mythical. This is the basis of the "Kafka-like situation," which determines the subject as described in the article "Franz Kafka." The "original sin" makes itself present at each moment in history, and according to Benjamin it turns out to be a reaction to the subject's being a victim of cosmic injustice permanently directed against him.--- Read More: image:

…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.)

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