Unreal Nature

June 7, 2015

The Canvas, The Spots

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:55 am

… its glory resides in the presence of pure matter arranged in such a way as to capture absence; and that it is tied to the fate of this matter.

This is from the essay ‘The Museum, Art, and Time’ found in the collection, Friendship by Maurice Blanchot (1997):

… as soon as the Museum begins to play a role, it is because art has agreed to become a museum art: a great innovation, and for many the sign of great impoverishment. … Plastic art is first in the service of religious sentiments or invisible realities around which the community perpetuates itself; art is religion, says Hegel. At this stage one finds it in churches, in tombs, under the earth, or in the sky, but inaccessible, invisible in a way: who looks at Gothic statues? We do; the others invoke them.

…What was a god in a temple becomes a statue; what was a portrait becomes a painting; and even dreams, that absence in which the world and the images of the world were transfigured, are dissipated in this new brightness that is the broad daylight of painting.

… Modern art, in the Museum, would become conscious of its truth — which is to be neither in the service of a church, nor of a history or specific event, nor of a figure … The painter serves painting, and apparently painting serves no purpose. The strange thing is that from the day he makes this discovery, the artist’s interest in his art, far from diminishing, becomes an absolute passion, and the works that signify nothing seem to incarnate and reflect this passion. Why? One may well ask oneself this.

… Art — and by this should be understood the entirety of works and that which makes each one a work of art — is in essence anxiety and movement. The museum is in no way made up of immutable afterlives and the eternal dead. Statues move; we know this, just as Baudelaire was frightened to see unreal images subject to surprising development. With each decisive work of art, all the others shudder and some succumb, a death that is the resurrection of tomorrow …

… herein lies the wonder: through the work of art, possession becomes the power to possess; servitude wakes up emancipated. … Goya’s solitude is great, but it is not without limits, for he is a painter, and if “the painting is for him a means of reaching the mystery … the mystery is also a means of reaching painting” [Malraux] and thus of coming to light, of becoming the freedom and the brightness of day.

… It is perhaps disturbing for us to recognize that the truth of a painting is not at a distance from the painting but is inseparable from the painting’s material reality, from its “means”; that its glory resides in the presence of pure matter arranged in such a way as to capture absence; and that it is tied to the fate of this matter. One could not say, however, that the painting is entirely what is there — the canvas, the spots, the shuddering become thickness — for the painting is entirely in the assurance that it is not there and that what is there is nothing

… At the heart of this absence, works of art are in perpetual dissolution and in perpetual motion.

… There can be no doubt that works of art attract us less in themselves than as the dazzling marks that make the passionate development of an artist visible to us, the movement expressing his specific contestation and, through it, the contestation of art having become stability and repose — and every artist appears to us in turn as the trace, not destined to endure but perhaps to be erased, a trace that art has left in search of its extreme point.

My previous post from Blanchot’s book is here.




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