Unreal Nature

June 14, 2015

Frozen and Stabilized

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

… Are the works of the Museum deprived of the world?

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

… One has but to enter any place in which works of art are put together in great number to experience this museum sickness, analogous to mountain sickness, which is made up of a feeling of vertigo and suffocation, to which all pleasure of seeing and all desire to let oneself be moved quickly succumb. Of course, in the first moment, there is shock, the physical certainty of an imperious, singular presence, however indefinitely multiplied it is. Painting is truly there, in person. But it is a person so sure of herself, so pleased with her prestige and so imposing, exposing herself with such a desire for spectacle that, transformed into a queen of theater, she transforms us in turn into spectators who are very impressed, then a little uncomfortable, then a little bored. Surely there is something insuperably barbarous in the custom of museums. How did things come to this? How did the solitary, exclusive affirmation that is fiercely turned toward a secret point that it barely indicates to us, lend itself, in each painting, to this spectacular sharing, to this noisy and distinguished encounter that is in fact called a show?

… Manifestly, one must suppose that this prodigious development of the museum, almost universal today — one that coincides with the moment at which art attempts to make itself visible for itself, no longer an affirmation of the gods or the divine, no longer the expression of human values, but the emergence into the day of its own light — answers to a decision whose course we cannot suspend, whose meaning we cannot reduce because of our own personal tastes. In works of art, we already sense the infinite diversity of the conflict that divides them, exalts and ruins them: the need to be alone and always closed in on themselves, visible-invisible, without sight, and, as Rilke says, separated from us by a void that pushes us away and isolates them; but also a need to be in relation to each other, a need to be, each in itself and yet all together, the manifestation of art, to be unique, self-sufficient, but also to be merely the moment of a greater becoming while making perceptible to us, real and already complete, the space in which this becoming is endlessly carried out.

… Are the works of the Museum deprived of the world? Are they turned over to the insecurity of a pure absence without certainty? When the term museum signifies essentially conservation, tradition, security, and when everything collected in this place is there only to be preserved, to remain inactive, harmless, in this particular world — which is that of conservation itself, a world of knowledge, of culture, of aesthetics, and which is as far from the questioning of art as the archival work that assures the life of a poem is far from the poem itself. This equivocation is not fortuitous. It is no accident that what gives itself as “pure presence” is immediately frozen and stabilized in a permanence without life and in the rotting eternity of a solemn and indifferent void.

My most recent previous post from Blanchot’s book is here.




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