Unreal Nature

November 28, 2016

Divide and Separate

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:54 am

… How does de Chirico use modernist strategies against the very conditions of modernity: its “herd perspective,” its “foreground politics,” its nearest things?

Continuing through Giorgio de Chirico and the Metaphysical City: Nietzsche, Modernism, Paris by Ara H. Merjian (2014):

… At every turn, Nietzsche’s mature writings exalt a “will for economy,” a “pathos of distance” — in (literally) sharp opposition to modernity’s garrulous, dialectical proximity, its submission to “foreground meanings,” foreground approximations.” As a mode of consciousness and a metaphor for language itself, perspective is bound up in Nietzsche’s later philosophy with a refusal to equalize vision, to divide it into anything but the expression of a single will, even as it equivocates.

Nietzsche refuses to abolish the illusion of “outer supports” (language, religion, morality) simply because we know them to be deceptive. Rather than shatter the optical logic of Christian morality or overweening positivism, Nietzsche expropriates their basic mechanisms. “You have to learn that all estimations have a perspective, to learn the displacement, distortion, apparent teleology of horizons, and whatever else is part of perspective.”

… To put this in visual terms, any view of the world, no matter how distant, is always already a “closed system,” bounded by the invisible prison-house of consciousness. That confinement only occasionally makes itself felt in a literal or material sense, as when philosophical concepts call attention to their own linguistic sonority (or, as we shall see, when the unruffled transparency of perspectival recession hardens into an almost parodic self-consciousness).

[line break added] As the Florentine avant-gardist Giovanni Papini noted already in 1906, Nietzsche’s philosophy formed “an echo in reverse, but an echo nonetheless.” That echo — like the notion of recurrence at the heart os his entire, mature thought — lay in the eternal reverberations of language and time alike, a stubbornness epitomized in the trope of perspective.

[ … ]

Does Perspectivism entail that Perspectivism itself is but a perspective, so that the truth of this doctrine entails that it is false? Would this be what [Nietzsche] spoke of in The Birth of Tragedy as logic turning round on itself and biting its own tail? Or is this only a seeming paradox, soluble somehow or other? I do not believe Nietzsche ever worked it out, although I am convinced he was aware of it. [Arthur Danto]

If, in The Birth of Tragedy there is any doubt as to Nietzsche’s “perspectival” self-awareness, by the time of Ecce Homo‘s reflexive pinnacles — a philosophical meditation on his own philosophy, a compression and objectification of several books in a further book — self-consciousness has become the very substance of Nietzsche’s writing.

dechirico_anxiousjourney1913
Giorgio de Chirico, The Anxious Journey, 1913

… “Men, gifted with great sensitivity, able to feel unknown things,” de Chirico writes in his Paris manuscripts, “renounce, know what they should renounce, and above all divide and separate, and not confuse the sensations particular to each of us, which we know someone else could never have.” Metaphysical painting in Paris emulates the selective initiation to which the artist felt privy while reading Nietzsche.

[line break added] How might painting convert that privilege into an image? How does de Chirico use modernist strategies against the very conditions of modernity: its “herd perspective,” its “foreground politics,” its nearest things? After 1912, Metaphysical space proves most restricted, as we shall see, through an openness only illusory and optical.

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

-Julie

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