Unreal Nature

January 15, 2017

Answerability

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:43 am

… The individual must become answerable through and through …

This is from Art and Answerability: Early Philosophical Essays by M.M. Bakhtin edited by Michael Holquist and Vadim Liapunov (1990):

A whole is called “mechanical” when its constituent elements are united only in space and time by some external connection and are not imbued with the internal unity of meaning. The parts of such a whole are contiguous and touch each other, but in themselves they remain alien to each other.

The three domains of human culture — science, art, and life — gain unity only in the individual person who integrates them into his own unity. This union, however, may become mechanical, external. And, unfortunately, that is exactly what most often happens. The artist and the human being are naively, most often mechanically, united in one person; the human being leaves “the fretful cares of everyday life” and enters for a time the realm of creative activity as another world, a world of “inspiration, sweet sounds, and prayers” [Pushkin].

[line break added] And what is the result? Art is too self-confident, audaciously self-confident, and too high-flown, for it is in no way bound to answer for life. And, of course, life has no hope of ever catching up with art of this kind. “That’s too exalted for us” — says life. “That’s art, after all! All we’ve got is the humble prose of living.”

When a human being is in art, he is not in life, and conversely. There is no unity between them and no inner interpenetration within the unity of an individual person.

But what guarantees the inner connection of the constituent elements of a person? Only the unity of answerability. I have to answer with my own life for what I have experienced and understood in art, so that everything I have experienced and understood would not remain ineffectual in my life. But answerability entails guilt, or liability to blame. It is not only mutual answerability that art and life must assume, but also mutual liability to blame.

[line break added] The poet must remember that it is his poetry which bears the guilt for the vulgar prose of life, whereas the man of everyday life ought to know that the fruitlessness of art is due to his willingness to be unexacting and to the unseriousness of the concerns in his life. The individual must become answerable through and through: all of his constituent moments must not only fit next to each other in the temporal sequence of his life, but must also interpenetrate each other in the unity of guilt and answerability.

Nor will it do to invoke “inspiration” in order to justify want of answerability. Inspiration that ignores life and is itself ignored by life is not inspiration but a state of possession. The true sense, and not the self-proclaimed sense, of all the old arguments about the interrelationship of art and life, about the purity of art, etc. — that is, the real aspiration behind all such arguments — is nothing more than the mutual striving of both art and life to make their own tasks easier, to relieve themselves of their own answerability. For it is certainly easier to create without answering for life, and easier to live without any consideration for art.

Art and life are not one, but they must become united in myself — in the unity of my answerability.

-Julie

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