Unreal Nature

March 19, 2017


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:50 am

… If he did no more than imagine it, if he played merely for the sake of experiencing this life from within — the way children play — and did not shape it through an activity that approaches it from outside, he would not be an artist.

Continuing through the essay ‘Author and Hero in Aesthetic Activity’ in Art and Answerability: Early Philosophical Essays by M.M. Bakhtin edited by Michael Holquist and Vadim Liapunov (1990):

… A man who has grown accustomed to dreaming about himself in concrete terms — a man who strives to visualize the external image of himself, who is morbidly sensitive about the outward impression he produces and yet is insecure about that impression and easily wounded in his pride — such a man loses the proper, purely inner stance in relation to his own body. He becomes awkward, “unwieldy,” and does not know what to do with his hands and feet.

[line break added] This occurs because an indeterminate other intrudes upon his movements and gestures and a second principle of axiological comportment toward himself arises for him: the context of his self-consciousness is muddled by the context of the other‘s consciousness of him, and his inner body is confronted by an outer body that is divorced from him — an outer body living in the eyes of the other.

… This life — my own life as recreated in my imagination — will be filled with finished and indelible images of other people in all their externally intuitable completeness (with images of others who are close and dear to me, and even with images of people I have only met in passing). The external image of myself, however, will not be present among them. My own face will be absent from among all these unique, inimitable faces. What will correspond here to my own I are the recollections, the re-experiencings of purely inner happiness, anguish, regret, desires, strivings, that pervade this intuited world of others.

[line break added] That is, I shall recall my own inner attributes in particular circumstances of my life, but not my own outer image. All of the plastic and pictorial values (colors, tones, forms, lines, images, gestures, postures, faces, and so forth) will be distributed between the object-world and the world of other people, whereas I myself shall enter this world as an invisible bearer of those emotional-volitional tones which issue from the unique and active axiological position I have assumed in this world and which imbue this world with a particular coloration.

[ … ]

… The actor is aesthetically creative only when he produces and shapes from outside the image of the hero into whom he will later “reincarnate” himself, that is, when he creates the hero as a distinct whole and creates this whole not in isolation, but as a constituent in the whole of a drama. In other words, the actor is aesthetically creative only when he is an author — or to be exact: a co-author, a stage director, and an active spectator of the portrayed hero and of the whole play (we could use an “equals” sign here, after discounting certain mechanical factors: the author = the director = the actor).

[line break added] For, just as much as the author and the director, the actor creates a particular hero in association with the artistic whole of a play, as a constituent in that whole. It should be evident that, when he does so, the whole of the play is no longer perceived from within the hero himself as the ongoing event of his life, i.e. it is no longer perceived as the horizon of his life. Rather, it is perceived as the environment of the hero’s life from the standpoint of an aesthetically active author/contemplator situated outside the hero, and this environment includes features that are transgredient to the hero’s consciousness.

The artistic image of the hero is created by the actor before a mirror, before a director, on the basis of his own stock of experience. [ … ] All this [makeup, costume, demeanor, character] is done by the actor in association with the artistic whole of the play (and not the event of the hero’s life), in this context, the actor is an artist. In this context, the actor’s aesthetic self-activity is directed to giving form to a human being as a hero and to giving form to his life.

[line break added] When, on the other hand, the actor, in playing his role, “reincarnates” himself in the hero, then all these constituents of forming the hero from outside become transgredient to the actor’s consciousness and experiencing as the hero (let us assume that the “reincarnation” is accomplished in its purest form). The form of the body as shaped from outside, its movements and positions, etc. — all these constituents will have artistic validity only for the consciousness of a contemplator — within the artistic whole of the play, not within the experienced life of the hero.

Of course, in the actual work of an actor, all these abstractly isolated constituents intertwine, and in this sense his playacting represents a concrete and living aesthetic event. The actor is an artist in the full sense of the term: all the constituents of an artistic whole are represented in his work, except that at the moment of playacting the center of gravity is displaced into the inner experiences of the hero as a human being, as the subiectum of lived life.

[line break added] That is, the center of gravity is displaced into that extra-aesthetic matter which had been actively shaped earlier by the actor himself qua author and stage director. At the moment of “reincarnation,” he becomes passive material (passive in relation to aesthetic self-activity) — he becomes a life in that artistic whole which he had himself earlier created and which is now being actualized by the spectator; in relation to this aesthetic self-activity of the spectator, the actor’s entire activity of living and experiencing as the hero is passive.

The actor both imagines a life and images it in his playacting. If he did no more than imagine it, if he played merely for the sake of experiencing this life from within — the way children play — and did not shape it through an activity that approaches it from outside, he would not be an artist. At best, he would be a sound but passive instrument in the hands of an artist (the director, the author, and the active spectator).

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




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