Unreal Nature

September 10, 2017

So, You Are in Love

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:39 am

… you are yielding to those complex and contradictory feelings that, akin, indeed identical, to those of love, compel you to go beyond your taste and to surrender.

Continuing through Kant after Duchamp by Thierry de Duve (1996):

… You are no longer anyone, anyone special that is. You are not a specialist any more. You are just yourself, without particular qualifications, simply an amateur, which means that you are no longer a professional, but also, in the etymological sense of “amateur,” that your dealings with art have the nature of a love relationship. You are Mr or Ms Everyone, since everyone is an art lover to some extent. So, you are in love.

[line break added] And just as you need no theory of woman to love a woman, or of man to love a man, you need no theory of art to love art. Just as no one falls in love with Woman (or Man) in general, no one falls in love with Art in general. Even Don Juan, who is looking for the woman, loves women individually, one by one. You are in love with this or that work, and certainly with more than one at a time, but not with all works.

… if, contrary to both the snob and the ideologue, you are sincere when you call art something unexpected or refuse to call art something too expected, then you are yielding to those complex and contradictory feelings that, akin, indeed identical, to those of love, compel you to go beyond your taste and to surrender. Then the word “art” is dictated to you by the objectified force of these feelings forcing you and about which, by a sort of immediate reflexiveness, you precisely feel that they put your taste, your aesthetic habitus and habits, in jeopardy.

[line break added] Then, in attributing this name, art, to the object that occasioned this uneasy feeling in you, you are obeying the contradictory injunction of your feeling. In this case, the unexpectedness of the things that you call art is indeed unexpected by general opinion — not insofar as it is the opinion of others (the mass of humans from which you distinguish yourself), nor insofar as it is ours (the class of distinguished people who impose their class consensus), but insofar as it is yours, personally; insofar as, whatever your class, you have incorporated into your taste or anti-taste that classification which classes you.

… The semiotician wasn’t wrong in reading the word “art” as the negative sign of successful communication, or of a communication that succeeds only when it fails; the historian of the avant-garde wasn’t wrong in hearing the word “art” only in the provocation of anti-art or in the distress calls of non-art; the sociologist wasn’t wrong in attributing the word “art” only to the practice that dissolves consensus or reveals it as dissolved, already.

[line break added] And you yourself, mere art lover, when you utter the word “art” to refer to that unexpected something that upsets your feelings beyond all appropriateness, you acquiesce to this upheaval, you lay claim to the opposing feelings that shake you, and it is the object that thwarts your love of art and that occasions the sentiment of dis-sentiment in you that you decide to call, reflexively, by the name of art.

… But it is one thing to recognize values in conflict, and it is another to experience them. Being cultivated and being sensitive are not equivalent. To be sensitive to art is to feel the conflict of values as a conflict of feelings. This sensitivity is something which, far from putting you out of the fray, plunges you directly into it; it is something completely at odds with aesthetic disinterestedness or distancing, and also very different from the flair of the dandy or the snob who samples the conflicting values in order to choose by reflex the one that will shock and mark him or her off from the crowd.

… In calling art something conflictual and unexpected, you give your assent to the reflexive feeling of dissent, that is, to the quarreling rather than peaceful coexistence of the cultural values you are able to experience.

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

-Julie

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