Unreal Nature

February 12, 2019

Divided and United

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:39 am

… the attention of the public … turns from the work to the artist.

Continuing through The Sociology of Art by Arnold Hauser, translated by Kenneth J. Northcott (1982):

… Vital art, like the vital living language, forms a variously tangled web of relationships in which many participants are involved. The tangled threads of the web lead from one participant to another until finally, it is almost impossible to discern how give-and-take, property and loan, initiative and routine are divided and united.

… The artist, however sure he is of his own method of creation, is scarcely able to give himself an account of where and when he found a particular motif, took possession of an event he did not immediately experience, or picked up a glance, an image, or a word which became the seed of so unhoped for a fruit.

[line break added] He hardly ever has an idea of what he owes to his public, his opponents, or his followers, or what part is played in his task by the understanding he finds or hopes to find there, the criticisms for which he is prepared and over which he silently triumphs, the applause which intoxicates him ahead of time, the goal of pleasing, of communicating himself, and of forming an imaginary family with all those who agree with him.

[ … ]

… the most obvious mark of the arrival of the Renaissance is the turning point in the history of individualism. It is marked not only by the fact that the creative individual becomes totally aware of his specialness and demands his special rights, but also by the fact that the attention of the public undergoes a corresponding change in orientation and turns from the work to the artist.

[line break added] This is the beginning of the crisis of individualism — the increasing tension between artist and public and the mutual suspicion which finally makes rebels and reactionaries out of both. The cult of genius which marks the peak of individualism in the Renaissance and from which the artist derives the right to rebel against tradition, doctrine, and rules not only introduces a reconsideration of values, as a result of which the artist tends to be placed above his works, but also prepares the arena for the conflict which threatens from the very beginning to upset the precarious equilibrium existing between the pretensions of the individual and the demands of society.

[line break added] The shift of accent from achievement to the ability to achieve, from success and completion to artistic idea and intention — in short, the one-sided judgment that genius is the authoritative principle — leads to the destruction of that harmony between work and personality which dangled as a goal before the Renaissance but which it unavoidably robbed of any meaning as soon as it saw the individual no longer as the mere messenger but as the embodiment of the message itself.

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

-Julie

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