Thursday, March 31, 2016
In October, Caroline A. Jones on the need for polymorphic art.
In his exegesis on thing and art, Martin Heidegger offered a key principle for our use: the work of art exists not to “represent” a world, but to bring one into being. Its agency is ontological. The working of this “art” begins in colloquy with the thing (e.g., the material constituents of canvas or wood, the “subject matter” of worker’s shoes, the stubborn sludge of pigment made viscous with oil or turpentine). But it does so only to distinguish itself from thingness and equipment—the working intentionally “opens up a world and keeps it abidingly in force. To be a work means to set up a world.” Art separates itself from earth’s “self-seclusion,” yet it also brings earth (material) and world (concept) together in vibratory tension: “World and earth are always intrinsically and essentially in conflict.” It is the work of art to bring world and earth together “in the unity of work-being.”
Art has work to do, then, in the time of the Anthropocene. It has the job of mobilizing the useful mysteries of perception—how matter thinks—to bring the worlds of earth, this and other potential Earths, into being. Not as Heidegger’s dreaded, totalizing “world-picture,” but as Anthropocenic polymorphs that might, agonistically, evolve us up, helping us to become properly sensitive to the whole blooming, buzzing assemblage of intersecting worlds. This in order to avert the extinction of the comparatively rare form of consciousness that seems to be able to think about its own matter, thinking.
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