Log in No account? Create an account. Remember me. Facebook Twitter Google. Previous Share Flag. Buck-Morss rightly acknowledges the status of the Kantian subject as a being distinct from the empirical body.

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To browse Academia. Skip to main content. By using our site, you agree to our collection of information through the use of cookies. To learn more, view our Privacy Policy. Log In Sign Up. Aesthetics and Anesthetics. Susan Buck-morss. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive.

We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. And rightlyso. Benjamin praises the cognitive,hence political,potentialof technologicallymediated cul- tural experience filmis particularlyprivileged.

It sounds a warning. Fascism is a "violationof the technicalapparatus" thatparallels fascism'sviolent"attemptto organize the newlyproletarianizedmasses"-not by givingthem theirdue, but by "allowing them to express themselves. Yet Benjamin recognizes that the aestheticjustificationof thispolicywas already in place at the century'sstart. This is the now-conventionalEnglish translation see Harry Zohn, trans. The literaltranslationof the German titleis significantlydifferent:"The Artworkin the Age of its Technological Reproducibility technischen I have sidestepped the problem by using a shortenedform: Artworkessay.

Benjamin cites their manifesto: War is beautifulbecause it establisheshuman domination over the subjugated machinery,thanksto the gas masks,the terror-producing megaphones, the flame-throwers, the small tanks. War is beautiful because it initiatesthe dreamt of metalizationof the human body. War is beautiful because it enriches a floweringmeadow with the fieryorchids of machine guns.

War is beautifulbecause it fuses gun- fire,cannonades, cease-fires,the scents and stench of putrefaction into a symphony. War is beautifulbecause it creates the new archi- tecturalformof big tanks,geometricalflightformations,smoke spi- rals fromburningvillages This is the obvious perfectionof l'artpourl'art. Humanitythat,accordingto Homer, was once an object of spectacle [Schauobjekt] for the Olympian gods, now is one for itself.

Its self- alienationhas reached such a degree thatitis capable of experiencing [erleben]its own destructionas an aestheticenjoyment[Genuss]of the highestorder. So it is with the aestheticizationof politics,which is being managed by fascism. Communismresponds withthe politici- zation of art. Benjamin is saying that sensory alienation lies at the source of the aestheticizationof politics,whichfascismdoes not create,but merely"manages" We are to assume thatboth alienationand aestheticizedpoliticsas the betreibt.

The Communist response to this crisis is to "politicizeart," implying- what? Surely Benjamin mustmean more than merelyto make culturea vehicle 6.

A distortionof the Baroque original: "Create justice, transformthe world," the electoral promise of Emperor Ferdinand I See Walter Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften, ed. Rolf Tiedemann and Hermann Schweppenhaeuser Frankfurta.

Benjamin, Illuminations, p. The problem of interpretingthe closing sectionof Benjamin's textlies in the factthat,halfwaythroughthisfinalthought aestheticizedpolitics,politicized art , Benjamin changes the constellationin whichhis conceptual terms politics, art, aesthetics are deployed, and hence their meaning.

If we were really to "politicizeart" in the radical way he is suggesting,art would cease to be art as we know it. Moreover, the key term "aesthetics"would shiftits meaning one hundred and eightydegrees. This point may seem trivial,or unnecessarilysophistic. But if it is allowed to develop, it changes the entire conceptual order of modernity. That is my claim. Benjamin's criticalunderstandingof mass societydisrupts the tradition of modernism far more radically,incidentally,than does his contemporary, Martin Heidegger by exploding the constellationof art, politics,and aesthetics into which,by the twentiethcentury,thistraditionhas congealed.

II What I will not try to do is to take you through the whole historyof Westernmetaphysicsin order to demonstratethe permutationsof thisconstel- lation in termsof the inner-historicaldevelopment of philosophy,a decontex- tualized "life of the mind. Otherwise,the two conditions,crisisand response, would turnout to be the same. Once art is drawn into politics Communist politicsno less than Fascist politics ,how could it help but put itselfinto its service,thus to render up to politicsitsown artisticpowers,i.

Heidegger has been particularlyconcerned with the philosophical wanderings of the key term "aesthetics"in Western philosophy see, e. For a provocativelycritical,contextualizedaccount of thediscourseof "aesthetics"withinthe modern era of European culture,see Terry Eagleton, The Ideologyof theAesthetic London: Basil Blackwell, For an excellent intellectualhistoryof the connection between aesthetics and politics in German thought that stresses the importance of Hellenism in general and of Winckelmann in particular omittedfromEagleton's account , the idea of the Greeks as an "aesthetic"and "cultural" people in contrastto material and imperial Rome, see Josef Chytry,The Aesthetic State:A Questin ModernGermanThought Berkeley: Universityof CaliforniaPress, Aisthitikos is the ancientGreek word for that which is "perceptiveby feeling.

The originalfieldof aestheticsis notartbut reality--corporeal,material nature. As Terry Eagleton writes: "Aestheticsis born as a discourse of the body. The terminae of all of these-nose, eyes, ears, mouth,some of the most sensitiveareas of skin-are located at the surface of the body, the mediatingboundary between inner and outer. This physical-cognitive apparatus withitsqualitativelyautonomous,nonfungiblesen- sors the ears cannot smell, the mouth cannot see is "out front"of the mind, encounteringthe world prelinguistically,'2 hence prior not only to logic but to meaning as well.

Of course all of the senses can be acculturated-that is the whole point of philosophical interestin "aesthetics"in the modern era. III withthe philosophicaltrinity So littledoes aestheticshave to do intrinsically of Art, Beauty, and Truth that one mightrather place it withinthe field of Eagleton,IdeologyoftheAesthetic, p. Eagletonis dealing withthe historicalbirthof aesthetics as a modern discourse specifically, in the workof the mid-eighteenth-century German philosopher Alexander Baumgarten ,and describesthe politicalimplicationsof thisanti-Cartesianfocus on the "dense, swarmingterritory" outside of the mind thatcomprises"nothingless than the whole of our sensate lifetogether,"as the "firststirrings of a primitivematerialism-of thebody'slong inarticulate rebellionagainst the tyrannyof the theoretical" p.

This was its meaning for Baumgarten,who firstdeveloped the "aesthetic"as an autonomous thematicin philosophy. Yet Eagleton is correctto note that the affirmationof sense experience is short-livedin Baumgarten's theory:"If his Aesthetica opens up in an innovativegesture the whole terrainof sensation,what it opens it up to is in effectthe colonizationof reason" Eagleton, IdeologyoftheAesthetic, p.

See, e. Baumgarten distinguishesbetween aesthetica to which he devotes the majorityof artificialis naturalis,as it is observed in children'splay. Sociabilityis not only a historico-cultural category,but a part of our "nature. The mistakeis to presume thattoday'ssocietiesare accurateexpressionsof thisbiologicalinstinct.

It could be argued, forexample, thatpreciselyin itsmostbiologicalaspect reproductionof the species , the privatized familyis unsocial. It demands a critical,exotericexplanation of the socioeconomic and politicalcontextin which the discourse of the aestheticwas deployed, as Terry Eagleton has recentlydemonstratedin The Ideologyof the Aesthetic.

Eagleton traces the ideological implicationsof this concept during its checkered career in the modern era-how it bounces like a ball among philo- sophical positions, from its critical-materialist connotations in Baumgarten's original articulation,to its class-based meaning in the work of Shaftesburyand Burke as an aestheticsof "sensibility," an aristocraticmoral style,and thence to Germany.

There, throughoutthe traditionof German idealism, it was recog- nized withvaryingdegrees of caution as a legitimatecognitivemode, yet ever- more fatallyconnected withthe sensuous, the heteronomous,the fictitious, only to end up in the neo-Kantianschemataof Habermas as to cite FredricJameson "a kind of sandbox to which one consigns all those vague things.

It is the motif of autogenesis, surelyone of the most persistentmythsin the whole historyof modernity and of Westernpoliticalthought before then, one might add. Again, the relationis dialectical:ifneitherthe individualnor the social ever existsas "nature," but alwaysonly as "second nature" hence, culturallyconstructed ,it is equally true thatneitherthe "individual" nor the "social" enters into the culturallyconstructedworld withoutleaving a remain- der, a biological substratethat can provide the basis for resistance.

Schweizer claims, against Croce, that Baumgarten was not overly concerned or apologetic, and that the real bias against the aesthetic is a later development. The "birth" of the Greek polis is attributedpreciselyto the wondrous idea that man can produce himselfex nihilo.

The polis becomes the artifactof "man," in which he can bring forth,as a material reality,his own higher essence. Similarly,Machiavelliwrote in praise of the Prince who self-creativelyfounds a new principality,and connects this autogenetic act with the height of manliness. The factthatone can imaginesomethingthatis not, is extrapolatedin the fantasythatone can re createthe world according to plan a degree of controlimpossible,forexample, in the creationof a living,breath- ing child.

It is the fairy-talepromisethatwishesare granted-without the fairy tale's wisdom thatthe consequences can be disastrous. It mustbe admittedthat this mythof creative imaginationhas had salutaryeffects,as it is intimately entwined with the idea of freedom in Western history. For that reason an excellentreason , it has been staunchlydefended and highlypraised.

If it has any body at all, it mustbe one imperviousto the senses, hence safe fromexternalcontrol. Its potencyis in its lack of corporeal response. In abandoning its senses, it, of course, gives up sex. Curiously,it is preciselyin thiscastratedformthatthe being is gendered male-as if, having nothingso embarrassinglyunpredictableor rationallyun- controllableas the sense-sensitivepenis, it can then confidentlyclaim to be the phallus.

Such an asensual, anaestheticprotruberanceis this artifact:modern man. Consider Kant on the sublime. He writesthat,faced with a threatening and menacing nature-towering cliffs,a fieryvolcano, a raging sea-our first impulse, connected not unreasonably to self-preservation,23 is to be afraid.

Our sensestell us that,faced withnature's might,"our abilityto resistbecomes an insignificant But, says Kant, thereis a different,more "sensible"! Eagleton, IdeologyoftheAesthetic,p. See, for example, the work of Luce Irigaray. For an excellentdiscussionof the parameters of the feministdebate, see articlesby Seyla Benhabib, JudithButler,and Nancy Frazer in Praxis 2 July , pp.

International This "firstimpulse" might,in fact,be considered superior. But Kant writescondescendingly of the Savoyard peasant who, unlike the enraptured bourgeois tourist,"did not hesitate to call anyone a fool who fancies glaciered mountains" Immanuel Kant, CritiqueofJudgement, trans. Werner S. Pluhar [Indianapolis: Hackett, ], p. Kant, CritiqueofJudgement, pp. Again, froman ecological perspective,this is not a foolishresponse.

Kant's example of the man mostworthyof respectis the warrior,imperviousto all his sense-giving informationof danger. If in the Third Critiquethe "aesthetic"injudgments is robbed of itssenses, in the Second Critique the senses play no role at all.

The moral being is sense- dead fromthe start. Again, Kant's ideal is autogenesis. The moral will,cleansed of any contaminationby the senses which,in the FirstCritique,are the source of all cognition , sets up its own rule as a universal norm. Reason produces itselfin Kant's morality-the most "sublimely"when one's own life is sacrificed to the idea.


CFP: "ACLA Seminar - Numbing the Pain: Aesthetics and Anaesthetics of Global Mexico"

Adam Valencic. Placing aside the utilitarian aspects for which these paintings were compiled, each piece stands as a work of meticulously created art. Austrian born Erich Lepier, an artist in his own right, became one of the first to work alongside Pernkopf, thirteen years before Pernkopf assumed the position of Dean at the famed Anatomy Institute of the University of Vienna in Williams. Removing this piece of art from the medical context, the beauty of the piece can more readily be appreciated. Lepier, using a combination of graphite and watercolor, renders the female human body in exquisite detail. The right side of the breast is laid bare with more attention drawn to it as the only area of the artwork rendered with color. She writes:.


Aesthetics and anaesthetics: Walter Benjamin's artwork essay reconsidered

And rightly so. Benjamin praises the cognitive, hence political, potential of technologically mediated cultural experience film is particularly privileged. It sounds a warning. It was the Futurists who, just before World War I, first articulated the cult of warfare as a form of aesthetics.

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