Lots of Work – Essay

I’ve got an essay due in January and have been working on it a great deal these last couple of weeks (hence the lack of longer posts – reviews etc). I wanted to share what it is I am writing on – in part to prove that I haven’t just been skiving off updating this blog.

I believe thought has become unfortunately separated from art. These days, success is measured by the amount of money you make, and by fame. Making money these days means appealing to as many people as possible, which makes an awful lot of artists play safe. They think of their ‘audiences’ almost as much as they think about their art. Art has, thus, become a matter of mimesis. There are still forms of art out there that are attempting to make something new, but these seem few and far between; industry does not like experimentation (it’s not good for business), and to get anywhere these days you need money – the more money you have, the more free time you have to work on your art.

If you make no money on your art, then you have to spend more time working to get more time to work on your art. The other thing is the continuation of the arts for arts sake ideal – which, although empowering, ignores the fact that the structures we find ourselves in at the moment had to be imagined. Art encourages creation, creativity, and builds imagination. A number of philosophers were also poets: Keats, Thoreau, Paul Valery, Habermas – and then we have science rendered into metaphor in Schroedinger’s Cats, and Einstein’s Trains – and yet today it seems as if art can no longer play a part in thought. Instead, it can only be auctioned and consumed – its worth seems to be only that of of money…

I find that when I write poetry, I do so to find-a-way. I try to explore what it is to be myself, who am I when I write ‘I’? Can I break the ‘I’? When I say ‘we’, who do I mean? The people in the room as I type? The we as in the collective audience – ‘you’? Is my work, then, only valuable as poetry in-and-of-itself? Does it have no philosophical weight because I refuse to write in standard essay format? Because I refuse terms such as a priori and a posteriori? Preferring instead; ‘to wait behind | cold eyes, knowing the rooms next | door before I peek through new-born | shutters’? Or ‘Hand to mouth to hand | to mouth, tasting chicken. Hand | to mouth and hand to mouth; | tastes like chicken’? The language of thought (certainly) has to have some level of utility, but when we can sum-up the unsolved complexities of a theory and label it as if it were a solid table, or a solid chest – ignoring its holes, its inadequacies – then how can we say we are working towards truth? Making simple that which is complex is to ignore its very complexity – to do it a great injustice.

Art is not only that which has been created – but the act of creation. In creating we think, we imagine, we fix in much the same way as any man, woman or child. Without metaphor, without simile, then how would Plato’s theory of forms have come into being? And the cave? Etc etc.

My essay examines the industrialisation/commercialisation of art, arguing the possibility that our perception of art as simply art is due to an interpretation made by members of the Enlightenment on re-reading (discovering) Plato’s Republic. As such, art found itself ‘cut’ from the philosophical thought processes that evolved out of the Enlightenment and developed into modern thought and reason.

I plan to examine conflicting ideas over the nature of logos, its relationship to mythos in relation to the assumption of progress, and its relationship with the concepts of techne and physis. What makes up logos? have we made any assumptions about logos? What about mythos? Do we need to rethink logos and Reason? And if we did, what would we be trying to achieve?

Here are some choice quotes I plan to use. Pick up a copy of Postmodernism: A Reader if you are interested in your Baudrillard, Derrida, Heidegger, Jencks etc – it’s a damn fine read.

Thomas Docherty, Postmodernism, an Introduction in Postmodernism: A Reader

  • ‘Reason has been reduced to methesis: that is, it has been reduced to a specific form of reason. More importantly, this specific inflection of reason is also now presented as if it were reason-as-such, as if it were the only valid or legitimate form of rational thinking […] reason becomes no more than a discourse, a language of reason (mathematics), which deals with the ‘foreign’ matter of reality by translating it into reason’s own terms; and something – non-conceptual reality itself – gets lost in the translation.’ (5 – 6)
  • ‘Enlightenments ‘emancipatory’ knowledge turns out to involve itself with a question of power, which complicates and perhaps even restricts its emancipatory quality. Knowledge, conceived as abstract and utilitarian, as a mastery over recalcitrant nature, becomes characterised by power; as a result, ‘Enlightenment behaves towards things as a dictator toward man. He knows them in so far as he can manipulate them. The man of science knows things in so far as he can make them.’ (6) (quote from Adorno & Hork Dialectics, p.9)
  • ‘Knowledge is reduced to technology, a technology which enables the illusion of power and of domination over nature. It is important to stress that this is an illusion. This kind of knowledge does not give actual power over nature, for that in nature which is unamenable to its formal or conceptual categories simply escapes consciousness entirely. What it does give in the way of power is, of course, a power over the consciousness of others who may be less fluent in the language of reason. Knowledge thus becomes caught up in a dialectic of mastery and slavery in which the mastered or overcome is not nature but rather other human individuals; it is therefore not purely characterised by disenchantment and emancipation. From now on, to know is to be in a position to enslave.’ (6)

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