Friday, August 21, 2015

A for Eigentlichkeit

One of these days, gotta hit on the ocular metaphor and epistemology
I have no interest in equating artistic authenticity, in the sense of verified authorship, with Eigentlichkeit, a different concept altogether.  

I can't say I have an interest in authenticity in the philosophical sense. There has been some rehabilitation of Division II of Being and Time after being neglected a bit by those who came up under the Dreyfus interpretation of Division I. It's a problematic concept for me, though, and has lent itself to the kind of idle talk attacked in SZ. One of these days, if I can muster enough will to read Adorno again, I ought to give Jargon of Authenticity a good read.

So why the title? I thought it'd be funny.

Instead, I want to elaborate a little (in a very loosely organized way) on the other theme I found in F for Fake, and in so doing I'm not looking to offer anything particularly original, but just to make it a little more explicit.

Welles does a lot to point attention to editing in the film, to break down the passive acceptance of representation in cinematic storytelling. Part of this serves to develop the theme of authenticity, but it also points out how a work of art relies on all the ways it departs from being a good picture to be a work of art. Phenomenologists like to point out that what is closest to us is hardest to see, often using the metaphor of a pair of eyeglasses. We always already live in a familiar, intelligible world, and that immersion makes it difficult to examine just what we're always already immersed in.

As I said in the podcast, drawing on the two essays I cite in this post, (especially representational) art both shows up as something in our everyday intelligibility, while drawing attention to the ways it escapes that intelligibility. A representational painting isn't just a picture of something, it's also pigment and brush strokes and canvas. You could say that when we go to view a painting, we aren't only looking for an accurate representation. To anticipate a counterexample: even in the case of a photorealist or hyperrealist painting, the degree of accuracy itself becomes uncanny. That quality of earth (to use Heidegger's term) is just as present, as (to name just two reasons) we're drawn to reflect on the technique involved and thereby again the materials used.

Even in an actual photograph, it's the drawing of focus that shows up the tension between the familiar, the intelligible, and the unfamiliar and uncanny. Part of this comes down to the technique employed by the artist involved in photographing e.g. an ordinary gas station, something which in our everyday comportment we wouldn't give much thought to. We can be given to wonder at the gas station. We can start to see how our everyday intelligibility is founded in something that escapes that intelligibility.

Running out of time, unfortunately, so I'll have to start wrapping this up. In the future I'd like to get into some more ideas, not directly germane to F for Fake, but following on from the above. So I'll offer a sketch of what I may discuss in the future.

A question, I suppose, is doesn't the tension or strife in an artwork connect to something in the nature of a representation of any kind? A representation has its content (it's a picture of a cat on the mat), but the picture isn't its content, and the truth of that content is something that lies outside of the representation. You have to go and check if the cat is on the mat. To borrow a bit from early Wittgenstein, that it isn't the state of affairs it depicts is an important part of what makes it a representation.

So where do representations, pictures whose content has a truth-correspondence, depart from the artwork? I think it is in the nature of representation, as the concept exists in our current context, to smooth over (repress, suppress) that which escapes us, that which isn't exhausted by representation. I'd like to connect that to how we are now given to representations, calculative thinking, etc. and where Heidegger on these subjects seems to have some kinship with Debord's notion of our mediation by images, probably by touching on The Age of the World Picture and What Calls for Thinking?, just to start.

I can't promise consistency between Heidegger and Debord on these thingsthey're coming out of vastly different philosophical and political backgrounds. But I do think they're both hitting on something essential to our times.

And to be honest, putting a former Nazi into dialogue with a libertarian Marxist amuses the hell out of me. I am a perverse thinker. I promised you unhinged ruminations!

At some point I'll also need to get into how my account of what Heidegger says about art is incomplete, and defend (against Dreyfus, though I love his work) how the van Gogh example isn't a bad one, despite how it doesn't accomplish all the things a Greek temple might.

Finally, I have to admit that the way I've phrased some things might lend itself to bad interpretations of these concepts. In my defense, I'm trying to get across these philosophical notions to people who probably aren't terribly familiar with them.

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