Adorno and Art: Aesthetic Theory Contra Critical Theory
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A comprehensive, critical and accessible account of Theodor W. Adorno's materialist-dialectical aesthetic theory of art from a contemporary perspective, this volume shows how Adorno's critical theory is awash with images crystallising thoughts to such a degree that it has every reason to be described as aesthetic.
best magnifying glass. ’[A]rtworks ought not to be pleasurable.’2 The shock of the splinter’s penetration, the accompanying shudder of the wounded and parallactic vision of the pained is the power and freedom specific to new art, which also renews the economy of art (subject and object dialectic). The shock of the unintelligible, which is expressed through some works of art, is at once a demand to be understood. A cliché worthy of repetition is that spectators strive and suffer for art – whether
aesthetic comportment is to be defined as the capacity to shudder,’ and he connected this openness to and capacity for sensation to art, ‘as if goose bumps were the first aesthetic image.’ The association is extended to ‘what later came to be called subjectivity,’ which ‘freeing itself from the blind anxiety of the shudder, is at the same time the shudder’s own development’ (AT 331). This is how art and life combine, this is how art revitalises life – as an aesthetic experience cultivated into an
mediation. For Rancière, bluntly, ‘we do not have to transform spectators into actors, and ignoramuses into scholars’ (ES 17), for such a stultifying pedagogical logic apparently repeats ‘the inequality of intelligence’ (ES 9). The assumed passivity of spectators, cut off from acting and knowing, according to Rancière, repeats ‘embodied allegories of inequality,’ which ‘define a distribution of the sensible,’ that fixes social roles, subject positions and experiences (the ignorant versus the
important misreading of Rancière’s aesthetics. Godfrey, to be fair, starts his essay well enough. He argues that Alÿs’s practice, ‘is the most important renewal of the allegorical impulse identified in the early 1980s by Craig Owens, who wrote that “allegory is consistently attracted to the fragmentary, the imperfect, the incomplete”’ (PP 18).16 As with Edgar Allan Poe’s tall tales, extraordinary fables and fantastic fictions are spun out of the slightest of anecdotes and rumours. 138 Adorno
realise a work in this site of unresolved conflict (PP 22), but (as with Guernica) the truth or meaning of this work of art really ought not to be read out of this decision. Alÿs, too, chose to exhibit his video with critical commentaries on it provided by eleven local activists (the spectator chooses whichever commentary they prefer). This factor is crucial for Godfrey’s interpretation, which seeks to distance Alÿs’s work ‘from the criticism of poetic ineffectuality’ (PP 24). Godfrey never