Abandoned Art

date: 2017-12-19
belief: likely

This is a half-baked chronology of visual art (hence abandoned), and a discussion of “art as experience”. It’s a decently representative sample of work that influenced me (for better or worse) throughout my undergrad and during the following 2 years of service.

Fall 2017

Winter 2017

Summer 2016

Spring 2016

Winter 2016

Fall 2015

Summer 2015

Spring 2015

Winter 2015

Spring 2014

Winter 2014

Earlier

Meta

Why keep this record?

Note! I’m not “collecting gems”, in the sense developed by Schorske’s Politics and the Psyche: Schnitzler and Hofmannsthal. He writes1 (emphasis my own):

Only Karl Kraus, [Vienna’s] most acidulous moralist, poured contempt upon “that gem-collector” Hofmannsthal, who “flees life and loves the things which beautify it.”

How wrong Kraus was, as wrong as Hofmannsthal’s admirers! All were deceived by the poet’s diction. From the very beginning, the aesthetic attitude was problemative for Hofmannsthal. The dweller in the temple of art, he knew, was condemned to seek the significance of life purely within his own psyche. He suffered acutely from this imprisonment within the self, which permitted no connection with outer reality except that of the passive reception of sensation. …

In The Death of Titian (1892) the poet presented in his own terms the cultists who made art the source of value, but also manifested for the first time his own urge to escape from the aesthetic attitude. A sort of tableau vivant, the playlet verges on a rite of the dying god of the cult of beauty. The disciples of Tita, in an atmosphere of stylized richness reminiscent of Walter Pater’s Renaissance, converse on the aesthetic vision of life given to them by the artist now nearing death. The disciples glorify the master for having, through his soul, transfigured nature and man for them. Were it not for him

We would live on in twilight,
Out life devoid of meaning …

as do the vulgar in the city. Although Hofmannsthal renders this cult of beauty with all the warmth of an initiate, his commitment is qualified. He senses danger and … gives that danger voice: for the orthodox of the religion of art, the interpretation of life as beauty brings a terrible dependency. The genius can always see beauty; to him every moment brings fulfillment. But those who know not how to create “must helplessly await the revelation” of the genius. Meanwhile, life is drained of vitality:

Our present is all void and dreariness
If consecration comes not from without.2

I view art as experience.

To give a concrete example, the notes scrawled in fear and boredom on the back blank pages of my copy of the Brothers Karamazov is as my experience waiting for an acquaintance to drive back with my f-ing car, 2:30am some weekend early September 2014, behind the Jackson’s convenience store, right off the I-84 freeway exit in Nampa.

I understand that what I wrote is concomitant with being there (and, in this case, made waiting all the worse).

In term’s of Schorske’s argument (that is, his interpretation of Hofmannstahl’s Der Tod des Tizians),

The root of the difficulty [in a purely passive view of art] is suspected only by the youngest of the disciples, the sixteen-year-old Gianino, to whose beautiful person, as to the young Hofmannsthal, “something maidenly” clings. In a “half-dream”, the state in which so many of Hofmannsthal’s own insights were born, Gianino has wandered in the night to a ledge below which sleeping Venice lies. He sees the city through a painter’s eyes: an object of pure vision, “nestling whispering in the spangled cloak which the moon and tide had cast about her sleep”. There there rises on the night wind the shattering secret that under this visual image life is pulsing—intoxication, suffering, hate, spirit, blood. For the first time, Gianino becomes aware of an active, emotionally rich and committed existence. “Life, alive and omnipotent—one can have it, yet be oblivious of it”, if one separates oneself from the city.

Titian’s other apostles rush to resurrect the glacis which separates the art and life, and which Gianino’s vision threatens to destroy. One explains that under the beautiful and seductive face of the city live ugliness and vulgarity, that distance wisely conceals from Gianino a hideous, dreary world, peopled with beings who do not recognize beauty, who even in their sleep are dreamless. To keep out this gross world, another avers, Titian has built the high fence, through whose luxuriously blooming vines the devotee of beauty shall not see the world directly, but only sense it dimly. Gianino speaks no more, but his attitude finds justification in the dying Titian. The master, in a final burst of insight, cries out, “The God Pan lives!” Fortified by his new dedication to the unity of all life, Titian paints on the eve of his death a canvas in which Pan is the central figure. The painter does not represent Pan the god of life directly, but only as a veiled puppet in the arms of a young girl, a female counterpart of Gianino with his androgynous characteristics, a girl who feels the mystery of the life she holds. The master has pointed the way to the unification of art and life, but he has not passed beyond a traditional mythological representation of its possibility. For Gianino, though he does not say so, even this merely symbolic vision of vitality is not enough. He wants more than symbol. While the other followers of Titian become epigoni, losing the master’s connection of traditional artistic achievement and life, Gianino intensifies the aesthete’s vision until it drives him through the ornamented pale of beauty to a yearning for life itself, to the horror of his friends who find life outside the pale unthinkable.

In the fragment, Gianino-Hofmannthal’s problem is not resolved, but the question that plagued the poet is clearly posed: How shall art transcend mere passive rendering of beauty to achieve a fruitful relationship to the life of the world? More simply: Where [is] the escape from the temple of art?

See Also

  1. Carl Schorske, Fin-De-Siècle Vienna, 1979. 

  2. Und unsre Gegenwart is trüb und leer / Kommt uns die Weihe night von aussen her … / So lebten wire in Dämmerung dahin, / Und unser Leben hätte keinen Sinn. Der Tod des Tizians, pp. 26