January 5, 2015 § Leave a comment
“What [Hegel] did not see, as I understand it, was that the full depth and implication of that inability – the inability to go on giving World and Idea sensuous immediacy of a kind that opened both to the play of practice – would itself prove a persistent, maybe sufficient, subject…. Modernism, as I conceive it, is the art of the situation Hegel pointed to, but its job turns out to be to make the endlessness of the ending bearable, by time and again imagining that it has taken place – back there with Beethoven scratching out Napoleon’s name on the Eroica symphony, or with Rimbaud getting on the boat at Marseilles. Every modernism has to have its own proximate Black Square.
Therefore our failure to see Jackson Pollock and Clyfford Still as ending something, or our lack of a story of what it is they were ending, is considerably more than a crisis in art criticism or art history. It means that for us art is no longer a thing of the past; that is, we have no usable image of its ending, at a time and place we could imagine ourselves inhabiting, even if we would rather not. Therefore art will eternally hold us with its glittering eye. Not only will it forego its role in the disenchantment of the world, but it will accept the role that has constantly been foisted upon it by its false friends [*cough* Romantic Moderns *cough*]: it will become one of the forms, maybe the form, in which the world is reenchanted. With a magic no more and no less powerful (here is my real fear) than that of the general conjuror of depth and desirability back into our world-that is, the commodity form. For the one thing the myth of the end of art made possible was the maintaining of some kind of distance between art’s sensuous immediacy and that of other (stronger) claimants to the same power.”