Friday, July 17, 2009

Rosen contra Brendel continued. All of it, images included, is in the paper:
Rosen and Brendel are both arguing explicitly from within their culture because what they are each interested in, indeed preoccupied by, is not the truth value of that culture -or of culture as such- but its ability to foster a wide range of categories of event and experience.

Imagine yourself as the judge of a poetry competition, where every entrant is asked to write on the same subject. Comparing the results you’re not comparing the poems’ relation to the objective truth of the idea, event, or object on which they’re based, but on the poets’ ability to build a complex and evocative description out of their perceptions and responses. You’re not judging the ability to see a thing in absolute terms, since you’re no more capable of that than they are, but the ability of each to make you see what they see, which however must begin with the assumption that at a basic level you already do, since the object or theme has a common, public, form. From a simple commonality, a common denominator, each participant is asked to develop a perspective which is then reformulated in language (returned) as a new and more complex common form. The process is one of group mimesis, collectively developed representation, of the world and from that of the community itself. The subject matter, the external world, is not irrelevant but secondary. What’s primary is the public act, the method of description of the world, the world as experienced and responded to in time. So the vulgarity in Wagner and incipient in Beethoven—hence the need in Rosen’s terms for ‘tact’—is not the vulgarity of subject but of the composer’s assumptions about and attitude towards language. Beethoven is in a line of gradation with Wagner, Gerome and Helmut Newton, in the sense that Wagner indulges a bombast that Beethoven at his best merely passionately describes. Wagner’s music is written for Wagnerians in the same sense that Newton’s photographs are made for voyeurs, yet identification—as pseudo-community—is encouraged but not yet a requirement. All communities are communities of selves and others. Collective identity, as imaginary collective unity, is either a false—unrealizable—ideal or mere collective reflex: the community of fetishists and junkies.

The experience of the sex act is social, formal, communicative, and if the world is seen as the social realm, world-creating. The moment of orgasm as reflex is aformal, asocial (isolate), ecstatic and if the world is seen as social, world destructive. Sex as performance is a form of communication; orgasm is artless. The pretense of an ‘art’ of orgasm is vulgar. The popular understanding of Pollock’s work is as an ‘act’ of ‘expression,’ as orgasm not structure. Mondrian saw structure. Duchamp thought nothing about cutting off a few inches of Mural (1943) because it was too big for Peggy Guggenheim’s wall. And Pollock didn’t complain. The what and how of communication for Pollock’s work are complex; as complex in their way as the question of orgasm in Beethoven.

What Rosen is debating with Brendel then is the increasing presence of instrumentalism in form: the growing tendency to craft to reflex that reaches its apogee in the illustration and the false community of the fetish: of pure instrument. Wagner is preaching to the choir (and Pollock is in there somewhere); Gerome is a soft-care pornographer playing to an audience, Newton and his audience are almost interchangeable, his form of communication identification with the masturbator which is to say barely communication at all, one step away from the final shift, the final descent from interpersonal communication to masturbation in public.

If communication is a circuit, reflex is a short. The fantasy of the premature ejaculator is a state of eternal orgasm. The mania for progress becomes no more than simply the desire to go faster. If knowledge is measured in conclusions not in processes then the shortest distance between two points, the short circuit, is the obvious choice. This is the crux of the struggle over the human imagination that begins in the 18th century.
Jean Leon Gerome The Snake Charmer, 1889
Helmut Newton Saddle 1, 1976

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