Art and Representation: Contributions to Contemporary Aesthetics

By Ananta Ch. Sukla | Go to book overview

Introduction

ANANTA CH. SUKLA


I

Representation is basically an ocular concept that explains the dualistic nature of human experience. It refers to the relation between two items in our experience—the internal and the external, the mind and the world. The oldest form of this concept is the Greek mimesis and its cognate terms used by Plato for explaining the nature of the physical world in terms of a dualistic relation between abstract concepts and material phenomena—the intelligible “Ideas” (in the Platonic sense) and the sensible objects as the impressions/reflections/imitations of these Ideas that are sui generis. Although the fundamental question as to the independence of phaeomenon of Eidos remained unanswered in Plato, the mimetic structure of Plato’s metaphysical understanding continued through the centuries until it acquired a transformation in the epistemology of the seventeenth-century philosophers who substituted the word mimesis with representation to explain the nature of human knowledge. The word in its Latin origin repraesentare meant “to make present or manifest or to present again” confining the referent almost exclusively to inanimate objects that are literally brought into someone’s presence—to present/embody/manifest an abstract idea/thought through/in a concrete object or even sometimes to substitute one object for another. In the Middle Ages the word meant mostly a mystical embodiment “applied to the Christian community in its most incorporeal aspects”—the religious leaders representing (embodying) Christ and the Apostles. When the medieval jurists considered a community as a person, that is, representing a person (persona repraesentata), representation was associated with “fiction”/artificiality: not a real person but a person by representation only. The Latin persona, the present associate of representation “signifies the disguise, or outward appearance of a man, counterfeited on the stage, and sometimes more particularly, that part of it, which distinguishes the face, as a mask or vizard … he that acteth another, is said to bear his person, or act in his name.” 1

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