Crescent Moon over the Rational: Philosophical Interpretations of Paul Klee

Crescent Moon over the Rational: Philosophical Interpretations of Paul Klee

Crescent Moon over the Rational: Philosophical Interpretations of Paul Klee

Crescent Moon over the Rational: Philosophical Interpretations of Paul Klee

Synopsis

Why, and in what manner, did artist Paul Klee have such a significant impact on twentieth-century thinkers? His art and his writing inspired leading philosophers to produce key texts in twentieth-century aesthetics, texts that influenced subsequent art history and criticism.

Heidegger, Adorno, Benjamin, Merleau-Ponty, Lyotard, Sartre, Foucault, Blanchot, Derrida, and Marion are among the philosophers who have engaged with Klee's art and writings. Their views are often thought to be distant from each other, but Watson puts them in conversation. His point is not to vindicate any final interpretation of Klee but to allow his interpreters' different accounts to interact, to shed light on their and on Klee's work, and, in turn, to delineate both a history and a theoretical problematic in their midst. Crescent Moon over the Rational reveals an evolving theoretical constellation of interpretations and their questions (theoretical, artistic, and political) that address and continually renew Klee's rich legacies.

Excerpt

Philosophy, so they say, has a taste for art; at the beginning I was amazed at
how much they saw. For I had only been thinking about form, the rest of it
followed by itself…. [But] the formal has to fuse [muss verschmelzen] with the
Weltanschauung.

Paul Klee (D: 374)

Do not define today, define backward and forwards, spatial and many-sided. A
defined today is over and done for.

Klee (N: 59)

The empowering experiencing of living experience that takes itself along
is the understanding intuition, the hermeneuticalintuition, the originary
phenomenological back-and-forth formation of the recepts and percepts from
which all theoretical objectification, indeed every transcendent positing, falls
out…. Life is historical.

Martin Heidegger

There are, in the flesh of contingency, a structure of the event and a virtue peculiar
to the scenario. These do not prevent the plurality of interpretations but in fact are
the deepest reasons for this plurality. They make the event into a durable theme of
historical life and have a right [droit] to philosophical status.

Maurice Merleau-Ponty (EM: 179)

Paul klee wrote in a 1902 diary entry, “Now, my immediate and at the same time highest goal will be to bring the architectonic and poetic painting into a fusion or at least to establish a harmony between them” (D: 125). If, as he put it elsewhere, “art plays in the dark with ultimate things and yet it reaches them,” rarely did the results of this synthesis of . . .

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