Interpreting Visual Culture: Explorations in the Hermeneutics of the Visual

By Ian Heywood; Barry Sandywell | Go to book overview

8

THE DENIGRATION OF VISION AND THE RENEWAL OF PAINTING

John A. Smith


I

'The answer is: Let us wage war on totality; let us be witness to the unpresentable; let us activate the differences and save the honour of the name." 1 So ends Lyotard's answer to the question, 'What is Postmodernism?'-and in it lies an implicit paradox, a contradiction which, I think, has now reached the condition of crisis. He speaks of 'the answer', of war waged against totality, of the dissolution of the 'nostalgic' modern aesthetics of the sublime, of:

that which denies itself the solace of good forms, the consensus of a taste which would make it possible to share collectively the nostalgia for the unattainable; of that which searches for new presentations…in order to impart a stronger sense of the unpresentable. 2

Or again: 'We have paid a high enough price for the nostalgia of the whole and the one, for the reconciliation of the concept and the sensible…' 3

These sentiments-the denial of the solace of good forms and 'we have paid a high enough price' mark out the complex relationship in Lyotard's thought between the aesthetic and the political. Both are destined 'to have to furnish a presentation of the unrepresentable… The aesthetic supplements the historical-political and the theoretical in general…as a means of pushing the theoretical beyond itself in pursuit of what it cannot capture or present, that is, conceptualise.' 4

The aesthetic, in effect, models an image of how the theoretical-political ought to function: in contrast to totalising and totalitarian impulses, the aesthetic shows how the task, the 'destination' is not consensus-whether imposed or 'freely' elected-but rather that of keeping the critical tasks unresolved; 'finding ways to phrase differends'. 5 This conflictual heterogeneity, then, is the central

-162-

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Interpreting Visual Culture: Explorations in the Hermeneutics of the Visual
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Part I - Rethinking the Visual in Contemporary Theory 1
  • 1 - The Hermeneutics of Seeing 3
  • 2 - Specular Grammar 30
  • 3 - Bakhtin and the Metaphorics of Perception 57
  • 4 - Durkheim's Double Vision 74
  • 5 - Readers of the Lost Art 99
  • 6 - Seeing Becoming Drawing 123
  • 7 - The 'Real Realm' 143
  • 8 - The Denigration of Vision and the Renewal of Painting 162
  • Part III - Towards an Ethics of the Visual 183
  • 9 - My Philosophical Project and the Empty Jug 185
  • 10 - 'Ever More Specific' 198
  • 11 - Aporia of the Sensible 218
  • Select Bibliography 251
  • Index 258
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