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Anti Vision - Rosalind Krauss - October

Anti Vision - Rosalind Krauss - October

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Antivision Author(s): Rosalind Krauss Source: October, Vol.

36, Georges Bataille: Writings on Laughter, Sacrifice, Nietzsche, UnKnowing (Spring, 1986), pp. 147-154 Published by: The MIT Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/778561 . Accessed: 07/02/2011 15:13
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effulgence and to experience these as qualities without objects -the intransitive verbs of vision."2 So once again there is the visual model. This had. both moral and scientific. 103. p. been the position of the French art historical establishment since the major Manet exhibition of 1932. with painting transcribing that mosaic of sensation through which reality announces itself to a perceiving subject. trans. 1. 1955. seen as the most vivid and precise of the senses was to be the conduit through which religious matter could most directly and most enduringly affect the soul. should arise pure painting-"painting.. to savor in and for itself qualities like immediacy. "I would stress the fact that what counts in Manet's canvases is not the subject. Georges Bataille. To exclude the domain of knowledge. in which vision. altered sense of the task of visuality. Germain Bazain had announced. Skira. Ibid.Antivision ROSALIND KRAUSS One turns the pages of Georges Bataille's book on Manet with a mounting sense of disappointment. vibrancy. Manet. ineluctably tied to the visual arts. to rewrite the visual in the realm of a reflexive relation to the modality of vision rather than to its contents. Is it really Bataille who is telling us-once againthat Manet's achievement was the destruction of subject matter so that in its as he place. but the vibration of light. from among its ruins. Bataille can conclude. 2. essentially. Of course." "for its own sake. or whether we take an empiricist model. Austryn Wainhouse and James Emmons. Having turned subject matter into a mere pretext for this release of visual opulence. 36. for this experience of optical autonomy. Geneva. a song for the eyes of interwoven forms and colors"?' writes. In Manet et la tradition(1932). Modernism transmutes these models according to its own." asserting the artist's indifference both to invention and to subject matter.simultaneity. modernism's visual model had significantly transformed those of earlier times. This is true whether we think of the Middle Ages' preaching model. as it wereall of this is to enter what in quite another mood we might describe as the modernist fetishization of sight. Rene Huyghe's Manet peintre(1932) emphasized Manet's commitment to a notion of painting as a reflexive process. . p. "L'art de Manet est en effet un pur pFrobleme de couleur.

we turn to the study of automutilation and the fascination with the sun in "Sacrificial Mutilation and the Vincent Van Gogh". . a book that sought to extend developmental psychology's theories of the genesis of representation back to the time of the caves. we find the brief meditation on the organ of vision in the Documentsdictionary entry called "Eye. man. and bird. that is to say 1929-30. We think of "Rotting Sun. From the Documentsperiod." In all of these Bataille proposes a scandalous relation of art to vision. or we reflect on the highly critical review of a Severed Ear of Vin r PrimitiveArt. or again. comes a series of texts dedicated to an entirely different reading of vision's relation to art." the essay dedicated to Picasso." and subtitled "Cannibal Delicacy.had begun his career precisely by buying out of all this. Lascaux.Bison.148 OCTOBER But Bataille .and here's the strange part .

charted like the first. where no man leans over the luminous reflection of his own image. . parallel course. that cannot be thought by science. he learns to repeat this sign. Miming this productivity was . giving rise to the beginnings of art in the rapt. It is this second course. 1970. ignoble. once having seen it there. From the very same period that the walls reap their harvest of animals-delicatehooved. The Aurignacian depictions of man are caricatural." as opposed to the productive form that undertakes the job of appropriation. Gallimard. destructive. The first takes place in darkness. man or animal. vol.Antivision 149 Contained in the visual metaphor-the grounding of art in the fundamental properties of vision-is the commitment to productiveness and to mastery. its determined busy-ness. Georges Bataille. The second cycle leaves the caves and is performed precisely in relation to 3. on the wall of the cave. its prowess. "L'art primitif. early scrawls the motive for which seems. in the chthonic obscurity of the cave. pp. Rather the force propelling these formless networks of line comes across as destructive." He simply points out that this account has chosen to omit another. infant artist progressing. where representation is. Gradually he perfects it.for the psychology of the 1920s-the very project that initiated man into the act of art. The psychologist charts a purposive movement on the part of the primitive draughtsman that is propelled by this need to create an equivalent to the purposefulness of sight. 247-54. Instead. Bataille never denies this scenario of productiveness. dubiously productive. the Minotaur presides in this darkness and substitutes the blindness and terror of the labyrinth for the transparency of the mirror. which he titles "appropriation." Oeuvrescompletes. self-admiring gesture of Narcissus. from the babble of an inchoate scrawl to the search from within that linear meander for something he will "recognize" and. I. to have already succeeded in hunting it. disrupts the ground on which it appears. to the acquisitiveness and accomplishment of sight. defaces. It begins with what Bataille calls "a refusal to represent" and instead projects self-depiction as autodefacement. will exercise on the world he sees. ferociously horned-they declare a fury towards the person of their own creator. a marking whose impulse seems purely sadistic. debased.3 Two mythic cycles project this (self-)defacing structure of representation. simply. They never seem to rise above those initial. shaggy-backed. a way of appropriating things. The modern scientist sees that paleolithic. as a marking which dirties. to its usefulness. To draw an animal on the wall of the cave is to possess it. despite the psychologists' scenario. delirious. So art has an alternative beginning at least as far as man's self-image is concerned. The representation of man within this site must be collected under the nonproductive terms "destruction" or "decomposition. as likeness. Paris. over the course of thousands of years. And his mastery of it repeats the mastery that it.

nonappropri- 4. "Death appeared in a sort of transparency. the deity to which he made the sacrifice of his ear. OC. 66. and thus to perform what Bataille calls automutilation. Bataille.as well as modern pathological behavior. p. OC. University of Min- . this ideal of a nonrecuperable expenditure. p. In such a moment of both seeing and not-seeing. 1985. . where life surrenders an image of death. 6. The sun functions as the most abstract of objects. Allan Stoekl. Visions of Excess. vol. the constant deity of his painting from the time of Arles and Saint-Remy. Bataille explains. The two mythic cycles are the same cycle and have the same story to tell of representation. Georges Bataille. or blinder."Bataille writes. "since it is impossible to look at it fixedly. 5. explosion." or Aztec ones in "Extinct America" .6 Within this automutilative act. inevitably. I. to go blind.. but refuse or combustion. at the limit: where light turns to darkness. then. But this automutilation by which the body is defiled is the very act of mimesis through which one attempts to identify with an ideal-the sun. trans. of art's depiction of man himself. fix precisely on that aspect of the sun or the sun god that embodies waste and destruction: "It is nothing but radiation. in automutilation. a certain madness is implied. "one obstinately focuses on it. And it is this other. and the notion changes meaning because it is no longer production that appears in light. that embodiment of the zenith and of light which for most of mankind functions to symbolize elevation of both mind and spirit. Visions of Excess. gigantesque loss of heat and light.150 OCTOBER the sun. 498. To stare at the sun is to go mad. From the 1937 essay "Van Gogh as Prometheus" comes another image of this fusion of dark and light. like the sun through the blood of a living hand. he argues. the gods-by imitating it. 57. Minneapolis.4 It is just such a crisis that tied Van Gogh to the sun."7 Representation is born. I. and an epileptic crisis. the circle is squared and the darkness of the cave fuses with the blaze of noon. flame. of a supreme power through loss that forms the basis of imitation when identification with "a solar god who tears and rips out his own organs" issues. vol. nesota Press. 499. where sight is extinguished in a revelatory moment which is the same as blindness." But if. an identification with the sun that defines itself as a self-blinding. Ancient sacrificial ritual-Bataille speaks of Mithraic cults in "Rotting Sun. in the interstices of the bones outlined in the darkness. Bataille. In practice the scrutinized sun can be identified with a mental ejaculation. Bataille.. Bataille imagines Van Gogh trying to look directly into the sun by holding his hand before his face as a screen. calling the sun "this great cataclysm. foam on the lips. p."5 And it is this ideal which in the eyes of an idealist culture would only be an anti-ideal. 7. p.

a thunderbolt of sight-destroying intensity. In this picture Goya caught the blinding.The Sower.8 8. van ative. Bataille. Manet. an outcry smothered before it can rise. which we call The Shootingsof the Third of May. he had written. but here its effect is that of definitive silence. The eloquence. since the event itself wipes out all consciousness of it. 51. Manet. . we have the very image of death. wholly alternate beginning. instantaneous flash of death. an art that celebrates the silent autonomy of vision. the rhetoric of painting has never been carried further. brighter than any known light. But behind this beginning is another. is the beginning of modern art. 1888.Vincent Gogh. which opens up to us in the following passage: In that vision of a man about to die. nonproductive form of representation that Bataille resurrects once again in a strangely subversive image within the very pages of his book on Manet.p. such as man can hardly ever know it. flinging up his arms with a shriek.

p. One feels in the span of two or three pages the flicker of excitement generated by this myth of blindness so familiar to Bataille. as opposed to Manet's and dominant modernism's art of absence. Bataille characterizes it as an art of excess. which breaks through the placid surface of his modernist narrative in a display of regressive.Francisco Goya."9 The ambivalence that arises in this moment within the description of the founding moment of modernism is a struggle precisely between the values of opticality and those of an intensity that is "blinding. the Goya appearance is more than just an account of a false start. Indeed. It is the momentary disruption of the official paradigm of centuries of Western 9." Bataille insists of Goya.. before adding in the very same sentence. irrational power." "sight-destroying.an art that recalls the violence of the sacred. then. "though Manet alone explicitly inaugurated modern painting. "He was the first of the moderns. offers a quite different beginning for the history of modernism.The Third of May. Ibid. 56. Goya. 1808. . 1814-15.We thus end up with two beginnings that are opposed in character." and in which representation dares to be neither appropriative nor productive.

vision/language . erotic ground of the body." in. p. by offering a third term /blindness/ which can be seen as undoing or foiling that paradigm. Following Barthes's description of the operations of Bataille's heterology we could say. irreducible: the term of a (structurally) lawless seduction. "It is a term that is independent. in. Paris.through which painting is understood to define itself. in fact contradictory. "Les sorties du texte. in all of his or her physical.vision/blindness . Wholly within this framework. For the whole of Manet is an exercise in the aesthetic paradigm we associate with the Enlightenment and the name of Lessing: the paradigm that differentiates the artistic genres by means of the modalities of consciousness of reality proper to each. Bataille then repeatedly defines Manet's contribution as a breaking of rhetoric's grip on painting. disassociating an art of time from one of space and thereby grounding each of the arts in the perceptual field proper to its own experience: speech linked to temporality and sectioned off by definition from sight. not deducible from the other two. The paradigm vision/blindness returns sight to its seat in the affective. 10/18. blindness-which refusal to appropriate . full. 1973.Antivision 153 art to which Bataille subscribes throughout the rest of the book."10 Instead. the work of the heterological becomes obvious. beginning is precisely that it challenges the aesthetic paradigm. Outside the structural law that organizes the arts in relation to the positive conin its sensory malfunction is precisely the tents of sense. 58. On the one hand there is the disruptive practice of the early Giacometti as he began to think the body 10.on the very body of the perceiver. But Bataille invites the body to reassert itself into the structural law by which modernism masquerades painting as the experience for itself of the contentless contents of vision. It is only lately that one has learned. ed.is an irregular third term. In so doing. The interest of the Goya episode as an alternative. and through the body of the perceiver that the aesthetic paradigm operated. Looking around the edges of Bataille's own circle in the days of Documentsone finds a group of practices that are as extraordinary as they are disregarded within the official histories of modernist art. in this country. that these operations were merely sublimated by an idealist subterfuge that wants to describe the work of art as a function of the disembodied modalities of sense. Roland Barthes. blindness becomes a term that forms its own pairing with the pole of opticality by constructing another paradigm . to attend to this alternative mythological practice. as a silencing of speech in order to discover the preeminence of vision as such. linked to space. eccentric. Bataille. because it forces one to see that it was always on. the body convulsed in either autoappropriation or automutilation. Philippe Sollers. material existence. . to this construction of a wholly disorienting and disruptive third term that unravels the neat categories of a too formulaic modernism.

There we find the body inscribed in a mimetic response to external forces." collected in my. its yields will be tremendous. . See my treatment of this in "No More Play. or to witness the alignment of the body with the earth in the sculpture of the last two decades and understanding it in terms of the labyrinth's complication of forms and of horizontality's endless multiplying of point of view.no. Cambridge. 33 (Summer 1985). for many decades. acephale." October. The Originality of the AvantGardeand OtherModernist Myths. It is my assumption that in gesturing toward another set of data. or jumping forward to watch the extinction of light in late Rothko. 1985. " On the other hand there is the production of a kind of photography associated with both Bataille's magazine Documentsand with Minotaure. See my "Corpus Delicti. automutilation. it does so less under the sign of Breton's convulsive beauty than under the sign of Bataille's automutilation. As this photography develops what are undoubtedly the surrealist movement's most inventive and searing images. the body assuming both the signs of castration and the forms of the fetish. another description of the goals of representation. in suggesting another group of reasons. They are terms that might be expected as well to organize and restructure our understanding of more recent practices. MIT Press. and the vertiginous fall from the vertical axis of the monument to the horizontal axis of the base.12 The terms that Bataille invented to shake the certainty of various norlike informe.. Mass. necropolis. has been unassimilable by us.154 OCTOBER of sculpture through the Bataillian categories of labyrinth. 11. another ground for the very activity of art. the one to whom he gave its name. mative paradigms in all their logical symmetry-terms terms work to release the affect basesse. pp. It is not clear what an alternative view of the history of recent art -one operated through Bataille's disruption of the prerogatives of a visual system-would yield. and blindness-these that has been available all along in a whole body of work which. 31-72. the body bursting its bounds as it is assaulted from without. 12. beginning in the 1940s with Dubuffet's early materiological explorations.

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