Abbot's Journal Vol 60. June 1, 2007

by Norman Fischer | June 01, 2007 at 3:21 PM

Abbot's Journal Vol 60. June 1, 2007

Reading a bit more Heidegger, "On the Origin of the Work of Art." Surprising how simple and straightforward it is (compared to my memory of reading "Being and Time" years ago, which seemed so impossible). Like Stein. Like some of the theory I write: just start from first principles, like an idiot, and think "What is it?" and see what it is, what you think it is, what thinking suggests to you. So Heidegger writes, well art must be what produces artists and art works (which produce each other) and of course there's no "art" to be found outside artists and art works so it's a circle, it can't be sensible. When we think about art we revolve in that circle. Then he says, "Well all arts works are things, though we know they're more than mere things, but to appreciate the difference between an art-thing and a regular thing we have to think, ‘what is a thing?'" Which he goes on to do for many more pages. Images: what's an image? This is the age of the image, a billion images. Am I an image to myself? 

June 5, 2007

"What could be more obvious than that man transposes his propositional way of understanding things into the structure of the thing itself?" Heidegger, "Origin of the Work of Art" In "Poetry, Language, Thought" p 23.

"Much closer to us than all sensation are the things themselves." P 25.

Sunday at Green Gulch gave a dharma talk on the senses; how a close experience of them shows there are no things, only intimate relations, that all "things" are "concepts of things." Heidegger seems to recognize this — but also seems to want to say that sensation too is conceptual (I guess this is like the Buddhist analysis of samjna, perception, which is understood to be conceptual, "direct" perception isn't, yet in Mahayana there is no direct perception of anything, all things and perceptions being illusory — yet is Heidegger positing some sort of Platonic eternal "thing" beyond even this, outside human engagement?)

.... reading, I am not yet clear on this point (not yet having the time to come to the end of this page-turner of an essay). Heidegger is criticizing all of Western metaphysics, which says (starting with the Greeks) that "things" are matter and form, and this matter/form dichotomy is the basis of aesthetics, as well as of the mind/body dichotomy. All this, he says, is an "imposition" on things, a "violence." 

June 8, 2007

A few more pages of Heidegger. Art works, he's saying, "put truth to work." That is, through them you discover, experience, an active, living truth (and maybe there is no other sort of truth?). Usual aesthetic theory (concerned with why and how things are beautiful based on the matter/form distinction) misses this most crucial point entirely, he argues. So art, for Heidegger, fits into his more general ideas about metaphysics, language, being etc. Here I seem to be on the same page — art as truth, as practice, as essential work, rather than decoration. (Will always remember Phil's line "don't want to be another cute poety-boo"). He shows — as I've written in "Want to Make Something Out of It?" in "Success" (2000) — the rarity and evanescence of the art work, art in museums, art as cultural history, as idea etc etc — all this is not the actual work, it is ancillary to it. We seem to be unable to leave anything alone. You could be standing next to the great painting, looking right at it, and it wouldn't be there, though you could have a lot of information about it as a cultural product. You could even own it.


Norman Fischer