Thursday, November 03, 2005


The answer to the riddle is that all three paintings occasion apperception. The most poignant, painful and accurate statement of this effect I know of can be found in the "argument" of Ben Marcus's The Age of Wire and String.

It has been demonstrated by Sernier (and others, although without violence) that the outer gaze alters the inner thing, that by looking at an object we destroy it with our desire, that for accurate vision to occur the thing must be trained to see itself, or otherwise perish in blindness, flawed.

These paintings are part of the training. But they are not mirrors: we must realize that our perceptions of these objects (art works) are, when succesful (i.e., when not blind, flawed), not moments in which we see them and not moments in which we see ourselves, but moments in which we are the occasion for them to see themselves.

Fichte had his finger on something when he pointed out that the object just is the totality of the conditions under which it may be experienced.

1 comment:

Jay said...

I should have made a couple of more guesses. I thought about suggesting that they're all about the act of seeing, but I still wouldn't have quite hit upon it.

(I wonder whether we could include Cezanne's landscapes -- in which the gaze is intended to be incorporated into the landscape -- into this group of paintings).

Could we, with a slight side-step, say it this way: all of these paintings embody/express/present the real? I.e., the reality of the object, the thing, is "present" "within" these paintings (or any painting with regard to which we find ourselves occasions for the paintings to see themselves).

BTW, perhaps the most powerful experience I've had along these lines was with a certain Rothko painting at SF MOMA. Looking at the painting was, all of a sudden, like gazing at a world of violent, primordial, interacting forces -- yet from so far removed in space and time that the clash of forces appeared serenly, profoundly beautiful. I wonder if this is how God sees the world, I thought -- then realized how far "outside of myself" I had just stepped -- and became quite unnerved (as well as overwhelmed with emotion). Rothko paintings are, to be fair, rumored to produce such experiences, hence the Rothko Chapel -- so I may not be talking about the same thing at all. Seems like there could be a connection, though . . .