Duchamp's Transformers by Jean-Francois Lyotard, Ian McLeod

By Jean-Francois Lyotard, Ian McLeod

Booklet through Jean-Francois Lyotard

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At first sight, art’s salvation seems to depend on its capacity to preserve itself, to stay the same; its ruin lies in corruption by the other. If things are more complex on second sight, it is not for lack of historical simplifications,20 nor of peremptory conclusions, irrefutable in their generality. Here they are, in two excerpts, for the arts in general and for painting in particular: o su la fa The arts lie safe now, each within its “legitimate” boundaries, and free trade has Hence his concern to set himself apart from the “metaphysical pretensions” on which certain purists based themselves; one thinks of theosophy’s role for Mondrian.

At stake is the possibility of going beyond Adorno’s incapacity to renounce a messianic conception of art, without falling into the positivism of the medium with which all of Greenberg’s critical reception so obstinately saddles him, as though it were the last word of his thinking. I have nothing more to add about Jewishness (that of Greenberg, or in general) except that I accept what he says about it for his own account, and I declare—with, I hope, the same introspective honesty as he—that I experience its meaning within myself.

Whom must one read, Marx, Adorno, Benjamin, Hermann Broch, or Hannah Arendt—all Jews, Adorno by his father—to be convinced that the love of kitsch is a hateful relation toward the other turned around on oneself and made guiltless, a hate of the other that finds an aesthetic outlet by eroticizing the commodity? The word “kitsch” was not yet in use when Marx made his famous remarks about commodity fetichism in Book I of Capital, but the theory whereby commodities are reified relations of production, that is to say, social relations among things, is the basis for understanding what kitsch adds to the commodity: essentially, a narcissistic round-trip that confirms the other’s suppression in the object, and revels in it.

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