Thursday, January 28, 2010

Kandinsky, Schoenberg, Woolf; Bergson, James, Sri Aurobindo

from Posthuman Destinies by rcarlson

"In or about December, 1910," claims Virginia Woolf, "human character changed." Specifically Virginia Woolf was referring to an exhibition on Manet and Post-Impressionists Art put together by art critic Roger Fry in which the subjective turn in modernist art made is sensational debut. An estranged public called the exhibition: “horror,” “madness,” “infection,” “sickness of the soul,” “putrescence,” “pornography,” “anarchy” and “evil. No doubt madness was in the air, and that many of the artist of the day held some sense of a coming dark historical rupture that would soon incarnate in world war however, the intention of artist like Kandinsky, Schoenberg, or Woolf often mirrored the concerns of the philosophers and visionaries of the day such as Henri Bergson, William James, Sri Aurobindo who glimpse vague utopian potentialities of a spiritual self-awakening evolving within the Zeit Geist, that Sri Aurobindo calls a coming Subjective Age.

The historical discontinuities and continuities of the infamous era one hundred years ago are explored in Thomas Harrison's book The Emancipation of Dissonance whose introductory chapter is provided in this article. What follows is an exploration of post-impressionist art. As we turn the corner into 2010 we begin with a juxtaposition of cultures at the beginning of this century between the 10's. Perhaps it is also at this time that we have one of our first encounters with post humanism as we arrive at the limits of humanism, here is Harrison on the Expressionist Movement of the Day:

"As I see it, expressionism is a paradoxical undertaking: It manifests both absolute faith and absolute disbelief in the most venerable preconceptions fueling the very project of artistic expression, including beauty, order, understanding, and truth. In intellectual history it signals the end of a Western, humanistic tradition, the termination, as it were, of its guiding objective. Indeed, in one reading, this simultaneous culmination and negation of a project to give form to universally comprehensible knowledge is precisely what enables so many of the theoretical and artistic changes that succeed this radical juncture: the formal license of avant-garde art, no longer held to common standards; the new objectivist literature of the twenties, returning from the world of potential to that of things; abstract expressionism; the historicizing ontology of Martin Heidegger; the turn of intellectuals in the postwar years toward political and social engagement."

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