Art and Festival in Heid and Gad

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  Art as Festival in Heideggerand Gadamer  Ingrid Scheibler  Abstract In ‘Art as Festival’, I put Heidegger and Gadamer into dialogue concerningtheir respective critiques of traditional aesthetics and their more positiveviews on the work of art. I use the festival theme to examine some of thephilosophical issues in Heidegger’s and Gadamer’s approaches to the workof art. Specically, I look at the way both gures conceive the work of artas an encounter which, like the festival, involves a transcendence of subjec-tivity in an encounter with an event – in this case, the artwork – which theindividual does not direct, but rather in which they participate. Puttingthe theme of festival into play also provides a useful critical lever, especiallyin the way that it raises important issues of community. More specically,reecting on the festival celebration raises questions of the nature of thiscommunity, of the relation of the community created in the festival eventto the community of the everyday, and thus also of the relation of theaesthetic and the political. Keywords: aesthetics; hermeneutics; festival; play; community Introduction This paper connects Martin Heidegger and Hans-Georg Gadamer’sperspectives on the work of art with the theme of the ‘festival’. 1 Boththinkers conceive the encounter with a work of art through a critique of the subjectivization of traditional aesthetics. Further, as an alternative toa subjective basis for aesthetics, both Heidegger and Gadamer conceivethe encounter with a work of art as a transcendence of subjectivity – thatis, the encounter with the artwork has the character of an event. The workof art is like a festival in two ways. First, in the festival, the focus is notdirected to the individual, but to their participating in something (an event) International Journal of Philosophical Studies Vol.9(2), 151–175 123456789101112113141516171819202122232425262728293031323334353637383940411424344olio  International Journal of Philosophical Studies ISSN 0967–2559 print 1466–4542 online © 2001 Taylor & Francis Ltd 10.1080/09672550110036555 ·          T     a    y    l     o   r    &   F  r  a  n  c   i   s G    r    o   u    p          ·     R    O    U   T L E  D   G     E       which transcends their subjective standpoint. 2 Second, the festival cele-bration is shared; participation is a sharing in an event, and thus involvescommunity. The celebration is of something a certain group holds incommon, and what is being honoured, in turn, can be said to hold themin common.Given these initial points of analogy, I found that putting the theme of festival into play provides a useful critical lever, especially in the way thefestival theme raises important issues of community, which can be usedto problematize this issue in both Heidegger’s and Gadamer’s views onthe artwork. In what follows, I would like to examine how, for bothHeidegger and Gadamer, the work of art can function as a site where thestandpoint of subjectivity is surpassed, aufgehoben , in an encounter witha greater context.The claim that the work of art can be subjective yet universal has itsreference point in traditional aesthetics in Kant’s Critique of Judgment  . 3 More recently, phenomenological and hermeneutical approaches toaesthetics – especially the work of Heidegger and Gadamer – posit acritique of traditional aesthetics, and what is seen as its subjective basis.For Heidegger, Nietzsche (himself a strong critic of Kant’s aesthetics) isa central target in the critique of subjectivized aesthetics; for Gadamer,it is Kant himself. 4 A phenomenological approach to aesthetics provides an alternative tothis subjectivization. For Heidegger, self-transcendence in an event takesplace through a recognition of our ineluctable relation to what he calledthe event of Being, which is manifested in the work of art as a site whichgrounds a people’s history. For Gadamer, it is an experience of plenitudeand truth that is related to our self-understanding. Heidegger’s Account of the Work of Art Heidegger’s essay on ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’ (1936) posits a newrelation between the work of art and truth. 5 This notion of art is distinc-tively ‘Heideggerian’ because it is thought against the perspective of eithera subjective or objective extreme: that is, it is thought neither from thestandpoint of the artist as creator nor from a subjective standpoint of thefeelings or experiences produced in the viewer/recipient. Further, forHeidegger, as we will see, the work of art is also not merely an ‘object’. 6 It is not evaluated only in terms of its ability ‘as a beautiful object’ toproduce these subjective states.The question of the dominance of subjective aesthetic experience israised in the Epilogue to Heidegger’s OWA essay in terms of the destinyof art. Here Heidegger says that in ‘aesthetics’ we are to look at the wayman experiences art to give information about art: ‘Everything is an ex-perience. Yet perhaps experience is the element in which art dies.’ 7 INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF PHILOSOPHICAL STUDIES 123451678910111213141516171819202122232425262728293031323334353637383940414243144152  Heidegger adds that this death is a slow one, taking several centuries. Inthe Epilogue Heidegger invokes Hegel, who says, ‘art is and remains forus, on the side of its highest vocation, something past’. 8 If aesthetic expe-rience now rules, then art is indeed something of the past, and Hegel iscorrect. But, it is not yet a foregone conclusion that the rule of the subjec-tivization of art through experience is determinant:The truth of Hegel’s judgment has not yet been decided; for behindthis verdict stands Western thought since the Greeks, which thoughtcorresponds to a truth of beings that has already happened.Decisionupon the judgment will be made, when it is made, from and aboutthis truth of what is. 9 To determine whether Hegel’s claim is true, we need rst to consider thenature of art, and for Heidegger, this means asking the question about its‘srcin’ ( Ursprung ).In addition to Heidegger’s critique of the dominance of aesthetic ex-perience, a second – and more general – point is that the OWA essay,and Heidegger’s views on the signicance of art (written just after thisessay), 10 should be seen in relation to his more general project of thinkingand retrieving the question of Being. In the OWA essay, Heidegger makesthe work of art one instance, or site, where the enigmatic event of Being– the distinctive event of truth, a revealing and concealing – takes place.Here, the relation between Being and human beings, a peculiar type of interdependence, is manifested and can be brought to awareness after along tradition in the West of oblivion to this question of Being. This inter-dependence, a ‘co-relation’, is thematized for us in the encounter with thework of art. In Heidegger’s OWA essay, ‘self-transcendence’ occurs inthe movement from viewing the artwork as aesthetic experience, conceivedas a rootedness in subjective states, to an awareness of the relation toBeing, which occurs through our encounter with the artwork and comesfrom the artwork itself.Heidegger’s reections on the work of art, and on the tradition of aesthetics in general, then, move beyond what he considers their ‘meta-physical’ determinations; since the beginning of the nineteenth century(according to him), the metaphysical determination takes the form of a‘subjectivization’ of aesthetics. That is, his views on modern aestheticsmust be understood as a part of his more general account of the modernperiod, which is part of the longer trajectory of a forgetfulness of Beingand the dominance of a metaphysics of presence. The modern period isdominated by the rule of the cogito , the modern subject, and what canbe called the dominance of ‘modern subjectivism’. What I have beendescribing in terms of a subjectivization of aesthetics is, then, the mani-festation of this subjectivism in the sphere of art. ART AS FESTIVAL IN HEIDEGGER AND GADAMER 1234567891011121314151617181920212223242526272829303132333435363738394041424344olio153  The chapter on the history of aesthetics,‘Six Basic Developments inAesthetics’, in Heidegger’s Nietzsche:The Will to Power as Art  , Vol. 1,characterizes modern aesthetics as an expression of modern subjectivism.The account of the modern period Heidegger gives is the thirdof vebasic developments in the history of knowledge about art, the srcin andformation of  aesthetics . According to Heidegger, it is a development thatdoes not ow directly from art  , or meditation on it; rather it is somethingthat involves our entire history: the beginning of the modern age. Further,it is this modern development that makes meditation on the beautifulslip into a preoccupation with man’s state of feelings. 11 To quote at somelength:Man and his unconstrained knowledge of himself, as of his positionamong beings, become the arena where the decision falls as tohow beings are to be experienced, dened, shaped. Falling back uponthe state and condition of man, upon the way man stands beforehimself and before things, implies that now the very way man freelytakes a position toward things, the way he nds and feels them tobe, in short, his ‘taste’, becomes the court of judicature over beings.In metaphysics that becomes manifest in the way in which certitudeof all Being and all truth is grounded in the self-consciousnessof the individual ego; ego cogito ergo sum . ... I myself, and mystates, are the primary and genuine beings. Everything else thatmay be said to be is measured against the standard of this quitecertain being. My having various states ... participates essentially indening how I nd the things themselves and everything I encounterto be. 12 The subjectivization of aesthetics begins here: with modern aesthetics,meditation on the beautiful is tied to man’s state of feeling. For Heidegger,Nietzsche is responsible for this subjectivization of aesthetics. 13 Heideggernotes that what occurs alongside this formation of modern aesthetics isthe decline of great art, ‘great in the designated sense’. 14 This doesn’tmean that quality is declining in a real sense, but that art gives up itsessence; it loses its immediate relation to the basic task of representingthe absolute, to establishing the absolute denitively for historical man.I turn now to Heidegger’s own, alternative account of the work of art,starting with another chapter in Nietzsche: The Will to Power as Art  . Inchapter 15, ‘Kant’s Doctrine of the Beautiful: Its Misinterpretation bySchopenhauer and Nietzsche’, Heidegger challenges Nietzsche’s readingof Kant. 15 Nietzsche’s approach to art gives a central signicance to theproducer and artist, and this dictates Nietzsche’s own criticism of Kant’saesthetics. Heidegger quotes Nietzsche in The Will to Power  , 16 whereNietzsche takes aim at Kant: INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF PHILOSOPHICAL STUDIES 123451678910111213141516171819202122232425262728293031323334353637383940414243144154
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