Tuesday, June 7, 2011

victory over the old experiences of the recipient

Photograph of Ben Vautier (wrapped in string from Takehisa Kosgui's Anima).
Vautier is playing a violin piece by George Maciunas (May 23, 1964).
The social, the human process of art does not consist only in a frenzy of direct apprehension. Any such process has a preface and an afterward, and it has been one of the greatest mistakes of most Idealist writers on aesthetics to isolate, on artistic grounds, the immediate artistic process from the whole life of the audience. No person immediately becomes another one in the enjoyment of art or by it. The enrichment by it is, exclusively, of his personality. The latter is, however, formed by considerations of class, nation, history, etc., as well as within these considerations by personal experiences; it is, again, the sheer illusion of the aesthetic to assume that only a person with a tabula rasa for a soul can appreciate a work of art.

What we have called the joyous enrichment in aesthetic pleasure depends specifically on the fact that no one who enjoys it confronts the work of art as a tabula rasa. Understandably, then, a struggle often develops in the process, between older experiences and present artistic impressions. The battlefield is just that correspondence of the two wholes: the details offer an obvious basis for the comparison. The accomplishment of great art is precisely in this -that the new, the original, the significant achieve victory over the old experiences of the recipient. Precisely in this do the broadening and deepening of experiences by the world which is formed in the work proceed.-- Gyorgy Lukacs' Art as Self-Consciousness in Man's Development.*
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*Lukacs (1885-1971) was born in Hungary. Early involved in politics, he served in the government of Bela Kun in 1919; when Kun fell from power, he fled to Germany and then, with the rise of Hitler, to the Soviet Union. At the end of World War II, he became Professor of Aesthetics in the University of Budapest, and re-entered the government briefly during the Hungarian Revolution. His major works in English translation include History and Class Consciousness (1923), Studies in European Realism ( 1946), and The Historical Novel (1955). The selection above, "Art as Self-Consciousness in Man's Development," is taken from his major work in aesthetics, Über die Besonderheit als Kategorie der Asthetik.