The Sublime Nothing

Is the Kantian sublime also Nietzsche’s ‘death of God?’

Is it that when we encounter the sublime what also appears is nihilism?

Is not this discovery of the lack of reality of reality at the heart of the aesthetic of modern art, and is not this heart, which is the impetus of the avant-garde, the sublime?

The difference is only in degree and a slight one at that. Each and the other are implicated.

The unrepresentable in painting is the truth of painting: it’s silence. This is to also say, painting is what makes visible the invisible.

In this regard, it is not a discourse. It is the absence of representations.
And put differently, there is nothing behind representation.

To fixate this relation between the sublime and  nihilism is not to adjudicate a belittling opinion of artists or theorists – far from it. I am happy with the mysticism of the kind that Gershom Scholem says,

There are those who serve God with their human intellect, and others whose gaze is fixed on Nothing…He who is granted this supreme experience loses the reality of his intellect, but when he returns from such contemplation to the intellect, he finds it full of inflowing splendor.” (In, Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, 1954)

I have to guess that this is kind of route Nietzsche was going for? Maybe. In any case, even for Malevich he knew it had to start somewhere: color was his way of trying to reify it – he knew that no color was ‘local,’ wanting color to be a cold absence and wanting us to breach our intellect in the notion that the nowhere was here. 

Well whatever, it is only ever another discursive system and a rhetorical base circling around give themes. Once the mourning for God was to be worked through, out the other end ought to be an exploration of art – from a diagnosis of an event to a prognosis.

We want immortality – just look at the transhumanists carrying on Christian nihilism’s intense pleasure to escape from the eye-of-the-flesh. Even still, this desire produces a divorce between the world as it is and how we want it to be. And then the gap between desire and reality really widens.

There have been all sorts of pronouncements, inconsequentially belonging to that past century – that century that was violently unlike any other. The ‘death of man,’ the ‘death of the author,’ the ‘erasure of the referent,’ the ‘death of the subject.’ Is it that in the end we are only ever effects of the signifier?

It seems like we are characters in a drama where neither theological, psychological or metaphysical solutions shall do, but only aesthetic resolution.

And this resolution is precisely not one, that is, if it wishes to emanate out of an authoritative ‘truth’ or ‘law.’

Perhaps God is neither alive nor dead but only ever a metaphor without a referent…?
The point would thus be not to spin around in a referential absence, but instead to create new figures, to rewrite the text. Or as Mallarme’s now cliche line goes, “do not paint the thing itself but rather the effect it produces.”

Maybe this is what the sublime is? – This unraveled position participating in the effect of a dislocated syntax, the predilection of the undoing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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