Saturday, April 25, 2009

Utopianism and Art

For those one or two of you who regularly read my blog you will know that I have been speaking lately about the role of art in politics, with a particular emphasis on the Romantic authors in the revolutionary period. The French historian Jules Michelet wrote that “every age dreams its successor.” I am convinced that art in all its guises is a central part in this dreaming. Utopianism is an essential element in all social and political change and art is an essential part of Utopianism.
Ernst Bloch was a German philosopher who made utopianism a central part of his writing and thought. He went to great lengths to connect art with the utopian function of human consciousness, particularly in his book The Utopian Function of Art and Literature. I quote a relevant passage from the book which speaks, I think, to the issues which I have recently discussing.

“….the question about the truth of art becomes philosophically the questions concerning the given reproductive potentiality of the beautiful illusion, concerning its degree of reality in a reality of the world that is not one-dimensional, concerning the place of its object correlate. Utopia as the determination of the object, with the degree of being (Seinsgrad) of the really possible (Realmöglichen) presents a particularly rich problem for corroboration in the light of the iridescent phenomenon of art. And the answer to the aesthetic question about truth is that artistic illusion is generally not only mere illusion but one wrapped in images, a meaning that only portrays in images what can be carried on, where the exaggeration and telling of stories (Ausfabelung) represent an anticipatory illumination of reality circulating and signifying in the active present (Bewegt-Vorhandenen), in an anticipatory illumination, which portrays things in a specifically aesthetic immanent way. Here, individual, social, and also elemental events are illuminated that the usual or sharp senses can barely detect yet It is due to the fact that the anticipatory illumination is attainable in this way, that art propels its subjects, figures, situations, actions, landscapes to the end, that it expresses these things in sorrow, in fortune as well as in meaning. Anticipatory illumination itself is attainable by virtue of the fact that the craft (Metier) of propelling something to the end takes place in a dialectically open space, where all objects can be aesthetically portrayed."

The concept of ‘anticipatory illumination’ is particularly exciting because it puts into words what is a very complex notion. Art creates a picture of a future that is nascent in the human soul.

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