File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0103, message 34

Date: Thu, 08 Mar 2001 22:38:02 -0700 (MST)
Subject: Re: Terror & the Sublime

Great points that made me realize the leap I was making when I said the sublime
cannot be accessed through the terrible, at least artistically.  In fact, when
we try to go the other way and access the sublime only through beauty, we often
end up with sentiment.

I was thinking of and did not articulate a quote from Peter Brook that "Artaud
applied is Artaud betrayed."  Meaning, what Artaud wanted to achieve in the
Theatre of Cruelty was a grand-scale opening of societal wounds, to terrify in
order to heal.  What generally happens when Cruelty is presented to an average
society audience is not healing but alienation.  Audiences aren't usually
willing to be forced into terror of the magnitude intended by Cruelty, or the
terror is not enough to "awaken" the audience to the sublime.
According to Derrida, Artaud's undoing  is that he can never reach the
sublime/unpresentable because he continues to rely on signification (an actor
portraying a character, etc).  The postmodern takes up signification and
representation as obstacles to the sublime.

So, how does it apply to Lyotard?  Basically, in his take, the sublime is the
aesthetic experience of the figural (connected to Derrida's differance). 
Lyotard argues that art invokes the figural--his argument sounds like a
sophisticated reworking of Artaud.  However, Artaud wants to favor a language
game--an intellectual theme.  Lyotard would call him a tyrant, to impose his
intellect on the audience rather than opening the spectator to an unassimilable,
singular event.

It seems that this argument on the sublime--and ultimately, I think I'm taking
Kant's definition--is important to the postmodern and to Lyotard to help
illustrate the differend, that juxtaposition of irreconcilable language games. 
Indeed, to go back to terror and beauty, Lyotard says that the radical openness
necessary to experience and identify a differend is found in the unresolvable
combination of pleasure and pain.  I think Lyotard and others take up art
because of its ability to produce an unnameable yet very powerful experience in
a very large number of people.  In art, we can see and feel something happening,
perhaps better than in other language games.  Therefore, maybe it gives us more
opportunity to discover.

For artists to access the sublime, they must consider their audience. 
Sublime/differend/unpresentable/figural cannot happen without the interchange. 
Art whose intention is to tyrannize, either by forcing beauty or terror, cannot
access it.


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