File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0103, message 37

Date: Fri, 09 Mar 2001 18:19:32 -0500
Subject: Re: Terror & the Sublime

Hi Julie and All,

This is, for me, a stimulating post.

See comments at **

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

**Perhaps this means commonplace "feelings" instead of sublime feelings, as
contrasted with an occasional experience of some degree of sublimity.**
> I was thinking of and did not articulate a quote from Peter Brook that
> applied is Artaud betrayed."  Meaning, what Artaud wanted to achieve in
> 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
> society audience is not healing but alienation.  Audiences aren't usually
> willing to be forced into terror of the magnitude intended by Cruelty, or
> terror is not enough to "awaken" the audience to the sublime.

**Do audiences awaken, or go into a trance?  On TV, two persons who wrote a
biography of O'Neill, described a very long and puzzling silence as the
curtain fell after the  opening performance of "Long Day's Journey".   Then
there were yells and thunderous applause.**
> According to Derrida, Artaud's undoing  is that he can never reach the
> sublime/unpresentable because he continues to rely on signification (an
> portraying a character, etc).  The postmodern takes up signification and
> representation as obstacles to the sublime.

**Could be, but drama "is" signification and representation.   Sometimes it
attains a degree of sublimity, often it fails.**
> So, how does it apply to Lyotard?  Basically, in his take, the sublime is
> 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.

**Tyranny is one way of viewing it, but it is also an "offering" to a
voluntary audience who may reject it.  Tyranny implies power over persons
who can't escape.  So people walk out and lose the value of a ticket.  New
art is a gamble, a chance ticket-buyers take.**

> It seems that this argument on the sublime--and ultimately, I think I'm
> Kant's definition--is important to the postmodern and to Lyotard to help
> illustrate the differend, that juxtaposition of irreconcilable language
> Indeed, to go back to terror and beauty, Lyotard says that the radical
> necessary to experience and identify a differend is found in the
> 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
> perhaps better than in other language games.  Therefore, maybe it gives us
> opportunity to discover.

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

**Tyrannical or not, artistic intentions are not terribly important.
Beautiful statues from Egypt, created for religious
purposes thousands of years ago,  inspire modern viewers.

Today's playrights and moviemakers intend to provide an enjoyable or
exciting experience.  They never know, until the show is seen, whether it
will be successful.  And the most successful scenarios and dialogues, may
not be the ones they expected.**


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