Exceptional Aesthetics

Doussan, Jenny. 2012. 'Exceptional Aesthetics'. In: 38th Annual Conference Association of Art Historians. 'Aesthetics and Politics (Again?)'. Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom 29 - 31 March 2012. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

In addition to Walter Benjamin’s dedication sent to Carl Schmitt in 1928 with a copy of his book The Origin of German Tragic Drama, he cites his indebtedness to the jurist in his Curriculum Vitae of the same year. Describing his critical approach as an ‘eidetic’ mode of analysis that would regard the work of art as an ‘integral expression of the religious, metaphysical, political and economic tendencies of its age, unconstrained in any way by territorial concepts,’ Benjamin notes Schmitt’s ‘similar attempt to integrate phenomena whose apparent territorial distinctness is an illusion.’ Decades later, in the lesser known text Hamlet or Hecuba (1956), Schmitt responds to Benjamin’s theory of origin as the means by which a work of art suddenly and brilliantly enters history, with his own theory of the emergence of the work of art into the realm of myth.

Though in Benjamin’s construction the eternal Idea is made visible in the work of art in a flash of illumination in contrast to Schmitt’s account of the mythic as founded upon the irruption of the concrete present into play-time, these operations are homologous — each a theory of the exception. In terms of production, this exceptional event can neither be deliberate nor oblique, but instead hinges upon critical recognition, an act in which politics and aesthetics converge. Can an exceptional criticism interrupt the evacuating function of the spectacle, ‘the extreme phase of capitalism in which we are now living,’ according to Agamben, that amounts to an impossibility of use?

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Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

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Visual Cultures


30 March 2012Completed

Event Location:

Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom

Date range:

29 - 31 March 2012

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Date Deposited:

19 Jun 2024 11:44

Last Modified:

19 Jun 2024 11:44



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