Adorno and Art: Aesthetic Theory Contra Critical Theory
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A comprehensive, critical and accessible account of Theodor W. Adorno's materialist-dialectical aesthetic theory of art from a contemporary perspective, this volume shows how Adorno's critical theory is awash with images crystallising thoughts to such a degree that it has every reason to be described as aesthetic.
accusation appears reasonable. But, as Jürgen Habermas argues, the fact that social praxis miscarries may not be attributed to the historical moment alone. The added circumstance that the impatient practitioners have no correct notion of the imperfection of theory may also contribute to this impasse. They do not realize all that they are incapable of knowing in the present state of affairs.21 Krahl, it appears, was incapable of tolerating shades of (Adorno’s) grey (the necessary ambivalence of
anonymous machinery, make the decisions, and that there is still life on the heights of the social command posts (...). Sartre’s approach prevents him from recognizing the hell he is rebelling against. Many of his phrases [‘Hell is other people’] could be echoed by his mortal enemies. The idea that it is a matter of choice in and of itself would even coincide with the Nazi slogan, ‘Only sacrifice makes us free’. (C 81) Making decisions about false alternatives in reified and divided society
through the tension of which artworks become eloquent with wordless gesture. In expression they reveal themselves as the wounds of society; expression is the social ferment of their autonomous form. (AT 237) Tornado’s unideological essence – that is, expressing the expressionless – renders ideology visible. As Jean Fisher, writing about Alÿs’s practice, puts it: A poetic gesture intrinsically does not state a political position from which any determinate meaning can be derived; on the contrary,
forgetting.’9 Wolfram Pichler describes something of this impulse operating in Dean’s work: [T]o hold on to that which is evanescent or is in the act of vanishing (for example, a cloud or a shadow or someone who is going away), 146 Adorno and Art: Aesthetic Theory Contra Critical Theory by making a permanent record of it – Then, on a second level, subtle shifts occur. Now, what is to be held onto is no longer the fleeting object itself, but something that appears or becomes visible in the
“the all but universal compulsion to confuse the communication of knowledge with knowledge itself”. From each of these two standpoints, Adorno’s work can only appear as a form of negative theology, flawed irredeemably by its implicit commitment to a quasiHegelian telos of reconciliation. To represent Adorno in this way, however, is to misrepresent him’ (AMM 52). Adorno, T. W. , ‘On Lyric Poetry and Society,’ Trans. Shierry Weber Nicholsen, Notes to Literature: Volume One, Ed. Rolf Tiedemann