(Art) Existence Without a World (Levinas)

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Reading Existence and Existents by Emmanuel Levinas, I stumbled across this neat little bit about art in the chapter on “Existence without a World.” This is a 1947 text, written right after the war, and before, it seems, the turn by the philosopher to more systematic conceptualizations of  alterity and ethics, and before what might be construed as a flat and programmatic iconoclasm (i.e. the stereotypical blather about “idolatry”). The chapter starts out with the statement, “In our relationship with  the world we are able to withdraw from the world” (p.45). Paintings, statues, books, cinema are all objects of “our world, but through them the things represented are extracted from our world.” Colors detach from things. The particular is allowed to exist apart (pp.46,-8 emphasis in the original).

The particular has a unique status in modern art (at the time of writing, he calls it “contemporary”). “From a space without…

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One response to “(Art) Existence Without a World (Levinas)

  1. This sounds suspiciously as if one had transposed heidegger into the context of art where bejamin’s writings upon art/media in the age of mechanical repro are more profound. Then again everyone was an art critic in the post war years until the critics themselves withdrew

    Levinas thought for the day: it has come to my attn that google streetview pixilates the faces of individuals to alleviate EU privacy concerns and that the software also pixilates the faces of dogs and cows, thus granting the critters faces in a rather more unintended application of the code than AI sort of way. so how to make AI consider whether a critter, maybe a bacteria, has a Levinas face worthy of pixilation?

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