Thursday, March 8, 2012

Adorno and Benjamin (and Horkheimer if you're keeping count)

General impressions and points that run throughout the texts
Art in the Age….. & The Culture Industry  linked

The main thing I noticed about these readings were how they were greatly intertwined. Benjamin's Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility is to me a laying of the ground that Adorno and Horkheimer roam around on. Benjamin touches on the fact that the film and photography, other mechanical reproduction as well are opening up a space for the public to become critic. That common citizen can be an extra in a film. The difference between public and author is about to lose its basic character.

Throughout this text Benjamin remains objective but in The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception Adorno and Horkheimer paint a bleak picture. By the way what a title!

They basically say that well the Culture Industry has us beat to the punch at every turn. They have "eeevvvery thiing youuu Neeed yessir!" and if they don't have it yet they will have it as soon as its available. Furthermore at what ever level one is at it is considered by the Industry. This notion chimes back to the blurring of the line between public and author. 

Benjamin gets the ball rolling on this in IV of Art in the Age saying " the instant the criterion of authenticity ceases to be applicable to artistic production, the total function of art is reversed. Instead of being based on ritual, it begins to be based on another practice - politics." 

Again Adorno get's even more bleak. "Dissidence as business strategy is still part of business." Read into this that one cannot truly be dissident - it is rather well planned originality. Does the commodification of Punk Rock and Grunge come to mind here? 

In my notes I have a point here that links to last week's play. Adorno and Horkheimer say that "the ruled always took the morality imposed upon them more seriously than the rulers themselves, the deceived masses are today captivated by the myth of success even more than the successful are." Sound's familiar in that the lower classed characters would not break etiquette meanwhile their decadent hosts did nothing but trample on proper etiquette.

There is so much to talk about but I noticed one other thing in The Culture Industry,
the notion that the western world had arrived at a popular lexicon. A way of speaking influenced by the Culture Industry rather than that which evolved in the organic way we saw earlier with our plays - the dandys and their eye for fashions and customs - now to navigate one must adhere to Culture Industry norms and the Culture Industry is ready to package any new developments. Thus is worthwhile to pay attention, otherwise you just don't exist. I am thinking specifically of how most Americans under the age of 30 use the Valley Girl phrase, "like, I was like this" etc. 

Culture Industry Revisited

Or read It Gets Worse. He points out that Intellectuals have taken to ironic toleration of the Culture Industry.  TV shows, films off the rack, pocket novels are accepted as harmless fulfillment of democratic demand even though it is a stimulated demand.

Prescribed fun- prescription for fun- prescription fun

The world wants to be deceived, has become truer than had ever been intended.

Say it ain't so Adorno!

It is no coincidence that cynical American film producers are heard to say that their pictures must take into consideration the level of eleven-year-olds. In doing so they would very much like to make adults into eleven-year-olds.

It is only deep unconscious mistrust, the last residue of the difference between art and empirical reality in the spiritual make-up of the masses explains why they have not, to a person, long since perceived and accepted the world as it is constructed for them by the culture industry. 

The total effect of the culture industry is one of anti-enlightenment

Ok on to Adorno vs Benjamin and vice versa

The quarrel of the ancients and moderns continues. Benjamin in this exchange is in my opinion looking at the fissures and cracks in the pavement that we saw in I believe Bloch last week. He is willing to admit that the world is fragmented and approaches his work on Baudelaire in much the same way. He breaks his argument into three parts and allows the whole to coalesce in the readers mind. This is what I imagine it to be in hearing the interchange but having not read the Book.

Adorno however is obsessed with the idea of phantasmagoria. I sense he had a problem with it. This is Benjamin allowing things to be subjective. He is painting a setting, a revolving landscape and setting for the reader. Adorno is looking for things to be whole, cohesive, presented in broad daylight. It is an apt observation of their friends that Benjamin is getting lost and exploring the "cave" of the Paris flaneur. 

When considering Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility and Adorno's responses to it, the major ideas hinged on Magic and the Aura which are used to describe painting and the Surgeon and his activity of cutting into the body. A magician a "healer" heals by the laying of hands, by his/her authority. A surgeon navigates inside the body, once inside the body analyses.

This analogy is tied to the painter as magician, and mechanical nature of photography film to the surgeon. The world presented within a film is knowable through objective details of the world and the passing of time. A film builds the whole moment to moment, analyzing piecemeal. The painter presents an Aura dictated and completely whole, contained and presented all at once. 

Don't know how this fits in the relation between the two but Adorno keeps mentioning Magic.

I will sum up Adorno and Benjamin with the ending of Art and the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility

Comes down to War- Art for Art's sake- Mankind at one time was an object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, now is one for itself. Its self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order. This situation of politics which Fascism is rendering aesthetic. Communism responds by politicizing art.

I had a hard time with the  Futurists, they just seem like a motorcycle gang pillaging and terrorizing with hate and calls for War. I think they were extremists but they do touch explicitly on the idea of the Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns. That being that they are uber Modern pushing forward towards a grand future which they expect to be assassinated in promptly after the age of 40. 

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