On Adorno S Aesthetic Theory
One of the dominant motifs of the “Situation” section, Is the concept of the “new” (see also, the modern) and Its relationship to the situation of art. This concept and Its dialectical… Complications/implications is absolutely fundamental to Adorns philosophy in general, especially in relation to a motif of failed (or aborted) revolutions and their relation to what Adorn occasionally refers to as the aging of modernity. Whither Adorns account of the “resistance to the new”?
For him, any and al traditionalists, including the outright atavism that he finds within fascism (the concomitant to its technology loving, industrialist supporting, even Futurist aspect) are tied to to quote the subtitle of Marshall Barman’s excellent book All that is solid melts Into alarm –The experience of modernity,. They are a modern response to a modern phenomenon. I quoted this last phrase (from the Communist Manifesto) in reference to what Terry Galleon (glossing the same phrase), aptly calls the “universal acid” of capitalism.
At the same time, the fact that anything (a particular work of art) says a claim to novelty does not mean that It must be accepted as novelty. Thus, when someone claims (an artist, a producer, a website, an advertising agency, a theatre program) that something is radical, innovative or “the most important new work of the decade”, “explosive”, we can imagine Adorn *potentially* claiming that this particular work, Is, In fact, undeserving of the name, I. E. That the novelty that It Is putatively present Is, In fact, illegitimately ascribed.
On the other hand, one can equally imagine (and better, find examples) of Adorn doing the exact opposite, I. E. Fending a work, or a movement, that others have written off as a pseudo-novelty, old wine in new bottles, a mere deference to some (alleged) cultural desire to grasp “the shock of the new”. What he calls In the “Situation” chapter the “pharisaic” protest against the cupidity’s rerun nouveau (the cupidity, I. E. The… Inconstancy of all things. L Now, Just as Adorn, will reject Stravinsky (and, even less convincingly, Jazz as a kind of false novelty. But see by contrast Adorns remark, about those critics of Bucket’s who suggest that he keeps doing the same thing! ) Whatever the legitimacy or legitimacy of Adorns particular aesthetic Judgments, the point of theoretical Interest here, is that this ability to *Impute* and *dispute* the truth or falsity of any given claim to “novelty” is (and surely this is uncontroversial) part, indeed a major part of the situation of art.
Thus, for Adorn, the very fact that the desire for the new, and the promise of the new is both an inescapable, looming, arguably smothering (but see below) feature commercial-cultural landscape (remember what I said about 24 hour news cycles: the endless annunciation of the new thing) and (Adorn will insist) a kind of cipher for the *possible transcendence of that same situation contributes a fundamental ambivalence to the situation of art in regard to novelty. This all connects to a theme about the “aging of modernity. On the question of tradition, however, note that Adorn: a) Suggests, in the first chapter, of A. T. That different epochs respond differently to a art is deliberately, overly sensual-erotic (think, for example, of Sinecure), whereas, a later epoch, will give rise to art that seems deliberately *ascetic*, in contrast, to the voluptuaries of the commodity/world’s fair. ) That Adorn, on the question, of art’s history says this. AT 51: “Authentic art of the past that for the time being must remain veiled is not thereby sentenced. Great works wait.
While their metaphysical meaning dissolves, something of their truth content, however little it can be pinned down, does not: it is that whereby they remain eloquent. A liberated humanity would be able to inherit its historical legacy free of guilt. What was once true in an artwork and then disclaimed by history is only able to disclose it again when the condition s have changed on hose account that truth was invalidated: Aesthetic truth content and history are that deeply meshed. A reconciled reality and the restricted past could converge.
What can still be experienced in the art of the past and is still attainable by interpretation, is a directive towards this state. Nothing guarantees that it will ever be followed. Tradition is not to be abstractly negated by criticized without naiveté© according to the current situation: thus the present constitutes the past. Nothing is to be accepted Just because it is available and once held valuable; nor is anything to e dismissed because it belongs to the past; time alone provides no criterion. Thus, note that for Adorn, although the impetus towards the new, a wrestling with the problem of the new, is fundamental to the situation of art, Adorn will not simply (he would say “abstractly’ or “intellectually’) affirm the goodness of the ‘novel’ in the most literal-minded reduction ad absurdum sense: “this thing was published in 2011, ergo it is more important than this thing that was painted in 1502. ” On the contrary, and as we know”and here, surely Adorn follows Benjamin”the resent can find the image of the future in what, in the past, is non-identical to itself.
In the Tributaries book, Benjamin found an anticipation of the situation of his own time, but particularly an aspect of the truth-content of modern art movements (particularly expressionism) in this forgotten, unrewarded allegedly decadent baroque form. Also, thinking of what I said about a) sacrifice and b) mimesis, it is important to note that for Adorn the absolutely worst way of conceiving of the modern is simply as the privilege of that which has been (contingently) historically citreous.
Though his position cannot be identified with Benjamin, Adorn is far too Benjamin for this: the angel of history sees ruins upon ruins. The imperative to novelty is thus linked (as in the above quote) with a restitution of the past, with that which did not have the chance to live in the past, even if fidelity to that-which- was-never-given-a-chance-before-it-was-vanquished, often involves (for Adorn, and at the level of artworks) formal innovations that do not repeat the older form in any recognizable manner.