#36 The Sublime is Now?

A dialogue between Charles Esche and Dmitry Vilensky

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Living in pre-period conditions

DV: I wanted to ask a few questions in relation to our issue of the newspaper which we are calling “The Sublime Is Now?” The urgency of this discussion emerges from the possibility and need to question once again the category of the sublime and its relevance to the political practice of art and activism today. Also in this issue we want to test the old forgotten trend in the traditional Soviet interpretation of the sublime that was focused not on the Kantian relation to nature but instead emphasized the fact that nothing can be more sublime than the people’s struggle for liberation. It also had a connotation of danger: it was delightful, yet horrible. At the same time people believed that art and human consciousness are capable of tangibly representing such sublime struggle. Also it is important for me that this Soviet aesthetic tradition was based on figuration and narrative; it actually shared a general modernist pathos in representing a sublime event while denying the mystical and esoteric qualities, which are so obvious in the best examples of abstraction and minimalism. And of course all these issues are very much related to the question of revolutionary romanticism’s actuality in relation to the current situation of the global struggle for democracy.

But here I want to make a small twist and take as a point of departure for our talk the link between these issues and how they might be related to the speculation that postmodernity is over. Has it really become irrelevant? If we have indeed overcome postmodernity, how exactly did this happen when no consistent attempt was made to forge a new relation between aesthetics and politics (which shape any ethical system), one that could desire the Ideal (Absolute) and Truth as the old categories of the Beautiful and the Sublime once did?

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