In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

108 THE MINNESOTA REVIEW and briefly indentifies the major participants in, and precursors of, the movement. The quality of the many illustrations is more mixed but many, like Picasso's portrait of Breton, are most effective. What Is Surrealism? also reprints the essential documents and position papers issued since the inception of the movement. It will become the standard anthology on the subject and deserves the attention of both cultural historians and a larger public interested in the complex relationships between art and social change. David R. Roldiger Herbert Marcuse, TheAesthetic Dimension; Toward a Critique ofMarxist Aesthetics, Beacon Press, Boston, 1978. xiii, 79pp. $6.96. Ofwhat use, what value is art? asked Theodore Adorno, in light ofthe stark and non-sublatable atrocities committed at Auschwitz against human values. Adorno insisted on regarding art in the context of moral institutions and activities, and he saw no way to redeem, justify, or rationalize the artistic activity or the aesthetic experience in a world which contained, not only these, but also—and irreducibly—the butcheries of Auschwitz, impervious to art, indeed encouraging its performance within the charnel house ofinsensible terrors. Now comes Herbert Marcuse with a response. TheAesthetic Dimension seeks in no way to mitigate the facts of Auschwitz, and indeed Marcuse is, ofcourse, the contemporary and a longtime colleague of Adorno in the Frankfurt School group ofphilosophers. But Marcuse insists on a separate identity and a dialectically complementary role for art. The fact of death does not displace the function oflife. Eros coexists with Thanatos. The most shocking experience ofanti-aesthetic barbarity does not cancel the revolutionary characteristics of passion, imagination and conscience, organized in art, as art. Momentary or lasting despair before brutality should not cause forgetfulness of the whole of life. Struggle, not helplessness , is the attitude Marcuse counsels. Art is thus a means of struggle. But not in literalistic, manipulative sense, based upon the explicit word and purposive ideology. Art is a means of struggle, argues Marcuse, by its inmost nature—owing to the characteristics of the beautiful appearance [Schöner Schein) it offers of a life of freedom and satisfaction, not eliminating tragedy and death, but at least balancing them out with the Eros of art. In this way dissolution is matched with composition, compulsion with liberty. In this sense Marcuse holds art to be revolutionary, and perhaps the most permanently and dependably liberational dimension of our existence. For it provides a continual and profound reproach to the established reality. This argument gives Marcuse a further chief argument of The Aesthetic Dimension—it is a Critique ofMarxistAesthetics. Well that he doesn't speak of "the aesthetics of Marx," for it is not with Karl Marx that he picks his bone. Rather with "marxiste," and to be sure not with all marxiste, but primarily again with contemporaries he knows since the Thirties: in this case, the established Soviet school of art theory. Art's "indictment of the established reality and its REVIEWS 109 invocation of the beautiful image [SchönerSchein) of liberation are grounded precisely in the dimensions where art transcends its social determination and emancipates itself from the given universe of discourse and behavior while preservingits overwhelming presence," Marcuse writes. "Thereby art creates the realm in which the subversion ofexperience proper to art becomes possible: the world formed by art is recognized as a reality which is suppressed and distorted in the given reality. This experience culminates in extreme situations (of life and death, guilt and failure, but alsojoy, happiness, and fulfillment) which explode the given reality in the name of a truth normally denied or even unheard. The inner logic of the work of art terminates in the emergence of another reason, another sensibility, which defy the rationality and sensibility incorporated in the dominant social institutions." To which most of us—including, I venture, most of today's creative learners from Marx—would assent. Yet Marcuse does not let wellenough alone. He sets up hie strawman of "marxiste" who reduce art toideology and class determinism, but in doing so he is himself reductivist. Scarcely any professional aesthetics theorist, even the sociological theorist Vladimir Friche in the Thirties who most represented this trend, can be completely accomodated in...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 108-110
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.