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Entkunstung1 Alexander García Diittmann “Entkunstung (is) inherent in art, in uncompromising art no less than in art which gives itself away to the market.” —Theodor W. Adorno I “ ] 1 NTKUNSTUNG”—“ de-arting,” Adorno’s neologism, one of the few in his work and therefore all the more significant, occurs perhaps for the first time in his article “ On Jazz,” written in 1953 and included by the author in Prisms, a collection of essays.2 According to his Aesthetic Theory, “ de-arting” is inherent to heteronomous or regressive art as well as to autonomous or progressive art. That it is inherent to both artistic movements; that both movements result in a transformation of the work of art into “just a thing among things” ; that art is already “ de-arting” and that “ de-arting” is an originary process, as it were, gives a sense of the explosive force of the “ de-.” In two influential texts from the fifties, Martin Heidegger’s treatise “ The Age of the World Picture” and Hugo Friedrich’s book on modern poetry, neologisms appear which are also constructed with the prefix de-; these neologisms seem to have a symptomatic function for philosophical or critical discourse in the twentieth century, especially the second half. (Also think of Benjamin’s idea of “ de-position” [Entsetzung] in his essay “ Critique of Violence,” published in 1921.) Heidegger names the decisive and fundamental characteristics of modernity and describes “ de-godding” (Entgötterung) as a modern phenomenon: This expression does not mean the mere doing away with the gods, gross atheism. Degodding (Entgötterung) is a twofold process. On the one hand, the world picture is Chris­ tianized inasmuch as the cause of the world is posited as infinite, unconditional, absolute. On the other hand, Christendom transforms Christian doctrine into a world view (the Christian world view), and in that way makes itself modern and up to date. 3 As a withdrawal or escape of the gods, “ de-godding” perhaps points towards a general tendency which is also designated by the “de-arting” of art—for isn’t Entkunstung a process of destruction which affects the cult value of works of art? Vol. XXXV, No. 3 53 L ’E sprit C réateur The “depersonification [Entpersönlichung] of the poetic subject,” which Hugo Friedrich discovers in modern poetry4and which belongs to its “ negative categories,” must be a “ dehumanization” (Enthumanisie­ rung) and a “ de-objectivization” (Entdinglichung), an abstracting spir­ itualization which has its impossible place in a paradox: “ poetry which escapes from a scientifically deciphered and technologized world and flees into an unreal world claims, in its creation of the unreal, the very same precision and intelligence that have made the world confining and banal.” 5Adorno, who understands the process of “ de-objectivization,” of the stripping away of that which makes something an object or thing, as the integrative force of the de-arted, modern work of art, also recog­ nizes in this destruction a movement of reification.6 ii How does Adorno, in his Aesthetic Theory, relate to that which he occasionally calls the “ prognosis” of the end of art? How does he relate to the intertwining of spirit and history? This is the question of the rela­ tion between art and philosophy that dominates Aesthetic Theory. While the opening lines of the German edition, published after Adorno’s death by his widow Gretel and Rolf Tiedemann, express clearly that the author took the end of art as his point of departure, they say nothing about the position from which he argues. The reader of Aesthetic Theory who, for this very reason, looks at the “ Early Introduction” which closes the book (according to the editors, it was the author’s intention to replace it with a new introduction) will quickly notice that, in order not to get lost, he must distinguish between the historicity of art and the historicity of aesthetics. This introduction begins with a statement: Adorno says that there is “ something obsolete” about “ the concept of philosophical aesthetics.” 7Thus, the first part of the Aesthetic Theory and the early, discarded introduction both begin with the idea of something coming to an end: but while the opening lines of the first part...


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