T. Adorno on the social impotence of art - Aesthetics

T. Adorno about the social impotence of art

It's about the forms of violence and exploitation that modern society has learned to implement in many ways in hidden ways, gradually. In the understanding of this problem, the so-called Frankfurt School sociology, actively developed in the 1950-1960's. One of her eminent representatives Theodor Adorno (1903-1969) developed the theory of violence, relying on the analysis of a large historical, sociological and historical-artistic material. The scientist claimed that in a society not only totalitarian, but also democratic, the problem of hidden, hidden everyday forms of social violence is extremely significant. First, people impose a certain type of behavior not without the aid of art, then, according to Adorno, it becomes a habitual and natural attraction, and later, already appealing to this artificially induced attraction, the industry perpetuates it by producing the corresponding product. In his major works "Dialectic of Enlightenment" (written in co-authorship with M. Horkheimer in 9AA in the USA and published in 1947 in Amsterdam) and "Negative Dialectics" (1966) T. Adorno examines the history of European culture and civilization from Homeric times right down to our days as a story of madness of the mind.

The thinker showed how, by persistently cultivating the mind, a person separated himself from nature to such an extent that eventually the mind turned against the man himself. Especially acute human activity has found its deadlock and helplessness in this century. "European culture with its absolutes and values," T. Adorno wrote, "has come to an end, this confirms that it demonstrated its complete lack of independence in the face of fascist barbarism. Auschwitz in this connection is the necessary and the only possible, most direct result of such a development of bourgeois culture, which developed only at the expense of suppressing the human in man. "

Adorno posed the question this way: what are the classical accumulations of culture, art, philosophy, science, ethics, if they could not prevent the barbaric actions of man in the XX century? It is difficult, in this connection, to continue to exclaim toasts of the world culture by inertia, because we were convinced that it is "ineffective," dead, represents nothing but museum values, it is - a cemetery with rusted tin planks on monuments, capable of causing only an embarrassed grin. Such a result, according to Adorno, is the result of the maximum cultivation of rationality, which undoubtedly contributes to the development of technology, the material conditions of human life, but makes it selfish, soulless, unfeeling.

The very fact of cultivating the rationality of Adorno conjures up with the process of suppression and killing a person of himself. He wrote that people who are accustomed to the suppression of nature in themselves, i.e. to self-control, inevitably become an obedient tool of suppressing others (and even experience an unconscious pleasure). Thus, aggression directed inward turns out to be a suitable instrument of external aggression. Who wants today to hide behind the so-called "eternal values", for the classical artistic heritage, he wants to take refuge in his provincialism from the real processes of history. Whoever argues for the preservation of this "radically guilty and lousy culture", he turns into her accomplice. The Nazis, who destroyed the culture, only enforced the verdict already handed down to her by history, the thinker believed. If culture exists today only as a museum, it means that it has already died its own death, and we did not notice it.

What can art do in such a situation? Adorno considers the most appropriate contemporary public trends in artistic creativity, in particular, expressionism, which, in his opinion, helps to free the consciousness of an individual who has been lonely in a hardened world, from the "last fetters of an exuberant cultural tradition." For this reason, the German sociologist advocates avant-garde art. It is this, the art of total negation, that is the only possible living phenomenon in the 20th century. Avant-garde art should turn against culture in the traditional sense, because the latter became idealistic, turned into a mythological whole, and therefore appears false and ideological. Classical art, according to Adorno, is ideological already because it tirelessly pacifies and lulls a person, takes him away from the acuteness of social problems. For this reason, classical art is always at hand to the ruling elite, to any politicians.

The spirit embodied in art must turn against itself, must emphasize itself, exposing its illusory in the broad sense of the word. But this can be done only by turning to fundamentally new methods of artistic creativity. Such techniques should show the true face of the person standing on the threshold of the abyss, the person at the time of his fall. The vulnerability and helplessness of the classical art that prevails in contemporary artistic life consists in the fact that it is not capable of opposing society, and after all, at one time the opposition position was the substance of the individual. Now that this confrontation has disappeared, art is responsible for the fact that a person has lost his individuality. The individual no longer has his own content, which would make him a legitimate opponent of an unjust public whole. The existence of an individual in late capitalism is never a commotion ritual of initiation, each individual must show in deed that he completely identifies himself with the very authority that beats and maims him without remnant.

The most appropriate figures of the creative process of the XX century, T. Adorno considers S. Beckett, E. Ionesco and F. Kafka. Moreover, the thinker deliberately defends the incomprehensibility of contemporary art, which can not and should not use the forms and techniques that constituted the arsenal of classical art. The fall of the individual with its subjective content makes it legitimate to misunderstand the works of the new art. These works are designed to embody the cry of a driven and crushed person, a cry from the sphere of the unconscious, so the most appropriate are those creations that "shriek, the half-strangled voice of the flesh," which has already lost the ability to once make it an individual and a person. Naturally, in the new art this flesh voice can not be as complete, expressive, structured as it appears in classical art; it is not a "song of suffering", but very immediate despair in all its severity.

Thus, reflection on the social functions of art leads the scientist to rethink his general nature. In particular, Adorno sharply rebels against the cathartic mechanisms of art. He believes that the catharsis of classical art as an opportunity for purification through empathy with tragic action, as the possibility of obtaining pleasure, acts as a barrier to the social impact of art. A modern artist must ensure that a person shudders and suffocates when he sees his true mutilated image. For this reason, Adorno welcomes such artistic techniques that not only do not cause the state of catharsis, but, on the contrary, dislodge the person from the rut, neutralize the feeling of emotional pleasure that the thinker commensurates with a sense of safety and comfort. New techniques of art are designed not to inform a person of equilibrium, but to violate it, to blow up the routine and monotonous track of existence and make him grow numb with horror, peering into his own life.

Close thoughts can be found in a person who, most likely, was never familiar with the works of T. Adorno, - in B. Shalamov. Comprehending the tragic conflicts that occurred with a man in the 20th century, Shalamov also draws attention to the fact that the classical artistic forms of the narrative involuntarily springs impression of the horrors of our time. "There is some untruth in the fact that suffering becomes an art object", - noted the writer. Classical catharsis, in his opinion, is also an obstacle to the direct, acute impact of a work of art on the reader, viewer, listener. How to split rounding stylistic lines, bring the state of catastrophy to a man who has not experienced it? The writer himself succeeded in artistic means in translating the tragic material. In Kolyma stories he finds for this special literary devices: he arranges the character's speech fragmentarily, without writing down words, without combining them into meaningful phrases, which was a strong oppressive effect.

A number of questions T. Adorno objected to the famous German playwright and theorist R. Hohhut, who evaluated the position of T. Adorno as highly elite. R. Hohhut believed that T. Adorno absolutes and thickens the tendencies occurring both in art and in the life of modern man, to whom art is drawn. "It turns out so," wrote R. Hohhut, "that everyone lost face and individuality and only theorists remained who did not lose this face and are able to witness this process." Will not some ideas take advantage of these ideas? Indeed, based on such theories, politicians can argue that social repression is not of great importance, since their victims already a priori do not have their own face. In addition, Adorno's position does not suit Hohut, since he states the state of socio-cultural decomposition "with almost venomous pleasure", while one should think about what theorists can do to prevent this process.

Hohhut believes that modern art can and should make a clear approach to social problems; the artist can and must remain a thinker who, within the framework of the traditional realistic wing of contemporary literature and art, can develop the image of a historically responsible individual, and try to resist the deforming tendencies. Of course, Hohhut has in mind the fact that the tragic collisions that have occurred to man in our time, embodied in different forms of art, could not help but reverse - productive - social and artistic impact. This influence is not obvious, it is not direct, but contextual, one way or another forms the internal attitudes of the person, his deep meaningful positions.

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