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2007 03 22
Angle of Incident #46: Seminar 8, Vermin And Other Irritants: Part 2
Seminarist Christine Kalt began the afternoon with a discussion of notions of “the contemporary sublime” (prefaced by a useful recounting of the history of the idea):

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The Contemporary Sublime

The sublime creates an impression of grandeur and power; it is larger than can be understood by the human mind. In 1756, Edmund Burke in A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, defined the sublime as “Whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime. That is, it is productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling.” These emotions could be elicited by nature or alternatively by works of art. Caspar David Friedrich’s paintings are representations of the natural sublime. In the contemporary condition, where nature has been invaded by the civilized world, the sublime must be redefined. The work of German photographer Andreas Gursky renders the contemporary sublime as a “vertiginous dynamic of globalization… a grand power in which we feel our own smallness.”[1] <#_ftn1> He photographs large spaces, both natural and man-made, in which people appear as dots on a screen, miniatures belonging to a faceless populace. Autosalon, Paris (1993) captures this mass of consumers, human exchange tied to our capitalistic society. In the case of Copan (2002), it is buildings that illustrate the new human landscape made possible by high-tech industry and global commerce. Gursky’s work suggests the contemporary sublime is one of intimidation and insignificance impressed upon society by global forces; its out-of-scaleness becomes a source of terror. Is the powerlessness of the individual in our global industry simultaneously empowering? If not, what will it take to resurrect a contemporary sublime?

Sources:

1) Burke, Edmund. A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. (New York : Harper & Brothers, 1846, C1844).

2) Ohlin, Alex. “Andreas Gursky and the Contemporary Sublime” in Art Journal. (Winter, 2002).

3) Photo Credit: Autosalon, Paris (1993): http://www.tate.org.uk

4) Photo Credit: Copan (2002): www. artnet.com

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[1]
<#_ftnref1> Ohlin, Alex. “Andreas Gursky and the Contemporary Sublime” in Art Journal. (Winter, 2002).

[email this story] Posted by Gary Michael Dault on 03/22 at 04:59 AM

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