Saturday, May 22, 2010

Malevich and Suprematism, Part II: Gadamerian Hermeneutics

In Part 1, Section 1.2B.iv “The limits of Erlebniskunst and the rehabilitation of allegory” in Truth and MethodGadamer delineates between allegory and symbol: “The symbol is the coincidence of the sensible and the non-sensible; allegory, the meaningful relation of the sensible to the non-sensible” (64).

The symbol, in its indeterminateness, exposes itself as concurrently coincidental to the truth-event it seeks to express. In this way, we can never exhaust the meaning(s), interpretation(s), and translation(s) of the symbol because it is, in its most fundamental, essential reality, that reality itself, even insofar as we cannot speak the truth of that ineffable, sublime, transcendent reality despite all our attempts toward articulation.

The σύμβολον [symbolon] throws together the real with its representation, in its most meaningful sense: that is, as that which makes present again the real. One cannot dissociate, disconnect, or detach a crucifix, for example, from the sacrifice of the Agnus Dei. They are interchangeable; they mean the exact same thing.

The allegory, on the other hand, speaks toward a reality but obliquely, in an otherwise fashion. The relation between the allegory and the truth-event that allegory seeks to express communicates a precise and definite commensurate correlation. In this way, the relation seems to trump the allegory itself, which is always inferior, subservient to its reality.

Here we find the difference between the token and the emblem. The token serves as a replacement—think subway tokens that take the place of actual currency—while the emblem is a sign for something else: a heraldic lion is never confused with an actual lion; it merely means dauntless courage, to which an embroidered lion on an officer’s badge will always yield.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Malevich and Suprematism, Part I

Kazimir Severinovich Malevich [Казимир Северинович Малевич] was Russian in its most contested forms: he was born in Ukraine of ethnic Poles, which would make his name Kazimierz Malewicz. I suspect that such contingencies of identity--particularly within the Slavic linguistic system and the Soviet political climate of the early twentieth century--inform much of Malevich's rejection of his Cubo-Futurism and subsequent development of a movement in non-representational art he called Suprematism.

It is in his Suprematist compositions where non-representationalism and non-objectivism converge, collapsing the entire system of representational and symbolic art of the past several centuries. It is also here that Malevich comes to prefigure the post-Structuralism of the late twentieth century.

We do not need to know who the painter was. Nor does our hermeneutics require knowledge of Suprematism per se or of the work's title. This work's title is Suprematism No. 50 (1915). In it, we already see how the recent deployment of photography exiles the painter from the role of representer. We will look more closely--through the lens of Suprematism--at another work that complicates symbolism and signification in another post.