Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Beauty Is Death: Tuning as Ecological Art



Attunement, tuning, Stimmung. It's in several types of post-Romantic aesthetics, from Kant to Heidegger and more. The experience of beauty and of the sublime, argues Kant, is one of tuning yourself to the object. But what is this tuning?

Let's think about the extreme of tuning. When an opera singer matches the resonant frequency of a glass, the glass explodes.

The Tibetan Buddhist analogy for dying is a vase. When a vase explodes, the space inside the vase merges instantly with the space outside.

We can briefly conclude here that beauty is death.

So in an age of ecological emergency, a bardo in which we all begin to realize that we are already dead, tuning would be a way to push this further. “In harmony with its environment” means, at a certain limit, ceasing to exist. The truly ecological art is death art, not life art.

Expect a lot more of these thoughts as I work out three book projects, one on causality, the other two on ecology and ecological art.

Watch how the glass in the video shudders just before it ceases to exist. It has a little glass orgasm. “It was so beautiful I almost died.” Adorno on the subject-quake of the aesthetic, Erschütterung.

Beauty is already an experience of coexisting with an object, in Kant. In this experience, it's as if the object and the subject suddenly fuse, like the space inside and outside a vase. It's only a short hop skip and jump from here to an object-oriented theory of beauty. Beauty is the end of an object.

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