1910: The Emancipation of Dissonance by Thomas Harrison

By Thomas Harrison

The yr 1910 marks an magnificent, and principally unrecognized, juncture in Western background. during this perceptive interdisciplinary research, Thomas Harrison addresses the extreme highbrow success of the time. targeting the cultural weather of heart Europe and paying specific consciousness to the existence and paintings of Carlo Michelstaedter, he deftly portrays the reciprocal implications of alternative discourses--philosophy, literature, sociology, tune, and portray. His superbly balanced and deeply knowledgeable examine offers a brand new, wider, and extra formidable definition of expressionism and exhibits the importance of this circulate in shaping the creative and highbrow temper of the age.1910 probes the recurrent topics and obsessions within the paintings of intellectuals as varied as Egon Schiele, Georg Trakl, Vasily Kandinsky, Georg Luk?cs, Georg Simmel, Dino Campana, and Arnold Schoenberg. including Michelstaedter, who dedicated suicide in 1910 on the age of 23, those thinkers shared the basic issues of expressionism: a feeling of irresolvable clash in human lifestyles, the philosophical prestige of dying, and a quest for the character of human subjectivity. Expressionism, Harrison argues provocatively, was once a final, determined test via the intelligentsia to guard the most venerable assumptions of eu tradition. This ideological desperation, he claims, used to be greater than a non secular prelude to global conflict I: it was once an unheeded, prophetic critique.

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In the first decade of the new century a spark of inner life has finally begun to pierce the materialistic night. The spirit, writes Kandinsky, has begun to awaken, even if not surely enough to provide cause for celebration. The fledgling "soul" as yet lacks direction and a means of expression. More distressing still, it lies in a precarious state of convalescence, struggling to recover from that debilitating "desperation, unbelief, lack of purpose" with which it has been afflicted for so many centuries.

In decades to come, Max Weber and Martin Heidegger will have something similar in mind when they speak of the totally administered, rationalized world, which reduces all of life to an ensemble of objects. In Kandinsky's view, the art of proper materialism is realism. By the end of the nineteenth century it gives way to naturalism, which in turn dissolves into impressionism. And in this development, Kandinsky claims, we see that the reign of materialism is coming to a close. In impressionism hard, objective facts are presented as functions of something else, not primary but secondary truths, consequences of subjective interpretation.

The post-impressionists bequeath to the expressionists the problem of the link between natural and symbolic data, between impression and expression, between figures and the many ways they can be envisioned. Prefigurations of these problems can be found in the works of Munch, which show neither spirit nor matter, but an experience to which both must answer. A lithograph of 1901 called Sin presents a beautiful, naked woman staring past the viewer with a hypnotic, malignant gaze. Her shoulders and arms are hidden by disheveled hair flowing down to her waist.

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