Luck and Chance: Dagger and Guitar

Asger Jorn

 

Why does my Don Juan mix
Fine poison in his brush-strokes
And in his daughter's beauty?

Don Juan answered me:
I paint thus, Donna Bianca
Because it amuses me so to paint.
– C.J.L. Almqvist1a
Peter Shield hereby asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of the Work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
– Peter Shield & Ashgate Publishing Company
More often than not it is the solemn giving of considerable riches, offered by a chief to his rival for the purpose of humiliating, challenging and obligating him. The recipient has to erase the humiliation . . . by means of a new potlatch more generous than the first . . . Gift-giving is not the only form of potlatch: A rival is challenged by a solemn destruction of riches.
– Georges Bataille

 

Contents

Why? (1963)
Foreward (1952)
The sublime or informal: Foreward (1963)
The status of the aesthetic problems of the present day
Brief outline of the fields of activity in aesthetic research
The aesthetic phenomenon – summing up and definition
Aesthetics perceived as interest in the unknown
Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci (1963)
Aesthetics as meaninglessness and cynicism
Aesthetics as injustice, disaster and crime
Aesthetics as repellent abnormality
Aesthetics as curiosity and wonder
Aesthetics as tension, surprise or shock
Aesthetics as opportunity or possibility
Aesthetics as fanaticism and intolerance
Aesthetics as surplus of power or luxury
Aesthetics as absurdity or redundancy
Aesthetics as accident or chance
Aesthetics as amusement or diversion
Aesthetics as play or game
Aesthetics as intoxication or liberation
Aesthetics as celebration, variety or experiment
Aesthetics as superficial incompleteness
Aesthetics as sensation and sensuality
Aesthetics as free will, hope or passion
Aesthetics as spirituality, sickness or neurosis
I am just a person with clay feet
Scientific and artistic aesthetics
The aesthetic perception of art
Aesthetics as drama, illusion or idealism
Aesthetic, ethical and scientific truth
Philosophy as the doctrine of human values
On the value and inner contradiction of aesthetics
Animism and the aesthetic attitude to life
Aesthetics as action, coup de théâtre or effect
Features of the aesthetics of natural history
Features of the aesthetics of cultural history
The sociology of the aesthetics of European high culture
Aesthetics as radicalism, masculine aggression or seduction
Faust – Don Juan – Ahasuerus – Hamlet
Aesthetics as inspiration, enthusiasm or spontaneity
The aesthetic artist and the laws of society
Aesthetics as obsession, despair or desperation


Why? (1963)


  I was once asked by a Frenchman, 'Why then have you begun to publish books in Danish when you have an international public?' I answered that I wrote because it interested me to write, but without any belief that I was offering anything important in that area. I therefore stay modestly in Silkeborg and if there is something in what I write, then it will probably seep out.

This was only a half-truth. In its development, any new idea will be connected to its point of origin, to the environment from which it has grown, but it will belong to the environment where it meets a resonance. It is a tradition that all significant Scandinavian ideas are only taken seriously the day they come back as resonance from abroad. This has the effect that Scandinavian intellectual life is strangely homeless and is seen only in an indirect relationship to the environment from which it has grown, direct connection only being established to the international resonance.

It therefore so happens that Scandinavia receives its own impulses, which could have been directly developed from within, but were put out of mind until a later and far less advantageous stage, as something already recognized and utilized from abroad. This, in the main, seems to me to have been the case with all the artistic development around COBRA. But COBRA was just an intermezzo. We have not yet come to the most important thing and it is my conviction that this rests largely upon something new which began in Scandinavia after the great French Revolution, America's secession from England and the socialization of Eastern Europe, upon a particular appreciation of what in this period we in the North have regarded as the most important use for our freedom.

Through its conception of international law Scandinavia has played a central role within the UN. Today that organization is dead and powerless. At the same time, the popular shaping of the organization of Scandinavian private life celebrated great triumphs. This has been recognized and imitated everywhere. However, there are limits to how long one can maintain interest around this subject. Other important problems have arisen, above all about the areas of spiritual well-being and personal independence and enjoyment within the general way of life and social urbanization of the population. Here, I have demonstrated that the Nordic Folk High School concept has become the acid test as to whether we also have something to show and offer in this new complex of problems.

Therefore it is not because I believe that it will have any important instantaneous meaning that I have set out my ideas in Danish. The silence about this particular book, which came out ten years ago, is sufficient proof of this. Why then reprint it? As a rule, a large edition is intended for a large circle of readers. However, it can also have the opposite purpose: by a wider distribution giving it better possibilities of reaching the individual for whom it was written and whom no one knows.1 In a true democracy the many also have obligations towards the few.

 

Foreward (1952)


 

Er irrt der Mensch so lange er strebt
– Goethe
The extreme phenomenology of aesthetics and its personal, humane, social, natural and objective relativity is the subject of this little study. It is equipped neither with bibliography nor with references simply because there is nothing to refer to, as the grouping of the phenomena attempted here has no precedents, but represents something new, when regarded as a system.

A contrary reason is the situation that the knowledge from which this system of definitions is constructed is so elementary and so generally known that references to the details are not necessary to anyone who has occupied himself a little with aesthetics. The commentaries on the aesthetic perceptions of others briefly sketched in the book were in fact added after it was written and have changed nothing in the picture as the whole.

That a fleeting glance at Salmonsen's Encyclopedia is all I required to support me theoretically is not because I am an opponent of knowledge but in order to have present elementary knowledge or, one could even say, that knowledge left when one has forgotten all one has learned. This represents what an aesthetic artist has normally and abnormally come across in almost twenty years activity in the aesthetic production of art.

Within the natural sciences, all scientific results are worked out on the basis of experimental practice in the area under analysis. This has not hitherto been the case within aesthetics and this has given aesthetic research a distortion I am here attempting to correct.

Some years ago, the undersigned published Unknown Truisms about Art, the posthumous manuscript of a lecture by the deceased painter Immanuel Isben.2 That title would also be suitable to this current work, the direction of which was already indicated in my article in the catalogue to The Line's exhibition in the Copenhagen University Students' Union in 1939 and in the article 'Intimate banalities' in the art periodical Helhesten, no. 2.3 That Dr. Sigurd Næsgaard's scientific rejection of the principle of psychological sublimation lies behind these showdowns with principles of formal beauty, to the advantage of the principle of beauty of character in art and theory, is a special pleasure for me to point out, even more so because I believe there have been many extensive and sound consequences for me from this liberation.4

This study is a return to a starting point after having covered a number of other and perhaps more deeply underlying artistic problems, especially in architectonics, in a series of articles in Danish, Swedish and Dutch magazines,5 all inspired by the Swedish architectural professor Erik Lundberg's new theory about 'The language of architecture'.

These articles on architectonics were gradually infused with a growing interest in general elemental or primitive phenomena in the histories of art and religion, an interest which resulted in, amongst other things, some articles in the periodical Cobra (Revue international de l'art expérimentale) and in a special study of the significance of animatism as a starting point for poetry and cultic development in the book Golden Horn and Wheel of Fortune.6

As a study in the dramatic phenomenology of animism, which is identified with the kernel of aesthetics, the current work is thus a counterpart to the work on animatism, posed in an opponent relationship, drama versus poetry.

From this introduction as well as the study as a whole, it will appear that the points of views advanced here are by no means unknown. Once could directly say that everyone has them, even if no one will acknowledge them. To advance them here, therefore, is not a question of knowledge but of audacity. Why hasn't one had this audacity before? It can only be explained as a question of historical maturation.

Is the fruit I am offering here now ripe? Has it reached the point where the core is capable of germination and giving birth to new possibilities? This cannot be said to be so at this moment, but it is also quite immaterial. One swallow does not make a summer, but it is a portent of summer regardless of whether it has itself come too early to take part.

It is said that man is an apprentice and that fear, suffering and danger are his teachers and therefore the day that danger no longer exists man will no longer learn. However, we learn best from our sufferings, and therefore one always has a tendency to judge the generation whose mistakes one experiences on one's own back with the most intense criticism. This is a natural movement. However, even if my work represents a reckoning with the inter-war generation's mistakes and weaknesses in particular, I hope I can avoid going to the other extreme. I hope I will be successful in stressing the narrow-mindedness of both the old men of our time, the rationalists and their predecessors, the naturalists, as it comes out partly in their mutual contradictions and partly in their contradictory attitude to subjectivism, which is the starting point of this work, albeit established on a materialistic basis. My hope is to be able to explain these contradictory attitudes and thereby unite them and turn them to account in a system having the force of novelty, effectiveness and objective truth, even though it is about a not easily accessible area of human activity.

To learn is to struggle but to learn is more than to struggle. To struggle is to make mistakes and it is these that one must learn from. If one wants to learn as long as one lives, then one must struggle as long as one lives. 'Experience is the name everyone gives their mistakes', says Oscar Wilde, but this is quite incorrect. He who struggles and makes mistakes without forgetting anything and without learning anything is perhaps the ideal aesthetician, but he is also a complete idiot. It is precisely the intention of this book to demonstrate that idiots are never complete and that aesthetics are not absolute and ideal. This gives future generations the possibility of learning from our mistakes, to which category this study possibly belongs.

Silkeborg Sanatorium
May 1952

Werd ich zum Augenblicke sagen:
Verweile doch! Du bist so schön!
dann magst du mich in Fessln schlagen,
dann will ich gern zu Grunde gehn!
Dann mag die Totenglocke schalten,
dann bist du deines Dienstes frei,
die Uhr mag stehn, der Zeiger fallen,
er sei die Zeit für mich vorbei.

– Goethe

The sublime or informal: Foreward (1963)


  Time has passed since I published this book privately and much has happened. It is perhaps difficult to understand this book without understanding its preconditions, without understanding the naivety with which I had thrown myself into working for that artistic tendency we called COBRA, which at that point lay a splintered ruin whilst Christian Dotremont and I, despairing and mutually distrustful in the extreme, lay side by side in the beds of Silkeborg Sanatorium, discussing what had happened. Neither of us dreamt that despite everything we had realized something unique. Many of our enemies maintain this today, so there must be something in it.

My naivety consisted in the belief in a sound artistic development able to vary the normal and healthy without making holes in the rules. This was explained in my 'Discours aux Pingouins' in the first number of the COBRA magazine. I felt that I had read Franz Kafka's thoughts and when, on several occasions in Suresnes in 1950,7 a similarity between my pictures and Kafka's world had been intimated, I began an article that intended to show the morbidity which arose in Kafka's world because of the struggle against tuberculosis.8 The article was not finished before I myself lay in the sanatorium. It was surely that same reaction that at that time made me bristle before the few pictures I saw of Wols and deny their validity. I have to say that at that time I had the same reaction to pictures by Wemaëre.9 This was why I did not think he had anything to do with COBRA.

Today I can see that my whole world had suddenly dissolved and that I had had to come to terms with myself in the wreckage. Luck and Chance is a handbook on the relationship between ship and wreck.

To come to terms with illness is probably the most difficult thing one can ask a person to do in Scandinavia, where health is the big dream, and without meaning anything at all derogatory by it, I can today say the big sickly dream. This is a stage surmounted. I discovered that what is unsuccessful has in certain cases greater artistic value than what is successful. It all depends upon what is unsuccessful and what is successful, on how much has been attempted and how much, in spite of everything, has been done. But it has taken me ten years before I have dared to issue this book publicly. If my own reactions are taken into account, then you will understand that I myself doubted whether I had the right to place my conclusions before people who had not been through the events which would have given them the maturity to understand and I did not want to demand of anyone that they ought to have been in extremis. Today I am publishing this book because I feel that the dominion of the threat of death with which modern politics tyrannizes the world is in itself a sickness from which we all suffer and which marks all our thought processes from morning to evening. If the authorities can inflict humanity with such a sickness, then one can also allow oneself to explain publicly how sick people deal with illness, for then that is a form of health. Today, when literature and art are introduced in schools and kindergartens, although sympathetic insight into them demands the greatest maturity (I have myself taken part in this jest), there are no longer stages of inauguration. This is a fact that all must reckon with.

It was my intention to find out what the concept called aesthetics meant, as I could not come to terms with the identification between what is called the aesthetic and what is called the beautiful. Far less could I fill out the concept of aesthetics with the concept of form. There must exist a third concept essentially different from the formal and the beautiful which must be the extreme, the extreme form of aesthetics, something that must resemble the ugly and dangerous far more than the lovely and harmonious. I was able to include this extreme element into the framework formed by aesthetics because I turned back to the original definition of the aesthetic discovered by Baumgarten, namely, sensory impressions.

I originally thought that this area was quite novel and uncultivated, that it was completely new and virgin territory. In the past few years, I have discovered that I am not the first to have been roaming in these areas, which have had various names. However, they appear to me to be like the Vikings' data about Vinland: not in an organic connection with the point of departure. The establishment of this connection seems to be possible only if the reports of the various explorers are gathered together.

The first time I had a suspicion that, in some way or another, I had a distorted attitude to the matter was on reading the art historian Werner Haftmann's characterization of me as a 'nocturnal' person, which I took to mean a dark painter.10 This shocked me enormously, for my yearning for the light is perhaps the urge of which I am most conscious. However, do the light people of the South seek the dark? Because they are light, does their yearning give them a dark exterior, and are the people of the North dark people who look light because of our yearning for light, like shoots of potatoes in a cellar longing to be green? The thought was strange to me, but it struck me that there had been something about a nocturnal aesthetic in Kant and when I found it I suddenly discovered what this book is about.11 It deals with the sublime, the yearning for the high, and then I also understood why I had been speculating so much to discover what is meant by the high, what it is to raise oneself up.

The sentence of Kant that had taken hold of me goes thus: 'Night is sublime, day is beautiful'. It is strange to see Kant setting up a contrast between two such aesthetic categories as night and day in this true dialectical manner. He also says that 'The sublime moves, the beautiful charms. The sublime must always be great; the beautiful can also be small. The sublime must be simple; the beautiful can be adorned and ornamented, polished and embellished. A great height is just as sublime as a great depth.'

That last statement is something that has disquieted me ever since Jens August Schade once confided in me that one can fall so deep that one begins to fall upwards.12 For the question is this: if the fall continues past zero then would the continued fall be a rise in relation to zero or to when one reaches the bottom and comes to a halt and then begins to drift upwards again? Is this new uplift closest to being considered a new fall from grace? Then a fall must be a question of from or to, if it is to have any meaning. If one has once fallen down to something, then one cannot fall down anymore, but the possibilities of falling from are endless. Therefore, in its pure essence, the fall seems always to be a falling from. However, as a fall is always in relation to a centre to which it can be defined as fall, then a fall to earth is simply a question of gravity, whilst a fall away from the earth is the true fall out into the dark, but it is a fall which, judged from the earth's surface, has to be perceived as an elevation, a sublimation. It must be this self-elevating fall that is called Lucifer, the radiant or radiating fall, the falling from.

A passive body influenced by an external force can only take one direction, and the least difficult is the straight line. The straight line or road is the road of adaptation or falling to. However, a body under its own power can wind along the straightest roads, if it is able to lift itself over the conditions of fixed movements. The true falling from cannot therefore be characterized as a movement in a straight line oriented in the opposite direction to the line of conformation. It has been characterized as an unpredictable movement, like a fly loosed from a bottle. This is the reason why nothing sublime can be straight.

The straight [rette] was is the direct way, and there is every reason to call the direct way the ethical way if one agrees that the judicial system [retsvæsen] has to do with ethics, that the judicial system is a particular form of ethics. I cannot see that the concept of ethics can have any logical meaning whatever if this agreement is broken. When therefore Kant describes the sublime [ophøjede] and with it the elevating [højnende] as a particularly radical form of aesthetics, then this has a direct relation to the wrong [urette]. He says, 'The difference between the beautiful and the sublime quite obviously depends upon the circumstance that the beautiful without any difficulty falls under the schema of categories in which our capacity for recognition in the aesthetic regard includes it. The 'sublime' behaves differently. It is formless and unlimited.

Allowing this to act by itself causes both anguish and pleasure at the same time. Our imagination, the task of which is to unite the parts of the given into 'one picture', into a completed perception, feels that it is barren before the 'sublime' object. In this impotence, our own insignificance and nonentity becomes conscious as pure sensible being. But this is only possible because we, in our reason, only possess the ability to comprehend eternally little, at any rate, in ideas, and on a comparative scale. Through the impotence of our imagination, supersensible (superior to our senses) nature comes to the consciousness of our reason with pleasure. Whilst we, as pure sensible beings are lying in the dust, we feel as great as purely moral beings who have focused their actions upon endless tasks.'

Even though I cannot see what this pleasurable megalomania has to do with morals, it is precisely what I have sought to define in my book. The contrast to Kant is that I maintain the fundamental significance of interest to all aesthetics. When Kant emphasizes that 'from concepts there is no transition to feelings of pleasure or displeasure,' then I admit this willingly, whilst at the same time asserting that to a large degree there is a transition from feelings of pleasure and displeasure to concepts, and that no new concept is ever created which has not first been experienced as a symptomatic demand provoked by feelings of pleasure and repugnance, then signaled as a phenomenon through signs, and finally laid down as a concept. It can also be quite rightly established that this movement is irreversible. You cannot square the circle, but the circulation of the square explains itself, because the square only exists as a function of the circle, whilst the circle does not exist as a function of the square.

I have pondered upon the question of the right [rette], because in Scandinavian usage this can only mean the straight, the correct or what is before one, the front side, the right in contrast to the wrong side or obverse, whilst the right [rette] side in all other European languages on the other hand is to the right [højre] (German – recht, French – droite, Italian – destra), and I would perhaps make linguists despair by maintaining that right [højre] is the same as upwards or higher [højere]. No one will make me believe that a Scandinavian does not identify, perhaps more or less unconsciously, that which is to the right with something that somehow represents or should represent something higher [højere]. I can just as little be moved from the idea that these associations influence our political conceptions of what you can expect from right and left. That today this political preconception is more and more self-neutralizing is another matter, but it seems to me that popular left-oriented politics suffers incredibly from having symbolized the right [højre] wing as an elevated [ophøjet] and useless and thus aesthetic societal group. By this manoeuvre they have, so to speak, cut themselves off from an aesthetic or higher [højere] endeavor. It was this utilitarian inferiority complex which C.J.L. Almqvist and N.F.S. Grundtvig sought to forge weapons against.

The 'picture' to which Kant refers, and by which one can compare and measure phenomena so that they become easy to grasp and beautiful, always gathers into a universal picture, a world picture. When the earth was flat and the heavens arched over it with the sun and the stars in their tracks, this world picture was called religion. The new world picture of the Renaissance, with the earth revolving around the sun, came into conflict with religion, which has ever since been working away on its own, independent of the new world picture, on the basis of moral dimensions corresponding to the flat terrestrial disc. At the same time, moral and juridical evolution has replaced the principle of charity with the principle of justice, except where it is a matter of extraordinary achievements. It is here that Kant's teaching on the aesthetic essence of the sublime could lead to a deeper insight. Today, humanity is leaving the earth's surface and we are into a sublime new world which has become larger by a falling away on all sides. Many people try to shut this out and limit their own little world to Birkerød.13 However, he who has a sense for the painful pleasures of the sublime is already thrown into a struggle with this informal new world in order to work out its unknown forms. This new artistic rearmament will, as usual, evoke a strong dramatic social response, as the tendencies toward dissolution have strengthened the demands on the old forms beyond all possible limits. It is possible that attempts will be made to classify the ideas set out in this book as belonging to this category. I would submit to such a judgment, if it could be proved that they are based on a lie, for truth can never be old-fashioned.

The touching enthusiasm with which the critics have declared themselves unable to understand what I have written has perhaps soothed some of the unintelligent people, but has at the same time disquieted several independent thinkers, who have allowed their disappointment over this failure to be publicly voiced. In order to avoid the problems I have accumulated becoming the reason that the view is obstructed again and to make the task easy for those critics who do not in principle read the books they review, I here give a compressed account of my thesis:

When I assert that interest is aesthetic and not ethical, this is because it is impossible with any logical justification to demand that anyone be funny, entertaining or interesting. As interest cannot thus be an actual duty, a necessity or an ethical requirement, then it can hardly be demanded of someone that they interest themselves in anything unless that interest is functionally justified. Apart from this, it is impossible to prevent anyone interesting himself in anything. The only thing that can be forbidden is to show one's interest to others.

In order to repair this weakness, society had discovered a number of delusions that have to be believed, making it possible to draw up unfounded demands and duties in common. Materialism has revealed this swindle (or pictorial art) in modern society, and the delusion that the social organism could be made to function by allocating these duties fairly, quite without them having anything to do with interest, leads it to function on a basis of neutral indifference. In reality this just means that one has to make people believe that what interests them cannot be of interest to them, and that other things which do not interest them have in reality their profound interest. This is called upbringing. Upbringing is cult, and cultic freedom consists of the right to cultivate one's personal interests. This cultic freedom is not to be found anywhere, and so the question is how many personal interests the individual has that cannot be completely satisfied collectively. The critical point comes when someone moves over from the duties associated with really necessary functions to satisfying his immediate, unnecessary interests. If these pointless interests are collectively imposed as duty, as the Church attempted to do in the Middle Ages, then true interest can no longer be found, only forced attention. One can carry on a bitter struggle to liberate quite small and indifferent interests. It is the greatness of the scope of your interests which warrants the scope of the freedom and the struggle. But how can you measure the scope and capacity of an interest? You cannot affiliate yourself to it from the goal you have set yourself, if that is new and unknown. Neither can you judge it from the result unless you have already acted and realized it. The Latin superstition that the end justifies the means is no more absurd than the Protestant one that it is the result that does so, for neither ends, means nor results really have anything at all to do with each other. They are three complimentary worlds in a common unity. It is humanity's fate to live and act in this paradox, and to make people believe that there is no such paradox is the task of the politicians. The trick is to get the better of it without going to pieces or, more correctly, is to go to pieces and grow together again in a better way than before. That is the difficult trick.

The understanding of this common denominator of complementarity in European culture is astonishingly clear in the French economist Raymond Aron's book on the industrial society,14 where he says, 'In Max Weber's thought process, relativism was attached to the idea he entertained of the real, an idea the origin of which was a certain neo-Kantian philosophy. For him the whole of reality was informal.' Weber's demonstration of the indissoluble connection between Protestantism and North European and North American capitalism shows quite irrefutably the lines of direction that decide not only our economics but also out politics and our culture. The contrast to the Southern European system is illuminating.

Sigurd Næsgaard's criticism of the traditional theory of sublimation, which identifies the sublime with the refined when they are really opposites, in the light of Kant's aesthetic category and Weber's economic principle thus turns out to be of fundamental significance to the liberation and flowering of artistic development in Denmark, with which he was so passionately preoccupied. The elements for a conscious formation of a specific artistic principle of general significance are beginning to come together.

Paris 1963

The status of the aesthetic problems of the present day


 

One evening I sat Beauty on my knees – And I found her bitter – And I abused her.
I armed myself against justice.
I fled. O witches, O misery, O hatred, to you my treasure was entrusted!
... Misfortune was my god. I stretched myself out in the mud. I dried myself in the air of crime. And I played some fine tricks on madness. And the spring brought the idiot's frightening laughter.
... – oh! every vice, anger, luxury, – magnificent, that luxury – above all, falsehood and sloth.

– Arthur Rimbaud
The two unsolved problems hindering further progress in the systemization of the scientific research of aesthetics today are the declining ability to give the topic a serviceable definition and the difficulty in finding the clear and tenable distinction between the object of aesthetics and the object of art, especially in the question of the essence of dance, music, poetry and pictorial art, that is to say, the essence of the fine arts. As far as these are concerned, an understanding has been generally reached that they are not identical with the aesthetic, but merely represent an especially effective and rarely failing technique for the exposition of aesthetic effects. Moreover, in certain circles there is also a gradually dawning feeling that the fine arts themselves never represent pure beauty, but are above all arts, and as such always more than beauty, with an effect going deeper and transmitting more than the purely aesthetic. This is something we touch upon here in the indication of the ethical character of art and which is manifested in more recent art by the pictorial content being moved from the aesthetic over to the magical, even though this word has to be understood in a new meaning as the expression of power.

As far as the problem of aesthetic definition is concerned, then the difficulty lies in being unable to limit the aesthetic area to an easily comprehensible field of activity with a clear distinction between the true methodical activity of aesthetics and auxiliary investigations into other disciplines, economics, sociology, politics, biology, psychology, technology, religion etc., from which benefit and experience can be derived. Furthermore the blurred boundary between aesthetics and art also causes even the most rigorous separation between aesthetics and the other philosophical areas (ethics, logic) to have no objective validity and to be based merely upon sensory illusion uncovered more and more by each new experience.

If, in an attempt at empirical aesthetics, we take the road of experience to find the aesthetic object in the articles and laws of beauty, we immediately come up against resistance from subjective judgment, which perceives the human being as a primary existence in relation to his thoughts. This judgment, the individual's judgment, takes its point of departure in the individual's reaction to the sensed object, a precondition and a point of departure which no one can deny.

The objective synthesis

If the individual judgment necessary to construct an aesthetic doctrine is to be coordinated with the aesthetic judgments of other individuals, then this can only happen by getting behind these judgments in order to analyze the common preconditions reflected in the internal psycho-physiological similarities and the bio-sociological dependence of the individuals, as is done, for example, in medical science, to discover the common human subjectivity or the community of inter-humane interest which is a bio-physiological, sociological and cultural fact.

The wider question then becomes whether this organic community of interests extends out over the human into the vegetable and animal kingdoms, whether the whole biological world can be perceived as a collective interdependence, a fellowship of interests, an organic subjectivity and mutual necessity, and historically as an evolutionary unity, or, in short, whether we can make aesthetics relate to the natural sciences.

However, to achieve a real objective aesthetics it is necessary to demonstrate a casual unity between the forms of reaction of the organic and the inorganic worlds which reaches from the macrocosmic aesthetics of the universe itself to the atom's microcosmic relations of an aesthetic character. If this is not possible, then the results of both subjective and objective aesthetics are worthless and the establishment of a scientific aesthetics impossible.

The synthesis for which I am here the spokesman definitively breaks with the intermixing of aesthetics and art theory, a break which is based upon new experiences and arguments, the most weighty of which is perhaps the recognition, derived from the development of modern art, of the value of so-called primitive art and the consequent understanding that aesthetic recognition and any acquaintanceship with the idea of beauty, the understanding even of the difference between the thing and its depiction, is quite meaningless for elemental artistic creation. As, into the bargain, it is apparent that modern aesthetic education, as known from the art academies, is directly restrictive to creative ability in art, these facts demonstrate that not only is the aesthetic knowledge of our time worthless but also directly damaging and thus, in other words, false.

The extreme definition of aesthetics

This acknowledgment, which is shared by all aestheticians, has gradually made it generally appreciated that aesthetics should not be understood as a phenomenon exclusively connected with the fine arts. On the contrary, it represents one of our forms of existential experience, its subjective point of departure in interest having forced science to perceive the object of aesthetics as impenetrable by exact, scientific research, so that it has to be perceived as something 'which can be described and to a certain extent limited, but not defined and computed, remaining a demonstrable and communicable "unknown", which can throw its light over one of the problematic forms in which our being exposes itself, and thereby have an instructive significance for art and criticism'.15

That this instructive significance is only to the detriment of both art and criticism has really nothing to do with science nor obviously the critics, but it involves artistic activity and the artists' working conditions themselves in the most painful way. Because of this inconvenience it must, of course, be the artists themselves who, theoretical activity, have to intervene and change course about this point.

What have I then been able to change in this hazy picture? Apparently something quite insignificant, as I have only tightened up this 'aesthetic definition' from being 'something unknown and enigmatic' to mean 'the unknown' or everything unknown and enigmatic. By this clarification of the aesthetic object, it takes on not only a subjective and existential but also an objective and essential significance, from its smallest detail to its greatest context. This makes possible the establishment of the following outline, of which we will only have occasion in the following text to deal with the first half and point c. III.

 

Brief outline of the fields of activity in aesthetic research


  Thesis: The aesthetic object is defined as the unknown, and aesthetics as the empirical science of the reactions of the known to the unknown or the unknown, unexpected or uncontrollable reactions of the known.

1. Objective aesthetics
then becomes the empirical science of the immediate reactions of substances to other substances and of the character of the substance's macrocosmic and microcosmic phenomena towards the borders with the non-existent, and thus the effects of chance.

2. The aesthetics of the natural sciences
then becomes the science of the reactions of biological organisms to unknown, unaccustomed or unexpected impulses and of their abilities to invoke such impulses biologically.

3. The aesthetics of the human sciences
becomes the empirical science of man's experiential and recognitive reactions to everything unknown, divided over the subjects:

a. Psycho-physiological aesthetics
The empirical science of man's spiritual and physical reactions to everything unknown: 1. destructive, 2. passively negligent as well as 3. actively absorbent reactions.

b. Sociological aesthetics
comprises the empirical science of the societal group's positive, negative and passive reaction to the occurrence of the unknown in societal life and society's ability to invoke unknown phenomena in all areas, political, economic, technical, artistic, scientific, ethical, philosophical, cultural, ideological, religious, etc.

c. The aesthetics of art scholarship
This comprises the empirical science of man's expansive reactions to unknown external and internal impulses, as aesthetic art is defined as our ability to invoke and satisfy unknown interests, phenomena, things, thoughts and ideas.

The aesthetics of art scholarship is divided into two groups, the aesthetics of direct experience and the aesthetics of indirect recognition, which can be grouped as follows:
c.I. The aesthetics of human artistic action
The empirical science of human reactions to what cannot be done; the interest in creating and enjoying unknown things, thoughts and pictures created by people. With connections to psycho-physiological and neurological aesthetics in general, this is divided into:
a. The aesthetics of productive experience
The empirical science of the process of human creative experience, which develops in a dialectical relationship of opposition and dependence to:

b. The aesthetics of receptive experience
The empirical science of the human ability to absorb aesthetic art experiences. Both are developed in connection with the artistic material which represents:

c.II. The aesthetics of the art-work or the artistic means
The empirical science of the character of the art object and its aesthetic effect upon the producer and consumer, comprising:
a. The aesthetic character of technique in general

b. Aesthetic technique or the fine arts which form:
   1. Psychological sensory aesthetics
   The empirical science of immediate sensory effects (sound, pitch, light, color, form, movement, etc.)
   2. The aesthetics of mental conception
   The empirical science of the aesthetic effect of visual formulation and conception. This leads of the opposite of the aesthetics of experience:

c.III. The aesthetics of recognition
The empirical science of human intellectual reactions to what is not known. This is divided into two contrasting activities:
a. The aesthetics of fantasy and speculation
The empirical science of the human activity of idea and thought in the treatment of subjects neither understood nor known and the reactions of people to the results of such speculations and fantasies.

b. The aesthetics of scientific research
The empirical science of human interest in and attempts to gather exact knowledge about hitherto unknown phenomena which can be analyzed empirically, as well as the abilities and means to do this, and the significance of this activity for human art and aesthetics in general.


The aesthetic phenomenon – summing up and definition


  Kant defined beauty as 'universal, disinterested and necessary pleasure', but as pleasure is really nothing other than a kind of interest, we have to reject this self-contradictory definition and assert that aesthetics is in the interest in the unknown, the effect of which can be unpleasant as well as pleasant, antipathetic as well as sympathetic. This brings out feelings of distaste or delight which give us the opportunity to judge the object of the experience as either ugly or beautiful, a biological reaction called attraction and repulsion in the mineral world.

The essence of aesthetics is unconditional and immediate interest or spontaneous reaction, and the aesthetic object is that phenomenon which invokes this immediate interest, whilst the aesthetic subject is the field of immediate interest.

Known and unknown

Beautiful are the things we see.
More beautiful are the things we understand,
But by far the most beautiful
Are surely those we do not comprehend.

– Niels Steno
Only the unknown or the apparently and partially unknown can possess this aesthetic property. What one already knows is effective only through its recognizability and corresponds to those deeper, regular interests which, on the strength of their vital significance and regulatory essence, we call ethical interests.

However, as soon as we become aware that the known and the unknown are relative phenomena, the question then becomes whether we can connect them with anything at all. We could say that the objectively known is everything that acts as facts, as impressions in the context of sensory material, and can be directly or indirectly sensed. But therefore it is not certain that we know it, and as in itself this is a matter of acquaintanceship or transmission, we must find another yardstick for the known and the unknown. What do these two concepts really mean? The latter is derived from the former as its opposite, but this does not take us very far, and we already appear to have excluded in advance any possibility of an empirical analysis of this subject, as science, as is well known, is based upon the study of the comprehensible, the known or the actual.

We are not, however, giving up, even though we will have to reduce the area of aesthetic study to the border phenomena between the known from which we start and the unknown, to the study of the unknown reactions of the known and the effect of unknown phenomena on the known.

 

Aesthetics perceived as interest in the unknown


 

Habe nun, ach! Philosophie,
Juristerie und Medizin
Und leider auch Theologie
Durchaus studiert, mit heissem Bemühn.
Da steh' ich nun, ich armer Tor!
Und bin so klug als wie zuvor.

– Goethe
Aesthetics as the law of change

But what have we really embarked on here? Simply that the true point of departure of aesthetics is the law of change, allowing the unknown and the new to arise in the universe and create evolution, whereas the known is the static cycle or law of immutability, which we have perceived as the ethical principle of nature. Here immediately we are in the elemental philosophical conflict between compatibilists and incompatibilists, empiricists and idealists. The latter was a school founded by Socrates, who came to the conviction that 'we only know that we know nothing', that everything is unknown and thus aesthetic. We also know about the opposite school of determinists, and aver simply that they are both correct, in the same way as the scientists who quarreled about whether light was rays or waves, since the law of change exists on the strength of and because of the law of immutability, in the same way as the radiant character of light is conditioned by its wave system, and the aesthetic principle of nature is precisely its radiant essence, the material's 'ideality' or éclat.

Subject or area of interest

The elementary metaphysical concept is the subject, normally defined as 'the conscious ego', the observing, thinking, feeling, active individual, and thus the human object. But if we take into account how humanity originated, this definition is too narrow. When did the human embryo begin to be a subject? The question is meaningless. Here we will use the concept of the subject as a designation for any exclusive or limited sphere of interest in matter, any system of action, any individuality. But the limited phenomenon in matter is what is called the object. Object and subject should thus only be two different ways of perceiving the same phenomena and two different sides of their essence. Quite so!

This subjectivity of matter or classification of interest can be called the qualitative properties of the material, and 'the feeling, thinking and observing properties' are just the most consummate and differentiated means of existence of this subjectivity or sphere of interest, which here on earth has achieved the greatest perfection in humanity.

Objective subjectivity

Objective science is the science of how matter thinks, about the spirit of matter. Subjective science could be called the science of how matter feels, of the material's interests or the material's soul, its enthusiasms or eros, its body-forming principle. This science of the objective subjectivity of the material, which makes it corporeally identical with the spiritual and thus perceives the spiritual as a physical phenomenon, is obvious and easily understood if it is really made clear what an object or a body is. We can buy the materials in a human body at a chemist's shop, but we cannot unite them into a human body, yet the human body endures even when the materials of which it is formed are renewed. One is the same even though one is someone else. We can shape a lump of clay into a vase and a sudden movement will change it again to a lump of clay. We can lay out a rail-track and constantly change all the material. Even if there are completely new materials it is still the same track, the same region of interest, the same context.

The bodily perception of the soul

We are, however, in no doubt that the living person exists as a latent possibility in the material we have bought. Thus the impotence we feel before a dead person whom we wish were alive is not caused by the soul forsaking the body. That it cannot do. But by the human soul having disintegrated, so that we are unable to put it together again.

Therefore, unlike the spiritualists, we perceive the visionary faculty, the highest achievement of the aesthetician, not in a form of a detachment of the soul from its bodily mortal frame, but as a superior and intense radiation and receptive activity with its unavoidable center in the physical ego. From this it follows that we evaluate the proficiencies acquired by this clairvoyance according to their ability to serve our actions. With this, our opponent relationship to spiritualism in its traditional form appears to be clarified.

The subjective context of material

The word interest means what is between certain phenomena and thus the context. We have defined subjectivity as interest or context.

Every cell in the human body is an object and at the same time an area of interest, a subject or acting individual. Cells are again part of the areas of interest of the organs which in fellowship form a human ego, body or individual, together with his mental equipment.16 The individual is a part of the ego of the family, the group, whose common interest is given its self-conscious expression in its codex of action or ethics. Together all human groups, classes, peoples, nations and races form a joint human object, humanity, which is thus not an idea but an actuality, a body, an ego or subject, which is, for example, the common object of medical science and the very basis of actuality for the whole of technique and culture, the joint human interest. I call this perception Nordic humanism.

 

Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci (1963)


 

What seems incredible in the future is never so in the past.
– René Clair
Today, new horizons are opening in science, technique and research and are breaking down the old world. The situation is reminiscent of the Renaissance. The new expansion of space alone is a far more radical upheaval than the discovery of America. On the one hand, there is enthusiasm about this development, yet, on the other, the is the simultaneous demand that life should carry on as it has always done, that one can pretend that nothing has happened, and that our traditional ideas of progress have continued validity. Art is judged on whether it subordinates itself to its architectonic surroundings and architecture or whether it subordinates itself to nature's harmony without any understanding that what we call nature does not exist and could just as well be called 'god'. This latter Neoplatonism appeared after the last world war in order to create order amongst the remnants of the fin de siècle's confused productive expansion, which had reached its limits. The division of Europe by the Reformation wars offered the possibility of two opposing developments, the informal conquest of the unknown regions and the Counter-Reformation's bound Baroque. The latter dominated art until the struggle of Neo-Classicism and Neo-Gothicism in the Napoleonic era released the modern artistic development.

In his essay on 'Neo-Platonic movement and Michelangelo' Erwin Panofsky writes, 'It is significant that Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo's adversary both in life and art, professed a philosophy diametrically the opposite of Neoplatonism. With Leonardo, whose figures are as free from restraint as Michelangelo's figures are "inhibited", and whose sfumato principle reconciles plastic volume with space, the soul is not held in bondage by the body, but the body – or, so to speak more precisely, the "quintessence" of its material elements – is held in bondage by the soul.'17

When a professor of architecture holds up this bound Prometheus, whose most heartfelt sculpture is The Slave, in order to cast the dome of St. Peter's upon the head of an 'unsuccessful' monumental art stretching from Joakim Skovgaard, over Larsen Stevns and Hansen-Jacobsen to Asger Jorn, then this Counter-Reformationist art of equilibrium is in a good academic tradition. It is just impossible to tell how the pseudo-Romanesque pastiche architecture in Viborg Cathedral could harmonize with the end of the previous century. If Skovgaard and Hansen-Jacobsen had also worked on Grundtvig's Church then there would have perhaps been one single initial attempt that one could use in one's evaluation. Why did Thorvald Bindesbøll not get any architectonic projects? Before I started the Aarhus decorative project, I emphasized the difference in our perception of style to the architects. They were satisfied both before and after. So one cannot use that as an argument against the decoration afterwards. No, the truth is that this Scandinavian line in Denmark has been oppressed since the Vikings burned their stave churches. Long live St. Peter's Church and what belongs to it. 18

 

Aesthetics as meaninglessness and cynicism


 

For a long time I boasted of possessing all possible landscapes, and found the celebrities of modern painting and poetry derisory.
I loved absurd pictures, fanlights, stage scenery, mountebanks' blackcloths, inn-signs, cheap prints; unfashionable literature, church Latin, badly spelt pornographic books, grandmothers' novels, fairytales, little books for children, old operas, silly refrains, naive rhythms.
I dreamed of crusades, voyages of discovery never reported, unrecorded republics, suppressed religious wars, revolutions in manners, movements of races and of continents: I believed in all enchantments.

– Arthur Rimbaud
Secret interests

We are, however, going beyond human, even organic subjectivity and maintaining that even the least atom with its rotating nuclear system, as well as the solar systems, must be perceived as spheres of interest, units of activity or subjects. The study of the interests of these materials and peoples is not only complicated bu dangerous, especially as far as the latter are concerned. Not everyone is interested in having their interest clarified. And this undoubtedly the real reason that an objective and scientific basis for the so-called 'human sciences' has not yet been established and that there is still no interest in doing so. Yet we have apparently got to the stage that today artistic, philosophical, ethical and aesthetic development is simply demanding the renewal that can only be established by the recognition and study of the objective subject.

Subjective knowledge

Who follows his own head must also stand on his own feet.
– Danish proverb
We've stated that what is called objective knowledge is just the intellectual demonstration that a phenomenon exists in the world. But the word know has a more immediate sensory meaning, as when one says, I know myself. Here the word has the same meaning given to the Greek origin of the word aesthetics. Subjective knowledge is thus a direct context, in acknowledgement of a phenomenon. For a subject, the absolute known, that which is within bounds, is thus a part of the context, the established, the determined, the law.

However, we know that all phenomena, objects and spheres of interest are in constant change, are established, extended and dissolved, enter in other contexts, exchange, are condensed and exploded, that there are thus different degrees of acquaintanceship, right for the most airy and superficial to contextual, flowing yet firm, compact, almost immobile and unbreakable connections, and that the aesthetic stage is thus the study of the superficial and individual stages.

Universal rationalism

Aristotle, who in his metaphysics stressed the experience of this constant movement or change in matter by which it takes on new forms, maintained that it is the realization of an all -embracing reasonable plan that the divine spirit is following in the shaping of the cosmos through the development of nature, which is gradually and logically following the purposeful meaning of our existence, with which human reason can lead us into harmony. The movement in, for example, a plant's genesis is invoked by 'external' causes (Aristotle was the first person who dissociated himself absolutely from objective subjectivism), like the seed from the mother-plant. But the form that occurs as a plant is because of an intrinsic power in matter, and thus in the seed, of a preordained kind (inheritance?). The seed thus contains the coming plant in itself as a possibility which could come into being or reality, be activated, be unfurled and take on an actual form that is the true being. Every form is in this way developed by other forms, and all these forms ultimately point back to the first cause which is consequently the absolutely divine idea.

The imbalance of matter

He also makes new who destroys the old.
Even with due regard paid to Aristotle's doctrine of catharsis, this perception can only be a half-truth, and therefore wrong, especially when its further enlargement in connection with Christianity's belief in providence and the doctrine of immortality is borne in mind. On the other hand, Hume's liberation of the purely deterministic perception of the world offers no opportunity for the establishment of an opponent relationship between aesthetics and ethics, but forces, as we have noted, the establishment of the former as a side of the latter in 'the doctrine of pleasure'. His philosophy thereby becomes purely analytical without a perspective of development, or what we could call positivity, inclination forward or imbalance, and this absolute equilibrium automatically forces the denial of the actual existence of the objective context, which is only delineated in the dynamic of motion and not in what is stationary. Then even a realistic ethics becomes an impossibility.

We maintain the following:

No providence exists for people other than our foresight, wherever we get that from, but we merely wish to maintain that it is always the present, existence, actuality or reality that manifests itself as the static and absolute, and that all development is and must be a break with the known, with laws, and takes place through the ceaseless dialectic between the establishment of law and lawbreaking, between ethics and aesthetics.

One-sided moral upbringing towards reason and justice, which inculcates an absolute disgust of all stupidity, in justice, lies, brutality and heedless, ugly self-assertion, to which orphanage children and future kings in particular, results in just as one-sided tendencies towards servility and desperation.

 

Aesthetics as injustice, disaster and crime


  Law creates lawbreaking

You walk over dead men... of your jewels Horror not least charming and Murder, amongst your dearest trinkets, there on your proud belly dances amorously.
– Ch. Baudelaire
From 'Hymn to Beauty'19
On the other hand, it is health that changes the drama of life from being a perpetual tragedy to being a principle of development. All renewal consists of casting oneself out into the unknown and thereby into almost certain annihilation, and even if it is the exception that proves the law or rule by renewing it, no successful renewal or introduction of the unknown can happen without the context and the order being destroyed, crushed and dissolved to give way to new contexts. This revolutionary unrest, the unknown, incomprehensible and incompatibilistic element in existence, where the old is destroyed to give way to new, is the inevitable law of the universe and humanity. Incompatibilism is determined, and determinism acts only through this. The transcendent is immanent.

Law breaking creates law

Diamonds are polished in diamond dust.
– Taras Bulba20
If one loses this understanding of the dialectical context between law and lawbreaking necessary to establish this, then, instead of perceiving lawbreaking as a necessary ingredient, one must necessarily feel it as a disturbing, destructive, devilish element in existence, as something absolutely wicked, as nature's 'tragic principle.' By denying this absolute ideality and independence of the aesthetic we are turning away from the abstract doctrine of suicide, which is its logical extreme point, and like everyone with 'sound common sense' also turning from what it demonstrates: that all development would stop if 'sound common sense' came to rule.

Unforeseen happenings

Did you not see recently how eagerly the dove there over the treetops beat the air with its wings?
He had seen his mate and the nest with the young: that was the reason for his quick flight.
It appeared to him that it was under his own power that he moved his wings and took the shortest way, but it was love, his downy young and his beloved that awakened his soul, and this that thereafter moved his wings.
Love is like the coachman who looks after the reins and controls us as the rider controls his horse. He obscures our soul and convinces us that we sit as chiefs or coachmen.

– Swedenborg21
The circle of interest dominates the cycle of materials and life. But things can suddenly happen that quite change the picture. It can so happen that the dove suddenly leaves his track. As if drawn by a strange force within or without, it is thrown up against quite different experiences that attract and entice it. Apparently, we say expressly, there is nothing here for it to like, let alone love. On the contrary, there is something immediately loveless, something disquieting and unpleasant, something surprising, the unknown, and because this is new it is meaningless, irritating, unreasonable and worthless, but nevertheless a force, which, like the lighthouse or the lamp, could throw one off course, possibly even kill and annihilate, but which does, at any rate, enervate, interest, animate and obsess with an externally warm and inner cold excitement.

Why – why not?

Misfortune often makes people pale, as hot water does lobsters.
Why this? Yes, the whole aesthetic problem consists of just this why – why not? If the question is answered, the enchantment is lifted, the unknown has become known, but the incomprehensible is often just dissolved by this intervention in an even greater sum of unknowns.

This is the essence of aesthetics. Is it of value but at the same time valueless, is there something harmonious in the paradoxical, something obvious in the unknown, in the insecurity and dissatisfaction? If one accepts that this is the case, then one accepts the obviousness and meaning of aesthetics, the actuality of the illusion. The need to separate illusion from reality results in concepts of god, but the need to make illusion reality and reshape reality according to our illusions is aesthetic activity or what one calls 'the fine arts'. The metaphysicians seek what is in this world, but not of this world. The aestheticians seek the precise opposite, what is of this world but not in it.

The legality of the illegal

To do a great right, do a little wrong!
– Shakespeare
Aesthetics is the ceaseless hunt of the universe, nature and humanity to prove that nothing supernatural exists, for the truth of aesthetics is namely nothing other than the naturalness of the unnatural, the humanity of the inhuman, the health of the anomalous and sick, the clarity of the darkness, the goodfortune of misfortune, the competence and power of the incompetent and powerless, the significance of the insignificant, the track of the trackless, the reality of the unreal, the rightness and the truth of the intolerable, of dislike, nastiness, faithlessness, lack of respect, disobedience, injustice, recklessness, cynicism, distrust, insincerity, falseness, immorality, irresponsibility, crime and lawlessness, the order and utility of the capricious, the ephemeral, the terrible, the awful, the doubtful, the uneven, the unusual and misplaced as well as the unusable, useless, inept, disordered and impractical, in short, all that is not interesting except in its immediate effect, the new, the radical, the original and experimental, the fertility of the earthquake.

 

Aesthetics as repellent abnormality


 

When the Indian teaching about evil perceives God as just as much the source of evil as of good, thus in a way placing the Devil in the Trinity, is this not Hegelianism?
– Søren Kierkegaard
The pleasure of distaste

This and nothing else is the immediate effect of the unknown in the known, the primary or extreme aesthetic effect, pure aesthetics. It is neither beautiful nor pleasant, but it is the raw material from which the beautiful is born, and, what is more, from which life itself is created.

You will perhaps say it is impossible for the repellent to be the precondition for the attractive, but let us just push these phenomena into the distance a little, into the future of the past, in the example of memory, so that we can more easily see their attractive sides. How truly exciting and unforgettable, wonderful were those catastrophic events we experienced at that time, even though they were shocking, astonishing, terrible, upsetting, irritating, provocative, enervating and inspiring, and what a marvel it was that they strengthened us instead of crushing us and what a miracle that they really took place, even though we had perhaps not experienced themselves ourselves but had read about them in the newspaper or in a novel. It was sensational or, in short, aesthetic.

Although we have thus pulled back from the phenomenon in order to perceive its meaning, we can nevertheless ascertain that this is the point that cannot be excluded – whether aesthetics should be made into a vital and independent function: the procurement of the unknown.

Dysmorphism and abnormality

All sins are no more complicated than that they all would get their deathblow if one eradicated breach of confidence.
– Nis Petersen22
On the occasion of the breakthrough of Expressionism in Denmark, a certain Professor Salomonsen undertook a very notorious and ridiculed analysis of this new aesthetic phenomenon and came to the conclusion that it was a sort of 'dysformism' or an ugliness-seeking epidemic, like the medieval self-tormentors, flagellants and other sick phenomena.23 So the man was quite right, but he just did not understand that the ugly is not ugly in itself but is perceived so only because it is incomprehensible and unknown and therefore meaningless, and that therefore any renewal at once appears ugly, because the ugly is nothing other than the abnormal, and the ugliness grows with the size of the abnormality. Only in the instant the meaningless has been comprehended, possessed, owned or understood, does it become beautiful.

Thus there is no way around it. If aesthetics is to have a meaning, it must be as the meaninglessness of existence, and if it is not to have meaning, then it thus becomes meaningless any way.

 

Aesthetics as curiosity and wonder


 

Zum Erstaunen bin ich da.
– Goethe
The interest of the new

When something is neither lovely, good nor logical, but nevertheless attracts us, then this interest can only be explained as purely immediate interest, curiosity, wonder or astonishment. Curiosity is thus nature's primary aesthetic factor.

'The objects we meet for the first time immediately exercise a mental impression upon us,' says the Russian painter Kandinsky, and in our need to collect rarities and rare experiences or strange and sensational articles, curiosities, we have the starting point of our aesthetic activity. This capacity and need is not associated only with humanity, even birds and insects can demonstrably develop such an aesthetic activity by the collection of strange stones, shells, pieces of metal etc. That even fish are immensely curious is known by everyone.

According to these observations, the capacity for wonderment is thus the basic element of aesthetic activity. No one shows wonder at the normal. But where does the abnormal come from? We are not the first who have banged our heads against this problem. However, we feel that it arises from within, as a part of the life process.

The need for the new and the desire for adventure

Foreign food and forbidden fruit taste best.
That certain reactions are normal or known is to say that they have direct preconceptions or demonstrable grounds. Where these are lacking, we are before unknown products of the known. As we do not reckon with actual unknown powers, we must perceive these activities as their own object, a self contradictory capacity in matter, as a sort of osmotic pressure in the spheres of interest, as enervating factors of tension, acting as an attraction towards the unknown. One could call this need for the expansion of capacity for development the healthy sickness. Rationalists call it, characteristically enough, 'horror vacui', or fear of emptiness. The opposite description deciderium ad vacuum, longing for the unknown, the curiosity or aesthetic capacity of matter must be more correct.

 

Aesthetics as tension, surprise or shock


 

The higher I species is
the more uselessly it behaves.
Hens do not write aphorisms.

– Nis Petersen
New and useful

The capacity for wonderment is thus a primary characteristic of the individual's or species's stage of evolution. The human being is the most curious, whimsical and changeable being in nature. This is the reason for our power.

In his history of Denmark, Professor Arup stresses that tattooing and the use of strange attachments are phenomena just as old as protective hide clothing.24 We venture to assert that they are older and that even hide clothing was originally only used to appear sensational. An old, emaciated and frozen shaman one day just discovered that it was warmer to keep the bearskin on all the time. We believe that any new development begins as something meaningless and worthless, from which the ability to create values is conditioned by the ability to occupy oneself with the valueless, and that this law is not just valid in the world of art but also in the biological sphere, and even overall, because nothing new can immediately be correct.

But can we consequently make curiosity and the capacity for wonderment into the elemental phenomenon of aesthetics without further ado? It has to be said that it was not us who discovered this placing. Throughout the centuries and right up to Surrealism, surprise or shock has been perceived as a basic factor in the sphere of aesthetic experience.

Surprise and wonderment

For him beauty was always the hidden.
– G Brandes on M. Goldschmidt25
Writing of unreasonable, pre-logical or irrational actuality, that border phenomenon between the existing and non-existent, Descartes says (although he exchanges pure wonderment with its sympathetic offshoot admiration) that 'admiration (wonderment), that is to say first and foremost surprise, is the only thing that does not rest upon an organic process, but exclusively on the state of the brain.'

That his latter statement about the activity of the brain alone is disproved by the fact that we are able to evoke the shock of surprise by purely physical means (with insulin shock, etc.), and that we have recognized the organic character of the brain and nervous system changes nothing in the condition we have here, which is the essence of surprise itself: the break with the organic, that is, the anti-organic effect in matter.

 

Aesthetics as opportunity or possibility


 

Writing forewords is like remarking that one is in the process of falling in love. The soul searches restlessly. The puzzle is given up. Every event is a hint of explanation. Writing a foreword is like bending a branch to the side in the jasmine cabin and seeing her sitting there secretly: my love.
      – and how is he who writes this? he goes amongst people like a dupe in winter and a fool in summer, he is hello and goodbye in the same person, always happy and carefree, pleased with himself, a feckless gadabout, yes, an immoral person.

– Søren Kierkegaard
Luck in misfortune

Here we are at the very core of extreme aesthetics, its lack of preconditions, its groundlessness, its non-dialectical curtness towards nothingness, to what it is directed towards and seeks to overcome. This position as the negation of nothingness abolishes the normal dialectic of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. It is the thesis that seeks the unknown antithesis, and the game is a merciless either – or, luck or misfortune, renewal or annihilation, and we cannot therefore call aesthetic reactions true causal reactions, as we reject all theories of divine guidance, being forced to perceive them as secretions, provocations, reactions of opportunity or possibility, as this is their immediate aspect, and this is precisely what we are trying to bring out.

The paradox of aesthetic science

There are some truths, at least, of a particular modesty and ticklishness of which one does not come into possession if not suddenly – that one must surprise or abandon.
– Fr. Nietzsche
But how can one make science in this way? Let us explain our position. The disinterested research which is the mechanism of science is a result of human interest in its purest form, interest in being interested. We want to maintain this state, even though the result of the research influences our other interests and develops and renews them.

However self-contradictory this may seem, we could thus well interest ourselves in something that for us does not exist, in the unknown, but the real paradox lies in our interest consisting of wanting to know the unknown. When we have achieved this, the object of our research dissolves in our hands. This is what makes the establishment of the science of aesthetic experience so enormously difficult. Acquaintanceship or experience kills and dissolves the unknown, the aesthetic object. From being interesting it becomes unimportant. But this is an inner subjective process. Therefore if we are to work on the problem, we must find a method to keep the interest awake, to preserve our wonderment. However, as scientific truth is precisely the opposite of this, we can only approach it in short lightning visits that leave as few traces as possible, in order to keep the ability for experience awake and vitality intact in us. Life cannot be studied in a cadaver, nor experience in knowledge, nor fire in ashes.

 

Aesthetics as fanaticism and intolerance


 

It is strange that people are so angry with the Jesuits. In a certain sense, everyone who is enthusiastic about an idea and wishes only its realization is to that extent a Jesuit.
– Søren Kierkegaard
Self-forgetfulness versus memory

Burnt children fear the fire, they say, but this is not so for foolish or forgetful children, for what is forgotten is also new. One must thus have a short memory to continue to be a good aesthetician, whilst one must have a long and good memory to be a significant scientist, as science is nothing other than experience, recollection or memory.

Aesthetic understanding is the completely intolerant will or control, the absolute talent. Scientific understanding is complete tolerance, disinterestedness, the all-forgiving lack of talent.

To contain enough of both these characteristics to establish an aesthetic science has not hitherto been vouchsafed anyone, and we would not assert that we have it. We would just like to point out that in any such explanation one has to evaluate whether the passion of the idea is sound and well, and that the necessary experience for this is not achieved through the experience of the art of others and imagined experiences, but only through an intense and conscious experience of the aesthetic and artistic process during its creation, during the transformation of matter to a sphere of interest or art. An aesthetic science must not only be true, it must also be interesting, not just useless ashes but firewood or artistic proficiency.

The need for non-critical experience

Experience is the best teacher.
'Don't talk, artist – create!' they say, and even if it is from time to time necessary to open one's mouth to correct certain misunderstandings, there is something right about this. If only one could then get the artist, and incidentally also the viewer, to stop listening to what people who don't understand art say about it.

'He who will not listen, has to feel,' is another saying, and as feeling is aesthetics precisely, this explains something fundamental: that the aesthetician will not be content with secondhand experiences, but will get into the hard school of the facts themselves. It is the task of aesthetics to confront people constantly with themselves and their own experiences, to get them to feel and believe more in their own feelings and sensations than in the words of others. This Doubting Thomas attitude is neither an expression of lack of faith nor scepsis, but, on the contrary, of an expression of a need for experience without criticism that will realize the idea, the fantasy, the performance and the word in sensory perception. When the aesthetician reads a sign 'The ice is unsafe', then for him this is not just an invitation to see whether the sign is true, but also to see how unsafe ice feels. This is the precondition of aesthetics, development and progress: that one gets on thin ice.

 

Aesthetics as surplus of power or luxury


 

The superfluous, a very necessary thing.
– Voltaire
The aggressivity of the desire for experience

Children and naive, forgetful and inexperienced people have their elemental aesthetic areas intact. They marvel easily and are without routine because of their ignorance. Consequently there is something childish in preserving one's aesthetic need: one's capacity for wonderment, the longing for the new, for possibilities, for following one's impulses, whims, external causes and preambles, the invitations, temptations and provocations of others, the predilection for openings, introductions, beginnings and sketches, one's capacity for impulsive, immediate and unpremeditated action. It is called keeping oneself young.

This initiatory capacity in children and young people with the great possibilities for development is a natural power for growth. It is an aggression or conquest, a reaching out beyond the static ego.

But one must not forget that children, idiots and naive people are also more limited and bigoted than experienced and developed people, because all organisms seek stability, limitation or morals. They therefore have to smash and destroy in order to develop, and as they neither understand nor know nor recognize anything other than their own world, they perceive many of the actions of developed people as meaningless, incomprehensible and unnecessary occupations, as games or secret black magic and wizardry, and will behave accordingly.

If one has absorbed or rejected all the normal skills and knowledge, but has nevertheless preserved one's 'childishness' or need for wonderment, then one will be drawn towards the unknown in human society and become a conqueror, adventurer or researcher in the fabrications of the life of the imagination, the inventions of art life and the discoveries of science, if one does not simply become an oppressor or exploiter of other people.

Surplus of interest

When it comes to aesthetic value, I employ the following main distinction, 'Is it hunger or surplus that has been creative here?'
– Fr. Nietzsche26
We have defined interest as context, and aesthetic interest as the unconnected or meaningless context, the accidental connection, the loose and fleeting interest. If we perceive this aesthetic state as a stage in a process of subjectivizing and concretion, then we come to think of the misty formations of globes in the universe, of clouds of pollen over rye fields, and of the whole of nature's innumerable and sumptuous brood. If this – conception, superfluity, prodigality, munificence, surplus, the voluptuous, luxury, the generous – is identical with the aesthetic principle, how fortunate it was that we noticed from the start the distinction between the aesthetic phenomenon and the treatment that is the lot of the fine arts in modem society, otherwise we would have risked charging the latter with senility.
Hunger is also a sort of surplus.
– A. J.
Creative Hunger (1963)

The Marxist critique of the German philosophy of wretchedness has been misunderstood even by many so-called Marxists. Nietzsche never understood that it is only humanity's hunger that can make a surplus creative. Here also lies the misunderstanding by the Grundtvigians of Grundtvig's idea of spiritual awakening, which is the awakening of spiritual hunger and of dissatisfaction with the given conditions. This awakening was made platonic and anti-poetic and thus became conformation.

Hunger is a subjective surplus of the ability to appropriate something. If this is stronger than the vital surplus, the spectator arises, but no one can give without being able to take. A surplus can be a stupid and conventional ritual and diversion. The creative is based on dissatisfaction and hunger. One can be poor without longing, both spiritually and materially.

 

Aesthetics as absurdity or redundancy


 

Man braucht nicht alles selbst gesehen noch erlebt zu haben; willst du aber dem anderen und seinen Darstellungen vertrauen, so denke, dass du nun mit dreien zu tun hast: mit dem Gegenstand und zwei Subjekten.
– Goethe
The theory of aesthetic luxury

Nevertheless, we find a certain support for this perception of the aesthetic object of art in the elucidations of the French aesthetician Lalo,27 even if he has not elaborated a true theory of aesthetic luxury, which we, in contrast, are going to attempt.

Lalo defines luxury as a 'monetary outlay or an outlay measurable in money that exceeds the necessary, and which, if it necessarily has an effect on other people, never has any altruistic direction at all. It satisfies only a lower (in a moral and social sense) egotistical enjoyment.'

As we wish to objectivize the concept of luxury, even if we strike out that about money, the problem becomes more complicated. We have three factors:

1. The luxury product – the aesthetic, unknown or superfluous object.
2. The luxury producing subject, which produces and liberates itself from it.28
3. The subject receptive to luxury, which absorbs and acknowledges the product.
But, by its nature, the aesthetic product can be neither altruistic nor egotistic, morally or socially, even in the lower degree, but must simply be an independent and thereby in itself impossible force, which does not immediately find a place in the context of necessity, a meaningless absurdity, pure, free action, and thus really matter's futile power of superfluity or luxury. The study of objective aesthetics must first and foremost be the study of excess or irrational effects in context.

Objective luxury

Nothing is so bad, that it is not good for something, and nothing is so good that it is not bad for someone.
The study of the presence of such reactions in the borderlands of atomic physics and universal physics, with the universal totality perceived as a context or subject, would of course demand specialist insight, but is perhaps already indicated in their latest results. At any rate, the possible presence of such new vibrations or irrational movements apparently gives the only logical explanation of the factual development that is happening and has happened in the manifoldness and internal distinction of matter.

Such vibrations are what we call accidents or chance, and, taken as an absolute and independent phenomenon, aesthetics is identical with pure chance or accident. But perceived as effect in an actual context, aesthetics is identical with the game, experiment or play, which is the effect of accident upon the ordered, something we call the meaning of aesthetics.

 

Aesthetics as accident or chance


 

Wild and infinite impulse towards invisible splendours, intangible delights, with their maddening secrets for every vice and their dreadful gaiety for the throng.
– Arthur Rimbaud
The whims of nature

An accident is an event that occurs without demonstrable or calculable reason or purpose, or from causes that lie outside the immediately observed area and are not predetermined through insight or experience in those who experience it. The function of chance is normal and ordinary.

This experimental evolution of the manifoldness of the universe and nature is of such a kind that we could well say that matter in all its regularity is an incurable gambler who never keeps strictly to anything in particular, even to the degree that nature is unable to produce anything unaesthetic or absolutely known at all.

It is a strange fact that even amongst the most elementary crystal forms of the same material no two are ever exactly the same, and none of biology's plant or animal species are able to rear two beings absolutely the same. Just a small thing like the human fingerprint shows how consistent nature is in its function. Experimentation is taking place always and everywhere. Everything is original or personal in nature.

The aesthetic misunderstanding of the rationalists

The mug always wins the first game. Fortune favours the foolish.
It is more than a strange chance that a rationalist like the architect le Corbusier perceives humanity's ability to produce absolutely known or completely unaesthetic things (circles, balls, straight lines etc.) and to ignore aesthetic factors completely in the production of exactly uniform things to be the proof of humanity's superiority over nature.29 In his time, Plato regarded the circle, which according to our definition has to be the most unaesthetic object thinkable (apart from a hospital ward), as the expression of complete beauty. Here the contrast between aesthetic perceptions stands out clearly and elementarily.

According to our perception, this elementary misunderstanding of the essence of aesthetics does not, however, refute the significant fact that, in contrast to nature, humanity is able to cultivate or abstract aesthetics in sheer worthless variation, in change without repercussions, in pure action. This is, however, a process in exactly the opposite direction.

 

Aesthetics as amusement or diversion


 

In play no brotherhood counts,
in war and love any trick does.
Those who are lucky at cards
are unlucky in love.
The play of the chances

Schiller defined aesthetics as play, from which it follows that the aesthetician is the player. In the game of chance for money we have also therefore the most typical parallel to nature's experiment. Everyone invests something, and hereby we have established the basis for aesthetics in human economics. By and large play is regulated, but in the individual fields of interests pure chance rules. Either one wins or one loses everything one has put in. It is all or nothing.

It was important to Dostoevsky, for religious reasons, to find a purely individualistic system in this game of chance, as is the case with the whole of individualistic theology. In our observations, we cannot, however, take account of anything other than the absolute black and white, being or non-being, luck or disaster.

Hereby we have in reality identified the extreme aesthetic with the struggle for life or nature's dramatic principle. Aesthetics at its most extreme is the drama of consequences, as drama has to be defined as the indissoluble conflict or the apparent incompatible opposite.

Utopia or pure mysticism

Man's will is man's heaven.
We have defined the aesthetic as the absolute interesting and contemporaneous, as the impossible. Its opposite is the indifferent, which is nothing and cannot even establish an actual condition of opposition, and yet life is, as the Swedish poet Karl Vennberg has said,30 an unceasing choice between the indifferent and the impossible. But what we want to indicate here is that this choice does not hang floating in the air, but always starts with something, with the actual and the obvious, with existence's ethical synthesis of good and bad, of happiness and unhappiness. In the wheel-of-fortune principle of animatism described in my book Golden Horn and Wheel of Fortune, I have crystallized the basis on which the ecstatic or animating factor we are dealing with here is in a position to act. By themselves, both states are abstractions, since they naturally form an indestructible entity, but humanity has the ability to make this distinction.

Humanity has the ability to play without playing for anything, to put money and interests aside and roll its dice, change its cards, to box and hit one another without any meaning or result at all or with just an inkling of a deeper effort, a context, in order to pass the time. In the world of nature and the universe, this absolute aesthetics or pure amusement, change or diversion, which in the religious idiom is called eternity and blessedness, has no place. It is humanity's utopian capacity and weakness, the aesthetic dream of the freedom of the future. Its creative connection with the existing is called utopia or the free arts.

 

Aesthetics as play or game


 

...a going out of our own nature, and an identification of ourselves with the beautiful, that exists in thought, action or person, not our own. A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pains and pleasures of his species must become his own. Imagination is the instrument by whose help one achieves goodness.
– Percy B. Shelley
Aesthetics is play

Let us just acknowledge that matter plays, that it even plays with humanity, and that this play, which is the apparent accident, is precisely that purposeless and uneconomic expansion of power which creates purposes, possibilities and meanings, the unlimited tendency that creates limitations. We find this tendency or chaotic principle of nature's manifoldness, this changeable and variable play, this playful disorder, everywhere. Regard the gnat swarm circling in the air in its humming dance, or the fishes playing in the water, or the cranes treading their complicated musical ballets, and the otter who amuses himself with making helter-skelters on slimy clay slopes alongside the water.

A quite astonishing perspective is opened up when French archaeologists report that, deep under the earth in the rumbling darkness of the primeval grottos, they have come across traces that show that bears had a helter-skelter on a steep clay slope down to a subterranean lake, where they ended in the cold water with a splash in order to experience the cold shudder that is the extremity of sensation or aesthetics. Bears must be marked aestheticians, for there are to be found photographs of wild bears in Sweden executing a quite peculiar and meaningless dance in the snow after having destroyed a quarry, a phenomenon that Fabre also observed in the world of insects.

The play of animals

On the whole it would be difficult to find a higher animal that does not play and joke in some way or other incomprehensible to us. Just watch the apes in the zoo or any pet, the dog, the cat, the horse, the pig, the cow. How inclined they are to jest and foolery. This play cannot just be perceived as a training or improvement for the struggle for life. For in itself it contains something that causes it to act as life, indeed, as perhaps its most intense and inspiring essence, as renewal. Could we call this aesthetics?

Homo ludens (1963)

There has been speculation about how humanity learned to walk on two legs, and attempts to give the phenomenon a practical explanation. Erik Nyholm's assertion that the first true human apes were singing apes whose developed jaws gave good place for the tongue sounds far more reasonable.31 Song is an incitement to the dance, and this pleasant occupation distinguished humanity from the animals and gradually trained the dancing and singing apes to move lithely on their back legs. This is the creation report on homo ludens.

It is said that humanity wants to be taken in. This is a lie. Humanity wants to play. Play or be played with or to be played for. The opposition between play and earnest is false. Play seems to be the only thing anyone takes really seriously. This is denied because people can then, without hindrance, be played with without their knowledge.

Huizinga has brought out something on this subject in his Homo Ludens of which I unfortunately was not aware when I wrote this book.

 

Aesthetics as intoxication or liberation


 

If all days were holidays, then it would be beautiful to be alive.
The answer becomes a lot easier if we take up the Swedish architect Erik Lundberg's definition of the aesthetic experience. He writes, 'Art offers riches and intensity in the sensations, a strong consciousness of living and being. All your essence, your organism, functions in a special way, in agreement with itself, as a unit. An uplifting of the mind that offers great and deep satisfaction, that incites and extends our abilities in different ways. Perhaps above all there is in such experiences an extension of the senses, of the ability to understand more fully than otherwise, to embrace a bigger piece of 'reality'.'

Could the essence of play be explained more distinctly or more completely? This identity between natural play and artistic aesthetics can hardly be explained away, even more so when, purely linguistically, there exists that intermixing of the concepts of play and game, where they are utilized indiscriminately; play of colours, ball game, play football, play of weapons, play of strings, play the stock market, play the game, etc.

Freedom and intoxication

From children and drunken folk shall one hear the truth.
The Swedish psychologist Rolf Lagerborg perceives the aesthetic experience as the shudder of sensation, 'le frisson', a physical reaction comprising all forms of transport or intoxication, the elated, ecstatic, but fleeting or cursory flare of life, rapture, love or infatuation, as the fascinating element in all sport, play, drinking, bliss and idealism.

This musical sense of eternity is often perceived as a flight, far from reality and life, from the prosaic facts. This is, however, only the case where it is the unartistic or passive intoxication of opium, but is also true to a similar high degree for the 'down-to-earth' realist, who does not wish to change anything at all because he dare not believe in longing, hope and dream.

Bacchus, Dionysius, Liber and our Nordic Frø all personify this ancient principle of intoxication or natural aesthetics which is, indeed, the divine origin of the concept of freedom itself. But it is very significant to point out that these are above all symbols of fertility, work, love and libation, showing that true freedom to consist of liberation into life, not of freeing oneself from life, as is normally maintained in the modem presupposition of unproductive independence, where freedom means passivity.

Humanity's elemental freedom is subjective self-dependence or freedom of action, which is just the opposite of independence. Independence is aesthetic freedom – nothing less.

 

Aesthetics as celebration, variety or experiment


 

Freedom is at its most profound in the human being, the need for freedom, the struggle for the independece of the self, the maintenance of the ego's subjectivity. Therefore we struggle. And if the ego's struggle is so strong that it follows us into dreams, it lives silently in the unconscious as a layer of inexplicable strength, to break out suddenly, to split itself into images fostered by our brain, materialized by our gaze, feasible to our senses.
– Hulda Lütken32
Joke and earnest

We began so solemnly and now we are ending in tomfoolery and games and gaiety. How can that be? Simply by pursuing the truth. But the truth is also that gaiety is the most serious and momentous thing in our existence. We feel that the fanatical missionary lay preachers are right in their criticism of the frivolity and futility of life. However, we draw just the opposite conclusion, that we do not want to eschew it, but seek it out, understand and utilize it.

One day some naive young people in Holland went to a functionalist architect. They said, 'We want to make a new town for ourselves. Will you draw it for us?' This he did, and when they saw the drawing their spokesman, who had travelled a little, said, 'It is a lovely town, but I was once in Berlin and there they have a street called the Friedrichsstrasse, with every possible entertainment. This is lacking here.' The architect did not understand what he meant, for he began to explain how prostitution and swindle and perversion and morbidity and decay were the background for these dazzling facades. He did not understand that the whole town should have been a Friedrichsstrasse, full of variety and celebration.

Work and sport

The rose's thorns wound the heart.
Then out runs the blood.

– C.J.L. Almqvist
One ought to say that 'red roses grow from sorrow and anger,33 but one says the opposite. Nothing demands greater strength and gravity than to take things lightly. If one does not understand this then one will never come to understand the essence of aesthetics and, what is worse, the very conditions of human life in nature.

Variety, celebration and amusement are the essence of aesthetics, and the human being finds the richest form of diversion in productive work. It is a widespread misunderstanding that work in modem machine industry is incompatible with beauty. Rene Clair's film Vive la liberte, in which a number of workers in a gramophone factory are treated like automatons, is typical of this perception. Finally the factory is modernized so that it can be maintained by a couple of men, pleasurably placed in armchairs, whilst all the other workers are given their leisure time, which they immediately utilize for – work, though with a greater chance of a useful effect than the fabrication of gramophones, as they begin to fish with lines in a nearby river – but, nevertheless!

Let us not here concentrate on the grotesque paradox that lies in the joyless entertainment industry, and in the lack of the aesthetic in work that is not free. It yields money and that says everything. On the other hand, there would probably be grounds to indicate that sport, which represents such an energy-consuming factor in our time, acts in many ways as a remote destroyer of human power, where the animating factor never achieves transformation into happiness or true satisfaction, into artistic expansion.

He who can unite the useful with the pleasant gets all the votes, it is said, but if these two elements could be united with renewal, then humanity's greatest problem really would be solved.

Conscious play or experiment

He who never does ill, will never do well, and whoever suffers no evil, shall no good expect.
The unknown is facilitated into the existence of humanity first and foremost through humanity's own conscious and unconscious actions, through ourselves. Artistic and scientific play are not called games, but experiments, and it is through these experiments that renewal comes, both to nature and to humanity. In science, the conscious scientific method has come to be recognized everywhere as the most effective form of working, whilst artistic development still creeps up on people, because they turn their backs on it instead of seeking it face to face. Apart from certain technical experiments, no real foundation can be found for a conscious artistic experiment, not even for a consciousness of this experiment's independent and primary position. The demand for the immediate applicability and value of art still stands, with its critical censorship of quality as the official barrier to artistic renewal, so making this unnecessarily difficult.

Paranoiac or aesthetic criticism

The ships were superficial. That they stayed on the surface was the source of their power, and for ships the greatest danger is going to the bottom. They were there and hollow and this hollowness was the secret and gestalt of their being. The deep slaved for them as long as they remained hollow. A wave of happiness lifted Charlie's heart with this thought. He laughed in the darkness.
– Karen Blixen
Empirical criticism, which seeks to establish scientific experience as the criterion of action, has, strangely enough, an aesthetic counterpart in the Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dali's theory about paranoiac-critical activity, controlled fanaticism or logical shock. When one looks at this artist's pictures, it is very clear that they in no way represent a renewal, but just a reshaping, reform or stationary change of existent phenomena, a variation upon a given theme. Let us therefore once and for all maintain the unavoidable fact that real renewal, thematic or extreme aesthetics must reject any criticism and be pure and unbeautiful experiment, be itself.

 

Aesthetics as superficial incompleteness


 

I see that nature is only a display of kindness... Farewell,... ideals, errors...
Reason is born in me. The world is good. I will bless life. I will love my brothers...
I keep my place at the top of this angelic ladder of good sense.
As for established happiness, domestic or not... no, I cannot. I am too dissipated, too weak. Life flowers in work: ...as for me, my life is not substantial enough, it flies away, floating beyond action, that dear focus of the world.

– Arthur Rimbaud
Aesthetics and evolutionary theory

We have attempted here in broad outline to specify a new aesthetic definition and demonstrate its antagonistic relationship to the earlier series of perceptions. We have defined the subject as the sphere of interest, with ethics as its exclusive principle and aesthetics its inclusive principle, and have attempted to demonstrate that this mechanism is a natural phenomenon, the condition for all differentiation and elaboration of matter. Here we could refer to Spencer's demonstration that the tendency of natural evolution towards greater differentiation and greater unity is identical with the classical requirement upon aesthetics for the harmony of manifoldness.

The requirement of classical aesthetics is thus in reality nothing other than the requirement for a natural evolution. Our deplorable task is to demonstrate the unfortunately unavoidable fact that no real evolution can immediately seem 'natural' or harmonious.

So it becomes our task to investigate how the harmonization of this disharmonious, changing and diverting phenomenon can take place and how it arises and is facilitated.

The relativity of height

From bad habits come good laws.
Modern mathematical physics has created a new world picture, where concepts like up and down, forward and backward are not absolute, but relative in relation to centres. Today this perception demands that in our attitude to life we too critically revise our concepts and clarify for ourselves that both in social and cultural life, concepts of sublimation like 'higher endeavour', 'higher classes', and 'higher interests' are completely antiquated, because people have discovered that what is called lower in relation to these, could with equal correctness be called higher. When we today say 'up north and down south', we know that we could just as well say the opposite, and that of course one cannot build in one direction without at the same time building in the opposite direction. This pendulum movement of life is what the poet Jens August Schade is talking about when he says that one can sink so deep that one begins to sink upwards, that one must be able to go back to go forward. Aesthetic ability consists in precisely this, in mobility, the empathic, in being prepared to accept all eventualities. Some will call the aesthetic area the top, others perhaps the root, but in reality it is everywhere in the periphery of the sphere of interest, everywhere in the surface, and everywhere as a fermenting force or a vital salt in the depths, in the centre. Where it is smothered, everything becomes dead and clammy.

The aesthetics of banality

He who sets parrot-like coloured images and expressions crudely against each other without fusion, and compares the noble with the coarse, the everyday with the high, will probably manage to be remembered, but will be laughed at as a makeweight.
– Georg Brandes
This activity of keeping the old young and tradition fresh is often forgotten when one talks of renewal, even though it is the precondition for true renewal. On the other hand, it is also perceived by many to be the only requisite. It is believed that one can continue to drive round in a closed circle of interest and stop the salt losing its savour.

Aesthetic criticism or the doctrine of exclusivity works like a tree dead in the centre and only alive in the bark, in extreme refinement. Then one shouts at 'critics who have so much ability that they can retrospectively conquer and give rebirth to the old expressions', as Søren Kierkegaard puts it, instead of simply maintaining a natural simplicity and unambiguity, an ability to sense the intimacy of the banalities in life. Apart from this, these so-called critics only destroy and never refresh what is destroyed by exclusive aesthetics limited by convention. This can only be done by the artist who experiences everything afresh, the popular artist, and when the point where this should be sought has been reached, then one believes that one can revert to the past instead of understanding that one is grasping what is central by its middle.

The sheen of memory

A remembered vital state has already gone into eternity and has no temporal interest anymore.
– Søren Kierkegaard
There is a fundamental difference between the aesthetic need for the immediate, the authentic, the direct experience, and the belief in the reality of the dream of the past, the Elysian Golden Age without passions and disharmony. If one is not clear that in working with the past it becomes clad with contemporary problems, and that it is these and not the image that is the true actuality of the figure of the past, and that in the past we cannot see other than what has a relation to our own situation, then all this will result in is the deplorable aesthetic infiltration of Romanticism.

Of course, we are far from wanting to deny the great significance of the past, recollection, memory, as the reverberation of the experience. We will not deny the colossal significance of the past in our world of beauty, nor the necessity of keeping our history alive. We would just like to point out that if we do this, then the past is more than history: then it becomes context, the present. And we just wish to stress that it is not here that aesthetics begins, but it is here that it has to end, that here we are just at the beginning, and, indeed, that this has been our intention all along: to make a beginning, to write an introduction or a foreword.

 

Aesthetics as sensation and sensuality


 

The stomach must accept what pleases the mouth.
The seen depends upon the eyes that see.
Sensory objectivity

Knowing something means having felt, sensed, experienced, perceived or been united with this 'something'. We therefore maintain that the definition of the aesthetic experience as the knowledge of the unknown is in all ways authentic, natural and logical. But what is this something?

What is the sensory object? It was originally believed that there was directly 'das Ding an sich', or the surrounding world in itself, but gradually has come the recognition that not only the secondary sensory qualities like colour, taste, smell, sound, warmth etc., but also the primary sensory qualities like extent, form, movement, length etc. are subjectively conditioned qualities. However, as we do not perceive the subject as 'the conscious ego', as is generally the case, but simply as a sphere of interest or a viewpoint in matter, and thus not as something outside this world but as something both of and in it. So we must also perceive sensory qualities as having objective validity, as subjectivity cannot mean pure imagination or 'non-being', which can be learned from the fact that those who are born blind cannot be given conceptions of colour. We perceive sensory qualities as existence or the world seen from a particular viewpoint, from which the collaboration of our senses then attempts to create as comprehensive and objective a picture as possible. Consequently, we have to appropriate or subjectivize matter in the most comprehensive way in order to be able to recognize it as an object. This direct dedication is the aesthetic activity.

Sensuality and sensibility. Sentiment and sensitive spheres of interest

We view and rework matter from different viewpoints, from innumerable viewpoints, and some of these can be grouped into that common viewpoint we can call the aesthetic. Our task is to indicate some characteristics of this grouping. We have defined the viewpoint as the ego and this is thus to say that our ego is put together from several egos, which again are bundles or groupings of subjectivity, and if we cast a glance at biology and sociology, we see that we are parts of bundles or groups not only as individuals, but that even sides of our nature, our character, our mind, temperament, life blood or sentiment are connected with similar phenomena outside us.

In this sentiment we have the puzzle of life or biology itself, as we are here confronted by a sensitive sphere of interest that is not only able to facilitate and reproduce itself but which produces, renews and develops itself possessing an active will or a system of energy.

The vitality or energy system of an organism is based upon an antagonistic relationship between power and tension. This is what we call sensuality or sensibility, its openness and closeness, its capacity for aesthetic or sensory extension, and its capacity for ethical or critical economy.

 

Aesthetics as free will, hope or passion


 

Poetry turns all things to loveliness; it exalts the beauty of that which is most beautiful, and it adds beauty to that which is most deformed: it marries exultation and horror, grief and pleasure, eternity and change; it subdues to union under its light yoke all reconcilable things. ...its secret alchemy turns to potable gold the poisonous waters which flow from death through life; it strips the veil of familiarity from the world, and lays bare the naked and sleeping beauty which is the spirit of its forms.
– Percy B. Shelley
This tension or opposition between the need for expansion and resistance, between passion and inhibition, between will and ability, creates reflexes, customs, urges and conduct, intention, resolution or what could be called the bound or organic will.

Free will

Surplus sensuality of no particular use to the organism is thus identical to what is called free will, independent vitality, unrestrained passion, or the free aesthetic principle, desire. Sensibility, on the other hand, forms the subjective environment, the circle of interest with its critical reaction of irritability, sensory tensions and vulnerability or sensitivity and testiness, together with the capacity for pain and exclusivity, for closing-up or strain, for concentration, centralization, the static or ethical principle, which is the environment of the will.

The vitality of the will

Laughter and tears belong in the same bag.
There is a fondness for calling this capacity for self-control and criticism the life of the will, but it is easy to see that this only forms its negative although necessary precondition, so to speak. For even if the absolutely unbiased sensitivity or acritical outpouring of sensual power only results in disembodied and impotent slackness, we must, however, assert that the antagonistic relationship often set up between desire and will is rubbish. It is desire that drives the work. Will is desire, but desire only becomes vital and powerful if it is organized, sensitized.

In a lack of concentration or 'dissipation', Emerson saw the elemental hindrance to the expansion of the heroic, to what we here will call the extreme aesthetic. How can that be? It is simply a question of vitality and possibilities. The instant an amoeba or bacillus possesses a surplus of energy in relation to the possibilities its structural make-up, its ethics, encompasses, then it becomes aggressive and begins a process of exclusion of an organic character. It splits. But if the capacity for concentration had not been present in what was excluded, then it would not have formed a new organism. Free or unusable vitality is only purely aesthetic in the period before it begins to form the new organism, but if this is beyond its capacity then the surplus is transformed to loss. Therefore the aesthetic is that which is before it really is, the unborn, the possibility, hope.

Passion and suffering – medicine and poison

Thus this facilitating process in the matter we call an organism is conceived in a light and lascivious atmosphere as something luxurious and popular: thus it grows and gathers in passionate pain and is born in suffering and blood. If one has a bent for compassion, one could say with Strindberg, that 'This is sad for the people', but the unshakable fact is that it is the unavoidable law of natural evolution, of society and personal development. It is consequently exactly the same phenomenon that invokes desire and pain, pleasure and distaste, beautiful and ugly, good and bad. These antagonistic relationships of reactions are only conditioned by the organism's capacity in relation to the degree of influence. What heals a smith can, as is often said, kill a tailor, and what in a particular quantity is poison, in a lesser quantity is medicine. If one possesses a love for humanity, one can try to ameliorate and utilize the effect of these facts. Indeed, one can even become an opponent of all evolution or simply deny its reality. But it can never wipe out the truth in Shakespeare's famous words, 'Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety.'34

Sensual 'decadence'

We know this phenomenon from communal life. When a form or framework of society begins to be too narrow to be able to utilize the powers it has produced, then detached and unusable energy begins to flow around in the body of that society, an energy that has the character of pure sensuousness or nature. The societal organism initially attempts to destroy this energy, but possibly cannot do so in relation to its own production. Over-production of energy grows and begins to explode and break down the structure of society like a pent-up rage, an anarchy, a nihilism, that at once seeks its own form, its nature, and seeks the abolition of its own state of unnecessariness, detachment and anarchy. This is the commencement stage of renewal.

If we are here getting into an area which be longs in a later chapter, then it is only to reckon with the current theory of degeneration, for which this stage is often mistaken, as the detached energies are perceived as a 'decadent' factor rather than it being understood that it is precisely the detachment that creates renewal and that this detachment is conditioned by the framework being too narrow for the vital force, and thus discardable. This stage can ostensibly have a stamp of depravation in its demand for a 'return to nature'. But for that environment of pastoral poetry and so-called' depraved sensualism' we know from the luscious erotic art in post-Hellenic Egyptian and Sicilian cultural circles, in Provençal Gothic troubadour song, from the coquettish pastorals of the rococo, and in Baudelaire's fin de siècle, for them all and out into the future, the validity of Shelley's words stands: 'Had that corruption availed so as to extinguish in them the sensibility to pleasure, passion and natural scenery, which is imputed to them as an imperfection, the last triumph of evil would have been achieved.' The peace of death would have mastered life's motion.

 

Aesthetics as spirituality, sickness or neurosis


 

...a person to whom the sickness of his passions gives a strength to think and feel that a healthy person does not possess.
– Søren Kierkegaard
Now and then health comes through sickness.
Nerve and brain

The nervous system is the coordinating or associating organ that forms the organism and facilitates contact with the surrounding world. It both keeps the internal rhythmic cycle or metabolism in motion and organizes the receptive and productive metabolic conditions with the surrounding world. The nervous system is the sensory apparatus of the organism, and in this the brain has the special aesthetic function of reacting to unknown and remarkable sensory or sensational perceptions, whilst the routine sensory perceptions and organic sensations are looked after by the rest of the nervous system. The brain is a sensory apparatus that can collect and conserve unaccustomed impressions in what we call consciousness in the form of knowledge and experience, but the brain is more than a collector and reflector, it digests, coordinates and associates the impressions from our intellectual horizon to a range of ideas, an idea world, intellectual life, the intellect or the thoughts, and converts these ideas into action impulses which are called conscious action, in contrast to reflexes or unconscious habitual actions. In the biological respect, the brain has received and developed all humanity's surplus aesthetic power, and this gives the human being its special position in nature.

Aesthetics and neurosis

Unusable energies and unconnected sensory perceptions create a state of sickness which act on the organism as a nervous suffering, a neurosis, both in the personality and in society. To create development would therefore be to provoke a neurosis and thereafter conquer it. This is the aesthetic activity, the creation of tension and relief, of obsession and thoughts of compulsion and liberation, of take-off or leap.

'It is my opinion that all aesthetic desire, for which the poets prepare us, has this character of "anticipatory desire" and that all true enjoyment of the work of the poets comes from being liberated from tensions in our psychic life,' says Sigmund Freud.

However, we maintain that this relaxation, this psycho-therapeutic or relaxing effect of art, is secondary in relation to its exciting, renewing and refreshing effect. Art can act as a surrogate for life, but this ersatz effect is not a 'sublimation to a higher plane'. Only as a true 'anticipatory desire', an inclination or an invitation to dance, does aesthetics fulfil its true mission. Only the day we have liberated ourselves from the perception of aesthetics as an averting measure, a diverting manoeuvre or a proxy function, and see it for what it is, a vital function in the human, social and natural context, will it be able to act for humanity in accordance with our wishes.

 

I am just a person with clay feet


 

I look down at my feet: They are alive, my feet!
They have conquered death!
So life is stronger than death!
My feet have risen from the dead!

– Hulda Lütken
The story goes that Achilles' divine mother Thetis washed him in the River Styx to free him from the mortal attributes she obviously possessed herself since she no longer exists, but the heel by which she had held him was not submerged. Because of this Achilles' heel, men are both mortal and immortal. We find the same parable in the story of the expulsion from Paradise.

This ancient image of perfect imperfection and the fragmentary essence of the independent illuminates the corruptibility of the transcendental, the weak point of the elements in their relationship to the unknown, just as it also shows the effect of the unknown upon men and their ideals, which we in this book would call the aesthetic effect, the Achilles' heel of matter and humanity, the unknown.

For the individualistic Hellenes, the death of the individual was a tragedy, and the death of institutions as well as ideas a catastrophe. For Plato, therefore, aesthetics was, as it is for so many Platonists, an abomination, later described more humanely by Christendom as original sin.

On more profound and intelligent consideration, however, the Achilles' heel loses the forbidding appearance it surely did not have originally. If the essence of nature and humanity is understood, then one discovers that the death of the single individual, indeed, his sickness unto death, is merely the condition that has to be created for the beginning of new life, and that the sentence 'One man's death, another man's bread' is just an expression of cultural continuity containing nothing at all repulsive. On the contrary it is an affirmation of life, if the individual is allowed to live out his time and carry on his life's work. From this bloody Achilles' heel grows not death but life, fertilization and renewal. When I am dead, another shall have my bread.

However, throughout the generations we have found it difficult to allow men to develop freely. Another Achilles story is told in the sagas. This is about the renowned and great artist Wayland Smith, the Nordic Hephaistos, who could shape the most beautiful jewellery in gold. King Nidud wished to utilize this ability, so he captured Wayland, crushed both his feet and placed him on an island to prevent him running away.

So Wayland fabricated ornaments for the king, but avenged himself first by killing the king's two sons when they came to visit, then by raping the king's daughter Bødvild. Then he turned himself into a bird with the help of a magic ring and flew to the king's house, where he expressed his scorn for the king in a song telling of his terrible revenge, which Bødvild had to confirm before he flew off

With these examples, we wish only to point out the risk that is the essence of aesthetics, the danger of our treatment of the unknown. Let us state that aesthetics is a sickness in the universe, in nature and amongst men, not a decadence of age but a sickness of birth, a mortal risk, a sickness to life felt as an eternal longing, which must therefore never be eradicated, but always and unceasingly cured in the same way as we cure our thirst and our hunger. A children's disease, one could perhaps call it, but it is a children's disease which keeps us young as long as we have it, because it is called hope.

Where there is life, there is hope, they say, but it ought to be the opposite, for it is hope that creates life. Therefore aesthetics is the doctrine of eternal aspiration, the eternal process of creation.

About fifty years ago, Strindberg sat in Paris and found his inferno in the attempt to prove the unity of matter, convinced that the elements are not, as science was maintaining at that time, incompatible and indivisible terminal points, but that matter is a coherent fluid whole, a subject, and that everything that exists apprehends and in its innermost being knows everything else, is everything else, is really only the same thing in different states. Now every scientist in the world has to admit he was right, but that will give him no pleasure.35

Today we acknowledge Strindberg's perception, but here we nevertheless pose the opposite postulate: that there is a tendency in matter that functions towards exclusivity, exclusion, ignorance and incomprehensibility, towards the attraction to border regions, towards dissolution, towards fog-formation, and that precisely this dissolving activity is necessary for the sake of unity, that in its time the Tower of Babel really could not be completed because men knew each other all too well, with everyone doing and saying exactly the same thing. Therefore they were separated so that each could learn something the other could not and pronounce words that the other could not say or understand, so that when they got together and got to know each other again, then they could build the Tower of Babel.

We are interested neither in gold nor in the transmutation of base metals to gold. Therefore we will not create an inferno for ourselves by beginning with alchemy or attempting to prove our assertions scientifically. We just want to demonstrate something, to attempt to open a new perspective, for no one can demand that leaves and branches in bud should have the same form as in the grown plant. This is against the nature of growth. It is enough for us to plant a seed and see that is viable. For us art is more important than science, and if our work is able to open new perspectives for artistic activity and understanding, let this be a proof of the depth of renewal, though Hell is made hot for us. We ourselves could not think of doing this unnecessarily.

We will not, however, retreat for anything, will not put off these problems, as is usually done, but will take them in their natural order and look cheerfully to the future. Incidentally it is strange that when one begins to talk about the future it always ends in wicked threats. It is as if wickedness belongs to the future. Let us, therefore, as we are abandoning ourselves to this perspective, understand that the future we are talking of in such cases, is, in all its harshness and savagery, just the dragon stem of the present's ship and not the sea that we are navigating.36

There was once a man with great aesthetic abilities, a seer who could look into the future, and what he saw at the farthest extreme was terrible. The Deluge and Judgement Day approached, a Ragnarok was to break loose and destroy all,37 the most terrible catastrophes, civil wars and disasters would wipe out humanity. The end of the world was nigh.

And he loved humanity and therefore thought in his heavy sorrow; 'They shall and must know the truth.' So he shut himself in his chamber and wrote and wrote this awful account born of the most frightful agony of soul. At last the work was finished and he went out into the street and stopped an acquaintance to say, 'You must listen to me. I have written down a frightful message. Judgement Day will soon come for us all, and now it must be made known to every person on the earth.'

His friend stared in surprise at him and answered, 'Judgement Day, but that was on Wednesday.' 'That is strange,' said the man. 'That day I was so immersed in describing the dreadful things I glimpse are coming that I noticed nothing at all. So I can just as well burn all I have written.'

'No,' answered his friend. 'You must not do that, for it is Judgement Day far more often than you suspect.'

To write is to hold Judgement Day over oneself.
– Henrik Ibsen

Scientific and artistic aesthetics


I have been enthusiastic about the natural sciences and still am. Yet it seems to me that I will not make them my main study. I have always been most interested in life on the strength of reason and freedom: to solve the puzzles of life has constantly been my wish.
– Søren Kierkegaard
The perception of the aesthetic element in existence we have just sketched is only valid, of course, if it can be united with the rest of the concept-world we have built up for the recognition of modem culture. We would therefore like to follow up in brief some of the consequences that our aesthetic perception has for our attitude to science, art, philosophy and culture.

The definition of science

Everything we know is a reworked result of direct sensations or physical contact with matter, of what we call experience. To experience is to sense. If this sensation has the character of a purely impersonal and observant absorption of sensory impressions, the gathering of knowledge through analytical experience, then this belongs to the scientific activity, as we define science simply as what a subject knows at any given time.

The scientific approach to the recognition of 'das Ding an sich' is called objective or disinterested knowledge, and it is the task of pure science to order, broaden, extend and renew this knowledge, to obtain new knowledge, to make the unknown known. The usual method of research to achieve scientific results is aloof discernment, observation, because, as is well-known, the mote in a brother's eye can be seen more easily than the beam in one's own, as one is blinded by the ego, the subject or personal interest. Consequently there occurs in the scientific process a far-reaching denial of personality, an exteriorization of interest or by-passing of ego, a self-effacement or lack of ego during observation. This is the scientific method.

But, of course, such disinterested research presupposes in the researcher a deep-going interest in and an ability for this activity, a form of aesthetic temperament, otherwise he would not be able to start.

The scientific perception of art

The public is a man who knows everything but can do nothing.
We have thus defined science as our knowledge, and the requirement for a definition of art which places the artistic activity in relation to the scientific activity now intrudes.

The French author Zola perceived art as nature seen through a temperament, and thus a form of knowledge, but science is also nature seen through a temperament. Seeing is a temperamental thing and absolute objectivity is an abstraction or an abstracting of a particular side of our relation to nature. Consequently we are here confronted with an identification of art and science, the scientific perception of art or Naturalism.

The technical definition of art

Art is a way of life.
– Johannes Holbek38
But what do we mean by the word art, when we introduce it here in our investigation? As a rule it can only mean the production of what are called 'good pictures', or be the expression of 'the fine arts' as a whole. Here, however, we would like to use the word in a far more comprehensive and existential sense, the original sense, which also still has validity as the expression of ability on the whole: the art of cooking, the art of smithing, the art of calculating, the art of war, etc. There is even talk of the art of horseplay,39 so we are not even limiting the concept to the human world, but would maintain that the concept of art in its original and widest sense describes what an organism can do, what it is capable of doing or is able to do, its ability, and thus the manifestation of subjectivity.

Hereby we have determined the realistic, natural and ethical perception of art by means of ability, knowhow, knowledge.

The aesthetic definition of art

Die Kunst gibt nicht das sichtbare wieder, sondern macht sichbar.
– Paul Klee
Finally we have a third perception of art that maintains that art is what one cannot do, for, as Robert Storm Petersen says,40 If one could do it then it would not be art. This aesthetically anti-artistic, unnatural or idealistic definition of art appears on closer inspection to be just as true and justified as the other two, for if there were no one at all who could do it, who could not even just think of being able to do it or have the possibility of doing it, then it would not even be aesthetic but simply nothing. The aesthetic is the call or the artistic yearning.

Aesthetic art is, in its widest sense, what an organism or a circle of interest cannot do but wants to be able to do, does not do but wants to do, comes to do or at least could think of doing, the introduction of the unknown to the known. Aesthetic art is in its widest sense the subjective possibility of perfection: Das ich an sich.

As far as humanity is concerned, this represents the absolute ego, an abstraction or extraction of the same kind as the scientific, although in the opposite direction, an object-repudiating extension of the ego: an opposition, conscious of the future, to scientific experience or consciousness of the past, Here we have set up a triple opposition between the scientific, the artistic-ethical and the unartistic-aesthetic. We will attempt to perceive this opponent condition between what are normally called Naturalism, Realism and Idealism as a collaborative unity.

The aesthetic perception of art


Even to this day all the world's rational grounds have not been successful in overcoming the deep sympathetic empathy in nature. Our body rises involuntarily at the sight of the noble pine. Before the leaping and falling beam of water our hand describes a wavy line. Our steps match the rhythm of the melody we hear. Sounds fill us and awaken feelings in the depths of our heart. The external world constantly finds an echo in our inner being, and the worn out soul of humanity always beats strongly under the impressions of the nature surrounding and shaping it.
– H Taine41
The opposition between art and science

From this perception, it is quite evident that art has to stand in a clear opponent relationship to science, even though this too represents a sort of ability, an anti-artistic or ego-less ability.

If science is the objective analysis of matter, then art is just the opposite, the subjective synthesis with matter. Nature reworked by an interest or a temperament? Das Ding fur mich.

Artistic ability is perceived as the ability to intercede, the organic experience, the vital experience or sympathetic insight, the result of the knowledge achieved by, for example, eating and digesting a piece of bread, our subjective value-recognition, as opposed to science's chemical, physiological and social analysis of the bread's relationship to the human being, which does not even necessitate that a piece of bread has ever been tasted or that the need to do so has ever been felt.

In its method, this counter-scientific process of subjectivizing must be anti-objective self-assertiveness. For depth of sympathetic insight, a rule opposite to the one controlling objective analysis is valid. This can be expressed in the saying, 'A splinter in your own behind feels stronger than a sword-thrust in your brother's back.' Here is the extension of interest or the ego-sensation, which through magnanimity or fellow feeling creates understanding in accordance with the extent of the subjectivity.

Artistic aesthetics

Du gleichst dem Geist, den du begreifst.
– Goethe
If objective research is the aesthetic area of science, then the sympathetic development of the feeling for the context of interest is the ethical area of art, according to the perception that ethics is extended egoism or egoistic altruism, the foundation for realistic morality. Artistic aesthetics is the renunciation of this self-satisfied, controlled cycle of habits in favour of a self-forgetfulness, which, in opposition to the ego-less impersonal and self-effacing self-denial, is an acritical self-expansion and self-assertion extending the self or the ego to include others as well: the development of association and solidarity, which is the only possible artistic and ethical basis of reality.
Poetry that just reassures stands in no danger of going outside the limits of art. It is always occupied with antiquated ideas. Poetry that awakens (the dramatic – A.J.) is otherwise, it stands in a very serious danger of being so personally intrusive, so disquieting and aggressive that it stops making the impression of art.
– Georg Brandes
Thus we see that the conflicting perceptions of art are far from absolute in their mutual enmity, that, on the contrary, they advance and provoke each other as stages in a process of production, mutually enriching and fertilizing each other through the tension of the opposition liberated as dominance according to the changing demands of the development.

Idealism, realism and naturalism

A man who wishes to mutilate himself is truly damned, is that not so? I believe that I am in hell, so there I am.
– Arthur Rimbaud
In the Middle Ages, the philosophical opposition was divided between nominalism which formed the starting point for modern or naturalistic science, and realism, which later split into the two oppositions idealism and realism (materialism). For practical reasons we have here replaced the word 'materialism' in this connection with the word realism, as they are often used indiscriminately, and we will use the concept of dialectic materialism as the expression of the system that unites idealism, realism and naturalism in a connected mobile system with its point of departure in what we in daily speech call reality, the present or the state of the moment. This last concept can only have an objective and current meaning, but when attached to an object it becomes the expression of its culmination, its perfect stage as type. In this way its future is identical with its possibilities, and its past identical with its accomplished experiences, so the aesthetic stage becomes a subject's introductory stage and the empirical stage the final one. This youthful or aesthetic stage is characterized by its self-over-valuation, where the stomach becomes full before the eyes, the interest and the will are greater than the ability, thereby creating an overwrought state or active inferiority complex, whilst the final stage is characterized by its self-under-evaluation, when the eyes tire before the stomach, interest is less than ability and creates a blasé and passive feeling of superiority, which thus is the real degenerative and moribund stage, even though in the course of life it is just as necessary and therefore just as valuable a stage as all the others. Thus we see that the understanding and thereby the dedication, recognition and utilization of our aesthetic definition really presupposes the recognition of a completely new philosophical system, of which the aesthetic is just a detail. But it would also be remarkable if something completely new was able to occur within the given frameworks.


Aesthetics as drama, illusion or idealism


True depression is like the vapours. It is only found in the highest circles.
– Søren Kierkegaard
Epic, poetry and drama42

We have shown that the fine arts stretch over three outer points:

1. Naturalism or the art of epic memory, which we most characteristically find in novels, journalism and documentary pictorial representations (film etc.).

True naturalism is descriptive art. Through words, painting and sculpture, the human being is able to create objects which give humanity the illusion of other objects. This can be done so disappointingly that we believe that we are confronted by the things we are imagining. If this happens, we have an example of the purely metaphysical or idea, as the actual object is not sensed. Only the illusion is left. The medieval realists perceived this illusion as true reality. But from a materialistic perception, it is a misunderstanding to mix things and ideas.

2. Realism or the art of poetic demonstration, which unfurls itself strongest in dance, song and architecture, and gives the most authentic and immediate expression of the human existence.

3. Idealism or the art of dramatic illusion, which has its strongest expression in the theatre, which is a purely human conception or form of fantasy. As precisely the aesthetic is the subject of our attention, the theatrical sensation in its various phases and nuances becomes, as the extreme aesthetic-artistic manifestation, the main subject of our attention, though both music and pictorial art, which are the most elastic and comprehensive kinds of art, come into this area too.

Tragedy and comedy

The best is the enemy of the good, and the good is the enemy of the best.
What is the dramatic? It is dualism or fissure, the conflict between what is and what would be. Herbert Spencer calls tragedy 'a generalization (or law) destroyed by a (new) fact'. One could also say like Kierkegaard that 'the tragic is really that an infinite spirit has been conjured into existence': the conflict between 'the law of the future and the duty of fidelity' in relation to the laws of the present, as Georg Brandes calls it. The strangest thing is, however, that it is exactly this same law and setting out of the problem that form the basis for the comic principle. The effect is just less and the conflict lighter. At a particular point, sensual pleasure gives off its fiery warmth in a consuming and destructive blaze. Thus tragedy is really just a comedy that has become too big, that has grown out of all proportion.

Gambler versus cynic (1963)

Behind the area of tragedy and comedy lies the endless field of the true gambler, where everything can be lost and won, where life and death are no longer the measure of good and bad, where the Viking dies with a joke on his lips, and where absurdity becomes a value.

The gambler's first step towards a sound social morality goes via cynicism, which at the very least is the science of how one protects one's own skin without regard for others, and is thus a sort of morality and reason. The cynic must therefore be placed higher on the stairway of morality than the gambler, the aesthetic artist. When Poul Henningsen fights artistic cynicism with the demand for quality, he forgets the most important thing in artistic creation, that something has to be staked, that something must be ventured. Without this wager, art is just traditional technique.

The perfect crime

This is the supreme justice of the gods.
To the border of crime they lead our steps.
They let us commit it but do not forgive it.

– Racine
An action that breaks the law is called a crime. All drama is crime, and the perfect crime, the absolute drama, must be the tragedy, where not only the hero and the villain but also the actors and the public as well as the theatre vanish in annihilation, the absolute destruction, where no sacrifice, criminal, witnesses or testimony are left. This is absolute, pure aesthetics, the absolute suicide. But it is precisely the essence of drama that it can never be absolute, for then there is nothing. Someone must survive. The tragic is thus what one believes is legal, but which is shown to be a crime, or the opposite – what one believes to be a crime and is treated as a crime, but which then afterwards is shown to be legal – what one believes is reasonable, but which is revealed to be a meaninglessness and absurdity – and what one judges to be meaninglessly sick and absurd but which is revealed too late as reasonable, sound and normal.

Suicide and judicial murder are the two extreme points of tragedy. It is thus the artistic extremity of aesthetics to invoke drama, conflict, war and destruction.

The English painter Whistler aptly called aesthetic art 'the noble art of making enemies'. To create aesthetics is to sow enmity, unrest and competition, to create differential effects. It is a lie when it is said that need makes the weak infamous and the strong sublime. The strong man is just the most infamous, whose aggression is so big that he conquers the opposition. The infamous is just he who dies infamous. If a man cuts open the stomach of another just for the sake of it, he is a criminal. The same action carried out by a surgeon, who thereby saves a patient's life, is a sound and sublime destruction. The soldier who cuts up his enemy's stomach is called a hero. There you are.

Experientia vaga

Treason do never prosper. What's the reason?
For if it prosper, none dare call it treason.
43
Thus we have shown that drama is the extreme aesthetic phenomenon, and that it cannot be an independent and absolute phenomenon, as in that case it does not exist. Consequently drama must be an element in a process, if it has to be anything at all, a stage, and as we perceive aesthetics as a basic universal and existential phenomenon, one of existence's existential truths, our concepts should apply to everything in the vital drama of nature and society. The concept of stage cannot, however, here be taken as something irrevocable. The meaning of all our work is precisely to demonstrate the significance of constantly keeping the aesthetic stage intact and active.

The perception of the aesthetic as a stage in the life process is not a new discovery. In his time, Spinoza divided our knowledge into three kinds or stages, of which the first, which we call the aesthetic form of knowledge of everyday disconnected and dispersed observations, was experientia vaga. Carried over to active life, this corresponds to equally chance and opportunistic tactics and unprepared activity. But Spinoza' s two other stages, ratio, regular, connected experience, and scientia intuitive,44 also correspond to what we in active life or art have perceived as realism and naturalism. However, we cannot explore this problem here, but must turn back to the dramatic aesthetics of self-assertion and continue to reveal its mechanism, its ideality.

Sensory perceptions of the subject

A property of reason is that it can make one mad.
How is this exploratory self-consciousness or self-knowledge achieved? By the sensory perception of the ego or the interests. This perception is of quite a different kind and disposition from the alert perception of the object. On the contrary, it is an unconscious or sleepy physical sensation, insight in itself, because the facts that are to be drawn out are wishes and desire, the will, the apparently blind passion. Of course, this aesthetic evaluation is also there in immediate sensory perception through direct contact with matter, but the deeper ego-perspective occurs in the individual as wishes, dreams, fantasies or ideas, which are the gradual consciousness of one's own unreleased possibilities. Tied to feelings of dread about the elements that could threaten and hinder their realization, these form images which are straightforwardly ascribable to our physique in the mental atmosphere as imaginings. These sheer illusions are certainly built up of matter from the actual and experienced world, but in their structure have nothing to do with it, as they are fantasies and self-delusions: metaphysics.

Illusion and imagination

Between saying and doing is a long way.
Watch how a cat plays with a piece of paper as if it were a mouse or a dog chews on a stone as if it was a delicious meat-bone, or observe the dream reactions of animals during sleep, and you will see that this capacity for illusion is in no way a purely human phenomenon.

What gives humanity its unique position in relation to other natural phenomena is our specially developed mental abilities, which make us able to capture, build up and work on notions and experiences in syntheses of active impulses: ideas, caprices, hypotheses, models and inventions, etc., human spirituality, ideality or superstition.

All ideal or subjective thought is wishful thinking, invoked by capabilities or inner and organic sensory influences. The latent unsatisfied wish becomes a fixed idea or an ideal. Idealism is the common wish-world or daydreams of a societal group or humanity.

Aesthetic, ethical and scientific truth45


Das Ding an sich,
das Dingfür mich
und das lch an sich.
Subjective truth

What is truth? Now it is as if the foundation is slipping away from us. The pure idea must be the idea that one does not oneself believe in, and thus the pure lie in an objective sense, and the belief in pure illusion must be defined as pure self-delusion or superstition, and yet we maintain that here we are before elemental subjective truth – tell me what you are dreaming and I will tell you who you are. Indeed, we will go even further and maintain that the ability to lie is not only the expression of the elemental truth about the ego, but that it is the basis on which we attain an oppositional relationship to objective truth, experience, the knowledge of what has existed, even though the extension of our objective experience of things, for its part, extends and renews our idea-world with new material.

Objective truth

The lie is valid until the truth comes to light.
Our wish, will or desire leads us on to new knowledge. No one knows more or gets to know more than he wishes to know, or sees more than he wishes to see. Even when one takes the existence of our greed for knowledge into consideration, this is an irrefutable fact which we run into everywhere – what a person does not wish to know, he doesn't know. Our ability to know is thus conditioned by our ability to wish, our scientific ability is a result of our aesthetic ability.

This does not mean that wish and knowledge are the same, on the contrary, they are two opposite poles, but you only reach the one if you take a run at it from the other, so progress is conditioned by backward steps and the development of our consciousness of the future is conditioned by the development of our consciousness of the past.

Natural truth

Ur-Heilskraft ist Urtheilskraft.46
In order to understand the reality of these two opposite truths, it is necessary to make it clear that there is a third truth which is the starting point and basis of these two truths. This is the truth about objective subjectivity, the actual existence of the experiencing and knowing subject in the present, the truth of sympathetic insight, the truth of naturalness or health. This truth of optimism may appear to be just the confrontation of the two previous truths, the proper truth which occurs when everything irreconcilable in the two previous truths is eliminated. But even though this may be partly correct, it is nevertheless wrong, as this truth is quite independent of the other two and develops in relation to them in the triad that has been called aesthetics, logic and ethics and which we will call the unity or cycle of beauty, truth and health.

If, in spite of retaining these definitions, we cannot be said to be moving on a purely metaphysical plane, this is precisely because we have this third truth as a point of departure: that we ourselves and above all what we do and think are a part of nature and can never get out of this affiliation, which is why science must always continue to be nature seen through a temperament, however far one reaches in the direction of objective extraction, whilst aesthetics similarly must always continue to be the temperament's revolt against nature, however far even here one reaches in the direction of subjective extraction.

The truth of scepticism and guilelessness

Fault and fall know all men.
The most intelligent knows most.
He who has to talk a lot, often lies.
Truth is what we believe in, but as science is scepticism, mistrust or disbelief and doubt, this in itself must be an empty if necessary truth. On the other hand, imagination or conception is again superstition, guilelessness or blind despair, and yet we perceive it as a necessary truth. An idea is a lie if one does not believe in it. To form hypotheses and ideas presupposes then the ability to lie or discover something that one does not immediately believe. From these apparent lies the scientist chooses the most probable and tests them, whilst the artist chooses the most exciting. Thus we see that science lives on superstition and that the superstition does not decrease but grows with scientific development, that freedom of belief is the precondition for scientific development and that the most enlightened people, if they are alive, must also be the most superstitious people in the world. Science develops in an uninterrupted sceptical combatting of superstition. The day that all superstition is conquered, science will stagnate.

It is the same with art. The day that one only wants what one can do, or can do everything that one wishes, all artistic development will cease. Only through intolerance can we achieve greater tolerance, only by being able to do what cannot be done, by introducing and overcoming the ugly and the bad, will we achieve greater goodness and beauty. This is the inescapable dialectic of truth.

Artistic guilelessness resembles naivety as foolhardiness resembles foolishness. For the normal person it is literally impossible to distinguish between an artist and a psychopath. Both appear mad in the same way.

The witnesses for truth

Aufrichtig zu sein kann ich versprechen, unparteiisch zu sein aber nicht.
– Goethe
Truth is eternal but not immutable. Therefore truth is not a pillow, 'a joy forever' which one need only obtain once. Truth is a process and only he who participates in this process is a witness for truth and can be trusted and be used as a guide and a model in human development. If what people struggled for at a particular historical moment was its highest truth, then that truth is still a part of the whole truth, even if today their standpoint is untrue and the witnesses for truth are not those people who still defend the same belief, say the same words and carry out the same actions, but those who with new truth are forced into the same situation that the demand for truth always forces mankind. History has millions and yet again millions of such witnesses for truth, whose abilities and range have been large or small but who have all been led to that subjective perfection, the sacrifice of life.

A witness for truth is above all a person who stands behind his words completely, who in his deeds will realize the truth, will burn for it and will sacrifice all, even life, will take on himself poverty, contempt, hunger and need, ridicule and laughter, prison, exile, indeed; the death sentence, without being shaken in his belief in it. But not even this fanaticism and enthusiasm is enough in order to talk of a witness for truth, or any criminal who believes in his right to break the law would be a witness for truth and it would only be necessary to provoke society to torture one to obtain a martyr's crown. Martyrdom is no truth in itself. To hate, to defy and to go against the stream, to be an enemy of the people, has, like everything ideal, no value in itself, but only becomes truth if it contains its opposite in itself, the precondition that the words and deeds of the witness for truth have sprung from an all-encompassing love and dedication to mankind and that it has its goal in solving and removing the dangers that threaten humanity and of advancing human power, ability and value, zest for life and enjoyment of everything that nature offers in benefits, advantages and riches, not by scorning this and destroying oneself in self-denial and one's 'earthly' neighbour in surfeit and passive consumption, but in order to advance human health in the enjoyment of outputs and the outputs of enjoyment. Only social disassociation based upon and resulting in an even greater inwardness, unity and naturalness is of truth, as it transforms truth from an ideal to an archetypal truth, as the painter Paul Klee called it.

This naturalness and archetypal depth of truth is the third condition of truth, for an ill-timed truth is not a truth, because it cannot be received. The ground is not prepared and the truth dies. This places the third criterion, knowledge and experience of his times, on the witness for truth. If his truth does not contain everything that the highest science of his times knows, indeed, if it does not contain room for an extension of this knowledge that explains and extends and can be united with it, then all is in vain, even if the first two preconditions are present. Instead of a witness for truth, we have only a deceiver and a seducer, a demagogue or aesthetician.

Nonetheless, just like error, seduction contains that pound of truth that makes them both indispensable. People want to be seduced, life wants to be seduced, nature wants to be seduced and can stand incessantly being tempted and seduced, incessantly being in error, indeed, cannot do without it.

A crime becomes transformed into an error the instant it brings with it the punishment which is that crime's natural consequence and consummation, whereas the unfinished crime, which is not punished, is revoked as a crime and becomes law or nature.

Philosophy as the doctrine of human values


The most beautiful children, they are mine, said the raven.

This is in no way to say that someone who lives aesthetically does not develop. However, he develops from necessity, not from freedom. No metamorphosis occurs in him, no boundless movement.

– Søren Kierkegaard
Trustworthy truth

In science we have elaborated a rational system for the exploration of objective or analytical truth and could elaborate a just as rational system for the exploration of subjective or synthetic truth in aesthetics. However, this presupposes that ethics is elaborated as a corresponding system for the elaboration of distinctive or critical truth. This is only possible if one recognizes that all criticism is and must be the evaluation of interest and nothing more, and ought always to formulate clearly this relationship between the actual and the desired against the background of desirability. Criticism is the mark of the good and the good is what is and can maintain its existence, is what one believes. Actual belief is being, is action, confidence, trust, realization, materialization. This is the existential essence of the context or the sphere of interest. For the cow, the cow is the good, and for humanity the human being is the good. Everything that exists is good because it feels itself to be good and can only exist on the basis of the attraction of this inner goodness, this coherence. If one cannot recognize that humanity is good, that nature and everything that exists is goodness itself, there being simply nothing that is not good, then goodness has no actuality, but is an hallucination, an idea, aesthetics.

This is not to say that one ought to perceive either humanity in general or oneself or human society as good enough, but that one understands that every endeavour beyond oneself must be based on self-consciousness and selfknowledge, that one must be oneself to be able to be more than oneself, that anyone who wants to be something other than themselves just annihilates everything. With this we have moved the problem from the scientific into the philosophical area and will try to elaborate aesthetics in this perspective.

Artistic philosophy

The learned are not always the wisest.
We have shown that, through its spiritual development, humanity has been able to connect the action with the analysis of the action. Indeed, we have even been able to separate pure action, the aesthetic activity, from pure analysis, the scientific activity – absolute acritical interest from absolute acritical lack of interest. We called their organic union and starting point human art and, as a phenomenon of consciousness, we will call this union human philosophy.

The word philosophy is of Greek origin and means love of wisdom, which is the same as sagacity, ratio or reason. Of course, the aesthetician who wants to do what cannot be done is not very bright and neither is the scientist who is not interested in his own analytical results. If we then keep to good, sound and healthy reason, and there is no other criterion for sagacity than health – ethics, as we have called it, artistic consciousness, proficiency, mental or physical strength – and as love, as is well-known, is the most intense form of interest, transcendent interest or the genetic principle, that exists, it is natural to define philosophy as the artistic consciousness or attitude to life of a person, a time, a society, a group, a people or humanity, as our knowledge of what is interesting and wise to us and as our interest in understanding our reactions to existence and the relationship of existence to us.

The how of wisdom

The heart has some reasons, which are quite unknown to the head.
– Pascal
In this way, philosophy comes into a contrary relationship with science in its attempt to transform science to art, our knowledge to ability, and similarly into a contrary relationship with aesthetics by criticizing its absolute and limitless interest. It also comes into opposition with itself because it lives off the development of science and aesthetics and can only function through an uninterrupted inner dialogue of self-contradictions or a dialectical monologue. But even though a special aesthetic philosophy, as well as a scientific one, could thereby be separated out with their basis questions of: what and why – why not, the elemental philosophical question for all activity and artistic efforts would still remain the burning how.

It is understandable that professional philosophers perceive the ability to meditate or philosophize not just as the central task of philosophy but as the aim in life of all humanity. If one had asked a jockey the same question, the answer would, of course, have been horse-racing.

But let us artists state that the criterion of wisdom is not science but value. If aesthetics is the doctrine of the value of the valueless and science the doctrine of the valuelessness of values, then philosophy is the doctrine of value itself which also includes these two previously mentioned disciplines. A society or a person without a doctrine of value that can digest everything new is a plaything of fate. Our times are marked to a high degree by this weakness – by declining philosophical consciousness, declining recognition of value, declining sagacity.

On the value and inner contradiction of aesthetics


Transformation hurts.
Change delights.
Refinement bores.47

The objectivity of value

We have defined philosophy as intellectual art and just as there is a general scientific perception of art, so is there also a scientific perception of philosophy. However, the boring thing about its empirical method is that it simply has to be a passive reeling-off of human conventionalism and nothing more. On the other hand, one has also an aesthetic perception of philosophy which in its speculative wistful thinking is a just as passive reeling-off of smart ideas, dreams and uninhibited visions. Thus everything indicates the advisability of defining philosophy as the doctrine of people's actions and of identifying this with the doctrine of value, for we define the doctrine of value as the doctrine of the comprehensible or known, of what is obvious or necessary to a circle of interest. Thus there can be no talk of an 'objective value' in the same sense as there is talk of numerical objectivity, as the scale of value is tied directly to each object as its subjectivity. The recognition of the mutual community or universal subjectivity of all matter, the truth of which modern science has had to admit to the old mystics, and the value of the universe or the cosmos, in which there are individual local circles of value, give us the starting point for the definition of value:

That which is necessary for and goes into the maintenance and state of a context as existence in the present, we can define as its artistic, actual or sound and healthy value, the value of the context or circle of interest for itself and in itself.

The value of experience or scientific value is the action that has continual validity. However, aesthetic value is the surplus that goes into a context without being immediately necessary or useable there.

The subjectivity of value

Höchstes Glück der Erdenkinder sei nur die Persönlichkeit.
– Goethe
The value of the object as an element in a larger context could be called its inclusion value, its value as the seat of lesser areas of interest, its incubation value and its value as a precondition for introduction value, if we wish to try to create a distinction in the stages of value. Just as we can talk of universal value, we can also talk of natural values as elements in the cycle of nature, biological values as elements in the cycle of living organisms, humanitarian values as elements in the human context, social value as an element in social community as a whole or for the maintenance of special interest groups, and personal value. Whether these values are of an ethical and thus necessary nature or aesthetic and unnecessary, purely imaginary even, can be scientifically analysed. The circle of interest is perceived as the subjective 'good', but that which attempts to break down and annihilate this has to be perceived by the interest group as 'the bad'. Thus nothing exists that, objectively for anything and everything and under all conditions, is good and valuable or bad and damaging, unless it is, on the one hand, absolutely everything, the world, matter on the whole or, on the other, nothing, the nonexistent. However, this does not stop certain interest groups widely attempting to give their interests the stamp of universality and incontestability by representing them as an expression of 'objective values'. Not even universal actual values can be so called, and the tolerance of modern science to this swindle has to be said to be reckless and even self-erasing.

Negation of value and absolute value

It is the first step that is costly.
But well begun is half done.
In its extreme character of acritical analysis, scientific research must necessarily reduce value, so in a certain way it could be said that scientific experience is free. This does not mean, however, that an objective philosophy is unjustifiable. On the contrary, passive and non-engaged philosophy is a sovereign and also necessary part of the comprehensive philosophical picture. The same is true of idealistic or aesthetic philosophy, which in its all-embracing acritical synthesis destroys the criterion of value by quite uneconomically perceiving everything into which human value forces us as dearly-bought experience. Their truth value is conditioned by their mutual dependence and union in the economic principle of the analytical synthesis or critical criterion of ethical insight.

But what significance do these philosophical observations have for our aesthetic understanding? They create a limitation of the aesthetic phenomenon which opens out a new perspective for our knowledge of the complicated mechanism of aesthetics.

The aesthetic doctrine of transformation

Ein Teil vonjener Kraft,
die stets das Böse will und stets das Gute schafft.

– Goethe
From being a phenomenon, the unknown, we have developed the aesthetic into an area that extends from the absolutely unknown to the absolutely known, which describes the stages in the involvement of new phenomena in a circle of interest, as the absolute known has to be defined as the obvious and normal necessary condition for this. The advantage of this definition lies in now being able to achieve a greater depth and richness in our aesthetic understanding, as we can separate out stages or developmental oppositions in the aesthetic stage itself. We will also attempt a tripartition here.

Instead of the static doctrine of the unity of manifoldness of classical aesthetics, we have brought movement into the system by introducing novelty, renewal, as a third necessary factor, and by establishing an aesthetic line of development from transformation over beautification to refinement.

Anything new is immediately ugly because it is without unity and manifoldness and without active contact with its surroundings, being, on the contrary, a process of detachment. This is the embryo stage redundantly going through the possibilities until it stops at concretion, birth. In a similar way, the child goes through the development of the whole animal kingdom in this period. This, the most interesting and hideous stage of all, birth, creation, revolution, the transformation of the impossible to possibility, the introduction of the unknown and unusable into the known, is then succeeded by the stage of central aesthetic beauty, variation, the stage of making sensible or manifold, which goes in exactly the opposite direction to the first. In the child, this stage of being a gradually growing sensory organ lasts until going to school. They say that the child 'lives in the present' because it reacts with all its faculties to every sensory impression and throws itself acritically into everything that comes along, but that the child develops is proof that it is not living in the present but, on the contrary, in the future. This is a misunderstanding running through all aesthetics, which makes the perception of the equilibrium between the aesthetic and the ethical, as for example in Kierkegaard, self-contradictory and meaningless. This wonderful development of the possibilities of the beautiful and lovely has to give way to a third stage, which in its pure form is mankind's special phenomenon, aesthetic or imaginary unity, formal upbringing, refinement, which can, in all honesty, appear a bit boring and uninteresting, but is nevertheless that stage where the character is formed and the personality harmonized. This happens by dealing with the unnecessary and unknown as if it were known and necessary and thus creating a formal or imaginary reality and ethics. When this has been passed through, the child has become adult and can begin to transform itself to a true ethical personality, to step out into life as it is called and transform itself from some beautiful and imaginary 'good' to something truly good, unless, for other reasons, it continues its aesthetic life form out into this period too. This division into three opponent stages is valid not only for the aesthetic development of the human personality, but for everything that is developed by mankind, society, technology, as well as the fine arts. That the art academies have never had a renewing, let alone a beautifying or improving significance for artistic development, is no doubt because of their reversed position. They place the formal before the manifold and ignore renewal, and the result is stagnation.

Animism and the aesthetic attitude to life


What in my innermost I want is to tear a hole in the reality around me and make contact with a world of light and harmony.
– Ingmar Hedenius48
Schon fast seit einem Jahrhundert wirken Humaniora nicht mehr auf das Gemüt dessen, der sie treibt, und es ist em Glück, dass die Natur dazwischen getreten ist das Interesse an sich gezogen und uns von ihrer Seite den Weg zur Humanität geöffnet har.
– Goethe
Attitude to life and perception of the world

If academic, official and authorized aesthetics thus has no favourable results to show because of its failing radicalism, then, on the other hand, we have within the so-called humanities or formal sciences, which must really be perceived as preliminary unconnected or constructed aesthetic stages in the scientific process, a corresponding stagnation, but of an opposite cause and nature, as here there is a failure to comply with the organizational process that could transform these disciplines to natural sciences. There can be no doubt that this hesitation is because the formation of our society and thereby our attitude to life remains at an inconsistent or aesthetic stage and hinders us from reaching an organic perception of the world. We can only make progress or desperate tentative efforts.

The final aim of science, its perfection, is an all-embracing objective consciousness or perception of the world in which all our earlier limitations cease to exist, a form of consciousness in which secrets and mysteries are not to be found. But the growth of the proficiencies that are necessary to reach this perfection in our knowledge is conditioned by our being, our art and our attitude to life. Knowledge and being must be perfected into a unity, as it is through dedication and sympathetic insight that we approach perception. But in order for this goal to be achieved, our being must correspond to our hope and our wishes. We must be able to do precisely what we want, and want what we can do, and have reached our subjective perfection in order to reach our culmination, the all-controlling ability, in order to achieve our perfect objectivity, an all-embracing knowledge, to become gods.

Animation, animism and religion

In the end art should so dominate our lives, that we might say: There are no longer works of art, but art only. For art is then the way of life.
– Herbert Read49
It is our surplus of interest that makes mysteries and secrets of external phenomena. The day we are not interested in anything other than what we are, no more problems and unsolved puzzles will exist. Some people seek to advance this completion by halting renewal, but everything has to reach its natural culmination. No one knows where this lies as far as humanity is concerned. The human being's curiosity, thirst for knowledge and need for dedication appears to stop only at the limits of the universe, at absolute nonexistence. The human being wants to know everything and be everything. Will this will towards omnipotence, which has already driven us so far, end with us in the ditch, will we stop at an incapable dreaming, or will we one day rule the universe? No one can answer this question, and everyone takes their own standpoint.

Here we have come to the question of the position of aesthetics in the religious problem. We have defined art as a way of life and aesthetic art as life renewal, the enlivening, animating, agitating, inspiring, aspirational, enthusiastic, fermenting, fascinating, fanaticizing, the explosive and rebellious, renewal or the unknown. No one who has any knowledge of the religious problem can be in doubt that the factors we have been dealing with here are the same as those that form the basic themes of the religious complex of problems, even though they are here treated from another point of view.

The aesthetic concept of god

The cat wants the fish, but won't get its paw wet.
Besides the temples for all the nature gods, the Greeks also built a temple to 'the unknown god', which we here have called the aesthetic principle of nature. Strangely enough, this is exactly where Christianity takes its point of departure.

But it was only at the Reformation, indeed, really only by Søren Kierkegaard, that the purely animistic or spiritual, or what we would call the aesthetically paradoxical or absurd perception of religion, was set out. We will not go outside our delineated task, but just indicate that this development in religious perception is clearly apparent when one compares the primitive agriculturists' perception of the life-nourishing bread as something holy, Catholicism's perception of the priest-blessed bread as divine, and then the Reformed Church's emphasis that it is not the material but the word, imagination, fantasy, that is holy. That thousands and again thousands of people have fought, killed and have been killed for the development of this perception is completely incomprehensible, if one does not take the social background of the problem into account. We will later return to this problem. But, as we have formulated the problem, we cannot avoid pointing out that neither the academy nor the university's scientific faculties can be perceived as the primary official authority for aesthetics. They are only sorting the fish that is brought to market, and serving it in melted butter, an immensely commendable but hardly renewing work. If aesthetics is to be perceived as the doctrine about and the treatment of the unknown, then the state church and the theological faculty are the highest aesthetic authorities in the country, but since Peter's haul of fish, it has not, as is well-known, dared to dip the fishingline. Without insulting anyone, it could perhaps be said that the Christian church is immensely content as far as fish and bread are concerned, and one has the impression that the conservation and protection of the word takes up their minds more than its use. After the salt has lost its strength, one goes over, as Paul Claudel says, to preserving with sugar, but thereby one has really denied one's own foundation. This question is sufficiently and clearly laid out in Søren Kierkegaard's writings.

Gods of sensation and supermen

Whosoever becomes a sheep, will be eaten by wolves.
The paralysing impotence of Christianity against the modern sensational and primitive forms of religion is, however, a highly disquieting sign. The modern messiah, redeemer or saviour figure, as delineated in popular supernatural gods or supermen like Jack Lightning or The Phantom and similar master criminals, super-beings or lawless heroes of the imagined struggle for justice, not to speak of that divine sensation, the hydrogen bomb, the reappearance of which is invoked by such heretical poets as Øverland,50 shows that the petit bourgeois longing to place the responsibility elsewhere and become a passive sheep in the flock under an amoral or super-moral leader. Leadership energetically and systematically saturates the folk mentality so consistently that one has the impression that journalism is little by little placing less weight upon distributing information than on animating with cartoon series for the cultivation of fascist religiosity. But if they represent a spiritual falling-back, then in itself this cannot be wrong. The fault lies with Christianity, the teaching of which has hitherto gone bankrupt when confronted with the new ethical and aesthetic problems that evolution has forced upon the modem human being, and which demand practical and spiritual solution.

Crime and fault

Liars, thieves and vagabonds are the bitter salt of the earth.
This heroic cult of destruction, which, in the symbolic shape of the outsider and the superman or super-being, has released the self-sacrificing martyr cult and made them both into caricatures, forces a new and deeper insight into the essence of truth and the actions that witness to the character of truth, for we must not forget that it is worse to be at fault than to commit crimes, that the true fault lies in sins of omission, in saying no to life and personal responsibility.

'Ugly are the sins you have committed, but far worse groans the life unlived,' says Johannes V. Jensen,51 and that life is there to be lived and lived by all, that it can only be lived by ourselves personally, is the full personal responsibility of every personality, every human being. Mercilessly, regardless and without compassion, this is the new, inexorable truth of today and tomorrow.

Aesthetics as action, coup de théâtre or effect


I want to try to fasten my gaze upon myself and begin to act inwardly, as only thereby, just like the child by its first conscious action calling itself 'I', am I able, thus in a more profound sense to call myself 'I'.
– Søren Kierkegaard
In choosing it depends not so much on choosing the correct thing, as on the energy, the earnestness and pathos, with which one chooses.
– Søren Kierkegaard
A conflict about words

After having briefly detailed our terminology in the various areas of intellectual life, we will now send our searchlight in a couple of sweeps over the biological and the cultural problems in order here too to draw in a cursory sketch the necessary consequences of our perception.

To most people, the previous passage will perhaps seem to have been just a conflict about words, and this could be quite correct. However, if it has been noticed what a prominent place this conflict about words has had throughout the times and with what bloody passion it has been waged, in order not only to master the word but above all its interpretation and meaning, then it will also have been understood that this word-conflict is a dispute about world-pictures, attitudes to life and perceptions of society, and as such the necessary precondition for understanding and actively entering into a new development. Language is the key to the understanding of the new, because it changes the context and the meaning of the old when new experiences come along. Words must therefore be constantly dislocated in their meaning.

Everywhere system and order is created, it is the one who is the strongest or the most superior at using orthography and what is placed in words that turns out to be right. It is left to the reader to judge whether our definitions possess the inner strength that can draw them in from the world of curiosities as an element in a universal perception.

The action creates the idea

And they sensed the sounding word and the airy thought.
– Sophocles
La pensée se fait dans la bouche.
– Tristan Tzara
We have defined the aesthetic phenomenon as effect without cause, but natural science has demonstrated that any effect has its cause, its precondition, and that this cause is in its turn the effect of a previous cause. Thus by deduction we can trace back to the first cause discussed by Aristotle: the primary reason, meaning or idea that is the essence of the cause and the origin of all development. Along the way, we come logically to an idealistic world-view, and this perception of the primary position of the cause or meaning in a causal context leads us therefore naturally to the famous thesis: In the beginning was the word.

This thesis should not be perceived literally, for if we say that it is the words that produce thoughts and ideas, we have in fact said just the opposite, even though we feel we have said it correctly. The word in this first perception is identical with the idea or the meaning.

If we now go in the opposite direction and try to follow and enter into the development instead of analyzing it, then we come automatically to the opposite result, that it is the effect, the meaningless, inane, absurd or free action, that in certain cases creates causes or is transformed to meaning and context, that it is action which creates reaction, radicalism which creates conservatism, effect which creates influence. Only when the effect collides with an opposition, as when two effects crash together, is it transformed into a cause. This artistic or materialistic world view leads just as naturally back to Goethe's well-known thesis: in the beginning was the action.

Possibility creates meaning

Life may well be understood backwards but it has to be lived forwards.
– Søren Kierkegaard
There is never so little an eel, that it does not strive to become a whale.
We have hereby placed aesthetics foremost in the development or evolutionary context and maintain that it is possibility that creates necessity and not vice versa. We have in fact turned all of evolutionary theory hitherto on its head. If Darwin perceives the aesthetic as the rudiment of necessity, then we, on the other hand, perceive necessity as an extraction or organization of the surplus. We maintain that the universe and nature evolve from within as an ego by an inner distinction. In contrast to Nietzsche, we maintain that I is older than you. The distinctions between I and you thus exist only as variants in a deeper lying ego called we, which is the theme on which the variations I and you are played. The novelty in our perception is that we maintain that it is variation or effect that creates the theme or the cause, which is in turn able to give birth to new variations, that it is the discharge or expression which creates the impression or reflex. The inherently obvious fact that the action creates the meaning or context leads naturally to the conclusion that there is no meaning behind things but only in the things themselves, that meaningless things are to be found, and that it is our ability to form new meaningless words and images which give birth to new thoughts and ideas, that expressions and gestures are not evoked by feelings, but are simply feelings we become conscious of through sensation. As early as Pascal it was demonstrated that religious action creates religious consciousness. Muscle movements create glandular secretions and thereby emotion or the body's collected continual reaction. It is the same with natural evolution as a whole.

Features of the aesthetics of natural history


The human being is neither an abortion nor a giant. The task of poetry is not to disturb or slander the human being. Our inborn human imperfection is in its order like the constant deformity of the petal of a plant. What we regard as a deformation is a form, and what seems the overturning of a law is the fulfilment of a law.
– H. Taine
Environment creates inheritance

What is called environment is just another expression for action or effect, whilst the inheritable is the expression of cause or context. Thus we maintain that the context is just one side of the essence of the environment, the side that reveals itself by an analytical backward look, the context and continuity of the established spheres of interest. Without any understanding of the present conflict between the biological standpoints of Morgan and Lysenko, our aesthetic theory compels us to set out this theory:

That pure heredity is an abstraction, that the biological system in a living individual can never appear as purely genetic, but that, because of nature's unceasing aesthetic mobility, in the nucleus of every individual there are always new purely individual dispositions which, however indistinct, meaningless or regardless, are not to be found in the mother individual and are not conditioned by external influences during growing up. That the family or species is a theme on which nature incessantly plays all the variations quantitatively, mathematically, geometrically and constructively possible. Thereby all the inwardly conditioned tendencies that can arise are consistently realized. That mutations are conditioned by possibilities and not by necessity or logic, and that individuality or personality is not a rarity but an inevitable general rule.

Foolhardiness creates wisdom

Ich bin ein Teil des Teils, der anfangs alles war.
– Goethe
Is it not, however, a fact that matter and nature are not a chaos, but an ordered whole? No, that is a misunderstanding: it is both a chaos and a whole, and the wholeness is conditioned by the chaotic, the establishment of the dissolution.

A fool can ask more than ten wise men can answer, thus in one way a fool must be wiser than ten wise men, or at any rate be the precondition for wisdom, as all wisdom is an answer to foolish questions and is conditioned by such questions being posed: the greater the foolishness the greater the wisdom. This is immensely comforting to know, when one is working theoretically.

Just as the sense of sight invariably summarizes objects that lie close to each other into figures, units, bodies or objects according to the law of gestalt, so we too organize our knowledge in forms and units. Here we are only following a natural law. It is similarly so with our ability to break apart and dissolve this formal world, which is a necessary condition for extending it. We can set up the following law that is valid for nature as a whole, as well as every type, species or individual:

On the strength of its construction, every system, every sphere of interest, mental as well as physical, has an absolute limit of evolution, which it is unable under any circumstances to transgress in time or space except by dissolution in favour of the formation of a new and richer structure.

In contrast, because of the complexity of its structure, every sphere of interest demands an absolute minimum of matter, of spatial or temporal possibilities, without which its creation is impossible, and the disappearance of which marks the dissolution of the sphere of interest!

Ideality is possibility

These two laws limited by maximum and minimum possibility are valid not just in nature, but also in the world of humans. Every machine, every form of society, every ideological system, every technique has its absolute limit of evolution, where it must be discarded to give place to a new system, in which the functions can achieve greater development. On the other hand, it would have been impossible to invent the steam hammer in the Stone Age. Indeed, its very invention and utilization is conditioned by our continued ability to use a stone as a crushing tool, just as the human being's existence is conditioned by the continued existence of the whole of plant and animal worlds down to the simplest virus and rhizopod, by the complicated existence of minerals, fluids and gases even. When we therefore talk of discarding a form of evolution, this is only a partial truth, as progress is not always an elimination of what went before, but rather an expansion of the central purpose through a cycle, where the evolution towards the perfect goes through a corresponding evolution towards greater imperfection. Hereby we have in reality found the formula for the relativity of ideality and are able to give it its truth value in relation to concrete phenomena and spheres of interest, as we maintain that:

Ideality or the model exists in certain spheres of interest as latent possibilities not yet realized.

Thus we have seen that the ideal is something not outside but within the phenomena. But of what then does the subjective goal consist? It consists of power, of expansion, of the most unlimited control of matter. All organisms are striving towards this.

The process of sensation

It is said that one must learn to listen in order to be able to learn to command. In nature it is just the opposite. Only by having the ability to control does this become serviceable. The organism that at a given moment is able to negotiate the most varied and compounded interests controls these in a superficial sense or controls the surface of the material, being the sensational or aesthetic element in the context, as without effective resistance it is able to expand itself into something quite unusually significant. A process of fermentation creates a manifoldness of surfaces in matter and through this process of fermentation, the purified type evolves. From being a dominating and meaningless factor, it is transformed into an element in a new context. It is the transformation of infatuation to love.

We know this process of sensationalizing or fermenting from the sensationalization and modernism of cultural life. One just forgets that this stage – where a phenomenon, be it scientific like Darwinism and psychoanalysis or practical like new medicines and technical finesse or song, dance, etc., becomes a pastime and occupation, occupying all possible and impossible human beings and foaming up in a cloud of bubbling stuff and nonsense, fantasy and excitement, especially in a democratic society – is the touchstone of the value of the phenomenon, for what is left where sensation has fallen back and is forgotten is what is called culture. Its nature is conditioned by the kind of sensations. A cultural evolution will therefore be known by what it finds sensational. This is not a matter of whether lying goes on, but what the lying is about. The task of aesthetics is to create rebellion.

The human being is ideal

At a given moment the crust of the earth with all its chemical variants was precipitated in such a roaring and bubbling process, that, by a geological disintegration and dissolution of the surface, it gave place to plant and animal life, which in the Jurassic period expanded in all its unusual meaninglessness. We thus dare to maintain that:

True natural evolution, the inwardly conditioned biological process on Earth, has culminated. All biological beings, mankind included, have reached their natural perfection and as such cannot be improved, but only varied or form cancer tumours.

Any talk therefore of supermen or human racial improvement is rubbish. The nature and ability of humanity is unimprovable, even though it is not utilized to perfection.

On what do we base this statement? Simply because humanity can now be seen to be able to interfere in and change the order and evolution of nature. This would have been an impossibility as long as humanity was itself in nature's casting ladle.52 One cannot create before one is created oneself, and humanity would not be able to know nature as an object unless nature as a whole had been shaped.

Features of the aesthetics of cultural history


It is beautiful to see Adam and Eve in a paradise where they can have everything they point to, but it is however even finer to see a man acquire what he needs by his work.

– thereby the human being is great, greater than all the other creations, in that he can care for himself. It is beautiful to see a man have a surplus that he has himself acquired, but it is also beautiful to see a man make an even greater piece of art, to transform a little into much. This is the expression of the human being's perfection: that he can work. It is an even higher expression therefore: that he must do it.

– Søren Kierkegaard
Culture is imperfect

Throughout thousands of years, the human being has on the whole remained physically and spiritually unchanged. It is human community life, art, technique and culture that has evolved, not the human being as a biological incidence. The human being's changing of natural forms and natural sequences has evolved with incredible speed, and will result in nature, as it functioned before human intervention, being replaced by a new nature. Already today, the cry of 'back to nature' in the form of a return to the vegetative natural state is an absurdity, as this nature no longer exists and can never be recreated.

Natural value and human value are not the same, because the circles of interest of nature and the human being are not identical. Nature was not created for the sake of the human being, and the human being is the first being that refuses to be created for nature's sake: the subjugation of nature to the human being's will is sought by imagination, which has sprung from the belief that one can do what one will. This certainly also has the opposite effect of that intended, because one cannot do as one will. Because Mohammed wanted the mountain to come to him, he went to the mountain. To get nature to work for one, the human being reworks nature. To transform the earth into a paradise, he makes it into a hell at the same time. The diligence of the human being is because of laziness. This is quite obvious, as these two names stand over the same gate: when one is before it, it says hell, and when one has come through it and looks back, it says paradise. There is therefore no reason to take these signs seriously. There are too many of them. They are also called the impossible and the obvious, and with a touch of genius one has swapped the signs.

Natural and Artificial

In every Martha there is an aspiration to be a Maria. It is this aspiration that makes her a Martha.
– Hulda Lütken
As nature is the expression of what is, then the human being and everything that the human being does and can do must be natural or a form of nature. The human being cannot thus do anything at all that is unnatural. That he can do it, is simply to say that it is natural. But why does one talk of the artificial versus the natural, culture versus nature, when both technique and machines are nature? This is because certain actions can be unnatural or unhealthy for the human being.

In itself, objectively, a large juicy apple produced by culture is no better than the sour little wood apple. Indeed, for the apple tree it is perhaps even a less healthy degeneration. It is for the human being that the larger apple has an actual increase of value. The human being thus utilizes the possibilities of variation in nature that lie outside its own sphere of interest and possibility. A typical example of this is the many variants of roots and cabbages that have been extracted from the sea-kale.

The human being needs certain means of nourishment to live. This need varies according to climate and individuality. With a primitive agriculture, such as we know from the Stone Age and primitive peoples, the necessary food can be produced to cover the necessary need. However, in the cookery book we have thousands of recipes for food and drink that go beyond these demands of necessity, and this aesthetic and unnecessary development can be traced back to primitive peoples. So can even certain foods that have no nourishment value at all but only taste or animating value. We also find this condition in the question of clothes, buildings, everywhere. Why should the means of production utilized for the production of these obvious but biologically unnecessary goods not have arisen in the same way? Did the brain of the human being not evolve through a purposeless expansion of mischievousness and pure viciousness until he one day he saw himself able to throw a stone and use a stick with purpose and in earnest?

Nature and culture

This utilization of the tool is the point of departure for human art, culture and technique, and creates an opponent relationship between nature in and around us and our wider modes of action. We come into conflict with the whole order of nature.

Nature is a subject and has created and evolved itself from within. Nature has no hands and cannot put anything together. But the human being can. In nature structure and function are identical. However, on the strength of his ability to distinguish between body (the sphere of interest perceived as object or organ) and soul (the same sphere of interest perceived as subject, power or function), the human being is able to create bodies that have their function external to them: in humanity, and thus to create in themselves soulless bodies and make these into parts of the human organism, not as absolute being or what for the human being is the absolute known, but as possession, as something people have without being it themselves. The human being can fly without being a bird. Human technique is thus something that is built up externally to the individual, mutually between people and between the human being and nature. Therefore all cultures and techniques are not personal but social phenomena, not a question of being but of having, a problem of property.

The sociology of the aesthetics of European high culture


For the sake of the rose one also waters the thorns.
– Arab proverb

The birds of the air have nests and the animals of the fields have holes, and both ants and bees have immensely complicated social formations, and all these are natural possessions. It is, on the whole, incredible how many parallels to human technique are to be found in the world of nature, but we have to let all this comprehensive problem around the art work and artistic technique be. Here we will content ourselves with dealing with the aesthetics of the way of life itself and even that only in its generalized features.

It is correct to speak of the communal body, for the human community really is a living organism, an ego, albeit a fissured and divided one, and can with full right be regarded a unit or circle of interest, a subject.

Aesthetic culture or civilization

Der Künstler hat zur Natur ein zweifaches Verhältnis: er ist ihr Herr und ihr Sklave, insofern er mit irdischen Mitteln wirken muss urn verstanden zu werden. ihr Herr aber, insofern er disse irdischen Mittel seinen höheren Intentionen unterwirft und ihnen dienstbar mach.
– Goethe
We have defined the aesthetic as the unusual and the unique, and, in contrast to this, culture is tradition or custom, organized or social art, popular art. This definition of culture is, however, not valid for what is called high culture, which is just an aesthetic traditionalism that is the experimental area of true culture. High culture is a phenomenon that flares up and vanishes, whilst popular culture steadily develops by extracting the durable elements from the ruins of high culture. One is rarely aware of this opponent relationship between high and popular culture, because, as a rule, it is representatives of high culture who interest themselves theoretically in the question and precisely therefore perceive it as 'the high' instead of the superficial. We can thus thank high culture for the cultural picture being constantly broken down and by this having the possibility of renewal.

Culture is the cultivation of human values, and it is obvious that the human being will only become a real cultural being the day the whole earth is under a universal planned cultivation or administration of people. Anyone can see that this moment is approaching with violent speed. Even the fishes in the sea are close to being kept as pets.

However, the phenomenon of high culture as an aesthetic factor has to be the focus of our interest, because' it is here that expansion and renewal occurs. European high culture is that phenomenon generally designated as modern civilization, and as such stands in a peculiar opponent relationship to true human culture.

Aggressive culture

The course of civilization has been like that of Judas, and, like him, also seems to be driven towards suicide by an irresistible force.
– Nis Petersen
In our definition of organisms we made a distinction between the reproductive and the aggressive activity. What causes certain races to stagnate upon a particular step of culture and not try to go further, remaining satisfied; harmonious and as if resting in themselves until other races penetrate their area, and what is the reason why these other races are unruly, discordant, curious and industrious? That this is not for biological or racial reasons is well known, as all races can demonstrate the potentialities for the cultivation of the same abilities. That it is not because of nature and climate either is demonstrated by a comparison between the cultural developments of North American Indians and Europeans. Therefore it must be because of the opportunities offered by the social and cultural structure of the various groups. When an Indian chief wanted to show his power, he destroyed all his property. This form of the utilization of surplus power by simply destroying it, shows that the potentialities of exploitation in this given way of life were used to their fullest. Life is productivity and forms of life are forms of production. Probably no one would seriously deny this fact. The Western European production system has created modem technology and until recent years has been the most active and superior in the world. The Western European has always shown himself to be the cruelest, falsest, most cunning, complacent, purposeless, greedy, and consequently also the most purposeful, humble, compassionate and self-sacrificing, in short 'the best'. As, in the first place, this epoch in world history is past, and, in the second place, we ourselves belong to this cultural circle, we have every reason to use this phenomenon in dissolution, which has been called 'the European', as an object of study for the phenomenon of the aesthetic society. 'Untergang des Abendlandes' is not a future perspective, but a simple statement of what was happening to Spengler himself or Hitler. Europe still exists but not as the best.

The European aesthetician

No one is in any doubt that 'the European' is something other than the European in general. The European person Spengler and all other 'Europeans' talk about, is quite precisely the European aristocrat, just as 'European culture' in this connection is aesthetic high culture.

The European aristocrat is the unproductive person in a material sense, and thus the aesthetic person, and where one talks of an aristocracy, the luxury class or the purposeless social class, it is a case of the players, the aggressors. In our society, this superficial and peripheral group is made a model or centre for the efforts of society, whilst the power of production, the true vital force, is subjugated to this aggressive or destructive power of violence, these players. Hereby an immensely fruitful tension and social disquiet is created. The upper class has thus been the field of cultural experimentation for European society, and the aristocrat the experimenter. This is this social group's greatest value, although its only social one. What has been the driving force in this social group's need for exclusivity and renewal? Principally it has been its fantasies or idealism, that made it able to squeeze the life force into forms that were actually quite unachievable, thereby making the effort endless.

Desire and comfort

Gold is good but cake is better.
One could say that the European aristocracy has perceived luck as a holy duty and has made the movement towards the unknown, or evolution, into its profession or morality by perceiving the aesthetic craving not as a possibility but as a necessity, something a priori, static and inevitable or ethical, as bad luck was death to it.

If the human being regards it necessary to fulfill all its wishes, then what it could regard as necessary is unlimited, for its ability to wish seems to be unlimited.

If the human being just regards it necessary to satisfy its needs, then what it can regard as unnecessary and as meaningless disturbance of its peace and quiet is incredible. Thus it is aesthetic phenomena like dissatisfaction, envy, covetousness, the destructive urge and other idealisms that make people develop the good sides of their character. In a biological sense, a human being does not need to stay alive after its children have been born and brought up.

However, aristocratic evolution has created new needs, this has happened simply by these being neglected in favour of wishes. 'If they cannot get their daily bread, let them eat cake', is the aristocrat's attitude to popular demands. When, however, the wild hunt for cakes created satiation and inertia, absolutely worthless values that replaced life values were found in gold and diamonds, and when there is talk of value in Western Europe, then this means money, the pure, valueless dream that justifies the insatiable hunger or absolute craving for evolution in the three stages of sensory desire, craving for money and ambition.

Money has no smell

Money, violence and god's grace command respect, right and art.
Monetary value is an absolutely conventional or social illusion and the hunt for money is the hunt for an idea or an ideal. In itself a currency note is quite without value. It is an absolute and pure possibility conditioned only by people's belief in it. With this the perfect aesthetic goal is achieved. But the hunt for money is the hunt to force new requirements on other people. The immense cultural value of the discovery of money is that it only works for added value.

The development of this system took place through the Mesopotamian, Phoenician, Greek, Roman and Jewish cultural streams and marked the fate of these peoples. Only the Jews survived this process during their homeless wanderings on the strength of their contempt for actual values, and it was therefore figures like Moses, Christ, Spinoza and Marx who, in their attitude to things and to the duties and rights of ownership, shaped epochs in humanity's subjective struggle for freedom.

Debt and credit

God is a millionaire!
– Frank Buchmann
In its innermost being, aesthetic evolution is a credit system, an uninterrupted investment in the unknown, in which there is to be found no demonstrable cover, only risk. This can, however, be profitable, because the belief in credit, deferred payment of debt, and the feeling of compromise compels renewed endeavour. For centuries Europe has lived on credit and expected appropriation – for whom? For its future.

If one is only one's own slave and is fighting for an uninterrupted liberation of oneself for oneself, then credit has ideality, but if credit is compelled as a charity or help from without, then compliance is grudging and without ideality and enthusiasm. This has always been the case with the broad masses of people in Europe and today it is the case for Europe as a whole. We have been well helped, as they say.

That this way of life animated by a credit system has had its ideological attitude to life shaped poetically in Christianity's teaching of guilt or deferred payment is so striking that no one can be a good Christian without knowing and valuing the practical investment economy. This is a question of what is officially regarded as most important in this teaching.

The bankruptcy of aristocratism

He who takes gifts, makes himself a slave, and sells his freedom.
We do not produce to satisfy humanity's vital or reproductive needs, but to create surplus. However, instead of talking about production surplus, it is now called surplus production, and from talk of free time we have today gone over to calling it unemployment. This beautiful phenomenon has taken on a bitter taste, because idealism or possibilities are lacking. The same point has been reached as the North American Indians. One can only demonstrate one's surplus power and create new possibilities by destroying commodities or people. The possibilities of investment are used up and there is now use for new ideas, new perspectives, and these all point towards a change of the productive and ideological system from aristocratic production to productive democracy.

European aristocracy has had no race-refining or biologically improving value, despite this having been used as a pretext for the privileges enjoyed this group. On the other hand, it has had a value as a driving force in the increase of production and the gradual union of humanity and inter-racial unity, even though in itself it has acted as a shock, a divisive restlessness and an unproductive exploiter. This is the self-contradictory condition of all action.

Conquest, exploitation and administration

Peace is only best if one wants to do something.
This evolution has happened via war, oppression, colonization and self-destruction to the advantage of a new centre of violence. In this way high culture was shifted from Mesopotamia over Greece to Rome, which colonized the whole of Europe, and, with the Renaissance to the whole world. Just as we have divided the aesthetic process into three mutually conflicting movements, transformation, beautification and refinement, we can divide social acquisition into three corresponding stages: conquest, which is perceived by the aristocracy as the aesthetic stage, exploitation, which is perceived as the ethical stage, and administration or settlement, which is perceived as the resigned or religious stage, representing a power shift between military aristocracy, trade aristocracy and intellectual aristocracy, a trinity we often see symbolized in the sword, the scales and the book, but whose mutual conflicts have often been of a very dramatic nature. Of course, the aristocracy must also perceive its own existence as a necessity, and as this cannot be determined materially, then it must be done by maintaining the immobility of ideality. From this comes aesthetic ethics.

Perspectives of renewal

Art only wishes war for the sake of peace.
– Georg Brandes
At a time when all the peoples of the earth, so to speak, know each other, these functions automatically lose their value, which lay only in their social, aggressive, domineering or aesthetic significance, and all the huge surplus of energy that modern technology has created is now streaming towards new tasks, from the mutual rapprochement or infighting between human beings to a struggle to acquire nature and subjugate it. The productive or artistic human being thereby stands out as the dominant power factor, and the aesthetic or exciting factor, where the investment hazarded can be absorbed; goes over to science and the fine arts, whilst the democratic enrichment of living standards ends the fermentation in social tension. Today this unknown perspective, which began with the democratic currents in the previous century, is what we are seeing expanding with an irresistible force. In prehistory, every male was buried with his weapon, because the group was not in peace with its neighbours. Today a war even between the Scandinavian countries is almost unthinkable and we are participating in the dramatic birth of united humanity with individual equal rights.53 This does not mean that the conflict of interests is becoming less. On the contrary, it is just becoming of another character.

 

Aesthetics as radicalism, masculine aggression or seduction


Oh, everywhere noise. And as one says of an exciting drink, it moves the blood, so in our times [always A.J.] everything, even the most insignificant affair, everything, even the most inane message, is just calculated to shake the senses or to touch the masses, the many, the public, the noise! And the human being, that sagacious head, that has been almost sleepless in order to find new, new means to increase the noise, to spread with greatest possible haste and according to the largest possible measure the row and the meaninglessness. Yes, contrariness is soon reached: the message is soon brought to the lowest level in the direction of significance, whilst at the same time the means of communication have about reached the highest level in the direction of rapid and all-flooding distribution. Consequently what is in so much hurry to get out, and, on the other hand, what has greater distribution than – rubbish? Oh, seek silence!
– Søren Kierkegaard
The dynamics of the state

The two principles effect and cause, aggression and reproduction, renewal or aesthetics and conservation or ethics, have been given their bourgeois expression in the social process by the opposition between private initiative and the state. We have demonstrated that these two concepts are neither absolute nor mutually independent but mutually invoke and abolish each other that the state can never be a static or absolute a priori, and the private or meaningless by resistance is always conditioned by the context.

As is well known, the word idiot means private person, and this description harmonizes excellently with the consistently absurd and meaningless in the very character of aesthetic or private initiative. But if the expansion of this pleasant activity is reserved for certain tradespeople, one must then introduce the just as absurd belief in the absolute and eternal principle of the state, the immovable and inflexible regularity.

In our time, the understanding has been reached that nothing is immovable and that therefore the state as an absolute concept is just an abstraction. New ethical and aesthetic perspectives in social life have hereby been opened up. The perception of the state has become dynamic. The evolution of society is changing the social context incessantly, and what most indicates a development towards greater social stability is not the growing social initiative of the peasant and the worker – we have seen that before, for example, in the Middle Ages – but the growing equal rights and penetration into the administration of society of women.

When woman created man

The first thought in women and the second in men are always the best.

It has turned out that much has evolved quite differently from our imaginings. If we examine biological evolution, then we will see that Eve comes before Adam. In primitive animal forms the male is just a little attachment to the female, a side-bone, a cutlet which, into the bargain, she eats after fertilization has occurred. If one looks further into evolution, then one gets the impression that the male, who has the least genetic significance and who is the most superfluous (something we also recognize in the law of the hunt), evolved into an aesthetic phenomenon for the entertainment, distraction and enjoyment of the female, until in the higher animals, the male develops his aggressive and destructive capabilities and becomes both attacker and defender, and thus, in short, the avant-garde of the evolution of life. Consequently, on the strength of his lesser actual value, the male becomes the external and superficial power or ruler. Therefore one will also see that the man's aesthetic or renewing abilities will therefore also be seen to be greater generally than those of the woman, whilst in return the woman has greater powers of conservation and harmonization or ethics than the man. In a purely aggressive race without culture, the man has to be the supreme ruler.

It is perhaps correct that women discovered agriculture, the foundation of humanity's constructive or cultural existence, but it is just as certain, at any rate, that where the man keeps to his earlier occupation with hunting and fishing, social development stagnates in a happy state where the men hang about idling and the women work diligently and with satisfaction.

On the strength of her genetic significance, the woman (apart from exceptions) is not and cannot be a luxury being. The man, on the other hand, (apart from some exceptions) can. It is therefore quite innocuous nonsense to perceive the woman as a luxury animal. But as far as the man is concerned, the situation is seriously different.

From killer to creator

Woman has, all in all, an innate talent and a primitive gift of an absolute virtuosity for clarifying finiteness.– she understands this profoundly, she is therefore lovely, and, in essence, every woman is therefore is graceful, and no man is that. Therefore she is happy, happy as no man can or should be.– she is more perfect than the man, as the one who explains something is more than the one that hunts for an explanation. The woman explains finiteness. The man searches for infinity.
– Søren Kierkegaard
The man's transformation from killer to producer is in fact the most difficult process in human history and it is not finished yet. The difficulty lies above all in finding new perspectives for humanity's aesthetic or renewing abilities. The particular difficulty here lies in the idealistic or absolute belief in improvement or one-sided progress that halts opportunities for development.

However, as our task is not of a constructive but of an instructive kind, we will turn back to the European superman and see if we can also create a little variation and context in that picture.

Faust – Don Juan – Ahasuerus – Hamlet54


I have observed that the strange humming, plaintive sound with which a little projectile from a rifle penetrates the air is far more life-giving to the public than the fullest orchestral tones. Only in the projectile's personality do I find the explanation why its rough music makes an impression on the human race.
– Johannes Holbek
What Holbek calls personality, I call quality.
– A.J.

Liberator, libertine and liberalist

In our aesthetic high culture, we have been able to distinguish between three different spheres of existence, which have furnished three different, apparently independent aesthetics, that mutually exclude each other, if they are not to be perceived as stages in the aesthetic process:55

1. The aesthetics of idealistic conquest, which we know especially from German philosophy, and which places the emphasis upon renewal, fantasy, the wish or the phenomenon of the idealization: the aesthetics of liberation.

2. The aesthetics of varying appropriation, which we know especially from French art and philosophy and which puts the emphasis upon manifold richness and initiation, the phenomenon of the introduction: the aesthetics of beauty or the libertine.

3. The aesthetics of ennobling exploitation which we know especially from the utilitarian English philosophy of pleasure where the emphasis is placed upon the formal problem of harmony: the aesthetics of control or liberalism.

German aesthetics

Without war the world would stagnate in materialism.
– Field-Marshall von Moltke
This reference to the high culture of these three countries is not accidental. Throughout the centuries, Germany intellectually and materially has resembled a building site. In spite of or rather because of their unique ability for conquest and renewal in technical, artistic and scientific respects, the Germans have never been able to conquer or appropriate, to use or maintain anything whatsoever. Even the most refined and elegant German object has something raw, ugly, offensive and undigested about it. The Germans have been the most marked individualists in Europe, independent and yet derivative. The context has always been for them just an idea, capable only of realization by force from without. One might almost call Germany the novelty centre or invention area of Europe.

French aesthetics

Je m'engage et puis je vois.
– Napoleon Bonaparte
In the same way one could call France Europe's centre of beauty, for no country has had the ability to get things going, to give shape to art and science, to make it look impressive, as this country. Yet precisely their ability to capture and use everything makes France resemble a beautiful and immensely vigorous ruin, because they have lacked the ability to utilize, round off and complete anything they have started (Panama and Suez). Frenchmen have been able to get even humanity's stupidities to look smart and elegant. They have a peculiar individualistic feeling of community. They love plans but would never think of following them. (The ideal introduction area.)

English aesthetics

England expects every man to do his duty.
– Admiral Nelson, at the bombardment of Copenhagen in 180756
To a far higher degree, the English have understood how to criticize, discard, use and capture the essential. They have not asserted themselves with anything new or brilliant, but with the noble and pure, the sympathetic or boring. If the Germans have been the greatest personalities and at the same time the most characterless and lacking in social attitude, then the English have been the strongest and most impersonal characters in European history. It is almost as if they have no ideals or individuality, but only express themselves as club-people for whom the context is something absolute and obvious, something accidental – aesthetic nonsense or sport which best develops in meaninglessness. If the English are bored, they travel to France, and they do this all the time, just as the French seek renewal with the Germans, which happens extremely rarely. This distinction is, of course, not absolute. It merely makes clear where three amoral stages in the aesthetic process have developed in the richest and strongest manner. This was the information area England.

Scandinavian poverty

Je suis de race lointaine: mes pères était Scandinaves: ils se perçaient les côtes, buvaient leur sang. – Je me ferai des entailles partout le corps, je me tatouerai, je veux devenir hideux comme un Mongol: tu verras, je hurlerai dans les rues. Je veux devenir bien fou de rage.

– Je l'écoute faisant de I'infarnie une gloire, de la cruauté un charme.
– Arthur Rimbaud57
But where does Danish and Scandinavian high culture stand in this context? Well, no European cultural history has seriously considered the existence of such a phenomenon except as an imitation. The Scandinavian countries are amongst the oldest and most intact cultures in the world and yet it is only in Sweden that there are tendencies towards a purely non-folk oriented cultural environment. Our gift for admiration, which hinders us in choosing whilst letting others do it for us, is our most pronounced aesthetic characteristic. If one could call England Europe's centre of refinement, then one could call Scandinavia the dream centre of Europe, if dreams can have such a thing. One of the first things that civilized history tells of the encounter with the Scandinavians is that they were such big gamblers that they not only gambled all their possessions away but also pledged themselves. Hamlet and Peer Gynt are typical of these peoples living in an unreal stage setting meant to represent Europe, but which at its most profound is just as much oriental as occidental. It is this cultural attitude that forms the basis of our study.

What Almqvist calls the blessing of poverty has been bestowed upon us in rich measure,58 both materially and spiritually, whereas the curse of poverty, which in England became the grotesque opposite pole of refinement, human debasement, was to a great degree unknown. In no other place in the world do aestheticians plumb the depths in madness and poverty as often and as compellingly as here. We are brought up to it.

This delight in the dream has given Scandinavians the instinct that everything ideal is first and foremost imagination and this literally makes our cultural picture immune to the rule of aesthetic or classical high culture, which rests precisely upon the opposite principle that it is the ideal which shapes the imagination. This lack of classical tradition is the reason why Thorvaldsen was able to produce a sheer model illusion or imitation. In the North, we are not only at the cold frontier of civilization but of existence, truth and life themselves. The naked field of the imagination.

The tragic guilt

The wild mind that has such a flight,
that what it sees as bad soon becomes good.
– Henrik Ibsen. Brand
That was the truth about that museum subject 'the European'. Crime is the juridical expression for what in psychology is called guilt or sense of indebtedness. Evolution is a chain of crimes with liberation as a result. Hence the latent sense of guilt or debt that is also reflected in the economic area, unless one perceives meaninglessness and lack of responsibility as values of possibility. The self-condemnatory element in the aesthetician's sufferings, torment, struggle and defeat, based upon his amoral wickedness, creates a crisis of conscience in him and the condemning society because the possibility endows the action with heroic pathos. The aesthetician is at the same time guilty and not guilty.

But we have gone beyond the tragic or heroic stage, and as Brandes remarks, 'The great characters put their honour in being guilty. This only means that the hero is too proud to move others (to encourage compassion and thereby absolution), not that he is too humble to be accused. But if the bridge is chopped off, if all the expedients for getting rid of guilt by putting them behind him, over the shoulder of fate, are not accessible, then the tragic hero has vanished.' This is interesting. Only if one cowardly begs for grace or justification, does one become a hero. If the aesthetician wants to be responsible for his lack of responsibility with the same dignity as the Viking or the French nobility as it was borne to the scaffold during the revolution, then heroism has vanished. Søren Kierkegaard remains in the heroic role, even though he whimpers, 'My choice is made, I divest myself of the hero's raiment and the pathos of tragedy, I am the humbled one, who feels his offence. I have one expression for what I suffer: Guilt – one expression for my offence: Repentance – one hope for my eye: Forgiveness.' Only a real hero who is on his way out speaks thus, hiding, like the American millionaire, his exclusivity under the grey suit of self-pity. Everything that Søren Kierkegaard and Nietzsche have written is simply aesthetics, aesthetics of genius. However, true aesthetics is a rare commodity.

Aesthetics as inspiration, enthusiasm or spontaneity


...Reconnaissance, Amour, Dieu, Monarque...
         Un homme reviendra peut-être, qui dans un seul ouvrage resumera ces quatre idees et aIors notre siècle aura quelque terrible Rabelais, qui pressera Ia Iiberté comme Stendhal vient de froisser Ie cœur humain.

– Balzac
The artistic method of aesthetics

We have called the present work a study of the remotest or extreme phenomenon of aesthetics, and believe we have detailed it both in its independence and its essential connections.

We have not attempted to penetrate deeper into the world of beauty, but have followed its outermost limit, as in the task we set ourselves. It now seems natural if, to finish, we draw the conclusion that our perception must have for the fine arts that represent our professional interest. We will do this with a quotation from C.J.L. Almqvist:
Nothing unnatural can exist within nature. It must correspond to the general natural world hitherto presented to us and to some system or other, for otherwise it is not in nature and if it really confronts the eyes none can say: oh how untrue.

Answer in earnest for once: can art ever depict other than what can be found – namely in the human soul, in the draughtsman's soul? Is this not also a nature, a reality, a truth?

What? But by God, according to this rule, whence comes your judgement about the most idiotic irrationalities? What hinders the imagination from descent into ravings, Phoebus himself to febrile fantasy?

Take care! Perhaps after the apparent defence against irrationalities, the most dangerous still remain.

Paint, sing, write everything – only, only – don't be boring!

Now all the screws are loose, for if one sets oneself the goal of composing to the standard of not being boring – what rule decides such a thing? What one finds boring can please another. One is pleased with a bacchanal, another condemns that sort of thing and finds the admirable in a hymn, and not only when the genre itself is ruled by the same subjective, changeable and chance taste. What standard should the artist then have?

Have I ever said that in art one should work according to goals?

If a stroke of lightning thrills your soul, if a heaven (according to your way) dawns in it – then sing, paint or write, and you are an artist. Woe unto you otherwise. If you draw in the living features a happy stroke of lightning showed you, then this drawing is probably enjoyable – for you at the least. So you can be sure that the composition captivated at least one person.

But if you, however, sit down with resolution, despite the trouble and difficulties that it causes you (almost as if guided by a certain medicinal and expectant willingness) to compose a work that will give pleasure to, interest and refresh others – then be aware that this will please no one. What is vital – regardless of many a fault – has greatness within it, comes to life. What is limp and lifeless – whether or not it founders on some other good characteristic – lacks, at least, the whole.

Therefore obey the divine lightning, when it commands you – artist, do not speculate about whether it is reasonable, whether it is sublime, whether it is..., be a fly caught in a spider's web, but draw – in the hour of your fortune – be glad and make glad.

But should everything then be judged according to pleasure, should enjoyment be made the core of the system and the purpose of things? In no way. But for him who finds something admirable, enjoyment is surely there too, a true and correct enjoyment as an inevitable consequence and fruit. By its fruit can you thus know and measure your own work.

Everything you put together under the rule of a heavenly fire certainly has its own true naturalness. If you venture to shape something outside this, be certain then that it, in a true artistic sense, will become unnatural, be it a copy of whatsoever reality there is in your vicinity, of whatsoever planks or cottage.

But – some would now say about me – how can you venture to do such a thing as to reject all theories, to hate systems, advise against all order? – and even worse, how can this be reconciled with morals, religion and all correctness, purity, virtue in fine art, when you deny the artist a standard, a goal, a mark – and just want him to be driven by an incomprehensible flame?

I hate no system that really is a system. – I have just said that the artist should not have his goal before him.


The aesthetic artist and the laws of society


Has existence become less beautiful by this observation? Not if one has an aristocracy to be joyful about, the significance of which is based on accident and accidentally based thereon. No, one has a kingdom of gods.
– Søren Kierkegaard
The social fate of aesthetics

Even though we take the fate that can overtake morals and virtue, religion and other good things lightly, we cannot, at any rate, permit ourselves to avoid detailing the fate that will overtake the enthusiastic aesthetician with sufficient courage to follow our bold programme.

We do not have space here to follow him in his struggle with matter and have to let the treatment of the aesthetics of technique and the art work wait until a later occasion, but, in continuation of the sociology of aesthetics, we would just like to investigate the reactions of the body of society to new or extreme aesthetic phenomena introduced by the human being, and thus perhaps indicate a freer position on the part of the aesthetician regarding the difficulties into which he has thrown himself.

Here it is not a matter of refined and aristocratic exclusivity feeling its right to kill, exploit and eradicate. On the contrary, we are interested in the working, artistic and creative human being occupied by this single thing, his harmonious, universally renewing and comprehensively valid art and, of course, the universal, indeed. cosmic human fellowship in artistic expression, even though the way the problem presents itself is at first the same, because the unknown has unknown intentions and effects.

We are even ignoring the struggle around the exploitation of aesthetic resources which is taking place in society today between, on the one side, the artists and the artistically conscious scientists and, on the other, the military, commercial and intellectual aristocracy, for or against a democratic evolution.

Heretic and criminal
You are right – shot shall you be.
In his book on the golden mistletoe, The Golden Bough, Frazer describes how primitive people often kill their medicine men when they demonstrate abnormal fortune in their healings, and thereby reveal that they have abnormal powers. He relates that even in highly enlightened Rome, a case was brought against a farmer because his vegetables were always uncommonly well-grown, and despite the poor man being unable to point to other causes for his advance than rational working methods and well-kept tools, he was nevertheless condemned to death for his subversive activities. The story is also told that the discoverer of palm wine was killed because of his uncommon ability to invoke spirit or spirits, which did not, however, hinder his murderers from exploiting this inheritance to its fullest. All such crimes are committed, not because of superstition but, on the contrary, because of scepticism59 and sound common sense, in order to maintain peace and order, decency, the rules, custom and usage, bon ton and public rights and morals, and this is in no way a thing of the past, but is and always will remain the primary social problem for aesthetics, because all renewal is crime against the rule, and as a consequence punishable.

Power and magic
Knowledge is power.
Crime or law-breaking is like a wound in the body, an irritation, that attracts all the interest because something has been committed that is not permitted. Every crime therefore is a miracle or wonder, be it just the theft of a chest of drawers.60 If, however, the action is successful in showing that the impossible was possible for someone, then we have come outside the area of extreme aesthetics, the unknown has become partially known, the powerless has become a power or a magical factor, the aesthetic has been transformed into art in its primary meaning. We see that we are here using the word magic as a synonym for art or power, and the word magician for the artist in the meaning shoemaker, watchmaker etc. and are ignoring that the word has gradually only been attached to makers of magic by thought, word and imagination.61

I want briefly to sketch this new presentation of the problem, even though it falls outside our demarcated task, also because much lack of clarity rules in this indistinct area.

Secret powers
Every advance is immoral until the majority is convinced.
– Bernard Shaw62
The new, strange and unique have these designations because it is the novelty that invokes our wonder on account of its rarity. We have hereby established the aesthetic state of desire and anxiety called neurosis. The unique power or sphere of interest acts in society, the sphere of interest wherein it isolates itself, as a secret, a mystery which can seem threatening and dangerous to others because it can act as a destructive or tyrannical monopoly. The aggression thus accumulated against this state within the state on the part of society is therefore just as healthy and natural as the body's reaction to bacteria or to the child at birth.

This is the reason why science's discoveries must always belong and be publicly accessible to the people – to humanity.

Models and admiration
The barren ears of corns stand erect, whilst the full ones hang down.
But at the same time the unique achievement invites imitation, reproduction, which is the essence of art and culture, and takes on the character of a model and, through this, of a forerunner, if the initiative becomes of universal value. Wonder has been subjectivized or critical and transformed to a play between disdain and admiration, the comical and the heroic. A power that just rests upon imagination or that one believes is based on pure fantasy appears comical. Therefore in the discrepancy between their ability and their self-assuredness, all young people appear comical. Abominable is any power that directly and one-sidedly wishes to crush one's own sphere of interest, and tragic any power that acts in the same way and therefore has to be destroyed, but which under other circumstances could have been coordinated with our sphere of interest. The establishment of European high culture began with the establishment of secret, exclusive societies of mysteries which formed a privileged elite, a leadership or an established rule. The inevitability about democratic evolution lies in the elite only having reality as an avant-garde, as forerunners and pioneers and not as people of power. They are like the foreword to the book of life, and exclusive secrecy only has truth value if it is able to be transformed into one great secret, a universal human value.

Personality and character
Es bildet ein Talent sich in der Stille,
sich ein Charakter in dem Strom der Welt.

– Goethe
Static aesthetics has gone bankrupt in its attempts to find the absolutely admirable and the absolutely contemptible. It is profoundly symbolic that it was the parasitic plant, the golden mistletoe, that became the sign of the state within the state, the superman or master race in opposition to the masses. What has been said about the loner or the chosen one is undoubtedly correct, but what makes the superman philosophy illusory is the condition that the masses, the indifferent multitude, do not exist at all, are an abstraction, that everyone is a herd member as at the same time a loner or a personality.

Fate and character are synonymous, says Novalis, and Brandes adds that they, in their turn, are identical with morality. Here we have the point of departure for the superman theory. For the mistletoe, the tree is paramount and for the ruler the masses are: 'The you is older than the I' as Nietzsche said. But we maintain that fate and the ego or personality are synonyms because misfortune, as Jens August Schade has said, cannot strike he who does not carry misfortune within him, and that

I – personality, existence or expression is paramount.

You – the character, essence or impression that others have of the personality is secondary.

He – conduct is the footprint of the individual.


Individualism is not the essence of the one but of all. Character upbringing is the influence of others upon the individual, so that he adapts himself according to the social context, and character judgement is just an external evaluation of the drama of the course of life, an aesthetic evaluation of fortune and misfortune, not an evaluation of that inner accord with the action through all vicissitudes which lies beyond good and bad, which lies outside law and rights, humour and tragedy, outside the contemptible and the admirable, and which can only be expressed with words like vitality or mood. This is, as the Swedish poet Almqvist says, the primary criterion for all art and development, the inner strength. The social problem lies in the harmonization of the development of personality with the formation of character.

Heroism and monumentality
Why life, why death?
Why live, when we have to die?
Why struggle when we know that the sword
will be wrenched from our hand sometime?
Wherefore these bonfires of torment and pain,
this life of thousands of hours in slow suffering,
this slow dying out in the suffering of death?

– J.P. Jacobsen
It is this difference that Johannes V. Jensen overlooks in his admiring homage to 'the superman' Knut Hamsun, when, in his book Aesthetics and Evolution, he compares that regrettable individual with the Nordic Vikings:
Here Hamsun should be remembered, the great, admired model, who more than anyone else in his time tempted [one] onto the path of the author. From no one else have I received stronger impressions of Nordic revelation, sparkling Nordic genius.

...Association with him was association with the great Northerners, the exceptional menfolk of the sagas. Bjørnsson renewed the saga by placing the Nordic peasant in it again, Hamsun was the peasant, the saga itself, physically as well as mentally, a giant to look at and bubbling with wit and feeling, a finer instrument than any other so-called cultural personage has ever been able to show the equal.

He had also the Northerners' great faults, but they were great weaknesses in a sumptuous style, as we know from Sigurd Jorsalfar, and most of the North's young history, a magnanimity of a peculiarly self-destructive kind, but we will not drag that in here. Instead one prefers to linger by the humour expressed, which connects the thought of Hamsun with memories from the Jomsvikings' Saga, the tough, long-haired fellows who were executed after the battle of Hjørungavåg, and who went to their death with a fine joke on their lips and an admonishment to the executioner not to get blood on their long, yellow hair. One hastened to put them to death, one cut them short, their wit was able to dishonour the victors for the rest of their lives, indeed, for all time...

No other man have I loved like Hamsun, my most treasured experience is to have met him and to have been alive in about the same generation as him.

Whilst this is being written, autumn 1921, millions of Russian peasants are breaking away from their burned fields and going to the towns in hungry groups, eating grass, dying in thousands under the open sky, after all humanity, the animal too, has been burned out of them with glowing irons, no help possible... What right has one to live, to write in comfort, when such things happen?

Whilst this is being printed, December 1922, I read that the peasants are eating their thatched roofs in the Ukraine. Thus, what one saw a year ago was much exaggerated, they are not all close to death yet.63
What we find ridiculous here is not Johannes V. Jensen's cynicism, but his infatuated admiration for exclusive self-assertion.

Cynicism is, however, the only answer to the question about what right one has to live, to write in comfort, when such things happen. Was this question posed in this unideological way anywhere else than in Scandinavia on that occasion?

He certainly said, 'The human race does not renew itself from the top, but from the root – o, superman,' but In his contempt for the 'masses' he creates just a new form of superman theory, 'the democratic'. But here we find in the heir of Almqvist, Gustav Fröding, a powerful answer to the philosophy of admiration or of 'you' in his ironic commentary to Nietzsche's Zarathustra doctrine:
Thus spoke Zarathustra

One night Zarathustra went up the mountains with his disciples to look at the stars. And as they sat on the mountain looking up at the sky and peering down into the valley, where the forest grew alongside the slopes, Zarathustra bowed his head and fell into thought. Then he lifted his head again and said, 'How often have I not said these words to you: A void virtue and endeavour to do what is evil, for you know that virtue is the talk of restricted slaves, and that evil is good for he who is the lord of evil and not its servant?

How often have I not exhorted you to love and enrich yourselves, and not your nearest, for life is short, and he who does others' deeds and not his own, he shall be like a dry tree, and the dry tree can never be used for the production of that brew that leads to the superman?

But when did I tell you that you should bind people with bonds, in order to be free yourselves? That is the custom of slaves, when they come to power. Or when did I say to you that you should beat and trample on those who fight with you for elevation? That is a slave custom.

Look down over the forest, and see how many treetops are shooting up above the others. Will the high tree become higher if the lower trees are chopped down? Or lift your eyes up to the thousands, indeed, hundreds of thousands of stars, sparkling in space. Do you believe that the star Sirius will shine with a clearer gleam if the others are put out? That is the belief of small boys.

So beware of slave customs and small boys' beliefs when you allow the superman to grow within you. Who knows whether he who thinks himself greatest, is the greatest? And could not he who is still slow-growing, but has great growing strength, be already greater than those already fully grown, who had less strength in the beginning and have already fulfilled the goal of their growth?

So let each and every one grow and illuminate according to his kind and custom and not be low-minded. He who illuminates strongest and most of all, when all have achieved their fullness and culmination, from his seed and sparks shall the superman be produced.'

Thus spoke Zarathustra and his disciples were sore amazed.
As we have already indicated, the human type is incapable of producing biological changes other than variations and cancerous tumours, and as the special aristocratic place in the body of society no longer serves any expansive purpose, as we have also demonstrated, it must be in the area of art and technology that unique and superhuman performances have to find their release in future. It is here that the interest is gathering.

Who are they then who endeavour to offer their special achievements in the unknown and why? But above all how do they get the strength for it? Here too we must admit that appearances are deceptive.

The most beautiful, most admired tree in the forest, the greatest and the strongest, is always the unfruitful tree that uses all its strength for its own expansion. The aesthetic is similarly barren when it is sufficient unto itself. The tree is felled and thrown into the fire, if we do not wish to preserve it as an ornamental tree for the sake of its beauty. Beauty is a sickness that shows itself in an apparently unique healthiness.

Detritus and compensation
He who is lame, dances the best, and he who is dumb, sings the best.
A Swede has very appropriately described this purely aesthetic vitality as phallus with condom. Whether one wishes to be or to have a model, this is the statuesque and dead essence of monumentality or the pure model. This leads to the conclusion that the model is not sought because of its potency but because of its impotence, that the aesthetician is a detritus, a parasite, a 'taugenicht',64 a hanger-on, a surplus person because of ineptitude and the lacking ability to act in the productive context, his lacking ability to realize and perfect himself in 'the good', in community. We no longer kill the sick and the old. We can afford to let them live. But the personality, the soul, can be fit even though the character is weak, and if this is the case, then we are confronted with the true aesthetician, who in compensation tries to justify his existence through action. Instead of saying, like Paul, 'For the good that I would, I do not do: but the evil I would not, that I do,' he is simply saying that what one does is called good and what one does not do is called evil, and as I cannot do what one does, I must do what one does not do, or like Lautréamont, 'If I cannot be perfect in the good, then I will be so in the evil.' This is a far more honest attitude, for what one would but cannot do, is never in itself good. The renewer's options are thus reduced. He 'can do no other', as Luther said, so there is neither reason for admiration nor contempt for the crimes he brings about.

The half-truth of the concept of cause figures strongly in the evaluation of the aesthetic artist. He is not an artist because he is unhealthy. He is able to choose sheer imperfection, sheer infirmity. But he could never achieve the unique without his infirmity.

Aesthetics as obsession, despair or desperation


Every aesthetic view of life is despair, and . . . everyone who lives aesthetically is in despair whether he knows it or not.
          So choose despair then, since despair is in itself a choice, for one can doubt without choosing to, but despair one cannot with choosing to do so. And when one despairs one chooses again, and what does one then choose? One chooses oneself, not in one's immediacy, not as this chance individual, one chooses oneself in one's eternal validity.

– Søren Kierkegaard
Mortgaged and bewitched

One becomes an aesthetician just by, like Faust, selling or mortgaging one's soul. It is rightly said that beauty can kill. Thus Semele died, they say, when she saw the delightful Jupiter. This, the seeing of a new possibility invisible to all others, and to a certain degree also to oneself, makes the aesthetician obsessed or bewitched. If it has become a part of his ego, he can no longer adjust himself to the world of realities he previously found whole and correct and which for others is obvious. Their opposition to realizing the new becomes for him a fetter of stupidity, bone-headedness, narrow-mindedness, bigotry, philistinism, bureaucratism, pigheadedness and perfidy because he himself is bound to it.

An earthquake has occurred in his innards, he has the fragment of the magic mirror in his eye, so that everything others find good and natural to him is a grotesque sham. He has been bewitched, getting ideas in his head. He has been struck by elves and in order not to bleed to death, everything must be realized, immediately, now, here.65 His decision sets dreadful things in motion. The monster surges out with its incomprehensible demands. He loves, takes and gives, tears down only to build up again. But the more he gives, the more he realizes his human affiliation, the more people shrink from him, the lonelier he becomes.

He grieves and says: I cannot have given enough. But the more he gives, the harder it becomes to accept. So finally there he stands, shouting desperately out into the vacuum. Whatever he did, it was wrong. His love spread sorrow and destruction, and his creative ability shattered and dissolved. Therefore people still gathered in interest around this idiotic creature in order to strike him down in natural and healthy self-defense, to chase him away or lock him up. A curse that does not allow him to love on earth rests upon the man. He cannot facilitate his strength, cannot transform, has not the necessary strengths.

'He who wants everything in a particular way and as it is – is this admirable? Or if he would have it otherwise, but is unable, has not the strength for it – is this then admirable? Could you ask for more?' says Almqvist.

One can be an opponent of the aesthetic life-view because one is an opponent of despair and suffering. One can fight both parts, yes, ban them, declaring the aesthetic to be insane, criminal, unhealthy and perverted, but there is one thing one cannot do, if one throws oneself into this just fight, regardless of which artistic excuses are made. One cannot avoid being highly unaesthetic, ugly even.

The mad dogs

This then is the aesthetician's lot. Plato suggested crowning them with laurels and guiding them to the borders of the country with orders never to come back and some are still trying to realize that programme. That's what the authorities are for.

The artistic aesthetician is the prophet, the seer who lacks the strength because he lacks the people. Thus it can be from time to time. But it can also be whole social groups which, like the German peasants under the leadership of Thomas Münster in the Reformation, rose in rebellion in order to realize the new. Then the adherents of the 'established order' say, like Martin Luther, 'Strike them down like mad dogs.'
A dead dog once lay in a market-place. A group of people had gathered around it according the custom of crows. They always gather around corpses. One said of the animal: Ugh, how it stinks, and the third added some other terms of abuse. In short, everyone expressed their contempt and disgust at the dead dog's body. Then the prophet of the Christians, Jesus of Nazareth, came walking by. He regarded the dog for some time and said: The teeth are as white as pearls.
These words were the highest manifestations of sympathy that could be offered to C.J.L. Almqvist when he was struck down and hunted from Sweden.66 For those who had felt his teeth in their back, it was perhaps a directly sublime gesture to set up this monument to a talented attacker. But we think that even the aesthetic must be known by its fruit more than by its uniqueness. This was the point of view asserted by Almqvist, one we have here taken up anew.

The living statue
To injury is added shame and to fortune honour.
There is a folk story that tells of a wonderful statue that comes to life if a ring is put on its finger. Thus it is with all thoughts, all attempts and all experiments: only through their continuance, when they form chains, do they come to life.

Ludvig Feilberg is undoubtedly correct that it is only the most extraordinary physical phenomena that can be observed at all in existence.67 Indeed, that earthquake-like disturbance of the picture of natural development, which creates a synthesis and can not fall back into the old folds, is probably the only remarkable one to be found, whether it be an upheaval of nature, an upheaval of society, an upheaval in the individual's attitude to life or just in the perception of a simple little problem. In the existential sphere, where the artist is his own object of experimentation, or in the political arena. these upheavals are a question of life or death. These are the hard conditions of the evolution of life.

The incredible reality
Who sees me as I am, does not see who I am.
– Hulda Lütken
Art is what we cannot do. Thus goes the aesthetic definition of art. Therefore the artist who tries to do what he cannot do, the most imperfect and incomplete artist, must also be the greatest aesthetician. This undeniably places the evaluation of art in a completely new light.

All those innumerable people who dreamt big dreams they never achieved, thereby become the nucleus of artistic renewal, even though they only take the first step, regardless of where this lapse leads them and however much they may regret it afterwards.

Is it not magnificent that nothing is meaningless, that no one is a number, that no action, however absurd and idiotic it be, lacks this immediate meaning in itself? Is there any paradox any more? Let us grasp events with the warmth of enthusiasm, because they are events whatever happens. We say with Rimbaud, 'Kill yourself or not. But stop bathing yourself in our world of unprotected mortal dread, and enjoying our rotting cadavers in advance. Stop letting that revolver shaft, which inevitably invites a kick up the arse, stick out of your back pocket. Do not mock the true suicide with that eternal hesitation.'

This is what our conscience and experience has taught us about the extreme frontier of aesthetics. We have said it, and each must think what they will.

The humanization of the inhuman
Therefore Ebbe Skammelsøn rides many paths so wild.68
The footprints lead and frighten on the road we have been roaming here. It was Fröding who took the inheritance up after Almqvist and carried it further, until his mind darkened in hopeless ruminations. When we decided to go further down the same road, it was in full consciousness of the risk and danger contained in this decision, and with the will to pay the price. No price seems to us too great to reach the goal of the recognition of human divinity and the divinity of humanity, and AImqvist's dialogue in Luna's Drama, which contains the quintessence of our standpoint, could hardly have been more burningly topical when it was written than it is today: Indeed, perhaps it will always be life's great problem, its great contrast:
What daring – I admit it – what daring in such serious times as ours to venture a poetry, and not just dare to contain it, but even to jot it down, indeed, to broadcast it. At a time when great political conflicts, plans and worries keep people busy in the interests of states to such a high degree.

To such a high degree that the most razor-sharp wisdom, level-headedness and exclusion of fantasy and poetry are apparently necessary in those setting the trend, so that no step to the side, no blunder, shall put in train disasters of a thousand kinds or give one's opponent an advantage or one's adherents a drubbing. In a word, how should one describe the whim of being a poet in the year l835?' {Or the year 1952?}, {1963, etc.?}.69

However, the friendliness with which I have been received {?} has encouraged me. I know that in truth I have trodden a new, an extremely free path, and that kind of thing needs an excuse: even though, apart from its own nature, it can be excused on the strength of its novelty and great freedom alone.

A poetry where the verses do not go their symmetrical and fast way forward independently of the subject, but where these suit themselves to the content and the thing to the degree that without them they would not mean anything at all, but fall to earth, and become nil.

A garb created after nature to the degree that it only suits what it should and nothing else, cannot be taken out and shown off as a beautiful suit by itself, without a body – what can one say about such a garb – about such a poor, impoverished form?

But what does surprise me is that you in times that are so political, as you said in your first remark, do not find yourself occasioned to tread the light pall, of politics instead of just at this moment making poetry.

Look, sir, I profoundly and inwardly acknowledge the significance of politics, the significance of the reorganization of society in everything that needs help, and that is a great deal, and that there can only be a few feelings, a few thoughts, a few opinions, a few minutes left over for those who work In society to listen to poetry, that I find quite natural. But nevertheless note something:

Youthful hearts and warm senses, crystal-clear and sensitive ideas still guard this fire in the land just as before and just as numerously. They guard it in silence, in the holy silence of foresight. They have no voice in society. They listen instead to songs and they sing themselves.

I love them and I know that they love me. An invisible, secret but almighty sympathy moves between the hearts that beat like ours. In the memory of them is what verse and poetry will awaken in me, were I even the least of them all here in the world that ventured to love.

Venture, why do you say that? What is it to dare to love?

It is to be capable of dying, sir. But once more: were I the least amongst those that ventured that most dangerous thing on the earth – to love – I would venture it, however, endlessly, immortally: And those who are greater In delightfulness than me would just love me, because I am small. Were my hand the poorest of all those who raise themselves in order to tug a little feather from the wings of the great, beautiful subjects flying azurine over people's heads. I would lift up my hands, as happy as a child, and those who are stronger than me would not disdain the light, airy feathers that I was now and then successful in tugging down from the wings – they would love me – I know it – love me, just because my hands are so poor.

When the question turns upon noble people who in purity, strength and greatness exceed their times, then is it not so that we regard them with admiration as rising in development upwards? Their character grows, their hearts are purified to an even more transparent crystal. Their thoughts, their horizons and their words are almost no longer those of humans. We see them hardly touching the earth with their feet, but their countenances and heads have such a light radiance that we sink back. We kneel almost as if for super-earthly beings and we drop our eyes down towards matter in order not to be dazzled. They leave us in their greatness and we cannot follow them, we small ones. They do not take us with them, they hardly lead us: if they took us by the hand their handshake would just crush it. Such a vision of the ascension of personality, of expansion, of motion upwards, of the making divine of a human being is what is commonly shown in the history of the female saints. Nevertheless this is not the case in Luna's drama. On the contrary.

Here is a human being, who by consequence of nature and misfortune already stands high, who even at the beginning of the scenes stands at the top – but who thereafter goes forward, goes more and more down to humanity, is reduced, gathered and diminished to an individual of ordinary limitations. In other words: the humanization of a heroic character is what I feel is reflected here.

Can M. Hugo solve the puzzle and tell me if it is good? – if it is noble? If it is noble enough on the earth to be a human and nothing more?
Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto.70
– Terence

 


Notes:

1a. From scene VI of Almqvist's play Ramido Marinesco.

1. 'The individual' here is Kierkegaard's 'individual'. Kierkegaard writes that '"The individual" is the category through which, in a religious aspect, this age, this history, humanity must pass.' This and a long elaboration can be found in Synspunktet for Min Forfatter-Virksomhed (Two 'Notes' concerning my Activity as an Author).

2. Immanuel Ibsen (1887-1944). The lecture mentioned was published under the aegis of the Host Exhibition Group with a foreword by Jorn (PHH 44).

3. Helhesten (The Horse of Hel) was a Danish art periodical issued in defiance of the occupying German authorities during World War II. It appeared in 9 numbers between 1941 and 1944. Vol. 1 No. 2 was dated 10.5.41.

4. Sigurd Næsgaard (1883-1956), Danish psychologist influential in the introduction of Freud's psycho-analysis to Denmark and in its effects on Danish art-life. Jorn and several of his artist collegues were under analysis with him from the period 1938-1945.

5. Jorn actually lists these as 'Dansk Kunsthândværk, A5 Menighedsblade for unge arkitekter, Arkitekten (Meddeleleser fra Akademisk Arkitektforening) and the Swedish architechtural journal Byggm ästeren (Organ for Stolkholms Byggnadsförening, Svenska Arkitektföreningen), the Dutch architectural journal Forum and others.'

6. The Cobra magazine was the organ of the Cobra group and appeared in 8 issues in 1949-1951: a further proof issue from 1951 was published in 1980. Golden Horn and Wheel of Fortune was not published (privately) until 1957. Jorn apparently follows the anthropological distinction between animism, a belief in intrinsic spirits, in, for example, trees or stones, and animatism, a belief in diffuse, impersonal spiritual power, but appears to equate the later with the state of artistic creation, something he sees related to ideas of magic and shamanism.

7. Suresnes was the location of the Maison des Danois, a house for Danish artists in Paris, where Jorn stayed in 1950-1951.

8. This article was first published in 1988 Hofman Hansen bibliography. Jorn was the first person to translate Kafka's work from German into Danish, a couple of stories being published in Helhesten in 1941-1942.

9. Pierre Wemaëre (b. 1913), French painter and tapestry designer. Fellow-student at Léger's academy and life-long friend of Jorn.

10. Halftmann made this remark in the introduction to Schweizer Suite, a portfolio of 23 engravings from 1961.

11. Kant. In the subsequent paragraphs Jorn quotes from the early Beobachtungen über das Gefühl des Schönen und Erhaben, almost certainly from Kant, Die drei Kritiken, Stuttgart, Alfred Kröner, 1960. Where I can identify passages in Jorn's idiosyncratic translation I have used the John T. Goldthwait translation (Kant, Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1991), slightly adjusted to follow Jorn's drift.

12. Jens August Schade (1903-1978), Danish lyric poet. Friend of Jorn from 1938 until his death.

13. Birkerød, a middle-class suburb of Copenhagen.

14. Raymond Aron, Dix-huit leçones sur la société industrielle, Paris, 1962.

15. Suresnes was the location of the Maison des Danois, a house for Danish artists in Paris, where Jorn stayed in 1950-1951.

16. Jorn's use of the masculine possessive pronoun here (and in similar passages) appears to be quite deliberate. The Danish nouns for 'ego', 'body', and 'individual' are neuter and Jorn flouts the rule that to be correct grammatically they require a possessive pronoun of the same case.

17. Erwin Panofsky, Studies in Iconology, New York, Harper & Row, 1962. Jorn quotes this in the original English (with a couple of spelling mistakes).

18. The whole of this paragraph is a riposte to a review of Jorn's ceramic relief in the State Sixth Form College in Aarhus in 1959. Joakim Skovgaard (1856-1933), assisted by Niels Larsen Stevns (1864-1941) and others, covered the recently heavily (and clumsily) restored medieval Viborg Cathedral with over 2500 square meters of frescos in a naive neo-Romanesque style (1901-1906). Grundtvig's Church in Copenhagen (1921-1940) was a radical reinterpretation of the Danish traditional step-gabled village church in cathedral dimensions. Niels Hansen-Jacobsen (1861-1941) was a Symbolist sculptor responsible for serveral public projects. Thorvald Bindesbøll (1846-1908), architect, sculptor and ceramicist was a representative of that muscular Jugendstil which laid the foundation to much of the Danish design tradition. I take the final sentence of the paragraph to be ironical.

19. Translation from Charles Baudelaire (trans. Carol Clark), Selected Poems, London, Penguin, 1995.

20. Jorn presumably means Taras Bulba, the novella by Gogol, but I cannot find the passage in the Constance Garnett English translation (Nikolay Gogol, Mirgorod, London, Chatto & Windus, 1928).

21. The Swedenborg Enquiry Center in Beckenham cannot trace this quotation, so this must be seen as a doubtful attribution.

22. Nis Petersen (1897-1943), Danish poet and novelist.

23. Carl Julius Salomonsen (1874-1924), Danish doctor & professor. His lecture and later book from 1919 was called Infectious mental disorders in the past and now with special regard to the newest art directions. He used the term 'dysmorphism' [dysmorfisme] to describe what he thought was poorly executed and ugly. Jorn uses both this term and a 'translation' or (unconscious?) anagram of it as 'dysformism' [dysformisme].

24. Erik Arup (1876-1951), Danish historian, wrote A History of Denmark in 3 volumes (1925-55).

25. Meïr Aron Goldschmidt (1819-87), Danish author, was involved in the Corsair-affair, when Kierkegaard was mercilessly lampooned.

26. This is presumably a loose translation of aphorism 1009 from Der Wille zur Machi: 'Gesichtespunkte für meine Werle: ob aus der Faile oder aus dem Verlangen?'

27. Charles Lalo wrote several books on aesthetics in the 1920s and 1930s. Graham Birtwistle, op. cit. (Bibliography), 66-67, 97, speculates that Jorn probably read Elements d'une Esthétique Musicale Scientifique but I have as yet been unable to locate a copy of this. It is quite likely that a title combining 'scientific' with 'aesthetics' would have caught Jorn' s attention.

28. Jorn has 'luxury-produced' (luksuskroducede) here, but this is probably a printer's error as 'luxury producing' (luksusproducerende) fits the bill better.

29. In 1937, whilst a student at Léger's Academy, Jorn enlarged a child's drawing for le Corbusier's Pavilion des temps nouveaux at the Paris World Exhibition. Over the next decade, Jorn moved from admiration (expressed in an article in 1938) to strong opposition of le Corbusier's principles.

30. Karl Vennberg (b. 1910), Swedish lyric poet with socialist convictions and a strong opposition to fixed ideas and ideals.

31. Erik Nyholm (1911-90), Danish ceramicist, one of Jorn' s closest friends.

32. Hulda Lütken (1896-1946), Danish poet and novelist.

33. 'Red roses grow from sorrow and anger', a paraphrase of the refrain from a poem It bodes ill(Derbødesderfor) by J.P. Jacobsen(1847-85): 'There springs sorrow, springs anger from roses red.'

34. Jorn quotes this inaccurately in English as 'Out of this needle danger wee pluck this flower safety.' (Henry IV, pt. I, II, iii).

35. Strindberg's hallucinatory diary/prose poem Inferno was published in 1897. It describes his state of mind when conducting pseudo-scientific experiments to prove his monist theories, as set out in his book Anti-Barbarus.

36. The dragon stem is the prow of a Viking ship. See, for example, the famous Oseberg ship.

37. Ragnarok in Norse mythology is the final great battle where the gods and the giants destroy each other, and a new world comes into existence.

38. Johannes Holbek (1873-1903), Danish Symbolist artist and writer. Jorn organized the first retrospective of his work in 1965.

39. Horseplay = hundekunster (lit. 'dog-arts'), usually translated as 'tomfoolery' or 'monkey tricks'.

40. Robert Storm Petersen (1882-1949), Danish Expressionist artist, book illustrator and popular satirical cartoonist, who also wrote penetrating texts upon art.

41. All the quotations of Taine are translated from the Danish version used by Jorn (Taine's aesthetic theses were translated into Danish in 1867, 1868 & 1873).

42. This division corresponds to the epic, lyric and lyric-epic (dramatic) Hegelian triad proposed by J.L. Heiberg ((1791-1860), Danish dramatist and author), in 1828 and endorsed and elaborated by Kierkegaard in his diary in 1836.

43. This aphorism of Sir John Harrington was quoted in English without attribution.

44. Jorn has 'scientia intention' here, but this is obviously an error.

45. This section is an unacknowledged critique of Kierkegaard's perception of truth, particularly the much-discussed 'Subjectivity, inwardness, is truth' and the various passages on 'the witnesses for truth'.

46. It may be that Jorn here was attempting a cross-language pun (urt = herb in Danish). If so, this is a very early example of what became quite common in his picture titles of the sixties.

47. In Danish 'transformation, change, refinement' is another of Jorn's prized alliterative triads: 'forvandling, forandring, forœdling'.

48. Ingmar Hedenius (1908-82), Swedish philosopher of the Uppsala school of atheistic or agnostic persuasions.

49. Quoted in English.

50. Amulf Øverland (1889-1968), Norwegian poet and, after 1945, opponent of Modernism.

51. Johannes V. Jensen (1873-1950), Danish poet, novelist and essayist, who was a big influence on Jorn.

52. A reference to the Button Moulder's ladle in Ibsen's Peer Gynt.

53. A popular perception of stereotypical antipathy between the Scandinavian countries is as persistent there as that of similar feelings between the regions of the United Kingdom.

54. See Kierkegaard's 1835 diary entry: 'It is also interesting that Faust (who as the more mediate, it might be more correct to make into the third point of view) embodies both Don Juan and the Wandering Jew (despair). – / Nor should it be forgotten that Don Juan has to be grasped lyrically (therefore with music); the Wandering Jew epically, and Faust dramatically.' It is easy to see how this refers back to Jorn's definitions of realism, naturalism and idealism, but the transformation in this section into the German, the English, the French and, with the addition of Hamlet, Scandinavia seems to be sheer unexplained poetic correspondence. In the fourth book in this series of reports, Thing and Polis, Jorn uses the triad Ahasuerus, Hamlet, Don Quixote to represent 'the European triumvirate of fools'.

55. Jorn uses the same word, stadier, for what I have translated hero as 'spheres or existence' and 'stages'. Here I am following Jorn's 'mentor' Kierkegaard who used the same word for his triad of aesthetics, ethics, religion for both stages and point-of-view and then wrote 'there are three spheres of existence, the aesthetic, the ethical, the, religious' (Concluding Scientific Postscript, Ch. 4, sect II, § 2).

56. This is a double anachronism. Nelson took part in the battle of Copenhagen in 1801 (the famous 'I see no ships' incident), but was dead by the British Bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807. 'England expects...' was Nelson's rallying call at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Jorn originated the error in the title of a painting from 1949 (see Atkins, Jorn in Scandinavia, 67-68). In 1953 there was an exchange of newspaper articles and letters on whether this was a conscious anachronism between 'Amalie Nelson' (pseudonym for the anti-abstract art critic H.P. Rohde), the abstract painter Mogens Andersen and Jorn (see memorandum by Per Hofman Hansen in Silkeborg Art Museum archives).

57. In Rimbaud's original, the final sentence comes first. Jorn often 'mangled' quotations by re-arranging sentences (see also a few of the Kierkegaard quotations).

58. Almqvist's pamphlet The Importance of Swedish Poverty (1838) has been described as 'a classic of national self-characterization' (The Penguin Companion to Literature: Europe).

59. This is an untranslatable play on words: superstition is overtro (lit: excess of belief), scepticism is undertro (lack of belief).

60. 'chest of drawers': in 1937 Jorn ilIustrated the book Kommodetyven (The Thief of the Chest-of-Drawers) by J.A.Schade with a set of collages, but the book was eventually published in 1939 with vignettes by Schade himself. Around 1948, Jorn attempted in vain to publish a French version including his illustrations.

61. This paragraph contains a series of word plays: magt (power), magi (magic), magisk (magical), mager (magician), -mager (-maker). The three base words magt/magi/-mager are all of different etymological origins.

62. This Bernard Shaw quotation is re-translated from Jorn's Danish version.

63. This rather repetitious text by Johannes V. Jensen (see note to p. 316) has been cut by about 25%. Knut Hansum (1859-1950), Norwegian writer (Nobel Prize 1920), Nazi sympathizer during World War II (hence Jorn's adjective 'regrettable'). Bjømstjerne Bjømsson (1832-1910) Norwegian writer and poet (Nobel Prize 1903). Sigurd Jorsalfar (Sigurd the Crusader), Norwegian king 1103-1130. Jornsvikings' Saga, Icelandic, c. 1200.

64. 'taugenicht', German: good-for-nothing.

65. 'struck by elves'. In the medieval Danish ballad Elveskud, a knight riding to his wedding is accosted by the elf-king's daughter, who asks him to dance with her. He refuses all her offers of worldly goods to comply. She strikes him and he eventually bleeds to death.

66. Almqvist fled Sweden in 1851 to avoid a charge of attempted murder by poisoning.

67. Ludvig Feilberg (1849-1912), Danish philosopher, who postulated four qualitative grades of mental activity, the simple reaction, purposefulness and rationality, artistic sensibility, awareness of the divine.

68. Refrain of a medieval Danish ballad about a man pursued by an evil fate.

69. All the fragments in {} are insertions by Jorn.

70. 'I am a man, and reckon nothing human alien to me.' (Heauton Timoroumenos, 25). This was Karl Marx's favourite maxim (in the mid-1860s).

 


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