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New Left Review 97, January-February 2016


fredric jameson

GHERMAN’S ANTI-AESTHETIC

Who will deliver us from the unexpected restoration of the reign of beauty and its disreputable ideology, aesthetic philosophy? [1] This article is forthcoming as ‘Suffocating Kinesis: The Late Films of Alexei Gherman’, in Seung-hoon Jeong and Jeremy Szaniawski, eds, The Global Auteur: The Politics of Authorship in 21st Century Cinema, New York 2016. For an exploration of the work of Aleksei Gherman (1938–2013) up to Khrustalyov, My Car!, the earlier of the two films discussed here, including an account of his formation in Leningrad’s cultural circles in the 1950s and the frustrations of his film-making career in the Brezhnev years, see Tony Wood, ‘Time Unfrozen’, nlr 7, Jan–Feb 2001. In a society in which the near-total commodification of the world, linked with the already looming world market, can be glimpsed, beauty is no longer a momentary relief from ‘interest’ (Kant’s word for business and its rationale) but rather the law of the land. For the existential support of universal commodification, even when we try, as so many have done, to grasp it psychologically, was aestheticization always. One may see it as an addiction, halfway between drugs or pornography and the mania of the pathological collector; but then the only, rather pitiful treatment turns out to be that ‘diet cure of images’ called for by Baudrillard—or in Susan Sontag’s formulation, an ‘ecology’ of images. [2] Jean Baudrillard, ‘La violence de l’image’, in Victoria Grace et al., eds, Baudrillard West of Dateline, Wellington 2003; Susan Sontag, On Photography, London 1979, p. 180. An outright ban on advertising might be more effective, acknowledging the role that images and the visual as such play in the epidemic (witness Debord’s attack on the unreality propagated by the ‘spectacle’, which he seems to have conflated with narrative itself).

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