Sunday, September 11, 2011
In the year of his seventieth birthday, Jean-Luc Godard remarked that he considered himself to be a failure in the cinema because he was not able to prevent Steven Spielberg from making his film Schindler’s List. And we would be wise to recognize just what Godard might have wanted to block if he had been given the opportunity. In the wake of the horrifying tragedy witnessed on September 11, 2001, it seems trivial to quarrel with cinematic style or taste but the questions go much deeper. Adorno’s reminder of the reasonableness that “to write lyric poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric” is most appropriate in light of these questions. To mark the day the of the World Trade Center bombings as the day when art making became irrelevant is to trivialize both art and the tragic events of that day. Primarily, the end of art from that day forward acts as refutation both of history and the history of art. As atrocious as these terrorist events may have been, they are merely additions to the long list of barbarous acts perpetrated by man against his fellows. And it has been, and remains to be, the purpose of art to remember the tragedies of our collective past and resist the forces that attempt to perpetuate them. Not in the form of a bleak humanism that merely represents a forgotten past and soothes our consciences, but, in the form of an aggressive art that challenges, resists and reformulates the social and linguistic structures which seek to dominate humans through violence and economic control. The wreckage of the past cannot be adequately represented by a compliant art in the face of the radical evil of everyday existence.