Monday, November 19, 2012

Adorno and the Abstract: Innovations, New Ideas and Non-Judgemental Judgement

Still finding food for thought in the crammed alleyways of Adorno's brilliant writing. The other day I found this quote:

       ...the new is a non-judging judgement...(it) is 
       necessarily abstract

Always at work in the abstract I found that this sparked many ideas I've been trying to articulate.

New ideas it seems, always must be abstract. They come from recesses of imagination where they are processed by a brain constantly challenged by what's "real." In other words, as we observe the everyday world our brain processes it into abstractions. These abstractions may be translatable only to the individual, or they may not be translatable at all. When an artist or scientist shares his abstractions they become articulated as new ideas, novel ways of visualizing the world. And because they are original, they must be communicated out of the abstract into words or visuals that are understandable to the non-self. 

I envision Adorno's "new" as new ideas, these partially-to-fully formed original ideas that come out of the artist or scientist. They are a judgement in that they may determine the future of thought. But by their abstract nature they cannot judge. New ideas translated into a hypothesis may revolutionize culture. Darwin's ideas for example revolutionized biological thinking and continue to influence ideas in other sciences such as physics. They were not judgmental (thought they were judged!) because they stated the facts as Darwin processed them in his brain. Darwin attempted, sometimes unsuccessfully I think, to take them out of the realm of the abstract. But if you read his paragraph on the "tangled bank" you get a feel for Darwin's struggle to put into words a very complex set of ideas. For most of the world, and I think even in academic and intellectual worlds, his ideas remain abstract. 

Likewise in the world of art there are innovations that are abstract when they first come to be created. This applies not only to "abstract art" but to abstract moments in depictional art. Consider the Renaissance innovations of perspective, torsion, and light. These visual "moments" represented a revolution in painting. They represented the development of an aesthetic that came to define the way art was done and seen for centuries. More than that I think, they came to define the way the Western eye saw its world. Oddly, as much as these innovations became the standard, they remain profound abstractions, something we may not be able to quite "put a finger on."

When these ideas are applied in architecture or in a landscape, even when they seem to exude an order, a logic, or a satisfying sort of beauty, they remain a challenge to the observer, something of a hypothesis that once stated, needs to be experimented with.

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