Saturday, January 26, 2013

Death by Reification: Mimesis and Art as Pharmakon

"To the extent that it is patterned on zoological forms of 'mimicry,' Adorno's concept of mimesis involves the slippage between life and death, the assimilation to lifeless material (as in the case of the chameleon), or feigning death for the sake of survival. The paradox, indebted to Freud's theory of the death drive, structures the dichotomies of the mimesis concept in significant ways. In an unreflective form, mimesis as mimicry converges with the regime of instrumental reason, its reduction of life to self-preservation and the reproduction of life as the very means designed to abolish it. In that sense, mimesis entails what Michael Cahn calls 'a deadly reification compulsion' that perpetuates the state for which Adorno likes to cite Kürnberger's apothegm, 'Das Leben lebt nicht' (life is not alive). In the context of aesthetic theory, however, this mimesis onto the reified and alienated ('Mimesis and Verhärtete und Entremdete'), the world of living death, is a crucial means of negation available to modern art––as an 'admixture of poison,' a pharmakon that allegorizes the symptoms though it necessarily fails as a therapy." – Max Pensky, from The Actuality of Adorno: Critical Essays on Adorno and the Postmodern

Heidegger, Adorno, and Mimesis by Tom Huhn