Joseph Kosuth
An Inter­pre­ta­tion of This Title’ Niet­zsche, Dar­win and the Para­dox of Content

13th February – 10th April 2010
Anna Schwartz Gallery Carriageworks

An Inter­pre­ta­tion of This Title’ Niet­zsche, Dar­win and the Para­dox of Content

A belief, how­ev­er nec­es­sary it may be for the preser­va­tion of a species, has noth­ing to do with truth.’

We deny any goals; if exis­tence had one, it would have been reached.’

The dis­course of the work finds itself, in a self-reflex­ive sense, to be a con­ver­sa­tion about rela­tions. The device of the work is Friedrich Nietzsche’s rela­tion­ship with the impli­ca­tions of Charles Darwin’s the­o­ries about human evo­lu­tion. Niet­zsche, as John Richard­son has per­sua­sive­ly argued, was pro­found­ly attract­ed to Darwin’s view yet repulsed by what he found to be its dis­hon­esty, that is, by Darwin’s inter­nal­iza­tion of Chris­t­ian, and thus moral, val­ues. This cor­rupt­ed for him much of what was of val­ue about Darwin’s con­tri­bu­tion. Yet, Niet­zsche was no less influ­enced by Darwin’s thought and learned from it enough to elic­it anoth­er approach, one more suit­able to his own process of think­ing, which reflect­ed a view toward the free­dom to self-cre­ate’, a state ulti­mate­ly depend­ing on an aes­thet­ic approach. This was, nonethe­less, formed from Darwin’s con­cept of nat­ur­al selec­tion. For Niet­zsche know­ing and reveal­ing who I am’ becomes, for humans, our cen­tral task. Ear­li­er selec­tion as a species or as a mem­ber of soci­ety is part of a process that pre­cedes our con­scious­ness, and it is there where our inte­ri­or dri­ves and cus­toms are formed. Yet, the process of dis­cov­er and self-infor­ma­tion is the result of our choic­es through­out our life. These choic­es are at the ser­vice of our will, and are not nor­mal­ly con­scious ones, and they pro­vide the oppor­tu­ni­ty for a new kind of val­ue. Our dri­ves as a species have been inher­it­ed and, as well, they are giv­en a form through their use in the his­to­ry of soci­ety. These, in fact, are deeply root­ed in our shared dri­ves and shared social his­to­ry as part of a human herd’, even if we expe­ri­ence them as indi­vid­ual choice. In Nietzsche’s view, the error of the Dar­win­ists was to nat­u­ral­ize the dom­i­nant moral­i­ty and self-jus­ti­fy it as pro­gres­sive’ through what is basi­cal­ly a ret­ro­spec­tive account­ing. For Niet­zsche, our order­ly and appar­ent­ly pur­pose­ful world – – of which sci­ence is a part – – is a con­struc­tion we have put between our­selves and the real world, one which pro­ceeds on its own despite the cul­tur­al veneer we place over it. Sci­ence,’ Niet­zsche writes, has today resigned itself to the appar­ent world; a real world – – what ever it may be like – – we cer­tain­ly have no organ for know­ing it. At this point we may ask: by means of what organ of knowl­edge can we posit this antithesis?’

The role of the aes­thet­ic’ here is sig­nif­i­cant as the role of the artist becomes cen­tral to Nietzsche’s view of the poten­tial of humans to find their own capac­i­ty for self-cre­at­ing. Indeed, for Niet­zsche the goals of the philoso­pher and the artist merge as they both attempt an actu­al­iza­tion of their own indi­vid­ual poten­tial. The stan­dard will to truth’ in this con­text becomes instead a warn­ing about the new reli­gion which sci­ence rep­re­sents, as it con­sti­tutes a poten­tial­ly fatal diver­sion from the aes­thet­ic atti­tude which leads to human free­dom. Free­dom, an attained free­dom of the will,’ for Niet­zsche, is a facil­i­ty in self-direc­tion. Every artist will under­stand me.’ In this way phi­los­o­phiz­ing, always unproven, finds its val­ue not as sci­ence but as an activ­i­ty reflect­ing aes­thet­ic val­ue, and it’s here where its ulti­mate mean­ing is locat­ed. It is not much of a leap to then fol­low the com­ple­men­tary view, my own, which leads to an under­stand­ing of the val­ue of artis­tic pro­duc­tion itself ful­fill­ing much of what was once under­stood as the role of phi­los­o­phy. Indeed, we can find two quite diverse yet ulti­mate­ly con­ver­gent descrip­tions of philosophy’s rela­tion­ship with art, from both Niet­zsche and Wittgen­stein, both tend­ing toward the view of cul­tur­al space increas­ing­ly shared by art and phi­los­o­phy, if not shar­ing the actu­al mis­sion itself. Nietzsche’s project, resolv­ing the con­flict between the aes­thet­ic and the epis­temic, finds itself as a self-real­iz­ing exis­ten­tial approach to con­struct­ing one’s own view’. The illu­sion of art becomes a tool to decon­struct the illu­sions that orga­nize soci­ety under the name of truth. The val­ues con­struct­ed by art are implic­it, are man­i­fest­ed in a Wittgen­stein­ian sense, and, since for Niet­zsche truth’ under­mines val­ues, the con­flict and its aes­thet­ic res­o­lu­tion become clear as the issues are exem­pli­fied and artic­u­lat­ed. It is the ten­sion of this con­tra­dic­tion that con­structs the dialec­tic of a whole’ upon which this part of his philo­soph­i­cal project can be seen to rest. Here also, through Niet­zsche, one begins the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a post­mod­ern project: the neces­si­ty to get past sci­ence, and modernism’s, need to attempt to grasp their own lim­its in order to pro­ceed. But sci­ence,’ says Niet­zsche, spurred by its pow­er­ful illu­sion, speeds irre­sistibly towards its lim­its where its opti­mism, con­cealed in the essence of log­ic, suf­fers shipwreck.’

The draw­ings of Charles Dar­win, as descrip­tions of a sci­en­tif­ic order being posit­ed, are maps of rela­tions as much as rep­re­sen­ta­tions of the face’ of sci­ence as a belief in the mak­ing. They con­sti­tute both cre­ativ­i­ty and a truth’ to be. We have a his­tor­i­cal view of the for­ma­tion of our beliefs’ and their exe­ge­sis from the hand of a man. We have, in the same space, a hori­zon line of two texts by Niet­zsche which sets the per­spec­tive of the total instal­la­tion: a com­ment on the play of its parts. This pro­vides both a self-reflec­tion as well as a deep­er edi­fi­ca­tion of the work’s com­bined ele­ments, to be under­stood and expe­ri­enced as a whole’ as they simul­ta­ne­ous­ly pro­vide a warn­ing and a cri­tique of the work’s pre­sump­tions. Above, on the Mez­za­nine lev­el, is anoth­er kind of map of rela­tions which shad­ow and illu­mi­nate sci­ence as con­sti­tut­ed by the draw­ings of Dar­win below. The web of con­nec­tions between these quotes of Niet­zsche fol­low inte­ri­or argu­ments con­cern­ing art and nature, to art and sci­ence, to art and phi­los­o­phy. This tree’ of rela­tions ellip­ti­cal­ly self-reflects on Nietzsche’s view of how art, as a con­struc­tion, serves the self and asserts the self-made. In this view the truth claims of sci­ence are put in sus­pen­sion in order to pro­pose an aes­thet­ic project that, while being locat­ed exter­nal­ly, posits an under­stand­ing man­i­fest­ed by being assert­ed indi­rect­ly and yet no less as an epis­temic restraint, and thus, hon­est­ly. As Niet­zsche stat­ed, Our ulti­mate grat­i­tude to art. If we had not wel­comed the arts and invent­ed this kind of cult of the untrue, then the real­iza­tion of gen­er­al untruth and men­da­cious­ness that now comes to us through sci­ence – – the real­iza­tion that delu­sion and error are con­di­tions of human knowl­edge and sen­sa­tion – – would be utter­ly unbear­able. Hon­esty would lead to nau­sea and sui­cide. But now there is a coun­ter­force against our hon­esty that helps us to avoid such con­se­quences: art as the good will to appearance.’

Joseph Kosuth, 2009

On 9 Febru­rary Joseph Kosuth pre­sent­ed a lec­ture, Pub­lic text, stolen text’, at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

To view the lec­ture in full, please go to SlowTV:

SlowTV

Images

Joseph Kosuth

An Inter­pre­ta­tion of This Title’ Niet­zsche, Dar­win and the Para­dox of Content, 2010
instal­la­tion view, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Carriageworks 
Pho­to: Paul Green

Joseph Kosuth

An Inter­pre­ta­tion of This Title’ Niet­zsche, Dar­win and the Para­dox of Content, 2010
instal­la­tion view, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Carriageworks 
Pho­to: Paul Green

Joseph Kosuth

An Inter­pre­ta­tion of This Title’ Niet­zsche, Dar­win and the Para­dox of Content, 2010
instal­la­tion view, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Carriageworks 
Pho­to: Paul Green

Joseph Kosuth

An Inter­pre­ta­tion of This Title’ Niet­zsche, Dar­win and the Para­dox of Content, 2010
instal­la­tion view, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Carriageworks 
Pho­to: Paul Green

Joseph Kosuth

An Inter­pre­ta­tion of This Title’ Niet­zsche, Dar­win and the Para­dox of Content, 2010
instal­la­tion view, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Carriageworks 
Pho­to: Paul Green

Joseph Kosuth

The Para­dox of Con­tent #2’ [White], 2009
neon
86182 cm

Joseph Kosuth

The Para­dox of Con­tent #3’ [White], 2009
neon
181183 cm

Joseph Kosuth

The Para­dox of Con­tent #4’ [White], 2009
neon
243164 cm

Joseph Kosuth

The Para­dox of Con­tent #6’ [White], 2009
neon
168167 cm