Wolfe Lenkiewicz


Iron, glass and concrete: [the veil of] Veronica

Note on Wolfe Lenkiewicz's painting (extract from Jacques Rancière)

[P]erhaps first I should clear up a misunderstanding concerning the notion of 'mechanical arts'. The connection I established was between a scientific paradigm and an aesthetic one. Benjamin's thesis presupposes something different, which seems questionable to me: the deduction of the aesthetic and political properties of a form of art from its technical properties. Mechanical arts, qua mechanical arts, would result in a change of artistic paradigm and a new relationship between art and its subject matter. This proposition refers back to one of modernism's main theses: the difference between the arts is linked to the difference between their technological conditions or their specific medium or material. This assimilation can be understood either in the simple modernist mode, or in accordance with modernatist hyperbole. The persistent success of Benjamin;s theses on art in the age of mechanical reproduction is, moreover, undoubtedly due for the crossing-over they allow for between the categories of Marxist materialist explanation and those of Heideggarian ontology, which ascribe the age of modernity to the unfurling of the essence of technology. This link between the aesthetic and the onto-technological has, in fact, been subjected to the general fate of modernist categories. In Benjamin, Duchamp, or Rodchenko's time, it co-existed with the faith in the capabilities of electricity and machines, iron,glass and concrete. With the so-called 'postmodern' reversal, it has kept pace with the return to the icon, which presents the icon, presents the veil of Veronica as the essence of painting, film or photography.


Extract From The Politics of the Aesthetic, Chapter: The Distribution of the Sensible : Mechanical Arts and the Promotion of the Anonymous, p31-34, Jacques Rancière, first published under the title Le Partage du sensible: Esthétique et politique, La Fabrique- Éditions, 2000