In the contemporary world, where technology, spectacle, and excess seem to eclipse nature, the individual, and society, what might be the characteristics of a contemporary sublime? If there is any consensus, it is in the idea that the sublime represents a testing of limits to the point at which fixities begin to fragment. This anthology examines how contemporary artists and theorists explore ideas of the sublime, in relation to the unpresentable, transcendence, terror, nature, technology, the uncanny, and altered states. Providing a philosophical and cultural context for discourse around the sublime in recent art, the book surveys the diverse and sometimes conflicting interpretations of the term as it has evolved from the writings of Longinus, Burke, and Kant to present-day writers and artists. The sublime underlies the nobility of Classicism, the awe of Romantic nature, and the terror of the Gothic. In the last half-century, the sublime has haunted postwar abstraction, returned from the repression of theoretical formalism, and has become a key term in critical discussions of human otherness and posthuman realms of nature and technology.
Artists surveyed include
Marina Abramovic[accent over c], Joseph Beuys, Tacita Dean, Walter De Maria, A K [the artist excludes periods after the initials] Dolven, Olafur Eliasson, Andreas Gursky, Jitka Hanzlová, Gary Hill, Susan Hiller, Shirazeh Houshiary, Anish Kapoor, Mike Kelley, Anselm Kiefer, Yves Klein, Richard Long, Barnett Newman, Tony Oursler, Cornelia Parker, Gerhard Richter, Doris Salcedo, Lorna Simpson, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Fred Tomaselli, James Turrell, Luc Tuymans, Bill Viola, Zhang HuanWriters include Marco Belpoliti, John Berger, Paul Crowther, Jacques Derrida, Okwui Enwezor, Jean Fisher, Barbara Claire Freeman, Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe, Doreet LeVitte-Harten, Eleanor Hartney, Lynn M. Herbert, Luce Irigaray, Fredric Jameson, Lee Joon, Julia Kristeva, Jean-François Lyotard, Thomas McEvilley, Vijay Mishra, David Morgan, Jean-Luc Nancy, Jacques Rancière, Gene Ray, Robert Rosenblum, Philip Shaw, Paul Virilio, Marina Warner, Thomas Weiskel, Slavoj Žižek
About the Editor
Simon Morley is a British artist and art historian who has contributed to international art journals including Art Monthly, Untitled, Contemporary Visual Art, Tate Etc. and Tema Celeste. A Lecturer in Painting at Winchester School of Art, England, he is the author of Writing on the Wall: Word and Image in Modern Art (2003).
“In the nineteenth century, the sublime coupled awe with fear of nature, as well as fear of the bogeyman that was the Industrial Revolution. Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Emily Brontë, Thomas Hardy and Edgar Allen Poe responded. In the twentieth century, two world wars and the two atomic bombs must have had something to do with the sublime pathos of Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Francis Bacon and the poetry of Wallace Stevens. In this anthology, Simon Morley looks to the twenty-first century, to our sublime. Nothing could be more relevant—socially, morally or aesthetically.”
—Bill Beckley, artist and editor of Sticky Sublime
“The sublime is spectacularly envisioned by the artists in this book, and gracefully articulated by its authors. The contributors show us that the world can still be transformed. Many of these works and texts perform the contemporary sublime. They open a schism between expectation and sensation, expanding the horizon between the known territories of the real and our capacity to imagine otherwise. They show us that we may still be taken by surprise by scenes of wonder. Aesthetic experience at the brink of our senses removes the familiar ground on which we know and experience the existential condition of being.”
—Johanna Drucker, Breslauer Professor of Bibliographical Studies, University of California at Los Angeles