'Starting from and premised on one’s own horizon, understanding creates a new horizon, which encompasses the object whose incomprehensible otherness had blocked understanding. This is the result of a two-phase process: the foregrounding of one’s own and the generation of the horizon of the other. Understanding of the other can only be spoken of insofar as it immediately recombines with what it has foregrounded itself from in order to become one with itself in the unity of the historical horizon that it thus acquires.” What the aesthetic sign that disrupts understanding has to say, and, at the same time, the only it can say, it can only say to us. Experience of the other is not just recognition of its otherness, but the experience that it “has something to say to me.” The other only speaks to the conditions of its understandability. What the aesthetic sign is capable of saying to us, we—as the persons we are, or who we can become—have to be able to understand. The understanding of the other succeeds only because the horizon of understanding on which it is based is capable to being disrupted in some but not all of its defining features by the otherness of the sing. Understanding is based on the limitedness of the disruption to understanding it comes up against.'

  'The beautiful becomes an image when the incomprehensible object is neither the bearer of a manifest meaning nor a well-balances object, but rather itself appears. The “fall into the image” (Blanchot) occurs momentarily or suddenly—but not because it occurs for us as something surprising, shocking, or sudden like an explosion, but because the occurrence of becoming an image as the appearance of the incomprehensible is inextricably tied to a location in time in aesthetic experience. The beautiful is a momentary phenomenon not because if did not exist before this moment and then disappeared after it, but because in structural terms it cannot be separated from the moment at which it is experienced in the process of aesthetic experience. Suddenness does not define the subjective time directly experienced (erlebt), but the immanent temporality of the process of aesthetic experience.
   The beautiful, which we experience as the grounding and abyss of our efforts at aesthetic understanding, is neither a thing nor a superseding sign, but rather, as image, the sudden appearance of the art work in its incomprehensibility. “Image” is thus the definition of the status generated in the experience of stringent aesthetic negativity achieved by that which we seek to understand in aesthetic terms. The negative processuality of aesthetic experience thus has to be described at the same time as aesthetic “reification” (Adorno), as the production of a beautiful object as a thing of a second order. An initial explanation of the logic of such production was already provided by our brief, preliminary look at Heidegger’s concept of earth: the production of the aesthetic object as earth means nothing but giving prominence in a non consumptive fashion to the material out of which is made. Aesthetic reification cannot be described solely as the appearance of the incomprehensible; it must also be described as a transfiguration of the material of an aesthetic object. The law of this transfiguration is, however, not use and transformation of the material, but its release and doubling. In passing through the experience of aesthetic negativity, the aesthetic material “is drawn into the image”: “Aesthetic behaviour is the ability to see more in things than they are. It is the gaze that transforms that which is into imagery.” The production of the aesthetic thing as second order through its aesthetically stringent experience of negativity is, at the same time, a transformation of the material of the aesthetic object. If the latter is identified via recognition path the outset of aesthetic experience, it shifts in the subversion of those identification-based efforts at understanding, from the identified bearers of meaning into images released from their identifications: “The image developed in language becomes forgetful of its own meaning in order to draw language itself into the image.”'

Christophe Menke, The Sovereignty of Art: Aesthetic Negativity in Adorno and Derrida, translator: Neil Salomon, publisher: The MIT Press

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