Negativity, Iconoclasm, Inscription
This chapter discusses Julia Kristeva's concept of negativity—the recuperation through the transformation of a traumatic remnant of the past—in relation to Theodor Adornos claim that a ban on positive representations of utopia leads to an artistic practice of exposing the injustices of modern life. Both Adorno and Kristeva believe that contemporary art has a capacity to critique modernity and envision a better world, and both insist that this art must not represent what it indicates. Kristeva pursues this line of thought in her writings on icons in the European Eastern Orthodox theological tradition as well as in The Severed Head, her catalogue for the Louvre exhibit. To illustrate this claim, the chapter examines Walter Benjamin's writings on photography, arguing that a radical sense of mimesis, namely, one that respects the ban on graven images, moves people beyond the systematic optimism of the Hegelian dialectic.
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