The aesthetics of the shock, part I
Adorno, avant-garde art and the uncanny
Even though Freud's well-known concept of the uncanny has gained considerable influence in the field of aesthetics and beyond, the meaning of the term still remains vague. Is it a mere psychological concept with aesthetic and social implications or is it a culturally produced experience? And although Adorno’s aesthetic theory does not place the concept of the uncanny as its central axis, when linked to Freud's theory, Adorno's conception deepens not only various interpretations of modern art, but also our understanding of the very nature of artistic practice. Psychoanalytic interpretations of modern art couple the uncanny with technology and progress since human-machine interactions usually entail disturbing experiences. Yet no psychoanalytic interpretation of art to date has seen the uncanny as the theoretical foundation of all art. The first part of this essay deals with Adorno’s concept of aesthetic representation in relation to Freud’s uncanny and examines Benjamin’s application of that reasoning in interpreting the technological uncanny and the artistic uncanny.
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