Life-affirming contradictions


Photographer Clifford Ross on Wave Music:

Which brings me to a second event that shaped my path in artmaking, and more or less codified the first experience. I read Immanuel Kant’s “Analytic of the Sublime,” which Robert Rosenblum referred to in his elegant essay on Abstract Expressionism, “The Abstract Sublime. ” Kant describes “the bewilderment, or sort of perplexity, which, as is said, seizes the visitor on first entering St. Peter’s in Rome. For here a feeling comes home to him of the inadequacy of his imagination for presenting the idea of a whole within which that imagination attains its maximum, and, in its fruitless efforts to extend this limit, recoils upon itself, but in so doing succumbs to an emotional delight.”

Kant’s “emotional delight” was similar to my experience in front of the Rembrandt. Seemingly graspable facts become elusive. Knowledge contradicts itself. And the experience of that contradiction is thoroughly and inexplicably life affirming. Life is momentarily heightened beyond normal experience and permanently altered as a result.

For me, that has become the defining characteristic of art, as well as my goal in making it.

*I first came across this photograph as cover image for The Boat, Nam Le’s collection of short stories.

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