Sunday, June 10, 2007

Laura, in your sympathetic yet incisive commentary on my Cry, you ask “whether A Tonalist is the same as Surrealism,” and go on to say “There is a commonality––though the doubt and sense of ambiguity that are key to A Tonalist might make the celebration of the marvelous that is so important to surrealism difficult…” This difficulty may be resolved if one considers that the apparition of the marvellous in Surrealism is always the result of ecstatic doubt, of the vertiginous realization that the elements of reality don’t “add up,” that, in other words, reality can never be reconciled to itself. It is only through the fault lines of, the ruptures of, unreconciled reality that the marvellous finally emerges.

The works of Marcel Duchamp, in particular his Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, provide one example of a hinge between A Tonalist skepticism and Surrealist enthusiasm. Here, vertiginous Desire is at once celebrated and, by means of the baroque mediations of the Large Glass, alienated from itself.

Uniquely among the modernisms, Surrealism has practiced an art of the neither/nor, situated precisely at the zone of interchange between universes of discourse (beginning with the twilight zone between figurative and abstract). A Tonalist practice also situates itself in the zone of this neither/nor (which is also of course a zone of both/and). There's a slightly different balance of forces (A Tonalist practice being weighted toward the skeptical, and Surrealist toward the enthusiastic; nonetheless, both are involved in the agonistic embrace of Other).

Desire is the rapturous study of distance.


Blogger Brent Cunningham said...

Hi, Andrew,

I like that you use the word skepticism here as I think it's a crucial A Tonalist term. At the same time, for the A Tonalist 'skepticism' is just the position that all thought is formal--formal in the sense of ongoingly rethought--and I like that you see that so clearly too. I wonder if F. Ponge is perhaps the one A Tonalist still properly belonging to Breton's version of Surrealism?



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