Aesthetics as Dialectictal – Not Metaphysical

January 17, 2009

Smithsons dialectic of Site / Non Site

Site                                                                       Nonsite

  1. open limits                                          closed limits
  2. A series of points                              An array of matter  
  3. Outer Coordinates                           Inner Coordinates
  4. Subtraction                                        Addition
  5. Indeterminate Certainty              Determinate uncertainty
  6. Scattered Information                   Contained information
  7. Reflection                                           Mirror
  8. Edge                                                      Center
  9. Some Place (physical)                   No place (abstract)
  10. Many                                                    One


I think, to understand this Smithson, there needs to be a clear distinction made between metaphysical aesthetics, and dialctical aesthetics.

The metaphysical inquiry into aesthetics we might call “ontological aesthetics”, strips away the logically extrapolated optics, and the vitreous body from aesthetic experience. What Smithson is trying to do, I think, is not to ontologize with logic in his earthworks (see The Spiral Jetty), but to perceive in an indiscriminate relationship between the landscape and the somewhat enantiomorphed eye and ear. The indoor earthworks, or nonsites of Smithson, are three-dimensional logical sculptures extended to their poles, like the Enantiomorphic chambers.

This site / nonsite, or earthwork / indoor earthwork dialectic of Smithson’s is a relationship between aesthetics (site / earthwork) and it’s logical extrapolation (nonsite / indoor earthwork). So his aesthetics are different from formal metaphysical aesthetics of beauty and the sublime, in that it is a dialectical relationship between the logicallyextrapolated optics of the enantiomorphic chambers of the eyes (or stereoscopic vision) and the illogicalseizure of the vitreous body in the landscape where earthworks are made. So, in the site / nonsite dialectic there is no metaphysical doctrines that can link the two. Sometimes the dialectic is diametrically opposed, where other times it seems they can connect in some fashion. For instance, the nonsite enantiomorphic chambers are logically extrapolated optics within the contained category of optics. In the site, the logical, categorical containment of this optics is undermined by the alogos, because it is a fusionof all of the senses that obliterate the logically contained extrapolation of the nonsite.

It doesn’t really have anything to do with beauty at all. It is not a metaphysical doctrine, but an (incompletely) incompatable dialectical relationshipbetween extrapolated contained logical categories, and the combined senses of the “eyes and ears”, where logical containment falls “into a mental bog.”


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