To survive reality at its most extreme and grim, artworks that do not want to sell themselves as consolation must equate themselves with that reality. Radical art today is synonymous with dark art; its primary color is black. Much contemporary production is irrelevant because it takes no note of this and childishly delights in color. The ideal of blackness with regard to content is one of the deepest impulses of abstraction. It may well be that the current trifling with sound and color effects is a reaction to the impoverishment entailed by the ideal of black; perhaps art will one day be able to abolish this axiom without self-betrayal, which is what Brecht may have sensed when he wrote: "What times are these, when / to speak of trees is almost a crime / because it passes in silence over such infamy !" Art indicts superfluous poverty by voluntarily undergoing its own; but it indicts asceticism as well and cannot establish it as its own norm. Along with the impoverishment of means entailed by the ideal of blackness -if not by every sort of aesthetic Sachlichkeit- what is written, painted, and composed is also impoverished; the most advanced arts push this impoverishment to the brink of silence. That the world, which, as Baudelaire wrote, has lost its fragrance and since then its color, could have them restored by art strikes only the artless as possible. This further convulses the possibility of art, though without bringing it down. Incidentally, an early romantic artist, Schubert, who was later so widely exploited by the insistently happy, already felt compelled to ask if there were such a thing as happy music. The injustice committed by all cheerful art, especially by entertainment, is probably an injustice to the dead; to accumulated, speechless pain. Still, black art bears features that would, if they were definitive, set their seal on historical despair; to the extent that change is always still possible they too may be ephemeral. The radically darkened art-established by the surrealists as black humor-which the aesthetic hedonism that survived the catastrophes defamed for the perversity of expecting that the dark should give something like pleasure, is in essence nothing but the postulate that art and a true consciousness of it can today find happiness only in the capacity of standing firm. This happiness illuminates the artwork's sensuous appearance from within. Just as in internally consistent artworks spirit is communicated even to the most recalcitrant phenomenon, effectively rescuing it sensuously, ever since Baudelaire the dark has also offered sensuous enticement as the antithesis of the fraudulent sensuality of culture's facade. There is more joy in dissonance than in consonance: This metes out justice, eye for eye, to hedonism. The caustic discordant moment, dynamically honed, is differentiated in itself as well as from the affirmative and becomes alluring; and this allure, scarcely less than revulsion for the imbecility of positive thinking draws modern art into a no-man's-land that is the plenipotentiary of a livable world. Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, that crystalline unity of imaginary essence and a totality of dissonance, was the first to achieve this aspect of the modern. Negation may reverse into pleasure, not into affirmation.
15 Bertolt BRECHT, Gesammelte Werke, Frankfurt a. M. 1967, vol. 9, p. 723 («An die Nachgeborenen»).
16 Cf. Charles BAUDELAIRE, Oeuvres complètes, de. Le Dantec-Pichois, Paris 1961, p. 72: «Le Printemps adorable ha perdu son odeur!».
Theodor W. ADORNO: Teoría estética (1970) - Edición de trabajo (http://mateucabot.net) Versión 0.4 15/12/09 - 07:45:40