Although this does not speak directly to this week’s readings, I remain curious about the potential of montage to physiologically induce dialectical thinking–what Eisenstein wanted, if I understand correctly–in our current historical moment.
Benjamin: “Just as the entire mode of existence of human collectives changes over long historical periods, so too does their mode of perception. The way in which human perception is organized–the medium in which it occurs–is conditioned not only by nature but by history” (“The Work of Art” 104). Is it possible that we have become desensitized to jarring juxtapositions of images, given the pervasiveness of this as an advertising technique? Might we need something other than montage to experience shock at the strangeness of the everyday? Or are we perhaps beyond an aesthetics of montage/shock altogether? What I find most exciting about software and technology are the opportunities it offers for entirely re-imagining the way in which meaning gets made in the world, the ways in which we use technology to engage in collective world-making. Given this, I wonder whether we might also need to rethink the early 20th century avant-garde investment in montage/shock and look to new technologies for glimpses of other aesthetics that might physiologically induce new ways of seeing, knowing, and being.
In Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting, Sianne Ngai looks at the aesthetic categories that are important for thinking through politics and affect in a postindustrial, postmodern society in which the “increasing interpenetration of economy and culture wreaks two particularly significant changes on the concept of art in general. First, a weakening of art’s capacity to serve as an image of nonalienated labor…second, a destabilization of art’s more specifically modernist, twentieth-century mission of producing perceptual shocks” (21). Ngai’s work looks at the more politically ambiguous aesthetic categories that are crucial for thinking in a society increasingly mediated by aesthetic experience; one in which we are constantly “hailed” through subjective-objective encounters, suggesting that Benjamin and Eisenstein’s aesthetic project of physiologically inducing dialectical thinking may be more messy and complicated in a post- rather than simply modernist society.