So “the people” have replaced “God” as the absent thing that is to be represented. Cetainly “the people” is not a preferable god to God. If we are going to do ditch God it is calamatous to enthrone the people in the sky (“the bludgeoning of the people, by the people, for the people…”).
What is really necessary is to flip the concept of representation overboard. The concept of representation has not adapted to the democratic age, and it cannot: the idea of democracy and all the ideals of the self-proclaimed “Enlightenment” are quite antithetical to the notion of representation. How can it be that a man or woman is not fit to engage in legislating the society in which he or she lives? How can sapere aude have come to mean handing over political responsibility to someone else? Are we waiting for this man or woman to arise before we leave them their power? Are the people not good enough for democracy yet, as they once were not good enough for socialism? The answer is that it is a natural instinct to want to aggrandise oneself with others’ power. It is not that the people are not yet “good” enough for democracy: it is that people are not “good” enough to represent others; but whereas people are indeed qualified enough to take responsibility for legislating their society, people will never qualified enough to represent others.
God as the source of all power is no a longer politically significant idea. With regards to art in an empirical age, something which has never been present, God, is not thought to exist in a certain absence, he is not thought to exist at all; so he is no longer represented by artists.
So the concept of God may be dead, but his eternally proceeding offspring, the concept of representation? In art, representation has become less prevalent than expression, perception and deconstruction. As for politics, there was once something very important existing in perpetual non-presence (God) required representation (in person by prophet-kings; in words and images by prophet-artists): but this representation is no longer required….
Yet Representation is still an important concept for politicians. Our European culture has put representation of the people as its centre. Hence elections, in which representatives beg to be given power; or coups, in which politicians do not bother to ask. The king once represented God; the dictator and the democratically elected MP represent the people.
The idea of representing the people also has a religious history: for the priest represents the people to God when he enters the presence of God. But in representative democracy the politician represents the people to themselves, when legislating within her realm. It is true that represents the people to representatives of other realms, but that is only because they have not yet been integrated.
Our representative democracy has flipped God for the people.
Presence is related to the concept of existence. Empirically, nothing is deemed to exist or have existed which has not been present. Seen metaphysically, presence is a concept which presupposes the concept of existence: something is existing here, ‘at’ the present- rather than somewhere else (absence, non-presence) or ‘in’ the past.
Representation presupposes absence: something which is absent is made present through something else. Representation thus presupposes a metaphysical conceptuality. So for Plato, our mundane perception is the perception of representations; you had to think your way to presence/true perception.
Representation is an important concept for art and politics; we see this especially in religion which in many cases is a perfect mix of the two. It is easy to see that God has been represented by images and words and also that God is the source of all power. If artists represent then art will be interested in representing that which is most absent; if politicians represent, they will represent that which is most powerful.
Igor Levit played Liszt’s transcription of the Ode to Joy at the opening night of the Proms.
“Classical music” is the music of the burgeoning nation, opulence, slavery, colonialism, of profit-riven Europe; the Europe of slums, prisons, madhouses; of sickening poverty, vulgarity and the highest refinement of the arts.
The EU’s seemingly noble project of surpassing the nation state has no aim other than the perpetuation of the European superiority, culturally, politically, economically, ‘morally’, technologically. Does any good European not believe his culture to be superior to all those cultures Europe has ravaged – not least the Jewish? Would any European throw in his lot with any other culture?
Well then, in what does the European joy consist? What is the joy of the Ode to Joy? It is the triumph of ‘the human spirit’; of ‘European man’. Igor Levit seems the most enchanting embodiment of that spirit, a spirit, a devil, which accomplishes the annihilation of one’s fellow, and his planet – while we look away in joyful rapture.
I thought that they were looking but I was incidental.
Once I tried to run off the stage straight at them
But when I got there I just stopped and asked for help
They looked concerned, then carried on; nothing happened.
And I was left standing there in the middle of the auditorium,
Humming with people seemingly enjoying the occasion,
I thought, is it me or shouldn’t something be happening on the stage?
A solid bull’s head
Bosh its dense bonce
One hard thud, thud.
I chew my nails, my eyes are sore.
A goose’s wing is dislocated
It flaps across
And runs aground, screaming angrily at itself.
Bare blunt stalks stick out of a dried pot
Like Hiroshima’s blown out black trees.
The prisoner is starving in his cage
His knuckles are on its bars
Face pressed up close for the view
“Guard!” He gasps pathetically.
I inspect myself for black pores
Reach into an ulcer-sore gob
Yank at my cracked back molar
Bite down on a bloated index
And hold it there.
Camping at the coast last year, I went for a run and swim every morning. It was a cold, wet summer, and the beach was deserted in the early morning. On its east side stood a solid headland, a half mile into the sea; to the west of the beach, a mile long, low black cliffs. Like the cold wind and clouds, the sea rocked and butted and streamed aggressively into the bay; its spray clashed strewn rain showers; seabirds wheeled menacingly in their sea-air elements. I make my way in, a boxer, braced sinews, alert.
Diving into the thick dark middle of a breaking wave, and surface; and again, and swimming against them, bob, weave, throwing crawls, going out deeper, where the swell no longer punches but keeps you in hold and pushes you onto the ropes.
A distance out, I float, pointed to the horizon. Arcing high above me, half-serpent, half-mountain, a silent black fish; its swift slick solid power, a body of the sea’s depth, rises out and sweeps back in, a smooth black sea bull. Then I feel the gulf between my feet and the seafloor, two white legs below a tiny string body, hanging in a vast sea a thousand miles wide; and I sense this great fish coursing beneath me in the cold infinity. I am too lost to panic, I move myself slowly backwards towards the shore – and see it again, now farther: turn, a frantic crawl to land, I touch ground and sprint onto the beach, overawed.