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Which clippings match 'Excavation' keyword pg.1 of 1
01 MARCH 2013

Interpretation is reactionary, impertinent, cowardly and stifling

"Interpretation in our own time, however, is even more complex. For the contemporary zeal for the project of interpretation is often prompted not by piety toward the troublesome text (which may conceal an aggression), but by an open aggressiveness, an overt contempt for appearances. The old style of interpretation was insistent, but respectful; it erected another meaning on top of the literal one. The modern style of interpretation excavates, and as it excavates, destroys; it digs 'behind' the text, to find a sub–text which is the true one. The most celebrated and influential modern doctrines, those of Marx and Freud, actually amount to elaborate systems of hermeneutics, aggressive and impious theories of interpretation. All observable phenomena are bracketed, in Freud's phrase, as manifest content. This manifest content must be probed and pushed aside to find the true meaning –the latent content –beneath. For Marx, social events like revolutions and wars; for Freud, the events of individual lives (like neurotic symptoms and slips of the tongue) as well as texts (like a dream or a work of art) –all are treated as occasions for interpretation. According to Marx and Freud, these events only seem to be intelligible. Actually, they have no meaning without interpretation. To understand is to interpret. And to interpret is to restate the phenomenon, in effect to find an equivalent for it.

Thus, interpretation is not (as most people assume) an absolute value, a gesture of mind situated in some timeless realm of capabilities. Interpretation must itself be evaluated, within a historical view of human consciousness. In some cultural contexts, interpretation is a liberating act. It is a means of revising, of transvaluing, of escaping the dead past. In other cultural contexts, it is reactionary, impertinent, cowardly, stifling."

(Susan Sontag, 1966)

Susan Sontag (1966). "Against Interpretation: And Other Essays". Farrar, Strauss & Giroux.


1966 • aggressiveness • appearance • behind the text • contempt for appearances • cowardly • dead past • destroy • doctrine • dreamsexcavationhermeneuticshistorical interpretation • historical view • human consciousness • impertinent • individual lives • interpretationinterpretation of signsKarl Marx • latent content • liberating actmanifest contentmeaning • neurotic symptoms • observable phenomena • phenomenaphenomenon • philosophy and interpretation • reactionary • revising • revisionism • revolutions • Sigmund Freud • slips of the tongue • social events • stifling • subtext • Susan Sontag • textstheories of interpretation • transvaluing • troublesome text • true meaning • wars • women in cultural theorywork of art


Simon Perkins
27 DECEMBER 2010

Brian Dettmer: book autopsies

"In this work I begin with an existing book and seal its edges, creating an enclosed vessel full of unearthed potential. I cut into the surface of the book and dissect through it from the front. I work with knives, tweezers and other surgical tools to carve one page at a time, exposing each page while cutting around ideas and images of interest. Nothing inside the books is relocated or implanted, only removed. Images and ideas are revealed to expose a book's hidden, fragmented memory. The completed pieces expose new relationships of a book's internal elements exactly where they have been since their original conception."

(Brian Dettmer)



20063Daestheticsappropriationartefactautopsybookbook autopsy • Brian Dettmer • carving • cavity • compositioncreative practicedisassembledissection • enclosure • examinationexcavationfine artmaterial cultureorderingpageprintre-purposerelationshipsreverse-engineerscalpelstructuresurfacesurgicaltechniquetypographyvisual spectacle


Simon Perkins

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