Nagel and Wood 2010

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Nagel, Alexander and Christoper S. Wood. Anachronic Renaissance. New York: Zone Books, 2010.

Power of the image or work of art to fold time

Simone de Beauvoir, seeing Forbidden City and it looks brand new

"In the European tradition of building and making to which Beauvoir was implicitly comparing the Chinese palace, an artifact's historicity is both the source of its authority and the basis for an eventual demystification of that authority. In the modern West, the very old building or painting is venerated for having survived and for testifying with its body to the corrosive effects of the passage of time, a passage that can sometimes be measured precisely, to the year. But by virtue of its anchorage in history, the European building is also a mere product of its time. It is all too obviously contrived by real agents -- human beings, not giants, not gods. The Imperial Palace in Beijing seemed to evade all these conditions. Beauvoir did not feel invited either to contemplate the structure's great antiquity or to read it as the index of its times, and so she saw the palace as inauthentic, as an 'imitation of itself.' The palace's true self, for Beauvoir, was its historical self." (7)

"Societies tend to coalesce around artifacts that embody institutions, but often on the condition that the historicity of those artifacts -- as much as that of the institutions -- is masked." (7) "There is no premium placed on their historical moment of origin because they are supposed to deliver still older truths, or even timeless truths. For anyone can see that the possible gain in legitimacy conferred by the marks of time is easily offset by the risk of loss of aura through fixing in time. To fix an image or temple in time is to reduce it to human proportions." (8)

Opposite of the timeless artifact: relic

"The work that manages to retain its identity despite alteration, repair, renovation, and even outirght replacement was a sustaining myth of art in premodern Europe." (8) -- Ship of Theseus -- "To think 'structurally,' then and now, is to reject linear chronology as the inevitable matrix of experience and cognition." (8-9)

"Chronological time, flowing steadily from before to after, is an effect of its figurations: annals, chronicles, calendars, clocks. The diagrammatization of time as a series of points strung along a line allows one to speak of diverse events happening in different places as happening at the same time." (9)

By contrast "the doubling, the immobilization of time... time folding over on itself, the doubling of the fabric of experience that creates continuity and flow; creates meaning where there was none; creates and encourages the desire to start over, to renew, to reform, to recover." (10)

"No device more effectively generates the effect of a doubling or bending of time than the work of art, a strange kind of event whose relation to time is plural. ... The work of art is a message whose sender and destination are constantly shifting." (9)

Aby Warburg, painting as "dense archive of cultural energies, a dynamogram that concretized and transmitted traumatic, primordial experiences."

"With its power to compel but not explain a folding of time over onto itself, the work ofart in the fifteenth and sixteenth centureis was able to lay a trail back to Europe's multiple pasts, to the Holy Land, to Rome--monarchical, Republican, Imperial, or Christian-- and sometimes to Rome's Byzantine legacy. Historical treatises, philological glosses, sketchbooks, paintings, monuments, and anthologies of inscriptions notated the relics and events of disappeared worlds. Forms of life, ways of picturing or building, customs and costumes came to seem obsolete and yet retrievable, retrievable perhaps because they were obsolete. The differentness of the past made repetition an option. The figuring of succession in turn made reckoning possible, enabling a comparison of the present to the past, and bringing forth new worries about the inferiority or superiority of the present. New systems for storing and recovering information, above all the printed text and the printed image, allowed for direct comparison of historical life-worlds. The commercial and colonial networks that were closing the globe, meanwhile, offered evidence of otherness across gaps of space rather than time. The two remotenesses, temporal and spatial, were confused, and from that moment onwards non-Europeans were condemned as non-synchronic, out of ysnc, trapped in states of incomplete development. The hypothoses of cultural anachronism made it possible for Europeans to deny the synchronicity of other people they shared the world with, and so to refuse to engage with them in political terms." (10)

"Artifacts played an indispensable role in the overall cultural project of time management, not simply as beneficiaries or participants, but as the very models of the time-bending operation." (10)

Temporality of art artifacts -- interchangeability of one image or work for another

"Under this model, the work did not merely repeat the prior work, for repeition proposes difference, an altering interval. Rather, the work simply is its own predecessor, such that the prior is no longer prior but present. This model of perfect commutativity among works across time and space flies in the face of the empirical fact that works of art are created by specific people at specific times and then replaced for various reasons. Communities may well ask a mere artifact, image, or statue to stand in for an absent authority. They may well l propose the work's perfect exchangeability, involving no loss of reference, with other works referring to the same source. This capacity to stand in for absent authority, however, comes to be doubted when too much is learned about how works are actually fabricated." (11) <-- what theHarmonies are doing -- and everything else on this page!

Example of Erasmus: pilgrim thinks shrine that's been wholly replaced is still holy; ERasmus thinks that the fact that it isn't original means it can't be holy

Anachronic, "to be late again" -- "The work is late, first because it succeeds some reality that it re-presents, and then late again when that re-presentation is repeated for successive recipients. To many that double postponement came to seem troublesome, calling for correction, compensation, or, at the very least, explanation." (13)

"Anachronistic" -- implies every work has its proper time, and when a work is out of time, it "creates a temporal tension between container and contained" (13); there is a visual "program," and the anachronism is out of step with that program

"The anachronic artifact also moves freely in time, but unlike the anachronistic artifact, it does not depend for its effect on a stable conception of the historicity of form. " (14)

"To describe a work of art as an 'anachronism' is to say that the work is best grasped not as art, but rather as a witness to its times, or as an inalienable trace of history; it tries to tell us what the artwork really is. To describe the work of art as 'anachronic,' by contrast, is to say what the artwork does, qua art." (14)

"The principle of continuity of identity across a succession of substitutions is in tension with a principle of authorship" <-- also LG! (14)

Da Vinci: painting's meaning lies in it being original work, unlike words, which can be copied -- painting has one body that can't be duplicated -- "privileges manual execution" -- authors create caesura in time, dividing into before and after; those who restore image of mary in church don't

"The authorial innovation presents itself as a surplus added to reality, an increase. But the new is never truly new. The absolutely new would be incomprehensible. Rather, the work restages the given and creates an impression of novelty." (15)

Need custom to have innovation; "custom is the field that confers signification on the difference-making act that Leonardo valued." (15)

To make this split, need two pasts: the actual past, and the past as it is created in the artist's head; collecteive memory has to become individual memory

Chain of substitutions as an "artificial memory, a system that archives a past and generates a future without recourse to the poor mechanisms of the human imagination." (16)

Not saying that substitutional model gave way to authorial model in the Renaissance -- "Substitution and performance are not phases succeeding one another, but rather are two competitive models of creativity that are always in play." (16)

Working against dominant art historical notion of Renaissance artworks as "a modality of luxury consumption" (17) -- art is that but also queries, narrativises, symbolizes those values

"The historian who interprets the work of art as a token within a system of symbolic exchanges opens up a window onto the hidden mechanisms of social power in a remote, vanished society. But such an interpretation tends not to want to take up the possibility of the work's symbolic reach beyond the historical life-world that created it -- its ability to symbolize realities unknown to its own makers. Only the idea of art can open up this possibility. 'Art' is the name of the possibility of a conversation across time, a conversation more meaningful than the present's merely forensic reconstruction of the past. A materialist approach to historical art leaves the art trapped within its original symbolic circuits. It tends not even to notice that the artwork functioned as a token of power, in its time, precisely by complicating time, by reactivating prestigious forebears, by comparing events across time, by fabricating memories. The only time-bending agency made available to the historical work by a materialist approach is one that reproduces its token-like existence in the symbolic economy of luxury and taste: namely, as an absurdly overvalued heirloom of a modern, consumption-based socity; a collector's item or museum piece, in other words." (17-18)

Book is not "an eccentric history of Renaissance art, but rather a road map to an obscured landscape" (18)

Meta turn -- this book as not THE story or even A story but "it imagines the infrastructure of many possible stories" (19)