Kunst uusaja täideviimise ajastul


  • Ülo Matjus University of Tartu




Heidegger, metaphysics, being-historical thinking [das seinsgeschichtliche Denken], art as the way and means of realising machination [die Machenschaft], “creatable” nature as a structure [die Anlage = structure], the structural character of art


The author based his article on a fragment from a manuscript by Martin Heidegger Mindfullness (Besinnung, 1938/1939), to which he assigned the title – Die Kunst im Zeitalter der Vollendung der Neuzeit. The work was not published until 1997, but, in summary, it can project us forward from the origins of a work of art to reflection on the art of our era and that which surrounds it. We should emphasise and remember the fact that both Mindfullness (Besinnung, 1938/1939) as well as the Contributions to Philosophy (From Enowning); (Beiträge zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis), 1936) that preceded it were not intended for immediate publication after they were written in Nazi Germany and remained manuscripts for 50 years, until M. Heidegger’s 100th anniversary in 1989.

In the title, all the words, in both English and German, are familiar, but when considered together, questions start to arise. The author explains the meaning of the following German words: die Neuzeit [modernity], das Zeitalter [epoch] and die Vollendung [completion]. The initial sentence of the fragment that provides an introduction as well as summary is: “During this era, art will complete its hitherto metaphysical nature.” If, according to the thinker, metaphysics is all actual Occidental history, then the history of art, as part of this history, is metaphysical, i.e. art has a metaphysical nature, which it will be completed during the completion era of modern times. First off, metaphysics means t h e  f o r g o t t e nn e s s  o f  b e i ng , because instead of being itself, hereinafter inquiry is made of the “logical” existing being as well as being as such; since forgottenness of being is itself forgotten. The forgottenness also fades. This means that philosophy becomes metaphysical and slowly but surely assumes power, so that today metaphysics is considered to be one of the synonyms of philosophy. Secondly, post-Aristotelian metaphysical thinking is characterised by the development of its spirituality, which later labels being-historical thinking as h u m a n i sm, i.e. as humankind assuming the position of subiectum in its relationship with the “world”. Martin Heidegger even considers it possible to speak about the “rule of the modern metaphysics of subjectivity” (die Herrschaft der neuzeitlichen Metaphysik der Subjektivität). However, in this sense metaphysics by nature characterises everything that has been created in Europe, including art.

Martin Heidegger says that art will realise its current metaphysical being in this era. Surprisingly this is characterised by three moments: (1) art works disappear, but (2) art does not disappear, and instead (3) becomes something else. In this case, Heidegger is speaking of the German-language Machenschaft, or machination in English. Art becomes one of the ways – along with others – of realising Machenschaft or machination; and upon the reconstruction of what exists, a means of making that which has been established, i.e. achieved, into something that can be unconditionally ruled and commanded.

The thinker himself describes this as an example of the “change” in the relationship between mankind as the subiectum and nature. Nature becomes the created (das Geschaffene) and creatable as the “nature” created by the ruling and commanding mankind. This has the character of a structure (die Anlage) as the constitutive form of presenting the machination process and its “result”: motorways, airplane hangars at airports, giant ski jumping hills, electrical power stations and artificial lakes, factory buildings and defensive structures. This character also extends to the “public” world and its spirituality. Nature becomes “beautiful” only through these structures. We are no longer confronted with the nature as it was previously conceived, i.e. as the beautiful nature that provided aesthetic enjoyment, but as the “nature” intermediated by ruling and commanding humankind. The “redesign of nature” is occurring. Nature is visible and is only through those “structures”; nature becomes something that is intermediated, i.e. unapproachable and inaccessible directly. Let’s just think about the “motorways” (die Autobahnen), which were one of the most significant “structures” after the Nazis assumed power in Germany; the closest example of which in Estonia – not ideologically and politically, but formally – is the Eastern Roundabout along with the bridge over the Emajõgi River in present-day Tartu. When stopping on the bridge from the corresponding observation niche one sees nature “in a mediated form” and does not descend from the bridge into nature, because this is “pointless”; nature has been made “approachable” and “accessible” in a better and more effective way.

Understandably, that which art highlights is the character of the structure. In this context, it becomes understandable that upon the disappearance of art works, when one can no longer ask what an art work means or what its idea is, art becomes totally “meaningless”. Instead of the “meaning” of art, an experience appears that in turn requires experience training. The types of art resp. genres are also “dissolved”, remaining only in name or as irrelevant, unreal areas of activity that have arrived too late. Kitsch, which can no longer be compared to an art work, is not “bad” art, but a greater skill, and yet an empty and non-constitutive skill. – From the viewpoint of being-historical thinking, the people of the modern technological era, by satisfying the nature of the “structure” are now frames (das Ge-stell), i.e. set and demanded by the nature of modern technology – regardless of whether they know it or not, want it or not. In exactly the same way, people who “deal with the art” participate in this. That does not mean that they are guilty of anything, i.e. they are not criminals. They are not the authors of this “process” or “status”, and they also cannot halt it. The only difference is that some of the actors see what has been created and think about it. And others do not. However not seeing and not thinking is not punishable.


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Author Biography

Ülo Matjus, University of Tartu

Prof. Ülo Matjus (b. 1942), Professor of the History of Estonian Philosophy (2008–2016), Professor Emeritus 2008, Tartu University. Ülo Matjus is a philosopher, philologist and bibliophile. His main research fields include phenomenological philosophy (in the broadest sense) and being-historical thinking in Germany (mainly E. Husserl, M. Heidegger, R. Ingarden, and also E. Jünger); scientific (commented) translation of phenomenological philosophy and being-historical thinking into Estonian and the establishment and development of an adequate Estonian vocabulary (“terminology”); historically specific characters of mental social phenomena (metaphysics, philosophy, science, ethics, religion, values etc.) in front of their modern unitedness; appearance of the historically specific character of aesthetical phenomena – especially art – in the age of modern technology; history of Estonian philosophy and bibliophily (the philosophical aspect) of Estonian books. He has published more than 100 articles on philosophy, including scientific translations, in addition to numerous research papers on Estonian literature, book history and bibliophily.