Proust vs Wagner


I am reading a book about the Paintings in Remembrance of Things Past (Proust’s Opus). There is a comment that Proust has removed cause from effect. Today I believe we are moving towards a different understanding of causality away from the conditional of aristotle and the contingent and necessity of kant. Instead we are moving towards a ecological notion of how to keep a system in balance. It is all cause and all effect.

Wagner is about the total art work, bringing all art forms together to create an uber artwork

Proust is about mapping – mapping the methodology of one art movement on to another in another medium (really onto writing)

What is it like to write like so many layers of semi-transparent paint, what is it to write like so many different paintings of the same subject under different light?

These are very exciting thoughts for me. It is not ekphrasis, which is a description of a work of art like Keat’s Ode on a Grecian Urn. It is a novel written like a painting is painted, like a piece is composed or played.

Proust has three great artists in his opus – A Writer, A Composer, and A Painter (Bergotte, Vinteuil, Elstir)… But these are artists of 10 years ago before modernism, before Pollock, Cage, or even DJs, VJs, TikTok – or even filmmakers .. Godard. Maybe today we would be talking about Ryan Trecartin.

So what would a novel look like written like a Jackson pollack painting? Would it be like Gertrude Stein’s Making of Americans? What about the chance operations of Cage or the Flusserian notion of production and film, video, video games, or installations values?

I think we see some of these experiments in literature, for sure … but in Proust there is a notion of translating the sensory richness of visual apprehension of a painting or aural apprehension of a composition into literature. It is not merely a formal operational procedure – like Oulipo – where now we will use some rule based operation used in music in literature.

Would this be an impossible project today? Are our works of art less sensual, less embodied, more formal? (I would say yes to both questions) In my work, the advice I have most heeded was to go big! I paint on large canvases now. This is a formal critique. It is like writing a large book, like Infinite Jest, or make your company a rocketship to get listed on the NASDAQ.

What inspires me to paint? It is really nature, my dreams, audio recordings of poetry … it is the immediacy of everything – that I can listen to a recording of TS Eliot and then play snood, or scroll through instagram and see a call to action, a reproduction of an old master, and then some sort of tiktok make up tutorial. It is the flattening of all these experiences, the experience of all these experiences within the rectangle monolith of my mobile, it is the everything happening all at once.

Instead of “here comes everybody”… “everything comes to me all at once”.

I dont look at an art form and wonder, can I do that… I mean I do do that sometimes. But I lack Proust’s ability to give this depth. For me this exercise becomes an impoverishment of art rather than an enriching. I wonder if this is because of the algorithmic nature of our culture. I have been reading about the enlightenment and the desire to create rules for everything… Proust is in the romantic shadow of this era. We can imagine a computer creating a piece of writing like a Monet’s water lily’s under so many lighting conditions. We do have AI filters that turn photos into works of art by different painters, or creating writings like certain authors.

Perhaps Proust’s project today would be less relevant. Instead, and here I will plug my own personal interest, the artistry lies in the ways that these art forms do not over lap – in the poetry between systems rather than the mappings, the holes instead of the points of the number line.

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