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Emmanuel Levinas: On Obliteration

Emmanuel Levinas

On Obliteration

Softcover, 92 pages

Date of publication: 13.03.2019

DE

Emmanuel Levinas defines obliteration as a central concept with which to think about art. The interview with Françoise Armengaud from 1988 is one of Levinas' rare statements focusing on the fine arts and is published here, in its full length, for the first time in English. Levinas has become influential in various disciplines through his ethics, which he thinks decisively from the face of the other. Yet his reflections on aesthetics are rarely engaged with, and when questions are asked about the face in art – and thus about the interrelationship of ethics and aesthetics – the main focus has been on his comments on literature. In this interview Levinas talks about the work of the French sculptor Sacha Sosno and, using the concept of l´oblitération, the complex relationship between ethics and aesthetics becomes no longer aligned with the face and language, but with iconic thinking and artistic operations and practices. Levinas understands obliteration as an ´unavailable’, an uncanny, disruptive concept. In doing so, he turns away from the "ease and lighthearted casualness of the beautiful" and to the processes of material wear and tear and the traces of their repair. He affirms these for their creative potential in developing a uniqueness of presence. The value of the term obliteration is that it not only allows a new way of looking at artistic practices, but also allows us to uncover an aesthetic thinking in the work of Levinas.

The interview is supplemented by photographs by André Villers of Sosno's works, a foreword by Johannes Bennke and an epilogue by Dieter Mersch.

  • art
  • aesthetics
  • ethics
  • art theory
  • sculpture

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Emmanuel Levinas

Emmanuel Levinas

Emmanuel Levinas was a French philosopher of Lithuanian Jewish ancestry who is known for his work related to Jewish philosophy, existentialism, ethics, phenomenology and ontology. Central to the work is the claim that the Other is not known or comprehended as such, but calls into question and challenges the complacency of the self through Desire, language, and the concern for justice.
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