GLEAMING THE CUBE: Part 5 (The Personal Touch, or Form Letter/Letter Form)

Another overlapping reading:
[…] Bois recalls Barthes’s distinction between two formalisms. Focusing on Brecht’s “extreme attention to the form of Nazi texts, [the seamless flow of their rhetoric]

Figure 12.09.01
Bruce Nauman, Pay Attention, Lithograph, 1973. One of the best prints ever made.
which he followed word for word in order to elaborate a counterdiscourse,” up against Lukacs’s “fetishization” of realist novels, that more “restricted” formalism that “remains at the superficial level of form-as-shape,” much like the autotelic texts written by New Critics like Clive Bell, Roger Fry, and Clement Greenburg. [1]
More on that tomorrow, but to continue this fissure:
Brecht’s formalism—hand in hand with the self-reflexivity and anti-illusionism of modernism—demonstrated that “language was not a neutral vehicle…but had a materiality of its own and that this materiality was always charged with significations.” [1] […]

Figures 12.09.02a and 12.09.02b
Form Letter/Letter Form
This is as real as it gets. Structures do penetrate, regulate, and administer the world. It is time to let the institutions of the world embrace us with their paperwork, blandly.

[…] Bois correctly points out that this distinction of the two “formalisms”—Lukacs’s “restricted” morphological formalism, versus Brecht’s formalism of historical-structural signification—is “essential to a retrieval of formalism (as structuralism).” [2] […]

1. Yves-Alain Bois, “Formalism and Structuralism,” Art Since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism, ed. Hal Foster, Yves-Alain Bois, Benjamin Buchloh, and Rosalind Krauss (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2004), 33.

2. Ibid. “The parentheses belong to Bois.”

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