23.03. – 26.05.2023
Lothringer 13 Studio
Photos: Lukas Hoffmann
What is the truth?1 Now there is a metaphysical question for you. Hardcore baby, yeah. That’s what we are talking about. What. Is. The. Truth. Heidegger turns around and points, there – there – to the temple, a Greek one I guess but no one really knows, or cares, as it really doesn’t matter; he points to the temple nestling among rocky hills, its columns in picturesque disarray. We can see it on Paul Valentin’s holiday snapshot. The temple as a work of art sets forth the truth. If you are looking for the truth you can find it there.
When I first encountered Heidegger’s essay as an undergraduate, “The Origin of the Work of Art” was presented to me as a critique of representation, specifically of mimesis. I admit I didn’t get it at the time. Now that I do, Heidegger does clearly state that the kind of truth he associates with the artwork has nothing to do with a painter’s capacity to produce resemblance. Truth here is not marked by the distinction between the model and the copy, the original and the fake, and in this sense his argument is anti-mimetic. Instead, he looks to the point of origin of the art work, and finds truth (with the help of van Gogh’s painting) in the way being is revealed. “Aletheia”, he claims, is the Greek term for the “unconcealedness of beings.”
This means we do not look at an artwork in a habitual way, as a thing or a piece of equipment. Heidegger rejects the interpretation of the artwork as either a substrate bearing traits, a manifold of sensations or as formed matter. These for him are various forms of assault on being. He argues that not to fall under the spell of this violence, we have to look at the temple and see how it both creates a world for us, in the sense of giving our lives its meaning, and also shelters this world by placing it back firmly on the earth, which only through the creation of this world emerges as ground. The temple as the work of art is Aletheia.
Paul Valentin creates his temple of of the Greek goddess Aletheia using digital software. It has the usual pediments and carved reliefs of mythological figures. He then, also digitally, breaks this temple up, fragments it, ages it artificially and destroys it. He takes up these fragments – still digitally – and reassembles them in workshop that shares many of the same visual conditions as the Lothringer 13 Studio space, like some kind of virtual archeologist. The reassembled fragments are photographed, printed and scattered across gallery room.
Thus there is no truth in Paul Valentin’s temple. Even the snapshot we see is a composite of an old photograph and an ai generated image, with some photoshopping in between. His temple does not, cannot, reveal anything. It is not even there. And yet it shows how mimesis is always at work, even in Heidegger’s argument. How does Heidegger reject the three modes in which we tend to think the artwork? By looking at how their claim to truth compares with the artwork’s truth, its revelation of being. Isn’t this also what mimesis is? I mean, isn’t the relation between a model and a copy not so much about resemblance as it is about good and bad resemblance – to what extent is the copy a faithful one? Isn’t it the copy’s claim to truth that we compare? Far then from producing a critique of representation, Heidegger’s comparison of different modes of thought would seem to fall down mimesis’s slippery slope. He too succumbs to its power. What is the truth? There is no truth, honey. Only simulacra. Paul Valentin shows that the question we need to ask is how does this simulacra work.
- For full effect, please read in the voice of Tom Cruise’s character in Magnolia (1999). If you haven’t seen the movie, watch it now.
Magdalena Wisniowska 2023