Question on “Semblance”

Art’s primary way of becoming art is to appear more than itself, to say, or show something more. To wrest from it, it’s semblance of more, is to question its contingency on which art is dependent. Whenever  we determine art in terms of semblance we acknowledge it and at the same time negate it as something unreal. The “more” or the “excess” of art does not guarantee art of  any substance of its own. This “substance” can be totally null, “non-existence”. And this “null”  can still provide some meaning, which can appear “more”, like in the absurd plays of Beckett. On the other hand, directors like Pasolini or Ghatak goes to the point of extreme excess,  there is no “mediation” from “outside”  but the thematic and craft is very much coalesced together, when it is not (that means, when there is mediation in-between the artistic ‘core’ and the ‘outside’) , that too, adds to the  more or excess, which is what exists, throughout, the excess. This can disrupt the Art work, working through its own arena, from “within”, transforms itself into its own semblance of more. Directors like Ghatak or Pasolini, started their career with realism. But very soon drifted from it and in way, became more and more experimental. The theme return and anachrony of history dominated their films after that. Something of a return to childhood, of plenitude! But as evident from their artworks, a return is not possible. In this very moment of return, the half trodden path from past appears as repetition. Here the repetition as a theme, becomes the semblance of their art. But is it ever a repetition? Or,  is it the artistic craft which, to affect us with an empathic meaning, repeats repetition ? What appears as repetition, is but the ‘outwardly” repetitative moments of a dialectical movement, which negates repetition in its inwardly core movement, to evolve further! Art works movement rests on its reliance on  various elements, in case of cinema, it’s mise-en-scene, camera, colour, editing. Artworks like cinema, thoroughly depends on these elements, and ofcourse, on its theme. But it also, strains the inner nexus of this elements to become, to produce a transcendence, in however oblique way. Arts nature is thus, to remain with its nexus, to depend on it and at the same time, to overcome it, to produce a transcendence. An artist, armed with a serious armature of thought, always tries to overcome the arts own context, the unfreedom of its own nexus of elements yet relying on it. This is the hope that a politically conscious artist always tries to do with his or her art, and at this very moment, semblance becomes the outwardly repetitive moment of an inner dialectical movement, which affirms this transcendence, or, hints at it.

Example- Subernarekha ( Ritwik Kumar Ghatak, 1962), in a sequence, we see Iswar, from close up, tells Mukherjee not to lie to his little sister, Sita, who is still very small . But at the end, he himself repeats the same to his nephew, Binu. But here, the camera shows him from back, hints at his past, yet, he is moving forward, though from back, but, it obliquely, hints his movement, but the artist keeps his silence over where he is really going. Here, artist uses the cinematic elements to prove his point, yet, it is the very artistic/cinematic elements which ties him, for the camera focuses him still from back.

I am indebted to T.W. Adorno’s discussion on the issue in his posthumously published book, Aesthetic Theory (1970).

Jeet Bhattacharya
Latest posts by Jeet Bhattacharya (see all)

Leave a Reply