PRINT April 1990


Human Absence and Art

Whether we are concerned with my body, the natural world, the past, birth or death, the question is always how I can be open to phenomena which transcend me, and which nevertheless exist only to the extent that I take them up and live them.

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception (1945)

AROUND 820 A.D., the former Constantinople patriarch Saint Nicephorus, fighting the iconoclastic movement in Byzantine society that aimed to ban the use of sacred images, wrote, “If one suppresses the image, not only Christ disappears but the whole universe as well.”1 Yet the recent events in Eastern Europe, as they touch upon the field of visual culture, remind us that the demand for the absence of certain images, objects, ornaments, and colors as symbols of a particular model of reality appears constantly throughout history. First, of course, there is the beginning of the

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