Re: Iconoclasts

March 5, 2010

posted by Caroline Picard

What follows is an excerpted paragraph from an article by David Freedberg, called Iconoclasts and Their Motives:

This, in nuce, is one possible way of accounting for iconoclasm, but it is by no means complete. When we are moved by an image (in whatever way), when we find ourselves concurring–whether as a result of cultural conditioning or not–with its canonical status, our natural response is one of protectiveness. The image moves us, benefits us, protects us; it enhances our emotions, sparks our intelligence, arouses meaningful evocation; and so we must shelter it, protect it, conserve it. These things and the fact that a work may be acknowledged as a masterpiece, as the greatest product of a nation, as extraordinaryily valuable (even in the monetary sense alone), even the fact that it is housed in a grand or public institution, reinforces the inclination to make of the work an object which we preserve against ravage. And so the image becomes a festish; not a pleasure to be partaken of an then cast aside, forgotten,  but something which we must cocoon. This doting projection of our protective desires onto figured material objects undoubtedly has still deeper psychological roots which we cannot here even being to plumb; but it is worth emphasisxing the obvious importance of preserving all those representations of the world by which we grasp nature itself. If we sighted people let go of representation we have nothing from which to make sense of all that is outside ourselves, not even words. And so we cling, dote, cherish, preserve, at all costs. The iconoclast does so too, but then he or she overturns these impulses into their very opposite (“I had to destroy that which others cherish,” said the North German acid hrower); and it is in this that the neurosis lies. That too, apart from the shock ast any form of destruction, is why the action of iconoclasts arouses indignation and a state of troubledness that seems to run a good deal deeper than many other forms of dramatically neurotic and psychotic behavior, perhaps only–but then not certainly–excepting those destructive acts which affect the body itself.

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