Burgin Chapter 14

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S.R. I had the feeling that self-criticism or, let me put in a different way: to develop something like a point where you can criticize you own thinking, your own artistic work, that this is very important for you, to have always this option to step back and to reflect your own position that was developed before. Do you agree to that, or do you think that the term of self-reflection is too much occupied by the modernism –  as you were talking about Greenberg?

V.B. I think in Greenberg's modernism, the process of reflection was not so much self-reflection, it was rather reflection upon the condition of painting and the history of painting; and through objective knowledge of that history, the artist, through a process of thinking about painting, the possibilities of painting, the specificity of painting, would act, would make a painting. That was an expression of his or her, as it were, answer to questions of paintings not a for of self-expression. Now, again, that's the theory but in practice, of course, painting is again in the domain of affect and expression, that can't be avoided. So, there has always been coming and going between the acknowledged and the unacknowledged, the conscious and the unconscious in the strictly psychoanalytical sense of the word. (...) What was the question? // S.R. ... the possibility, or the importance // V.B. ... the possibility of stepping back ... // S.R. Yeah // V.B. ... I think the stepping back is often a stepping back from the history of art and art practices, and that's what one can get more or less of a distance from. Stepping back from oneself is more difficult. I mean, Freud speaking out of the diffculty of working theoretically he said "It's like to try to lift yourself by your own bootstraps" because you can only work on ideology from within and ideology but that's not to say it's impossible. It's rather like Freud's self-analysis, he himself was the first to say "you can't have a self-analysis", but nevertheless, with the benefit of the theoretical distance, you can effect a kind of distantiation, as well a kind of distance effect, even if it's not a real distance you can shift things, you can see things differently, you can express things differently. So you can effect a change, you can change your own thinking through the effort of trying to get a distance on yourself, even though, strictly speaking, it's impossible. ... Even though you can get a distance on yourself it's impossible and nevertheless you can do something, which has all the appearance of being the result of having had a distance on oneself, and as a tree shall be known by its fruits, you created a distance on yourself (laughs). Yes, that's important, but I think, for me that's where the theory came in, I mean the theory is a kind of distantiation device, ... the theory »makes strange« ... ; according to Shklovski, the function of art, the purpose of art was primarily to make strange, we are so habitualized to things. He said the habit destroys our furniture, our wives and the fear of war, we began to be used to everything, and the function of art is to make the stone stony, and to make us see things, and for me, doing theory allows me, to a certain extent, to see things differently. So: it is a distancing device.

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