Georges Bataille, Sacred Transgressor
Reading for review three new books by Bataille, prompted me to think again about Bataille’s aesthetics.
French philosopher and novelist Georges Bataille (1897-1962) was a devotee of Baudelaire and Nietzsche. Nietzsche himself was fascinated by Baudelaire’s radical poetics. Bataille’s ideas on the informe (the shapeless) and the attendant fear and disgust associated with the unformed I have discussed elsewhere. Further, Bataille stressed that formlessness is blasphemous because it defies God-given order and shapeliness. Bataille was a defiant anti-theist and took delight in the power of the sacrilegious. Yet he was by no means wholly a materialist, at least his inclinations had a residue of recognition for the power of the sacrifice, the ceremony and the potential of magic; even if the actuality of the supernatural is set aside, Bataille respected the aura of magic, even if it may have just been a variant of political, monarchical or clerical power. In an era of ethnographic and archaeological science in France, Bataille dwelt on the mechanisms of the shamanistic performance. In The Tears of Eros (1961), Bataille reproduced photographs of executions and voodoo rituals alongside Surrealist art. Art should tap into the wells of repulsion, fear and sacredness that exist within the subconscious (individual and collective) of the audience.