Being Rescued into the Greatest Emergencies

Art often works better than scientific announcements and philosophical treatises as a way to reveal emergencies. This is not because of artists’ ability to create beauty but rather for the intensity and depth of their works. Documentary photographs of the melting arctic, for example, can be truthful but are rarely as powerfully as works of art that address this emergency.

When a work of art truly takes hold of us, it is not an object that stands opposite us which we look at in the hope of seeing through it to an intended conceptual meaning. Just the reverse. The work is an ‘Ereignis’—an event that ‘appropriates us’ into itself. It shocks us, it overturns us, and sets up a world of its own, into which we are drawn.

Even though art, just like religion and politics (and even history), has been declared dead several times, it always returns with a vengeance—and with a demand.

Turning to these demands means that philosophers must search for a realm where Being emerges, that is, where our existential condition is disclosed. The goal of this talk for Art Meets Radical Openness is to venture into these disclosures through the greatest emergencies. These are those emergencies we overlook, ignore, and discard.

If the "greatest emergency" today has become the "absence of emergencies" how can we disrupt them? Why is art able to thrust us into these emergencies? And why must we be "rescued" into them in order to save us?