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“Black and Glittering”

“Black and Glittering”

The Inscrutable Sublime

(p.15) 1 “Black and Glittering”
Ribbon of Darkness
Barbara Maria Stafford
University of Chicago Press

This essay analyzes visual perception under conditions of obscurity. It uncovers a pervasive lowering of the Sublime from its Burkean associations with an aesthetics of mounting terror, Kant’s uplifting starry heavens, and the vanishing steepness of Romanticism’s dim precipices. In contrast, our twenty-first century plummeting into inscrutability extends to the receding vistas of genetics and to the downward compression of information technologies in bottomless data mines. This essay inquires whether the reversal of the traditional emphasis on an upwardly-directed verticality might yet lead to a surface sublimity. This bringing of a corrective cognitive depth to the horizontal is already visible in skin-smart embeddedness, William Gibson’s locating of haptic presence within arcane and secret Japanese fabrics, or flush with Iris van Herpen’s polymaterials, or situated within the acoustic and chromatic digital effects of Tim Otto Roth’s interactive brandless art.

Keywords:   Brandless Art, Haptics, Inscrutability, Iris van Herpen, Obscurity, Polymaterials, Romanticism, Sublimity: Vertical to Surface, William Gibson, Tim Otto Roth

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