Always construction


Anselm Kiefer’s towers, which I saw and stepped inside of when they were at the Royal Academy, resemble the building still in construction yet they have been constructed so as to resemble ruins. They are forever tottering, about to fall and yet retain their uneasy verticality.

This ambiguity is reflected, appropriately enough, in the Romantic and, at times, mystical philosophy of Friedrich Schlegel where he asserts that ‘romantic poetry is still in the process of becoming; that in fact is its real “essence”: that it should forever be becoming and never be perfected.’ For Schlegel that which is in becoming is infinite, for it any becoming is always a being-in-process, always in motion and never at rest or static. Becomings reach no final, fixed state of being, there essence is to be found in their final lack of finality: they remain forever unfinished works. As much as they might like to ‘finish’ themselves Kiefer’s Towers will never be able to. Of course the purposeful ambiguity here is that they may finish themselves by being finally erected or they may crumble and in effect ‘do themselves in’. Yet there can be no closure or final synthesis. Everything remains open for Schlegel and for Keifer.

For Schlegel this means that poetry, which in the broadest sense easily includes sculpture and architecture, is ironic; ‘Irony is the clear consciousness of eternal agility, of an infinitely teeming chaos.’ The world itself is this infinitely teeming chaos, a becoming which is composed of becoming, objects-without-finality or objects which lack but which, in their lack, exceed beyond themselves at the same time.

This, I think, explains my fascination with semi-constructed buildings. It is not so much that they do not have settled, normal families or workers runner about inside of them being exploited and alienated in all the ways we are familiar with and nor is it their resemblance to bomb sites or decaying buildngs. There is no happiness that they are not yet sites of capture (who, after all, is building them and financing them?) or a nihilistic pleasure in their resemblance to military chic and so on. And though there may be something in the connection to Brutalism’s utopian aspirations, I think ultimately it is the fact that unfinished construction sites reveal what all building are. More than that, they reveal what all seemingly finished objects are (including ourselves); infinitely unfinished. This brand of Romanticism becomes a gnosticism which exceeds the simple idea that building work is attractive because ‘it isn’t finished yet’. It will never be finished.

Speaking in an interview about the towers, Kiefer has said that they look as if about to topple because ‘I like things on the edge, because you know art is on the edge all the time. It’s not decoration for me.’ The edge is not simply that last fringe before the yawn of the abyss; it is also that place where we are perched, waiting to step forward. Simultaneously nihilistic and joyful, terror and faith, obliteration and the New, the ruin of the past and the site of the future.


Given that the towers can never ‘finish themselves’ through completion or demolition, and that this itself is the ironic core of poetry which reveals the essence of becoming, I wonder if whatever it is I’m doing here with these theory sections isn’t a kind of Romanticism. The question is pertinent because elsewhere I have written that this ‘ironic’ condition of poetry is also the condition of humanity in its simultaneous striving towards substance and pull towards dissolution.


6 Responses to “Always construction”

  1. i enjoyed reading that….but, it took you all that just to say “i like unfinished buildings because they are unfinished” ..?

    No wonder I can not write academically….hahahahahahhaha

    • 2 dronemodule

      It seems that way, huh? But no. Its because construction sites in being unfinished remind or point towards the Unfinished, or the impossibility of finitude. Maybe that point isn ‘tclear in the post, but really what I’m getting at is the way the reveal that finitude isn’t finally conclusive, that everything always remains in play.

  2. im not quite sure if there is ever any finitude, everything is fluid and dynamic – to me anyway….

  3. 4 dronemodule

    Aye. Humans are meant to be marked by finitude…we have limits to our understanding/access to reality, y’know the whole Kantian kinda deal.

  4. nope…dont i dont fall into that line of thought….sorry

  5. 6 dronemodule

    Thats the point of this post. Humanity isn’t tragic, its promethean. Even as that prometheanism is also a drive to negation.

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