• Abstract:

    In this essay I make a case for a return to transcendence in art. I begin by defining our current moment as one of subject-generated and relative meaning. This analysis is derived both from the pervasive competition of a neoliberal economic system, and the shift in art from artist-generated meaning to spectator-generated meaning. I suggest that in relationship to this shift from external to internal meanings is a shift from transcendence to immanence. Immanence here defined is the experience of an unmediated “real” that is contained within the subject, a functional opposite of transcendence as it is traditionally defined: as a stepping outside of the self. While art has historically sought transcendence, art of the 21st century is more likely to seek immanence through abjection and immediacy, or displace meaning in art entirely through “open” and free form artworks. As an alternative I propose a Noumenist art that seeks a new transcendence through a reconsideration of alternative forms of knowledge. This transcendence would be an encounter with “noumena”—a border concept used by Immanuel Kant to described pre-representational reality. I expand on this concept through the writings on numen put forth by Rudolf Otto and Carl Jung, and examinations of belief made by William James. I suggest that Noumenist art allows for self-reflectivity, empathy, and hope, by opening a pathway to experiences of unmediated reality contained outside the self.