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– Autumn/Winter 2001

Figuring Difference: The Work of Jack Goldstein

Jean Fisher, Stella Santacatterina

Tags: Jack Goldstein, Walter Benjamin

Jack Goldstein, Two Fencers, Performance, 1977. Courtesy Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin.

Jack Goldstein, Two Fencers, Performance, 1977. Courtesy Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin.

To be remembered by another time.

- Jack Goldstein, Aphorism

When to write, or not to write makes no difference, then writing changes - whether it happens or not; it is the writing of the disaster.

- Maurice Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster1

What does Blanchot mean by 'disaster' here? One grasps a sense of something unaccountable, something at the limit of the speakable, of experience, in the face of which a certain numbing detachment takes place. It is, as he says, the 'flight of thought, the loss of thought, which thinking is': language as the outside of the subject, utterly indifferent to the subject's desire that it guarantee or yield up truth or meaning. What indeed could be more disastrous than to be cognisant of this indifference, of this limit of meaning, where the act of writing or making art 'makes no difference'?

*

From the outset - from the early minimalist units stacked to the point of collapse, through performances and films whose subject is the action itself, to the paintings of transcribed or digitalised 'found' and technologically generated imagery evacuated of all conventional signs of artistic authorship, of any witness or biography - Goldstein's work has operated structurally at the limits of artistic language, something that is nonetheless the tragic condition of its possibility. His work is in itself a meditation upon the 'writing of the disaster', the catastrophe of the creative subject, but also a way of thinking through the subject of knowledge after a century that witnessed the most unspeakable inhumanity and which, as Lyotard famously announced, saw the end of master narratives (except perhaps of the vast simulacrum that is

Footnotes
  1. Maurice Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster, Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1986, p.12

  2. J.-F. Lyotard, The Inhuman: Reflections on Time, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991, p.116

  3. W. Benjamin, op. cit., p.89

  4. Giorgio Agamben, Infancy and History: Essays on the Destruction of Experience, London: Verso, 1993, p.13

  5. J.-F. Lyotard, The Inhuman, op. cit., p.127

  6. Ibid., p.90

  7. J.-F. Lyotard, The Inhuman, op. cit., p.128

  8. M. Blanchot, op. cit., pp.9-11

  9. G. Deleuze, Essays Critical and Clinical, op. cit., p.xxxviii

  10. Ibid.

  11. Gilles Deleuze, Essays Critical and Clinical, London and New York: Verso, 1998, p.xxiii

  12. Catherine Clément, Syncope: The Philosophy of Rapture, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994

  13. G. Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, London: The Athlone Press, 1994, p.89

  14. Jean-François Lyotard, Driftworks, New York: Semiotext(e), 1984, pp.73-8

  15. G. Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, op. cit., p.42

  16. Walter Benjamin, Illuminations, Hannah Arendt (ed.), Harry Zohn (trans.), New York: Schocken Books, 1968, pp. 160-1

  17. G. Deleuze, Difference & Repetition, op. cit., p.16

  18. W. Benjamin, op. cit., p. 159