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Can a toe become a philosophical problem? The Big Toe is the title of an unusual essay by Georges Bataille, written in 1929 and published in 'Documents'. A brilliant commentary was written by Roland Barthes... 'Bataille thought in the Nietzschean style: that which is loftiest and most noble in man, for example, the head, remains in a mysterious relationship with that which is most mundane. (...) Barthes demonstrated that Bataille's wisdom consists in using scientific discourse in a contrary, artistic way which, one would like to say, is doubled or even multiplied. This is scientific discourse in inverted commas, shifted, opened, sometimes mocked and at the same time deceitfully and faux naively proposed precisely as a scientific discourse. According to Barthes in the text by Bataille, truth and wisdom stem from fiction which, successfully composed, allows a brief, flickering, but true grasping of the truth...'.
'Documents', founded in 1929 by Georges Wildenstein, was an unusual and perhaps one of the most interesting episodes in the history of the inter-war European avantgarde. The motor forces of the periodical were three extraordinary men: Carl Einstein, Georges Bataille and Michel Leiris. Their project - a combination of science and art, of that which is part of the past and the avantgarde, of the European and the non-European - remained an isolated Nietzschean attempt at 're-evaluating all'. 'Documents' was also, and this is slightly less obvious, an uncommon atlas of images. This emphasis on visual experience brought the project conceived by Bataille and Einstein close to the conceptions launched by Aby Warburg. If the Mnemosyne atlas is a sui generis 'anthropology of the memory of forms' then 'Documents' can be recognised as an 'anthropology of that which is formless'
The authoress considers the impossibility of fun in contemporary culture. Using the example of MTV's 'I want a famous face', she looks at the phenomena of fading identity among people experimenting with their own body image hoping to make it look like one's idol. Using theories of Georges Bataille, Erving Goffman, Michel Foucault and Giorgio Agambenas concept of profanation, she argues that the 'spectacular' has the highest value in contemporary culture. The importance attached to consumption and display negates the possibility of fun. The idea to construct one's body so that it conforms to the ideal, transforms the TV program into anti-fun. It becomes a meta-commentary on reality, in which the only real things are the ones that are attractive and visible. The authoress argues that the impossibility of profanations, and therefore the impossibility of fun, results in the lack of generation of new meanings, and the world which does not generate new meanings, is governed by copy. She concludes that in the contemporary culture, where profanation is forbidden and made impossible, what becomes the ideal, is the perfect copy of whatever is held in highest regard.
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