Probability. On Rhetoric in Art
in: Daidalos 64, June 1997 (Special Issue „Rhetoric“), p. 80-89.
There are however limits to the analogy between the rhetorical and artistic production of probability, limits which allow us to define more precisely the specifically pictorial character of art. The difference can be summed up in the conceptual pair ’simultaneity‘ and ’succession.‘ In classical rhetorical theory, the oration is developed successivelv in different stages. First. a subject is defined and the corresponding facts are narrated (exordium and narration). This is followed by the argumentation and demonstration, in which opposing arguments are refuted and one’s own position supported (argumentation). Finally, there is the conclusion of the speech (conclusion). This structure has validity even today, as attested by the majority of political speeches or even scholarly lectures. The sequence allows the listener to distinguish between the subject of the speech (res) and the argument presented by the speaker (argumentum), while the art of rhetoric consists in establishing a convincing connection between them over the course of the speech. The work of art is not subject to this successive process. In the work of art, the thing (e.g. ’nature‘) is preexistent in a particular form, appearing only in the way in which it is shown in the artwork. Earlier we saw this principle illustrated in the four pictorial representations of nature; it holds true to the same degree for sculpture as well. Michelangelo’s Victor, Bernini’s St. Theresa, Rodin’s Striding Man, or Giacometti’s Bust of Elie Lotar do not show a thing (‚human being‘) that is first perceived and only later, like a jointed doll, given a particular form, in the same way the orator gradually develops his perspective on the subject at hand. The abstract entity ‚human being‘ and the individual form of the sculpture coincide and enter into an indissoluble union. To ’see‘ a picture or a sculpture is to see. in one and the same moment, the thing and its specific form, the ‚res‘ and the ‚argumentum.‘ This convergence, in which something shows itself as something, is what is meant when we speak of the ‚presence‘ and ‚immediacy‘ of art. This is probably where we come closest to the specific rhetoric of art, as its own peculiar power of persuasion: where at the moment of its reception, art successfully transcends every separation and shows us the ‚world‘ created in the way the work of art formulates it. This reversal is the triumph of art. in which the fictive prevails over the real.
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