This essay will be presented at the APA Central Conference of the Karl Jaspers Society of North America in the Palmer House Hilton, Chicago.
The Karl Jaspers Society Conference will focus upon the reception of Van Gogh amongst Continental Philosophers.
‘Prometheus Dismembered: Bataille on Van Gogh’ will be given as part of Session One, Van Gogh with Jaspers, Heidegger, and Bataille, on Thursday, February 27th, 2014, 7:40-10:40PM.
Prometheus Dismembered: Bataille on Van Gogh, or
The Window in the Bataille Restaurant
I will begin my address with a minor coincidence.
The Window of the Bataille Restaurant, sketched with pencil in Paris in 1887, shows us a typical Van Gogh scenario, a table with a chair, setting in front of a window, which not only reveals the (framed) world outside, but also lets the soft light into the space of the restaurant. We can see Van Gogh’s hat and coat hanging on the wall by the window. We can also see two men below outside on the street. In general, the painting is quite dark, except for the intensity of the window and the motes of light that it channels onto the chair and table and the one who stands where he stands, in the position of the artist. Yet, this does not in itself disclose the coincidence. That it is a window in namely the Bataille restaurant is where the coincidence comes into view since today I came to talk with you upon the theme of light in Bataille’s interpretation of Van Gogh – yet, at the same time, there is a painting by Van Gogh with a central motif of light, and in reference to the name of Bataille. Of course, to give any real significance to such a coincidence, even if it is one, is, one would usually argue, merely faulty logic, fuelled by superstitious thinking, by the fatalism of synchronicity.