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Radical Philosophy Review

Volume 12, Issue 1/2, 2009

Art, Praxis, and Social Transformation

Scott Zeman
Pages 289-313
DOI: 10.5840/radphilrev2009121/218

By Grace of Broken Skin
An Aesthetics of Inscriptive Development

I address the question of the origins and historical meaning of art. Analyzing suggestions from Marx, Derrida, Winnicott, and Todorov, I claim that art doesn’t simply represent conscious, historical events but is also the continuing presentation of the prehistorical break-up of our “original” human family. Indeed, perpetuating yet distancing this archaic scene of community and violence in tension, art performs this mediation not just in history but also as history, as a secretive historiography of splitting and meaning-making. To this end, I analyze some tribal tattooing and scarring practices. Literally carving a world of metaphorical significance out of our disidentification with mother nature and with each other in turn, art speaks hieroglyphically of persistent primitive loss.

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