Gerd Bornheim

Willem de Kooning, Litho #2 (Waves #2), 1960


Preface to the recently released book “Interpretations of artistic languages ​​in Gerd Bornheim” by Gaspar Paz.

The work Interpretations of artistic languages ​​in Gerd Bornheim composes the philosopher's thought as a cosmogony, whose axis is the status of art in the contemporary world. Generous reconstruction of the thought of an author who found in spiritual creations the superior ability to cross borders, Gaspar Paz identifies, in the reflections of Gerd Bornheim, the theater as a “total work of art”. Bornheim realizes, in Paz's reflections, the Goethian ideal of Welcome.

This book is also generous, because Gaspar Paz completes it with unpublished material by the philosopher who frequented European capitals, including Paris and Berlin, cities that produced and formed so many philosophies and arts. This is why conferences, classes, audios, notes form a mobile of ideas, contesting the moralizing style of the systems, starting with the hybrid treatment of questions, at the same time epistemological and literary, political and aesthetic.

In the words of Paz: “The theater also offers him a special and differentiated position among the writer-philosophers who are concerned and dedicate themselves, in general, more to the study of literature or the plastic arts. In addition, interpretations of theater will allow Bornheim to access other artistic activities (poetry, music, plastic arts, cinema, etc.) more freely and without the ideological commitments that sometimes elect certain artistic manifestations as hegemonic. in relation to the others. This will make your criticisms assume open positions. That is why the interplay between philosophy and theater constitutes one of the most unique aspects of his interpretations”.

Gaspar Paz understands that, for Gerd Bornheim, art is not the Other of philosophy, but the privileged and peculiar way of elucidating, through history and experimentation, affections and passions, intellectual questions. Dramatizing philosophy, Paz indicates how Bornheim transits between music, cinema, literature, always in a “situation”, according to the free affiliation of the philosopher to the phenomenology and existentialism of Sartre and Merleau-Ponty, or to the psychoanalysis of Freud and the Bachelard's imagination. Gerd thus transforms the theater stage into a mental scene.

Tragedy and philosophy, literature and science, ideology and mythology question both myths and “rational action” based on Derrida's reading of Bornheim: “Logocentrism, for Derrida, values ​​the theory of identity from the 'other' to the 'same'. Having put identity in check, the first target will be the Hegelian dialectic. There is a crisis and a demand to take a stand for the “deconstruction” of metaphysics. Here Heidegger and Derrida coincide, as Bornheim said, in their way of thinking about the limit of the crisis.

Heidegger's way out of this scenario is the return to a poetic origin of language. And Derrida radicalizes this bias in a certain way from the 'logic of the margin'. Such a look at the margins, according to Bornheim, would be that 'pointing to the other than herself' [...]. The meaning then is found in this 'allowing room' for other connotations. The challenge of the writer and the philosopher would be to excavate these meanings without worrying too much about the centrality of the text, the finished text and imbued with all its communicative qualities”.

In this sense, the novelist, the playwright, the musician, the filmmaker, the scientist and the philosopher go beyond a disciplinary closure, associated, in Bornheim's thought, with a “pedagogy”, as in Brecht, or with the “theater of the oppressed” in Boal, but according to a shuffling of engagement and distance, with which the moral universe of the reader and spectator is subverted. The relationship between the spirit and the letter is expressed in the refusal of good conscience and moral comfort, in the unmasking of bad faith, aiming at a morality of authenticity, which is not supported by ideologies.

Seeking the universal in the particular, Bornheim brings Gaspar, the theater in Brazil, closer to the Brazil of Gilberto Freyre in his reflections on laziness as a critical category of forced and martyring labor, conforming Brazil to the demands of modern global theater: “Wealth of experimentalism was an international issue, and in some ways the underlying concerns were the same. For Bornheim, some fundamental matrices are recurrent, such as the relationship between word and body, historicity, social problems and the exploration of language paths in the thinking of authors such as Brecht, Antunes Filho, Zé Celso Martinez Corrêa, Augusto Boal, Ariano Suassuna, Nelson Rodrigues and Gerald Thomas. Although it presents a diversity of positions, the concern with the theme is constant”.

The precedence of language in Bornheim's reflections on the arts has the sense of criticizing both art for art's sake and the sedentary realism that repeats the same status quo. Because there is no ultimate meaning of things, Beckett represents for Gerd a ultimatum artistic, such as the guillotine for Julien Sorel and his prisoner meditation on The red and the black, arsenic for Madame Bovary, the epilepsy for Prince Muchkine in the Idiot, death for the Estrangeiro by Camus. For this reason, Gaspar observes: “It was from the observation of an atmosphere devoid of meaning in different domains that discussions about historicity and ideologies emerged; totality and absolutes; the various shifts in focus and emphasis on artistic and philosophical pursuits; the evaluation of the break with the past and traditions; the avant-garde and the appreciation of popular arts; the new inspirations of contemporary artistic creativity; the problem of normativity and ruptures with the laws of beauty and with metaphysical truths; the social, political and scientific articulations that involve the panorama of the arts and bring to the fore discussions around otherness, difference and deconstruction, approaches that contributed to the visualization and understanding of an aspect dear to an entire generation: the theme of language” .

Because philosophy and the arts are electively demanded, because they stage language instead of just using it as an instrument, and because each work, in order to exist, needs the commentary that guarantees it to perpetuate and last, language, in Gerd Bornheim, in the shows Gaspar Paz, creates a discourse that, like Barthes, is not epistemological but dramatic.

* Olgaria Matos is a professor of philosophy at Unifesp. Author, among other books, of Philosophical palindromes: between myth and history (Unifesp).


Gaspar Paz. Interpretations of artistic languages ​​in Gerd Bornheim. Victory, Edufes, 2021.


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