I want to invite speculation that some of the preoccupations with shimmer in modern and contemporary painting serve to quite literally deflect the kind of analysis that typically serves to access the meaning of modernist art. We find glimmer turned against analysis by writers we’d not normally associate with postmodernity like Virginia Woolf, with Walter Benjamin’s concept of “aura”, or with Francis Ponge (for example, in the image of the gleaming fresh wood of the recently discarded fruit crate from the collection of prose poems titled Things). Such a gleam deflects attention away from author, away from the singular object or artwork to spread the gaze, if you like, onto the world around it. The work does this to diminish its singularity in favour of a place amongst other things and other kinds of thinking. This form of mirroring as deflection, or feint, takes other forms in late modernity. It’s not necessary for there to be a silver coating. I take Cage’s interest in silence, and 4’33” in particular, as deflecting concert listeners’ analytical assumptions by reflecting on that audience its own noise, and thereby turning inside out the relation of the scrutinizing subject to its object.

This talk considers the function of op art, in particular by Victor Vasarely, to deflect attention away from the subject, or artist author, towards a world of vibrant matter (Jane Bennett) and lived concerns of human lives. A contemporary connection to Vasarely’s objective can be found in the aims of New York artists Tauba Auerbach and Donald Moffett to invite a sense of wonder and a conditional desubjectivization at the material effects of paintings.

The talk on Shimmer starts at 52m