Thursday, August 11, 2011

Word of the month: Ostranenie

The experience that the commonplace is alien, usually through the medium of art.

Developped by Viktor Shklovsky (1893-1984) in his essay "Art as device" in 1917, it originally meant the feeling of defamiliarization or estrangement of reality in literature.
"The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar’, to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged."
"A work is created “artistically” so that its perception is impeded and the greatest possible effect is produced through the slowness of the perception."
On the other side of this spectre, was it Robert Benchley who first proposed to repeat a word endlessly until it is totally devoid of meaning?
"Take any word, say, CHIMNEY. Say it repeatedly and in rapid succession. Within some seconds, the word loses meaning. This loss is referred to as 'semantic satiation.' What seems to happen is that the word forms a kind of closed loop with itself. One utterance leads into a second utterance of the same word, this leads into a third, and so on. . . . [A]fter repeated pronunciation, this meaningful continuation of the word is blocked since, now, the word leads only to its own recurrence." (I.M.L. Hunter: "Memory")

I remember standing in front of de Chirico's 'Les Muses Incertaines' in Brussel's museum of modern art in semi-trance. And years later in front of Duchamp's '3 standard stoppages' in centre Pompidou in Paris.

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