Mónica Belevan

Covidian Aesthetics IV: The Baroque

April 11, 2020

The more I write, the more I realise I have the Early Modern Era, and the seventeenth century notably, as sounding boards.

I can see why. The Baroque —together with its dialectic pairing in the Renaissance—is one of two beta versions of modernity, the templates for which crossed like swords or crickets’ legs in the Enlightenment. Nor let’s forget the Renaissance, and the Baroque, are themselves contrapuntal lucubrations of the German Romantic Geist that summited in Nietzsche’s dichotomic rediscovery of Greece. The Philologists’ Gesamtkunstwerk, their philosophical merit, is the invention of History.

In this scheme, and in essence, the Baroque is what is comfortable Being In Shadow; it is what’s comfortable with The Uncomfortable.

More than descriptive of a Period, the Baroque is faeric time, and so it may prove helpful to think of it as a universe ruled less by dialectics and argumentation than through narrative, appearances and the collapsible aesthetics of agglomeration. We are trapped in a mystery play because this is theatre.

The disdain for detail Burkhardt claimed as a Baroque characteristic is not unlike the noise produced by our own, intensely granular, refluxes of misinformation. There’s something natively misinformational to the Baroque, which registers not with the slickness of lies, but with a fuzz.

The Baroque (re)appears in the deepest, most angular fissurae of major historical world processes. It is less a historical Period than a historical Thing; a chimeric-atmospheric beast of epochs wrought from hard, if not impossible-to-reconcile, emergent and intercolliding properties. Euripidian drama, Mennippean satire, Spenglerian historiography —maybe postmodernism, even— are all Baroque, or warrant at least some Baroque analysis.

The Baroque is also visionary and apocalyptic, which may be the reason I’ve found myself drawing connections between the Covidian moment, the pharmakos in plague-stricken Marsilia, and the mass hysteria events that swept through the seventeenth century at Aix en Provence (1611), Pendle (1612), Loudon (1634) and even Salem (1692), in the colonies.

But more on this tomorrow, whenever that may be.