It’s not easy to differentiate between good and bad sometimes. What seems apparent is that these two categories exist in reality. In the above photographs, we can sense something good and something bad in them, or can we?
#1 can be viewed as positive, or good, whereas #2 can be viewed in negative terms in that it seems more dangerous or scary. However, #1 is static, it can be viewed in terms of a “dead” image, without life; whereas #2 becomes positive by virtue of its “aliveness,” its life energy.
If we had to choose, life and energy are the winners. That which is dead is by necessity negative, or bad. There are those who celebrate death, chaos and violence. This is not our concern. We are the purveyors of light and life.
I have tried hard to understand Jacques Derrida. The fragments I’ve managed to untangle, I have not agreed with. I do not understand fully his meaning of the term “transcendental signifier” and welcome any feedback from Derrida experts on this. But judging from what this phrase means in common understanding, I do not like, nor agree, with Derrida’s assertion that there is no transcendental signifier. For me, and I clearly may be misreading him, the life impulse is in itself the supreme transcendental signifier. It can be seen as God. It can be seen as the highest good, the order which propels existence. It is the positive aspect, the opposite of death.
Is it possible to say that image #2 has a life significator?
Postmodern art and literature changed the fabric of 20th C aesthetics forever. While we admire the depth and life impulse of, say, The Mona Lisa, as painted by Da Vinci, we often think that postmodern art can have no basis in life signification, that it is not good.
A lot of postmodern art tends towards an absence of life. It is bad. But like the two photographs above, almost identical subjects (here two dead trees) have two very different conclusions. The difference is very subtle, and I categorically claim that postmodern art can be good and signify transcendence.
T.S. Eliot wrote that the dance is at the “still point.” The “still point” is the fixed centre—the place of the life pulse, transcendence. On, and around, this fixed point is the dance. The “still point” he refers to is not the dead point of evil. At the centre is a dance—which certainly can be a mixture of postmodern colours, disjunctions, fragments, etc… The “still point” can also be the order and symmetry of traditional and classical art or writing, which maintains a static component that does not necessarily always equate to death.
The good is not always couched in the traditional, and the hypermodern is not always evil. It takes an artist of depth and compassion to differentiate between the two ways of perception.