no high brow or low brow art–

what reaction does the video have? what instinct or emotion will you evoke in the viewer?

how can you make the viewer:

  • feel
  • thought reaction mind)

art: make two contradictory things work at the same time.

‘cognitive dissonance’ — make the viewer uncomfortable; let them piece together the meaning.

adding visual element; confuse the viewer.

aesthetics; perception (perception of beauty?)

what is the intent of the artist?

‘visual signifier’

weapon of david vs goliath?

minorities struggle against force and repression!

symbol of riot and rebellion? // symbol of anarchy?

threat yet to be actualized (Drama)

black male body seen as threat by white society.

‘Dasein of blackness’ (heidegger)

threat of social decay?

dracon (draconian) — dragon LATIN

urban jungle.

how to overcome nihilism?

‘amor fati’ — LOVE FATE.


i do not want to wage war against ugliness. i do not want to accuse; i do not even want to accuse the accusers. let looking away be my only negation! and all in all and on the whole; someday i only want to be a YES SAYER!

how to be a yes-sayer? // is it good to be a yes-sayer?

relentless life-lover.

the birth of tragedy is focused on art — dramatic tragedies of ancient greek.

ART: highest pursuit of man! to make more art is the metaphysical goal in which we all should strive.

‘morality’ as symbol of dead god.

god of wine vs god of poetry and light.

three dimensional art?

CARNAVAL // dionysian?

dionysian; creative act — source of art.

sacred ritual to dionysus.

dionysian; manifestation of the divine spirit.

we also need apollo — abstraction and pure thought.


art should guide humanity!

dont focus on apollonian — (we already got that from plato) /// focus more on dionysian?

dont reject dionysian; or else we reject our humanity of a full life?

nihilism; zero, nothingness.

will to power; affirming life!


Beyond good and evil — influence kanye west?

what sides does morality lie?

how to live truer in todays world?

Thus there is no dichotomy between word and image. Kanye may sing of threesomes while police officers are set on fire, but the same language is being spoken. It is the language of Dionysus unbound, and the old order swept aside in favor of an unbridled way of being. Yet it is this very unity of word and image that causes Kanye West to fail as a Nietzschean artist. The tentative seeking with which the song opens is cast aside as West announces that we have found our new, more authentic way of being, the Dionysian way. There is no room for the Apollonian in this creed of abandon and upheaval. The Apollonian has been rejected, leaving us no better than half-alive, thus never able to find completion. The Dionysian and its excesses have eclipsed the passionless balance of the Apollonian spirit and any attempt to find a middle ground between the two. For all its passionate embrace of the physical experience, then, in the eyes of early Nietzsche West’s verse is merely life-denying.

If “No Church in the Wild” leaves us only damned, half-alive things, how might we fare in the gaze of the man who pronounced theothanatos? The Nietzsche who wrote The Gay Science would, at first glance, seem sympathetic to the thoughts expressed in “No Church in the Wild,” particularly Ocean’s question about the nonbeliever.

In expressing the death of God, Nictzsche announces the downfall of all order; ethics, metaphysics, faith, science, these things have all failed us. Our foundational assumptions are all deeply flawed, and our Nietzschean project is thus to forge a new way, a way that is life-affirming rather than life-denying. In this later Nietzsche we still find the recurring image of the Dionysian, though now he represents the figure of the completed man, the man who walks the life-affirming path free of the life-denying course forced on us by the death of God on the cross.(11) The death of God is the end of transcendence. God died, and was not resurrected. There are no miracles, no enchantment of the world, no divine mystery. God died and stayed dead, the result of violence was permanent.

Unfortunately, too often this Nietzsche is read as espousing mere
inversion, a replacement of all current values with their polar opposites.
Yet what Nietzsche proposes is not in fact a wholesale rejection of our
current way of being so much as a wholesale rejection of the reasons
behind our way of being. For instance, Western morality preaches
that life is sacred, and that to take life is therefore a sin. It would be
easy, sloppily simple even, to thus presume that a Nietzschean way
of being would then tell us that if life is sacred in the old order, and ÷ the old order is wrong, then life is no longer sacred and there is no
meaningful prohibition in place that prevents the taking of life. This simplistic view assumes Nietzsche to be in favor of wholesale murder. In fact, such simplistic and censored views of his philosophy did find its way into the tenets of Nazism.

Living in such a way is failing to make the move Nietzsche desired, which as he so often put it, was a move beyond good and evil, a shift to something other than morality. Merely replacing morality with antimorality does not accomplish this, because the two are still defined by the same dichotomy, rather than leaving it behind. Deciding that since, in the old view, life was held as sacred; in the new, we must hold ourselves above any stricture (legal, transcendent, or otherwise) on taking life, is to still define ourselves solely in relation to a view of the world that regards life as sacred. Rather than seeking a new way of being, rather than confronting the horrors of freedom, we have simply fooled ourselves into believing that we cannot see our chains.

A more accurate interpretation of Nietzsche, then, that what we must seek is a rejection that results in a revaluation, not an inversion, of values. In choosing to walk a Nietzschean path there is nothing that tells us we must reject life as valuable. Rather, we are told that if we are to value life then we must value life for the right reasonsÿ reasons that call to the transcendent, relying on the orders of a being whose existence Nietzsche did not acknowledge, are clearly insufficient. After all, “What’s a god to a non-believer?” Any reason emerging from a teleological narrative is likewise worthless. To explain this Apollonian, ivory-tower word, the teleological, or “goal-seeking,”
narrative is one that essentially guides us to live our lives for some-
thing other than living our lives. The Eden story, though it is by
no means the only example, is among the archetypal forms of the
teleological narrative. To wit: humans once lived hi paradise, they
were expelled fi’om Eden; so, we must now spend our lives rejecting
sin in the hopes of regaining entrance into paradise or heaven. If we
live according to the Edenic narrative, then we are living our lives not
for the purpose of living our lives, but solely to secure for ourselves
a place in paradise after our deaths. The danger in this is that it can
cause us to turn away from the lived reality of existence, not living
our lives for ourselves, and subjecthlg ourselves to someone, or some-
thing, else’s plan. Insisting on the existence of an idea that cannot
be proven, based on revelation we are admonished to live purely for
an Apollonian idea, that is something better and transcendent. Thus
we must reject the Dionysian, that is, all the pleasures of life–food,
comfort, sex–because, as we mentioned earlier, they are irrelevant in ® the quest for the glorious realities of the next world, and indulging
in them may prevent us from reaching it. The teleological view of life does not make us behave well for the right reasons. We will behave in a moral way for the reward of entering heaven, or out of fear of going to hell, rather than because it is right to do so. Our moral actions will not necessarily mean that we are moral beings.

Even if one is to reject Nietzsche’s atheism and presume that the divine exists in some form or another, to live in this way is still unhealthy. We can find this sentiment in the work of Kierkegaard, who despite his many criticisms of the church as institution still maintained his faith. Though his reasons for doing so were somewhat different from Nietzsche’s, Kierkegaard too hasistcd that living our lives for the promise of heavenly reward was not only unhealthy, but actually the demonstration of a lack of faith.

Whether one sides with Kierkegaard or Nietzsche on the position of faith in the divine, at the heart of the matter is the idea that life is to be lived for the sake of life itself, and not for the sake of future reward, and not in a fashion that objectifies us. If we hold to the principle that life is of value, and thus must not be taken from another, then the source of that value can only come from within us. It is thus subjective if we wish for tiffs value to be a healthy one. We cannot decide not to kill only out of fear of the divine’s riot policemen.

In light of the later work of Nietzsche, then, there is no need of an immediate rejection either of Jay-Z’s questioning position, or of Kanye’s embrace of hedonism. Yet we are left with a tension that must be resolved. The hedonism espoused by the song, particularly during Kanye’s verse, stands in direct opposition to what we are typically taught as good and right. As such, it is not difficult to see it less as a rejection of morality than as an inversion. As discussed, this does not move us beyond good and evil, but leaves us chained to conventional morality. West answers Ocean’s question “What’s a god to a nonbeliever?” by arguing that the proper response is to indulge in everything the nonexistent god prohibited, rather than bypass these taboos and find one’s own morality.

There is a latent linguistic ambiguity in Ocean’s question that
sheds further light on this point. Ocean says “nonbeliever,” but it
is unclear exactly what this means. It might have the sense either of
“unbeliever” or of “atheist.” That is, if a person speaks the phrase “I
believe ha God,” it implies that the speaker believes in the existence
of a god. But it also powerfully implies that the speaker worships
this God. The two are not identical. It is possible to believe in the
existence of a God and yet reject him as unjust, or choose to ignore ÷ his strictures, or deliberately invert them as a way or, essentially, giv-
ing him the finger. The latter type of nonbeliever, however, has not
moved beyond God; those rules are still the defining guidelines, and
like the pure hedonist we have been looking at, is therefore not free
from God. The nonbeliever who simply denies the existence of any
divinity, on the other hand, has the ability to find a new basis for
morality. This does not necessarily mean that an atheist will do so,
merely that it is possible to. So, Ocean’s question has a double answer,
depending on how we define his term. ÿlb a nonbeliever, God is either
something to be fbught against, or something to be left entirely out
of mind. Only the latter can truly be said to have moved beyond good
and evil. West, however, appears to be the fbrmer. His hedonism is
based on negation rather than creation; his embrace of the Dionysian
is not life-affirming, because it is not a search for something new but
a mirror image of the old. He rejects common morality but can offer
nothing in its place except denying it.

Though morality can be repressive, it cannot be confidently asserted that it is invariably so. As we noted, Nietzsche concluded that morality is ambiguous. Thus we may conclude that monogamy may well be as life-affirming as any other option, depending on circumstance and on those involved. Why should we value polyamory? Because it lets us fuck whomever we want? Why should we value that?

What is the value of promiscuity over monogamy? Should we value it solely because it is the opposite of what those who keep us in chains insist that we do, and thus is a path to freeing ourselves from oppression? We already know that this particular answer is a trap that not only keeps us firmly under the yoke of another, but also, as Foucault says, makes us a tool of oppression in and of ourselves. In our overt act of what we think is rejection and rebellion, we provide the systems of oppression with a tool to show the people what happens when they step out of line.

The ways in which we as a society, particularly in the modern West, consume stories of the flaws and failures of the famous, the ways in which we continue to consume their lives even while holding ourselves as :::orally, intellectually, or otherwise superior to the celebrity scapegoat of the minute, suggest that this sort of thing is a far more effective tool of control than we might like to admit.

Reactive hedonism does nothing to enrich us. It does not lib-
erate or enlighten us. In order to be considered life-affirming in a
Nietzschean perspective, some hedonistic behavior would have to
arise from the right place. While the later Nietzsche might seem to
suggest that the manner of being articulated in “No Church in the ÷ Wild” is a good one, in the context of the rest of the song these
hopes seem doomed to be dashed on reality’s rock. Without a firmer grounding in why we should value the trappings of hedonism, the song ultimately seems nothing more than an inversion of received values. There is no freedom, Nietzschean or otherwise, to be found in the message it brings to us. After all, the video seems to portray an orgy of violence in which the distinctions between right/wrong and police/rioters and order/rebellion are swept away by the anger and rage of both sides. In their violence, they are equal and no longer distinct. There seems to be a need, then, for a new creative response that will result in life-affirming, life-sustaining forms–an Apollonian response. Inasmuch as artists serve as harbingers and visionaries, Jay-Z and West are lacking.

Yet despite his popular reputation, there is more to Kanye West than this. In his song “Through the Wire,” he takes an extraordinary risk for an artist immersed in the hyper-masculinized, braggadocio-ridden world of hip-hop. After surviving a car accident that shattered, West recorded a song about his recovery. This willingness to embrace risk and celebrate his smwival by rapping with a shattered jaw can be seen as a truly life-affirming act. In tragedy, in music, the walls that delineate h:dividual existence shatter and we experience a loss of ego, of individuality, of self. It is a kind of death. In tragedy, we share in the death of the tragic hero. In the procreative act, we experience the little death of rapture. But the Dionysian brings us to the brink of the abyss and shows us that our individual existence is but a fleeting illusion in the eternity of the universe. And so perhaps West is more of a Nietzschean than “Church in the Wild” makes him seem. On the positive side, through loss we experience, according to Nietzsche, unity with all being and with our fellow human beings in the orgiastic experience of loss of self. But we also run the danger of insight into the illusion of being and thus could collapse into madness. At this nmment, according to Nietzsche, the Apollonian resurfaces and restores the beautiful illusion of life and meaning, which we need to survive. Beauty is, according to Nietzsche, the survival instinct’s response to the enormity of the Dionysian insight. “Through the Wire” does not reject the stereotyped strictures of the rapping life-style, it merely ignores them. It moves, that is, beyond good and evil; and praises life, not for morality or lack of morality, but simply for being life, and for being able to live.

  1. Video directed by Romain Gaw’as was released on May 29, 2012.

  2. Dionysian and Apollian views of art were popularized in The Birth of Tragedy (1872) as a juxtaposition or dichotomy of a rational and perfect self (Apollo) and the more irrational or emotive self (Dionysian). This is not unlike a Freudian Id and SuperEgo. But Nietzsche does not see them as hierarchical but rather as natural tension that causes the tragic to develop through is unity

  3. Hugh Thomas (2001). The Spanish Civil War. Modern Library Paperback Edition, 454

  4. Arto Bendicken, (2010). “A Thousand Lakes of Red Blood on White Snow.” http://ar.to/2OIO/OS/red-blood-white-snow (accessed June 27,2013)

  5. George Yancy (2008) Black Bodies White Gazes. L,’mham, MD: Roman and Littlefield Publishers Inc

  6. We must remember that he opposed Christianity because of its life-negating, that is, nihilistic morality

  7. The Gay Science (1882), trans. Waker Kaufman Vintage Books (1974),279

  8. For Nietzsche, the Dionysian represents the underlying “will” of which Schopenhaner speaks–it is a formless wanting, desire, motion. Out of this will, through the principium individuations, the illusory image of myriad individual existences is formed. This is the veil of Maya to which Schopenhauer refers. It is also the Apollonian

  9. With regard to this cave analogy, Nietzsche would read the realm of the Apollonian as the realm of appearances but necessary appearances. This, in part, is because he would reject the platonic ideal forms as true forms, other than their rising from the will’s need to populate the universe with images/illusions. This also has a Schopenhauer quality to it

I0. When discussing this matter in a interview with a colleague, Dr. Timothy Bennett, Wittenberg University, he pushed me further with this claim by asserting “I think the desire ‘to forge’ something better is a good Apollonian impulse and wonder if this suggests the necessary partnership of both Apollonian and Dionysian (a necessary partnership according to Nietzsche as well). If so, then it might be necessary not to see the Apollonian as repressing the Dionysian. In fact, by challenging moribund forms, the Dionysian might be liberating energies which begin destructively but could empower a newer, more vital set of forms, i.e. they would revitalize the Apollonian.”

  1. Nietzsche’s Madman also asks what new sacred games and rituals need to be invented now that God has been murdered by our scientific culture and challenges us to become God-like, to become creative, to give birth to a new humanity in response to this crime of deceit. According to my colleague Timothy Bennett, “Nothing seems to have disturbed Nietzsche more than modern culture’s inability to give rise to a new religion adequate to its challenges. One could read much of his work as an attempt to develop a new sense of the sacred.”