23 Chunks of Being:
Gregory Grieve’s Experiments in Transmitting Pure actuality
12. Memorial for Martin Heidegger (1995)
“This long-familiar mode of thought preconceives all immediate experience of beings. The preconception shackles reflection on the Being of any given being.”
— "The Origin of the Work of Art." Martin Heidegger
Grieve has always already had a problematic relationship with the German philosopher, Martin Heidegger (1889 –1976). Best known for his contributions to phenomenology, hermeneutics, and existentialism, Heidegger is often considered among the most important and influential philosophers of the 20th century. Grieve is interested in Heidegger because of his influence on post-structuralism and deconstruction. Grieve is troubled by Heidegger’s politics. The German philosopher is considered a Mitläufer or “fellow traveller,” because of his involvement with Nazism, his attitude towards the principal founder of phenomenology Edmund Husserl, and his near-total silence about the Holocaust in his writing and teaching after 1945.
Grieve’s Memorial for Martin Heidegger, consists of three elements. The first is a dented, and out-of-date can of Being, which alludes to Heidegger’s concept of Dasein (literally: being there), which rejects the Cartesian view of the human being as a subjective spectator of objects, and instead holds that both subject and object are inseparable. The second element is a broken hammer. Heidegger argues that most of the time the world is phenomenologically transparent, it is only when something breaks down that it comes to our attention. “When something cannot be used—when, for instance, a tool definitely refuses to work—it can be conspicuous only in and for dealings in which something is manipulated” (Being and Time). The third element alludes to Heidegger’s Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes where the German Philosopher describes A Pair of Shoes (1885) by Vincent van Gogh. The reason Heidegger selects a pair of peasant boots is to establish a distinction between artwork and other “things,” such as pieces of equipment, as well as to open up experience through a phenomenological description. The artwork and the artist, Heidegger explains, exist in a dynamic where each appears to be a provider of the other. “Neither is without the other. Nevertheless, neither is the sole support of the other.” As described in Jacques Derrida's Restitutions - On Truth to Size, the problem with the boots is that during the 1930s mentions of soil carried connotations of Blut und Boden, a nationalist slogan expressing Nazi Germany's ideal of a racially defined national body ("blood") united with a settlement area ("soil").