Emmanuel Levinas’s interview with Françoise Armengaud in 1988 is one of the only statements we have from the philosopher, who became influential in various disciplines through his ethics that focuses on the fine arts specifically. Presented in English for the first time here, this interview brings us Levinas’s understanding of “obliteration” as an uncanny, disruptive, and even “unavailable” concept. Discussing the work of the French sculptor Sacha Sosno, Levinas parses the complex relationship between ethics and aesthetics, examining how they play out in artistic operations and practices. In doing so, he turns away from the “ease and lighthearted casualness of the beautiful” to shed light instead on the processes of material wear and tear and the traces of repair that go into the creation and maintenance of works of art, and which ultimately give them a profound uniqueness of presence. This evocative interview uncovers a hidden thread of aesthetic thinking in Levinas’s work and introduces a new way of looking at artistic practices in general.
Emmanuel Levinas(1906–1995) was a French philosopher of Lithuanian Jewish ancestry who is known for his work related to Jewish philosophy, existentialism, ethics, phenomenology, and ontology.