Friday, June 5, 2020

Heidegger, Schapiro, and Derrida on Van Gogh’s Painting

In his essay, “The Origin of the Work of Art,” Heidegger meditates on three works of art. One of these works of art is Van Gogh’s painting Old Shoes With Laces. According to Heidegger, the shoes in Van Gogh’s painting belong to a peasant woman. But the art critic Meyer Schapiro rejects Heidegger’s analysis of the painting. He argues that the shoes belong to a city dweller, possibly to Van Gogh himself. Schapiro concludes that Heidegger is injecting his own philosophical and cultural biases (possibly related to Nazism) into his analysis of Van Gogh’s painting. 

Derrida has tried to deconstruct Heidegger’s and Schapiro’s analysis of Van Gogh’s painting in his essay, “Restitution of the truth in pointing.” He says that neither analysis is free of bias: Heidegger is looking at Van Gogh’s painting from a rustic and traditional perspective, while Schapiro is looking at it from an urban liberal perspective. Derrida says that both Heidegger and Schapiro assume that the shoes are a pair and that there is a wearer, but the painting’s title does not mention a pair, and if the shoes are not a pair, there is no question of there being a wearer (like an old peasant woman, as surmised by Heidegger; and a city dweller, as surmised by Schapiro). 

According to Derrida, the shoes in the painting are phallically pointed to create the feeling of hollowness, which is a depiction of feminine sexuality.

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