OFF THE BEATEN TRACK


the work we have experienced too little, and what we have experienced has been described too crudely and hastily. Above all, however, the work did not serve, as might at first seem, merely to make it easier to visualize what a piece of equipment is. Rather, what comes to explicit appearance first and only through the work is the equipmental being of the equipment.

What is happening here? What is at work in the work? Van Gogh's painting is the disclosure of what the equipment, the pair of peasant shoes, in truth is. This being steps forward into the unconcealment of its being. The unconcealment of beings is what the Greeks called ἀλήθεια. We say "truth" and think little enough in using the word. In the work, when there is a disclosure of the being as what and how it is, there is a happening of truth at work.

In the work of art, the truth of the being has set itself to work. "Set" means here: to bring to stand. In the work, a being, a pair of peasant shoes, comes to stand in the light of its being. The being of the being comes into the constancy of its shining.

The essential nature of art would then be this: the setting-itself-to-work of the truth of beings. Yet until now art has had to do with the beautiful and with beauty - not with truth. Those arts which bring such works forth arc called the beautiful or fine arts [die schönen Künste] in contrast to the crafts or industrial arts [den Handwerklichen Künsten] which manufacture equipment. In the fine arts, the art is not itself beautiful, but is, rather, called so because it brings forth the beautiful. Truth, by contrast, belongs to logic. But beauty is the preserve of aesthetics.

Yet perhaps the statement that art is truth's setting-itself-to-work seeks to revive the view, now fortunately abandoned, that art is the imitation and depiction of reality? The repetition of what is present at hand requires, to he sure, correspondence to beings, appropriateness to them: the Middle Ages spoke of adaequatio, Aristotle already spoke of ὁμοίωσις. Correspondence to beings has long been taken to be the essence of truth. But do we then mean that this painting by van Gogh depicts a pair of peasant shoes that are actually present and count, therefore, as a work because it docs so successfully? Do we think that the painting takes a likeness from the real and transposes it into an artistic . . . production? By no means.

The work, then, is not concerned with the reproduction of a particular being that has at some time been actually present. Rather, it is concerned to reproduce the general essence of things. But where, then, is this general essence and how should it be for the artwork to correspond to or agree with it? With what essence of what thing should the Greek temple


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The Origin of the Work of Art (GA 5) by Martin Heidegger