Wittgenstein

Director: Derek Jarman
UK/Japan / 1993 / 72 min

Live Screening introduced by artist and Badlands Unlimited publisher Paul Chan.

To know a philosopher strictly through their philosophical works is to misread both the philosopher and the works. The more majestic the thinking is, the greater the spell it casts over us, and the harder it is to grasp the true stakes of how or why those thoughts matter at all. A concept that transcends the moment never appears ex nihilo: it arises out of experience. Living is what gives thinking power and value. Wittgenstein knew as much, but Wittgenstein showed it to us as never before. He lived an extreme life, filled with radical ideas, terrible stretches of suffering, and unbearable desires. He could be cruel. But also tender. And very funny. When he abandoned Cambridge in 1920 to teach poor kids in rural Austria, he said it was because he was “sick of prostituting his mind for smart people.” Contradictions typically saddle people with sadness, anxiety, or rage. Wittgenstein constructed a citadel for the mind with his. How did he do it? What does it take to reconcile the contradictions with the concepts, in Wittgenstein, or anyone for that matter?
It takes genuine art, of course, like this singular film by
Derek Jarman.


An English edition of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Word Book, a dictionary for children edited and featuring art by Paul Chan, and translated by Bettina Funcke,
was published by Badlands Unlimited on November 3.

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