Rilke is the poet of the Information Age, art nouveau its design culture. There’s no better articulation of the tensions between subjects, objecthood and mass.
What is the status of the individual subjectivity in a world constituted as constant flux? We’re reading a little bit of Rilke in my graduate seminar, and I came across these closing lines from the Sonnets to Orpheus. I’m modifying slightly the translation by C.F. MacIntyre.
Und wenn deich das Irdische vergass/zu der stillen Erde sag: Ich rinne/Zum dem raschen Wasser sprich: Ich bin
And though the earthly forgot you/Say unto the still earth: I flow/To the fleeting water speak: I am
Rilke and an art nouveau bowl. In both, the combination of thing-hood and pure flow, the roiling physiognomy of organic subjectivity coupled with an angelic push towards the dematerialization into finer vibrations.