There is nothing surprising about linking the names of Nietzsche and Foucault, something that Foucault himself frequently did. We know that the practices of archaeology and genealogy owe much to On the Genealogy of Morals; and in The Order of Things Foucault celebrates Nietzsche for being able to look beyond the epoch of "man and his doubles,'' thinking of the Obermensch as designating that which is beyond man, and for serving, along with Mallarme, as one of the prophets of the hegemony of language in the emerging episteme of the postmodern world. Here I want to focus on other affinities, influences, or inspirations that have to do with what these thinkers saw, that is, their engagement with visual culture and visual art. Foucault is a theorist of the visual and of the complex and sometimes uncanny relations between the visual and the linguistic, a thought that is expressed gnomically in his reading of Velazquez's Las Meninas when he says that "the relation of painting to language is an infinite relation." In addition to his essay on Rene Magritte, This Is Not a Pipe, which contains the outlines of an archaeology of Western painting, the rest of Foucault's work is full of references to the painters of madness (e.g., Bosch and Goya) and to the artists of his own time: for example, there are passages on Andy Warhol and introductions to the work of the photographer Duane Michals and the photographic painter Gerard Fromanger. Foucault began a book on Edouard Manet, which apparently would have developed the suggestion that the artist inaugurates or exemplifies a turn within painting to the kind of intertextuality in which pictures refer to other pictures through the medium of the museum; this parallels the literary intertextuality that Gustave Flaubert exemplified in The Temptation of Saint Anthony, which is said to constitute a "Fantasia of the Library." We can imagine that such a work from Foucault would have put a new, archaeological spin on ideas about museum culture and the age of technical reproduction that are associated with Andre Malraux and Walter Benjamin.
Copyright © 2000 University of California Press. This book chapter first appeared in Why Nietzsche Still?: Reflections on Drama, Culture, Politics.
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Schrift, Alan D. ""This Is Not a Christ": Nietzsche, Foucault, and the Archaeology of Vision." In Why Nietzsche Still?: Reflections on Drama, Culture, Politics, 79-98. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000.