Base materialism  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Base materialism (bassesse, literally lowness) is a philosophical concept developed by Georges Bataille during the late 1920s and early 1930s as an attempt to break with mainstream materialism and a reaction against what he considered the "servile idealism" of Bretonian surrealism.

Artwords: A Glossary of Contemporary Art Theory describes it as "the mechanism by which he believes the informe can be achieved."

Bataille argues for the concept of an active base matter that disrupts the opposition of high and low and destabilises all foundations. In a sense the concept is similar to Spinoza's neutral monism of a substance that encompasses both the dual substances of mind and matter posited by Descartes, however it defies strict definition and remains in the realm of experience rather than rationalisation. Base materialism was a major influence on Derrida's deconstruction, and both share the attempt to destabilise philosophical oppositions by means of an unstable "third term." Bataille's notion of Base Materialism may also be seen as anticipating Althusser's conception of aleatory materialism or "materialism of the encounter," which draws on similar atomist metaphors to sketch a world in which causality and actuality are abandoned in favor of limitless possibilities of action.

In contemporary art criticism, Robert Belton sees bassesse in the work of Mark Prent or Jana Sterbak.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Base materialism" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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