The ‘Rift-Design’ Conundrum: Drawing as form-giving and knowing

Tom McGuirk
Vol 30, Number 1, p.44
This article analyses a passage in Heidegger’s ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’, which interrogates Albrecht Dürer’s assertion that “art lies hidden within nature; he who can wrest it from her, has it”. The article outlines Heidegger’s investigation of the nature of artistic making in general and the act of drawing in particular, through a reflection on Dürer’s use of the term ‘wrest’. In outlining the form-giving powers of drawing on an ontological level, Heidegger offers the concept of the Riss—a word that can mean both to draw and to tear. The duality of the Riss is translated as the ‘rift-design’ a concept and a conundrum that facilitates an investigation of the truth claims of drawing. The Riss encompasses a ‘strife’ by which the artist ‘wrests’ art from nature. However, within this unity of opposites Heidegger diagnoses a dynamic also recognised by Heraclitus in a fragment passed down to us by Aristotle, and translated variously, including as follows: “cleaving apart bears together, and from bearings apart [comes], the most beautiful harmony”. There is a suggestion that this may be a source for Heidegger’s conception, which in turn represents a “correlative of Derrida’s différance”.