top of page


What is a Thing - A Thing is What?

Shrine for Martin Heidegger's:

"What is a Thing" and "Poetry, Language,Thought"

Text to the Author:

The Thing is, Doctor, your insightful contributions to Husserl's work, incorporated in this essay, “What is a Thing,” and in your “The Origin of the Work of Art,” were highly influential in Judd’s development of the Minimalist movement. Specifically your statement that “There is no thing in general... A thing is always a this-one.” That any work is a “thing” but the work of art is something more as well; something more than the mere thing we see before us, it is a symbol of sorts. This work is not the reproduction of an entity that happens to be present. It is “the reproduction of the thing’s general essence.” “To be a work means to set up a world” and therefore each sculpture- thing is only this one-in-itself at this time and at this place; it is unlike an idea-thing that exists outside of physical thingness, like this diatribe. Art is an idea-thing manifested in thingness; without a concept the thing-in-itself is mere craft, It is essential to keep distinct the notion of a craft object from the notion of a work of art. The craft object is not the same thing as a work of art, which is a form of “bringing forth of the being” of something, making it present in its appearance. Thus the artist is a technician not by means of craftsmanship, but by bringing forth being in the appearance [or physical reality] of a thing.

But Doctor, you didn't tell us enough about craftsmanship. The bringing forth of a thing with technique is an example of spontaneous growth; this is what distinguishes art from craft. As you wrote, in a work of art, the material does not disappear but "shines forth for the first time." The material becomes present in a dramatic way. As you pointed out, the origin of the artwork is “the truth of an entity that has set itself into work.” Art is the concept, not the craft. What your disciples could not foresee was how this art-thingness, cast into the public realm, would be transformed into spectacle used to promote commerce. In serious art the artist remains inconsequential as compared with the work, even as the artist may be commercial. Truth-art is diametrically opposed to cupidity. Today the Minimalist one-in-itself thingness has devolved into a design style, cheaply constructed, sold as simplicity, and has nothing to do with either the idea or reality of Minimalist Art.

In fact, the art-culture of the early 21st century has bifurcated into the jaded or the uninformed, neither of which are concerned with the becoming and happening of truth, which, as you pointed out, is that that inspires and is Art. A work’s becoming a work is a form of truth happening. The work of art is not “finished” when its structure is complete. The work makes present or “unconceals” the being of that which is presented and continues to be present in each moment. A work’s becoming a work is a form of truth happening in its most essential, minimalist mode. Thus beauty is one way in which truth occurs.

bottom of page