This was 13 years, 18 days ago

The questions, in order. What is it about __?


What's the motivation behind looking at art? Creating art is a wholly different story, and the motivations and aspirations behind creating art are, in my opinion, so varied as to constitute a different set of questions entirely. Of course, any agent can have both creative and receptive impulses, but I want to talk about those agents or those impulses that constitute part of an agent that deal at looking, reception, visual or material acquisition. What's there? "I want to see this or more of this because it is beautiful, aesthetic". Is it a Kantian sense of universally applicable beauty? Personal whim? Social protocol?


And this is really one of two things, declared by each viewer -- universal or not. Or no, that's not the issue. The issue is with the standard of taste, the criterion of qualification that occurs on a double level, first on the terms of a discourse (does this thing qualify to be considered art?) and second within the discourse (is this thing considered art?) Both operate at the same time; I say the first is more sinister, more naturalizing, more depoliticizing that which is inherently political, without appearing to be. How can I explain to you that when we talk about art we're not talking about art, nor not-art, but that which I or you cannot even consider to include in our speaking about art and non-art? It's this 'that which is outside consideration' that is an ultimately political gesture that always happens invisibly but with so much effect.

What do you wish for when we look at art? "This is beautiful." Corresponding is the second, more internal judgment (that takes place within an already-judged space) that declares a non-beautiful on the other side.

What matters then is whether or not the viewer says "well, these tastes are mine and mine only". That's okay. What's important is that aesthetic taste runs along sociological and discursive lines like grammar, fashion, food, tradition, and anything else. What's more important is the recognition of such within every single discourse that deals with these such issues. That is to say: every non-scientific academic discipline, or every non hard-science academic discipline.


But I don't know. It seems that any discipline is never a discipline and always something else -- the alleged neutrality of the term hides all the hidden lines and fields that have inscribed political and social forces onto the space of the discipline. You don't talk about that in here. My concern is -- is there enough meta-disciplinal examination? Is there a history of history, or a history of history of history, a history of art history, a theory of art theory, a psychological examination of psychology's motives, so on and so forth?

If I wish to study art history, then will there be enough history of art history, the aesthetic motives behind a study of aesthetics? Or will there be this absence, the myth of a discipline outside of sociopolitical influence, the Greenbergian modernist narrative of art's autonomy and purity supposedly banished, but existing still at the level of the discipline? The logic of medium-specificity operating at the level of a discourse -- a discourse about the discourse and itself only?


Or maybe it's the other way around. Instead of discoveries that say 'A has within it B', perhaps the situation was all along that 'B was the precondition of A'. In this case, B is the 'art-historical narrative of autonomy', or the absence of C, social/political influence, which then consists of D, E, F, G, and so on. An "endless linked chain of signifiers".

And then is that so? Maybe it's not that art segregates and ends up, it's that art is segregation. Maybe it's not that I should wish for an absence of the 'Modernist Painting', bourgeois-autonomy dream both within and onto the discourse of art, but that I should realize that this discourse of looking and wanting art is constituted initially out of this dream, this myth of autonomy.

I could say "but I do have to realize that this is art as it is, right now, and a very limited definition of art that I utilize -- that is to say academic, institutionalized, New York, high, commercial, luxury-commodity, and so on and so forth" which would not necessarily be incorrect, perhaps. But then again it could be the case that saying "it's only this specific definition" is not a justification -- there's another flipping over of cases -- in fact, it turns out that it's not that "it's only that some people think this way and so the majority of art is oh-kay" it's that there is a fundamental difference on the level of definition, and so to argue that "that's only a certain definition of art" is to still believe in a unified definition of art.

The 'right' answer, then, would be to temporarily give into the myth of linguistics as truly signifying and say, hey, let's divide it up then, let's call this capital-A and call this lowercase-a art. Art and art, or art and Art. But then here's my point, again, another segregation, another division. This just says, "yes -- Art segregates, divides, splits".

What's wrong with splitting? Again, nothing is wrong, I say, it's just wrong if the sociological influences aren't unclear or unacknowledged.


But why? What's wrong with segregation without an understanding of these sociological influences? Who gives a shit? What often seems to end up happening is "you don't like what I like? that's unclassy".

(It's incredible how exposed the agenda of the speaker is so exposed when the word 'unclassy' is used. You're "unclassy", that is to say, "not-classy", or "not within class-y". 'Class' within here is not a series of social stratifications or groups, it's a space in which one should desire to qualify within. Here's the implication -- you're not within the class, you are outside class, unclassy. I have a space and I will inscribe upon it a closed curve of desire. You are outside this.)

Or, okay, what ends up happening is that the expression may just be "you're outside my boundary of tastefulness? that's strange" or "that's different". These are all relatively neutral expressions of different tastes. But what happens when someone is barred from participation because of the segregative quality of a taste? "I choose to fund someone else." Who is to say that your art is bad, your grammar is ungrammatical, the food that you eat is not food, and so on and so forth? Politically speaking, who is to exclude you from having the chance to participate in being ranked a good or bad citizen? "Deport him, take him outside the consideration of citizenship?"


So finally we got this far, probably strewing unspoken questions and issues along the way.

What is my meta-question? What is my doxa, my founding axiomatic notions that have me take an issue against this delineation that happens? To pinpoint it, I think, it's some desire to say "it's okay to participate" or "no-one can be eliminated from the possibility of participation". Someone recently pointed out that this was the dream of a Habermasian public sphere in which everybody speaks with an equal voice. That's true, I think, at least partially. I won't go even that far -- What I wish for is not even a high goal of "everyone talks equally", it's an issue of "everyone talks", that is to say, nobody is outside the consideration of talking, you may be discounted but you will be heard. There is no consensus necessary, or even possible.

I suppose I really do agree with the notion of "agonistic pluralism" that Chantal Mouffe talks about -- rereading her now, I realize that I agree immensely with what they're saying. I wonder how much I've been influenced by her, or whether this agreement just happens to be a conclusion drawn similarly but independently.

I quote them, not to legitimate my own argument, but because I agree, and she said it first and she says it well:

"...It is for that reason that the ideal of a pluralist democracy cannot be to reach a rational consensus in the public sphere. Such a consensus cannot exist. We have to accept that every consensus exists as a temporary result of a provisional hegemony, as a stabilization of power, and that it always entails some form of exclusion. The idea that power could be dissolved through a rational debate and that legitimacy could be based on pure rationality are illusions, which can endanger democratic institutions.

What the deliberative democracy model is denying is the dimension of undecidability and the ineradicability of antagonism, which are constitutive of the political. By postulating the availability of a non-exclusive public sphere of deliberation where a rational consensus could be obtained, they negate the inherently conflictual nature of modern pluralism. They are unable to recognize that bringing a deliberation to a close always results from a decision which excludes other possibilities and for which one should never refuse to bear responsibility by invoking the commands of general rules or principles. This is why a perspective like "agonistic pluralism" which reveals the impossibility of establishing a consensus without exclusion is of fundamental importance for democratic politics. By warning us again of the illusion that a fully achieved democracy could ever be instantiated, it forces us to keep the democratic contestation alive. To make room for dissent and to foster the institutions in which it can be manifested is vital for a pluralist democracy and one should abandon the very idea that there could ever be a time in which it would cease to be necessary because the society is now "well ordered". An "agonistic" approach acknowledges the real nature of its frontiers and the forms of exclusion that they entail, instead of trying to disguise them under the veil of rationality or morality.

"Deliberative Democracy or Agonistic Pluralism", Chantal Mouffe

Mouffe is talking about agonistic pluralism from the attempted end-result of a fulfillment of democracy. This is not from a pragmatic view, but from a theoretical view. "A well functioning democracy calls for a vibrant clash of democratic political positions." Presumably, the situation of a "benevolent dictator" would wish to be avoided.

So her desire (and mine as well) for pursuing or suggesting this space of agonistic pluralism or agonistic democracy is because consensus is always due to power, a "provisional hegemony". The motive underlying this argument is out in the open there -- the dissolution of power, in the first paragraph that I quoted. There's a meta-argument here, really; Mouffe dismisses a Habermasian deliberative democracy that wishes for a public sphere without antagonism; at the same time, her desires (and mine as well) for promoting this agonistic view of democracy is so that power can be dissolved. It occurs to me that this is the ideal of a meta-public sphere in which agonistic democracy exists. And it's entirely possible that this is what Mouffe wishes for, this necessary contradiction for agonistic participation to occur on the level of politics in the political (she makes a distinction between the two).

On the other hand, her desires are, as mentioned above, partially theoretical, I think. Who is to say that an agonistic meta-struggle concerning the right to participate in this agonistic struggle shouldn't exist? I dont -- I think it's harmful, and I think Mouffe would argue as well. But it's possible to concieve of this theoretical motive taken fully, a desire for agonistic struggle for agonistic struggle, a situation in which different groups struggle so that certain groups can be excluded from the sphere of participation.


So. Here is the kernel of my meta-question, then, a re-working of my argument just above. If this newly defined form of democracy is condensed into the phrase 'uncertainty' for the sake of my rhetorical expression, and a sort of Habermasian public sphere is then certain -- and this certainty is on the level of boundaries, that is to say, agonistic boundaries challenge hegemonic consensus and therefore uncertain, and so on and so forth -- then the question is, is the desired situation one in which uncertainty is valued and therefore a situation in which uncertainty is certain the right proposal? Or is the concept of uncertainty itself the desired theoretical framework and so should we also be uncertain about being uncertain -- that is, not close off the possibility of being certain?