[-empyre-] some thoughts on complicity

Saul Ostrow sostrow at cia.edu
Mon Jan 11 13:26:12 EST 2010

All fine and well- but I repeat to what end in support of what program

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On Jan 10, 2010, at 7:23 PM, "Brett Stalbaum" <stalbaum at ucsd.edu> wrote:

> I'd go even further. What we need now is an broad field of new action
> centered experiments, trying things out as blind probes in data space,
> social space, physical space and living out the potential connections
> (or lack thereof) in modes of exploration and experiment. Open to
> failing. Enacted theory over explanatory, a theory that can move
> lithely and generatively with doing and making, this could perhaps
> generate the gravity needed break free of the gravity of past models.
> Some say action research and some say public culture, but in any case,
> getting past the all the posts (post-youNameIt) and learning something
> new based in longer term experiments feels very important to me right
> now. One of the experiments I can't quite get out of my mind in recent
> years are a group called Local Time in Aotearoa, who are theorizing
> relations of place and space through extensive temporal immersion,
> seemingly without hurry. Time to get out, time to dig in.
> On Jan 10, 2010, at 1:48 PM, Gerry Coulter wrote:
>> Johanna,
>> We are no longer in a place where critical theory makes sense.
>> What we can do now is forge radical approaches. Theory as challenge.
>> Art that operates as challenge participates in this.
>> Re: "Politics is change..." Politics is sick. Art has to stay well
>> clear of it or it dies rapidly.
>> As for Marx: Capitalism never had a better friend.
>> best Gerry
>> From: empyre-bounces at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au [empyre- 
>> bounces at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>> ] On Behalf Of Johanna Drucker [drucker at gseis.ucla.edu]
>> Sent: January 10, 2010 2:44 PM
>> To: soft_skinned_space
>> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] some thoughts on complicity
>> All,
>> Again, thanks all for all this rich discussion. Here's a few
>> thoughts in response to the various strains introduced in the last
>> days and across posts, which I've enjoyed and agreed with in many
>> ways.
>> My formulation of complicity was meant to focus full force on the
>> hypocrisy of critical approaches that presume moral superiority to
>> the objects under their examination. It was also meant as a call to
>> formulate aesthetics outside of the legacy of political theory. Why?
>> Because critical theory as currently practiced seems inadequate as a
>> description of either the world and its workings, or the workings
>> and force of artistic activity. Almost all aesthetic theory today is
>> premised on the idea that it is necessarily political theory. Why?
>> Separating aesthetics from politics is not meant to annihilate
>> either, but to demonstrate the distinction of the two domains.
>> Politics is change, the transformation of the structures,
>> instruments, means, and relations of power.
>> Aesthetics is the form of knowledge specific to perception.
>> Metaphysics is the realm of ideas  beyond physics. Most quantum
>> physicists would not call themselves metaphysicans, but would have
>> been labelled so by earlier generations for whom "the mysterious
>> influence of objects at a distance" would have seemed like magic.
>> Metaphysics, I think, can be understood without the Cartesian
>> opposition between mind and body. All thought, expression,
>> experience are embodied, as per Ken Knoebel's wonderful formulation
>> of "continuous materiality." But there are orders of experience
>> outside of individual perception that have yet to become
>> apprehensible -- we don't see heat, and we also don't see systems-
>> based dynamics in our own lives. We see entities, not events, we
>> grasp objects, not their codependent emergence from dynamic
>> conditions. Metaphysics can be understood as the "beyond" of
>> classical (mechanical) physics, rather than as a spiritual
>> discipline, and thus a rubric under which to examine what we do not
>> yet know, pushing past habits of thought and limits of perception
>> and cognition. Is there a virtue to this? A value? Should there be?
>> Need there be?
>> Of course. The world is broken and needs fixing. "The point is to
>> change it," Marx said, giving political philosophy a different
>> charge and responsibility than other philosophy. Secular salvation
>> is the legacy of marxism. Utopianisms are attempts to create
>> paradise on earth. A good goal. Why not? Imagine a world in which
>> standards of living and quality of life are just, fair, equitable,
>> and, today's buzz-meme, sustainable. Art activity would be the
>> ongoing hum of creative and imaginative life, interventions in and
>> creations of the symbolic, even as the happy bodies serving as
>> theater to such aesthetic events were content in the well-being of
>> their chop-wood-carry-water integration of physical and intellectual
>> labor. Art would be about pleasure, amusement, engagement, the joys
>> of individual and communal dialogue (recent research shows
>> conversation produces the same physiological effect as other
>> intimate pleasures). But we aren't there yet. So we struggle.
>> Artistic work gives form and expression to ideas, however ephemeral
>> that expression is (performance, utterance, trace, or monumental
>> work). The great gift of conceptualism was pointing out that these
>> two -- idea and expression -- can be conceived independently, as a
>> kind of thought experiment, though of course the very act of
>> thinking, speaking, describing is material. I like work that is both
>> well-thought and well-made (that is, where production values and
>> conception values have an interesting relation). Value judgments are
>> silly, in many ways, but as a dear friend and critic I know said,
>> life is short, and what you want from critics is to point you to the
>> things that are interesting because they are not always easy to find
>> in the mass of other stuff.
>> These are somewhat random thoughts, but I wanted to clarify that for
>> me, at least, the exposure of complicity is not a call to
>> complacency, or to abandonment of ideals, activism, pacifism,
>> judgment, or indulgence--just a call to the end of careerism
>> masquerading as politics, smugness pretending to be critique,
>> opportunism acting in the of something else, etc. Can we be
>> subversive? Can artworks introduce ideas, social change, political
>> impulses, spiritual epiphany, etc. etc. Yes and no. The moving
>> target of awareness--individual, cultural, social--is another well-
>> recognized phenomenon. The Theory Death of the Avant-Garde, Paul
>> Mann (not to be confused with Paul de Man). As to elite critics
>> making their careers by annointing artists for supposedly
>> "subverting" the very system on which they depend for their own
>> success.... I remain silent, my tongue bitten hard between my teeth.
>> Somewhere between the Scylla of condemning mass culture for its
>> numbness and the Charybdis of condemning esoteric thought for its
>> elitism lies a path of aesthetic innovation, imagination, and
>> delightenment.
>> Johanna
>> <ATT00001.txt>
> --
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> Department of Visual Arts
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