[-empyre-] empyre Digest, Vol 62, Issue 13

Saul Ostrow sostrow at cia.edu
Wed Jan 13 01:47:30 EST 2010

Pragmatically, it would seem that it is necessary tactically as well as strategically to preserve critical culture
 as a realm of relative freedom, and to sustain the promise that through experimentation, it can contribute to the development of the experiential knowledge that is necessary not only to formulate hypothetical alternative to the instrumentality of bourgeois thought, but also to act upon them in a promiscuous manner and therefore be capable of manifesting the ungovernable, the indeterminate, and other imagined as aspects of being. Consequently, art should not be viewed as an apparatus - mechanism capable of achieving specific purposes - be they aesthetic, moral, or political. Being an apparatus places art at risk of becoming instrumental - that is at loosing itself to fixed logics, forms, and functions - of being formal. For it is the systemic or procedural aspect of apparatuses, which make them useful in that they accomplish a task in a predictable manner. Such devices are not neutral in that they delineate via their reasoning and rules (guide-lines) what the task is to which they are to be applied, and the objectives to be achieved. In this the user - whose real desires may have originally brought the apparatus into being - now gives over some aspect of their self to it - their being.  In this exchange the apparatus effectively creates a separate sphere, or territory over which it has domain.

Subsequently, it is still necessary to identify the role that art as critical apparatus,  that is  as a self-critical practice which plays a role in the reproduction, replication and distribution of the existent logics that order social knowledge and its attendant subjectivities. In other words how  art as social and cultural practices is always already an apparatus of subjectification in that it seeks the replication of its own truths rather its own emancipation from them. As such, art as an apparatus of critique, cannot be thought of as merely a means to present ones analysis of how values, standards, criteria, and aesthetics become tools (apparatus) of social control, or how they inhibit our ability to engage in effective acts relative to the division and the exercise of social power and wealth. Relative to this it is important to take into account how art as an apparatus even that of social or critical change may contradictorily order our experiences, and understanding and therefore must be dealt with cautiously, perhaps even in cynical manner, that is in all good faith continue to explore it as a social practice, with the intent to acknowledge its failings, or limitations as a mechanism of social change. In doing this art might reveal what role it is to serve in the constitution of a conception of being that is in keeping with the present conditions of our existence, and as such would no longer necessitate the preservation of the present organization of large-scale social production and exchange under its present terms.
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