[-empyre-] art and ethics

Gerry Coulter gcoulter at ubishops.ca
Mon Jan 25 20:32:31 EST 2010

I appreciate your post and would make a link to the chatter we endured about the US Supreme court's latest decision...

It doesnt matter which rich people choose which pack of lawyers to run government as it does not matter (Bush the Son is a good example) who leads a country. Look at the pack of idiots who have been President of France for the past 50 years. Nations thrive DESPITE politicians not because of them.

It is rather the same for art is it not? Art thrives not because of the art world or public or private institutions but in spite of them.

And art, like politics, is today, the recipient of mass inidfference. Pretty soon about the same number of people who attend one art show per year will be the equivalent of those who vote. The numbers are not so far apart right now.

Maybe, I hope, in fifty years, we'll hold a major election in a Western country and only the politicians, their friends and families will turn out to vote. Or perhaps a blockbuster with no lines...



From: empyre-bounces at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au [empyre-bounces at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au] On Behalf Of simon [swht at clear.net.nz]
Sent: January 24, 2010 8:44 PM
To: soft_skinned_space
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] art and ethics

Dear Empyreans,

Having just picked up a copy of Philosophy in the Present (Polity,
2009), from its pages Alain Badiou announces incommensurability as
constitutive of the philosophical situation, the situation in which
philosophy can create problems (or concepts). This would seem to be
pertinent to the turn this discussion has taken, to the potentials for
complicity between the corporation and art - perhaps I am reading it
wrongly. But then again perhaps this turn can in turn be characterised
in terms of its Kantian inflection, specifically an inspiration to
consider ethics as a shared ground upon which complicity eventuates: on
the Law. So, then, just asking for it, for a critique that goes to
unground this implicit and unhappy co-incidence of art and ethics by
this simple and easily repeatable formula: the time of art is not that
of power; the ethics - on which, the Law or from which, the Law - the
rules - of the power are incompossible with those of art - with those
little laws of difference, that immanent Rule, which in making art is
the only one worth listening to - and may just as soon make us outlaws;
in short, what we are dealing with here are incommensurables. So,
Badiou, invoking Mizoguchi's /Crucified Lovers, /particularly the
lovers' "withdrawal into the smile" as they are led to the punishment
which the law against adultery has conferred upon them - crucifixion -

"Well, in these magnificent shots, Mizoguchi's art not only resists
death but leads us to think that love too resists death. This creates a
complicity between love and art - one which in a sense we've always
known about." [trans. P. Thomas & A. Toscano]

He is led here himself by Deleuze quoting Malraux to the effect that art
is what resists death and in this situation will not give that the
lovers are happy to meet their fate but that in a sense they have
already overcome it. So in a similarly philosophical situation - one in
which disinterest can possibly prevail - Badiou relates the story of
Archimedes's summons to the Emperor Marcellus's court; wherein the
soldier sent to collect the great scientist on behalf of the great power
of the victor is ignored and eventually takes his sword and ends the
former's life: Archimedes has asked for time to complete his
'demonstration,' a drawing in the sand of geometrical figures. Badiou
glosses this confluence of incommensurables in terms of time: the
impatience of the Emperor's emissary and the artist's time's otherness,
an internal time, created with the problem in the act of describing the
problem, or in the act of the problem's expression.

However, I have followed this discussion with interest, because of an
experience of a complicity which I haven't yet found here, and which
I've ever since thought of as the complicity of the artist... with the
destruction of the institutions on which the artist depends. In the
early eighties in New Zealand theatre workers went out on strike,
nationally. All seven professional theatres closed. Actors had voted to
back technical and backstage workers, against the management, at that
time a loaded word. And words, it must be said, were at the cutting
edge, not of the dispute, but of the problem: the co-option of the
language of the artform by the language of industrial relations.
Productivity replaced productions. Industry displaced theatre or art.
Artists redesignated themselves workers, workers all. The unforeseen
outcome was that the formerly egalitarian theatres were stratified:
where pay parity had existed between backstage and acting company, where
in fact unity of the company had been the unofficial prejudice as it
included back- and front- of the house, on-stage as well, demarcation
made it thereafter almost impossible that an actor might, say, hang a
light, and the theatres slipped back into star-systems, into British rep
style hierarchizations, into, therefore, older formations. One step
forward, two back. Could actors have envisaged that by their industrial
action, by their complicity with, well, their ideological complicity,
they would reposition themselves at the top of the industrial hierarchy
and of the pay scale? positions of which the industrial action was
intended as abrogating?

And, to clarify what may appear a contradiction: yes, the actors top the
payscale, but professional theatres as institutions bankrupted -
ideologically and fiscally. Who are here the artists? Theatre is
possibly not an indicative demonstration or example; but it surely goes
to illuminate something in the sense that collaboration has been talked
about, particularly online?

I present this sense of complicity for interest and diversion only.


Simon Taylor

empyre forum
empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au

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