[-empyre-] art and ethics - incommensurables

simon swht at clear.net.nz
Sat Jan 30 08:33:20 EST 2010

In order to toe the party line, we must know where the party line is. 
The Law is somewhat different, as we have it from Kafka. Life is too 
short to know what the party line is in democratic countries, given the 
way it squiggles, given the oscillation of parties. Complicity does 
become a game, as Gerry says. Of endless deferral, or the indefinite 
postponement of punishment. There is no acquittal.

A recent commentator on Kant has asserted that the object of aesthetics 
is not the study of what is aesthetic. So the problem is not art's 
complicity with the real but its complicity with art, in the same sense 
of having been put outside itself, objectified in discourse, and, of 
course, commerce, while endorsed as a subjective universal in practice.

The question might be: how can we improve our complicity? make it 
better? enjoy it?

Nick used the word 'injustice' - as in, It is necessary to respond to 
injustice, in the naturalized scenario of art-life. Thinking of the 
instance to which I alluded earlier, wherein artists were co-opted, 
flattered into - amour propre, and responded - from pusillanimity, in an 
action destructive both for theatre as industry and as artform, another 
word occurs to me: anathema. Perhaps it is not the right word, but it 
does suggest that the choice was absolute and the situation historically 

The choice was, as I've indicated, not so much one in which we would 
have been consoled - in our minimalizing complicity - by philosophy, as 
one which we would have been exhorted by philosophy to take to the 
limit, maximally, infinitely, where the ethical choice left common sense 
behind. Now we are will-he nil-he mingling good and evil and partaking 
of each in good measure, in the spirit of good sense, in the spirit of 
democracy. And democracy is seen to arise, like Elvis's twin Jesse, from 
the spectral twilight or twinned lights, to tower again, as if history 
had never ended to begin with: I mean, it is not seen to, since it has 
passed over a certain threshold, wherein all things, even good and evil, 
can be held in good measure; what is otherwise referred to as the status 

Can art provide a critique of democracy as it is being asked to do of 

Enjoy your complicity,



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