In one of the instalments of Jason Bourne, who knows which one but Matt Damon is awesome, the CIA director being totally pissed in some crises meeting explains to the world: Here we don’t hope for the best we prepare for the worst. What a fuckin sentence, damn. But perhaps one of the real good reasons to become a parent, “Son, here we don’t…” etc. and you can be sure the son will show up with a Mohawk age twelve.
As much as structures are open and subject to manipulation through different kinds of strategies. Strategies are also determined by structures, some which ends up being very persistent. Strategies can create change in structures, certainly but only as long as these strategies in the first place offer some form of compatibility with the structure at hand. This means that structures under these circumstances only can change or transform into something that was always present, although perhaps hidden, in the structure. Change is always probably to the existing order or structure.
Structures are never innocent even though they tent to pretend to. Strategies can not seldom appear manipulative and satanic but the dark forces performed by strategies are always inherent in some form of structure.
To hope for the best points toward a bit too much faith in strategies. Do your best and it will be fine. Prepare for the worst instead gives too much prominence to structures. If we just plan well enough no surprises can bring us off course. Luckily we don’t work for the agency so spontaneous or boring isn’t the only choice we can do, but neither is a bit of both acceptable, that’s like a totally boring neighbour that invites you to a funny-costumes party every Saturday night.
Every action, activity, speech act and thought you name it is always determined by some or other structure. Everything has determination, so if we want something to change to something else possible or known it is not enough to use one’s imagination. Even really hard, because also imagination is determined by something and determination is often, and deliberately hidden away. In order to provoke strong forms of change, change that is not just strengthening already existing systems and power one needs to analyse and detect what determines forms of activity and so to say attack or focus on determining structures. This is quite difficult and something that often isn’t welcome because indeed if patterns of determination is shaken or invalidated this also – contingently – means that power relations, forms of hierarchy and value might be made inadequate. Power likes to be questioned but scorn system changes.
Although Bruno Latour is a rather dislikeable thinker, at some point he said something like: It’s not enough to change things, what is necessary is to change change. But exactly in order to change how something changes we need to attack determination, or what determines our understanding of change in the first place.
In a world sworn to performativity, or say in a world determined by phenomenology or correlationism it goes without saying that nothing is not determined by some structure or system of power. For post-structuralism and identity politics one could even say that determination deliberately has been hush hush all in order to be able to have a clear vista for relativism and in the end cynicism and not a nice one.
From certain materialist, object oriented and speculative positions determination seems to have gained a larger interest. In ensemble with ideas around metaphysics and the great outdoors it has become possible to address deteremination not least because for e.g. speculative philosophy something can determine itself.
It is impossible to change in any prominent way the western worlds understanding of art and aesthetics, so to say from the inside, and certainly not through what one could identity as socially engaged, critical art or – save me – institutional critique. Sure museums decide what art should or not be on display but we also know that museums or festivals or even galleries in no way determine themselves. What determines art even and also today is many things but at the end of the day it’s Kant’s examination of aesthetic judgement that still determines what art can or not be, or what can be art and not. And even more importantly what an aesthetics experience is or can be. But then again Kant’s thoughts were determined by a very special historical moment where capitalism made it’s first real home run, where the liberal subject needed to be developed, where republic was en vogue and so on. If we want out paradigm of art to change, it is not art we need to change but the forces and intensities that determine art. We should just remember – and this is central – if one want to change determination, it comes with a price: what something will change into – the moment when determination starts to slide – at that moment contingency rules and it becomes absolutely impossible to “determine” what art’s gonna be.
For Deleuze and Guattari as we have understood a concept is a machine that carries with it the possibility of a transformation of determination.
But are there perhaps also things and phenomena that determine themselves. Like universe determines itself, or God. Something else?
An art work is always determined and everything that an art work is is determined including everything and abit more. But is it perhaps so that the aesthetic experience is an experience that determines itself? For Kant it is imperative that the aesthetic judgment or experience is autonomous (he might have used different words), especially the experience of the sublime, or the sublime experience. Kant’s proposal disqualifies enormous amounts of possible other understandings or art and aesthetics but in a way it’s not Kant’s decision or fault because what he did was just to build an universe for the aesthetic experience where it was and remained protected from utility. The art work is always determined but the aesthetic experience only determines itself, it is autonomous and in so being so it is absolutely open and utterly vulnerable. The aesthetic experience has no determination and therefore what one experience when having an aesthetic experience is oneself as self-determined, it is to experience oneself as autonomous and hence to have unrestricted power over oneself as oneself. Scary yes absolutely but it is also the promise that change can change, we cannot know into what but that’s exactly what makes it worth while.