A Little Bit Of Infinity Itself

“I don’t need no taken care of!”, exclaims a perhaps nine-year-old boy and waves a gun absentmindedly. In that television series Amy Adams is mysterious and a journalist back in her small town trauma. Never mind.

I always thought autonomy is hard, aggressive and armed. Autonomy knows how to defend itself. Autonomy is fenced like private property, and autonomy bring a shotgun when under attack. Autonomy is somebody alone is his car, who refuses to car pool. But no, that’s not how it works. I was so wrong.

It can be exciting to differentiate between strategy and structure. De Certeau thought about it and others, Levi Bryant for example. Simply spoken, a football field plus the rules is a structure, how to play the game is done through strategies. Structures are static and long term, whereas strategies are resilient and short term. A structure is the organisation that enables strategies to unfold or play out. Meanwhile strategies animate structures that otherwise are dormant. Structures are stable, common or shared and therefore open. A structure can be navigated or used in a multiplicity of ways and doesn’t instruct you how. Strategies on the contrary is dynamic, individual and proprietary or owned and therefore closed. A strategy often has strong teleology, it’s directional and has a goal. If the strategy deviates it is shifts to be some other strategy.

Remember those Ocean’s movies? Con-artists analyses a structure and invents strategies that so to say play the structure. They use the openness of a structure and collapse it against the closed formation of a strategy.

Over the last 150 years of so the western world has experienced a shift from a society build around strong structures to a cluster of societies that accentuate strategies and actively downplay structures. Foucault with Deleuze talked about a shift from discipline to control societies, same same. When Richard Nixon abolished the gold standard in 1971 he also dumped structure and proposes that from now on value is purely strategic. Nothing was actual anymore, just fluctuating and liquid. Jacques Derrida did the same the week after when he passed language into performativity. Tutti is floating, everything is relative and the structural reliance language once carried was never to be found again. Language became strategic.

Ideology depends on structures, on something fixed, otherwise there is no opportunity to state something like “under no circumstances” or “whatever the cost we will never…” Ideologies are stable but open. A society without structures – or a society where structures are hidden away – is obviously a society without ideology. What remains is politics, i.e. endless negotiations based on “under these circumstances” or “the economical situation doesn’t allow for…” This is politics without a spine, without foundation where what rules is investment and affordance.

Now, if we turn the argument around. If everything is floating and there is no grounding it means that the world becomes performative and hence also identity, well in fact the lot. The world we inhabit is geared by a politics without the possibility of ideology, it’s essentially strategic, dynamic and closed and as long as it is it is the one with the largest resources that is on top, and will remain on top.

I’ve tended to consider that performativity confirmed something open and shared but of course not. Identity under the flag of performativity was free, dynamic and transformative – and to a certain extent it is – but with a bit a scrutiny we can see that identity that is process based, always (wow this is great word) masquerade and practiced – not only fit brilliantly into contemporary political and economical interests – strong compatibility with neoliberal policy – but is propriatory and owned. Identity is mine and I’m ready to struggle either to keep it or to obtain what I don’t have. Identity as being advocated today is perfectly liberal and submits to individualisation and with that to personal and not in any respect to shared responsibility. Perhaps – and this sounds like Zizek – today the left in order to step out of the shadows need first of all to reject performativity. No revolutions were build on performativity and politics but on conviction and ideology.

Performativity is like a nine-year-old kid waltzing around with a gun, the total obverse of autonomy.

It’s curious to think about what kind of art a society that live, act and think through performativity produce. Doesn’t it implicit that art always is strategic, closed and privatised, and if it is it’s always owned, paranoid and it can with certainty not be carried by autonomy but instead surveillance, self-interest and information (which is not the same as knowledge). In the world of performativity art at the end of the day, both as things and experience become useful.

I was wrong about autonomy. Must it not be the other way around for something to have or estimate any form of more prominent autonomy it can under no circumstances fence itself, in any case it can’t because autonomy is structural, even considered as a one. Autonomy can not have any interests, is non-hierarchical and non-gendered (if certain strategies are executed vis a certain structure it might occur or seem the structure is gendered but that doesn’t say it is), it is unconditionally open and generous to the extent of self-eradication. Autonomy needs no fencing and doesn’t arm itself. In fact autonomy isn’t even a guy that rides alone, but can also be a car-pooling however it mustn’t know where it’s heading and in whose car.

Autonomy is not something that can be captured and put in a cage, and however autonomy operates on the very outskirts of language, if not in the great outdoor, aesthetic practices – if we consider aesthetic to be the “opposite” to ethic and hence not subject to any address of use or utility – that estimate autonomy, that strive toward – of great importance exactly because they are invitations to an unreserved imagination and a totally free experience. And this is the bonus, because autonomy doesn’t guide or inform the viewer about anything, because the only thing autonomy offer is unconditionality, it is you who make, who create the experience. But remember just because you made it, it’s not yours, it is autonomous and belongs to infinity, to everything and itself as itself. Why would be otherwise make or view art if not exactly for that promise, the promise of a little bit of infinity itself.

What is in it is not what it is

There is as we know an intricate, fascinating and fundamental difference between what is in an image and what an image is. What is in an image is always something and that’s good because then we can talk about it and smile, but behind, which of course is not behind, there is also the image itself. It is not behind or a background neither fore ground or margins but necessarily traversing all layers of the image. It is after all what the image is and it is no matter what dimension of the image is scrutinized. One could say that what is in the image always strives to hide, conceal or obscure what the image is, but at the same time the moment one tries to reveal, expose or show what the image is, it withdraws, dissolve or becomes something else. What is in the image is always carried by what the image is, but when there is nothing to be carried or supported what the image is calls in sick.

What is in an image implies a form of violence. The more there is in the image the more of what could have been is not. What the image is is also a form of violence, or better what the image is presents itself as fear or anxiety, precisely because it doesn’t offer any form of orientation. It is plain and simply and that is to an equal extent bliss or fear.

Not that we are much into psychologising art or painting but just for fun, what is in the image refers to paranoia whereas what an image is instead has a liaison with schizophrenia, which is to say that for what is in the image meaning is directed to one single location, point or origin – everything means the same – and for what the image is instead everything means everything all the time – there is no destination or orientation to meaning what so ever. However, the reversal is equally important, what is in the image holds on to meaning in order not to dissolve but is always contested and what is in the image always ends up meaning more than it wants. For what an image is the situation is almost identical, since it always means everything it so to say backfires and means only itself as itself. The paranoid image is trying to be pure but ends up being dirty and noisy. The schizophrenic image on the contrary is dirty and noisy but as it in no way is excluding it ends up conveying some thing pure.

We can conclude that what is in an image is always relational and the more it tries the more it removes itself from autonomy. What the image is instead is an ongoing production of autonomy, or rather what the image is is an engagement in processes of autonomization. Just for the fun of it we could also point out that what is in the image is always performative whereas what the image is is not, instead it has or carries autonomy and the price to pay is that it is non-relational and more over temporary or event based.

This is kind of comical because it proposes a causality that says that an image that emphasize performativity at the same time is benevolent to restriction (narrowing) and gives up autonomy. Performativity and autonomy just doesn’t sleep together, full stop. Following the thought through however proposes that what an image is is not performative but instead has or is carried by autonomy and is expanding ad infinitum. What is in the image is a perspective, what the image is is horizon.

Now, autonomy has nothing to do with being against nothing at all. It is neither something hard or selfish, and it is definitely not a resistance group. To have autonomy (which also can be said to be impossible within reality) simply implies (and it isn’t nice) to withdraw from or disown any kind of relation. Autonomy is lonely as shit not because it is empty, on the contrary because autonomy is so goddamn full. Autonomy is a full void, or prominent autonomy is immanence or potentiality.

It goes without saying that there is a relation between information and autonomy. What is in the image is always hooked to information, autonomy is the very absence of information. In politics or something autonomy tend to mean something closer to proud or non-aligned, or in art without support from the government. This is all great but prominent autonomy has nothing to do with either but comes with a price, the moment when something “gains” autonomy it also loses the possibility to convey and opinion. Autonomy doesn’t vote and does certainly not criticise – as that would dissolve exactly autonomy. Autonomy is goddamn costly and mind you has nothing to do with shared authorship or collectivity.

Shit, we have to turn this around one more time. Aha, the price for autonomy is high, but in so far as autonomy is non-relational – which is something very different than to disappear or dissolve – autonomy is an immanent threat to anything that doesn’t have autonomy. Autonomy – when faithful – is a threat to governance, politics, identity, context, signification you name it – and “those” will do everything they can to stab autonomy in the back. But autonomy strikes back carried as it is by both sovereignty and singularity.

What is in the image offer solace, it is something with which you can identify with and talk to your friend about. Autonomy on the other hand offers nothing and gives nothing, it is, but as much as it doesn’t offer or give it also doesn’t claim anything – contrary to any performative regime autonomy let’s you be yourself. Remember autonomy obviously can not be captured, put in a jar and inspected, but in claiming nothing it opens up to the production of everything, infinity and truth.

 

 

Gnomes and Trolls

In the beginning of the last century the Swedish artist John Bauer created a large series of illustrations to accompany stories for slightly bigger children. These books that were published on a yearly basis for quite some time were called “Amongst Gnomes and Trolls” and Bauer illustrated them in a Nordic jugend style full of mystery with stones that come alive, trees that run around, princess, mousse and moosse and lakes amazingly clear. They are fantastic.

It has been told that Edvard Munch from time to time left paintings that didn’t come out right in the nature. Who know in the forest behind his summer house, deep into the Norwegian wilderness, beyond people and civilisation or something. I’ve hear both that he was convinced that the paintings would ripen and find themselves before he could start working on them again and, alternatively that he punished the paintings to sit around in the bush for a bunch of weeks, scared shitless leaning against some ancient tree with moss and weird creatures.

One can basically consider two meanings to the word speculation. Either as in the stock market where one speculates on ups and down, movements within given frameworks. Speculation on the stock market is based on probability. Something moves up, something else goes down, we win if we can predict probability. Difficult but not impossible. Another understanding is, perhaps one could say philosophical. Speculate here is the opposite of projections which is all about estimating the future based on what is already possible. Speculation implies, the somewhat impossible project, to elaborate e.g. the future without grounding it in what is or can be known. This is a form of speculation that bypasses probability in favour of contingency. Evidently one can not predict a result but have to suffice with whatever it is concerning speculation.

Speculation on the stock markets is not exactly rational but a matter of having overview, information and people that creates watertight algorithms. Sharp tools make mucho dollares. Philosophical speculation on the other hand can not be set out through reason or any tools that – which all tools have in common – knows its job. The first obstacle indeed is to bypass or unhinge reason, history, probability, desire, hierarchies, patriarchy, fish, gravity so on and forth. There is only one tool that has the capacity to do this – and it comes with restrictions. This tool, that Deleuze and Guattari made so popular already in the 1970s (just kidding), is know as a concept.

This difference is important; speculation in regard of probability or speculation vis-à-vis contingency. The point has been made before, it is obvious that speculation on the stock market remains in the realm of the possible. You make more or less much money, but never more than that, it all stays with in the reasonable and makes total sense. The second kind of speculation which has nothing to do with money (or rarely) moves beyond the logical, causal and reasonable and into contingency which we can also name immanence or potentiality. It is not so tricky to figure out that speculation version one is both epistemological and performative, whereas the second, if not actually so at least close enough, is ontological and non-performative. Add to that one equals relational and two is non-relational or in other words singular.

One should however keep in mind that just because something crosses paths with potentiality it doesn’t mean that what comes out is absolutely crazy, fucked up, amazing, weird or the solution to everything and a bit more. Pas de tout it just means that that is also possible and that that it is is already enough of a promise, at least for some. Perhaps for, at least according to Deleuze and Guattari, scientists, philosophers and artists.

In parentheses potentiality is also a word that can have two more or less connotations. On the one hand it has turned into to more or less mean possibility. A football coach or gallerist can say “that kid has great potentiality” which means, worth investing in which already is fully inscribed in probability. On the other, the philosophical meaning of potentiality. Here, depending to an extent what philosopher one speaks to, potentiality instead can be described as the realm beyond, not just what is possible but also beyond what is not possible, i.e. to a realm beyond knowledge, signification, language and etc. Or if possibility is imagination, and unimaginable is the impossible, then potentiality is that that that we can’t even imagine imagining. Yet, only potentiality can change something, the world, universe or the subject in ways that is not already predictable, possible, manageable, measurable or probable. Full pêle-mêle so to say, but that that it is is already enough of a promise, at least for some. The first version points only to difference in degree whereas the second promises difference in kind.

A concept can be said to be a tool, but perhaps better a machine. There are two kinds of machines. Machines, such as a toaster that knows its job and does it well. A toaster is good when it produces toast with strong determination. No matter what you put in it should come back up again with a different colour. Most machines, or all of them operate in relation to determination, they are reliable and that is most of the time good. But, and obviously a concept is the second kind of machine. It is a machine that produces indetermination, i.e. to which the outcome is contingent. There is a catch though, which is that there must be no determination to the indetermination neither, therefore it’s not just the result that is indeterminable but also the machine itself. Toasters are easy to build whereas concepts are motherfuckers to construct and you have no idea if they’ll work or not until it’s too late, and then what the hell they worked for or against. Concepts are machines you can’t know what they are good for.

Unfortunately concept is often used as a way of defining. The concept of this or that is this or that. The concept of e.g. determination is and a compressed explanation or even worse, formulations such as “in this paper I intend to unpack the concept of”, help me. But equally often – and that’s where concepts, thinking or working with concept is interesting and vital for e.g. art – concept refers to a specific kind of machine.

More confusion. Conceptual has a lot to do with the first, unfortunate, version of understanding concept and very little or nothing at all to do with concept as in a machine that generates the possibility of indetermination. Conceptual in art, especially first generation, has rather to do with displaying concepts (first unfortunate version), or one could say translating concepts from text to some kind of visual representation. Joseph Kosuth’s work is a prime example but also more recent artists but we perhaps recognise them more as smart-ass than conceptual. Never mind in today’s art world it appears that conceptual is an art that appels to cognition rather than emotions or energy. In fact conceptual is just something one adds in the end to seem a bit more deep.

What about an art that forgets the conceptual and instead is a concept? No to conceptual art and yes to concept art. An art to which there is no good or bad interpretation, no answers or smart-assness, no cynicism or institutional critique but where the engagement with the work is the engagement with a machine that so to say incorporates the viewer in favour of an indeterminate production, of contingency and the possibility of potentiality.

Now the question is, who do you want to be John Bauer or Edvard Munch. Obviously non of them but it seems obvious that Bauer just used his imagination and fantasised a bit whereas Munch in some or other way placed a kind of agency in the paintings themselves. In the most elementary and naïve way but didn’t Munch pass the paintings on to themselves, he introduced them to the indetemination of nature. ‘

It’s kind of cute to think about how when Bauer made paintings with gnomes and trolls in them, that Munch instead placed his paintings in the forest to spend some time with those gnomes and trolls. Sometimes gnomes and trolls is all you need for a brill concept.

More Performativity

In a world where identity is performative it becomes the responsibility of the individual to iterate identity. Every aspect of a person, every action, thought, modes of navigation and so on becomes part of a process to coagulate a seemingly continuous identity however we know that every moment implies a slight yet re-iteration of how the individual is forming relations to the world. Within a performative regime where language is groundless or have no foundation identity becomes a matter of affording and/or investing in yourself as yourself. Here identity is not just a matter of politics, more importantly it becomes a matter of economy. Your identity is private and can be owned like any other something in the world.

Since 1990 your identity has become a commodity like any other, and it is your most important asset. As we all know what you sell is ultimately your identity.

Some identities are valuable others economically uninteresting and hence packaged away or just stored in the lost and found bin. Your identity, if you are not one of those packaged away, doesn’t just need maintenance, it also need protection, both digitally and in the physical world. Your identity needs surveillance.

The price to pay for an identity that is understood as performative is a paranoid world where each and everybody constantly looks after and surveilles the position of her identity. The problem is not so much if your identity gets stolen or hacked, but what is a problem is that somebody or everybody can want to appropriate your identity, attack it due some sort of power, capitalise on it for some reason or use information to tailor campaigns, trolls, commercials and that’s what we know. More over you always run the risk of losing the precious identity that you have invested in with a single wrong move, any utterance can be used against you and in today’s world it is fairly easy to be disqualified and dismissed. And you know, we all know, that it doesn’t matter what you did or didn’t there is anyway no ground to what is right or wrong, only lobby and economy.

When Nixon sold out gold standard and Derrida language in 1971. What happened is that they disqualified any form of prominent stability – one of them and important was ideology. After 1971 there is only one ideology which an ideology of lack, lack of conviction and it’s nobody’s fault. It can be in no other way in a world that is governed by an understanding that all value is performative and has no grounding, no origin, no reasons to not change. But as nothing in this world is fixed things are even better or worse, because without fix points how can be know or verify change. It’s all floating Boss.

Ideology can perhaps be defined as “under no circumstances” or “over my dead body”, no fuckin way, and this is a matter or principles, no matter what. Politics on the other hand is the very absence of permanence and instead we have negotiation, and the only thing that must not happen is that we agree, that we reach a point of grounding, of settlement or index. A definition of politics might be “under these circumstances it is necessary to…” or “in this situation it has become important to…”. Ideology is stable, static, long term, grounded and heavy handed whereas politics is the exact opposite: unstable, dynamic, short term, floating and easy going. Most of all politics is performative and as long as it is it certainly has no substance, it cannot have.

A world formulated around performativity is in many ways great but we should remember that is not only good but comes with a lot of darkness, and one of the darkest ones is called paranoia. Paranoia prompts fear, the building of walls and proprietary views of the world. In a world governed by performativity we will all tip toe acting as saturated airs of Bartleby. I rather not since whatever I do can and will be used against me. Temporarily it might be the case but in the long run, performativity dis-empowers.

Performativity with its relations to phenomenology and postmodern or post-structuralist thought proposes that everything in the world, in reality or within symbolic order if you like, does not “exist” in itself but we can only access its representations. Things soft or hard, physical are not “real”exist only as the sum of its relations in the world. This is our lucky day because had it been otherwise, could we have a direct relation to thing in themselves transformation would be impossible, and with that movement, time, dynamics, change. Something cannot not have relations and, however impossible, something without relations simple doesn’t exist. Evidently relation doesn’t mean to be friendly and engage in water cooler chats although it’s a real good show, it simply means that there is the possibility for some or other cohesion, or transfer.

An interesting question is what happens to imagination in a or our performative regime. One possibility is that imagination simply vanished because the very idea of imagination is that it is ruled by totally fuzzy logics, impossible impossibilities, by non-relations, indetermination and contingency but such stuff cannot exist in our current regime as that would tear down the entire system in so much that some thing can exist without relations, at least to some degree at some point or moment. Another option is that we indeed fear imagination because it has this inscription of being unfaithful and contingent and who wants to end up contingently some where else? Scary shit and instead it seems that our current regime’s capitalism plus provides us with tools that perform the illusion of imagination but the safe version, from retreat centres to computer games, from an afternoon in the spa or tarot reading, care practices (at least too many), pilates and nameless forms of escapism, but it is never imagination. Animated Hollywood movies is perhaps a good example for how something that was created to stimulate imagination today has become so extremely saturated that there is no space for imagination left. Everything is delivered so that I don’t need to feel haunted but instead sconsume properly and certainly don’t imagine.

What is the place of art in a world that look and operates like this one? With a bit of pushing and pulling one could say that performativity undid art. In this world there is no place for art, there is no place for contemplation because what art does is to open up for the possibility of losing oneself – it is a letting go of the subject and identity, and that would be deep torture for a contemporary identity. In this world art has transformed into information, efficiency and participation, when in fact what we need is contemplation, uselessness and the promise of spaces where performativity is disqualified. Art’s job is not to make friends but instead to insist on the possibility of autonomy.

 

Some Thing, Not Good or Bad For Something

For Emma-Louise

Across the street two guys are standing around smoking cigarettes and doing what guys do. It’s rather unpleasant not least because they are doing what guys are doing, which already occupies space and in a somewhat aggressive way. One of them has had the brilliant idea of bringing his portable Bluetooth ready loudspeaker to which his smart phone is connected. It’s really great with Bluetooth and loudspeakers are one of the more extra cool innovations. Great, but it is pretty much irritating that loudspeakers lately have turned into something people, i.e. men carry with them to accompany cigarette smoking and doing what guys do. All of that is quite crappy but what makes this irritating is, however just a street corner or pavement, how these loudspeakers rearrange public space. Because also a street corner is public space and not to under estimate, but with the loudspeaker dudes those spaces are made private, perhaps just temporary but even so transformed from environment to territory. From smooth to striated, authorizing only certain kinds of behaviour and tagging the space with signs of ownership not just loudspeakers but also through other means of communication and code.

Perhaps one could say that my street corner has turned from being just a street corner to become a stage. In a way cute and something one should appreciate but really isn’t this a slight problem in our times that the world to a larger and larger extent has turned into a stage. Not in a Shakespearian way which rather proposes that we are all part of some grand narrative that can’t be escaped, it’s inevitable and not so far from faith. Today the stage is another one where each and all of us are responsible to perform ourselves successfully. Shakespeare’s stage one could say was public whereas today the stage has turned into private space, where destiny and faith has been swopped for affordance and investment. What happened on Shakespeare’s stage was happening but was not performative, today however even if something is not happening it is always performative. There is an important differentiation to be made: just because something is performed, in the sense of carried out, it doesn’t by necessity mean that it is performative. And the other way around, the moment something is in the world it cannot not be performative.

A human being performs being a human being, she carries out being a human being, but that doesn’t mean that being a human being is performative. On the other hand being a human being is always performing something into the world, in the sense of meaning or signification, and that is always performative.

Same thing with a painting. A painting carries out being a painting but isn’t not therefore performative, but as a painting always performs something into the world it is always performative, or is carried by some kind of performativity. A painting is not by itself private, as an object it rather withdraws from becoming private as that in ways render it subject, but the moment when viewed from the perspective of performing something into the world it cannot not be private.

As long as something is public it can become anything, the public is open and, although not unconditionally, allows what is public to be, become and not whatever. One could say that in public some thing doesn’t need to be something. The moment something becomes private, or leave the public sphere, it automatically and by necessity become this or that and not anything or whatever. In the private sphere something cannot not be something and is never just some thing. Consequently, as long as something is some thing it cannot be held responsible. Only something can be accountable as some thing is that that slips through naming or so to say being located. But to the same extent as some thing can not be accountable it can also not be owned and therefore not used strategically. On the other hand, as long as something is something, private and ownable, it can only  and always be used strategically. Said differently what is public is amazing because it is not good or bad for something which is exactly what is the tragedy of the private; in the private something is always good or bad for something and as long as it is it’s not something else or ambiguous.

The public carries with it the promise of not being performative but just performed, carried out, whereas the private is always or whatever is there is always performative and as long as it is it is always less, less than itself as some thing, less than it self in any respect exactly because it is named.

Performative is nothing good. And it is not something that something can be more or less. For some thing to be something, or to be in the world or reality, it cannot be performative. Performative is not like a colour, more or less red or blue. It is a condition that a certain understanding of the world makes inevitable.

As long as we view the world through an urgency of giving things soft or hard, more or less tangible identity this world has no other spaces than private. Here, in the private, everything is owned and ownable and what carries the world is investment and affordance. That might be irritating like the loudspeaker men in the street corner, but really what is a tragedy is what this way of viewing the world – through the lense of performarivity – or if you like a world to which we have access only through language – is doing and has done to imagination. The moment when imagination turns private one can only imagine this or that – what already can be imagined and as long as it is something. Public space or the public, might not or is definitely not a safe space, but it is a space where imagination is prominently free, where some thing can still be and remain some thing. An art addicted to performativity is petty – good or bad for something, private and ownable – whereas an art that insist on being public is an art that carries with it the promise of contingency.

 

Private Art

“Tell me love isn’t true/It’s just something that we do” sang Madonna in 2000. At that time it felt cool – cynical enough, smart ass enough, apathetic enough. But shit what a tragedy, if love is just something that we do then it’s all a matter of calculation, measurability and economy. In Madonna’s 2000 universe love has turned to nothing more or less than a decision, something we put on or off like a coat or maybe a diet. I’m vegan. Or if love is something that we do it’s turned into negotiation, investment and affordance. In 2000 love ended up being economy one o one.

Roland Barthes was a little earlier than Madonna: You fall in love, you fall out of love, you recover from love and you fall in love again. Holy Moses what a horrible thing to say, love is just something that we do and the last part again is really really sad. Again proposes another one or more of the same and the the book closes with the insight that love is comparable, measurable and simply different in degree, business as usual. There is nothing special with this love and there is certainly no singularity to love.

 

But why, why such a mediocre understanding of love? Well, for anybody who proposes the death of the author and the end of essence and authenticity it’s evident that not even love is allowed to transgress language and have anything to do with magic, blown away or overwhelmed. For Madonna it might be the other way around and that the song rather proposes, if I just convince myself that love is something that we do, it means I can’t really have a problem or be heart broken. It’s just reasons anyway.

 

If postmodernism and its entourage was keen on letting us know that language is the capacity with which we have access to the world nothing must bypass language and hence love must be degraded to something that we do, causality and reason. The other way around, since love is something that we do, that is negotiated, one can also be held accountable for one’s actions, for one’s love.

 

What about swopping love for art. “Tell me art isn’t true/it’s just something that we do”. Well, in fact perhaps art councils and venues, museums and commissioned should consider the sentence, because if art is just something that we do it goes with out saying that making art is something one also gets paid for. But then again if art is just something that we do, how come some of it is just valued so much higher – monetary or symbolic – and if art is just something that we do it would be difficult to argue anything about originality. If love is just something that we do wouldn’t that mean that if there were a shortage one could also be ok with second best. Like, I really prefer Volvo but what the heck if you only have Volkswagen that’s also o’rite. Or, if there’s no Ad Reinhardt around I’m ok with that black wall.

 

As has been mentioned, if postmodernism claim language to be how we access the world it can simply not allow art to be something else, art can’t be magical, overwhelming or transcendental, because then apparently language is not the only etc. But the price to pay for making art something that we do, or inscribing it into language, it also means that art always is calculable and measurable, in other words that is has become a matter of investment and affordance, simple economy and that the artist at the end of the day is just a manipulative shit, a seducer and that all artists are con artists. More over it also means that the artist can be held accountable for his art and that a person who makes art that is weird or deals with awkward representations is somehow sick. An art in short becomes a prostheses of the artist’s fucked up mind. If this was the case quite a bunch of artists would be in trouble and Frances Bacon sent at least to Coventry. Aesthetics exchanged for ethics. Contemplation with policing.

 

When Judith Butler published “Gender Trouble” in 1990 that was absolutely terrific but an understanding of identity as performative is not all pros, because doesn’t identity politics tell us that from now on it’s all up to you. When identity becomes politics there is so nobody or else to blame, the only one responsible is you and for every decision or action you do or don’t. You equal your actions and how you iterate “yourself” becomes a matter of affordance and investment. With “Gender Trouble” identity became 100% economy, and indeed identity was repackaged into commodity – you become private property and property – since there is only dynamics and relative value – that needs to be surveilled and invested.

Two things come out and disturbing. If art is just something that we do and so on it ends up with that all art always is private. Art can of course happen, be and exhibited in public/space but is always private, but there is no public art. Not just it the sense of – who owns that paintings – but private in the sense of accountability. An art that is private, that can be owned is be necessity inscribed in the terrain of possibility which means that is cannot carry with it the occasion of aesthetic experience.

Jacques Rancière, another poststructuralist that cannot extend art’s life beyond language, writes that the definition of politics is the maintenance of two worlds in one. It is and has to be an endless negotiation, argument against argument until the sun goes down which also means that politics is conducted through or within language. For Judith Butler identity is two “worlds” in one, it is always a negotiation. For those folks art is the same and must be – or their arguments crumble – it’s two worlds in one, negotiation. It is not political but it’s always politics, which at all times will stand in the way for it to be political. For art to carry within it potentiality it must withdraw from politics and from negotiation, only then when two become one can it slip out of reason, causality, accountability and give rise to the unconditional singularity of aesthetic experience.

August 1971

In August 1971 Richard Nixon during some kind of panic attack abolished the gold standard. Congratulations, universal equivalence i.e. money was from then on free from any attachment, sailing about without being anchored to no nothing. Universal equivalence means money can buy anything, but when not connected to actual gold it also means that value in general no longer is attached to nothing at all. On the 15th of August 1971 Richard Nixon abolished truth once and for all.

That same August Jacques Derrida delivered a lecture in Montreal called “Signature, Event, Context” where he for the first time – at least sort of – proposes, along with Austin’s thinking around speech acts and performativity, that language can have no origin but is in its entirety performative. If language wasn’t imposed on humans by some amazing super power it can simply have no starting point, no substance, but is in fact through and through conventional and hence value, whatever value cannot not be relative. In August 1971 Jacques Derrida abolished truth once, no second and for all.

Remarkable, that was indeed a kick ass month for humanity as both money and language totally lost its reliability. From now on everything started to float and truth was just nowhere to be found (as if it had before). It is not far fetched to claim that that week of 15th August 1971 was the day neoliberalism for real entered competition and that there were no other contenders left. Shit happens.

From this perspective it’s kind of comical to think about how Judith Butler twenty years later added identity. Until then one could at least, with a bit of good will, say things like “true for me” but with “Bodies That Matter” not even that. I mean who me if at all in the first place?

August 1971 could also be understood as a performative turn or turn towards a hegemony of language and language as we know is conventional. Now, if Derrida argued something in the line of that language is the capacity with which we have access to the world it comes not just with a price but several. The first that postmodernism must be understood as altogether anthropocentric and the second (and there are more but not here), which is not exactly new but now better, that only that can exist that can be contained, named or located by language. In other words only that can be that is possible, that is already possible for humanity and language. Shit happens, but really, from then on only that that could be named had a place in the world, dreams and imagination included. If language is how we have access to the world and language is conventional, dreams, fantasy and imagination is too however hard one tries. Thinking outside the box which already felt a bit embarrassing become in the fall of 1971 simply bogus.

That fall must obviously have been a terrible moment of crises for any avant-garde attitude as Nixon with his gold also made the idea of explorer deflate and Derrida made sure that there was no such thing as an outside any more. But the men – they were always men – of the avant-garde quickly re-educated themselves and found a new name institutional critique. Brilliant and equally male. How many artists and art lovers et al. mustn’t have taken down their Yves Klein “Leap Into The Void” postcard from the fridge that autumn. Oups.

But there is one more thing, a thing that I think hasn’t been considered properly that Nixon and Derrida collapsed, which of course is aesthetic experience. Because if language is the capacity through which we access the world art and its encounters can not be otherwise and detach from the conventionality of language, from relativity or from performativity which means that aesthetic experience either simply ceases to exist or is transformed into something that can be dealt with through reason and ethics. Art can no longer be contemplated because there simply is no way out of teleology. At the moment when any kind of transcendence, truth, metaphysics or great outdoors is abolished art become synonymous with culture, something that can be measured and calculated, i.e. instrumentalized and smart ass. In a way postmodern understanding of art in fact reminds us about pre-Kantian 18th century rationalism. In 1971 art lost its transformative capacity and postmodernism disgraced it by forcing it into the narrow world of possibility, or in other words into the predicable backyard of probability stealing away from art the universe of indetermination and potentiality.

It is paradoxically this moment when neoliberalism kicks in and makes art into policy documents and business proposal that that also is the green house of socially engaged art. Of course if aesthetic experience has been ostracized and art has become brimful of discourse social engagement makes perfect sense, but it certainly has nothing to do with aesthetic experience and again judgment is not aesthetic but ethical or moral, even more 18th or even 17th century art theory.

Recently though it seems we have bumped into a problem again. Derrida was totally crucial and so was Butler, but something has gone wrong when both language and then obviously identity has been down to its knickers co-opted by capitalism. Identity is big bucks and dollar signs and according to e.g. Franco Bifo we live in semio-capitalism where language itself has been financialized. So however much we were impressed by postmodernism and it’s companions might it not be high time to reclaim aesthetic experience and however it feels weird insist on aesthetic experience – which obviously is not an art work but a possible experience generated through an encounter with an art work or situation – and that those experiences by necessity brings with them a, however minute or tiny, encounter with something beyond language, value, history and convention, something that has many names and non of them is good enough. Yet, in the vagueness of those names resides the potentiality of other kinds of life – because if capitalism owns language we can not imagine a way out of where we are now, but need those experiences that bypass the possible more than ever. That is the hope that resides in art, in those experiences that art carries within.