“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.