Monday, February 17, 2014

Call for Proposals: Art/Power

Looking back at yesterday's post with a critical eye, I realize that I skimmed over a non-obvious idea that seems obvious to me, namely, that the relationship between artistic creation and politics is very close, possibly that of a set to a subset, or at the very least the relationship of two homologous sets. Both consist of attempts to imaginatively reshape the world according to a set of ideas and intentions that take shape in a non-empirical fashion. There are, even in popular parlance, plenty of references to politics as a kind of art, e.g., "the art of the possible." The Marxist attempt to conceive of politics as a scientific endeavor, sympathetic as I have been to it, must be accounted a failure. And don't even get me started on mainstream "political science".

Several non-European metaphysics speak of artistic creation as a kind of exercise of "power," and thus, in a certain sense, situate it as a kind of political or protopolitical action. Nor is such a view entirely other to the European philosophical tradition. It appears as recently as Kant's theory of the sublime in the Critique of Judgment. It certainly applies to the critique of the arts as increasingly degenerate forms of mimesis in Plato's Republic. And in Aristotle's system, ethics, politics, rhetoric and poetics form a nearly seamless theory of the modes of human action; to the extent it has seams, they appear either due to lacunae in the available manuscripts or to the things that the philosopher found unthinkable due to his own class and gender position. The separation of the aesthetic and the political into distinct spheres, whose points of overlap can be dismissed as "propaganda," is an historically recent phenomenon, largely coincident with the emergence of the bourgeois subject.

It then occurred to me that I know several people who, even if they would not necessarily agree entirely with how I've framed the question above, could speak knowledgeably about the relationship between art and power. And there are several more people whom I don't "know" as such, but who follow me on Twitter and vice versa, who might also have something to say.

So what I would like to do is schedule an occasional series of conversations, the text of which will be posted on this blog. If you think you have something to say about this, and follow me on Twitter, then send me a DM with a brief capsule of the topic you'd like to discuss under the heading of "Art/Power". If it catches my fancy, we'll work out the logistics. (Others can expect an e-mail solicitation.)

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