Friday, March 10, 2017

Foucault's chironomia

aLfrEdo tRifF

...whereas the hands may almost be said to speak. Quintilian

Michel Foucault's personality was intense & deliberate, his explosive laughter was famous. But his hands have not been paid attention to. Foucault's gesticulations exhibit a simmering touch for the dramatic, as if his hands moved following an stylistic poiesis to advance and calibrate his next cogitation. Take for instance, 1:48 when the interviewer goes: "... it's like watching yourself in a mirror and you're both strangers," or 1:58, when Foucault adds:"... how can we know if not with our own knowledge?"

The philosopher sits back at 6:10 and emphatically uses his diestra. Now he addresses a broader (imaginary) audience in the studio (unlike today's politicians, looking straight at the camera to establish customer rapport). @ 6:58 he suddenly leans forward: "... and also this curious notion of humanism..." (the book being discussed, Les mots et le choses, is openly anti-humanist).

@ 7:14 he incidentally looks at the camera ("...on peut dire que l'homme n'existait pas"), but he will really look at the camera to restate this point @ 10:24, after having dropped, en passant, that "Sartre is a philosopher of the 19th Century."

Aristotle is probably the first philosopher to give some serious thought to the hands. On his lesser known On the Parts of Animals, one has a rare chance to see Aristotle the zoologist in action. One marvels at his boundless curiosity, which takes him to ponder the most minute animal morphological details, his conclusions informed by intricate unexpected relationships:
... in elephants, though they must be reckoned polydactylous, as their foot has neither cloven nor solid hoof, the fore-feet, owing to the great size and weight of the body, are reduced to the condition of mere supports; and indeed their slow motion and unfitness for bending make them useless for any other purpose. (Ibid.)
(to his credit, later, in Book 4, 12, Aristotle observes that the elephant's trunk is a kind of a hand)

Here comes the point in the context of handtHiNkInG:
... it is the opinion of Anaxagoras that the possession of these hands is the cause of man being of all animals the most intelligent. But it is more rational to suppose that his endowment with hands is the consequence rather than the cause of his superior intelligence. (Book 4, 9)
Aristotle starts from the premise that if nature gives us hands it is because we can use them, hence we can not find hands in animals that are not intelligent. Following Aristotle's teleological reasoning, for a hand to be such, it must function as such, i.e., the form of a human being is responsible for the matter being the matter that it is, so the form of a human being is responsible for a hand being a hand. 

Quintilian, one of the best rhetoricians of antiquity, offers a different angle in his Institutio Oratio:
As for the hands, without which all action would be crippled and enfeebled, it is scarcely possible to describe the variety of their motions, since they are almost as expressive as words. For other portions of the body may help the speaker, whereas the hands may almost be said to speak. Do we not use them to demand, promise, summon, dismiss, threaten, supplicate, express aversion or fear, question or deny? Do we not employ them to indicate joy, sorrow, hesitation, confession, penitence, measure, quantity, number and time? Have they not power to excite and prohibit, to express approval, wonder or shame? Do they not take the place of adverbs and pronouns when we point at places and things? In fact, though the peoples and nations of the earth speak a multitude of languages, they share in common the universal language of the hands.
In the 17th Century John Bulwer borrowed Quintilian's idea of universal language to build a vocabulary of hand gestures in his Chirologia, or the Natural Language of the Hand (1644). He seemed to have been influenced by Francis Bacon's idea of "manual hieroglyphics" (which the latter inherited from Valeriano Pierio's Hieroglyphica, 1556). In the end the enterprise may have paid off in a totally different field. 

To the adventurous reader, how about applying Bulwer's coded gesticulations to decipher Foucault's hAnDtHinkinG?

But before we go, how about this photo of our anti-humanist philosopher donning his familiar white turtleneck, gesturing auditoris mitigabit, while guarding the rear of a famous "19th Century" French philosopher?

Ergo: the hand rules.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

How Roberta Smith arthoodicates 1980s painting for the New York Times by pretending not to

Left, Kathe Burkhart’s painting Prick: From the Liz Taylor Series (Suddenly Last Summer), from 1987, reprises a movie scene with Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift. Right, Baron Sinister from 1986, by Walter Robinson (New York Times)

aLfrEdo tRifF

In a previous post I ask this question.

Then I read Roberta Smith's fresh from the oven Painting From the 1980s, When Brash Met Flash, now at the Whitney Museum.

Her swift opening is a bit formulaic, between name dropping, chronology & normativity:
In New York at the end of the 1970s, many people thought painting was all washed up. And if not washed up, it had to be abstract —the more austere, unemotional and geometric, the better. Then came the 1980s and a generation of young painters, like Julian Schnabel, David Salle, Eric Fischl, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, and everything changed. With “Fast Forward: Painting From the 1980s,” an irresistible if flawed exhibition, the Whitney Museum tries to sort out how that happened.
"... irresistible if flawed exhibition," peculiar conditional. Keep in mind "irresistible". I'll come to this later.

Why flawed?
In a sense, the painting that emerged in the early ’80s was mongrel and illegitimate. In logical art-historical terms, it wasn’t supposed to happen. The much-heralded Pictures Generation, a group of photo-based nonpainters, could trace its pedigree to 1970s Conceptual and performance art, and promised an orderly succession. But this divide is often exaggerated: I can imagine painters like Mr. Schnabel and Mr. Fischl thinking, if the Conceptual and performance artists, and their Pictures Generation progeny, can use figures and tell stories, we can, too.
This declaration follows,

... the painting that emerged in the early '80s was mongrel and illegitimate."

Mongrel, yes, illegitimate? No way.

Illegitimate" presupposes something "legitimate" to be compared against. And what would that be?

The 1980s painting was as legit a movement as one could possibly have, advocated and supported by the art system, i.e., artists, dealers, critics, collectors, art magazines and museums. In fact, from 1979 to 1985 Neo-Expressionism was the thing.

Is "legitimate" not that which is sanctioned by the likes of Smith? (unless she is ready to admit they were wrong —my point is double entendre).

Better yet, is Smith so oblivious not to see that her very article for the New York Times is the top of legitimation? Unless she denies her 1980s peer critics and curators the legitimation she's buttressing right now.

At miami bourbaki we take words written as behavioral dispositions. Like behaviors, words can be analyzed. Individual's intentions on the other hand are private, inaccessible, subject to mongrel associations and disconnections. 

And Smith is a bit disconnected from her own words. Which explains this,

... it wasn't supposed to happen.

The 1980s already happened. And it had to happen with everything in it, including Reagan, Punk, the Mariel Boat lift, the War on Drugs, Heavy Metal, Gorbachev's Perestroika, the Commodore 64, Madonna,  and yes, 1980s Painting.

History cannot express regrets because whatever happens is necessary. Painting in the 1980s—whatever that means—can always be traced back to the socio-political and economic vortex of the 80s.

Who in her right mind would blame the marionette for a poor marionette performance?

Eric Fischl, A Visit To /A Visit From the Island, 1983

The answer to Smith's discomfort with 1980s painting can be traced back to this 1987 review for the New York Times. Here she defends a brief movement in late 70s early 80s labeled as "New Image Painting," which is eclipsed by the sudden arrival of,
... neo-expressionism, an art movement, whose combinations of exuberant brushwork and provocative figures generated a glamorous amount of controversy, international attention and market support. 
Back in 1987 Smith dismisses Neo Expressionism as non-inherently American, which she contrasts with the "New Imagists." You can tell who wins her favor:
There is something inherently American —austere, rational and a little puritanical
—about the New Imagists' stark, tissue-thin silhouettes and their methodically made surfaces, as well as their belief in progress. This Americanness made their work seem out of step during the more European-influenced heyday of Neo-expressionism, but now, things are different.  
Now we understand Smith's "it wasn't supposed to happen" (above) and her general unease with this assignment. She is writing about a movement she never felt for. So, why do it?

She gets to be a part of the new art trend!*

In researching Smith's output for this period, one finds a disregard for the 1980s as a juncture which defines the late-Twentieth and subsequently early Twenty-First Century global art market. This avoidance of understanding market forces in art making is not necessarily new to the 1980s, though is no secret that critical main-stream writing in the 1970s was still quite embroiled in formalist battles—a result of the late-vanguard American conceptual movements on the mid 1960s.

Let's compare Smith's version with art historian and critic Irving Sandler's account of the 1980s in his Art of the Post Modern Era:
Art-world attention in the late 1980s was focused on the burgeoning art market. If it seemed to be mushrooming in the early and middle years of the decade, that was nothing compared with the boom that began in 1987. In 1979-80, only fourteen postwar paintings sold for $1 million or more at Christie's and Sotheby's; in 1987-88, the figure rocketed to $121. In the same season, the two auction houses together sold over $3 billion worth of art. Robert Hughes cautioned that art prices had gotten so high that the market could easily go bust. (p. 519)
Smith seem to gloss over the art market's shaping effect during the 1980s.
For a long time, that seemed to be the case. Over the last quarter-century, ’80s painting has tended to be ignored, if not maligned for the macho persona projected by some of its practitioners, and for reheating the art market after the relatively quiet, supposedly pure ’70s.
Observe the critic's flair for the superficial: The 1980s is about stardom, gloss & macho posturing (a stereotypical parade of gossipy insiders)
The Neo-Expressionists were an instant hit. The phrases “art star” “sellout show” and “waiting list” gained wide usage, sometimes linked to artists you’d barely heard of. Appearances in glossy magazines became routine. And many people were not happy. The Minimalist sculptor Donald Judd wrote that “talent may strike” Mr. Salle and that Mr. Schnabel “may grow up.” Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, a leading art theorist, labeled them “ciphers of regression” —insignificant, backward daubers who would soon disappear.
If you want to critique the moment, why not talk of the market fever of this period? The money flowing to Wall Street by the effects of Reaganomics, the strong Japanese yen pushing aggressively the auction houses, instigating a secondary market of speculation —as opposed to the so called primary market of artists, galleries and collectors.

What needs to be addressed is the '80s boom from its economic side.

The 1980s signal the beginning of the gap between the rich and middle class. The move from late-industrial to financial capitalism was accelerated by technology, which increased the demand for skilled workers relative to their supply, with freer trade reinforcing the effect. Then comes the institutional of economy-driving-public policy: deregulation, and the weakening of unions.

Francesco Clemente, Scissors and Butterflies, (1980s)

Neoexpressionism was a global movement (scroll down to the countries and artists in this Wikipedia article), with very strong exponents in Italy (Transavanguardia) and Germany.

Let's come back to Sandler's behind-the-scenes approach:
In the late 1980s, the new German painting had become so familiar and had come to include so many patently mediocre followers that the promotion on its behalf backfired. The New York art world was taken aback by the quantity of mannerist German painting in the BerlinArt, curated by Kynaston McShine at the Museum of Modern Art in 1987. This glut was even more fully exposed in the Refigured Painting at the Guggenheim Museum in 1989. (p. 451)
Michael Brenson 1986 article Is Neo Expressionism An Idea Whose Time Has Passed for the New York Times paints a much more complex picture. An alert witness, he provides a rich and tentative picture of the events —as they unfold. He is keen in pointing the emergence and decline of Neo Expressionism as much more than just egos and entertainment. Brenson makes a point that Smith's article overlooks: institutional complicity.
Just as serious as questions about dealers and artists involved with Neo-Expressionism are the questions about museums. These institutions have reached a point, at least in New York, where they are almost incapable of providing any guidance or direction. What does it mean when museums just about trample each other on the way to the same young artists studios and when they do not offer the public a perspective that could clarify what the rush is all about?
The rush, the rush, this is what contemporary art is about!

At Miami Bourbaki, we refer to this contemporary art rush as arthoodication, the art of profiting while appearing almost—prudently— beneficent.

How does it work?

By exhibiting art/commodities, by transforming such art/commodities from "unknown" or "forgotten" to "highly desirable," with art publicity campaigns (what we call artblicity).

Georg Baselitz, Self Portrait I, 1980s

This is precisely what Smith does (perhaps reluctantly) here.

Which brings us to Smith's use of "irresistible" (above). Her use of the adjective is the equivalent of a Freudian Versprecher (you say what you don't mean).

(time to unveil the marionette)

Does Smith realize that she is the chosen one to bring back the 1980s from 30 years of market oblivion as the next thing?

(here comes the puppeteer)

Smith follows the lead from the curator in charge of the fulsomeness, & the apparatus behind the effort, which mobilizes other curators, collectors, dealers, and at least a museum director.

Ready to follow the system's artblicity?

The Whitney Revisits the '80s, a Decade of Macho and Money. —The New York Times

The powerful excitement of the decade has been languishing in a blind spot of art history. An exhibit at the Whitney comes to the rescue.The New Yorker 

An absorbing group show that brings together about 40 paintings by as many artists. —WNYC

A show of 1980s American painting at the Whitney Museum includes serious and playful meditations on sexuality, AIDS, wealth, and politics. —The Daily Beast

Plus more at Timeout,  Intelligence Magazine,  Cultivating Culture,  Hyperallergic and so on,

(yeap, the same artblicity that back in the day legitimized the 1980s painting generation)

There is always a price to pay. In the end, Smith's nonchalant attitude toward history —particularly the 1980s— makes her article on the 1980s painting as superficial as frosting.

* When it comes to history, Smith is willfully redundant. Here's a Smith quotable (scroll all the way down the article):  ... history is always in flux. Each rewriting, like each writing, will be reworked by subsequent generations. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

see the roachface you roachphobics?

aLfReDo tRifF

Let's bring forth the following conjecture:
Being signifies on the basis of the one-for-the-other of substitution of the same for the other.*
Why not apply this conjecture to the blattoidea member above?

A cockroach can never be a who, even for an expert phenomenologist in otherness like Levinas: he simply forfeits the question.

He's concerned with human otherness.

Heidegger comes a bit closer, but he declares the animal kingdom as weltarm (poor in world).

But insects got to have being. This question cannot be superfluous:

What's the cockroach's being?

Obviously, this is not up to the cockroach. It's up to us.   

Can one bridge the seemingly incommensurable man/insect gap?

(with about 1,000,000 brain cells, cockroaches may posses proto-consciousness!)

paired structures called mushroom bodies in a cockroach brain play a key role in navigation.

Getting "close" to the insect means using whatever intentionalität available to find sameness in difference.

Franz Kafka's man-to-insect transformation in Metamorphosen is a fruitful exercise, but Kafka was not really interested in the phenomenological side of the insect as much as presenting a "human insect" prototype.

Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector offers a deeper phenomenological analysis in her The Passion according to HG:
The cockroach, with its dangling white matter, kept looking at me, but I do not know if it really saw me (I do not know how a cockroach sees). But she and I looked at each other (and I do not know how a woman sees).
in Lispector's metaphysical comparison (human) mental-states are as intractable a problem as the cockroach's hypothetical gaze.
... in the eyes of the cockroach I could see my own existence. In the world we were meeting there are several ways of looking: you look the other without seeing it; one has the other; one eats the other; one is just in the corner and the other is there too. The cockroach was not looking at me with its eyes but with its body.
Cockroaches have 360º vision, which make up for the flatness of their bodies. each eye contains about 2,000 lenses, which means that their reality is not static. They assimilate a dizzying multiplicity at any given time. Lispector's conclusion is quite advanced.

In the phenomenology of Merleau Ponty the gaze has fundamental properties. Seeing means being drawn into a particular dimension of being, let's say, a slice of being to which the perceiving body is not foreign. 

Is that why Lispector concludes the cockroach sees with its body?

Was Lispector aware of phenomenologists insistence on the importance of the gaze? i dunno. what's important is that she cares for the insect's gaze. she echoes Merleau-Ponty's advice:

... "with the first vision ... there is initiation, ... the opening of a dimension that can never again be closed."** 

This is a crucial point: that "first vision" is not exempt from horror (human's and the cockroach's,  i bet). that horror is the beginning. without the horror there would be no future hope of empathy. for later Levinas, the face is synonymous with diachrony, i.e., lapsing of time, from time immemorial when both human and cockroach share an ancestor.  

Clearly, Lispector finds common ground in our shared prehistory.
What I saw was life looking back at me. How to name that horrible, raw matter, that dry plasma. While I recoiled inward, I felt a dry nausea, I was falling into the very roots of my identity. Centuries and centuries in the mud --wet mud, filled with life; moving with excruciating slowness.
A shared fate with insects --in the Permian primordial mud?

If there are eyes there is a face. What a coincidence! According to Levinas the encounter between self and other is given by the face.

Do cockroaches have faces?

In Violence and Metaphysics, Jacques Derrida belabors Levinas' idea of the encounter with the other:
What then is this encounter...? Neither representation, nor limitation, nor conceptual relation to the same. The ego and the other do not permit themselves to be dominated or made into totalities by a concept of relationship.  
Derrida doesn't have a non-human being in mind. a face-to-face encounter is always a human affair. yet Lispector's analysis addresses the insect's otherness via visage.

Now, is there another way to access the insect's being?

The human/insect distance is not without riddles:  we fall for the illusion of approaching difference to reach sameness, but that's a circular trap. can we abstract both insect and human likeness to seek a more hierarchical animal likeness?

Even if the heuristics may look a bit fuzzy, positing the problem already hints @ solution.  

when do we start?

(to be continued)
* Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise than Being (Duquesne University Press, 2009), p. 26. **Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible (Northwestern University Press, 1979), p. 151.

Monday, February 6, 2017

What's Trumplogic?

alFReDO tRifF

Let's take Donald Trump's first tweet above:

Any negative polls are fake news,

No matter how many, all?

What a bizarre conjecture. Given any poll range from positive to negative, N (a negative poll) automatically becomes a mathematical possibility. The only false possibility is, well, an impossibility.

Which makes said tweet a one-of-a-kind conclusion for a POTUS!

Given the seriousness of the office and the importance of the claim, I offer the following points:

1- Trump feels infallible,*
2- Any disagreement with POTUS makes you a FAKE (an emotivist consequence of #1),
3- The rejection of any negative poll as long as it comes from the "liberal media" = FAKE NEWS (a consequence of #1 & #2),
4- Trumpian for "I don't buy it" (indeed, because #1-#3),

Observe that
Any positive polls are NOT FAKE,

become as baffling as the tweet in question.

What's the logic here? I surmise a possible justification with Trump's second tweet above:

I call my own shots largely based on an accumulation of data,

That is to say, Trump's "accumulation of data" unfailingly support his declaration in the first tweet.

But isn't such "accumulation of data" Trump's own assessment which as we know discounts "any negative polls" as FAKE?

Top-to-bottom wacky!

This form of unreasoning will be referred to from here on as Trumplogic.

*The infallibilist may not see himself as infallible. Trump understands that he can make mistakes, though he actually believes he doesn't make any. And all evidence to the contrary is only seen by the infallibilist as plain wrong, FAKE, etc. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

How praise becomes sycophantic flattery

Marjorie Welish, Before After Oaths Gray 4, 2013 (via Art News)

alFredO tRifF

Happy Friday. Looking for art news & I find this review at what a chanceArt News!

This is how critic and Art News editor Barbara A. McAdam opens her review of Marjorie Welish's show of abstract paintings at Art 3 Gallery:
In her stunning, tightly focused show at Art 3 Gallery, “Some Differences,” inveterate poet, critic, and painter Marjorie Welish strikes one of her most successful attitudes—showing, not telling, how she thinks.
MacAdam favors a laudatory entrance,

stunning, tightly focused, inveterate poet, critic and painter, her most successful attitudes,

in a mere 32-word paragraph!

I don't know McAdam, neither Welish. I'm after these art reviews to show the invisible hand of arthoodication.

Which brings me to epideictic rhetoric. Here Clytemnestra implores to Achilles:
... for when the good are praised in some fashion, they hate their praisers if they praise to excess.*
*Euripides, Ifigenia at Aulis, (translation  Kovacs) 2005.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Trump's chance of being right about 3M fraudulent votes is as good as a monkey randomly writing the US Constitution

aLfrEdo tRifF

I. Let's start with these facts:
1- Poll workers are sometimes overseen by election officials, to make sure they are not depriving anyone of a fair vote or allowing people who are not on the rolls to cast their ballots. 2- The voting lists are public record, and members of each campaign are invited to observe the voters being checked off the lists to ensure a fair process.3- Two-thirds of states request or require that voters provide some form of identification before they are allowed to vote at the polls. 4- Observers are on guard to prevent voter intimidation. The Department of Justice sends attorneys from its Civil Rights Division to observe 28 precincts and ensure they are complying with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 5- Poll workers hired to work at the voting place on election often represent both major political parties. 6- Federal Authorities are not involved in the tabulation and certification of election results. 7- The vote counting process in the United States is highly decentralized, which serves to compartmentalize the election process so that the effects of inadvertent errors or mismanagement are contained. In addition, decentralization limits the opportunities for fraud or corruption, by making it extremely difficult to accomplish on a scale grand enough to be decisive without being detected. 
Ladies and Gents, we're faced with a weird claim, coming from none other than POTUS:

Many have already questioned the reasonableness of this bombast. Whether its being true would amount to a constitutional crisis of enormous proportions for our democracy, or the more mundane detail of a needless battle for president trying to build public trust in his first week in office.  

Trump is not merely suggesting a significant fraud, say, 50,000 illegal votes? which would constitute a first in the history of American elections! No, he wants an absolute unequivocal victory, even if it means to erase Hillary Clinton's 2.9M advantage in the popular vote!

II. This week, in a meeting with congressional leaders POTUS repeated his averment. When confronted by journalists, WH press secretary Sean Spicer stated:
The president... is concerned [about] voter fraud and people voting illegally during the campaign, and he continues to maintain that belief based on studies and evidence that people have presented to him.
What studies? 

According to the Washington Post, 
Trump’s fixation with this apparently started with a few tweets by Gregg Phillips, a self-described conservative voter fraud specialist, who started making claims even before data on voter history was actually available in most jurisdictions. (It had not even been determined which provisional ballots were valid and would be counted.) These claims were then picked up by such purveyors of false facts as, a conspiracy-minded website, even though Phillips declined to provide any evidence to back it up. 
On the other hand, we have this article from NYTimes' Michael Wines, which brings to bear the general consensus of scholars in this matter:
Are fraudulent voters undermining U.S. elections? The simple answer is no. Rather, the threat comes from the myth of voter fraud used to justify rules that restrict full and equal voting rights. 
Then there is thisand thisand thisand thisand thisand this

The overwhelming consensus? Trump's claim is false.

The president has no choice but to cling to Gregg Phillips like a mussel to its shell.

III. I need to digress: Justification is a process of negotiating and carefully accommodating our beliefs to the best available evidence. Generally, the more informed by the evidence, the better our justification becomes. Better, firmer, evidence brings us closer to the truth. Regarding the fraud All we have thus far is consensus and no evidence to the contrary. Although the consensus, by itself doesn't yield truth, the more reliable the consensus, the closer we get to truth of the matter. 

Trump is fighting the general consensus with no reliable evidence. Wishful thinking doesn't yield truth.

If a John Doe believed that there were 3M illegal votes in the last elections, we wouldn't have this discussion. Nobody would care. On the other hand, people hold all sort of far-out beliefs (Flat Earth SocietyMoon-landing conspiracyPaul McCartney is deadProtocols of the Elders of Zion, etc).

Yeah, we wouldn't be entertaining this outlandishness if POTUS didn't believe it.

Epistemologists talk about how a belief or set of beliefs is justifiably held when the belief coheres with other beliefs. As our belief system is directly related to behavior production, one can follow why a prejudiced set of beliefs can produce this bigot.

Why would Trump believe what he believes?

I cannot answer that question. But better yet,

Do you believe Donald Trump can simply subvert the seven guidelines presented above + the best expert consensus and produce 3-5M fraudulent votes?

Good luck.

Trump's chances of producing the evidence are as good as a monkey randomly writing the US Constitution.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A logical analysis of "alternative facts"

aLfrEdo tRifF

For about 25 centuries of science and logic, a fact remains undisputed.


"2+2 =4,"
"Water boils at 100 ºc,"
"Donald Trump is the 45th president of the USA,"
"John Lennon was killed by Mark David Chapman,"

are facts.

Then we have the aerial photo comparison (above). And this is White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's declaration:
This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.
Fact check: certainly not "in person."

In a second press conference Spicer comes back to defend the conjunction.

Ok, let's make "in person" = p and "around the globe" = q

We get (p & q)

but p is clearly false, so, the conjunction (p & q) is automatically false.

No alternative.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Jacques Racière y el régimen del arte

Jim Drain AIDS-a-delic (2005)
aLfreDo tRifF

Aprovecho la obra de Jim Drain (arriba) para comentar el discurso de Jacques Rancière en su reciente libro Malaise dans l'esthétique (2004), traducido al inglés como Aesthetics and its Discontents (2009).  Sabemos que el arte y la política no están separados. El arte, como práctica, tiene que ver con otras disciplinas. El artista no es un ente aislado de un contexto político y social específico. Luego el arte mismo está conectado con otras disciplinas, particularmente desde la revolución estética de fines del siglo XIX, el llamado esteticismo, con figuras como Mallarmé, Baudelaire, el Arts and Crafts Movement, etc. 

Comencemos con la dicotomía ranciereana entre "política" y "policía".

La segunda refiere un sistema de organización que establece ciertas leyes que atañen lo sensible (entiéndase por lo sensible el campo de la experiencia en general). La función de "la policía" es distribuir, separar. En este caso a la sociedad: en grupos, posiciones sociales y/o funciones.

Comisión Nacional de Alfabetización, Cuba, (1961)

La política tiene como función interrumpir la distribución de "la policía" digamos esos miembros que no son parte de las coordenadas de la percepción de dicha sociedad). 
La comunidad política es en efecto una estructuralmente dividida, no ya entre distintos grupos y opiniones, sino dividida en relación ella misma. El todo de la “masa” política no es nunca igual a la suma de sus partes, sino como una simbolización suplementaria.*
La política tiene ese efecto estabilizador homogenizante, digamos, las divisiones sociales bajo una identidad es decir, el ciudadano, la nación. El conflicto por el poder político es atenuado por medio de actividades sociales y económicas de trabajo y ocio. Rancière argumenta que siempre hay una "reducción" de lo social por lo político siempre que la unidad nacional se utilize para protegerse de los conflictos de división social. Por otra parte, la reducción de lo político a lo social ocurre cada vez que la promesa de desarrollo económico o de progreso se ofrece como una solución al conflicto político. 

 Wade Guyton, Action Sculpture, (2006)

Ahora bien, ¿qué es lo estético para Rancière? "Una forma de pensamiento en que se problematiza la naturaleza del arte". 1 Ocurre cuando se desglosa un cierto "régimen". ¿Qué es un régimen? "... la relación específica entre prácticas, formas y modos inteligibles [del arte], que nos permiten identificar ciertos productos específicos como pertenecientes -o no- a eso que llamamos arte". 2 

Eduardo Marín, Mearte, (2006?)

La revolución estética que comenzara a fines del siglo XIX y se extiende hasta más allá de la segunda mitad del siglo XX, inaugura un período de "desorden" de lo estético si se entiende como una forma histórica que responde a los retos que este trastorno plantea. En el siglo XX, pensemos en la escultura que abandona la solidez en favor del volumen, la pintura que deja la representación en favor de lo abstracto, la irrupción de la fotografía como híbrido entre tecnología y arte, en la música el fenómeno del atonalismo, etc.

Gabo, Linear Variation No. 1, (1943).

"La estética" se convierte en el pensamiento de este nuevo (des)orden. En consecuencia, la jerarquía antigua de los sujetos de estudio se vuelve borrosa. Por ejemplo, en el caso de la separación entre el régimen clásico (siglo XVIII) y el romántico (siglo XIX), la obra de arte ya no se refiere al prestigio de los mecenas, sino que se relacionan con el "genio" de los pueblos. 3

Para Rancière, la estética surge con el reconocimiento de que no existen reglas "preexistentes" que puedan distinguir rigurosamente la presentación de los objetos o situaciones dentro del contexto del arte (este cambio entre régimen y régimen nos recuerda a Thomas Kuhn y su Estructura de las revoluciones científicas).4  
 Ana Mendieta, Sin título, (1972)

El trabajo del especialista no es inventar nuevas formas de relación, sino hacerlas inteligibles: investigar qué ha desaparecido, qué da lugar a lo próximo; por ejemplo, la distincion que aparece entre "naturaleza humana" y "orden social natural" acompañando la explosión de nuevas formas de experimentación y creatividad desde fines del siglo XIX. El autor se ha referido a esto como la "democratización del arte". 

 Auguste Rodin, Las puertas del infierno, (1884-6)

La identificación estética de las artes no es simplemente una manera de explorar lo ya pasado lo que Rancière llama "régimen de normatividad" sino también de lo que vendrá. El pensador toma el famoso tratado de Las Cartas estéticas sobre la educación del hombre  de Friedrich Schiller (donde el poeta introduce la idea del Spieltrieb), síntesis pre-hegeliana entre dos momentos: Formtrieb (juego de la forma) y Sinnestrieb (juego sensual), que para él significan eso que llamamos "lo bello". El Spieltrieb es una especie de fuerza liberadora que tanto Schiller como Rancière ven como la potencialidad de la educación etética,  
... proceso que representa una promesa para la comunidad; ya no es tan solo arte lo que habita este espacio, sino una forma en la cual no hay separación entre ambos estados de experiencia [forma y contenido]. Es un proceso que transforma la soledad de la apariencia en realidad vivida, cambiando la pasividad estética en la acción de la comunidad viviente (AP, p. 36).
Partiendo de esa premisa, puede comprenderse el realismo socialista como una manifestación de este principio llevado al extremo. 

Mikhail Nesterov, Retrato de Ivan Shadr (1934) 

En el contexto de la política del arte soviético durante los años 30, la obra de Nesterov (arriba) compite y desplaza la obra que mostramos abajo. 

  Kasimir Malevich, Suprematismo, autorretrato (1916)

Algo que a mi juicio Rancière no ha explorado lo suficiente, ¿existe acaso un discurso estético privilegiado? Si es así ¿en virtud de qué? ¿Qué ocurre cuando aparecen discursos paralelos que se delegitiman unos a otros, como es el caso de el llamado arte "degenerado" (en la Alemania nazi) o "diversionista" (en el bloque soviético o en China)?

Rancière diría que aunque el arte siempre mantiene una estrecha relación con "la vida", el arte hoy por hoy es autónomo. Dicha autonomía del arte es otra manera de nombrar algo básico: la heteronomía del arte. Schiller ilustra cómo la experiencia estética es siempre heterogenea. El arte crea divisiones y destruye jerarquías ontológicas entre categorías.5

¿Es dicha propensidad del arte intrínseca? Estimo que Rancière diría que no, puesto que la propia idea de régimen indica que el arte no siempre ha sido autótomo. Entonces la cuestión es, ¿hay vuelta atrás? ¿Puede el arte perder su autonomía? 

Desde el punto de vista de Rancière, esta clase de experiencia (en Schiller) es parte de una relación estructural que gobierna la sociedad humana. Este mensaje de Schiller funciona hoy por hoy de una manera post-utópica, en que rompe con el estereotipo de la división del trabajo entre explotador y explotado, o en el arte propiamente dicho, entre "artista" y "público". Lo estético para Rancière viene siendo un espacio de comunidad práctico/conceptual.6

Tonico Lemus Auad, Retrato, 2003  

A la estética le toca analizar la diferencia entre lo que es arte y lo que no es arte. Por ejemplo, ¿es Fat Chair de 1964 arte? Olvidemos por un momento que la pieza es conocida y que haya sido hecha por Beuys. Una pregunta más interesante es si existe un régimen actual en el que Fat Chair no es considerada arte. La respuesta es afirmativa. Rancière diría que en tal régimen no se consideraría el arte como una esfera autónoma, sino subordinada en término Schilleriano a "la vida". 

Joseph Beuys, Fat Chair, (1964)

Debido al estado de heterogeneidad, la estética debe evitar caer en los extremos. ¿Cómo ilustrar esta tensión? Insistir demasiado en la autonomía sería excluyente de la vida (un ejemplo sería el arte de Beardsley  a fines del siglo XIX en Inglaterra). Aunque Rancière no diría que este dibujo (desechado en la versión final de las ilustraciones para Lysystrata) no es arte, sin duda no hubiese sido considerado arte para el público inglés victoriano conservador de la época.

The Lacedaimonian Ambassadors, (circa. 1896)

Por otra parte, denegar las diferencias propias del arte convertiría la experiencia del arte en mera "vida". Este es el peligro que Bataille hallaba en el espectáculo totalitario facista, que se aviene tanto a lo estético en su variante futurista.

 Desfile de Nuremberg, 1933 (en Olympia de Riefenstahl)

 Iofan, pabellón de la URSS, (Expo de Paris, 1937)

Le toca a lo estético mantenerse justo al borde. Este aparente (des)orden propio de lo estético no significa caos (el autor se aleja del discurso normativo postmodernista relativista). Y si bien Merda d'artista de Manzoni es arte, ¿qué tipo de arte?

 Piero Manzoni, Merda d'artista, (1961)

Lo que nos lleva directamente a la pregunta sobre la relación entre el arte y la filosofía. Comentando la diferencia entre abstracción y convencionalismo en el arte, Rancière nos recuerda que el paradigma anti-mimético de la pintura no puede entenderse simplemente como un "destierro" de las imágenes, o de la representación o el redescubrimiento de una esencia perdida entiéndase esto cargado del término tal como es usado por Platón en el capítulo X de La República.

 Sudarshan Shetty, Six Drops, (2009)

En el caso de la pintura moderna, por ejemplo, se trata de una afirmación de ser concebida y practicada como superficie plana, bidimensional, cuya forma deviene en su propio contenido (su materialidad). Rancière escribe: "Se trata de una nueva forma de pintar que se ofrece a los ojos entrenados que pueden verla de manera diferente". Es decir, se requiere a un cambio que es percibido por una nueva mirada. Ambos, obra y mirada, se encuentran felizmente en esa complicidad o "régimen".

 Barnett Newman, Ornament 1, (1948)

Sin embargo, el nuevo régimen estético no rompe completamente el vínculo entre pintura y discurso. Es decir, siempre hay una relación de oposición dada en este caso por la crítica sobre cuál es el lugar propio de cierto arte. Por ello Rancière expresa que en lo sucesivo, "el poder de las palabras ya no es el modelo que la representación pictórica ha de tener como norma" (estado que es posible en tanto no se produzca un próximo régimen).

De ahí que no sea nada raro para nosotros inscribir el trabajo de Lissitzky en un régimen particular que tiene lugar en la URSS durante los primeros años de la revolución y que llamamos Constructivismo.

El Lissitzky, Proun (circa 1920)

Rancière estima que la pintura necesita una nueva forma de visibilidad que se logra a través de una reinterpretación del pasado de ella misma. La teoría viene a jugar un papel importante en el régimen de la estética, pues la teoría influencia la "forma de producción" (mientras que esta forma de producción tiene también sus momentos teóricos). Ambos son modos de hacer, y como tales operan unos sobre los otros. El trabajo de una estética crítica no debe separar estos esfuerzos en campos distintos de especialización, sino redoblar la fuerza de cada uno a través de su combinación en prácticas discursivas.

* Jacques Rancière, Aesthetics and Its Discontents, (Polity Press, 2009), p. 115. A este respecto, apunta Rancière: "En la clásica definición hay varios grupos opuestos: los incorporados en el estado y la constitución, los que son ignorados por las leyes, y esos que reclaman en el nombre del derecho de otro que aún no ha sido inscrito en los hechos". Es decir, aunque "la policía" pueda verse como un elemento negativo, en realidad ambos, policía y política no pueden existir el uno sin el otro. Se trata de una asimetría estructural básica y a la vez necesaria entre ambos. 1Del ensayo "Aesthetics as Politics", en Aesthetics and Its Discontents, p. 24. 2 Idem. p. 29. 3Rancière trae el ejemplo del famoso texto de 1797, escrito entre Hegel, Schelling y Hölderlin, titulado Das alteste Systemprogramm des Deutschen Idealismus. 4 Thomas Kuhn usa el término "paradigma" para referirse a cada momento específico que trae una nueva manera de "ver" las cosas. Tomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, (Chicago University Press, 1962). La autonomía del arte viene precisamente con el tercer régimen (el de la modernidad expresado por el discurso racionalista del siglo XIX), que requiere un sujeto racional "desinteresado". Este régimen estético abre la posibilidad de que se descubra "lo bello" en cualquier parte y lugar, causando una especie de democracia estética. En aparte, debe apuntarse la similitud entrte la idea de "régimen" y el epistémè de Foucault en su Las palabras de las cosas, aunque Foucault se refiere a formaciones discursivas, es posible leer a Rancière con cierta inflexión foucaultiana.  En un post futuro nos proponemos abordar la discusión entre Rancière y Alain Badiou a este respecto. 6 En mi interpretación de Rancière uno puede ver el arte (de una manera vertical) como una disciplina autótoma y a la vez (de modo horizontal) como una disciplina que se alimenta y alimenta otras disciplinas. Otro aspecto del arte es suvisibilidad como espectáculo cultural.