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In our last issue (What is to be done?) we have already raised the question of autonomy. Indeed, a politico-artistic act, especially today, is not somply a demand of freedom but simultaneously a statement of our autonomy. In this sense, one can speak of secession as of the politico-artistic strategy. Such strategy includes three main moments: secession (public declaration of autonomy), confrontation, and (utopian) foundation.
Autonomy, in the everyday sense of the word often means something like relative independence or exception. This means that the juridical meaning of autonomy in the sense of political federalism (autonomous districts) took over the literal meaning of this word, which means self-government in the strongest sense of sovereign freedom, not limited by anything, and given by no one but God or the being itself. Such shift in meaning is not accidental.
Freedom in the sovereign sense has been usurped by the so-called democratic state and the fiction of representative democracy. Moreover, there is a paradox in the very philosophical notion of autonomy autonomy itself is heteronomous. In Kant, for example, the autonomy is dictated by an iron law which is transcendent to the subject. Who actually said that you have to be autonomous? Something has to have happened – a loss, a catastrophe, for example o that you have to search what is to be done for yourself. Either someone has to have abandoned you, refused you, or, on the opposite, called you forward. Thus, the struggle for autonomy is the struggle for the emancipation of others, with the others although also from others.
The today’s regime of imperialist liberalization sustains subjective autonomy but is strictly intolerant to any declaration of exception.
Autonomy-exception may thus be more important nowadays than simple auto-legislation. Meanwhile, any universalist order is bound to posit some exceptions from its rules, so as not to lose all contact with reality. Thus, US needs its Guantanamo, so as to localize the true martial law at least in one zone of the world. But one can equally demand from the global emperors (emperocrats?) to sanction zones of exception where the law of freedom would be realized! They must have a zone of freedom somewhere, so as to legitimate their liberal rule elsewhere! Is not this the reason for the fact that the corporations support contemporary art without dictating its content? In the same way, the Roman Empire gave broad autonomy to many of its cities (municipal), as though it would thus pay back its title which derives from the name of a free city state.
Contemporary art can use this chance of freedom for political purposes by attracting not only the bohemian crowd, but also the simple people into its events and thus aspiring for greater power. In the 18th century, the newly discovered capacity of the groundless, fully subjective judgment of taste brought about the circles and salons which prepared the French revolution (unfortunately, later they imposed their repressive classicist esthetics on the society). Generally, the presence of an independent and disfunctional member in an order society is a scandal. Hobbes noted once that if there is a free person among the subjects bound by the social contract this person is either an enemy or a sovereign. One cannot separate the question of autonomy from the question of power. This is a question of time (or timing) and space. But a non-autonomous will never truly reign (even although s/he can make a career).
Hence, let the zones of autonomy attract and condense the society, awaiting the moment when they would either be destroyed or recognized as sovereign. But this only under condition that they will be zones of autonomization, not relying on their supposedly achieved autonomy, but endlessly inventing it and insisting on it. The figures of artistic autonomization do not simply develop the imaginary reverse of society but also anticipate depict what is there not.