The kaleidoscope must be smashed.Walter Benjamin, “Central Park”
The political in art does not consist of the degree of engagement in its form, but in the basic quality of the artist’s perception of reality and the social context, which, in turn, rests upon the immediate interaction between the author and his audience. The phenomenon of the artwork as both object and subject at once as an independent aesthetic value – impossible outside a multi-faceted interaction with its situation – defines its real political quality. It is reality as a concrete historical condition experienced by society that is the basis and the determining resource for the work of the artist and the creation of active, living culture.
The situation in Russia today may be unique from an aesthetic point of view in that it presents the fundamental impossibility of interaction, an extreme sense of closure to cognition and physical change. Opacity is probably the principal quality that determines our reality, appearing as the unmistakable companion and symptom of a reactionary time. Opacity is the absence of society as a subject in art. It betokens the reduction of cultural space to the individual artist’s ego trip. Opacity defines the entire system of political institutions that realize dominance as such. The hegemony of the proprietary class, dissolved in public space, has disintegrated and scattered into closed, dense body-objects, fragments, and statues. The resulting collection of artifacts has nothing in common with a museum or an ordered construct that stands firm on the fundament of constructed historical causality. None of the things here has the significance of being a fact, idea, or a life instrument in motion. These fragments are not connected to one another by anything. They begin and end in themselves. The monstrosity of their closure suppresses even the vaguest memory of what once was their intended use.
The overall frontline of resistance is indeterminate and even unimaginable in the ordered chaos of things that are so conclusive, engrained, and intolerable. At the low points of social productivity, it sometimes seems that the event-machine has turned into nothing more than an aggregate that churns out chests and coffers never intended to be unlocked. Today -perhaps more than ever before – we need neither art as a weapon nor art as reflection, nor as a sublime experience of still hearing faint echoes of the future’s music. What we need is knowledge. We need a master key, a way of reestablishing the links in the broken chain of phenomena, still connected by the unified force of history, allowing us to see the relations between people behind and beyond the relations of things.