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#1 What is to be done?

Artem Magun // Theses toward the Politization of Art II

1. Art is political by essence. The new art radicalizes the political essence of art by refusing to alienate itself in the work of art (poiesis) and by stressing the fleeting but repeatable act or gesture (praxis). The work of art cannot fully disappear, but it is no longer meant to be self-sufficient.

1. Art is political by essence. The new art radicalizes the political essence of art by refusing to alienate itself in the work of art (poiesis) and by stressing the fleeting but repeatable act or gesture (praxis). The work of art cannot fully disappear, but it is no longer meant to be self-sufficient.

2. Praxis is the form of the work of art. The form is the frozen praxis that does not only envelop the contents but penetrates and shatters it from within.

3. Art is action. But it is a special kind of action, which has a character of probe. Not in the sense of an irresponsible prelude for another, serious, action, but in the sense of an experimental test of what seems to be impractical in principle. The utopian contents of a work of art is a world where it would be possible, and the audience that would make sense out of it. The temporal and spatial gap between this utopian world and the real existence of the work of art as a probe of this world makes the form of the work. The work of art keeps affirming itself, in each act of its performance and reception. The irony is only permissible in it as the irony of irony – a chance that your play will turn serious.

4. Currently, I see three political aspects of art that are particularly actual: negativity, public character of art, and the collective solidarity that it enables.

5. Art is negative. It traces an experimental line which carves in the world a free space. There is thus in art a moment of secession and escape. But it is public escape which demonstrates the rejection of the existing world and challenges it. Now it is particularly important to stop and suspend the senseless circulation of the interchangeable cultural fetishes. But this is insufficient. Out of its negative energy, of its anti-matter of protest, the art builds the air castles, out of sand.  This why it is actually utopian. And now, as the rows of the enemy close around, let us build and imagine free cities!

6. Art constantly affirms itself, and it cannot be content with any given audience or any given material. Art has to be public. Even the most elite work of art requires not just an environment but a square – even if this square first appears around itself. But now even the elite artist should go out into the square and insist on its own, since the power holders all over the world impose on it the slogan of security. Security is worse than the terrorism (which contributes to it), because it seeks to tame and destroy the humans by turning them into a “virtual” (i.e., in spite of its title, powerless) reality. Art has to expose and to prove itself. Which does not mean any new seriousness – the best weapon and expression of the danger of art would be the laughter of Villon.

7. That the art has audience, is clear. What is important, is its solidarity. Art, first of all, disrupts the self-sufficiency of a human being by laughing at him or lamenting him. Thus it leads him/her out of him or herself, and towards the others – many others, unspecified others. Art, secondly facilitates collective action. It demonstrates that one may act differently, but most importantly, that one may! In this sense, the act of art dares to do first what everyone else did not know you might or could do. Art does not invent anything artificial but it deblocks an opportunity that everyone has had in mind but has rejected. Now, what we need from art, is to demonstrate that one may and can act in concert with others.

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