Sunday, August 05, 2007


The dominant cultural paradigm in Britain now, and perhaps too in 1979, reflecting the coincident practices of the culture industry and the ideological bases of neoclassical economics, is the individualism of the atomised society. The credibility of this individualism as a realistic explanation of society depends on the absence of those features that were understood to characterise earlier versions of class society:

1. Coercion
2. Accumulation

Saatchi and Saatchi's indefinite dolequeue presents a horrific accumulation of the indigent, reminiscent of the legendary breadqueues of the eastern bloc. But it doesn't so much ask the spectator to choose the most realistic response to the phenomenon of unemployment, as to choose the metaphysical system that retroactively presents this unemployment in the most acceptable way. Thatcher's metaphysics won the day.


dejan said...

luke i had an extended episode of snake charming so didn't have time to react to this

my reaction is that everything in life is a double-edged sword, and so the Moebius loop in the skull and in Satchi can at the same time be an instrument of capitalist abuse, and a thing of tremendous liberatory power - depending on how you use it.

for example: don't you think socialism would profit enormously from Saatchian propaganda?

ergo, I am not going to undergo an indignated tantrum at this and run off to a Greek island with colonette, but am rather going to think about some more subversive activity against zizekians, or in any case something subversive to the system.

catmint said...

thanks Dejan,

what we can do is achieve some understanding of how these things work - which includes recognising the real cleverness in things like the Silk Cut ads

I'm doubtful about the possibility of say subversion on tv - David Lynch already did NO HAY BANDA - without any obvious changes being made.

"for example: don't you think socialism would profit enormously from Saatchian propaganda?"

of course I think society would benefit from more real dialogue, or more communication of useful information, but not BRAINWASHING. Good presentation's OK. What's interesting about the Silk Cut ads is that they're not lying - they're accentuating, if anything, the death message.

dejan said...

the thing is that technological developments are such, that the entire geographical space, at least in the western hemisphere, will be networked as well as tapewired quite soon. they've come up with non-optical internet cables that work at the speed of light. everything you read in ballardian science fiction is no joke, and no fantasy alone. to strike some posture of refusal or denial with that reality in mind is nostalgic and sweet, but isn't effective anymore. that's what i mean. maybe the double bind no hay banda mechanism isn't effective anymore, but there are other options (suggested eg in inland empire - even as the film itself might have been just a regurgitation of old burgeois ''subversion'' and busying itself with Catholic guilt, what it opened up as an idea is productive: opening up new spaces from within the commodified and controlled space; finding a rabbit hole, as it were).

as for the hirst piece, in order to believe in its social impact you have to believe the psychoanalytic paradigm, i.e. that the psyche indeed operates around the petit objet a. i believe it, but others don't have to. though i find it suspect that the piece apparently does generate brouhaha, which means there IS something about its mechanism that still sort of stabs the eye. it could be something as simple as the idea that worshipping the Mammon, whether Christianly or Marxianly defined, ultimately does only lead to death - also, the death of the spirit.

catmint said...

"maybe the double bind no hay banda mechanism isn't effective anymore"

no, I thought it was effective cinema, but I think people tend to "bracket" information from the media in one way or other; through scepticism about its veracity, or that its been understood properly, or that its the whole story; or it's prone to being forgotten or it can't be assimilated into everyday life...

...which reminded me I read something about Félix Guattari and his (Lacanian) project of setting up psychotherapeutic systems where the role of the expert would be dissolved, as it were, in and among the general group. An equivalent process, I think, would be necessary in the kind of "subversion" you're talking about, if it's possible at all. Otherwise what you'd be demonstrating wouldn't be something like "capitalism is irrational" but something like "capitalism already recognises that capitalism is irrational and has taken this into account in decisions oriented toward the general good", if you see what I mean.

"the thing is that technological developments are such, that the entire geographical space, at least in the western hemisphere, will be networked as well as tapewired quite soon"

but language is already technology!

catmint said...

"which means there IS something about its mechanism that still sort of stabs the eye"


catmint said...

this is what I wrote elsewhere re For the Love of God:

"Damien Hirst's For the Love of God is at least a clever joke against a certain way of understanding Walter Benjamins ideas about art and its aura. The object and its artness being seperable, the object is made not banal in the manner of Schwitters but is literally a human skull; and this quality of artness is literally encrustation with diamonds.

The work does though presuppose a seriousness in the politics it falls into such that its patrons aren't seen to be in pure appreciation of its ostensible content: money/death, but at one degree's remove.

Is this work subversive? At least in Schumpeter's sense of altering the relations that constitute the local market? Only if all works of art were owned by corporations that issued shares, could we immediately deduce to what extent the production of For the Love of God has revalued other works in this genre, and if Hirst's new work validates in turn the adoption of a more bearish position with respect to Mazzoni's canned shit, for example."

dejan said...

...which reminded me I read something about FĂ©lix Guattari and his (Lacanian) project of setting up psychotherapeutic systems where the role of the expert would be dissolved, as it were, in and among the general group

yes dr. Sinthome just wrote about that at Larval Subjects. Lacan fantasized about groups that did not lend themselves to the Master signifier-Oedipal dynamics.

but language is already technology!

yes but still I am talking about such ubiquitous surveillance that the only way you could hope to open up free space is if you could disrupt the signals and flows. i recently bumped into a belgian group that is doing research on radio transmissions and how you can perform such disruptions, so apparently i am not isolated in my concerns.

i honestly did not have the idea that blog was yours, even though i liked what was written and had included it in my own roll. how many personas do you actually have?

catmint said...

this is where Walter Benjamin talks about "art and its aura".

"The growing proletarianization of modern man and the increasing formation of masses are two aspects of the same process. Fascism attempts to organize the newly created proletarian masses without affecting the property structure which the masses strive to eliminate. Fascism sees its salvation in giving these masses not their right, but instead a chance to express themselves.[21] The masses have a right to change property relations; Fascism seeks to give them an expression while preserving property. The logical result of Fascism is the introduction of aesthetics into political life. The violation of the masses, whom Fascism, with its *Fuhrer* cult, forces to their knees, has its counterpart in the violation of an apparatus which is pressed into the production of ritual values.

All efforts to render politics aesthetic culminate in one thing: war. War and war only can set a goal for mass movements on the largest scale while respecting the traditional property system. This is the political formula for the situation. The technological formula may be stated as follows: Only war makes it possible to mobilize all of today's technical resources while maintaining the property system. It goes without saying that the Fascist apotheosis of war does not employ such arguments. Still, Marinetti says in his manifesto on the Ethiopian colonial war: "For twenty- seven years we Futurists have rebelled against the branding of war as antiaesthetic.... Accordingly we state: ... War is beautiful because it establishes man's dominion over the subjugated machinery by means of gas masks, terrifying megaphones, flame throwers, and small tanks. War is beautiful because it initiates the dreamt-of metalization of the human body. War is beautiful because it enriches a flowering meadow with the fiery orchids of machine guns. War is beautiful because it combines the gunfire, the cannonades, the cease-fire, the scents, and the stench of putrefaction into a symphony. War is beautiful because it creates new architecture, like that of the big tanks, the geometrical formation flights, the smoke spirals from burning villages, and many others.... Poets and artists of Futurism! ... remember these principles of an aesthetics of war so that your struggle for a new literature and a new graphic art . . . may be illumined by them!"

This manifesto has the virtue of clarity. Its formulations deserve to be accepted by dialecticians. To the latter, the aesthetics of today's war appears as follows: If the natural utilization of productive forces is impeded by the property system, the increase in technical devices, in speed, and in the sources of energy will press for an unnatural utilization, and this is found in war. The destructiveness of war furnishes proof that society has not been mature enough to incorporate technology as its organ, that technology has not been sufficiently developed to cope with the elemental forces of society. The horrible features of imperialistic warfare are attributable to the discrepancy between the tremendous means of production and their inadequate utilization in the process of production--in other words, to unemployment and the lack of markets. Imperialistic war is a rebellion of technology which collects, in the form of "human material," the claims to which society has denied its natural material. Instead of draining rivers, society directs a human stream into a bed of trenches; instead of dropping seeds from airplanes, it drops incendiary bombs over cities; and through gas warfare the aura is abolished in a new way.

"*Fiat ars--pereat mundus*," says Fascism, and, as Marinetti admits, expects war to supply the artistic gratification of a sense perception that has been changed by technology. This is evidently the consummation of "*I'art pour l'art*." Mankind, which in Homer's time was an object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, now is one for itself. Its self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order. This is the situation of politics which Fascism is rendering aesthetic. Communism responds by politicizing art." which he seems to advocate "subversive art" of the kind the Belgians could be planning.

I used to be more interested in "subversive art", but I think the basic experience of living in a highly media-ised society means you get used to receiving incongruous information, and so there's a kind of "defence" against the sort of subversion Benjamin could be talking about.

dejan said...

Luke this sounds interesting but would you please repeat the link to Benjamin because it isn't working, thank you. I would prefer to read the whole article instead of responding to the clip.

catmint said...

sorry - it's here

catmint said...

"Communism responds by politicizing art"

it's FutureRetroSeselj!

catmint said...

My impression is that in this genre, the putative subversive, elegance of style and communicative efficacy are taken to be complementary. In actuality, I think, they're often antagonistic. For instance if you're trying to teach something to children it's better to communicate in a prosaic way and not an artistic way. There's surely an "elegance" to the best way of teaching children, but it's of a different type.

Daniel Buren's at the top of Jean-Francois Lyotard's "ladder" of artists superceding previous artists. His style's undoubtedly pared down; elegant. From his perpective I suppose he must work as if it's this elegance, this perfection of style that places him at the vanguard of art. (no-one talks about the "vanguard of art" anymore but the idea's really still operative.) In reality there's another factor involved: the "invisible hand" of the art spectacle placing, as it were, the work in its context. Elegance works as a disavowed inventory of other politics. It suggests a "location" commercially (Buren against his competitors e.g. Hirst or the iMax film of 300) and historically (Buren against Duchamp - Picasso - Cézanne). But for the spectator these politics that have to be brought to mind here aren't "contained" in this elegance: they can't really be derived from it. So the work doesn't really communicate. So it isn't really subversive.

catmint said...

Daniel Buren

I could maybe explain this better with respect to Lacan's Big Other

dejan said...

i have to work on my animation tonight so I will respond to benjamin when I have read him - but a quick remark is that I really do think there is something subversive (and terrifying) about the realization ''that the Big Other doesn't exist''because all ideologies, socialist or capitalist, essentially rest on the concept of providing you with the illusion that he does. In this context as long as the Hirst piece shows you that the fascination with the ''petit objet a'' (money) is the grinning face of death, it's subversive to capitalist ideology. Whether and to what extent this has actually gotten ruling class members to give up on their privilege or commit themselves to a socialist cause is a question we'd only be able to determine via empirical research, but on the other hand, Luke, havent all ideas in history - from Christianity to Marxism - subverted the ruling order precisely by subjectively destituting the masses so that they give up on the idea that the current Big Other provides for security? In the immortal scene from William Wyler's Ben Hur, when the Roman soldier looks at the unseen face of Jesus, you can see this principle at work. This is why this theoretical principle, for my money, continues to have significance, although I still haven't figured out exactly how it can be updated for the current moment.

Straight lines and dots on a white piece of paper isn't my idea of subversive, simply because tis sort of art still inexplicably poses as ''high culture'' in a time where pop and high culture are inextricably linked and I truly don't believe it reaches the masses at all.

Speaking of which I was amazed today to get circa 350 hits in 24 hours on my little Rihanna piece, which isn't even a particularly interesting elaboration on her art. Apparently pop culture is taken far more seriously than Aperge Chabert thinks, as she expounds the intricacies of olden musical instruments and dwells in bygone eras, trapped in her Parisian mansion, and as Jonquille brilliantly put it, exclaims ''We simply can't go on like this''!

catmint said...

This is where I take it Lyotard asserts Buren's "subversiveness", What is Postmodernism?

"What then, is the postmodern? What place does it or does it not occupy in the vertiginous work of the questions hurled at the rules of image and narration? It is undoubtedly part of the modern. All that has been received, if only yesterday (modo, modo, Petronius used to say), must be suspected. What space does Cézanne challenge? The Impressionists'. What object do Picasso and Braque attack? Cézanne's. What presupposition does Duchamp break with in 1912? That which says one must make a painting, be it cubist. And Buren questions that other presupposition which he believes had survived untouched by the work of Duchamp: the place of presentation of the work. In an amazing acceleration, the generations precipitate themselves."

...It's intended to be subversive, or is one degree off being intended subversive. Perhaps though in the past twenty years or so the art world has retained forms once held to be subversive but are no longer thought so. The gestures remain but connote only an ineffible "artness" underwritten by institutions whose effects on the market aren't invoked (e.g. Charles Saatchi, the Barbara Kruger Gallery, Artforum, the academy).

Hence Le Colonel criticised Badiou's presumably affected naïvety in apparently addressing a class of pure artists; none exists. His theses are predicated on an imaginary "artistic man" as much as those of the economists are predicated on an imaginary "economic man". These institutions are left unconsidered either ideologically, methodologically or for business reasons. Following Marx we could say it's the business reasons that allow the ideological/methodological reductions to subsist.

So Hirst is maybe "subverting" this empty subversive form, a purely formal subversiveness that doesn't really subvert anything, with his Punch and Judy humour, but for this reason I don't think For the Love of God subverts much else. It prompts the Telegraph into contradiction with its supposed principles here:

"If anyone but Hirst had made this curious object, we would be struck by its vulgarity. It looks like the kind of thing Asprey or Harrods might sell to credulous visitors from the oil states with unlimited amounts of money to spend, little taste, and no knowledge of art. I can imagine it gracing the drawing room of some African dictator or Colombian drug baron.

But not just anyone made it - Hirst did. Knowing this, we look at it in a different way and realise that in the most brutal, direct way possible, For the Love of God questions something about the morality of art and money"*

but I don't think it really constitutes an effective critique because it doesn't formulate principles of it's own. It's more the case that it depends on ignorance: it's saying "you don't know what modern art is?" "it's this!" It's establishing an apparent contradiction and manifestly not solving it.

*of course via

catmint said...

"Straight lines and dots on a white piece of paper isn't my idea of subversive, simply because tis sort of art still inexplicably poses as ''high culture'' in a time where pop and high culture are inextricably linked and I truly don't believe it reaches the masses at all."

that is to say: yes, I agree totally

catmint said...

"the Barbara Kruger Gallery" - should be: the Barbara Krakow Gallery

dejan said...

I can imagine it gracing the drawing room of some African dictator or Colombian drug baron.

This sentence threw Arpege into a temper tantrum because you know, the Yerupeen racist who wrote the review, instead of saying ''some British colonial bastard'' or ''Dutch drug baron'' said African and Colombian. And the truth is although I really don't have anything against Africa or Colombia, I also instantly had the image of Idi Amin in my head who would have such kitschy trophies on his mantlepiece. I think this comes from years of being exposed to images of Tito meeting the leaders of the nonaligned movement and giving or receiving such presents. But Aperge has a certain agenda, which is called Yerupeen suprematism, and to get highly prolific product of bile, all you need to do is say something schauvinistic, like ''all women are masochists'', or something misogynyst, like this: ''So what is Yerup, ultimately? Yerup is something this provincial American cow will never reach, despite all her class envy and resentment, her currency tradeuring and her visits to Le Musee du Poupee''. I am really continuously fascinated by Aperge's productivity.

After that Aperge wrote several hundreds of pages on the subject but I only could come back to the initial conclusion, which is ''Yerupeen suprematism''; she proceeded to create a sequence of images leading up to the same form we had on 300, which is ''Yerupeen suprematism in historical context''.

Now she seems to be studying the sexual neuroses of white burgeois boys, and I think the conclusion will be that the root of Yerupeen suprematism is in their castrational anxieties related to healthy and vibrant Marxist manly women.

But if I continue to satirize like that, I am bound to be reprimanded for having the attention span of a mosquito, not enough patience for those hundreds of pages, because Luke, you know what those MTV clips have done to me, how they made me impotent and mesmerized me.

Not that my hammering on subversive art is much fresher, though. Perhaps time to undertake some concrete action, a demonstration, or a pamphlet at least, preferably out in the nature and not just on the computer. Even as I keep thinking, all you really have out there is just another network!

dejan said...

I think the bottom line is that we're all thrown into a frenzy because we don;t really know what to do about capitalism, and that's frustrating, so it can only end in Marxist cabaret. I wonder what it will take for change to occur, maybe the discovery of a self-sustaining energy resource, or a machine for transsubstantiation or the second coming of Christ, but then without Dr. Zizek!

catmint said...

thanks Dejan - yeah it's Marxist Caberet!

catmint said...

...but with all this aren't you Dejan effectively confusing her with some version of Lacan's Big Other?

catmint said...

...I mean: it's like you're trying to wound her now. For Christs sake sort it out.

catmint said...

Dejan from what the BBC say Vojislav Seselj isn't any kind of communist - he's ANTI-COMMUNIST no?

dejn said...

like many of his generation, Seselj used to be a Communist and then turned radical after the fall of Communism. Now he's something quite like Le Pen in France.

catmint said...


catmint said...

re Hirst again:

Internationale Situationiste

"The truth is that even when they exhibit a certain sense of humor, all these inventors get quite excited, with an air of discovering the destruction of art, the reduction of a whole culture to onomatopoeia and silence like an unknown phenomenon, a new idea, and which was only waiting for them to come along. They all dig up corpses to kill them again, in a cultural no-man's-land beyond which they can imagine nothing. Yet they are precisely the artists of today, though without seeing how. They truly express our time of obsolete ideas solemnly proclaimed to be new, this time of planned incoherence, of isolation and deafness assured by the means of mass communication, of higher forms of illiteracy taught in the university, of scientifically guaranteed lies, and of overwhelming technical power at the disposal of ruling mental incompetence. The incomprehensible history that they incomprehensibly translate is indeed this planetary spectacle, as ludicrous as it is bloody, and whose program, in a crowded six months, has included: Kennedy hurling his cops into Cuba to find out whether the armed populace would spontaneously take their side; French shock troops embarking on a putsch and collapsing under the blow of a televised speech; de Gaulle resorting to gunboat diplomacy to reopen an African port to European influence; and Khrushchev coolly announcing that in another nineteen years communism will have essentially been achieved."

catmint said...

I think there's probably a strong influence of Leninist/Communist education in Seselj declaring himself "the greatest Serb legal mind" - if he came from a liberal/capitalist background he'd want to say he'd hired the greatest legal minds