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Tag: art

Critical theory and experience: Interview with Detlev Claussen (2019)

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Detlev Claussen and Jordi Maiso – RP 2.06 (Winter 2019)
Translated by Alex Alvarez Taylor

[See Claussen’s biography of Adorno: One Last Genius (2008)]

Detlev Claussen (b. 1948) is Professor Emeritus of Social Theory, Culture and Sociology at Leibniz Universität Hannover. In the mid-sixties he moved to Frankfurt to study with Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, where he was actively involved in the protest movements associated with the political upheavals of 1968. In the seventies, Claussen worked as Oskar Negt’s assistant, with whom he shared the common project of opening up new avenues for critical theory without renouncing the thought of their intellectual mentors. Since then, Claussen has argued that instead of offering an overarching theory that can be applied from ‘outside’ of existing social reality, critical theory offers a variety of strategies that allow us simultaneously to disentangle and invigorate present experience. Claussen has written on a wide range of themes, including social theory, psychoanalysis, the sociology of science and culture, as well as anti-Semitism, racism, nationalism and migration. His biography of the legendary Jewish coach and footballer Béla Guttmann, yet to be translated into English, offers a prime example of how his published work cannot be separated from the wider context of his intellectual biography. Both an essayist and Adorno’s biographer, Claussen is one of the leading lights of critical theory today.

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Cured Quail Vol. 2

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PREORDER NOW

As industrial culture grinds to a halt, what better time to reflect, in this hour of unprecedented catastrophe, unwieldy political ferment and social distance, on the backlog of damages inflicted by this society? The economy continues to demand reverence from lives barely tottering along while offering cultural consolation hardly worth the name.

Preorders are now open for Cured Quail Vol. 2. The more preorders we receive, the faster the printer cylinders rotate.

Cured Quail Volume 2 | Fall 2020 | 304 pages

Cured Quail also now has its own Facebook and Twitter pages. Be sure to follow!

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What Barbarism Is?

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Richard Serra, “Betwixt and Torus and the Sphere” (2001). Wheatherproof steel. Three Torus sections and three spherical sections, overall: 11’10” × 39’9″ × 26’7″ (3.6 × 11.5 × 8.1 m), plates: 2″ (5.1 cm) thick. Private Collection. Photographed by Dirk Reinartz. Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian Gallery.

An enormous nation happy in a style,
Everything as unreal as real can be.

Wallace Stevens

Prometheus stole fire to distract the gods, not for our gift; what he bestowed was reason, the ability to make anything into a weapon—even this.

Anon.

by Robert Hullot-Kentor (2010)

What interests us in the thought and writings of T. W. Adorno cannot interest us. Where it touches us most closely in the urgency of the moment, it misses the mark entirely. When it cuts to the quick, nothing is felt. This is easily demonstrated. For wherever we open Adorno’s writings, whichever volume we turn to, the topic is the barbaric and barbarism. In Aesthetic Theory, we read that the “literal is the barbaric”; we learn in the section on “Natural Beauty” that “it is barbaric to say of nature that one thing is more beautiful than another.” Adorno insists, again in Aesthetic Theory, that he will not temper his most notorious claim that it is “barbaric to write poetry after Auschwitz.” Concerns we barely recognize are nonetheless barbaric: the New Objectivity is said to “reverse into the barbarically pre-aesthetic.” Inwardness is “barbaric.” Even it is barbaric, says Adorno, to name the artist “a creator.” I am positive that he would have found this fragmented rendering of phrases from his work barbaric. The relentless apostrophizing of the barbaric emerges as the single apostrophe of his labor and circumscribes the entirety of what he perceived. In Minima Moralia “the whole itself” is, in fact, said to be “barbarism.” And, if so, if the whole itself really is barbarism then nothing less than all things are barbaric. In the stream of assertion that threads through his thousands of pages, Adorno never once admits a half-tone, not a single “almost,” “semi,” or “formerly” barbaric. In the Dialectic of Enlightenment, the culture industry that this country produced is “barbarism.” This American “barbarism is not the result of cultural lag,” as other European visitors to America speculated, he writes, but of progress itself. And here, in the Dialectic of Enlightenment, we arrive at the statement that shifts like a magnet under the iron filings of what has so far been a scattered catalogue of barbarism’s membra disjecta and causes them, as you’ll see in a moment, to draw together, take their place, become legible and shape the focal point of the whole of thinking. The intention of the Dialectic of Enlightenment, Adorno writes, with Horkheimer—this is the sentence—is to understand why “humanity founders in a new form of barbarism instead of entering a truly human condition.”

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A New Type of Human Being and Who We Really Are

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by Robert Hullot-Kentor (2008)

It needs to be noticed: We have New Left Review and October; we have Monthly Review and Critical Inquiry; there is Rethinking Marxism and Cultural CritiqueSocialist Review and ConfrontationCritiqueRadical Philosophy; the Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies and shelves and shelves of critical theory of all kinds. We have criticism of all things. Nothing is spared. A web search I tried last week of “critical studies”—leaving aside “cultural studies” and “critical theory”—turned up more than 31 million references. If we prudently discount 15 million of these references, we still easily have 15 million plus critical studies publications, programs and sundry essays: critical studies in television, of food, and culture; of science; of the arts, of media, across the disciplines; of society, of gender, in theatre and performance. And so on.

This capacious critical literature is certainly not homogeneous. Under any scrutiny, it polarizes out into the most remote extremes: On one hand, much of it amounts to fantasies of conceptual omnipotence; mental muscle magazines of self-obfuscation and academic self-advancement; administrative techniques for treating all things, all at once; a plausible way for anyone with an advantage of mental agility to get a hoist up on top of who knows what. But at the other extreme, an important part of this critical research and thinking, much for instance that can be found in volumes of Monthly Review and New Left Review, is of the greatest seriousness and responsibility, without which it is hard to imagine ever getting an education.

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Art and Religion (1842)

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Max Stirner, “Kunst und Religion”, this essay originally appeared in June 1842 in the radical newspaper “Rheinische Zeitung”, before Marx became its editor. Translated by Lawrence Stepelevich.

Hegel treats art before religion; art deserves this position, it deserves it even from the historical standpoint. Now, as soon as man suspects that he has another side of himself (Jenseits) within himself, and that he is not enough in his mere natural state, then he is driven on to divide himself into that which he actually is, and that which he should become. Just as the youth is the future of the boy, and the mature man the future of the innocent child, so that othersider (Jenseitiger) is the future man who must be expected on the other side of this present reality. Upon the awakening of that suspicion, man strives after and longs for the second other man of the future, and will not rest until he sees himself before the shape of this man from the other side. This shape fluctuates back and forth within him for a long time; he only feels it as a light in the innermost darkness of himself that would elevate itself, but as yet has no certain contour or fixed form. For a long time, along with other groping and dumb others in that darkness, the artistic genius seeks to express this presentiment. What no other succeeds in doing, he does, he presents the longing, the sought after form, and in finding its shape so creates the — Ideal. For what is then the perfect man, man’s proper character, from which all that is seen is but mere appearance if it be not the Ideal Man, the Human Ideal? The artist alone has finally discovered the right word, the right picture, the right expression of that being which all seek. He presents that presentiment — it is the Ideal. ‘Yes! that is it! that is the perfect shape, the appearance that we have longed for, the Good News — the Gospel. The one we sent forth so long ago with the question whose answer would satisfy the thirst of our spirit has returned!’ So hail the people that creation of genius, and then fall down — in adoration.

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Cured Quail vol 1. (review)

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Cured Quail, Glasgow, 2018. 224pp., £12, reviewed by J. Harvey

Against a backdrop of widening climate catastrophe and incessant war, representation appeared as focus of popular outcries in the so-called era of post-truth and new media. Cured Quail is a Marxist journal of critical aesthetics, self-published in 2018, that takes seriously the appearance of a generalized crisis of representation, truth and culture afflicting contemporary capitalist societies at the edge of disaster. In a society profoundly unable to represent anything other than its fragmented self, the very universality of language becomes threatened. Far from employing a deconstructionist or relativist approach, Cured Quail levels the charge of illiteracy against this society. The notion of illiteracy utilized here is similar to Adorno’s concept of the “speechlessness” of a new type of human being: that of a people who speak concretely and without illusion, but in the voice of a radio announcer, and who are ipso facto unable to openly express how the world could be any different. In their opening statement, the editors of Cured Quailshow an awareness that these solipsistic pitfalls are equally present in the academy, gallery, pamphlet and newsfeed. Cured Quail’s intervention is necessarily immanent as it does not proclaim to be external to these conditions.

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On the Concept of Beauty (Adorno)

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Frontispiece of Pieter Burman’s Phaedrus’s Fables, 1698.

Theodor W. Adorno, December 16, 1958, Lectures on Aesthetics

It is my intention to introduce the consideration of the central aesthetic concept, namely the concept of beauty, by discussing one of the first major texts to contain something like a theory of beauty. The text in question is a section from Plato’s Phaedrus, approximately chapters 30 to 32 according to the famous Stephanus pagination. (1)

Now, you could say first of all that it is rather strange to begin an examination of the concept of beauty by drawing on a passage of a somewhat mythological, dogmatic and certainly pre-critical character such as this one by Plato. I have chosen this passage because it demonstrates that Plato was a philosopher after all, not a mythologist; that is, all of the decisive motifs which later appear in the philosophical theory of beauty are collected in this exegesis, somewhat akin to the way that, in the introductions to certain great symphonies, the most important themes are present as if under glass and are then developed in the course of the symphony itself. So I can here present to you in statu nascendi, as it were in an almost prehistoric form, the motifs that dominate the discussion of the concept of beauty.

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Marxism, Psychoanalysis and Reality (Fromm, 1966)

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by Erich Fromm

During the last 35 years, I have written many works, in which — under different aspects — I tried to explain that there are not only points where Marxism and psychoanalysis overlap but that there is also an intrinsic interdependency between the two. This means, I do not only believe that a synthesis is possible but also an existential necessity.

Freud and Marx have in common that both — the first contrary to pre-Marxist sociology, the second contrary to earlier psychology — are concerned not as much with superficial phenomena as rather with driving forces, which act in certain directions and with varying intensity, and evoke phenomena that are changing and temporary.

Psychoanalysis is the only scientific form of psychology, as Marxism is the only scientific form of sociology. Only these two systems allow us to understand the hidden driving forces behind the phenomena and to predict what happens to an individual in a certain society when, under certain conditions, the acting forces evoke phenomena that seem to be exactly the opposite of what they actually are. In the field of individual psychology as well as in sociology, non-dynamic thinking is surprised when deeply effecting, existential transformations occur, while dynamic thinking, which recognizes forces that remain invisible from the surface, is able to predict probable transformations.

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Art and Value

Tate Modern Launch The Damien Hirst Retrospective

Review of Dave Beech, Art and Value: Art’s Economic Exceptionalism in Classical, Neoclassical and Marxist Economics

by Jasper Bernes and Daniel Spaulding, RP 195 (Jan/Feb 2016) 

Dave Beech’s fundamental claim is that art is not a standard commodity. Art is, rather, ‘exceptional’, in the sense that its production, circulation and consumption follow patterns that are aberrant from the perspective of capital accumulation. The authors of the present review are in complete agreement with this claim. Indeed, after reading the book, we find it hard to imagine how anyone could not be. It suffices to observe – as Beech does, at length – that works of art are not produced as a result of the outlay of capital, that artists are not wage-labourers, and that the market price of art commodities is not established through competition as it is with other commodities. The case for art’s exceptional status vis-à-vis typical commodity production therefore seems open and shut. Alas, the (art) world is not so simple. Confusion reigns on this point, even – or especially – among Marxists.

Beech’s accomplishment is to have irrefutably demonstrated artistic production’s difference from capitalist production, and to have done so in a text that is distinguished by a higher level of erudition than anything heretofore published on the topic. Art and Value is the definitive retort to congeries of speculation on the commodity character of art – a morass, to be sure, in which a basic handle on the critique of political economy goes a long way towards clearing the air. This is terrain where even specialists lose their way. Consider a 2012 article in the online journal nonsite.org by the literary scholar Nicholas Brown, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Its Real Subsumption under Capital’. The title gives the game away, of course. And the first sentence makes it explicit: ‘Whatever previous ages might have fancied, we are wise enough to know that the work of art is a commodity like any other.’

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Inside Out

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Marx famously described capitalism as mad and inverted. Daniel Spaulding re-examines speculative realism through an Adornian prism to disclose a thought of ‘the great outdoors’ beyond capital that is very much immanent to a world not only upside down but increasingly inside out 

In his book After Finitude, published in France in 2006 and in English translation two years later, Quentin Meillassoux refers to what he calls the ‘Great Outdoors’: the wilds of the Real to which philosophy may achieve direct access once it frees itself from the correlation between thinking and being. The Great Outdoors is Meillassoux’s term for everything that philosophy stands to gain from the reversal of Kant’s Copernican Revolution. Except, it turns out, it isn’t, since the original phrase is, rather, le Grand Dehors, which means something more like ‘the Great Outside.’[1] Le Grand Dehorshas no vernacular resonance in French; at least, it is devoid of the woodsmanly connotations of its English (or American) counterpart. The difference, slight as it is, may have led certain Anglophones to fantasise about camping trips to the vales of the Absolute, where marshmallows, thinking their marshmallow thoughts, roast in their ineluctable withdrawnness over the flames of unfettered speculation. Le Grand Dehors by contrast sounds rather less adventuresome. Perhaps, also, more intimidating: the dehors is a placeholder for the beyond of all sensuous experience, akin to Pascal’s terrifying infinite spaces. Gemütlich it’s not.

I mention this only because the ‘Great Outdoors’ has come to be something like a structuring trope in a broad swathe of recent philosophical thinking, in which, often enough, Gemütlichkeit returns with a vengeance. We have, over the past decade, been invited to take seriously the prospect of an ‘object oriented cookery’ that would grant full honors to non-human agents in the kitchen (that is, everything but the chef – marshmallows presumably included).[2] We have been informed, of inanimate things, that ‘the same charm is present in foreign cultures, and for all the endless diatribes against ‘Orientalism,’ objects themselves are a perpetual orient, harboring exotic spices, guilds, and cobras.’[3] We have also been told, in a meditation on the September 11 attacks, that an ‘explosion is frightening because it’s ontologically uncanny.’[4] And we have seen the rehabilitation of H.P. Lovecraft as an evidently major figure in the history of speculative thought, as well as much else passing as philosophy that seems straightforwardly reducible to kitsch: Carl Sagan-esque paeans to the wonder and weirdness of the cosmos, for example.

How to make sense of this conjunction between the familiar and the strange – cuteness combined with terror? What is it that its consumers expect from it? My answer is necessarily oblique. As an art historian rather than a philosopher I tend to read this literature with a sense of bemusement, if not bewilderment. Surely no one can care this much about whether objects are ‘fourfold’ or ‘virtual proper beings’?[5] – But then, surely nobody could care all that much about a splatter of paint. I have come to write this essay by way of a collision between adjacent realms of the abstruse.

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Vandalizing Vandalism

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A.M. Gittlitz is a freelance writer, essayist, and delivery boy living in Bushwick Brooklyn. He is a frequent contributor to The New Inquiry and has contributed to Vice, Gothamist, Salon, and Truthout. His essays and journalism focus on counterculture, radical politics, and punk, and he recently released the 6th issue of his personal zine ⒶFOLK, a collection of travel essays about squatting and leftist nostalgia in Berlin, Rome, and ex-Yugoslavia.

The horrific erasure of Five Pointz’ walls last winter is a wordless sign written in Wite-Out that despite the alchemic success of street art and the reverance for graffiti and hip-hop culture held by the New York culture industry, the war on vandalism is still in full effect.

It was Ed Koch who first started treating graffiti writers like semiotic terrorists, pulling subway cars at the first sign of a tag. Then with the clearing of homeless from Tompkins Square Park under Dinkins, the implementation of Broken Windows Theory policing under Guiliani and Bratton, and the monstrous culmination of all this during the Bloomberg regime, the graffiti writer is today at their height of both danger and celebration.

The contradiction is resolved by civil society’s drawing of borders between art and graffiti, street art and vandalism, etc. As long as we remember that one is always “good” and the other “bad” then there’s nothing to worry about—that lengthy pun spraypainted in lowercase letters? Street art—good. That illegible tag written in magic marker? Graffiti—bad. Writers play into the same game, arguing that their tag is good and valuable no matter what anyone thinks.

Pushing the lines even farther are the recent spate of art vandals—possibly the most talked-about movement in contemporary art. A Rothko was tagged at the Tate, a Poussoin repainted in London, a Gauguin gouged in Washington D.C., a Clifford Still soaked with urine in Denver, the Piss Christice-picked in France, and a Picasso re-painted in Houston. Last month a vase of Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei was smashed by a local artist in Miami in protest of the international art market’s colonization of Miami as a hub. He was charged with criminal mischief, and the police vase was valued at $1 Million. Photographs of Weiwei’s own smashing of a Han-dynasty vase were exhibited in the museum, but as Malcolm Harris pointed out in his essay “U.S.Ai,” “It’s only freedom of expression if you break something you own, otherwise it’s vandalism.”

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A Handy Guide To Gentrification

“Well, it is crazy cheap to live there…”enhanced-17887-1434031405-20

I hate Wilmington*!

*(or choose one of the following)

a) Phoenix
b) Modesto
c) Wichita
d) Fort Lee
e) Purseville, a tiny town upstate that, in the early 1900s, was the purse-making capital of the country

Oh my god, have you ever been? It is the WORST. I went there for my cousin’s wedding and I can’t believe people actually LIVE there. It is devoid of all culture and has zero _______.

a) restaurants that aren’t fast food chains
b) gay bars except for this sad, rainbow flag-covered dive that I would never set foot in called Mirage
c) people of color
d) soul
e) well, there is no English word for it, but in German they call it Schprechtstäfft

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It’s also incredibly dangerous and _________.

a) once my cousin was mugged there at gunpoint
b) they keep finding severed goat heads in the park
c) is the Kidney Theft Capital of the country
d) has a terrible “spongecake” epidemic (have you heard of spongecake? It’s this new AWFUL drug that is more addictive than crack and makes your eyeballs shrivel into raisins!)
e) Robert Durst was recently spotted in a wig at the Price Chopper

That said, it IS crazy cheap to live in Wilmington. My friend Caleb just moved there and for very little money bought a ________.

a) ramshackle old Victorian
b) former purse clasp factory
c) entire car dealership
d) abandoned polio hospital
e) haunted roller disco

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And now I hear all these young people are moving to Wilmington. Apparently a group of ambitious and optimistic millennials created this whole ________.

a) sharing community full of love and light that is so much better than here
b) Hispanic food system (They said that Hispanic is cool to say again!)
c) paleolithic cave-diet collective that lives in an actual cave
d) hydroponic vape church
e) livable hammock tree house constructed entirely out of plastic bags and recycled Stumptown coffee grounds

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