Friday, June 14, 2013

Name Change + First Principles

The original name for this blog - "Chosen Site" - made me feel a bit religious/grandiose when people didn't know the Klee painting I'd named it after: "The Chosen One" is a figure of thought with impeccably reactionary credentials, even if just in Hollywood.*

Klee's painting remains the blogs banner: the city standing for politics, the moon for poetics. As I suggest in the post below, Klee's city and moon have an affinity, being composed from the same or similar material. Perhaps most important is that they are both composed or produced (what I call "auto-poesis" below).

Anyway, I've stuck politics and poetics together as "Poetilics" to reference the two key problematics of my philosophical work. That "Poetilics" is a bit awkward I think suits the work itself. 

This blog is intended as a small cog in that work, which attempts to eventually contribute in some way to:

(1) a coherent Marxist theoretical framework for emancipatory practices in advanced industrial, liberal democratic nations in the 21st Century;

(2) " " for poetic practice, and aesthetic practices more broadly " " ;

(3) " " for the relationship between emancipatory practices and aesthetic practices " " .

At this point in our history, there's an understandable feeling that both revolutionary politics and lyric poetry (maybe even art-in-general) are exhausted projects. Or, if you are convinced of one project but not the other, that the "Western Marxist" attempt to think the two together is exhausted.

To the first argument I have an ethical counter, to the second I have some historical observations.

(1) Ethical. This is where Alain Badiou is foundational for me, but there are analogous moves in other thinkers. Against the theses of the "End" - the End of Metaphysics, the End of History, the End of artistic Modernism et cetera - Badiou argues for "one more step."  Neither the rejection of history nor enslavement to it, Badiou (following Deleuze in an important sense) is for ongoing practices of creation, the collective production of political rationalities and aesthetic rationalities adequate to our conjuncture. Anything else = capitulation to a capitalist-parliamentarism and attendant culture industry that makes you sick as soon as you start to figure out how it works.**

(2) Historical. Politics + Poetics goes back further than the Frankfurt School. Jacques Ranciere's project has begun to reconstruct the integral relationship between early Romantic poetics, the emergence of the novel, the French revolution, and dialectical thought in Hegel and Marx. All are in some way thinking a kind of auto-poesis, i.e. an autonomous self-production in nature and in history. Michael Lowy insists on this connection in more intransigent and entertaining fashion in Morning Star.

For Lowy, Trotsky and Breton are not shoe-horning aesthetic Modernism into Bolshevism when they co-author their piece on "Independent Revolutionary Art." Rather, they are tapping into a profound and originary sympathy between aesthetic and revolutionary practices, while recognising the relative autonomy of these practices. 

I might also add that lyric poetry and the revolutionary tradition are in similar positions today: both make universal claims (whether they like it or not) while having little readership. Both are subcultures claiming to be culture. This is not to suggest that the stakes in art and politics are comparable: the stakes for revolutionary (or even "just" anti-capitalist) politics getting a hearing at this point could well be human life on the planet, and the same cannot be said for poetry by anyone sane. Nevertheless, politics and poetry share a bond of universality which links them, if "only" subjectively.

This is probably not enough to convince some comrades and friends that Marxist aesthetics is more than just an "art wank," or to allay suspicions that my interest in it perhaps conceals some more nefarious liquidation or distance from the class (except that the class at present is distant from itself). It is worth remembering though that this "art is for wankers" thing is curiously and perhaps specifically Australian, and we would be closer to key figures in the Classical Marxist canon if we afforded art some place in our thought.  

* I'm not just talking about The Matrix. See also Tim Burton's use of the Christ trope to completely obliviate everything interesting and critical in Alice in Wonderland. 

** While I get tired of Badiou's figures of heroic subjectivity (the Catholic mathematician who goes mad proving there is no God; the resistance fighter that chews off his own arm while fighting Nazis with the other), I recognise that even at this flat / dark point in our history a little bit of us v. them is important. I am, however, much more attracted and indebted to the Badiou that emphasises the patient, persistent work of truth construction - heroism again perhaps, but low-key.

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