Excerpts from "CONTRE L'ART GLOBAL, pour un art sans identité"
Translation: Michel Chevalier
Bei den folgenden zwei Auszügen aus Jean-Claude Moineaus Buch handelt es sich um das erste und vorletzte von insgesamt 14 Kapiteln. Sie bilden gewissermaßen die Klammer des im Titel des Buches programmatisch anklingenden, konfronta-
tiven kunsttheoretischen Einsatzes. Die derzeit um sich greifende „globale Kunst“ ist nach Moineau vor allem durch ihre Eigenschaft, zur allgemeinen Konfusion beizutragen, gekennzeichnet. Moineaus Konzept einer mikrokünstlerischen Kunst, ist durch ihre nicht identitäre Bestimmbarkeit bestimmbar. Sie ist nicht minimal, aber ein Minimum an Kunst.
Was durch die hier vorgenommene Auswahl der Texte an Denkschritten verloren geht, kann nur stichwortartig durch die Titel weiterer Kapitel angedeutet werden: „L'artiste et ses ’modèles’, „À compte d'auteur", „Pour un catalogue critique des arts réputés illègitimes". Noch ein Hinweis: Die sprachliche Machart der einzelnen Kapitel wechselt vom theoretisch-reflexiven zum literarischen Text oder manifest-
artigen Gedicht. What follows are the first and last chapters from Jean-Claude Moineau's most recently published book. They bracket, in a way, his art-theoretical, confrontationally and programmmatically titled approach. According to Moineau, this ever-expanding global art is marked by its tendency to further general confusion. His concept of micro-artistic art is defined by its non-identifiability/
identatrianism. It is not minimal; instead: a minimum of art.
That part of the argument one loses in translating only two chapters (of 14) can perhaps be at least suggested, elliptically, through the titles of a few others: "the artist and his 'models'", "insofar as one is an author", "for a critical catalogue of those arts said to be illegitimate". Another tip: chapters vary considerably in the discursive mode Moineau employs: the reflexive-theoretical yields to the literary, then to the manifesto-esque poetic.
From Total Art to Global Art(note: JCM uses "global" and "globalization" in the original French, as opposed to the more standard "mondialisation." The selected noun carries an English ring, indicating the cultural as well as economic dimensions of "free-trade" extension, whereas the adjective, in addition, implies ubiquity without clear delimitation. —MC)
If total art—already in gestation with the panoptic gaze of the panorama, from the Wagnerian phantasmagoria to the impudent "everything is art" of the avant-gardes— was in phase with the oh-so ambiguous notion of totalitarianism, after the "dictatorship of the media" (in conjunction with mass culture more than with art per se) allowed an "economy", stricto sensu, of any totalitarianism, global art, for its part, in conjunction with liberalism, has adopted this role for post-totalitarian (A) market democracy, which the West thinks it can export to the entire world... along with that new oxymoron: conservative revolution.
Global art is less an integral art than than an art integrally integrated that—after the failure of whatever critical pretension postmodernism may have had, and the observation that any critical aim inexorably becomes absorbed by precisely that which it is trying to critique—has abandoned any critical dimension that would imply an elsewhere, unrelentingly making the charge that any critical ambition can only be reactive.
At the most, being confined to the role of cultural content, of entertainment, becoming diluted into spectacle (but one which is not so much cut off from life as it spectacularizes life itself), global art, like total art before it, would like to illusorily re-enchant a disenchanted world, a world that the current globalization—of which it is a constitutive part, if one can venture to cut it into different parts—disenchants ever more and more, however. And this although global art, having nevertheless given up all exteriority, is an art that has definitely given up any transcendence, more so even than modernist art. it seeks the source of enchantment at the heart of this world, and not elsewhere or outside, complacently settled in the most extreme superficiality.
Following up on totalitarian regimes' great hysterical drum-beat marches, global art has become the art of fashion catwalk shows in institutional art centers, to the club-mixes of "wild" (or just looking it) DJs. Global art tends to blend into the look. Whereas total art (in an avant-gardist way, running against the grain of modernism) tried to fuse art and life, be it social or biological (B), global art is the art of generalized confusion. Confusion of art and non-art, of art and fashion, of art and money, of art and culture, confusion of the various arts and the cultures... a confusion which overlaps working-time and leisure-hours.
Global art is an art not so much aimed at an audience as it is aimed at both a market undergoing globalization and institutions, be they national or multinational. It is the most institutional art that could be, a hyper-institutional art that has turned its back on critique, be it of institutions or of art. The art of congregations and carnivals, big international trade fairs and farts.
The globalization of art is, for the first time, the concrete world-wide extension (mondialisation) of the world of art, its extension, if not to all social strata or societies (far from it!), at least to all areas of our planet in its entirety.
Unlike artistic currents antecedent to it, postmodernism included, that only covered a relatively limited area of the planet (even though, as Pascale Casanova has shown (C), naturalism was the first artistic current extending to territories previously beyond the reach of the art world, at the margins of the art world), the "contemporary art" category is the first that is a truly global one. Whereas art had always tried to extend its borders, whereas total art—seeking a synthesis of arts in opposition to modernist art—had tried to overcome the borders between media and arts, whereas sixties art had become an art without media specificity, a "generic art," global art dispenses with the old borders separating media and art, as with geopolitical borders, while still not quite being able to ignore them completely, being concentrated as it is in a few super-protected locations. These places see regular get-togethers of global artworld actors who transhume from here and there in impressive concert, like a chirping flock of migratory birds. Flux, both material and virtual, of works, of capital, of people. The artworld mutates into the art network, both market and institutional, tightly interconnected, really only one and the same. Art and culture tightly intermingling.
Thus the global artist is one who, inverting usual schema, is first recognized globally, then locally (Duchamp set this precedent: refused by the 1912 Paris Salon des Indépendants, he was acclaimed at the first international exhibition of "modern" art, the 1913 Armory Show. Yet he managed, in a counter-move, to utterly contrive his exclusion—under a false name—from the New York Independents show of 1917). A mobile artist, less the traveling painter or photographer of yore than a jet-artist mostly living in a country other that where he or she was born, in one of the global art citadels. That is, if he or she is even a resident of one location since, unlike the artists of the early twentieth century who lived in exile, the global artist must now plough across the entire planet non-stop. Just as the global art curator is one who pursues an international career leading to a succession of jobs in high-places of global art, and is in motion perpetually, flexibilité oblige, in a world which is itself in constant motion, more than ever without a fixed point of reference. So it's always the same ones who divvy up the jobs, with a very strong homogenization effect on the "art world."
And whereas totalitarian art was one in which the political Commissar played at being a curator (commissaire) ès arts, global art (always this issue of flexibility) sees (global) artists playing at being curators and the (global) curator play at being an artist, with exhibition qua artwork (reducing the works exhibited to mere material in the hands of the curator-artist) and qua medium (be it "impure," or even "theatrical" via that ever-more-invasive exhibition scenography). On top of that, both can play at being art critics in an artworld where, precisely, lacking the critical distance and necessary independence (3), any real critique, be it artistic criticism or critical art, is excluded. Just as total art made everything art, which meant nothing was art, in global art everyone is a mediator, so no mediation is possible anymore (even if it is the case that the critic must confine his/herself to the simple role of mediator, which tends to empty critique of its critical character).
And whereas total art delved into all media at once, the global artist hereafter considers him/herself to be a medium, a self-medium (D)(which leads to a sort of rehabilitation of the author, even if it doesn't quite retrieve its former prerogatives), or becomes a post-media artist (without necessarily becoming a cyber-artist), obviously using the brave-new-language that Anglo-American has become (to the detriment not so much of the conservation of other languages, but rather of their becoming, including their "becoming minor"), using numeric code. The global artist delves less in all media as he/she delves into all cultures at once, drawing out of—or pillaging, like a hacker, even though pillage can be either celebrated or met with opprobium—the hypermarket of world cultures. Global art is an art of the planetary mix that occludes historic power-relations—more so than production relations—in which art and culture find their perpetuation, within an increasing indifferentiation of art and culture.
An art of the fragment and of the montage of fragments had historically stood in opposition, with some success, to total art and totalitarianism of the spirit. Yet today, consideration of local dimensions, despite all the inital enthusiasm this approach first gathered, has shown itself incapable of really standing up to the global dimension, or even of resisting it. The local is itself globalized, "glocalised." Globalization is both delocalization and relocalization, secreting not only various differences, more or less indifferent, but also new inequalities, as local as they are translocal, and quite real. The tide of identitarianism, in art as elsewhere, and "multiculturalism," far from being opposed to globalization, have only contributed to it in their own way, on their own scales (that which Slavoj Zizek designates with yet another oxymoron, that of "multicultural liberalism") (E). A globalization that is far from answering the unanimous hopes that followed the end of the cold war and the division of the world into two blocs, "bloc against bloc." Instead of heralding a perpetual peace, it left us with perpetual war, a fractalized war covering the whole planet where "new frontiers" crop up incessantly. War—and it's not just an image-war—to which the image-war fully contributes in its own way insofar as it contributes, in great part, to making the news, making the event.
("CONTRE L'ART GLOBAL, pour un art sans identité", pp. 3-7)
(A) See Jean-Pierre LE GOFF, La Démocratie post-totalitaire, (Paris, La découverte, 2002).
(B) This was successfully carried off in a way by totalitarian art, be it Hitlerian or Stalinist, see Boris GROYS, Staline œuvre d’art totale, 1988, French translation (Nîmes: Jacqueline Chambon, 1990).
(C)Pascale CASANOVA, La République mondiale des lettres, (Paris: Seuil, 1999).
(D)See Jean CLOUTIER, La Communication audio-scripto-visuelle à l’heure des self-média ou l’ère d’Emerec, (Montréal: Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 1973), Pascal BEAUSSE, Informations, enquêtes sur le réel et self-médias, in Paul ARDENNE, Pascal BEAUSSE & Laurent GOUMARRE, Pratiques contemporaines, L’Art comme expérience, (Paris: Dis Voir, 1999) and Wang Du magazine, Vol.1, Je veux être un média, (Paris: Design mental, 2001).
(E) Slavoj ZIZEK, Plaidoyer en faveur de l’intolérance, French translation (Paris: Climats, 2004).
For a Micro-artistic Art
Oddly, there is a certain return to political art today, although this may just be simple nostalgia or, yet again, simple phantasm.
A return that one could view in tandem with a certain renewal of political thought, political philosophy, after years of deficit, ice-age, and this despite—or one could say precisely because of—our current globalization. A globalization that is not only economic or political but was, at its very outset, all-encompassing, including an art which is itself being globalized (although art is not necessarily following economic, political, and social transformations in goose-step).
A return, then, to political art, after the historical failure of our last century's attempts at political art, at politicization of art, if not an aesthetization (or "artistisation") of the political—which totalitarian regimes succeeded all too well at, to take up the Bejaminian distinction, extending totalitarian art to all of life. (1)
And this despite the fact that after its so-called failure, art—somewhat chastened—seems more depoliticized than ever. And that the rare attempts at political art, despite everything, prove to be quite disappointing, both artistically and politically: more a trivial form of spectacle, and thereby in tune with the "politics of art." On this point we can indeed voice agreement with Dominique Baqué's book, For a new political art. (2) Without in any way, however, sharing its assumptions on perspectives it aims to open with regard to what it calls the relay of political art to the document and the documentary (which he fails to distinguish, and even confounds with social documentary on top of that, thereby running against all studies devoted to the subject). An assumption that merely legitimates that which is, yet again, only a "documentary form" (in a sense that is not necessarily Walker Evans') art has been able to "make use of" these last few years in several very official, very institutional, (global) art contexts. A trend which seeks to offset a definite crisis, or at least exhaustion, of global art and exhibition. And this despite the fact that document-as-an-end-in-itself, set in opposition to art by the early twentieth century avant-gardes, has itself run into a sort of crisis, despite what its heralds say.
And it is also difficult for us to share Baqué's all-too-quick dismissal, among those recent attempts at political art, of that unfortunately-named "art of the intimate" (which had never, by the way, sported the "political art label"—if there could be any such label). He takes up the most hackneyed critical line, referring to its individualist and egocentric nature, reflecting the downfall of the political in an era of crumbling values, in which—following Gilles Lipovetsky's work—all have left are individual values. (3) If one can be highly skeptical of a so-called art-of-the-intimate, which would encapsulate works in a more or less confused (and more confused than less) way, this term is nonetheless the echo, or a symptom, of an important demand inspired by (so-called "third generation") feminism bearing on questions relating to the distinction between public and private spheres, at least insofar as it functions in liberal patriarchal society: the demand for intimacy within the private sphere itself, traditionally considered feminine, although it is constantly subjugated to a full-throttle masculine domination.
One simply couldn't, in our present day and age, hold on—or go back— to yesterday's avant-garde concepts, to the intention of solving the art/politics contradiction, no more than to the modernist concept of art's autonomy with regard to the political. The use of the term "autonomy" in political discourse since the '60s only adds confusion in this regard. Autonomy can be declined with regard to a variety of entities, and that which is autonomous from one entity can be heteronomous towards another, and vice-versa. There is never any autonomy without heteronomy, but a mix of the two.
Avant-garde art itself, insofar as it sought to be mainly heteronomous, nevertheless sought autonomy from artistic institutions with regard to which (mostly autonomous) modernist art was, obviously, heteronomous. But this demand for autonomy from artistic institutions could hardly be taken up in the same manner today: so-called "alternative" institutions, apparently autonomous from the institution of art, fail to be so completely, and often merely extend the institution beyond the institution.
No more could one could maintain a clear distinction, an "autonomy," between different entities, least of all between art and politics. One could deconstruct the distinctions between various political and artistic instances (even if deconstruction never means destruction), the different entities still remain separate, both autonomous and heteronomous.
But this also raises the much-harped-on issue of art which not only seeks to be political with regard to artistic institutions, but also with regard to political apparatuses. Political art, one assumes (and political apparatuses especially like to assume this) could not act in an isolated way, it could not be solely the product of artists. But then we shouldn't limit ourselves to reproducing existing schemas that have all failed. One could simply consider the relation political art could have to new forms of political (or micro-political) organization, themselves less hierarchical, less centralized than in the past and that have also adopted the network paradigm, as has the society they are attempting to resist. And these forms are in fact networked with that society they are attempting to resist.
"An art that wants to be political"? But one could precisely fault a political art project for its intentionality (against the grain of the contemporary critique of intentionality), as was done in the case of Satrean (4) art engagé (although Sartre, maintaining a "modern-style" distinction between media, rejected the idea of engagé art, favoring instead engagé literature, perhaps an engagé cinema riding on the latter's coattails). It would still be appropriate to distinguish between political and engagé art, even if this distinction could itself be deconstructed (although not destroyed).
Just as, at the other end of the spectrum, one should distinguish between political art and critical art. The latter is not necessarily intentional, and is also on the wane after the defeat of those approaches that "sought" to be critical within postmodernism, as if postmodernism had fallen prey to its fascination with those simulacra it sought to criticize. Pierre Lévy (5), wrapping himself up in Deleuze quotes, even purports to theorize the impossibility of any criticism, the reactive character of any criticism. Still, one should maintain the demand for critical awareness, even if this has become ever more difficult due to the current globalization, which excludes any exteriority or effort at distancing, and thereby excludes all critique. But we should, just the same, avoid falling back into a Lukacs-style "critical realism" the way Allan Sekula does (6), when he contradictorily mixes it with an F.S.A.-ish social documentary revival (and the latter should especially not be confounded with the "documentary style" of Walker Evans).
Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello (7) show that the "artist critique" of society, be it within or without critical art, is prone to being coopted by reigning social forces—in the service of maintenance and adaption for their self-perpetuation—when this critique is not linked to a "social critique" of society.
An art claiming to be political cannot obstinately set out to accompany (and even support) capitalism's current economic transformations, irregardless of the words used to describe this process: new spirit of capitalism, cognitive capitalism...
And if there has been a timid renewal of political art in the past few years, what has really happened can be more aptly described as a return of ethics, if not of an old-fashioned moralism seeking to censor once an again an art where anything is hence allowed. Even if, as Lipovetsky notes (8), the ethics that are seeing a comeback are "washed-out," sapped, consensual. At the same time, Alain Badiou says that "political" designates, on the contrary, that which escapes, and is beyond, consensus.(9) And today, with action and political thought at an ebb, politics is all too often confused with ethics—a confusion which, I mentioned this earlier, is not a deconstruction—, and there is excessive confusion between political art and ethical art.
Nor could we in any way consider Nicolas Bourriaud's micro-utopias to be political art. They are in fact even more insipid than yesterday's utopian thought (which political thought had tried to break with, without having completely succeeded). They are a utopia in the present instead of the future, reserved for a select happy-few, only lasting as long as an opening—which has now replaced the exhibition properly-speaking—in a location within the art microcosm.
One could hardly confuse Hakim Bey's Temporary Autonomous Zone notion with that of Bourriaud's micro-utopia. (10) But the notion of autonomy is just as ambiguous in both. An ambiguity which led the very-institutional Yves Michaud, in the name of artistic autonomy, to rebaptize the TAZ the "TEZ": Temporary (a)Estetic Zone (11), a qualification equally fit for a squat as for an institutional art space (this at least has the merit of showing that the difference is not really that great, even if one can no longer claim to the necessity of escaping any institutionalization of art, as the avant-gardes did).
Jacques Rancière, for his part, would like to distinguish political art from all forms of ethical art, as well as from Bourriaud's micro-utopian art; but his concept of political art is also unconvincing.(12) Rancière is content with stating that the rise of nineteenth-century realism gave way to an "esthetic regime of art," while hurriedly rejecting all categorizations and periodizations in use for the epoch. This "esthetic regime of art" is an art preserved in its autonomy, as all reality is hence representable (although this was the case previously, with the qualification that reality had to be presented in an "appropriate" style and genre, in accordance with the theory of stylistic levels). And this last fact makes this art political insofar as it grants access to a mode of "distribution of the sensible/perceptible" (partage du sensible) in which each person has a stake in a shared difference from the governing society's distribution, which always leaves certain people out, produces disenfranchised people whose political action is to demand their say, proletarians, lumpenproletarians, or (using current jargon) the excluded. Yet, there are many who are excluded from what one could call the "distribution of art"—the "democratization" of representation in no way implies that of art itself. Despite Rancière's critique of Adorno, his concept evokes the latter's, for whom art was revolutionary by its very nature insofar as it made clear, in an exemplary way, that freedom is possible within the (autonomous) domain of art—thereby suggesting that freedom may be possible in other areas, as well.
Referring to Deleuze, Paul Ardenne has put forward the notion of micro-political art. (13) But should we not avoid a scenario where yesterday's refrain of "Marx said... " is now followed by everyone bursting into a "Deleuze said... " chorus? All the more since Deleuze himself admitted he was not too keen on contemporary art, and that his concept of art was, basically, quite classical, with art deriving less from any creative intention than from some chaos/origin, evolving into compositional harmony. And if one should feel inclined to use one or the other Deleuzian concept, one should also try to pay heed to Deleuze's own view on the matter (unless, of course, one intends to explicitly criticize him). Yet Deleuze and Guattari explicitly maintain that that one should beware of separating micro-politics from macro-politics, the molecular from the molar, the local from the global. (14) Just like Bourriaud's micro-utopias and the art-as-social remedy role it falls into, art reduced to its micro-political dimension is but an enfeebled version of the early twentieth-century avant-gardes.
But, contrary to what Rancière thinks, art's relation to reality is not just representational. Art can itself intervene in reality, if only on a "micro-scale." Art itself presents us with performative aspects, starting, of course, with the locutional act of doing something "as art." But the greater question is whether art can also do something that is, it, not art. Or even, perhaps (to follow Catherine Kerbat-Orecchioni's notion (15)) to make others do something (that is, yet again, not art).
Instead of proposing a new version of political art, we will here limit ourselves to proposing that which we will call "micro-artistic" art, with the word "political" deliberately left out. Not minimal art, but instead the minimum of art. Not that this should mean isolating "micro-artistic" aspects (instead of "micro-political" ones), because micro-artistic art is fully art, both micro and macro-artistic, both the minimum and the maximum of art, is art intensively. And, being micro-artistic, it can also be something other than artistic as well, presenting, not least, a political aspect. At the same time that, naturally, there could be artistic aspects to practices not calling themselves artistic, without an artistic identity, not least of which: political practices. But without falling into the aesthetization of the political that Benjamin denounced.
("CONTRE L'ART GLOBAL, pour un art sans identité", pp. 147-155)
(1) Walter BENJAMIN, L’œuvre d’art à l’ère de sa reproductibilité technique, 1936, French translation Œuvres, tome 2, Poésie et révolution (Paris: Denoël, 1971). English version : The work of Art in the age of mechanical reproduction, in Hannah Arendt, ed.: Illuminations (New York : Schocken, 1969).
(2) Dominique BAQUÉ, Pour un nouvel art politique, De l’art contemporain au documentaire, (Paris: Flammarion, 2004).
(3) Gilles LIPOVETSKY, L’Ère du vide, Essais sur l’individualisme contemporain, (Paris: Gallimard, 1983).
(4) Jean-Paul SARTRE, Qu’est-ce que la littérature ?, (Paris: Gallimard, 1948).
(5) Pierre LÉVY, World Philosophy, Le Marché, le cyberespace, la conscience, (Paris: Odile Jacob, 2000).
(6) Allan SEKULA, Réalisme critique, interview with Pascal Beausse, French translation in Artpress n°240, November 1998.
(7) Luc BOLTANSKI and Ève CHIAPELLO, Le Nouvel esprit du capitalisme, (Paris: Gallimard, 1999).
(8) Gilles LIPOVETSKY, Le Crépuscule du devoir, L’Éthique indolore des nouveaux temps démocratiques, (Paris: Gallimard, 1992).
(9) Alain BADIOU, Le Siècle, (Paris: Seuil, 2005).
(10) Hakim BEY, TAZ, Zone autonome temporaire, 1991, French translation (Paris: Éclat, 1997).
(11) Yves MICHAUD, Arts et biotechnologies, in L’Art biotech’, (Nantes: Le Lieu unique, 2003).
(12) Jacques RANCIÈRE, Malaise dans l’esthétique, (Paris: Galilée, 2004).
(13) Paul ARDENNE and Christine MACEL, Micropolitique, Du miel aux abeilles, in Micropolitiques, (Grenoble: Magasin, 2000). Paul ARDENNE, L’Art "micropolitique", généalogie d’un genre, ibid.
(14) Gilles DELEUZE and Félix GUATTARI, Capitalisme et schizophrénie, tome 2, Milleplateaux, (Paris : Minuit, 1980).
(15) Catherine KERBRAT-ORECCHIONI, Les Actes de langage dans le discours, Théorie etfonctionnement, (Paris: Nathan, 2001).