to the Cause
Text by Pedro Pousada
"The present order is the disorder of the future"
We can put up a historiographic device on the relationship between politics and the "natural" order of art and show that politics is one of the properties that are expressed in the range of the experiences that we culturally identify as art. To say that all artistic decisions and actions are political decisions and actions is on the same level as saying that we are alive before we die. No one escapes the violence of history, the confrontation between the principle of reality and the principle of pleasure, and what art is (that which it can be and that which they let it be) acts within the limits of power, exposes itself to the notion of sovereignty, to the problems of free will, to the relationship between the individual and the state.
This political condition of art is, even more than Antigone, divided between obeying the laws of the sovereign (the patron, the state, the artistic system), or being condemned. Even the unsuspecting English landscapers were politicizing nature, introducing in it aesthetic values to which its flow, its discontinuity was indifferent, and incorporating in nature the idea of the transcendent, simply by turning their backs on the industrial revolution in which they were hopelessly immersed, the same revolution that, confident about its rationality, about its control of natural phenomena, about technical progress, imagined a world with nature being corrected and perfected.
In order to give prominence to our argument and even risking falling into anachronistic nonsense, we can approach the group of individuals that, 17,000 years ago, in the cave of Lascaux, dedicated hours of their precarious life of survival, to materialize images capable of settling an idea of memory and everyday life (images which were also capable of confronting this empirical evidence with the very strong presence of the incomprehensible in the appearance of both living and dead things); we can, as I was saying, draw them (and the community they belonged to) closer to the words with which Jacques Rancière, from a reading of Plato, defines the political condition which, according to him, "begins when beings destined to remain within the invisible space of work, that does not leave time to do anything else, take in that time that they do not have to assert themselves as people who also share a common world, to draw attention to what was not being seen or to start hearing as word that discusses the common interest what was heard only as common noise."
Leaving the invisible space "(Gyorgy Lukács would call it reified) of work", resisting (rising, going against it... many verbs would fit here) before the finitude of experience, of the body and its automatisms, dissociating itself from the usual value of signs, of words (and, it should be added, this difference can happen the same way as it has happened with the neoclassical conventions of the Academy through the immobilization of the semantic function), are not these standard tasks of the art practice? Is not this their (inescapable) politics? Fitting in but also decomposing the greater disorder composed by reality? Living a lie to try, above all trying without succeeding, to question the power of good to do evil and the power of evil to do good. Occupying in reality a space other than that which was not the one defined and guaranteed by the (administrative, organizational) machine of command and obedience, of work and reward? A space performed as the antithesis of the dominant doxa, but also marked by its logomachies, its historical contingencies, its common places? A space that dreams idealistically with the absolute autonomy of its means and objectives but which coexists with the wild chaos of ideological struggles and of the crowd (increasingly) divided between comrades, opponents and enemies.
But awareness of the political value of artistic praxis is a relatively recent acquisition into art history. The consciousness of this value (and effect) is symptomatic of the transformative changes that modernity has entailed for intersubjective practices, and we can locate it in the way that Goya introduces anonymous and non-heroic death into his painting The Third of May 1808: The Executions of the Defenders of Madrid (1814) as well as in the subject of alienation treated by Flaubert in his Bouvard and Pécuchet (1881), both in the emancipation from formlessness, from the nonhistorical, that the Fourth State obtained through Courbet's "democratic" painting, and in the ideological indecisions between self-criticism and revolution which defined the relation of many vanguards to power.
The artist places himself before the monopoly of violence, and he also questions himself if whether he will yield to force, if whether he will be part of the order, he is also bought, he is also silent. Or else everything goes the other way around. It is complex, contradictory the way Filipe Marques questions his status as an author, the way he negotiates the integrity of his work, the way he accepts the other as an interlocutor, and finally, the way he "comes down to the market" (to the system, which, we would say, colonizes everything) to reveal his existence and eventually to sell his products − according to Stefan Zweig, the poet Hölderlin had commented that he too had come down to the market but nobody wanted to buy his work and this is a characteristic of the modern creator, the (political) difficulty in making themselves up as trade value or in position themselves in the social division of labour.
And what are the macro and micro policies of these self-representations in which art is political because it is art? We can sum up the programme into two general cases, the first being the currently worn out notion in face of the "official anti-art" show (but which was a rather vigorous notion in the past), of the artist who presents himself as a socially uninhibited person, like an adult who refuses in action the constraints associated with the social contract, and, the other, that combines romanticism and otherness, being the (self-)representation of the artist as a motivational prophet who refuses to imitate the world and anticipates, through the aesthetic revolution and the creation of newness, the desire for change which shapes the relation of utopia to concrete life. Today these two cases revert to the artists who proceed with the ideological substitution of the universal for ethnographic otherness involving the other, the alien, the uprooted person, the non-specialist in the invention of a critique of the present that focuses aggressively on this present time. Thus, from the agitprop experience of the Russian avant-gardes to the isolated incursions of world-authors, the breach of trust (and the melancholy in the light of this finding is very strong in some cases), compared to the self-evidentness and the preconceived ideas, has long been established in the relation of the supertechnical world of the useless, which is art with the world of poloi, the world of the many that no longer validate themselves and no longer interact based on sameness but rather based on difference in relation to the established order.
As Clement Greenberg noted in his book Avant-garde and Kitsch (1939), the "moment of the vanguard" (modernism) is the moment of defamiliarization of western bourgeois culture in relation to its memory, it is the crisis of its symbolic values and of the ability of artists (and poets, writers) to communicate with their audiences (and being convincing in this communication); the vanguard would be the cancellation of this connection (not only celebrated as futuristic, but also raising questions as in Mondrian); It would be the irreversible historic moment, as we say now, in which the enunciation of art as a totalizing mode, disclosure of truth (and of an order that underlies this truth), and hence essentialist (the relation between culture and its producers and detractors would never be the same), ceases to be.
The truth without an author ceases to exist for art and this is a political fact. And even the prescriptive agonism of the vanguards that will lead to the growing specialization (and lack of clarity) of its message is nothing more than the exacerbation of this irreversible separation between art and truth. We are still talking about politics without stating it, especially if we think, as TJ Clark does, that Greenberg sees in the vanguard the only instrument capable of preserving (through meta-language and specialization) the Culture of the desolating relativism of kitsch.
One point that should be taken into account is that the use of the political question (and we must emphasise this, for it is a use not only interpreted as the social construct of the author's sensibility, but as a work method in which philosophy and its aporias disturb the routine and the indulgence of performance, of manufacturing, of the expected) faces the mistakes and miseries of its recent history and today the temporal limits of the use value of propaganda art must necessarily be measured up (but the resulting entropy of art as art's discourse has also to be questioned). It is true that the political value of art has been questioned (and reinvented) by antagonistic conceptions that posit it symmetrically as a threat to the idea of difference, as a place of deprivation (an inferior, "plebeian" moment in the artistic life of objects) or that place this value in a direct relation with the transformed reality, in a relation that is, in conflict, in the heterogeneity of both daily experience and of the abstract systems of power.
Perhaps the great learning we take from these errors and miseries is not so much in the monochromatism of the world. The world is immaculate and dirty, beautiful and despicable, there will be guilt and innocence, selfishness and detachment; yes, the crowd is divided, there will be different levels and prominence of "them" and "us", of managed and managers, and violence is a procedure of history, but the task must be less oriented to the Manichaeism of black and white (for "we" can quickly become "them") and leading more to the understanding of what causes men to accept reality or to reject it, to understanding what makes men sell themselves to the devil or what makes them prefer to immolate themselves in the sacrificial fire. The artist does not have to answer (or even question) the central question that haunts us for falling short, "to whom does the world belong?" Their indifference or refusal is also a legitimate political act. The idea of politics in question goes beyond any reinvention of the politicization of art's duty, nor does it refer to the migration of "standing together in opposition" to the concept of collective plural conceived by Voltaire (dissidence as the eternal gift of the idea of art).
Impossible conclusion. The general value of artistic tendencies can also be assessed by the way they fit into a community and the way they, at the same time, subvert the rules with which that same community defines (for itself and for others) the form and content of its experience, its memory, its codes and its limits; there is, therefore, no absolute, deterministic truth in the relation of the artists (and the product of their work) to the world in which they live and to the regimes of oppression, domination, exploitation and naturalization of what is established that define that world. There is, on the other hand, the possibility of knowledge, of structure, of these modalities of control and social destitution which are made from the artistic experience. There is the possibility of thinking artistically about what makes reality what it is.
It is within the possibility of art being created as political and realized as poetic or of being created as poetic and realized as political that I incorporate the works proposed by Filipe Marques for the CAPC; they denote a form of thought with images which emphasizes the non-visual to contradictorily speak of the scepticism and finitude of the body, of the disordered body that lives in loss, that cannot get out of the "sensitive space of work" (he shouts , "pissing", "ass", "shit", but does not act).
The way the works are set up is rooted, in formal terms, in the sphere of late modernist power. In other words, questions are raised from the reinvention of the rupture and from criticism about the naturalized community: motherland, language, religion, body, monetarism are expressed in cruciform caskets, in physiological interjections, in trial and error experimentation to overcome the challenging dualism between archetype (the intended form, the geometry of the utopian realm: the metallic boxes, showcases / showrooms that display static items) and the prototype (the flow of past experiences, the being existing and acting in the form consumed by time).
These are methodologies that overdetermine the impossibility of an anthropological reconciliation (there will be neither harmony nor a general agreement, but struggle. Only the struggle ensures that the flow is not repetition but expectation, only the struggle ensures that the future does not exist, but it also ensures that the present is separated from the past). It follows that the central image of Filipe Marques' works, that his combination of emptiness control and of materials' semantics, is a work about this object that exists nowhere, about the counter-visuality of what separates us from the apparent, of what separates us from eternal return. The words eat the space, and it is only that way that he becomes radical.
to the Cause
Text by Pedro Pousada