Žižekian Political Pragmatism: On “The Courage of Hopelessness”

The Pressure of the Political

I just finished Slavoj Žižek’s recent work, The Courage of Hopelessness: Chronicles of a Year of Acting Dangerously (2017);  the subtitle of this book reflects his short book on politics published in 2012 as The Year of Dreaming Dangerously, but deviates from the fundamental spirit that informed his 2012 book. While in the 2012 book he dealt on the wave of protests that erupted in response to the financial crisis and the Arab spring protests that deposed well-entrenched Middle-East dictators, his recent  book on politics reflects the cynicism he always had with explosions of collective outbursts. Even in his The Year of Dreaming Dangerously, he expressed his dismay in the disintegration of the Bolivarian revolution to a caudillo administration, contradicting its grassroots base, and the explosion of new fundamentalisms that followed the Arab spring revolts (ISIS in Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the sectarian division in Libya). In The Courage of Hopelessness, Žižek puts this same cynicism for calls for action against the interesting rise of right-wing populists from Donald Trump to Marine Le Pen.

In combating the “Big Bad Wolf” of politics, the liberal-left is entrenched in making compromises with the establishment just to counteract its perceived enemy. This is embodied in the “Clinton compromise”; where Hillary Clinton’s candidacy is perceived as the only option to combat the vile character of Trump and the values he set against the liberal politically correct politics. Žižek saw this dynamic in the public space as the very deadlock of liberal-leftism that allowed for a figure of Trump to emerged. To put this in perspective, the candidacy of Trump is marked by his opportunism of middle-class woes, taking their problems and presenting them an enemy to blame, while at the same time presenting an economic policy that is moderate by Republican standards (nothing of that anarcho-capitalist pipe dream) from lower taxes to decreased government spending. In contrast, the Clinton compromise took the multi-culturalist and identity politics route and presented it side by side with the interests of Wall Street. Both candidates actually do not propose anything new to the political climate, but it was Trump’s clear pandering of common people’s problems that allowed the fundamental antagonisms in American politics to arise.

The defeat of Bernie Sanders indicates the lack of political imagination within the established Democratic Party, cementing its incapability to organize itself at the grassroots level, opting to make moral platitudes about unity in diversity, instead of embracing the fundamental antagonisms that split American society as a whole. The situation Žižek describes is the difficult situation of being pressured by the political. Sanders and Trump claimed to speak for the common people; while Trump utilized the woes of the common people to catapult his political victory and push for the Republican agenda, Sanders’ campaign synthesized multiculturalism and human rights activism and the basic Leftist stance of economic justice. The appeal of the Sanders campaign is precisely that it vocalized what cannot be said in American politics (if Sanders made such statements in the heyday of McCarthyism, he would’ve been called by the congress and made to admit of his association to the Communist Party and accused as a Soviet spy) i.e. the rift between ordinary Americans and the Wall Street elite that caused the economic collapse in 2008. The Clinton consensus took the multicultural struggle and human rights activism and threw the fundamental antagonism that informed it in Sanders’ campaign; the result was a highly PC discourse aimed at demonizing Trump and his supporters, while at the same time conniving with Wall Street elites and Middle Eastern financiers in a horrible rainbow coalition.

The Clinton compromise was an attempt to reduce the political to a set of struggles opposing the vulgarities of the Trump administration while at the same time retain the same economic structure that rendered more power to the financial elite. Its PC discourse attempts to throw the unhealthy baby of the Trump administration as well as the dirty water of political struggles for economic justice, hoping that pristine democracy can be achieved. However, as the 2016 elections showed, the liberal counterattack failed. Žižek does not mince words when he vehemently criticized the liberal establishment for its incapability to draw from the mass base by embodying its woes and placing it within the struggle for economic justice. Instead, the response from the Democratic party is to hope that everything will renormalize and that Trump is part of a democratic cycle that would eventually allow for more tolerant political climate later on. It is precisely this hope for a renormalization that placed the liberal-left in the quagmire incapable of organizing around a popular base.

Confronted with the emergence of right-wing populists using every opportunistic measure to pander on the common man’s woes, Žižek tries to avoid a lot of the political tendencies that abound both in the enclaves of the liberal and the radical left. While the liberal left hoped to find opportunities in the administration to swing the electorate back to the Democratic party, the radical left (or whatever stands for it in the American left-wing movements) is divided among sectarian lines on how to struggle against the enemy. Explosions of counteroffensive violence, clashing against right-wing nationalists and organizing “Love Trumps Hate” demonstrations do not suffice for an effective approach against the Trump administration. Furthermore, leftist positions oscillate between its cynicism with state mechanisms and its interstitial relationship to it when it comes to moral obligations to accept refugees. Mixed with PC discourse and guilt, the liberal left is causing its own demise, putting itself in the cross-hairs of right-wing propaganda. Given this situation, Žižek’s proposal is highly pragmatic, but surely enough to madden PC sensibilities.

Žižekian Pragmatism: Back to Bureaucratic Socialism

Žižek proposed that a sensible solution to the refugee crisis is to construct an effective bureaucracy to screen and accept refugees, rejecting all forms of humanist blackmail. By removing the status of the refugee as the Levinasian face of the other, he breaks down the only fantasy that sustains the liberal-left’s approach to the refugee crisis. While to PC sentiment a strict immigration and acceptance policy reeks of right-wing demagoguery, the proposal is, at best, the most democratic. The liberal-leftist call for “opening of the borders” is an extra-democratic demand that violates the very principle that bind the nation-state as a concept i.e. the right to defend its borders and internal security. Allowing hapless and victimized refugees inside without screening, one should not be surprised to find among them latent jihadists posing as refugees. While not all refugees are closet jihadists, the possibility of one of them being one is dangerous for the refugees as a whole, submitting them to the unbridled anger of ultra-nationalist gangs. The measure of allowing the refugees to pass through a strict screening process allows for security measures to be done early on.

This proposal is modest and pragmatic. It clearly places the duty of processing in the capacity of the EU and the nations where such centers are to be placed. The immediate criticism that such a position will elicit from liberal leftists (and some in the radical left) is its lack of sharing solidarity with the refugees, submitting them to suspicion through strict screening processes. However, I agree with Žižek here; as someone who experienced lining up to get a US visa and staying for half an hour in the immigration lines just because my name is common to both Latinos and Filipinos, screening is a normal process by which someone proves his innocence to a legal body. Allowing an open border policy to refugees is similar to visa free travel with a huge possibility of wrecking havoc on the host country. At its most basic, Žižek demystifies the refugee, while they are victims of the war, they not innocent victims with pure personalities and attitudes.

Žižek’s demystification of refugees and proposals to systematize the process of accepting refugees reflect the political pragmatism at work in his recent political commentary. One of the crucial sections of his recent book is “A Plea for Bureaucratic Socialism”, what he does is to dispel another leftist mythic alternative to global capitalism i.e. localized politics governed by federal councils instead of a centralized state system. Such position is founded on a fundamental anarchist fantasy: since global capitalism has made nation-states subservient to its cause, an efficient way to combat it would be to abolish the nation-state bureaucracy and give power to a local council to oversee the affairs of different regions. What such position try to do is to transpose the revolutionary role of the multitude to a governing body, hoping that it won’t disintegrate and form another elite body of administrators. Such position reflects its incapability to build from popular political movements to the morning after of political administration. Žižek perceived the left as incapable of dealing with administration, but, at the same time, the moment that it can administer presents a decisive blow to liberal cynicism.

Žižek, in his recent book, echoes a pragmatic approach to political administration. The left is divided within sectarian lines when it comes to the question of the party and the state. While Žižek is critical of vanguardism, one should situate his criticism on vanguardism being merely vanguardist i.e. to simply gather and organize without the goal of administering to those it tries to represent. Žižek challenges all leftists to take the question of administration as part and parcel of the struggle. For all leftists, being drunk on revolutionary fervor leads us to confront the hangover the morning after; the problem with recent left-wing attempts at government is that it thought it can have its cake of leftist administration and eat it with capitalism, only to find themselves being punished by the market. Confronted with the real of the market and its expansive logic of exploitation, the challenge is how should a leftist confront the capitalist real without risking the return towards the old ways within the new.

Ascribing the term “pragmatism” to Žižek’s politics will reek of political and parliamentary reformism, however, it should be clear that for him, the measure of a revolution’s success is not to simply organize the mass base, but to effectively administer to the mass base, changing the coordinates of everyday habits that people do after the revolutionary event has dissipated. The Bolsheviks were aware of this after their victory in the Civil War, knowing well that allowing the proletariat and the farmers to go back to their old ways before the revolution would destroy all the work done before and during the revolution. Lenin expressed this when he wrote in 1918 that the one of the immediate tasks of the Soviet government is to promote open debate in meetings as well as discipline among the ranks of the proletariat and the party. Trotsky reflected on post-revolutionary culture in his article on cinema, vodka, and the church, demanding that in a proletarian state, the cinema presents a higher level of educational culture to replace the cheap entertainment provided by religion and alcohol. Lenin’s pragmatism and Trotsky’s left-wing puritanism resonate the attempt to revolutionize society sponsored by the Soviet government by introducing disciplinary measures and government sponsored forms of amusement (like state-owned theaters). Small measures like this as well as the New Economic Policy (NEP) renewed the Soviet economy after World War I. To Lenin, the NEP was a slow, but necessary, step for the betterment of the Soviet Union.

The modest proposition that the left should be the embodiment of discipline and restraint in contrast to the vulgarity of right-wing nationalist is a strong one and would most likely be rejected by those who see the left as the political spectrum of unbridled freedoms. However, the liberal establishment has already coopted the idea of individual hedonism, with millionaires from Silvio Berlusconi and his orgies and the baller lifestyle of the founders of Uber, making headlines. In such a case, the idea that individual hedonism is set against fascist obsession for order totally misses the point. While the left should fight for individual rights (gender equality and economic justice), such struggles are part and parcel of the leftist administration of the state. Currently, the postmodern left is afraid of the state, content with interstitial distance, hoping the status quo can be coaxed to answer the needs of the majority. However, the Clinton compromise shows us that this is impossible and downright counterproductive.

The ideas of “democratic centralism” and discipline within the party needs to be resuscitated.  Such concepts are widely accepted by the national democratic front. Perhaps, the West has a lot to learn from the party discipline of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

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Žižekian Political Pragmatism: On “The Courage of Hopelessness”

Palm Sunday as Anti-Tragedy

The greatest ironies of the Christian faith do not start in Holy Thursday. The radical nature of Christianity that will unravel in the Paschal Triduum begins with Palm Sunday and the ironic nature of its celebration.

At the start of the mass, the congregation heads outside of the church each one holding a branch of Palm that the priest blesses; after which, the celebrant reads the gospel depicting the entrance of Jesus to Jerusalem and welcomed with palm branches laid before his feet. This scene is then counteracted by the gospel reading during the mass proper, when the same congregation is tasked to read the parts of the High Priest and crowd that demanded Jesus’ crucifixion. While this scene is dogmatically meant to represent the guilt of men, these set of readings should not be read in such naive manner. Rather, is not the whole set of readings from the blessing of the palms to the reading of the passion of Christ according to Matthew a parody of a Greek tragedy?

The readings take us on the typical flow of a Greek tragedy. The fateful hero enters the city in triumph and welcomed by the people as the savior or the destined king of the city. However, this same person, by a twist of fate, does not live on to the expectation of the crowd and is denounced by the city’s ecclesiastico-political authorities for violating the fundamental traditions of the nation and sentenced to death not just physically but is removed from the community, a double death. However, a Greek tragedy employs a fundamental dramaturgic tool, the chorus, that completely separates the crowd and at the same time fully immerses them into the cathartic aspect of the play. While the chorus responds to what the crowd should feel in the performance, it, at the same time, separates them from the story by providing a fetishistic disavowed relation with the play.

If the narrative of the passion, read during Palm Sunday, were to be a tragedy, it fully parodies the flow and the ideal behind tragedy. While the message of tragedy is the inevitability of fate in the course of human and divine life, the message of the gospel tragedy is that at the beginning the fateful hero’s triumph and fall is downplayed. In the gospel, there is no fate that will devastate the characters and show his triumphant will. Here, we only have triumphant will without the fate; fate, as a series of strings that weaved together the series of events to its inevitable end, does not exist in the gospel. When Jesus dies on the cross and shouts “Father, Father why have you forsaken me”, Žižek is right to indicate that Jesus signaled the death of God as the transcendent God that sustains the fabric of our reality. In addition, he also dismantles the idea that the world is bound by an order that unfolds a singular narrative bound by love. When Jesus died, it did not end in a carnival of love, where people just loved each other and stopped judging, but signaled a constant state of emergency among his believers, carving the boundaries between believer and foe.

Hence, the ideal of palm Sunday: the palm branch has always been a political symbol, a sign of victory and conquest. Caesar’s victory at Pharsalus is symbolized by the palm tree at the temple of Nike and togas with palm ornaments are worn only by military leaders who have previous military victories under their command. It is easy to assume that the triumphant entry of Jesus in Jerusalem symbolizes a misinterpretation of his ideals that the Jews simply saw Jesus as the second Judas Maccabeus who will lead the rebellion against the Empire. This very conservative interpretation (which I first heard in a sermon when I was a devout conservative evangelical) fully separates the political from the religious that the Christian message is radically different from socio-political struggles. Here, the passion is simply read as an act of disgruntled people who did not expect Jesus to be the man for the job.

The separation however is more radical than the political/religious difference. Rather, what the Jews and other Christian readers have missed is that the triumphant entry of Jesus should be read as the initial dismantling of the ideal of fate and God’s role in actively weaving it to one piece. When Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey, it already indicates that Jesus did not come to be the nationalist political savior nor simply the scapegoat for all our sins, but indicates that God is already empty and that fate does not exist until the people weaved it to be so.

Hence, the obscene implication of the last words of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew is the complete reversal of the heroic tragic ideal. The city is left to its own devices and the community of believers is left to its indelible bond of Christian love. Love, here, is not the common sense notion of love as an emotion, i.e. an eros, but the tension between philand agape, expressed by the discourse between Jesus and Peter in John 21: 15-18. Here, agape does not supercede philo, but the interaction between Peter and Jesus (i.e. between ἀγαπᾷς με and ὅτι φιλῶ σε) culminates between the common expression of φιλεῖς με used by both interlocutors. Hence, agape is not the precondition for Christian love, but a product that emerges in the gap between it and philo that exists only within the boundaries of philein, i.e. of the gathering of human beings as a community of believers from where agape is produced in solidarity. That is the implication of the whole passion narrative initiated by the narrative of Palm Sunday liturgy.

Love, as presented in Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name, along with all its new age-ish message of everything is connected by a thread, interconnecting people of different times and context should be rejected as a complete reactionary message. Your Name presents relations and conflicts as inevitable entanglements within the the same thread of fate that can be entangled but never separate always connected. The disaster serves as one of the entanglements that will sustain the connection of the whole and the proper place of each people within the weaved fabric of time. Each human being and nature in general moved in relation to its harmonious relation within the whole. This soft fascist vision, wherein Japanese Imperialism (as sustained by both paganism and Zen Buddhism) can be simply read as a an entanglement in the nation’s fabric, is counteracted by Christian universality and the tension between philein and agape. Solidarity breaks fate altogether and dismantles class; for this reason, Shiro Amakusa, a Christian who rejected his being part of the samurai class and organized the oppressed Christian peasants, is such a threat to the tightly knit social system and such rebellion can only be sustained by the ideals presented by Christian love. When liberals want to obfuscate class struggle to emphasize the common bond that binds humans together, a genuine response is always a resounding Christian “no”.

Palm Sunday as Anti-Tragedy

Reading Kimi No Na Wa as an Ideological Text

 

I have a strong cynicism for films that portray the inherent unity of all things that we are connected by some invisible threads where we are destined to be connected with each other. The ontology of holistic unity of things is merely a reverberation of some ecological politic to encompass human politic, to extinguish the fire of partisan struggle, seen as the source both of societal and ecological disasters. The pervading mindset that we can create multi-sectoral solutions sans party politics that divides statecraft politics is explicated within the admiration of nature as beautiful and orderly entity to which we all belong. Hence, social relations are pattered or should be patterened after the connecting threads that connect each and every one of us regardless of race, gender, and political support. Despite its attempt to rid politics of politics (i.e. to be outside of politics), it is fundamentally built on a new age political ontology, albeit refusing to admit it.

The central theme of Makoto Shinkai’s Kimi no na wa (Your Name) lies in its plot wherein two people are connected by single destiny. With the story revolving around the Shakespeare-ish comedy of errors, Taki and Mitsuha’s destiny unfurls in the succeeding scenes as each body swap is a glimpse of each other’s life that they desired. Mitsuha experiences urban life while swapped in Taki’s body eventually landing him a date with a female coworker. Taki, on the other hand, helped Mitsuha deal with the anxieties of rural life and an overbearing political father. The comedy of errors ends with Taki’s attempt to intervene by informing Mitsuha of an impending disaster, involving fragments of a comet hitting Itomori, Mitsuha’s town. Centered around the goal to change what happened three years ago (both characters are apparently three years apart from each other ), the whole message of the film revolved around the internal unity of things and the connections it weaves upon everybody. This unity is deemed sacred that even the gods follow suit. Such was how nature is oriented and that fastidious patience is demanded of people for them to reap the rewards of the divine ordination of things.

As a text within a particular cultural network of Japanese anime, Your Name (regardless of its basic fantasy and sci-fi elements) is simply a one of the many attempts to remove anime from the clichés it was known for. Makoto Shinkai’s works have the indelible mark of being hyper-realistic with a careful attention to small details. Such technique turns anime into a respectable medium on par with the medium of cinematic fiction, something that elitist film makers are wont to accept, isolating it to the confines of animated features or some form of escapism.

However, despite the good intentions to create an animated masterpiece, its themes clearly exhibit our current ideological situation. This is clearly seen from Mitsuha’s relation to her father, Toshiki Miyamizu, and how Taki eventually helps her deal with him and its situation in the progress of the story. The kinship dynamic between daughter and father is the continuation of a feud in the Miyamizu family who were the titular heads of the local Shinto shrine. Hitoha Miyamizu, their grandmother, holds on to the family traditions, passing on the rituals and practices of the Itomori shrine to the Miyamizu daughters despite the loss of the knowledge concerning the purpose of the rituals; furthermore, Hitoha holds Toshiki in contempt for leaving the priesthood and later settled in local politics. Here, two distinct spheres are lined out: the sphere of the political i.e. the sphere of political maneuvering, agonism and technocracy and the (pagan) religious sphere of nature where the traditions echo the divine order and connections of things: they are kept despite our lack of knowledge about them, content with the knowledge that these traditions reflect the place of humans within the order of nature. Politics is the sphere of the father, where he exercises his legal authority over his legal constituents. The sphere of paganism that of the guarding of “the way things are” is the domain of maternal superego; the uncompromising attachment to the unknown and the mere appearance of ritual is the (grand)mother’s ethical stance: it is what keeps the world from what it is and hence to maintain the appearance of the traditions as such. Throughout the film, both the father and grandmother’s disagreements form Mitsuha’s silent resentment both for her father’s authority and the arbitrariness of keeping the appearance of the religious traditions. Clearly, she exercises a form of fetishistic disavowal, when she performs the prescribed sacred ceremonies. The paternal metaphor (legal authority) clashes with the maternal superego; but by going against the maternal authority, the latter re-inscribes itself, attempting to suppress the antagonism between it and politics. Your Name’s background is set on the inherent struggle between the demands of political life (and whatever it stands for) and the realm of the sacred order of things.

The disaster served as the external obstacle to seemingly reconcile the realm of the political and tradition. To read that situation fundamentally, the comet is the objet petit a at its finest, a spectral thing that intrudes constantly with the current state of things. The external thing happens to repress the antagonism inside the object in order to express the conflict as the struggle against something else outside of itself. In the case of the antagonism between politics and tradition, the comet acts as an external threat to re-inscribe the authority of the latter in the social field. A great deal of disaster flicks follow the pattern of conflict—external threat—reconciliation pattern; Slavoj Žižek noted apropos of how disaster films like Armageddon, Deep Impact or War of the Worlds does the same thing of reconciling children to paternal authority. External conflicts serve as the catalyst needed to repress the traumatic element of antagonism inherent in the relation between the two. In the case of Your Name, the comet incident is a suppression of the antagonism inherent in the relation between politics and the realm of nature, stressing the overall importance of the underlying unity that the nature entails.

The return to the authentic realm of nature from the inauthentic and oftentimes exploitative field of technology and politics pervades to-day’s field of struggle from multicultural struggles sans class conflicts to ecological activism that aims to fight technocracy. In anime, Makoto Shinkai’s work responds faithfully to Hayao Miyazaki’s criticism of the prevailing otaku culture  that form most productions of animation and the usual clichés in anime that we know to-day. Perhaps, both Shinkai and Miyazaki (and Studio Ghibili for that matter) form a reaction to the apocalyptic absurdity that pervaded animated classics like Akira or Neon Genesis Evangelion by emphasizing again the greatness of the human spirit and the hope that comes with it, set against the invading force of political upheaval and the impending damages it does not only to man but to nature.

To liberate ourselves from that bleak imagination, anime, just like cinema, attempted to make itself a reflection of everyday life. What the re-inscription of the inherent unity in nature really wants to do is to point towards an authentic sphere outside of the antagonism of political and economic life, where everyone can experience the unity of all things and how it binds us. This way the antagonism remains covered, but we are awarded with the sublime consummation of teenage love or inner peace, blind to the symptoms of the current state of affairs. Despite its attempt to restore hope and the beauty of the human spirit in anime, a medium that grew with the rise of the hikikomori i.e. people who decided to shut themselves in at the failure of integrating into the socio-economic-political demands, to unveil the authentic sphere of being outside of technological enframing is the suppression of the internal conflict within nature and the social field itself. Beneath every attempt at realism is an underlying fascination with the unseen reality, hiding beneath the inauthenticity of technical conceptualization. However, the attempt to exercise distance from the conflicts of social and political relations is to simply repress the antagonism itself, to discredit it merely as a conceptualization, conjured out of the reactionary attempt to escape the realm of the political.

Reading Kimi No Na Wa as an Ideological Text

Conceptualism from a Spectator’s Perspective

I was supposed to write a paper on Wittgenstein and conceptual art. In the process, I [think] have bothered a good number of people with my own ignorance and rudimentary understanding of the subject. Perhaps, the source of my own difficulty lies with my very framework in dealing with the subject. My initial approach was basic: first, define my terminologies and show some theoretical texts, revealing the art-movement’s goals, methods, and motives, determining how and why art would result in such and such a way and not this and that way; second, apply some Wittgensteinian insights with the notions of Lebensformen and sprachspiel, informing the reflection, accompanied with citations from theoretical texts.

My hypothesis was that given a Wittgensteinian framework, conceptual art can be described as a language-game about language-games, showing the nuances involved in the social character of language, diverting from an essentialist definition as mere expression with meaning. It was to be described as an anti-poetic poetics. Furthermore, rejecting the usual definition of art as the expression with form and content, it embodies the fluid character of language in its varied uses and applications within a social symbolic exchange (defined here in the sense of Clifford Geertz’s definition of the term). Though the argument is sustainable as such, the paper reads as a mess of pretentious statements and sketchy arguments and inferences. In a nutshell, it was too prententious (allow me the redundancy) and I decided to scrap it altogether, thinking that one can write about it in sa tamang panahon, when a theoretical grounding is clearly established and the movement understood.

But, I am a mere spectator; not even an artist nor a poet (not even a philosopher!), to venture our in the artistic circles demands understanding, but the art-movement demands more. This piece is not an attempt to fill a hole left by a curiosity nor is it a propadeutic to one. Rather, they are mere scribbles on a notepad as when a spectator goes into a museum to view from his comfortable position and look at art as some object, a thing in the world with the qualities of a thing. He goes out and bangs away at his Mac the words [he thinks] can define art and further shape it. In short, the spectator has the air of a curator and the prententious snobbery of an art-critic (in the mode of New Criticism!!), writing for a future art collector who would gloss at his private collection as some masturbatory object, beating his chest, saying to himself: “what a sophisticated art-collector I am.” Am I that spectator, expecting some kind reimbursement after a hard day’s work? Perhaps, the difficulty of writing starts with that temptation (so prevalent among those who espouse hermeneutics) to find meaning after the literal text (work) already gave its juice, setting the coordinates of some deeper [existential] understanding of the text, admitting to oneself “now that we’ve done our hermeneutic job, let us leave the surplus behind.” If there is a spectator much worse than he is to-day, it is the hermeneutician, with an impression of some greater cultural and existential flare after the act of interpretation and the start of living.

It is this double tap from a hermeneutic spectator and the agent-spectator that I realize kept art as the subject of mere reflection of an artist’s inner feelings or external manifestation of his political [liberal] opinion. My mistake was to remain with Wittgenstein, a philosophical framework lukewarm to politics and reverts to vulgar multi-cultralism and blind cynicism about universalizing discourses wherein it ends up to necessarily state its political voice (a mistake that Chantal Mouffe often makes apropos of political passion and hegemony). Conceptualism is not about language nor does it have a vitalist and abstract conception of life; but an attempt to unravel antagonisms within art itself, revealing the underlying political struggle within society and the ideological fixation that co-opts art. In this case, Walther Benjamin is more relevant than Wittgenstein, since Benjamin’s response to the aesthetization of politics by fascism is to politicize aesthetics. In our neoliberal economic and social landscape, art is aestheticized marketplace, selling artistic sophistication and meaning, determined by the spectator for the spectator and his gang.

Not to really abandon a Wittgensteinian insight, conceptualism (from literary to visual) can be a demand to return to a rough ground, embedded in society. However, it does not cease as such but analyzes the conflicts within members of society and implores universal struggle inasmuch as the communist party does with the broad masses of workers. This is art without the added supplement that sustain art for the spectator, the objets petit a that the spectator introduces with hermeneutics. Conceptualism does not interpret what already was shown; it shows [simply].

Conceptualism from a Spectator’s Perspective