Tuesday, 7 June 2011

the art of crisis

trailing through the October questionnaire on 'recessional art' (i.e. art in the wake of the financial crisis) I came across this by Andrew Witt and Nathan Crompton in their reply (Badiousian largely) to October:

'Debt to the situation translates into a sense of "responsibility," like the artist who today finds him/herself in the midst of capitalism in crisis - nothing new there! - and is compelled to make art out of a sense of pathos and guilt rather than affirmation.'

Of course this is, for them, a bad thing. It's not just deliberate perversity, although that may play a part, but what's so wrong about a sense of 'responsibility' (and why the scare quotes?) and making art out of a sense of pathos and guilt? Less in favour of pathos, but guilt would be fine. Also, capitalism in midst of crisis is nothing new, well not in the technical sense but isn't this a slightly larger crisis? (perhaps leave this to Paul Mattick).

Of course I've written at length critically about affirmation, but even if one is affirmative I think the unspoken obviousness that is implied here might need a little more justification. Simply to mention 'responsibility', 'pathos' or, even worse, 'guilt', is supposed to raise post-Nietzschean hackles like an inbuilt-reflex (never made the maudlin pathos of much of Nietzsche and Nietzschean - all heroic strength while complaining about being 'dragged down' by those evil Christian / socialist / anarchist masses...).


Joshua said...

I think you've neglected much of Witt and Crompton's attack on the idea of the artists' complete dependence and related complicity with the financial crisis to produce art (as in their comments on the Tate and BP). And in passing over their argument about how art must not be entirely beholden to its situation, I worry that you've arrived at much the same argument as is made by those in favor of austerity measures - "We're all responsible for this economic calamity, so share in the burden."

Benjamin said...

I was merely picking up on this line and the Badiouian affirmative tone, but apologies if it seems a mischaracterisation and certainly not implying 'we are all responsible' I hope.

Joshua said...

I do find their particular take on Badiou's artistic subject pretty vacuous and their closing example unconvincing, so I am all with you on that!

Benjamin said...

cool, I'm afraid proper reading seems to be disappearing for me between trying to do various events and the banal horrors of work, so I'm not on top form (if I ever was...)