Posts Tagged ‘Bruno Latour’

Arts Complicity

August 15, 2016

The Don As Art

[this is a repost from April 2011]

Part of the noose that is knot this week is the Meredith Vieira/Don Trump extravaganza that took place on The Today Show, April 7th 2011. Poor Meredith was dumped on for being preoccupied with packing her golden parachute while the Trump grandstanded over a non issue. Hearing that an epitome of the American entrepreneurial spirit, vested casino owner, pillar of skyscraperdom, and presidential wannabe has doubts was like hearing a Catholic priest wannabe question her faith. Although not mentioned, Meredith’s interview hearkened memories of Katie Couric bamboozling Sarah Palin. By those standards, Vieira certainly came off as unprepared and unarmed. But she was none of the above.

Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern. is an essay by Bruno Latour that appeared in Critical Inquiry 30, no 2 winter of 2005. Reading this in the light of the Vieira/Trump interview makes finding fault with Meredith totally off the mark. As Latour points out, the Don simply employed methodologies and strategies of critique that have been championed for their incisiveness and originality. These methods and strategies were a stable of the pedagogy molding and forming cultural workers for the 21st century, eventually becoming part and parcel of our culture. That we don’t like the message, or the bearer of the message is one thing, but we certainly are enamored with the process by which the message is being delivered. Besides, the message is irrelevant. The Don got media attention, created buzz, acquired political capital, and promoted his “Already Successful Celebrity” Apprentice show. Recently, after a Charlie Sheen performance, in a “how was the show?” man-on-the-street interview by a Columbus Ohio TV station, the attendee gushed with praise for what a genius of marketing and how brilliant a promoter Mr. Sheen was.

How many times have you been to a visual art showing where the artist “interrogated” some commonly held cultural notions or practices, “questioned” given interpretations of reality? (The interrogation’s response- “That is for the viewer to imagine.”) How many times have you left such an art show thinking “Anyone can ask the questions. It’s a little more difficult, and requires some commitment, to provide an answer.” How many times have you seen associations made, juxtapositions of total fabrication, inappropriateness and inaccuracy portrayed as Art, justified by their being meant to jar the viewer and startle them into considering alternate realities? How many issue related works of Art have you pondered that righteously “made the point” that something was questionable or wrong with regard the environment, “human rights”, global economics, genocide, etc. but left you totally irritated and frustrated because the artist exerted absolutely no imagination or creativity in seeing through their banal article of faith declaration and dared not present how it could/should/must be (all the trappings of critique without being critical)?

C’mon folks, we love this stuff. As Latour pointed out, we’ve embraced this critique so intimately that we’ve lost the ability (or commitment) to imagine otherwise, to articulate a definitive and determinate meaning.


The Great Pretender

March 11, 2015

The last thing political rivalry admits to is identity; that there is no difference. Differentiating grounds, no, founds political discourse in the US, grants it legitimacy. Currently, it is to the extent of deep polarization (civil war is being insinuated/rumored to be OK). The relationship/necessity of politics to govern, and whether these are good or bad, are precluded by the interests of this blog. Ditto the relationship/necessity of governance to society (who speaks of society without governance?). Making pretensions to difference seems to permeate the popular news coverage of late, especially that of politics and government. In an ancient tome entitled “The Imaginary Institution of Society” (original French 1975) Cornelius Castoriadis identifies “legein” and “teukhein”, with their intimate entwining, as integral to the institution of society. Crassly and coarsely put “legein” is determining or designating (language) while “teukhein” is making or doing. Immediately their interconnection jumps out in that designating is a making or doing through differentiating/identity (What Castoriadis describes as ensemblist-indentity logic or thinking; i.e. designating this grouping of a set as same, ditto it will differentiate the designated grouping from the rest of the set, thereby in turn determining an “other” than the same). Language determines. Yet since it is all we’ve got, it also can be used to conceal or deny (itself a kind of making or doing). One example of this elision or denial of instituting (while actually actively doing just that) can be found in the ostensible differentiation of the two major parties in US national governance, the culture wars, the future of America as we know it (and maybe civilization itself!), etc. The US President Barack Obama is chastised for being unwilling to determine or designate religious based violence/terrorism by describing it as, well, religious, and the Governor of Florida, Rick Scott, authorizes state agencies to not utilize or reference the designation or determination of “climate change” (Science being considered as “secular.” And you always thought religion and science were different, didn’t you?). Religious grounds for making or doing are separated/differentiated from secular ones through the designation/determination of language. During the years of bloodshed in Northern Ireland, the IRA was never referenced as Roman Catholic terrorism. Such differentiation, the originally all too human institution of both (that which creates identity), is conveniently hidden, denied, elided or mystified. By actively attempting to “make” or “do” a differentiation of governing as human instituting and science being about something “not so” (humanly instituted) Governor Scott maintains the hidden, denied, elided or mystified aspect (of science, that it is humanly instituted). In “Pandora’s Hope” (1995) Bruno Latour repeatedly recounts and specifies the political intrigue and machinations of Louis Pasteur’s designation/determination of bacteria. That is, the science was a human institution. Like the US President, the Florida Governor wants to keep something hidden and unsaid while promoting a making or doing through identity with what can be said or revealed. The President elides the very human institution of religion through his determination/designation of terrorism (No Roman Catholic terrorists for him! Through his making or doing he affirms the mystifying aspect of religion’s political influence). The Governor elides admitting the very human institution of science through his designation/determination of state agency protocol (wherebye in actuality his making or doing affirms what Latour pointed out as the politics involved with the institution of science). This elision by both political rivals indicates identity, not difference.