Iain Cameron's Diary
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2005-05-27 - 9:13 p.m.
The Ros Krauss Club Synopsis is quite a piece of work. Essentially itís a bit of hegemony - the RKC decided they were going to write the definitive account of 20C art from a US perspective - before any claim to speak legitimately from a universal or global point of view from a US platform became utterly risible. The work is intended to synthesize vast swathes of art scholarship and present it globally in a way that is widely accessible. It starts with 4 chapters on perspective - Structuralism - post Structuralism - Psycholoanalyis and Sociology. Essentially this a classic MBA two by two matrix - inside-outside against fixed-fluid. Structuralism is inside-fixed and outside-fluid is post-Structuralism - at least after Deleuze it is in my book. You wont be surprised to hear that I think I do Sociology and post-Structuralism.
That French stuff about knowledge communities and governance is just one example - a very potent example in fact. The more I think about the motorsport issues the better the connection gets. And indeed I have had a bit of a breakthrough in this area using the technology-platform concept. Keith-mice-Beefheart and I were kicking around some issues in this area with respect our plan to penetrate our local world-class HEI.
I was particularly interested in what RKC have to say on Kant and free-floating. Apparently there is a historical thread that locates art and the supposed autonomy of art as a constitutive element of the bourgeois subject. I am not sure I go for this. For a start art doesnít need bourgeois subjectivity - you can easily see in the history of the world that art exists across time and bourgeois subjectivity doesnít. So it would be rubbish to cling onto bourgeois subjectivity otherwise art would go down the pan.
Bloorís innovation theory (and indeed the French stuff) says that inside-fluid is a waste of time - since meaning obviously doesnít happen that way. You can start with Deleuze and intensities - intensities happen - thatís a fact of lived experience - as DL says - we are desiring machines. Intensities are not all aesthetic - some might be things like stubbing our toe.
What makes an intensity aesthetic is the pattern of judgement that goes with it - Kant is obviously right about that. Maybe he is also right in giving some insight into what sort of pattern of judgement does the trick - with the play-purpose-purposeless cluster and the notion of structural accord. When I talk about structure-process metaphor thatís what I am getting at.
The Bloor-Popper innovation trope is a key factor here. Popper explains that it is not accidental that innovation doesnít happen - there are a million social reasons why things mostly stay as they are. Any serious artist-composer is up against those reasons all the time. The surprising thing is that innovation happens at all - what is needed is explanation of the peculiar circs in which some new ideas catch on.
Innovation is social. We can all have new ideas everyday of our lives. They will stay as ideas and just decay in the virtual realm unless they come out into social reality - unless we are able to get at least a few other people to take them seriously. How does that happen ? What makes other people take our new ideas , projects, compositions , artworks etc seriously on those rare occasions when they do? The Collings-Danto account of the contemporary art-world is esp valuable because it gives a good accessible account of the way this has been working lately. Probably Bordieu is a key analyst too on this.
The RKCS is good on this because it enables you to see - on a century wide scale - where there are clusters of active audience that are willing to meet the new-ideas crew half way. Part of the fascination of (say) Nicoís biography is the way she drifts through lots of these from the Left Bank to Madchester and Ibiza.
When you have tracked down the social specifics of new ideas becoming innovation then you can begin to get a grip of what it is about those specifics that enabled this rather rare transfer to take place. This is what the French are doing - Gordon Brown is paying Cambridge-MIT quite a big wodge to do the same kind of analysis. MIT has an enormously good track record.
Here we have to distinguish between reasons and causes. There are lots of causes for a specific transfer eg why did rich Americans at the end of the 19C start to buy Fr Impressionism in big quantities and drive the prices up? Why did a small urban elite in NYC pick up on Varese and Duchamp?
So who are the big players in the Kant-Model ? Who are the people who try to find reasons for intensities triggered by works of art? Well - take Sylvia Plath - by anybodyís standards she is a bit of a wind-up - comes across very intensely. You find critics arguing about the validity and basis of the intensity eg the use of Holocaust imagery in poems that appear to be about domestic reality. Thatís one place where aesthetics is happening and has been for a few decades. On the one can you can say that these poems are just hysterical - and in this way deny the existence of real aesthetic reasons for the intensity. The Plath-intensity isnít art its neurosis - or you can try to find better valid reasons for that kind of intensity - such reasoning would be aesthetic.
I realized a few weeks ago that the I A Richards - the founder of the Cambridge English School fitted the Kant-Model. In his 1926 little book Science and Poetry (first edition sitting in my office near the collected works of Edmund Burke) he anticipates DL in describing intense reactions to literary stimuli. The Cambs pedagoguic practice of Practical Criticism is like a real time aesthetics training course - social practice where valid aesthetic reasoning is hammered out. You can quarrel with Ďvalidí I agree - but this is a simple model. Certainly Prac Crit is a method of cultural reproduction - a lot of English teachers went through the process and were shaped by it and went on to become school masters. They carried a taught pattern of aesthetic reasoning with them and inflicted it on their helpless pupils.
On the VFT - Plath axis another contender has come into view Eva Hesse - a post absex sculptress of the late 60s.