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<eyebeam><blast> CLOSING SUMMARY 5

<eyebeam><blast> artistic practice in the network 


Olu Oguibe noted "how poorly we approach or apply theory sometimes to
the point where theory, far from remaining an analytical tool, becomes
an otherizing agent." He found a reliance upon European theory as very
disturbing and remarked that it often suggested a negation of the
pluralism we otherwise promulgate. "One really tires of reading and
hearing names like Derrida, Deleuze/Guattari, and Baudrillard trumped up
on every imaginable occasion, as if theirs was the greatest story ever
told." He felt that "folks ought to get off their asses and show some
originality of thought rather than remain[ing] groupies all their

Olu notes that there is a seeming paradox in all this, "for it has been
the duty of some of us from the non-western world to challenge the
ambivalence toward theory in our communities; to argue against those who
believe that there is no relevance in theory, only praxis." Yet "we seem
to have a better understanding of the limits of theory and the potential
terror contained in every _culture_ of theory. Because we have to argue
for--stand up for--theory, we also know that theory, when abused or
uncritically approached, cuts like a double-edged sword, and could
become a fortress door, a 'European citizens only' gate at the port of
entry, and like every tool of multiple agency, may serve to dismiss or
disavow contingents and continents even when not so intended."

Bill Jones felt that arguments about the place of theory are "based on
an ages old misperception (by those in the arts) of a lack of or
continuing need for independent critical discourse." Bill writes that
"Art is indefensible" and that he has seen over the years "a gradual
chilling effect as academic discourse entered the art making process.
Artists needed jobs. They had to teach. As technique became less
definable, and theory became more important, artist/teachers learned to
speak theory. Some became theorists of a sort. Others mimicked the
language. Most felt obliged to justify their work in terms of philosophy
or semiology etc. Art magazines for a period of time stopped taking
works of art for their subject and instead took 'subject' as their
subject." Then as times got tough, these magazines "dropped the theory
altogether and just talked about popular culture as if it were art, in
vague generalities as do most popular magazines."

Robert Adrian writes that theory is too important to be left to the

Brian Holmes writes that part of the problem is the operations of the
"selective tradition" (Raymond Williams).  He writes that figures like
Barthes, Derrida and Deleuze/Guattari had very different positions,
conceiving their writing tactically in response to the rigid
disciplinary structures that governed intellectual and social life in
sixties France. "But it's as though a kind of selection had operated in
the eighties, particularly in the American universities. The divergent
positions are now conflated into celebrations of a free-floating textual
indeterminacy which banishes any form of agency, subjective or
otherwise. And the infinite permutations of semiotic combinatory systems
or the restless prowling of schizophrenic desire fit in perfectly with
contemporary capitalism's need for the constant proliferation of
short-lived, magnetically attractive symbolic products, tailored for
highly individualized consumption"-- all perfectly adapted to the
anti-disciplinary transmission structure of the internet.

Brian then wrote that, against this backdrop, "the brilliant and bitter
realism of Adorno stands out today, not as a model - because Adorno's
totalizing critique of capitalist reason leads to a total impasse - but
as a touchstone of ethical exigency. Adorno seems not to have been
selected by the postmodern period. Maybe that's a clue for us."

This statement -- as well as an earlier one by Sjoukje van der Muelen --
touched off a discussion concerning a "rereading of Adorno." Sjoukje
asked whether Adorno could still have an impact on contemporary thought,
especially in relation to art and criticism on the net. She writes that
economic and political analyses do not take into account what Adorno has
called the enigma, or "das Ratsel charakter" of art, the
thing-in-and-for-itself. "The sophistication of Adorno's model - even
though coloured by 20th century modernist thought - is that it relates
artworks to 'faits socials' without reading them solely within one or
another political programme. Adorno rejects artworks that strive for
literal 'social affects' or moral statements. The way art protests
against society, in his view, is much more subtle."

Bracha Lichtenberg-Ettinger wrote that all kinds of rational confusions
can indeed be just uncritical products disguising as "radical" art. She
writes that "Rem Koolhaas' important observation with regards to
urbanity vs. architecture can be linked to Adorno's warnings concerning
the delirious illusion of rational mastery." For Bracha, the idea of
endless multiplicity circulating in the air is no less a delirium of
mastery then the idea of the One. "What links Rem Koolhaas and Adorno is
the realization that technological mastery without the 'breath of the
spirit' is dead end. Dead. End."

(The discussions continued regarding Adorno in posts by Clifford Duffy,
Giles Peaker, Saul Anton, Suzanne Treister, and Jason Edward Kauffman.) 

Brian Holmes wrote that what struck him most powerfully in the research
and translation work he did for the Documenta book, "was the extent to
which the gains of the sixties, the new possibilities for individual
autonomy and spontaneity, the new acceptance of desire and creativity,
the new recognition of cultural pluralism won through shared struggles
with the 'third world,' all seemed to have been sucked up immediately by
the managerial class, who spat them back out as the new, lightweight,
all-terrain economic system of complexity and flexibility, apparently
able to take immediate commercial and propagandistic advantage of even
the most outlandishly creative thoughts and gestures." 

Under these conditions and others, "it becomes important to characterize
what one might call the 'flexible personality,' to sketch out its
dynamics and its dialectical contradictions." Brian explains that this
is why he suggested that certain now-fetishized thinkers have been
partially and selectively instrumentalized within the symbolic economy
of so-called 'flexible accumulation,' with "its preference for complex,
lightweight, short-lived, non-standard products, whose individualization
doesn't preclude high integration to the surplus-value system." He
writes that flexibility has all kinds of breaking points, which we
should work to illuminate rather than obscure.

A burst of new discussion occurred in the realm of the Tyranny of
Theory, this time concerning the issue of neologisms. In response to a
post by Bracha Lichtenberg-Ettinger, Jason Edward Kaufman wrote, "That's
quite a model Bracha Lichtenberg offers. I have never seen so many
neologisms in such a short text. It sounds almost like a parody of
art-crit psychobabble -- yet it sort of makes sense." Clifford Duffy
leapt to the defense of Bracha, writing that it seemed Jason was
suggesting that coining neologisms was intellectually and perhaps
morally suspect.

Olu Oguibe wrote that "this time around I'll actually side with Jason
Kauffman, not in sarcasm, but in outright identification with the
disdain for irrelevant 'neologisms.' Frankly I think some of us overdo
it, as if there is a particularly dire need for coinages. The tendency
makes for much ineloquence and very pretentious writing, obscuring
thought and phenomena when it should be a purpose of theory to elucidate
same." Olu felt that, yes, "hankering toward unnecessary neologisms is
morally suspect and indeed, implies a certain inadequacy, an inadequacy
not in the language or its vocabulary, but on the part of the scholar or
theorist." He advises that everyone of us return to "what in my college
days in Nigeria we called GS101 - Elements of Style - and to that great
classic by Strunk and White." The problem with this kind of "inventive"
writing, Olu continued, is that often it does not pass through the same
rigorous challenges that inventiveness in business, technology, the
sciences, and sometimes literature, passes through. "So, a scholar
bamboozles her editor or literally cowers her into acquiescence over
proliferate and utterly incomprehensible neologisms, and voila, the
gabosh is dumped on readers like from a truck on a sidewalk."

Greg Ulmer replied that Olu might take a look at Francis-Noel Thomas and
Mark Turner's "Clear and Simple as the Truth: Writing Classic Prose" for
a useful sorting of approaches.  He said that "The history of style
tends toward a reductive pendulum swing from classic to romantic. The
lesson at least is that both ends of the spectrum are legitimate and
powerful modes of expression.  My taste tends towards the baroque,
including the neologism and pun, but as a teacher I strive for clarity
of instruction." 

Craig Brozefsky asked Olu "Which of [Bracha's] 'neologisms' were
irrelevant?  We were warned at the beginning of her post that it was
situated within the vocabulary of psychoanalysis and her many years of
work, and had been developed over a period of time.  We were given a
reference to the larger work from which she was citing, as well as a URL
to a bibliography of her work, within which she theorized these phrases
and words." Craig believed that if there were words Olu did not
recognize, and Bracha was kind enough to give us a list of possible
culprits at the top of her post, then her bibliography and references
should be referred to in order to gain some context and meaning for
these words. 

Organon added that "whether you deconstruct or invent neologisms is not
the issue. It's how well you do it."

Bracha wrote a summary of her position. "The artist or the philosopher
fights the thing back, and only if there is no other choice - surrenders
to it. And the word chooses itself. That's how an internal hollowed
space takes off and spreads itself in the world and in the text, like a
passage you are going to see. For you to find in it - or not - what you
were looking for unknowingly."

At approximately the same time, Bracha posted an announcement that
"Jean-Francois Lyotard died last week in Paris and was buried yesterday
in Pere Lachaise. He who had the gift of wondering. He who knew that art
begins in gifting outside of any commerce and is paid with your own
body.  Blessed be his soul."

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