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2013-08-01 The Anti-Political Aesthetics of Objects and Worlds Beyond | Mute ARTICLES THE ANTI-POLITICAL AESTHETICS OF

The Anti-Political Aesthetics of Objects and Worlds Beyond | Mute

THE ANTI-POLITICAL AESTHETICS OF OBJECTS AND WORLDS BEYOND

BySvenjaBromberg,25July2013

BySvenjaBromberg,25July2013 Politics / Philosophy / Art

Image:SannaMarander'SolidObjects',installationviewofTheReturnoftheObject,atInvaliden1,Berlin,curatedbyStefanieHessler

Nowthatimmaterialandaffectivelabourseemtobewaningassubjectsforart,afascinationwiththeradical

contingencyofthematerialworldhasgrowntotaketheirplace.Throughclosereadingsofthespeculative

realistphilosophythatsoinspirescontemporaryaesthetics,SvenjaBrombergpin­pointstheanti­politics

inherentinthisturn

Whatdoweseewhenwelingerforamomentonwhatisnowcelebratedasthe‘turntowardsobjects’inthe

overlappingspacesofartandphilosophy?Atfirstglance,acolourfulpotpourrioftheoriesthathavegainedwide

recognitioninanextremelyshorttimespan,especiallythroughtheirpresenceinboththe‘blogosphere’andthe

classicalacademicsphere. 1 ThethinkersfeaturingmostprominentlyareGrahamHarmanwithhis‘Object­Oriented Ontology’,andQuentinMeillassoux,whobecamebestknownforcoiningthecriticalterm‘correlationism’inhisfirst

majorworkAfterFinitude. 2 InthistermMeillassouxsummarisesthegeneralisedantirealiststanceofallof continentalphilosophyinitsunderstandingofallperceptionasbeingalwaysalreadycorrelatedwithahuman,and thereforesubjectivist,perspective.ButfirstIwanttotouchonsomethingthatIstartedtoconsciouslyacknowledgein

relationtothepublicityaroundthedOCUMENTA(13)inKasselin2012,beforebeforegoingdeeperintothese

theoriesassuchinordertodisentangleandclarifytheirpositions.

Theexhibition’scuratorCarolynChristov­Bakargievleftnodoubtastotheenormousimpactobject­oriented

ontologyhadhadonthedevelopmentofheraesthetic.SincedOCUMENTAtherehasbeenarealexplosioninart

exhibitionsthatexplicitlycentrearoundobjectsandarticulatearelationtothephilosophicalstrandofObject­

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OrientedOntolgy(OOO)/SpeculativeRealism(SR).Withinthissameculturalturntotheobjectweshouldalso

includealargeconferenceentitledAestheticsofthe21stCenturyheldinBaselinSeptember2012,atwhich

Harmangavethekeynoteandaninternationalarrayofartists,curatorsandtheoreticiansmetwiththeshared

objectiveofclarifyinganddiscussingthesephilosophicalcurrents. 3 Whathasreallymotivatedmetoundertakethis inquiryisthefactthat,whilethecontinentalphilosophysceneseemstohaveretreatedabitfromtheinitialfrenzy aroundthesetheoreticalstrands,itisnowtheartworldwithitsartists,curatorsandcriticsthatupholdsafidelityto thepromisesofobject­orientedtheories.Butwhatdoesitfindinthemandwhatdothetheoriesthemselvesdeliverin termsofanaesthetics?

TheTurnTowardsObjects:‘Theheroisdead–Longlivethething’ 4

Thereisatfirstaverymaterialsenseinwhichitsadvocatesjustifytheturntoobjects.Weareatapointwhereour

faithinthepowersofthesubjecttocritiqueandsubvertreality,asgroundedinEnlightenmenttheory,hasbeentruly

defeated,notleastbycapitalism’snowmuchdiscussedabilitytodemandpreciselysubjective–emotionalor

affective–investmentsinitsexploitativemachinery. 5 Thus,itisnotonlythefactthat‘subjectsarealwaysalready

subjected’,whichwehavelearnedfromFoucault,Butlerandotherpoststructuralists.6Butifcapitalismwantsusto

beevermorealive,happyandtrulyengagedinshapingourownlivesonthebasisoftheendlesspossibilitiesthis

worldhastooffer,thenthecritiqueofferedbyvitalisttheories,aestheticmodessuchasBourriaud’s‘relational

aesthetics’andmorecriticalformsofemancipatedspectatorshipagainstanobjectifyingandalienatingcapitalist

realityappearassimilatedanddefused. 7 AsDiedrichDiederichsenoutlinesinarecente­fluxarticle,itisprecisely whatwasstillantitheticaltotheFordistassemblyline–differentmodesofdreaming‘dangerously’orlivingauthentic oralternativelives–thatseemstohavebecomepartofthepost­Fordist‘imperativetoproduceaperfectselfasa

perfectthing’. 8 Smilesorgrins,day­dreamsandwaysofbeingthatcouldformerlyhelpalleviateorescapethe alienatedexistenceofthelabourerhavethemselvesbecomereifiedaspartoftherequisiteserviceweare

compelledtoprovide. 9 Diederichsendescribesasense,similartotheGermantheatredirectorRenéPolleschinhis playLoveisColderthanCapitalinwhichallrelationshavebecometoxicandemotionshavebeenrenderedcold

objectsforcapital. 10 Thus,theprimaryconcernseemstobewithoppressive,exploitativeandreifiedcapitalistsocial relationsandhowtobreakoutofthem–butthesolutionswe’reconfrontedwithfromthediversestrandsofthe‘new materialisms’nolongerlieinthecritiqueoftheserelations,butratherinanonrelationalandun­dialecticalgesture

thatpositstheworldofmatteragainsttheman­madedisasterofaneoliberalexistence. 11

ThesearchforwhatDiederichsencalls‘de­reification’venturestowardsthatwhichevadesrepresentation,whichis

notrenderedobjectquainstrumentalreasonbutquaitsownforce,thedark,themystic,theanimatebutsoul­less–

somethingthatismoretrulycoldandyetnotcoldatall.Thislineofargument,however–whichisechoedinHito

Steyerl’semphaticcallforustofinallyacceptthedeathofthesubjectandembracetheforcesofconstructionand

destruction,ofviolenceandthepossibilitystoredwithinthings–problematicallysidelinestheclassed,racialised

andgenderedoppressionsofcapitalistreality.Withinthis,massesofpeoplehaveneverbeengrantedany‘subject

status’inthefirstplaceandare,instead,renderedmereobjectsorevensuperfluous,becausenotproductive,for

capital.Fromthepointofviewoftheserelations,themovetowardsacceptingorevenembracingobjectificationasin

itselfemancipatorycanbenothingmorethanabadjoke.

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Aesthetics of Objects and Worlds Beyond | Mute Image:BrianJungen, DogRun ,dOCUMENTA(13),Kassel,2012

Image:BrianJungen,DogRun,dOCUMENTA(13),Kassel,2012

Thissentiment,whichsharesitsfocuswiththenewmaterialisms,tendstoupholdamind­bodydualisminwhichthe

subjectisassociatedwiththemindandthebadeffectsofEnlightenmentrationalism,whereasthephysicalbodywith

itspre­cognitiveresponsesandmovementsisoften,andrathermiraculously,abletomaintainacertain

independencefromworldlysubjections.Evenifthereisaninvestmentinovercomingthisdualismandacertain

cautionagainstglorifying‘nature’astheunchangingoutsideofthehumanworldtobecalleduponwhenattemptsto

elevateculturefail,thenewmaterialisms’emphasisonpre­cognitiveaffects,feelingsandtouchintherealmofthe

natural,orasmomentsof‘matterreceivingform’,cannotescapethebody’sprioritisation. 12 Thistendencytowards

an‘aestheticsthroughembodiment’ 13 ,whichfindsitstheoreticalanchorinBrianMassumi’sworkandotherthinkers inthefieldofAffectStudies,isstillverymuchentangledwiththehumanbodyanditsabilitytobedrawnintonew

relationalandanimatefieldsthroughoraspartofanartwork. 14

Undertheinfluenceofsimilartheoreticalinfluences,especiallySpinozaandDeleuze,pairedwithaLatouriannotion

ofthe‘actant’,JaneBennettpushesthisaesthetico­materialistinvestmentonestepfurthertowardsproperly

inorganic,nonhumanbodies.Interestedinthe‘materialagencyofnaturalbodiesandtechnologicalartefacts’,

Bennettdoesnotrestatatransindividual(ising)capacityofthevitalforcesthatshefindsinthesethings(‘thing­

power’),butthinksofthemasimpersonal,asbeingforthemselves. 15 Herprojecthereispolitical,sinceshehopesto ‘induceinhumanbodiesanaesthetic­affectiveopennesstomaterialvitality’inordertogivethenonhumanits proper,equalplaceintherealmofthepoliticalinordertomakepossibleagreener,moresustainablehuman

culture. 16 Politicsmustbethought,here,asanecologythatismadeofhumanandnonhumanagents,whichcan equallyshapeanddisruptthecommongroundofexistence.Itisatthispointthatavitalist­materialistaestheticsof affectsandvibrationsispairedwithanoverwhelmingconcernforaworkingenvironmentalpolitics.Thisstepfroman ecologyofhumanandnon­humanobjectstotheformationofanewpoliticalpublicthat,togetherwithworms,trees andaluminiumasequallypotentactants,issuddenlyabletotackleformerlyirresolvableproblemssuchasclimate change,amountstoanaïveattemptatredefiningpolitics.Onethatseesitsmainchallengeasdefiningtheright meansandinstitutionsofcommunication.WhileBennett’sfundamentalassumptionisthatourcurrentdemocracy failsbecauseofanimbalancebetweennatureandculture,ornon­humanandhumanparticipation,shefailstosee thatanysuchhorizontalrelationshipisforeclosedfromademocracythatexistswithinacapitaliststateinwhich humans,withtheirpowersandneeds,arenecessarilydividedfromarelationshipwithnatureandthepoliticalrealm

thatisnotmediatedbycapitalandclass. 17

Whatthenarethespecificcontributionsandpromisesofartworksthatdealwiththeintersectionsbetweentheworld

ofmatterandthehumanworld,asdemonstratedbytheBlowup:SpeculativeRealitiesexhibitioninAmsterdam,

Kassel’sdOCUMENTA(13)andseveralotherrecentexhibitions? 18 Itistheirradicalinquiryintonature,non­human matterandlife­formsthatfirststrikestheeye.Intheseinquiries,whoseseriousconcernforare­openingofthedead­ endofcontemporarypoliticsisoftenpairedwithanelementofhumour,nothingaboutnaturalobjectssuchasclouds

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ortrees,orthelifeandcommunicationofanimals,ordifferentlifeworldsandbodypartsistakenforgranted. 19 Christov­Bakargievdefinedthisformofart,thathasclearcrossoverswiththespheresofphysics,biologyand philosophyas‘basicresearch’[Grundlagenforschung];artistsdescribetheiractivityasaninquiryinto‘processes beyondhumancontrol’,into‘fieldsofpossibility’thathavetodowithpoetics,‘wonderandmystery’asopposedto

merereality. 20 Whatmattersisnolongerthatartworkshaveanydirectcriticalorpoliticalmeaning,aswehave plentifullyencounteredinthedifferentformsofconceptualandexplicitlypoliticalartofthelastcentury,butthatthe assemblagesandconstellationsofmatterandworldsthemselvesmight,asaprogression,creatediscursive

signification.21Thegestureof‘object­orientedart’isclearlyonethatdoesnotallowfornaturetoremaintheeternally

excludedotherofhumanexistence,butmakesitintosomethingthatartcaninvestigate,situate,questionand

multiplyre­imagine.22Thisalsochallengesanystraight­forwardenvironmentalistapproachthatcallsforthe

conservationofthe‘whatis’,andrendersquestionableanyeasytranslationintopoliticsoftheassemblages

presentedbytheartwork,suchasthosefoundinBennett’swork.Intheirpartlyhumorous,partlysincereway,these

artisticecologiescallintoquestionwhatreallyisandthuschallengeanyrealistpoliticsthatismerelyconcernedwith

animmediaterealityofsubjectsorobjects.MoritzGansencapturesthisartisticimpetussharply,whenhenamesit

an‘aestheticsofthestrangeartofcosmicdreaming’. 23 Itisanaestheticsthatisinvestedinexploringpotentialitiesof singularobjectsandassemblagesandincreatingfundamentallynewspacesofpossibility.

WhileBennettisawell­establishedreferencepointforthinkingtheintersectionofartandobject­centeredecologies,

itis,morethananyone,GrahamHarmanandQuentinMeillassoux,whohavebeenreferencedinrelationtothe

variousobject­orientedartprojects–possiblybasedontheirmoreopenlyspeculativeendeavours.Thismakesit

timelytoinvestigatethespaceandqualityofanaestheticswithinHarman’sandMeillassoux’sownphilosophical

theoriesthatallowsustospeculateonhowtheirtheoriesintersectatatheoreticallevelwiththeartandaesthetics

theyhaveinduced. 24 Bothstartbyfundamentallyrejectingtheconsensuswithincontinentalphilosophytotreat

‘beingandthought’asoneandthesame. 25 Theytherebyre­opentheKantianquestion‘WhatcanIknow?’andthe associatedgrandontologicalinquiriesintotherealthatliesbeyonditsrepresentationsbythehumanmind,which

Kantimportantlynamedthe‘initself’,towhichthehumantranscendentalsubjecthasnodirectaccess. 26

Harman’s‘Object­OrientedAesthetics’

Inhisobject­orientedphilosophy,GrahamHarman’sfirststepistoeliminateanyKantiangapbetweentheworldand

thesubjectsthatperceivethisworld.Instead,allthatexistsarerealobjectsasautonomousrealitiesorindividual

substances.Humansthemselvesbecomeobjects,alongsidefire,cottonandatree.‘Thereal’,astherealmofreal

objectsandthereforetherealmofproper‘depth’,existsindependentlyforHarman.But,incontrasttomanyother

speculativerealists,itissimultaneouslydividedabsolutelyfromanyimageorknowledgeofit.Thereal,and

thereforerealobjectsandtheirqualities,cannotbeaccessedorknowndirectly.Thereisnodirectrelationbutan

absoluteriftbetweenknowledgeoftherealandtherealassuch,whichleadsHarmantocallhisontologyarealism

withoutamaterialism.Partofhisdefinitionofobjectsasindividualsubstancesisthattheydonotstandinanydirect

relationwitheachother.Themainquestionthusbecomeshowrelationsbetweenobjectsoccuratallandofwhat

qualitytheyare.

WithandagainsthismaininterlocutorsLatour,Husserl,HeideggerandLevinas,Harmandevelopstheanswerof

‘vicariouscausation’. 27 Initially,realobjectshavenolinkageandinsteadtheywithdrawfromeachother–thatiswhy causationreappearsasaquestionforphilosophyinthefirstplace.Theonlywayobjectscantoucheachotherisby notreallytouching,bydevelopingaproximitythatisclosebutneverfullyfuseswithorexhauststheothersubstance:

a‘vicarious’relationship.They‘somehowmelt,fuse,anddecompressinasharedcommonspacefromwhichallare

partlyabsent.’ 28 Besidesrealobjectsandtheirqualities,thereisasecondcategoryofobjects–sensualobjects– thatratherthanexistinginawithdrawnstate,liedirectlyinfrontoftheperceivingagentasaunifiedwhole:theyare surfaceappearances,thephenomena.Butagain,thesesensualobjects,eventhoughtheyexistplentifullyandina

sharedperceptualspace,donotfuseintoeachother,but‘endureabufferedcausation’. 29 Onthegroundofthis metaphysicalplane,nointentionalagent,humanornon­human,caneverexhaustanobject’sreality,neitherthrough

theoreticalelaborationsnorthroughpractice.InhispublicationforthedOCUMENTA(13),Harmanillustratesthis

non­relationshipbyutilisingtheimageof‘Eddington’stwotables’.Butinsteadofsidingwitheitherarealityofthe

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physical,scientifictableorthesecondtableofeverydayculture,Harmanarguesthat‘[t]herealtableisinfactathird

tablelyingbetweenthesetwoothers’,asitexistsasanautonomousrealitybeyondanyofitsscientificorcultural

qualities. 30

Interaction,relationship,causation,linkagearefinallythenamesforacomplexprocessthatcanbeinitiatedbetween

tworealobjectsortwosensualobjectsonlybyathirdintentionalagentoftheoppositetype(inthefirstcasesensual,

inthesecondcasereal).Because,whilerealobjectscannottoucheachother,‘sensualobjectsalwaystouchreal

ones’,astheyonlyexistforrealobjects. 31 Causality‘unfoldsonlyontheinteriorityofminds’,neverinbetweenthe realobjects.Thatmeans,relationscanonlyeverexistonthesurfaceandneverreachthedepthoftherealobject;an operationinHarman’sontologythatrendersthesurfacethedecisiverealm,insofarasasudden(mediated) appearanceofarealobjectinbetweenthemanycommonlyresidingsensualobjectsisalwaysapotentialfor change.Makingthesensualrealmthenecessarymediatorforanyobjectrelationsisthestepthatrenders‘aesthetics

[…]firstphilosophy’ 32 ,becauseonlytherealmofaestheticsallowsfortheestablishmentofanyrelationsbetween substanceandcausation,whicharedividedbyanontologicalfission.Similarly,politicsorethicsbecomefor Harmanquestionsofaspecificformofcouplinganduncouplingbetweenrealandsensualobjectsandthereforea

questionofthecreationof‘newobjects’,whichitisonlyeverpossibletotalkaboutonthelevelofaesthetics. 33

3 3 Image:SarahOrtmeyer, SADEIS

Image:SarahOrtmeyer,SADEIS,installationviewofTheReturnoftheObject,atInvaliden1,Berlin

TheconceptsthatallowustounderstandthespecificpositionofartandartworkswithinHarman’smetaphysical

aestheticsare‘sincerity’and‘allure’.Sinceritygenerallyreferstothemomentwhenarealandasensualobjectenter

intoarelation,whentheformergetsabsorbedbythelatterinordertoreacha‘connection’.AsHarmanshowswith

theexampleofapersongettingabsorbedbythesensualobject‘tree’throughanencounterwithatree,onthestreet

orinaforest,thesekindsofrelationsoccurallthetime.Butasthisconnectionoccurswithinthegeneralspaceof

intention,whereseveralsensualobjectsandrelatedqualitiesexistbesideseachother,themomentofsincerity,

whichseemstobetemporallylocatedbeforeanaccomplishedconnection,bearsthechanceofarealobject

‘piercing’throughthecloudofsensualobjectsandestablishinganewrelation,anewobject. 34 Withtheconceptof the‘allure’,Harmandescribesawayinwhichsuchanewconnection,whichisstilltobeunderstoodasarelation,

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notasanencounterwiththerealobjectitself,canbeactivelytriggered: 35

Theonlywaytobringrealobjectsintothesensualsphereistoreconfiguresensualobjectsinsuchawaythat

theynolongermerelyfuseintoanewone,aspartsintoawhole,butratherbecomeanimatedbyallusiontoa

deeperpowerlyingbeyond:arealobject.Thegravitationalfieldofarealobjectmustsomehowinvadethe

existingsensualfield. 36

Thismeans,theallurehastheabilitytoseparateanencountered,sensualobjectfromitsimmediatequalities,and

thereforecreateanopeningforadifferentlevelofrealitytoenter,arealityinwhichsensualqualitiesarenotdirectly

presentedasthenecessarypartofsensualobjects,norsensualobjectsasunifiedwholes. 37 TheexamplesHarman offersforunderstandingalluresarepoeticmetaphors,beauty,cuteness(ofchildrenorrecentlybornanimals)ormore generallyfailure,hypnoticexperiences,namesandloveencounters,whichhesumsupunderthecategories‘the comicandthecharming’.Now,whileheexplicitlystatesthatallureisnotmerelyatheoryofart,butatheoryof causalrelationsingeneral,heneverthelesshasclearlypointedtoartandartworksasideallyequippedtoactivate formsof‘allure’,becauseofthewaythattherealobject(whilepartlyremoved)andthesensualqualitiesarefused

withintheworkofart: 38

Butasimilarcuttingofthebondbetweenanagentanditstraitsoccursinbeauty,inwhichathingorcreatureis

giftedwithqualitiesofsuchoverwhelmingforcethatwedonotpassdirectlythroughthesensualmaterialinto

theunifiedthing,butseemtoseethebeautifulentitylyingbeneathallitsmarvelousqualities,commanding

themlikepuppets. 39

Thisspacethatisopenedup,forexample,bybeautyisforHarmanacriticalspacethatallowsfornewrelationsto

emerge,ratherthanforanyelevated‘critique’.Whilethespectatordoesnotaccesstherealobjectthatistheartwork

outsidetheintentionalspaceofhisorhermind,thespectatorandtheartworkcanfusewithintheintentionalspace

andcanproducenewrelationsthatarealwaysalsonewobjects.Onthesideoftheartwork,theresponsibilityseems

tothenliewithitscreator,theartist,tofindalluresthatforgenewrelationsininterestingways.

Itremainsunclearthoughwhatkindofallureswouldcountasbetterorworse,worthyofbeingcreatedornot,

becausejudgementsdonotexistinHarman’sworldofobjects.Relationsareeitherbroughtintoexistenceornot.

Objectsexistanywayintheirwithdrawnstates.Aboveanythingelse,thisconceptualweaknessisgroundedon

Harman’sfundamentaldistinctionbetweentherealandthesensual,whichremindsoneofBennett’spolitical

idealisminwhichthesoleproblemofdemocracyhasbecomeaquestionoftheequalaccessandparticipationofthe

non­human.WhileHarmanovercomesBennett’sdivisionofhumanandnon­humanactantsbyrenderingeverything

‘objects’,hecreatesadifferentfission–thegapbetweentherealandthesensual–andtherebyremainsfaithfulto

anidealisationofthenowinaccessibleand‘truly’realasthatwhichcaninterruptandreconfigureitssensual

representationsintheobject’sintentionalspaces.

ThereisnowayinwhichHarmancouldaccountfortheaccumulationofpowersandforceswithinspecificobjectsor

objectconstellationsthatviolatecertainrelationsorevendenyaccesstothem;thereisnowayinwhichobjects

mightbedistributedunequallyindifferentnetworksofrelationsorinwhichrelationsmightbindobjectstoconditions

ofextremesuffering,ofsuffocation,ofdeath–andwecouldherespeakofrelationsbetweenpeopleandtheirmeans

ofsubsistenceasmuchasoftherelationbetweenacompanythatemitstoxicfumesanditssurroundingbiosphere.

ForHarman,realobjects,whosematerialityisentirelyremovedfromoursensualimagesofit,existintheir

individualised,withdrawnstatesinwhichtheycanbetouchedbysensualobjectswithouteverreallybeingaffected.

Philosophyandsimultaneouslyaestheticshavethusbecomeextremelyimpoverished,astheyhavelostany

conceptsthatcouldallowjudgementsthatgobeyondthequestionifa‘new’relationhasbeenforgedornot.With

respecttothespectator,HarmanseemstoremainextremelyKantian,inthesensethatforhimartisfundamentally

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abouttheencounterbetweentheartworkandthespectatorandtheemergingaestheticreactionor‘judgement’.

Eventhoughhemakesclearthathisconceptioninwhichthespectatorbecomespartoftheartwork(ofcourseonly

intheintentionalspace)isopposedtoKant’snecessarymomentof‘disinterestedness’whenencountering‘the

beautiful’,HarmanremainsclosetoKant’sconceptioninthatheisinterestedinamomentofaweandanexpression

ofdelightthattheencounterbetweenartworkandspectatorcancause. 40 But,insteadofaimingataKantian differentiationofthepossibleaestheticjudgementsandtheirpotentiallyuniversalreach,Harmanismainlyinterested intheslightlymistyandobliquediscoveryonthesideofthespectatorthatthesubjectivesensualworld,whichhe­ she­ithadtakenforgranted,hasactuallymanydifferentfacets,insofarasrealobjectsdonotexistinanyunity.

Disappointingly,thissoundslikeanewformofrelationalaestheticsthathasexchangedpeopleforobjects 41 and

nowcontentsitselfasbeingjustanother,maybeslightlymorepotent,formofwine­tasting. 42 Anysensualreactionof aweordelightpotentiallyholdsthesamevaluewhich,triggeredbyadifferentrepresentationofthereal,canforgea newrelation,anewobject.

Meillassoux’s‘Inaesthetics’

Let’sthenturnourfocusnowtoMeillassoux,wholeadsusawayfromobjectsandtowardsanontologicaldiscussion

ofworldsbeyond.WhileMeillassouxhasnotactuallydevelopedanexplicitaesthetics,hehasrecentlypublished

themonographTheNumberandtheSiren,onStephaneMallarmé’spoemUncoupdedésjamaisn’abolirale

hazard(Athrowofthedicewillneverabolishchance)thatwillhelpmegroundmyexplorations.Meillassoux,in

contrasttoHarmanandmanyothernewmaterialists,fundamentallyrejectsanydifferentiationbetweentherealmof

being–ofontology–andtherealmofsenseperception(theaestheticrealmoraisthesis).Becausehenotonlyalso

rejectsthecorrelationistclaimthatthinkingandbeingisone,butwantstorefuteitfromwithin,hisprojectbecomesa

demonstrationofthepossibilityofaccessingthe‘initself’orabsolute,‘arealityabsolutelyseparatefromthe

subject’. 43 AfterMeillassouxhasdemonstratedtheaporiaofthecorrelationistapproachandthescientifictruththat canbereachedviasomethinglikethe‘arche­fossile’,whichwasinexistencelongbeforeanyhumanspecies,he concludesthatwhatanon­correlationistphilosophyneedstoconcernitselfwithisarealitybeyondourgivenreality forwhichthereisnonaturallaw,noultimatecause,noreasonandalsononecessity:thatisthemeaningof ‘absolutefacticity’,whichissimultaneouslyabsolutepossibilityandabsolutecontingency.Theworldsoftherealare

non­totalisable. 44 Nonecessity,asMeillassouxshows,impliestheimpossibilityofcontradictions,asweknowthem fromHegeliandialectics,becauseacontradictoryentityalwaysnecessarilyimpliesitsotherside,andtherefore contradictsabsolutecontingency.Toendthepurelyconceptualrecapitulation,whatexistsinMeillassoux’srealis ‘superchaos’(orformerlycalledhyperchaos)aboutwhichitispossibletospeculate‘rationally’.Followinghis

teacherAlainBadiou,tospeculaterationallymeansforMeillassouxto‘re­absolutis[e]thescopeofmathematics’. 45

ThelinkbetweenthistheoryandMallarmé’spoemisintroducedbyMeillassouxasfollows:

[P]hilosophyisconcernedwitharealanddensepossiblewhichIcallthe‘may­be’[peut­être].Thispeut­être

[…]isveryclosetothefinalpeut­êtreofMallarmé’sUncoupdedés…. 46

ByMallarmé’sfinalpeut­être,Meillassouxmeanstheattempted,butforeversuspended,tossofthediceofthe

drownedMasterthatnowremainsundecided‘intheeternalcircumstanceofashipwreck’sdepth’. 47 Thequestion thatMeillassouxunderstandsMallarmétobeaskingwithUncoupdedèsandearlierpoemsisthequestionofifand howpoetrycouldbecomeatrulygreator‘configurativeart’thatisabletoopenuphumanexistencetowards‘afuture salvation’.Thisgrandquestion,whichMeillassouxseesresidinginawagerforpoetry‘asanabsoluteandthe sourceofanewreligion’,andwhichalsoincludesMallarmé’sunpublishedprojectTheBook[LeLivre]asoneofits sources,iscombinedforMallarméwithafurtherpressingquestion.Thatofremainingfaithfultothe‘old’ collectivisingmetricverseasagainstatrulymodernandindividualisedfreeversepoetry.

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AgainsthismasterAlainBadiou,MeillassouxseesthesequestionsnotresolvedinCoupdedèsinrelationtoan

eventalconfigurationofthepoemtowardsanewlyemergingtruth,butaspreciselyeternalisedinahypothetical

‘perhaps’,bymeansofametrethatsimultaneouslyexistsandin­exists:theactivityof‘fixerl’infini’.Meillassoux

arguesthisonthegroundsofthe‘uniqueNumber’thatwecanfindalludedtobutfinallysuspendedinthelineofthe

poem‘itwasthenumber–wereittohaveexisted’,butthatneverthelesshasan,albeitquestionable,hidden

existenceviaacodewithinthepoem. 48

WithoutwantingtoengagefurtherinaninterpretationofMeillassoux’sextraordinaryandnotatallundisputed

readingofthepoem,IwillendbyreflectingonthestatusofnumbersandartthatMeillassouxattributeshere. 49 WhereasinMeillassoux’sphilosophymathematicscandirectlyaccesstheabsolutewithoutanydetourviareason, Mallarméeternaliseshispoetryonthegroundofanumberwhoseexistenceisundecidable.Theeternityliesthen notmerelyinthemetreofthepoem,notinthenumberitself,becausethatwouldgivethepoemafinitemeaningand existence.Viaitsproximitytoboth,languageandnumbers,thepoemallowsthereadertogazeintothespaceof hyperchaosthatissimultaneouslythevoid,butonlyifheisattentiveenoughtodiscerntherathercomplexlayers throughwhichthis‘telescope’isconstructed.IfasreadersofBadiou’streatisesonartas‘inaestheticswehave remaineddisappointedbyhisstrangeformalisminwhichtheartworkitselfbecamethesubjectoftheeventand thereforethebearerofaneternaltruth,whichwasthenchargedwiththeabilityofemancipatinghumanityintonew sensiblerelationswiththeworld,itseemsthatMeillassouxmayhavedeliveredapossibleanswertohowthis

formalismcouldplayout. 50 Thisoccursviatherouteofmathematicsastheaccesstotheabsolute,theworldsthat existbeyondourreality.InhisreviewofTheNumberandtheSiren,ThomasFordcallsMeillassoux’sinterpretation

‘ahaze…ofnumbers’thatheopposestothe20 th century‘hazeofsignification’. 51 Andeventhoughwemightbe scepticalofbindingartinthiswaytomathematicalformulasandturningitintoahighlyintellectualised,yet simultaneouslymysticinquiryintoashadowydepthofbeing,itisdifficultnottobeintriguedbythisidea.Ofcourse Rancière’scritiquethatthisunderstandingaffirmsanoldmodernistbeliefintheautonomyandspecificityoftheart

objectishereasmuchvalidaswhenitwasposedagainstBadiou’sproject. 52 Butifweweretoembraceanartof theinaesthetic,i.e.anartthatitself,andindependentofthephilosophicalsubjectofaesthetics,canalertanddirect thespectatortoatruththatfundamentallydiffersfromthesubjectivehumanreality,withouttryingtocoupleittoour

politicalambitionsforarttobedirectlyinvestedinouranti­capitaliststruggle 53 ,itcouldperhapsbecomeasourceof dreams,desiresandcomportmentsthatmighthelpustounderstandthisveryworldascontingent–andtherefore opentobeingaltered.

opentobeingaltered. Image:PierreHuyghe, ColonyCollapse

Image:PierreHuyghe,ColonyCollapse,dOCUMENTA(13),Kassel,2012

AtthesametimetheaestheticsofhopeMeillassoux’sphilosophyoffersusisnotaBlochian‘not­yet­being’that,in

itsutopiansense,isneverthelessdirectedinaveryconcretewayagainsttheoppressivematerialconditionsof

existenceundercapitalism,andwhichisitselfonlygeneratedbytheparticipationinthatverysamestruggle.

Meillassoux’srealofsuperchaos,whichartmighthelpustoaccessis,whilstradicallycontingent,alsoabsolute,

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containinginitself‘theequalcontingencyoforderanddisorder,ofbecomingandsempiternity’. 54 Whereasthisform ofhopeseemstoofferusanewwayof‘dreaming’,thedreamsthemselvesmakecapitalistsocialrelationsandour humanstrugglesappearequallypetty,inaneandmerelyfromthisworld.Itisahopeofthelastresortthatisno longerinvestedinchange,butinalleviationofthepainthatcomeswithresignation.

*IwouldliketothankStephanieHessler,JennyNachtigallandMoritzGansenfortheircontributionsandlinksalong

thewayaswellasJosephineandBenfromMutefortheirencouragementtowritethisarticleinthefirstplaceandfor

theircarefulreadershipandgreateditorialcare.

SvenjaBromberg<svenja.brombergATgmail.com>isaPhDstudentintheCentreforCulturalStudiesat

GoldsmithsCollege,London.SheworksonMarxistpoliticalphilosophy,aestheticsandpolitics,andfeminist

theory.

Footnotes

1InthePhilosophyDepartmentattheFreeUniversityBerlin,therehasjustbeenanentire‘Hauptseminar’dedicated

toSpeculativeRealismduringthepastacademicyear.

2AswellasBrunoLatour–forHarmanthemostimportantphilosopherofthe20thcentury–andLeviBryant,Ray

Brassier,SteveShaviroandothers.ButMeillassouxandHarmanarethefiguresIwillconcentrateoninthisarticle duetotheirprominenceinphilosophicalandartisticmovements.Amoregeneraloverviewofthinkersandpositions canbefoundinLeviRBryant,NickSrnicek,andGrahamHarman,TheSpeculativeTurn:ContinentalMaterialism

andRealism,Melbourne,Victoria,Australia:re.press,2011.

3See:TheEraofOjbects(BlowupReader3)andtheexhibitionsitisbasedon,SpeculativeRealities,(Blowup

Reader6),V2_:InstitutefortheUnstableMedia,ed.,Rotterdam,2013,http://v2.nl/archive/articles/speculative­

realities­blowup­reader­6/view.;alectureseriesinBerlinorganisedbyArmenAvanessianandMelanieSehgal

4See:HitoSteyerl,‘AThingLikeYouAndMe’,15April2010,http://www.e­flux.com/journal/a­thing­like­you­and­

me/.

5Seeforsomeattemptstoremainfaithfultoamodulatedformofthatsubjectincontemporarycontinental

philosophy:EduardoCadava,PeterConnor,andJean­LucNancy,WhoComesaftertheSubject?(London:

Routledge,1991);IhaveelsewherewrittenonthenotionofaffectivelabouranditsproblematicapplicationinHardt

andNegri’swork.

6Steyerl,op.cit.

7SeeBenjaminNoys,ThePersistenceoftheNegative:aCritiqueofContemporaryContinentalTheory(Edinburgh:

EdinburghUniversityPress,2010);NicolasBourriaud,RelationalAesthetics([Paris]:LesPressesduRéel,2002).

8​DiedrichDiederichsen,‘Animation,De­reification,andtheNewCharmoftheInanimate’,36July2012,

http://linkme2.net/tt.Iamtakingthedefinitionofpost­FordistlabourfromHardtandNegriaswellasfromLazzarato

asmeaning‘intellectual,immaterial,andcommunicativelabor’.MichaelHardtandAntonioNegri,Empire,

Cambridge,Mass;London:HarvardUniversityPress,2000,29;MaurizioLazzarato,‘ImmaterialLabour’,inRadical

ThoughtinItaly–APotentialPolitics,MichaelHardtandPaoloVirno(Eds.),Minneapolis,Minn.;London:University

ofMinnesotaPress,1996,pp.132–146.

9SeeA.R.Hochschild,TheManagedHeart:CommercializationofHumanFeeling(Berkeley,Calif.;LosAngeles;

London:UniversityofCaliforniaPress,2003).

10RenéPollesch,LiebeIstKälterAlsDasKapital:Stücke,Texte,Interviews,C.Brocher(Ed.),Reinbek:Rowohlt

Taschenbuch,2009.

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11Seeforageneraloverviewofthefieldforexample,DianaCooleandSamanthaFrost(Eds.),NewMaterialisms:

Ontology,Agency,andPolitics,DukeUniversityPress,2010;RickDolphijnandIrisvanderTuin,NewMaterialism:

Interviews&Cartographies,OpenHumanitiesPress,2012.

12See,e.g.TimothyMorton’sTheEcologicalThought,HarvardUniversityPress,2010,forarejectionofthisnotion

infavourof‘ecology’;V2_:InstitutefortheUnstableMedia,op.cit.,p.42.

13Seeibid.,p.30.

14SeeBrianMassumi,SemblanceandEvent:ActivistPhilosophyandtheOccurrentArts,MITPress,2011,p.105.

15JaneBennett,VibrantMatter:aPoliticalEcologyofThings,Durham:DukeUniversityPress,2010,p.xiii.

16Ibid.,p.x.

17See:KarlMarx,EarlyWritings,London:Penguin,1975,p.390.SeealsoAlfredSchmidt,TheConceptofNature

inMarx,trans.BenFowkes,NewLeftBooks,1971.

18Forexample,TheReturnoftheObjectattheBerlingallery,Invaliden1,curatedbyStefanieHesslerinJanuary

2013.

19SeeV2_:InstitutefortheUnstableMedia,op.cit.,p.26andKiaVahland’s,‘Documenta­LeiterinCarolynChristov­

Bakargiev:ÜberdiepolitischeIntentionderErdbeere,”sueddeutsche.de,8June,2012,sec.kultur,

http://www.sueddeutsche.de/kultur/documenta­leiterin­carolyn­christov­bakargiev­ueber­die­politische­intention­der­

erdbeere­1.1370514.V2_

20Vahland,ibid.,p.15.

21DolphijnandvanderTuin,NewMaterialism:Interviews&Cartographies,p.91.

22SeeV2_:InstitutefortheUnstableMedia,op.cit.,p.40.

23MoritzGansen,‘CosmicDreams:TheEcologicalAestheticsofdOCUMENTA(13)’,presentedattheAestheticsof

the21stCentury,Basel,n.d.

24SeeV2_:InstitutefortheUnstableMedia,op.cit.,p.37.

25GrahamHarman,‘OnVicariousCausation’,Collapse2,SpeculativeRealism,March2007,p.189.

26InHegel’sidealismthereisofcoursesomethingsuchasabsoluteknowledge.

27Harman,‘OnVicariousCausation’,op.cit.

28Ibid.,p.190.

29Ibid.,195.

30GrahamHarman,TheThirdTable=DerdritteTisch,vol.85,100Notes­100Thoughts/100Notizen­100

Gedanken(Ostfildern,Germany:dOCUMENTA13/HatjeCantzVerlag,2012).

31SeealsoHarman,‘OnVicariousCausation’,p.219.

32Ibid.,221.

33HerethereseemstoexistacertainproximitytotheaestheticpoliticsthatJacquesRancièreconceptualiseson

thegroundofhisanalysisofdifferent“distributionsofthesensible”,withtheimportantdifferencethatRancièrefirstof

allexplicitlyfocusesontheaestheticsofartandthathefurtherrefusestoallowartaswellaspoliticstohaveany

materialrealitybeyondthesubjectivelyperceivedforms,practicesandrelations.ForHarmanonthecontrary,

materialitydoesinfluencethelevelofthesensual,butneverdirectly,i.e.notinanunmediatedway.

34Seeibid.,p.213.

35SeeespeciallyGrahamHarman,GuerrillaMetaphysics:PhenomenologyandtheCarpentryofThings,Chicago,

Ill.:u.a.:OpenCourt,2005,butalsoHarman’svariousrecenttalksonart.

36Harman,‘OnVicariousCausation’,op.cit.,p.220.

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37SeeHarman,GuerrillaMetaphysics,op.cit.,p.179.

38SeeGrahamHarman–ArtandParadox,2012,http://vimeo.com/53793807;Harman,TheThirdTable=Derdritte

Tisch.

39Harman,GuerrillaMetaphysics,op.cit.,p.142.

40SeeImmanuelKant,TheCritiqueofJudgement,OxfordUniversityPress,2007,§2.

41SeeBourriaud,RelationalAesthetics,p.85.

42AconnectionHarmanhimselfsuggests,seeGrahamHarman­ArtandParadox,2012,

http://vimeo.com/53793807.

43SeeQuentinMeillassoux,AfterFinitude:AnEssayontheNecessityofContingency,London:Continuum,2009,

Chapter1­2,andMeillassoux’s,‘TimeWithoutBecoming/ZeitOhneWerden’,SPIKE35,2013,p.92.

44GrahamHarman,QuentinMeillassoux:PhilosophyintheMaking,EdinburghUniversityPress,2011,p.159.

45Meillassoux,AfterFinitude,op.cit.,p.204.

46Meillassoux,“TimeWithoutBecoming/ZeitOhneWerden,”102.

47Mallarmé,Uncoupdedès

48QuentinMeillassoux,Lenombreetlasirène:undéchiffrageduCoupdedésdeMallarmé([Paris]:Fayard,2011),

pp.16.

49Fordiscussionsofthebooksee:MichaelReid,‘ExNihilo’,Mute,August2012,

http://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/ex­nihilo;ThomasH.Ford,‘QuentinMeillassoux,TheNumberandthe

theCrackpotSublime’,TheNewInquiry,May2012,http://thenewinquiry.com/essays/quentin­meillassoux­and­the­

crackpot­sublime/.

50AlainBadiou,‘FifteenThesesonContemporaryArt’,LacanianInk23,2004,

http://www.lacan.com/frameXXIII7.htm;AlainBadiou,HandbookofInaesthetics,Stanford,Calif.:StanfordUniversity

Press,2005.

51Ford,‘QuentinMeillassoux,TheNumberandtheSiren.’

52JacquesRancière,‘Aesthetics,Inaesthetics,Anti­Aesthetics’,inThinkAgain:AlainBadiouandtheFutureof

Philosophy,PeterHallward(Ed.),London:Continuum,2004,p.218.

53SeeAlbertoToscanoontheproblemofconvergingspeculationandmaterialisminMeillassoux’sphilosophy:

AlbertoToscano,‘AgainstSpeculation,or,aCritiqueoftheCritiqueofCritique:ARemarkonQuentinMeillassoux’s AfterFinitude(afterColletti)’,inTheSpeculativeTurn:ContinentalMaterialismandRealism,ed.LeviRBryant,Nick

Srnicek,andGrahamHarman(Melbourne,Victoria,Australia:re.press,2011),84–91.

54QuentinMeillassoux,“TimeWithoutBecoming/ZeitOhneWerden,”102.

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theoretical perspective is itself the grounding problem. If one takes the post-structuralist critique of subjectivity for granted - as Bromberg seems to - I'd argue that it can only lead to a prioritisation of objects. Bromberg doesn't have much to say on this - the shift from the discourse of the reified subject to the empowered object is only a matter of degree. Nor does Bromberg seem to know where she stands on environmentalism, and her commitment to 'anti-capitalism' is merely reactive; it doesn't question why OOO-SR should chime so readily at a time where the desire to transcend capitalism appears confused with a desire to transcend - or negate - being human. I'd argue that the political conservatism at the core of OOO-SR is only the logical progression of the post- structuralist degradation of the Subject.

The initial concession that Bromberg makes is not to seriously question the credibility of the two 'totalisation' discourses she points to: the Foucault-Butler lineage that distrusts subjectivity as something which is only ever the 'effect' of subjection, on one hand; and the Immaterial/affective labour critiques which see Capital as all- encroaching on subjects, who are always, for some reason, totally incapable of generating any distance from its operations.

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from its operations. 1 △ ▽ Reply Share › see more Diogenes Search Injun > JJ

Mr Charlesworth's comment is much more interesting than the article.

In my view, so-called 'new' materialism looks more like, materialism ante-Marx, or even animism:

I would say that it isn't just art, that is accorded exceptional capacities in an otherwise undifferentiated human objectivity. The very activity of academics' use of language to develop these ideas, discussing them, Ms Bromberg's writing this article, and metamute choosing to publish it, are all subjective, AND objective acts.

I'm sure that numerous people, particularly those outside the artworld/academic theory racket, could readily name many other exceptions.

The notion of 'post-humanism', associated with these ideas, is premature, given that so much theory/philosophy is an ongoing obstacle to understanding what is specifically human animality, namely, a psychophysical unity that uses language.

Marx and Wittgenstein are much more useful for that.

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where are the footnotes from 8 to 53? where are the footnotes from 8 to 53?

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Footnotes are back now! Sorry, we had trouble with the CMS on this article.

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This might be of interest to the readers of this article " a common

denominator among them is a revaluing of matter and objects, and a corresponding adjustment of the scale and centrality of the human

subject

Even

as the content and details of the proposals diverge,

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