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Cézanne’s Sensations
All of Cézanne’s “theory” seems to come down to what he calls “realization,” an operation of conversion that he was the first modern painter to attempt. Critics had a premonition of it, condemning his “too exclusive love of yellow” and warning the public: “If you visit the exhibition with a woman in an interesting position, pass quickly by the portrait of a man by Mr. Cézanne… That strange-looking head, the color of boot cuffs, could make too vivid an impression on her and give her fruit yellow fever before its entry into the world.”
Contemporary Race Theory and the Problem of History: A Critique
The blinkered vision of the leading voices in contemporary race theory when it comes to the politics of the present is also linked to how they misunderstand the past. Because their analyses are primed to search for continuities in anti-Black racism over time, they tend to ignore an equally pernicious and consistent factor in American history—the assault on organized efforts by working people of all races to challenge the power of capital, to evade or undermine the power of the wage relationship and market compulsion, and to harness the power of the state to put the needs of working people above the pursuit of capitalist profits. Ironically, contemporary race theorists’ ignorance of the political economy of “anti-racism” in the past has meant that the conceptual anchors upon which they build their analysis—racial community and racial interest—and the cognate construct to these, “race relations,” are actually Jim Crow era formulations. In their vigorous promotion of these ideas, they can be seen as intellectual architects of the very thing that their scholarship purports to reveal and thereby dismantle—a “new” Jim Crow.
“Let Me Go Get My Big White Man”: The Clientelist Foundation of Contemporary Antiracist Politics
All this makes crystal clear why proponents of race-reductionist politics are so unmoved by criticism based on effectiveness for generating a popular politics or for winning egalitarian reforms at all. Just as with the Bookerite progenitor, developing and advancing a popular politics is not the point at all. It is a politics geared toward bending ears of and currying favor from elements of the ruling class and their gatekeeping minions. The real constituency race-reductionism seeks to address are the “big white men (and women)” who have the power to validate Voices and agendas geared to advance black investor class interests as representing the unproblematic good of the race and thereby use race to do the same thing the ruling class ideologues of militant white supremacy used it to do at the end of the nineteenth century.
What One Does: Rainer/Aristotle/Welling
If we take the question about art that is supportive of the PMC as a question about art that is supportive of capitalism, we can see that it’s only incidentally a question about art’s compatibility with the self-understanding of one class rather than another. It’s fundamentally a question about what there can be in art that isn’t reducible to the self-understanding of any class.
Lygia Clark: From Painter to Mystic
For Clark, the “moment” is not an outlet to the world that would in principle allow a self-absorbed consciousness to find meaning beyond its own interiority. Nor is it a means by which the subject may reach a higher form of mental life. The “moment” is an end in itself.
The First Privilege Walk
How Herbert Marcuse’s widow used a Scientology-linked cult’s methodology to gamify Identity Politics and thus helped steer the U.S. Left down the dead-end path of identitarian psychobabble.
Sculpture as Labor and Sign
None of David Smith’s constructions is ever truly virtualized, truly vaporized, but still, at serendipitous moments, their surfaces spark and crackle with light, and the sculpture’s body is banished, replaced by a scribble, a cipher, a flash. Meanwhile, back in the studio, yet another sculpture is nudged into shape on a much-stained concrete floor.
White-Collar Blues: Allan Sekula Casts an Eye Over the Professional-Managerial Class
During the 1970s and early 1980s, Sekula built a theory and practice of photography on his understanding of the aporias inherent to the theory of the PMC, paying particular attention to the figure of the engineer whose task is not confined to the reproduction of capitalist ideology, but plays a central role in the realisation of value.
Some Comments on the Claims Made For and Against Painting
Experiences of world-disclosure are accomplished by achievements in certain long-tested forms of art—what we can call the canonical forms. These forms, like easel painting or lyric poetry, have proven over long periods of time to be the appropriate sites for this activity; but, more than that, they were practices through which the value of world-disclosure had been invented and developed through history. It was on this basis that they constituted a canon not just of exemplary works in each art, but a canon of the forms of art themselves. As such, they embodied criteria that could be effective in deciding if an activity was or was not “art.” Although the existence of the canon gave no conceptual guarantee or definition of art, it was accepted as one, de facto, based on its own history, or histories.
Simon Hantaï and the Reserves of Painting
In the encounter with another, seeing is always already reading. Expression, here, appears another name for the allegoresis of the soul as it unfolds into visibility—that is, legibility—by way of the body, with all the opportunities for misreading that inevitably follow. Yet there is no other, notionally more direct way for it to show itself. Warnock approaches Hantaï’s paintings as fields of expression in roughly this sense: places where thought becomes visible, where Hantaï works out ideas that necessarily take just this form.
Why Black Lives Matter Can’t be Co-opted
We absolutely do not need to figure out how to make anti-racism anti-capitalist. We need to figure out how to start trying to build a mass movement around appealing to the material needs of the broad working-class.
Maurizio Cattelan’s Managerial Spirit
Maurizio Cattelan couches his artworks as clever, if cynical, escapes from labor. But in truth, he rarely gets out of work. Instead, his art enacts a Euro-Atlantic shift from “productive labor” to “creative management,” a shift that he traces (counterintuitively) to the legacy of Marxian theory in Italy.
Bret Harte’s Birtherism: Dialect Literature and the Fiction of Native-Born Citizenship
Most constitutional scholars dismiss birther conspiracies by pointing to the birthright citizenship clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Yet birthright citizenship in the United States was founded on a case of exception (“excluding Indians not taxed”), leaving the relationship between American soil and American citizenship ambiguous. It was American literature, not American law, that defined who gets to count as “born American” in this country, because only in the literary realm could the language of the soil manage to spell inclusion and exclusion at the same time. Specifically, Bret Harte’s 1868 Western frontier tale “The Luck of Roaring Camp” (called “new and fresh and spirited” by none other than Mark Twain) teaches readers just why it is that Native Americans could never count as native-born Americans, and why, as a result, the question of who gets to count as “born American” has not been laid to rest, and likely won’t be anytime soon.
Marxism and Criticism
What all this comes down to, then, is that Berger accepts a priori a militant and often staggeringly vulgarized brand of Marxism from which all his judgments about art derive, in language anyway. … My fundamental objection is not that Berger begins from a position of accepting Marxist theory. In the world we live in more and more critics of art may be expected to start from similar political premises. But what is imperative is that the critic define his terms; that he show with sensitivity and logical rigor the usefulness and, if possible, the necessity of employing Marxist concepts and terminology. Unless he can do this his judgments will reveal nothing more than the strength of his bias and the slovenliness of his mind: they can say nothing about the works of art in question.