Saturday, 12 April 2014

Remarks on The Closed Window Onto Another Life

"So art/culture as the representation of what is repressed fuses with the commodity form; the very form whose domination has fragmented this creativity from the rest of life"

"The contradiction within art is that it appeals to our desire for realisation of what it represents – passion, creativity and other experience routinely denied in bourgeois society – but it only “realises” in a fragmented, isolated manner, separate from daily life"

Situationist idea art is creativity separated from life i.e. alienated creativity.

"By culture [2] here we mean its skills and arts that emerge with the development of class society and have always tended to encourage a division between professional specialist performers and passive spectator consumers – as in sport and the arts. We say tended to because culture wasn't always as clearly defined a separation as this – especially what is now retrospectively categorised as 'culture' amongst previous poor sections of society in earlier epochs"

passive spectators consumers caught in the controlled spectacle of Debord.
  Specialist performers claim monopoly on talent and creativity?

"as class society develops, the fruits of exploitation flow to the rulers and create a class with a surplus of leisure time and resources to produce and create in non-essential activities – and so aesthetics develops as a specialised practice of both production (artistic creativity) and consumption (appreciation). The same occurs with the production of ideas and other intellectual processes, leading to philosophy."

true, but what about the crafts movement?

 "As William Morris pointed out, there came a time in feudal society when the functional and decorative aspects of workmanship became separated in both the object and the producer, craftsmanship and artistic production becoming progressively separate commodities and separate skills. So the time when ‘artists are craftsmen and craftsmen are artists’ comes to an end. Whereas products of labour had most often contained their decoration and aesthetically pleasing qualities as an integral, in-built component of their functional usefulness, many things now came to be produced as either predominantly functional or aesthetic in their use. The capitalist mode of production has kept design aesthetics within the commodity – one that there is status in judging and possessing (“to be admired for admiring”) but little joy in its producing, standardised and mass-produced as market competition necessarily makes it"

"art moves...experiments...hypnotises...
...but only when "life" is
petrified, unexperimental, asleep........."

"Not all present artistic activity is totally commodified – when not being done to pursue a media career or some kind of cultural status it often fulfils the therapeutic desire to be playful and creative for its own sake, outside the motivations and necessities of market forces. It is part of a search for pleasurable productive activity beyond the confines of labour imposed by economic necessity"

"It’s the social and economic role of the artist as celebrity and specialist producer that must be attacked - and the illusions it feeds"

"A revolutionary movement would seek to recover the lost unity between creative activity and daily life – where none would be “artists” but all would collectively reproduce a world full of sensuality and beauty. As Lautreamont said “Poetry must be made by all – not one”, and in being made by all it will have little to do with the literary forms of poems and nothing to do with the role of poet"
"What we think Morris meant here was what the Situationists later called "the realisation and suppression of art". "

"The fact that many forms of creativity have nothing directly to do with making money does not in itself mean that they are automatically non-hierarchical, nor that they are not products of externally defined, ultimately economically defined, notions of what creativity is"


"nor that they are not products of externally defined, ultimately economically defined, notions of what creativity is" - unsure what that means?

"Whilst a degree of specialised effort and experience might be necessary to play a musical instrument or create something that looks nice, it is when such specialisations are seen as something to be put on a pedestal, something that makes you separate, a role, that they lose all desire for the kind of sociable communicative creativity that we find enjoyable."

"I knew someone who refused museum culture and had a critique of art-as-commodity but created some attractive visual art works not for sale (at least, not yet); he made slides of them and had them projected onto his wall, constantly changing during a party he gave, to the point where it was difficult to hold a conversation, the large visual display as distracting as a widescreen TV, and the loud techno music adding to the difficulty of talking. The fetishisation of this particular form of 'creativity' dominates not directly as an economic force but still debilitating."

"Likewise, there are those who consider themselves best qualified to play a musical instrument and sing at parties, who resent others trying to play or sing because they are not so specialised, not so good at it, even though the communal joining in of singing and playing and drumming and dancing is far more pleasant, even if not 'expert', than the very best performance held in reverence. Taking your specialism too seriously solidifies a hierarchical judgement of individuals in terms of their ability, or lack of it, to express themselves within the narrow criteria of creativity defined in terms of their specialism. But everyone drunkenly singing loudly along to silly disco songs slightly out of tune is far more fun than a stiff appreciation of a really good musician."

Is the objection that it's judgemental or that it has negative social consequences or both?????

"The specialisation process often appears to be something outside of money-making, developed in the specialists' leisure hours, though it is also often necessitated by the possible option of making future money out of this creativity."

"but it's the illusion of 'creativity' and the resignation to their specialism (they only come alive when they're performing) that make communication and the totality of social relations amongst artists so utterly conventional nowadays"

"The 'wind-up' is an example of turning miserable social relations into a work of (performance) art. Though economics had no direct reason for its development, it's 'spontaneous' expression coincided, in the mid-80s, with the intensified repression of class struggle. Before these defeats, the wind-up (including the practical joke) was usually used either against some of those in authority, those too submissive to authority, the most moronicly naive or just against someone who behaved in a persistently annoying way. It had a conscious target, a point. "

 Is this true?

" the Situationists negated their own positions as cultural specialists in order to attack, with more coherence, the presuppositions of culture, and by extension, the entire social system whose very basis is the representation of life opposing itself to life. This they called "the realisation and suppression of art". In other words, struggling to realise, in the world around us, what was a separate and purely imaginary creativity , whilst suppressing art as a separate specialism."

"The recognition that the totality of life could be creative if we destroyed the commodity form"

" The 'qualities ' of an artwork exist only in the interpretation of it; in this way it can be made to mean anything you want it to mean. It's like advertising for intellectuals: to give 'meaning' to a meaningless product in such a way as to make you think yourself more special than those who are conned by banal TV adverts. And it increases the investment value."

"The more you interpret some banal piece of art as significant, radical, original, or whatever the more you can convince yourself that you are significant, radical or original by valorising the significance, radicality and originality of your taste (as consumer) or of your creativity (as producer). This is not a struggle to understand the world, life, and culture by trying to change and subvert them, to question everything about them, but a purely passive interpretation, like philosophy. Yet, the more verbal or written interpretation you produce the more you can convince yourself that you're not merely passive in relation to the artwork. Repressing all critical disgust, approving interpretations of some installation or whatever and valorisation of its innovative qualities is a way of showing yourself as an interesting creative person, a way of selling yourself, your personality, a way of proving how 'modern' you are. It's an aestheticisation of the intellect, a philosophising not to change things but to magically turn your passivity before a work of art into a positive influence. But all that changes are your undoubting thoughts and the possiblity of valorising yourself through them."

This seems possibly too harsh???

" essence, all of these approving 'interpretations' have one basic statement: “Very few people understand what this is all about.” The fact that only the very clever, the sophisiticated, esoteric and intellectual, can offer an apparently clear interpretation adds to the rarity value, to the investment value. In an art world of High Finance, specialisation of interpretation is part of "you scratch my specialism and I'll scratch yours". Inevitably, in such a narrow circle, the poverty of this art is hidden by the monetary value of it, interpreting their art all the way to the bank. In a world dominated by fictitious capital, art is as much a con as false accounting."

"In the context of a market economy, the artwork is the commodification of meaning, statement and expression – embodying them in a saleable object or activity, the name of the producer, and the interpetative ideology that goes with them adding or detracting from its value/price. Art is the domain of the “uniquely creative” specialist, the glorification of the hierarchical social division of labour"

"Above all, it is the taste for adventure, for experiment, for progress, that is repressed by arrogant battles over consumer tastes. In the commodity economy, "adventure", "experiment" and "progress" is permitted only in the form of a merely monetary measurability; "adventure" becomes a business risk, "experiment" becomes "let's try this new marketing ploy", "progress" becomes "I've made more money this year than last". Or, at best, they're seen in terms of your leisure time: "adventure" becomes sky diving or some other extreme sport, "experiment" becomes "let's go somewhere new", "progress" becomes "I can play pool better this year than last" - which are ok but are defined narrowly and, like all leisure activites, have no social consequence - they're not adventures, experiments or progress in social relations"


"In a world where morality is increasingly recognised as hypocritical and petrified, taste becomes an alternative, more fluid, less crude, more subjective way of asserting ones 'essential' superiority. Whereas morality was repressive, taste seems to be expressive. Although some search for a personal meaning seems to be expressed in terms of taste, taste is ultimately a sad consolation for not being able to really be creative oneself"

Is this right??? Not sure I agree.

"At the same time, there's often an unhealthy servile respect for these 'greats' which puts them on a pedestal utterly above - and certainly nothing like - our own lives. People ignore what was uncreative in the lives of the 'greats', as well as diminishing what was or is creative, or potentially so, in their own lives. This excessively self-effacing, admiring and adoring attitude refuses to recognise some aspects of the contradictions of the greats in their own history of creativity and destructivity and the history of people they know and have known."

"In the upside down world which makes dead labour worth millions more than living labour, the destruction of a Rembrandt or of the Mona Lisa, like in the picture at the start of this text, would receive a million more headlines than the death of someone unnecessarily freezing, which is a banality"

Probably true ,sadly.

"And those who demand to know what they should do will be easy prey for the experts who try to provide positive solutions"


"officially denies that the event ever happened"

if it was ever true, no longer true.

"But when it comes to attacking more classical art, the ruling world (and many of those who approve of attacks on the more modern rubbish) presents such attacks as the actions of madmen or bizarre eccentrics. "


" In 1917 Duchamp saw the 'Fountain' as a provocation - an attack on a very rigid traditional High Cultural definition of aesthetics, and, as such, was highly original, innovative, revolutionary even. "

"What is radical in one epoch is utterly conservative and banal in another."

"It is for artists to define art, said Duchamp, "

"This shows how it's not enough to merely attack works of art - you need to consciously develop a critique of the specialisation of creativity, its transformation into merchandise. There are some who think performance art transcends the normality of art-as-commodity, because it's transcient, ephemeral, not tangible. On the one hand, this implies that only things become commodities, which is patently untrue. It also ignores the fact that much performance art inspires advertising."

"The beggars who are more obviously living in the street, even the most placid ones, are partly considered unattractive because their 'eccentricity', unlike the mime artist, causes them to not conform to any coherent world of appearance: they're 'wierd' partly because they don't dress right and their 'wierdness' is not entertaining. Beggars haven't become the same as street theatre, because their relation to the street is very different - at least,so far. If beggars are irritating it's not just because they're sometimes too pushy and persistent and smell a bit more rancid than most. A beggar is often irritating because we feel awkward contradictory emotions with a beggar - an anxious mixture of guilt, pity, sadness and contempt, even suppressed aggression. This is partly because they most epitomise, in an extended and more shocking form, the most abject aspect of ourselves, of what we could become, and our rejection of the beggar is also the line at which we draw our dignity. The beggar too blatantly expresses the need for submission which is the crushing rule of this society. If beggars are despised, it's because they reflect too crudely people's own slavishness. Beggars are both an aspect of ourselves, of what we're forced into, which we fight against and the warning, and even threat, to us all of what could happen"

Interesting/ useful.

other stuffs:

"The separation and hostility between the "world" of art and the "world" of everyday life finally exploded in Dada. "Life and art are One," proclaimed Tzara; "the modern artist does not paint, he creates directly." "

"Dada flared up and burnt out as an art sabotaging art in the name of reality and reality in the name of art. A tour de force of nihilistic gaiety"

"Surrealism was initially an attempt to forge a positive movement out of the devastation left in the wake of Dada. The original Surrealist group understood clearly enough, at least during its heyday, that social repression is coherent and is repeated on every level of experience and that the essential meaning of revolution could only be the liberation and immediate gratification of everyone's repressed will to live "” the liberation of a subjectivity seething with revolt and spontaneous creativity, with sovereign re-inventions of the world in terms of subjective desire, whose existence Freud had revealed to them (but whose repression and sublimation Freud, as a specialist accepting the permanence of bourgeois society as a whole, could only believe to be irrevocable). They saw quite rightly that the most vital role a revolutionary avant-garde could play was to create a coherent group experimenting with a new lifestyle, drawing on new techniques, which were simultaneously self-expressive and socially disruptive, of extending the perimeters of lived experience. Art was a series of free experiments in the construction of a new libertarian order. "

"But their gradual lapse into traditional forms of expression - the self-same forms whose pretensions to immortality the Dadaists had already sent up, mercilessly, once and for all - proved to be their downfall: their acceptance of a fundamentally reformist position and their integration within the spectacle"

" Life must become the game desire plays with itself. But the rediscovery and the realisation of human desires is impossible without a critique of the phantastic form in which these desires have always found the illusory realisation which allowed their real repression to continue"

" The whole accumulated power of the productive forces must be put directly at the service of man's imagination and will to live. At the service of the countless dreams, desires and half-formed projects which are our common obsession and our essence, and which we all mutely surrender in exchange for one or another worthless substitute"

"The goal of the Situationists is immediate participation in a varied and passionate life, through moments which are both transient and consciously controlled. The value of these moments can only lie in their real effect. The Situationists see cultural activity, from the point of view of the totality, as a method of experimental construction of everyday life, which can be developed indefinitely with the extension of leisure and the disappearance of the division of labour (and, first and foremost, the artistic division of labour). Art can stop being an interpretation of sensations and become an immediate creation of more highly evolved sensations. The problem is how to produce ourselves, and not the things which enslave us." ('Theses on Cultural Revolution', Internationale Situationniste No. 1, 1958)    

" Art, like the rest of the spectacle, is no more than the organisation of everyday life in a form where its true nature can at most be dismissed and turned into the appearance of its opposite: where exclusion can be made to seem participation, where one-way transmission can be made to seem communication, where loss of reality can be made to seem realisation"

The specialist always dreams of 'broadening his field.' Likewise the obsessive attempts to make the 'audience' 'participate.' No one cares to point out that these two concepts are blatantly contradictory, that every artistic form, like every other prevailing social form, is explicitly designed to prohibit even the intervention, let alone the control, of the vast majority of people."

" the ludic aspects of the revolution cannot be over-emphasised. Revolution is essentially a game and one plays it for the pleasure involved"

"Thus the crucial revolutionary problem is the creation of a praxis in which self-expression and social disruption are one and the same thing: of creating a style of self-realisation which can only spell the destruction of everything which blocks total realisation"


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