02 n°91 sep/oct/nov 2019
02 n°91 sep/oct/nov 2019
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  • Parution : n°91 de sep/oct/nov 2019

  • Périodicité : trimestriel

  • Editeur : Association Zoo galerie

  • Format : (210 x 297) mm

  • Nombre de pages : 92

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6 Essay Kill Your Id(e)ol(ogie)s 6 Kill Your Id(e)ol(ogie)s — by Ingrid Luquet-Gad « Subject matter is the new form. » On the face of it, this short sentence would have the emptiness of T-shirt slogans, but, recontextualized, it identifies with great accuracy the condition that prevails in art today. This was noted in the review Roberta Smith wrote about the 2019 Whitney Biennale for the New York Times Magazine. In turn, Jerry Saltz repeated it in his own column for Vulture 1  : « Subject matter is as important a formal feature of art as formitself as a primary carrier of change and newness. » For the first time, the Biennale could boast a scrupulously diversified list of artists in terms of genres and origins. However, the two authors noted that, at the level of works, this diversity did not bring the formal innovation that one would then have been entitled to expect. They nevertheless praised the quality of the biennale, which was representative of a state of affairs and of the lifeblood of artists under forty—for the three-quarters of them were that young—  : for an entire generation of artists, aesthetics is simply no longer the primary concern. « Often, though, formally non-daring works breathe quiet fire and seethe, » added Jerry Saltz. The canon, styles, media and art history in the broadest sense now serve as the material from which to draw freely to express one’s message. Are the 1980s back ? Indeed, stating it sounds like a reminder of the great moments of post-modernism. And yet, it is something else  : here, no joyful nihilism, no decadent irony. Quite the opposite  : an urgency of speech, expression and, above all, message. Content comes first. Content,i.e. ecological, queer and colonial concerns, with the possible exception of classissues, the absence of which is obvious. For the visitor, who can be assumedto be progressive without taking too much risk, these perspectives are conventional. They recognize them from their militant networks, they have read the quoted texts, they agree with the references embedded and with the issues raised. Once this is established, it also follows that nothing shakesup the categories of thought that each one will have brought with them from the outside world. The same questions, the same debates are taking place, with the same modalities. The formspeaks, and it speaks like a text. Art becomes political by merging with reality. The works are leaflets. There is certainly an urgency, today no one can deny the identity tensions and conservative backlashes. Does this mean, however, that in the long term, this prevalence of the subject over the formis desirable ? This shift, and the habit of assenting together that results from it, is the subject of two essays published this summer. Both White 2 by Bret Easton Ellis and Contre le théâtre politique 3 by Olivier Neveux return to the polarity of subject/form, which they address under the opposition ideology/aesthetics. The enunciative position of the two authors could not be more different. While the prodigy of the literary Brat Pack of the 1980s trades the novel for a hybrid writing between autobiography, confessional literature and cultural criticism, the academic Olivier Neveux,
6 Essay Kill Your Id(e)ol(ogie)s 7 Professor of Theatre History and Æsthetics at ENS de Lyon, produces a lampoon richly argued. Egotistical flamboyance and historical temperance. The entertainment industry and the philosophical scene. And yet, the intention and terms are surprisingly consistent. Both point to—and warnagainst—the slippery slope leading from politics to morality, from aesthetics to ideology, from ambiguity to message. For Bret Easton Ellis, ideology means « expressing an opinion and forcing you to experience certain feelings » while aesthetics means « to play it entirently differently by showing things neutrally and ask you to bring something to the picture which might for example, have a complicated and contradictory character or a morally ambiguous nature at its center that the movie isn’t going to simplify or resolve for you » (p. 87). An art work, in this case a film (Bret Eason Ellis takes the example of Moonlight which he opposes to King Cobra) can defend progressive ideas (a black and gay teenager wrecked by an iniquitous society) while not being aesthetically a good work. The main point here concerns reception  : the work of art is by nature complex and chaotic, like the individuals to whom it is addressed. However, by submitting to « collective intuition », it runs the risk of submitting to the temptation to « erase both subjectivity and objectivity ». For his part, Olivier Neveux also points to the perversion of the mechanical production of effects. « To think of a policy of works is not to consider them from an ideological point of view and question them according to the reflection of what they are supposed to be, any more than to identify the signs supposed to produce such an effect mechanically or to testify, by their transparency, to such a will. » (p. 17). For Bret Easton Ellis, the inclusive fantasy is « what happens to a civilization when it no longer cares about art at all » (p. 92). The same is true for Olivier Neveux, deploring the loss of the work, « the great absentee, the ignored, relegated to the old modernism », who then specifies  : « Some evenings we have the impression that the theatre offers theoretical digests to those who do not have the time or taste for it [...]. The theatrical radicality sometimes consists in grasping, once cooled, deconflictualized and normalized, what has fueled offensives and activist discussions elsewhere for years » (p. 160). Ideological art explains, demonstrates Olivier Neveux, calls for both the « explicative order » and the « stultification » it implies as presented by Jacques Rancière in The Ignorant Schoolmaster (1991 for the English translation) and the « aesthetic positivism » which « replaces the theoretical deciphering of the works by their effects » theorized by Theodor W. Adorno in his Aesthetic Theory (1970), concluding that this approach is « a way of constraining and shrinking the work to what it is supposed to produce—and not having to produce any immanent intelligence of what it is », its existence being « dependent on what it promises to affect, its project of effects, its practical voluntarism » (p. 163). The autonomy of the work disturbs. It disturbs the logic of a culture that we would like to be rationalized, useful and productive. Whether it is a question of practical voluntarism or, with Bret Easton Ellis, of « corporate culture » and its « virtuous robots », the threat of the levelling of its reserved space lingers over art. The stage, the page, the screen and the space where the works appear have become porous. We barge in on them with our casual heavy boots to the sole of which stick the values and what’s left unthought of a governance system called neoliberalism. Insisting on the reception of works, their mass and group reception, also means highlighting the making of a certain type of individual, and spectator, by the system in question. The economy penetrates all spheres



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