Art and the Inevitable Political Economy of the Senses

im-possible Design & Autopoiesis

In 2012 there were rumblings about the end of critical reflexion on art. It was posited that the Bush II years, which led to the negation of criticism of the regime itself, fostered an uncritical approach to culture at large, causing critiques of many kinds to be deemed naively political or the outdated prattle of elitist academics and art-world cognoscenti. Thus, the critic is no longer considered to be the enlightened arbiter of what constitutes “art” under the oppression of global capitalism. In turn, the critic is no longer fetishized. However, thanks to the sophistication of digital power, which enabled us to do our own thinking and suspecting, the hermeneutics of suspicion were spent—used up, as if we no longer need to be critical. However, as Terry Eagleton explains in After Theory, we are in a post-theory period that necessitates a reckoning of all things critical.

So, what about art? Art is not post-political or post-critical, and while some people may argue the überdigital world demands art to have a new sensibility, art always remains aesthetic. Whether traditional, situational, new media-based, performative, or auto poetic, all arts—fine, retro, kitsch, and prosthetic—have always remained aesthetic, not neo-aesthetic, post-aesthetic, anti-aesthetic, or new media aesthetic. The aesthetic is perceived and perceivable—an agent of perception and thus (sorry apolitical dreamers) political. We produce, distribute, recycle, and consume sensual products at an unprecedented rate, and art is very important these days.

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