The Post-political Context and the Role of the Artist

Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar’s public intervention titled “Questions, Questions” (Barcelona, 2009).

Autonomist Marxists refer to our present situation as post-political (e.g., Lotringer, Marazzi and Bowman). Within this post-political context, Santiago López Petit, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Barcelona, argues that the often repeated question “who has the right to the city?” (Lefebvre 1968: reformulated in Mitchell 2003) no longer makes sense:

[…] en la medida en que la afirmación “el espacio es político” se hace problemática…la propia lucha en el marco del derecho—en nuestro caso “el derecho a la ciudad”—se hace también problemática. (“Espacio público o espacios del anonimato”)

[[…] in the extent to which the assertion “space is political” becomes problematic…the very struggle within the framework of rights—in our case “the right to the city”—also becomes problematic.]

The urban movements that attempt to fight for certain rights in the public space of cognitive capitalism, like the fight for the right to decent housing in Barcelona, no longer are able to give their collective speech public meaning because their speech constantly passes through mediating institutions (state and corporate forms).

Against this particular state of society, Brian Holmes, in his book Escape the Overcode, argues that the role of the artist is “to mark a possible or real shift with respect to the laws, the customs, the measures, the mores, the technical and organizational devices that define how we must behave and how we may relate to each other at a given time and in a given place” (13-14). Critical Art Ensemble, a U.S. collective that explores the relationships between art and political activism, agrees and adds that “sign manipulation with the purpose of keeping the interpretive field open is the primary critical function of the cultural worker” (The Electronic Disturbance 139). Paris-based sociologist and social theorist Mauricio Lazzarato takes the position that “the activist is simply someone who introduces a discontinuity in what exists. She creates a bifurcation in the flow of words, of desires, of images, to put them at the service of the multiplicity’s power of articulation…” All three describe how creativity can be used as a line of flight from neoliberal control.

Works cited

The Electronic Disturbance. Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia, 1994.

Lazzarato, Maurizio. “Créer des mondes: Capitalisme contemporain et guerres ‘esthétiques’.”Multitudes 15 2004.

López Petit, Santiago. “Espacio público o espacios del anonimato.” Barcelona Metropolis: Revista de información y pensamiento urbanos.

Lotringer, Sylvère, Christian Marazzi, and Betsy Bowman. Autonomia: Post-political Politics. New York: Columbia University, 1980.

Mitchell, Don. The Right to the City: Social Justice and the Fight for Public Space. New York:Guilford Press, 2003.


2 thoughts on “The Post-political Context and the Role of the Artist

  1. Reblogged this on For Another Critique of the Pyramid and commented:
    Stephen Luis Vilaseca draws together some interesting threads on the disruptive potential of artistic practice in this post. Some of what he offers here resonates with I’m writing for Chapter Five of my dissertation — “Denaturalizing Repression-Heroism” — on how artists, writers, and activists work to denaturalize the inherited spatiality of young people’s politics in Mexico City after 1968.

  2. Pingback: The Post-political Context and the Role of the Artist | For Another Critique of the Pyramid

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