8 tenets derived from aesthetic praxis
Based upon my reading of Nancy on art, technique, and aesthetic praxis, we can enumerate the following (non-exhaustive) list of tenets:
- If there is something, then there is always more than one thing. This is the affirmation of the plurality of worlds.
- Place, relation and thing (the political, ethical and aesthetic) are not pre-given and readymade, but are always already-unmade. Duchamp understood this, precisely in his “invention” of the readymade and its presentation of the oscillation and sustained undecidability between work, work of art, the inoperative, and the ordinary everyday object.
- In this sense, art’s work is not reducible to the aesthetic object or work of art as the result of a process of production (poiesis), but instead is a praxis, technique, gesture and decision.
- Distinctions are blurred between the organic and inorganic, the animate and inanimate, such that one does not know where the stone ends and the sculpture begins. This is exactly opposite to any notion of medium-specificity.
- Aesthetics is always relational and therefore the notion of “relational aesthetics” is either a pleonasm (and) or an idea that leaves unexamined both “aesthetics,” and the “relational.”
- The partaking in the sensuous sense of the intimate exteriority between places and things is neither incorporeal nor embodied, but happens right at and along the edges of bodies. As Nancy underlined in a recent lecture at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris: all body is “body art.”
- Which, finally, means that to the axes of the political, the ethical and the aesthetic in our formula, we must also always include the erotic: logos + eros (including but not limited to sex and sexuality) or more broadly, otium (ease or pleasure). This also underscores the importance of pleasure in our thinking of the poltiical-ethical-aesthetic, especially if we think of otium (ease or pleasure) as that which is closely aligned with that other comportment, namely negotium (engagement with the world, primarily in the mode of work). While in ancient rhetoric and ethics, these two terms structured an oppositional dichotomy—which can be perceived in the latter: neg-otium, literally the negation or no to leisure and that which is merely for pleasure—I think they can also point to the non-oppositional connection between pleasure and the ethical. In the sense that forms of praxis as care and transformation of the self (otium) are always to be measured in terms of that self’s relation (negotiation) with others in the world. As in conversation and dialogue, within a republic of letters, in which language and literature are common things—res communes. It is from this that such notions as civil society and the citizen, are derived, with an emphasis on the very places where conversation can take place. What Nancy has referred to as “the commerce of thinking.”