DOWNLOAD THE FULL TRANSCRIPT HERE: mediafire.com/download/8jyczm7e8i2b2vx/josephine-berry-slater-process_processed.pdf
After his death an abscess was found at the back of the patient Broussonet’s brain, thus explaining the reasons for his loss of memory of substantive words in life. Georges Canguilhem uses this anecdote from the annals of medicine to explain how the establishment of norms doesn’t precede the experience of pathology or disease, but instead arises through the threat to life’s possibility. Furthermore, the establishment of norms (which therapeutics/medicine aim to return the body to), he argued, is part of life’s struggle against what threatens it (and shouldn’t be seen as a purely anthropomorphic activity). Can we read the development of aesthetics in related terms? If that which threatens human life can be thought of in terms of its own production, by way of reason, of processes which it can no longer control (total nuclear destruction, climate chaos, resource exhaustion, thanatopolitics), in other words if pathology is endemic to the human condition, then how are the resulting norms, retroactively given, discovered and deployed by art? Life is both what threatens life and what gives rise to an immunological and therapeutic response, and art participates on both sides of the divide: it gives form to the order that produces pathologies (the naturalisation of power occurring through naturalised cultural forms) and attempts to release life from its sickness (the grasping of norms from the flux by way of cutting, ‘partage’, the creation of visibilities, finding abscesses). When the key modality of art becomes its annexation of process (as an effect of a wider annexation of life within biopolitics and capitalist real subsumption, as well as science’s discovery that all is (in) process), how does its operation start to mutate? Norms are often proposed through postmodern art’s deployment of participation, but regularly precede/inform rather than result from process (bad relational aesthetics/new media’s concepts of interactivity). But at its wildest, the art of modernity opens itself to the destabilisation of its system by way of as yet unnormativised process which, in turn, gives rise to the discovery of new norms which can, albeit briefly, be turned against that which threatens both art and life. Thus aesthetic immunity acts for and against life.
Josephine Berry Slater is the editor of Mute magazine and teaches a short course in biopolitics & aesthetics at Goldsmiths College, as well as teaching in the lab component of the Culture Industry MA there. She is currently trying to extend a lecture series on biopolitics and aesthetics into a book.
The Matter of Contradiction is a series of workshops and seminars initiated by Sam Basu, Fabien Giraud, Ida Soulard and Tom Trevatt.
The Matter of Contradiction: War against the sun was organized in collaboration with Inigo Wilkins.
More informations can be found here: lamatiere.tumblr.com/
War against the sun was held at Mute magazine offices at Limehouse Town Hall in London on the 1st and 2nd of March and followed by a workshop on the 3rd.
Special thanks to Val Ravaglia and Stephen Nachtigall for the video recordings of the event.