The political claim of contemporary art, specifically since the mid-twentieth century avant-garde, has often been hinged upon a politics of resistance, antagonism and difference. In such case, a political art does not structure power, but rather un-structures it in creative forms of its destabilization. Often this form of art has been identified as an aesthetic experience, since the experience of sensory phenomena resists the top-down ordering and instrumental functions of rational languages and aesthetics can therefore claim to be akin to an indifferent nature that withdraws from any direct confrontation with power. In the context of the sublime condition of neo-liberal techno-capitalism, with its unstable environments of high-frequency exchanges and unregulated markets we also see resistance, where the delirious, alienating and dissonant experience of capital divides us, and estranges us from ourselves and each other, proliferating difference under the principle of accumulation. However, it is clear that these dissonant affects in capital calcify strict social inequalities in race, gender, class and labor and this leaves us wondering: what structures, orders and principles are relied upon and constructed in art’s claim to aesthetic resistance? Do we require structures, rule and order in order even in the claims to critical indifference and if so does this limit the capacity for critique as a form of resistance today?
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Co-sponsored by the ICA LA and the CalArts MA in Aesthetics and Politics Program, with support from the CalArts IDEA Cooperative. Convened by Janet Sarbanes.