Spring 2023

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The School of Critical Studies is pleased to announce the Spring 2023 Aesthetics and Politics Lecture Series. The theme for this semester is "Structures of Dissonance: Aesthetics Beyond Capital."

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?

Live and Online

All events are free and open to the public. Visit the CalArts Calendar for full event listings.

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. 


Luciana Parisi: Aesthetic Colliders in AI Vision

As Open-AI launched DALL-E, concepts in natural language are directly transformed in images. AI generated images are said to not only show us how AI understands human words, but to also stretch the aesthetic dimensions of vision. Algorithmic instrumentality opens the question of what counts as aesthetics in the aftermath of computational thinking. This relation between instrumentality and aesthetics must be further studied. One must ask: how can algorithms meet the creative ambition of aesthetic production without simply intensifying the recursive trends of cognitive capital? To what extent one can argue for a machine aesthetics that escapes the modern cosmogony of Man the colonial and patriarchal epistemologies granting the authority of capitalism (Wynter 2002)? The paradox of aesthetics and capital, where recursive algorithms sustain the freedom of homo bioeconomicus through the prototype of the slave-machine, haunts machine vision, but may also push forward an alien hypothesis for AI aesthetics.

Event Details

Rachel Garfield: Last Gasp or Future Possibility? Punk, Visual Anarchy and DIY

The Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen and Poly Styrene’s Bondage Up Yours! have rung through the decades—not so much as a revolutionary force, but more as a signifying gesture, a Fuck You!, against the structures of Capitalism. It did, however offer recuperative possibilities for visual artists through its elevation of the amateur, the anti-melodic and the DIY—particularly for women. Artists such as Vivienne Dick, Betzy Bromberg, and Abigail Child transformed film language through a hysterical and vertiginous rulebreaking using disjuncture, deflation and visual contradiction. These artists are a link between second-wave feminism, contemporary video practice and emergent subjectivities: a pre-history that is missing. If a renewed interest in punk is part of a search for an ‘authentic’ moment outside of the ambitions of Capitalism, can these works offer a way of re-thinking the tenets and requirements of the art world today–a way to look again at what it is possible to make without publicly funded budgets, production teams, and fancy buildings to exhibit in? Or is this ‘anarchy’ merely another consumable gesture?

Event Details


For more information on the Aesthetics and Politics Lecture Series or for accessibility questions, please contact the Visiting Artist Coordinator at csartistcoordinator@calarts.edu