Disobedient Cultures: Art, Politics, and Resurgent Hope

DOI: https://dx.doi.org/

Abstract

When political change is remote the only prospect for change is in the realm of imagination. Herbert Marcuse responds to this in his last book, The Aesthetic Dimension (1978) after the failure of revolt in Paris in 1968. He argues that although art cannot change the world as such it can change how the world is apprehended. Thus art’s imaginative potential is part of a wider pursuit of freedom. The paper argues that the situation is bleaker today than in the 1970s. Neoliberalism enforces a regime of consumerism even more now than then, and operates globally. Still, hope reappears in direct action from the anti-roads campaigns of the 1990s to anti-capitalism in the 2000s and Occupy in 2011-12 (after a much longer history of direct action). Today’s direct action and campaigning is specific, however, in addressing the trajectory of global capital. It also accepts its own ephemerality—leading Occupy to reject the processes of representation and issue no programme, instead inviting people to be present among others of like mind in the effective creation of a new society within the old. The paper asks to what extent art remains part of this picture of radical alterity, and whether Marcuse’s critical aesthetics remain helpful. Among issues raised are Marcuse’s Enlightenment view of art as autonomous creativity (rather than contingent on production within an art-world); a blurring of the divide between art institutions and the cultures of protest, as in the exhibition Disobedient Objects in London in 2014; and that appropriation may be art’s perpetual burden.


Keywords

contemporary art, critical theory, cultural institutions, protest, radical politics

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

The Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) declares Kritika Kultura as a CHED-recognized journal under the Journal Challenge Category of its Journal Incentive Program.

International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Professor
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faruk
Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)