Unresolved Latency

Posted by @ 12:10 pm on October 19th, 2011
One important aspect of resolving the background in the cultural field is the attempt to destroy the art-industry consensus between producers and receivers in order to free events of “showing” in their radical specificity. It explicates the absoluteness of the act of production as well as the proper value of the act of reception. Such interventions have a combat value as acts of enlightenment against provincialism and cultural narcissism. It was not for nothing that the surrealists, in the early waves of their offensive, defined the art of baffling the bourgeois as a sui generis form of action: on the one hand, because it helped its innovators to distinguish between the ingroup and the outgroup; and, on the other, because it permitted protests from the public to be interpreted as a sign of success in dismantling the established system. Whoever scandalizes the bourgeois professes his progressive iconoclasm; he wields terror against symbols to explode positions of mystified latency and uses ever explicit techniques to force breakthroughs. The premise of symbolic aggression lies in the legitimate assumption that the cultural closets are overly filled with corpses and that it is high time that the latency-protected links between armament and edification be ruptured. If the early avant-garde fell into fallacy, however, this is because the bourgeoisie they set out to horrify always learned its lesson much faster than any of the aesthetic bogeymen had predicted. After only a few rounds of the match between the provokers and the provoked, it was almost inevitable that the bourgeoisie, loosened up by mass culture, would take the lead role in matters of explicating art, culture and signification through the activities of marketing, design and autohypnosis; meanwhile some artists continued on playing the public bogeymen, failing to notice that their methods were past their use-by date, while other artists negotiated a shift to neo-romanticism, renewing their pact with depth. Before long many moderns appeared to have forgotten Hegel’s fundamental principle of modern philosophy, whose analogue in aesthetic production would be: that the depth of a thought can be measured only by its power of elaboration–otherwise depth is no more than an empty symbol of unresolved latency.

–Peter Sloterdijk, Terror from the Air p 74-75

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