Across a Most Radical Terrain : Towards an Aesthetics of Dissention

Abstract: The 1990s saw a tendency within the field of contemporary artistic practice for outwards expansion: artistic projects increasingly got involved in wider social and political contexts; transversal and transdisciplinary links were established with other forms of practice; collaboration and participation became the explicit form and sometimes material of artistic practices; the group, collective or network was increasingly posed as an alternative to the individual artist in much the same way as the self-organized, artist-run space set itself up as an alternative to art institutions and galleries. Taking as its point of departure such notion of expansion within the field of artistic production, this thesis sets out to explore the aesthetics developed by these practices, and the link this aesthetics poses to ethical and political trajectories. Making the argument that all forms of practice posit a potential for such expansion away from the specificities that defines an activity as a practice, the thesis proposes to rethink aesthetics as an abundant radical potential for change within any terrain and as a function or process immanent to life itself. As such, it is constitutive of a continuous and experimental folding movement between ethics and politics that allows us to reinvent traditional notions of political engagement and think of dissention less in terms of a critical analysis of dominant conditions and more in terms of an affirmation of collective becomings and future forms of communal life.Recognizing that the collaboratively based artistic practices engaged with in the thesis call for a different relation between theory and practice, the thesis employs what it refers to as a synchronic method, where the text derives primarily from an interplay between a trajectory of theoretical elaboration upon the concepts it engages with, drawing upon the work of Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari and Benedictus the Spinoza, and a number of expanded and collaborative projects that feed into the thesis in the form of protocols and archives. The practices engaged with are thus allowed to expand into the realm of theoretical production in much the same way as the conceptual elaboration is allowed to feed into the realm of practice in the form of contemplation and reflection as well as in the form of a manifesto-like engagement with the establishment of future forms of artistic and other practice.

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