Janos Sugar on Mon, 19 Aug 2002 21:10:49 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Re: Documenta XI but not really

(let me insert in the ongoing documenta debate the first three paragraph of a text _Art in the Present_ i wrote in 96, the complete text you find: http://www.ljudmila.org/nettime/zkp4/50.htm)

The function of art within the social division of work is to transcend the
necessity of answering questions of topical interest and thus to provide
access to general questions. Engaged as it is in an investigation of the
mysterious empire of non-practical, art can be anything except present
oriented. It satisfies a need before the need is even born and realized;
works of art may be considered answers to questions which the present has
not even got around to asking. Culture serves survival by preparing one
for future problems, that is for types of problems as yet unknown. Art
attempts to produce the absolutely different (the anti-present) through
which it furthers the vitally important ability of its analogy-free
reception. In other words, it is future-management. From the perspective
of the present it must inevitably seem to be the realization
unintelligible anything. The simple fact that a work of art does not
obligatorily have to be intelligible for the present and that it may only
become intelligible in the future causes serious conflicts for many. A
work of art has plenty of time, it is in no hurry like kitsch is. The
loyalty due to the realization of the above is, in fact, the source of
energy for radical interpretation.

Politics, however, could not focus on anything but the present even if it
wanted to. Otherwise, it would not be able to control the processes in the
civilization of present effectively. It will not manage to influence
history unless a poster or a slogan can find supporters within the society
of the living. The function of a political movement or newspaper article
is topical and by no means eternal: it must work and be effective in the
present. On the part of politics this requires a kind of
present-management, which allows for the temporary inconsistencies of
means and purposes so that a major conception can be implemented in a
linear sequence of steps taken.

Works of art also influence social changes, they may foretell or amplify
them, the crucial difference being that art does this in diffuse,
unpredictable ways which, as a rule, only become apparent in retrospect.
Politics is the world of ephemeral topicalities, while art is - at least
comparatively - timeless, and thus not particularly tied to the present.
It happens extremely rarely that the politics by which current events are
shaped can produce even a timeless moment, if nothing more. Usually, this
temporary coexistence of short and long-term thinking only occurs in the
communicational ecstasy of revolutions, increasingly rare as they are.  

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