|FORMALISM OF FREEDOM.
For Bojan Sarcevic
|The subject of art knows how to escape from under its own shadow, to reach out beyond the confines of its situation, to rend the veil of history, to transcend its “horoscopic location” (E. Jünger). Perhaps this has been the concern of so many works from the 1990s to the present day: with the clear conscience born of a lack of the courage to criticize ideologies to resist the freedom to escape, to reach out, to rend and to transcend. An affirmation through the assertion of form and truth has been replaced by a critical, analytical, self-examining negativity that at best wears itself out exposing structural determinants (1), but usually dissipates its energies in cynical or disappointed exaggeration. This is the still unconsidered antinomy of considered art – the fact that it attempts to replace the absolutism of freedom of subject (art) with a process absolutizing its objective servitude.
“Phronesis” is how Aristotle described intelligence in the particular, in chains. Intelligence, which operates in accordance with the situation in which it decides and acts. As Gadamer repeatedly stressed, it is the principle of hermeneutics, diplomatic reason that ponders and considers. This is approaching the pragmatic assessment of “doxa”, of healthy common sense. Art and philosophy, however, involve total resistance to doxa and phronesis. For they compel their subject to slow down, force it, so to speak, to apply the brakes. To renounce violence. Philosophy and art attempt to maintain their subject as an assertive force, one that resists the attempts of doxa and phronesis to subjugate it. In actual fact, the subject only acts and comes to decisions by neglecting, ignoring and overstepping the bounds of its situation, by perforating the texture of the facts. A subject is nothing other than a name for this act of perforation, and for the hyperbole, the hubris, that it necessarily portrays. Which explains the mistrust aroused by the subject of this kind of self-authorization: because the subject refuses to cooperate, declines to obey. Because it resists subjugation by the spirit of the facts.
Art as an assertion of truth through the assertion of form is only possible and necessary in the dimension of the real servitude that is the order of facts, of symbolic and imaginary constructs. Art only exists in relation to that which, as art, i.e., as an assertion of freedom, it irreducibly limits, negates or endangers. In fact, a state of objective servitude is indeed the element in which the subject of art stands up and stands firm. The formalism of freedom is irreducible to the dialectic conflict between particularism and universalism, objective servitude and virtual freedom, because art’s assertion of form suspends the dimensions of “reality” and “ideality” in equal measure. Idealism (freedom) and realism (servitude) are false alternatives that always promote obscurantism, i.e., simplicity, instead of generating truth.
As radical yet inscrutable forms of self-assertion not rooted in any general principle, philosophy and art keep themselves aloof from the order of feasibility, not so as to remain further removed from the world or from reality than politics within the order of political affairs, but in order to place the intensity of their assertions upon another plane, the horizon of infinity and impossibility, where the subject resists absorption through mere interests or “inclinations” as Kant calls them. Art and philosophy are forms of self-acceleration in a desire for assertion that break through the consensual horizons of discussion, argumentation, communication, explanation, justification, or considered self-validation. Art and philosophy only exist as this means of breaking through. As a force for transcending horizons. As the assertive force of a subject to come to a decision. To come to a decision that breaks through the horizon imposed by the possible to reach the dimension of the impossible that is the dimension of truth.
The formalism of freedom is irreducible to the objective order of servitude without the possibility of leaving behind this sphere of facts. Being free in the midst of this fact-bound servitude, asserting freedom, truth, form also means casting doubt on the imperial nature of objective facts, ruthlessly “separating [the assertion of freedom, truth and form] from the ‘cultural’ historicity within which current opinion seeks to dissolve [them].” (2) In order to open up the order of factual knowledge to an order beyond knowledge (the established and recognized register of knowledge), and in this way, as Agamben says, “to remove truth from the field of cognition and return it to ontology” (3). By ontology I mean the sphere of the impossible, of what is real beyond reality. “What would happen,” asks Derrida, “if the ‘interest in truth’ that impels us to question the authority of objectivity [...], were to correspond/conform to (cor-respondait) or assume the responsibility for a freedom freer than/free in a different way from (autrement libre) that freedom that measures itself according to objectivity? In other words, under what conditions can we talk of freedom and truth? Under what conditions can we assume the responsibility for them?” (4)
Under what conditions? Exclusively under those conditions that deny freedom and truth and render them impossible. Freedom only exists under the conditions of servitude, truth only in untruth. Art and philosophy lend form to this contradiction.
(1) I.e., the functions and simple facticity of economic, historical, political, social, cultural, aesthetic, institutional, national, ethnic, religious, sexual etc. circumstances.
(2) Alain Badiou, Paulus. Die Begründung des Universalismus, Munich 2002, p. 14.
(3) Giorgio Agamben, “Wahrheit als Irrsal”, in: Das Irrsal hilft, Rainer Maria Kiesow and Henning Schmidgen (ed.), Berlin 2004, p. 12.
(4) Jacques Derrida, Privileg. Vom Recht auf Philosophie I, Vienna 2003, pp. 124f.