Art as a Gesture: Singular and Shared
The existence of ‘gatekeepers’ presupposes the validity of rules, norms, and laws. Are there any laws in the arts? Many leading art institutions (e.g. academies, conservatories, universities, culture ministries) resist all change, due to their inertia, rather than any explicit defense of principles. The boundaries of art history have become problematic since the seventies, at least; philosophical aesthetics has renounced any claim to be normative; and art criticism is disappearing, to the benefit of curatorship. Perhaps this is the symptom of a deep historical and anthropological change. Is the alleged and practiced ‘creativity’ in the arts (or even in the economy and in life itself) not the opposite of any established norm? Unlike the first sixty years of the twentieth-century – when the ‘cultural industries’ provided pre-packaged ‘arts’, domesticating the taste of the ‘masses’ and allowing people to enjoy short moments of rest before resuming their work – nowadays the popular consumption of artistic and cultural content has become part of the production process. The ‘new’, ‘creative’ and ‘knowledge-based’ economy is bringing – as the main productive power – the most intimate, spiritual resources of shared, single lives into play within production. Economic innovation converges on the artistic avant-garde obligation to produce ever-new ‘languages’. We are benefiting from an unprecedented improvement of the flow of information and of means of production. The individual gaze and ear are directed towards a rapidly growing past. But life is continuously under pressure from a compulsory voracity, and hostage to this ‘cognitive bioeconomy’. However, the process of destruction of the old rules may suggest another opportunity: the opportunity of seeing in the arts gestures that can help us to recognize and free what is single and shared in life. Everyone can be a ‘gatekeeper’, by taking care of what cannot be governed and exploited by that power. This opportunity opens up a different perspective with regard to the arts – and life: a contingent, historical perspective, which nonetheless lies beyond all historicism and the avant-garde dialectic between rules and exceptions.