Some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer
Within the assemblage that contains the artist and the medium, the pivotal force that binds the two is desire. This is why it only makes sense to classify a medium on the basis of its affective quality and not on its properties. Desire displays an urgency without boundaries that is unrelated to notions of morality. There is no right or wrong in desire. Desire invests unconditionally, its agency reaches far beyond good and evil; morality is left behind on the plane of human pretence. Friedrich Nietzsche called for a complete acceptance of the course that is continuously being set by these unconditional drives when he wrote:
Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer.[i]
The ‘Yes-sayer’ in this context is someone who is capable of an affirmative attitude and accepts reality as it unfolds. This person does not place any trust in trusting, nor in substitution, nor representation. Yes-saying is therefore not a thing of choice, it is fuelled by desire itself. I consider the artist to be a ‘Yes-sayer’ who deals directly with capacities for becoming: affordances. In the process of creation, the actors required can be determined, yet the outcome of the process of becoming cannot be described before the fact. Intuitively, the actor accepts multicore rather than unique structures of influence and, in doing so, allows continuous shifts to occur between the desires of the self and those of the medium. Desire fuels unconditionally but not unrestrictedly. Precisely because desire does not make compromises, some paths will or cannot be taken, whereas others will always have priority. This implies that there is no tabula rasa: the beginning is always in the past, no matter how far back one goes. There are degrees of freedom, not complete freedom, which is why Deleuze insists that we always start in the middle. In this process, both artist and medium play an equal part; nothing is logically determined or naturally given. The ‘fabric of life’ consists of a complexity of desires, forces, drives, agencies and antagonisms that cannot be reduced or (over) simplified. The condition is never bigger than whatever it conditions: the conditioned. All elements assume a completely different significance when judged on their capacities rather than their properties. This ‘fabric’ should be seen as a dynamic assemblage that depends more on the exteriority of its relations than on its territory.
Territories are the main cause of a separation of discourses. Different terrains in the bio-political socius are often treated as separate discourses, although many domains are much more intertwined than their segregation would support. As I have argued, economics and sexuality, for instance, are often presented as separate domains, whilst it is plausible that political economy is in fact libidinal. The active contribution an artist can make to reconnect discourses is to do exactly (as in only) what he or she does best. It is a ‘flipping’ of the specificity thesis, which says that every medium should do what it does best. Instead, I insist that this is the capacity of the artist. It is the force field that holds together the static and the unstable, uniqueness and becoming, attraction and repulsion, thus connecting and destabilising what we call the work of art. This includes the impact of the artwork on society, on the realm of the artwork itself, and on the body and psyche of both the artist and observer, which makes the work of art a becoming in itself. In this process there is room for the marvels of serendipity, untamed emotion and violent agency. What is most important, however, is to recognise the desire of the medium itself in this process. It is the medium itself that determines how it needs to be perceived in order to be perceived: what it can and cannot display, what it may or may not render visible. Therefore I call upon us to embrace the desires of the medium in a joint amor fati and to explore assemblages that favour any type of pensiero debole as a way out of the devastating modes of modernist progression and human dominance. Anthropocentric dominance and anthropocentric hegemony over desire have never proven justifiable. They are concepts grounded in human exceptionalism and representation and, as I have argued, are no longer valid.
There is no better place to begin replacing these concepts than in the academy of arts and design. To this end, I have proposed three principles – heuristics, asignification and multiple optima – which can serve this purpose in art and design education through an approach I call intensive thinking.It has been shown that in this process, theoretical development and practical implementation are intertwined in a recursive double-bond connection in such a way that the teaching comes from within.
Photo-credit: Camilo J.Vergara, photographer, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. No known restrictions on publication.
Title: East 125th Street and Lexington Avenue subway station, Harlem, New York, NY, USA, 2020.