Art Making as Subversion or Reification of Majority Opinion

What is subversion but the acted on impulse to impose oneself onto the structure of the status quo?  The world is what it is and some values that are vaunted by some others  are under cut by certain other acts, things and people.  The expectation then becomes that only through the imposition of self, can one obtain the valued consequences, or better yet the values themselves.

Let me say that there is the self and the non-self.  The self is the valued subject herself; the non-self occupies the sense, that other values require one to abrogate ones obligations to oneself.  The non-self value generally goes hand in glove with the admission of an objective value that does not depend on individual voices and singleton opinions.  It is only when
an individual accedes to this proposition and the corollary proposition that his input is not valuable for that reason, that his impotence as an agent, a valued subject is demonstrated to him.

I do not want to force too much onto my subject.  Yes we are all exceedingly serious about our own lives.    According to David Hume, ” the self has an inclination to spread itself onto the world”.  Nevertheless, this is a sociological observation, not a conceptual truth.  Hence, why should we not spread ourselves over the world?  If an answer seems available–say, because apart from the Millian harm principle, no other reason can plausibly object to us spreading ourselves over the world–  the normative turn is then evident.

If we seek to spread ourselves because we have been told to do so, that hardly merits our approval.  Nor does the neutral case convince, that I should learn to love to speak out to the world in a dense forest, where no one should hear me.  The only normatively sanctioned position can be that I should seek to make myself better off if and only if I do not make you worse off, and sometimes can make you better off.

This is where doubt takes over.  For accepting that objective notions that undercut our values–not simply that there are objective notions that exist– and that it is through subverting these notions that we should seek our own good, is to say that something is infallible.   For there is no way to prove that proposition false.   Rejecting that notion outright invites doubt.

I might simply say there are objective notions that exist, and that those objective notions could be shared by all people.  Nevertheless I need not accept that those notions are true, nor that they are loaded with some value outside of conventional acceptance, which may be simply a pragmatic turn.  If I say that I say that all individuals have their own value and sometimes circumstances are such that certain notions come to suit many, perhaps most people.  This is not to say anything about subverting any notion or any value to obtain my own.  My own value exists.  The world exists.  My value is obtained and given to me generally when the I happen to have a value that exists within the majority opinion.  That is to say my value does not require that the world go along with me, though it would be a happy circumstance where that the case.  Instead I would tend to find that my value is obtained when I tend to go along with the world.  And how can I know when I go along with the world.  Indeed, how can I know which circumstance obtains?  How can I know when the world goes along with me, or when I do along with the world?

The Romantic thinks the world goes along with him.  The stylist of Modernism thinks that he goes along with the world: his work is as  undone and fractal as is–what he conceives as–the world.  The contemporary artist doubts whether he can possibly know which of the two circumstances holds so that he thinks himself neither a Romantic nor a Modernist.

~ by Faheem Haider on December 3, 2009.

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