Thursday, September 29, 2016

what is artforuming?

aLfrEdo tRifF

at some point during the late 1990s the task given to art writers was to pack less content per article as the publication packed more content per page (see that these are functions with diametrically opposite curves).

what happened? the media industry offered a miscellanea of reasons:

*"higher amount of characters per column interferes with brain's ability to scan through text easily,"
* "the quartz curve: fast and focused and shareable, but not long enough to be a pay-off for readers,"
*"shorter articles are shared more often,"
*"less is more" (dah)
* "SEO favors leanness"
* "the attention span of a regular reader is 9 sec."

wasn't that always the case for the average homo sapiens reader?

never mind the constant remained:

content = $elling content. 

in the context of contemporary art, this new development means,

short reviews = $ale$ pitches (disguised as art fact$).

yet, with more content variety one would expect more stylistic diversity. instead, artforum offers a stylistic homogeneity, which oscillates between the brainiac (either theory-laden or theory-related), to epiphanic rantings (the kantian-sublime-prop implicit). believe it or not, many of these reviews feel unconvinced, as if the text vacillates between the need pitch to $ell and be true to one's own justification to the public after all these are persons, not artforum robots.  

in short,    

Hanne Darboven’s systematic output is intimidating, partly due to its inscrutability but mostly because of its scope and ambitionThis is serious work, as in labor, and it is displayed here to a rare enough degree that initial feelings of awe turn into a strange sense of gratitude.
above is a typical example by reviewer Honora Shea. after the epiphanic declaration in yellow, the reviewer has a faux pas:
"... this is serious work."  
wow! as if one didn't get a goody load in the first sentence, i.e.,

"systematic," "intimidating," "inscrutability," "scope" & "ambition."

and yet, now the reviewer utters the unutterable redundancy:
"this is serious work, as in labor."
what else would work mean if not labor? no, she needs to justify her first sentence again, overtly:
"... and it is displayed here to a rare enough degree."
why rare enough degree? the reviewer will never say.  am i not entitled to take "rare enough" as deferring her conclusion?  

so that,
initial feelings of awe turn into a strange sense of gratitude. 
i also share the awing for artforuming.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

more conspiracy theories at The Federalist. Why not? It works

a composite image of multicultural London

aLfrEdo tRifF

I was sent this article by Franklin Einspruch. It's published in The Federalist I take the occasion to congratulate him for his piece, and to argue this sentence:
It’s plain fact that political correctness and multiculturalism derive from notions hailing from the Frankfurt School, which in turn took its cues from Karl Marx.
What an irony, like Trump, Einspruch uses "political correctness" unproblematically. I bring Trump up because he's the man of the moment, misrepresenting ideals of pluralistic tolerance as a sign of decadence within American culture.

eugenics poster in 1920s America

Let's venture a provisional definition of political correctness:

A disposition of speech act awareness and tolerance towards others.     

We've committed these words to the trash can:

1- "n_gg_r",
2- "retarded" or "mongolic," instead of "mentally disabled or challenged"
3- "faggot," (for homosexual)
4- "Indian," (referring to Native Americans)
5- "mankind," (instead of "humankind"),
6- "bum," (instead of "homeless"),
7- "whore," (instead of "prostitute" or "sex worker"*), and so on.


Because words are used in specific historic contexts, and the wronged party has a right to be heard. I cannot speak for a black person offended at the word in 1-. I simply haven't lived his experience. So I defer the usage for the sake of understanding.

Which doesn't prevent me from understanding Kant's use of Menschheit for "humanity." See, "mankind" was not a problem back in 1790s. Today it feels inconsiderate towards women.

meanwhile Trumps ridicules any overture for more conscientious usage

Politically incorrect people don't get it. This is not a fight for the purity of words. No word is pure. In fact, there is nothing essentially wrong with the words in 1-7. Usage is always conventional! But that doesn't mean that convention doesn't matter. It does. A word's meaning has a limited time scope (what, three generations?). New contexts bring forth new meanings. It's conceivable that some of the words in 1-7 may come back clean from their previous dirty dealings. For that to happen the context would have to be very different.

As Wittgenstein made clear, meaning is usage. Usage reflects who we are as people at a given time. And we should be willing to negotiate usage in order to build a better, more civilized pluralistic society.

But why am I wasting your time? Trump's list of politically incorrect Trumpisms is sufficient proof that political incorrectness is a smokescreen for an essentialistic unitary ideology unwilling to negotiate language & speech acts for the sake of social cooperation.

What a waste of time to fight over a word that clearly offends someone.**

Next claim:
 ... multiculturalism derive from notions hailing from the Frankfurt School 

"Multiculturalism," the concept, emerges in the 1980s when the Frankfurt School generation has already disappeared. Adorno, Benjamin, Horkheimer, Marcuse are all dead by the late 1970s.**

You will not find the word "multiculturalism" in any of their canonical texts.

What today is referred to as "multiculturalism" emerges from a series of world events:
1- the end of World War II in Europe,
2- the multinational influence of the United Nations in global affairs,
3- the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination (1965-1969),
4- the end of colonialism in Africa and parts of Asia,
4- the Civil Rights Movement & the passing of affirmative action laws in the US,
5- the trends in migration in the 1970s,

By the 1980s, these diverse processes bring forth ideological, legal & economic shifts that include regionalist, ethnic and gender equality legislations within Europe and the USA. It's the outcome of these processes what we know today as multiculturalism. Only then, one begin to find these early texts addressing the idea of multiculturalism.

Let's investigate this supposed link between the Frankfurt School and Multiculturalism, by taking a look at the sources which make up for said "connection."

1- The first generation of texts on multiculturalism happens in the early 1990s, with authors like, Iris Marion Young's Justice and the Politics of Difference, Nathan Glazer's We Are All Multiculturalists Now, Amy Guttman's "The Challenge of Multiculturalism" in PPPA,  22:3, 1993, Dave Hollinger's Post-Etchnic America: Beyond Multiculturalism, etc. By the 2000s we get a second generation of texts which incorporate the post 9-11 and post-War contexts of Afghanistan and Iraq: Again, Will Kymlicka's 2005 Multicultural Odysseys, Multiculturalism and Political Theory by Laden, A.S., and D. Owen (eds.) 2007, Multiculturalism without Culture by Anne Phillips, 2007, etc (by no means I pretend to exhaust these primary sources). 

2- If the connection between Multiculturalism and the Frankfurt School was obvious, you would expect a consensus amongst reputed conservative scholars opposing multiculturalism to share it. But this is not the case.

In his Menace of Multiculturalism: Trojan Horse in America (1997), Alvin Schmidt has a whole chapter for Marx's influence in multiculturalism. Not a single reference to the Frankfurt School is found. In his Perils of Diversityconservative author Byron M. Roth argues against a liberal pro-Marxist academic establishment in the USA and the West, but doesn't mention the Frankfurt School by name. On the often consulted The Disuniting of America by historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., where the author examines the idea of multiculturalism in detail, the Frankfurt School never appears as a influence. Yes, there is one quote in Allan Bloom's famous 1987 Closing of the American Mind on page 65, where he mentions the Frankfurt School by name. So what?

Is Einspruch not reading too much into Marxist conspiracy theories?

Finally, even if one could find authors connecting the Frankfurt School with "multiculturalism," that doesn't mean that the latter derive from notions hailing from the former. 

Simply because contiguity is not a necessary condition for causation.  

(And to think that Einspruch's piece in The Federalist is filed under "Philosophy")

* I've learned "sex workers" from my abolitionist students. I'm at the border here: There is plenty of good literature treating the subject as "prostitution." But "sex workers" makes perfect sense, if one holds an abolitionist view. **Imagine a Trumpian defense: "Why should I change usage, if all I mean is the original word as it was used back in the time?" Because when one utters: "retarded" in a class, for example, a disabled student may be offended appealing to "back in the time" only refers to an earlier context where we didn't know better). ***There are other thinkers, which have been quite important for early multicultural thought, for example, Charles Taylor, his Multiculturalism and The Politics of Recognition is a required reading on the topic, as is Will Kymlicka's Multicultural Citizenship

Monday, September 26, 2016

Art Criticism vs. Artblicity

 down with thumbs up!

alFreDo tRifF

Our epoch is defined by two distinct & opposing modes of discourse: Art criticism and Art publicity (Artblicity from here on). The latter owns the show. The former is hibernating. For how long?

To bring Art criticism back we need to stop taking for granted the platitudinal, unproblematic picture presented  and defended– by the artMarket and its minions.

Here is a tentative manifesto:

Artblicity presents advocacy as a blessed redundancy: the advocacy is justified merely by its provenance, its provenance by the $ale$.

Artblicity represents an abduction of critique for the sake of cultural entertainment. Its social media equivalent is Facebook Thumbs up!

By leveling pervading conflicts of interests, Artblicity homogenizes positions and disagreements. This process I have called arthoodication.

Being the mouth-piece of the artmarket, Artblicity is opportunistic & sensationalistic. Hyperbole wins the the masses' approval.

Artblicity stereotypes and distorts art & art discourse with travesties of theory (whether formalism, lacanian or freudian psychoanalysis, diverse forms of post-structuralism, hermeneutics, and other subjectivisms). The more arcane the better.

Artblicity turns art discourse into *art fat*.

Artblicity is epiphanic. Masses have a propensity to happily to embrace artMarket's hubristic Logorrhea. 

Artblicity doesn't really address the art. The art is left at the periphery in favor of perceptions of mea$ure$.

Artblicity pretends neutrality on stage while letting conflicts of interest through the back door.

Artblicity reaffirms commodity fetishism by turning a blind eye to the dirty dealings of the artMarket.

Artblicity is structurally & politically disconnected from reality. Money talks! 

In clear opposition to the former:

Art criticism stirs debate, fosters discussion, and reframes positions.

Art criticism is adversarial, not hostile.

Art criticism is committed to exposing the coverups & lousy dealings of the artMarket and its institutions.

Art criticism fights Artblicity's platitudes & distortions.

Art criticism rewards critical courage: Call a spade a spade!

Art criticism is acerbic & lean.

Art criticism is an inter-subjective social practice not a solipsistic ideological masturbation. Don't forget the juice!

Art criticism fights digressions and non-sequiturs with clear explanations. If nobody understands it you don't understand it.

Art criticism is pluralistic.

Art criticism identifies derivative art by:

1- seeking originality, novelty and richness, while,
2- unmasking contemporary art's artfair art, artlibor, arthoodication,
3- deferring easy praise in favor of judicious patience,

Art criticism's relationship with other art practices is unstable, incomplete, uncomfortable and enriching.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Inverse: a convergence of hubris & bad theory in contemporary art

laura lima's the inverse (photo: fredrik nilsen studio)

alFreDo tRiFf

This interesting article, written by Monica Uszerowicz for Hyperallergic got my attention. It reviews Brazilian artist Laura Lima's recent show @ ICA, entitled The Inverse. 

here's Uszerowicz's description:
... a massive swath of rope, deep blue and thickly knotted, traverses the entirety of the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) Miami’s Atrium Gallery, looping itself over beams and columns and scraping the floor. The varying thickness and gradient of color throughout renders the rope an overwhelming morass of textures, and at any level of the space from which it is viewed it’s difficult to determine if it’s one rope or many.
it continues:
... the rope, gradually dwindling in size, ends in a makeshift room where, as outlined by the artist’s intent, it “merges with a female body.” To be clear, the rope ends in the woman’s vagina, sheathed, as it were, by a finger cot — a detail not explicitly shared with museumgoers.
you get the picture by looking at the photo above. Lima's installation looks imposing, except that one has to look carefully (behind one of the four central columns towards the back) at the protruding, tiny human lower extremities.

This is what happens next:
A few of the performers, unsurprisingly, felt uncomfortable with the rope’s placement; one in particular, who thought insertion was optional, felt coerced. Though it’s described in more detail here, there seems to have been some miscommunication: the ICA’s staff didn’t want their performers forced into anything that made them uncomfortable; meanwhile, Lima insisted on the insertion of the rope as essential to the piece — to her understanding, it was empowering.
How is that "empowering?  Here's Lima's justification:
I set the piece up so that you have to move yourself to discover its details. There are many things that arrive at the perception of the viewer — some are more important than the others — and I like that some of it gets lost. It’s not going to be obvious. You don’t know what’s going on behind the wall — but she is there. She knows a lot about the piece, and she is committed to engaging with the idea. In some ways, this is a universal subject, for centuries or millenniums, this subject of women. It is a more empowering thing. They are going to do it by themselves and they are, in a certain way, the ones who will take care of the piece.
I call this bad theory: The performer is, "there," ... "knows a lot about the piece," presumably because, (ahem) she inserts the rope inside her vagina? And she is "going to do it" and is, "in a certain way, the one who takes care of the piece."

Behind Lima's galimatias of empty constatations one can detect reified theory threads to buttress a system geared to legitimize contemporary art's presentations. I call this hubristic process arthoodication.* 

Meanwhile, Uszerowicz acknowledges that "a few of the performers, unsurprisingly, felt uncomfortable with the rope's placement." She tries hard to negotiate a mid point between her journalistic voice (in green below) and Lima's own (in red):
... by hiding this hugely important component of the show, Lima hopes that it will affect the viewer’s understanding of the work in some subconscious way. And maybe silently holding the literal end of the rope inside one’s own body could feel somehow special, even if it is a secret and especially if Lima had previously discussed it with the performer at length.
This is how Uszerowicz presents the disconnect between Lima's demands and the performers' reports:
Taken from the perspective of the artist-as-designer but not participant, these ideas seem reasonable.
"Reasonable?" Methinks too charitable.

How is the insertion of the rope inside a performer's vagina subconsciously relevant, whatever that means from a psychological standpoint (I'm just trying to fathom a science that could articulate Lima's declarations) if the performer only shows —as Uszerowicz explains,
... her feet... poking through a mouse-sized hole in the room’s wall?
and how could anyone in the audience address a performer's mental states by just looking at her legs!

Consciousness is exclusively a first-person report. The only way to address "conscious" or "subconscious" behavior is to obtain a performer's report, which is what Uszerowicz does in her piece.** In fact, her unease with The Inverse transpires in the piece's title: "When a Body is Reduced to Materiality for an Artwork."

Yet, as much as Uszerowicz digs into it, she cannot bring herself to shake her dithering between justifying Lima's demands, on aesthetic grounds, and her misgivings that these demands cause the performers emotional distress.

My position is that Lima's insertion demands make no sense within the aesthetic scope of The Inverse. Why? Because the performer's behavioral interaction with the public is minimal, a mere lie-there on the floor for three hours, inside a wall, showing one's legs through a hole. Furthermore, if inserting a rope inside the performer's vagina makes no difference to the piece, then the undue emotional stress caused to the performers is wrong. 

There is more: In a second article, Claire Voom confirms the performers' reports:
When Lima entered, she asked if Performer A was wearing underwear and replied, “Perfect” when she said she was not. Lima made her change into a beige dress to match her skin tone, complete with a sewn-on flap meant to cover her genitals as she lay down. Lima also placed a finger cot on the rope and handed her lubricant, telling her the penetration wouldn’t hurt.
This is what matters: the performer's first-person report:
I felt so lost and alone ... I was hoping for someone to enter the room and speak to Laura. … Laura handed me the lube and said, ‘OK, now put it inside of you. I will be waiting for you on the other end of the wall. … Don’t worry, you are safe. I’m watching you, and no one can see.’
performer A adds,
But I wasn’t safe ... I felt like I had no choice, and I also felt completely responsible for it because I didn’t say no. I inserted the rope. I laid down, and she adjusted my legs and opened them. She whispered through the hole, ‘Good, now everyone can see you.’ I started to cry. Something changed; I wasn’t the same. I was waiting for her to leave so I could remove the rope because there was so much discomfort. I peered through the opening, and once she left, I pulled it out and hid it by the side of my leg. 
This is a new detail: Even if the performer silently cried inside her hole, the audience would not have noticed. Behavior is by definition response to external stimuli. Only in this case, the performer's response doesn't matter. What if Lima showed the performer's face? I'm speculating, but at least the performer would've had the proper outlet to negotiate her emotional distress with the audience (as Levinas suggests, the face is a powerful medium for emotional redemption).

Visualize a troop of Lacanian feminists, taking issue with Lima's The Inverse. They take the structuralist approach (i.e., the artist's intentions are secondary to the work's reception) and decide to charge Lima with outdated patriarchal forms of female fetishization to please Eurocentric aesthetic modes of reception (evidently, a charge as hubristic as Lima's demands).

One last point: there is no question that these events are now part of The Inverse and Lima's resume. Perhaps after this reality check, she will modify her future performative demands. But then again, given the media attention received in Miami, perhaps not.

* What I mean by this is not a judgment against theory, nor contemporary art, but the hubristic confluence of both. ** A propos of bad theory, William James makes this point about first-person report: "human experience prevents the imposition of conceptual fixities."

Monday, September 19, 2016

The art publicist: the new associate of the art market

The culture industry does not sublimate; it represses…Works of art are ascetic and unashamed; the culture industry is pornographic and prudish."-- Theodor Adorno.

Alfredo Triff

Since the deregulation of the media in the mid-1990s and the corporatization of art market in the 2000s criticism has waned to the pòint of extinction.1 There's a new focus in the practice of art reception. Writers do not feel they have to evaluate anymore. Instead, they produce eleemosynary commentaries. What happened? 

There is no art, only "art events"

Corollary 1: Art is defined and consumed by "how," "when," and "where" it is presented. The "event" is (controlled by) the market. 

Damien Hirst's For the Love of God, a $100 M 8,601-diamond skull.  

This is how Isabel Graw, professor of Art History and Theory at Stadelschule Art Academy in Frankfurt describes it:
I think that we are actually dealing with a gradual shift concerning the relationship between art and the market, and this shift is reflected in the market's increased power of definition over what is regarded as a meaningful work of art. In other words, what has changed for artistic production since the '60s and '80s is the very structure of its universe -which has become a mass corporate industry embracing the logic of celebrity culture. 2a
James Panero writes:
The art market has a unique talent for promoting art about the market. Since exhibition history enhances value, the collectors of what we might call "market art" have a vested interest in seeing their work take up space in traditional public collections. They often have the financial leverage to make it happen. In this way, the hedge-fund collector Steven A. Cohen could place Damien Hirst's shark tank on temporary loan at the Metropolitan Museum. The oversized trinkets of Jeff Koons start appearing at the same time in the museum’s rooftop gallery.
During the Twentieth Century, art criticism was defined as a practice of judging. The phenomenon of the art market was mentioned only tangentially -as appreciation or depreciation of the artwork's value. This value was seen within the classic Capitalist picture of  supply and demand. In this version, the market is a transparent medium, an invisible hand reflecting the artist's overall worth in a world of free consumers. Something else added to the market mystique: Both Kant and Marx's elucidation of art as non-instrumental and non-productive respectively yielded the art market as spontaneous catalyst of human interests, a necessary vehicle to distribute taste (Kant) or propagate culture (Marx).

At the receiving end, critics were outsiders to the dealings between collectors, curators, gallerists and museum-directors. Profit and its political ramifications never got addressed in the writing.2b The real productive and speculative dynamics behind the art was ignored. Two very different discourses were taking place: the public ramblings of the critic and the private behind-the-scenes money-talk of art transactions.

Was the critic aware?

 Clement Greenberg, the quintessential Modern critic.

Until the 1970s, the art market kept this old-school Fordist touch of conventional respectability. Collecting was a practice of the very rich. Artist's marketability was measured in terms of constancy: producing, showing and being collected over time. "The art market is boiling with an activity never known before in history," wrote Eric Hodgins and Parker Leslie in an article published for Fortune Magazine in 1955. "Against the rising demand for art, the available floating supply of Great Art is an ever shrinking quantity" (my italics). Hodgins & Parker predicted that this market would not only grow but would "turn increasingly to modern and contemporary art" (in hindsight, a pretty sound projection). The magazine listed "speculative or "growth painters" (their version of today's "emergent artist"): Kooning, Pollock, Baziotes, Motherwell, Still, Reinhardt, and Kline, amongst others.

This is the Greenbergian moment of art criticism. A moment of trend-setting and discovering "high art," which bathed the critics, artists and market in a glow of prestige. Then the market exploded at Sotheby's Scull Auction of 1973, the event which marked, not only the rise in prices, but also the dominance of money in any discussion of contemporary art.

Critic Barbara Rose, reported the 1973 auction for The New York Magazine:
They (The Sculls) learned how to turn themselves into objects through packaging (Mrs. Scull appeared to have had everything lifted for the occasion), media exposure, and sheer, unadulterated chutzpa. The Sculls transformed their banal, nouveau riche selves into personalities by not being afraid to own up to being all that was considered lowbrow, déclassé, grasping, and publicity-seeking. They made a thing out of being vulgar, loud, and over dressed. They were, in short, shameless; and it was their shamelessness that finally got them the spotlight they ached for. 
Rose's personal account of the whole episode misses the real reason behind the sale: What happens with the Scull Auction is that the aristocracy's dominance of the market is over. After 1973 the art market explodes and goes "public." It shifts from individuals actors selling and buying and collecting to new techniques of profit.

Accumulation gives way to speculation.    

Andy Warhol's 200 One Dollar Bills sold for $49 M in New York (i.e, a plain demonstration of the magic of the market: each Warhol dollar is now worth $245,000!).

If art accrues meaning according to how it's talked about and presented, then one could see the art-publicist-turned-"critic" as a tacit ally of the market: a framer, an apologist of goods, a middleman who is apt to translate pictorial codes into clear a language of commodity exchange. From the 1960s to the 1990s, as artists happily rallied behind this legitimation process, collectors were happy to invest and museums to acquire and to show.

The critic got displaced by a better trained creature in the art of legitimizing art. This description of the curator by Michael Brenson is worth a treasure:
Not only an organizer, but a person that can think imaginatively about the points of compatibility and conflict among the different artworks. They must be at once aestheticians, diplomats, economists, critics, historians, politicians, audience developers, and promoters. They must be able to communicate not only with artists but also with community leaders, business executives, and heads of state. They must be comfortable with people who have devoted their lives to art and culture, with people who neither like nor trust art, and with people who may be willing, if they are convinced that art serves their interests or is sufficiently connected to their lives, to be won over by an artist or an exhibition. 3
The artist as financial-chart (taken from For the first time, the market unapologetically presents artists as commodities.

Curators become the publicists of art par excellence. Here is how Panero characterizes the curator's attitude to the market:
Curators defend such expensive contemporary work as relevant to the commercialism of the age: the market gives meaning to the art. The public meanwhile gravitates to such contemporary art because the public sees its own profligacy reflected in it—an attitude that the public then feels justified in maintaining.4a
Today, as the art market bypasses the critic, the writer regurgitates the supply side, blind to what's going on behind the scenes. Critic Stephen Melville explains:
The critic mostly does not travel in these circles, does not get about these ways, and is now more often than not a distinctly belated arrival in front of the work that has already been received, swathed in discourse, located and described, and often enough, sold. 4b
The market needs fresh stock.

Corollary 2: By ignoring art's political alignment, the critic misses the best part of the story. 

As critic Boris Groys puts it, "what matters in a review is which artists are mentioned, where and how long they are discussed. Everything else is everything else." 5 Being already squeezed out the market side of the equation, the critic-turned-art/writer has no choice but to get closer to his public, to become a "cultural commentator." Meanwhile, the public is ignorant as to why they were presented this or that art/product.

Is this dumbing down of art discourse the market's version of "cultural education" for the masses? 6

Corollary 3: The critic art publicist no longer affects what is seen and discussed. He/she is a hired scribbler.

It makes (Capitalist) sense! As the market creates new desires for mass spectacle, it keeps circulating newer art/products. The media, as the market's selling arm, repackages art commodities as "art/events" to a public avid for cultural spectacle. Art/writing legitimizes cultural commodities.

Pamela Anderson arrives @ Miami Art Basel (with David La Chapelle).

"art experience" = "cultural phenomenon."

"emergent art" is a carefully orchestrated assembly-line choreography.

so, "art experience" (the opposite of what it presupposes) simulates and disguises the reality of what is being shown.

Have direct access to culture!

Pamela Anderson's (photo-op performance?) at Miami Art Basel.

Corollary 4: How do the media presents the market's case? Fabricating a narrative and making it familiar. What is accessible and heavily promoted becomes desired.

The art publicist is a mouthpiece of the market.7

The predominant art/writing style in journalism (newspapers, weeklies, non-specialized magazines) consists of a formulaic pottage between commentary and descriptive platitudes. A frustrated critic puts it this way:
As we read the review of the art show, we are told of its social flavor, made by incidental side comments. We understand the writer's intentions and preferences. So we are presented with the artist's judgments, not the critics'.  Why is judgment shunned? 8 
Onajide Shabaka, photo, (2008).

Contemplation of art takes second seat to the enjoyment of the art-spectacle: 

Friends With You Art Parade, Art Basel, (2006).

As the market gets bigger, it has a way to become omniscient. Take for instance  Mark Spiegler, co-director of Art Basel. In this interview one can tell how hard he tries not to become identified with the market he represents, to distance himself from it, to avoid words such as "speculation," "volatility," (to suggest that people who collect don't speculate).

The market always presents itself as "OTHER." 

Corollary 5: Being outside, consumers feel they are "free" to make choices, to -even- reject the market. 

Here is a bit of another interview:
Steven Kobler: With the hype art has been experiencing for a couple of years now, the market has taken over the final say on the relevancy of an artist to a museum. Are the market mechanisms dangerous for the function of art in society?

Mark Spiegler: We don’t agree that the market replaces museums in determining the relevance of an artist. In fact, one could argue the reverse: Major museum shows have an enormous impact upon the market of an artist. And when it comes to determining which artists have a lasting relevance, it is not the art market but rather the artists themselves who play the largest role- followed closely by those writing art history (my italics).
Does Spiegler need to say more?
1 This has been the central argument of media critic Ben H. Bagdikian, for whom the media in general, and newspapers in particular, are increasingly controlled by "a new kind of central authority over information -the national and multinational corporation." So, how independent is the media today when profit and shortermism rule editorial policies? See Who Owns the Media? Competition and Concentration in the Mass Media Industry, Benjamin M. Compaine, Douglas Gomery Eds, (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000). 2a"Art and Its Markets," Artforum International (Volume: 46, April, 2008).   2b I had this experience recently. After being commissioned to write a review for Darby Bannard's retrospective in Miami, I submitted my review. It was rejected by the Miami Herald editor because it was "more about me than about Bannard." I had to provide my readers with a picture of "Bannard the person" (the person was more important than his pictures in the show!). 3 "The Curator's Moment", Michael Brenson, Art Journal (Volume: 57. Issue: 4, 1998).  4a Boris Groys, "Critical Reflections," Art Forum (October, 1997). 4b"The Art Market Explained" James Panero, The New Criterion, (Volume 28, December 2009), p. 26. 5 As a writer, I always felt as an outsider, having the choice of looking at the art -or look at the dealings behind the art presented. For reasons that I cannot pursue in this piece, I decided for the former.  "Is This Anything", in The State of Art Criticism, (Routledge, New York, 2008), p. 114. Art Basel Miami Beach, was triggered by a willful group of Miami collectors. They lured curators, which lured the investors. In all these art transactions, the critic is always left out. Getting too close to the work has its dangers: criticism eventually disappears, as buffer of taste between the art and the much needed evaluative practice of art. Think of the media mobilization behind Art Basel/Miami Beach, our yearly 3-day art-extravaganza. ABMB brings much needed revenue to Miami. More importantly, it brings cultural cache. Imagine what this mobilization of resources means for the institutionalization -and homogenization- of the market in terms of curatorial & museum practices. 7 Take for instance the "Best Of" practice of weeklies, such as The Miami New Times. Who makes the call for what's Best Of? If the writer, it presents a serious conflict of interest. The paper's editor's conflicts come with the territory: It's called "art assignment." Full disclosure: While I worked at the Miami New Times for almost 7 years, I never participated in "Best Of" decisions. How about the conflicts of interest between the curator/writer, the curator/artist, the curator/artist/writer/promoter? There is also the collector/writer. He gets the best of both worlds!  8 Tom Romley, "Who is the critic?" The Evening Standard (London, May 2007).

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Thursday, August 25, 2016

on the fringes of being

alexius meinong 

is it ever too late?
nay i say.
never too late to get my hands on alexius meinong.
why did i never read him in graduate school?
why did i repeatedly passed over his name on countless footnotes of lesser authors than he?

to understand being we have to look on the fringes of being: the "incomplete," the "alter," the "quasi," the "non,"

"the completing is never quite completed" is a phrase in novalis, but meinong went further. he walked the walk.

objects exist, subsist, merely exist...

i remember entertaining a "rounded square" in my mind during my metaphysics class. i'd "feel" my own cerebration, the square wrestling its definitional form: to "round" its corners, its very squareness to quasi-roundness, to push the form to a squircle (though clearly this is not the end-form, which is impossible).

once the squareness is left behind the hybrid moves to sosein, the space of "homeless beings."

the mind gets the impossibility, the nichtsein (entertained as the impossible superimposition).

in meinongian, the rounded-square "subsists,"

(a brief intro for meinong would be fans here)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

the idea of a consolidated erotetic completeness shipwrecks on the infeasibility of finding a meaningful way to monitor its attainment

The nuanced nugget above is from Rescher's "The Unrealizability of Perfected Science."*

The idea is not new. Rescher is after the so called completeness of science. Say Physics, could it —at some point in the future— become upper bounded, or as some put it Q-complete

I've dealt very with this problem here, and here.

Rescher presents four points: 1- Erotetic completeness, 2- Predictive completeness, 3- Pragmatic completeness, 4- Temporal finality.

In my opinion, Rescher better points are 1, and 4.

You may think what's the value of all this. See it as probing questions that pertain to problems as diverse as scientific realism, instrumentalism, the systematicity of nature, the cognitive limits, etc. 

But what I'm after here is style, the Rescherian unique manner of clothing ideas, which needs a whole post about stylistics in writing philosophy, but I don't have the time now.

When I read Rescher, I read a whole epoch: Strawson, Quine, Putnam, even a bit of Goodman. And yet his language has a unique old school elegance. There's always a secret interlocutor behind Rescher's thoughts, an echo of heedfulness.


the idea of a consolidated erotetic completeness shipwrecks on the infeasibility of finding a meaningful way to monitor its attainment 

Imagine this bloated erotetic cerebration crashing against its own nullness.

Pure poetry!

(I'm onto Rescher)

*Reason Method and Value, A Reader on the Philosophy of Nicholas Rescher (Ontos Verlag, 2009) p. 335.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Deflating Modernity (Part 5) Against hyper-objects

Modernity posturing as bundle of (bundles)

aLfreDo tRifF

Modernity's (M) mounting troubles tell a persistent problem with the methodologies used by M-theorists. These theories are propagated and legitimized without proper immanent critiques appealing to standards of reference, explanatory power and future predictability. In the last four posts we've presented theoretical conclusions that are simply not viable, such as M-normativity, Hegel's axiomatics, presentism, etc. We confront the same problem with M's main methodology: hermeneutics. The basic tenet of the discipline is that of interpretation, understanding, etc. And here is the problem: interpretation, understanding, etc, are not enough to anchor truth. Theorists overlook that many of these inherited constructs are structurally epiphenomenal, which redundantly relate back to its material base. Heidegger has no choice but to recognize hermeneutics' raison d' être and re-frame it as structural:
The "circle" in understanding belongs to the structure of meaning, and the latter phenomenon is rooted in the existential constitution of Dasein—that is, in the understanding which interprets. An entity for which, as Being-in-the-world, its Being is itself an issue, has, ontologically, a circular structure.1
We get it: Dasein has the ability to understand, and this ability is already —as it were— wired into Dasein. So, any understanding is bound to be Daseins' own! That Heidegger accepts that understanding is structural shows that circularity is insurmountable for Hermeneutics, there's no way to validate one's understanding of the world beyond one's (own) understanding of the world.

Nothing against redundancy per se. Once we pass hermeneutics' structural redundancy, we find that it's possible to build hermeneutic validity if we keep close attention to immanent standards of critique to rule out poor, or substandard interpretations. Admittedly, Heidegger's thesis in Being and Time opened up new avenues in the field of phenomenological research.

Here is a text by Umberto Eco, an expert in the history of hermeneutics. While in his early years Eco defended "open ended" interpretations, late Eco become more suspicious of what he saw as eroding standards of interpretation:  
One can object that in order to define a bad interpretation one needs the criteria for defining a good interpretation. I think on the contrary that we can accept a sort of Popper-like principle according to which if there are no rules that help to ascertain which interpretations are the "best" ones, there is at least a rule for ascertaining which ones are "bad." (169)
How to spot over-interpretation? Eco conceives of a model reader who would be able to discard some over-interpretations as ridiculous. We come back to the hermeneutic circle: understanding is a part-to-whole-to-part exercise. The model reader is capable to ask the right questions about the parts vs-a-vs the whole based on what she determines are the intentions of the text.


In our previous posts, we've hinted at hyper-objects as extremely large metaphysical entities, feeding on other entities.

Let's come back to M's paradigmatic definition:
... a bundle of processes that are cumulative and mutually reinforcing: to the (a) formation of capital and the mobilization of resources, to the (b) development of forces of production and the increase in the productivity of labor, to the establishment of (c) centralized political power and the formation of national identities, to the proliferation of rights of political participation, (e) of urban forms of life and of formal schooling, to the secularization of norms and so on (letters are mine).2
A bundle of processes which makes for a ((bigger)) process.

See, not just a process but a bundle of processes.

the hyper-object as if justifies itself

Some persistent questions

* If a "bundle of processes," why not a bundleofabundleofabundle, and so on? (let's call this the infinite regress problem) 

* How does bundleofabundleofabundle remain the same through its changes? (let's call this change-over-persistence question)

* If a bundleofabundleofabundle is a sort of process activity, how does it supervenes over its parts? (let's call this the activity-over-substance question).

(A hyper-object can give one the creeps)

* How can M define itself as a "bundle of processes," while ultimately referring back to the processes constituting the processes? (let's call this the constitution paradox)

We're not being difficult. No question is of little value:

Categories relate to questions, not to answers!

The individuality of bundleofabundleofabundle cannot be explained out by invoking the very thing one needs to explain. We need to understand why all these bundles coalesce together through time, when they change.

Here is a schematic story of the making of M: The theorist uses ad hoc methods with diverse  received theories to describe his (our) socioeconomic present; the assembled "bundle of processes" so presented as the explanation of his present condition. Then as part of the received theory, the postulated M will not submit to a critique outside M. 3  Is this a good start for a reliable methodology? Is this the best M-theory can do ?

the gradual decay of M-theory 

A brief history of M

a. At some point during early Nineteenth Century, German Romantics come up with the idea of "modern," b. Hegel brilliantly introduces his axiomatics! c. The effort to legitimize Hegel determines two opposing currents: Right and Young Hegelians struggle to give an account of M anchored in, what else, the present! d. Marx/Engels develop political economy and dialectical materialism as eminent presentist disciplines. e.  Due to the contributions of Weber, Durkheim, Mead, etc, M-theory comes of age during the first fifty years of the Twentieth Century.

At each step of a. through e. we have a real shuffling of ideas: Given the early M-theory, anchored in metaphysics, history, teleology and Romantic literature, M-theorists proceed now to justify socio-historic and economic patterns in terms of bigger socio-economic and political processes, and in so doing they use more generalizations to ground previous ones. But bigger isn't better. In the end M becomes a rundown Paper Tiger, paralyzed by its inner unexplored peripheries and contradictions.     

Revising M 

In PDM Habermas defends human rationality. What's interesting about his program is that it makes rationality an inherent capacity within language acquisition and expression. In other words, rationality expresses itself in our capacity for argumentation. And argumentation is grounded on validity claims which are vindicated by a process of inter-subjectivity.4 This communicative (argumentative) interaction of participants becomes a promising social cohesive force. Postmodernity appears and subverts these tenets with a discourse that is vitiated by self-contradiction. Reason has its flip side: the "other" of Reason, which, in the end, is actually, Reason. The problem is that Habermas makes M a cardboard model for rationality.

But M is, at bottom, a motley crew.

To make up for this aporia, theorists turn M into a hyper-object in the company of other hyper-objects, such as Capitalism, etc. (The hyper-object gang provides much needed esprit de corps).

Our approach is that hyper-objects should metaphysically answer to objects. An object, a thing, is a primitive. A required first step. Surely, objects get together with other objects to become big, sometimes very big. But the difference is that we start talking about stuff that is actually at our empirical (or conceptual) level, instead of up above at some epiphenomenal level. We suggest to come back to a simple differentiation between what the object (thing) "is" and what we "make" of it. Of course, this is not the place to go into such detailed discussion of object/metaphysics.

A deflated idea of M:

* Like with any other historic period, let's deflate M to finite future bound.

* M's self-imposed teleology is metaphysically redundant.4

* Self-normativity and M-normativity are goldbricks! From a normative standpoint, M has to be necessarily connected with previous historic periods. Normativity is trans-epochal.

* Instead of dwelling high and above at hyper-object level, the theorist should come down to earth and look at things. Don't ever rule by fiat.

* Make M less hyper-symptomatic and more predictive.5

* To avoid hyper-objects' recurrent redundancy, make them subordinate to objects (things).   

Indeed, the present is real but it can be presented as a counterfactual to hyper-objects' redundant influence. For instance, one can conceive of a world without Modernity in it.6

1 M. Heidegger's Being and Time (New York: Harper and Row, 1962) p.195. .  2 PDM, p. 2, Habermas enumerates the different influences of what we could call "the received theory of M": Baudelaire, Weber, Mead, Benjamin, Durkheim, Blumenberg,  Koselleck, etc. See Hegel's axiomatics.  3 Suppose a theorist comes up with a theory in defense of "aura analysis." Suppose furthermore that there are many people don't fit the predicted patterns of "aura analysis." Rather than accept this fact as refuting evidence of the theory, the theorist presents a new category of people: the non-aureatic. Now, whenever the theory does not seem to work, the contrary evidence is systematically discounted! 4 Grounding validity claims intersubjectively grounds truth as coherence. Again, theoretical coherence alone is not enough to ground truth claims (whether as pseudo science or social consensus, as in here, here and here). 5 True, the future is unpredictable, but we have this and this to entertain comparative forecasts. 6 As well as other well known socio-economic hyper-objects, such as Capitalism, Terrorism, Globalization, etc.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Deflating Modernity (Part 4) Nietzsche's futurity against Modernity's presentism

the blighted environs of M-normativity (Thomas Struth, Crosby Street, Soho,1982)

aLfrEdo tRifF

In this post we examine the advent of postmodernity and what that means for M-normativity. Particularly, we analyze Nietzsche's idea of futurity and how it subverts Modernity's presentism.  

From an "oppositional" perspective emergent postmodernity presents questions that come back to hunt modernity. Questions are repressed under layers of theoretical hubris.1 The weight of a theory can be ponderous. Positions that have come to prominence become entrenched after years of back and forth between opposing sides. Discussions become compartmentalized and owned by specific tendencies. From entrenched positions very little can be negotiated and legitimate questions are often dismissed as derivative or spurious.

It's time to be frank about those repressed questions, no matter how naïve they may seem.

We start with M's bombastic presentism.
Because the new, the modern world is distinguished from the old by the fact that it opens itself to the future, the epochal new beginning is rendered constant with each moment that gives birth to the new. [...] Within the horizon of the modern age, the present enjoys a prominent position a contemporary history. (PDM p. 6)    
The term "epochal" is neutral. Things begin and end (except M). Recall that Habermas would prefer to argue for "oppositionality" rather than "chronology." But the truth is that M's use of "oppositionality" is a straw man. It announces "concept," when it really means "chronological time."

But opposing concepts don't presuppose anything "epochal." Concepts and time/space are independent metaphysical categories.

That M is a period within world history is a matter of consensus. But as we know, consensus doesn't necessarily anchor truth (think the consensus on slavery among southern landowners during early 19th Century America, or Arian Supremacy during the Nazi years in Germany).    

Modernity makes historical claims while metaphysics hides behind the curtains.

M is deliberate about turning history into a teleological theater. 

What are the methods of history? Like other disciplines in the Human Sciences, history is a big pottage of ideas, competing positions and methodologies. Generally, historians stay away from metahistory (a kind of independent auditor looking at the overall discipline). But being that metahistory is not so much about history but how history talks about itself, the talking is often hijacked by "foreign" interests (i.e., metaphysics).

Why is this relevant? Because Hegel's axiomatics.  

Hegel's Lectures on the Philosophy of History is the Romantic metahistoric manifesto that brings together two reluctant siblings: philosophy and history. Together they announce the Parousia of Protestant Eschatology. This is how M-normativity is born. 

As time passes M-theory get more gluttonous. M-theorists turn M into a gargantuan hyperobject with which to explain all imaginable phenomena. To top it off, M should last forever.

Let's imagine a regular historian doing research, negotiating different methodologies available to her, whether voluntaristic, Marxist, sociological, interdisciplinary, Feminist, etc. Despite the differences, the common denominator is the gathering of past facts in order to build inferences to explain it. These historic inferences are always fallible approximations.2

How could History, a discipline whose raison d'etre is to analyze and theorize changes in the past, declare an "epochal state of permanence?" How could an epoch in history get as it were out of its time to dictate: "I'm here to stay"? That's metaphysical hooey.

Here is M's dogma:
... [M] opens itself to the future, the epochal new beginning rendered constant with each moment that gives birth to the new.
We have to find a way to expose the sham.

Let's take a look at the emergence of what M-theorists pejoratively describe as postmodernity. We should not even let the "post" prefix fool us. M-theorists don't mean "post" as posterior to M. They mean it as a mere (to bring a Hegelian shibboleth) "detour."3

But even granting the M-theorist that postmodernity is "oppositional" will be enough to show that M-normativity is a cheat, a Baron Munchausen pulling himself from his bootstraps.  

the collapse of M-normativity? (Pruit Igoe, 1968) 

Nietzsche, the first postmodern

Who's the bearer of postmodern iniquity? An eccentric, blasphemous, sickish professor of philology by the name of Friedrich Nietzsche. To double up the weird: a Schopenhauerian and a Wagnerian.

Nietzsche is said to have "broken away from the spell of M."

How did he do it?
Nietzsche renounces a renewed  revision of the concept of reason and bids farewell to the dialectic of enlightenment... [He] uses the ladder of historical reason in order to cast it away at the end and to gain a foothold in myth as the other of reason. (PDM, 86)
What myth?
...  an investigation that led him beyond the Alexandrian world and beyond the Roman Christian world back to the beginnings, back to the "ancient Greek world of the great, the natural and the human." (PDM, Idem)
The first postmodern is he who challenges M-normativity! Habermas is not shy to castigate dissension.
On this path the antiquarian-thinking "latecomers" of modernity are to be transformed into "firstlings" of a postmodern age. (PDM, Idem)
"Postmodern age?" Habermas' own rhetoric betrays him. Does "age" = "epoch"? No two contemporaneous epochs are allowed by M-normativity. The culprit of this early jumble is Nietzsche. He incarnates "modern time consciousness" in search for a mythical time that is to be found not in the past but in the future.
Only the future constitutes the horizon for the arousal of mythical pasts. "The past always speaks as an oracle: only a as masterbuilders of the future who know the present will you understand it." (PDM, 87)
Habermas reads Nietzsche's idea of the future as "utopian," directed to "the god who is coming, which makes Nietzsche less reactionary than say, a Romantic, who craves a "back to origins"call.

This god who is coming is Dionysus, a popular figure for German Romantics. Dionysus is favored by the romantics because he "preserves the cultic excess with archaic forms of social solidarity. (PDM, 96). Nietzsche is not original in his treatment of Dionysus. The fascination with the Greek god harks back to early Nineteenth Century, with the likes of Schlegel, Hölderlin, Novalis, Schelling, etc. The difference, Habermas points out, is that the Romantic Dionysus doesn't break with Western tradition. This mythology is a form of rejuvenation which seeks a Christian promise fulfilled with mythic Dionysian solidarity.4

The mature Nietzsche breaks with this Romantic Christian/Dionysian formula to embrace an openly aesthetic posture. For his discussion, Habermas cites from Nietzsche's On the Use and Abuse of History for Life.

We intend to mine this relevant text a little more.   

How Nietzsche's futurity subverts M-normativity

Nietzsche is a futurist before Futurism.
It is appropriate now to understand that only the man who builds the future has a right to judge the past. (UAH, 26)
The future is not merely "there" like chronological time. The future is a projection. Nietzsche in on the right path. That's why he's so influential for Existentialist theory: Dasein, or l'être depend of this futural projection.
Create in yourselves a picture to which the future is to correspond ... you have enough to plan and to invent when you imagine that future for yourselves. If you live your life in the history of great men, then you will learn from history the highest command: to ...  flee away from that paralyzing and prohibiting upbringing of the age. (Idem)
Nietzsche's "history of great men" refers to the ancient pre-socratics. A past that could happen again unless one flies "away from that paralyzing and prohibiting upbringing of the age." One has to respect a postmodern who can speak in such a "modern" manner.
When the historical sense reigns unchecked and drags with it all its consequences, it uproots the future, because it destroys illusions and takes from existing things the atmosphere in which they alone can live. (Idem)
see how Nietzsche describes M-normativity:
As he sets down on the top of it the final stone of his knowledge, he appears to call out to nature listening all around, "We are at the goal, we are the goal, we are the perfection of nature." (UAH, IX)
Nietzsche's futurity leaves M's trumpeted presentism lagging behind.
Nietzsche undertakes a conspicuous leveling. Modernity loses its singular status, it constitutes only a last epoch in the far reaching history of rationalization initiated by the dissolution of archaic life and the collapse of myth. (UAH, 35)
To which extent can Nietzsche's critique of his present undermine M's singular status? Unless M is a Paper Tiger, its "epochal new" just a shibboleth defended by an out-of-synch status quo. Interestingly, Habermas' list of Nietzsche's postmodern buddies in PDM extend forward into the future to 1980s! That's a hundred years of postmodern trans-fat clogging M's arteries! 4

Let's introduce Nietzsche as the first modern postmodern.

(Picture the M-theorist, standing at the door of a small room filled with a postmodern coterie, holding a placard that reads: Long live the present!)

To top if off comes Baudelaire's contradictory declaration: Modernity can happen before modernity!

The poet is mixing up things. He has a right. For Baudelaire (a proto-Surrealist) time "is a greedy player."

"Time to get drunk!
Don't be martyred slaves of Time,
Get drunk!
Stay drunk!
On wine, virtue, poetry, whatever!"5

Baudelaire's "get drunk" means dare to imagine! 

What conceptual or epochal "warning" can prevent a critic disgusted with her present to look forward to a better future? Is theory a prerequisite for human imagination?5

To the preceding Baudelairean, let's double with this Nietzschean:  

Postmodernity is possible before any modernity!

Now the distraught M-theorist throws up his hands and screams: "Stop, you're mixing everything up!"

But this is time! And time is elastic, it can be brought back and forth through memories. And memories are tools of superimposition. As we learn from Freud our psyche is in the business of mixing up events.

Does one have to be modern —or postmodern— to think like this:
The glance into the past pushes them into the future, fires their spirit to take up life for a longer time yet, kindles the hope that justice may still come and that happiness may sit behind the mountain towards which they are walking. These historical people believe that the meaning of existence will come increasingly to light in the course of its process. Therefore they look backwards only to understand the present considering previous process and to learn to desire the future more keenly. (UAH, 5)
Nietzsche, the first modern/postmodern, has the freedom to go back and forth, shopping around for standards, evaluating past and/or future (even if as we know, it turns to be illusory).
Fill your souls with Plutarch, and dare to believe in yourselves when you have faith in his heroes. With a hundred people raised in such an unmodern way, that is, people who have become mature and familiar with the heroic, one could permanently silence the entire noisy pseudo-education of this age. (my italics, UAH, 5)
Let's welcome this new Nietzschean relatum: "unmodern." How near of farther away is that from "modern"?

To make the M-theorist more miserable, Nietzsche —reluctantly— considers himself a modern.
For we modern people have nothing at all which comes from us.
It's time for a second introduction: Nietzsche is the first unmodern modern.

Next: Against hyper-objects.
1 Our discussion takes Habermas' PDM as its main source, but the truth is that Habermas' own position is close to other high profiled M-theorists, such as Hans Blumenberg, Reinhart Koselleck, etc.  2 Induction is never certain. But M makes it look deductive. Which brings us to the difference between the "natural" and "social" sciences. In spite of the obvious differences, here I try to play a neutral game, i.e., in spite of their differences, both history and biology have to build a body of knowledge from explanations and predictions. 3 I'm thinking of Hegel's maxim: Der Weg des Geistes ist der Umweg. 4 This interpretation is challenged in a recent essay by Peter Sloterdijk. Obviously Nietzsche doesn't see his present as this idea of M defended by Habermas a hundred years later. This is all metaphysical legerdemain. 5  Baudelaire's Paris Spleen. 6"The same evidence follows us in our second principle, of the liberty of the imagination to transpose and change its ideas." Hume's Treatise on Human Nature (III).

Monday, July 18, 2016

Deflating Modernity (Part 3): The hubris of self-normativity

How is an a priori history possible? When the soothsayer causes and contrives the events that he proclaims in advance. Hans Blumenberg, The Legitimacy of the Modern Age

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We open with a high-flown assertion:
Modernity no longer will borrow the criteria by which it takes orientation from the models supplied by another epoch: is has to create its normativity out of itself. Modernity sees itself cast back upon itself without any possibility of escape. (PDM, p.7)
Let's call it M-normativity (Habermas' normative fiat).

M-normativity = self-normativity. 

How could M-normativity happen in vacuo?

Norms are standards, i.e., measures (whether quantitative or qualitative) of comparison. And a comparison presupposes differences.

But when it comes to M what are we comparing? Certainly not what comes before M, which is prohibited by M-normativity!

Obviously redundant.

((As the M-theorist seeks for evidence, he only finds more incongruity))

In Chapter 1 of PDM, Habermas provides two prominent examples of self-normativity: Charles Baudelaire and Walter Benjamin.

Baudelaire, in his The Painter of Modern Life:
By "modernity" I mean the ephemeral, the fugitive, the contingent, the half of art whose other half is the eternal and immutable…This transitory, fugitive element, whose metamorphoses are so rapid, must on no account be despised or dispensed with.
Habermas interprets the paragraph above as the ephemeral: "... the authentic work is radically bound to the moment of its emergence, precisely because it consumes itself in actuality." (PDM, p. 9).

Agree, but that doesn't mean that Baudelaire has M-normativity in mind –when in the following paragraph of his famous essay he adds:
There was a form of modernity for every painter of the past; the majority of the fine portraits that remain to us from former times arc clothed in the dress of their own day. They are perfectly harmonious works because the dress, the hairstyle, and even the gesture, the expression and the smile (each age has its carriage, its expression and its smile) form a whole, full of vitality.
This is clearly the kind of negotiation between epochal standards that M-normativity prohibits. Baudelaire is saying that "modern" is trans-historic. It can apply to Baudelaire's present (circa 1863), as much as it applies to Greek painter Phidias (circa 440 BC)!

Next, Benjamin, in his On the Concept of History (XVII):
A historical materialist approaches a historical subject only where he encounters it as a monad. In this structure he recognizes the sign of a Messianic cessation of happening, or, put differently, a revolutionary chance in the fight for the oppressed past. He takes cognizance of it in order to blast a specific era out of the homogeneous course of history—blasting a specific life out of the era or a specific work out of the lifework. As a result of this method the lifework is preserved in this work and at the same time canceled; in the lifework, the era; and in the era, the entire course of history. The nourishing fruit of what is historically understood contains time in its interior as a precious but tasteless seed.
Habermas' opinion:
The consciousness of time expressed in Benjamin is not easy to classify. A singular mixture of surrealist experiences and motifs from Jewish mysticism enter unmistakably into his notion of now-time. 
Benjamin use of "Messianic" is not exactly the kind of future Habermas has in mind, since it goes against the grain of M-normativity. "Messianic" is –epochally speaking– ancient/medieval. How could Benjamin, a M-theorist, use chronological "non-oppositional" terms to define M standards?

Habermas aligns himself with another prominent M-theorist, Hans Blumenberg. According to Blumenberg each epoch is given by a particular criteria, until a new vision of the world becomes necessary. The transition from "ancient" to "medieval" is defined by the idea of "creation ex-nihilo." The preamble to the modern age is the nominalist God of Okham. The Enlightenment is (within Modernity) the attempt to hide the historicity of Being. Blumenberg calls this period "false Modernity."

Each of these moments represent an epochal change (Gegenständigkeit, translated as "oppositionality") as opposed to (Inständigkeit or "extrapositionality"). Blumenberg presents two axes: "the world" and "human action in the world." Gegenständigkeit is grounded in the Cartesian method and Husserl's Phenomenology where "world" and "action in the world" are within a continuum. Inständigkeit, on the other hand, is a rejection of the former, exemplified by Heidegger's anti-humanism, i.e., the rejection of reason, religion and tradition.

Habermas is more radical in his defense of self-normativity than Koselleck or Blumenberg.
Koselleck has characterized modern-time consciousness among other ways in terms of the increasing difference between "the sense of experience" and the "horizon of expectations": My thesis is that in modern times the difference between experience and expectation has increasingly expanded, more precisely that modernity is first understood as a new age from the time that expectations have distanced themselves evermore from all previous experience. (PDM, p. 12)
Could the M-theorist really explain why there is no "historic consciousness" before M?

To prove M-normativity Habermas needs a radical cut, but so far, he hasn't produced it.

Slowly we begin to find the cracks in the M-normativity frame.

Next: How the overlap of Modernity/Post-Modernity shatters M-normativity.