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Reconstructing the bodies : between the politics of order and the politics of disorder

Book Contribution - Chapter

In order to overcome the post-political condition U+2014 which in the realm of politics blurs differences between the left and right political parties and, in the realm of art, differences between art and commodity, leaving us without choice U+2014 some thinkers envisaged alternative political projects to neoliberalism. Jacques Rancière envisaged the model of communal anarchism; a politics of disorder and dissensus, without any type of mastery. Chantal Mouffe envisaged the model of agonistic pluralism; a politics of order and conflictual consensus, regulated by hegemony and decisional acts. After drawing a distinction between Rancière's and Mouffe's theories, I will observe their different consequences for envisaging the the relationship between art and politics. To begin with, I will draw attention to Peter Bürger's survey of the mutual conditionality of the bourgeois art and the vanguard movements in art. This observation will enable a distinction between the artistic strategies of rupture and the artistic strategies of engagement, pointing at the different consequences that they have on conceiving the political dimension of art. Finally, I will show that from the point of view of the artistic strategies of engagement, the relationship between the abject and intelligible bodies is a matter of decision, that enables a move beyond class -, gender -, or race - based identities, towards the relational forms of identifications. To perceive the body with regard to agonism and acts of decision, is to acknowledge, drawing upon Judith Butler, that the body is not constructed in an oppositional relation between the intelligible and the abject body. For if a dialectic of opposition aims at homogenising differential poles, it sustains intelligibility and leaves no possibility for a choice. On the contrary, it could be suggested that the body is constructed in a dialectic that entails a paradoxical relation between the intelligible body and the abject body. This approach explains that the abject body is a paradoxically different, an excluded body, the limit of possibility and, yet, a condition of the intelligible body. The abject body is thus a constitutive outside to the intelligible body; it ruptures the intelligible and opens up possibilities for modes of life that have no intelligible place. This view suggests that the body is constructed at the point of intersection of intelligible and abject bodies. Insofar as the paradoxical bond between the differential bodies compels us to acknowledge their inherently conflictual relation it, at once, compels us to think of their mutual conditionality that manifests through decisive acts. Given these points, precisely the paradoxical relations and contingent acts of decision confront ButlerU+2019s assertion that gender may not be challenged by decision.
Book: Shifting corporealities in contemporary performance : danger, im/mobility and politics
Series: Avant-Gardes in Performance
Pages: 143 - 163
Publication year:2018