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The Political Space of Art

The Political Space of Art

Benoît Dillet | Tara Puri


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This book studies the tension between arts and politics in four contemporary artists from different countries, working with different media. The film directors Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne film parts of their natal city to refer to specific political problems in interpersonal relations. The novelist Arundhati Roy uses her poetic language to make room for people’s desires; her fiction is utterly political and her political essays make place for the role of narratives and poetic language. Ai Weiwei uses references to Chinese history to give consistency to its ‘economic miracle’. Finally, Burial’s electronic music is firmly rooted in a living, breathing London; built to create a sound that is entirely new, and yet hauntingly familiar.

These artists create in their own way a space for politics in their works and their oeuvre but their singularity comes together as a desire to reconstruct the political space within art from its ruins. These ruins were brought by the disenchantment of 1970s: the end of art, postmodernism, and the rise of design, marketing and communication. Each artwork bears the mark of the resistance against the depoliticisation of society and the arts, at once rejecting cynicism and idealism, referring to themes and political concepts that are larger than their own domain. This book focuses on these productive tensions.
Overall, this book offers a stimulating examination of the relationship between art and politics through the theoretical lens of the philosophy of art in an innovative way. The authors provide a rich set of references to different authors such as Blanchot, Deleuze, Stiegler, among others. […] [T]he value of this book is not limited to its selection of artists, but also to its focus on the political space of art and materiality. This gets rid of the traditional distinction between art, politics and the world, bringing forth a more powerful critique of our time by moving beyond the analysis of meaning or artistic merit into how art works. Although the analysis of the materiality of art fits remarkably well with the artworks examined, it might also be useful for the study of other artists, not as a method, but as a reminder of the physical space of art and its connections to the world.
Using four artists working in different art forms – filmmakers The Dardenne Brothers, writer Arundhati Roy, visual artist Ai Weiwei and musician Burial – the book explores the formation of creative work within a thick web of political relationships and spheres … Unlike most books about art, usually written from an art or art historical perspective, this publication is written from a political/philosophical standpoint. Dillet and Puri analogise in the introduction that, just as Deleuze and Guattari argue for a non-philosophical approach to philosophy to see the different facets of how it really operates, a “non-art approach to art” is required to open up insights into its effect.
This is a novel and original work of political theory by two exciting and emerging scholars in the field.
Robert Porter, Director of the Centre for Media Research, Ulster University
Benoît Dillet is an Assistant Lecturer in Political Thought at the School of Politics and International Relations, University of Kent.

Tara Puri is a Global Research Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study, University of Warwick.

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
The Political Space Of\rArt Cover
Contents v
List of Figures vii
Acknowledgments ix
Introduction 1
The Political Gesture 3
Encroachments 5
The Road Map 7
1 Aesthetics, Poetics and Techno-Aesthetics 13
From Aesthetics to Poetics 15
For a Critique of Techno-Aesthetics 18
2 Left-over Spaces: The Cinema of the Dardenne Brothers 29
Broken Cities 29
Woods 36
Motorways 38
What Is a Left-over Space? 40
3 Arundhati Roy’s Language of Politics 47
The Hyphenated Writer 47
The Cracks of a Generation 52
Naming into Existence 56
Bearing Witness 61
4 Ai Weiwei’s Useless Materials 67
The Weight of a World 67
Forging Time 73
Living Under the Lengthening Shadows 76
Material Qualities 80
5 Burial’s Muffled Soundscape of London 87
Prelude to the Rave 87
In the Headphones-Ear Interstice 89
Departing from Nostalgia and Hauntology 92
Metallic Sound 94
Untrackable Tracks 96
After Untrue, In Search of the New 98
Hardcore Continuum Redux 103
Becoming ‘The Name of a Tune’ and the Underground Condition 104
Conclusion 111
Bibliography 115
Index 125