Robert Hayes Kee,
Department of Polite Aesthetic Praxis
Hello again, dear
readers. I write to you once again from my home in the capital of the
South. My extended stay in Maryland after our convocation was a
welcome change of circumstance, and I would like to again thank those
involved. Life has now resumed its normal course, and this past month
has been a productive time for my personal esthetic praxis, as I hope
it has also been for you. I will forgather with an editor and
contributors to this magazine once again in a few weeks time for
another esthetic conglomeration. The regularity of these travels is
perhaps the pinnacle joy of the season, and its vestigiality is a
bittersweet recognition. I soon will traipse, not through tall grass,
but footnotes and marginalia. This is my last offering before my
return to the regularity of academic life, and I hope that it carries
with it some of the breezy jouissance of this seersuckered
season to you, readers.
An acquaintance and
artist plans to construct a sculpture to resemble my face. The tone
of this work is maudlin, saccharin and makes light of personal loss
with a shallow message of hope. While I am pleased to offer my visage
to the public, I do not endorse the content of this work; I wish to
inspire a deeper, more thoughtful piece if I am its subject. How can
I do so correctly?
consequences of absurdities in our world is a necessity for correct
action in adulthood. Forcing a rubric of meaning onto these
consequences is the numbing act expected of parent to a child. Do not
allow your interlocutor to shield themselves in this way. One must
see the gaps between continuation and the glossing–over of
‘meaning.’ To continue life in the face of an
circumstance is the noble ground for which can produce the eternal
return. However, this glossing-over is like brown paper and treacle
on a window; it allows for a silent shattering. The silent suffering
of Herr R. or Jeanne Dielman ends badly and predictably. Do not
encourage it any interlocutor.
Nor does one wish to encourage the
carrying of suffering like Zarathustra’s donkey. Even the
festival of the ass is retrogression. We know that, ‘The more
one suffers, the
more has one a sense
for the comic,’ but it is a powerful esthetic praxis that
allows one to process this. Your interlocutor’s difficulty lies
in the fact that they have not incorporated their suffering into the
rest of their life. Its distance, its separation, continues to
isolate this event, and thus its ramifications, from daily life.
I have before addressed the issues of
uniting art and life. I will not repeat myself here. I will merely
reposit the requirement of their unity for a powerful esthetic praxis
as given. To the knowledgeable, this is what it means to be
contemporary: to not repeat errors of the past, to not re-solve their
problems. There are a few things a contemporary art–going
public needs less then a ‘message of hope.’ I do not
challenge the utility of hope in matters of weather, sports, or
auction results, but it is not a sentiment capable of sustaining a
powerful esthetic encounter. Guide your interlocutor away from this
feeling and towards one of a more complex integration of life and
suffering. If this human is incapable of synthesizing such higher
feelings, I suggest a course of sabotage. After all, Kierkegaard
suggests that the cure for suffering is more suffering.
I was recently rereading
a classic essay in esthetic theory. For the first time, I noticed a
footnote to this essay that declaimed an atrocious sentiment. It
states that slavery improves the ‘culture’ of a socius.
I understand, that the author intends by culture to mean the arts
broadly, but I still find this to be a very disquieting statement.
Can I continue to reference this work positively, knowing this? Must
I disclaim this author’s work, or even their oeuvre?
letter, I also reread the passage to which you refer, reader. I was
aghast upon seeing it myself. I could divine the underlying cliché
of the necessity of the division of labor to the creation of a
professional artistic class, but this did not improve matters.
Baldly, this statement cannot be rejected. We understand the literal
truth, that the division of labor must precede any class.
Nonetheless, we clearly understand its valorization of specialization
to be undesirable.
The link between professionalization,
specialization and the quality of work has become a broad assumption
in contemporary culture. Technical advances have hastily spurred this
viewpoint. However, seeing a one-to-one link between esthetic and
technical praxes is deeply unfortunate.
To take creativity
and smash it into human capital or human resources is an atrocious
crime. Do not abide this view, readers. To equate creativity with
production is an active unforgivable violence. It is, perhaps,
useful to take a technocratic approach to politics; few things
inspire less confidence than ‘the will of the people.’
But we are not politicians. Reducing creative action to use-value
leaves a barren teleology and a poverty of philosophy.
We must not draw from this point, a
hardline of rejection. Philosophy is a collection of tools, and we
now see this one in daylight for the first time. This essay purports
to delimit the desirable political mode of esthetic production, a
clearly flawed enterprise. Nonetheless, this text has continued to
have a present value in the terms it defines, additional to its
historical value. Realize the tainted ground of these terms, not
simply on their own terms, but as a compromised duality from the
start. Do not create a binary in which to locate your praxis, and see
yourself outside the dialectic.
Pragmatically, do not fear social
repercussions for sensible use of this text. There is no limit to the
indecencies tolerated in the canon of art history. The attempted
rehabilitation of the most noted propagandistic filmmaker of the past
century, the depoliticization of the Futurists, and the blind eye to
the life of an ever-vacationing Post-Impressionist are all more
I have recently exceeded
my domicile’s storage capacity for books. My friends encourage
me to redistribute my opusculum amongst them. Am I under any
obligation to do so? Is it incorrect for me to reconfigure my home as
a labyrinthine bibliothèque?
reader, with your hoarding impulse. I personally imagine a day of
future impecunity wherein my own labyrinthe grâce à
la bibliothèque is the sole company I can afford.
Nonetheless, we cannot allow a disparity of riches of this nature to
accumulate amidst our companions’ paucities. We should not
inspire our interlocutors to act as a cabal of Jacobins to be our
equals. I redistribute my own volumes frequently to lay the ground
for an understanding of high heights of this column. One must also
understand the nebulous space between borrowing and gifting that
exists in the circulation of texts.
I have been the
very recent recipient of a friend’s divulgence, and one cannot
accept such offerings without reciprocity. If one truly cares for
one’s friends, one wishes to lift them onto the same clouds on
which we float. Commonality with those who have shared our pages
permits the construction of the highest bars for our rhetorical
gymnastics. For this reason alone, one should desire to judiciously
distribute one’s volumes to deserving associates. A
grandiloquent Stalder-Rybalko without a knowing audience is a
hallow pleasure indeed.