Practicing Etiquette, Issue I.VI
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.

Robert Hayes Kee

July 29, 2014

Atlanta, GA


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?

Facing the 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?

Following your 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 egregious offenses.

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?

I empathize, 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.