Stretcher co-publisher Amy Berk and I attended the annual Cultural Studies Association of Australia Conference at the University of Tasmania in Hobart, Australia. The conference, titled “What’s Left of Theory?”, aimed to investigate what cultural theory really is, or was - a timely question given the apparent rejection of theory by many artists and other cultural practitioners. With keynote speaker Fredric Jameson believing that theory itself is born of Marxist modes of thinking, the conference was also concerned with whether theory still had a leftist bent or had swerved to the right. After three days at the conference, it seemed to me that theory (or at least theorizing about theory) was alive and well, particularly after several cocktails. Flippancy aside, the highlight of the conference was meeting, socializing, and discussing with theorists from Australia and beyond. As a result of these discussions Amy asked two theorists, Martin Fuglsang and Charissa N. Terranova to submit papers for publication in Stretcher. Their articles and an edited version of the performance/paper presented at the conference by Amy and I, are included in this symposium review.
Deleuzian theorist Martin Fuglsang is Associate Professor in Organizational Philosophy at the Copenhagen Business School. His article, Beyond Being - A Remark on Subjectification or Becoming Other, is the third piece in a quartet of “remarks” which work on the same “plane of consistency”. In this episode, Fuglsang paints a tantalizing portrait of the “event” as a virtually ungraspable fundamental particle of existence lying somewhere between now and then. His writing is dense: so dense that it threatens to implode on itself, becoming a black hole from which no meaning can escape. However, there are rewards indeed for the reader who is prepared to follow Fuglsang to his event horizon.
Charissa N. Terranova is a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard. In her article Performing the Frame: Daniel Buren, Degree Zero Painting and a Politics of Beauty, she surveys the career of the iconoclastic French conceptualist Daniel Buren and his dialectical contributions to painting (or anti-painting), beauty and politics. She describes how he, along with other practitioners of the time such as the Situationists, destabilized art by making it dependent on the event (or the frame) and the participants at the event, thereby making it a tool of rebellion.
Amy and I like to think we work in the tradition of Buren and other practioners of the art and life bent such as Guy Debord, Alan Kaprow, and Yoko Ono. In our article, What’s Left of Theory?: The Art of Everyday Life, we use examples from our work and others to investigate artistic practices that dissolve art (and theory) into everyday life, revealing elements of life that would otherwise remain hidden. Such elements range from day to day interactions, through media imagery and analysis, educational practices, technology, and ultimately the underlying ideology of society: capitalism.
If it is necessary to find a thread that connects these three contributions then it must be first the event we all attended, and then the “event” as enigma and as site of potential.