Tuesday, January 28, 2014

On There Are No Accidents

I feel like there are three important aspects missing from Rob Horning's recent assessment of The Jogging's recent appropriation of conspiracy theorist aesthetics, so I'm going to briefly write about them because why not.

The first is the lexical overlap of the Astounding Juxtaposition of (at least one) Familiar Element(s) that occupies a privileged space in the grammars of both visual art and conspiracy theory. In the former this is largely seen in those interminable fucking photography exhibitions in Fine Art museums, where framing stands in for technique as a whole and is brought to bear with the exclusive apparent goal of directing the viewer's attention to a representation of objective conditions in which subjectivity (or interiority) can be identified by way of an ecstatic moment of recognition. The parallels to the rhetorical or aesthetic construction of the conspiracy theorist are, I think, obvious. Some degree of that commonality is a condition of the shared instrument, but, in the case of conspiracy, I think it has more to do with the second point. As a slight aside, the only moments when I personally found any of The Jogging's art particularly compelling were when it referenced Neon Genesis Evangelion (and only then the Kaworu reference was the only one that I continue to find myself thinking about at all); thus the specification of at least one familiar element above. Because of a mixture of my own deep (at least chronologically) relationship with that show, the shows relatively limited cultural footprint, a loose collection of specific readings of the show that I have either developed or encountered, the specificity of Kaworu's character within those readings, my own momentary inability to identify the genesis of the character of Kaworu upon seeing The Jogging's image macro, and probably a couple other things (the point being the density of the specific cultural object in question as related to my viewership, and the methods of interpellation that that density enabled), it succeeded (at least partially) where other, more technically adept or culturally weighted or aesthetically significant variations on the theme failed.

The second is the very specific relationship that conspiracy theory has with, to put it as broadly as possible, power. I became fond, at one point, of schematizing conspiracy theory as "a capitalist analysis of power," by which I specifically meant that it was an analytical mode which took as its object relations of domination and subjectification using the dominant mode of production as its condition of possibility. More generally, though, it was meant to suggest that, despite both capitalism and conspiracy theory's ideological reliance on the individualization of its object, it was itself not a consequence of or contribution to a totality but one itself.

Horning, quoting Andrejevic, describes as his "epiphany" the following line:

conspiracy theory, despite its infinite productivity, remains a failure of the imagination that corresponds to an inability to think, in the current instance, outside the horizons of capitalism.

If there seems to be a synchronicity to what I'm arguing and what the quote claims, then I'm not being clear. Horning grabs on this, though, in particular the claim about the "inability to think," and contextualizes The Jogging's project, and specifically its deploying of a contextually-rich aesthetic, within those grounds.

I'll admit that it is incredibly tempting to consider conspiracy theory as a form of failure, as a recuperable Will to Knowledge or what the fuck ever. It's maybe the only way we (as in, people who are interested in or familiar with conspiracy theory without being involved in the generation of promulgation of it, which is to say more precisely "people for whom Conspiracy Theory is an object") have of even beginning to really acknowledge the actual labor involved in the production of this phenomenon. Of course it's fucking patronizing, but then what else would you expect. They're such good workers and if only we could convince them to see the light, throw off the shackles of false consciousness, arise and see beyond the shadow world of oppression, Raise Awareness To End Capitalism.

Of course, it isn't the only possible way to acknowledge the labor of conspiratorial narrative praxis. And it sure as fuck isn't the only Marxist reading of conspiracy theory, unless you're very invested in selling papers (on the street or to JSTOR, who cares). What it fundamentally does is to ignore that the production of totality within the field of the conspiracy is not a consequence of the mode of production but parallel to it.

Anyway: the second point is that I think Horning is more or less accurately describing the theoretical foundation of The Jogging's project, and that the theoretical foundation of The Jogging's project is fucking awful.

The third point is that, like the aforementioned interminable photography exhibitions, The Jogging's artistic praxis is symptomatically reducible, as a consequence of the predominance of framing, to its creative use of titles. And its titles fucking blow.