ESR 5 Blog September/October 2022: Claude Nassar

Notes On The Field

During the last week of September, I took part in the FEINART summer school at Zeppelin University. During the public events the PhD candidates of the FEINART network, including myself, were asked to give short presentations that give the attendees an idea of our research. The following is a short text I presented, reflecting on the notion of ‘field of study.’

My research project is concerned with the changing role of art and the artist in the Neo-liberalised world of today, when the failure of production to serve the majority of the lifeforms of the planet, complexifies and entangles the unified linear narrative of post-Enlightenment development. In such case, what is in question is not only how can art and the artist make things better, but more pressingly, what becomes of art when production and improvement are not assumed to be a moral imperative? What would be the role of art as conceptual framework outside of the logic of continuous production?

Because these questions are a major part of my investigation, my interest is not a specific set of artistic practices, but in the structures of thought and knowledge production that categorises and forms collective practices into concepts that fits the individuated post-Enlightenment understanding of art. Accordingly, rather than notes from the field, in the coming paragraph, I will share with you notes on the concept of ‘field of study’.

A field is a productive space, a space that can be quantified and cultivated, and where quantification can make cultivation more efficient. The field as a total form is only available from the outside, from the watch tower of the manager that sees the movements of resources and workers as resources as one coherent flow that can always be made smoother – that can be made more efficient the more theory can inform management, and management can regulate the movements of the individuated subjectivities that it conceives as the access to working bodies. The surveying of a field, the formulation of an improvement plan in the language of policy, and the enforcement of this reformed policy on individuated subjects doing decollectevised labour, is a continuation of a dynamic where the distance created in between the researcher (the investigator of improvement) and the field of study they see as separate from themselves, is bridged by policy, protocols, and rules, producing an abstract scheme of improvement that travels back from abstraction to the field through the enforcement of reformed policy on collectives flattened to individual subjects and bodies.

With the climate leaving less and less space for the fantasy of sustainable sustenance of Modern excess, more and more people will join the state of fugitivity that policy understands as a state of perpetual crisis that needs to be fixed. A state of fugitivity that the majority of racialised bodies have already experienced throughout the violent colonial rise of Europe from a locality to a universality. Accordingly, the shift in the definitions of art and the artist is not only a shift in the field of art, but it is a shift away from the possibility of continuous production that necessitates the ordering of life into fields of production.


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