Kristeva's Thought Specular: Aesthetic Disobedience as a New Form of Revolt

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Southern Journal of Philosophy



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© 2020 The University of Memphis In Revolt, She Said, Julia Kristeva makes the intriguing suggestion that contemporary art may serve (or provoke) a benevolent form of experimental psychosis. Expanding on this idea in a recent essay, she argues that such art-induced psychosis becomes distinct in its capacity for triggering wholesome impulses toward social reform broadly conceived, that is, impulses which carry a political as well as a moral charge, but fall outside the domain of professional politics and ethical theory proper. To make this case and to emphasize the significance of Kristeva's work for exploring the contested territory of the politics of aesthetics (in Jacques Rancière's phrase), the present discussion brings Kristeva's important but under-researched notion of the “thought specular” to bear on Jonathan Neufeld's conception of “aesthetic disobedience.” By co-engaging these authors, one can extrapolate a model for participatory art that is not framed by rationalist standards of author intentionality or by communication-theoretical approaches, which cast the spectators as impassive recipients of the artwork's presumed political message. Rather, witnessed by Tania Bruguera's long-term work entitled Immigrant Movement International, participation in aesthetic disobedience can deliver on Kristeva's promise of intimate revolt in the context of artistic activism or “artivism.”.

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