The task of Art (and Philosophy)

In her book ”Deleuze – an introduction” Claire Colebrook sums up Deleuze’s attitude towards his scholarly discipline – philosophy that is – as having the task of not explaining the world but rather throwing new ways of thinking about, talking about and seeing the world, which is the same as producing new problems, rather than solving any.

For Deleuze this is an ethical stance. Meaning that as soon as we think that we have understood the world we end up in the dilemma of also starting to formulate and control how things perhaps should be, no, should be, no must be, no must be under duress and threat of punishment! When Michel Foucault writes his preface to Deleuze and Guatarri’s book ”Anti-Oedipus” he names his preface Welcome to the non-fascist life.

Refusing to understand the world as finished, done and dusted, also means that we must resist believing that we can control it, that we can predict and mold it. If the world at its core is random, exciting, eclectic, unpredictable, full of difference like colorful fireworks – then we must be open to the notion that all attempts to group/lump people together is an futile exercise, which will always fail. We can’t, with Deleuze’s world view, argue that jews have something at the core of their being that makes them the enemies of the German reich. We can’t argue that women at their core has something that makes them less suited for involvement in political decision-making. That the world is full to the brim with difference, how and wherever we look, is therefor an ethical attitude. The ethical approach which stands in stark contrast to all fascism, because it is the ultimate, most drastic position that renounces all forms of we vs. them; there is never – and never will be – (more than randomly amassed and entirely temporary) so many likenesses between us in the us-group and comparable other likenesses between them in the them-group, that it would allow us to put forward such a relation (the we vs. them relation) and truly believe in it. Since the world is not that stable, no groups can amass the stability that creates the type of contradictions of essences that fascism rests upon.

In the move ”(Untitled)” Marley Shelton’s character Madeleine Gray says that the difference between entertainment and art is that entertainment poses questions and gives the answers, whilst art doesn’t give us the answers. That’s probably my favourite definition of art. And it goes really well to connect with Deleuze’s thoughts about the common task of art and philosophy. Science can be used in the service of fascism, when it deals in quantifiable units in stable categories. But nature doesn’t work that way. As physicists have finally discovered, observing particles means that the particles changes as a result of being watched by the scientist. Somewhat ironically, neutrons behave like people. We plightfully do certain things when people are watching, leave our groin-scratching and belching for later.

For some it is perhaps a genuine discomfort with a  scientific ideal that doesn’t amount to exposing the world so we can understand (and then control and subdue) it. But producing new problems, and new questions is to note the world’s infinite riches, to appreciate it – but also to contribute to it. That is art. That is philosophy. And the resistance towards this theory of domination is what is hinted to in this space as Subsecular Arts; what art, philosophy – and the world – really is.





The artwork depicted here is by painter Catja Björklund.



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