Santiago Zabala on “emergency aesthetics” and the demands of art

Santiago Zabala in E-Flux Conversations:

ScreenHunter_2719 Jun. 16 20.00When philosophers turn to art today it seems to be because they have lost hope in politics, religion, and philosophy. If you have written on religion and politics, as I have, your colleagues and students start looking at you with pity when you turn to writing about art, as if you have given up and are simply trying to enjoy yourself. But what precisely would you be giving up? Is it possible that contemporary art now provides more productive possibilities to save ourselves and change the world than religion and politics?

Even though art, just like religion and politics (and even history), has been declared dead several times, it always returns with a vengeance—and with a demand. This is why the main goal of aesthetics today, as Michael Kelly points out, “is to explain how the transformation of demands on art to demands by art is already a reality in some contemporary art.” Turning to these demands means that philosophers continue to search for a realm where Being emerges, that is, where our existential condition is disclosed.

This year we have not entered a condition of “alternative facts” and “post-truth” as many believe; rather, we have returned to the imposition of an order that declares one set of facts and disallows the possibilities of different interpretations. The greatest emergency has become the absence of a sense of emergency, denying the most obvious emergencies (climate change, civil rights, human rights), which are now hidden behind this new appeal to order.

More here.