Saturday, November 5, 2011

What Is This Thing I've Been Doing?

I just published Part IV.3 of the Art, Zen, And Insurrection project. Frankly, I'm not super satisfied with that part. It felt like a sloppy inquiry into Foucault. It feels like an uncertain step in the project. But a necessary one. I needed to disentangle the idea of the aesthetic existence from Foucault's work. Because I want it to be more than Foucault was able to explain it to be. I want it to be a more properly political project than Foucault makes it seem. Because he doesn't really precisely say what this aesthetic existence is, or what it is supposed to do. He didn't get that far. He died.

But I'm working on asking the questions that I think need to be asked about the idea of the aesthetic existence.

Last night after finishing IV.3 I took a walk. It occurred to me that the whole project made sense in terms of a series of interconnecting essays. It isn't really a coherent statement. It is an exploration. It was an outline that prompted a research project.

All of the Parts correspond to a specific question. What is art? How is it connected with society at large? What would it mean to live an aesthetic existence? Would an aesthetic existence in anyway be a political project? Four questions for four parts.

Each of those larger questions, of course, breaks down into more questions. Thus all the subsections for the parts.

For a long time I didn't know how I was going to think about the aesthetic existence as a political project. But I still don't really know. But I took a six month break and the reading I did helped me begin to think about it politically, even if I haven't done it adequately. Which I will probably never be able to do. But it is a good exercise nonetheless.

I also feel good about the way the project has affected me personally. I have become a different person over the last year. I moved to Seattle. I started working full time. I've been working on these ideas nearly my entire time here. And I have been working on AZI for a little more than a year.

The crux of the whole project is the idea of self-creation. For Collingwood, Searle, Smith, and others, the world is constituted primarily by language or ideas. The idea of status functions and all that business. Humans therefore have some capacity for self-creation through language. This is what political institutions should probably strive for: attempts at the purposeful creation of a community through language (writing laws, having conversations). Art and the aesthetic existence, which is essentially an expressive existence, is all about self-creation. I value writing as a way of changing myself, asking myself questions, and I can see how this project has helped shape my thinking and my behavior.

I think the writing has helped me become more aware of myself and my social behavior. I still do certain things that I'm not crazy about. I get shy sometimes and all that. So I'm not always expressive. Sometimes things hold me back. But on the whole I think I've become more expressive, I think I try to be mindful. I try to remain in a willful state of uncertainty. I find that I pay attention better if I assume that I don't know what I'm looking at. And this is a crucial part of Collingwood's notion of the aesthetic process. The artist always particularizes experience, never naming the feeling, but expressing them through other means.

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