Structures of Dissonance: Aesthetics Beyond Capital? Lecture Series
In partnership with CalArts School of Critical Studies, ICA LA and CalArts present Structures of Dissonance: Aesthetics Beyond Capital?, a three-part lecture series which explores the proposition that aesthetics be utilized in resistance to dominant power structures.
About the Lecture
The Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen and Poly Styrene’s Bondage Up Yours! have rung through the decades—not so much as a revolutionary force, but more as a signifying gesture, a Fuck You!, against the structures of Capitalism. It did, however offer recuperative possibilities for visual artists through its elevation of the amateur, the anti-melodic and the DIY—particularly for women. Artists such as Vivienne Dick, Betzy Bromberg, and Abigail Child transformed film language through a hysterical and vertiginous rulebreaking using disjuncture, deflation and visual contradiction. These artists are a link between second-wave feminism, contemporary video practice and emergent subjectivities: a pre-history that is missing. If a renewed interest in punk is part of a search for an ‘authentic’ moment outside of the ambitions of Capitalism, can these works offer a way of re-thinking the tenets and requirements of the art world today–a way to look again at what it is possible to make without publicly funded budgets, production teams, and fancy buildings to exhibit in? Or is this ‘anarchy’ merely another consumable gesture?
Rachel Garfield is an artist and Professor in Fine Art at the Royal College of Art. She is author of Experimental Filmmaking and Punk: Feminist Audio Visual Culture of the 1970s and 1980s, Bloomsbury (2022), co-editor of Dwoskino: The Gaze of Stephen Dwoskin, LUX (2022), and Principle Investigator of a large AHRC-funded grant (2019-2021), The Legacies of Stephen Dwoskin’s Personal Cinema. Exhibitions and screenings include: The Whitechapel Gallery, London; The Hatton Gallery, Newcastle; Beaconsfield Gallery Vauxhall, London; Focal Point, London Short Film Festival and Open City Doc Festival and The Babylon Cinema Berlin, Espaciocentre, Tenerife Espacio De Les Artes, CCA Santa Fe, Arizona State University Museum, Aqua Art Fair Miami. Garfield’s work has featured in An ‘Other’ History: Feminist Art in Britain Since 1970 Amelia Jones (eds. John Slyce, Adler, Phoebe), Contemporary Art in the United Kingdom, London: Black Dog Publishing, 2015; Steyn, Julia, “In the Hinterlands: Identity, Migration & Memory,” Cross-cultural Identities: Art, Migrants and the Metaphor of Waste, Steyn, Juliet, Stamselberg, Nadja (eds.) I.B.Tauris, pp. 97-122, 2013. Other selected published texts by Garfield include: “Prescient Intersectionality: Women, Film: Moving Image and Identity Politics in 1980s Britain,“ Women Artists, Feminism and the Moving Image: Contexts and Practices, ed. Lucy Reynolds, Bloomsbury, 2019, pp 99-113 “Between Seeing and Knowing: Stephen Dwoskin’s Behindert and the Camera’s Caress,” Other Cinemas: Politics, Culture and British Experimental Film in the 1970s (eds. Sue Clayton and Laura Mulvey) Rachel, ‘A Particular Incoherence; Some Films of Vivienne Dick,’ Between Truth and Fiction, The Films of Vivienne Dick, (ed Treasa O’Brian).
About the Series
The political claim of contemporary art, specifically since the mid-twentieth century avant-garde, has often been hinged upon a politics of resistance, antagonism and difference. In such case, a political art does not structure power, but rather un-structures it in creative forms of its destabilization. Often this form of art has been identified as an aesthetic experience, since the experience of sensory phenomena resists the top-down ordering and instrumental functions of rational languages and aesthetics can therefore claim to be akin to an indifferent nature that withdraws from any direct confrontation with power. In the context of the sublime condition of neo-liberal techno-capitalism, with its unstable environments of high-frequency exchanges and unregulated markets we also see resistance, where the delirious, alienating and dissonant experience of capital divides us, and estranges us from ourselves and each other, proliferating difference under the principle of accumulation. However, it is clear that these dissonant affects in capital calcify strict social inequalities in race, gender, class and labor and this leaves us wondering: what structures, orders and principles are relied upon and constructed in art’s claim to aesthetic resistance? Do we require structures, rule and order in order even in the claims to critical indifference and if so does this limit the capacity for critique as a form of resistance today?