Art and the Public Sphere
Arendt approaches aesthetics through its conditions of possibility - emphasizing the space, literal and metaphorical, that allows art to exist. Sjöholm grounds Arendt's aesthetic theory in public space - allowing, primarilly, theories of performativity to reveal the tenacity of aeshtetics to reference and detourn public space. The public sphere is a place where difference and appearance continually ossify, denying a static theory of being (Heidegger) or an unpolitical aesthethic theory (Adorno). Instead, Arendt posits the capacity of subjects to interact with aesthetic objects as a model of appearances and phenomena. She presents an ontology based on pluratity, not reliant on the universality of the subject, but the subjects interaction, relation and percepation of differing phenonema.The body is not a limitation for Arendt, but a unique access to a historicity of plurality, encouraging each present moment to occur freely. Performance art, then, becomes a major departure for Arendt's aesthetic theory by intersecting both embodiment and aesthetics in the possibiltiy of the subject. If the public realm has inherited the modern promise of freedom, then how can art re-articulate this in times of, both, post-totalitarianism and capitalism? Sjöholm articulates numerous examples of avant-garde practice quite reliant on the public space as both a battery for performativity and its reception. Importantly, public space singularly resisiting totalitarian inhibitions in its promise of freedom and performativity.
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