by Aryan Kaganof
Veracruz, painted by Jesus Sepulveda
Art operates like a symbolic appropriation of reality. The act of representing reality or mediating our relation with the world—through an object or product of symbolic art—reinforces the process of reification. Art is a representation that replaces reality. in this same way it is a form of mediation of social and inter-subjective relations. said mediation is produced through cognitive reason, which filters the modes of appreciation of reality. becoming familiar with reality, the subject internalizes it. this is an appropriation that occurs, straining reality through a utilitarian and functional sieve. the codes of the filter are the codes of instrumental rationality, which projects the expansion of the subject’s interiority over the world’s exteriority. this develops the cognitive mechanisms of appropriation, categorization, and control of the other—that which is always unknown and unfamiliar. these mechanisms are the product of fear of the outside. because of this, the projection of interiority upon the exterior world produces an expansive and colonizing zeal. this zeal in turn projects the ego over the other: the external world (nature), and the creatures that inhabit it (human beings, animals, plants, and the soil). the expansive projection of the “i” over nature accelerates the process of reification.
kant was enraptured by the majestic spectacle of nature. this emotion produced in him a kind of “mental agitation,” which he called “sublime.” but this emotion is also the living experience of the dread that is sublimated through art, the petrification of the natural spectacle of the world. when art is an institution or a mere object— symbolic and separated from life—it is converted into a symbol of the process of reification. sophisticated meta-art is nothing more than a symbol of the symbol, a reification of reification. this process sharpens the ideological mechanism of the reification of the subject itself, which, when commodified, alienates itself from reality and loses perspective.
to replace instrumental reason with aesthetic reason does not mean simply replacing the mechanisms of reification. reification in art exists because art symbolizes that which has been taken from life—the experience of beauty. art and life have been divided into two separate planes, without any real interconnection. this makes art an institution of the sublime, while life is the praxis of enslavement. art has been the pressure release valve of alienation. traditionally it has sheltered those values and energies distanced from life, permitting the maintenance throughout “history” of the illusion of humanity. the separation between art and reality has created a situation in which both planes of experience are lived as isolated spheres, without spirit or emotion. art becomes petrified in museums, in galleries, in salons and libraries, while existence continues to the rhythm of the minute hand that subjugates salaried work. there, beauty is suppressed, joy domesticated, pleasure enslaved, and peculiarity made uniform. art is the negative mirror of reality that compensates for the miseries of life with the illusion of liberty. to remove art from the sphere of the institution means living art in life and vice versa. it means destroying the alienation that implies the distinction between the artistic and intellectual, and the vulgar and manual. it means beautifying life and enlivening art, both as a unified and organic whole. it also means creating a humanity of artists, and humanizing the artists who already exist.