I delivered a version of this text that was much longer

and in a different vein, in 2001 in Venice at the
conference "The Question of Art in the Third Millennium,"
organized by GERMS (Groupe d'ƒtude et de Recherche
des Médias Symboliques), under the direction of Ciro
Bruni. An even longer version, in a style probably verging
on sarcasm, was published in 2002 by GERMS in the
proceedings of the colloquium in question, proceedings
titled Utopia 3. The present version, tempered, shedding
the rhetoric of Empire (overly influenced at that time by
Negri's best-seller), is comprised of the essentials of an
intervention at the Drawing Center in New York, made at
the invitation of its director, Catherine de Zegher, for the
launch of issue 22 of lacanian ink, directed by Josefina Ayerza, in which appeared the translation into
English of my small book, "Of an Obscure Disaster" (D'un désastre obscur), published in French in 1991
by Aube. There will probably be still more versions. "Work in progress."
Our power of resistance and invention requires that we renounce our delights in the margins, in
obliqueness, in infinite deconstruction, in the fragment, in the trembling exposition of mortality, in
finitude, and the body. For the sake of the poor century which is opening, we must, and thus we will,
declare the existence of what no longer exists in art: the monumental construction, the project, the
creative force of the weak, the destruction of established powers.
We should oppose all those who only want the end, those cohorts of the burned-out and parasitical
last men. The end of art, of metaphysics, of representation, of imitation, of transcendence, of the
oeuvre, of spirit: enough! Let us declare at once the End of all the ends and the possible beginning of
all that is, of all that was and will be.
Against its present decline into inconsistent multiplicity and an energy which is immoral, uncontrolled,
and-if it succeeds-fundamentally non-human, the vocation of art, in all its forms, is to reaffirm
Let us declare again, on behalf of humanity, the artistic rights of the truly non-human. Let us again
accept being transfixed by a truth (or a beauty: it's the same thing), rather than calculating to the
nearest penny the minor modes of our expression.
It's a matter of affirming. And this is why this draft is a manifesto of Affirmationism.
Let us call “post-modern”—why not?—any representation of artistic production made under the sign
of the spectacular exposition of desires, phantasms and terrors. Under the sign of an abolition of the
universal. Under the sign of the total exposition of particularisms. Under the sign of the historic
equality of formal methods.
Yes, this is so: one can call “post-modern” whatever displays a capricious and unlimited ascendancy of
particularities: the communitarian, ethnic, linguistic, religious, sexual, and any other particularity. And
the biographical particularity, the “me,” as one imagines it can and should be “expressed.” I posit that
these post-modern products represent the last form of enslavement of art to particularity. We can
distinguish thus, if you will, the ethnic and communitarian products by their sexual underpinning and
“me-ist” products.

be it ethnic or “me-ist. And also Romantic. let me isolate narcissistically one of my own texts. I am convinced that the “we” to come. of course. will hardly be tempted to return to this conception. Starting form it. I propose the distinction. a kind of avantgardism without avant-garde. which was in fact a synthetic schema. as truth immediately capable of reading itself. as integrally conscious of its own operation. But the artists of the postmodern circuit merely oppose it with a poor anti-Classicism whose single resource is Spinoza’s phrase: “We do not know what a body can do. I concluded.The products most sought after by the gourmets of commerce are those which easily combine the two varieties: in a recognizable ethnic and sexual category. that it did not really propose any new figure of art as independent thought.” on the contrary. the practical virtue of temperance of passion rather than a mission of truth. Didactic-Romanticism. through their desire to put an end to art. of a quite ludic “me-ism. they are. We will distrust all those who try to use provisional theoretical weaknesses in order to impose the restoration of our pompous heritage. The second. The first. the avant-gardes were above all anti-Classical. “Classical. it combines with a recurring pomposity.” With this meager viaticum. the “Romantic.” puts art under the natural rule of pleasing forms and confers upon it. one might say.” claims.” for something to affirm the ruin . and the closure of every effect of the only schema tried in this century. But we should not be blind to the problem we have in common: the domination in the arts of all the figures of “me-ist” or communitarian expressivity. a Didactic-Romantic schema. to submit artistic activity to the external imperative of the Idea. Pomposity proposed violent technologized and grandiose decoration as affect. The Affirmationists will. Here is the text: The avant-gardes have only been the desperate and unstable search for a mediative schema. in the manner of Heidegger and of certain fascisms. in a Platonic or Stalinist manner. Here is our diagnosis: revisited in a long historical perspective. it will design its proper and definitive affirmation in the arts. which is nothing but degraded Didactic-Romanticism. and it dominates Hollywood cinema and even certain sectors of architecture or multimedia design. the post-modern products. Considered as proposition of a Didactic-Romantic schema. which I call “Didactic. This question is of the greatest importance to us. of a pure and simple plunge into Romanticism. or even worse. in regard to the relationship between art and philosophy. a bit further on: The global situation is finally the following: paralysis of the three inherited schemas (Didacticism. Classicism and Romanticism). are the material form. that of the Affirmationists of the beginning of this century. They were Didactic. between three essential systems. however. defend the totality of contemporary artistic production against the current reactionary attacks. a number of them (a majority?) continue to search in a paroxystic particularity. through their conviction that art should be reborn immediately as absolutist. sees in art the only free form of descent of the infinite Idea into the sensory. In the first chapter of Petit manuel d’inesthétique. and asks thus that philosophy bow down before art. to each their own. in the manner of Aristotle or Louis XIV. pegged to the idea of the expressive value of the body. In a certain way. through their denunciation of its inauthentic and alienated character. for which posture and gesture give it consistency. I hold that the 20th century was not really innovative in respect to the decisive connection between material gesture and ideality. From the vast quantity of references which the Affirmationists of the future will assemble and publish.” Let us not denounce anyone. The third.

itself finely wrought through a kind of formalist excess. The multiform desolation of entire sections of contemporary art comes from what is. with the most extreme violence. are in reality part of it. To the names of victim and gladiator correspond today the commerce of colossal media budgets and doping in sports. in the ennui of precise gestures—but this time without miracle. It’s enough to remind us of Rome: a solitary power. Russians. It is a cold mise en scène of a hackneyed motif: the fury of inspired barbarism against sated imperialism. in that a single formal idea. Because they have no other idea of how to give value to the world. disposes art in two directions. Formalism. Romantic formalism has always been an artistic orientation of ensconced and terminal . a morbid and repetitive drunkenness.” those most violently opposed to this hegemony of the brutal West. depending on whether one pronounces the morose end of the human race or one pretends to celebrate it. Romantic. What to say of today’s world? A solitary power whose army is terrorizing the entire planet dictates its law of the circulation of capital and images and proclaims everywhere. Now. Under the imposed name of “terrorism. a meager sophistication. the motif of unprecedented expression. a single humble craft are considered to support a differentiation from the commercial category. In short. a single gesture. Behind it run valets and rivals. of which today professional sports and the culture industry. the motif of the expression. like the pairing of circus horns with Martial’s deliciously obscene epigrams. Or the flamboyant rhetoric of the generals with the ascetic sermon of the Christians in catacombs. This mass crime is evidently an avatar of a contemporary pathology. they never cease testifying to their basic agreement. Europeans. To be specific. supposedly sublimely singular. softened bodies through a native or oriental wisdom. even in increasing anonymity. But this art is all the while bound up with the twilight of pompous art. a sort of flashy celebration of its own power. Some nihilist criminals killed at random thousands of inhabitants of New York. Chinese… Often disagreeing on means. in that each time one plays the trade. the torturing serial killer. In the other direction. This kind of entertainment works on a grand scale. We cannot understand what is gripping us and causing us to despair if we do not return again and again to the fact that our world is not at all a democracy.of both the Classical conception of art and the absolutist affirmation of subjective expression. This art is Romantically morose: it expresses impotence and portrays it as nihilistic delectation. Romantic. It freely reclaims great forests. This art is the art of pomp which makes of the funereal power of the Empire the material of games and fictions increasingly more allegorical and bombastic. but rather an imperial conservatism under the guise of democratic phraseology. pretend to retire from general circulation. tries to oppose to pompous massiveness the unctuous discernment and subtle perversity of people who can. On the one hand. either the linkage of art with redemptive purpose or art as suffering and radiant exposition of the Flesh—art returns as carnal construction of finitude. give us the exact equivalent. of the mise en scène. assumes ethnic or “me-ist” particularities. the perverse gladiator. The American army and the “terrorists” replay the old and bloody historical scene of civilization encircled by brutes. for which “democracy” is spiritual ornament. private or public. eternal snowfalls. which in its own eyes incarnates civilization. without suffering too much from it. be it musical or filmic. a Romantic formalism. These are circus games. whatever its modalities might be. the Duties and Rights of everyone. saturates the artistic gesture with a Romanticism whose only known variants are funereal Romanticism or ludic Romanticism. By means of which. proposed to the people as an opiate for its passivity. in that the energy of the body is supposedly the saving grace of the conceptual disembodiment. in complete symmetry with the pompous art of commerce full of massive imagery. The natural hero of this art is the Killer.

constantly opposed to the succession of neo-Romanticisms. Picasso for painting. because it only proposes to the human multiplicity the absurd perpetuation of its obscene order. in the form of Romantic formal vitalism. called a “mathematics of being. in the periods when critical and revolutionary political activity are very weak. that “Newton’s binomial is as beautiful as the Venus de Milo. which has yet to discover a dawn. has accomplished. and. of Frantisek Kupka or Mark Rothko. who affirms the integral possibility of opera beyond its evident death. in the same sense in which Mallarmé reclaimed for the poetic Idea that it should arise. These artists. of the innocent contemplative life. often isolated. nor that of a desire torn between the festival and the morgue. In all the arts in the 20th century. The list— we will limit it to the disappeared—is arbitrary. for the ontological certitude of geometries.” We celebrate Alban Berg. An art which is not that of Buddha.dominations. integrating for the first time the quasi-totality of human species in the distribution and constraint of its fortune. Merce Cunningham for dance… But we can’t forget Wallace Stevens. AFFIRMING THE GREAT 20TH CENTURY Some artists have long thought that the persistent destruction of the Romantic schema and of all its naturalist and vitalist paraphernalia was the imperative of the moment. We have universal sex. Charles Chaplin for the cinema. the sad arrogance of imperialisms produces a combination of mysticism and pornography. Fernando Pessoa’s heteronym. nihilist. grasping all the sacred signs in the immensity of the cadaver of Time. and Bela Bartok. is happening to us today. in principle as well as in execution. an entire configuration. in the dead heavens of the century. who affirms the poem’s possibility of capturing being from appearing. indifferent to neglect and to obsolescence. nor redemption. And it is thus in our time: that of a unique and multiform doctrine (economic liberalism and political electoralism). and we have Oriental wisdom. have slowly composed configurations comprehensible only today. not needing to know they were: those who developed by themselves. draperies of the soul!—of the great and pure .” Any unique doctrine of this type is desperate. There are the great Affirmationists. Or Olivier Messiaen. as Alvaro de Campos says. This is exactly what. Ossip Zadkine for sculpture. great artists have tried to undo the enterprise of Romantic expressivity and to give art its necessary indifference (froideur ). Paul Celan. who affirms the transpoetic possibility with the poem “After Auschwitz. that of the Situationists. We will praise Affirmation: of Malevitch or Mondrian. contrapuntal and rhythmic. Fernando Pessoa for poetry. while Anton Webern constructs the mystical value of sophisticated silences. An art completely allergic to obscurantist hypnosis as well as to the pornographic stupidities of festive performances. William Faulkner for the novel. of the string quartet. The Affirmationists demand the singularity of a critical genealogy. through subtle masses and temporal tangles. Arnold Schoenberg for music. nor flesh. through their art. We could name some heroes of this attempt. Osip Mandelstam. such as that of the Surrealists. affirming the incorporation of a sort of sonorous lentitude.” Which means: it has tried to grasp the real with the same impersonal rigor as that of mathematics. Bertolt Brecht for the theater. A Tibetan pornography—this is what the hope of this age. the best. Yes. our time is that of the unique doctrine and of the consensus which is created around it under the strange name of “democracy. for their power—oh. like a Constellation. worse yet. Lenin himself observed that.” The tautest and truest art of the 20th century has tried to show. And the artistic subjectivity that it leads to is that of this nihilism and of this obscenity. It is a matter of formalizing the sublime desperation of the body delivered to the jouissance of the Unique. An art effectively divorced from Romanticism. our constellation. They have maintained the will of an art-concept which tolerates neither finitude. An art which could be the equivalent of what the poet Alvaro de Campos. The Affirmative constellation. it only indicates the apparent absence of contour in what outlines. to say nothing of the contemporary Corporealists and Vitalists. who perpetuates the experimental force.

all the while avoiding the pompous praise of its power. to a subtractive operation through which it holds closest to the real without image. Subtraction which is the modern method of integral affirmation of the universal. legitimator of the connection of signs! Jackson Pollock. enclosed effervescence of the infinite gesture! We salute you. It is against these hasty colorings of an insufficient devotion to the non-humanity of the true that we attempt to restore the rights of an independent Affirmation. For if he was not pompous. we should restore artistic value to its incorporeal rigor. as finished as possible. To affirm the powerful impotence of the work. Katherine Mansfield’s morning benediction. 1.” An unlocalized art. of an art which is neither ethnic nor “me-ist. in this same nakedness. which is the material basis of Empire. The idea of the ephemeral is believed to be new. which shows that nothing in this list is inscribed under a recognized designation by schools. Beckett’s ascetic perseverance of the desire to exist. Germaine Richier’s idolatrous insects. . design of tortuous poetics of visibility… Let’s end this exercise. Subtraction through which it deletes any enterprise of particularity. affirms forever the non-humanity of the Beautiful. but it is only the alignment of art with the circulation of consumable commodities and with the usury of products. fecund decision of duplicity. conditions such that art may rebel against imperial power at the same time that it surmounts the Romantic duplicity of the funereal and the ludic. and. And you. wagging tongue of conservative dissatisfaction to the summit of the heavens. is good. for the real it encounters is intended for all. PROCLAIMING THE MAXIMS OF AFFIRMATIONISM By naming what we are examining and what may be of use to us.contrasts of sufficient color. Brancusi’s pure signs! Still other Affirmations: Woolf’s enveloped vision of ephemeral totalizations. It is. Axiomatic. you who took History to the limits of its rhetorical celebration. as naked for universal thought as the line depicting the timeless sign of a bison and a tiger drawn thirty thousand years ago in the shadow of a cave. on the contrary. And that a work is always finite. as ambitious as it is impersonal. it is the ennui of the finite in the name of the vague infinite. Art is not the sublime descent from the infinite into the finite abjection of the body and sexuality. Henry Moore’s colossal maternities. seemingly absurd. The myth of unworking is post-Romantic. finished. brother Malraux. We affirm that there are only works in art. against all Romanticism. its fragile and implacable singularity. the production of an infinite subjective series through the finite means of a material subtraction. to its anti-Romantic dispassion. still completely abstract. but largely and actively distributed by the constellation not yet designed by artists of this century. We intend to make perceptible the genealogy of an axiomatic. revelation of the force of dream detained by the joining of setting and lights. To resist Empire is to affirm the work. The Affirmationist axiomatic states only minimal conditions. The sterile grimace of an absent sacralization. Orson Welles. Whatever makes us still think about Aeschylus or Lucretia. It’s only that the singularity of the works shows desire. we do not intend to distribute value. which is the only cause of art. for what might at last take the form of a terrestrial Affirmation. An axiomatic which poses the following: at the dawn of the century. using a recreated subjectivity. Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau. We will say: Kandinsky. The insipid gesticulation of Me. A duplicity that Victor Hugo used in order to reclaim the sublime and the grotesque. And which. aptitude for the truth of the illusion! And Claudel equally. The distinctive feature of art is to lead to an infinite subjective possibility attached to the finitude of the work. Pirandello. thus. in disparate directions. in the eyes of the tenebrous century. the art of today is completely so: the sublime obtained by force through means of the grotesque.

The subjects of an artistic truth are the works which compose it. it was necessary to see in order to believe. But once the worksubject is completed. We affirm that the multimedia motif of a multisensorial art is a motif without true destiny. And thus there would not be any duty. One is constrained to see. between recognition and misrecognition. Nothing unifies the sensory except the individual animal subject and its organs. We affirm that this animal. art will strive to purify the impure. Otherwise there would be the authors and their manifestations or their expressions. this wish is predetermined. 5. and whatever the imaginable intersections might be. painting. because it is suspended between the initial manifestness and its tremor. As they say today: “I want to be myself”—or. the tribal version: “We want to create. which deals with the sensory region by region and produces its own universal non-empirical and non-organic subject. among the processes of truth. The human animal is not at all the source. the Idea takes place. Form is what gives sensible manifestation a new tremor. The Idea.2.” And “cultures” are nothing but restored products. and the purification of this impurity shapes the history and extent of its artistic truth. is that the subject of truth is brought there by the sensory. 3. The only true subject is what appears: the work. After which. as if it were almost impossible. no totalization of this plurality is. There would only be the reflection of “me-ist” or ethnic particularities. All art comes from impure form. is felt again. imaginable. in the form of the work of art. is a kind of ineffable singularity. and what’s more. They know that each one. 4. What. and in love by sex as differentiation. is only an interchangeable animal. in art. but not quite. anyone. needs such matter. to recreate. Art cannot be the expression of mere particularity. The artist is the neutral element of this affirmation. While the subject of truth in science is deduced by the power of the letter. or one of the loci. we can forget entirely his individual transitory support. All this is desperately average. Which means: transformation of the sensory into event of the Idea. 6. for example. Art affirms that at the very point of an impossible-to-feel. sensory indistinction. There is a necessary plurality of the arts. is imposed by the transformation of the manifest into an improbable imperative. But this empirical unification is indifferent to art. For a long time. The truth of which art is the process is always the truth of the sensory. as sensory. and this is how art is Idea: through the changing of what is there into what should happen to its own finiteness. The artist as individual is only living matter lent to a subject which. against all visible evidence. Only the work is affirmative. provides the transfixed foundation for a universal address. our own culture. It only projects in art the obscene uniqueness of commerce. It cannot thus have sensorily indistinct art in it. and it alone. The affirmative subject of the non-manifestation is the work. because it is a sensory subject. any universality. the monetary equivalence of all products.” It is the impersonal production of a truth addressed to all. but only the locus. this is the way figuration was: this is a bullock. as artist. recycled old things. is singular to art. It is always at first impure. in the sensory effect of the work. and the “myself” which appears cannot be distinguished at all from the “everyone. in politics by the infinite resources of the collective. Established powers only love statistics and polls because they know that nothing is more innocent and incapable than the average. This applies only to the way in which the manifestation is required to be distributed in the sensory. Art makes event of that which is the epitome of the given. through artistic labor.” Unfortunately. so that it dissipates its manifestness and changes it to a fragile ought-to-be. to dedicate itself more and more entirely to its duty to make visible. whether it be ethnic or “me-ist. . after which the manifest is suspended. what otherwise is obviously visible—this is. itself. The schema of the expression supposes that each one.

It is true that we hardly know how. It all comes to this: to invent a new sensory abstraction. This is why one can say that the future of an artistic configuration. this route that those of the Renaissance took. that which communicates nothing. This art is tied to a proletarian aristocracy: it does what it says. according to its own discipline. this is the art we need. When a configuration loses its affirmative power. It is what happens unexpectedly. and criticism itself. lack of impurity. We affirm that all sociological and institutional speculations about the audience for the arts must be abandoned. Sociology.7. And we also should turn toward geometry. wider and wider. This is a very old rule. and this address has no empirical meaning. In order to combat expressivity. 10. the only problem is to know if the artistic imperative can be detached from the Western imperative.” Which means also that it should not be democratic. or the complex which comprises works of an innovative series. 11. This composition is an infinite configuration which. in a given moment. Art is the second formalization of the advent of an unformed form. to combat Romantic formalism. is only and always the auxiliary of Western democracy. eliminating its impurity in the impure form. or constellations of works that we call configurations. The real of art is ideal impurity as immanent process of its purification. if democratic means: conforming to the Western idea of political liberty. Because it is less a matter of substitution for the forms of its schema than for the logic of the invariants hidden in their complete distortion. This statement only restates the preceding from another angle. there is only the dynamic of abstraction. in effect. makes what it says. A non-Western art is necessarily an abstract art. At first there is a formally impure idea which changes a manifestation of the perception or of the interior intuition into a problem. not circulating according to any pre-established network and not communicating with anyone in particular. and particularly of mathematics. in the following sense: it abstracts from all particularity and formalizes this gesture of abstraction. may instruct us. unpredicted. Until the moment in which nothing of the real is retained. there is the refinement of the impurity. Here we enter the present situation. which is that of marketing and communication. in the artistic context of the moment. a detachment. which are the real figure of artistic truths. Like serial works in music. Art is made. 9. is made by a second formalization. Immobile and incommunicable. Art should not have to worry about its clientele. or the years in which cubism was alive. exempted from any preliminary classification. The work of science. Western democracy. or the classical style between Haydn and Beethoven. or of a truth. The only maxim of contemporary art is to not be “Western. Yes. It is. There are subjective collections. or the post-Romantic poem and thousands of other things. is marketing and communication. as well as the painters from the beginning of the century: they turned toward geometry. in art. We should affirm. In other words: art has as its first material the purely descriptive contingence of a form. says what it makes. It is inflexibly addressed to all. but it is especially required in our situation. Thus true art is that which interrupts marketing. lack of the manifest. after all. The abstraction in art which is and which is to come does not consider any particular public. is a generic totality. We are speaking here of subjects initiated by an historical event of art. the only one that addresses everyone. 8. and without consideration for the interests of anyone. without needing acceptance from anyone. Then. of the form. it succeeds. the idea of intelligible distortions. or making form of the unformed itself. art as pure universal genre. A configuration is that which was neither nameable nor calculable in the situation anterior to the art under consideration. Art should augment in everyone the non-democratic strength of one’s liberty. which has changed a lot. This is why the totality thus produced is generic: it affirms. an imperative. eliminating the unformed. This is what I call its proletarian aristocracy: an .

The work to come should be as solidly united as a demonstration. We should be our own pitiless censors. or of the exception. it does not install itself in the lukewarmness of sharing. from any evaluation by the average. Art constructs abstractly the visibility of this non-existence. It is better to do nothing than to work officially in the visibility of what the West declares to exist. or hardly exists. Convinced of controlling the entire extent of the visible and of the audible through commercial laws of marketing and the democratic laws of communication. through the discipline of work. in each. 2004 courtesy Galería Ruth Benzacar For information about subscribing to Lacanian Ink click here. and as elevated as a star. not just one. it does not communicate it. Art: Graciela Hasper . or of distance. Art can only be made today about what. does not exist. 13. similarity. in each. with a necessary small touch of terror. It imposes this real violently. 15. 14. or imitation. The work to come should be as elevated as a star because it desires non-temporal indifference to its invented form. There is the imperative of surprise. in all the arts. this piece of the real on whatever it seizes. Abandoning itself to this authorization to jouir is the ruin of all art. And there is the imperative of elevation. for Communication (the medium and commerce). It is not fraternal. belongs to generic humanity. the imperative of the real. the imperative of the symbol. does not exist. as well as all thought. If you do not wish to subscribe but would like information about buying the issue containing this article click here. It does not make it circulate.aristocracy exposed to the judgement of all.(detail). the formal principle: the capacity to render visible for everyone what.” “Proletarian” designates what. as surprising as a night attack. because it should oppose to the perpetual market mobility of the imperial world an inflexible principle of consequence. The difficulty of art today is that there are three imperatives. and thus also for everyone. for the medium and for commerce. The great French director Antoine Vitez had a lovely expression to designate the art of the theatre. The work to come spurns relativisms and suspects doubt. There is the imperative of consequence. It imposes it. the logical imperative.Untitled . The work to come should be as surprising as a night attack because it makes an event of the ignored real. This is what will decide the work to come. Here is what these three images as abstractions confirm. It says: “Everything is possible. though from a different point of view. 12. It explores its affirmation to the very end. . “Aristocratic” designates what is protected. calcareous tiles. The work of art to come is detached from imperial commerce. works are received according to one or two of the three imperatives. He said: “elitist for all. contemporary power no longer needs censorship. The art which is and which is to come should be as solidly united as a demonstration. It is what orders. Often.” Which also might mean that nothing is. that of the mathematics of being. We leave the three last sentences in their conclusive nakedness. But the great problem of form today is to join the three. corporeal. the majority.