Modernism appears to be long gone, its universal claims dispelled and discredited, its formal styles historicized and identity politics radically revised. But one mythic principle remains—that aesthetics is a politics and serves as the moral conscience and activist agent of culture. From William Blake’s famous dictum that art should “open the doors of perception,” through the Russian avant-garde “making strange” and Situationist’s “detournement” a clear through line connects to the German and French lineages of critical theory that produce Jacques Rancière’s notion of dissensus. This talk challenges the validity of these premises and asks how a theory of contemporaneity might alter the prevailing mythology by expanding the historical and cultural frameworks, and asking how the concepts of “critique” have come to be complicit with a politics of radical instability.
Johanna Drucker is the Breslauer Professor of Bibliographical Studies in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA. She is internationally known for her work in artists’ books, the history of graphic design, typography, experimental poetry, fine art, and digital humanities. Recent titles include: Graphesis: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production (Harvard University Press, 2014),The General Theory of Social Relativity, (The Elephants, 2018), Downdrift: An Eco-fiction (Three Rooms Press, 2018), and Visualization: Modelling Interpretation (forthcoming). In 2014 she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and awarded an honorary doctorate of Fine Arts by the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2017.