Theoretical Approaches to 1959-60

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  • Several authors have relied on Gilles Deleuze's theorization of difference and identity to analyze neo-avante-garde strategies of this period. I'm thinking of Briony Fer on Manzoni and others (2004) The Infinite Line: Re-making Art After Modernism and Brandon Wayne Joseph on Rauschenberg in Random Order: Robert Rauschenberg and the neo-avant garde (2003).
  • Deleuze finds potential in the repetition of a same (that is never the same, but always a repetition with a difference) and representation or the "simulacrum" is never an imperfect stand-in for the real or authentic original, but of equal value.
  • Another theorist of the simulacrum, Jean Baudrillard, takes another view of the simulacrum that is more Marxist. For Baudrillard, the simulacrum in the twentieth century has attained the hyperreal whereby the simulacral representation stands in for a now absent "real." This is a very different political slant whereby there is a nostalgia for the real, revealing a Platonic attitude toward representation. - Carla Benzan
  • Regardless of the mode of political engagement, Baudrillard's writings on the simulacra in twentieth century is seminal and, interestingly, uses an image from 1960 for its cover: JFK on stage during a presidential convention:

  • Foucault's notion of biopolitics or biopower was useful for me in my analysis of Manzoni's shift of representational strategies in 1959 (See my listings in 'Art: 1959-60'). I found that the breadth of technologies that Manzoni takes up run parallel to issues taken up by Foucault, and that the historicity of Foucault's formulation is relevant to the case of cold war Italy. The rapid modernization that occurred in Italy in the early to late 1950s would have compounded the pressures on the modern subject during this time and made artists attuned to the stakes of an embodied existence. In light of this I argued that Manzoni's shift away from figuration (that is: towards forms of abstraction that reference the body that are seen in the Linee in 1959, and bodily performance that is epitomized by his 1960 egg-eating performance) formed a new strategy. That is, Manzoni deployed his own body as his only means of 'authentic' critique of an age when the state no longer needed to enforce docility in its subjects. This allowed me to formulate an argument in which Manzoni's politics of representation responded to encroaching control of the body in the neo-liberal state, and the ensuing impossibility of the existence of an engaged critic or intellectual. See: Foucault, Michel. “17 March 1976.” In Society must be defended: Lectures at the College de France 1975-1976. 238-264. New York: Picador, 1993. - Carla Benzan