“… that man’s desire finds its meaning in the desire of the other, not so much because the other holds the key to the object desired, as because the first object of desire is to be recognised by the other”. – Jacques Lacan
Aesthetics as a Technology of Power
Culture is represented by symbols. Art, Technology, Utilitarian thing or whatever it is called today is a manifestation of what we call culture. Technologies are aspects of culture which can be gained or lost, an example of this is the fact that we have lost the art of making some tints of colours. To grapple with what is lost, gained or created new one must first define that particular culture. Whose culture are we talking about and which framework are we subscribing to when delving into these. Am I to answer this from a socio-political level, Anthropological or historical presective?
Social Capital and Cultural capital shape one’s aesthetic disposition and this bears strongly on what you lose, gain or create a new. I found the author’s constant reference to big theories without much of a background hard to follow. Pasztory’s quick rebuttal of Lacan’s theory that our unconscious is structured like a language makes a quick reference to Levi Strauss’ totemism.
What is omitted is that it is actually based on Freud’s1 concept of Traumdeutung, stating that “dream has the structure of the a sentence or rather… it has the structure of a form of writing,… reproducing the simultaneously phonetic and symbolic use of signifying elements, which can be found both in the hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt and in the characters still used in china”(Lacan, J 1949). These structure of form (Language) are actually abstractions. Isn’t abstraction Modern art (or thing) in itself, especially when a good dose of what Lacan refers to as “regalian power of the wittism or ‘conceit’ (‘pointe’)” is exercised? “Where humour, ..symbolises a truth that has not said its last word.”(Lacan J, 1949). 2
Language is perhaps the most noticeable loss of culture and one that in my opinion causes the most anguish. Along with this tradition (I recognise that I am using an umbrella term) is also something that can be lost. One could argue that tradition can also be created new, when for example a migrant’s culture influences the dominant culture. Food is a great example of this. Although being open to food from other cultures doesn’t necessary imply an understanding or acceptance of the newly introduced cultural element. Trade is the tool that facilitates this exchange of material objects, art, technology and customs and views.
Pasztory refers to Aesthetics as “the first technologies of communication and control of humanity.” Clothing is a good example of technology of power in our modern world. The cut, colour, shape and quality of the material by which you adorn yourself screams a plethora of messages about who you are and how you want to be perceived. Alongside aesthetics, the other technologies are writing and replication through mass media. Although you can’t view them separate to their function, is that article of clothing a technomic, socio-technic or ideo-technic manifest?
Last but not least, when it comes to my personal tastes, I take pleasure in textures, the feel of the material, the way light can bounce off surfaces. The juxtaposition of sharp angles and smooth surfaces. At any rate, I don’t favour function over form, unless it has a technomic purpose.