Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Chaos, Territory, Art

Chaos, Territory, Art: Deluze and the Framing of the Earth by Elizabeth Grosz

Part of my interest in science fiction lies in its coherent radical difference, that is, it's ability to show a separate constructed world beyond daily experience in some major way, and in a fashion also beyond the imaginary settings that would have occurred to me in isolation. And yet the world has to make sense by its own logic, have a pattern of ontology that refers back on itself in a workable fashion, present an extended living situation for daily life that can represent another mode for existence. Grosz's book offers much of that type of pleasure, the interest in seeing a complex, intense and beautiful representation of life highly different from empirical description. It was an enjoyable, creative, and interesting thing to read, which may itself be read as a major criticism of the book as it's not intended to be science fiction--this view refers to our common world.

I'm not intending to dismiss this book as a fantasy concocted by a crazy person. In large part, my disconnect from the conclusions of the book and yet enjoyment of what it presented derive from my lack of familiarity with the study of biological evolution and the philosophy of arts. Grosz's book, as part of a commentary on another significant figure I haven't read, traces a system of aesthetics as linked to various things beyond sapience, bringing it again to natural biological processes and the very basis of perception. It's skillfully written, showing great command of language and adept working of complex analysis as well as reference to other authors. The central thesis that develops here is also compelling, pushing for a recovery of Darwin's non-mechanistic tone and a tie in of gender components to music, art and the larger biosphere.

Note I said compelling, not plausible. Here's the main stickling point, the central unbelievability of the argument, its main premises and the conclusion. My take on this aspect isn't as harsh as it may sound--among other things my interpretation is that Grosz intends much of the language as at least partially allegorical rather than literal. Additionally, I'm fairly certain my lack of familiarity with Deluze, the nuances of Darwin and Grosz's earlier work may me an ill-prepared reader in some basic ways. Still, in its approach to reading art into life and reinscribing of culture onto life its history doesn't appear tenable. This issue would be less significant if it weren't for the implications of such theories, the way it seems to naturalize essentialized categories of gender and produce heterosexuality as normative. There's a danger of these stances with any connection of gender to a reading of biology, and here if that wasn't the intent the text works insufficiently to distinguish itself from such positions.

So ultimately I have to count this work as a failed analysis, but for my experience it was nevertheless an informative and highly interesting failure.

Better than: The Meaning of Love by Vladimir Solovyov

Worse than: Gender Trouble by Judith Butler

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