Leo Bersani seminar

Interview to Leo Bersani. You can download the pdf version and read it complet.

Question: In Caravaggio's Secrets you analyse the types of relationality implicit in Caravaggio's work. The process of perception appears as a complex embodiment of forms of sociality. Relationality has a twofold dimension between the epistemological and the social. Both are related to a radical anti-essentialism. As far as art is concerned, relationality is not an act of representation but rather something generated by the modes of sociality implicit or produced by the works. Somehow art is a "relational machine". In that book you write that art illuminates relationality by temporarily and heuristically immobilizing relations. How to make a political reading of the agency of the beholder and the kind of relationality involved?

Answer: I have frequently been asked to specify the political implications of our attempts to formulate - following Foucault's injunction - "new relational modes." It should, however, be clear - if only from the accurate brief description you have just given of this project - that our work could easily be subverted by excessive and premature "political" specifications. There can be no effective or durable political change without a reconfiguration of the relational field that is the ground of all sociality. It seems to us necessary to begin with questions about the ways in which our culture formulates relations. Not only intersubjective relations but also relations between the human and the nonhuman. Every culture more or less deliberately promotes what we would call certain styles of movement in space. This is something fundamental in the education of the human subject: the way in which the individual is taught to go towards or to turn away from others. How does the most complex sociality stem from these "lessons in mobility" and, more specifically, from the way a culture defines, values and hierarchizes difference and sameness, the other and the same? In a sense, these are already deeply political questions, but they obviously don't provide easily applicable formulas of governance.
What I referred to a moment ago as "lessons of mobility" could also be called a training in (and this is the title of our latest book) forms of being. How are we in the world? It is not a question of knowledge about the world, but rather of a certain positioning of the human in the universe. To put things somewhat schematically: notions of social relationality have, at least since Descartes, been determined by the privileging of epistemological concerns over questions about the nature of being. Following Heidegger and his critique of Cartesian epistemology, we would reverse this priority, although by being we of course do not mean an ontological essence or entity, but rather something like a principle of universal connectedness. A modern reflection on being must be aware of itself not as an approximation of metaphysical truth; rather, the ontology most congenial to an age of information is one that identifies being as relationality, as the principle of connectedness assumed by all technologies of transmission, as well as by the social imaginary that can refract or violate it.

Download the complet version here.


Schedule: 6 pm to 9 pm
The seminar includes the viewing of a variety of films.
MACBA Public Programs
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