Nicolas Bouyssi on Édouard Levé

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Translated on the fly, in the morning, without coffee.

The author’s name is not an evaluative criterion. The author’s name is not a frame. The names Homer and Shakespeare include, perhaps, countless men. The distinction between the abstract and the figurative artwork has long been obsolete. Art has scarcely anything to do with reportage. Art has scarcely anything to do with journalism though it does, perhaps, have something to do with investigation. A monumental work is not more important or ambitious than one that is not so. Literary or artistic pleasure are not based on identification. The possibility of identifying or not identifying with a character cannot be an evaluative criterion. That which art wishes to say lacks any sort of importance, what rather matters is knowing what the epoch seems to be saying via art, and how to decode it. It is always possible to say the same thing through a photo or through text. The arts are symmetrical and take nourishment from one another. The symmetry of praxis is the opposite of diffuseness and of dilettantism. Monumental art, like the timeworn conservation of redundancy, is an art that is afraid of not making itself understood. Architecture is an enduring art with which nearly no one knows how to identify. Decorative art is an ephemeral art that is afraid of its own uselessness. The culture of political engagement, of sternness, has become a ghetto culture, addressing itself solely to those whose apparent searching is derived from their already having found. The bestseller is the cultural logic that dreams of transforming the world into a ghetto. In the one case as in the other, there is no room for interpretation. There is no room for the encounter with an other side, an unforeseen particularity, with alterity, in other words. One has begun to do something, and it progresses, one realizes, up to the point of stumbling over, grazing against, the limits and the interest of one’s milieu or one’s epoch.

From: Esthetique du stéréotype: essai sur Édouard Levé (2011).

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