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Unformatted text preview: kade so frequent ly found in
Sierra’s works is less a return to modernist refusal as advocated by Theodor Adorno
than an expression of the boundar ies of both the social and the aesthet ic after a
centur y of attempt s to fuse them.66 In his exhibit ion at Kunst-Werke in Berlin, viewer s were confronted wit h a ser ies of makeshift cardboard boxes, each of which
I am reminded of Walter Benjamin’s praise of newspaper s because they solicit opinions from
their reader (via the letter s page) and thereby elevate him/her to the st atus of a collaborator : “ The
reader is at all t imes ready to become a wr iter,” he says, “that is, a descr iber, but also a prescr iber . . . he
gains access to author ship” (Benjamin, “ The Author as Producer,” in Benjamin, Reﬂect ions [New York:
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1978], p. 225). Even so, the newspaper ret ains an editor, and the letter s page is but one among many other authored pages beneath the remit of this editor.
“As the social is penetrated by negat ivit y— that is, by ant agonism — it does not att ain the st atus
of transparency, of full presence, and the object ivit y of it s ident it ies is permanent ly subverted. From
here onward, the impossible relat ion bet ween object ivit y and negat ivit y has become const itut ive of the
social” (Laclau and Mouffe, Hegemony, p. 129).
The blockade or impasse is a recurrent mot if in Sierra’s work, such as 68 People Paid to Block the
Entrance to Pusan’s Museum of Contemporar y Art, Korea (2000) or 465 People Paid to St and in a Room at the
Museo Ruﬁno Tamaya, Mexico Cit y (1999). Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics 79 concealed a Chechnyan refugee seeking asylum in Germany.67 The boxes were an
Arte Povera t ake on Tony Smith’s celebrated 6 x 6 foot sculpture Die (1962), the work
that Michael Fr ied famously descr ibed as exert ing the same effect on the viewer as
“the silent presence of another per son.”68 In Sierra’s piece, this silent presence was literal: since it is against the law in Germany for illegal immigrant s to be paid for work,
the refugees’ st atus could not be announced by the galler y. Their silence was exaggerated and exacerbated by their literal invisibilit y beneath the cardboard boxes. In
such works, Sierra seems to argue that the phenomenological body of Minimalism is
polit icized precisely through the qualit y of it s relat ionship — or lack of relat ionship —
to other people. Our response to witnessing the part icipant s in Sierra’s act ions—be
they facing the wall, sitt ing under boxes, or t attooed with a line — is quite different
from the “togetherness” of relat ional aesthet ics. The work does not offer an exper ience of t r anscendent human empat hy t hat smoot hs over t he awkward situat ion
before us, but a pointed racial and economic nonident iﬁcat ion: “this is n...
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This document was uploaded on 02/20/2014 for the course PHILOSOPHY 244 at University of Tennessee.
- Spring '09