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four Abramovi¢ ......................................................................................................... ‘‘you can stop. you don’t have to do this.’’ P erhaps against the grain, Burden’s work might be conceived of as a critique of community in general and, more specifically, of the art community, in the instance of the community of interest and expectation who showed up and ‘‘made it happen.’’ The art community is typically one of relative privilege, either in socio-economic terms or in terms of its cultural capital, or both. It is hardly to be compared with those communities defined by identity, whether that identity be constituted by ethnic, cultural, class, or sexual di√erence (identities often forged in oppression), although it is primarily in relation to communities of identity that the term ‘‘community’’ has entered the discourse of art.∞ Feminism provides perhaps the most immediate identity-based counterpoint to Burden’s work, given that Judy Chicago began the Feminist Art Program on the west coast, first at Fresno State College in 1970 and then at Cal Arts in 1971, with Miriam Schapiro, and Womanhouse took place in Los Angeles in 1972.≤ Clearly, however, Burden was not interested in any community of identity, something that seems consonant with the ambivalence about protest culture that operates in his work. Burden’s simultaneous invocation and disavowal of a small-scale art community, while it certainly generates questions about participation and responsibility, and the continuity between the art community and larger group formations (‘‘public’’ and ‘‘nation,’’ for instance), was nonetheless primarily functional, serving as a kind of platform from which he launched his work. In this sense it remains somewhat abstract: community is limned as a possibility in its failure. Yet the whi√ of mortality that the work gives o√ suggests a connection to Agamben’s homo sacer, touched on in the previous chapter, as well as the ‘‘inoperative community’’ defined by Jean-Luc Nancy. (previous page) ..... Marina Abramovi¢, Thomas’ Lips, 2005. Performance, 7 hours. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Photography: Attilio Maranzano. ∫ Marina Abramovi¢, courtesy Marina Abramovi¢ Archives and Sean Kelly Gallery, New York 111 ............ a b r a m o v i¢ Nancy’s theory of community, which emphasizes death as the common experience from which community returns, might at first glance seem counter-intuitive, but it responds to the critique of the ideal of community encapsulated by another political philosopher, Iris Marion Young: ‘‘The ideal of community denies and represses social di√erence, the fact that the polity cannot be thought as a unity in which all participants share a common experience and common values. In its privileging of face-to-face relations, moreover, the ideal of community denies di√erence in the form of the temporal and spatial distancing that characterizes social process.’’≥ Moreover, as Young also observes, the longing for ‘‘consensus and harmony’’ expressed in the ideal of community depends upon the transparency of subjects, to themselves and to one another, something that both Young and Nancy reject as essentialist, insofar as it disavows theasymmetryofsubjectiverelationsandthefragmentationofsubjectivity itself.∂ Nancy’s ‘‘surprising solution,’’ as Grant Kester puts it, to the question of the role of community for decentered as against selfidentical subjects, ‘‘is to redefine community around the experience of mortality.’’∑ Wheresubjectivityisconstantlynegotiatedintheencounter with the other, for Nancy, then ‘‘it is through death that the community reveals itself—and reciprocally’’∏ : ‘‘community is revealed in thedeathofothers:henceitisalwaysrevealedtoothers.Communityis what takes place always through others and for others.’’π Kester criticizes Nancy’s account for its rejection of the possibility of meaningful communicative interaction. In relation to the mutability of subjectivity that underlies Nancy’s position, Kester observes that ‘‘[c]ommunication, in whatever form, must involve some ontological and temporal framework (however provisional) within which to speak as well as to listen. In fact, this provisional identity is implicit in Nancy’s belief that one of the defining conditions of the ‘inoperative ’ community is a critical perception of the contingency of community and identity itself.’’∫ Kester’s point is well taken, nonetheless, his reading of Nancy recognizes precisely the provisional aspect of identity (even if his own tendency is to emphasize those moments in which subjectivity ‘‘recoheres’’Ω ). It seems to me that the conclusion that Nancy’s work suggests here, in relation to the miming of mortality in a work like Shoot, is that community—like subjectivity—is not a 112 ............ n o i n n o c e n t b y s t a n d e r s given but a process; community, as a potential generated in...


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