Kreider, Kristen and James, O'Leary. 2019. Prarie/Argo. In: Ryan Bishop and Sunil Manghani, eds. Seeing Degree Zero: Barthes/Burgin and Political Aesthetics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 9781474431415 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

Breaking with the codes of conventional autobiography, its overly familiar narrative of progress and reveal, Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes works with the compositional logic of the fragment. Autonomous, titled units of text are presented in alphabetical order. Taken individually, each fragment offers a replete image, observation, theorization, interpretation, affect. Taken together, they offer a life story. In one fragment, Barthes’ offers the following image:

A frequent image: that of the ship Argo (luminous and white), each piece of which the Argonauts gradually replaced, so that they ended with an entirely new ship, without having to alter either its name or its form (Barthes 1975: 46).

For this essay, we mobilise Barthes’ image of the Argo as a critical tool through which to contemplate Victor Burgin’s work Prairie (2015). To do so we first identified the various ‘pieces’ of Burgin’s projection work, giving a name to each segment. We then replaced the original content with our writing and drawings. Taken individually, each segment of Prairie/Argo offers a replete image, observation, theorization, interpretation, affect. Taken together, they form an ‘argoment’: a performative enactment of Burgin’s Prairie through which we navigate issues of erasure, resistance and potentiality; the relation between aesthetics and politics; the role that rhythm plays in this and the homogenising impulse of the grid; whiteness, blackness, nativeness; ornament and crime; the importance of story and myth for our conception of the human and for imagining new forms of life. Our aim, ultimately, is to suggest how racial and spatial politics together with a complex aesthetic comprising – and combining – aspects of layering, rhythm and figure inform an understanding of the relationship between politics and aesthetics, eventually suggesting new configurations of the social.

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Book Section


Barthes, Burgin, political aesthetics, IIT,

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1 September 2017Submitted
March 2019Published

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Date Deposited:

03 Oct 2017 12:11

Last Modified:

01 Mar 2022 02:26


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