Operationalizing Real Abstraction: Art and the General Abstract Image

Bauer, Diann; Malik, Suhail and Zuluaga, Natalia. 2019. Operationalizing Real Abstraction: Art and the General Abstract Image. In: Gean Moreno, ed. In the Mind But Not From There: Real Abstraction and Contemporary Art. New York: Verso. ISBN 9781788730693 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

The essay proposes that under real subsumption and the proliferation of cybernetic governamentality and automation, a new kind of “representational but non-indexical” image has come into existence—what the authors call the General Abstract Image. This is a synthetic image generated out of data and produced by different apparatuses, at times but not necessarily with human input. As such, these images are inevitably concretized versions of otherwise abstract relations. Employing conceptual tools provided by analytical philosopher Wilfred Sellars, the authors draw an analogy between what Sellars calls the “scientific image”—the image that science provides in disregard of human self-conception and understanding—and GAI as the image of the abstract relations that comprise the social totality in disregard of immediate subjective comprehension of the world.
In light of the emergence of this synthetic image, the authors further propose, real abstraction may be rethought less as that which consolidates in actual activity and subsequently reconfigures thinking than as the endless loop between our ever-enlarging understanding of objective social conditions, facilitated in our conjuncture by GAIs, and the constant tinkering with the mediations through we grasp these conditions. The task that art can assume in relation to this, after it sheds the current strictures and insufficiencies that organize the field’s self-understanding, is to operationalize GAI, to construct new epistemo-informatic constructions, i.e., to not just produce new ways to see and understand the world, to cognitively map things, but to generate new features in the world that further complexify it and, presumably, tax or overhaul some of the dominant tendencies that currently organize the social into such a grotesque configuration.

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Book Section


abstract art, real abstraction, Alfred Sohn-Rethel, Wilfried Sellars, scientific image, General Abstract Image, integrated social totality, rational organisation, informatic composition

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June 2018Accepted
9 July 2019Published

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Date Deposited:

12 Sep 2018 10:39

Last Modified:

17 Sep 2019 08:09



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