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That which it would be beneficial to agree upon before and during every discourse on art

Di Luciano nanni (traduzione di Melissa Cortina)

            No discourse succeeds in saying all that it intends to say. It always begins in the midst of the words and must take some notions for granted. In short, there is always an un-said upon which some agreement is assumed. And it is here that problems arise because often that presupposed agreement is absent and incomprehension becomes the new order of the day. Depending, then, upon the communal practicability of a meta-language, one seeks remedies by attempting a species of cooperation protocol. That is what I too would like to attempt here, concerning some elements more or less presupposed by every discourse, in particular those regarding art; elements with which I think my reader, upon reflection, may find himself in agreement with me. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

            Two categories of discourse: aesthetics and poetics

            Given that in a conference, or a reading as it may be, speaker or writer and listener or reader are put inevitably together, one would do well to ask oneself how it is possible to sensibly stay together within a discourse. Whoever is listening or reading would do well to ask themselves and to ask whoever is speaking or writing, "What is there of myself in your discourse?", "what am I called to do, listening to you or reading your work?" And, in turn, the author of this discourse would do well to respond to this, more or less implicit, demand, specifying to what end he speaks, to what end he implicates the interlocutor. It goes, I repeat, beyond the common sense of discoursing itself, thereby evading, as much as is possible, the fastidious equivocations and spirited diversions of wit, as Freud would say, of the ethics of our social relations, not to mention of our rules of etiquette, which count as well.

            Fine, it may be sad, it may be suffocating, but we, in the end, can use our thought and therefore the discourse to which it is married, in only two ways: with the end of intervening in the world in order to modify it, producing new things and behaviors (or in defense of things and behaviors that are already existent), or with the end of describing them, in their logic and relations, internal or external as they may be. The rest, let's say, is malignant; outside of the metaphor, just confusion and nonsense.

            Certainly, I could choose not to use my thought and to liberate it from this fork, but here it is only of used thought that we speak (and what is a discourse if not used thought?), not of thought left in the limbo of our mind. Just as it passes into use, the fork springs. Pythagoras knew it well, when, to explain what philosophy was, he recounted the so-called story of the market. There are men, he seems to have said, in a market. Good. There will be those who are there to waste time, who don't know what to do, and they don't interest us here (I say that these are the men in limbo); then there will be those who are there to conduct business and they are the practical men; finally there will be, perhaps, those who are there simply to see what happens and these, Pythagoras seems to conclude, are the philosophers. When, at our Nobel prize ceremony, a journalist asked Rubbia what motive brought him to search for that which he did, Rubbia responded: "curiosity." The scientist Rubbia is motivated by the same incentive that motivated Pythagoras' philosopher. At this point one could open a long discussion on the identity, or not, of philosophy and science. A thing that is most interesting to do, but that here must be left aside in order to return to the end to which Pythagoras' anecdote was told.

            Good. In Pythagoras we also find a model of thought based upon only two poles thought-use: the end which is practical, or ethical as I prefer to say (ethical, etymologically, tied to things and behaviors) and the analytic or scientific end. I think, in fact, that good philosophy is always science, that is, good science and, I repeat, I constrain myself not to demonstrate it here, I have done that on more occasions in my books. See for example my readings regarding this subject in the last issue of this same journal ("PAROL" 2002, passim). Every other use is a non-use and a waste of time. Let's suppose, in fact, that I involve my interlocutor in a discourse on, I don't know, a tree. Fine. Or I speak to him in order to invite him to help me do something about the tree, maybe to cure it because it's sick, maybe to cut it down because it grew in a place where it cannot remain, maybe to water it etc. etc., I am then and therefore in the first model of thought-use and of discourse, that strictly productive which I have called ethical and which here I can call primary, since it coincides with that same act of living. Otherwise I speak simply to describe one of the tree's aspects or characteristics to him, without any intention to interfere with the tree itself, and then I am in the second model of thought-use and of discourse, that which I have called scientific and that I may now call analytic or secondary. It's well-known: not for nothing did the bat, the bird sacred to Minerva (Athena, goddess of wisdom), come for the Greeks at the fall of night, when the day had already passed, in short, at things which were already done. Science always arrives at things which are already done. Would linguistics be imaginable without a language for it to study or astronomy without the stars, and so on? The secondary nature of science with respect to life is beyond discussion. It doesn't seem to me that there can be doubts on this matter.

            And it is important that my interlocutor is able to understand the type of discourse in which he is involved, since the modes in which he can legitimately stay within my discourse vary. In the first case, he could stay, agreeing or disagreeing according to his ethics, to accept or oppose my proposal according to his own plan, perhaps political, of the world; to defend or not to defend the life of the tree with all of his power, perhaps attempting rhetorically to bring me over to his side. A mode that, in the second type of discourse (in the discourse with scientific intentions) would be completely out of place, since within it one asks only for assent or dissent regarding the truth of that which is being affirmed, one asks only to control whether the claim being made regarding the tree is, more or less, real (accurate). Nothing else; no interventions that modify the situation in some way, just an awakening or realization.

It is a conviction, in myself persistent, that science as it developed in our occidental world, from Galileo and on, is correctly analytic; that it enters the scene secondarily, to things already done, that is, when some other practice synthetically and in a primary way proceeded to define the entity in line to be analyzed (by science). Analysis, we all know, can be understood in various shades, but its irrefutable postulate (Abbagnano says it very well in his Philosophic Dictionary) is that when it comes on the scene, there is already something determinate, factual, upon which to work, that is, to analyze. And note, I mean analysis that is in principle the, let's call it, innocent eye that does not bring some given to the studied object (innocent, in its origin, doesn't mean anything more). That is to say, an eye which does not modify the object. In fact, isn't this what we expect from analyses of, let's say, our blood, when we are unfortunately constrained to have them performed? Or do we perhaps expect that an analysis modifies its object at its pleasure? Of course, this may happen (and unfortunately it has happened), but only as an error that ought to be cut from the process, not as a legitimate event. A second conviction of mine then proceeds directly from this first one and this is the conviction that, when carefully examined, science manifests itself as one (the so-called method) without more distinction of any kind between the so-called human sciences and those more consolidated in nature. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Let's look first at the question of the analytic statute of science. It is here (at this level) that it appears to me to be unglued from technique. Technique, in its true sense, manipulates the world; it intervenes upon the world to materially modify it. It has to do with synthesis rather than with analysis and thus with primary or ethical practices which are held to produce not analysis, but the entity to analyze. Ethical, I repeat, in the a-valuative and purely etymological sense, when confronted with that which is analytic and secondary that until now I've called scientific, but that we could also call epistemic, by taking the word back yet another time to its etymological origin. Don't forget: episteme means place above, precisely secondary with respect to the practices that, taken directly, tie us to the world and permit us to live it and to determine it according to our needs. If you'll go along with my image, slightly coarse as it may be, but quite effective explanatorily (at least it appears this way to me), one could say that the entire framework of our knowledge, as I am considering it here, finds in the cow (that is, in the ruminator) its most essential emblem. The ruminator can vertically ruminate (scientifically analyze, in our case), but if and only if it has previously and horizontally (from the external towards the internal) taken grass from the world, bringing it into its stomach. In this sense that contrast between hermeneutics and epistemology that is so strident (I'm thinking precisely, in Italy, of Gianni Vattimo) can also fall: there isn't science without previous opening (not scientific) upon the world, but there is neither hermeneutics without analysis. To what eye, in fact, appears that same distinction between epistemology and hermeneutics? Which eye can see it? Not perhaps an eye external to both, necessarily? And an external eye, what is it if not analytic? And then don't forget, for the sake of saying it, how much of a part, how much importance, analysis has in Heidegger. I repeat, just for the sake of someone who doesn't consider everyday hermeneutics that far from himself. I would like, however, to render all of this more vivid with an example.

Let's think about linguistics. Aside from the fact that Saussure is completely in agreement with my position on the identity to be attributed to science, I mean explicitly in agreement[1], the linguistics example is convincing even excepting the prestige of Saussure himself. My father, a farmer, did not know anything about phonemes, morphemes, semantic marks etc., and yet he spoke his tuscan-emilian dialect without a single error. Language, in order to live, does not await the birth of linguistics: it lives and that's all. If linguistics arrives later, language will do its accounts with it then. How else could it be, if not in this way? That's the way the cosmos is. To function, the cosmos did not wait for (and I would pass in this way to the natural sciences, showing that science is theoretically - methodologically - one) the reflection of, I don't know, Galileo, Kepler etc.. The life of the cosmos doesn't care about our discussions or preferences about the circle or the ellipse. The cosmos lives and that's all, and it has always been this way, before and after (it is to presume) our thought. All the more so because, as anticipated, it isn't the cosmos (reality) that is directly studied by science. Reality, in itself, isn't really seen by science. Kant knew this already, not to mention the Greek sophists (but with them, in this respect, one must take care), when he spoke of his noumena. I would like, however, to stay closer to us and the extent to which epistemological reflection of our century came to be more solidly recognized, to Heisenberg, for example. Physics, Heisenberg tells us, does not directly describe an electron, an electron in itself, but only the image of the electron that our instruments give us (Heisenberg 1955, p.  42). Nothing else. And who can't see here too the schema of the ruminator in common with the human sciences. The function of conceptually defining the world from a certain point of view unfolds, in the example of the human sciences, from language (don't forget that the definition of the world changes with the changing of language) and here unfolds from the instruments of physics, or better, from physics-considered-at-the-level-of-its-instruments, synthetic practice, producer of definitions of the world still inexistent and so not still science, but ethical practice equal to every other activity of life at its primary level, that is, at the level of itself in as much life. Not the ruminating cow, then, to continue with my image, just the grazing cow and nothing more. And which is, in physics, the ruminating cow? What, in physics, is the equivalent of linguistics? Still physics itself, but no longer considered at the level of its instruments, but at the level in which it takes consciousness of that which it, through its instruments, has produced. Taken from analytic consciousness, in principle, no longer modifying. How else could it be, if not like this? If it continued to modify it would descend to the level of its instruments (it would return as the grazing cow), confusing one level with the other. It is only at this level that physics, and with it every other natural science, becomes science, in no way different from those said to be human.

            And it is here that science comes to find itself, in actuality, beyond the arrows of those who want to make it the cause of all the evils in our world. These faults do not lie with science, but with technique. It is technique that works with the world and often makes it guided by morals (by value systems) that have nothing to do with those implied by science. In contrast to what many think, I think that morality is completely deducible from science, and what's more, that this is the morality which is the most saving for man.

What do you want? It's well-known: man is not born a scientist. A scientist he may become and, if he becomes one, he does it late. I mean when his childhood is already gone and he has been, to say it as Lorenz does, morally imprinted by value systems that are- presumably- political, religious, or of another type, but in general pre or a-scientific. Here's the point: often the morality of the scientist isn't that which is implied by the science that he practices and any evils are to attribute to the former rather than the latter. This, however, is not the place to proceed with a discussion, even minimally thorough, of the relationship between morality and science. Sending those who are interested to the book in which I concerned myself with this question (Nanni  1994, passim), we can return more strictly to our topic and add that the unity of the theoretical structure of science, of which I am speaking, appears evident if, within linguistics, you isolate just how much phonology does. Think about it! Freed from the still positivist shackles of phonetics through the meritorious work of the Prague School, in the 20's and 30's and successively through the really fundamental work of L.J. Prieto, in what has Phonology designated the correct object of its analysis? No longer in the sound itself, as phonetics pretended, but in the phoneme, and the phoneme is really that species of gland where the universe of the human sciences, on one hand, and the universe of the natural sciences, on the other, can meet and do business. It has two slopes: in as much as it is a sound (some trait of the sound it necessarily conserves) it belongs on the slope of the natural sciences, but as a phoneme in the strict sense, it means in-as-much-sound-considered-in-relation-with-some-language and therefore in some image of the sound (some image, it varies with the variation of the languages) constructed, re-cut, from a language, from any one language (and I think that the analogy of that which happens to the electron is evident) it belongs on the slope of the human sciences, resulting in a single methodological scheme, based upon a togetherness of cognitive constructions (phonemes, Kant would have said), fruits of our practices (of our techniques), relations with the world. Those that I, again, call the cosmos. And, moreover, it becomes a science that no longer takes the world in itself as its direct object of study, but instead takes these cosmos constructed by our practices and, if it tells us something about the world, material or psychic as it may be, it can only tell us indirectly via conjectures whose acceptability is always measured by the guarantee of these constructed universes, that they, to reach the world in itself, must then cross. Still Kant? Yes, but with a vigorous de-metaphysicization of the transcendentals, in short, of the a priori, by now tied only to cultures, to their diversity, and to their historic mobility.

Besides, physics knows that it is science only at its analytic level, not before and not after. And not really because Aristotle already told it so, by separating it from the practical sciences (that is, technical-productive) and including it, with mathematics and metaphysics (theology), in those theoretical (don't forget that at its root "theoretic" means "to watch" and that analysis is to watch pre-eminently), but simply because in it's modern day handbooks it declares itself to be such. Remember, whoever follows me here, the recent case of Pons and Fleismann? The clamor excited around their case? Remember their alleged discovery of cold nuclear fusion? A claim not immediately illegitimate, if it's true, as it seems to be, that in their laboratory a production of energy exceeding that consumed in order to produce it did indeed happen, and a scientifically acceptable claim for whoever was unable to distinguish between physics as an ethical-productive practice (so-called technique) and physics as pure analysis (science), but still physics in as much as science knows to distinguish between them, perhaps only intuitively, but already knows to distinguish. In fact, if you go to consult its textbooks, that discovery, in as much as it is a scientific discovery, isn't there, it isn't recorded. And yet, I repeat, the phenomenon seems technically to have happened. So what impedes its entry into the textbooks? That is precisely the point: it's impeded by the fact that we still do not understand how it happened, that is, it is missing analytic illumination and as a result, we are unable to reproduce it. But this is a consequence of the analytic darkness in which it still camps out and it is this analytic darkness that impedes its access to science. Nothing else.

Good. These two different uses of thought have assumed, rigorously speaking, two different names in the field of the arts: aesthetics for the scientific use and poetics[1] for the technical-practical use. In aesthetics, Prodi said with disapproval, the role of the observer is mixed with the observable fact still more than doesn't occur for other types of "contact" with the real.(Prodi  1983, p. 9). Now, there is a twentieth century understanding of aesthetics that has refuted this confusion for some time, one that begins early in the century but that I would count, for convenience, among its latest outcomes. I refer to the identity which aesthetics is given in the new critical phenomenology. Let's take the thought of Luciano Anceschi as an emblem: not only does he follow the indicated distinction, but he makes it the focal point of ten year's work. We know. On one account there are poetics (if you want, Prodi's "linguistic modes of he who experimentally develops the field of art" and the analog of "normative linguistics" or of "language" in Saussure), practices that are legitimately definitive in a dogmatic, synthetic and productive way: ethical thought or ethical practices, in my terms. And on another account there is aesthetics. A horizon that is held solely to understand how much the field of poetics activates and variously puts into play (the works of art) and divides and among them relates according to impulses, both continuous and discontinuous, which are those in life. Art (poetics) as equivalent to life. Aesthetics as equivalent to reflection upon life. This is troublesome, even for Anceschi, to an aesthetics that contaminated itself with the ways of poetics, that is, with the production of art. It would die as aesthetics and would live simply as a poetics, among the many others, without any attempt to distinguish it. On the contrary, it is naturally their antagonist and with them in a war (legitimate at this common level) of survival. In short, it would die- and I don't see how, after so much has been said up until this point, you cannot be in agreement- as science.

Besides, from the part of scientific reflection upon art this is already known. Others, many others besides Prodi, knew and know that this distinction is necessary. Let's re-read together, for example, Roman Jakobson:

The syntactic and morphological search- he underlines- cannot be supplanted by normative grammar; in the same way, no manifesto that proclaims the tastes and personal opinions.on the creating literature can substitute itself for a scientific and objective analysis of the art of language (Jakobson 1963, p. 183).

            Here too the pronunciation is decisive. The confusion of the two points of view doesn't pay, for neither science or for poetry (for art). Here Jakobson refers in particular to the confusion between the science of art and the taste of the critic, but if in the presence of science is the intervention in that science itself of the creative taste (of the modes of art) that is stigmatized, that which Jakobson says of the critics applies all the more so to the poetics of the artists. And so thought J. Lotman and still before him J. Mukarovsky. And so, in direct line with Jakobson, thought and still thinks Umberto Eco and, with him, crowds of linguists and semiologists, all more or less notable, all more or less accomplished.

            The trouble occurs if they then, in practice, forget this and end up confounding what they would (justly) like solemnly divided. Jakobson and all of his progenies do this by surreptitiously admitting a certain taste of their own in the science of art (in aesthetics); bringing certain interests of their own, the poetics of symbolism and futurism, for that which there is of symbolist poetics in terms of attention to the language of futurism, for that which futurism brings of symbolist poetics in terms of attention to language, at the expense of, obviously, the acknowledgement rights owed to all the others[2]. Barthes does it, by introducing a metaphysic "decontingentization", in itself monolithic and non-falsifiable: a true cover, asphyxiating for art and its frayed (historic) varieties (Barthes 1965, p. 47). And so on. One could continue with endless other examples.

The indifference of artisticness to contents: the problem of indiscernible "aesthetics"

            It would be best to soberly take up our line of thought and ask ourselves if, once the connection between science and art has failed in a formal way (science has at most some relationship with aesthetics, if this manages not to confound itself with art, but it never has one with art), it is not otherwise possible to retain it in a substantial way. Let's stop ourselves here a moment.

            We have individuated "science" as a basic principle of its formal structure. We then dropped the rennet in the field of art; here we saw it conform not to art in the strict sense and the thought (the poetics) that produces it, but to reflection on art and that is, to aesthetics. Not wanting to still desist from our intent, nothing remains but the way of confrontation, the kind which is substantial: the confrontation between the contents of science and those of art; a science that, at this level, will soon go back to being the sciences, in plural. One would do well to reinforce that it is only content that differentiates one science from another, not their formal postulates which, as we saw, are always the same.

            We call a science biology if it concerns itself with life, astronomy if it concerns itself with the stars, linguistics if it concerns itself with language and so on. Many, then, are the contents to keep in mind; as many as there are existing sciences.

            Okay. But what are the contents of art? How can we seriously proceed to the relationship between them if we don't first interrogate ourselves regarding the contents specific to art alone. But do contents specific to art exist? If so, what are they? And if not, why? Let's see.

One day, at an exposition of conceptual art held at the New York Cultural Center, I happened to see- Arthur C. Danto recounts- a work that consisted of a normal table with some books on top, books on the analytic philosophy of Wittgenstein and Carnap, Ayer and Reichenbach, Tarski and Russell. Reducible, in its anonymity, to a simple work surface, it could have been a table in my study, the same books were the kind I often consulted in the area of philosophic work that I was doing.

And he continues:

A philosophical consequence of the existence of art works that are exactly like objects of common use was that the diversity between the one and the other could not consist in some presumed aesthetic difference. At one time theoreticians thought that aesthetic qualities were so similar to sensory qualities that a sense of beauty had to be the sixth sense.But just as the work of art and the real object divided every sensory quality so much so that it was impossible to distinguish one from the other solely with the help of the senses, neither was it possible to distinguish them aesthetically, since the aesthetic differences were equivalent to sensory differences (Danto 1986, pp. 7-10).

Now, gloss over the fact that in Danto's text the adjective "aesthetic" recalls not the term "aesthetics", according to the significance it has here for me, as a science of art, but at times artistic qualities, at times the simple sensory qualities, independent of their relationship with art (it is in this second sense that I cited it, the adjective, in the title of the paragraph) and then also gloss over the fact that Danto ends up responding to the problem according to an aristoteleanism of a manner that leaves things, as it seems to me, very much as they were[3], when the question is very much decided: if one table is art and a second one is not, and the tables are the same, the artisticness cannot be a function of the structure of the objects and of their sensory qualities (aesthetic, naturally, according to the root of the term). By now we know. Similar cases after Duchamp and his ready-mades are by now the order of the day in our culture, with endless equivocations. At times those equivocations are expensive for whoever falls into them. Think, for example, of the case of Duchamp's door, believed to be an old, broken door, and restored by the business that was charged with the maintenance of the locale, to the process that followed its restoration and to the heavy redress with which the Biennial Corporation was condemned. Good. If artisticness isn't a function of the structure of the objects and of their sensible qualities, of what is it a function, to what will it be tied? Well! There isn't much of a choice. If it cannot be connected to the things in themselves or in some way to the things it has to do with (the work is always just some object, if there isn't any kind of writing that negates this), it must then be tied to some certain model of use. Either within the things or without[4]: there is no escape. But what could be outside, if not their mode of use? A model of use that can even act as a reason for their same birth: I need a table and I make myself one, and I do so in the form that serves me best, if it is already made, I take it as such; I need to experience the presence of a certain work and I make it or else I withdraw it if it is already made as I want it, and so on. A model of use delegates artisticness (cultivation of the world according to a certain idea of art), in short a poetics, that could also then, given its necessities, pretend to give attention to sensible qualities of things, but at its own will, as its choice, in the second stroke, and never obligatorily.

            The objection that this truth applies only to conceptual art is not convincing. On the contrary, it is convincing for the opposing suspicion and that is the suspicion that conceptual art makes bare the constitutive principle of art in general, the principle that always wants art to be historically constructed by some culture, that always wants, to say it better, art to be the fruit of artistic cultivation of the world by any one poetic, within and for a determined space-time and tied to that space-time in life and death.

            This is a principle all the more valid in that it is not only conceivable on the basis of the construction of art, but also of the identity of our things in general.

            There is no content, then, which belongs solely to art. The art of the 20th century demonstrates for itself and for the past that any content can enter, inter-subjectively speaking, in the house of art: from Alessandro Manzoni's Promised Spouses to Piero Manzoni's Shit of the Artist, from a symphony by Mahler to a ventral poem by Adriano Spatola, to the sounds of Cage's chairs. No content can be, in principle, excluded from art. And this isn't only a post-structuralist or post-modern truth, that is to say, where it indubitably triumphs (I'm thinking of Danto and Fish) against the ideological structuralism (a poetics employed by force and masked as science, as aesthetics) of the past years, it is a much vaster theoretical truth with deep roots. In the aesthetics of the twentieth century it's found in Mukarovsky (the good theory, naturally)[5] and in general, it's even in the theory of Plato; the Plato that deals with the triumph of use, naturally. Remember: whose is the art of making saddles? Not the saddler, but the horse-rider. Whose is the art of making good lyres? Not the builder of lyres, but the lyrist, he that plays it[6]. It's a great truth that, historicized in its models (from the metaphysics of history to practice) explains, as it seems to me, many things, even if condemned to emerge always and only in periods of crisis, when for some reason or another, the captains of ideology are no longer able, as in this moment, to smolder it with their suffocating ashes.

            Conclusion: how to propose, in terms of content as well, the relationships between art and science? It is impossible to do so if not by way of insignificance: the world is their communal content, that's as to say nothing, but that the world isn't as much a content as a horizon of all possible contents, employed or not in art and in science.

            All of this is theoretically and only theoretically speaking, because from the historical point of view things are put differently.

            In fact, it's well-known that many artists left (or leave) themselves to be influenced by the discoveries (by contents) of any one science as well as by the rational proceedings of science tout court in the production of their works and, viceversa, it's known that scientists let themselves be guided by poetics in the construction of their theories, but this doesn't carry weight or, better, doesn't re-enter in that which my text provides for: scientists and artists can draw their materials from wherever, we saw, but this isn't the level in which, I repeat, art and science as such construct themselves. The drawn material will end up or not end up in science or in art according to its modalities of use. In any case, my homework here is not to show these historical exchanges. And besides, they are infinite.

            Empirical subject vs functional subject

This distinction is also fundamental. It is a distinction that even Prieto thematized (Prieto 1985) in the opposition between numeric identity and specific identity, according to which my specifier function of artisticness is interpreted as a function by which a poetic proposes the artisticness of its objects. To conceal this distinction means to predispose it to continuous relapses into the hypothesizing of the phenomic essence, in the indebted extension of the partial truths to total truth, in one word into ideology, a lethal monster for whoever seeks to do science correctly. I would like to explain myself with an example, or better, with an anecdote.

            One beautiful day (to say it with manzonian memory) I was in my study, peacefully attending to my work, when, after knocking, a young man entered who presented himself as a police officer and politely invited me to take part in their annual convention. To my explanation that, being a teacher of aesthetics, I would not have known what to recount to them, he responded that he knew my books and that, if I wanted to, I would certainly be able to find something interesting also for them. Spurred on by his admiration, I accepted and began right away to interrogate myself on a topic I could discuss, still remaining in the environment pertinent to the police. I have to say that the affair wasn't going very well: the more the deadline advanced the more I fumbled in the dark. I just didn't know what I would go to say, until one morning, opening the newspaper in a café, I miraculously came upon my salvation. In the newspaper there was the following announcement: "Esteemed professor of letters arrested because he sequestered his wife." It was done! I would go to propose this brain-teaser to the police. How to go about arresting the husband, guilty of pernicious jealousy, while still leaving the esteemed professor of letters free, who hadn't any trace of guilt, on the contrary was full of merits for his work? So, this was what I discussed and from it came a debate which some still remember. Every arrest is always exaggerated, since you arrest a body, but the guilty is always and only a functional subject, a body not in absolute but in relation to some practice. A body can enter in different practices and language does not nominate the body but the identity that the body acquires through the practices in which it engages; professor in relation to scholars, husband in relation to wife, father in relation to children etc. etc..

            Now, to what end have I recounted this story? Here it is: whatever they may tell you, our language never nominates bodies (objects) by themselves, in absolute, but the identity that these bodies have within some practice. It it's not for nothing that at one time the verb, the action, was said to be the fundamental part of discourse. In principle there are not things, there are relations and we nominate the latter, not the former: always. And if at times it seems to us, in relationship with some term, to be just the contrary, this occurs because we have lost the recollection of that term's roots. But where the roots are reachable this truth always finds confirmation. We'll see that it is a devastating truth for the running idea of art as well.

            The bottle-rack (and we are still at indiscernibles, one of the most famous) is not a bottle-rack in itself, but only within a practice, in relation to the person racking the bottles (besides, what indicates its supposed name if not this practice?). Beyond this practice such an object loses its name and regresses into a mere thing[7]. Why be surprised then if, entering in relation with an art gallery and no longer set in a wine cellar, it acquires the identity of a work of art and will be appreciated for its form, its color, etc.?

            Such wonder or scandal is the fruit of two conjectures resulting from our occidental tradition. One is the result of an erroneous conviction, of biblical origin, that language does not nominate practices, but things, the essence of things. The other, of a metaphysical order, is due to the fact that where there is one essence there cannot be another. If someone pretends to put another one there he is undoubtedly a mystifier of the truth. It is completely natural then that it is difficult to accept a bottle-rack as a work of art, but we need to row against such difficulty. Artisticness is a function (a relation) in which, if desired by some culture, anything may enter. There are not artistic things and objects by nature, as we have already seen by interrogating ourselves regarding the contents of art. And then let's not forget Pascal: that which here is just, there is unjust; that which here is beautiful, there is ugly, and so on.

Communication as auto-communication

So-called communication, if it must be deconstructed, reveals itself to be merely auto-communication, and art today distinguishes itself from that communication not on the basis of the running opposition between anomalous communication (that of art) and communication in its own sense, but on the basis of the opposition between polysemic evocation and monosemic evocation[2]. It's necessary, however, not to get ahead of ourselves.

            Let's see: we'll depart from any dictionary whatsoever, from something that is shared, I mean. Let's read. Communication: the act of communicating. Let's see to communicate then: to transmit thoughts. To transmit thoughts, the so-called message. Fine: our conviction, apparently so convincing, is, scientifically speaking, unsustainable, let's even say it's false. Surprised? Good: let's deconstruct it then, slowly, and we'll see why.

            Let's suppose that I turn to my interlocuter and tell him, oh I don't know, the word "eagle". Does an eagle perhaps come out of my mouth? Certainly not. But there is still more: does the concept of the eagle perhaps come out of my mouth? Not even. I don't see how anyone could not be in agreement here. From my mouth, rigorously speaking, an eagle in flesh and bone does not come out, but neither does the thought of one. No concept (no message) passes in the course of my communication from the transmitter to the receiver. From my mouth a physical process activates itself; it produces a sound that reaches the ear of the receiver and nothing more. All of the rest is done by the receiver himself. It is the receiver that, having heard the physical signal, draws the concept of "eagle" from his, let's say, mental concept store, and ties it to the physical signal that he received, thereby constructing the sign. I don't send the sign to him if he constructs it by himself: it is the receiver that communicates to himself that which I intended to communicate to him. How he then manages to reconstruct in his mind, alone, the sign that I had already constructed alone in my own mind is something that science insists be explained, if possible. The proof of the miraculous happening is only to be had a posteriori. It is by the behavior of the receiver that I realize communication occurred, not before. If I ask someone for a pen and he brings it to me, I have proof that by ourselves we have each constructed the same sign. There are no other certainties and, in absence of such factual proofs, ambiguities, as I think everyone well knows, are always possible. In the absence of such operative comparisons who can ever be certain that the other person hasn't misunderstood, hasn't associated different thoughts with the same physical stimulus? There are misunderstandings, at times, that remain hidden for years and are then revealed casually, we all know, perhaps by a slip of the tongue. These would be impossible events if communication were that passage of concepts and thoughts that it is commonly thought to be. And then, passage of thoughts! If we were in the presence of a real thought transmission, what need would there be to speak? Isn't it to silence that thought transmission is usually associated, for example by a magician?  And the fact that we do speak is therefore the most obvious proof that when we speak we are not transmitting any thoughts to others. Some philosophers, faced with this mystery, have sought the guarantees of a third party: nature (Innatism), God, etc.. But these are the things of metaphysical philosophers. Completely dignified, but, precisely, belonging to metaphysicians. For science, for critical philosophy, it suffices to arrive at the mystery (if obviously it is not able to convincingly resolve it) so that each person can then fill it with that which they believe.

            As far as I am concerned, I think I have already given a scientific explanation of such a phenomenon and I send my reader, if interested in pursuing such a question, to the book in which I occupy myself with finding an answer: there you will also find considerations regarding the ridiculousness of a return to the notion of a code to escape the problem (Nanni 2002, pp147-186).

            In communication then there is no transmission of concepts, but as I try to demonstrate in the book I just cited, only evocation (auto-evocation) of concepts already present and communal. Nothing else.

It is commonly held that the presupposition of true communication is the departure of the speakers from different worlds and experiences. This conviction clearly follows the theory of communication as transmission, passage of concepts (of different experiences) from one to the other and vice versa. It's said: you don't need communication where the difference between experiences of the world is abolished, because it is this difference that is at the bottom of every communicative need. Fine. If this theory if false, as I am here sustaining, this fact cannot verify itself. Different experiences can never be put in common. Communication, generally understood as the putting in common of something between people of diverse cultures, cannot pass for simple discourse, but for experience. New experiences that are made together can put people of different cultures in "communication", not simple dialogue that departs from their diversity. If desired, you can "communicate" a certain experience (a certain concept) to someone who is not aware of it, but only by analogous approximation, which does not quite falsify the principle of communication understood as evocative auto-communication, since it only evokes knowledge already possessed with which the receiver can attempt to construct, we'll say, a meta-knowledge, corresponding conjecturally to that which the emitter is attempting to transmit to him, to "communicate" to him. Rigorously speaking, a discourse functions, "communicates", if it evokes something that is already in common, but it absolutely cannot create something. Extra-community members and Europeans will really communicate among themselves by living together and having the same experiences. And, here we mean, at and only at this level, and if the levels of different experiences separately made beforehand are not cogent enough they will reverberate deleteriously on the new ones until they drain them of sense. Monosemic evocations in practical discourse; polysemic evocations today, in art.

Why is art polysemic only today? Was it not, perhaps, conceived in such a way also in the past? Looking back at the third canticle , didn't Dante already remember, in the Middle Ages, that you could read it in different ways, in short that a polysemic life was theorized for it? Of course. Dante said as much, but the polysemism of which he spoke was not indefinitely open like that of art today. We know. You're talking about a polysemism on two levels (and then divided into four) and that's all. Still a closed polysemism and thus substantially a monosemism. Four levels of significance associated with the work by its own author and four levels, those same ones, that the reader is held to reconstruct on his own in his mind. Not one more. In short, a palace with four floors and not just one, but always still a palace.

This is a sum of the polysemically open function is fraught with implications, in art today and in all other directions. It is functional polysemism, because it is the fruit not of the structure of the work (even the most simple work is open to endless interpretation), but of the art-place and, you understand, in the art-place anything can enter and by now has entered.

The constitutive power of places

            The power of the art-place was alluded to. Let's look more closely at the power of this place and of places in general. What is the role of places (of cafes, the theater, etc.) in the process of signification? Do they have their own role? It seems to me that they do and you may have intuited that this role is fundamental.

            I would say that a good start to what it is that I want to say regarding the topic indicated by the title is construed from that which happened a few years ago to the famous Italian-American gallery manager, Castelli. In remembering it, not long after his disappearance, Claudio Magris avails himself, I don't remember in which journal - I believe in the <<Corriere della sera>> - of an anecdote that examines the event in order to make some remarks on contemporary art in general. What happened to Castelli that is so potentially emblematic? He had organized a collective of odor, first of paint, that was closed to public entrance, because of the possible offense to the common sense of decency on the part of some of the present artists' works. What to do? Renounce the show or defy the authorities? He decided to take the middle road: the show was to be had, but as concerns the paint, the public was to find itself in front of paintings in mourning, completely covered with black canvas. How does one put this: look at the end to which censure compels us, it bars one from seeing these works and it practically kills them. At the open show Castelli met with a huge surprise: the public did not perceive the show as a protest, but thought that those paintings (the works covered with black canvas) were the works in exposition and they contemplated them ecstatically, even going so far as to take notes. Magris, forced to the debate by other interventions, couldn't escape the suspicion that a thread of deception and mystification was present in contemporary art. At a certain point in the debate Eco also involves himself, who, in one of his famous busts of Minerva (Espresso), says: I wasn't consulted, but I would permit myself to say my own. And what does he say? He says that by now we must find normal enough, after Duchamp and his Bottle-rack, the possibility of artistic experimentation upon objects that were not produced with artistic intention. What did Duchamp do? Duchamp took, as it's called, the Bottle-rack and he displaced it, he simply moved it, from the store to the art gallery. We'll say that this object became art simply because, as we saw, it changed place, even if it underwent not a single modification at the structural level. So, Eco says, after this gesture it should be easy enough for any thing to live artistically, he even says that if real objects provoke in us the same pleasure that their picture could give us, for example, if a sackcloth canvas gives me the same pleasure as a painted sackcloth canvas, the true mystification would be to paint it and to not allow the real object to live artistically. It's just that, in doing so, my friend Eco, with whom I've discussed these things for twenty years (Nanni 1991, passim), does not explain the problem to me, he does not explain Castelli's stupor. Would you like to think that Castelli wasn't familiar with Duchamp? Would you like to think that Castelli, who was one of the major diffusers of avantguard art for three quarters of the twentieth century was not acquainted with the poetics of Duchamp? The problem is that, despite the fact that he was familiar with this, he was still astonished. At the bottom of things, Eco gives him and us a bit of advice: don't be astonished- he seems to say it obviously from a spacial and temporal distance- remember, there is this, there was Duchamp. But this is an ethical piece of advice, that is to say, it is a piece of advice regarding behavior. However, what is interesting to me (and I think also to all of us) is a theoretic explanation; I am interested in knowing what could have been the cause of Castelli's astonishment, in spite of his knowledge of the poetics of Duchamp.

            The cause, it seems to me, is the ignorance we have regarding the power of places. Unconsciously, we think that places are neutral, when instead places have a strong, autonomous formative power that is, in general, more powerful than the formative power of the individuals that inhabit them. Why is it important to insist upon place? Castelli knew the poetics of twentieth century art, but he was evidently in the dark about the formative power of the place that he directed: the art gallery in itself was enough to propose something as art to the public. The public place (the art gallery is a public place: it can be the property of somebody in particular, but all can enter it) is a physical entity, a signifier, to say it as Saussure would, that, as such, goes back to a signification, to a convention, that is ours. Place is, then, more powerful than single entities, because it represents that which transverses all single entities. What else do we intend to say each time that we use the expression "this thing or this behavior is out of place," if not just that which I am saying? In a culture, places are historical epochs. In the medieval age, the relationship between a work and its consumer obeyed a completely different set of rules than those which regulate that relationship today. Closed polysemism (then) and open polysemism (today). And inside of these cultural places, that we could call epistemic, there are semiotic places, in short the places to which is delegated the homework of activating the rules of use of the signs stabilized by that same culture (the art museum, the café today, the inn in medieval times etc.).

            That places have such a power to constitute sense is soon told. I could start placing all the cards on the table and that, having little space, is possible only by making recourse to that which Kant called an intuition and that here, more generally, one prefers to call an example, even if strange, of a possible world. Let's take the phrase (the question) "May I have an espresso?" It is an example to which I often return in order to say as much as, in this case, I want to say.

            Let's suppose that an alien lands on our planet (and precisely in our country: as in others the given question is not quite so widespread) and that, straightaway he takes possession of our vocabulary and of all its rules of use, and soon he too wants to formulate the question that will allow him to taste that strange thing we call espresso. In order to obtain the espresso, would it be enough for him to simply complete the double selection (the double choice, the double determination) of the five syllables - four from the words and one from the interrogative intonation - with the rule (of the many) that guides their union (in this case: pronoun + verb + article etc.) within the indeterminate field of vocabulary and its rules?[3] Evidently not, and I think that here we are all in agreement. In fact, to the end of obtaining this blessed espresso, it will be necessary that such preparation of the language occurs inside a café or, if you want - I concede - in any other place, but not, for example, on a stage, in the middle of a recital. Imagine the surprise of our alien in the case that he had indeed asked for an espresso in such a place? No one would get up to bring it to him and even if a café employee did happen to be present among the public to get up and bring the espresso, no one would be able to realistically imagine such an event. Meanwhile most everyone would feel an irresistible impulse to laugh at him (it's a classic situation in the error of place) and then if our alien by any chance drank the espresso, no one (the height of the joke) would think that he really drank an espresso, but that he merely recited the "drinking" of an espresso and nothing more. To his great surprise our alien would realize that to really possess a language it is not enough to merely possess the vocabulary and combinatory code (grammar and syntax), but that the conventions (the meta-codes, we'll say) of use are also required: only these are capable of making language a language, as much in the non-referential sense as in the referential one (monosemic, in the narrow sense).

            There is no language without syntactic-grammatical execution of vocabulary. Weinrich is right: the syntactic-grammatical execution can pass on the meaning of terms, from the ample, the vague, the social, the abstract elements of a word, from the undetermined to the determined of the circumscribed intention, the precision, the individualization of the concreteness (Weinrich 1976, passim), but it is the a priori of institutions (of places), where such an execution happens, that tells us what we must then do to make such a determined execution, in what sense we must then use it

Often, linguists and semiologists, have believed and still believe that they talk about language without concerning themselves with pragmatics, so that a few of them (eco, for example,1975, passim), by introducing also this event in their horizon of analysis, do not think that they concern themselves, and finally for the first time, with language, but simply that they have the merit to introduce an ulterior advancement in a field of research, not thought until that moment senseless, but already sensible and only to be perfected.

Well, the example of our alien tells us that it is not like this and that is a result of the attention brought to the pragmatics of art. That which happens to the alien in the theater is clearly a function of the theater and not of the phrase "May I have an espresso?", which remains the same in content and in intonation, but then why shouldn't that which happens to signs in a café, or any other place of instrumental or practical communication comparable to that of the café, be a function of the café? Without the theater (without the gallery etc.) and without the café it's not that the pragmatic level of the language would be missing, the language itself would be missing. Without these places there would not be semantics and, therefore, neither would there be "significations", if it is true that only in relationship with a given signified are significations said to be such.

To not concern oneself with this matter, like linguists and semiologists have often done, does not necessarily mean (I concede) to not be aware of it, to not know of it, but it can mean a reduction of all "communicative" pragmatics into those of the café and this, given its invariance, becomes a superfluous judgment with which to be concerned. A little bit like that which happens in astronomy with the noise at the bottom of the big bang. But, we've seen, the art-places introduce a different "noise". And thus interrogations regarding the formative modalities of places, when desiring to seriously be concerned about "communication", just cannot be evaded. When I telephone my wife I don't feel the need to specify every time I call that I am calling her from earth. Since I am unable to be in any other place, it's just not necessary. But, were I able to be on another planet, I think that the specification would not only be opportune, but also necessary. So it is for the analysis of "communication" after having examined what also happens in art. That which happens in art recuperates in feedback the places of so-called daily communication, asking us to problematize them: what is their formative code? What is that, a different one, of art-places?

Semiotic places are, then, the principle exchangers within auto-communication: a polysemic direction, today, for art in general and a monosemic direction, for the café and for every other type of "communication" that is not artistic. Still always auto-communication, never communication as it is more generally taken.

Of course, you can refute the power of places, but in only one way: by cutting out the objects that perhaps by mistake have ended up within, or else by specifying them in some way, with a label or other, variously. Not by negating the power, but only by constraining it to exercise itself on nothing. It has happened: a couple of years ago, in Kassel, in the show Documenta (Document), the gallery-manager of Stoccarda, Hans Jurgen Mueller, had prepared a pavilion on the lawn in front of the museum, between kiosks of wuerstel, pizza by the slice and turkey skewers, that was dedicated to ecological art and called by the symbolic name of Atlantis. The night of the inaugural vigil some unknown persons set it on fire, but the first visitors, passing in front of the still smoking Atlantis thought that it was just another work on exposition, roasted with style. The ecologist Hans Jurgen protested in a long demonstration again the work of the vandals, but few people paid him any attention. For whoever didn't see the notice the work continued to be art.

The identity of criticism

At times the term "criticism" is used as a synonym of "aesthetics" or "poetics" and in that case all that which up until this point was said of these two practices also applies to this term. If, on the other hand, it is used to indicate the practice that directly "reads" a work of art with the goal of producing a certain interpretation, and is thus used as a synonym of "fruition", then it indicates a practice that does not have an autonomous identity. Its identity will be closely tied to the mobile identity of the work of art. In an epoch in which convention desires that a work remain a fact of monosemic auto-communication, criticism cannot do anything but configure itself as a correct practice of de-codification of the work itself, of evocation of the significations of which its author thought, it is thus analytic and secondary. In fact, in the medieval age, criticism as we conceive of it did not exist: it was unthinkable. Commentary on the work existed and in that commentary there was not that creativity that criticism legitimately connotes today and that is in the sight of everyone. But this change of identity was made possible for criticism because the work itself changed its identity within our culture. Today the work of art,  while originating as a sign tied to a certain poetics and therefore monosemic as regards that same poetics, functions next within the collective consciousness as if it were not a sign at all, thanks to a langue all its own - a langue of use, naturally - annulling every critical process of "de-codification" and authorizing criticism to practice according to a process of pertinentization, both plural and constrained, that makes that same work a simple "material object", in the Prietan sense naturally (Prieto 1975, passim) and therefore a non-decidable entity (it doesn't matter if it is physical or just mental, if it "autographs" to say it in terms that are in fashion today), and the primary and synthetic practice of the polyverse signification of criticism. There are no signifieds which are already made within the work before the critical relationship: its signifieds hide within this relationship, including the relation that the work may entertain with the interpretation that its author gives. The artist, interpreting his work, activates the critical function (on the basis of the principle of functional subjects; rigorously speaking he is no longer an artist, but a critic and as such is also subject to the rules of criticism); an interpretation that will be one of the many that are possible, no more or less valuable than any other.

            If you'll go along with my image, I could paragon the work of art, today, to a stage in the dark and the critical paradigms- the cultural systems put in the field to interpret the work- to different "cow's eyes" (spot lights) capable of seeing its different parts and its different levels of reality, among themselves often immeasurable. In this way, with logical knowledge (paradigms) that which there is in the work of logic will be illuminated, with linguistic knowledge that which there is of linguistics, with semiotic knowledge that which there is of semiotics, with "aspectual" knowledge, to still say it as Genette would, the aspectual that there is in the work (the aesthetic); with political knowledge that which there is of the political, with sentimental knowledge that which there is of the sentimental (of the emotional) etc. etc., naturally without the loss of the cognitive value of all of these reading keys, not even of those closest to sensibility and affectivity. Who by now can think of an affectivity released from the cultural system in which it explicates itself! I think that no one who has even a minimum of anthropological understanding can do so. One does not suffer nor love nor rejoice etc. by nature, but by virtue of culture and if culture puts by its own the nature in shape, the cognitive level is pervasive and everywhere. Naturally, if all of these levels of reality are present in the work (no cow's eye can look upon a stage and see an actor who isn't there), I wish to pacify those who see the possibility of anarchy in this discourse, for whose tranquility I concern myself somewhere else to show that not all interpretations are valid and to indicate the inter-subjective criteria of acceptability (Nanni 1994, pp.169-210).

The relationships between intentions of singles are always mediated by those of the collective

The intentions of and among single individuals are never free to explicate themselves sic et simpliciter in public, nor to directly influence the others. If they do, it always happens with the permission of some collective behavioral model. Who among us, at times during the holidays, wouldn't love, for example, to go out completely nude? But, here and now - in our actual culture - you cannot. You can only do so in a nudist camp, according to rules set by collectivity. Good; this truth so evident, even banal, is in general, who knows why, forgotten when one thinks and speaks of communication. Who knows why it's thought that, in communication, the intention of the individual has to arrive at the receiver directly, passing through that which stands in between, and that is the collective consciousness, without undergoing any refraction. In the meantime a first refraction is always given by the language chosen as a means. It's not my intention to speak only with he who knows the Italian language, my intention would be to speak of the entire world, but this is not conceded to me. I must choose a language and the chosen Italian language not only allows others to recuperate, if they do recuperate, my discourse according to the "Italian language" collective model, impeding me from saying that which in the Italian language is inexpressible, but also according to the collective "essay" form- I mean according to the model of practical discourse- which has rules completely different from the "story" or "poetry" model, in short, from the "art" model. If I hope that my readers will go to the trouble of recuperating in their minds exactly that which is in mine the moment in which I am writing, that is not due to any given of nature or to any metaphysical powers of my mind as a speaker, but yet again to a collective legitimization. It is the inscription of my discourse in the model of the practical discourse that gets the receiver to look for that which I am saying and I as the speaker legitimately hope that this happens. Nothing more. It is enough to consider what happens on that point in the "art" model for us to become aware of this. In art, the artist today no longer comes out as the only proprietor of the signification of his work. His interpreting intention becomes one of the many possible, as I said, neither more or less valuable than the others. He remains the philological proprietor of his work (no one can cut a single line from his poem or, I don't know, cut a piece from one of his paintings or from one of his ready-mades - in such a case the artist would have the law on his side), but he is no longer neither epistemic proprietor (in a case against a critic who doesn't think as he does - this has already happened - he would get the worst). But there is still more: not only does he not come out the proprietor of the critical signification of his work, but he does not even become the proprietor of its artistic identity. A fact which does not in any way mean that his work can lose its artistic identity. It will remain such in the world of whoever proposes it as such, we'll say in his poetics of reference, even if it is unable to be seen as such by different poetics. Only an idea of art that is both metaphysical and a-historical could sustain the contrary, but it would do so according to dogma that would have nothing to do with the above mentioned distinction between empirical subject and functional subject, that is to say with science. It would do so on the basis of the taste of some partial poetics undeservedly (ideologically) made to rise to the level of science.

Basso Pierluigi asks: is that you don't collide with Kosuth when he sustains that his objective is to communicate to the public a theoretic proposition on art, independently of the medium and the expressive material used, so much so that in the end telepathy.would be the favored communication of conceptual art? In such a case shouldn't Kosuth bring to light the opposition between ordinary communication and art put in the field by Nanni? (Basso 2002, pp. 137).

And soon after, substituting himself for me, he responds:

The Italian aesthetician could sustain that from the procedural point of view the propositions of Kosuth will be artwork if they are registered or executed within an artistic institution (or in a café if they are given the label "art") while, whether he (Kosuth) likes it or not, his works will be seen polysemically (Basso 2002, p. 137).

Well, yes. If I had to respond, I would respond in more or less the same way, at least on the plane of the identity of Kosuth's work at the level of collective poetics, not of his own private poetics, where his work will continue to have the identity that Kosuth desires, in confirmation of what has already been said up until this point regarding both the relationships between intentions of singles in light of those of collectives, and the distinction between empirical and functional subjects, and without necessarily deriving from this the consequences that Basso finds and that my readers can go directly to read about in his book, fruit more of reading gaps or of the oblivion of the reading than of the always possible (God forbid! They are very possible, given what I think of communication) misunderstandings. Misunderstandings and mis-readings are even present in Basso's book, in a form- I suspect, unfortunately- that is often guiltless. In fact, in his book I feel a certain air of family (the terms "baptize" for "perform", "intention culturae" etc. are more of my own than of others) that in some way honors me, but that, at the same time, naturally sharpens the scrupulousness with which I take him in consideration, let us say, as my reader (from a reader that appears attentive one expects much more than from others!). In fact, how much of the "unthought" about these problems and those connected to communication in general, that he suspects I would like to make them understand (I say "them", since it is Basso himself who uses the pronoun "us"), I have to say that his self-involvement in my discourse denounces, I'm afraid, his guilty consciousness, since I explicitly send my considerations to whoever is not aware of them- and I am at the first of his reading gaps that comes to my mind- , not to whoever is already familiar with them and if Basso believes to be in this category, why does he come between and he is then surprised? He wouldn't want to impede me from telling to one who doesn't know the things that he claims to know. And particularly if in the world there is still somebody that does not know these, well-known, things (and they are millions, so that I make, as it can also be seen here, reference to the definition of communication that circles in our most well-known vocabularies), this means that not even "they", who know these things, were able to tell them, and so why shouldn't I do it? Well! Basso reminds me of certain professors, of which Italo Svevo spoke, that knew exactly all that they knew, without minimally suspecting/imaging the presence of abysses beneath their such apparently exhaustive notional membrane. I think that Basso knows exactly what he claims to know and, in this total peace of mind, he proceeds in "reading" the diverse. If it was different, he would refrain from making a joke of a tragedy (2002, p. 171, note 8). "It is difficult to accept- he says- such an auto-communication". What can we reply? Even for my grandfather it was difficult to accept the rotundity of the earth (he did not understand how inhabitants of the opposite part of the earth did not feel like they were upside down), but that doesn't change the fact that, sic stantibus rebus, it is true. Surely, this is not a good start for a young student that I imagine, given the ground upon which he moves, projects his own future to be within science. The a-critical defense of taken parties, if can please friends or teachers of his own school, has little do with the search for the truth. Among the various causes of the eventual auto-elimination of humanity from earth this mechanism of auto-communication could even be the first. Different/far from putting it in caricatures. It's better to become aware of this and, following the wake of some thinkers of the past that did not close their eyes on this, pretty fast too, trying afterwards all together to run for cover. But that's it! This is the way the world still goes on its hills and, unfortunately, I am afraid to say, this will always be: until it will last, it will go this way.

In art history nothing exists but ready-mades

            On the basis of that which has been asserted here, all works of art are ready-mades. Rigorously speaking, the artist is not he who materially produces a work (the artisan), but he who, once the work has been produced, proposes an artistic usage for it, activates its specifier function of artisticness. It is, therefore, unimportant whether the work is already made by others, as in the case of Duchamp's Bottle-rack, or the artist makes the work himself (who outside of analytic correctness we call the artist), since in this phase of production the artist isn't an artist at all, but an artisan. The artist becomes an artist only in the moment in which his product activates the specifier function of artisticness, in short the baptism of art. From this point of view, what is a truth in so-called conceptual art regarding the constitution of art is bared, that isn't only true of conceptual art, but hidden in all the art of every time period. Don't forget: bodies (empirical subjects or "extrafunctional invariants" as you currently say in a certain French area today) are never in play, but are always functional (functional subjects), and the terms (the language) always have to do with the latter and never with the former. And that naturally applies to all the arts, literature and music comprised.

            The body of the work and its artistic identity do not simply make- and you'll pardon my play of words- a body. They have a different analytic identity. As a body a work can cross confines and live within different cultures, but it's never said in these passages that it will obligatorily carry with it the artistic identity with which it departed. Considered art in culture A, it may not remain as such in culture B or C and so on.history offers much to confirm this. And, if this is as true as it seems, science must derive all of its consequences. The most important of which appears to me to be exactly that of necessarily considering all works of art to be ready-mades. A work and artisticness are thought of as analytically separate. Artisticness can inhabit or abandon the work at its pleasure (at the pleasure of some poetics, of a certain culture, single or collective as it may be). Only a blindly obtuse and dogmatically ideological ethnocentrism could sustain the contrary, but for some time now similar ethnocentrisms have been expelled from the bowels of any science that wants to call itself correct.

                [1] De Saussure F. (1962, p. 9). Is the "disinterest" to which Saussure indissolubly ties the gaze of science perhaps something different from the external eye? From the analytic eye? I should think not. Think: dis-interest (separation from interest). And, what's more, interest= inter-est (to be within) And so disinterest= a separation from being within, a not-being within, and what else could that mean but to be outside?

                [2] Remember Jakobson's principle of artisticness: "The principle of equivalence removed from the axis of selection to the axis of combination". Good. Let's submit it, for example, to the trial of Bridgman's operative thought (Bridgman 1927, passim). It is not an unworthy mode of control: the signified of a term is given by the combination of operations that it implicates. The signified of the term "fire" is given by all of the operations that we can do with fire. Well, take the theory of Jakobson and with it try to produce literary texts: they will come out as just poems in the style of Mallarmé or Hopkins. Not in the style of Leopardi, or Dante. Perhaps a little bit of Baudelaire and a little of Marinetti will appear, but we are always there: just between symbolism and futurism. This is the legitimate explicative horizon of Jakobson's principle, not that of poetry (art) in general, as it pretends.

                [3] Ibidem, pp. 209-210. It isn't that Danto doesn't see that which, as it seems to me, would be the correct response and that is: the table in question, if "normally utilized"- in Danto's words- is an object of use, if, instead, it is utilized as art (and thus according to the cultural model that a given epoch has regarding the function of something as art) it is art. He sees the response, he also speaks of it, but as lapsus. Saussure affirms that often it is easier to see the truth than to put it in its correct place. That's just it. It seems to me that this happens even to Danto: he has the correct solution in his hand, but he doesn't realize it and so cannot fully address all of the consequences that he would need to address in order to give this truth all the weight it deserves.

[4] Material or mental (psychic) as they may be.

[5] I usually distinguish a good Mukarovsky (though prevalent in the totality of his thought) as the attentive culturalist who very much realizes that the identity of things is not a function of the things themselves, but of the cultural models that, according to their respective needs, produce and re-signify the things, from a "bad" Mukarovsky who, when put on the spot, is not able to liberate himself from Jakobson's aesthetic, dogmatic and naïve realism.

[6] If the saddler makes good saddles this is because he keeps within him, in his mind, the knowledge of a horse-rider; and for no other reason. Whoever uses it (the horse-rider) Plato says, holds the true science of the task; whoever constructs it (the saddler) holds instead just "belief," he believes that which the horse-rider tells him. That is, of course, what a knowledgeable horse-rider tells him.

[7] "Thing" is one of the terms which our language uses (another is, for example, "gadget") to indicate that which still does not have a name or, if it already has one, to separate it from that name, perhaps in anticipation of giving it another one.

Notes on the translation:

[1] I have used the term "poetics" to translate from the Italian word "poetica." "Poetica", in Italian, is a term used to delineate the ideas and theories that drive a specific work of art, an artist or an entire artistic movement.

[2] "Polysemic" and "monosemic" will be used to correspond to the Italian terms "polisemico" and "monosemico." They mean, respectively: poly-semic, having more than one meaning or interpretation; and mono-semic, having just one meaning, or interpretation.

[3]  Nanni's remarks regarding the grammatical combination of phrases apply to the Italian phrase, "Mi dà un caffè?" Though the English translation of the phrase contains more than five syllables, the idea is the same: in any language, the correct combination of syllables and an understanding of grammatical construction is not enough for the alien to secure his desired espresso. He must also take into account the right place and time in which to make his request.


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