10 / 10 / 2016


The Question: How (from your experience and perspective) do artistic practices create public sphere?

The first thing we must do to answer this question is situate the concept of public sphere. If we understand it as the original Habermasian concept, we encounter the problem that it is a singular, homogeneous, unified public sphere linked to communication and that it transcends concrete particularities to seek a rational consensus. While this perspective is always disputable, at a time like the present – which is one of crisis and change of era, in which there are constant modifications taking place with the irruption of social media or new systems of social communication – this vision ceases to make sense because the possibility opens up for debate from different interpretative options. Conflict is not denied and we find ourselves facing a compartmentalised, fragmented public sphere that depends on different experiences of everyday life.

In itself, the concept has been so altered that we should perhaps cease to use that term and look for alternatives that respond to that fragmented and rhizomized character of this new public sphere. How is this rhizomatic public sphere generated? From my point of view, by means of two elements: on the one hand, there is the nuclear element of the Habermasian vision, which is communication as something discursive, propositional and rational. At the same time there is what we could call “expression”, which is related to desires, sensibility, mutual recognition, experience, affections… This is where artistic practices have a prominent and fundamental role. Communication and expression, although separate, are in constant interrelation. Expression, the natural place of artistic practices, affects a new sensibility that favours shared practices and meanings and that in the first instance goes beyond the discursive. Later it takes shape as something more rational, more linked to communication and, in the final instance, comes to form part of the political and the management of social organisation.

To try and respond to the initial question, I would like to take up an idea of José Luis Brea’s and adapt it to this issue. Brea said that there has been a transformation in the culture of the present. We could say that there has been a transformation in the rhizomatic public sphere of the present. He indicated that the residual times of the past do not allow that event that has already occurred to take place. And precisely so that it should take place, we could say that artistic practices take responsibility for generating a new sensibility that opens the way to critical thinking to help dismantle those residual forces and allow us to consciously inhabit that future that Brea said has already come.