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Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – “Why Only Art Can Save Us” by Santiago Zabala

Why Only Art Can Save Us: Aesthetics and the Absence of Emergency

by Santiago Zabala

The state of emergency, according to thinkers such as Carl Schmidt, Walter Benjamin, and Giorgio Agamben, is at the heart of any theory of politics. But today the problem is not the crises that we do confront, which are often used by governments to legitimize themselves, but the ones that political realism stops us from recognizing as emergencies, from widespread surveillance to climate change to the systemic shocks of neoliberalism. We need a way of disrupting the existing order that can energize radical democratic action rather than reinforcing the status quo. In this provocative book, Santiago Zabala declares that in an age where the greatest emergency is the absence of an emergency, only contemporary art’s capacity to alter reality can save us.

Why Only Art Can Save Us advances a new aesthetics centered on the nature of the emergency that characterizes the twenty-first century. Zabala draws on Martin Heidegger’s distinction between works of art that rescue us from emergency and those that are rescuers into emergency. The former is a means of cultural politics, conservers of the status quo that conceal emergencies; the latter are disruptive events that thrust us into emergencies. Building on Arthur Danto, Jacques Rancière, and Gianni Vattimo, who made aesthetics more responsive to contemporary art, Zabala argues that works of art are not simply a means of elevating consumerism or contemplating beauty but are points of departure to change the world. Radical artists create works that disclose and demand active intervention in ongoing crises. Interpreting works of art that aim to propel us into absent emergencies, Zabala shows how art’s ability to create new realities is fundamental to the politics of radical democracy in the state of emergency that is the present.

“Santiago Zabala’s Why Only Art Can Save Us is a crucial publication for anyone concerned about the future and necessity of art in the twenty-first century. Its main claim is that the possibility of art lies in its aesthetics of emergency. Although we live in a time of social, political, and environmental emergencies, Zabala makes the convincing case that we tend to repress the emergencies we live in. The aesthetics of emergency discloses the concealment of emergency as the essential emergency, helping us to recover the sense of emergency. This aesthetics proposes a major shift in our understanding of art, which is less about representation than existence.”

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Christine Ross, author of The Past Is the Present; It’s the Future Too.

Why Only Art Can Save Us examines art that is in touch with the contemporary world, a world that, however you assess such things, is surely in crisis.

Los Angeles Review of Books

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You Can Get the Book Here!

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Introducing “The Great Lafayette” – A Man of Mystery – Rags to Riches Story

One of the most colorful personalities in the early 1900’s Vaudeville circuit was Sigmund Neuberger. (aka The Great Lafayette)

Here are some interesting excerpts from other very informed web sources about his life and career…

(Excerpt from The Edinburgh City Library Blog)

It’s one hundred years since the tragic death of one of the world’s greatest entertainers here in Edinburgh, and we’re marking the centenary with a series of events in libraries.

On May 9, 1911 a devastating fire broke out at the Empire Palace Theatre. Sigmund Neuberger, better known as the Great Lafayette, the self-proclaimed ‘Man of Mystery’,  was performing to a sell-out crowd when fire erupted on stage. The fire safety curtain descended preventing the spread of the fire and allowing all 3000 members of the audience to escape unharmed. However, those on stage and behind the scenes were less fortunate. Lafayette perished along with members of his troupe, his horse and his lion.

In an ironic twist of fate, the corpse of Lafayette’s stunt body double was initially mistaken for the magician’s. The remains of the real Lafayette were found the next day under the stage of the wrecked theatre. Huge crowds gathered in Edinburgh to see his funeral procession as it travelled to his final resting place. Lafayette is buried beside his beloved dog, Beauty, in Piershill Cemetery.

The Great Lafayette’s death sent cascades of emotion around the world. But before he died his life was a true rags to riches story. From simple beginnings he rose to command the highest fees for any stage performer of his time – the equivalent of £15,000,000. He had one love in his life – his dog Beauty, a gift from the great escapologist Harry Houdini. The Great Lafayette was a magician, a stage illusionist and a guaranteed success in theatres.

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During my Research for my book on American Quick Change Artist (that never came to fruition), I discovered quite a few documents about Lafayette.

Here are scans of a few of them I think are important to his story.

The Great Lafayette dressed up in his satin wardrobe for publicity photo.

A very tattered promotional page for his booklet “The Great Lafayette”.

His dog ‘Beauty’ (a gift from his friend Harry Houdini) was his pride and joy and upon Beauty’s death he was was struck with remorse.

To get a really clear insight into his amazing life read the new book by Ian Robertson and Gordon Rutter titled:

The Death and Life of THE GREAT LAFAYETTE


Here is where to get this new book “The Death and Life of The Great Lafayette”

Enjoy!

Much more interesting than watching ‘reality shows’ on TV. The Great Lafayette was amazing!