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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!

Dance Dixon Place Music Performing Arts Photography Physical Theater Women

“CHASE: What Matters Most?” – Animals Performance Group @ Dixon Place

CHASE: What Matters Most?

Six low-level employees of an anonymous bank, all of whom are named Chase, refuse to take the apocalypse seriously. Each of them on their own metaphysical journey, they intersect to share their findings. Studying nightmares, foreign wars, corporate personhood, climate change, epidemics, environmental catastrophes, loneliness, the singularity & other harbingers of doom, the six Chases try and fail to behold the world’s terrible face, unmasked. (From the show description)

Photographs from the dress/tech rehearsal. 

Mike Mikos directs the actors during the dress/tech rech.Mike Mikos directs the actors during the dress/tech rehearsal.

2015.10.09_Animals.014Jase (Nikki Calonge) defends the bank from possible intruders.

2015.10.09_Animals.051Jasse (Zoe Geltman), Jazz(Brighid Greene) and Jase (Nikki Calonge) do their morning calisthenics.

2015.10.09_Animals.054Chazz (Akira Fukui) warming up.

2015.10.09_Animals.055Jasse (Zoe Geltman) training Jesse (Nikaury Rodriquez).

2015.10.09_Animals.081Jazz (Brighid Greene) thinking about her life.

2015.10.09_Animals.090Jasse (Zoe Geltman) working on her model.

2015.10.09_Animals.161Chazz (Akira Fukui) inspires the team.

2015.10.09_Animals.131A stranger tells her story. (Nikaury Rodriguez, Nikki Calonge, Eva Peskin, Akira Fukui, Brighid Greene)

Performers: nikki calonge, akira fukui, zoë geltman, brighid greene, eva peskin, nikaury rodriguez

eh-den perlove

eric shethar

michael mcgee

blake palmer

bobby andres

rosie rittenberry

janet o’sullivan

ben gullard

eva peskin

stephanie saywell

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A wildly hybrid performance ensemble, ANIMALS are known for their edgy and hilarious use of performance, dance, video, puppetry, crafted objects & interactive media to serve elements of surprise, cultural exchange and irreverence to create moment that question the flexibility of the world and the nature of humans through instinct, ability and play. The group core members are  Nikki Calonge, Michael De Angelis and Mike Mikos. Their work has been performed at the Bushwick Starr, Invisible Dog, Dixon Place, JACK, Three Legged Dog Art and Technology Center and Incubator Arts Project.

In 2013, they were the first recipients of Dixon Place’s annual

Tom Murrin Performance Award.

FRIDAYS AND SATURDAYS, Oct 16, 17,23,24,30,31 @7:30pm


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