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Making Sense

For an Effective Aesthetics- Includes an original essay by Jean-Luc Nancy


Edited By Lorna Collins and Elizabeth Rush

This volume of texts and images has evolved from papers given at the inaugural Making Sense colloquium, which was held at the University of Cambridge in September 2009. The chapters collected here reflect the multi-dimensional and interdisciplinary sense made at this event, which became something of an artistic installation in itself. The essay ‘Making Sense’ by Jean-Luc Nancy provided the grand finale for the colloquium and is also the culmination of the volume. The collection also includes articles that expound and critique Nancean theory, as well as those that provide challenging manifestos or question the divide between artist and artisan. The volume contrasts works that use texts to make sense of the world with performance pieces that question the sense of theory and seek to make sense through craft, plastic art or painting. By juxtaposing works of pure theory with pieces that incorporate poetry, prose and performance, the book presents the reader with a distillation of the creative act.


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Part 2 Manifestos 49


PART 2 Manifestos CHRISTOPHER WATKIN Making Ethical Sense My intention for the short chapter is that it be a collaborative venture. I will brief ly stake out a position on sense and ethics in relation to Jean-Luc Nancy, and then pose a set of questions to which I do not have the answer, in the hope that I can generate the beginnings of a discussion. The position I want to stake out is this: that Nancean sense-making brings with it an ineluctable ethical dimension. And the question I want to pose to you is: what implica- tions might this have for an artist, sculptor, or filmmaker who is seeking to take Nancy’s thinking into account? Does Art have a Justification? What is the ‘justification’ of art? If there is such a thing, is it ‘ethical’? No doubt this question will raise conf licting responses. Some may hold a position like the following: art can only be free if there is no ethics of art production! Ethical or political art soon becomes propaganda; the spectacle of the literary trial is obnoxious, and trying to shoehorn artistic production into an ethical matrix is as dangerous as it is futile. Others, perhaps, would say: art without any ethical import is speaking in a vacuum! It is decadent, self-indulgent, self-deluded, self-defeating. But in the ‘Ouverture’ in La Déclosion, Nancy splits the horns of this dilemma: Ce n’est pas un hasard si celui-ci [l’art] ne se trouve plus aujourd’hui, le plus souvent, d’autre l...

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