This paper explores the implications of Robert Pfaller’s conception of interpassivity with reference to a predominantly Lacanian perspective on subjectivisation. In so doing, the aim is to engender a conversation encompassing art criticism, cultural theory, and psychoanalysis. The reference to an “Interpassive Anti-aesthetic” is intended to suggest how considerations of interpassivity present challenges to the humanist-metaphysical prejudices and phantasms of the Western tradition. Specifically, it is suggested that interpassive phenomena expose as illusory (i) the presumed agency and autonomy of art subjects and art objects, (ii) the supposed emancipatory and democratic potentials of interactive and participatory artworks, and (iii) the ideological underpinnings of postmodernism — particularly insofar as the postmodern is defined in terms of its opposition to the modern. In accordance with Pfaller’s contention that interpassivity involves “selective contact with a thing in order, in exchange, to entirely escape that very thing”, on which basis, “Interpassivity is thus a strategy of escaping identification and consequently subjectivisation”, two primary moments of interpassivity are elucidated: interpassivity-as-delegation and interpassivity-as-resistance. The paper presents an understanding of the twofold nature of interpassivity in terms of the psychoanalytic treatment – specifically, the Lacanian proposition that “the experience of the fundamental phantasy becomes the drive” for the “subject who has traversed the radical phantasy”. In keeping with Pfaller’s original intentions for interpassivity to provide a way of reflecting critically on arts discourse in the mid-1990s, these theoretical considerations on interpassivity and subjectivisation are applied to Nicholas Bourriaud’s promotion of relational aesthetics and relational art, as well as objections to this advocacy raised by Claire Bishop.
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