Interpassivity and the Impossible: From Art to Politics in Pfaller’s Interpassivity: The Aesthetics of Delegated Enjoyment
As a philosophical and anthropological concept, the importance of interpassivity today seems secured, thanks in no small part to Robert Pfaller’s tireless efforts over the last two decades. Beginning life as a conceptual weapon in Pfaller’s late-90’s polemic against interactive art, interpassivity has since shed light on domains as different as rhetoric, religion and popular culture. A striking feature of Pfaller’s work in this period, in addition to its impressive scope, is his constant attention to the way interpassivity might inform political theory and practice. Here, I track Pfaller’s thoughts on interpassivity as he transports the concept from art, to the politics of art, and finally to politics proper. My aim is to understand the various levels of significance interpassivity has in Pfaller’s thought, particularly as it is related to politics. Towards the end of this paper, I briefly bring Pfaller’s thought into dialogue with the work of Alain Badiou and Jacques Rancière, and assess the degree to which his polemic against the Left’s call for increased participation in politics is consistent — albeit paradoxically so — with the way these two thinkers relate politics to equality and to the category of the impossible. My chief reference will be Pfaller’s recent book Interpassivity: The Aesthetics of Delegated Enjoyment, though I will also draw on his masterwork On the Pleasure Principle in Culture: Illusions Without Owners, first published in German in 2002.
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