Archaeologies of Contemporary Art: Negativity, Inoperativity, Désœuvrement

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschung


In his recent writings, Giorgio Agamben develops an archaeology of contemporary art underwritten by his theory of inoperativity. In so doing, he returns to many of the questions raised in his very first book, The Man Without Content, notably revising his understanding of the readymade and the work of Marcel Duchamp. Exploring the difference between these analyses, this essay argues that a comparative analysis allows us to shed light on one of the most intricate aspects of Agamben’s thought: the relation between negativity and inoperativity. It suggests that a constitutive ambivalence towards aesthetic negativity —oscillating between attraction and repulsion —is at the centre ofthe ‘destruction of aesthetics’Agamben attempts in his first book. Reading his recent writings against this backdrop, it becomes evident that ‘inoperativity’can be understood as a reworking of this problematic, resulting in an operation that undoes the stale opposition between dialectical negativity and Nietzschean affirmation. This perspective allows, then, for an exploration of the modality of privation at play in the ‘in’of indifference and inoperativity. Privation, as it emerges in Agamben’s poeticsof inoperativity is a suspension of negativity, an indefinite privation that is irreducible to negation. In conclusion, it is argued that Agamben’s concept of ‘inoperativity’resonates with a variety of critical conceptual practices in contemporary art.
ZeitschriftJournal of Italian Philosophy
Seiten (von - bis)191–215
Anzahl der Seiten24
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 12.2020