Communism of the Sensible

Common is in the first place “the Being of the sensible”. It is the sensible in which we are immersed, of our practices, relations, in which we are always projected. To reflect on the sensible means in the first place to look at the interaction between the Common of communism and aesthetics, the creation of the sensible, its orientations. This means also to reflect on the relation/conflict between (creative) action and labour, between work (of art) and goods.

1. Poetics of Emancipation

In the preface to the Italian edition of the Manifesto Engels writes: “The close of the feudal Middle Ages, and the opening of the modern capitalist era are marked by a colossal figured: an Italian, Dante, both the last poet of the Middle Ages and the first poet of modern times. Today, as in 1300, a new historical era is approaching. Will Italy give us the new Dante, who will mark the hour of birth of this new, proletarian era?” Engels evoked the rise of a new poetics, and of a language, consubstantial with the subject being born to history, and by this identified the common matrix of politics and poetics: the capacity to construct and articulate the fictional. What poetics allows the “poetical” existence of subjects tracing new pathways of emancipation today?

2. The uniqueness of the Artist

In The German Ideology, speaking of the artist, Marx and Engels write: “The exclusive concentration of artistic talent in particular individuals, and its suppression in the broad mass which is bound up with this, is a consequence of division of labour. […] In a communist society there are no painters but only people who engage in painting among other activities.” Despite the progressive disappearance of the opposition between intellectual and manual labour, artistic work today, far from being an activity among others, still points to the uniqueness of the individual performing it. Is it not necessary to radically question this figure, in order to criticize a modality of subordination that is employed by some of the most vigorous dispositifs promoting the neo-liberal logic?

3. Aura and surplus value

The loss of aura registered by Baudelaire and described by Benjamin occurred two centuries ago; yet still today we witness the continuous reproduction and dissemination of aura, founded on a particular form of creation of surplus value and on the individualization of communal faculties. In contemporary capitalism, how does the dispositif that keeps aura and surplus value together function?

4. Avant-garde and Aesthetic Revolts

Dissolution of authorship, dissolution of the boundaries between art and life, dissolution of the work of art: this is the political project of the artistic avant-garde. Authorship, the enclosure of artistic practices and the rebirth of works of art define the scenario one century later. Does the decline of the paradigm set by avant-garde, both in art and in politics, coincide with the spreading of political and “aesthetic revolts”, with a movement that has effectively traced a path beyond that paradigm, or, on the contrary, is the decline of this paradigm indicative of the increasing ability of capital to extract value from every innovation concerning forms of life?

5. Art of the Common

Neither private nor public, but common: a public sphere that does not coincide with the state, an institution without the state. If the picture and the frame are both linked to the mechanism of private art collections in bourgeois culture, if the museum is originally the narrative employed by the nation in its becoming state, with the consequent expulsion of the defeated and of the possibilities that did not take place, then what space is occupied by the art of the Common?

6. Affects and Forms of Life

In the chapter in the Manifesto titled “Bourgeois and Proletarians” Marx and Engels write: “The proletarian is without property; his relation to his wife and children has no longer anything in common with the bourgeois family relations”; also, in the chapter “Proletarians and Communists” two pages are dedicated to family and its institution, to politics of affects. Indeed, class struggles have always revolved around forms of life and their transformations. Where and how must we identify those points of fracture today, with regard to neo-liberal forms of life, which allow the emergence a new common life?