The quarrel of the Amateurs

Bernard Stiegler


If the critical community is analytical, and if, in art circles, he who analyses is an amateur, the amateur can always regress into the degraded figure of the cultivated philistine, indeed into the figure of a critical philistinism, which is a very sophisticated species of what Hannah Arendt called the cultivated philistine, as we saw yesterday.


If an experience of an artwork is necessarely a mystagogical one, and if such a mystagogy can always appear as a mystification in fact, for example for the one who does not judge like me that it is an artwork, that is a good one, critical philistinism is itself what Henry James stages, in The Figure in the Carpet, as a sinking into analytical mystification.


In this case, analysis becomes comprehension without what I called in the previous lectures surprehension. This raises the question of whether it is still possible to attain a surprehension from comprehension, rather than comprehension from surprehension. This takes us back to the theme of our first lecture : such a ‘comprehension’ is produced when one finds a contemporary work ‘interesting’.


This type of ‘interest’ in artworks that we do not love has become an experience that is not only common but predominant in the relationship our era maintains with its art. Is it possible to transform such an intellectual, comprehending ‘interest’, into the infinitising attraction essential to reflective judgement — but a simple determinant judgement, one which could be, for example, sociological, historical, or even economic and speculative in this venal sense ?


In this last case, we are talking about a calculation to arrive at an ‘investment’ which has nothing to do with aesthetics, even if it would be absolutely mystagogical and fetishistic in the widest and most ambiguous sense of these two words as they refer to merchandise. This realisation would be the destiny of art that has become ‘interesting’ for these super-philistines, the art-market speculators.


At the moment when the ‘judgement’ of he who is ‘interested’ in art but does not however love – or even like –  it becomes so prevalent, the figure of the critical philistine—one who is more or less cultivated, that is, more or less un-cultivate—imposes itself in the same stroke as the norm. Here, criticism no longer analyses. It finds nothing other to analyse but its own ‘interest’. But before this super-philistine pseudo-criticism, the ‘informed’ and ‘analytical’ critic himself, appearing in the XIXth century, can just as easily return in such a figure of the philistine. This is the possibility that Henry James dramatises some years before Dada and Duchamp.
Let us now examine the conflict known as the ‘quarrel of the Amateur’ between Diderot and the [Comte de] Caylus concerning the faculty of judging artworks. This Eighteenth century dispute anticipated, in a sort of reversal in advance, this ambiguous destiny of criticism decomposing into philistinism, a destiny in which the cultivated philistine becomes this interested and circumspect being who repeatedly and enthusiastically divulges, with a serious air, as if saying something important : ‘It’s interesting…it’s interesting….’


With Diderot and his Encyclopedia, the Amateur becomes a figure on whom suspicion falls. In the first instance, the suspicion imposes itself to the extent that the Amateur represents the kind of privilege typical of the Ancien regime. But soon it is brought to bear on the community of bourgeois amateurs, as it has been shown by Roland Barthes (see Practica musica), and precisely inasmuch as those bourgeois are at once philistine and cultivated.


As to us, the hermeneutes of the Twenty first century, all perhaps more or less philistines, philistinized if I may say, all mystagogues mystifiers and mystified, no longer believing in either myths or demystification : we now know that we will have had to learn a new philistinism, very uncultivated, however cultivated it himself believes to be, so much worse than those bourgeois back then—a philistinism for our time : a ‘bobo’ (“bourgegois bohème”) philistinism, whose buzz makes its own honey and speculate on, that profits from its own hype.




The question of a philistinism from which no one, perhaps, can completely escape today concerns the translation of ambiguities which are decomposing, rotting the process of transindividuation so that the libidinal economy, of which this process is the psychic reality, is on the verge of ruin.


A veritable ordeal of philistinism appears, then, as a characteristic marker of our times and of our lot. It translates, in the aesthetic and ‘cultural’ domains (producing what Michel Deguy calls ‘the cultural’) the effects of nihilism. It emerges on the basis of a question of lovelessness and a recoiling from the figure of amor, that is, of the amatore. This recoiling proceeds from an organological mutation. This mutation profoundly disturbs the libidinal economy and the circuits that it weaves together, without which it fails.


Proceeding from a mechanical turn of sensibility engaged as soon as the Nineteenth century, this mutation is preceded by the establishment of a new process of transindividuation which constitutes a revolution in the conditions of judgement, one which invents the modern figure of the public precisely on this basis. This enormous transformation begins at the point when the conditions are met for the political emergence of the commoners, that is, the agents of negotium that will be called the bourgeoisie when they will have attained political and economic power.


To understand this class, and the complexity of the libidinal economy which is established as its power—the economy Marcel Duchamp and Tristan Tzara attacked both together and differently, and which today is in ruins— , it is necessary to examine how a famous commoner, Denis Diderot, got into a fight with the Amateur with a capital A, that is, one invested with the official power to judge. This was a fight with Caylus as a figure of the monarchic libidinal economy.

The quarrel of the Amateur which Diderot started, and which raged throughout 1759, is an episode in the epoch of proto-revolutionary grammatisation and transindividuation—the epoch known as the ‘Republic of Letters’. It was a conflict of theory, incarnated by common ‘men of letters’ like Diderot and Jean-François Marmontel, but also, later on, Louis-Sébastien Mercier, against the practice of the nobleman Amateur as one allegedly favoured with what the Ancien regime called ‘natural taste’ belonging to people of breeding– the “gens de condition”.


In other words, the quarrel of the Amateur is a contestation of the legitimacy of this figure which, at the outset of the Republic of Letters, in the Royal Academy of Painting, grounded the circuit of transindividuation forming monarchic taste.


The principal personage challenged by Diderot is le Comte de Caylus. I showed one of his drawings in the first talk. Here are some others, after Raphael,

And a landscape:

If Caylus proposes that in principle it is his nobility which authorises his claim to the status of an Amateur, it is, however, in the name of his practice, and not only of his condition of privilege, that he considers himself capable of judging, calling himself a true amateur, that is, able to truly love artworks. In other words, if his quality grounded his capacity—‘well born’ people are ‘people of quality’—this foundation is only a potential power. Restricted to the nobility, this possibility requires a practice which is clearly not work, but an otium. Work is what craftsmen (gens de métier) practice (the men of letters were part of this grouping), commoners, and as such inapt at judging, even though they are practitioners. Their practice is that of a negotium.


Caylus justifies his praise in an interpretation of a tableau by Raphael, Jesus Christ Giving the Keys to Saint Peter:

on the basis of his own practice of engraving.

For, like many amateurs (something Malraux also points out), Caylus is a copyist:


What puts me in a position to talk about this masterpiece of the spirit and of art […] is not only the thoughtful study that I have made of it, but a development that the boards which I have engraved have put me in a position to undergo; for, in making marks and working the copper, I have always taken care to observe the chains of the composition and the necessity of each part in relation to the whole. The suppression that I made on one part [of a board] gave me some clarification, and ended up showing me the doubt which remained in me By this means, I thought about the different routes that the great men have taken to arrive at the degree of perfection that we see in them.

The stakes here concern therefore an initiation through copying. And this copying, which does not have as its purpose artistic creation, is analytical: It permits one to comprehend what such creative work is made of in a work that is precisely in this manner a mystery, as the french historian Jean Louis Jam underlines.


Pour l’Amateur, la pratique n’est pas la simple mise en œuvre d’une technique et d’un savoir-faire acquis pour s’égaler aux artistes, mais plutôt le chemin initiatique par lequel, ayant pris conscience de ses insuffisances de praticien, il peut approcher la réalité de l’acte créatif et, par voie de conséquence, en percevoir toute la grandeur et tout le mystère.


And Caylus add that such a copy is a kind of reading as well as a kind of writing :


So imperfect as his own study may be, the amateur ‘learns by it how to read, he meditates on what he wants to write; when writing, the traces of his memory become more profound, his disgust at what he has done puts him in a position to perceive the finesse and the beauty of the great masters’ (Caylus, On the Amateur, Seventeen Fortyeight, in Jam).

The Amateur public, Caylus declares, is a public which reads this graphein [γραφειν] that is painting. From this perspective, he asserts a kind of aesthetic majority of the nobility, in a way an Enlightenment majority ‘avant la lettre’. The Enlightenment, from Diderot to Kant, who will continue the argument, will contest whether this remains the sole privilege of the nobility.


In Seventeen Fortyeight, at the very moment when Caylus writes these lines, membership of ‘l’Amatorat’ is still an official post conferred by the King to some members of the aristocracy, the most famous of whom was Roger de Piles (nominated as head advisor-amateur in Sixteen Ninetynine). The ‘Amateurs’ were gathered together at the heart of the Royal Academy of Painting along with the professional artist-craftsmen. The Academy was founded in Sixteen Fortyeight, but it was only from Sixteen Sixtythree that its rules gave the word ‘amateur’


a precise meaning: it designated henceforth the ‘people of condition’ who are invited to contribute to the work of this company alongside the craftsmen. Seated to the left of the President, the amateurs carry out their duties in the framework of the academic system established by royal authority in order to regulate the specific domain of pictorial art.


The commoner, Denis Diderot, denounces a mystification in this monarchic organisation of the circuit of transindividuation through which the judgement of taste characteristic of the Ancien regime is formed. Jacqueline Lichtenstein shows that through this quarrel, Diderot opens the way to the aesthetic of which Kant is the culmination. To recall, I argued in the preceding lecture that this aesthetic excluded in principal criticality as being an analytical faculty (and not only as a transcendental principle, that is as an a priori structure of subjectivity, synthetic in this sense).


An historical and eventually revolutionary concretisation of the stage of grammatisation which had opened with the printing press and developed through the Reformation and the Jesuits, the Republic of Letters turned into the century of the Enlightenment—the Aufklärung, that Kant, less than forty years later, will define as the conquest of majority before and by, precisely, ‘the reading public’.


This ‘republic of letters’ leads then to the establishing of a new circuit of transindividuation, and therefore to a new power: that of the ‘men of letters’. It is they who will caracterise the ‘enlightened monarchy’, in the name of which, from Seventeen Fiftynine, Diderot will fight Caylus, taking the side of the craftsmen who, even though they are practitioners, are so much less empowered to judge because they are, however, like Diderot himself, only commoners.


Let us note here, as Hannah Arendt recalls, that ancient Greece, which was itself of course the establishment of a new circuit of transindividuation, founding the privilege of citizen nobility, also contested the legitimacy of the judgement of artists and, in this sense, what Fiedler calls ‘artistic judgement’:


The same men who praised the love of beauty and the culture of the mind shared the profound mistrust of antiquity toward the artists and artisans who in effect made the things subsequently displayed and admired. The Greeks, if not the Romans, had a word for philistinism, and this word was, strangely enough, derived from a word for artists and artisans, βαναυσος [banausos]; to be a philistine, a man with a banausic mind, indicated (just as it does today) an exclusively utilitarian mentality, an incapacity to think about or judge something independently of its function or its utility. But the artist himself, being a βαναυσος [banausos], did not in any way fall under the shadow of the reproach of philistinism; on the contrary, philistinism was considered as a vice that threatened in particular those who had mastered a τεχνη [tekhnē], the makers and the artists. In Greek understanding, there was no contradiction between the praise of φιλοκαλειν [philokalein], the love of beauty, and the contempt for those who actually produced beauty.


Diderot, who will become an art broker, begins a campaign for the formation of a new circuit of transindividuation. It is a campaign that Louis-Sébastien Mercier will continue against the Académie française. Mercier writes in Seventeen Eightyone that


the particular taste of the Academicians cannot form the general taste.


Here the concept of the public appears to which Kant appeals when he defines the majority. In other words, ‘public’ designates a new circuit of transindividuation that puts in motion a new process of psychic and collective individuation.


At the end of the Eighteenth century and, in effect, of the Ancien Regime (but, writes Jam in his Critique of The School for Wives, this had already happened with Molière),


to the craftsman in the same way as to the Amateur, was opposed the public whose judgements concerning the products of art should prevail “because they judge distinterestedly, and because they judge through their sentiments” (Dubos, Critical Reflections on Poetry and Painting, volume II, 1755).


For Caylus, on the contrary, and against this vulgar and fallacious public taste,


the Amateur is pleased with his birthing of this natural taste, one which constitutes “the only part of art over which he had a definite right, and to which he could lay claim unequivocally”…. “Natural taste is… the primary benefit of the Amateur; it is a gift”.


The culmination of this quarrel, reached in Seventeen Fiftynine, marks therefore the end of an epoch and the arrival of another time—that in which a revolution in the public’s right to judge announces itself, in aesthetic as much as political and other knowledge domains.


Yet, for Caylus, as we have seen, the gift reserved to the well-born is not self-sufficient. And what is true for the nobility of the Amateurs should also hold for the commoners. Only practice can actualize this potential good taste. This practice, as Jean-Louis Jam analyses, is first of all the practice of viewing artworks, from which develops a capacity to compare them:


Only “acquired taste,” that is, cultivated natural taste, “puts one, after more or less study, in a position to justify his criticism or his praise” (Caylus, On the Amateur). The primary means of educating natural taste resides for the true Amateur in viewing and comparing works.


Now, such a capacity for comparison is cultivated organologically: as we have seen, it only becomes effective through the work of copying. Manual reproduction and the technical mastery that it presupposes are the conditions of the education of judgement, and therefore of transindividuation. The work of copying as the moment of the analytical education of judgement is the veritable writing of taste. It is against this notion that Diderot will rise up in the name of a superior form of writing: a speculative form, that of the men of letters (who are also craftsmen, claimants of what will later be called ‘professional’ status).


The practice of looking by copying will not, however, disappear with the nobility and its Amateurs. The paintings by Hubert Robert depicting what is henceforth the National Museum of the Louvre show that its newly constituted public is largely made up of copyists who are not simply there to look at the canvases; they are drawing and sometimes painting. The Louvre was open during the week to artists and to everyone on Sundays, and welcomed a public comprised of intrinsically philistine commoners.

Degas, Cézanne and all the other artists will come to the Louvre too; for them the museum is first of all a place of work. But it is also the amateur public who reproduce there—re-produce, and repro-duce there.


These copyists re-produce just as Bartelby will, and Melville himself, reader of The Bible in Moby Dick that he transposes and thus also copies, and Bouvard and Pécuchet, and Flaubert himself. According to his own account, Flaubert ingested and copied three thousand books in order to write his own fictional introduction to his Dictionary of Received Ideas some years before the verdurinisme and Duchamp’s Fountain.


The stakes of the quarrel of the Amateur are about knowing what “to write” means. This word γραφειν (graphein) also signifies “to draw” in the original Greek. The graphein is what allows the individual to both form his judgement, individuating himself psychichally, and to circulate this judgement: to make it public, and therefore to participate in collective individuation by contributing to the writing of a circuit of transindividuation.


Now, it is also as a practiced moment of repetitionif not as a copying, at least as a reading and deciphering—that a great Twentieth century man of letters, Roland Barthes, will understand in his work the opening of the ear, that is, the training of the musical ear. This would be an ear that is open and trained in the same fashion by which an artwork works as training through the hands, themselves guided by the eyes.


The initiation of hearing by reading music and training on an instrument is essentially corporeal, that is, motor, and must be thought as a playing enabled by an ocular reading.


Here, to like means to play, and to play means to read. And through this love without which there are no amateurs, the graphein, through which reading becomes interpretation as play, becomes manifestly instrumental. Yet, this education of one’s ear by one’s hand playing an instrument while all the time one is reading—a completely organological process—arises from a new circuit of transindividuation. For the piano, upon which Barthes deciphers and interprets selections from Schuman, is not an instrument of the nobility. Its possession and practice are markers of the bourgeoisie.




What is at stake (en jeu) in the conflict between Diderot and Caylus—beyond its strictly aesthetic significance or its social significance as a symptom of the great transformation putting into motion the revolutionary circuit of transindividuation—is the apparatus of writing (in the broadest sense of graphein) that must be mobilised in the education of public taste.


As to our own epoch, one which, after the La gifle au goût public [A slap for public taste, by the soviet Futurists],  is the epoch of ‘buzz’, the question concerning instrumentation is replayed in an organological context which imposes on it an entirely new construction: this instrumentation, which is an enourmous type writer, has become technological and industrial. The question here concerns a graphein that renders discrete and reproduces all movements, constituting a stage of grammatisation that the new mystagogy of Duchamp brings to the fore.


Along with the industrial instrumentation emerges the consumer as much as the proletarianised producer. The new technological instrumentality that imposes itself at the beginning of the Twentyfirst century induces a new rupture. This is what makes the figure of the amateur reemerge: an entirely differently equipped amateur.


If the musical amateur of the Nineteenth century was already instrumentally equipped, and if the mechanical turn of the sensibility in music, sensibility produced by the new musical instruments such as the radio and the phonograph short circuited this instrumentality at the start of the Twentieth century—literally disarming amateurs —today, digital instruments are making new practices emerge, that reconstitute the long circuits of transindividuation. This is the thesis which grounds the activities of the Institute of Research and Innovation and Ars Industrialis.


Before coming to that, let us stay with Barthes on the question of listening through playing one’s musical instrument [Fr: l’écoute musicale instrumentée]. Like Caylus, Barthes sees in musica practica, inasmuch as it is an instrumental and equipped practice, the only true means of hearing loved musical works. He deplores its disappearance and, with it, that of the musical amateur, if not the musician:


The amateur, a role defined much more by a style than by a technical imperfection, is no longer anywhere to be found; the professionals, pure specialists whose training remains entirely esoteric for the public… never offer that style of the perfect amateur that could still be recognised as the high quality of a Lipati or a Panzera, touching off in us not satisfaction but desire, the desire to make that music.


In this text a more recent opposition appears, one typical of the Twentieth century, between the amateur and the professional. It is linked, as we have seen, to the social and indeed revolutionary relegitimation of the ‘craftsmen’. Professionalisation no longer opposes theory to practice, but near-perfect technicity

(developed in and amongst professional musicians) to passion (defining feature of all amateur communities, and resulting in this style that defines the amateur rather “than by technical imperfection”).


This becoming, which occurs via a bourgeois fading out, exhausting it in the “petite bourgeoisie” that Barthes himself will have criticised and demystified so much in his work, is inscribed in a history that—with the exception of an “other public, with another repertoire, and another instrument”—unfolds such that musica practica

disappeared; initially linked to the leisure class (the aristocracy), it faded into a mundane ritual with the advent of bourgeois democracty (the piano, the young lady, the salon, the nocturne); then it is completely effaced (who plays the piano today?). To find the practice of music in the West, one must go and seek other public, with another repertoire, and another instrument (youth, the song, the guitar). At the same time, passive music, heard, sonorous music has become the music (that of the concert, the festival, the disk, and the radio: to play no longer exists.


The amateur community migrated. After the Guermantes Way, then Swann’s, that is also, that of Verdurin and the other more or less cultivated philistines by which the mystagogy that animates and sometimes enflames the amateur can turn into mystification (and this is the immense subject of À la recherche du temps perdu), it went the youth way—the way of its ‘counterculture’, exalting, exploiting and finally extenuating perhaps the marketing and cultural industries.


The disappearance of playing from the way of “the” music, but also from all of the ways that nourish aesthetic experience in the epoch of the cultural industries, results from a mechanical turn in sensibility that is an organological short circuit in the process of transindividuation. This process is therefore broken. The process of transindividuation is what the exclamation consists of that Madam Verdurin is so often agitated by (an agitation, precisely, that stops her from consisting, which is what makes Swann suffer).


It is through the development of the analogical hypomnemata (and in the first instance by the phonograph) that the cultural industries are able to annihilate the play of the amateur (one of the conditions of the expansion of nihilism today). They replace it with a public with no hands, no longer knowing how to read music, a situation leading to the short-circuiting of this very public and its judgement, replaced by the “Audimat” (the major French TV ratings survey system) and average tastes—that is, mediocre—which is formed in its place, deforming the public, becoming in this way an audience. From then on it is no longer about quality but quantity—and about speculation in a sense that no longer has much to do with what Diderot understood by that term. It is the reign of an art market that has become acritical, no longer concerned with anything but its own interests.


The musica practica whose development Barthes described itself assumed, however, certain organological conditions. The first of these is the appearance of musical notation able to be read and understood by the musical amateur.  A thousand years ago, diasthematic notation(diasthematic?), by spatially discretising the continuity of musical time, revolutionized the whole development of music. It constituted a process of grammatisation in which music entered into a veritable revolution—right up to this point when the techniques of analogical recording destroyed the public which had formed out of this revolution, replacing it with “another public”, “another repertoire”, and “another instrument” than the piano: the youth, the song, the guitar.


But Barthes will also have been able to speak about a young Charlie Parker, studying Lester Young on his phonograph, in exactly the same year (Nineteen thirtyseven) that Bartok analysed the music of Transylvania by slowing down the turntable invented by Thomas Edison—who Bartok identified for this very reason as the true founder of musicology.




An amateur is a psychic individual whose psychic apparatus has been augmented by a critical apparatus, equipping him thus organologically with a practical knowledge, through an instrument and a social apparatus supporting the circuit of transindividuation that such an apparatus renders possible. The apparatus of analogical reproducibility, however, which apparatu   s has in the Twentieth century completely reconfigured the process of psychic and collective individuation, has short-circuited the psychic apparatus, disarming it by breaking the technical and social apparatus comprising the circuit of transindividuation that trains amateurs.


As for us, at the beginning of the Twentyfirst century, we who no longer live in a bourgeois society, but much more a mafioso one, we are witnessing massive organological transformations. A new stage of grammatisation is being configured, opening up unseen possiblities in the constitution and instrumentation of the circuits of transindividuation. The latest grammatisation, realised in digital networks, forms a technological ‘capillarity’ that is profoundly redrawing the industrial division of labour and its related social relations, that is, the circuits of transindividuation. It calls into the question the producer/consumer opposition and reverses the situation established during the epoch in which Duchamp signed a urinal with the pseudonym, R. Mutt—almost a hundred years ago.


Fountain could only appear at the beginning of the Twentieth century after Nude Descending a Staircase was painted in 1912—the very same year the Futurists published La gifle au goût public [A slap for public taste], and Frederick Winslow Taylor published Shop Management. In Duchamp’s own words, the Nude Descending a Staircase inscribed within painting the stage of the organological grammatisation of the visible accomplished by Etienne-Jules Marey and Eadweard Muybridge in the form of chrono-photography serving the needs of a physiology of the body in motion. It is also this grammatisation of the movement of bodies that makes possible the scientific organisation of work that Taylor theorised. This theory of grammatised work will be systematically applied by Henry Ford in the United States in 1913 with the first assembly line that will make the Model T Ford in the state of Michigan.


In this way a social organisation was estabished, one founded not only on the grammatisation of the gestures and bodily movements of the proletarianised producers, but also on the proletarianisation of consumers whose savoir-faire is itself slowly liquidated by the consumerism put into operation by marketing. Buzz is a recent stage of this, belonging to the age of digital capillarity.


At the moment when Duchamp put his counterfeit signature onto the mass produced urinal, Edward Bernays presented to America his theory and practice of public relations based on the research of Freud, his uncle, prefiguring the scientfic organisation of consumption of which Ford was also a thinker and a practitioner—and all this notwithstanding that in Moscow the Bolsheviks were deposing the Tsar, and “Grosz and Herzfeld were able to launch their slogan: ‘Long life the new machine art of Tatlin’”.


With the development of the cultural industries, in regards to which the first studio was built in 1911 here in Hollywood, while the construction of the Ford factory that housed the first assembly line was underway, marketing will form an industrial psychopower using the analogical apparatuses arising from the grammatisation of perception. These first appeared in the Nineteenth century with photography, phonography and cinematography—where Marey and Muybridge played their decisive roles.


These psychotechnologies, enabled by the psycho-power controlling souls which in turn control the behavioural movements of bodies, inaugurate the era of a reproducibility the consequences of which Benjamin will analyse in relation to the notion and the conception of the work of art. These psychotechnologies are apparatuses for the systematic capturing of attention put to work with the aim of conditioning consumers, something which necessarily provokes short-circuits in transindividuation (Benjamin sees in this principally a political power in the epoch of Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin, underestimating—like Freud—the submission of aesthetics to the economic imperatives of the new consumerist model).


In this way, with the disarming of the amateurs (just as one disarms, that is to say decommissions, a warship, and a boat in general), publics become audiences. Moreover, the bodies of consumers, which are also the bodies of producers, are grammatised in regard to their movements in a way corresponding to the other modalities that put them into operation for the system of production. The proletarianised worker, become proletarianised consumer, no longer renews only his capacity to work, but also his purchasing power, not only to participate then in the production effort, but in a consumption effort. Thus the productivism of the Nineteenth century gives way to the consumerism of the Twentieth.


In Nineteen seventeen, Duchamp is on the frontier of the industrial, capitalist age in which the grammatisation of the bodies and gestures of producers has already happened. It had started in the Eighteenth century with Vaucanson and Jacquard, theorised by Adam Smith from Seventeen seventysix, and then by Marx in Eighteen sixtyseven—exactly forty years before Fountain, that is, a very short time before Fountain (for example, it is less than the time separating us from Of Grammatology, The Order of Things, and even less so from Anti-Oedipus)  In Ninteen seventeen, then, Duchamp is at the precise moment when the grammatisation of consumers by the bias of psychotechnologies is beginning, a development unthought by Marx, and largely underestimated by Gramsci, one which will lead to the liquidation of the bourgeoisie.


This is modernity, proceeding from a mechanical turn not only of sensibility, but all forms of knowledge (know-how, life skills, the ability to theorise). From this results a loss of collective participation, that is, a dissociation of symbolic mileux, a de-symbolisation operating in the same way that the short circuits in the process of transindividuation that also constituted the milieu of work expelled the proletarian from the circuit of transindividuation. (This world of work was equally, before industrialisation, and very much so, a symbolic milieu).


This world was transformed by the grammatisation of the gestures of the worker, becoming in this way the proletarian, as much as by the grammatisation of the gestures of the artist who rendered extra-ordinary the development of this ordinary world, the artist him/herself having been expelled from the (re)production of the visible by machines and apparatuses.  It is in this world, in equal measure transformed by the grammatisation of the behaviours of those who will thus become consumers—denuded of life skills in a loss of individuation through which the bourgeoisie that Duchamp still addressed and to which Barthes catered, will eventually be absorbed into the ‘middle classes’, it is in this world that Fountain could surprise its era by making a scandal,  transindividuating it after the fact, aftermath : après-coup.


Today, cultural marketing’s exploitation of the pharmacological character of grammatisation—and of mystagogy which, always able to mystify, since the ancient Greeks, is formed in the very heart of the profane and mundane in which grammatisation consists —this exploitation succeeds in liquidating critical spaces and times, destroying art’s publics and, more generally, the publics of all works of the mind. The most recent stage of this grammatisation is the age of the technologies of transindividuation, or the relational technologies, of which ‘social networks’ are the latest avatar.


These ‘social networks’ are characterised precisely by being not simply ‘social’ but ‘technological’ and industrially controllable. They amount to sociotechnologies of a sociopower which function to manage psychopower like that which functions to manage biopower.


Inasmuch as they automatically formalise social relations (via what is called metadata), digital social networks form a process of grammatisation of social relations as such. They are immensely successful, due to multiple factors. The principal one of which is that the short-circuiting of transindividuation which resulted from the proletarianisation of both producers and consumers has led to the pure and simple liquidation of the social relation as such. In place of this, social networks appear, in particular for the younger generations, as a possible substitute.


The social networks where one declares and claims one’s ‘friends’, ‘friends’ which become at the same stroke metadata in the economic war of indexation, are forms of the computer-assisted production of an ersatz philia. Here, service technologies, become essentially relational (these relational technologies of transindividuation were deployed at the moment when so called ‘relational’ art developed), take charge of the synthetic recomposition (in the artefactual and industrial sense) of a social link that was ruined by their own development.


This situation is, for all that, pharmacological. This means that, if it is possible to fight this becoming-audience of publics, and against the short-circuiting of transindividuation which is its enormous cost, it is fought by an engagement in the current stage of grammatisation, including in the so-called ‘social networks’. It is fought by the formation of new critical spaces sustaining the possibility that circuits of transindividuation constituting critical time could be formed in the heart of circles of amateurs.


It is precisely the aim of constituting such a space and time, threaded by a critical process of transindividuation largely shared and disseminated amongst circles of amateurs, that the software Ligne de temps was created by the Institute of Research and Innovation.

By rendering discrete the continuous flux of a film—the flux which, in its first apprehension constitutes the film through enabling a surprehension of it— Ligne de temps is an apparatus of digital grammatisation of this flux, one which allows analytical access to the discrete units which make up the film, to annotate them, to arrange them, and to produce on this basis what we at IRI call signed viewings . Ligne de temps thus enables one to substantiate through analytical judgement the synthetic judgement that is first constituted through the temporal apprehension of the entire film—an apprehension which, as the film plays, is precipitated and cyrstallises into a surprehension.


I would have liked to show you a demonstration of this using a film whose hero is a great amateur of the cinema, Kiarostami’s Close Up, emphasising with Hormuz Kei at once how cinema played a major role in the Iranian Islamic revolution and how the Iranian people are still today true amateurs. The hero of this film, Hossein Sabzian, is a living testimony to this (Close Up is a kind of documentary).


We do not have the time for this now, but I invite you to watch Close Up in anticipation of another chance to discuss it.








主讲人:Bernard Stiegler (贝尔纳·斯蒂格勒)

时间:3月1日14:00 – 16:00、3月2日18:00 – 20:00、3月3日14:00 – 16:00、3月4日14:00 – 16:00

地点:中国美术学院南山校区4号楼408/第五场3月5日地点 南山校区学术报告厅








3月1日14:00 – 16:00


3月2日18:00 – 20:00


3月3日14:00 – 16:00


3月4日14:00 – 16:00

第四场:我的电影理论:以Abbas Kiarostami的电影Close Up为例

3月5日18:00 — 20:00