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cultural significance of Open Source tions of influence, such as teachers, systematic suspension of traditional

and explains clearly how it involves far cultural studies academics, government modes of aesthetic judgment: “The art
more than simply free software applica- decision/policy makers and of course world should be seen as the socially
tions such as Open Office or Linux. If members of the legal profession. codified manifestation of the fun-
we accept the notion that “knowledge is I think it is fair to say that open damental equality between all visual
power,” this book argues, source has moved on from its innocent forms, objects, and media” (p. 14).
infancy into adolescence and thus far This, Groys concedes, is an old idea,
All of these concerns amount to a re-
orientation of knowledge and power that is more debate and investigation into its with its origins (as with so much else
incomplete and emergent, and whose nature is required. This book goes a in Art Power) in the work of Marcel
implications reach directly into the long way in forming a foundation for Duchamp. More pertinently, it can be
heart of the legitimacy, certainty, reli- such further informed inquiry. The read as an expanded version of Perry
ability and especially the finality and “Conclusion,” at the end of Part III, has Anderson’s claim that aesthetic plural-
temporality of the knowledge and infra-
structures we collectively create (p. 6). some surprising suggestions and recom- ism might save us from the tyranny of
mendations and very succinctly sums chronologically defined art, from mod-
The book is well written, well argued, up the evolving, mutable nature of Open ernism, postmodernism, and, presum-
and extremely well researched. It is Source/Free Software. In Kelty’s own ably, the threat of post-postmodernism
arranged in three parts, of 10 chapters, words, [1]. Compare, for example:
together with an Introduction, Index,
extensive Notes and a comprehensive A question remains, though: in chang- The axes of aesthetic life would, in
ing, does Free Software and its kin other words . . . run horizontally, not
Bibliography. preserve the imagination of moral and vertically [2].
Part I, “The Internet,” “introduces technical order that created it? Is the
the reader to the concept of recursive recursive public something that sur- with:
publics by exploring the lives, works, vives, orders, or makes sense of these
changes? Does Free Software exist for Hence, it is not to the “vertical” infin-
and discussions of an international
more than its own sake? (p. 301) ity of divine truth that the artist today
community of geeks brought together
makes reference, but to the “horizon-
by shared interest in the Internet” (p. 5). I for one believe absolutely that it tal” infinity of aesthetically equal im-
Part II, “Free Software,” moves away does, but don’t take my word for it; ages (p. 17).
from the ethnographic approach and read and enjoy the book and come to
presents a “historically detailed portrait your own informed conclusion. Anderson’s conclusion has become
of the emergence of Free Software and Groys’s premise. The next step is for
why it has emerged at this point in his- Groys to explain that within the logic
tory” (p. 5). ART POWER of equal aesthetic rights, the sole crite-
Part III, “Modulations,” re-engages by Boris Groys. MIT Press, Cambridge, rion for judgment rests on the degree
the ethnographic approach and dis- MA, U.S.A., 2008. 224 pp. Trade. ISBN: to which an artwork can be said to
cusses in detail “two related projects 0-262-07292-0. promote and sustain aesthetic diversity.
inspired by Free Software”: “Creative Twenty years on from Anderson and 80
Commons, a nonprofit organization Reviewed by Boris Jardine, Department of from Fountain, we might be forgiven for
that creates copyright licenses, and History and Philosophy of Science, Univer- thinking that this is a particularly feeble
Connexions, a project to develop an sity of Cambridge. E-mail: <bj210@cam. move. But for Groys it is the necessary,
online scholarly textbook commons” ac.uk>. basic assumption on which critical and
(p. 6). curatorial apparatus must be based.
Much of Kelty’s argument rests on Extracting a sustained argument from
what he calls “recursive publics,” and Art Power is no easy task. It purports to
this is the nitty-gritty of why Open be a program piece but is in fact a set
Source is a quiet, nonviolent revolu- of “collected essays.” It is not surpris-
tion (à la Gandhi) and is inextricably ing, therefore, that there is a peculiar
involved in power struggles, large and mix of circularity and jumpiness in its
small corporate business and global narrative—Groys repeats himself on
politics. “Recursive publics are publics numerous occasions, even quoting the
concerned with the ability to build, same source twice, but each repetition
control, modify, and maintain the infra- brings a subtly different emphasis. The
structure that allows them to come into effect is disconcerting; there is a certain
being in the first place” (p. 7). scattergun quality to Groys’s thinking.
Considering the scope of the sub- His generalizing, powerful and contrary
ject matter, the book is not especially tone is all that persists from start to
steeped in technical jargon and is finish.
therefore highly readable for a wide Yet there is a line—one of many, no
and varied audience. Contrary to first doubt—that can be drawn through Art
impression, this book is not specifi- Power, one that shows just what this kind
cally directed towards geeks, software of high aesthetic theory can achieve.
code authors or other computer nerds, It begins in the first essay, on the rela-
although these individuals will find the tionship between chronology, art and
book informative and inspiring. It also difference. Here Groys argues for the
should be read by all who have posi- “equality of aesthetic rights”—for the

Leonardo Reviews 275


Moreover, there is something admirable islate and self-efface in equal measure, that the meaning of life is revealed and
in a formulation that takes seriously the to export the universal dicta of human “deep feelings” are shared with others.
task of undermining traditional criteria rights and at the same time draw back Part I explores this fascinating phe-
of judgment so wholeheartedly. One from the pseudo-imperial projects of nomenon from a cross-cultural and
suspected all along that the pessimism modernization theory. The argument cross-temporal point of view. It emerged
in Anderson’s and his contemporaries’ contains an almost Heideggerian dose clearly at the time of the American Civil
writing was borne of a desire to have of slippage through metaphor and War, which shows “how a collective work
their ideological cake and spit it out— metonymy, but it also contains some of mourning in the public sphere can
to rejoice in the avant-garde’s critique valuable insights. For example, the become politically productive” (Byock),
of bourgeois aesthetics and yet still modern, cross-cultural and ahistorical during the burial rites in the village of
feel able to decry art on some aesthetic communities of mass communication Vis in Croatia (Young), in present-day
grounds. For Groys, with all traditional are compared to the communities of Israel (Kasher), in medieval Serbia
grounds gone, we can build from dif- art galleries. The crucial difference (Crouch), and amongst adult children
ference alone—a thankless task, but an between the arbiters of these commu- of Holocaust survivors in the U.S.A.
honest one. nities, argues Groys, is that the blank (David). These are all powerful exam-
Following this, Groys offers a defense vehicles of the media cannot be reflex- ples of how death can help us move
of the roles of both the museum and ive, working as they do in the manner from individualism toward collectivism.
the critic. These are timely interven- of commodity, not art. At the end of As Asa Kasher has pointed out, this
tions and constitute the beating heart this particular line through Art Power, tendency is also implicit in language
of the book. The privileged museum we reach a point at which Groys can, as expressing “collective emotions.” So,
space, regardless of its historical origins, it were, agree with himself: paradoxi- for instance, a nation could be “sad” or
must now serve as an artistic garrison, cal art, as all good modern art is, will “happy” about certain events, as though
fending off the attacks of the art market flourish and interact with its communi- a nation could feel emotions and sym-
and mass media. Far from being under- ties at the meeting point of internally bolically represent a person.
mined by the humiliations of modern- conflicted politics (pace contemporary The boundaries between life and
ism and postmodernism, the museum European politics), new technology death are challenged in the reflections
has found itself to be the only space in (pace formal and generic diversity) and about mourning, which are presented
which art can be recognized as such. institutional struggle (pace the museum in Part II. Gary Peters explores the
To be sure, this puts the museum in a as barracks). power of “embodying” the dead loved
precariously close relationship to the This, at least, is one reading of Art one from a philosophical perspective.
commercial gallery and wider art mar- Power. It is a struggle, but extracting an It shows how, when someone close to us
ket, but it also means that the museum argument is worth the effort. dies, it feels as if part of them lives on
is the only space in which proper aes- with us and the relationship with the
thetic rebellion can take place and be References dead does not disappear, but changes.
recognized as such. In parallel with the Again, the separation between life and
1. P. Anderson, “Modernity and Revolution,” New Left
raising of the ordinary to the artistic, Review, I/144, March–April 1984, pp. 96–113. death diminishes.
the museum allows us to downgrade the Simply stated, we can say that there
2. Anderson [1] p. 113.
visual hyperbole of reality into the man- is a continuum rather than a separa-
ageable calm of an exhibited artwork— tion between life and death that makes
it is a veritable space for all seasons. it difficult to draw clear lines. Such a
Complementing the museum is its DYING AND DEATH: INTER- principle is fundamental to Eastern
orator, the critic. Groys first shows us DISCIPLINARY PERSPECTIVES philosophical thinking, in which there
how powerless and emaciated artistic by Asa Kasher, ed. Rodopi Press, is no clear distinction between life and
commentators have become—merely Amsterdam/New York, 2007, 217 pp.
dressing artworks for the market or tell- Paper. ISBN: 978-90-420-2245-4.
ing the public that their favorite artists
really are that good—before presenting a Reviewed by Ornella Corazza, SOAS, Uni-
new model. This new critic, well-versed versity of London, U.K. E-mail: <oc1@soas.
in aesthetic equality and difference, ac.uk>.
would delight in showing how one
avant-garde stance differs from another, This book is an important collection of
politically, morally and perhaps even papers with wide-ranging implications
historically and aesthetically. There is for a better understanding of life and
more in these middle essays than it is death in different places and times.
possible to summarize, and they offer Caught up by the frenetic rhythms
ample recompense for the book’s cha- of our lives, rapid communication
otic nature. and transportation, we do not seem
Returning to what nearly becomes Art to have time for genuine reflection
Power’s central theme, Groys presents us about death, as if we were going to live
in closing with a truly politicized essay, forever. When a near-death situation,
entitled “Europe and Its Others.” Here such as a terminal illness, touches our
we have a synthesis of sorts: Aesthetic life or that of a close friend or family
equality and the attendant paradox member, we discover that we are com-
of art’s sovereignty are set against the pletely unprepared to face it. Strangely
backdrop of the European desire to leg- enough, it is in these circumstances

276 Leonardo Reviews