Productive and Creative Poiesis and the Work of Art

in Transcultural Studies
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There are two ancient formulations of the problem art presents to us: poiesis understands art as a generic ontological problem and techné treats art as a particular kind of work—a skilful, intentional practice to deviate processes of becoming. Arguably, this distinction leads to very different procedures for determining the ‘work of art’; poiesis considers artistic praxis as resolved into the artefact while techné considers it as a problem in-itself. This tension is evident in the generic designation of the ‘work of art’ which tends to conflate process with what this process produces. This conflation about the work of art can be illuminated via a return to Aristotle’s concept of techné. This is because techné (the kind of work art performs) remains irreducible to both poiesis (to make) and praxis (deliberative action). Where poiesis and praxis are constructive activities differentiated by their intentional ends, techné remains a more foundational power to work upon processes of material causation. What these Aristotelian distinctions clarify is that the work of art is neither resolvable in the terms of its productions (poiesis) or the terms of its practices (praxis, deliberative actions); rather, art works by deviating these productive processes in the midst of their becoming, by bringing unprecedented differences into being. As such, the work of art apprehended by Aristotelian techné is not reducible to any poiesis; it works upon and divides poiesis into another workflow—a creative poiesis. The work of art thus appears as a creative, causal power counter-posed to all production.

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