Will to Power

Home / Education / ARChives / Foundational Discussions

Will to Power

From Jeffery LeMieux

Published before 2005

Jeffery LeMieux: Good questions and observations.

First, my constant reference to power is a rejection of power as any meaningful distinction, unlike postmodern identity politics and art theorists whose ideas depend solely upon power differentials as the sole distinguishing characteristic of choice.

Kara Clark: It seems that by constantly looking to power as motivation and reason for making art, you are emphasizing it as much as the post-modernists. You seem to think it is a meaningful distinction, such as when you criticized the work of Klimt for being about power. Your approach to art seems to fall right in line with the post-modernists, (constantly looking for power where it's a non-issue) even if you disagree with them somewhat on the value of power.


I understand your criticism of my approach. When I note that Klimt's work, especially the sex and death works, appear to me to be essentially about power, I always think about Bouguereau, Cot, Terbreugghen, Rubens etc. and conclude that while they often painted images of powerful people, the images were always directed towards a greater understanding of virtue, a recognition that the powerful as object is almost always an illusion when compared to the sublime, etc. I find the modernist approach to be usually coupled with either a romantic fatalism or a logical positivist atheism, neither of which can acknowledge the reality of the sublime. Personally, [I think] the issue of the sublime is what animates much of late 19th century art, one of the factors which separates it from later work.

Simply calling the power-worshippers out is not tantamount to being one of them. My intent is to draw attention to the choice and hope that we can recognize it and choose better. It's very easy to be seduced, especially today in our extremely power-oriented culture of unrestrained sex, money and death. Don't think we have one like that? Look at the popular forms of entertainment... Additionally, we have been mesmerized over the last 100 years by our own technological achievements and our increasing ability to mold our immediate environment to our will. Our power-based culture is almost transparent to most eyes.

Can anyone ignore that the 20th century, a century with one cold and two hot and worldwide wars was the century when power and human hubris stepped onto center stage? For these and other reasons, I will continue to hope for better.