Edited by Emilios Christodoulidis, Ruth Dukes and Marco Goldoni
Chapter 12: Law is a stage: from aesthetics to affective aestheses
Legal aesthetics is increasingly less about looking at law and aesthetics or art together, and rather about understanding the aesthetic practices the law employs in order to prove itself socially relevant. This is not an isolated legal phenomenon but largely a consequence of a shift in aesthetics as a whole, from the ontology of definition (beauty, art, sublime) to the new ontology of apparition (or staging). This means that the law must stage itself in a consumer-oriented way, to market itself in a socially engaging way, and to package itself in a media-appetising way in order to legitimise itself and its continuous social role. From the society of discipline (Foucault) to that of control (Deleuze), and now to that of self-staging, the law deals with the need for legitimation by marketing itself as desirable. This legal ‘selfie’, as it were, relies on manipulation of affects to generate an atmosphere in which the law can carry on proving itself relevant. In this chapter, after surveying the established connection between law and art/aesthetics, I engage with the shift from aesthetics of definition to aestheses of immersion, namely immersion into affects that involve sensorial and emotional responses. In order to demonstrate this empirically, I look into the experimental performance ‘No Feedback’ (London 2015) that dealt with issues of atmosphere engineering, distinction as aesthetic choice and aesthesic immersion.
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