The Art of Lawlessness Part III

The lawless Art


The suggestion that art and artistic expression are capable and moreover somehow predestined to assume the role of a political instance in the sense mentioned earlier was common amongst the discussants. Because art operates at the margins and regularly transgresses borders – in the sense of norms and rules, but also in the literal legal sense –, it can allow inscriptions and attributions that imply an exceptional political role that is able to challenge and destabilize bigger contexts or institutionalized systems. In this sense and discussed in this particular context, art assumes an activist function that automatically places it outside the space of the law.


Here, again, two conflicting positionings of art were debated, the one just mentioned, namely an art with a political function located in relation to law and droit, and the one proclaiming autonomy of art on all levels and a sort of disengagement from legal or illegal politics. The attitude proposed by Janez Janša, the Czech choreographer and artist, for instance and that I would understand as a sort of thinking along both positions mentioned earlier, suggested an exhausting working strictly according to the law in order to explore and expose its limitations and absurdities. So, instead of aiming at a lawless art which eventually – or not – will contest law and its borders, one has to practice an explicitly lawful art that necessarily will reveal the lawlessness within the law. Here a quote by Janez Janša, one of our interview partners in Amsterdam, which brings the situation exactly to the point:


"The law is something unstable. One can damage it much more when following it rather than going against it. [...] Try to live completely according to law: you always wait for green light, drive correctly. Firstly, you need to read enormous amount of literature, about interpretation and practice of it. Try to do it. This is nearly impossible. So, the idea of lawlessness is not something that needs to be invented. But, basically, it is the reality in which we already live. This becomes interesting in the so-called ‘exceptional realities’. When you do art, you have a schizophrenic relation to law: on the one hand, you want to do it according to the law, the modernistic idea of autonomy of art. But on the other hand, you want to do art that has some consequences for real life. Basically this can’t go together. Why people are so disappointed with what is called ‘political art’ or ‘the political in art’ today is exactly because of this schizophrenia."




  • In case you want to quote parts or the whole of this blog post, please use the following bibliographical information:
    Natascha Siouzouli. “The Art of Lawlessness – Part III. The Lawless Art”, The Aesthetics of Applied Theatre (blog), September 2014.