The Visual Arts And The Mediated Public Sphere
Faculty of Philosophy University of Groningen Groningen, The Netherlands
Processes of mediation have been central to modern life and its public sphere. The modern public sphere is an essentially mediated publicity, as public opinion formation has been dependent on a host of mediating devices. Mediation favours democracy in providing and engendering civic practices of argumentation - without mediative practices no civic practices, no citizenship in its civic, participatory or deliberative sense.
Art is often understood as remaining outside this complex of mediated publicity, considered to be a realm of the imagination with no clear ties to the argumentative realm of publicity. The public sphere, however, is not just about arguing on content, it is also about embodied presence. And it is not so much the textual media as rather the visual media that would be the quintessential spaces where this dimension of public life is being represented and mediated. The realm of the visual imagination - in the broad sense of both "high" and "low" visual culture - provides us with representations, or configurations, of public presence, that is, the ways bodies situate themselves in space and in relation to each other. Nineteenth- and twentieth-century painting, cinema, and advertising all vie for the representation of bodies-in-public-space.
I am interested in how the mediations of public opinion and of public presence could be drawn together conceptually. How to draw the visual arts into the theory of democracy? I will discuss some sources of the theoretical perplexities involved, by inquiring into a number of theories that have been developed on the mediated nature of modern publicity, conceptualising it as for instance discursive, phantasmagoric, spectatorial or recitative publicity. I will track the suitability of these various approaches for addressing the mix of textual and visual mediations that characterizes present-day?s public spheres.