This essay is a critical examination of Jean-François Lyotard's little-known text on the American artist Edward Kienholz, Pacific Wall (Le mur du pacifique). It argues in favor of the experimental methodology that Lyotard developed in his encounter with Kienholz's installation Five Car Stud, suggesting that attention to this aspect of Lyotard's writings might allow us to avoid some of the impasses created by the emphasis upon the sublime aspect of aesthetic experience. Reading Pacific Wall in terms of the problems set out in Lyotard's Libidinal Economy, I contend that one can detect an ethics of thought and commentary at work in these early writings, one according to which the thinker must somehow find a way to imbue his text with a libidinal intensity equal to or greater than the work of art in question.
Art Before the Sublime: The Libidinal Economy up against the Pacific Wall
Joseph J. Tanke is associate professor of philosophy at the University of Hawaii. He is the author of Foucault's Philosophy of Art: A Genealogy of Modernity (2009) and Jacques Rancière: An Introduction—Philosophy, Politics, Aesthetics (2012), and editor (with Colin McQuillan) of The Bloomsbury Anthology of Aesthetics (2012).