‘Beautiful Like a Burning Bank’: Justice, Art, and the Poetics of the Street

George Sotiropoulos

conference: DARE 2017: aberrant nuptials
date: November 21, 2017
venue: Orpheus Institute, Concert Hall
format: in absence
keywords: aesthetics

abstract about the author(s)


The potentials of Deleuze’s thought for artistic theory and practice have been recognised from early on. This owes much to the fact that Deleuze himself wrote extensively on various artistic fields as well as making artistic creation an organic part of his philosophy, including the works that he co-authored with Felix Guattari. On the other hand, Deleuze’s attitude towards justice was much more ambivalent. Not only was his engagement with theories of justice less extensive and systematic, he also offered various critical remarks concerning the theoretical value of the concept. Yet, it has been recognised that his conception of justice does not amount to a simplistic, direct repudiation. Rather, key elements of Deleuze’s intellectual output, notably his analytics of desire, offer a conceptual framework for thinking justice beyond the normative and idealistic confines of mainstream theory. Even more, Deleuze’s thought provides conceptual tools for grasping theoretically the lack of clear boundaries, that is, the zone of indeterminacy between justice and art.

My presentation develops the preceding thesis with a focus on artistic research and its potential to enter a productive conversation with political theory. In contrast with a more traditional “philosophy of art,” artistic research does not confine art to a closed category of aesthetics but rather engages with the fluid boundaries of artistic creation. The very term “artistic research” testifies to this fluidity, since it can mean both research on art  and research that has an artistic quality. In this context, rather than simply claiming that Deleuzian categories can be appropriated for a theory of justice in the same fertile way that they have been appropriated for artistic theory, I argue that Deleuze’s philosophy allows for a conceptualisation of justice that makes it a pertinent notion for artistic research. Conversely, this means that artistic research could become a dimension of a theory of justice. After elaborating this proposition on the conceptual level, the presentation will turn to its practical manifestations.

If institutions generally tend to formalise the segregation between justice and art, the latter’s indeterminacy is revealed most clearly at the level of the street. This term, far from being simply topological, is conceived as a sociopolitical category, a field of multiple flows and acts of becoming. In this context, attention will be directed to a specific activity: rioting.

Today, riots attract a lot of attention, but as a rule they are not registered as a positive index of either artistic research or a theory of justice. Against this negative attitude it will instead be argued that riots are paradigmatic instantiations of the zone of indeterminacy between justice and art, hence, a valid subject matter for artistic research. Even more, riots serve    a critical function vis-à-vis the generalised aestheticisation of the sensible taking place today. A similar critical function, filled with political force, can be generated through a productive dialogue between artistic research and theories of justice.

* Graffito from the streets of Athens.

about the author(s)

George Sotiropoulos

George Sotiropoulos is currently teaching at the International School of Athens. His more recent publications include “Bodies of Truth: Eric Voegelin’s Ontology of Participation and the Potentialities of Embodied Being” in Contemporary Political Theory (2015); Thirsting for Justice: On the Theory and History of Revolution (Futura Publications, 2017, in Greek); and “On the Anti-Memorandum Struggles and the (Not-) Coming-Democracy” in After the Crisis, ed. John Holloway (PM Press, forthcoming). He is currently working on a book that explores the prospects and scope of a materialist theory of justice. He is also a member of the political and artistic collective Void Network.

info & contact


International School of Athens


gsotiropoulos [AT] isa.edu.gr