History – Narcissism

History is a unit of the art project hyper-Encyclopédie and about the aesthetic of autonomy and the political imaginary.

As part of the hyper-Encyclopédie art project, will be focused on the political imaginary. Considering the written text as an architecture of power, it is envisaged elements and components of this “text” to rewrite an imaginary toward a global and diversified understanding.

In Western self-definition, we understand the single and the collective as historical beings. Considering ideologically biased, history leads to diverse justifications or political decisions. As Western cultural and political imaginary is rooted in imperialistic attitude, the idea of mental decolonization through alternative imaginaries and therefore awareness is a possibility of a change in deep politics.

A part of a chapter from my paper “Aesthetic of Autonomy in Digital Education”

  1. Education in Ideology

In order to envisage the direction and quality of transformation through art and why “the artist is indispensable in the shaping and analysis and understanding of the life of forms, and structures created by electronic technology,” [1] is to investigate the conditions of possibilities of education and social formation, which Louis Althusser undertook in his structuralist theory about state and ideology. In this frame is to grasp how artistic operations open possibilities of alternative processes in educational means and strengthen individual processes of authenticity, autonomy, and spirituality with a repercussion on society toward pluralism.

Social practices are in an ongoing process defined by decisions based on ideologies through history. This socio-historical architecture is regulating almost all activities of the individual and the collective being including mental processes.

In his analysis in Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses [2] Louis Althusser continues Marx’s theory about the state as a social formation is functionalized and structured corresponding to hegemony exigency through the State Apparatuses which are the means of “the reproduction of the condition of production.“ [3] Althusser offers a step for further discourse as he defines the structures of social organization by stabilizing the parameters and focusing on ideology as practice and function in the formation of the individual and of social structures.

rachela abbate Althusser_4_web history
Education #1 – State Apparatus, 2017, digital prints, texts and images with gold color monoprints, 12 x (21 x 15 cm) @Rachela Abbate

Althusser differentiates and categorizes the functioning of the State Apparatuses. The first is defined as Repressive State Apparatus which includes the government, administration, military, police, etc. belonging to the public domain and functioning by violence. The second he defines as Ideological State Apparatus, which includes realities functioning by ideology among them family, religious, legal, political, educational, the communication, cultural apparatuses. [4] The reproduction of the conditions of production has to be “secured by the exercises of State power in the State Apparatuses” [5] and education holds in the dominant position in mature capitalist social formation: next to instruct individuals in production skills, they learn to submit to ideology of authority.  Beings within social formations are functionalized through education by accepting willingly and consciously the ruling ideology.

 “In other words, the school (but also other State institutions like the Church, or other apparatuses like the Army) teaches ‘know-how’, but in forms which ensure subjection to the ruling ideology or the mastery of its ‘practice’. All the agents of production, exploitation, and repression, not to speak of the ‘professionals of ideology’ (Marx), must in one way or another be ‘steeped’ in this ideology in order to perform their tasks ‘conscientiously’ – the tasks of the exploited (the proletarians), of the exploiters (the capitalists), of the exploiters’ auxiliaries (the managers), or of the high priests of the ruling ideology (its ‘functionaries’), etc.

The reproduction of labor power thus reveals as its sine qua non not only the reproduction of its ‘skills’ but also the reproduction of its subjection to the ruling ideology or of the ‘practice’ of that ideology, with the proviso that it is not enough to say ‘not only but also’, for it is clear that it is in the forms and under the forms of ideological subjection that provision is made for the reproduction of the skills of labour power.” [6]

Relaying in many aspects on Freudian psychoanalysis, especially of the theory of the unconscious, Althusser defines ideology as “the representation of the imaginary relationship of the individuals to their real conditions of existence.” [7]

 As an important discernment he proposes further, that ideology has a material existence with the primary function to constitute the individual as subjects, “all ideology hails or interpellates concrete individuals as concrete subjects, by the functioning of the category of the subject.” [8] In other words, we all are born within an ideology that gives us a sense, a belief, a name, a definition, an identity. As ideology has to be accepted consciously, the set into the practice of ideology lays within the Ideological State Apparatus in educational institutions. Althusser continues to explain how we submit to or are confined through ideology and he gives a short consideration how scientific approach could break with ideology: by recognizing the ideology, in which the individual and its research is embedded.

rachela abbate Ideology_1_web history
particular of Education #1 – State Apparatus, 2017, digital prints, texts and images with gold color monoprints, 12 x (21 x 15 cm) @Rachela Abbate

 “I might add: what thus seems to take place outside ideology (to be precise, in the street), in reality takes place in ideology. What really takes place in ideology seems, therefore, to take place outside it. That is why those who are in ideology believe themselves by definition outside ideology: one of the effects of ideology is the practical denegation of the ideological character of ideology by ideology: ideology never says, ‘I am ideological’. It is necessary to be outside ideology, i.e. in scientific knowledge, to be able to say: I am in ideology (a quite exceptional case) or (the general case): I was in ideology.” [9]

Here is to emphasize the specification of ideology as a system of ideas and the definition of ideology in its material existence and therefore gaining a function through which material forms are operating in.

 “This hypothetical thesis of the not spiritual but material existence of ‘ideas’ or other ‘representations’ is indeed necessary if we are to advance in our analysis of the nature of ideology. Or rather, it is merely useful to us in order the better to reveal what every at all serious analysis of any ideology will immediately and empirically show to every observer, however critical.  While discussing the Ideological State Apparatuses and their practices, I said that each of them was the realization of an ideology (the unity of these different regional ideologies – religious, ethical, legal, political, aesthetic, etc. – being assured by their subjection to the ruling ideology). I now return to this thesis: an ideology always exists in an apparatus, and its practice, or practices. This existence is material.” [10]

Material existence includes the struggling of antagonistic parts of social systems – the class struggle – on which Althusser is building his theory.  Further, I like to add the fact, that we are conceptualizing autonomy and authenticity, which are not reachable through the material existence of ideology as function.

The above-described thesis is a base for the condition and the definition of education, which gives us contemporarily the importance and the situation of the matter in question. With this claustrophobically description of our conditions of being, functioning and practicing by Althusser, we can understand why education is of socio-political and private concern, especially as we are in a general critical point, that strikes all social spheres.

In order to continue or to develop, basing on the above-described theory, a proposition of an ideology break through artistic functioning, which could qualify dynamics of the processes of digitalization in education and furthermore transform given situation in a direction away from dichotomies or dialectics, we can rely on two keys which Althusser gives us with his thesis: the imaginary and the mechanism of mirror recognition in which individuals are interpellated, named, constituted as subjects as it secures the reproduction of the relations of production. Althusser outlines a system by staying in the example of the Christian religious ideology for explaining the mechanism in general:

 “Let me summarize what we have discovered about ideology in general.

The duplicate mirror-structure of ideology ensures simultaneously:

  1. the interpellation of ‘individuals’ as subjects;
  2. their subjection to the Subject;
  3. the mutual recognition of subjects and Subject, the subjects’ recognition of each other, and finally the subject’s recognition of himself;
  4. the absolute guarantee that everything really is so, and that on condition that the subjects recognize what they are and behave accordingly, everything will be all right: Amen – ‘So be it’.” [11]

Therefore, we can reflect on possibilities of identifying the ideological trap we are caught in by examining the mirror recognition, which is concerning all aspects of linguistics and it is to scrutinize how text is codified,  as we will reflect on later which consequence art and the new communication and information systems brings with them.


1 Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1964)

2 – 11 Louis Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses: Notes towards an Investigation,” in Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays, trans. Ben Brewster, Monthly Review Press 1971, transcribed by Andy Blunden (Marxist Internet Archive) https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/althusser/1970/ideology.htm


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