Grant Vetter 

Curator / Critic / Theorist / Writer 

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Born in 1978, Grant Vetter spent most of his life in Southern California where he completed his studies as an artist at the Art Center College of Design (ACCD) and the University of California, Irvine (UCI), where he also received an emphasis degree in critical theory from the Critical Theory Institute (CTI). He went on to complete both a second masters in Media and Communications as well as a Ph.D. in Art, Politics and Critical Thought at the European Graduate School (EGS). He has been an instructor at the School for Science and Architecture (SCI-Arch), Arizona State University (ASU) and many other prestigious institutions. 

Vetter wrote his first significant academic study on Nietzsche and Art under the title of “Non-Similar Similitude: Nietzschean Aesthetics and the Eternal Return of the Same”. The essay set out to examine the different cultural meanings associated with the concept of the Eternal Return as it relates to art by linking the idea of eternal reoccurrence and the will-to-power with the work of developmental psychologists like Piaget, Pascual-Leone, Commons, Alexander, Fischer, Sinnot and Labouvie-Veif. This foray into the social sciences allowed Vetter to create a new reading of how we understand the Eternal Return by correlating different epochs of art production with the role that art plays in cognitive adaption. Vetter’s strong refutation of the canonical interpretations of eternal reoccurrence by Karl Löwithand Joan Stambaugh built on the wave of post-structuralist interpretations of the Nietzschean corpus that fell under the moniker of “the New Nietzsche”. His insightful and pragmatic reading of the concept was praised by many Nietzsche scholars including Fred Ulfers.

Vetter’s master thesis, “Hyperbolic Capitalism: From postmodernism to the neo-Baroque”, was considered to be an original contribution to the theorization of the neo-Baroque or “the post-Postmodern condition”. Going beyond the conceptualization of culture put forth by Fredric Jameson, Jean Baudrillard and Jean-Francois Lyotard, Vetter set out to resolve a key conflict in the theorization of a newly emergent logic in cultural production during the 90s that had created a paradigmatic rift between the new theorists of beauty, such as Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe, Dave Hickey, and Mario Perniola, and the defenders of relational aesthetics like Nicholas Bourriaud, Claire Bishop, and Nato Thompson. Vetter’s thesis demonstrated that the first of these two groups had theorized how exterior states of the body were being subsumed by, and redesigned through technological manipulation, while and the second group provided a reconsideration of the expanded awareness of interior states of being, intersubjectivity and the theater of motivated interactions in the public sphere. Vetter defended the notion that both positions qualified as neo-Baroque phenomenon, albeit split across an internal-subjectivist and external-collectivist axis. Thus, it is easy to see how Vetter’s far-reaching examination of the ways in which the neo-Baroque was based on the production of extreme forms of beauty, the threat of the technological sublime, and the passion play of bodies in space, all helped to lay the groundwork for his later study of subjectivation and social control. As such, we can say that Vetter’s work helped to cognitively map the emergence of the new cultural logic deemed the "Neo-Baroque Condition" by scholars like Angela Ndalianis, Sean Cubbit, and Omar Calabrese.

 

MODERNISM

POSTMODERNISM

NEOBAROQUE

Homogeneity

Heterogeneity

Hybridity

Purpose

Play

Performativity

Hierarchy

Anarchy

Interdependence

Mastery

Exhaustion

Complexity

Organic unity 

Pastiche

Remediation

Truth to materials

Parody

Artifice

Essentialism

Self-reflexivity

Multiplicity

Cannonical

Historical Revisionism

Post-history

Centered

Decentered

Poly-centric

Clarity

Ambiguity

Artificiality

The Real

Hyper-real

Theatricality

Determinacy

Indeterminacy

Relationality

Origin / Cause

Difference / Trace

Emergence / Organization

Explosion (of forms)

Implosion (of meaning)

Corrosion (by time)

Reading

Viewing

Experiencing

Metaphor

Metonymy

Allegory

Narrative genres

Intertextuality

Hyper-textuality

Hysteria / Neurosis

Schizophrenia / Bi-Polarity

Paranoia / Polarization

Foundationalism

Nihilism

Neo-fundamentalism

Autonomous self

Fragmented self

Saturated self

Declarative sentence

Inquisitive sentence

Abbreviated sentence

Production

Simulation

Stimulation

Print

Telecommunication

Scripted spaces

Interaction

Interface

Transaction

Monopoly capitalism

Late capitalism

Hyperbolic capitalism

Durable commodity forms

Planned obsolescence

Pay-to-Play fees

Standard models

Constant innovation

Customization

Industrial revolution

Technological revolution

Entertainment revolution

Homo-faber

Homo-ludens

Homo-generator

Centered

Decentered

Poly-centric

 

Vetter’s unpublished 900 page opus on molecular psychology, entitled The Birth of a Real-Time Politik, combined the most relevant aspects of depth psychology with quantum mechanics in order to give us a thoroughgoing analysis of cognitive and/or affective capitalism on society at large. In it he describes the process of subjectivation through transactional analysis and the language of particle physics. Vetter studied with Alain Badiou, Slavoj Žižek, and Michael Hardt while he was drafting the manuscript which could be best described as Vetter’s fundamental attempt to produce a reliable epistemological account of the effects of capitalism on the body socius. The text represents Vetter’s committed, but ultimately flawed attempt to reunite the origins of materialist philosophy with materialist politics. While authors like Manuel Delanda took Deleuze in a realist direction; and Hardt-Negri took his work in a political direction; and Brian Massumi took Deleuze’s work in the direction of affect theory; Vetter’s contribution to schizo-analysis and the psychological experience of being a BwO, remains something of a furtive ‘fourth way’ in Post-Deleuzian schizo-analysis that is only just beginning to be explored by other philosophers today. 

Nevertheless, many of the insights from this text appear in Vetter’s next work, The Architecture of Control: A Contribution Towards the Critique of the Science of Apparatuses (TAOC), which sought to update Foucault’s work on how we understand the effects of Panopticism on modern life. In TAOC, one can feel the influence of Deleuze’s “Post-Script on Societies of Control” on nearly every page of the book, and it is certainly what allowed Vetter’s project to evolve from being focused on molecular psychology to what he later deemed a sub-atomizing physics of social control that describes the affects of social ionization and the effects of indo-colonization. In this work Vetter created an entirely new language for understanding the construction of ‘perfected subjects’ rather than ‘normative’ ones, where subjectivization is built upon enterrogatory discipline, inferrogatory infomatics, modulated (in)dividualism, auto-affective attunement and the perpetual re-inscription of incentivizing injunctions across the whole of the body socius by Kapital. Vetter’s single most important claim in TAOC is that we have finally moved beyond Panopticism and Neo-Panopticism into a regime of control that could rightly be called Fiberopticism, and that all radical politics will have to contend with this new reality as the relationship of power/knowledge becomes ever more machinational under neoliberalism. 

The book was well received in the fields of architectural theory, surveillance studies and philosophy, garnering glowing endorsements from Mark Poster, William Bogard, and others. When compared with the previous generation of postmodern thinkers, Vetter’s theorization of Fiberopticism is perhaps the most trenchant critique of Bentham’s social philosophy and Panoptic forms of social control to date. In this way, we can say that Vetter’s model of a sub-atomizing physics based on self-disciplinary mechanisms helped to bring a renewed sense of relevance to Foucault’s analysis of the microphysics of power. Beyond the influence of Foucault, Vetter’s theories of social ionization follow from Debord’s writings about the spectacularization of society, and his notion of determination in the first instance provided a complete rethinking of Althusser’s account of the connection of interpolation to the concept of determination in the last lnstant. Finally, much of Vetter’s work can be seen as foreshadowing the diagnosis put forth by Byung-Chul Han in The Burnout Society because Vetter’s theory of a society of ‘perfected subjects’ is largely synonymous with Han’s description of ‘achievement subjects’. Taken together, all of these dispositif's inform Vetter’s theorization of the process of intensive subsumption as the rise of new forms of direct investituret in conscription of life by capital, moving us beyond the horizon of investigations that Marx first outlined with the terms formal and real subsumption. In summary, Vetter's work points to  how this new phase of political economy has dramatic consequences for how we conceptualize the process of subjectivation and the future prospects of human agency.   

Vetter is currently writing “The Future(s) of Art”, a text that brings together integral psychology with the concerns of continental aesthetics in an effort to overcome many of the contradictions of his earlier work. “Future(s)” points to a more holistic path for individual and collective interests to engage in both progressive politics and forms of cultural production that resist hyperbolic capitalism in order to challenge the fragmented, saturated and schizoid condition of the neoliberal psyche in the era of generalized precarity. 

Vetter has shown his art both nationally and internationally. Today he is a teacher and an independent curator. Some of his most important exhibitions are: Geometric Elegance: Art in the Age of Computational Beauty (2020) Psychogeografik (2018-19) | A Matter of Public Record: Art in the Age of Mass Surveillance I & II (2018-2019) | The Fate of Landscape Painting (2017) |  Abstraction in the Singular (2017) | East of Eden: Karen Finley and Bruce Yonemoto (2016) | Parables of the Virtual (2016) | Geometry in the Expanded Field (2016) | Landscape at Escape Velocity (2016) | In Advance of Identity (2015) | The Status of Portraiture (2014) | The De-socialized Landscape (2013) | Painting on Edge I & II (2012-14) | Speculative Materialism: Abstract Art and it's Conditions I & II (2012-13) | Pacific Non-Standard Time: FAR (Foundation for Art Resources) (2012) | Action (Un)Packed: Abstraction After Action (2011)

 

Key Terms from The Architecture of Control (TAOC)

 

Archio-Discipline

Auto-Affective-Attunement / Auto-Attonement

Dividual / Dividuation / Subjectile

Determination in the First Instance

Enterrogatory Discipline

Fiberopticon

Fourfold Diagram of Control

Incentivizing Injunctions

Indo-colonization

Inferrogatory discipline

Intensive Subsumption

Social Ionization

 

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