By Roland Bleiker (auth.)
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Irony irritates,’ Milan Kundera says. 39 Irony draws attention to the fact that representation is an inevitably political issue, that there is always a gap between what is observed and how this observation is represented in and through language. 40 Some of these tensions between the mimetic and the aesthetic have insinuated themselves into prevalent international relations scholarship. Kenneth Waltz, in one of his relatively frequent escapes from mimetic conventions, stresses that theories result from a process of abstraction and are thus distinct from the realities they seek to explain.
The aesthetic has taken over, they argue, because a modern artist does not merely try to bring about trompe l’oeil effects – attempts to create representations so realistic that they give the illusion of the actual thing depicted. To be of artistic value, a work of art – be it a poem, an opera, a painting or a photograph – must be able to engage and capture not only exterior realities, but also, and above all, our human relationship with them. The key, the argument goes, is to offer an interpretation of reality that actively differs from the reality itself.
They have generally come to be accepted as realistic responses based on representations of the world as it ‘really’ is. Through decades of dominance in academic scholarship, policy formation and public discourse, the anti-representational values of realism have shaped how we perceive the boundaries between the rational and irrational. 30 Realists are, of course, not the only ones who succumbed to the power of mimesis. Throughout history people often sought comfort and stability in the illusion that their representations not just resembled but actually captured the respective objects as they really were.
Aesthetics and World Politics by Roland Bleiker (auth.)