Reflections on the relationship of aesthetics to politics tend to circle, almost compulsively, around a relatively stable set of conceptual oppositions, inherited from German philosophies of the late 18th century. This essay proposes an expansion of the theoretical terms of the debate by extending the field of transcendental aesthetics into the domain of historical temporalization. Fundamental art-historical categories may thereby be incorporated, philosophically transformed, into ‘aesthetics’ as forms of historical temporalization: avant-garde, modern, contemporary. The essay (...) expounds two theses, in particular: 1. The historical subsumption of the temporality of the avant-garde by the temporality of the modern: the modern stands to the avant-garde as the negation of its politics by the repetition of the new –‘the new as the ever–same’; 2. the historical subsumption of the temporality of the modern by ‘the contemporary’: the contemporary stands to the modern as the negation of the dialectical logic – and hence specifically developmentalist futurity – of the new by a spatially determined, but imaginary co-presencing. One effect of this latter subsumption, it is argued, is a particular, regressive ‘repetition of the national’, at the level of cultural representation, on the terrain of the global. (shrink)
Art, Mimesis and the Avant-Garde explores the relationship between art and philosophy. Andrew Benjamin argues for a reworking of the task of philosophy in terms of the centrality of ontology. It is in relation to this centrality, understood through the differences between modes of being, that art, mimesis, and the avant-garde come to be presented. A fundamental part of this book is the original interpretations of important contemporary painters and their themes: Lucian Freud's self-portraits, Francis Bacon (...) 's use of mirrors, R. B. Kitaj and Jewish identity, Anselm Kiefer and iconoclasm. Apart from painting, Benjamin considers architecture, literature, and the philosophical writings of Walter Benjamin and Descartes in elaborating the various aspects of ontological difference. Benjamin develops the theory of the avant-garde as a philosophical category rather than a historical marker, thus bringing the worlds of contemporary art criticism and contemporary philosophy closer together. (shrink)
_Five Faces of Modernity_ is a series of semantic and cultural biographies of words that have taken on special significance in the last century and a half or so: _modernity_, _avant-garde_, _decadence_, _kitsch_, and _postmodernism_. The concept of modernity—the notion that we, the living, are different and somehow superior to our predecessors and that our civilization is likely to be succeeded by one even superior to ours—is a relatively recent Western invention and one whose time may already have passed, if (...) we believe its postmodern challengers. Calinescu documents the rise of cultural modernity and, in tracing the shifting senses of the five terms under scrutiny, illustrates the intricate value judgments, conflicting orientations, and intellectual paradoxes to which it has given rise. _Five Faces of Modernity_ attempts to do for the foundations of the modernist critical lexicon what earlier terminological studies have done for such complex categories as _classicism_, _baroque_, _romanticism_, _realism_, or _symbolism_ and thereby fill a gap in literary scholarship. On another, more ambitious level, Calinescu deals at length with the larger issues, dilemmas, ideological tensions, and perplexities brought about by the assertion of modernity. (shrink)
I. An introduction -- II. Russian futurism and the related currents -- III. Russian suprematism and constructivism -- IV. The OBERIU circle (Daniil Kharms and his associates) -- V. Russian experimental performance and theater -- VI. Avant-garde cinematography: Sergei Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov.
In this groundbreaking study, Nina Gurianova identifies the early Russian avant-garde as a distinctive movement in its own right and not a preliminary stage to the Constructivism of the 1920s. Gurianova identifies what she terms an “aesthetics of anarchy”—art-making without rules—that greatly influenced early twentieth-century modernists. Setting the early Russian avant-garde movement firmly within a broader European context, Gurianova draws on a wealth of primary and archival sources by individual writers and artists, Russian theorists, theorizing (...) artists, and German philosophers. Unlike the post-revolutionary avant-garde, which sought to describe the position of the artist in the new social hierarchy, the early Russian avant-garde struggled to overcome the boundaries defining art and to bridge the traditional gap between artist and audience. As it explores the aesthetics embraced by the movement, the book shows how artists transformed literary, theatrical, and performance practices, eroding the traditional boundaries of the visual arts and challenging the conventions of their day. (shrink)
Fascism, modernism and modernity -- The Jew as anti-artist : Georges Sorel and the aesthetics of the anti- Enlightenment -- La Cité française : Georges Valois, Le Corbusier and fascist theories of urbanism -- Machine primitives : Philippe Lamour and the fascist cult of youth -- Classical violence : Thierry Maulnier and the legacy of the Cercle Proudhon.
In the present paper, the author looks at the political dimension of some trends in the visual arts within twentieth-century avant-garde groups through George Santayana’s idea of vital liberty. Santayana accused the avant-gardists of social and political escapism, and of becoming unintentionally involved in secondary issues. In his view, the emphasis they placed on the medium and on treating it as an aim in itself, not, as it should be, as a transmitter through which a stimulating relationship (...) with the environment can be had, was accompanied by a focus on fragments of life and on parts of existence, and, on the other hand, by a de facto rejection of ontology and cosmology as being crucial to understanding life and the place of human beings in the universe. The avant-gardists became involved in political life by responding excessively to the events of the time, instead of to the everlasting problems that are the human lot. (shrink)
Modernism remains a complex and complicated term, contested not only with regard to its historical meaning or period boundaries but also with regard to its relevance for aesthetics and, more broadly, for the contemporary understanding of art. Is modernism the culmination of modernity, its crowning moment or perhaps its tipping point toward the purported postmodernity/postmodernism, or is the radical challenge instigated by modernism’s artistic inventiveness—what I call its avant-garde momentum—still extant and current beyond the apparent succession of (...) modernism by postmodernism? This essay approaches these questions through a discussion of various approaches to artworks in modernism and the avant-garde: Adorno, Rancierè, Heidegger, and Lyotard in order to explore the extent to which aesthetics remains both the precondition and the optics for modernism. At the same time, it assesses the implications of the avant-garde’s challenge to the very idea of art. The divergence in the discussions of the split between modernism and avant-garde, as well as the contention between proposals for a new aesthetic and the critique of the notion of art, pivot on the issue of freedom and the role of the human. In its challenge to art, the avant-garde calls into question the centrality of the human and the idea that freedom is a human possession. In doing so, it rethinks the notion of the artwork with regard to the non-human or inhuman. Against the backdrop of this rift between modernism and the avant-garde, the essay discusses the works of Wallace Stevens and Gertrude Stein. While Stein’s avant-garde writing is intensely engaged in its practice with drafting a new poetic rigor of writing and experience, the modernist Stevens uses aesthetic paradigms and reflection to trigger the liminal state at the end of the imagination or the mind. This brief study of Stevens and Stein illustrates the fact that modernism and the avant-garde inhabit the same historical moment yet part ways with regard to aesthetics. As the avant-garde elaborates its new rigor in order to work in tune with the non-human reach of the event, it moves beyond the metaphysical determination of art and aesthetics. In the avant-garde, what is ‘proper’ to humankind comes to be “inhabited by the inhuman,” to paraphrase Lyotard, and is “celebrated” as such. This fissure means also that the momentum of the avant-garde extends beyond the historical boundaries of, for many already closed, chapter of modernism. (shrink)
Artists and critics regularly enlist theory in the creation and assessment of artworks, but few have scrutinized the art theories themselves. Here, Daniel examines and critiques the norms, assumptions, historical conditions, and institutions that have framed the development and uses of art theory. Spurred by the theoretical claims of Arthur Danto, a leader in the philosophy of the avant-garde, Herwitz reexamines the art and theory of major figures in the avant-garde movement including John Cage, Jean-François Lyotard, (...) Jean Baudrillard, and Andy Warhol. (shrink)
Decentring the Avant-Garde presents a collection of articles dealing with the topography of the avant-garde. The focus is on different responses to avant-gardeaesthetics in regions traditionally depicted as cultural, geographical and linguistic peripheries. Avant-garde activities in the periphery have to date mostly been described in terms of a passive reception of new artistic trends and currents originating in cultural centres such as Paris or Berlin. Contesting this traditional view, Decentring the (...)Avant-Garde highlights the importance of analysing the avant-garde in the periphery in terms of an active appropriation of avant-gardeaesthetics within different cultural, ideological and historical settings. A broad collection of case studies discusses the activities of movements and artists in various regions in Europe and beyond. The result is a new topographical model of the international avant-garde and its cultural practices. (shrink)
In this challenging essay, Maarten Doorman argues that in art, belief in progress is still relevant, if not essential. The radical freedoms of postmodernism, he claims, have had a crippling effect on art, leaving it in danger of becoming meaningless. Art can only acquire meaning through context the concept of progress, then, is ideal as the primary criterion for establishing that context. The history of art, in fact, can be seen as a process of constant accumulation, works of art commenting (...) on one another and enriching one another's meanings. It is these complex interrelationships and the progress they create in both art and its observers that Doorman, in a display of great philosophical erudition, defends. (shrink)
Using the literary work of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the founder of the Italian Futurist movement and an early associate of Mussolini, the author explores the point of contact between a "progressive" aesthetic practice and a "reactionary" political ideology.
Last Spring two important German books on aesthetics finally appeared in English: Adorno's unfinished Aesthetic Theory, intended to summarize his philosophy and sociology of modern culture, and Büger's Theory of the Avant-Garde, in many ways a dialogue with Adorno and critical theory. Peter Bürger, a professor of French and comparative literature at the university of Bremen, has published extensively on a broad spectrum of classical to avant-garde literature, generally trying to combine an outline of a (...) sociology of culture with detailed socio-historical anaylses of specific works. Bürger sees himself as a mediator between hermeneutics and critical theory. He is an avowed disciple of the Frankfurt School in that the recognizes the cognitive and potentially moral function of art, bound up with art's necessary aloofness from practice in bourgeois society. (shrink)
The book presents five philosophical and axiological studies devoted to the relationship between aesthetics and politics. It shows this relationship throughout the works of some avant-gardists, pragmatists, and postmodernists. It is also a voice in the discussion about the meaning of the fine arts and aesthetics in the context of the political aims and norms. This voice claims that the political dimension of art and aesthetics should be studied much more seriously than it has been till (...) today, and needs more courageous re-interpretations and re-readings. (shrink)
Against arbitrariness -- The plastic word -- The simultaneous vision -- Each of us tracks his own toad -- The bed in the background : the erotics of chance in the discourses of Czech surrealism -- The poet and the hangman.
The design office of Charles and Ray Eames was a collaborative, interdisciplinary, multimedia affair linking Hollywood, the State Department, universities, the corporate sector and international fairs during the height of the Cold War. Bringing together design, furniture, cutting-edge technology and experimental, avant-garde informed-multiscreen projections, the Eames Office operated as a humanities/IT/media/arts lab. For the 1964 World’s Fair, the Eameses created ‘The Information Machine’ for IBM. The techniques of display and experimental juxtaposition of images, sound and new media capacities (...) later migrated to the many ‘happenings’ following in the wake of Allan Kaprow’s medial and performative experiments. The Eames Office crafted for the 1964 World’s Fair a vision of global change and possibility grounded in avant-garde visual techniques and aesthetics that continue to constitute a specific globe crafted by the US Cold War military-industrial-university-entertainment complex that remains the grounds for our current collective nomos. (shrink)
This article discusses Fin de Copenhague, a Situationist book experiment from 1957 by Asger Jorn and Guy Debord. By way of a contextualizing archival study with special attention to Jorn’s contemporaneous book project Pour la forme, the article demonstrates that the Russian avant-garde book was a key influence if also a point of critical departure. On this reading, Fin de Copenhague marks a turn away from the unbridled technological optimism of the historical avant-garde. In its material (...) implications and aesthetic choices, Fin de Copenhague draws attention to crucial changes in the capitalist mode of production and challenges the then nascent discourse about “full automation.”. (shrink)
This interview is inspired the most important working-hypothesis presented in the volume Aesthetic Revolutions and the Twentieth-Century Avant-Garde Movements, edited by Aleš Erjavec, that questions the legitimacy of the distinction between aesthetic and artistic avant-gardes, supported by the relationship of each concept with the modern revolutionary politics. The relevance of this contrast for determining modernity both in its ideological shape and its continuity, in the terms of postmodernity will be criticized in our discussion with professor Erjavec, reflecting (...) on the manner in which the artistic communities representative for Surrealism, Russian constructivism, Situationist International, Dadaism, Italian Futurism, 1960s American Art, as well as for Slovenian, Mexican or Romanian artistic movements of the 20th century opened the path for different democratic or totalitarian political attitudes, practices and ambitions. (shrink)
Beyond Aesthetics brings together philosophical essays addressing art and related issues by one of the foremost philosophers of art at work today. Countering conventional aesthetic theories - those maintaining that authorial intention, art history, morality and emotional responses are irrelevant to the experience of art - Noël Carroll argues for a more pluralistic and commonsensical view in which all of these factors can play a legitimate role in our encounter with art works. Throughout, the book combines philosophical theorizing with (...) illustrative examples including works of high culture and the avant-garde, as well as works of popular culture, jokes, horror novels, and suspense films. (shrink)
Aesthetics and Music is a rich and interesting study. Hamilton's approach is innovative. He interleaves chapters on the history of philosophical thought about music with more theoretical discussions of music, sound, rhythm and improvisation, but does not cover the work–performance relation, depiction or expression. He draws on an atypically broad range of examples, including avant-garde, medieval, non-Western and jazz. The assumptions are humanist: ‘I wish to argue for an aesthetic conception of music as an art … according (...) to which music is a human activity grounded in the body and bodily movement and interfused with human life’.The historical chapters are valuable and not without analysis and criticism. Hamilton shows how the ancient Greek theorists were more interested in music's mathematical properties as reflecting the underlying harmony of relations between cosmic bodies than in the practice of musicians. While they equated the value of art with its contribution to an education for citizenship and while their concept of the arts differed …. (shrink)
Thanks to his unsurpassed eye and his fearless willingness to take a stand, Clement Greenberg (1909 1994) became one of the giants of 20th century art criticism a writer who set the terms of critical discourse from the moment he burst onto the scene with his seminal essays AvantGarde and Kitsch (1939) and Towards a Newer Laocoon (1940). In this work, which gathers previously uncollected essays and a series of seminars delivered at Bennington in 1971, Greenberg provides (...) his most expansive statement of his views on taste and quality in art, arguing for an esthetic that flies in the face of current art world fashions. Greenberg insists despite the attempts from Marcel Duchamp onwards to escape the jurisdiction of taste by producing an art so disjunctive that it cannot be judged that taste is inexorable. He argues that standards of quality in art, the artist's responsibility to seek out the hardest demands of a medium, and the critic's responsibility to discriminate, are essential conditions for great art. The obsession with innovation the epidemic of newness leads, in Greenbergs view, to the boringness of so much avantgarde art. He discusses the interplay of expectation and surprise in aesthetic experience, and the exalted consciousness produced by great art. Homemade Esthetics allows us particularly in the transcribed seminar sessions, never before published to watch the critics mind at work, defending (and at times reconsidering) his theories. His views, often controversial, are the record of a lifetime of looking at and thinking about art as intensely as anyone ever has. (shrink)