Examining Marcel Duchamp’s final installation Etant donnés: 1º la chute d’eau, 2º le gaz d’éclairage or Given: 1. The Waterfall 2. The Illuminating Gas (1946-66) has proven to be problematic for historians and theorists. Theories involving this assemblage typically incorporate the work into existing conceptions of Duchampian work and therefore do not consider the implication of the work in comparison to Duchamp’s artistic work as a whole, specifically in relation to his consistent engagement with issues of sexuality and fantasy. My (...) paper examines Duchamp’s staging of a series of fantasy constructions, which are compared with Freud’s stages in “A Child is Being Beaten,” specifically in relation to an understanding of fantasy developed by Zizek, as well as Laplanche and Pontalis. (shrink)
Danto reageert op het essay van Jean Clair uit Nexus 27 en op zijn typering van de hedendaagse kunst als die van 'afschuw en walging'; Danto plaatst deze walging tegenover het begrip smaak. Hij gaat in op Clairs oordeel dat Duchamp meer dan wie ook het walgelijke in het hedendaagse artistieke repertoire binnenleidde.
This paper presents an argument for seeing Marcel Duchamp and Robert Mapplethorpe as opposite ends of a tradition of negotiation of art with its conditions of production. The piece takes seriously Kant's suggestions concerning the fine arts and contests views of art that see the Kantian tradition as formally fixed.
This article considers the notion of ‘play’ in the plastic arts as described by Johan Huizinga, its definitional relation to the materiality of the art object, and the way in which such a conception rests on a notion of aesthetic order that, after the work of Marcel Duchamp, could not be sustained. I argue that Duchamp’s readymadesforce a re-evaluation of plasticity (and thus of Huizinga’s definition of play), and introduce a permanent revolution of plasticity, which in social and intellectual terms (...) must be considered as the expression of an essential disorder underlying all appearances. It is further argued that Duchamp achieved this by employing strategies of disguise in order to lay bare the epistemic play of surfaces, and thus the contingency of knowledge and identity. Duchamp’s wager was that changing fashions in art revealed that it was neither formal presentation nor skill that defined art, but rather some connection to a hidden realm of disorder, and that this connection could be found, and repeatedly renewed, by ensuring that the art ‘object’ was received as an uncertain bequest. (shrink)
The Marcel Duchamp absolute gesture is such a gesture that inaugurates an escape movement from any Symbolic Order ; a gesture that, obviously, Duchamp does not stop play out, because each time he enacts it, this is a new gesture; there is no rule for the absolute gesture. In fact, if it existed it would not be absolute. Duchamp is such an ‘artist’ who is without work, then, because what matters is not art, but the making of one's existence something (...) unique. The absolute gesture consists in the making of art a form of life. (shrink)
Marcel Duchamp is often viewed as an "artist-engineer-scientist," a kind of rationalist who relied heavily on the ideas of the French mathematician and philosopher Henri Poincaré. Yet a complete portrait of Duchamp and his multiple influences draws a different picture. In his _3 Standard Stoppages_, a work that uses chance as an artistic medium, we see how far Duchamp subverted scientism in favor of a radical individualistic aesthetic and experimental vision. Unlike the Dadaists, Duchamp did more than dismiss or negate (...) the authority of science. He pushed scientific rationalism to the point where its claims broke down and alternative truths were allowed to emerge. With humor and irony, Duchamp undertook a method of artistic research, reflection, and visual thought that focused less on beauty than on the notion of the "possible." He became a passionate advocate of the power of invention and thinking things that had never been thought before. The _3 Standard Stoppages_ is the ultimate realization of the play between chance and dimension, visibility and invisibility, high and low art, and art and anti-art. Situating Duchamp firmly within the literature and philosophy of his time, Herbert Molderings recaptures the spirit of a frequently misread artist-and his thrilling aesthetic of chance. (shrink)
Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, Yves Klein, and Marcel Duchamp form an unlikely quartet, but they each played a singular role in shaping a new avant-garde for the 1960s and beyond. Each of them staged brash, even shocking, events and produced works that challenged the way the mainstream art world operated and thought about itself. Distinguished philosopher Thierry de Duve binds these artists through another connection: the mapping of the aesthetic field onto political economy. Karl Marx provides the red thread tying (...) together these four beautifully written essays in which de Duve treats each artist as a distinct, characteristic figure in that mapping. He sees in Beuys, who imagined a new economic system where creativity, not money, was the true capital, the incarnation of the last of the proletarians; he carries forward Warhol’s desire to be a machine of mass production and draws the consequences for aesthetic theory; he calls Klein, who staked a claim on pictorial space as if it were a commodity, “The dead dealer”; and he reads Duchamp as the witty financier who holds the secret of artistic exchange value. Throughout, de Duve expresses his view that the mapping of the aesthetic field onto political economy is a phenomenon that should be seen as central to modernity in art. Even more, de Duve shows that Marx—though perhaps no longer the “Marxist” Marx of yore—can still help us resist the current disenchantment with modernity’s many unmet promises. An intriguing look at these four influential artists, _Sewn in the Sweatshops of Marx_ is an absorbing investigation into the many intertwined relationships between the economic and artistic realms. (shrink)
Derridada explores the affinities between the work of Marcel Duchamp and the discipline of deconstruction. It is the first text to explore Duchamp's work in the context of the theories of Derrida and deconstruction.
Derridada explores the affinities between the work of Marcel Duchamp and the discipline of deconstruction. It is the first text to explore Duchamp's work in the context of the theories of Derrida and deconstruction.
The text, after an introduction on the arrangements conceived by Marcel Duchamp during the Thirties, focuses on the exhibitions organized by the Nouveau Réalisme between the end of the Fifties and the 1970. All these occasions, based on a chaos of the objects, created a positive confusion but allowed also a “visual revolution” in contemporary art.
What is conceptual art? Is it really a kind of art in its own right? Is it clever – or too clever? Of all the different art forms it is perhaps conceptual art which at once fascinates and infuriates the most. In this much-needed book Peter Goldie and Elisabeth Schellekens demystify conceptual art using the sharp tools of philosophy. They explain how conceptual art is driven by ideas rather than the manipulation of paint and physical materials; how it challenges the (...) very basis of what we can know about art, as well as our received ideas of beauty; and why conceptual art requires us to rethink concepts fundamental to art and aesthetics, such as artistic interpretation and appreciation. Including helpful illustrations of the work of celebrated conceptual artists from Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Kosuth and Piero Manzoni to Dan Perjovschi and Martin Creed, Who’s Afraid of Conceptual Art? is a superb starting point for anyone intrigued but perplexed by conceptual art - and by art in general. It will be particularly helpful to students of philosophy, art and visual studies seeking an introduction not only to conceptual art but fundamental topics in art and aesthetics. (shrink)
I argue that Kant’s theory of art meets the challenge of strong non-perceptual art, an idea I extrapolate from James Shelley’s account of non-perceptual art. I endorse the spirit of Shelley’s account, but argue that his examples fail to support his case because he does not distinguish between strong and weak non-perceptual art. The former has no perceptible properties relevant to its appreciation as art; the latter is not exhausted by appreciation of those perceptible properties it does have. I show (...) this by comparing Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain and Robert Barry’s All the things I know. For Kant, appreciating art aesthetically as art requires: (1) awareness that it is art and (2) responsiveness to the ideas presented. Taken together, this allows Kant to accommodate strong non-perceptual art. I consider three challenges to this view: (a) Kant is committed to a representational theory of art; (b) Kant is committed to a restrictive formalism about aesthetic judgements of art; (c) Kant’s understanding of aesthetic pleasure commits him to a perceptual theory of art. I reply that: (i) this is grounded in empirical generalizations external to Kant’s theory; (ii) Kant’s strong formalist views are at odds with his account of ‘subjective purposiveness’, and the latter has priority; (iii) Kant is offering a general theory of art, which must accommodate both literature and strong non-perceptual art. (shrink)
I argue that John Dewey’s account of aesthetic experience offers a contextual approach to aesthetic experience that could benefit contemporary contextual definitions of art. It is well known that many philosophers who employ contextual definitions of art (most notably, George Dickie) also argue that traditional conceptions of aesthetic experience are obsolete because they fail to distinguish art from non-art when confronted with hard cases like Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain. While questions of perceptual indiscernibility are a problem for many traditional theories of (...) aesthetic experience, I argue they are not a problem for Dewey. Dewey’s account of experience is not only compatible with Dickie’s ‘institutional theory’ but Dewey’s oft criticized notion of ‘an experience’ additionally brings a needed evaluative component to contextual definitions by showing how appeals to our experience of the theoretical, historical, and institutional contexts of the ‘artworld’ can better explain how something like a urinal can become worthy of aesthetic appreciation. (shrink)
While entanglement is a phenomenon discussed in quantum theory, it can also be found in art. We propose to connect entanglement to art’s most fundamental question: what is creativity? For example, Marcel Duchamp found the essence of the creative act in the “art coefficient,” the difference and/or gap between the artist’s intention and realization which is created. This paper locates the common sense understanding of entanglement in an inseparable whole that ensures difference between the intention and realization. Seeing the artistic (...) act as actively designing entanglement within artistic production, we present examples of this from the work of the Japanese-style painter Nakamura, and present a concrete vision for an answer regarding the question of the nature of creativity. (shrink)
Some recent artists and critics have taken it upon themselves to demystify the notion of stylistic unity. Their task has included the historical reconception of a few “modernist” artists along “postmodern” lines, usually as precursors of current semiotic strategies.11 These artists may have used a set of incompatible styles to expose the artificiality of competing stylistic conventions, or even to challenge the myth that celebrates the authenticity of artistic expressiveness. Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, otherwise very different artists, have both (...) been seen as having “deconstructed” the concept of authenticity by problematizing basic means of artistic reference.12 But the desire to challenge conventions must not be misconstrued as an enduring element of an iconoclastic artist’s personality. Otherwise, the characterization is merely an updated version of the traditional argument for authorial unity. 11. The terms “modern” and “postmodern” are used in a variety of ways in contemporary criticism. Here, “modern” refers to nineteenth- and twentieth-century artists who embrace the notion of originality, and “postmodern” to those who would attack the notion by exposing the conventionality at its center. Although some critics who profess “modernism” do not mention “originality” by name, most subscribe to it in some form, often with the originality and self-sufficiency of the artist transposed to that of the work. This is especially true of the criticism of Clement Greenburg and Michael Fried.12. Rosalind Krauss rightly uses the semiotic complications of Picasso’s art to object to autobiographical interpretations of his work. In the course of the argument, she refers to Picasso’s semiotics as part of the “proto-history” of postmodernist art. See Krauss, “In the Name of Picasso,” The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths , pp. 38-39. Arguments for Duchamp’s protopostmodernism are much more common. For one example, see Krauss, “Notes on the Index: Part 1,” The Originality of the Avant-Garde, pp. 196-209. Margaret Olin is an assistant professor in the department of art history and criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is presently writing a book on the theories of Alois Riegl. (shrink)
What is art? Marcel Duchamp made this question pertinent when he developed his : ordinary, manufactured objects that he presented as art. In this paper, I use pragmatics to argue that, if we accept that art is a form of communication, from artist to audience, then Duchamp was correct to claim that anything can be art, so long as it is presented as such.
continent. 1.2 (2011): 141-144. This January, while preparing a new course, Robert Seydel was struck and killed by an unexpected heart attack. He was a critically under-appreciated artist and one of the most beloved and admired professors at Hampshire College. At the time of his passing, Seydel was on the brink of a major artistic and career milestone. His Book of Ruth was being prepared for publication by Siglio Press. His publisher describes the book as: “an alchemical assemblage that composes (...) the life of his alter ego, Ruth Greisman— spinster, Sunday painter, and friend to Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp. Through collages, drawings, and journal entries from Ruth’s imagined life, Seydel invokes her interior world in novelistic rhythms.” This convergence of his professional triumph with the tragedy of his death makes now a particularly appropriate time to think about Robert Seydel and his work. This feature contains a selection of excerpts from Book of Ruth (courtesy of Siglio Press) alongside a pair of texts remembering him and giving critical and biographical insights into his art and his person. These texts, from a former student and a colleague respectively, were originally prepared for Seydel's memorial at Hampshire College and have since been revised for publication in continent. For more information on Book of Ruth, please visit the book's page at the Siglio Press website. —Ben Segal draughty R. * Lauren van Haaften-Schick 2011 “The most apt way to order Smithson's library is with the conjunction 'and'; science and religion; modernism and mass culture; what is present and what is missing.” —Alexander Alberro, 248 Robert Seydel's classes on collage and collecting immersed his students in a curious world of cabinets, oddities, exhaustive archives and obscure histories, explored always with critical rigor and a sincere eye for wonder. His office was a compendium of the ancient, mythic, potential and unworldy, where seemingly unrelated references were endlessly pulled, piled and fused in an ecstatic dance of hyper-annotation. The small room and all its contents overflowed with notes tucked in every margin and corner. Books coated the walls like a switchboard, anxious and humming, waiting for infinite links to be activated. William Blake's books of Job and Urizen summoned Greek mythology and the animal as metaphor, leading to 19th century cryptozoology and the cave paintings at Lascaux, Gaston Bachelard's description of the bird in his garden and Robert Rauschenberg's Canyon . Tracking archetypes and following tangential threads, new revelations and ancient narratives were compiled and ordered to form a new text, a bibliography as assemblage, portrait and poem. Robert's library—one of his many collections—is a portrait, an “artifact, collage of time, a token and remnant” (Seydel, 2007) He is humming with it still. The imagination of this room—of Robert—breathes through the pages of Book of Ruth, as every decision and detail unfolds to a cosmos. Allegory, invention, personal and art histories are entangled and leveled, rendering lived, perceived and absorbed experiences indistinguishable. Anonymous scraps discovered on the street or studio floor, careful clippings and drawn figures are chosen and animated through serendipitous destruction and whimsical, delicate positioning. A precise vocabulary of characters and terms erupts and collapses as personas and passers-by wave and whisper, “Every figure reveals aspects of the total form, which is open and green” (Seydel, 2007). The initials R.S. repeat, a nod to Robert's true family tree and further complicating identification. Robt, Robert's sometimes alter-ego, appears in myriad forms as a trickster “half-wit,” mercurial and skittish, or soft and worn thin. Saul is a solemn tinkerer, parsing the world and sometimes blind. Ruth, the speaker of the book, records and translates all, her voice wavering between poetic verse and a cryptic half-speech as complex as it is sparse. The rhythm of frayed edges sets time - the weight of the world and the lightness of paper. Robert wrote of his process, “Material is essential; scuffings carry history, which wanders throughout” (Seydel, 2007). Collectors, assemblers, sway between careful movements of selection and placement as they pull from the found world, mediating calculated and unconscious association to form a lexicon of gestures, symbols and allusion, the “artifacts of a life... the refuse and rejecta of days” (Seydel, 2007). These assembled fragments shift and chatter, at home in their homelessness, actors performing in their own lives, populating an invented world of similar orphans. Such accumulated, severed parts carry the injury of their cutting and retain the evidence of their source, binding loss to creation in a symbiosis of trauma and repair. Mourning and remembrance are deeply embedded in the histories and acts of such practices. Grievance, acceptance, and the fragility of life are conveyed in the 18th century allegorical arrangements of fetal specimens by Frederik Ruysch. A certain melancholy reverence colors Joseph Cornell's intimately tactile assemblages rendering the universe tangible in miniature, or made in devotion to unrequited loves. Preserved in stasis, these ghosts and idols are kept in a purgatory where fact and fiction, past and present are irrelevant distinctions. Catalogued and contained, the subject of loss is transferred to an artifact. Every thread, scrap and letter may be glued, gathered and placed in a museum, a tomb, a box, a page, ripe and open for possession. Holding on to grief and reveling in disrepair, we opt to be haunted. Forever unbalanced and in flux, the sublime of collage is its resolve to irresolution. For Robert, “Art, as creation and as sign of primary Imagination, is not objects but a state, a kind of fluid” (Seydel, 2007) Reflecting on his work, life, and death, I am drawn to my library and the myriad titles acquired through his inspiration. There is Daniel Spoerri's An Anecdoted Topography of Chance , Susan Stewart's On Longing , various Borges, Barthes, Perec, and especially Life: A User's Manual , which concludes that the perfect puzzle will have no solution. I think of the drawers of miscellaneous swallowed objects at the Mutter Museum, Ray Johnson coding the every day in riddles, Wallace Berman twisting tongues, and Susan Hiller laying every detail to bear. Collectors and makers working in endless cycles of observation, ingestion and display. Every gesture informs and is defined by others, every space is shaped by that which surrounds and fills it, the knot has an inner logic, the gigantic is not so different from the miniature, there is a world in every detail, and “All art is collage” (Seydel, 2011) These thoughts have molded my life, my art, and all the minutia that keep the two so profoundly intertwined; There is no difference between life and what we do with our time. “I write my life. I make me up.” What a gift to share this secret way of knowing the world, and to leave this knowledge for us to do with what we please. “Art begins in admiration” (Seydel, 2011) Lauren van Haaften-Schick is a curator, writer and artist based in New York. Upcoming curatorial projects include "Cancelled" at the Center for Book Arts, and "The Spirit of the Signal" at Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery, New York. Recent activities include the workshops "Market, Alternative" and "Alternative Art Economies" at Trade School and Momenta Art, and the e-flux Time/Store, New York. She is the founding director of two arts spaces in Northampton, MA and Philadelphia, PA. She received a BA in Art History and Studio Art from Hampshire college in 2006. Sura Levine on Robert Seydel If early on in his time at Hampshire College I was officially his “mentor,” Robert Seydel quickly became one of my great teachers. Over the years we talked about everything, from art, music, collage, and poetry, to campus politics, this latter far too often. It was always a sublime pleasure, if all too rarely done, to enter his apartment to look at his work in progress, to peruse his bookshelves where, inevitably, there were always new treats to examine. And, while he was working on his Book of Ruth , I was given the opportunity over the course of many meals at the Korean and other restaurants, to talk with him about image and poem ordering. To see how he thought through each comma, each juxtaposition across the gutters of the Book, was to watch a brilliant curator at work. Each day, I walk past his wonderful collaged portrait of Ruth, purchased, after much haggling, as a birthday present, a couple of years ago. And each day, I think how lucky I am to have known Robert as he produced this magnum opus. One of my greatest pleasures in 24 years at the College was to teach “The Collector” with Robert. One of my greatest regrets is that the magic we created together in the classroom will not, and cannot, be duplicated. Its various incarnations, its utter intelligence and magic, were all so deeply Robert’s. His was a mind that put poetry, philosophy, history of science, and history together with art, and art together with music. His intellect and eye were unparalleled. He introduced us to so many artists. He shared his fascination with the cabinets of curiosity of Aldrovandi, of Seba, and Peter the Great’s collection of fetal anomalies, as well as the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles. Robert knew them all and so many more. He was a walking encyclopedia, his home a great archive. Arcane knowledge, perhaps, but oh so important for another of Robert’s heroes, the mid-20th century Belgian artist Marcel Broodthaers, whose name he invariably mispronounced as “Broadthayers.” In speaking his name, Robert would always look in my direction in a panic, and then he go on and maul it. I absolutely loved his various mispronunciations of French names and terms! “The Collector” was always filled with talented young artists, art historians, philosophers and writers who all came to understand the wondrous obsessions of the figure of the collector. Students in this course created dazzling projects each term. He always moved while looking and speaking. He read deeply, and commented on everyone’s work with wonderful generosity. Robert always found something to praise even in the least developed of projects. Robert inspired and mentored all of his students into making work that far exceeded their expectations—and ours. For those of you who were lucky enough to have been touched by or to have had an evaluation written by Robert, savor it, keep it, reread it, and share it. He loved working with you all; it is somehow fitting that he died while prepping yet another new course. Robert, it’s almost impossible to speak of you in the past tense, even though you left us a month ago. No doubt, if you knew about our gatherings and celebrations of you, you would be embarrassed that we are making a fuss over you; you always placed the focus on others rather than on yourself. This trait is exactly why so many people miss you now. We’re here to love you publicly as we all did privately for the eleven years you were among us. Robert, my very dear friend, you were an extraordinary artist—you were my brother of choice. My heart broke when yours did. I miss you profoundly. —Sura Levine, February 26, 2011 Sura Levine is a professor of art history at Hampshire College. Her field of specialty is 19th century Belgian and French art, particularly realism and impressionism. Having worked in museums for a number of years both prior to coming to the College, and, as guest curator and co-author of exhibition catalogues, she became particularly interested in the history of museum and trends in collecting. It was because of their shared interests that she and Robert Seydel developed their course, The Collector, which they co-taught for many years. (shrink)
Marcel Duchamp describes the infrathin as “the most minute of intervals, or the slightest of differences.” Working through Duchamp’s proposition, and taking him at his work that the infrathin cannot be defined as such—“One can only give examples of it”—this article explores how the infrathin comes to expression and asks what a politics of the infrathin might look like. Key to the exploration is the question of how else value can be defined and how this rethinking of the concept of (...) value might compose with the concept of a pragmatics of the useless. (shrink)
In this interview, Jacques Rancière describes the character of the aesthetic regime and the relationship between politics and aesthetics in his work, along with the role of artistic practices, technological innovations, and the institution of the museum in the redistribution of the sensible and the similarities and differences between his theories and Walter Benjamin’s work on modernity. Rancière argues that the aesthetic regime entails both a rupture with what came before it and the possibility of recycling and reinterpreting works of (...) the past, what Benjamin described as the surrealist practice of evoking the outmoded. While emphasizing the political and military preconditions to the aesthetic regime over technological or economic considerations, Rancière also warns against drawing strict parallels between aesthetic regimes and political presuppositions of equality or inequality. Furthermore, Rancière refuses to privilege Marcel Duchamp’s readymades in the aesthetic regime’s redistribution of the sensible, pointing, instead, to Emile Zola’s Le ventre de Paris and the creation of the modern institution of the museum as key moments that broke with preexisting distributions of the sensible. Rancière also distinguishes his discussion of novelistic realism and narration from Benjamin’s characterization of modernity as the decline in the ability to narrate experience, critiquing Benjamin’s nostalgia for the past while recognizing as fruitful his linking of new possibilities in aesthetic experience to the creation of new technologies. (shrink)
As the title of this article suggests, the concept of the interface needs to be revisited in the context of biological media in order to infer some implications for the post-biological culture. A direct comparison of our media culture to the environmental notion of the media and the natural partitioning of the media by biological membranes becomes possible if we expand on the notions of media and interfaces in our technologically conditioned realities. The question of periphery and permeability of a (...) biological membrane will be addressed in the context of the theory of aesthetics. Although at first glance we are dealing only with subtle changes in the degree of permeability of an interface, suddenly selectiveness in permeability arises, and though an interface is considered simply peripheral, at a slight touch with an opposing media its role swiftly becomes central. Taking into account the functioning of a biological membrane, a remarkably resourceful technology, associations stem from the culture on the cellular level to the culture of human society, where the human being should not be limited to the concept of self, but operatively diffused into collective awareness. The technologies that we develop, and the media we employ and inhabit always meet at an interface. But there is more to the face-to-face meeting of media than a mere inert surface. Such a surface as a membrane is not abstractly thin but more like ‘infrathin’ – the term invented by the artist Marcel Duchamp. What happens at such confrontation of media of different kinds, of incomparable qualities, will be further discussed in the article. The dynamics of permeability at the periphery adjust the tension between heterogeneous qualities of the media to allow for coexistence, even for the emergence of new meanings. This heterogeneity can be experienced only within the interface, and therefore an inner view is proposed instead of a view from above, an inner view that prevents reduction of processes to commensurable, quantifiable objects. Since interface occurs at every interaction with the world, as explained in the theory of endophysics by biochemist Otto E. Rössler, we have to be aware of the problematics of this phenomenon, and we must rethink its potential. The interface is at the same time an opportunity, the interval we are given, where our drive to act is suppressed and our will to speculate prevails. By contemplating intricate biological solutions, this article hopes to further encourage the turn towards post-biological evolution of our awareness. (shrink)
For so long a time it has been getting increasingly formidable, if not possible, to define art in general ever since the advent of the so-called “found art” or “ready-mades” of Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol, among other avant-garde or pop artists. But this does not have too much constraint over some philosophers who have made persistent attempts in this regard. What have turned out to be considerably influential are the “artworld” framed by Arthur C. Danto and the “institutional theory” (...) proposed by George Dickie. Nevertheless, Li Zehou, a contemporary Chinese philosopher, argues that the two theories aforementioned are not self-sufficient and convincing enough. For they could not well explicate the distinction between art and non-art, not to speak of the difference between artworks as artifacts and those as aesthetic objects. He then continues to treat art as sedimentation from an anthropo-historical viewpoint peculiar of his practical aesthetics (shijian meixue). His argument is underlined by a transcultural approach that is deployed to expand the intellectual horizon and consequently bear the theoretical fruit. (shrink)
It is an irony perhaps worthy of John Ashbery that the critics who made his reputation as our premier contemporary poet have virtually ignored the innovations which in fact make his work distinctively of our time. The received terms show us how Ashbery revitalizes the old wisdom of Keats or the virile fantasies of Emersonian strength but they do so at the cost of almost everything about the work deeply responsive to irreducibly contemporary demands on the psyche. Such omissions not (...) only distance Ashbery from the urgencies of the present, they also make it far more difficult to appreciate just how the best contemporary art actually defines the challenges and possibilities created by that present. By banishing writers like Ashbery to literary tradition, we leave the domain of the postmodern to two dominant discourses. One is driven by post-structural theory’s idealization of the nomadic, the undecidable, and the profusion of simulacra. The other champions Marxist values which cast as the most significant contemporary art the rather slight oppositional devices of artists like Sherrie Levine, Hans Haacke, and Barbara Kruger. These critical idealizations then ignore what might be the central historical problem facing contemporary art. Can it continue to elaborate new dimensions of that late fifties postmodernism which set the values of Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, and Robert Rauschenberg against the increasingly formalist versions of modernism that then dominated the art world and the poetry workshops? Or does the age demand the emergence of a new sensibility, strands of which are being woven in post-structuralist mills? Charles Altieri is professor of English and comparative literature at the University of Washington. Author of books on contemporary poetry and literary theory, he has just completed a book on abstraction in modern poetry and painting. This essay lays some groundwork for a book, Bourgeois Utopians, attempt to keep the arts central to our discussion of postmodernism. (shrink)
This study of contemporary art and culture brings together Boyers's sharply focused essays on writers, filmmakers, painters, and critics, first published in the _TLS_, _The American Scholar_, _Granta_, _The_ _American Poetry Review, and Salmagundi. The essays respond to the diversity of "events" that make up our cultural life, and take as their central theme what Boyers calls "object loss" in the art and writing of some prominent contemporaries. The term designates a radical incapacity to think clearly about the objects—actual or (...) imagined—that give a work point or focus. He argues that this incapacity has produced various kinds of irrelevance and dishonesty, not so much in the art of our day as in the various critical theories and response patterns which are dominant among us._ Dwelling on such figures as Jean-Luc Godard, Mario Vargas Llosa, Marcel Duchamp, John Ashbery, and William Styron, Boyers frequently casts his reflections as responses to theories that have gained—especially among contemporary literary intellectuals—an indisputable currency. His essays constitute a negative aesthetic, a "definition by recoil" of postmodernist art and the ideology that promotes or defends it. (shrink)
Marcel Duchamp once asked whether it is possible to make something that is not a work of art. This question returns over and over in modernist culture, where there are no longer any authoritative criteria for what can be identified (or excluded) as a work of art. As William Carlos Williams says, “A poem can be made of anything,” even newspaper clippings.At this point, art turns into philosophy, all art is now conceptual art, and the manifesto becomes the distinctive genre (...) of modernism. This book takes seriously this transformation of art into philosophy, focusing upon the systematic interest that so many European philosophers take in modernism. Among the philosophers Gerald Bruns discusses are Theodor W. Adorno, Maurice Blanchot, Arthur Danto, Stanley Cavell, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Jacques Derrida, Jean-François Lyotard, Jean-Luc Nancy, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, and Emmanuel Levinas.As Bruns demonstrates, the difficulty of much modern and contemporary poetry can be summarized in the idea that a poem is made of words, not of any of the things that we use words to produce: meanings, concepts, propositions, narratives, or expressions of feeling. Many modernist poets have argued that in poetry language is no longer a form of mediation but a reality to be explored and experienced in its own right. But what sort of experience, philosophically, might this be? The problem of the materiality or hermetic character of poetic language inevitably leads to questions of how philosophy itself is to be written and what sort of communitydefines the work of art—or, for that matter, the work of philosophy.In this provocative study, Bruns answers that the culture of modernism is a kind of anarchist community, where the work of art is apt to be as much an event or experience—or, indeed, an alternative form of life—as a formal object. In modern writing, philosophy and poetry fold into one another. In this book, Bruns helps us to see how. (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 Avant Garde 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 avant garde 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)
This book offers a collection of contemporary essays that explore philosophical themes at work in chess. This collection includes essays on the nature of a game, the appropriateness of chess as a metaphor for life, and even deigns to query whether Garry Kasparov might—just might—be a cyborg. In twelve unique essays, contributed by philosophers with a broad range of expertise in chess, this book poses both serious and playful questions about this centuries-old pastime. -/- Perhaps more interestingly, philosophers have often (...) used chess in discussions of their work. Walter Benjamin compares the marching of history to an automaton playing chess. John Dewey and Charles Sanders Peirce utilize chess to explain their pragmatism. The linguist Ferdinand de Saussure employs the analogy of chess to explain the exchange of signifiers. There are approximately 181 uses of the word chess or one of its cognates in the published works of Ludwig Wittgenstein. John Rawls explains that one might want to make a distinction between constitutive and regulative rules, which can best be understood by examining a game of chess. John Searle, deeply convinced of this distinction, explains further: "The rules of football or chess are given as an example of constitutive rules because they 'create the very possibility of playing such games.'" Hubert Dreyfus and Daniel Dennett have had extensive public discussions about the issue of artificial intelligence and chess. Dreyfus, utilizing chess examples, has written extensively on what computers still cannot do. Meanwhile, in spite of his protestations, chess-playing computers continue to fascinate those who work in the area of artificial intelligence. -/- The game of chess has endured since at least the sixth century. Its earliest variant, the Indian game of Chaturanga, was from the beginning a game for thinkers. Since its inception, scholars, statesmen, strategists, and warriors have been fascinated by the game and its variants. German philosopher Emmanuel Lasker and famed French artist Marcel Duchamp were both Grandmasters at chess. Karl Marx played chess avidly, as did Sir Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre, and the logical positivist Max Black. Jean-Jacques Rousseau mentions in his Confessions that, at the time, he "had another expedient, not less solid, in the game of chess, to which I regularly dedicated, at Maugis's, the evenings on which I did not go to the theater. I became acquainted with M. de Legal, M. Husson, Philidor, and all the great chess players of the day, without making the least improvement in the game." More recently, philosopher Stuart Rachels reports that his father, the late philosopher and prominent ethicist James Rachels, received a bribe from a Russian Grandmaster while he was the chair of the U.S. Chess Federation's Ethics committee. -/- "Whether you’re a professional philosopher, an armchair chess player, or something in between, Philosophy Looks at Chess gives you hours of thought-provoking reading. With chapters on technology, ethics, hip hop, and backward analysis, this book carves out a new space in the literature on both chess and philosophy" -/- —Jennifer Shahade, two-time U.S. Women's Champion and author of Chess Bitch -/- "Chess and philosophy are natural mates that have been awaiting the proper introduction. This wide-ranging collection of stimulating essays is the perfect opening gambit for philosophical chess enthusiasts." -/- —Will Dudley, author of Hegel, Nietzsche, and Philosophy: Thinking Freedom. (shrink)
Maya Deren was a Russian-born American filmmaker, theorist, poet, and photographer working at the forefront of the American avant-garde in the 1940s and 1950s. Influenced by Jean Cocteau and Marcel Duchamp, she is best known for her seminal film Meshes of the Afternoon, a dream-like experiment with time and symbol, looped narrative and provocative imagery, setting the stage for the twentieth-century's groundbreaking aesthetic movements and films. Maya Deren assesses both the filmmaker's completed work and her numerous unfinished projects, arguing Deren's (...) overarching aesthetic is founded on principles of incompletion, contingency, and openness. Combining the contrasting approaches of documentary, experimental, and creative film, Deren created a wholly original experience for film audiences that disrupted the subjectivity of cinema, its standards of continuity, and its dubious facility with promoting categories of realism. This critical retrospective reflects on the development of Deren's career and the productive tensions she initiated that continue to energize film. (shrink)
In Avant Garde: An American Odyssey from Gertrude Stein to Pierre Boulez, Stockhausen specialist Robin Maconie reconsiders the role of music and music technology through careful examination of key modern concepts with respect to time, existence, identity, and relationship as formulated by such thinkers as Einstein, Russell, Whitehead, and Gertrude Stein, along with Freud, Schoenberg, Wittgenstein, and Marcel Duchamp.