[-empyre-] empyre Digest, Vol 62, Issue 4
cpr at mindspring.com
Thu Jan 7 05:02:31 EST 2010
Hi John -
Thanks so much for you "draft".
Just want to make clear that i don't identify myself a Marxist -
although my graduate studies at Cal Arts were during a period where
critical theory was becoming entrenched and serving as a point of
reference ( hopefully not illustration) for art practices. Point in
fact, I was raised in family straight out of script of "MadMen".
This may have more to do with my perspective than anything else!
I admit that Purity is an concept that I haven't given much thought to
in regard to contemporary art practices ... in fact ... I think that
the last time I heard that issue raised was during 'cocktails" with
Clement Greenberg during a conference. You have certainly given me
reason to dig thru my files -
What I have mused on is basically coming to terms with
On Jan 6, 2010, at 6:00 AM, John Haber wrote:
> I'm hearing a couple of points stressed by everyone here. One
> notions of the arts as something "pure," separated by other than
> esthetic motives and distinct in form or content from the rest of
> culture and society. This notion is wrong and harmful, and the
> pejorative and disturbing connotations of complicity should not
> that. Second, the 20th-century Marxist thinkers who introduced the
> critique of complicity need not be seen as intending to fall into the
> first trap.
> This is valuable, but I still think that it overlooks something. I'm
> embarrassed to return to my own version of a critical history, since
> all clearly didn't find it interesting. But bear with me.
> I singled out a second wave of developments in critical theory,
> around 1970, rather than the earlier period. Consider four reasons.
> First, it represents a development of critical theory (an increasing
> buzz word) that more explicitly addresses the "fine arts" and art
> institutions. While, for example, that short reader edited by Hal
> Foster, "The Anti-Esthetic," included Habermas with his framework of
> communicative action beyond art, other changes in the air included the
> rest of the October editors in the domain of contemporary art, T. J.
> Clarke and others in art history, feminism, and media studies (yes,
> thankfully including "Sweet Dreams"). In mainstream American
> philosophy, there's a parallel in the institutional definition of art.
> This trend continues ever since.
> Second, rightly or wrongly, critical theory foregrounded the very
> on purity as never before. That includes ideological purity
> with Benjamin, formal purity associated with Adorno, and idealism
> associated with Lukacs, regardless of their motives.
> Third, critical theory reacted to the realities on the ground. Art
> seen Greenberg's assault on kitsch and Kantian influence, although
> admit to having finished the third critique without quite
> it! It had seen the "triumph" of American painting and the change from
> the "imaginary museum" to the very real post-Hoving museum.
> Last and most important, it resonated with artists. Artists developed
> new approaches to appropriation, feminism, new media, neo-
> and even earlier Fluxus, to name just a few.
> However, all this was what I'll call B.C.: before Chelsea. One could
> talk of an institutional and economic nexus, but one galleries still
> further downtown, and one could visit pretty much all of them
> comfortably in a day. Although Pollock, say, had made the national
> magazine, the shift to celebrity artists like the YBA, star architects
> for museums, the assimilation of alternative museums by major one,
> globalization and the price boom were all still to come.
> On the one hand, this makes critical theory look even more pertinent,
> even prescient. On the other hand, art's success escapes the
> Contemporary art at its most disturbing has continued to reject
> "purity," with larger and larger multimedia installations, like New
> Year's in Times Square. In other words, be careful what you wish for.
> In the abstract at least, and in museums, I'm left deeply
> pessimistic in
> a way that much of this thread is, I think, not handling. I just
> to be at Duke University this week, where the Nasher Museum is a
> empty tribute to family money. In galleries, though, I often come away
> elated. There is still a break with "purity" that opens possibilities
> without pandering. One can see it in a revival of abstract painting
> that is not all that abstract, as well as wonderful multimedia and
> photography projects. Still, it's not as if these efforts disrupt the
> system, fail to reflect it, or miss being absorbed by it.
> All that's why I felt it helpful to introduce the slippery
> approaches of
> post-structuralism. I'm not wedded to them. I'm more political and
> formal myself. For me, irony is still a term with the meanings it had
> in New Criticism! However, these approaches, like indeed good old
> irony, describe how art by its nature slips out from its apparent or
> intended closed structures. That describes what went wrong, but also
> offers grounds for admiration and hope.
> Thanks for bearing with such a long, spontaneous draft. I was
> it in my head in the middle of the night.
> John Haber
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
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