Archive for the ‘Post-Art’ Category


Saturday, May 21st, 2005

The Modern Word has an interesting interview with Donald Cuspitt, on the subject of Post-Art:

“The concept of “postart” was developed by the happening artist Allan Kaprow. Simply put, it involves the “blurring of the boundary between art and life,” to use the title of his collection of essays. I would add, based on his idea that life is much more interesting than art, at the expense of art…

But a larger issue informs the development of anti-aesthetic postart, namely, what T. S. Eliot called the “dissociation of sensibility,” that is, the separation of thinking and feeling (ratiocination and sentiment were his terms), which he thought (correctly) was a pervasive issue in modernity. Duchamp’s preference for what he called “intellectual expression” (”art in the service of the mind”) over “animal expression” suggests that his anti-art is an example of such dissociation. The integration of thinking and feeling remains a general issue of selfhood, all the more so in modernity, when the split is celebrated and thinking elevated over feeling. This occurs in art with the split between minimal-conceptual art and expressionism, with the former regarded as inherently superior to the latter, at least in some quarters.”

I recall that JG Ballard once noted that our environment is essentially saturated with what he called aestheticising elements that lack psychological depth, leading him to defend modern art as an attempt to return us to the most basic and elemental components of reality. Nonetheless, I find myself quite sympathetic to Cuspitt’s viewpoint. Generally speaking, the preference for the conceptual in modern art tends to elide the difficulty that visual media are rather poor at communicating concepts. On the whole, I tend to suspect that modern art remains as uncomfortable with the representational as cubism and surrealism were, which seems to me to leave it poorly placed to return us to any notion of the real (it might succeed in challenging such concepts, but that returns us to the question of how well suited it is for such tasks).

By contrast, Ballard felt that the novel had proved resistant to such new concepts in comparison to the visual arts, but it seems to me that the modern novel, and particularly writers like Eco or Pamuk, tends to integrate thinking and feeling rather well. Given the increasingly prominent role of images against words in our time I have to say it seems rather odd that it should be this way round.