From Lessing to Greenberg, criticism of the arts was founded on the distinctions made between them. Does technology today irreversibly ruin these? Sven Lütticken asks what a radical practice that accepted convergence between artistic media would look like.
FROM MEDIA TO MYTHOLOGY
Art in the Age of Covergence
From the time of Lessing’s Laokoon (1766) onwards, successive thinkers have sought to differentiate the arts from each other by establishing the specific claims and characteristics of each. At the very moment Reynolds was making a last attempt to synthesize Renaissance traditions of aesthetic criticism, Lessing was demarcating the frontiers between painting and poetry, in the first sustained bid to found judgements of works of art on their fidelity to the properties of their medium. In the twentieth century Lessing’s heirs, in repeating his gesture, were typically aiming at the culture industry. Rudolf Arnheim’s Nuovo Laocoone (1938) lamented the corruption of film by sound, while Clement Greenberg’s ‘Towards a Newer Laocoon’ (1940) explored the antagonisms between avant-garde and mass-produced kitsch.
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The shift of artistic and activist practice towards the performance of personae. Sven Lütticken tracks the fraying limits of subjecthood through post-war action painting, Marcel Mariën’s surrealist-Blanquist parti imaginaire, the 1960s Dutch neo-avant-garde, the Invisible Committee, Rojava and artistic experiments with the political party-form.
Mutations of an untimely concept, in a period when capitalism has arrogated to itself the power of radical transformation. From Debord and Marcuse to the contemporary art world, by way of punk rock and hip hop.
Performance Art After TV
Relations between TV and performance art since the 1960s as a tangled skein of complicity and contestation. Sven Lütticken traces shifts in modes of acting, working and self-presentation, within a televisual world itself now being absorbed by cybernetic and digital systems.
Dialectic of Dionysus
Sven Lütticken on Asger Jorn, Fraternité Avant Tout. The Danish artist and Situationist wrestles with Engels and Nietzsche.
Once deemed extinct, the play instinct now pervades the worlds of work and leisure. Can it be turned to radical ends? Sven Lütticken seeks clues in Schiller and Debord, Neuschwanstein and computer games.
Attending to Abstract Things
From the philosophe De Brosses in the eighteenth century to the abstract expressionist Barnett Newman and the conceptualist Sol LeWitt in the twentieth—via Hegel, Creuzer and Marx—the fates of the fetish and the commodity, in critical thought and art.
Do increasingly dark ecological portents indicate a deeper transformation of nature itself? Sven Lütticken elaborates a historicized conception of nature, seeking precedents and contrasts in 19th- and 20th-century philosophies and fictions. Dinosaurs and overmen, Geist and entropic decline in Verne, Nietzsche, Schelling and Smithson.
Idolatry and its Discontents
Amid rhetorical dust-storms over purported Islamist threats to Western values, Sven Lütticken finds antecedents for contemporary struggles over the image in Judaic and Protestant bans on idolatry. Multiple meanings of the veil and varying forms of iconoclasm, under the aegis of the spectacle.
Suspense and . . . Surprise
Media projections of the ‘war on terror’ as manipulations of shock and time, purveyed through a perpetual present of 24-hour coverage and on-line news. Lessons from Hitchcock, Conrad and Benjamin on the poetics of suspense and possibilities for a rehistoricization of the attentat.
The Feathers of the Eagle
Lifting, swiping, zapping: popular expressions that have been aesthetic tactics since Dada. Sven Lütticken recasts the history of such practices of appropriation—not excluding those of Warhol or Debord, sometimes misplaced—as so many exercises in mythology. Anticipated by Flaubert, theorized by Barthes, staged by Broodthaers, is time running out for such creative misuses of past or present, as ‘intellectual property rights’ tighten?
After the Gods
Mythology as the ‘condition and subject of all art’ in the varying conceptions of the early German Romantics and neoclassicism: from Schelling and Schlegel to Winckelmann and Goethe, meditations on Laocoon and anticipations of the Gesamtkunstwerk—issuing into the uncanny mythopoeias of modernity in Melville’s Confidence Man and the White Whale.