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 Juridical Economy
Art as the uncanny double of law in the work of Kant, Schiller and Hegel, and its confrontations today with the law in avant-garde practice, as the juridical category of the person either expands beyond even the corporation, dismissed as ‘artificial’ by Hegel, to new fictive forms, or contracts to captive sub-human shapes.
The Coming Exception
The artwork has long been understood as a political-economic anomaly, while art practice is sometimes seen as a stand-in for liberated human activity. With value itself seemingly in a state of crisis, might the artwork prefigure a world beyond it? From Ruskin and Whistler to Harun Farocki, Sven Lütticken charts the trajectory of an exception.
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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.