Nietzschean Critique and the Hegelian Commodity, or the French Have Landed Author(s): Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe Reviewed
work(s): Source: Critical Inquiry, Vol. 26, No. 1 (Autumn, 1999), pp. 70-84 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1344146 . Accessed: 18/11/2011 11:25
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact email@example.com.
The University of Chicago Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Critical Inquiry.
In a manner perhaps reminiscent of de Certeau's theory that the working class takes only what it can use from high culture and leaves the rest. Of the changes in which French theory has played a part in the past twenty-five or so years." while leaving alone those elements in it that might interfere with the collective pursuit of business as usual. one could say that a painting hegemony that by the early sevenfounded on a ties had already become a sculpture hegemony-which. Nov.
. within art practice conceived as such. the ways in which the art world uses French ideas have less to do with not understanding their original meaning and intention than with deciding what's useful (to the pursuit of business as usual) and what's not. 1997. as both-who nonetheless made or championed a great deal of work that was pictorial. albeit in a way that somehow slipped beyond the boundaries
This essay was first presented as a paper at the "French Theory in America" conference at New York University and the Drawing Center.
CriticalInquiry26 (Autumn 1999) O 1999 by The University of Chicago. or The French Have Landed
The art world may be said to have adopted some of the ideas suggested by the phrase "French theory.Nietzschean Critique and the Hegelian Commodity. one could point to its role in the shift from an interest in art and art objects specifically to one in visual culture in general-from art to anthropology-that has been such a large part of art history and criticism since the seventies. pervasive idea about art not being pictorial.00. Don Judd. 0093-1896/99/2601-0007$02. This transformation had two stages and involved the diminution of the idea of pictorialism by artists and critics-for example. was therefore largely devoted to reinventing the pictorial in other terms-has subsequently transformed itself into a Duchampian hegemony. Or.
All rights reserved.
as in a painting: a space that can only exist by being not real. 40-42. My use of the word. Inquiry. to be altogether too retinal and thus implicitly pictorial in a thoroughly bad way. Judd associated pictorialism with Europe and other varieties of degeneration. Duchamp was after all a late symbolist. drawing from that a number of conclusions germane here. specificallyrefer to Duchamp. there is no need to pursue here the implications of Rhonda Roland Shearer's recent claim that none of the readymades were anything of the sort.1 But soon minimalism itself was to be found lacking in nonaestheticism.Beauty the Contemporary and Sublime and (in collaborationwith FrankGehry) Frank the Gehry. J. See. that if it were true it would no longer be possible to make the claim that Duchamp did away with originality. Because of its inherently illusionistic condition. 1994). has less to do with iconicity than with pictorialism's fundamental illusionism. 2. Since it has as yet had no effect on the art world. esp. Piety:Critical Essays theVisual and two forthcoming works.1986-1993 (1995).and Music. His critical works include Immanence Contradiction: and Recent on DeEssays theArtistic vice(1986). in the sense of not really being a space because it is a surface. idealisms) of the real: "real space" and "specific objects" then. City. Sculpture then became obliged to function not only as a ready-made concept but as a form only available as a readymade-as an object that exists to be read and interpreted rather than seen. Postmodernism the En-Genderingof MarcelDuand champ(Cambridge.CriticalInquiry
of the definition in use for purposes of denunciation. one might say that while Judd withdrew from Duchamp once he realized that it would lead to the kind of iconicity that Mitchell describes.in part for his most recent contributionto Critical "Blanknessas a Signifier"(Autumn 1997). that the 50 cc ampule of Paris air is unique in
Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe teaches at Art Center. 1992): 89-94 and should therefore distinguish my use of the word pictorialfrom his to avoid confusion. Robert Morris took minimalism in a direction quite consistent with Mitchell's definition of pictorial through works that. in that way it is the opposite of the spatial in the same way that the image is the opposite of the real.2
1. a pictorialism that was to be replaced by (an idea of) the specific. T Mitchell's "The Pictorial Turn.He was the 1998 recipient of the College Art Association's FrankJewett Mather Awardfor Art or ArchitecturalCriticism. Pictorial here refers to a space that can only be present by being pictured. For instance. as it were. Shearer has researched Duchamp and seems to have shown that the original perfume bottle was peach-colored rather than blue.
. Mitchell sees the pictorial as a condition of intensified iconicity that has particular potency in or around the present moment. for example. The first stage involved minimalism's alleged literalization of the art object. The passage from the literal to the iconic has depended on both being grounded in invocations (in effect. the social and the cultural now. in a manner alternately banal and opaque. At that point one finds Judd briefly embracing Marcel Duchamp. Charles Sanders Peirce. which was felt to liberate it from painting's irreducibly illusory pictorialism." Artforum30 (Mar. pp. but it is worth taking note of them-for example. opposing to it the (American) alternatives of himself and. I refer elsewhere in this essay to W. Pasadena. the antiretinal and the readymade being terms that replace the phenomenological with the iconographical.Beyond on Arts. Amelia Jones. however. This is what disturbed Judd about painting.
20 Mar. Attempts to dismiss what she has to say out of hand merely invite one to ask why the materialists who have spent the last quarter century celebrating Duchamp's subversion of idealism never checked any of the facts themselves and to suspect that they did not do so because of their eagerness to believe. Or. perhaps.72
Of which one could also say that. B7. If it were true. a future history of the recent past could see the theorists of art after art to have been describing instead art that was still art. 1999): 98-102. there has been a general movement in theoretical and critical practice from the visual as the visible to the visual as the legible. as Mieke Bal has pointed out. I thank Tom Mitchell for suggesting this term to me. visual only in the sense that writing has to be seen to be read. with dire implications for the critical finality they had claimed for their theories and. Suffice it to say that it is not sufficient to dismiss this with the claim that "everything is a commodity"-a non sequitur itself dubiously circular. 3. 1999. terms such as intertextuality. if what Shearer has to say need not matter to artists.3 Work that does not repress the visual in this way is now-this is where Duchampianism prepared New York for French theory before proceeding to appropriate it-widely regarded as by definition incoherent. a great deal of great art always having been the product of bad ideas-which is to agree with Danto when he goes on to say that the readymade will certainly survive any revision of its putative originator-it does seem to me that for a primary agent of demystification to turn out to have itself been an art historical trick must have some consequences for an art historicism that has taken it literally. if not reflexive-as the Duchamp scholar David Joselit is reported to have responded to the news. One would hope that she has some resources. and divergence. B9). Clearly these changes could be placed in more than one relationship of parallelism. than Joselit's response. that snow shovels and wine racks were never made the way his are. How each strand of change relates to this or that French theory is affected by how it coincides with or finds something its protagonists can use in it. For example. With regard to the question of French theory's assimilation to a reinvented Duchamp. "Taking Jokes by Duchamp to Another Level of Art. when the issue is precisely that Duchamp has not simply transformed these objects by "inscribing them."New York Times." Nor is it convincing to murmur defensively that Shearer has come up with the "'best scholarship that money can buy"' or that she is somehow using her marriage to the prominent paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould to promote her unpopular premise (Sarah Boxer. see Leslie Camhi. requiring hurried or tortuous retrieving of some aspects of French theory from its entanglement with a by then demystified Duchamp. been tricked. more precisely. that is. pp.
that no one ever manufactured a 50 cc ampule of any kind for commercial purposes. and one could add others. and so forth. convergence. "Did Duchamp Deceive Us?" Art News 98 (Feb. Arthur Danto's declaration that if it is true he has no further interest in Duchamp seems more logical. vision itself (as an intransitive and undetermined retinal response to phenomena as opposed to a transitive and determined act of interpretation) only a passive tabularasa for images.
. or philosophical. legible only as illegibility. in tandem with a shift of attention from art to culture. as every art historian tenured in the last fifteen years and every curator who achieved her or his position during the same period is likely to be arrayed against her. perhaps. the "lisible":the visual as writerly. even if he too misses the sense in which Duchamp may be more interesting when seen as a minor symbolist-which should encourage a closer scrutiny of the peculiar array of objects he now appears to have chosen to laboriously invent-rather than a profound iconoclast.
followed quite shortly thereafter by Derrida's. it also seems unsurprising that the idea of the readymade would have been made compatible with that of the death of the author as soon as that became available. while those of Baudrillard and of Deleuze and Guattari took quite a long time to turn up. which has often taken the form of a Lacanianism itself always already
. having been written ten to twenty years earlier. becoming really popular only in the 1980s. What made his writing attractive to begin with was what guarantees its continuing popularity: his emphasis on the institutional. that followed from various attempts to think a way out of what is still called formalism in part by attending to. and Lacan's. For some this has meant that everything in a culture is once again describable in terms of a realism traditionally conceived. in art history dates matter as much as forms. his actual power having been diminished by the rise of pop art and minimalism-that theory. then. and both to French theory's capacity to subvert textual hierarchies.CriticalInquiry
had an immediate application in literature for dissemination. neither liked painting-with regard to which Foucault provided the logos for their coalescence. It is perhaps unsurprising. Foucault's popularity never had much to do with anything he said about painting. was destined to be conscripted. noted above. social and psychological content that formalism had either actually or allegedly left out. For others it has suggested new possibilities for a realism of the sign rather than the thing. helping along an art engaged in a recognizable play of denotation and connotation. Foucault's. Duchamp having been reinvented in order to topple Greenberg. or that the Duchampian deferral of attention from the object to its context should have been related to the shift in interest from the art object to culture in general. as we all know.and polysemy which the visual arts were in comparison unprepared. but there were clearly areas of shared tactical interest-for example. arriving in the American art world at that moment. The first group had no reason to like the second. It was into the service of this debate and what flowed from it-in which Clement Greenberg by then played a purely symbolic role as the defeated but not expunged critic. Greenberg's enemies fell into two camps: those who were impatient with abstraction and longed for a realism that would be representational and moreover be so in a way that dealt with a recognizable historical and psychological content. whether French or not. However. and those who rather liked difficult language but didn't like Greenberg personally. and reviving. that Barthes and Lacan especially should have first found their way into general currency by way of film theory. The arrival then of the first wave of translated French theory coincided with the transformation of the art object. Barthes's ideas arrived in New York in the early 1970s.
FoucaultLive (Interviews. obviously."4 Foucault and Benjamin are both interested in how architecture carries out a plan that reveals-partly unintentionally. is thinking about social power. It is affinities such as these that make it possible.74
reconciled to Foucault by way of Laura Mulvey's idea about the male gaze. by an idea of the visible as a gendered language of surveillance. "Space. Michel Foucault. requiring instead a more rigorous theory of the social. and other critics [to] all co-exist happily . Quite apart from the role Foucault gives to transgression. 335. or Adorno's of Schoenberg's. partly intentionally-more than the planners planned.J. proceeding from there to a Foucaultian model in which the institution performs an exemplary role. Christian Hubert. encouraged by what he said about themes and topics he shared with it. Sylvere Lotringer (1989. Adorno. Baudrillard.1961-1984). trans.
. and Power" (1982). however conceived. During the past twenty-five years American social theories of the art object have moved gracefully from an older Marxism to a Frankfurt school phase. Debord. New York. Walter Benjamin. (Oddly.) They at least overlap in describing power as an economics of display that includes a discernable public language of concealment. as W. Deleuze. These were the terms in which Foucault long since became assimilated to thinking founded-however securely-in the example and methods of the Frankfurt school. particularly in his later writing. interview with Paul Rabinow. While Foucault may be separated from the Frankfurt school by a preference for genealogy over dialectics-the implications of which are central to this essay-his reappropriation by dialectical historicism was. which might invite comparison with Benjamin's characterization of Brecht's artistic practice. their disagreements
4. for "Foucault. judgment reified. "in the 18th century one sees the development of reflection upon architecture as a function of the aims and techniques of the government of societies. as negative reflections (respectively popular and elite) of dominant ideology-knowledge in and as power-his specific interest in how. 1973) p. CharlesBaudelaire:A LyricPoet in the Era of High Capitalism. the transitional model for those (in the art world as elsewhere) who wanted a social content but could not be satisfied with the American populism of earlier generations. Harry Zohn (London. the formal principle of the Hellenic mode' must come into force. and where all thinking about art.trans. for which the State was an end in itself. power and knowledge: "The architectural theorist B6tticher expressed the general conviction when he said that 'with regard to the art-forms of the new system.. ed. Knowledge. for example. that is." could be seen to parallel Benjamin's study of the Paris arcades as model and expression of. the museum as paradigmatic historical form. p. Benjamin. 158. and for. they both nonetheless see the architectural program and its realization as quite-one could say ideally-continuous with each other. Empire was the style of revolutionary terrorism. T Mitchell has said.. 1996).
where Foucault has now replaced Marx.
. 1996). and nonobjects exclusively devoted to a socioanthropological function. See also note 8. 7. 93. of Contemporary 'Theory." p. or otherwise manifest or even in part produce. once the metaphysical subject and with it the idea of art as such have disappeared. one possible explanation among several for Lacan's acceptability within the discipline of art history. the mirror phase is quite consistent with earlier theories of the subject's relationship to the pictorial and therefore can readily be brought to bear on those earlier ideas that it seeks to modify or replace. This leads to the pragmatic selectivity I mentioned when I began. but mention of his Hegelianism brings me to the central problem posed by most French theory's proceeding from a Nietzchean position7 while the art world cannot do without Hegel. the problem of wanting to use history in a way that Nietzsche and therefore Foucault et alia do not. and while Steven Melville and others have talked about Lacan's indebtedness to Hegel. The art world can't do without the idea that
5. installations. Lacan has been enormously useful in expanding art history's sense of the rhetoric of picturing. utterly forgotten in the blinding light of a 'domiThat is the sense in nant model' illuminating a 'homogeneous terrain." p. or."'Seams: as a Philosophical Context. Remarks on the Color and Tenor Art ed. On the other side of the reformulated version of the Frankfurt school's model of the institution and the individual. Mitchell. "Division of the Gaze. 111-19. This function is roughly equivalent to something some kinds of art did when we were still able to have works of art. Even though.CriticalInquiry
and discrepancies . "it's not clear that Foucault himself completely avoided [German Idealism's] temptations" (Mitchell. Lacanianism quickly became a popular way of thinking about artworks or successors to the idea of the artwork as opportunities for the reinvention of the subject. 93).'"'5 which Foucault has provided a way of thinking of the space of the art object as. "The Pictorial Turn. Another may be that as a rehearsal in other terms of an idea of empathetic contemplation. the spirit of the age. however. The art world clearly cannot do without the Hegelian idea that there are certain works that are more important than others because they capture. this has tended to get lost in Lacan's understandable assimilation to issues of a sociopolitical sort where Hegel is understood to have been on the wrong side. but which was then regarded as supplementary to an aesthesis itself now felt to be merely one more aspect of the work's identity as an iconographical enunciation (voluntary or involuntary) of power relationships in (or as) the public sphere. that is. "The Pictorial Turn.. 6. Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe (Amsterdam. Lacan has similarly replaced Freud. one that can be helpfully filled with objects. pp. See Stephen Melville..6 It remains. as Mitchell delicately notes.
there is an age. 17. in principle. many of his detractors. are to be judged in these terms. plays a part in that project. and to Horkheimer and Adorno. This suggests. Michael Podro.. recognition and exploitation of the indissoluble relationship between visual (spatial) perception of things-as-they-are and cultural. economic. 138). concerned as they are not only to claim a comparable (and competing) historical significance for work that is not New York school. which is to say. 1987): 96..9 Greenberg's defense of the New York school's painting was couched in a Hegelian history of forms irreducible-but not in that unrelatedto history in general: two manifestations of the spirit. Spanos is concerned to preserve Heidegger from the neoconservative assault on his thought launched in the name of humanism by Victor Farias-that is.. the microphysics of power that constituted the subject (the sovereign individual) to facilitate the achievement of sociopolitical consensus (identity) in the volatile social context precipitated by a rapidly changing demography" Retrieving the CulturalPolitics of Destruction[Minneapolis. Conn. it remains something of a leap to proceed from theories that allow for vision's implication in cultural (and so forth) power to seeing the visual only as a sign or symptom of domination. that temptation may be seen to travel in both directions. since while imagining the art object's way disappearance he didn't anticipate its replacement by anthropology but
8. and sociopolitical power. by (not only) Hegelian art historians. seem both to dispute his claims and to transpose them.. Nietzsche's postmodernism links him to Heidegger. In one sense Foucault's role in all of this was prepared for him. 1982) p. identified with his belief that the modern or classical episteme is one of domination. in principle. However. (Heideggerand Criticism: 138). he uses Foucault in a dispute about how Heidegger is being used-and for some the affiliation he discerns will seem too broad.. "Nietzsche's Pursuit of Modernism." when the same thing could be said-for example-about Marx (although. as well as critics who simply came afterwards and from somewhere else. as a concept)." New GermanCritique 41 (Spring-Summer. according to the mutual attractiveness of theories of power. As Robert Gooding-Williams has noted. From this perspective." an irreducibility that was subsequently maintained. perhaps. 1993]. Robert Gooding-Williams. a temporal finitude defined by specific characteristics. p. However general the claim may be that these thinkers have in common a discomfort with what has become of the Enlightenment and may even share a definition of how the visual. a function of both seeing Western civilization as having "involved the . One may compare what Gooding-Williams says about Adorno and Heidegger with what William Spanos describes as the "affiliative relationship" between Heidegger's theory of the "world that bore witness to picture" and Foucault's definition of the Enlightenment as "the episteme the emergence of the 'panoptic' schema. but simultaneously to insist there is no longer any history other than history in general. as an idea of the spatial (that is. "Nietzsche's postmodernism can be . according to their historical significance-which they achieve through historical introspection or retrospection.
. that it does have a spirit and that works of art. ironically. but here that could be the point (p. Hegel's Aesthetics "irreis ducible to his general philosophy of history. This suggests a state of affairs that remains Hegelian-although in a that Hegel did not recommend. perhaps with less certainty). The CriticalHistoriansof Art (New Haven. or what has taken their place. 9."8 Michael Podro has shown how.
because any such aspect itself derives its origins from a higher principle. improvement. as they are in Hegel. 11. have nothing to do with the work of art as such. One should also note the ambiguity of "itself derives its origins"Hegel doesn't say "is derived from" or "originates in. The Genealogy Morals. like their material medium. specifically. p. 61)." 12. pecuniary gain. be consistently explored in their characteristic traits . talks about some events being connected not by any causal relationship within them but instead only by the will to power and goes on to say that "while forms are fluid. their 'meaning' is even more so. or alternatives to the idea of works of art. E Hegel. such as instruction.. 1993]. N.
. in a very Foucaultian passage on punishment.10 One is judged to be better than the other in terms of what it does with the intrinsic properties of the form or of whatrefusal of form's priority. where Hegel took the presence of intrinsic properties to mean that art could parallel a history to which it could not be reduced. of the very recent history of the art object or its institutional or conventional semiotics.. or do something by not doing anything with them. Introductory Lectureson Aesthetics. 96. rhetoric. However. these current distinctions may now do little more than defer to a general (historicist) idea. 210. then it's hard to make a case for it as an interesting art event or object in art world terms. While seeing no alternative.. For example. one notes certain difficulties with this situation. they cannot be worked out as the ultimate and fundamental law.CriticalInquiry
by a future art unencumbered by the material rather than the reversein that what has replaced art is still lodged in a dialectic where one kind of work. or supplement to it-has been substituted for an idea of form. and must therefore be subordinate thereto. p. W. and do not determine its conception" (G. ed. Ibid. in "TheBirth of Tragedy" "TheGeneand of alogy of Morals. If the work doesn't do anything with those themes. their abstract particularities and characteristic traits are now implicitly reduced to insignificance. There is no fluidity here. or ontological or morphological reduction or generalization is understood to be more important or relevant or significant than others. for example its rejection of history conceived as a teleology
10. Francis Golfing (Garden City.. 1956). but distinctions between and to some extent within works of art. the contemporary critic having extended to absurdity Hegel's claim that although "abstract peculiarities of works of art may. by those who want one to look at it for whatever reason-who want to sell it intellectually or actually-as a particularly acute use of art history. Bernard Bosequet. Nietzsche. endeavor after fame and honor. "For other objects. process. p. Michael Inwood [Harmondsworth. Friedrich Nietzsche. remain Kantian.Y."" The already conditional autonomy granted to works of art by Hegel having been withdrawn altogether."trans.trans."12 But despite twenty years of occupation by Nietzscheanism the art object is always championed. And this is where Nietzschean antiHegelianism. purification.
But Foucault provided her. can cause difficulties. At least one art historian has been caught offering the original proposition that the posthistorical is a period in which one doesn't have periodicity because one doesn't have originality. contiguity. as critical objects. Like American television companies seeking pure profit out of the European market once their prod13. (Whether or not will to power made the work. Andy Warhol is a crucial figure here.) Reversibility reappears within a doctrine of the irreversible. It becomes a socioanthropological art-in which cultural codes are socially allegorical-that usually ornaments theories that are already complete and need no supplementation by decorating them with some (icono)graphic instantiation of themselves." pp. just as all artworks exhibit an unconscious made possible by fetishistic privileging. and thence to her production. while Freud may not be quite adequate to human psychology. that in addition to any given failure to resist temptation. There is. all artworks are Freudian (the immense popularity of Rudolph Schwarzkogler or Paul McCarthy testifies to the popularity of this belief).
. for example. it is because of the intractible Hegelianism of art discourse itself-manifest in its effortless folding of the death of the art object into art history. art may still be said to employ a Marxist attitude to surplus value. little if anything in Foucault's idea of the death of the author that leads inexorably to Sherrie Levine's application of it to the readymade. Going in the other direction. where it plays with a marginal surplus squeezed out of the signs it appropriates. but that also on occasion takes those same theories off somewhere they wouldn't have gone if left to themselves. which thereby becomes eternal once more-that Foucault and Barthes and perhaps Lacan. but then again he's not. "Nietzsche's Pursuit of Modernism. it conceives itself as reaction. become incorporated into a game about what kind of artistic production currently best captures or articulates the spirit of the age. Also. which turns out to be a kind of art that is about institutions. of reproductions of the work of Walker Evans. I think.13And that is what leads me to suggest that the bits of French theory that get left out are the bits that would make the art world situation as a whole untenable if left in.78
divided into periods. then. and implication. See Gooding-Williams. or those who champion her work. a set of theoretical predispositions that allowed her to extend the rhetorical scope of Duchampianism into a kind of historicism of the undead. and about the kind of viewer and viewing constructed by dominant culture. despite his seeming to have felt none of the need to leave the object/ only by context-characteristic sign virtually untouched-transformed of many otherwise indebted to his example. 98-99. about the varied cultural content of signs. Foucault's (and Barthes's) subsumption by Frankfurt school Hegelianism has certainly been facilitated by our seeming to have decided that. too. so too we've come to agree that while Marx may have been subsumed or displaced. Marx is subsumed.
but for Levine it did. or magazine-has become the zone where the world may be turned upside down by being read from the point of view of a writing that cannot take place elsewhere and is about the sociocultural implications of that exclusion. For him the sign didn't have to be dead and it didn't matter who originated it. Some will of course find an uncanny parallelism between the attraction of a model derived from a building that was never built.14 (This is what raises the question of whether Biirger's theory and its derivatives constitute a Hegelianism in which the symbolic praxis of the counterdominant performs the reduction against which Podro warns. the spirit of the age. better. or... As an institution devoted to symbolic exchange (conceivably a pleonasm to a Foucaultian) the art space-gallery. One Technology difference is that we now do live in a world overwhelmed by technology.)15 But in its assimilation to a kind of Brechtianism.. 15. Michael Shaw (Minneapolis. museum. the Foucault who argued that people in ancient Rome didn't have sex but instead only had power relationships has been incorporated into a connoisseurship of cultural rather than aesthetic displays grounded in a traditional debate about which one provides the more relevant insight into. Theory trans.." TheQuestionConcerning and OtherEssays. It is in these terms that Foucault especially seems to have been made to measure for the socioanthropological art that fills most of the art magazines nowadays. part of a general project concerned with the origins of the human in the posthuman-the anthropology of the techno-sublime. 133). thinking such as
14. William Lovett [New York. and ed. from the standpoint of man and in relation to man" (Martin Heidegger. trans. in both cases so that it could become a critical object. It designates that philosophical interpretation of man which explains and evaluates whatever is. "The Age of the World Picture. and the popularity of conceptualism. a further turning away from phenomena to appearance as iconicity. 1977]. See Peter Birger. As in Heidegger: "The term 'anthropology'. art as exemplary social practice.CriticalInquiry
uct has more than returned its original investment on the domestic one.
. All of this boils down to Foucault having been incorporated into the redemptive art practice-that is. in its entirety. where what is exemplified is social contradiction conceived in an essentially Brechtian sort of way--theoretically outlined by Peter Buirger in his Theoryof theAvant Garde.. which is not a question of the cultural as opposed to the aesthetic but of the aesthetic as only a reflection of cultural causality. oftheAvant-Garde. does not mean just some investigation of man by natural science. p. as Norman Bryson has remarked ofJeremy Bentham's Panopticon. an idea of institutional transparency committed to the convention of the proposal rather than the object.a theory of art that did not originate in France and that has no use for counterhistory or any kind of theoretical or artistic project that might frustrate or seek to find a way around a historicist teleology. Likewise. embodiment of. which is why I should think of Mitchell's pictorial turn as an intensification and inversion of the one Heidegger proposed. Warhol understood surplus meaning-artistic content-to be what you got if you could put an already circulating sign to one more use. 1984).
or that show everything to begin there. or displaced into. Derrida and Deleuze have been received very differently by the art world than were Foucault or Barthes. 1992) are examples of this. 1994). M. which is the same thing. Both. an organic theory of art historical development that remains Hegelian not least in that it still explains itself in terms of this as a reaction to that. One of these excluded terms would be disinterestedness. what sort of counterfunction is thereby attributable to them by virtue of their exclusion. There are two reasons for this that. or not-of the art object or its alternative has had a very spotty reception. Bernstein. when even minimalism had slipped into art history. or which proceeds from. Pa. Theory after Television(Durham. In being reconciled with what it once was not. where the relationship of this to everything else defines an entirety. As noted. and I think this is because it was or is more difficult to enlist them in the pursuit of business as usual.
. Deleuze (like Baudrillard) arrived in America long after the Greenberg wars. or so it seems to me. much of what has been done with Deleuze has been done by people wishing to adapt his and Guattari's observations to arguments that return to the Frankfurt school.. but to do nothing about ideas about form.. reinforcing a process underway when it arrived. mination) If Foucault's thinking has been made to contribute substantially to the theoretical language of a more varied content. return me to the distinction between the visible and the legible-implicit in the question of appearance-and to Bal's observation about literature's reception of deconstruction as opposed to art history's. French theory that does seem to have contributed directly to rethinking criticism about. The Fateof Art (University Park. mirroring those that facilitated Foucault's reception. thinking that was formerly (but is now only formally) Nietzschian seems precluded from asking-in its own (for example. while Foucault's world of symbolic power as actual power is invaluable. the reorientation from freedom from (deterand to freedom to (think) that it brings with it. Richard Dienst.'6 But convergences that threaten reversibility by cutting across causation and putting provisional genealogies of functionality in its place-not to mention Deleuze's insistence that capitalism is strong because it is infinitely weak and slack-are of only limited use to determinists. and all was firmly
16. As with other French thinkers. Bernstein's book is where I first encountered a convincing equation of contemporary capitalism with the sublime. Foucaultian) terms-what significance is acquired by those terms that are now excluded by the socioanthropological. the appearance-as opposed to the social reason for being. The will to power has been reconciled with. and J. let me take this occasion to note.C. and how that might be deployed.80
Foucault's has been to varying degrees deprived of its Nietzschean volition. and Dienst goes further than anyone else I know in theorizing the temporal order proposed by the continuity of video. N. are works from which I have derived a great deal. Still Life in Real Time.
realist once again.
. has provided a great deal of stimulus. where it may be creatively critiqued. as we also do if we want to create writing. I should relate Bal's point that literary studies was more prepared to receive deconstruction-because it originated there-than were philosophy departments to the question of literary studies's relative indifference to the historical model. through a discourse built out of a critique of phenomenology. Seams. 8-13. where he sees the space of writing. which wants to be told where the work stands in a historical continuum and. exclusively historical. and to a neoclassical model of transparent form and signifying content by way of Duchamp."7 Having returned to a kind of social realism by way of Foucault. What is true of Deleuze seems even truer of Derrida. re17. to new ways of describing nonrepresentational art. It's not that deconstruction is ahistorical. in which case we have a special little ghetto. We usually have departments of literature rather than of literary history. Furthermore. rather than in the market. it's that it destabilizes the priority of the historical. Paradoxically. to writing which strives to be scrupulously and. when compared not with philosophy (although one could make a similar case) but to the visual arts. Derrida has been extremely valuable to people (for example. which it obviously is not. Derrida. especially in regard to Fried. That his thought threatens to provide an argument for a work of art that deterritorializes (the morphology of the art object) without guaranteeing reterritorialization by the institution. the art world has for the most part lost interest in the visual as the visible. because of his work's foundation in the phenomenological problematic. but the art world prefers to see capitalism as symbolically embodied in the museum. I discuss Fried's and Melville's relation to Derrida in my introduction to Melville. and this renders everything incomprehensible from the point of view of the art world. which may be critiqued but where critique cannot take place. whom some allege to see nothing but writing anywhere. except. to add insult to injury as it were. in elaborating a quintessentially phenomenological object. doesn't feel the need to hear much else. which. Michael Fried and Steven Melville) who want to write about the kind of work that is identified with Greenberg and Greenberg's formalism (that is. as it were. with the kind of work no one is supposed to do or write about). Which is also to say. for which one needs Foucault. but we only study art in art history departments-unless we actually want to make some. The art market confirms Deleuze's image of capitalism in its capacity to absorb anything. may account for his limited popularity. To take one example-from within literary studies rather than art historyCharles Altieri's Derridean reading of Frank Stella. once it has been told that. from the art world's point of view an inverse mirror of Foucault's guarantee of an ordered world. nonrepresentational painting. one supposes.
See Charles Altieri. will disturb the episteme through which the art world represents itself. If Deleuze is less popular than Foucault because he's always reordering rather than returning to an order. there must always be a number of histories and not just one and therefore what might be required might be a model of interactivity-of. the art world must be selective with regard to Nietzschean thought of any sort because it depends on ideas succeeding one another in a manner that is a clue to and a condition of their value. which is the Heideggerian side of Derrida and which reduces history's appeal as the institution that will provide a way forward and a proper appreciation of the things in the present that we like. was fashionable once and therefore can be no longer. in a sense quite right. 168-87.
. then. The art historian teased about describing the present as a period in which one doesn't have periodicity was. even the intertextual. while also presenting and preserving those from the past that we like because they illustrate contradiction and error--unconsciously performing a critique around which the contemporary revolves consciously. intertextuality-rather than the same old one of replacement and subsumption through negation. at the very least. that there will one day be a period when the nonhierarchical. regardless of anyone's specific interests or point of view. Only the periodizing industry will proceed as it has in the past. to itself. Media. "Frank Stella and Jacques Derrida: Toward a Postmodern Ethed. indeed. 1994). without doubt. And when it comes to art. As remarked. most people are not interested in the kind of art that raises the question of art rather than deferring it by declaring it dead and doing socioanthropology instead. The art world must be able to imagine that the present will come to an end. after all. Architecture. as opposed to society and culture. which may be infinitely divided. Perhaps it is even arguable that this certainty and immutability themselves guarantee that no line of flight cutting through categories to form a singularity. The art world depends on it. they seem uninterested in writing that raises the possibility that. nor any overflowing of any signature. and ics of Singularity. pp. historical significance being its
18.'8 It is. To conclude." in Deconstruction the VisualArts:Art.82
stages an argument about the ethical function of a Kantian project that should be of interest to a very wide audience. rather unexpectedly. however. nothing of the sort. is the idea that in any case one can only know history as wrong turns and significant if not irreversible loss. Derrida is comparably unpopular because he. reaches out to nonrepresentation--and therefore to Kant and disinterest-where Foucault offers the certainty of representation and the immutable mutability of eternally competing interests. in a general sort of way. It is a market where this costs more than that because it is more historically significant than that. Even less attractive. Peter Brunette and David Wills (Cambridge.
artlike. What one has instead is the incorporation of lots of good ideas into an old idea that is left untouched. See Robert Fouser. Within what is as far as I can see a universal Foucaultianism. because one rethinks the continuity and discontinuity between those two thinkers and sees both in an unusual. Just like art used to have when it was around. if it's to be significant now. "Sweet Sadism. This should lead to a varied sense of intertextuality. different strains and genealogies. 82 (Summer 1980): 60." Art/Text 60 (1998): 35. If it accepts French theory wholesale. which is to say. will have to be insignificant soon.
19. less so when one reads (in an essay by a French critic about a French artist in an English magazine) that Annette Messager is significant because her "work is of her generation" thanks to a "refusal of traditional aesthetic criteria" that turns out to be very much an affirmation of the criteria of a by now equally traditional anti-aesthetic. One irony of this situation." Artscribe. context.'9 I was going to call my essay "Fatal Subtraction" because it occurred to me that the art world's relation to French theory is doubly fatal. sometimes combining thinkers often regarded as incompatible. "Mariko Mori. then it can never use theory to rethink itself but only to complicate and elaborate itself. which are indebted to French theory and have. then the whole edifice must collapse. as separate discourses. Avatar of a Feminine God. If the art world behaves toward French theory selectively. largely. would require an end to the implication and fundamental belief that even if people are describing different things in different ways all things are in fact and nonetheless governed by a movement towards a single truth (which only some can realize. make visible). Annette Messager's Collection.no. however. again. I would suggest. which.CriticalInquiry
stock in trade. made it a prominent part of the production and dissemination of things found in art galleries. is that an art world so doomed to repeating a model can for that very reason only have repetition as an idea that. Hubert Besacier. of the polyvocal and of the polysemic construction of any particular voice. Without works that are more historically significant than others the rich would lose interest and none of us would be able to get paid for doing only what we want to do.
. These are the sorts of questions that an art discourse more open to deconstruction could permit itself to think about. seems to me inevitable and inescapable. like Kristeva and Irigaray. I have said almost nothing about specific practices within what I've collectively called the socioanthropological. have developed lives of their own. where a sort of poesis of the theoretical may take place. My topic has been the impact of French thought on the American art world. as it has and must. but I see the general condition as ubiqitous and international: exciting when one finds (in an Australian art magazine) the Japanese artist Mariko Mori's assault on neo-orientalism discussed through Donna Haraway and Irigaray. It.
it is. It becomes a vast jungle of mutually irrelevant practices that have nothing in common save the conditions of their display.84
as an array of parallel activities that have no demonstrable relationship to one another whatsoever but are critically and commercially administered as if they do.
. difference and the singular-possibilities for an enlivened and messy formalism by no means committed to endings and final conditions. The sign may be reversible. where reactivity is a precondition of meaningful signification. Baudrillard who gets the economics right. as usual. Which suggests to me that while Foucault and Lacan may have taken over the roles of Marx and Freud-to expose and explain external and internal repression-and while Derrida and Deleuze offer-through deferral and fluidity. but the art world requires it to be lodged in a discourse of irreversibility.