Beyond the Aesthetic and the Anti-Aesthetic
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: Penn State University Press
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Title Page, Copyright Page
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Table of Contents
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In the usual course of things, art theory happens invisibly, without attracting attention. Concepts like picture, visual art, and realism circulate in newspapers, galleries, and museums as if they were as obvious and natural as words like dog, cat, and goldfish. Art theory is the air the art world breathes, and it is breathed carelessly, without thought. It is the formless stuff out of which so many justi-...
Introduction (James Elkins)
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As a small subject, the anti-aesthetic is associated with Manhattan in the early 1nine.oldstyle80s, where it was crystallized by Hal Foster’s edited volume The Anti-Aesthetic. Practices later identified as anti-aesthetic had emerged in the 1nine.oldstyleseven.oldstyle0s, and were developed in the 1nine.oldstyle80s in various centers of the art world, including New York, Los Angeles, London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Copenhagen, Stock-...
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The following conversations were recorded during the week of July 18–24, 2010, ...
1. Introductory Seminar
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The opening seminar was an informal attempt to sketch positions in relation to the aesthetic and anti-aesthetic. The five faculty, Hal Foster, Jay Bernstein, Eve Meltzer, James Elkins, and Diarmuid Costello, introduce some of their interests in the theme. Diarmuid Costello and James Elkins were co-organizers of the week’s events.James Elkins: Welcome, everyone. Diarmuid and I thought we’d begin in a simple way, ...
2. The Anti-Aesthetic in the 1980s: Craig Owens’s “The Allegorical Impulse”
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This seminar was led by Hal Foster. It centers on Craig Owens’s essay “The Allegorical Impulse” from The Anti-Aesthetic. The seminar took Owens’s essay as an exemplary moment in the original anti-aesthetic, and asked how it had been read in the 1980s H.scal F.scoster.sc: I take it as my brief to represent the anti-aesthetic position of thirty years ago. That’s hard: I no longer have a dog in that fight. I also feel somewhat distant ...
3. The Anti-Aesthetic in the 1990s: The Body
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This seminar was led by Hal Foster. The participants read Foster’s preface to The Anti-Aesthetic; an essay by Yve-Alain Bois on the informe, published before the book Formless: A User’s Guide (1996); and Foster’s essay “Obscene, Abject, Trau-matic,” which was an early study for his book The Return of the Real (1996).1 The subject of the seminar is the development of the anti-aesthetic from its initial form in ...
4. Theory and Criticism
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Here the subject was what counts, in this problematic, as theory and criticism. The discussion was led by Diarmuid Costello; he aimed to bring out certain features of the philosophic claims of anti-aesthetic texts, with the objective of determining what kind of conceptual relation they had to the Modernism against which they reacted. This seminar and the next one are discussions of the relation of theory to contempo-...
5. Theoretical Positions: Critical Theory
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In this seminar, Jay Bernstein developed his own account of Adornian Modernism, and was challenged by several other participants, who felt that the perspective he presented didn’t speak to contemporary concerns. The seminar developed into a dis-cussion of the relevance or irrelevance of critical theory for current practice.J.scay.sc B.scer.scnstein: As Stanley Cavell said, it is in the nature of modern art that there are no ...
6. Theoretical Positions: Rancière, Deleuze, Relational Aesthetics
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Although affect theory emerged as the principal possibility for describing art outside the aesthetic and anti-aesthetic, the Seminars ranged over a number of other pos-sible texts, concepts, and disciplines. Here the participants discussed the unexpected absence of Rancière from the week’s discussions; the reasons that most participants did not want to discuss relational aesthetics; and the possibility of expanding Deleuze’s ...
7. Theoretical Positions: Affect Theory in Art History
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Theories of affect have emerged in several fields, and have been taken up by a wide range of practitioners. Here they are introduced first in relation to Mary Kelly’s Post-Partum Document and works by Candice Breitz. The seminar was led by Eve Melt-zer, and the participants had read, and heard, drafts of chapters of her book Systems We Have Loved.1 This discussion also presupposes Deleuze’s book on Francis Bacon.2 ...
8. Theoretical Positions: Affect Theory at Large
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Later in the week, the seminar returned to affect theory, considering it from a more general standpoint. The participants considered a wide range of possible sources for theorizing affect in the arts, from general cultural theories to theories specific to the arts. A general model, in which affect is at once a product of systems and language, and also something that underlies them, is woven throughout the conversation....
9. Things Missing from this Book
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Here the subject was all the things that had been excluded from the week’s conversa-tions, either by chance or because the Faculty or Fellows weren’t interested. The idea of the seminar was to think about reasons why certain topics had been omitted, and to distinguish political and philosophic reasons from contingent ones.J.scames E.sclkins: I thought we should end with an open session, in the spirit of the entire ...
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Preface (Harper Montgomery)
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This preface attempts to bring order to a veritable minefield of disagreement over fundamental questions about art’s relationship with life. While threads of consensus—more often formed around shared complaints than agreements—link many of the authors’ texts, their areas of concern are, as a rule, profoundly diverse and often isolated from each other by differences as insurmountable as ...
The October Revolution (Grant Kester)
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I think Hal Foster can be forgiven a little false modesty when he wonders whether the “ancient history”1 of The Anti-Aesthetic has any relevance today. He must have felt a bit like Mick Jones being harangued by aging Clash fans to play “Rock the Casbah” one last time as the seminar participants pored over every paragraph of an essay he wrote when he was in his late twenties. However, I would argue that ...
“This” (Alexander Dumbadze)
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In the final seminar, a chance for participants to address what was left out during the week of discussions, Jay Bernstein said, “I think the anti-aesthetic is in the cards because there is a general crisis in the humanities. . . . What is our form of address? . . . I feel that the question of how any of this can matter, under these economic conditions, has become difficult.”1 The “this” in the last sentence cov-...
The Chinese Reception (Geng Youzhuang)
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First, I would like to say something about the dissemination of The Anti-Aesthetic. It is very interesting to learn that the book was simply entitled La Posmoderni-dad when it was translated into Spanish in 1nine.oldstyle85, because, as Joaquín Barriendos said, the debate over the Western philosophy of art in Spanish in the 1nine.oldstyle80s “concerned postmodernity, rather than the anti-aesthetic.” Meanwhile, Hal Fos-...
A Gaping Hole (Cary Levine)
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A new, more inclusive kind of art theory is indeed long overdue, and the Stone Theory Institute should be commended for working to make that objective a real-ity. The seminar discussions compiled in these volumes reveal a wide diversity of opinions, points of view, and methodologies. As James Elkins acknowledges, this diversity will surely lead to more discord and contradiction than consensus and ...
Not Aesthetics or Anti-Aesthetics But Poetics (Boris Groys)
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Let me choose as a starting point for my reaction the way in which Jay Bernstein situates Kant’s third critique in relation to the first and second critiques.1 I agree with his analysis when he speaks about a role that aesthetics as a specific dispo-sition of the subject toward the world plays in the general economy of Kant’s discourse. But continuing to speak about the aesthetic attitude, Bernstein sud-...
Ellipses and Détente (Gregory Sholette)
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I have felt excluded throughout this week, on all the subjects we have discussed, because we have not touched on the social and economic conditions of theories of art. We have been living in the abstract. There is a precarious class of intellectual workers throughout the world: people who try to get jobs, find voices, continue to do what they want. And to do that, they have sometimes to censor themselves, to limit what they ...
What If We Really Have Bever Been Modern? (Eva Schürmann)
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Looking from abroad at this debate on Modernist aesthetics and its adverse reac-tions, a salient feature to notice is that in art discourse nowadays the terms “mod-ern” and “modernism” apparently evoke meanings quite different in continental Europe than in North America. In Europe, Clement Greenberg’s concept of Modernism and the master narrative of heroic abstract art is not generally what ...
Beyond Aesthetic and Anti-Aesthetic: Three Miniatures (Maria Filomena Molder)
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Art cannot exist, in my reading, without the continual temptation to take its inner He that loves that which is visible, and believes that what he has seen is only an image of that which he has not yet seen, feels a desire growing within him, a desire born out of his love for the visible, to enjoy what he hasn’t seen: the origin of the image—he who loves seeing longs for it. In this admirable man-...
Get Over It! (Gary Peters)
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In recent months I have heard two highly respected philosophers (acknowledg-ing that philosophers attract little respect) use the phrase “get over it” in debates with their “opponents”: “it” being (in these instances) “Badiou’s mysticism” and “dog-tired Kantianism.” I must say I find such borrowings from the hip argot of What would it mean to get over the aesthetic/anti-aesthetic debate? I sus-...
Beyond “Beyondness” (Andrew McNamara)
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When the term “anti-aesthetic” emerged thirty years ago, it was presumed to stand in stark opposition to the “aesthetic.” Today the situation is less clear. While the Seminars aim to move beyond this dichotomy, many of the partici-pants doubt whether the anti-aesthetic still holds as an absolute distinction from the aesthetic. Over the course of the conversations, other oppositions arise—...
Re: Re: Post (Gordon Hughes)
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Perhaps the first attempt at a “beyond” in Beyond the Anti-Aesthetic appears early in seminar 1, when Jay Bernstein refutes James Elkins’s position that (as Bern-stein paraphrases) “Modernism is about aesthetic claims, and anti-aesthetics is about politics.” Aligning himself with Adorno, Bernstein sees the aesthetic and the anti-aesthetic as two sides of the same Modernist coin, each lodging comple-...
The Elusive “Beyond” of Aesthetic and Anti-Aesthetic (Toni Ross)
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In his introduction to this volume, James Elkins acknowledges an earlier, rather modest effort by James Meyer and myself to create a forum where the polarized categories of aesthetic and anti-aesthetic might be refigured.1 While I’m pleased that some of the issues we raised are substantially deepened and expanded in the transcribed seminars, I’m less delighted by Elkins’s account of our framing ...
On Politics, Art, and Mobbing Rancière (Justin McKeown)
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While the problem of the former East was the problem of the right to free speech, the problem of the West has been the right to be properly heard. Much of the artistic production in the West devoted to politics, since at least the late 1nine.oldstylesix.oldstyle0s, has been problematic because it has not contended with the underlying conditions by which political activity—especially that emanating from the field ...
As If (Timotheus Vermeulen)
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In this Assessment I would like to engage in three debates that run throughout the Seminars: the terms of the debate—the aesthetic and the anti-aesthetic; their implications for thinking about the periodization of the arts; and their impli-cations for contemplating the spatiality of art, in particular with regard to the quotidian, that most “dire” of experiences, as Jay Bernstein so emphatically puts ...
How Do You Pronounce the Politics of Aesthetics? (Noah Simblist)
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Like Gregory Sholette, I was interested in the statement by Stéphanie Benza-quen in seminar nine.oldstyle. This last seminar was about addressing any lack or exclusion of subjects that the participants noticed. She claimed that the group had “not touched on the social and economic conditions of theories of art.” Instead, she says, “We have been living in the abstract.” She references Edward Said’s text in ...
Remarkable Oversights, or Could We Actually Make Politics Easier to Talk About? (Rebecca Zorach)
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...“Art” is the zombie here.1 Not because it keeps moving along as a vestigial autom-atism long past its relevance, but because it eats the brains of some very smart people. I’m joking, of course. But it seems like this conversation, perhaps by its very nature, ends up less than the sum of its formidable parts. What interests me, mainly, is the evacuation of the political from this conversation—which I take as ...
Adorno and Affect (Carrie Noland)
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...“Affect” is taken up at various points in the Seminars, but rarely, and only nega-tively, in relation to Theodor Adorno and the Frankfurt School. In contrast, the name most frequently associated with affect theory is that of Gilles Deleuze; in fact, Deleuzian affect theory is presented during the Seminars as the major con-temporary alternative to Frankfurt School theory and its dour narrative accord-...
Let’s Not and Say We Did (Robert Storr)
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As everyone knows, politics is theater, and theater requires the active suspension of disbelief. That permission is granted in light of need and promise, the need being to make sense of perplexing realities, the promise being that of the author or company that their product will fill our need. Did I say product? Indeed I did, because our topic is the initial staging and present revival of The Anti-Aesthetic, ...
Why Is Adorno So Repulsive? (William Mazzarella)
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Something very striking happens during Jay Bernstein’s presentation in seminar 5 of the 2010 Stone Summer Theory Institute. Several participants react to Ber-nstein’s invocation of Theodor Adorno much as Harry Potter might respond to a dementor—that revolting, wraithlike creature who sucks all the happiness and Or at least that’s how I read the following protests, each addressed to ...
Theory Cataracts (Luis Camnitzer)
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When I was twenty-seven (Hal Foster’s age when he wrote his book), I also was very interested in theory. It was 1nine.oldstylesix.oldstyle4, and structuralism had hit Latin America during the previous years and somehow wakened us with an intellectual shock. I tried to keep up for some time, but my activities in art, and my efforts to understand why and for whom I was working, added to the increasingly her-...
Moving Beyond: Aesthetics and Politics (Jon Simons)
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As the title of the this seminar series suggests, one of its central concerns was the possibility of moving “beyond the anti-aesthetic.” A premise of the discussions was that “there is still no viable alternative to the dichotomy between aesthet-ics and anti- or nonaesthetic art.”1 At the same time, Hal Foster made it quite clear in his retrospective assessment of the anti-aesthetic moment that it was ...
The Aesthetic, the Anti-Aesthetic, and Then What?: Why Answering this Question Involves Thinking About Art as Labor (Angela Dimitrakaki)
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I received and read with great interest the proceedings of the Seminars “Beyond the Aesthetic and the Anti-Aesthetic.” The title of my response, paraphrasing the title of Dan Karlholm’s recent article “Post-war, Postmodern, and then What?,” delivers in summary what, I think, is at stake here:1 an implicit need to address questions of periodization pertaining to, and connecting, art and theory. This ...
Afterword: The Bathwater and the Baby (Gretchen Bakke)
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...j.scay bernsTein: I’ve been interested in this debate [the anti-aesthetic in relationship to Kantian aesthetics], and I have a certain anxiety about it, because I am afraid the baby will be thrown out with the bathwater. I’d like to say a little about Let us imagine ourselves Freudian for a moment; let us pretend that this privi-leging of the bathwater over the baby was not a simple slip of the tongue but ...
Notes on the Contributors
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Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: The Stone Art Theory Institutes