Final Readings of The Semester!

Posted: April 18, 2019 in Readings

In years past I have asked students to read all three of the essays below. This time, as my explanations of very new difficult ideas have gotten notably slower, I will only ask you to read ‘End of Art’ and ‘Art of Exhibition’. ‘Museum’s Ruins’ is available but optional. Read it and ask questions if you feel the inclination. Good luck!

  1. natquayle says:

    The first link is broken I think!

  2. natquayle says:

    During your lecture you had an interesting way of phrasing about the pictures of rats marking rat infestations around New York, something like “these artists were going around not trying to make masterpieces, but trying to respond very strategically and rhetorically to what was going on.” That reminded me of an art piece I heard about last week called paraSITE:

    Reading about it, I thought it was very interesting that the designer decided to call it an art piece and market it as such, when what it is is an initiative to make portable shelters. It’s something practical, political and reactionary, and by calling it art the artist is making a deliberate statement about exhibition.

  3. Sevin Park says:

    In “The End of Art,” Crimp asks, “Why would anyone object to the name museum for the paradigmatic early art museum? Why would ‘monument’ or ‘treasure’ have been preferable? The answer lies in the word studio, which Hirt chose to designate the museum’s purpose.” I’m curious what Crimp is implying here. Is he saying there are certain conditions that are required to be met in order for a place to be accurately called museum? How exactly does the word “studio” designate a museum’s purpose? I would more likely associate the word “exhibitions” for a museum’s purpose.

    • This extreme concern over the function of a name derives from thoughts developed by Hegel, the German philosopher we discussed while covering Simone de Beauvoir. Hegel, a hardcore idealist, insisted that a things essence is constituted by its name. When we name something we ‘kill’ it, only to resurrect it as something different. Each of the terms you mention – monument, studio, etc. – has a different connotation, each suggesting a difficult purpose for the building. You must recall, as Crimp insists, that none of this could be taken for granted, as prior to the Altes Museum, there was no art museum anywhere in Europe. We grew up in an age of museums and imagine that they have always existed. But a moment’s reflection is all that’s required for us to realize that of course that could not be the case. Such an institution must have been invented at some point in history. And indeed the museum as we know was invented in 1830, though the nature and function of the new ‘museum’ would depend on what it was named. To address just one of the terms you mention, ‘studio’ literally means a workspace or workshop – the kind of site we read about in Krauss’s discussion of the sculptor Rodin.

  4. Ethan Looney says:

    I love learning about the way language pissed people off. I think the way we name a house of art (a museum) should be derived from how we define art. Unfortunately, I don’t think there are definite conclusions in that ball park either. If we define/purpose art as something to be studied, measured, and discussed then museum fits well as it connotes almost that academy/scholarly field. But what of the institutions that are only utilized as a place to be in awe? What if the artist wants their piece to exist free of connotation altogether? If a “museum” is enjoyed principally by average Joe’s who just like to look at pretty colors, is it really a museum? Or is it now just a treasury to be marveled? Isn’t a movie theater just the same as a museum as long as we’re studying the film? It’s an interesting deliberation, and now I kind of want to write my final on it.

    • I’m glad these readings resonated with you. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

      “Toddler Mash”

      These issues of names and what they do to ‘constitute’ an object or institution are central to Crimp’s argument. This though originate with Crimp’s enemy, the idealist philosopher Hegel, who created the modern concept of history soon after the Napoleonic wars and the birth of sovereign nation states. You will note that Crimp hopes to rehabilitate the reputation of Hegel’s forgotten whipping boy, Carl Friedrich von Rumohr, to whom Crimp refers as the founder of the discipline of art history. But wait. Crimp dislikes Hegel, the founder of modern historical thinking, but champions the founder of art history? Why? Because Hegelian history is what we call ‘official history’, a continuous developmental narrative of world events leading rationally and inexorably to our current state of affairs. Sure, there will always appear particular artifacts, events, or entire movements which seem to invalidate this orderly, sensible, and teachable way of viewing things. But such contrary evidence, Hegel argues, ought simply to ignored, swept away, or ‘filed’ in an archive. Only through this simplification of the record will it be possible to tell lay out of a suitable history of the world. In accordance with the general idealist program, concrete particulars should always be as viewed subordinate to abstract universals.

      Von Rumohr insists, in opposition to this, that Hegel’s instance on gathering all historian up into a single grand narrative but necessarily stir together all clear distinctions until we are left with an indistinct ‘gray-on-gray’ paste. What Hegel refers to as “Geist’ – the capacity of the mind to assume a thousand seemingly mutually contradictory forms and overcome all differences – von Rumohr calls gas. What Hegel calls ‘crude criticism’, von Ruhmor calls empirical method.

      These considerations will come into play in the way we perceive the modern museum and how it is seen to function in our culture. Some persons will see it as a site devoted to the preservation of timeless classical values, others as a platform dedicated primarily to displaying unique national character and ‘greatness’, others as a sanctuary reserved for a-political aesthetic reflection, and still others as a concrete embodiment of the correspondence between form/content/function, mind/body, or subject/object which characterizes organic life. Someone might well argue, but can’t the museum do a little of all these things? Perhaps. But then we are back to Hegel’s notorious ‘gray-on-gray’ Geist, which blurs all concrete differences into a uniform drab paste. It is in response to Hegel’s promotion of synthetic and idealizing Histories that von Rumohr insists upon a mode of historiography which is fragmentary and radically materialist. It is this urge which leads Crimp to demand that we open the full archive and claim for ourselvees “the Warhol we deserve”. Crimp concludes his essay thus: “It is upon this wresting of art from its necessity in reality that [Hegelian] idealist aesthetics and [Schinkel‘s] ideal museum are founded; and it is against the power of their legacy that we must still struggle for a materialist aesthetics and a materialist art.”

      Your final remarks here, on whether or not the same fate might befall the history of film, reminds me of a conversation you and I had not so long ago after class. I was telling you of both positive and negative experience friends and students of mine have had in our own Film department. According to my sources, our current program at the U tends to emphasize: 1) production of new films 2) based on the appreciation of classic industry films. This strikes me a closely allied to the timeless values extolled by Alois Hirt. If I am correct in my estimation of things, film here would be taught in terms of a belief in deep psychological archetypes and the way these are accessed and expressed through dreams and manufactured dreamlike images. It is not difficult to trace this approach back to the same Jungian psychology which inspired George Lucas to create Star Wars. Meanwhile, what gets left out of the curriculum will probably be any critical or theoretical readings which radically interrogate the technological and cultural (i.e., material) conditions which call this ‘dreamy’ appreciation of cinema into question.

      Do I know that this is indeed currently the case over in Film? Nope. I’m just basing my guess on observations made many years ago, and passing comments from persons who graduated from that program. Have I met Film/Honors students who relatively recently actually had very enjoyable and theoretically rich experiences in the Film program? Yes, indeed I have. So, what then to believe? That’s something you might want to explore in the coming weeks and months. Your final – should you continue to think along these lines – might be a great way to get started on that project. Good luck!

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