Arts with or without Ideas
Idealist Remnants in Contemporary Concepts of Art
The author of this book analyses this relation between the Idealist conception of the arts including literature and present-day reality. The aim is to create a link between past and present artistic practices and theoretical, philosophical thinking. The author also questions the Idealist notions of history and the relation between the theoretical, the aesthetic and the practical, and seeks new ways to deal with the relation between the past and the present.
Table Of Contents
- Title Page
- Copyright Page
- About the author
- About the book
- Citability of the eBook
- BEFORE EVERYTHING
- 1 AT THE SITE OF AN INTRODUCTION
- 2 CHRISTINE HILL’S ORGANIZATIONAL VENTURES
- 3 MY STRUGGLE
- 4 KANT AND THE NEED FOR AUTONOMOUS AESTHETIC JUDGEMENTS
- 5 THE ACTIVE SUBJECT
- 6 REACTIONS TO KANT’S SUBJECTIVITY
- 7 WALTER BENJAMIN’S CRITIQUE OF KANTIAN EXPERIENCE
- 8 KAFKA AGAINST SUBJECTIVISM
- 9 UNAFFECTED EXPERIENCE
- 10 THE KANTIAN AUTONOMY OF AESTHETIC JUDGEMENTS
- 11 THE ANALYTIC OF THE BEAUTIFUL
- 12 CLASSICAL POETICS
- 13 MORE OF THE ANALYTIC OF THE BEAUTIFUL
- 14 ARTS WITHOUT AUTONOMY?
- 15 HEGEL’S IDEALIST AESTHETICS
- 16 HUMAN EYES AND EARS, SMELL AND TOUCH
- 17 PYRAMIDS AND PROFILES
- 18 STANDING ON ONE’S OWN FEET
- 19 SANTIAGO SIERRA
- 20 PARTICULAR ART FORMS: THE SYMBOLIC
- 21 KAFKA’S PARABLES, SIMILES, METAPHORS, AND GESTURES
- 22 HEGELIAN CLASSICAL AND ROMANTIC ART FORMS
- 23 THE HEGELIAN SYSTEM OF INDIVIDUAL ARTS
- 24 ARCHITECTURE
- 25 DERRIDA ON TOWERS
- 26 KAFKA AND JOINT BUILDING PROJECTS
- 27 SCULPTURE
- 28 PAINTING
- 29 MUSIC
- 30 POETRY
- 31 THE HEGELIAN DISAPPEARANCE OF THE MATERIALITY IN ARTS – WHY ON EARTH?
- 32 SITE-SPECIFICITY
- 33 SITES AND ROLES
- 34 THE CHANGING RELATIONS OF THE SENSES
- 35 TINO SEHGAL
Certain Idealist presuppositions concerning the nature of art affect the way art is understood today and the way art is discussed. There certainly is a relation between the history of ideas and the production of contemporary works of art. For instance, we need to study Immanuel Kant’s division between the aesthetic, theoretical and practical realms in order to be able to see the points the “social [art] works” and the numerous artistic efforts to “blur the line between art and life” have made during the recent decades. The tradition of ideas is connected to the situation that we have in contemporary arts. The question is: how to think about this relation between the ideas of the past and the artistic practices of today?
Obviously, it is not about a causal one-way relation. The thinking of the past does not simply produce certain kind of art for today. And, on the other hand, the state of contemporary art transforms the way we read the philosophical texts of the past.
There has been a tendency to understand today’s art as a negative reaction towards the presuppositions of the past. The format for producing new art has in these cases been the following: abandon one or several central tenets of Idealist aesthetics and you may succeed in presenting interesting, thoughts and questions provoking new works of art. The problem with this scheme of thinking is that it presupposes a conception of history according to which history of art consists of reactions to the past ideas, the result of which is a unified story of progress leading to the most advanced situation, that is, the state of things today.
The point in the following pieces of text is to deal with some issues in Immanuel Kant’s and G.W.F Hegel’s thinking that still seem to resonate in the 20th and 21st centuries in so many works in visual arts and in literature. The most central issues will be the following: the Kantian division between the aesthetic, the practical and the theoretical; the subjectivity of Kantian aesthetics; the Hegelian “System of Individual Arts;” and the Hegelian progress of idealization in arts on their way towards philosophical free thinking.
The purpose of the following pieces of text is to avoid seeing the history of arts as causal connections creating a unified story of progress. At the same time there is a genuine need to question the validity of traditional conceptions concerning the character of art. For instance, we definitely still need to ask if we should abandon the Kantian division between the aesthetic, the practical, and the theoretical. What happens if we seriously abandon the above division and, as a consequence, reject the autonomy of art? Will art as a profession disappear? Will art as practice be melted into the common practical and theoretical activities? Will artistic activities in the future survive, for instance, only as parts of engineers’ work?
Without deciding how far and how perfectly it is possible to get rid of the above Kantian division – or, more generally, to clean our thinking from the remnants of Idealist aesthetics – I have decided to carry out in the following a practical-theoretical-aesthetic cleaning project by organizing the theoretical material and the material describing works of art and literary works into 35 separate boxes that are called ‘chapters’ here. The constellation of the chapters should allow an open relation between the former and later periods of the theoretical, aesthetic and the practical realms.
This work has been inspired by Mierle Laderman Ukele’s sanitation art projects, that is, the pieces that consist of cleaning, washing the floors of different art institutions. Theoretically, this work has been inspired by Walter Benjamin’s endeavors to create a true relation between the past and the present in the Arcades Project.
I would like to thank all the people who have encouraged me during the Ideas project. I would also like to thank the Kone Foundation and the Aalto University for the financial support. And especially, I would like to thank my inspiring students at the Aalto University, at the University of Helsinki and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki. And thank you, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, for the photograph of Kati Outinen vacuuming a room.
Visiting a large art exhibition today, a contemporary biennial, for instance, is an intellectually inspiring yet confusing experience. The monolithic concept of art has exploded into very different, paradoxical, competing, even contradictory views on what art is or should be about. These views live on their parallel lives very close to each other spatially but rather far away from each other intellectually.
The German Early Romantic dream of art being an open idea to be defined endlessly by all remarkable new works of art has become reality in today’s art world. The curators of large exhibitions let the works of art based on very different conceptions of art communicate, or be in a sort of a dialogue with each other without ending up with a final result on the nature of art.
The difference between the Romantic process of endless defining of the concept of art and the situation in arts today lies in the fact that the Romantic artists and philosophers presupposed a common tradition of arts in relation to which the new suggestions – the new works of art – were presented and in relation to which the significance of the works was estimated. The Romantic artists were supposed to propose always new and “original” answers to the question concerning the nature of art which was to produce more and more variety in the conception of art. Despite the variety of the propositions the Romantic artists were, at least “as if,” solving a common problem in a tradition they shared and of which they all were conscious.
The openness of the concept of art seems to have a different meaning today. The Western tradition of the ways to think about art is still there, available for the art world, but it seems more and more obvious that it is no longer a common tradition shared by all or significantly numerous artists. The relation between arts and the philosophy of art, or the relation between artistic practices and the theoretical discourses on art, has become more and more fragmented. The solutions to the question concerning the nature of art seem to be connected to different stages and different tendencies in the theoretical tradition. So, we could claim that we actually have several isolated traditions at work at the same time. And in this sense the solutions to the question “what is art about?” do not necessarily communicate with each other anymore.
There is no commonly shared philosophical tradition in aesthetics any more. But still the tradition, or the traditions seem to determine much of the ways art is thought about, understood and discussed today. The new solutions are often ←11 | 12→something that resist, or try to abandon certain presuppositions and features of the former representatives of the tradition. For instance, in the following text, one of the main lines of thought is to deal with different issues that have to do with the question how to estimate and possibly resist or transform the influence of Idealist philosophy in our understanding of art. What is the relation between arts and ideas? What are the sites where we need to question the competence and validity of Idealist ways of thinking about art?
I will suggest some such sites in the following chapters. Right now let us refer to one of them. Hegel in his Aesthetics (1835) presents a “system of individual arts.” According to Hegel there are five true arts (architecture, sculpture, painting, music and poetry) which are organized into a hierarchy according to a process in which the material they use becomes less and less material and more and more ideal and spiritual. In this system there is a progress in which art becomes less and less tied to the material object and in consequence more and more adequate for expressing the spiritual contents. In the progress of losing in materiality and becoming more ideal, individual arts become gradually less and less site-specific.
- ISBN (PDF)
- ISBN (ePUB)
- ISBN (MOBI)
- ISBN (Hardcover)
- Publication date
- 2019 (February)
- Changes in the concept of art Artistic theory Philosophy of contemporary art Theory as cleaning practice Dialogue between art and theory
- Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2018. 183 pp.