Thinking Art: An Introduction to Philosophy of Art
Antoon Van den Braembussche
In the twentieth century, avant-garde movements have pushed the concept of art far beyond its traditional boundaries. In this dynamical process of constant renewal the prestige of thinking about art as a legitimizing practice has come to the fore. So it is hardly surprising that the past decades have been characterized by a revival or even breakthrough of philosophy of art as a discipline. However, the majority of books on aesthetics fail to combine a systematical philosophical discourse with a real exploration of art practice.
Thinking Art attempts to deal with this traditional shortcoming. It is indeed not only an easily accessible and systematic account of the classical, modern and postmodern theories of art, but also concludes each chapter with an artist’s studio in which the practical relevance of the discussed theory is amply demonstrated by concrete examples. Moreover, each chapter ends with a section on further reading, in which all relevant literature is discussed in detail.
Thinking Art provides its readers with a theoretical framework that can be used to think about art from a variety of perspectives. More particularly it shows how a fruitful cross-fertilization between theory and practice can be created. This book can be used as a handbook within departments of philosophy, history of art, media and cultural studies, cultural history and, of course, within art academies. Though the book explores theories of art from Plato to Derrida it does not presuppose any acquaintance with philosophy from its readers. It can thus be read also by artists, art critics, museum directors and anyone interested in the meaning of art.
he would feel lost. One could spend one’s entire life working on this without ever achieving a single result. Or, as Giacometti described it in a letter to Pierre Matisse: “The form disintegrates, it is then like grains which move over a black and deep emptiness, the distance between one nostril and the other is like the Sahara, with no limits, nothing to hold on to, everything escapes” (ibid., 39). And indeed, Giacometti began to associate the impossibility of accurate representation more and
audience’s appreciation and understanding of the artwork. Conceptual art strives toward a dialogue between artist and audience. Kosuth’s view of this is increasingly hermeneutic. In “The Artist as Anthropologist”, an article which appeared in 1975, he increasingly stressed that in art, just as in anthropology, the understanding of others is determined by our ability to open ourselves up to others, to identify with them. He points out the importance of establishing a mutual understanding between
with the exception of the quotes. These were printed in white letters and stood out in sharp contrast to the black background (the “black hall”). The floor above, conversely, was painted entirely in white and the quotes there were displayed in black letters against a white background (the “white hall”). There was, therefore, a black-white contrast in the entire work, just as in the double swan, which served as the exhibit’s emblem. The title “Passagen-Werk” refers to a book of the same title by
akin to the modern view that art is about the purely artistic, which, moreover, is quite often associated with the formal, technical or stylistic properties of an artwork. In the practice of art criticism this implies a fundamental suspicion of “realistic” and “expressive” criteria. Bell and Fry’s arthistorical excursions speak volumes in this respect. It is well known how important Bell considered archaic Greek and Byzantine art. As far as he was concerned, the emergence of the Gothic cathedral
is mainly due to his fully-fledged idealism, rather than to his dialectic. In the final analysis his idealism compels him to identify art solely with content or pure thought, a conception of art which later has been celebrated, as we have seen in the third chapter, by conceptual art in the 1960s and 1970s, but which is extremely one-sided and wholly untenable as a theory of art. On purely dialectical grounds classical art seem to meet all the requirements for a reconciliation of form and content,