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The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 1, 1998

Aesthetics and Philosophy of the Arts

Deborah Fitzgerald
Pages 49-55
DOI: 10.5840/wcp20-paideia199817

The British Avant-Garde
A Philosophical Analysis

British Avant-Garde art, poses a challenge to traditional aesthetic analysis. This paper will argue that such art is best understood in terms of Wittgenstein’s concept of "seeing-as," and will point out that the artists often use this concept in describing their work. This is significant in that if we are to understand art in terms of cultural practice, then we must actually look at the practice. We will discuss initiatives such as the work of Damien Hirst, most famous for his animals in formaldehyde series, and that of Simon Patterson, who warps diagrams, e.g., replacing the names of stops on London Underground maps with those of philosophers. Cornelia Parker’s idea that visual appeal is not the most important thing, but rather that the questions that are set up in an attempt to create an "almost invisible" art are what are central, will also be discussed. Also, if we concur with Danto’s claims that "contemporary art no longer allows itself to be represented by master narratives," that Nothing is ruled out.", then it is indeed fruitful to understand art in terms of seeing-as. For application of this concept to art explains what occurs conceptually when the viewer shifts from identifying a work, as an art object, and then as not an art object, and explains why nothing is ruled out.

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