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Proceedings of the XXIII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 1, 2018

Aesthetics and Philosophies of Art

Emmanuel Mavrommatis
Pages 193-201

The Retrospective Construction of Derivation as Artistic Behaviour

The analysis refers to the logical systems of historical evaluation and to the reconstruction of previous or even contemporary artistic works through their reference to “(their) appraisal through derivation” or to “interpretation of their new meaning through origin” in accordance to the theorem of Philippe Bruneau, Professor of Classical Archaeology, according to which art is identified as that which is derived from art etc. This notion was formulated in 1974 in his prophetic article “Situation méthodologique de l’histoire de l’art antique”, ([…] Il y a art si les usagers croient qu’il y a art […]), and coincided with the statements by contemporary American minimalist and conceptual artists, who at roughly the same time expressed the idea that ‘[…] A work of art is a tautology in that it is a presentation of the artist’s intention, that is, he is saying that a particular work of art is art, which means, is a definition of art. […]’ (1969, Joseph Kosuth) or that ‘[…] if someone calls it art, it’s art […]’ (Donald Judd) or that ‘[…] The idea becomes a machine that makes the art. […]’ according to Sol Lewitt (1967). The main characteristic of this tautological system of analysis is that the retrospective construction or pre-installation of a reference guarantees its subsequent artistic consequences, which in turn refer anew to the reference from which they derived from in order to reinterpret it, and so on. This system was initially installed by Kazimir Malevich, between 1924 and 1927 via his “additional element” (“élément ajouté”) theory according to which by interposing itself each time as something new in previous artistic formations, this element alters the conditions of the formation and causes new artistic conditions. That is how Malevich explained the transition from Cézanne to cubism, futurism and to his own artistic theory, suprematism. An equivalent system was supported by Alfred Barr Jr. in the preface of his classic book Cubism and abstract art (1936), in which via complex interconnections he recorded about 25 tendencies in contemporary art. The central idea of this - apparently obligatory transition from one movement to the other - revealed to both authors, the normative, educational, social and theoretical character of each artistic suggestion, since it replaced the ontological question “what is art” with the epistemological question “where does art comes from, how does art act and perform”, implying that this circular system is inevitable and therefore universal. Moreover, the theoretical choices of American art critic Clement Greenberg –inspired by the aesthetic categories of the Swiss Heinrich Wölfflin regarding the conditions of the transition from the Renaissance to Baroque – conceived a correspondingly obligatory transition from Analytical Cubism to American Expressionism. Later, the artists of the “Support/Surface” group in France established themselves as the successors of American abstract painting through the ideas of Malevich and, in 1972, the French art historian Jean Clair constructed a diagram of art in France during the 1960s, through a juxtaposition of neo-figurative and conceptual artists. Finally, in her renowned article entitled “A view of Modernism” (1972), American professor Rosalind Krauss distanced herself from the linear conception of the interpretation of art, and later juxtaposed it – through the curation, with Yve-Alain Bois of the “L’informe, mode d’emploi” exhibition in 1996 at the Centre Georges Pompidou– with the “entropy” of the material and its degradation regardless of the gaze, through references to Georges Bataille and Robert Smithson. Respectively and in the same year, American art historian Hal Foster, in his book The Return of the Real, offered a similar critique of the linear system of interpretation via the identification of the correlation of the involvement of both the gaze and its object in the same public relation and public operation. The author of the papaer concludes that there is a correspondence between the ideas expressed by Foster and those voiced by French encyclopaedist Denis Diderot, according to whom the idea of the relation and the engagement of the relation itself is the foundation of Beauty (of art).

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