art is dead dada

Notes on the Death of Art

Just a few prefatory remarks for what follows.  The collection of quotes assembled here is by no means exhaustive, nor even definitive.  Some figures, like Hans Sedlmayr, are decidedly overrepresented here.  This is perhaps because he is so woefully underrepresented elsewhere, and because of the way in which his reactionary (but fascinating) viewpoint is symptomatic of the age.  Other figures, like Hegel, are underrepresented, because they receive so much coverage and attention.  (Although much of the original force and emphasis of his “end of art” thesis was edited out by his student, H.C. Hotho).

Nor should the quotes from these authors be thought to provide some sort of indisputable proof that art is, in fact, dead.  Whatever authority these authors might individually possess, or even collectively pooled together, I doubt that it would be enough to confirm art’s death once and for all.  Quite the contrary.  If anything, the variety of quotes listed below should demonstrate the obscurity of the notion that art is dead.  Despite their abbreviated appearance here, it should be clear that these authors mean quite different things by the “end of art.”  The motto has been fashionable for some time now, and much of its provocative character has worn thin.  My friend and fellow member of Platypus Bret Schneider pointed out to me recently that

the death of art and the ‘post’ condition is theorized everywhere in unfruitful ways.  I’m not sure if we can make it fruitful, but we can at least try to push theorists on this.  Mostly, it’s important not to assume too much about the ‘death of art’, which ought to be registered as in part just degraded to mumbo-jumbo, but perhaps in meaningful ways.  I can’t help but feel the whole ‘death of art’ thing is a ruse, and it is an older theory of art inadequately applied to new forms of culture that are not understood as new, specifically for this reason.

In any case, these quotes are for the most part lifted from texts in which they comprise some part of an argument, and because of the fragmentary form in which they are presented, that context is largely lost.  It might be possible to  construct a narrative out of it by piecing together little snippets of each (and believe me I have), but that is not at all the intention.

Finally, the topicality of this subject should be noted.  The debate over whether or not art can continue on or if it has nothing left to offer is far from settled.  Even recently, Paul Mason wrote a widely disseminated article, “Does #Occupy signal the death of contemporary art?” Dear readers (hypocrite lecteurs!), what do you think? Continue reading