Nussbaum, Love’s Knowledge, op. cit., p. 5. I am aware (as indeed is Nussbaum) that there is a residual irony in staging a defence of literature and a critique of analytic discourse that nonetheless takes the form of the latter. In defence of this approach, I need only state, along with Nussbaum, that ‘the acceptance of an Aristotelian conception should lead to the recognition that the humanities are the core of our public culture, and that other techniques of Claire Heaney reasoning are tools whose place is to assist them in their task of revealing and enacting a full and rich sense of human life and its public requirements.’ Ibid., p.104.
J M Coetzee, Doubling the Point, op. cit., p.65.
ibid., pp. 65-66.
In an interview with David Barsamian, Noam Chomsky writes: ‘People are called intellectuals because they’re privileged. It’s not because they’re smart or they know a lot. There are plenty of people who know more and are smarter but aren’t intellectuals because they don’t have the privilege.’ N Chomsky, What We Say Goes, Penguin, London, 2007, p. 189.
Collini, Absent Minds, op. cit., p. 53.
J M Coetzee, Diary of A Bad Year, Vintage, London, 2007, p. 151.
J M Coetzee, Doubling the Point, op. cit., p. 65.
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Intellectual in the Field of Contemporary Art Oleksandra Nenko Abstract The following article deals with the discursive order of the contemporary art which is constituted by the self-representations of intellectuals engaged into it. The number of positions, tension of choice between roles, forms of intellectual practice as justified by the intellectuals themselves in the space of the specialized art magazine are presented.
***** History of art is not a number of artists and their biographies, but a system of social networks which establishes a discourse order of art. The history of art is written by intellectuals - those in power and ability to make salient, to silence, to compare and to combine, in other words, to establish meanings. The discourses they produce or use for justification and affirmation depend on ‘material cells’ through which intellectuals build in art field, which we regard as positions in complex network of art creation and/or production, distribution and consumption. This network includes material and nonmaterial links - artists, artworks, galleries and museums, auctions, public, politicians, sellers, consumers, etc, with an outstanding figure of the one who speaks of art, or represents it to the society as a narrative.
In the discourses on art the self-representations of intellectuals reflect the distribution of power in the art field; form an image of art space as environment of positions and ties. We would like to give one historical example to support such view. During Soviet Union there was no individual representation in art, the highlighted experience of the ‘communal body’ led to absence of any representation. The grand narrative of art in Soviet Union was without doubt Marxism which constituted a great ideological project for the ‘new’ society. From the late 70th to the 90th there emerged a fruitful underground art movement - ‘conceptual art’ and its varieties - which meant to be a powerful alternative to the ideological social realism.1 The underground representation found its ideological place and constituted its opposition to the Big Brother through other theories (most obvious - poststructuralism, which afforded tool for deconstruction). After the collapse of the Soviet Union and opening of its borders from ideological to economic ones the so-called ‘contemporary’ art began to flow in. The leading figures of the ‘conceptual art’ did not share the principles of ‘contemporary art’ because 158 Intellectual in the Field of Contemporary Art it was constituted in the logics of market and society of consumption.
Nowadays one of the meaningful factors shaping art discursive order in postSoviet countries is the argument between conceptualists (as an autochthonic, highly reflexive, and innovative in its time project) and contemporaries (who emerged as a Western project, are implicitly mostly commercial and represent western topics). One of the current images of an intellectual is one who represents the tradition of the Soviet underground art, is aware of his missionary role in developing art field and is eager to create complex, interdisciplinary, educative projects, i.e., ‘Institute for Development of a Man’ organized by Russian artist Sergey Bugayev-Afrika.
To gain a view on the intellectual in the field of contemporary art we turn to recent literature on art, but specifically to some of the articles in an influential and quite popular art magazine ‘Moscow Art Magazine,’ which is being published in Moscow since 1993 and is edited by well-known Russian art critics and curators (the chief editor is V. Misiano).2 Though the authors of the articles are related to the art field in various ways, we can regard their reflexive practice of writing and speaking on art as form of intellectual practice, in which they in a certain way make self-representations of their positions, tensions of the roles they take and forms of their intellectual practice in the art field.
1. Variety of Intellectuals’ Positions The first position we mark out is an intellectual as an art critic, who transcribes arts into the discourse: from language of ideological legitimacy to establishing of new meanings. One of the authors famous art critic B. Groys writes that the main goal and practice of an art critic is to provide new social hypothesis and it is not a matter of fact what works of art he uses for that.But together with this art critic plays a trick with an artist: even if the critics is negative, it can’t be regarded as totally incorrect. While an artist is oriented on nude plasticity in his work, on expressing his personal emotional experience, the intellectual critic is able to give discursive interpretation of the work, and also to posit an artist against a system of aesthetic, social, even ideological values. Some of the authors (especially curators) are very sensitive of this: they argue that an art critic should stay back and yield the palm of interpretation to the artist and his curator, who carry out the art event.
Others insist that the art critic should be a guide for the artist but the contemporary conditions of art production leave him only reacting on the events that have already occurred. Thus some authors claim that today the art critic loses his autonomy.
The second position is an intellectual as a medium, who engages into the field of mediated dialogue, transmits meanings about art into the public discourse. The mediating function of the intellectual is proposed by few authors. An intellectual has to start open discussions on the problems of art Oleksandra Nenko together with representatives of art and also civil society and power.4 Thus they can achieve resonance and find perspectives of activity fruitful for all of them. In contemporary conditions in post-Soviet countries this trajectory is limited due to the lack of civil conscience, self-engaged public initiatives and platforms for free communication. The intellectuals themselves lack resources for this and are dependent on the offered possibilities to speak up, which are mainly politically committed. Authors also tend to explain this poor state of affairs by market ideology and system of establishment newly adopted in the Russian art field that make intellectual take a position in a system of art management between constructed public demand and ideology.The third position is an intellectual as a curator for the artists, conducting policy of representation, taking responsibility from an artist for forming art ideology. Curator’s role is a big debate. Advocates of curating show it as a fashionable, progressive practice, a proved western scheme of making ‘art business.’ Curator ensures an artist with freedom to create. Other curators see their social function in helping the artists to overcome endless difficulties in mis-representing: avoid ‘dead’ curators who exhibit together art ‘pieces’ by different artists instead of presenting artist as an integral figure; curators-officials who deprive art of sense hanging up one label on strategically different artists to make the art typification ‘easier.’ The curator should choose a strategy of cooperating with artist-run initiatives and provide artists with reflection of their work. The third point of view on curating is enabling artists to define not ‘what’ to do, but ‘what for’ and ‘for whom;’ in other words curator helps the art work find its audience and does not usurp artists’ glory, manipulate with artists’ ideas and public conscience.2. Tensions of Choice in Practicing Positions The first tension to outline is a choice between building art critics into the language of acknowledged and somewhat show off concepts or interpreting arts in a weighed theoretical method. In chase after recognisibility and sensation the fashionable theoretic terms are used by ‘theoreticians’ without even digging into the depth of the theories what leads to profaning of the intellectual’s language. At the same time art intellectuals could form a meaningful transformative or even radical project alternative to market ideology by developing a well thought-out profound language.Finding a weighed method for theoretising art or culture in whole faces intellectual biases. The so-called sociologisation of art thinking, spread of anti-aesthetical projects, claims of crisis of aesthetics (J. Rancierre) are connected with the major turning of art intellectuals to the comprehensive sociological projects of art and culture such as cultural studies (S. Hall), or art system (N. Luhmann) or art field (P. Bourdieu). This takes off the focus on art as Weltanshauung (M. Heidegger).8 Moreover the intellectual’s language is always late in comparison to the primary ‘natural’ language of 160 Intellectual in the Field of Contemporary Art art; it is the language of the second order, symbolic and reflexive. Besides lots of contemporary art critics write on the request of mass media and thus have no chance to make a new pass in art field, i.e. to ‘invent’ an artist.
The second tension to dwell upon is a choice to work with mass media or not what, from one side, can lead to venality, profanation of the art expertise, but, from another side, ensures resonance of the intellectual activity in public, making its passes a component of social experience of art.