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Mediatory Function of Art Criticism Between History and Contemporaneity

Nataša Lah ; Odsjek za povijest umjetnosti, Filozofski fakultet Sveučilišta u Rijeci

Puni tekst: hrvatski pdf 264 Kb

str. 269-280

preuzimanja: 1.220



The importance of questioning the mediatory role of art criticism was established by theory in the 1960s, when it began to erode the boundary between works of art and objects which are not art but which have been institutionalized as legitimate artworks by theoreticians, critics, museums, art galleries and a narrow but well-versed public audience. The postmodern period has further exacerbated this crisis by annulling the meaning and significance of all dominant theoretical tendencies.
Such circumstances have shown that art criticism, by losing a firm theoretical and axiological stronghold, has neglected its fundamental function of initiating and articulating, theoretically interpreting and mediating current artistic practices and the contemporary life of the art world. Curatorial practices in these new circumstances have imposed thematic and evaluative
orientation points on art criticism while institutional art theories have conversely encouraged the paradigm shift which has caused art criticism to lose its original purpose. Operating mostly in the sphere of the mass media, and in harmony with its function, art criticism has focused on documenting and bringing into the
public arena those works which have already been evaluated in advance by conceptual curatorial practice.
Given that such projects addressed mostly narrow professional circles and the activities of the relevant institutions, the wider cultural context of following and evaluating current artistic production was lost.
Art criticism found itself in an unfavourable position, squeezed between the demands of its mother discipline (history of art) for a normative and established scholarly apparatus, and the counter-demands of the media within which it operates. Therefore, its mediatory role was neutralized.
Recent professional activities across the world, including two large international conferences - What is Critique? held in New York in 2010, and the Art and Reality organized at Saint Petersburg in 2011 and focusing on aspects and trends in twentieth-century art criticism point to a re-awakening of interest in the revitalization of the purpose and meaning of art criticism.
Our contribution to this subject orientates itself methodologically according to the postulates of the relativistic and moderately-analytical Anglo-Saxon aesthetics of Nelson Goodman, which argue for the influence of culture on reception. By adjusting to the (culturally conditioned) shift away from investigating the purpose, value and significance of a work of art towards the purpose, significance and value of the representation itself, the mediatory function of art criticism includes the reception of the cultural paradigm a work of art is presenting. The demand for
a mediatory function for art criticism is also based on the consequences of the turbulent events of nineteenth-century art, when provocation against good taste as such caused a sudden expansion of mutually exclusive theoretical paradigms.
In this sense, mediation also implies that art criticism is rooted in the history of the discipline. One of the pre-requisites for the understanding of such a suggestion is found in works such as Lionello Venturi’s History of Art Criticism and Oskar Bätschmann’s
Einführung in die kunstgeschichtliche Hermeneutik: Die Auslegung von Bildern (Introduction to Art Historical Hermeneutics). In the case of Venturi we highlight in particular the tendency to link the art historical discipline and art criticism in such a way as to return art criticism to historical problems (understanding of the origin of a work of art), and history of art to forming judgements (the critical evaluation of a work of art). In the case of Bätschmann, we underline his analysis of the iconoclastic relationship
of culture towards those types of artistic imagination for which no conditions for understanding are available.
Both suggestions demonstrate the significance of art criticism’s mediatory role, on the one hand between history and contemporaneity, and on the other between art and audience.
Such a role includes the question of competency in mediation, for which a static reception from the position of only one theoretical paradigm or one system of cultural values is not enough. Competency in mediation, apart from implying insight into the pluralism of social values in all their antinomies, and the pluralism of opinions and beliefs (in which ideologies always have a tendency to mobilize all interpretations directed to them), it also implies a critic’s ability to adjust to different methodologies. This does not support acting without a disciplinary focus but the possibility of adapting to a number of different central points within the discipline which may multiply or expire. In this case, competency in mediation is preceded by the detection of an artistic and cultural paradigm, but also by an authoritative application of theoretical and conceptual strongholds, varying from case to case, always recurring and always authentic.

Ključne riječi

art criticism, mediatory function, competence in mediation, paradigm shift, creation of understanding, active reception: disciplinary focus

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