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Criticism Performing Art
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Year: 2016 Publisher: Leuven KU Leuven. Faculteit Letteren

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The art world in the sixties was shattered by the advent of conceptual and performance art. Artists rejected aesthetic norms and picked up the avant-garde legacy in their anti-institutional critique. “Every man is an artist” said Joseph Beuys, giving voice to the aesthetic anarchism of the times. The pluralism that dominated this artistic panorama gave way to “endist” theories as well as poststructuralist criticism. As conflicting as they may be, both critical tendencies agree that art is at a crucial turning point. In this moving context, art critics need to reinvent their discourse in order to make it fit the new dynamics of an art world in phase of transformation. This thesis will treat the question of criticism’s social function once it has abandoned its judging role. Indeed, we see criticism everywhere without actually reading it. So why does criticism keep proliferating, and how does it relate to the multiplicity of un-aesthetic objects to which it is confronted? In a race against obsolescence, critics tend to emphasize the “arty” side of their writing by affirming openly their subjectivity and playing with artistic devices. By doing so, they join the team of “artists” and adopt their transgressive drive. The critical text thus mirrors its object in a process of performative re-adaptation. And the result of this operation suffers the same fate as the “marginal art” that was appropriated by the art market and its institutions. The critic’s voice is clustered in an institutional frame that silences it and at the same time legitimizes it. Postmodern art critics are trapped in this vicious circle dominated by “fashionability” and exclusiveness.



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