AbstractThis thesis by publication, The Logics of Deflation: Autonomy, Negation and the Avant-Garde, collects essays recently published in various journals (Radical Philosophy, Historical Materialism, Oxford Art Journal, Third Text) and in museum publications. The publications address a number of key issues affecting the production and interpretation of contemporary art and the' everyday', art's institutionalization and art's autonomy, the role of the avant-garde after postmodernism, the meaning of conceptual art, performativity and authorship, art's relationship to popular culture, and the crisis of the' politics of representation' . The central argument of the thesis is that when art abandons the possibility of the 'new' art falls back into heteronomy and the academic. As such, there can be no renewal of art without it resisting, negating, reworking, what has become tradition. But this link between the' new' and value should not be confused with conventional modernist notions of formal' advance' or supersession in art. Rather, the' new' here, I argue, is the restless, ever vigilant positioning of art's critical relationship to its own traditions of intellectual and cultural administration. The mistake postmodernism and contemporary critics of the avant-garde make, therefore, is that they identify art's claims to autonomy not with art's necessary reflection on its own conditions of possi bility, but with simplistic notions of elitism and formalism. As a consequence autonomy is treated undialectically. Following Adorno's notion of autonomy in art as a social relation between art's production and reception, I insist, that for art to continue to define itself as modern it is inescapably bound up with the negation of the institutional arrangements and traditions in which it finds itself. Indeed, there can be no critical future for art without this temporal experience of art as being' out of joint' with the traditions and institutions which have brought it into being. The content of art continues to be implicated in the mediation of the critique of the category of art. Looking at conceptual art as a defining moment of this logic I defend the changing anti-art strategies of modern and contemporary art practice - in particular British and American art of the 1990s - as the means by which art has recently pursued this double process of negation and self-negation. In this way it is the continuous redefinition of the boundaries of anti-art which forms the basis by which art negates what has been previously designated autonomous in order to constitute autonomy in art anew. In conclusion the thesis links this process of negation and self-negation to the idea of the avant-garde as a kind of placeholder for art's autonomy. In other words, I claim that the avant-garde is another name for the possibility of art's continuing self-realization under the instrumentalizing force of the commodityform. Bridging philosophy, art history and art theory, this thesis repoliticizes the issue of autonomy and the avant-garde.
CitationRoberts, J. (2005). The logics of deflation : autonomy, negation and the avant-garde. University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton
PublisherUniversity of Wolverhampton
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of Wolverhampton for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
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