Artwork In Contexts To Contemporary Art Cultural Studies Essay

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What is contemporary art. The more general question arises, What is art. Hodin reminds us that the formation and reformation of the concept of art, its metamorphoses, are only of importance to us because they bring home to us the truth that every great period has had to forge the concept for itself anew, but also because every culture sees its social and moral structure reflected in it. Heartney (2011) also points out, that art can no longer be understood as an isolated event, pursuing its own imperatives without references to the outside world. Nor can it be seen as a set of expansion all arising from a common point. Rather, critics and art historians must now acknowledge that art is likely to develop as a response to outside forces-changes in technology/new media or geographical vistas/globalization, or the ever-increasing influence of popular culture. For artists the amorphous state of contemporary art makes it difficult to know how to move on, while curators and other art professionals struggle to differentiate art that is meaningful from art that is not. Audiences are often left in a state of complete confusion, without any way to connect eclectric art of today with art of the past. In recent decades as Johnstone (2008) claims in his book 'the everyday', artists have progressively expanded the boundaries of art as they sought to engage with an increasingly pluralistic environment. Teaching, curating and understanding of art and visual culture are likewise no longer grounded in traditional aesthetics but centred on significant ideas, topics and themes ranging from the everyday to the uncanny, the psychoanalytical to the political. Historically, in the book 'philosophizing the everyday', Roberts (2006) summarizes the thought that by concentrating on the time span from 1917 - 1975, one is able to link the rise and fall of the theory of the everyday across three relevant and influencing time-lines during the twentieth century. Starting with the Russian revolution, the cultural, social and political impact under the influence of modernism shattered the class-exclusion and genteel aestheticism of the old bourgeois culture and academy across Europe and North America between 1917 and 1939. The second important area is the anti Fascist Liberation in 1945 at the end of the Second World War, especially in France and Italy, releasing an intellectual dissent from the official forms of political restitution affiliated with the old pre-war bourgeois ruling parties and culture. The third and most leading event was the period of modernist counter-cultural ascendancy from 1966 to 1974, which although detached from the earlier avant-garde forms of the 'everyday' (Duchamp, Dada) carried on the revolutionary critique of high culture and political economy. The period is reflected by the powerful events of May 1968 (Student demonstration in Paris), changing a generation of young non-Party intellectuals and artists, which withdraw their consent from all the old reformist and continuous arguments and realist aesthetics that ruled the post-Liberation, social-democratic consensus. And of all the periods, it is this briefest of counter-cultural movements that has had possibly the widest influence since. Roberts evaluates the modern cultural concept of the everyday trough these three cultural-historical time-lines.

Contemporary art and the everyday

Today, as stated by Roberts (2006), contemporary art is filled with references to the everyday, also reflected since the 1990s in several international biennales, site-specific projects, historical overviews of modernism and themed group exhibition have attested to the broad appeal of the quotation to curators and artists alike. There is also the continuous presence of the term and its affiliates in reviews, articles and essays, in which everyday life obtains the status of a global art-world touchstone. The rise of the everyday in the contemporary art is usually understood in terms of a desire to bring the uneventful and overlooked aspects of lived experiences into visibility, drawing on the fast reservoir of normally unnoticed, trivial and repetitive actions comprising the common ground of daily life, as well as finding stimulus in the realm of the popular and the demotic.

Johnstone's (2008) comes to the same conclusion, how the aesthetic focus on everyday life is bringing fundamental but "overlooked aspects of lived experiences into visibility", while at the same time arguing for the socio-political importance of this visibility, without discrete boundaries. Johnstone also hightlights, that there are four basic features of the nature of "the everyday". First, he claims that the everyday is what is overlooked in the world, since the ordinary is at once everywhere and nowhere in particular. Second, the everyday is authentic and democratic because it cannot be indicated to a principle of becoming (such as an originating idea or cause), nor can it be restricted to an elite or hegemonic group. Third, the everyday when located is the place where people creatively transform their world. Fourth, references to the everyday are about existing, or remaining within, not transcendence to an exclusive aesthetic realm.

Artists and the everyday

Johnstone (2008) argues, that today's artists look to a more informal aesthetics that owes something to the domestic and something to the club- chill out zone. In many instances the gallery becomes a kind of play-area in which the work on the walls and floor form part of a kitschy installation or a cheesy spectacle. But what counts is the maximum entertainment value, the fact that the private moment of encounter with the discrete, individual artwork is disturbed and exposed to a non-aestheticizing milieu. Johnstone (2008) suggests, referencing Roberts, 'why the everyday now', proposing, that it has something to do with the attraction of the ordinary, and if the everyday is the realm of the unnoticed and the overlooked, nevertheless, how do we draw the everyday into view. Which in turn begs the question: why should we wish to investigate the everyday in the first place? Is it simple to see what remains hidden in our lives, to identify what we take for granted? Or do works about the everyday in a way to show us how to look more critically and in so doing 'train attention on our own experiences, so that dialog on the everyday is in the end realistic or presentational in character?' Analysing the work of a selection of artist using the theme of the everyday will hopefully address the questions.

Audiences and the everyday

The claim is that this art demands the viewers' experience. When art takes up the everyday, it adapts the role of experience as a medium, revealing the everyday by're-mediating' it, with its own inflection and processes. This point is made by Johnstone (2008) in the section, 'the Poetics of noticing'. The art of the everyday encourages viewers to attend to the experiences and exhibitions of everydayness. Fundamental to 'noticing' is the concept of attention. Noticing is poetic because it involves selflessly attending to the ordinary reality of others, a process that enlarges vision, stretches the imagination, and elicits judgement. In line with the authors in this section, there are two ways practicing the poetics of noticing or attending: we allow art to mediate our experience of the prosaic, or we live the everyday aesthetically.

The artist

To turn for an artist to the ordinary leads to a recognition of the dignity of ordinary behaviour, or as Johnstone (2008) pinpoints, can simple be the act of stating simply, 'here is value'. For some artists is might be the revealing of the 'accidentally miraculous', or the desire to make art with the unpretentious ease of the amateur photographer. For others, an art that focuses on the everyday might construct 'a vaguely ethnographic aesthetic', or be nothing more than the record of simply venturing out and happening across something interesting. From another position, interest in the everyday indicates a loss of guilt before popular culture and its pleasures, looking from another ankle, investigating it, the everydayness asks us to consider the deceptively simple question: What happens when nothing is happening?

This brings me to the artists, who have chosen to deal with the everyday. The Lee Mingwei,