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  • Rethinking the artistic imagination: from formalistic ‘innovation’ to productive potential for social and political change

Jordan, Mel and Bruff, Ian, 2015, Conference or Workshop, Rethinking the artistic imagination: from formalistic ‘innovation’ to productive potential for social and political change at 12th Conference of the European Sociological Association : ESA 2015, Prague, CZ, 25-28 August 2015.

Abstract or Description:

The dominant contemporary understandings of art are underpinned by the well-established assumption that art is a space in which limits are boundless, with works such as Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ invoked to support the argument that art is anything that one wants it to be. However, this emphasis on expanding the category of art has conversely restricted the transformative potential of art. A key consequence has been, somewhat ironically, for earlier, elitist paradigms such as those advocated by Clement Greenberg to be reproduced in new ways. In particular, the supposed limitless nature of contemporary art masks a formalism which presents a relatively one-sided understanding of art.

Instead of the form-heavy focus on ‘innovation’, the artistic imagination needs to be rethought in favour of a renewed focus on the productive potential of art. Returning especially to Walter Benjamin’s classic essays on the author as producer and art in the age of mechanical reproduction, we argue for a conception of art that moves away from preoccupations which emphasise the formal (re)arrangements of the object. While this may superficially seem close to approaches such as the radical aesthetics perspective, our position is founded upon the notion that a discussion of art ought to have at its core an awareness of what it is doing rather than what it is. This more materialist conception of art gives us considerably greater possibilities for understanding how art can contribute to wider processes of social and political change, and we present a re-interpretation of ‘Fountain’ in order to make our case.

Official URL: http://esa12thconference.eu/esa-2015
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W100 Fine Art
School or Centre: School of Fine Art
Date Deposited: 12 Apr 2016 11:18
Last Modified: 12 Apr 2016 11:18
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/1750

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