Ramblings on Contemporary Art (I)

Part One: What?

Let’s start with the simple things: what is contemporary art?

Reading around, we can say that generically Contemporary Art begins after the post-Impressionism. And when does it end? In fact the contemporary period never finished, because while it is always contemporary. And then because it lacks a school or a dominant artistic movement generally recognized that can replace it. Potentially contemporary art, by definition, could never end.

Perfect. Let’s move on to other things that we can put between the certainties: Who is it that can be defined as a contemporary artist? Beuys claimed that everyone can be an artist. Ok, and what is contemporary art? Duchamp says it clearly: just about anything.

So, where we find art? In 2014, thanks to the Internet the obvious answer is: everywhere. So let’s recap: Contemporary art is the artistic current that start from post-impressionism and tends to infinity, whose members are all, whose works are anything, and are placed everywhere.

Marcel Duchamp, La Fontane, 1917
Marcel Duchamp, La Fontane, 1917

Of course, this is not making it very indicative. The thought that a piece of candy under a table, posted on Facebook by a twelve year old boy can be called a work of art just because someone decided to write under the picture, it is slightly alienating. And not just for the fundamentalists of the Renaissance.

And then what defines art? The dictionary says: “Any form of human activity as evidence or exaltation of his inventive talent and his capacity for expression.” Now, although the candy under a table can be considered a “exaltation of inventive talent” is not absolutely require any expressive ability. So what separates the candy by a twelve year old boy on facebook from a candy under a table at MoMA? One might answer: the money, the knowledge and the right editor.

Some argue that contemporary art is actually a scam, a sequence of cheating warps to the detriment of wealthy buyers and museums by some artists (or self-assumed) in cahoots with curators and auction houses in bad faith without scruples. In an earlier article dedicated to the “great bluff of contemporary art” magazine “Books” published an article (from the Colombian literary magazine “El malpensante”) in which Avelina Lesper, art critic of the great national newspaper “Excelsior” , explores how dogmatic and authoritarian critics and curators to decide what should be considered art.

It argues that we welcome today in museums objects devoid of aesthetic value, presented as art, on behalf of the dogmatism of total submission to the principles laid down by an authority. In theology, dogma is a truth or a divine revelation that we impose on us faithful to believe and does not tolerate any response or questions, there is a priori.

Joseph Beuys Capri Battery, 1985 lemon, light bulb, plug socket, 8 x 11 cm. National Galleries of Scotland
Joseph Beuys Capri Battery, 1985 lemon, light bulb, plug socket, 8 x 11 cm. National Galleries of Scotland

Dogma is a belief, because without the intervention of the faith can not be equated with knowledge. The art theorist Arthur Danto compares to the Christian faith that transforms an object of everyday life in a work of art, according to him is in this transfiguration which is the meaning of work. It is no coincidence that Danto uses a religious term.

It is perfectly intentional, a way of saying that the critic is not there to judge the work, but to believe in its meaning. We will analyze in the next episodes each of the tenets that underpin what can be called the ideology of contemporary art, in his quest for the transfiguration of which Danto speaks.

Photo via Flickr

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