Aesthetics, Ideology and Contemporary Art (Conference “Contemporary Art and Public Space”, Athens, Technopolis, April 17-20 2008)

The aim of this speech is to support my claim that: The use of the adjective “contemporary” as a historic-aesthetic complement serves the dominant ideology and presupposes the abolishment of the history of Art science and the aesthetics science.
By contemporary Art, as the adjective declares, we mean the wide field of contemporary artistic creation, without qualitative estimations, and as such it has a very limited value of use.
What happens, though, when the adjective “contemporary“ is used for a category of aesthetic objects, in order to declare that these represent the present period of Art, in distinction to the previous ones and, obviously, to the next one?
At first glance, the term is problematic.  
It stops to be problematic, only if it wants to express a big rupture, without return, with the whole past of Art, declaring the initiation of a new era, in perpetuity.   
The term “contemporary” stops, that is to say, to be problematic, only when it becomes more ambitious than the term “postmodern”, that wanted to express the rupture with the period of “modernism” only.
From the beginning of the 90s the more and more often use of the term “contemporary” and of its derivatives appears in the place of the withdrawn term “postmodern”, substituting it gradually.
The theory of the “postmodern” pretended to bring out not a special aesthetic trend in Art, but works that signal art’s presumed new historical phase, which was supposed to have come  to rupture with “modernism” in general.  
The detection of kindred aesthetic elements in the presentations of works of Art, which would support the theory of the postmodern, proved fruitless.  
The formally registered –isms (trends) after the War are more than 70. The morphological distinctive elements of these –isms are totally obscure, and many times common. In most of them, as a matter of fact, the morphological elements have their origin in modernism, a fact that they don’t deny.  
The only field left for the supposed rupture, was ideological interpretation.  
Modernism had as a pervasive point of view for itself that it takes part and contributes to the historical changes of society.
Postmodernism will declare the “liberation” of Art from its historical duty.  
Some supposed eclectic mixtures of general tradition elements with elements of modernité, were considered as an expression of this “liberation”, elements which are supposed to deconstruct history and present it as a performance of subjective narration.
Regretfully, as far as the theory of postmodernism is concerned, however, the problem didn’t want to be solved. Many art works, selected as postmodern, insisted to draw issues of aesthetics, a fact which connected them to the history of Art.  
The philosophy of postmodernism was revealed to be false.
The theory of contemporarity gradually displaced the falling-apart postmodernism, maintaining the conception of its ideology intact.
It expands, as a matter of fact, this ideology, by adopting as a material record of its distinction the constructions of the readymade and of the new technologies (Do it yourself).
This cancels the aesthetic demand of works of Art and this way the deconstruction of history to subjective narrations is supposedly legalized, by offering to these narrations grounds for the “applied ideological legitimacy”.
In essence, many theoretical scientists are correct to insist that postmodernism is not dead. Its ideology remains clearly dominant in the theory of contemporarity.  
I ask: Could “contemporary” refer to a group of art works in the present tense and have an aesthetic and historical content with scientific validity? I answer: Absolutely not!
On the basis of the causality of the history of Art, which is proven by the aesthetic science, a historical phase is what is distinguished from the previous one with the redefinitions that it does to aesthetic meaning.
This way, it maintains its origin in the previous phase and at the same time sets the questions, from which the next phase will arise.
The science of the history of Art needs to have clear samples of a next discrete historical phase so that it can decide, with relative certainty, on the phase that it analyzes. The accumulation of next phases increases the certainties for the first ones.
The history of Art and aesthetics (because they have the “defect” of asking for objectivity) cannot decide on something that has not completed its historical record as a fact.  
Although the sciences of history and aesthetics cannot decide on a present tense, they can however generally offer to the contemporary theory on contemporary Art their scientific methodology and the historically formed criteria. Who needs them though?
The international theoretical group that projects aesthetic applications to the role of the representative objects of contemporarity, definitely not!
First, because the claim of the historicity of the term would be cancelled, and second, they would put their claim on the trial of historical and aesthetic criteria.
One might say, though, that the term “Contemporary Art” as an aesthetic term can be legalized, because it expresses just the subjective point of view of a group of theoretical scientists.
This is not the point, though.  
The fact that these theoretical claims are something more than a subjective opinion of a group can be seen from the fact that they are based on an organized from the above parallel living experience.
This organized parallel living experience refers to the bombardment of the public (that involves artists and theoretical scientists) with international actions of exhibitions, awards, collections, etc., in which supposedly Art’s creative question is awarded, which, as they want us to believe, is realized by this particular group of works of art selected as “contemporary”.
The meaning of the “organization from above”, as I put it, does not refer to suspicious agreements. The need to be organized from above can naturally be found in the competitive nature of commercialization and its natural trend to ensure a market of demand.  
The museums of Modern and Contemporary Art, after the Second World War, increase concomitantly with the increase of the commercialization of Art.  
It is unnaturally normal –“unnatural” to Art and “normal” to the system- for these museums to be founded as net centers for the control of fine art creation and as mechanisms, which form the common taste and the demand especially for objects “starring” in the mass culture market.
It is also natural for a widening in lower financial social layers market of individually consumed aesthetic products to favour their standardisation.
 When the tools for producing aesthetic standards (cameras, video cameras etc.) start to be massively sold, asking for clients in wider social layers, then the initial standardization trend is completed in the products that are made after the aesthetic standards that these tools produce.   
With the abolishment of the differentiation between the prototype and the antitype, the aesthetical meaning criterion in the presentation of the aesthetic object is abolished too.  
What is left is the application-use of standardized aesthetic meanings, with which the presentation will narrate an idea. The aim, that is to say, of the existence of the aesthetic presentation (work of Art) is transferred from an aesthetic meaning of the narration to a simple narration of an idea.  
This way, ideology becomes the criterion of the idea and the object (the work) is finally the presentation of the ideology.
Here, though, lies a comparative advantage of this approach, which, unfortunately, acts disarmingly towards the public.
Maybe the public is not satisfied with the objects shown as works of Art, not finding an aesthetic meaning in them, but (with the help of the “theoretical scientists”) finds a meaning in the narration of ideologies, because these already exist in the ideology of the public.
And this is important for the dominant ideology, because indirectly (directly, for me) it “settles an account” with the sciences, which constantly undermine it and threaten to uncover it as a false consciousness.
In the last part of my speech I will focus my attention on how this account can be settled with the choices of this type of works that constitute the nucleus of contemporarity.
That is to say, how the ready made and new technology aesthetic applications become themselves (objectively and not their way of interpretation) tools of the ideology for the abolishment of aesthetics in the perception and deconstruction of aesthetics science.  
The aesthetic element of the perception shown in the work of Art is the determinant element of this object opposite to others created or constructed by man.  
The aesthetic element of the perception belongs to the qualitative criteria of the abstractive function of mentality, which man discovered – together with its benefits in other fields of covering his needs– in a historical phase of his evolution.
When the subject, in the experience of the indefinite variety of the images of the world (that is, in his perception in his senses), detects meanings of useful objects, he also activates the aesthetic side of perception, through the abstractive procedure, so that he is led to the meaning and action of satisfaction of his needs.
The tool humanizes this abstractive procedure, which anyway belongs to the nature of mentality in general.
The tool also provides the abstractive procedure with the objective form of the meaning in its aesthetic presentation and sets the basic precondition for the evolution of mentality.
The long experience of the use and construction of the tool (about two million years ago) familiarizes slowly, but steadily, man with the act of combining meanings in categories and them in a catholic meaning, and objectifying it in the simple forms of the tool.
Like this, the tool becomes a criterion for the judge of mentality on objects, including man himself.
Man combines in the simple form of the tool properties of the wanted object, of the powers of himself and of the way to obtain it. In the form of the tool the values of these properties (essential relations) obtain a presentation.
The tool, this way, becomes at the same time a shape that man gives to the abilities of his mentality.
It is logical, in this sense, to draw satisfaction from the image of the tool, admiring in it the abilities of his mentality and to detect in this image aesthetic presentation, and also to draw from this the special delight that we call aesthetic pleasure.
Nevertheless, the aesthetic consciousness is still mixed with the satisfaction of direct needs of survival.
This mix is proven important so that later the aesthetic consciousness can be independent from the direct need.
I claim that the tool is the reason for the work of Art, not only because it offered the essential free time.
In the form of the tool, man realized the aesthetic presentation, the truth that it involves and learnt to trust it. The long experience of the tool proved and established to mentality what objectively the aesthetic form contains: the qualitative element, the truth of abstraction.
Like this, the conditions mature historically, not only for the presentation of the abilities of mentality (tool), but also for the presentation of the quality of the functions of mentality itself (work of Art) to appear.
This was a historical leap, as it gave mentality what it needed in order to make itself an object of its thinking (rethinking).
In the work of Art, which appears around 40.000 years ago, we have the presentation (as an object) of the qualitative content of the function of mentality. Or else, the presentation (as an object) of the abstractive procedure from the perception in his senses to the truth of the essence of the world, in which mentality meets its identity.  
Here I want to mention en passant that I don’t intend to give a historical interpretation. I refer directly to the present meaning of Art. This meaning, though, can be conceived only historically. And historical meaning is always unfolded from the present to the past. So, we are talking about the present of Art.
The object work of Art is the place, where the objectivity of the collective person and the catholicity of the material world meet and obtain a material body, ensuring the truth of their common essence in the aesthetic presentation of the object.
Without the phase of the creation of the presentation of the aesthetics of perception (that is to say, of the presentation of the qualitative element of abstraction) in the work, mentality loses the image of the essence of itself, as it is unfolded in its function and the work of Art becomes simply the illustration of an idea.  
Aesthetic science loses its object; it is deconstructed and transformed to a subjective narration of the so-called “good taste”.
The history of Art, on the other side, is transformed to a statistical accumulation of co-ordinative facts and ideological interpretations without causality.  
And this is exactly what the beloved constructions of applied aesthetics of the ready made and new technologies (Do it yourself) of the “theory” of contemporarity do.  
They replace the most important phase, the phase of the creation of the aesthetic presentation of abstraction- that fertilizes eternally the abstractive procedure of mentality-, with the products of aesthetic applications of technological production.  
The so called artist doesn’t need to reexamine the aesthetics procedure in the perception, because today technology does this for him. He will be concerned with ideas and with finding the aesthetic standards in technological products, so that he can describe them (narrate them).
Under these circumstances, those that claim that the end of aesthetics has come are not wrong. In order to hide the origin of their claims, they also declare the end of ideology.  
In the place of ideology they put the application of the political correctness, presenting it as history. Why don’t they tell us, though, that in the place of Art they put applications? Are they shy?
The element of aesthetics in the perception creates the problem that makes the creation of artificial intelligence impossible.
Is the abolishment of aesthetics in perception perhaps a way to solve the problem, by reducing the human intelligence to artificial?

Mihalis Papadakis














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