Joseph Kosuth’s writings, like his installations, assert that art begins where mere physicality ends. The articles, statements, and interviews collected here. A discussion of Joseph Kosuth’s definition of art as a proposition within the world, with reference to the text ‘Art After Philosophy’. Joseph Kosuth an American conceptual artist, lives in New York and London, after having . His seminal text ‘Art after Philosophy’, written in , had a major impact on the thinking about art at the time and has been seen since as a kind.
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For an artist to question the nature and function of fine art and fine art practice as Kosuth does in quote a is to enter into a philosophical engagement where the accuracy and specificity of language is paramount.
To translate this into text, as Kosuth did in with Art After Philosophy, and which I will attempt to do here in response to the question posed, first of all requires a clear demarcation of ground and a working definition of the terms that will be used. I will then conclude by considering the cultural significance of the ideas which have been raised.
U B U W E B :: Joseph Kosuth – Art After Philosophy
Within the essay, I will use inverted commas to suggest that a given term e. To take the following statement as an example of this: However, the fact that Art After Philosophy does not reduce the term to an isolated state effectively means that the word retains its ability to exist as an idea of art as well as within a specific object or example. Rather than pin down his vocabulary here then, Kosuth instead frames it by incorporating a series of quotations from a range of critical thinkers into the matter of his essay, and it is this framing which becomes important as we consider his terminology.
Art is art-as-art and everything else is everything else. Art is nothing but art. Art is not what is not art. The significance of the mechanics of this is paramount. Reinhardt describes, and Kosuth follows him in describing, a philosophical ideal wherein a given entity can be both subject and object of itself. It is the aspect of art, or art-related things such as ideas, artists, practices etc.
An analytic proposition is one where validity is determined internally, while a synthetic proposition, in contrast, may have empirical validity through comparison with external facts, states, or truths. That is, if viewed within their context — as art — they provide no information what-so-ever about any matter of fact. This move could be validated in two ways: Although these artists Laurence Weiner and Victor Burgin should also be mentioned here were working towards similar ends at a similar time, it would nevertheless be wrong to perceive them as any kind of homogenous group.
Kosuth himself states that:. I arrived at these conclusions alone, and indeed, it is from this thinking that my art from if not before evolved. Only recently did I realize [sic] after meeting Terry Atkinson that he and Michael Baldwin share similar, though certainly not identical, views to my own.
Perhaps also significant were the social changes which were simultaneously occurring: The current location of Modernist criticism began to seem far from the disinterested objective standpoint it had professed, as Kosuth claims of the critic Clement Greenberg:. Behind every one of his decisions is an aesthetic judgement, with those judgements reflecting his pholosophy. And what does his taste reflect?
It is important to state, however, that this approach was not the only one pursued as Modernism as a tract began to become unfashionable. Clearly, among these examples there pnilosophy a necessary degree of both difference and overlap, but what should be reinforced is the variety of responses and claims which were offered by a variety of artists, Acter being a figure among them.
Art After Philosophy was written wfterat a time when America was hung in a moment of considerable political and social imbalance. Kosuth includes an almost poignant description of one aspect of this period within the text itself:. We have the cinema and afte television, as philosopy as the man-made spectacle of the lights of Las Vegas or the sky-scrapers of New York City.
The whole world is there to be seen, and the whole world can watch man walk on the moon from their living rooms. Certainly art or objects of painting and sculpture cannot be expected to compete experientially with this? Certainly the monumental popularity of colour television and the increasing importance of the media in general was delivering spectacle on a daily basis, but it was also delivering images of horror in a way which was very accessible.
During the same year as Art After Philosophy was written, for example, as well as men landing on the moon, Nixon was inaugurated as the 37th U. Outside of the U.
We might legitimately ask whether the brooding question of the Vietnam War might have affected the way that Kosuth, a 24 year-old man living in America, considered the nature and function of art within such a fraught and seemingly instable world, and attempted to define art as a proposition within that world. InArt Forum printed a number of responses from artists to the question of the kinds of political action which should be taken by artists.
The viewer who experiences the work, as well as the artist who makes it, cannot fail to have a history, experiences, memories and beliefs about things other than art. Kosuth himself did come to ameliorate his position. In conclusion this essay might suggest that perhaps the shift which had occurred by then was not simply that:.
I would argue that no such singular tradition may any longer be assumed. In Britain alone, consideration must be given to a plurality of traditions, all valid, and all followed within art practice — an Indo-European tradition, for example; an North African tradition, a West Indian tradition, a specific Islamic tradition, and so on. Not simply do we now consider the breadth of art practice in terms of a range of cultural influence, but the traditions of habitually separate discourses are also becoming less easy to distinguish.
Perhaps one result of this degree of post-modern layering of experience has been to suggest a definition of art which is far less concrete that that which Art After Philosophy chases, and flexible enough to allow difference to become a strength.
Undoubtedly, as practitioners, we also recognise the multiplicity of the possible functions of art whereby the aims and intentions of someone working site-specifically with sound-art would not be expected to necessarily relate to those espoused by koduth gallery-based text artist, but may not be seen as entering a hierarchy such as that suggested by Kosuth because of this.
Art After Philosophy is pphilosophy less valuable because Kosuth in time became less extreme in his opinions, nor because we read it now across a temporal cultural divide. Rather the text should perhaps be considered as a historical document, emerging at a particular time in a particular continent and crystallising a particular set of culturally relative beliefs and assumptions.
Kosuth defines art as ideally being entirely separate from the world, but this proposition seems to flout the contemporary understanding which describes the nature of our perceptions of what that world might be, as fluctuating, as temporally and culturally specific. Attitudes shift just as culture and societal experience changes, and the text of Art After Philosophy is arguably as significant for all the things which it does not say, as for its youthfully didactic content.
This essay will refer only to the first section of the original essay, as it is here that Kosuth develops the theoretical side of his argument. For convenience, all page numbers and references will refer to the Art in Theory Harrison and Wood, edition reprinted extract of this text.
Quote b — Art After Philosophy p For now it is perhaps enough to emphasise that Kosuth uses the term in a very narrow range, in contrast to most standardised definitions. As Kosuth claims [Art After Philosophy, p Clearly there is a sympathetic relationship between this opinion and that extolled by Kosuth.
To repeat and expand upon quote b: Sooner or later the artist is implicated or devoured by politics without even trying. Fine art has also, of course, become adept at using not just the language of advertising but also pop-culture more broadly, and in a much more complexly integrated way than it occurred in the work of an older generation — consider the work of Glasgow artists Beagles and Ramsey, for example, in comparison to Warhol.