Grant Kester: Duration, Performativity, Critique

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Kester, Grant. "Duration, Performativity, Critique." In Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.

(Particular) Lineage of Art: Established definition of art (for Englightenment thinkingers like Wolff, Baumgarten and Lessing): "symbolic cognition"= more akin to spiritual revelation than everyday viewing/reading. Parallels Kant's Gemeinsinn (common sense)- the power of the aesthetic to evoke a visceral intuition of future social consensus. (50) - Collective identification

  • Collective identification - avant-garde: jump the gap between munane present and the utopian, yet to be realized future
  • Symbolic cognition: Great for AG; not so useful for transdisciplinary deviations (ex. feminist performance) which don't register as this kind of art (Fried's theatre, Greenberg's "novelty art", propaganda, social work, etc.)

Chapter Overview: This chapter explores the historical background of dialgocial art via duration and visuality to differentiate this lineage of art from the "normative" AG variety. Kester looks at art practice in 1960s/70s in which the viewer's physical and cognitive interaction is integral to the work itself. Examples include: the Harrisons, Piper and Latham and Steveni.


Duration and Opticality

  • Thomas Crow's discussion on the turn towards visual culture, and the implications of this turn. - Opticality - Unique to modernism. Increasing importance of opitcal experience goes back to impressionism. 1960s/70s = emergence of conceptualism parallls a withdrawl from visuality (Kosuth, Broodthaes, Burden)
  • Kester wants to move beyond Crow's critique by observing - In addition to the visual status of the artwork changing, the viewer's relationship to the artwork is also in transition: more works depend on the viewer's direct physical involvement
  • Viewer's involvement - can be thought about in relation to Lippard's dematerialization of the art object - but moves beyond a politics of resisting commodification: we can understand this as a creative moment not only (2) marked by the increasing emphasis on art as a proces of collaborative interaction but also (2) interaction that occurs over time - durational, the temporal nature of aesthetic experience
  • Two concerns: (1) a movemet away from optical experience and (2) the interactive orientation of the viewer = these aren't necessarily co-extensive.
  • Kester's addition to Crow's axis distinguishing visual and/or object-based works and conceptualist practice - this further distinction is within conceptualism itself: (1) artworks that depend on the viewer's prescence (i.e. Art and Language's Index) and (2) artworks that depend on the viewer's interaction (Acconci's Seedbed).
  • Significance of "the catalyzation of the viewer": "shifts the locus of aesthetic meaing from teh moment of crativ plentitude in the solitary act of art making (or the viewer's immaginative reconstruction of the act) to a social and discursive rela of shared experience, dialogue and phsycial movement.



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