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Entkunstung: artistic models for the end of art

Stakemeier, K.; (2012) Entkunstung: artistic models for the end of art. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Entkunstung is a term coined by philosopher Theodor W. Adorno to describe the disintegrating influences of mass culture on the production and reception of modern art. It characterises what he understands as the fate of art in the 20th century, the dissolution of boundaries between its media as well as between art and other cultural productions. In my thesis I discuss this process not as a fate but rather as an enabling principle of artistic production since the beginning of the 20th century. I delineate a history of Entkunstung, a history of artists who attempted to desert the field of art in reconstructing its means and materials in accordance with the popular culture of their time and its schemes of production. Starting from the productivist artistic approaches of the Russian Revolution and their understanding of art’s possible dissolution into a general characteristic of a revolutionized form of industrial labour, I proceed to discuss the practices of a group of architects, artists and critics who introduced practices of popular culture into the arts in Western Europe in the early 1950s. The London-based Independent Group’s exhibitions, discussions and works, I argue, operate as actualizations of the practices of Russian Productivism in an altered political and economic context. The figure of "actualization" (from Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project) is a central methodological principle of my project. Benjamin introduces it to critique historical narratives of progress and replace them with the notion of history in flux, a web of figures in actualization. He suggests that historical moments are never sublated within their aftermaths but reappear in unresolved and still open aspects. I consider the actualisations of Productivism in, first, the affirmation of American popular culture in the Independent Group, and second, in the "dematerialising'" practices in American Conceptual art in the 1960s. Where Production Art sought to assimilate artistic to industrial practices, and the Independent Group explored the implications of consumerist models for art production, certain Conceptual practices aimed at disassembling art into a set of practices and performed gestures, into an action in and also outside of art. The thesis seeks to assemble the fragments of a history of Entkunstung, a history of artistic models for the end of art.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Entkunstung: artistic models for the end of art
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
Additional information:Copyright restricted material has been removed from the digital copy of this thesis
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > History of Art

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