The Great Painterly Idioms of the Past

“Armed with an Enlightenment belief in the unstoppable progress of institutional critique and artistic critiques of the discourse of power, I, for one, considered Warhol’s notion of Business Art to be a brilliantly conceived parody of the side effects of an ever-expanding art world—a travesty in the manner of Jonathan Swift’s “Modest Proposal.” Little did I imagine that, a quarter century later, it would have become impossible for Warhol’s prognostic vision to be mistaken for travesty anymore. Rather, we had to recognize—with belated hindsight—that Warhol had in fact prophesied what we finally came to experience: the total permeation of the cultural sphere by the economic operations of finance capital and its attendant ethos and social structures. Only a Cassandra whose ethics and aesthetics were as exceptionally evacuated as Warhol’s (other artists at the time still associated their practices with moral, critical, and political aspirations) could have enunciated this vision. A comparable diagnosis of the explicitly and inevitably affirmative character of modern culture had been formulated by Herbert Marcuse in the early ’60s. Marcuse’s tendency to accept if not to exaggerate the inextricably affirmative dimensions of cultural production and to recode them as potentially transgressive operations had appeared to us as a symptom of the philosopher’s increasing Americanization. In other words, it was not until the early ’80s, or even later, that it dawned on some of us that the cultural apparatus had in fact already undergone precisely those transformations whose full spectrum only Warhol had predicted, and that his prognostics were about to attain the status of all-encompassing and seemingly insurmountable new realities.” [Benjamin H. D. Buchloh Farewell to an Identity]

“… we must query artistic practices with respect to their implicit or explicit reflection on the actually existing conditions of social representation and ideological affirmation. And we would demand of any artistic production that it specifically consider, in each of its instantiations, to whom it is addressed and with whom, if at all, it would intend to communicate. Inevitably, under such critical pressures, these practices would come to discover and recognize that under current conditions they have assumed as one of their primary tasks the effacement of any reflection on social class. And then we must further pressure artistic practices to reflect on this disavowal, one of the guarantors of an artist’s economic success in the present. After all, the enduring and comprehensive amnesia of class is a foundational condition for the culture of the neoliberal petite bourgeoisie. [Benjamin H. D. Buchloh Farewell to an Identity]

What would it mean to sustain, let alone return to, any particular aesthetic value of the past? For example, could we effect a return to the specificity of an autonomous aesthetic experience, such as painting, and reclaim its unique and peculiar temporality? Could we salvage the particularity of any of the great painterly idioms of the past in the discussions of visual representations in the present, under the purview of the digital empires that rule our existence in forms hardly understood, without advocating an aesthetically—and, by implication, a sociopolitically—conservative position?” [Benjamin H. D. Buchloh Farewell to an Identity]

One Comment

  • Hans Heiner Buhr

    From Sno to Juta

    Ice melts from that fat boring mountain
    Dust clouds nuclear mushrooms
    Dried Sno frogs for bazaar
    Time of the fake history

    In 20 years heroes into biznesmen
    With Samsungs and Delicas
    Hope and greed

    The Argonauts came here
    The Crusaders
    With packhorses and shells and swords
    To Roshka, Tianeti, Sheki

    Pilons, electricity from Russia
    To Turkey, to Pompeii
    Bitcoin mining, highways
    In the Rooms Hotel your connection interrupted

    Central directives, comments disabled.
    De-monetized, account deleted.
    Full channel panic EU propaganda.
    State media fakes reality.


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