• gerard van weyenbergh

Art is in crisis.

In a book recently published at Le Seuil under the title Esthétique de la rencontre, the enigma of contemporary art. By adopting the point of view of an aesthetic of reception, the enigma of contemporary art, Baptiste Morizot and Estelle Zhong Mengual, set out to scrutinize the paradox of contemporary art that would arouse at best only indifference, at worst ridicule or anger. They call it the "unavailability" of works today, who no longer produce an emotional or artistic effect, or emancipation. For them, it is not the public's lack of culture nor the postures of certain artists that should be blamed, but a change in the relationship to art. It is marked by a form of consumerism to which the artists would react by surrendering "Indigestible", as well as a sort of schizophrenic "double constraint" that would weigh on them: the affirmation of the absolute freedom of artistic creation in a constrained market context.

Archeology of the work of art

In a book which has just been published by Payot & Rivages under the title Création et anarchie. The work of art In the age of capitalist religion, Giorgio Agamben undertakes an "archeology" of "the work of art" - a phrase that has become "shady." He first returns to the aesthetic revolutions of the last century, as summarized by Guy Debord - who was one of the last fringes of the avant-garde in the Lettrist movement:


Dadaism wanted to suppress art without realizing it ; and surrealism wanted to realize art without suppressing it . The Situationists' critical position has shown that the suppression and the realization of art are inseparable aspects of the same going beyond art. (Thesis 191)

Comment by Agamben: "what must be suppressed is the work", in the name "of something which, in art itself, goes beyond the work and demands to be made, not in work, but in life (the Situationists coherently intended to produce not works, but situations). »Going back the genealogy of artistic creation, the philosopher recalls that among the ancient Greeks, Aristotle in support of his analyzes, the artist was considered as an artisan, not as a creator, in that the purpose of his activity lay in its production - the finished work - and not in a personal accomplishment. In this process, it was not in itself its own end, unlike what happens in political thought or action. Then came the medieval and theological conception, and the analogy with the divine creation sketched in particular by Thomas Aquinas.


"Just as the house preexists in the form of an idea in the mind of the architect, so od created the world according to the model or the idea that existed in his mind.


But - notes Agamben - "what the artist has gained on the one hand - independence from the work - is almost lacking on the other".

Because the work becomes in a way accessory, like a "residue" of its creative activity. It will be the triumph of the figure of the demiurge artist celebrated by romanticism. An evolution amplified by a curious and discreet concomitance between the rise of the liturgical movement in the Church and the avant-gardes in the 20th century. The notion of "performance", now commonplace, would have a secret analogy with the practice of "mysteries" claimed by liturgical currents with reference to the Eleusinian mysteries, "theatrical action made up of gestures and words which are accomplished over time and in the world for the salvation of men". The loss of consistency proper to the work of art as a museum object finds its evil genius in Marcel Duchamp and the ready-made : facing the urinal object, even turned upside down, even signed, "nothing comes to the presence here", after the brief moment of surprise.


What happened next was that a bunch of skillful speculators and dupes turned the ready-made into a work of art. Not that they succeeded in really set in motion the artistic machine - which is now running empty - but a semblance of movement manages to feed, not for very long, these temples of the absurd that are contemporary art museums. (Giorgio Agamben)

We return to work and painting with Amélie Adamo's article on the return of expressionism, in the magazine L'œil. Since the 2000s, a new generation of painters has shared the same expressionist inspiration: "the same revolt against the order of the world, the same furious desire to paint, a breath of freedom and non-conformism, a formal power and an extreme expressiveness. "No wonder underlines Amélie Adamo" that the public is touched by this type of impactful approach, in a society in crisis "and" in a world of contemporary art rocked by the laws of the market, the smooth and the disembodied coldness of the concept which leaves doubtful or indifferent. "

© France Culture/ Jacques Munier