In the context of current theories of aesthetics, philosophers of art and and art theorists miss the urgency of discussing the art market and its deleterious power on art and art reception.
The art market can be compared to the natural science concept of depleted environment.
By "depletion" I mean a reduction in the art sphere to adequately express aesthetic, social and political needs.
What is the point of discussing "specificity" as a curatorial point (whether transgression or spectacle or early modernism or whatnot) if deleterious forces behind the art being presented and talked about remain absolutely intact?
Let me bring the point of the environment again. What's the good of addressing recycling when,
... To offset the greenhouse impact of one passenger’s round-trip flight between New York and London, you’d have to recycle roughly 40,000 plastic bottles, assuming you fly coach. If you sit in business- or first-class, where each passenger takes up more space, it could be more like 100,000.The discussion in the NYTimes shouldn't be dismissed as "against recycling" (notwithstanding the cloying feeling of helping the planet).
What if something we take for granted is a scam?
Art defined as (re)presentation
From here on, representation is not the received Platonic/Aristotelian mimesis. Representation doesn't mean likeness. Now it means cause/effect.
Bernheimer's now forgotten early 1960s The Nature of Representation gets it right:
The function of representation is most akin to the much neglected and little known one of substitution.*Substitution: one thing presented instead of another. What you see is not what's really there.
When you see a contemporary artwork in a white box, you see a different thing than what the artist made.
The difference is aggregate value.
Let's defer to the Gombrich/Danto definition of representation, and modify it a little bit:
Representation is a making present (again) of what is absent; or more formally, A is a representation of B when it can take B’s place, can function as B’s substitute or as B’s replacement in its absence.**From the making to the presenting to the buying, each one is causing the other, each one is re-pre-sen-ting.
Let's revisit these three:
1- Making: the Romantic idea of the starving artist, the autarchic poet involved in the act of creation.
2- Presenting: The arthoodication of the whitebox.
3- Representing: The buying and collecting defined as futurity.
Why is it that the making is made to look more crucial than the representing and the selling?
The difference between the represented 14-foot tiger shark in Damien Hirst's The Physical Impossibility of Death In the Mind of Someone Living and your ordinary jaws majestically swimming in the subtropical Florida Straits is that the latter is not inside a vitrine filled with formaldehyde inside a white box.
There is a bit of magic here: Aesthetically speaking*** The Physical Impossibility of Death is not better —or worse— than the Carcharodon carcharias, it's just different.
Ξ The difference is aggregate value, i.e., a differential value defined in the future.
Again, the magic consists in (the market) taking Ξ and substituting it as aesthetic value.
The Physical Impossibility of Death is now —automatically— art (remember, "represented" as art).
Again, the causal function of representing is hidden from the artwork.
You see the art, you don't see the $futurity$.
How did it happen? First, in the political realm, substitution operates as function of ideals. Take Madison's Federalist #57:
Who are to be the objects of popular choice? Every citizen whose merit may recommend him to the esteem and confidence of his country. No qualification of wealth, of birth, or religious faith, of civil profession is permitted to fetter the judgment or disappoint the inclination of the people.We know article #57 doesn't —generally— happen. It doesn't matter. We keep using it.
Are we blind? No. We're cultured.
Let's bring this point of substitution home:
Art Institutions are built around political, economic and cultural practices.
Art & theory always trails money.
Of course, we should end this post with a little bit of Culture (ready for entertainment?)
These are random comments about Hirst's piece in this website:
Sometimes I think the titles are what makes something art. This could have been called "Shark Tank" or "Thing I killed" or "Big angry thing with lots of teeth," and people would nod and walk by. But call it "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living," and it's very deep and you pause and consider it way more than if the title was boring. Is it the title that makes it art, or would it still be art if Hirst had named it "Shark Tank?"
Hirst, is this the same guy who created the butterfly exhibit that caused a great deal of controversy recently? It certainly seems like the same style.
How do you think the decay of the shark meaningful in and of itself?
Does anybody know how old the shark is?See? The shark discussion goes on oblivious of the magic.
Is the environment depleted or not?
*Richard Bernheimer, The Nature of Representation (New York: New York University Press, 1961), p. 24. **Ananta Sukla, Art and Representation: Contributions to Contemporary Aesthetics p. 70 ***See how aesthetics is about value? Something "ugly" or "menacing" (taste attributions to a common jaws) is not what the shark really is.