The Folkloric Shadow of Fine Art: On the Delimitation of Critical Aesthetics

Wesley Hill (2011). The Folkloric Shadow of Fine Art: On the Delimitation of Critical Aesthetics PhD Thesis, School of English, Media Studies and Art History, The University of Queensland.

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Author Wesley Hill
Thesis Title The Folkloric Shadow of Fine Art: On the Delimitation of Critical Aesthetics
School, Centre or Institute School of English, Media Studies and Art History
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2011-09
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Associate Professor Rex Butler
Dr. Sally Butler
Total pages 252
Total colour pages 23
Total black and white pages 229
Language eng
Subjects 19 Studies in Creative Arts and Writing
Abstract/Summary The purpose of this investigation is to contextualise the state of criticality in contemporary art by tracing the delimitations between folkloric and fine art production that have affected the modernist, postmodernist and contemporary eras in different ways. The distinction between 'autonomous' and 'contingent' cultural production in fine art evolved from Enlightenment discourse and figured prominently in the aesthetic debates between Immanuel Kant and Johann Gottfried Herder. For Kant, fine art offered elevated experiences of autonomous truth, whereas Herder – a formative figure in discourses concerning folklore, anthropology and popular culture – advocated equal expressive value amongst vastly different cultural forms. Following a Kantian framework, fine art in the modernist era was credited with a critical faculty that justified its distinction from the socially determined expressions of folkloric practices. Although 'high' and 'low' culture was claimed to be conflated in the postmodern era – in which any artefact could potentially be art – disparities between fine art and folkloric objects were maintained primarily on the basis of criticality. Cultural collation and installation were archetypal postmodern techniques that reflected critical detachment, self-awareness and 'deconstructive' critical stances. In exposing the limits of knowledge and the destabilisation of modernist ideologies, postmodern critique was situated in a liminal critical space between autonomy and cultural contingency. Andy Warhol in particular revealed the postmodern artworld’s dependence on the tropes of criticality to differentiate and justify aesthetic value. He made palpable the presumption that 'good art' must have a 'critical edge.' This tendency was arguably a legacy of Kantian philosophy, indicating the presence of a singular critical reality underlying valued aesthetic encounters. Since the 1990s, the role of criticality in art has been broadly reconceived, influenced by the posthumous reassessment of Warhol’s work and the increasing visibility of non-Western artists exhibiting in Western-style art institutions around the world. I argue that the contemporary era has undergone a 'folkloric turn' in which postmodern methodologies are accompanied by an overhauled notion of the critical address. Moving beyond the critical polemics of postmodernism, in the contemporary era the complexity of delimiting aesthetic value is more acute. Although the potential importance of all cultural expression is widely acknowledged, hierarchical assignments of value are considered implicit in all cultural engagements. This occurs without necessitating justification via a process of critical rationalisation that is directed towards an ultimate, non-subjective or stable meaning. My narration of the fine art/folkloric divide concludes by claiming that contemporary artworks resemble identity-artefacts that are produced and received with performative and particularised conceptions of criticality. The so-called 'crisis of criticality' that is synonymous with the contemporary era is indicative of the widespread belief that the delimitation of 'critical' from 'uncritical' aesthetics no longer distinguishes fine art from folkloric practice, or even 'good' from 'bad' art.
Keyword critical, folkloric, art, aesthetic, modernism, postmodernism, contemporary, andy warhol.
Additional Notes 34,66,83,91,96,102,108,111,116,121,127,160,163,181,186,189, 193,199,200,201,204,207,222.

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Created: Wed, 08 Feb 2012, 16:02:22 EST by Wesley Hill on behalf of Library - Information Access Service