In an earlier post it was mentioned that the blog welcomes work in progress submissions from art photographers who are working on a particular photo/art project.
What then is a photo/art project? It is a body of work that is based around a particular idea or concept that is sensuously presented as an autonomous art work. Since the images in the project are the result of human actions, they have a public and performative dimension with the particular meanings socially shared and contested. Art works are embodied meanings–a form of sense making in which the forms of intelligibility are revealed in the work of art itself. In late modernity the historically shared bases of intelligibility are eroding.
Why is this emphasis on conceptuality in photo/art works rather than beauty, visual pleasure and taste?
Primarily because contemporary art is post conceptual art: post in the sense that it is after conceptual art that questioned the old dogma the art had to be beautiful and purely perceptual. An example of conceptual art in photography is Ed Ruscha’s 26 Gasoline Stations (1963). This questioning bought to light the conceptuality of the art work that had been buried by a formalist modernism with its principled indifference to the cognitive, relational, historical dimension of works of art. Post in the sense that it is based on the critical legacy of conceptual art.
Roughly speaking, the beauty tradition runs from Kant through nineteenth- century aestheticism (Baudelaire, Pater, Wilde), through Fry and Bell, to Greenberg. The alternative cognitive one, that appeared a bit later in time, runs from philosophical Romanticism through Hegel, Duchamp, surrealism and constructivism to Conceptual Art and its consequences in what Rosalind Krauss calls the ‘post-medium condition’. The latter’s modernist understanding of artistic experience is that it is a shift away from the sensuous and beautiful and towards the conceptual and reflexive.
In the latter tradition what aesthetic experience in modernity now consists of is no longer pure sensuous enjoyment or free play of imagination ; rather, this form of experience is now fundamentally reflective and the artist conveys powerful social meaning through aesthetic content. The cognitive dimensions of aesthetic representation appeal to sensibility and judgement whilst reflecting on art is a necessary feature of the artwork itself.