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01/07/2015

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Bence Nanay

Erik, I thought Elster's argument against conceptual art is that it caters for and presupposes an audience that wants to be surprised and shocked ('Etonne-moi') and it's difficult to surprise someone who wants to be surprised.
You may not like this argument. I myself think it's a really cool and underrated argument about conceptual art (and one that can do justice to the intuitions of those who like Duchamp but can't stand Damien Hirst). But that's his reason for dismissing conceptual art, the passage you refer to is just some warming up on the way there.

Eric Schliesser

Bence, I grant that Elster offers more arguments and characterizations against conceptual art than the one(s) I mention (hence, 'jeremiad')--since you are the expert, I am also willing to grant that some are better than the one I picked on. But he has more (not so impressive) arguments against conceptual art (e.g, his claim that conceptual art leaves no room for "experimenting with small variations" (82)).
But it is by no means obvious that even the argument you like is so cool; it has (a) a rather reductive view of the audience for conceptual art; this alone is cause for suspicion, and (b) it falls victim to the idea that conceptual art only works in one way (by way of surprise and all that)--this is tied to a reductive account of meaning and function. I find, say, Chris Kraus a more interesting and reliable guide to conceptual art than Elster. But I myself have nothing interesting to say about the genre and won't try to fake it.

Michael Mirer

I may be wrong (I haven't read the book) but when Elster writes that conceptual art "violates the principle that the aesthetic value of the work of art should not depend on the time at which is offered to the public," it sounds like he is under the sway of New Criticism (or at least T.S. Eliot), which has its own interesting relationship with philosophy via Monroe Beardsley and (in a way) I.A. Richards. At the very least what he writes their is essentially what a caricature of the New Critics looks like (which is to say that it's entirely accurate).

I'm not sure I understand what is meant by "maximize" or why Elster uses it instead of, say, "express" or "create." Is there an economic metaphor that I'm missing?

Also, and this may be too off subject, but the mention of Freudian Marxism reminded me that I've wanted to ask if you had considered (or knew of work which did) the relationship of the Frankfurt School on the development of analytic philosophy?

Eric Schliesser

I am unsure about the sources/inspiration of Elster's aesthetic commitments. (You could write to ask him!)
Yes, it is a metaphor (presumably meant to echo the kind of thing economists do, although Elster is critical of that).
I am unfamiliar with the role of the Frankfurt school on the development of analytic philosophy. At least since the 1970s there have been analytic philosophers that have read and engage with Habermas, so undoubtedly there is something to be said on this topic.

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.

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