The social turn: artistic legitimacy and the origins of politicisation

Asomatos, Christos (2020) The social turn: artistic legitimacy and the origins of politicisation. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Over the last three decades, art production has seen an international proliferation of collaborative and socially engaged artistic tendencies. By departing from the realm of aesthetics, these practices draw their material from political categories, modes of social co-existence and activism. The social reorientation of art practice problematises the distinction between the artistic and the political, presenting thus new challenges for art history and criticism. This thesis examines the historical logic and implications of this new societalisation of art and proposes a framework for its interpretation within the category of art.
The origins of the “social turn” in contemporary art practice are explored in the crises of artistic production in modernity, catalysed by the transition of art economies to the regime of the market. The two historical developments in art practice I focus on are the politicisation of the early twentieth century avant-garde artwork, and the sublimation of the aesthetics of genius into a model of democratic authorship in Marcel Duchamp’s readymade practice. By advancing an interpretation of politicisation and societalisation as artistic responses to cultural-economic phenomena, the political implications of contemporary practices are posited as the new material of art discourse. Engaging with the propositions of Nicholas Bourriaud, Grant H. Kester, and Claire Bishop I explore the “social turn’s” artistic negotiations of artistic labour and materiality, artistic and social antagonism, as well as its conceptualisations of community. The politicisation of contemporary socially engaged practice is interpreted in the context of the search for artistic legitimacy which nonetheless carries significant political ramifications, as it exposes art to the heteronomy of neoliberalisation.
My thesis adopts a materialist approach based on Marxist analysis of economic and political phenomena. To prevent, however, the complete absorption of artistic propositions by economic pressures, I synthesise my materialist approach with an understanding of the workings within the cultural sphere in relative autonomy, as outlined by Max Weber and Pierre Bourdieu.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Social Turn, Relational Aesthetics, Dialogical Aesthetics, Dematerialisation, Antagonism, Community, Autonomy, Avant-Garde.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BH Aesthetics
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > History of Art
Supervisor's Name: Paterson, Dr. Dominic and Lewer, Dr. Deborah
Date of Award: 2020
Depositing User: Mr Christos Asomatos
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-81434
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 10 Jun 2020 14:38
Last Modified: 10 Jun 2020 14:43

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