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Do Artists Speak on Behalf of All of Us?

Do Artists Speak on Behalf of All of Us?

(p.67) 5 Do Artists Speak on Behalf of All of Us?
Aesthetics at Large
Thierry de Duve
University of Chicago Press

This chapter addresses the vexed question of the universality of art. Modernism and formalism have defended it while identity politics and multiculturalism have challenged all claims to art’s universality. Neither camp has seen that the real problem is not with the concept of universality but rather with that of representativity. Both camps entertain a fantasy: the belief in the congruence of mandate and address (I address the community I am mandated by, and I am mandated by the community I address). Their difference is that modernism universalizes both mandate and address, whereas identity politics restricts both to a definite group. The defense of universality articulated in this chapter argues that address grounds mandate rather than the other way around, and reinterprets the big words, universality and humanity, in deictics borrowed from ordinary language: “anyone and everyone,” “all of us,” and “you and me.”

Keywords:   address, congruence mandate/address, deictics, formalism, identity politics, mandate, modernism, multiculturalism, representativity, universality

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