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The Beauty of a Social ProblemPhotography, Autonomy, Economy$
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Walter Benn Michaels

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226210261

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226210438.001.0001

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Neoliberal Aesthetics

Neoliberal Aesthetics

(p.43) 2 Neoliberal Aesthetics
The Beauty of a Social Problem

Walter Benn Michaels

University of Chicago Press

What Michael Fried describes as the absorptive tradition in modern art privileges the artist’s refusal to perform for the beholder, a tradition that is radicalized in the mid-twentieth century by the identification of the artist’s intended meaning as his or her effort to affect the reader, and, thus, as a kind of performance. At the same time, however, the actual effect of repudiating authorial intention is to make the reader the source of meaning, thus turning the effort to avoid the theatrical into an expression of pure theatricality. This chapter argues that this current theoretical orthodoxy also entails a commitment to a certain political orthodoxy––as exemplified in Jacques Rancière’s simultaneous commitment to the aesthetic irrelevance of the artist’s intention and to the political importance of the ways in which we see works of art and each other, especially the way we either respect or fail to respect each other. It ends by showing the emergence in Binschtok’s work of an aesthetics not of visibility but of invisibility.

Keywords:   absorption, intention, Michael Fried, Jacques Rancière, Viktoria Binschtok, visibility

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