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On Interpretive Conflict$
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John Frow

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226613956

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226614144.001.0001

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Icon, Iconoclasm, Presence

Icon, Iconoclasm, Presence

(p.125) 3 Icon, Iconoclasm, Presence
On Interpretive Conflict

John Frow

University of Chicago Press

Chapter Three explores the entanglement of two institutionally grounded regimes that endow a work of art with a particular ontological status, affective force, and modality of judgment: the aesthetic regime of religion, which constitutes the image or sculpture as an icon charged with the powerful presence of the god or saint, and the aesthetic regime of the art museum, which transforms that charged image into an object of detached contemplation. Both regimes are paradoxically shaped by an iconoclastic impulse: the image of the god or saint may come to be perceived as idolatrous or demonic, and figural representation is displaced by the abstract artwork, a pure aesthetic form that is destined for a timeless existence in the art museum. This chapter investigates iconoclasm in some depth through its two major appearances in the history of Western art: those of Byzantium and the Protestant Reformation. Whereas the Reformation sought to destroy the aura of the work of art; that aura survives and thrives in every representation of the human figure, in the iconoclastic refusal of presence by the sacralized work of art, and in the mass media systems of the star, the celebrity, and the selfie.

Keywords:   iconoclasm, aesthetic regime, art museum, aura, Dorothy Napangardi

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