Democratising Conceptual Art
What about the Spectator?
Keywords:aesthetics, politics, conceptual art, Jacques Rancière, emancipation, elitism
In this paper I elaborate upon the elitist character of the mainstream theories on conceptual art. I show that the elitism is founded on wrong presumptions concerning the relation between artists and spectators. Working from the philosophy of Jacques Rancière, I reject the hierarchical structure present in the mainstream theories on conceptual art. Instead, I propose to take a ‘democratic turn’, as understood by Rancière. In such an outlook, the contribution of the spectator is revalued as equally active and creative as the contribution of the artist. The democratic turn has serious consequences for the theoretical foundation of conceptual art. We can no longer maintain that the conceptual work of art is solely the artist's idea, nor that the material appearance is negligible. Furthermore, the democratic alternative opens up conceptual art for a broader audience, while the very core of its practice remains intact, namely that the idea behind it is essential. But it adds an important caveat: what the idea represents is more than what the artist initially had in mind.
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