Art Without Relations / Art Review

Jimmy RiordanComment

"This essay has made two basic claims. First, Heidegger and Greenberg were right to call for a depth behind the surface content of art, but wrong to identify this depth with a unified holistic background. The problem with modernist theory was not that it decontextualised art and made it too autonomous, but that it rooted autonomy in the features of the medium rather than the internal fascinations of content itself. Here Surrealism was an undeserving loser, along with Kandinsky, as in Greenberg’s blatant dismissals of both.

Second, Fried was right to call for an art without literalism, but wrong to see the human as solely a literalising agent. While the artwork must have a depth beyond how it is encountered by the spectator, the human is less a spectator than a co-constituent of the artwork itself, since nonfascinating art simply fails in a way that nonfascinating science does not. The undeserving loser here is not just performance art in the strict sense, but any form of passionate attachment, or ‘sentimentality’ as Fried terms it.”

- Graham Harman