A Constant Unknown

Start from the position that the backstory or critical pre-text, or in fact any of the textual elements of the discursive mode, are ways to make explicit what is unknown (unconscious?), implicit, suggested or unspoken in the work of art, in the name of transparency or demystification—the critical/ethical/political impulse however defined. My modest proposal is that no matter how discursive a work may be the amount of unspoken, implicit, unknown or unconscious material remains the same. The notion that now we know the truth about painting (for one example) namely that it is a commodity, and so can rest comfortably in a state of enlightenment, is pretty naive. The new situation brought about by the new insight has to be subjected to the same critique. So there is no political, ethical, moral or cognitive advantage to the discursive mode. The choice between autonomous, self-contained, auratically mute modernist painting (again, one example) and critically conscious discursive conceptualism is purely an aesthetic one, meaning is it at our pleasure—and the better choice is the one that gives more.

Christopher Wool, Untitled 2000

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