Without an object

The discursive mode is implicitly, and explicitly, critical of modernist art, especially if we think of modernist art as silent. Logically the opposite should also be the case, but it doesn’t work that way. It’s not just that the discursive is now the norm of global conceptualism, but it also has something to do with it’s dependency on the modernist work. Criticism is a name for the conversations that go on in the vicinity of art; what we say about the work in front of us, but also what we say about other things and about what we see when we look around us at both art and other people talking about it. That’s a broad enough definition to satisfy anyone. What interests me most in criticism are the words not spoken about art, but about other things, words in which we can feel the presence of the art nearby. This is in line with my preference for the unspoken in art, but in any case, the discursive model is based on the insight that one cannot draw a line around the work and separate it from the conversation. The conversation is an aspect of the work, because whatever the work could mean is necessarily a product of that conversation, whether internal to the viewer or spoken out loud. Yet, it sounds odd to claim that art criticism is a kind of art. Art as discourse, or discourse as art, is implicitly art as criticism—at the least of other art but often also of society—but art criticism as art seems implausible. Literary criticism as literature is easy to accept, and I wonder—is art criticism a genre of literature, or a genre of art? The character of the relationship between art and literature is hard to see and understand, but it is on some level crucial for criticism and hence for art as discourse. But also crucial is the role of the object in starting the conversation, and that somehow objects remain outside of it. Or some part of them does. This is the great topic.

The dependence of discursive art on the object is so great that it is invisible. It can claim that the modernist work is mute—which is not true, however it offers something usable for the conversation—but it cannot negate that work. Discourse is founded on the modernist work, which is then so fundamental that it appears to have nothing to say. Objects are not literature.

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