The end of art is where the word “art” ceases to be a meaningful term because it refers to nothing or everything. There is an idealistic and a conspiratorial view of the end of art. The idealistic vision of the end of art is where art becomes self-conscious of itself and everyone is an artist and everything that they do is art. In this version the words “art” and “artist” then ceases to be a meaningful terms of reference because it refers to everything. The conspiracy version of the end of art is where either the conspiracy is exposed and art is shown to be nothing or where the conspiracy succeeds and art/everything is just another hyped commodity on the market.
The death of art has been long anticipated; perhaps it has already happened. Loud Dada cheer! Art is dead, long live art! Duchamp’s Wanted/$2000 Reward (1923) poster says it all: “Operates Bucket Shop in New York under name Hooke, Lyon and Cinquer.” Christians expect the apocalypse to be final, the day of reckoning, but this is not a necessary feature; the post-apocalyptic world is a possible state.
I have been enjoying reading Jean Baudrillard, The Conspiracy of Art (Semiotexte, 2005). There are many attacks on contemporary art but Baudrillard’s conspiracy is a literary device for understanding the web that gives meaning to words, it is a crime metaphor, not a fact. “You can no more identity the instigators of this plot than you can designate the victims. This conspiracy has no author and everyone is both victim and accomplice.” (p.66) He extends his metaphors to examine the way politicians do not represent those who elect them. This is what I enjoy about reading Baudrillard he writes literature, he writes with metaphors and an enjoyment of language.
If Baudrillard is turning police informer on the conspiracy it is because he has already been recruited as the get-away driver. Baudrillard enjoys Warhol, Pop Art and Hyperrealism, although he wonders why he enjoys them. He is familiar with the history of modern and contemporary art and has exhibited his photographs in a gallery.
This is a very different conspiracy to Robert Dixon’s The Baumgarten Corruption – From Sense to Nonsense in Art and Philosophy (Pluto Press, 1995). Robert Dixon is a mathematician and as the subtitle of his book indicates has a no understanding of modern art or philosophy. There are many books and other literature like this a long conservative complaint about contemporary art. For Dixon, like other critics of contemporary art, the decline of art is a matter of fact or his own twisted logic; there is no subtly, it is all vitriol. Remarkably Dixon identifies the start of this process with Alexander Baumgarten’s use of the word “aesthetics” in the 1750s – a long process of corruption indeed.