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In advance of a broken attestant, or where is art’s critical subject?

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Two concurrent understandings of criticality in art assign it as a potential property of artworks themselves, or bemoan it as lacking in art’s audiences. This division can be traced to its roots in the Romantic conception of criticality, in which the critical procedure completes an unfinished work. This act of completion, and an accompanying conception of transformatory potential, is generally held to occur in the presence of a primary audience: an idea that is undermined by recent attributions of critical force to non-present secondary audiences. This article traces these orientations of thought as they structure recent approaches to practice, then offers an example of a mode of practice that refuses to attribute any critical or transformatory capacity to either its original material effects or a primary audience. Any critical or transformatory force is played out as the work propagates and adjusts itself in its afterlife.
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Keywords: Excluded Middle; afterlife; criticality; primary audience; secondary audience; transformation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Chelsea College of Arts and Loughborough University

Publication date: July 1, 2016

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  • Art & the Public Sphere provides a new platform for academics, artists, curators, art historians and theorists whose working practices are broadly concerned with contemporary art's relation to the public sphere. The journal presents a crucial examination of contemporary art's link to the public realm, offering an engaged and responsive forum in which to debate the newly emerging series of developments within contemporary thinking, society and international art practice.
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