Situating Art

Dr. Judith Findlay

• Does Art have to be put somewhere?

• Is there a special place for Art?

• ‘Situating Art’ makes me think it is in a specific place – that Art is something special, something


• In asking ‘where is Art?’, perhaps we also need to ask…

• What is Art?

• ‘Land of Art’…

• What would its landmarks be?

• How would we know we were there?

• Could we know by who ‘populates’ it – who ‘lives’ and works there?

• Is Art populated by the privileged?

• In 1971 art historian Linda

Nochlin asked the question, Why have there been no great women artists?

‘This 1905 photograph of a life class at the

Art Institute of

Chicago was appropriated by painter Deborah Kass as her invitation for a

1990 one-person exhibition.’

• ‘There have of course been moments, in the twentieth century for instance, when women did attain some equality with regard to artistic production.

• In the Soviet Union, for example, after the 1918 revolution artists like Alexandra Exter, Lyubov

Popova and Vavara Stephanova produced important paintings, stage designs, graphics and fashions.

• But this was more of an exception than the rule, and in the past art histories have tended to emphasise the accomplishments of their male counterparts such as

Kasmir Malevich, Aleksandr

Rodchenko and Vladimar Tatlin.’

• ‘It is only gradually and relatively recently that women artists such as Frida Kahlo, Meret Oppenheim,

Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hess and

Hanne Darboven have begun to achieve the stature and reception commensurate with that of their male colleagues.’

• Perhaps we are beginning to get a sense of time.

• Past

• Present

• Future

• Already it’s clear that ‘Art History’ is a construction or interpretation of the past.

• It is not neutral.

• It is not the Story of Art!

• We also need to remember that:

• Art is a modern invention.

• (Art is a modern ‘place’)

• ‘The term “ART” as we understand it began to take on its modern meaning in the late eighteenth century: an original creation, produced by an individual gifted with genius.

• The ‘distinction’ of Art was created

• By museums

• By galleries

• By theory

• Immanuel Kant first delineated aesthetics as we understand it in his ‘Critique of



• ‘Pure Gaze’

• An Aesthetic way of thinking and looking

• Pierre Bourdieu

• Theory: Latin -

theoria; Greek -

theorein - a sight, to gaze upon…

• Things are a bit different now

• The most important artists of our time are visionary in that they continue to challenge us to see our world differently. They represent our culture – our world – in enlightened and, at times, beautiful ways. Artists prepare the mind and spirit for new ideas – new ways of seeing.

• What of the future

• You?

• Artist?

• Professional?

• Amateur?

• Come and see…

‘The Most Beautiful Thing’

• Where is Art in this Story?

• Art is a field…

• Of enquiry…

• Of exploration…

• A way of perceiving…

• A place of ‘receiving’, and a place of ‘archaeology’…

• ‘What art communicates, if it’s genuine, is something ineffable. Something about ourselves, about the human condition, that is not summed up by the oil painting, or the piece of music, or the poem, but rather moves through it. What you say, what you paint, what you can hear, is the means not the end of art: there are so many rooms behind.’

– Jeanette Winterson, Writer