Art and Thought

By Fishwick, Marshall W. | Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA), December 2003 | Go to article overview

Art and Thought


Fishwick, Marshall W., Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA)


Art and Thought Dana Arnold and Margaret !versen, Editors. London: Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 2003.

This is a smart and savvy anthology by two of England's bright young art historians. They launch a new series called "New Interventions in Art History" with zest. One article asks, "Does Art Think?" (The "Contents" page has a typo, and reads "Does Are Think?") This is followed by another question: "How Can We Think the Feminine, Aesthetically?" This becomes a central theme of the book and elicits divergent answers. One appears in the book's final chapter, entitled "Eyes Wide Shut."

The style is often more pop than proper. Following a quote by Sigmund Freud on femininity, Grisenda Pollock responds, "I'll take you up on that Sigmund" (130). Freud is promptly updated; our author triangulates feminist theory, artistic practice, and psychoanalysis. This results in her "linear model-hypothetical constitution" and "retroactive model of sedimentation."

If such high-academic jargon is not enough to set you reeling, try Amelia Jones's essay on "The Uses of Merleau-Ponty 's Phenomenology in Art History." Get ready for "dynamic Interface" and keep a dictionary close by. Oscar Wilde said America and Britain had everything in common except language.

The authors seek similarities between the art world, as it is narrowly conceived, and the actual world in the twenty-first century, where national boundaries and traditions are giving way to globalization and a world linked by instant new technologies and concepts. In the art world too, disciplinary boundaries are giving way to innovative exchanges between art history and a wide range of disciplines. New links and ideas are championed and art history is taking on old connections and new meanings-hence, the appearance of such thinkers as Aristotle, Descartes Kant, Lacan, and Kristeva here. Some would retrench, and police the borders of where art history "belongs." The authors we review here choose another response: to engage debate precisely at the points where new boundaries are opening up and the disciplines are finally embracing new concepts-epistemological, aesthetic, and ethical. They are risking rethinking and rewriting art history, with mixed results and success.

One of the most promising chapters, by Diarmuid Costelo, is called "Museum at Work in the Age of Technological Display. …

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