Art Is Not What You Think It Is

Art Is Not What You Think It Is

Art Is Not What You Think It Is

Art Is Not What You Think It Is


Art Is Not What You Think It Is utilizes original research to present a series of critical incursions into the current state of debate on the idea of art, making manifest what has been largely missing or unsaid in those discussions.
  • Links museology, history, theory, and criticism to the realities of contemporary social conditions and shows how they have structurally functioned in a variety of contexts
  • Deals with divisive and controversial problems such as blasphemy and idolatry, and the problem of artistic truth
  • Addresses relations between European notions about art and artifice and those developed in other and especially indigenous cultural traditions


This book is made up of a linked series of incursions into the current state of discussions on the idea of art, and is published as a volume in Blackwell’s “Manifesto” series of books. Our title – Art Is Not What You Think It Is – aims to make manifest what is largely missing or unsaid in recent debates about what art is said to be.

It is designed to provoke reconsiderations of many conventional assumptions widely shared today about the nature, uses, and fate of art, including some voiced in recent texts by prominent critics, historians, and theorists in a variety of fields. What frames this manifesto is what motivates most such declarations. These are, first, that current conventional wisdoms about a subject are unsatisfying and need direct addressing; secondly, that a concerted focus on what is un said requires careful articulation on multiple fronts; and, finally, that such an articulation necessarily forms the basis for the elaboration of new perspectives linked more substantively to wider horizons of intellectual and social progress. To put it succinctly, a manifesto is more reinvention than re-upholstery.

The chapters or “incursions” making up our volume bring to bear upon the very idea of art a variety of arguments drawn from multiple disciplinary sources and professional traditions: art history, aesthetics, cultural studies, philosophy, theology, anthropology, sociology, and so on in ever widening circles characteristic of modern life in the sense that Bruno Latour defines it in his essay “Crises,” which

looks at how the world is constructed of hybrids. Through the example of a
newspaper, he explains how we are constantly making sense of multiples. As
such, we translate these multiples into a strategic way of understanding
within the boundaries or categories we are already familiar with. Latour

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