Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Between Conviviality and Antagonism: Transactionalism in Contemporary Art Social Practice and Political Life
by Giordano, John, Ph.D., Union Institute and University, 2015, 295; 3663907
Abstract (Summary)

The rise of social practice art in Europe and North America since the 1990s has provoked a variety of critical alignments and contestations around multi-authored "post-studio" artwork, aimed at collapsing the boundaries between visual and performing art, and between art and everyday life. One of the most visible and impassioned contestations has centered on the value assigned by different critics to so-called convivial and antagonistic directions for social practice art. This project enters the debate on collaborative and participatory art by highlighting the commonalities between the turn away from spectatorialism in philosophy and the politically-driven, activist social practices coming out of the visual arts. Contending that the more salient problems under debate revolve around what art historian Grant Kester has described as "a series of largely unproductive debates over the epistemological status of the work," I focus on the way different epistemological frames impact the reception of convivial and antagonistic directions in art. With attention to the theory and criticism of Clare Bishop, Grant Kester, Shannon Jackson and Tom Finkelpearl, I examine how a variety of epistemological frames both reflect the work's values around social change, and also impact the critical lenses through which such values are communicated to the public through art criticism. While Bishop raises important questions around the limits of a turn against traditional art spectatorship and singular authorship of visual art, I claim that her view of a convivial tendency in social practice art overlooks key epistemological insights embodied in feminist standpoint theory and American pragmatist epistemology. I contend that John Dewey's view of knowledge as transactional captures the epistemological framing of some of the more socially ameliorative directions social practice work has taken in recent decades because Dewey rejects a view of knowledge that divides subjective entities from each other and from their wider environments. Bishop's traditional spectatorship model fails to capture the aesthetico-political ethos of an area of art that acknowledges the fragile contingency of standpoints. I show that the criticism of Kester, Jackson and Finkelpearl recognize this contingency and then enlarge their perspectives by bringing attention to feminist standpoint theory and pragmatist aesthetics and epistemology. I conclude by claiming that a more robust way of understanding the value of social practices in art recognizes that transactional and contingent standpoints demand an ethos rooted in the continuity of convivial and antagonistic features of aesthetico-political experience.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Voparil, Christopher J.
School: Union Institute and University
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-A 76/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Art Criticism, Art history, Philosophy
Keywords: Antagonism, Conviviality, John Dewey, Participatory Art, Social Practice, Transactionalism
Publication Number: 3663907
ISBN: 978-1-339-06839-8
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