Art & Language Chapter 4

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S.R.: My opinion or my understanding always was that this term of dematerialization is totally misleading.

Michael: Absolutely. A piece of paper is still a piece of paper for God's sake.

S.R.: And if you talk about dematerialization [...] often the context, the epistemological context was lost. Because they always talked they don't paint, the artists don't sculpture now they think. The artist before didn't think? It was totally crazy.[...]

Michael: Well I think the point, again, we'll talk about this later but, the point one has to think about is... It brought up by Richard Wollheim in "Art and Its Subjects" in 1969 – we discussed it lengthily before but not as expertly. But his point was that if you want to do any aesthetics at all you'd better get the ontology figured out and the aesthetics would to a degree be clarified if the ontology of art was clarified. It just so happened that at that moment that Wollheim wrote so or published "Art and Its Objects" that the ontological game if you like that one was playing as an artist was getting a rather difficult and strange one. His position would have been always that there must have to be some material embodiment of the work of art and that that material embodiment meant that the viewer in principle, any physical attribute to the work of art was potentially the aesthetic significance to the viewer. Which in my view is a mistake, but at the same time it confronts, and this again we'll talk about later, it confronts of course one or other of the various forms of the institutional theory, the theory of which the Duchamp bottle rack is the paradigm. And I think in many ways we are still fighting that battle. I don't think it's solved. The problem isn't solved. Well I haven't solved it, maybe others are cleverer than me, but...

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