Monday, May 7, 2012

Pierre Bourdieu – The Historical Genesis of the Pure Aesthetic - summary and review – part 1

In "The Historical Genesis of the Pure Aesthetic" (in: The Rules of Art) Pierre Bourdieu criticizes sociology's tendency to focus on art consumers while neglecting to study the production of art as field in itself. Following Marx and Webber, Bourdieu suggests the art field as a space of power relations played out by the interests of agents within it.

At the center of "The Historical Genesis of the Pure Aesthetic" is Bourdieu's criticism of the modern perception of art that must formulated by philosophers and art critiques since the 19th century.
Modern view of art saw it as an independent filed in which the artist is free and autonomous to express a truth through and for the sake of art. This perception saw art as "pure aesthetic", art for the sake of art free of external constraints.

Bourdieu criticizes art critiques for concealing the social conditions which constituted their object of study – the artist and the artwork – and the artistic perspective that they themselves articulate. The art world is further criticized by Bourdieu for presenting the aesthetic experience as timeless and a-historic, thus promoting an illusion of the "absolute" regarding art. Bourdieu holds that both art and perceptions of art are historical constructs and as such are the result of specific conditions and processes in the art world.
 According to Bourdieu, one cannot separate the field of artistic production from the manner in which art is perceived and related to, for the eye of the beholder is also a product of the field. For Bourdieu, the art work has no intrinsic value and meaning which is independent of how it is viewed, and this is determined by historical and social conditions.

For Bourdieu, art is produced and evaluated according to a certain habitus of the art field. Habitus for Bourdieu is an array of traits required to assume a certain position within a field and at the same time the result of an agent's participation in the field. Artists, critiques, curators and so forth are those who sustain the art world by, in a sense, "playing it out".     


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