Monday, May 7, 2012

Pierre Bourdieu – The Historical Genesis of the Pure Aesthetic - summary and review – part 2

In "The Historical Genesis of the Pure Aesthetic" Pierre Bourdieu offers to examine the ontogenesis and phylogenies of the art world with its various components such as aesthetic perceptions, main characters, taste, discourse, institutions and consumers. According to Bourdieu the questions we should be asking about art are no ontological (like "what makes something a work of art?") but rather sociological and historical ("which social conditions and historic processes cause an object to be regarded as a work of art?").

Bourdieu pays special attention to the modern perception of the artist as the autonomous creator of separate worlds and the fetishistic relation developed towards him as his products (exemplifies by the subject of the artist's signature).

According to Bourdieu, the more evolved the art field is the more it is constituted by power struggles around the ability to assign value to artists and works of art. The artistic discourse is characterized by Bourdieu by the proliferation of flexible and ambiguous terms which maintain control over the field for those with the adequate habitus that control the artist and the art work's ability to enter and be accepted into the field of production and consumption. It is a struggle over the "truth" of art that denies the historicity and constitutive nature of this truth.
The art world, according to Bourdieu, also struggles over what he calls "pure reading" of artistic production. He argues that historical processes construct the subject which "correctly" reads the work of art. This "pure reading" is produced and reproduced through the workings of the art field.

In the last two parts of "The Historical Genesis of the Pure Aesthetic" Bourdieu discusses the role of history in the art world, a history that he claims is denied by the field itself as part of its claim for the "truth" of art. Art and philosophy of art have attempted to "purify" art from its social and historical context, suggesting that there is, always have been and always will be a "correct" way to understand a work of art. Bourdieu hold that we should reexamine the artistic "doxa" and see it for its constructed and historical nature. Bourdieu suggests a "double historicization" of both the artistic tradition and its implementation in order to examine and reveal the process through which cultural schemes assign value to art.