The Anti-Aesthetic Essays

The Anti-Aesthetic Essays-69
REVIEW The Art – Architecture Complex by Hal Foster is a book concerned with contemporary architecture and design, a subject I am vastly under-qualified to critically pursue.

REVIEW The Art – Architecture Complex by Hal Foster is a book concerned with contemporary architecture and design, a subject I am vastly under-qualified to critically pursue.

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“Capital” and “spectacle” are the concepts by which Foster navigates the tyranny of contemporary culture.

Why not take the first few lines from Debord’s book as predictive: “Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation.” (1) This still seems close enough to a description of our current situation, although what it means and how it came about is debated.

In this way, Realism marks the beginning of the Anti-Aesthetic movement.

The next stage in the Anti-Aesthetic movement is found in Dadaism (1915-Present).

Jean-Francois Millet's famous portrait The Gleaners (1857) did not focus on the beauty of the immediate world in the same way as the Impressionists, but more on the harshness of the life of the working class.

The figures in the painting are not idealized; the use of muted tones shows the artist is more concerned with capturing the reality of their plight, than with the beauty of the setting or the subjects.He typically opposes resistance and transgression to complicity, outside to inside, the real to the illusory, and the virtual to the actual.This marks a limit to his analyses and, for some, renders his conclusions helplessly conservative, even though his objections to “capital” might seem necessary.Perhaps what is needed, following Foster’s denunciations of design as mere consumerist manipulation in the service of greater efficiencies for capitalism, is recognition of a more general outline, an outline that attributes the root of the problem more deeply in a description of the rationalist prejudices that dominate our thinking and being. Bruno Latour, “Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam” in Critical Inquiry, Winter 2004, University of Chicago, 225 3.For the style of critique demonstrated by Foster and his colleagues this would be bad news, leaving them revealed as a part of the problem in so far as their project is itself inextricably dedicated to the founding of criticality in a modernity that is already itself a practice of instrumental rationality. Kenneth Frampton, “Towards a Critical Regionalism,” in The Anti-Aesthetic, ed. Jean Nouvel and Jean Baudrillard, The Singular Objects of Architecture, trans.And it may well be that both art and architecture are fields too important to be left to their professional defenders.And anyway, if Foster’s observations are accurate, architecture has itself been dissolved, our ways of building and dwelling transformed into cinematic encounters under consumer media’s management.” (2) Foster’s attitude with regard to electronic media culture makes him a traditionalist.Another writer afflicted with what is often called “Benjaminian nostalgia,” the historian of architecture Kenneth Frampton, invoked a practice he called “critical regionalism,” in which architechtonics, truth-to-materials, site-specificity and other such dreams of the decade were the key aspects of building.This is the crux of his situation; critical for his historical consciousness, conservative for the same Foster’s oppositionality leaves him without traction with regard to a historicity of experience now re-composed by way of electronic “abstraction.” In this new situation, Foster refuses to acknowledge how antiquated his use of “the image” and “spectacle” has become, clinging as it does to some notion of an objective foundation, a reality that would offer an external standpoint from which critique proceeds.His fervent conviction that there is an “outside” with which criticism can orient itself and from which critical attacks may be mounted – the “distance” definitive of criticality – fails to account for and integrate the pluralizing impact of electronic communications media with which the post modern [contemporary? Even a likely sympathizer such as Bruno Latour asks, “Are we not like those mechanical toys that endlessly make the same gesture when everything else has changed around them?


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