Issues of Universality in Fine Art, Contemporary Art, and Culturual Politics

Director(s)  D.R.
Participant(s)  Thomas Keenan
Participant(s)  Bassam El Baroni
Year  2011

This talk addresses the differences in the particular universalities pertaining to “fine art” and “contemporary art”. It discusses what it means for a universality to be functional or non-functional. Moreover, it considers universality as a largely clouded and unannounced space for contestations between different art practices and cultural politics.

Most peoples' image of what art is can be tagged under the term “fine art,” art characterized by the academic application or manipulation of canonical art histories. Contemporary art's hostility towards “fine art” is perhaps because, unlike the latter, it lacks populist credentials.

Fine art” can be defined as art with a non-functional universality, a universality created by the canon, long expired yet still effective, whereas contemporary art's universality is a functional universality, existing as a matter of sheer fact. In other words, what makes contemporary art contemporary is its willingness, or perhaps its need, to be compatible with a dominant and functional form of universality atpresent.

With Bassam el Baroni, director of Alexandria Contemporary Arts Forum.

Conference organized as part of The Human Snapshot Symposium (2011)

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