TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT February 1973

Kozloff: Criticism in Absentia

For the better part of the ten years it has been in existence, Artforum has been our leading intellectual art journal. . . . For a sizeable segment of the art public, especially in the universities, the experience of color-field painting, minimal art, earthworks, and related developments has been inseparable from the criticism, theory, debate, and documentation which Artforum has lavished upon them.
—Hilton Kramer, The New York Times, Sept. 17, 1972

THERE IS NO LONGER ANY DOUBT that Artforum has exerted a considerable influence on the art world; the above article is only one indication of that influence. But it is for just this reason that the ramifications of Kozloff’s “The Trouble with Art-As-Idea” (Artforum, September, 1972) are so important. For due to a lack of exposure to information other than Kozloff’s, his unilateral assertions will reach thousands of people who are unable to analyze them. His article will thereby contribute more dogma to the empirical belief system (that is, the theory that knowledge derives from sensory experience only) which is still, contrary to his opinion, stubbornly entrenched in its own precepts and in the art system.

“The untempered or unmanipulated gobbet of ‘real life,’ viewed as art, has canceled many obligations rewarding to artists who earlier made highly complex objects.”

“In an extremely apparent sense, then, art-as-idea is highly conservative. It exemplifies an almost rote dependence on an art context and does nothing more than reveal passive attitudes towards advancing that context.”

One of the surprising things about Kozloff’s article is the comprehensiveness of its attack. What makes this possible is a highly misrepresentative grouping of artists under the category-heading “art-as-idea.” It is apparent that he has taken Ursula Meyer’s book, Conceptual Art, disregarded even her rather tentative subcategories, and lumped everything under the newly-titled single category. Since this terminology seems misleading we have chosen first to refer to those people who do what Kozloff calls “art-as-idea” as “artists” and, second, to refer to “art-as-idea” itself as the new “art,” except where Kozloff’s sense of the term is critically appropriate. (The reason for our second choice is that if “art-as-idea” is to be used as a term at all, it would seem to be, at best, a subcategory.)

Kozloff appears to have made this grouping because his empirical orientation has led him to make an invalid assumption. This is best seen in the implications of his various comments about intention—if 1) an “artist” emphasizes intention more than morphology, especially if 2) the content of that emphasis is deprecatory of morphology (the quotes from Buren and Venet, for example), it follows that what is being produced is “art-as-idea.” It’s obvious enough that such a result is not logically necessary, since by at least 1) the work of such artists as Warhol, Stella, Morris, Judd, and Flavin is “art-as-idea”—which even Kozloff isn’t maintaining.

By not seeing the lack of validity of such an assumption, Kozloff derogates Jan Dibbets, an artist typified by the reistic concerns of art (e.g., Perspective Correction of 1969 and the untitled postcard/gesture piece of 1969, as well as Joseph Kosuth, an artist who has consistently moved away from reistic concerns (e.g., Art After Philosophy and the recent exhibition at Castelli uptown), in the same breath. That is, he accuses “artists” of using the “unmanipulated gobbet of ‘real life,’” of exhibiting “an almost rote dependence on an art context,” of creating “much abstruse jargon justifying these (”art-as-idea“) maneuvers, [while displaying] little power of abstract reasoning,” and implies that such allegations apply to all “artists” indiscriminately, an attitude that permeates the whole article, perhaps the most damaging evidence of its unilateral concerns. In our discussion of Kozloff’s specific allegations, some attempt will be made to discriminate among artists, thereby avoiding much of his confusion. We will refer to “artists” to establish the identity of those doing what is considered new “art,” but we will not attempt to place “artists” in categories unless already established e.g. Art-Language.

“The belief system supporting art is nourished not so much by specific conventions that have entrenched rules and criteria, as in most professions, but by the accelerated replacement of conventions, by now an article of faith in modern art and a cliché of criticism.”

Since Kozloff makes a number of assertions about the belief system now operating in art, it would first seem useful to discuss belief systems in general. As Ian Burn and Mel Ramsden (two editors of Art-Language) state: “It might be contended that if a person intends a ‘work of art,’ then he must believe that what he is intending will be a ‘work of art.’” This implies that a belief system exists prior to “any possible demonstration of [the] intention or possible extensions of [that] belief.” It also suggests that such a belief system is autonomous—“self-determining, self-governing, self-justifying, self-perpetuating, etc., and so independent of all external (i.e., ‘non-believing’) constraints.”1 As such, the concept of “belief system” is equivalent to Kuhn’s concept of the “paradigm.”2

Of course, it is difficult to fully translate the paradigm system, based on science, to the realm of art; certain characteristics of the system, e.g., the relationship of anomalies to paradigm exhaustion, the monolithic structure, and the incommensurability of succeeding paradigms may be only partially applicable. Part of the problem is that the paradigm theory itself is so new—while the definition and elaboration of an art paradigm (see below) is even newer—so that many interpretations of the historical development of (Western) art are based on the assumption that art will continue to be paradigmatic. Only time will tell how strictly the Kuhnian concept of the paradigm can be applied to art. But we will use the term “paradigm” since it is meant to be a comprehensive belief which is taken for granted (one presupposes it), and serves a normative function (defining what is and ought to be art), and does have certain characteristics easily applied to art (e.g., paradigm crisis).

In essence, though it is apparently not his intention, Kozloff’s treatment of “art-as-idea” serves to advance it as a new paradigm. And the inclusion of so many disparate artists reinforces this. But if one really understands the work being produced by these artists it is obvious that they vary greatly in terms of their discontinuity with the existing paradigm. It is clear that mere changes in morphology (e.g., body art) or the emphasis on intentionality do not necessarily constitute a transgression from empiricism. It seems that Kozloff’s treatment is thus erroneous insofar as its inclusiveness can lead one to believe that an “art-as-idea” paradigm exists in the first place.

Once this is understood, two questions arise: 1) what is the paradigm that presently defines art? and 2) what is the position of the new “art” relative to it? The answer to the first is: the material-character/physical-object (m-c/p-o) paradigm.3 This paradigm serves to circumscribe both the making of art and the analysis of art—stipulating that it should be subject to empiricism and thus reistic. (Reism here is meant to include body art, Process art, art that deals with light only, etc. in addition to the obvious example of painting and sculpture; essentially it is any work subject to visual interpretation—versus writing, for example.)

Within this more or less autonomous matrix, the new “art” becomes an indication of what T. S. Kuhn calls a “paradigm crisis.” Inherent in any paradigm are a finite number of possibilities. Now, these limits aren’t known beforehand, or the paradigm would never be adopted in the first place; initially paradigms appear to be infinite in scope. But as these possibilities are revealed, as infinity is circumscribed, other possibilities begin to be explored—a new paradigm is searched for, a “crisis” occurs. For some “artists,” ourselves included, this is presently the case with reistic art. Essentially this position assumes that no new propositions about art can be formulated by presupposing the morphological concerns of painting or sculpture. It is possible to present the same idea differently, but this does not necessarily constitute a new proposition. Mere morphological change (e.g., Pop art to new Realism) is not essential to the making of “art” now that the possibilities of reistic art (metaphorical space, “real” space, “dematerialization,” etc.) have systematically been defined, and systematically run their course.

The important point is that a crisis creates a highly unusual situation. As Kuhn says:

More and more attention is devoted to [the anomaly] by more and more of the field’s most eminent men. If it [the anomaly] still continues to resist, as it usually does not, many of them may come to view its resolution as the subject matter of their discipline.

(This in itself suggests one reason why the new “art” may be more “philosophical”—in contrast to Kozloff’s term “metaphysical.”) The nature of such a situation, then, is what Terry Atkinson and Michael Baldwin call a “shift-from,” rather than a “shift-to.” That is, some “artists” have shifted away from accepting the autonomy of the reistic paradigm—assuming the role of skeptics, “nonbelievers”—but they haven’t as yet created a new paradigm. As such they are involved in “a kind of theory-trying.”4 This concept helps explain the variety of work being produced and what Kozloff calls the “accelerated replacement of convention,” which isn’t a replacement of current conventions at all—at least in the sense of “substitution”—but is a general search for new conventions. With this understood, many of Kozloff’s statements are revealed to be dogmatic assertions of his empirical orientation, not valid propositions about work which exists outside of this orientation.

Most important, in this respect, are his specious comments about the “mystical” stance of the new “art,” which is defined as “part of a strategy, with a long tradition behind it, designed to impose greater demands on the faithful. Faith has been stringently defined as the acceptance of assumptions without the need to require evidence for them.” This is an excellent example of what an inaccurate grouping of “artists” can lead to. It’s true, “artists” such as Robert Barry or Lawrence Weiner make many statements which seem either ambiguous or meaningless, e.g., Barry: “All the things I know but of which I am not at the moment thinking—1:36 p.m.; 15, June 1969 New York.” But the Art and Language Press, for example, is attempting to nullify the autonomy of the physical object paradigm by questioning reistic premises about the processes of making new art.

Perhaps the point to remember about the Andre piece [conical pile of sand] is that the notion of the use of gravity is singled out, and one assumes, maybe wrongly, that because it is singled out one should attach some significance to it . . . but what Andre has produced is a perfectly conventional solid state object. . . .5

This is one instance of “artists” not passively relying on the art context. But in one sense, anyway, even the work of Barry and Weiner can be allowed, in that what they are attempting to deal with—nonreistic art—is not part of an articulated paradigm and thus appears much more ambiguous when compared to the by now highly articulated reistic paradigm. This suggests another point: the only statements capable of being termed “dogmatic” are, by definition, those that support an autonomous paradigm. As such, one paradigm may dogmatically criticize another paradigm, though obviously neither side will be communicating with the other. In order to deal rationally with either reistic or nonreistic art one must become a “nonbeliever,” which Kozloff isn’t. Thus it can be said that Kozloff’s propositions are dogmatic; and though he implies the contrary in the above quote about “faith,” the same cannot be said of some new “art” statements or work. The most that can be said about such nonreistic work is that it is didactic. Only Kozloff’s empirical orientation leads him to believe otherwise.

“Not craftsmanly work, but the thought behind work, not sensibility, but the general and impersonal premise above sensibility: these are the priorities of much current art.”

“But Conceptual art induces only a mood of non-expectancy because its questioning (of the nature of art) has no form, only a principle, and may be said to be an affair exclusively of absolute function.”

“Haunted by the obsolescence and ephemeralness (sic) of his actions, the artist of unusual claims rededicates himself to inconsistency.”

By introducing the concept of style, Kozloff exhibits a lack of understanding of the new “art”; by definition, this is true of the empiricist critic, since such “art” is, for the most part, not subject to empiricism. But this concept reveals the specific assumptions of this belief.

Kozloff defines “mode” as “the decisiveness with which an artist switches his operational category.” This statement, and others, imply that he sees shifts within art as essentially shifts in methodology. Consequently he continually emphasizes the inconsistency, the randomness, of the new “art”—its unwillingness to develop “a coherent evolution furnished through style.”

This “problem” can be resolved if one accepts the development of art not as “history of forms,” subject to stylistic6 shifts (e.g., Neoclassicism to Romanticism), but as a history of propositional (semantic) shifts (e.g., Medieval to Renaissance, Realism/Impressionism to Cubism, Abstract Expressionism to Minimalism). Under this latter system, new “art” would retain, while still remaining anomalous, a certain amount of continuity with previous art. As such, even the refusal to consider “esthetics” as a valid consideration of art would exhibit a degree of continuity. (Much of the art since 1960 reduced the quantitative level of esthetic concerns, choosing to concentrate on one or two aspects; while some of the new “art” can be said to have reduced these concerns even further, that is, namely, to zero.) Certainly “artists” such as Acconci, the Bechers, or Dibbets sometimes stray very little from the path of that art of the ’60s (body art, topological concerns, and environmental art respectively) which lies near the periphery of reis-tic art, e.g., Stella, Warhol, Morris, Judd, Flavin. But even the much more speculative Art and Language Press professes some propositional continuity with previous work.7

If Kozloff had understood this he wouldn’t have interpreted “avant-garde” continuity through the concept of “refusal-to-transform-the-art-subject.” Nor would he have misconstrued Buren’s statement about abandoning “the history of art as we know it.” (Kozloff: “To be sure, there is a short-term logic to be found in the proposal that since the history of art was a history of forms, to demolish physical form is to blink away the continuity of historical event in art.”) As we said, part of the scope of the new “art” is a redefinition of art history. What Kozloff doesn’t seem to realize is that, for example, once Wölfflin developed formalism, all of art history became retroactively defined through that matrix—a matrix which is, patently ethnocentric for some periods of art history (e.g., Medieval art). An expansion of art history to propositions is, at the very least, less ethnocentric; and it does reveal strands of continuity where they might not otherwise be seen to exist.

This, then, means that an “artist” can have a consistent propositional system which may assume what Kozloff terms “inconsistent” form. Even here, though, his categorization is inappropriate: Acconci and Dibbets may seem “inconsistent,” but the Bechers and Art and Language Press don’t. In any case, “a consistent evolution furnished through style” becomes irrelevant in the present context.

Kozloff’s orientation also leads him to misconstrue, and thus misrepresent, “artists” response to the cultural absorption of “art.” That is, he confuses analytic (art) propositions with “social” (in this case, “antisocial”) propositions. As such, all of his statements about “art” resisting “legitimacy” by refusing to “transform the art subject” are meant to demonstrate that “artists” are sophomorically creating elitist art. But by assuming that “culture” is equivalent to “audience,” and not that it is equivalent to, for example, the more abstract entities of advertising, galleries/museums, and art magazines, he thus misinterprets Weiner’s and Andre’s statements about art and culture. Another interpretation of these statements is: 1) If art is filtered through the matrix of advertising, if it is used to sell products (e.g., the work of Albers and Indiana), its former “art” predicates are stripped away, and cultural ones are substituted. Whereas true art, at the time of its inception, is in the above sense an acultural phenomenon, 2) the gallery/museum system changes the process somewhat in that the art work sells itself only. That is, galleries and museums help determine both the “art” predicates and the “economic” predicates of a work (the two being directly proportional, historically). As such, the art and cultural predicates become confused. 3) Art magazines tend to assume the same priorities as galleries/museums, in that the discussion and validation of art sells copies; the less “interesting” art may be ignored. 4) Not only is true art acultural, it is also in some momentary sense discontinuous with art history. That is, the “originality” of a work can be defined by its apparent disparity with the prevailing paradigm. As such, the role of galleries/museums and critics is to establish continuity with that paradigm—validating the art-status of the work, while recognizing its innovative qualities. This can be called the process of changing art into art history. This process becomes especially difficult when the work is not part of the prevailing paradigm, as Kozloff’s criticism indicates.

“But what I notice above all, is the inability of the various mediums––process, Conceptual, etc.––to come to terms with what can be said of experience.”

“We have had styles in art for many excellent reasons, chief among which is the artist’s desire to engender for us his view or views of the world.”

“What, for instance, does a young generation yearning to connect feeling with action share with this art in absentia?”

In its overall scope Kozloff’s article becomes an argument for art for the masses. Not only that, he seems to expect art to consciously assume an ethical role in society. As such, he thinks of astylistic, intention-oriented “art” as sterile. He becomes especially scornful when dealing with “artists” such as Weiner and Haacke, who proclaim themselves revolutionaries.

There is some basis for such disparagement, but not for the reasons Kozloff assumes. In one sense, Kozloff is right when he maintains that the political content of art work is circumscribed by its “esthetic” content (the problem being that “esthetic” is the wrong word). This is always the case with art: Courbet’s Realism, or Dada, are excellent examples of the ineffectual convergence of art and politics. The trouble is that Kozloff, while disagreeing on the form it should take, agrees with Weiner and Haacke that there is an ethical function of art, as art. But those who maintain such an idea about ethical considerations don’t understand the autonomous nature of art. That is, art responds to art only, and its verification depends only on an art context, not objective reality (the “reality” of science and much philosophy); it has nothing to do with ethics.8 Kozloff’s criticism from this point of view is thus invalid.

Of course, art does serve an immediate ethical function in society, but incidentally to its specific concerns, and rarely in terms of its morphology. For this reason Kozloff’s social criticism of the new “art’s” treatment of experience and intentionality is misleading.

1) Many “artists” (Acconci, the Bechers, Dibbets, for example, are exceptions) are trying to analyze the usual paratactic association of reistic art—“experience” equals “emotions”—by not presupposing it; in fact, skepticism is the only way to proceed with such an analysis. It is obvious that the concept of “experience” has become heavily burdened with the empirical belief in knowledge and with the Romantic suppression of reason (Kozloff’s disparagement of “ill-definition” and “abstruse jargon” notwithstanding, since “reason” here is empirically defined and thus dogmatic). But a) not all knowledge is empirical, e.g., Russell and Wittgenstein; and b) why can’t intellectual experience also endure “insofar as it accords with our active psychology as social beings?” Certainly the elimination of the empirical and Romantic conceptions of experience does not result in an equivalent reduction in the “cultural relevancy” of the new “art.”

2) One of the things Kozloff seems to be arguing for is the immediate acceptance of art by the public. This is where his ethical concerns most reveal themselves. But this has almost never been the case. At its inception, “high” art has usually been abused by its supposed mass audience (not that most artists have worried about this too much). It is ridiculous to expect artists to make “high” art for mass consumption—that is the task of commercial art. Once again, Kozloff seemingly exhibits little understanding of the autonomous nature of art. But because he does, he assumes that the new “art” is necessarily elitist.

3) The same argument applies to style—the elimination of style does not in itself denote elitist art.9

4) In any case, much of this problem is resolved if one goes beyond form and considers process. We live in a highly technical world—a world which is technically capable of providing for everyone. But it doesn’t, and most people are trapped in what Marcuse calls the “performance principle.” Within such a system, time is structured (the nine to five grind; the five day week), and thought is circumscribed (the function of, for example, advertising). But art offers the promise of (socially) unstructured time and (socially) uncircumscribed thought—it allows free play of the imagination. Moreover, it is one of the few nonutilitarian processes in an otherwise utilitarian society. Of course art objects frequently create forms, symbolic orders, which induce this state of mind. But it doesn’t follow that the removal of art objects necessarily eliminates such a state of mind. Among other things, the new “art” is even less utilitarian than object art, and thus more “negative” in the context of present society. But as we said before, the actual form art has taken throughout the ages has sometimes agreed, though usually disagreed, with the prevailing cultural norms. And whether one understands and/or accepts the new “art” (which doesn’t preclude both understanding and accepting it in the future) is immaterial—the fact that “art” and “artists” exist at all means that a liberating force exists in society. One has only to think of the myths created about artists, or about creativity, to realize this is true.

It’s quite possible that Kozloff would not admit the validity of this fourth argument, simply because he seems to mistake the apparent “freedoms” of society (e.g., movies and magazines) for the real ones (“The social brake against anything being called esthetic, as long as it remained esthetic for the art world, has faded away. You can step the brake down to the floor and nothing happens.”) As such art is not, by nature, a negative force in society now. We think he is wrong in asserting this. If nothing else, Weiner exposes the true state of affairs; this is still a repressive society.

“Usually we say that after it comes into existence art is defined within a field of open privilege by critics.”

Kozloff’s treatment of “art-as-idea” has done two things then: 1) by grouping a number of “artists” under a single category-heading, he has served to advance this as a new paradigm; and 2) he has then attempted to denigrate whatever art-status exists in this work through the matrix of empiricism. In fact the considerations of 1) are obviated by the considerations of 2); it should be clear by now that empirical criticism is, by definition, incapable of determining the explicitness or accountability—in the end, the art-status—of nonreistic work. But we are contending that 1) is invalid to begin with—that a contradictory paradigm has not arisen: no single methodology has been constructed (skepticism cannot be defined as a strict methodology, at least not yet), no single competing theory has emerged. For this reason the validity of the present work as art is a pertinent question from a point of view other than empiricism. We would maintain that the most radical works of the new “art” (this excludes many “artists” cited by Kozloff, e.g., Acconci, Battcock, Buren, Haacke—whose work seems little removed from the reistic paradigm) are not art at all. That is, if one has to believe in a paradigm a priori to intend art, and if that paradigm is accepted to be reism, then it follows that some of the new “art” cannot be art. This is not to say, however, that this new “art” is trying not to be art, or that, for example, these sentences are thus art criticism in the usual sense. For these reasons, the Atkinson/Baldwin concept of “theory-trying” seems an appropriate definition of the search for the art-status of this new “art.”

In the end, then, it becomes apparent why “artists” are superseding critics in “defining” the new “art”: “theory-trying” (in the above sense) has never been the domain of critics. But there is no intrinsic reason why this should be detrimental to art—it doesn’t logically lead to art that imposes “greater demands on the faithful” (contrary to Kozloff’s assertions about intentionality’s lack of “content”). After all, even the change from art to art history is open to analysis by “artists,” and the introduction of “artists-ascritics” into what is at present a one-dimensional process, creates a needed ambiguity (where ambiguity is defined as conducive to multiple, two-dimensional investigations) in this process. One is no longer merely validating reistic art. In fact, such changes in the status of artists" seem necessary at the moment. The recurrence of criticism such as Kozloff’s is only one of many reasons why.

––Preston Heller and Andrew Menard

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NOTES

1. Ian Burn/Mel Ramsden, “The Art of Believers,” an unpublished article.

2. T. S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Chicago, 1962.

3. Terry Atkinson/Michael Baldwin, “Some Post-War American Work and Art-Language: Ideological Responsiveness,” Studio International, April, 1972.

4. Atkinson/Baldwin, Ibid.

5. Art-Language, February, 1970, p. 29.

6. In general, Kozloff equates style with idiosyncracy (“. . . the artist’s desire to engender for us his view or views of the world”). But we think it likely that, by this same definition, he would term, for example Neoclassicism a “style.”

7. See note 3. The subtlety here is that the propositional system itself is discontinuous with formalism; but if it, or something approximate to it, is accepted as paradigm, it will exhibit continuity with the history of art retroactively.

8. See Joseph Kosuth, “Art After Philosophy,” Studio International, October, 1969. Reprinted in Ursula Meyer, Conceptual Art, New York, 1972.

9. Numbers 2) and 3) are not meant to misrepresent the situation: the new “art” is elitist—but not for the reasons Kozloff gives. For the most part this elitism seems to be the result of its analytic nature—itself the result of specialization of labor—and the diminishment of the patronage system (in the strict sense).

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Max Kozloff Replies

“Paradigm” is not my word but one chosen by the two gentlemen who have entered into critical dialogue with my article. They are right to be uneasy in applying it to the history of art and the work of the people with whom they identify. In science I understand that knowledge is cumulative: proven facts act as building blocks of a model, a paradigm for the discovery and testing of new facts. Propositions that do not fit facts sooner or later fall away, whether in a crisis or not. The discipline disregards them. But how does this square with our noncumulative field of art where it is silly to say that intentions can be proven or disproven, or that new ideas invalidate older ones? My critics refer to “new art” with justified modesty as a species of “theory-trying.” When, though, has this ever constituted for us the content of a work of art? Because for 5,000 years artists have made material images doesn’t mean, can’t mean, that their work must be lumped together as paradigmatic of anything, let alone “reism.” I am unhappy that those who have accused me of being indiscriminate are so guilty of their own censure; and I am sorry, too, that they misunderstand Mr. Kuhn’s term. Any art writer will admit to sighting phenomena for which a proposition or “category” does not yet exist. I take this to be what Messrs. Heller and Menard consider “anomalous,” a praising epithet for work they favor. My piece argued much the contrary about “new art,” which leaves us I do not know where.

In any event, it is curious that discussion of an overabused esthetic belief system is rebutted by suggesting we are now on quasi-scientific ground for testing the art status of certain works. That sounds as if the criteria for determining such status are as pragmatic as those that judge, say, cancer research. What does the analogy with science mean anyway, and why should young artists be attracted to it if it did not extend to them the idea that art can attain some verifiability that no one has yet been able to grant it? To have questioned this self-image is to be put down as, of all things, empirical and dogmatic simultaneously, in fact dogmatic because I am empirical, which is a pretty wild thing to be! Would Heller and Menard allow themselves to be called mystical experimenters? If they are skeptical of a belief system that hopes to be linked with real emotions, I look askance on one, much more dubious, that wants to be certified as theory. Evidently I have run afoul of sectarians who would not dispute my reservations about most of the artists cited in the article, but resent their inclusion among them. On the contrary, I had their attitude most in mind when inveighing against the conversion of a necessarily irrational art experience into a bogus positivism.

As for the political controversy, I have never doubted that most serious, and much of the best art could not have been other than elitist. And I hardly regret that the “masses” often don’t get it. That still does not inhibit the thought that serious art often metaphorically reflects or even agrees with “prevailing cultural norms”—generally those of the ruling classes. This is overtly true of a great deal of pre-modern art, and I think we would all be surprised how much this carries over into the art of the last 100 years. Why be so innocent about these matters? “Art responds to art only, and its verification depends only on an art context, not objective reality.” I wonder if all we want to do with art is verify it. That is not a big deal. Do Heller and Menard realize how much their line parrots a formalist argument which presumably they are against and which needs to be transcended? Only people who think “culture,” that lovely confusion, can be reduced to paradigm continuity can also delude themselves that the art context and the ways we behave are closed to each other. And are they really saying that art’s liberating celebration of “unstructured time” and “uncircumscribed thought” has an ethical value that must survive without a human and social coefficient? If they are not, then they might recognize that obscurity, dysfunction, and triviality in art are not so liberating, that they show parallels with that playful bureaucracy with which we must all cope. Our small debate is not between opposed, mutually noncommunicative “paradigms,” but between bewildered people in the same scene.