Re: Search Party

by IBRAHIMELSALAHI (02.14.11 07:24 pm)

The problems with art history include the following:

99 percent of all art historians passionately identify with a narrowly defined demographic group that includes as many of the following as possible: 1) upper-middle-class to upper-class background 2) socialized at very expensive private colleges 3) emulating style of incoherent Continental ‘theorists’ = intelligence 4) left-wing = good, right=wing=bad 5) deeply preoccupied with own Jewishness 6) deeply preoccupied with own femaleness

There is nothing wrong with any of these identities, and much that is good about them, but the culture of the seminar / paper encourages an over-the-top “criticality” about every single aspect of society and reality combined with a complete taboo on addressing any of topics 1) - 6) in a detached, skeptical manner. This is why it is impossible for non-art historians to read any of the more histrionic / incoherent / paranoid “Critical” art-historical texts without immediately dissolving into peals of laughter. The same tiny slice of humanity is writing to flatter its own preconceptions, for an audience made up entirely of the

Just to take random samples, one might refer to David Summers's review of Thomas Crow's “Intelligence of Art” in which Summers demonstrates that Crow's scholastic devotion to the so-called “theory” of structuralism results in completely indefensible conclusions, not that this has interfered with Crow's meteoric career, or Lynne Munson's Exhibitionism: Art in the Era of Intolerance, in which completely uncollegial behavior by T J Clark in the (forbidding students to take classes from Sydney Freedberg), and comically basic errors of fact by Norman Bryson, revealed the complete discrediting of a Harvard art history department in thrall to zoomy but basically unverifiable “theories.”

To summarize: art historians need to be much more skeptical about what can be accomplished through the deployment of sheer verbal adeptness combined with deeply felt radical-left commitment, while at the same time displaying a much greater willingness to consider those features of the world, including the intellectual world, that do not flatter their core sense of group identity specified above in 1) through 6).

Re: Search Party

by CAP (02.15.11 01:10 am)

Okay, so much for the squeals from Team Joselit’s cheerleader. But the fact is Joselit confuses criticism with art history. Critics certainly argue, in many cases at least, for a definitive meaning for a work or style (individual or group). Art historians on the other hand, traditionally, are happy to show how, when and where meaning arises, departs from tradition. Art historians are interested in a history of styles, in a filing system, basically. And art historians have their differences! Art history remains a battlefield of arguments short of facts, facts in search of an argument. To teach it is to take sides, fumble for consensus. Critics are interested in a work or style’s merit or excellence, a top fifty or canon. Argument still goes on as to just what a given Mondrian or Pollock might mean, for instance, but generally we agree that each belongs within a school or style of abstraction and that each has their distinctive formative influences. Art historians continue researching documentation for source – the who, when and where of origin for a work - in occasionally re-attributing a work or stylistic feature, in light of new evidence. Critics occasionally revise their judgements according to such findings, but otherwise press interpretation to further realms, look for historical, political, psychological, religious or philosophical implications, amongst others, in assessing excellence. And their claims rarely stand for long, either.

The fact that art history of the last fifty years or so singularly lacks art historians willing to build a compelling filing system, and lazily cedes the task to the cultural historian, is unquestionably the real ‘crisis’ in art history. And Joselit’s glib little diagrams perfectly illustrate the problem, but not in the way he thinks. The ball is firmly in his court and all he can do is argue with the match referee.

The huge expansion in public spaces dedicated to contemporary art – and hence jobs for the trained art historian, with an eye on curating – makes more sense as a reason for overwhelming interest in ‘contemporary’ art history than Mainardi’s expansive culprit of a global economy. They are related but not identical. Experts in bygone centuries far outnumber positions available for them, for the career-minded student of art history, who wouldn’t look to where the vacancies are?

Re: Search Party

by Marilyn Picasso (02.16.11 08:44 am)

The problem I have with IBRAHIMELSALAHI attack is his caricature of the art history world. I have had certain gay art historians, for example, let's say in Etruscan research or late Baroque fresco's. They have very little class consciousness, wouldn't know Delueze/Lytotard/Lacan from Spivak, not Jewish, and certainly not giving a dam about feminism. My point being, I think IBRA has Comp. Lit./Film studies confused with art history. He needs a hum drum look at all the people of all the art history departments to see how boring these people are. Moreover, he left out queering. CAP on the other hand is another problem. He talks on about what ‘art historians’ are and do, but only mentions one art historian. Please, we have enough windy speculation. Name some art historians, otherwise ‘The present King of France IS bald.’

I think what could be useful is discussing the territoriality of certain paradigms. For example, I am researching a work of Duchamp and finding very little in his notes/Glass related to commodity exchange, shopping, mass reproduction in terms of his thinking behind the ready mades. Raising this question to older art historians like Hal Foster, Craig Adcock who are Baudrillardrian situationists, is a total waste of time as they have been brainwashed by the paradigms used on Warhol. Apolinare Enameled has everything to do with Arnheim/Gombrich visual paradoxes like the Wilson/Lincoln effect and nothing to do with advertisement, at least nothing found in his Notes, or early comments. That's the nature of art history. Poop.

Re: Search Party

by CAP (02.17.11 10:59 am)

Well I can’t pretend to speak for IBRAHIMELSALAHI but from the names he names he most definitely does not have Comp Lit/Film Studies in mind. Thomas Crow, T. J. Clark and Norman Bryson are art historians alright. The problem he raises is really the problem of art history being invaded by culture theory, which is basically a kind of bastard sociology for the 21st century. That’s why so many ‘art historians’ feel compelled to launch into ‘identity’ campaigns that really leave little room to address technical or formal analysis of the art at hand. They’re trying to convert art history into a cultural or social history. But this is really a separate study. There are history and sociology departments far more appropriate for these issues. And the fact that they take up so much time and space in art history recently is largely why art history as it known and needed, now stagnates.


Now: Some art historians – to keep it to studies of period or movement, and as only a brief and rough cross-section -

David Anfam (Abstract Expressionism)
Michael Archer (Art since 1960)
Richard R. Brettell (Modern Art 1851 – 1929)
Jonathan Fineberg (Art since 1940: Strategies of Being)
Henry Geldzahler (New York Painting and Sculpture 1940 – 1970)
John Golding (Visions of the Modern)
E.H. Gombrich, (The Story of Art)
Charles Harrison (English Art and Modernism 1900-1939)
Edward Lucie-Smith( Artoday)
Anna Moszynska (Abstract Art)
Robert Rosenblum (Cubism and Twentieth Century art)
Michel Seuphor (Abstract Painting)
Bernard Smith (Modernism’s History: a study of twentieth century art and ideas)
Brandon Taylor (Avant-Garde and after: rethinking art now)
Daniel Wheeler (Art Since Mid Century)
Heinrich Wolfflin (Principles of Art History)

ALSO – nothing I have said excludes art historians from practising criticism, critics from rehearsing art history. The difference is strictly in exchanging ends for means. The critic wants to know priorities for a set of categories, the art historian wants to know categories for given priorities.

Re: Search Party

by CAP (02.17.11 11:01 am)

Then again, if you’re brainwashed into looking for ‘paradigms’ and 'territoriality', you’re already chin deep in the poop.

Re: Search Party

by Marilyn Picasso (02.17.11 09:32 pm)

Wolfflin, diffuse/compact, open/close, etc., a facile set of binaries from a heavy handed attempt at Jackobsonian structuralism, has been more than discredited and not even taught in methodology class. Same with most of the people u name, like Golding and Rosenblum, these are overarching theory people, and Lucie Smith!!!ZZZZ??? that is a survey level coffee table art historian. You left out Semper, Meyer Schapiro, Charles Cutler (N. Ren.), and the like. When I say art history I mean half of those people for sure, but I also include all the boring ass articles in Burlington, Art Burlington, Apollo, Art Journal, etc. The ones that examine the use of the running drill in late Roman, early Christian Constatinian friezes, or the use of slip in the Achilles painter's kylix, and so on.

Re: Search Party

by CAP (02.17.11 11:23 pm)

As I said, my list was just a ROUGH CROSS-SECTION of art historians, addressing period and trends. Meaning; I was leaving out names like Schapiro, Gardiner, Panofsky, Berenson, Riegl, Baxanall, Fried, Loewy, Hildebrand, Schlosser, Croce, Wickhoff, Warburg or Malraux - but including popular general examples like Lucie-Smith, Archer, Wheeler and Moszynska. Obviously there are countless more, if I look outside books to just articles in journals. But my case stands without them.

Incidentally, Wolfflin’s polarities for pictorial composition do not derive from Roman Jakobson’s version of linguistic structuralism – predate it by about 100 years, in as much as they share anything. And since you raise structuralism, let’s register Ernst Cassirer’s work here as well. Cassirer, strictly a philosopher of culture and historian of philosophy, but still, he proceeds from Kantian dichotomies (pre-structuralism!), to views on culture, if not art by mid 20th century - so paces Jakobson . And while structuralism has had its critics, it is hardly discredited so much as diluted and dispersed by post-structuralist thinking. They attempt to go beyond, rather than against it.

In fact, it’s hard to see how one can teach an art historical methodology without encountering paired opposites for characteristics or features, or polarities at some point. This alone, however, does not constitute structuralism. Then again, since art history is now over-run with cultural historians masquerading as art historians, their grasp of method is, no doubt, as feeble as their grasp of art.

Re: Search Party

by Marilyn Picasso (02.18.11 09:52 am)

“you just say Bingo.”

You got some things askance, Berenson is not an art historian but domained as connoisseurship; Wolfflin/Gombrich, not art historians, art psychology; and Structuralism has been discredited IN art history, the case in point being the fast demise of Jack Burnham's Structure of Art, not even having the legs of Kubler's Shape of Time, which I feel has much more useful impact on methodology coming from anthropology. Structuralism cannot exist in art history, if you understand structuralism and art history. Levi-Strauss/Mauss attempt to Marxian their way by viewing a society reductively as a whole in terms of one dialectical system, kinship, language, potlatch, etc. Old fashion art history would never posit such a beginning. Don't know what you are calling Methodogy, but facile binaries are not an issue. Methodology involves, in art history, training; the boring use of indexes, organizing info (the dreaded index card) and writing style's and format style (MLA). Reigl was more like Roger Fry and considered criticism, not art history.

You write: “Wolfflin’s polarities for pictorial composition do not derive from Roman Jakobson’s version of linguistic structuralism – predate it by about 100 years, in as much as they share anything. ”

Okay, you would need to cite a source for this, you see, no? One could argue the paper cartridge bullet in the early Winchester's was a precursor to the Stinger shoulder fired rocket, but one would be stretching things. As Jackabson's availability in Berlin along with other emigres attests, Wolfflin would have heard of him, thus contact theory, another huge part of diffusion theory in art history, is possible, and, Wolfflin's painterly vs linear compares closely to Jackobson's compact/diffuse distinction at the phonemic level for let's say glottal stops, k vs g, unvoiced/voiced.

But you're missing the Big Picture here. The bone headed claim by IBRAH, and I'm gonna venture this is a disenfrachised MALE grad student in art history, upset with the gender studies of some art historians because his medieval religious tradition blah blah, the Bone Headed claim states that “99 percent of all art historians ...” Now w/o a credible demographic study, as one who is an art historian, I can say this is bullshit, that the vast majority of art historians don't have six stigma's he claims. Moreover, I sense he wants a return of excluding women from intellectual studies, hates Jews, and intends ‘Critical’ as a slap at queered studies in art history, such as Paul Franklin's ‘Object Choice’ in the Oxford Journal. And I don't get it as, some of the recent work on Abx involving the attempt by Greenberg to hetero up the boys of Abx at the expense of dismissing the women, as just their ‘wives’ to be very stimulating and revelatory of the times and Greenberg's masculinist methodology.

This one gets me too: “This is why it is impossible for non-art historians to read any of the more histrionic / incoherent / paranoid ”Critical“ art-historical text ...” Well, no shit, and why should they? This is a different language game. I can't understand the economese the brokers on CNBC's Fast Money use, or physicist's talking string theory.

Re: Search Party

by CAP (02.19.11 12:05 am)

No, Berenson was an art historian – even Wikipedia gets that right. His publications include - Venetian Painters of the Renaissance (1894) Florentine Painters of the Renaissance (1896) and Central Italian Painters of the Renaissance (1897). His METHOD relies on connoisseurship, a selective stylistics derived from Giovanni Morelli (1816-1891) whom Berenson met in 1890. You really should have paid more attention in those methodology classes. Incidentally, domain is not a verb.

Gombrich is also an art historian, and the publication I cited was The Story of Art, a very popular yet sophisticated HISTORY of ART that contains none of the psychological theories he later brings to bear on the problem of style. Wölfflin’s interest in so-called ‘art psychology’ is a subset of his METHOD as an ART HISTORIAN. All of his books are devoted to art history. To regard him as not an art historian because he subscribes to some version of art psychology is frankly hilarious. Why you should think method might have more use or impact coming from anthropology is baffling. Anthropology too insists on a history. Why should its method there be any more successful than in art history? While structuralism is sometimes criticised for its synchronic bias over diachronic ‘development’, Levi-Strauss and others are happy to demonstrate their compatibility.

A quick glance at the dates for Wölfflin (1864-1945) and Jakobson (1896-1982) reveals a difference of much less than a hundred years, it’s true. I exaggerated. But the fact is Wölfflin’s method is in place by, at the latest, 1915 with the publication of Principles of Art History. Earlier publications -Renaissance und Barock (1888), Die Klassische Kunst (1898 ) - demonstrate many aspects of the method. Jakobson’s first publication – which is still some distance from anything resembling a structuralist analysis - does not occur until 1929 - a little historical accuracy for you there. His crucial publication, Child Language, Aphasia and Phonological Universals, was only published in 1941. To suppose that Wölfflin might have been influenced by this, at 77, long after any of his publications, is pointless. Neither a theory of influence through writing, recounting or some more diffuse promotion can grant Jakobson a retrospective influence on Wölfflin, without draining the term influence of any meaning.

And talk about facile binary issues! - painterly versus linear HAS NOTHING IN COMMON with Jakobson’s compact Vs diffuse, apart from the fact that they are binary values. Jakobson is making a distinction between phonetic constructions - optimal vowel and consonant sounds in a word. To draw even the most tenuous parallel between this and Wölfflin’s analysis of pictorial composition (which is not strictly a language) arrives at nothing more than binary values. Your grasp of art history methodology is sadly flawed, but your ignorance of linguistics hardly compensates.

Nor has structuralism been discredited in art history – and since I have cited as requested, perhaps you could cite just where this comprehensive disavowal occurred? To discredit a Wölfflin or a Gombrich one would have to surpass their projects, or demonstrate their facts fatally in error. But this has not happened. Both continue to be consulted by art historians.

What has happened is that so-called art historians have simply got sidetracked by social and cultural issues – like feminism, sexuality and minority ethnic and religious identities – and lazily tried to pile these on top of preceding art histories and the results, predictably, as art history, are a shambles. See for example, Jonathan Fineberg’s Art Since 1940 – ‘Strategies of Being’. Old Jon can diligently do the field work interviewing everyone, but after that it doesn’t do much more than sit there in an ugly string of this and this and this and this. It’s not a coherent or convincing art history. It’s just snippets toward an art history, or art history without any cogent stylistic analysis.

And I’m not missing your big picture in the least. It’s just that it’s looking awfully small from over here. To take a wild guess that a commenter calling HIMSELF Ibrahim El Salahi is – DUH – male and Muslim hardly suggests perspicuity. Just what brand of Islam Ibrahim follows is beyond me. A linguist might be in a better position to guess. But it seems insulting to say that his is a medieval tradition when Christianity and Judaism are even older and equally, if not more committed to a dubious ‘Abrahamic’ cosmology, a misogynist ideology.

A pox on all three I say.

Yes, he exaggerates saying 99% of art historians subscribe to his six sins, but he does say that it is impossible to read “…THE MORE histrionic, incoherent, paranoid texts…” The argument is not with a specialized vocabulary, as you suppose, but - my sense at least – is with writers that deliberately court incoherence in the name of complexity, self-indulgence in the name of engagement. His last paragraph is a perfectly acceptable summary. Basically he’s pleading for inclusion of other real world issues, for art historians to look beyond their narrow self-interests, to write simply and clearly and to adopt or apply theories with adequate rigour.

You might want to take these on board, yourself.

Re: Search Party

by Marilyn Picasso (02.19.11 12:38 pm)

CAP's ad baculums signals speciously.

Domain: Impact was a noun until the Clinton adm. said impacted. Today it is listed lexically as a verb also. What can I say, I'm cutting edge. You need to get your Wittgenstein use is grammar on, or is he too dead to be impacting, like Jakobson?

At orientation, students at Stanford and U. of Michigan are clearly warned Wikipedia is not an accepted reference/source for even undergraduate papers. You need to get your game up to the next level.

I don't care what Wiki dictates to you, Berenson was never considered in the field as a bona fide art historian, precisely because his methodology was based on the too subjective connoisseurship. He is included in survey books on methodology, but more as an example of what not to do. Moreover, it's outmoded. Again, arnthropological arrays such as Kubler's Shape are admissable in old school art history since seriation (as in illuminated masuscrpts, pottery), for example, is empirically based. Psychology thru the first part of the 20th C. was considered subjectively based, not to mention clouded by Freud and Jung, who were not considered empirical. To be continued ...

Re: Search Party

by dagwead (02.19.11 02:54 pm)

Diary, you can poach art ideas from Marilyn Picasso too! See how many brains there are, even as you Lee Press-On six degrees of separation? Gonna get you back, idea! I mean, sukka! “I FIGHT FREEDOM!”

Re: Search Party

by Marilyn Picasso (02.19.11 03:05 pm)

Correction: meant to say ad hominem. I detect the way your writing gets specific detaily suggests u r cutting and pasting from Wiki and u don't really know this to just wing it. No one who has been thru art history today of any merit uses or considers Berenson as an art historian. I challege u to find me someone who specifically says they derive their methodology from Berenson. The same for Structuralism, Luce Irigaray has been typical in claiming, as well as the Foucault types like Judith Butler, that the problem with structuralism is that no analysis of anyone person changing anything by action is considered, not to mention its disregard of women, especially Levi Strauss's kinship analysis. Women are never sought or considered people with power. Thus, I don't know anyone who argues from that position. A Wittgenstein would never be possible in Structuralism. Chomsky said as much in his transformational grammar days.

I meant to say archaeology with Kubler, not anthro. And this is not really a paradigm of thought like Marx or Structuralism. In fact, if you do anything in Antiquity, you will inevitably get involved with archaeology, like the Richard DiPuma course at Harvard on Bucchero that was titled Etruscan Pottery from the tufa tombs of Cervetteri: Art & Archaeology. The antiquity people see archaeology as a part of art history since it involves empirical excavation, not iffy theories derived from chimerical disciplines like psychology or Marxist thinking.

Lastly, I did not say my I was a linguist, but I've had my share of courses in phonology and syntax so I know my phoneme from my morphemes. I've read my Saussure and I know my Wittgenstein community grammar, as well as Austin. The formal analysis of Wolfflin does compare with the Structural Linguistics of Jakobson. THEY'RE TAXONOMIES, which again anyone who's been around the field would know, not having sophomorically to be cutting and pasting from Wikipedia.

I'll get to the anti-semitic jerk above with the point that his citation of Crow and Clark in light of the type of people in the Antiquities testifies to a range so narrow as to be laughable in the sense he has no idea of who or what art history is.

Re: Search Party

by dagwead (02.19.11 04:04 pm)

Marilyn, I like what you are doing here. I hesitate to “dictate” that notion. A more involved speculation I tried to post seemed to “disappear” (see ham-handed “application” to the “work” of Christian Marclay, pttymth might say “A great art name, for certain” criticized by a great mind, indeed.) I submitted a teleological speculation regarding traditional art history and critical theory/film studies, which, mysteriously didn't make the cut. Perhaps it will appear elsewhere, with the only illustrations which matter. Painting for Profit: it's about that one greedy artist Amy Sillman, who made the author study Carvaggio.

Abuse victims have no need to assert boundries on the outskirts of phototerrorism. This is because, thanks to pre-emptive surveillance, publishing avant-garde art historians/critics are magically more bohemian than any artist, in the present moment, whose work may or may not belong in a New York galllery context. Call it Fame Fre/i/ght. I'm just tryin' to be MODERNE. :) We can manage and assess the role “Carvaggio” plays in the endeavor. Unbeknownst to myself, I truly apologize for having tried to have an actual relationship with a phototerrorist. The “trial” continues. Hopefully, by raising awareness, a larger audience can reach its own conclusions with common sense—without the fascistic overloarding a phototerrorist wields over the “Yes” of a lower caste. Among the satirical autosuggestions mimed to drone-minded emulators (at its worst) to the normalization of the all-or-nothing binarism of maleness, which seems to be levelling out among most male populations. Baldessari's at the Met: it's tough to approach West Coast art with the traditional methodologies of “pure” art history. Facebook is bricolage. An historic avant-garde strategy is part of collective cognition now, normalized by a technological innovation, a Kuhnian might venture. An arriere-gardist might venture, vis a vis ANY academic “MODERNE” (surely an existential crisis!) what content, exactly, is one capable of displacing onto “IT”? (This is the overlord “Uttering”). The analytical work shifts from the implied subconscious of Heidegger's immanent Dasein, toward using Ricoeur's Freud and Philosophy as an analytical tool capable of relativizing different aspects of western intellectual traditions, including Heidegger's work. Thank God it is too pathological to even complete the application to Stanford. Web discourse is fluid and immediate. I love my books, but books, even, seem to be disappearing. It's strange, but the technology seems to be foreshortening around the Tk, thanks to Freud, so maybe Copernicus really was wrong wrong wrong.

Re: Search Party

by dagwead (02.19.11 04:09 pm)

I may be wrong about my previous “implication” regarding Diary, since I posted directly to Diary, rather than responding to a previous post. Paranoia based on past experience. :)

Re: Search Party

by dagwead (02.19.11 05:58 pm)

I mentioned Geertz' use of thick description as an anthopological tool (post-structuralism seems to imply the primacy of logic) capable of describing larger contexts without the delimitations you mentioned regarding structuralism. Structuralism seems to work best as a device capable of critiquing the assumed superiority of the urbane and the educated, which some, scarily, take to the level of species difference. Based on your description of archaeology as primary focus in art historical studies of antiquity, one can see how Krauss' use of a psychoanalytical tool transforms the limitation of that focus, past its concern with post-war sculpture. Structuralist parallax: “Gauguin sur stenographique”, or, alternatively, Cruz-Diez and the question of non-symbolic art objects in South American cultures, where modern spirituality is not an oxymoron. Where is the hanged spectatorship of deranged American idolatry: the sheer chrome jouissancing (?) oblivion of watching Punch my Poopie, a valued leak for coupling Americanoe moral superiority, and the phototerroristic minions of anality who inspired them to such greatness? I promise I cannot take credit for that.


Maybe this was what Mr. Facebook was talking about through a disclaimer, which implied “photographs which make an individual look bad do not count as spam.” As a Stanford med student, I can only assume repeated attempts to disengage from what can only be an untoward, yet productive, account of what it means to make an individual or a trusted partner look bad, um, make an individual look bad. I would like to disclaim, as a productive partner, that untoward photography plays no role in my ability to implement values, especially as they concern the Hippocratic Oath. What I am talking about, as an undergrad psychology student, is Computer Science as Hard Science. Lexicality is pretty difficult stuff, when you are as busy, Disney, and as socially sound as myself. I would not care to question the role of systemmatic harrassment in my engagement with Hard Science, since untoward photography is really the fault of the person being photographed. We are one and the same vector of science, the med student and the underground undergraduate psychology student. Martin Buber, I and Thou, are both ok. Untouchable sub-ivys who question us are deranged. And any evidence of dysphasia resulting from malevolent photography is evidence of the true subject of pathology.

I've got my bum to cover and I've got a firm grip on object relations, friends at Google maps—the glorious art handlers they be. Condi Rice congratulates us on your asymptotic approach.

Signing off, young and well-adjusted,
Ironic In the Bedroom, Sein und zeit {vel. XIV}

Re: Search Party

by Marilyn Picasso (02.19.11 09:56 pm)

Yeah, and where u do find Gombrich is with Piaget and Arnheim in the older schools of art education, which I'm guessing the sexist Jew hater who started this has no clue even exists. And speaking of the one who started this I wish he'd come back and not be such a chicken shit. I mean again he claims “99 percent of all art historians passionately identify with a narrowly defined demographic group ... ” and then sights as his ‘random examples’ the Crow and Harvard old stand-by's like the ‘Marxist’ tgclark? This constitutes 99 percent, r u people on the wrong drugs? And Cap in defending this cites a cliche set of coffe table known art historians who somehow r related to the 6 taboos of IBRAHAHASOMETHING? Dunno peep-holes.

Re: Search Party

by artexetra (02.24.11 10:38 am)

Great that Sarah Thornton covered CAA. Bravo! I like the suggestion of “youth culture caught in a perpetual state of rapid technological and social change” as the primary reason for 80% of art history PhDs gravitating toward contemporary art. But youth culture has been a dominant social force in the US since the 1960s, which was also enmeshed in perpetual technological and social change. I wonder if there are similar trends in the postgraduate study of world history? Is this a discipline-specific issue or one that pervades historical studies in general?

Perhaps a more critical issue is that fact that Mainardi, Joselit, et al, who were given the stage to discuss “the crisis,” are chaired professors at top US universities. As such they are permanently enshrined in the role of perpetuating the status quo (read, crisis) through influencing the job-market and research agendas of graduate students. Yet they are comfortably insulated from the real crisis that an every increasing stockpile of unemployed contemporary art historians face, especially those who take on innovative subjects that are not sanctioned by the likes of CUNY Grad Center, Yale, and NYU.

Despite their ample use of metaphors from Internet culture, the panelists are completely ill-equipped to mentor students who are studying the manifestations of those technological and social changes in fine art and visual culture. Mainardi, Joselit, et al simply don't know the history or theory that is central to the field of Media Art History as it has been defined by a series of international conferences begun in 2004, or the practices of the artists and writers (eg. Roy Ascott, Jack Burnham) whose work, since the mid-1960s, has questioned “the way the discipline “fixes content by assigning a meaning” and “sees images as singular things” rather than searchable populations” (Joselit quoted by Thornton). Joselit's quote is a tasty soundbyte and right on the money, of course. But he's joined the party half a century too late and seems to proclaim his position as a revelation. After such a long cultural gestation period I would hope that his argument is “unassailable” - it's become common sense...

Edward Shanken

PS. The CAA panel I chaired tried to address and bridge the gap between the discourses of mainstream contemporary art, art-science, and new media art. Resources on this topic, including podcasts of the session are available at:

Re: Search Party

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