Death of the Critic
For many years, and even today, we have depended on the writing of art critics such as Clement Greenberg, Harold Rosenberg, and Rosalind Krauss, to name a few, to teach us about art. Their writing has been so influential in the history of art that we have forgotten that they are opinion writers and not of fact; we have many times taken their opinions too literal, taken specifics for granted, when in reality we should be questioning their reflections. They have manipulated our opinion, reactions, and even likeness of art. They defined who the great artists are and through their judgments they have even decided the value of art. But unfortunately for them, post-modern art has dethroned critics with the use of humor, wit, and scale of impact in their art. Post-modern art rejects the idea of beauty and truth and reveals the value of irony. Artists such as Marcel Duchamp, who created the Fountain, or Mark Tansey, shock, mock, and force the viewers to rethink the meaning of art. “The reader/viewer must create a whole new context in which to hold the art, one which may truly challenge his belief structures, one which may force him, to make sense of what he is seeing, to hold a larger perspective than he currently has in place.”1 And this applies to the critic as well. His opinion can no longer be valued as before because this kind of art no longer has a meaning and its interpretation no longer matters. Its importance lies on the impact and sensation of its viewers. “Art becomes then a participatory experience, one in which the audience receives, and handles as they may, the flows of libidinal energies which the artist set free.”2 The control the words of critics had over art is gone and viewers are able to let their unconscious decide what art is. Nothing can better explain the place of the critic with this new art as Roland Barthes’s essay title does: post-modern art has brought “The Death of the Author.” In his essay Barthes explains how in literature the identity of the author no longer has any importance. “”Performance” may be admired, but not his “genius” The author.”3 By giving the power to the literature rather than to the writer itself, he is giving the power to the piece of art and not to the critic as it has always been. As I explained earlier, the opinion of the critic was impeding us from reaching our own conclusions on art. But by denying beauty in art and introducing something as absurd as a urinal, post-modern artists “refused to assign [art] a “secret” that is, an ultimate meaning,”4 that a critic can easily identify or criticize, and instead, “liberates an activity” where each viewer can have their own reflections on the piece. In my essay I am giving the role of the author in Barthes essay, to both the critic and the artist. Nevertheless, I am assigning the part of the modern author to the artist, and its opposite to the critic. Before, the importance was given to the author, he was recognized, in other words, the critic was recognized. But now, “language knows a subject, not a person.”5 And from my point of view I interpret this statement as meaning that the person, in other words the critic, does not matter anymore, the art does, the subject. Of course the critic will still be a critic and give their opinion, rank a piece of art, and judges it as well. But this time they cannot use an absolute standard of arbitration. By not being able to judge the way they used to, they assert Barthes point, that “the explanation of the work is always sought in the man who has produced it,”6 and for me this man he speaks about could only be the artist himself. Clement Greenberg, Harold Rosenberg, and Rosalind Krauss have been incredibly influential in the history of art. Greenberg championed and was the first to appreciate the achievements of abstract art. Rosenberg was also a supporter of the abstract expressionists and proved the importance of the happenings and performance art. Krauss introduced a...
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