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Jones, Amelia. Art History / Art Criticism: Performing Meaning
1999, In: Performing the Body / Performing the Text. Ed. Amelia Jones and Andrew Stephenson. New York: Routledge. 39-55.
Added by: Rossen Ventzislavov
Summary: Jones' essay offers a critique of philosophical and art-historical interpretation. Her main contention is that attributions of meaning in philosophical aesthetics and art criticism are traditionally a manner of top-down bestowal - i.e. artworks are rendered intelligible by certain pre-established and often institutionalized conceptual paradigms. In this, the often unstable meanings of art works themselves are not only inadvertently lost but often even intentionally stifled. To rehabilitate such meanings, and destabilize the homogenous discourses that try to contain them, Jones proposes a "feminist phenomenological approach… deeply invested in performing meaning." What this amounts to is a newfound sensitivity to all aspects of art - the performative, physical, contingent, messy, gendered, theatrical, emotional etc. - that have been systematically marginalized by philosophers and art critics since Kant. There is, according to Jones, an intractable economy of desire that absorbs artistic creation into the cumulative enterprise of human interaction and, instead of sweeping it under the rug for the sake of stability, philosophers and art critics should engage this economy on its own tentative terms.

Comment: Useful in classes on art interpretation. Can inspire great discussions when read together with (parts of) Kant's Critique of Judgment.

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