Towards a Critical Theory of Works of Art [1]

Marie-Noëlle Ryan

(University of Moncton, NB, Canada)

I. Post-Avant-Garde Works of Art

“Works of art exist. How are they possible?” This question, asked by the young Lukács in 1912, in one of the first writings on art, was, in his eyes, the very first question of aesthetics.[2] Immediately afterwards, however, he added this comment: It isn’t enough to simply ask a question in order to find an answer to it. At the time that Lukács made these statements, at the beginning of the last century, the first avant-garde artists were emerging in Europe and in Russia, making any attempt to answer such questions all the more difficult. Not only were traditional forms of artwork on the verge of exploding in every direction and integrating elements that had, up until that point, been excluded from the artistic field, but the very concept of artwork was itself also about to be questioned or even shattered by artists themselves who preferred “real life” to artwork (in a rimbaldian fashion), direct creation to products of creativity, prefabricated objects to created objects. Interestingly, the very first ready-made, Roue de bicyclette, from Marcel Duchamp, was created only one year after Lukács asked his question

Barely a century later, the situation of the arts has changed so radically that one could be tempted to ask, with a hint of cynicism, if there are still “artworks” in the sense that Lukács understood the term (cf. for ex. Yves Michaud’s recent book, L’art à l’état gazeux, 2003). Although it would be misleading to suggest that art had evolved to the point that people seriously doubted its existence (and museums or foundations like here would not have any legitimacy or “raison d’être” otherwise), it was nevertheless clear that the concept of the work of art has become one of the most difficult concepts in aesthetics. We would indeed be hard pressed to find a common denominator in the wide variety of types of artwork and styles that coexist today – we have only to think of the divide between conventional and experimental types of work, of figurative and conceptual forms.[3] Actually, practically none of the traditional criteria that served to define a work of art seems to have survived the artistic upheavals of the last century. To name only a few of the problematic elements of a list that could be very long:

1) readymade and found artworks (and photography before them) have challenged the traditional notions of manual skill and craft (métier) which was believed to be necessary for art-making;

2) performances and conceptual art have led to a “dematerialization” of art, which was believed to be located in the object, musical scores or texts produced by artists;

3) criteria defining beauty and aesthetic merit have become so relative and changeable that no one dares event mentioning these words today;

4) fluctuations in the art market have shown that it is impossible to measure or quantify artistic value objectively and that assessments are unreliable and unstable, whether in terms of work, materials or talent (traditionally, the use of wealthy materials used to confer at least some “objective” measure of evaluation, even if talent couldn’t).

The problem of conceptually defining the artwork, that had already become difficult with the arrival of the first avant-gardes and the unseen extension of the types of materials, techniques and artistic genres, has increased again in the last few decades due to at least three historical factors, that I only want to mention briefly here:

1) the end of the avant-garde at the beginning of the 1980s, which brought with it programmatic claims and strong beliefs about the nature and function of artworks;

2) the globalization of the artistic landscape, which called Eurocentric models of art into question and contributed to the blending (métissages) of genres, traditions and criteria of taste;

3) the appearance of new technologies in the field of art, which represent an unheard-of multiplication of technical possibilities for artistic creation for which there are almost no points of reference or established models. These three factors have greatly accentuated the difficulty that was already considerable in defining a unifying concept of the artwork and identifying common criteria and components among the corpus of artifacts that are labeled as “artwork”. We do know one thing, at least, and that is that we can no more identify works simply by their material characteristics (substantialism), nor by their specific contents, their functions, or their (formal) aesthetic or psychological effects... “And yet ... they exist,” we might say, paraphrasing Galileo, and they continue to constitute privileged objects of study in aesthetic philosophy, despite the reluctance of those who have been arguing for the last decade that the “artistic” is an overrated field of general aesthetics[4].

In such a situation, it is easy to understand why so few aestheticians have ventured onto this minefield of the theory of artwork, and have, instead, directed their gaze to the other pole of artistic phenomena, the aesthetic experience and reception studies. Moreover, among the theories of art that did dare to go in this direction in the 20th century, few made a serious attempt to formulate a post-avant-gardist theory capable of conceptually integrating new art forms and new types of works. Those that did seem to me to have generally remained “partial” in one sense or another: Either they were too partial to a particular type (basing a theoretical model on a single type of works and generalizing, as Jean-François Lyotard did for example with the American painter Barnett Newman, in order to illustrate his thesis on the sublime), or too partial (in the sense of emphasizing only certain aspects, as does Arthur Danto, who insists on the secondary character of material appearance, starting from the very rare example of “doubles” and the criterion of intention, or George Dickie, who limits recognition of the artistic quality of work to institutional approval or integration).

As for more recent efforts, especially in France, the methodological strategy seems to consist in opting for strictly descriptive or functionalist approaches to the work of art, as a reaction against “speculative theories of art” (J.-M. Schaeffer) or “truth–aesthetics” of which Martin Seel distinguishes two types: aesthetics of “excessive” (überbietung) or “privative” (entzug) aesthetics, neither of which seem to me to be adequate for at least four reasons:

1) certain of these approaches claim to treat art as a “fact” and ignore therefore the question of what, exactly, makes a work of art more than just an object[5];

2) they seem to abandon what is specifically philosophical about aesthetic reflection and limit themselves to simple typologies or categorizations which are not very fruitful[6], or they simply rely on sociology of cognitive psychology rather than philosophy;

3) they tend to respond to the contemporary situation of axiological and definitional disorientation by a total renunciation (i.e. by a non-response) of any evaluative dimension in their analysis of the concept of a work of art. This dimension is, of course, constitutive of the artistic field, if only because every work of art is, from the beginning, the result of a series of choices and critical judgments that affect our experience and our assessment of the artworks, and that we should therefore be able to analyze and reflect upon them; it is, then, a legitimate consideration. Certain philosophers have seen this position as an “abnegation of aesthetics” (“démission de l’esthétique”, Rainer Rochlitz), or as an “anti-aesthetics” (Jacques Rancière, who goes as far as to talk about a specific “aesthetic resentment”);

4) these approaches are unable to help us understand and explain what is really specific to artistic experience, nor how these works raise and grapple with challenges other than those which are purely “aesthetic” ‑ which should be understood here in the sense of pleasurable.[7] It seems to me that one of the principal concerns of contemporary aesthetics is to formulate not a definition of art – efforts which, at this point at least, have proven to be rather dry and unfruitful (and that very few philosophers still pursue actually, preferring concentrating on new themes like aesthetic emotions or the relation between morals and aesthetics) – but rather a concept of the work of art which would be able to integrate the formal innovations of modern and contemporary art, while at the same time demonstrating how art and aesthetic experience participate in their own and particular way to our own knowledge and general experience of the world, by both putting them into perspective and questioning them, and how, contrary to a certain common idea of art maintained by a society and a culture which privilege entertainment and instant gratification, art and our experience of it raise issues that largely surpass decorative and hedonistic interests – although I should emphasize that I am not defending what Adorno called the “sensual taboo”, who, I should remind you, also argued against Kant’s idea of the “disinterested” nature of aesthetic experience, saying that it would be hard to understand why anyone can be so deeply interested in art if there was no pleasure to be found in our experience of it...

II  Towards a Redefinition of the Concept of Artwork

I am not going to attempt to assert a positive definition of the work of art by saying something like: “a work of art is anything that...” I rather follow Adorno here in saying that “it belongs to the definition of art not to have a fix definition, its “law” is that of its movement”. My aim here is more to identify a certain number of requirements and determinations which any artwork, to be declared and to function as such (and not simply as a decorative object) needs to fulfill. The concept of artwork of interest to me, here, implies a poïetics (a theory of creation) which must nonetheless take into account the various modalities of aesthetic reception and which, it seems to me, can encompass all artistic genres. This approach will not, however, attempt to outline a set of criteria for the success or quality of a work, nor will it offer interpretative keys for a punctual analysis and criticism of particular works. That is the work of an art critic, and the viewer experiencing the work of art before him or her. I do not wish to establish a hierarchy in order to distinguish “great” works of art from productions of popular culture – among which, obviously, we also find “artworks”. The difference that matters to me here is, instead, one that allows us to distinguish a work of art from a simple decorative object or an object that is a technically accomplished (a difference I would translate by a terminological distinction between “objects of art” and “works of art”).

As far as I am concerned, a critical rereading of Adorno’s aesthetics,[8] especially his interpretation of the concepts of artwork and material, can serve to integrate all types of works, even in their most radical or experimental forms, although it still cannot resolve the difficult question of precisely defining their aesthetic success. In so doing, it offers us an important advantage over most of the art theories I mentioned earlier, because it allows us to grasp the specific rationality at work in the artistic sphere and therefore better understand certain issues of the aesthetic experience we make with artworks.


Before further developing these points, I will begin by presenting three examples, that I would like you to keep in mind in what follows:

1) André Breton, like many others at that time who have experienced automatic writing practices, corrected his writing afterwards; this can be seen, for instance, in the original manuscript of his Champs Magnétiques (1919).

2) Marcel Duchamp, when he photographed his ready-mades, always imposed a specific point of view, an angle he favoured, showing that he didn’t really intend to present his ready-mades in a random fashion.

3) James Nachtwey, a war photographer, works on his photos a posteriori by correcting the light, recentering, accentuating contrasts, etc. (cf. the film War Photographer, especially in the passage which shows his treatment of his famous photo from a young boy in Sarajevo after the bomb explosion on the market). This way of “correcting” and reframing the images, which are meant to be realist in nature, is common practice among documentary photographers (cf. as well, the famous photo taken in Algeria, entitled “La Pietà”).

For Adorno, every work of art carries not only artistic issues, but also social, philosophical and historical ones. These issues are also never purely arbitrary, even in the case of works that use chance in the creative process. This is why he refuses the idea that a work of art can have any meaning we please, or be something purely spontaneous, the fruit of an artistic genius that creates without limitations or in a purely accidental manner. Contrary to this idea, inherited from Romanticism, Adorno defines the work of art as a complex construction, made of a mix of rational and subjective elements that follow their own logic ‑ what he calls the “inner logic” of the work ‑ which carries issues which are not strictly formal or sensual, but also (although not necessarily, and certainly not all together...) cognitive, psychological, moral, political, and so on.

Each work is thus the result of a series of choices, corrections, and projective evaluations over which a shared language – in this case the artistic material – exercises more or less control. This is true even of works that are left to chance. For this reason, Adorno refuses to consider art as something irrational and unmotivated, as the opposite of reason or the foil of reason, even in its most extreme forms. For it is precisely in the process of continual selection, choice, refusal, reevaluation, and correction that it is possible to recognize the traces of a form of rationality and a process that is essentially critical, and therefore evaluative, carried out in view of producing desired effects on the viewer, in relation to more or less explicit intentions, and in continual confrontations with the artistic concept and the technical constraints that a masterful artistic creation implies.

But the desire to produce effects and the transposition of expressive intentions by means of the formal construction that is the work of art are inseparable from a certain range of pre-existing possibilities, among which an artist must choose. Moreover, from this point of view, the simple choice of one medium over another, or one artistic genre over another, is already “a field of choices that have been made” before it even becomes a “a field of choices to be made”, to use Umberto Eco’s expression in his famous book, The Open Work. These choices are made precisely in order to accomplish a “project” or what I would call a “presentative sight or aim” (vise présentative), which always implies the existence of an audience, however small it may be. The projection of a potential audience or a certain type of reception is indeed always implicit in the choices that are made during the process of creation, and is related to the awareness of certain normative expectations that come into play in the process, as a regulating element.

To this “field of choices” already made, which is at the origin of the process of constructing the work, are added the choices that each artist must make in relation to what Adorno calls the artistic “material”, referring here to not only the palette of concrete materials with which artists work – for example the pigments in painting, the wood or stone in sculpture – but also, and more precisely, the whole range of what is available to artists, what they have inherited that stands before them. It is, as Adorno puts it, “everything that presents itself to them in words, colours, and sounds, all the way to associations of every sort, different technical processes that have been developed; in this sense, forms can also become material.”

The material, then, is not something natural, because it would then be “empty”(Adorno): “Every sound used (...) has already ceased to be a simple sound, without thereby isolating the properties which make it something other than a simple sound in order to define them. This something other is first and foremost what relations make of it.” This material is therefore, so to speak, completely mediated by history and the social practices inscribed in it in the form of techniques, manners of perceiving and using forms, colours, subjects of all sorts; basically, all of that which has come through from the past to become available to artists of a particular period and which they integrate each time in their practices and in the conventions they choose to adopt or to reject (“no form exists without a refusal”, Adorno, quoting Paul Valéry). This aspect of rejection or refusal, which is necessarily part of the production of every work of art, is indeed an essential point, although it is also difficult for the viewer to identify. In fact, we generally remain unaware of it.

The material with which the artist works extends to the tradition in which his or her work is inscribed, the entire heritage that an artist possesses, at the moment of beginning the work, which constitutes the “language” from which he or she draws expressive means, and in relation to which he or she must inevitably position himself or herself when placed before the canvas to paint, the opera to compose, the novel or script to write... And it is precisely because the artists share this heritage not only with other artists but also with the prospective audience of the work that it could be said the language of art cannot be private or perfectly arbitrary. Rainer Rochlitz addressed this point by stating that a work is the result of an operation through which an artist “manages to transform signs – which always run the risk of being idiosyncratic – into a ‘language’ or rather an ‘discourse’ (parole), into an intelligible individual intersubjective scheme.”

This intersubjective dimension of artistic creation is essential for understanding both the artist’s motivations and the means necessary in each receptor concerned with apprehending a work “correctly”, that is, every receptor inclined to read the work as it asks to be read (in the very broad sense of conformity with the presentative aim of the work). It is important to remember that this idea dates back to Hume, and is often neglected in the commentaries of his famous On the standard of Taste (1750). Hume insists among other things on the necessity that the receptor puts himself into “the situation which is required by the work”, and adopts “the precise point which the work asks”. He states that “every work possesses a certain finality or a plan according to which it is designed (what I call its presentative aim). It should therefore be judged as being more or less perfect, depending on how well calculated the efforts to reach this objective have been. We need to constantly keep these ends in mind when we are attending to the work, and we need to be capable of judging to what point the means used are appropriate to their respective goals.”

Obviously, there is not only one valid or appropriate way of reading a work;[9] this goes without saying, but rather that any aesthetic judgment of a work, independent of our punctual experience of it, cannot claim to be pertinent if it does not take into account the success or failure of the specific “project” proposed by the work: its intended effects, the “creative sight”). I should also make a distinction here between “pertinent” and “legitimate”. The first needs to be understood from the point of view of the work, the second from that of the viewer, who is always free to do what he or she likes with the works he or she “consumes”, including using them to prop up a window or straighten a rickety table, to mention two examples familiar from N. Goodman’s work). But this freedom in regards to works of art is valid in every area: the philosophical concepts or scientific theories can be used for crossword puzzles, to inspire works of art, and so on, but they are, in these cases, being used for purposes above and beyond or unrelated to their intrinsic requirements. Curiously, it is only in the artistic realm that we admit so freely to such “deviations” from the usual purposes . . .

According to Adorno, this success or failure is measured essentially by the competence of the artist, through the way he or she exercises critical judgment and performs strategic choices, to draw from the existing “material” an expressive and realizable potential, and to access language by articulating in a coherent form that surpasses the simple subjective expression of the artist: “the aesthetic success is a function of the skill of the trained artist to awaken the residual contents”(Adorno, ÄT). Although it is important to move beyond the overly specific interpretation of Adorno about the “contents” (in his case, we should remember, it is mainly the residual historical experience, and more precisely the experience of the conquered and the buried memory of human suffering), the idea of a semantic load inscribed in the material in the form of conventions and the heritage of an inescapable tradition, seems to me to be essential to understand the specific nature of artistic creation and works of art, as well as being at the root of their expressive potential.

As I have just pointed out, it is, all the same, necessary to bend the rather categorical interpretation of Adorno’s conception and to assert that, outside of any interpretation that leans too far towards historicism, the material is not simply a reservoir of residual experiences drawn from the past; it also contains unfolding experiences, including the capacity to signify for others (which determines its aesthetic or social value). Indeed, certain people have reproached Adorno for underestimating the systematic openness of material since the beginning of the century towards “virgin territorities”, as yet unexplored, and which could not be loaded with “residual historical contents”. I am alluding to Wellmer’s objection, in particular, according to whom a certain tendency towards the ‘despiritualization’ of material can be observed. However, I do not think that we can argue as a consequence that artists today find themselves before a material to work on which is completely new or “virgin” and, especially, entirely free of any form of convention of presentation or interpretation, or of any semantic load that could be shared or evaluated by others.

Despite the infinite possibilities available to artists today, it seems to me that, in fact, it is still impossible to do “just anything”, at least, that everything is not of the same artistic interest or value. In this respect, we have only to mention that the mastery of new technologies in art is no guarantee of the success of the authenticity and relevance of the work. More importantly, it is the choices of the creator of the work in terms of their consistency with a creative project that are truly significant of a position taken in relation to the total range of possibilities offered to the artist. Indeed, it is precisely in this critical position that Adorno wanted to locate the authentic meaning of a work. And there is no need to adopt the metaphysics of history underlying his position to realize that this ‘critical’ position of the artist is, in fact, always charged with meaning, even when it is a refusal, and that it contributes in an essential way to the signifying and effective capacities of work that are created during the construction of a piece of art. (“No metaphysical meaning exists before the work, no meaning is given to the art like a reality it could imitate (...). Meaning is, however, inevitable, to the degree that it imposes itself, by choice or by force, upon works of art” Adorno, Towards an informal music).

It goes without saying that this construction rarely proceeds in a linear fashion, in a straight line of continuity with the earliest choices of the artist. Rather, it occurs through constant confrontations between an initial intention and the constructive possibilities which each new choice opens up or closes, in a process of readjustments and critical reevaluations, at the end of which the artist manages to produce a work which is coherent or not, consistent or not (I am referring here to, among others, the analysis of Michael Baxandall and Ehrenzweig who corroborate this conception of the inner logic of the artistic creation).

But the material and technical constraints the artist encounters during the creative process, which force these constant readjustments and reevaluations, cannot, in themselves, explain the final structure of works of art and the success and failure of their aesthetic effects, although they do represent decisive factors in our analysis and judgment. For Adorno, it is more important to understand the challenges of confrontation between the intentions of the artist – its “creative sight”– and the constraints encountered in the course of the creation of the work. It is precisely this dialectic between the critical reassessments and decisions about the work to be created, on one hand, and, on the other, the constraints of the internal logic of the material and the work, which have extra-aesthetic implications.

Considered from this angle, a work is first of all the result of a process which “takes place essentially between material and intention” – but which is always “regulated” by the projection (never exhaustive) of potential receptions – and where the constraints imposed by the creative process brought about by the successive choices of the artist, made up of original intentions, corrections, readjustments, give us some insight into the extra-subjective requirements met by every artistic creation, and which are therefore common to works of art of all types.

We can, therefore, identify at least three types of minimum requirements works of art must meet, internal and external:

1) The concrete possibilities of material and materials at a particular time, in other words, its historically and socially possible means and uses, and not simply its technical means – what Adorno calls the “material stage”‑ which, however, needs to be reinvented in order to achieve an understanding that is non-historicizing (in other words essentially turned towards the past) of the “contents of experience”, because these are not only constantly open to reinterpretation and actualization, but also because of the unprecedented profileration and expansion of artistic materials since the 20th century.

2) The constrains related to the “laws of genre” or “artistic conventions” of the specific artistic genre in which the work is created, which include the heritage marked by important works that predate each new work of art. (In discussing this question, Adorno speaks of the “scars” imprinted on the material.) Nonetheless, each work must, at the same time, distinguish itself from the tradition if it does not want to be received as simply a copy or an imitation.

3) The constraints of the way the work is inscribed in the public space, which is, in turn, regulated by conventions regarding the presentation, the types of discourse and the norms, which are shared more or less self-consciously, and which address the expectations a work of art must meet in order to connect with an audience, as well as the social uses which will be made of it.

Therefore, despite the fact that we realize there is a disparity among artistic practices and communities of taste and interest, the artistic creation and experience we make of works of arts continues to be linked to minimal conventions and requirements of intersubjective signification. In this way, they relate to experiences that move beyond the strictly private sphere and are inscribed in a constant process of corrective reevaluation and reinterpretation of our ways of seeing and experiencing the world.

[1] This title can be taken two different ways, of course, but I am thinking particularly in terms of the “critical process” as a reaction against the strong tendency, for instance over the past decade in France, inspired by the analytic tradition in philosophy, which refuse to consider any evaluative or normative dimension in aesthetics. These scholars are also reluctant to venture into the area of hermeneutic or even semiological analysis of works of art. It seems to me that this theoretical strategy is philosophically unproductive. It forces us to question the philosophical nature of these « aesthetics », which actually refuse the use of critical reason and, instead, rely only on the rigour of the argumentation, avoiding any direct confrontation with the content and the meaning of the work. The aesthetic then becomes, under the guise of a neutral “ontology” (R. Pouivet), a simple categorical typology of works of art. Or else it withdraws under the cover of “scientific naturalism” (J.M. Schaeffer), into the field of sociology or anthropology, studying the “aesthetic conducts”, or into the psychology of cognition.

[2] ‘If aesthetics must be founded on legitimate presuppositions, it must ask itself:  “works of art exist. How are they made possible?” Lukács goes on to affirm the existence of works of art as “the first and the only fact of aesthetics”. (cf. Philosophy of Art – paraphrased here from the French translation, Philosophie de l’art, trad.. R. Rochlitz and A. Pernet, Klincksieck, 1981, p. 4. )

[3] For instance: a traditional figurative painting, an interactive installation, electroacoustic music, conventional and digital photography.

[4] I am thinking, here, of the distinction introduced (at least in this form, because it exists at least since Hegel) by Jean-Marie Schaeffer in L’art de l’âge moderne (Gallimard, 1992), which several French theorists have taken up since, without, however, reflecting to any length about the idea; it seems to me that these recent studies have led to a narrowing of the aesthetic field, contrary to the position maintained by Schaeffer, who objects to the tendency of philosophy to focus on the theory of art at the expense of more general aesthetic phenomena. We make short shrift of notions such as aesthetic conduct or aesthetic relationship, which seem to me to be too vague and general to give rise to genuine philosophical concepts and which are more closely connected to anthropology, sociology and cognitive psychology: what is the point, in that case, of continuing to talk about philosophical aesthetics? The “farewell to aesthetics” then becomes “the farewell to philosophy”.

[5] Cf. Adorno, Vers une musique informelle, p. 336 : (free translation:) “Not being in the order of facts is the very fact of being art” and “Every work of art is always more than what it is” (id., p. 335. “The subject is the only element of life that enters into the works of art; it is to the subject that they owe the possibility of coming to life themselves” (ibid., p. 326).

[6] I am thinking, here, particularly of the most recent work by Roger Pouivet (L’œuvre d’art à l’ère de la mondialisation. Essai d’ontologie de l’art de masse) which never manages to present us with a convincing definition of a mass artwork, simply because the author never attempts to propose first a general definition of the work of art...

[7] I am referring especially to J.-M. Schaeffer’s idea of an “aesthetic conduct” which he defines as an “attentional activity” of which the finality resides in the “satisfactory character of each activity itself” and where “the cognitive relation needs to be undertaken and valued because of the satisfaction it offers while it is being elaborated itself.” The aesthetic conduct is “regulated by a feedback system which is of an appreciative nature” (Adieu à l’esthétique, p. 6). This, however, is not an aesthetic judgment, which is rather based in a “speech act” and which is simply one issue among others in the aesthetic relationship. The other option (also proposed by Schaeffer) is, I think, not promising. It consists in defending the subjectivity of taste and the primacy of (dis)pleasure in the aesthetic experience, because appreciation is not the only final outcome of the aesthetic experience; it is, rather, the very condition, the starting point of it:  it is on the basis of our evaluation that we attend to the work in the first instance, that we embark upon the experience towards which the work invites us or not; every negative assessment (which is not the equivalent of an absence of pleasure but rather the poor quality of the work in question) takes us out of the aesthetic sphere and prevents us from experiencing the work as a work of art. In this case, the work returns to the status of an artefact.

[8]It is impossible to ignore the criticisms directed, over the past three decades, at Adorno’s writing in general and, in particular, at his Ästhetische Theorie; among them are those of Peter Bürger concerning his “anti-avant-gardism”, those of Hans-Robert Jauss about his apparent anti-hedonism, of Jürgen Habermas on the overly radical criticism of the utilitarian rationality and the necessity of moving towards post-metaphysical thinking, those of Rüdiger Bubner about the predetermined character of Adorno’s interpretations of works of art, as well as those of Albrecht Wellmer concerning the emphatic nature of Adorno’s concept of truth, or Martin Seel’s and Rainer Rochlitz’s dismissal of the “excessive” or the “moral and metaphysical overload in art”, and so on. All the same, despite these criticisms, many of which are valid, it seems to me that the Ästhetische Theorie still deserves our consideration; it remains one of the most interesting and fruitful aesthetic theories that we have at the moment. It is, moreover, one of the few that has offered a coherent theory of the artwork and of the philosophical issues around artistic creation that is capable of integrating the different artistic forms that have developed over the course of the 20th century, including those that have appeared in their most radical incarnations.

[9] What might contradict the very nature of works, which have a double belonging – to the world of objects and to the world of meaning – contributes to the constant hesitation among different types of reception and to the “non-fixity” / “non-fixedness” of meaning. Cf. on this subject the theses of C. Menke (Die Souveranität der Kunst. Ästhetische Erfahrung nach Adorno und Derrida, Suhrkamp, 1991), and R. Sonderegger (Für eine Ästhetik des Spiels. Hermeneutik, Dekonstruktion und der Eigensinn der Kunst, Suhrkamp, 2000).

© Disturbis. Todos los derechos reservados.2007