Gregory Currie: "Style and the Agency in Art"

  • Date: –16:00
  • Location: Seminar through Zoom (contact Irene Martinez Marin or Matti Eklund for link and details)
  • Organiser: Department of Philosophy
  • Contact person: Irene Martinez Marin, Matti Eklund
  • Seminarium

Joint Seminar – The Higher Seminar in Aesthetics and The Higher Seminar in Theoretical Philosophy

Gregory Currie, University of York: "Style and the Agency in Art"

Like many one-time radicals I am now deeply conservative. (For present purposes I confine the discussion to questions about art.) I once argued that works of art are actions performed by artists. Decades of relentless criticism have worn away at my conviction. I now deplore any suggestion that the folk are wrong when they answer the question "What is The Night Watch?" by pointing to that canvas in the Rijksmuseum. I will not listen to any sort of revisionism in that grim domain "the ontology of art". But--I still hold that there is an essential connection between appreciating the work of art (painting is what we will consider) and what we might call its "context of production". Does this mean that there is some metaphysical connection between the work and the facts about its making? Might The Night Watch have been painted by someone else, at another time? I say yes. Simplifying I say: appreciative connection yes, metaphysical connection no. On the way this conclusion I argue for several propositions:

• What should we count as artistically relevant in the work's context of making? (Answer: many things)

• Is the artist's act of making just a part of this context or does it play some more central, organising role? (Answer: yes to the second disjunct)

• Does my insistence on the importance of the work's making for its appreciation entail that the work itself has only instrumental value? (Answer: no)

Finally I take issue with some arguments of David Davies (to whom I am much indebted for discussion) which, if correct, would show that the radical position I've abandoned is right after all.