The Aesthetic Maligned:Duchamp and NewmanIn‘The End of Art’


In the second chapter of Donald Kuspit’s latest publication, ‘The End of Art’, Professor Kuspit claims (Marcel) Duchamp and (Barnett) Newman “in their different ways, signal the end of fine art. Duchamp clearly wants to deny the finality of aesthetic judgement- but in doing so he denies that there is any such thing as an aesthetic experience…” [1] And “for Newman the aesthetic is tragic and defiant at once” [1].

Duchamp and Newman gave aesthetic representation to what was a greater sweeping brood whom bore the witness, and testimony, of the time when in which the ivory tower completely collapsed. The tower did not succumb to insurgent siege rather it went outmoded

And then condemned. A proxy mimetic cybernetic complex protracted it’s self-out as the new mission control. Here the world in which the esthetic exists manifests itself antagonistically, not just around us, but as Merleau-Ponty might have said, at us! Infiltrating our full sensory organism through twisting language and images.

Duchamp found this version of his modern man to be a delirious one embodying an impossible persona: absurd and irrational, particularly when positive. In regards to his sexual feelings, in “understanding their rationale,” Duchamp must have found his sexual identity to be a blurred subject. Duchamp tirelessly explored the peripherals of his existence. Under a self-critical lens the object of seduction becomes holographic with even just the consistency of a mirage, Selave’ Mi Amore.

The readymade, for example, serves as an icon for the iconoclast standing at the cusp of peripheral expansion, polemic sensibility, and the genius found in simple human observation. The readymade does outsmart the spectator, and the voyeur, every time indeed. This is not a sport, nor a peepshow, of course! The engaged artist, thinker, esthete, will, however, know the temporal configuration present before them as the other to those brute and nickel value shows, and not simply by posture but by the resonant eminence of such object sensibility.

It does in fact exist to stir posterity rather than “ridicule”, like polemics: (Nietzsche before dogma, Camus before the universe, and even now Slavoj Zizek to Hegel and Deleuze, Jean Baudrillard to all of reality, STELLARC to the human body) to dispute positive reasons of value by excising the frivolous resources of wordplay and the serial sensation of contingent ambiguity supplemental to delusions of archetypical grandeur.

In the sense that the creative act interested Duchamp more than the work of art resulting from it he seemed to find there, in the process, a resolve that could not exist in the form itself. It is insufficient in representing such depths of the human being, it all becomes fable there, as the tale of Adam and Eve, “The other according to his own constituted sense, points to me myself” [3] however the reflected is not quite as suspected, “the other is a mirroring of my own self and not a mirroring proper, an analogue of my own self and yet again not an analogue in the usual sense” [3]. Works such as these words, of Edmund Husserl, proliferate in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Subjects that would perhaps be best described by the title of Deleuze and Guattari’s work: ‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia [2]” So the way in which Picasso forbore decontructivism with analytic cubism, I would propose Duchamp aesthetisized late capitalism’s absolute presence across the surface of all forms and the human delirium reflected upon their surface.

For Newman, I would like to read him through Camus, or vice versa- “…Anger and awe at his tragic state, at his own self-awareness and at his own helplessness before the void [1].” Like Albert Camus’ ‘Rebel’ or his ‘Myth of Sisyphus’, the universe remains silent to all questions and the autonomous explorer wonders is this life worth living then? Then why, what is there then? It’s like a tragic love, “All that I want is you, and yet, I cannot have you so I am left with nothing; and worse, I am further condemned to see you everywhere through everything.” Newman as an artist can peer out into that space, can create a perceivable absence with his work. What is truly tragic and defiant about