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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 07 | volume II | February-March, 1999



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                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 07February-March, 1999
Essays

Art Criticism and Self-reference

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p. 1
Suzana Milevska

    The text that you are reading at this moment is self-referential in double manner: it concerns the problem of self-reference and criticism on theoretical level and, at the same time, since I am an art critic myself, it deals with the practice of criticism as well. It is a kind of critique of the criticism.
    It might sound like cutting the branch on which one is sitting, a heroic act, when I criticize the critics who while attempting to find a new methodology of criticism, more adequate to the arts, merged in the field of art – in fact, I am doing exactly the same. Still, it seems necessary to point to the possible danger if the equation is made between art and art criticism: it does not necessarily mean that the new kind of critique that would be more creative is not needed, especially in the time of the flourishing of the new media but it is only a call for a kind of precocious attitude toward the artistic criticism.
    At this moment there is a strong tendency that tries to challenge the distinction between art and art criticism arguing that the critical writing should also become artistic – self-conscious as the art itself. This orientation is not anything new and related only to postmodernism: it is a tradition going back to Schlegel, Wilde, Benjamin and Barthes. What I am trying to clarify with this essay is the need for a distinction between the calls for a more creative critique in the modernism and the notion of creative and self-conscious critical writing within the deconstructive discourse.
    One of the crucial points to make in order to distinguish the presupposed changes is the different approach that the various critical tendencies had toward the self-referentiallity. the most problematized issue by the critics of modernism was the problem of the (in)adequacy of the image to its referent. According to Craig Owens “modernist theory presupposes that mimesis, the adequation of an image to a referent can be bracketed or suspended, and that the art object itself can be substituted (metaphorically) for its referent…”[1]
    Furthermore, Owens finds the postmodernists' approach toward the reference different because it does not negate the referent but it problematizes the activity of the reference. It is not easy to bring arguments in favor of this assertion because it is not very clear if deconstruction is not based exactly on self-reference as Paul de

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1. Owens, Craig, “The Allegorical Impulse: Toward a Theory of Postmodernism”, October 12 (1980), p. 84






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