Kuspit on Conceptualism and tragic beauty

To put this a different way, if Pop art can be understood as high art’s homage and submission to popular culture, in acknowledgement that it was better to join an enemy with which one could not compete than be slaughtered, then Conceptual art can be understood as high art’s suicide in acknowledgement not only of its psychosocial irrelevance but also its meaninglessness. Its need to be taken over and supplanted by philosophy — Hegel thought this was inevitable, that is, consciousness, knowing itself, would become a matter of pure ideas in no need of materialization to become self-evident — follows from its loss of purpose in the modern world. Art was beside the point of modern life — it could never feel secure in an age of science and technology — but philosophy was never beside the point, because it always had the last word, like some deus ex machina. If the owl of philosophy flies at dusk, as has been said, then the philosophicalization of art that occurs in Conceptual art symbolizes the night that is falling on art.

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