Introduction: What Is Art/Culture and Why Should You Be Against It?

  • Liam Dee


The Introduction begins by examining the definitional ambiguity surrounding ‘art’ and its cognate ‘culture’; how all manner of exercises in purported clarification fail to clarify what ‘art’ is and often even reinforce the ambiguity. In contrast I coin the concept ‘art/culture’ to describe the overlapping territory of creative excess and idolised subjectivity. Having established ‘art/culture’ the issue then becomes why it is so hard to find a definitive critique of it and why such a critique is necessary. A brief survey of hesitant criticisms, which always explicitly avoid a total condemnation of art/culture, is undertaken along with the outline of my own criticism: that art/culture generates an ideological fantasy of perpetual revolution and self-realisation while reproducing exploitative relations and impoverishing the resources of imagination and creative subjectivity.


  1. Adelson, Rachel. 2005. Hues and Views: A Cross-Cultural Study Reveals How Language Shapes Color Perception. American Psychological Association: Monitor on Psychology 36 (2). Accessed 15 Nov 2013.
  2. Adorno, Theodor. 1990. Negative Dialectics. Trans. E.B. Ashton. New York: Continuum.Google Scholar
  3. Angier, Natalie. 2008. Political Animals (Yes Animals). The New York Times, January 22. Accessed 1 Feb 2014.
  4. Antin, Eleanor. 2007. Questionnaire: Eleanor Antin. Frieze: Contemporary Art and Culture 105: 204–204.Google Scholar
  5. Badiou, Alain. (1997) 2005. The Subject of Art. The Symptom: Online Journal for Accessed 18 May 2005.
  6. Baudrillard, Jean. 2005. The Conspiracy of Art: Manifestos, Interviews, Essays, ed. Sylvère Lotringer. Trans. Ames Hodges. New York: Semiotext(e).Google Scholar
  7. Benton, Tim. 1990. Dreams of Machines: Futurism and l’Esprit Nouveau. Journal of Design History 3 (1): 19–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Berger, John. 1972. Ways of Seeing: Based on the BBC Television Series. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  9. Berman, Marshall. 1982. All That Is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  10. Bourdieu, Pierre. (1992) 1996. The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field. Trans. Susan Emanuel. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  11. Bowie, Andrew. 2002. Confessions of a ‘New Aesthete’: A Response to the ‘New Philistines’. In The Philistine Controversy, ed. Dave Beech and John Roberts, 73–102. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  12. Boyd, Brian. 2009. On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction. Cambridge: Belknap Press.Google Scholar
  13. Bürger, Peter. 1991. Aporias of Modern Aesthetics. Trans. Ben Morgan. In Thinking Art: Beyond Traditional Aesthetics, ed. Andrew Benjamin and Peter Osborne, 3–15. London: Institute of Contemporary Arts.Google Scholar
  14. Case, Douglas. 2008. Rothko Paint-by-Numbers Large Mug. Cafe Press. Accessed 29 July 2013.
  15. Cassar, Ignaz. 2008. How to Use Parasites: Notes on Contemporary Art, Curating and the Work of the Context. Parallax 14 (4): 30–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cornwell, Lisa. 2007. Whammo! Comics Get Respectable. The Canberra Times, December 31: 14.Google Scholar
  17. Danta, Chris, and Dimitris Vardoulakis. 2008. The Political Animal. SubStance 37 (3): 3–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Danto, Arthur C. 2013. What Art Is. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Dickie, George. 1993. A Tale of Two Artworlds. In Danto and His Critics, ed. Mark Rollins, 73–78. Cambridge: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  20. Dutton, Denis. 2009. The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure and Human Evolution. New York: Bloomsbury Press.Google Scholar
  21. Eagleton, Terry. 1990. The Ideology of the Aesthetic. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  22. Eco, Umberto. 1986. Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages. Trans. Hugh Bredin. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Faber, Sebastiaan. 2004. The Trope as Trap: Ideology Revisited. Culture, Theory & Critique 45 (2): 133–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fennell, Francis L. 1971. The Verdict in Whistler v. Ruskin. The Victorian Newsletter 40: 17–21.Google Scholar
  25. Frow, John. 1995. Cultural Studies and Cultural Value. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  26. Gadamer, Hans-Georg. 1984. Truth and Method. New York: Crossroad.Google Scholar
  27. Gamboni, Dario. 1997. The Destruction of Art: Iconoclasm and Vandalism Since the French Revolution. London: Reaktion Books.Google Scholar
  28. Gimpel, Jean. 1991. Against Art and Artists. Edinburgh: Polygon.Google Scholar
  29. Giry, Stéphanie. 2002. An Odd Bird. Legal Affairs. Accessed 16 Oct 2013.
  30. Guillory, John. 1993. Cultural Capital: The Problem of Literary Canon Formation. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Holden, John. 2006. Cultural Value and the Crisis of Legitimacy: Why Culture Needs a Democratic Mandate. London: Demos.Google Scholar
  32. Horne, Donald. 2004. Broadening the Idea: Talking About Culture Without Talking About ‘Culture’. Overland 174: 92–100.Google Scholar
  33. Hugh, Bredin. 1996. Onomatopoeia as a Figure and a Linguistic Principle. New Literary History 27 (3): 555–569.Google Scholar
  34. Hugh, Bredin. 1996. Onomatopoeia as a Figure and a Linguistic Principle. New Literary History 27 (3): 555–569.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kollwitz, Käthe, and Frida Kahlo (Guerrilla Girls). 2012. Interview by Suzanne Donisthorpe. Books and Arts Daily, ABC Radio National, May 23.Google Scholar
  36. Lang, Karen. 1997. The Dialectics of Decay: Rereading the Kantian Subject. The Art Bulletin 79 (3): 413–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lentricchia, Frank, and Jody McAuliffe. 2002. Groundzeroland. The South Atlantic Quarterly 101 (2): 349–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Levinson, Stephen C. 2000. Yélî Dnye and the Theory of Basic Color Terms. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 10 (l): 3–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Manetas, Miltos. 2003. Jackson Pollock by Miltos Manetas. Accessed 29 July 2013.
  40. Mansfield, Elizabeth. 2005. The New Iconoclasm. Art Journal 64 (1): 20–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Marcuse, Herbert. 1972. Negations: Essays in Critical Theory. Trans. Jeremy J. Shapiro. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  42. Metcalf, Greg. 1995. ‘If You Read It, I Wrote It’ the Anonymous Career of Comic Book Writer Paul S. Newman. Journal of Popular Culture 29 (1): 147–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Miller, Toby. 2009. From Creative to Cultural Industries. Cultural Studies 23 (1): 88–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Miranda, Caroline A. 2010. Is This Art? An iPhone App That Explains It All. (Sort of.). WNYC. Accessed 29 July 2013.
  45. 2010. Prince – Slave to His Music: Record Label Rows then a Creative Renaissance. The Mirror, July 8. Accessed 1 Feb 2014.
  46. Moretti, Franco. 2013. The Bourgeois: Between History and Literature. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  47. Neubauer, John. 1986. The Emancipation of Music from Language. Departure from Mimesis in Eighteenth-Century Aesthetics. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Pigliucci, Massimo. 2013. Steven Pinker Embraces Scientism. Bad Move, I Think. Rationally Speaking, August 12. Accessed 12 Sep 2013.
  49. Poole, Steven. 2013. Steven Poole Takes Issue with Linguist Steven Pinker’s Language. The Guardian, August 23. Accessed 12 Sep 2013.
  50. Ray, Gene. 2004. Little Glass House of Horrors: High Art Lite, the Culture Industry and Damien Hirst. Third Text 18 (2): 119–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Reynolds, Margaret. 1997. Foreword. In Clément, Catherine (1988) 1997. Opera, or the Undoing of Women. Trans. Betsy Wing, ix–xii. London: I. B. Tauris Publishers.Google Scholar
  52. Reynolds, Simon. 2005. Rip It Up and Start Again: Post-punk 1978–84. London: Faber and Faber.Google Scholar
  53. Ryan, Bill. 1992. Making Capital from Culture: The Corporate Form of Capitalist Cultural Production. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  54. Said, Edward. 1993. Culture and Imperialism. London: Chatto & Windus.Google Scholar
  55. Secrest, Meryle. 2004. Duveen: A Life in Art. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.Google Scholar
  56. Shiner, Larry. 2001. The Invention of Art: A Cultural History. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Smolin, Lee. 2013. Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.Google Scholar
  58. Sörbom, Göran. 2002. The Classical Concept of Mimesis. In A Companion to Art Theory, ed. Paul Smith and Carolyn Wilde, 19–28. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Stallabrass, Julian. 1999. High Art Lite: British Art in the 1990s. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  60. ———. 2004. Art Incorporated: The Story of Contemporary Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  61. Surowiecki, James. 2005. The Wisdom of Crowds. New York: Anchor Books.Google Scholar
  62. Tatarkiewicz, Wladyslaw. 1970. Did Aesthetics Progress? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 31 (1): 47–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. The Onion. 2009. Film About Little Guy Battling Huge, Morally Bankrupt Organization Made by Huge, Morally Bankrupt Organization. The Onion 45 (25). Accessed 18 Dec 2009.
  64. Thompson, David. 2001. No Laughing Matter. New Statesman. Accessed 19 Jan 2010.
  65. Traube, Elizabeth G. 1996. ‘The Popular’ in American Culture. Annual Review of Anthropology 25: 127–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Tymoczko, Thomas. 1984. Gödel, Wittgenstein and the Nature of Mathematical Knowledge. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 2: 449–468.Google Scholar
  67. de Waal, Frans. (1982) 2007. Chimpanzee Politics Power and Sex Among Apes. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  68. Wilkerson, Isabel. 1990. Cincinnati Jury Acquits Museum in Mapplethorpe Obscenity Case. The New York Times, October 6. Accessed 14 April 2014.
  69. Williams, Raymond. (1958) 1963. Culture and Society 1780–1950. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  70. ———. (1976) 1983. Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. London: Fontana Press.Google Scholar
  71. Zangwill, Nick. 2002. Are There Counterexamples to Aesthetic Theories of Art? The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 60 (2): 111–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Zekir, Semir. 2002. Neural Concept Formation & Art: Dante, Michelangelo, Wagner. Journal of Consciousness Studies 9 (3): 53–76.Google Scholar
  73. Žižek, Slavoj. 2011. Slavoj Žižek Speaks at Occupy Wall Street: Transcript. Impose, September 17. Accessed 2 Feb 2014.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Liam Dee
    • 1
  1. 1.Australian National University CanberraAustralia

Personalised recommendations