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Art and EmbodimentFrom Aesthetics to Self-Consciousness$
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Paul Crowther

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780199244973

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199244973.001.0001

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Alienation and Disalienation in Abstract Art

Alienation and Disalienation in Abstract Art

(p.48) 3 Alienation and Disalienation in Abstract Art
Art and Embodiment

Paul Crowther

Oxford University Press

To be alienated is to be estranged from something. In the case of abstract art, its critics have held that such works are alienated in the sense of embodying a flight from reality into a vacuous realm of theory, which renders them unintelligible to the majority of people. This chapter argues that the former claim is true only in a restricted sense, and that, if freed from this restriction, the latter claim need not apply. Section I outlines a theory of alienation inspired by Schiller, but derived substantially from Merleau-Ponty and Hegel, with some nods towards Marx and Heidegger. Section II relates this to the theoretical justifications offered by some abstract artists for their work, and suggests that, whilst such theories do indeed involve an element of alienation, this is irrelevant from an aesthetic point of view. Section III argues further that, grounded in terms of a complex notion of aesthetic experience, abstract artworks actually turn out to be disalienating in both ontological and political terms.

Keywords:   abstract art, alienation, Merleau-Ponty, Hegel, aesthetic experience

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