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Representational Theory of Art

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In the last section we noted the fact that the Imitative theory of art was in decline for various reasons from the end of the 18th century. It had however held centre stage for so long that it continued to remain part of the popular consciousness through the 19th and 20th centuries, even when the types of art being produced were manifestly not in the Imitative tradition, for example the rise of abstract art.
The Representational theory of art evolved in part as an attempt by those who still hankered after the traditional Imitative position but wished to update it to encompass more of what was actually happening. As Noel Carroll explains in his "Philosophy of Art" :
" By representation, here, is meant something that is intended to stand for something else and that is recognised by audiences as such. A portrait, for example, is intended to stand for whomever it is a portrait of, and viewers recognize it as such.This, of course, is is an example of imitation, and imitation is a subcategory of representation. However, the notion of representation is broader, since something can also stand for something else without looking like it. For example, the fleur-de-lys can stand for the royal house of Bourbon without resembling it."
He goes on to write that the Neo-representational theory of art claims :
"that in order to count as a work of art, the candidate must be about something (i.e. it must have a subject, about which it makes some comment). Moreover that which about the artwork expresses something may be the artwork itself or art in general."
For example, he writes:
"Picasso's Guernica is about something, aerial bombardment, about which it expresses horror."
Noel Carroll suggests that neo-representationalism helps in solving the problem of some modern art. For example, it would explain that the reason why Duchamp's Fountain differs from an ordinary urinal is that Duchamp's ready-made possesses aboutness. The work could be viewed as comment that artworks need not be created by the labour of the artist or that it can be viewed as a parody of a stone sculpture of a fountain.

However, I would take issue with this Neo-Representational interpretation of Duchamp. It can also be argued that Duchamp's Fountain did not differ from an ordinary urinal, was not a "comment that artworks need not be created by the labour of the artist" and was not ultimately exhibited by the artists as "a parody of a stone sculpture of a fountain". For the real intent of Duchamp I believe was a protest against the stale, unthinking artistic establishment of his day. The urinal as fountain was deliberately exhibited as anti-art which relied for it's effect entirely upon being the antithesis to the art surrounding it. As the Stuckists write: "the principle of anti-art is meaningless in the absence of art to be anti."

Stuckists would also add from their 1999 document "The First Remodernist Art Group":
"Today's art is anti-art."
"Today's art is not art. Its working methodology is to think of something which is not art and to call it art. This is exactly Duchamp's ideology."
I therefore conclude that the Neo-Representational theory of art does not in practice help to explain all the art of the C20th and certainly can't make art out of anti-art.

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