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DerridastheoryofDeconstructionbelongstoPostmodernCultureasuncertaintyand

selfawarenessarenowtheissueathandratherthantasteandbeautyandthis
redefinesournotionofaestheticjudgment.Theoutcomeofourappraisalofany
artworkdependsonwhatperspectivewechoosetojudgeitfromandDeconstruction
isjustsuchaviewpoint.ThecriticalnatureofDeconstructioninconjunctionwith
Postmodernismwasfedbytheradicalredefinitionofartinthe1960sand1970sand
branchedoffintovarioustrajectoriesofselfexamination.OneoftheseisPost
ColonialismwhichwewillexplorethroughAustralianartistGordonBennett'sNotes
toBasquiat(JacksonPollockandhisOther),2001.

Philosophersaimtodefinetheconditionsoftruth,knowledgeandourrelationtothe
world.Deconstructionpinpointsthefactthattheirrelationtotheirownlanguageis
partoftheproblem.PhilosophyisaseriesofcontradictionsandDeconstructionhasas
itsaimtoexposethis.IthasasitsaidthetheoryofSemioticsthatfocusesonour
relationtolanguageandthemannerinwhichthisrelationshipmanipulatesour
conceptionofreality.Oncehavingrevealedtheparadoxesoflifeandtheoxymoronic
natureofreasoning,Deconstructionproceedstoexposetheinherenthierarchiesof
logicandtotheninversethem.Theeffectsofthisistodisrupttheestablishedand
acceptedcanonsofreason,logicandtruthwhichtogetherfromthebasisof
philosophyitself.Thisisreflectedinorperhapsaproductofthisageofuncertainty
whereselfawarenessratherthanbeautydrawsourfocusinthearts.Asweliveina
continuallyevolvingworld,wordstheirconnotation,useandevendefinitionmust
adaptandthus,notionssuchasaestheticslikewisechange.

Letusheredefineaestheticjudgmentasaconscious,trainedanalysisofvisualworks
thatoverridesourprimaryreactiontosaidwork.Itisourcriticalappraisalofthework
anddependsonwhatpointofviewwearechoosingtojudgeitfrom;Deconstruction
isjustsuchaviewpointandiswonderfullyadaptedtoourfracturedage.

Derridaarguesthattherhetoricoflanguage,whichformstheclaimsofphilosophy,is
simplyameansofexpressingitsdiscourse.Thethreatofwriting,asopposedtooral
discourse,liesintheinevitabilityofitsaffectingtheverymeaningofwhatit
representswhichisthought;therealmofphilosophy.Writingismerelyamediating
[system]throughwhichthoughtiscommunicated[That]presentslanguageasa
seriesofphysicalmarksthatoperateintheabsenceofthespeaker.1Theseclaimscan
beinterpretedsothattextbecomesartworkandphysicalmarkthebrushstroke
onacanvasormarkofchiselonstone.Theoratorisnowtheartistandthefutilityof
writingistranslatedintotheveryrealandeverpresentthreatofmisreadingaworkof
art;theartistsintent;symbolism(whichmakesupthelanguageofart)etc.

Art,likephilosophy,isasearchfortruth,differingintermsofaccessibilityand
audience,althoughsometimestheseconverge.Ifanything,thefineartsaremore
adeptalanguageforexpressingthoughtandemotionasitappealsdirectlytothemind
oftheviewerwithoutthepresenceofthewrittenwordtointercedeitsmeaning
(unlessathesisisrequiredtoexplaintheartwork).Unlikephilosophicaldiscourse,the

1 Jonathan Culler, On Deconstruction: theory and Criticism after


Structuralism (Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., Great Britain), 1983, 91
artistsneednotbepresentfortheviewertofullyappreciatethesubject;artis
subjectiveandismeantforpersonalinterpretation.Whereasthethreatofwritingis
thatitsveryexistenceasamodeofexpressionanddemonstrationisenoughtoaffect
thecoremeaningofwhatitrepresents,artoffersamoredirectcontemplation.
Thedangerofartasameansofexpressionliesinthepossibilityofanartistslackof
skillintransparentlydepictingwhatitistheymeantoexpress.Asaforementioned,art
isopentovariousinterpretationswithoutthisstrictlymeaningthatitisbeing
misinterpreted,itispersonalinthemakingandsubjectiveinthereceiving.However,
onedoesrequireofartiststobewellversedintheartofsensibilitytomaximizethe
potentialforthoughtandemotiontobetransmittedclearlytotheviewerthrough
visualmeans.TheadventofFormalismanditselitistfocusontechnicalconcernsand
theprerogativeoftheartistasanindividualcausedabacklashthatresultedintheshift
offocusfromtraditionalskilltoanallinvadingselfawareness.Ashiftinthe
communicativestrategiesofartistswasthusrequired.

AllradicalelementspertainingtoartisticmovementsthatreactedagainstModernist
artinfactcarriedonanddevelopeditstraditionofassaultingaudiencesintherefusal
tobepassivelyaccepted,anattitudeborneinthehopethatthepublicwouldusethe
energyoftheirangergeneratedbysuchinsulttoseeandquestiontheirownpassivity.
ThiscanbefoundinPopArtsadulationoftheuglyorlowbrowandembraceofthe
consumernatureofourculture,exemplifiedinWarholsBrilloBoxseries(1964)that
directlyreplicateacommercialpackaging,transformingamundaneproductintoa
desirablecommodity.ThiswouldresurfacewithPostmodernisminthe1980swiththe
likesofJeffKoonsundeniablykitschsculpturessuchasMichaelJacksonand
Bubbles(1988)whoseonlyconcernsareitsaccessibilityandtheculturalevocationit
willproduceinitsaudience,almostliketelevision,Itellastorythatiseasyfor
anyonetoenterintoandonsomeleveltoenjoy.2
Thelate1960ssawtheDeathofArtthatcametoberepeatedlyclaimedoverthe
followingdecades.Nonartannouncedtheendofartduetothefactthatitwas
boundbyitsownmateriality;artthatwasnotart,orelseamemorandumtoart,was
producednotoutofhatredbutratherasameansofprotection.MelRamsdensSecret
Painting(196768)isaprimeexampleinthattheartistrefusedtoallowhisworktobe
commodifiedbytheviewerorowned,inessence,bytheartworld.Inordertoachieve
thisfreedom,heverysimplywithheldthesubjectmatterfromthemall.
MinimalismsawtheseparationofpracticefromtheanthropologicalaspectofModern
art.Conceptualartsimplyrefusedtofulfillaudienceexpectationsofentertainment
andPerformanceart,sometimesthroughaudienceinvolvement,usedinterventionto
openthepossibilityofaworkhavingmultiplemeanings.
Together,theseradicalelementsformtheconditioningofPostmodernculture;the
questioningofthemeaningofartandwhythemesofminordiscourseareconsidered
oflessimportancethanthegreatartistictraditionshandeddownbytheMasters.

2 Koons, Howard Fox, Avant-Garde in the 80s (The Post-Avant-


Garde: Painting in the Eighties, Art & Design, Great Britain), 1987,
29
ThePostmodernworldischaracterizedbytheidentificationandmanipulationofthe
universalgeneticcode3,meaningthatitisfragmented,aestheticallyspeaking.Itis
comprisedofsubculturesbasedonaestheticprinciplesthatadhereto,varyonor
revoltagainstthepast.Thereisnoculturaltheorytointegratethem.Oncetheradical
elementsofthevariousartmovementsthatresultedfromthebacklashagainst
Formalismwereabsorbedintotheartmarket,artistswereleftwithendlessquestions
regardingthemselvesandtheirpractice.Societyhadbecomesoengrossedwiththe
notionofindividualitythatthestrivetoexpressthis;toassertauthenticity,originality
orattheveryleastaringingstatement,becamethesoleunifier.Thoughtheneedto
revoltagainstinstitutionshadalmostbecameagiven,themostoutrageousisnow
acceptedandimplementedwithincontemporaryartinstitutions.Allthatisleftis
questions,butmoreimportantly,theabilityandfreedomtoquestion.Thisiswhere
Deconstructiontiesintocontemporaryartbothaestheticallyandphilosophicallyforit
offersusthealternativeofcreatingorreadingintoanyworkanywhichwaywelike,
asmanytimesaswelike.

Logocentrism,theideathatmeaningispresentorintrinsicinaword,imageortext
isaculturaldesire.IttiesintotheageolddelusiondatingfromPlatoofthe
metaphysicsofpresence;thelongingfortruth,essenceandmeaningtobecontained
withinobjects.Derridarepealsthisnotionbyclaimingthattherecanbenofixed,
mediatedaccesstoknowledge.IlnyapasdhorstextewhichtranslatestoThere
isnothingoutsidethetext4isnotDerridasdenialofreality,rather,itissimplyhis
pointingtothefactthatthereisnofixedmeaningorultimatetruth.
ThekeyconceptofDerridaisthatofdiffrance,or,deferment;thatlanguageisa
networkofintervalsanddelays,thatmeaningisendlesslydeferredasthesignifier
becomesyetanothersignifier.Itistheintrinsicoppositionatworkineachtextthat
leadstoitdeconstructingitselfbytakingthesurfacesignificationandbreakingit
downintoseveralsimultaneouslayersofmeaning.Thereareinfinitereadingsofany
onetextasPostmodernismhasshiftedthefocusawayfromtheobjectitselftoits
culturalmeaning5.ThePostmodernconditionhasfragmentedthenatureofthe
signifierandsoDeconstructionhasbecomeanobjective,involuntaryprocessthat
accompaniesouraestheticappraisalofanyartworkalmostintuitively.

PostColonialismisthecritiqueoftheexploitativelogicofColonialismandrelates
backtoDeconstructionandPostmodernismthroughculturalrelativism.Australiaisat
theheartofthePostColonialdebateduetoahistoryimbruedwithgenocideandthe
subsequentdisplacementofanentirepeopleandtheirculture.Themesandissuesthat
pivotaroundthedominantroleofWesterncultureintheconstructionofcultural
identityhavefoundamodeofexpressionintheartworkofGordonBennett.
GroundedinhisownpersonalstruggleforidentityasanAustralianofAboriginaland
AngloCelticdescent,heengagescriticallywithAustraliascolonialpastand
postcolonialpresent.HisNotestoBasquiat(JacksonPollockandhisOther)of2001
representsthehighpointofappropriationinitsuseofsignsandsymbolspertainingto
3 Norman F. Cantor, Twentieth-Century Culture: Modernism to
Deconstruction (Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., New York), 1988, 345
4 Derrida, Bill Readings, Introducing Lyotard: Art and Politics
(Routledge, London), 1991, 5
5 Norman F. Cantor, Ibid, 356-364
popularculturetolayerthethemespresentinthework.Itisapaintingofmassive
scalethatisstructuredalmostasatriptych.Commencingitsreadingfromtheleft,we
areconfrontedwithimageryof9/11inthestyleofBasquiatwithredIslamicwriting
thattranslatestoInthenameofAllah,thebeneficent,themerciful,asayingused
beforeagooddead.BennettsappropriationofBasquiatsstyle,thefirstblack
superstartoarriveontheNewYorkartsceneinthe1960s,tiesinthesemultiple
elementsandthusthefirstsectioncanbeinterpretedasacommentontheprevalent
prejudicetowardsculturesotherthanallwhiteAmerican.Themiddlesectionofthe
paintinghasBennettappropriatinghimself,utilizingapaintingdonewhilstanart
studentandsuperimposingtwofiguresfromImmantsTillersThePersistenceof
Language(1987)uponit,alinktodeconstructionandsemioticsinthewaylanguage
controlsanddefinesourperceptionofreality.Thethirdandfinalsectionisan
appropriationofJacksonPollocksBluePoles:NumberII(1952)andsohisdiscourse
onculturalidentity,exploredinaninternationalcontext,isthrownbackagainstan
Australianbackdrop,forBluePolesissymbolicofaneraofreforminAustralian
politics.ThepurchaseofthisartworkbytheWhitlamLaborGovernmenthadbeena
controversialissueastheAustralianpublicconsideredthepurchasepriceexorbitant
andso,Pollockispresentedasacatalystfortransformation.Bennettsappropriation
ofBasquiat,ImmantsTiller,Pollockandevenhisownworkparadoxicallyestablish
anaffinitybetweeneachandall.Theyderivefromthesamesource,areproducedin
thesameeraandcoincidewiththefirstsuccessfulforaysofblackandcolonized
culturesintoModernism.Bennettsconcernwithsignsisnotintheirinadequacyin
representingreality,butintheirpowertostageideologiesastheyarticulatethe
unconsciousofacultureratherthanitseveryday.

AsanaesthetictheorypertainingtoPostmodernism,Deconstructionenablesusto
slicethroughthehistoryofartandlaybareallpreconceivednotion,forcingusto
examineeveryaspectofourrelationtotheworld,tothenotionofcultureandeach
other.ItsuseofSemioticshasdeepenedourselfawareness,aswearenowconscious
ofouruseofsignsandtheirpowerofmanipulation.GordonBennettscritical
examinationofPostColonialisminhispaintingNotestoBasquiat(JacksonPollock
andhisOther),2001exemplifiestheeffectDeconstructionhashadonourthoughts
andsubsequently,ourbehavior.

(2,123words)
Bibliography:

Books

Bennett, Gordon / McLean, Ian, The Art of Gordon Bennett,


Craftsman House, Australia, 1996

Cantor, Norman F., Twentieth-Century Culture: Modernism to


Deconstruction, Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., New York, 1988

Culler, Jonathan, On Deconstruction: Theory and Criticism after


Structuralism, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., Great Britain, 1983

Readings, Bill, Introducing Lyotard: Art and Politics, Routledge,


London, 1991

Sandler, Irving, Art of the Postmodern Era: From the Late 1960s to
the early 1990s, HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., New York, 1996

Catalogues:

Gellatly, Kelley, Gordon Bennett, National Gallery of Victoria, 2007

Magazines:

The Post-Avant-Garde: Painting in the Eighties, Art & Design, Great


Britain, 1987
- Howard Fox, Avant-Garde in the 80s

Websites:

http://www.greenaway.com.au/Artists/GordonBennett.html#Essay3
- IanMclean,911(withApologiestoWalterBenjamin),2002
- GregDimitriadis&CameronMcCarthy,UrbanRenewal:GordonBennett's
NotestoBasquiat(911),2002
- IanMcLean,GordonBennett'sabstractart:theaestheticsofcommitmentand
indifference,2004
- IanMcLean,WhoisJohnCitizen?,2006
- IanMcLean,Therestlesscosmopolitan,2008

DeconstructionistTheory,TheCambridgeHistoryofLiteraryCriticismvol.8From
FormalismtoPoststructuralism(CambridgeUniversityPress,1995),
http://prelectur.stanford.edu/lecturers/derrida/rorty.html