Melville on Fried’s Art and Objecthood

Just thought I’d reference Stephen Melville here (in “Art and Objecthood: A Lecture” delivered for the MACBA in 2007), simply because I like the argument and direct rhetoric, plus it nails a solid reading of Art and Objecthood.

If you’re wondering, yes, it’s for another essay on OOO and Fried.

“One standard way art history and art criticism alike have tried to erase this difficulty is by embracing its descriptive force while rejecting a judgement Fried is believed to have derived from it. It’s important to see early on in one’s dealings with’Art and Objecthood’ that this is not in fact possible. The essay is not a description followed by a judgement but description through and through, with judgement simply continuous with that description. If I describe a cat to you, what I describe is a cat, and you are not free to say in response “I accept your description but will nonetheless choose to call it a dog”. If you persist in calling it a dog, I don’t really know how to continue our conversation. But I do know that if several years later you come to me and say, “Burglars broke in and took everything, and the dog didn’t do a damn thing to stop them!”, my sympathy for you will be limited at best. I say this because it has apparently not been obvious to many readers that the essay does in fact work this way – that it is nothing more than a description of Fried’s experience of a certain body of work, in which he evidently does not take that experience as merely his own, and, indeed, finds it continued and affirmed in the words of the artists themselves (which are then cited in the essay, not as evidence in an argument but as extensions of Fried’s description). The ongoing fate of the essay suggests that the experience to which he gives voice remains recognizable by its readers, even when they imagine themselves at odds with its conclusions.”

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