its forms of isolation, obsessive examination and intensive deconstruction,
the practice itself embodies the form it abhors, taking us ever farther
from the body and the world.
The prevailing attitude in the art world is shaped by this mood of intense
and suspicious regard. As may be imagined, in such a climate, visual
art has a rough ride. Throughout the 20th century, as the practice of
artmaking itself was increasingly called into question, talking and
writing about art came to be of more value than the works themselves.
In the words of writer and critic Bram Dijkstra, “contemporary
culture has learned to glorify concepts of expression over expression
itself. This realm of art as theory has become a fail safe formula for
the intellectual identification of what is art…” [Dijkstra,
100] Not only was art made subject to the discourse, within this framework
the discourse itself became art – a self-referencing cycle of
discourse on discourse.
Artworks themselves were particularly suspect, subject to intense deconstruction
as antiocular fervor raced through the cultural world like a virus.
The anti-visual was at the core of the new feminist critique, as vision
was deemed to be essentially objectifying. Vision and visual art were
considered specifically representative of Western, male-dominated, imperialistic
practice, while at the same time, works that suggested an embodied,
sensual, or essential, relationship with the world, or nature, were
particularly suspect and harshly criticized. While the intention of
this critique has merit, it relies heavily on maintaining the convention
of the mind/body split and actually reinforces existing systems of dominance