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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: art and social experience: our changing outlook on culture
(Summer-Fall, 1975)

Dickie, George
Symposium on Marxist aesthetic thought: commentary on the papers by Rudich, San Juan, and Morawski,   pp. 230-233 PDF (3.6 MB)

Page 232

Scene from A Funeral Dirge for an American Soldier,
created by Andre Benedetto for the peace movement.
Photo by Frances Ashley.
Professor Morawski's paper is quite different
from the other two papers in that until shortly
before the end of the paper, there is no clue
that it has any relation to marxism. In fact,
I think the paper would have been more suc-
cessful if the rather vague marxist speculation
at the end had been left off and Morawski's
very penetrating analysis of the nature of
anti-art developed at greater length. Let me
note parenthetically that Morawski's paper
would have made a very nice contribution to
the American Society for Aesthetics sym-
posium on anti-art last year at the Sarasota
Professor Morawski's paper divides into four
parts. In the first part he discusses the chal-
lenge to and rejecting of art by the avant-
garde. In the second part he explains why
this challenge and rejection fails. In the third
part Morawski purports to see the anti-art of
the avant-garde as a development within
affluent, post-industrial societies which signals
a desire "to go beyond the society and art
of class-conflicted industrial society," a
desire which fails because the avant-garde
lacks "constructive alternatives." In the
fourth (very brief) part he seems to be saying
that marxism provides the constructive alter-
native to the desire expressed by the avant-
garde (the desire to go beyond the society
and art of class-conflicted industrial society),
an alternative which will integrate work and
I have no quarrel with the first two parts of
Prof. Morawski's paper. I believe he is right
that the avant-garde fails to kill art and that
its own creations turn out to be art. Harold
Rosenberg put this matter nicely when he
wrote (and I used this quote at Sarasota-and
I shall perhaps find an occasion to use it
again): "Painting today is a profession one of
whose aspects is the pretense of overthrowing
it. Once the vanguard myth has faded, the
pretense that art is engaged in self-immola-
tion will have to be dropped."
When I get to the third part of the paper,
I have a difficult time ascertaining how much
of a quarrel I have with it because at this
point it becomes very loose and vague. How
do we know that anti-art involves a desire
to go beyond the society and art of class-
conflicted society? Some of the Dadaists
seem to have had such desires, if their public
statements are to be believed. But what have
happenings and conceptual art to do with
class-conflict? A given happening might
involve radical political elements-guerrilla
theatre, for example-but happenings as such

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