Foucault's Philosophy of Art: A Genealogy of Modernity (Philosophy, Aesthetics and Cultural Theory)
Joseph J. Tanke
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Foucault's Philosophy of Art: A Genealogy of Modernity tells the story of how art shed the tasks with which it had traditionally been charged in order to become modern. Joseph J. Tanke offers the first complete examination of Michel Foucault's reflections on visual art, tracing his thought as it engages with the work of visual artists from the seventeenth century to the contemporary period.
The book offers a concise and accessible introduction to Foucault's frequently anthologized, but rarely understood, analyses of Diego Velázquez's Las Meninas and René Magritte's Ceci n'est pas une pipe. On the basis of unpublished lecture courses and several un-translated analyses of visual art, Tanke reveals the uniquely genealogical character of Foucault's writings on visual culture, allowing for new readings of his major texts in the context of contemporary Continental philosophy, aesthetic and cultural theory. Ultimately Tanke demonstrates how Foucault provides philosophy and contemporary criticism with the means for determining a conception of modern art.
University Press, 1977). Les mots et les choses: Une archéologie des sciences humaines (Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1966). ‘Le jeu de Michel Foucault,’ in DE2, 298–329. ‘Les mots et les images,’ in DE1, 648–651. ‘Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,’ in LCMP, 139–164. ‘Nietzsche, la généalogie, l’histoire,’ in DE1, 1004–1024. xiv ABBREVIATIONS OGE OT PB PM PP PE QRP QV SP SSS ST TNP TP UP WE ‘On the Genealogy of Ethics,’ in EST, 253–280. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences
along with its shape and dimensionality. The internal dynamics of the composition are almost entirely given over to the challenge of pulling three 67 FOUCAULT’S PHILOSOPHY OF ART dimensions out of two. Orthogonal lines, spirals, right angles and tonal shadings configure a geometrical space that replaces the twodimensional surface from which the representation springs. Histories of Renaissance art situate this discovery of linear perspective in the highly politicized world of the Italian
demonstrating how these controversies were badly formulated, neglecting the ways in which this aesthetic change was replete with ethical implications for the practice of representation. His account of these canvases is schematic, touching briefly upon the controversies generated by them. This reflects the methodological direction inherent in construing a painting as an event. While such information is indeed important, the archaeological point of view endeavors first to describe the rupture of
escape—narrative, visibility, representation, and identification. He describes the maneuvers by which the medium was experimentally distorted, to supply the viewer with intimations of the forces of thought and emotion residing outside of representation’s visibility. Nothing could be closer to Foucault’s experience of philosophy. As we have seen, such escapes are made possible with recourse to the archive. For this reason, Michals is understood as a photographer who overturns the conventions of
and without him having to change or alter his being as subject. (HER, 17) The ‘Cartesian moment’ is this severing of the rapport between truth and what Foucault understands as spirituality, that is, the work that one must perform on the self to make oneself worthy of the truth. In philosophical terms, the Cartesian moment is the revaluation of two principles, the gnōthi seauton (know yourself) and the epimeleia heautou (care for yourself). While the former is much more familiar to us today, the