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Title: Sculpture's Condition / Conditions of Publicness: Isa Genzken and Thomas Hirschhorn
Authors: Lee, Lisa
Advisors: Doherty, Brigid
Contributors: Art and Archaeology Department
Keywords: Contemporary Art
Isa Genzken
Joseph Beuys
Public Sphere
Thomas Hirschhorn
Subjects: Art history
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: In a moment when sculpture's generic specificity and political and aesthetic validity seem increasingly in doubt, Isa Genzken (b. 1948) and Thomas Hirschhorn (b. 1957) persist in making works explicitly situated in relation to the history of sculpture. They do so even if, or precisely because, continuing to make sculpture has entailed radically redefining that medium and its potential meanings in the public sphere. My dissertation maps the work of Genzken and Hirschhorn at the intersection of sculpture's materialization, mystification, and extension in the hands of Beuys; its dematerialization in the 1970s; and its avant-garde legacy of failed utopian potential. Overlaying that map is a second, in which I consider the particular urgency of sculptural practice in the context of ongoing post-war reconstruction in Germany and of the discourse about <italic>Öffentlichkeit</italic> (the public sphere) that began to take shape in the early-1960s, initiated by the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas (b. 1929) with his epochal 1962 book <italic>Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit: Untersuchungen zu einer Kategorie der bürgerlichen Gesellschaft</italic>, and revised and extended by sociologist Oskar Negt (b. 1934) and writer and filmmaker Alexander Kluge (b. 1932) in their co-authored works, namely, <italic>Öffentlichkeit und Erfahrung. Zur Organisations-analyse von bürgerlicher und proletarischer Öffentlichkeit</italic> (1972) and <italic>Geschichte und Eigensinn: Geschichtliche Organisation der Arbeitsvermögen -- Deutschland als Produktionsöffentlichkeit -- Gewalt des Zusammenhangs</italic> (1981). At the core of both Genzken's and Hirschhorn's projects are questions about the possibility and conditions of publicness and of the status of human subjects within and formed by publicness--questions that are perhaps best addressed by the three-dimensional quality of sculpture. In distinct ways, Genzken and Hirschhorn exploit the sculptural object's proximity to the monument (and architecture more generally), the commodity, and the human figure to explore the potentials for, and hindrances to, collective meaning production. How does one maintain utopian possibilities in the present, they ask, while reckoning with the promises and failures of the historical avant-garde of the early 20th century? Is it possible to enact sculpture's full materialization and yet resist reification? What is an adequate artistic response to the historical predicaments of the period--advanced capitalism, mediation, terrorism, imperialism, for example? Does there remain an experiencing and expressive subject in which such a critical response might be rooted? Is a unified or “universal” public sphere imaginable? And, more to the point, would it be desirable? My aim in this dissertation is to understand the difference of Genzken's and Hirschhorn's approaches to the possibilities of publicness as related to, and expressed in, the possibilities of sculpture.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Art and Archaeology

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