Vladimir Umanets, founder of the art movement Yellowism ‘defaced’ one of Rothko’s Seagram murals earlier this month. Mr Umanets compared himself with Duchamp and said that “art allows us to take what someone’s done and put a new message on it.”
His act has mostly provoked anger in the art community- perhaps rightly so. However, on what do we base our consternation?
Contemporary art theory espouses ideas grounded in the Death Theses of Foucault and Barthes. In essence a work’s author has no bearing on its meaning. Moreover, Gadamer following Heidegger, spoke of the ‘effective history of the work’- that a work has constantly changing meanings over different times, and generations etc. Effectively, as Barthes put it- we have a birth of the viewer- meaning resides here.
From this foundation, where do art critics base their anger? The work is not ‘owned’ by Rothko.On what basis do say when a work is finished? It is no longer the artist’s decision. Perhaps Umanets was completing it. If art critics were upset solely on the basis of vandalism and ownership- in the same league as graffitti on a privtae building’s wall, then their response would be appropriate. However, the uproar is based on the work being something ontologically different- it’s a “Rothko.”
How will restorers clean it? By matching it to how Rothko originally left it.
In practice the artist is alive and well and his or her intentions do matter.
Intentism is one of the fastest growing art movements. Intentists are artists, writers, musicians, philosophers and actors. They maintain that all meaning is the imperfect outworking of intention.
Look at http://www.intentism.com for artworks, articles, debates and interviews.
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