Giving "Theory" A Bad Name
"Photography Theory presents forty of the world's most active art historians and theorists, including [... names withheld to spare the guilty the embarrassment that is their due (JJ) ...] in animated debate on the nature of photography."
The book springs from a session of "The Art Seminar" which Elkins convenes. If this installment is any indication, the seminar is a conclave of windbags.
PS: (Added 9/18/07) Since some readers think I am being uncharitable, here is Elkins himself summarizing the extended seminar discussion of “indexicality” and then hoping to make a silk purse from the proverbial sow’s ear: “... I sense that there have been as many dead ends as arguments in our conversation. I don’t mean that’s a sign of failure: I take it as symptomatic ...” (155).
How is a dead end not a failure in a conversation? It is not that the participants do not reach consensus that is not a plausible or desirable aim. Their interaction does not rise to the level of an argument where, by definition participants engage one another's views in a critical, direct, open-minded way.
Of what are the dead ends symptomatic? Elkins never says. I’ve offered my assessment above.
Labels: New Books