Smith Reading

Terry Smith’s paper on contemporary art is an attempt to create an understandable definition of an art genre that has come “after the end of history” to a population turned consumer audience. Words that Smith uses in close association to contemporary art are institutionalized, network, “iconomy”, media, politics, periodlessness ect… Smith discusses worldly currents that that have had a powerful impact on all the images we absorb daily. Contemporary art has emerged via immense globalization, interactive access between societies, and values such as diversity and identity. Contemporary art is difficult to define as much of the work produced does not “look” contemporary or uniform. Another challenge in defining art as contemporary, is that you subsequently have to define the end of modern.


After reading this article, I immediately recalled something my German professor said today in class; The Holocaust was not referred to as such until after it was over. This defining of an “era” once it becomes the past becomes attached to more simplified synonyms, like “hate” or “inhumane” in reference to the Holocaust or “experimental” and “random” in reference to the Avant Garde. These words are often over-simplified and not necessarily correctly attached to the attitudes of that time. My point being that I think it’s difficult to accurately label, or even understand an “era” or a “period” that has not become history yet. In order to appropriately dissect the actual meaning of something like contemporary art or the holocaust requires you to deeply explore the trends in society at that time. In Smith’s opinion, we must look deeply into the “currents” that drive something, such as works of art, into existence. As Smith states, “It is a commonplace that the present cannot be grasped until in becomes, in some sense, the past.”
Now that I have read this article, what I expect from this class is different than what I expected when I enrolled. I look forward to exploring which aspects of society shape the world we live in currently, and how they differ from previous decades. This will provide a fresh perspective on current worldly events such as politics and media. This is my first art class that is not history based, and I’m excited to learn about my society and how it it’s ideas and values are creating what we consider contemporary art.

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