Art of the 1960s. A challenge to Pierre Bourdieu´s notion of art reception
Zahner, Nina Tessa
Institut of Cultural Science, Faculty of Philosophy and Social Science University of Leipzig Leipzig, Germany
Pierre Bourdieu develops his theory of art reception with strong reference to Erwin Panofsky iconology. Following Bourdieu's reception theory aesthetic capital, as specific form of cultural capital, is central to the decoding of art works. Due to this, knowledge in art history allows the recipient to understand an art work appropriately. Art thus art becomes an element of power. It is an highly educated intellectual elite that defines - via the discursive use of references to art history - what a specific society recognized as art. This cultural elite therefore shapes a specific part of the construction of the shared reality of society. In the 1960s a number of artists were challenging this idea. They were producing art that could easily be understood as it either referred to the everyday knowledge of the recipient or to contexts that the artists themselves provided. Some of these artists were even questioning the very idea that an artwork is constructed of signs. To these artists, the perception of an artwork is not an act of decoding but an individualistic act of intentional perception where subject and object cross each other. The paper will present selected examples of these artistic practices. It will become clear that this kind of art was questioning the dominating ideas of perception within the field and thus the elitist conception of art, held by the art critique and the intellectual elite of the art field of the time. From a theoretical point of view, the interesting question is, if these practices are challenging Pierre Bourdieu's notion of reception and thus his art field conception in a more fundamental manner: When art works do not refer to a distinct body of knowledge in art history, does this challenge Pierre Bourdieu's central role of cultural capital within the art field? Or are the methodological skills one needs to relate to a contemporary art work just another form of cultural capital? It will be the central topic of the paper to discuss how these knowledge forms differ and what this means for Pierre Bourdieu's notion of reception and his art field conception.