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"Anish Kapoor As A Contingent Author Or In Art Criticism, 1980 To the Present"

by Alpesh Kantilal Patel, PhD

Written by Meg Kaplan-Noach, December 2014


As I write this abstract (for my professor, who is also the author of the essay in which I am meant to respond to), I am aware that I want to express myself honestly and forthrightly without appearing patronizing, subjective, or ass-kissing! For me, Alpesh Patel's Anish Kapoor provides a constructive and highly resonant message: that as

a critic or curator or academic, when approaching an artwork or artist (any type or medium), it is best to disclaim any personal identifications or biases as early as possible in the scholarship. This is in order to address the author's point of view or eye.

This is meant to reduce the "instability of the theory." For example, Dr. Patel illuminates his thesis and nearly simultaneously underscores his personhood in respect to the upcoming theories: "Of primary interest in what follows is that the implicit underpinning of a conventional art history of artworks of artists of South Asian decent is a coherent and legible artist or 'author' to reveal the slipperiness rather than stability and knowability of the authors, I hone in on the criticisms of the artworks of Anish Kapoor and draw on theories of authorship and explore the shifting manner in which critics have identified Kapoor...[The] failure to locate Kapoor in any final or fixed way suggests a subtle but important shift in how art historians and critics should write the histories of works by artists with complex genealogies such as his...In my case, the driving impetus behind writing this essay is to acknowledge how my experiences of t he tensions in identifying as both South Asian and queer function in relation to the histories of art I write." (Patel, 3-4)

In this way, an author of a scholarly work can more suitably position him or herself to address the concerns of their subject-author. This method underscores the attempt to avoid what Patel describes as a "negative critique" (5) In addition to learning more about Kapoor, I have also received a valuable strategy for application in my own future scholarly practices.



"Identity and the Visual: New Critical Modes in Visual Arts Discourse OR Whose Identity?
Whose Art History? Looking at Courbet's Origin of the World" by Amelia Jones

Written by Meg Kaplan-Noach, December 2014

While writing this response to Amelia Jones' lecture I am tempted to start first with her closing statements because they are so clearly strident, introspective, andspot-on. She is exclaiming that viewers necessarily (and unavoidably) project identity-meaning onto objects as they-we-I view them. These meanings are in addition to the signifiers that the authors place-leave behind in the works.

Referencing Gustave Courbet's painting Origin of the World, Jones states (with the visual tool of a series of circles)

that: "...the identity circulating in relation to [the painting] not only reciprocal and in process, it is also profoundly alienated...[Within] a series of circles, each one slightly decentered in relation to the others. Courbet, the female model or imagined body, the depiction of this body, the viewers of this picture...myself...and you here today, at least you as viewers of a simulation of the work). We all overlap affecting one another but never coinciding. Our identities may appear to congeal in a momentary flash in relation to the identities of the others, but like meaning, it never does coalesce except in our imaginary projections of self and other...the effectiveness of Courbet's painting lies in the fact that, by presenting a female sex that looks back at us without eyes, it refuses to resolve the question of what subject – what identity – is a stake in the making and viewing of works of art.

The Origin of the World points to the final impossibility of positing identity in any but the most provisional of ways – whether in relation to representations or people. Both are flesh of the world. Both are implicated in me, I in them, as I attempt to make meaning of the world around me." (Jones, 14) But of course, those are her concluding statements, and the essay (lecture) contained other resonant passages to me. For example, I couldn't help but notice that early on Jones makes the point of identifying herself, her practice in relation to her existent reputation, and an acknowledgement of a built-in bias. She says: "in terms of the implication of the interpreter, it is worth noting that I myself have become somewhat notorious, if within the modest circles of my art world and academic audiences, for insistently exhibit ing and discussing such aggressively overt depictions of naked and sexualized bodies, male and female. I have come, one could say, identified with such imagery. Hence, it is perhaps fitting for me to open this brief discussion of the intersecting fields of art history and identity by presenting one of the most infamous cunt images in the history of Western art. The overlapping performance of my art historical identity with the problem of identity as it circulates in relation to this picture will I hope, provide a useful intervention into the question of 'art history and identity'...emphasizing the implication of the interpreter's particular identifications in those he extrapolates from the work of art...Whose identity is at issue in such acts of looking and studying? Whose art history is implied by the identities that take shape in the sex acts?

How are these identities determined?" (3-4) It is clear to me that Jones feels, and ultimately defends, the notion that identity (the author's, the subject's, the viewer's, etc.) is unavoidably intertwined with the experience of viewing the artwork. As well as the particular reading of the artwork that any individual will have...thus, I suppose an artwork can never really be static or fixed.