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UAL Research Online

Critique Conscious and Unconscious: Listening to the Barbarous Language of Art and Design

Quinn, Malcolm (2008) Critique Conscious and Unconscious: Listening to the Barbarous Language of Art and Design. Journal of Visual Art Practice, 7 (3). pp. 225-240. ISSN 1470-2029

Type of Research: Article
Creators: Quinn, Malcolm

This article addresses two linked questions. The first question is, 'Is there an art school critique?' The second question is, 'How is the possibility of an art school critique bound up with the characteristics of art and design speech?' In addressing these questions, I identify a 'barbarous' aspect to speech in art and design that produces the persistent problem of a division of language, manifest in current divisions of theory and practice. I trace the origins of this barbarism to the historical inclusion of art and design within the signifying structure of an educational metaphor, which bound the utilitarian wish for a bourgeois 'revolution' in pedagogy to the social relations of nineteenth-century capital. One of the radical possibilities introduced by this wish for a pedagogical revolution, was the potential for a specific form of 'art school critique'. It is the failure to sustain this critical position within the contract between the art school and commodity capital, that has determined the subsequent fate of art school critique. I locate the high watermark and the fall of a specifically art school critique to the same moment, namely the brief and antagonistic encounter with capital and commerce adopted by Henry Cole and Richard Redgrave in their so-called 'Chamber of Horrors' exhibiting 'Correct Principles of Taste' at Marlborough House in 1852. The significance of Cole's 'Chamber of Horrors' is that of a moment of critical antagonism that was not repeated, because the relationship of the art school to commerce, capital and the commodity evolved differently from that moment on. Precisely because it was not repeated, we are compelled to remember this critical moment in a dissimulated form, through the inertia and deadlock of theory and practice.

Official Website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/jvap.7.3.225/1
Additional Information (Publicly available):

Malcolm Quinn

Research Interests

Politics and Aesthetics, Art and the Social Bond, Psychoanalytic models of the Social Bond


Dr Malcolm Quinn is Reader in Critical Practice at Wimbledon. His research deals with aesthetics, politics and public culture, using psychoanalytic frameworks to analyse the constitution of speech and the structures of language in art and design. His research in the field of politics and aesthetics began with his book 'The Swastika: Constructing the Symbol' (Routledge 1994), which appeared in the 'Material Cultures' series produced by the Department of Anthropology at University College London. This research has since led to published articles, appearances on radio and television, and as an invited speaker discussing political symbolism, totalitarian culture and branding, most recently at a symposium on post-totalitarian space at the Romanian Cultural Institute in 2008. Quinn's more recent research has employed a Lacanian psychoanalytic framework for the analysis of politics, aesthetics and mass culture. This work has developed since the publication (with Professor Dany Nobus) of a study of the methodologies of applied psychoanalysis, entitled 'Knowing Nothing, Staying Stupid: Elements for a Psychoanalytic Epistemology' (Routledge 2005). Quinn's latest work uses Lacanian psychoanalytic models of the social bond, to study the evolution of art and design language in the UK following the Reform Bill of 1832.

Research Statement

My current research is engaged with the role of UK government, museums and the early publicly-funded art school, in the development of a unified language for art and design activity through an engagement with public culture and industrial capital, following the Reform Bill of 1832. This work is specifically founded on an investigation of the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan's account of the philosopher Jeremy Bentham, an historical account of the Bentham's followers in the Political Economy Club and the Board of Trade who sat on the Select Committee on Arts and Manufactures in 1835/36, and more generally on an analysis of the politico-aesthetic legacy of utilitarian philosophy, which began with a symposium on J.S. Mill which I led at Tate Britain in 2006, entitled 'On Liberty and Art'. I have since delivered papers and lectures on this subject at Cambridge University, Bath Spa University, Jan Van Eyck Academy Maastricht, University College London and Yokohama National University, Japan. In an article for Journal of Visual Arts Practice (7:3) in 2008, I claimed that our current understanding of art and design knowledge and research, depends on the development of a unified art and design language within a political economic model of culture in the UK between 1832 and 1852. The evolution of the idea of the art school in Britain in the 1830s was the subject of a symposium I organised at Tate Britain in June 2010, with Professor Sir Christopher Frayling, Dr Martin Myrone, Professor Philip Schofield and Professor Richard Whatmore. It is also addressed in a forthcoming article 'The political economic necessity of the art school 1835-1852' in The International Journal of Art and Design Education.

Keywords/subjects not otherwise listed: critique, psychoanalysis, education, capitalism, art and design, theory and practice
Publisher/Broadcaster/Company: Intellect Publishing
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > Wimbledon College of Arts
Date: December 2008
Digital Object Identifier: 10.1386/jvap.7.3.225/1
Date Deposited: 16 Sep 2010 12:51
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2015 11:11
Item ID: 2351
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/2351

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