The language of relativism projects power by raising doubt or casting uncertainty where none existed before. Its favoured targets are declarations of objective truth and ethical judgment.
Allergic to absolutism of any stripe, the art world overwhelmingly identifies with Sontag’s relativism, usually with good reason, and always with an open hand towards tolerance and inclusion. Just how tolerant and inclusive the art world has become – while eschewing objective certainties – can be measured by the howls over reviews or essays that draw fire as expressions of aesthetic imperialism.
Nevertheless, such uncritical relativism is the reigning lingua franca manufactured in universities, and art and design schools, where puréed ideas can be recycled for decades at a time. Once institutionalized, relativism became an acquirable skill like typing or riding a bicycle – transferable knowledge reproduced at will. Tolerance? Check. Inclusion? Check. Diversity? Check. And so it goes. These days it is possible to train someone at university in relativism or Abstract Expressionism, and to virtuoso levels, without critical judgment ever having to be engaged. But empty of critical judgment the fundamental condition of historical amnesia becomes epidemic.
09 avril 2008
At Frieze Magazine (08/04/08), Ronald Jones argues around Sontag's notion of "cultural relativism" in funny ways I'm not sure to fully grasp... Anyway here are interesting excerpts :