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The Aesthetics of Disengagement: Contemporary Art and Depression

Christine Ross
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 264
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttsws0
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  • Book Info
    The Aesthetics of Disengagement
    Book Description:

    The Aesthetics of Disengagement shows how contemporary art is a powerful player in the articulation of depression in Western culture. Christine Ross examines the works of Ugo Rondinone, Rosemarie Trockel, Ken Lum, John Pilson, Liza May Post, Vanessa Beecroft, and Douglas Gordon, articulating how their art conveys depression's subjectivity and addresses a depressed spectator whose memory and perceptual faculties are impaired.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-3558-4
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xxx)

    This book is an attempt to understand a certain trajectory of contemporary art, one that has brought into the forefront of aesthetics what must be called a series of depressive enactments—an acting out of states of depression encompassing boredom, stillness, communicational rupture, loss of pleasure, withdrawal, the withering of one’s capacity to remember and project, to dream, desire, and fantasize. Especially in the temporal practices of performance and media arts, these traits not only define the subjects (characters, individuals, performers) being staged in the artwork but also are retraceable in the formal structure of the work—in the slowing...

  6. Chapter 1 The Withering of Melancholia
    (pp. 1-50)

    A constant within descriptions of depression and melancholia is the reference to sadness without cause, without apparent occasion, or without reason. As far back as the Aristotelian definition of melancholy temperament as a “groundless despondency,” and Celsus’s recommendation that the dejected state of the afflicted “be gently reproved as being without cause,” melancholia and depression have been suggested to be not so much causeless conditions as troubled mental states with “an insufficient external cause.”¹ When causal factors have been set forth, such as black bile in pre-eighteenth-century accounts or stress in modern descriptions, the characteristic symptoms of fear, sadness, and...

  7. Chapter 2 The Laboratory of Deficiency
    (pp. 51-94)

    First elaborated in 1935 but revised many times subsequently, the depressive position theorized by Melanie Klein pertains to the child’s distressed reaction to weaning and, in a more general way, to experiences of loss of and separation from loved objects. In the latter half of the first year, “the baby,” writes Klein, “experiences depressive feelings which reach a climax just before, during and after weaning. This is the state of mind in the baby which I termed the ‘depressive position,’ and I suggested that it is melancholia instatu nascendi.”¹ The depressive position refers to the range of affects lived...

  8. Chapter 3 Image-Screens, or The Aesthetic Strategy of Disengagement
    (pp. 95-140)

    In his epistemology of contemporary aesthetics, philosopher Jean-Marie Schaeffer singles out the “relational” as the fundamental property of the viewer’s attitude or conduct vis-à-vis the artwork. This formulation is highly significant to art’s enactment of depression, whose main characteristic is to depreciate not only intersubjectivity but also the image-viewer relationship. If depression, as we have seen not only in Ken Lum’sMirror Mazeinstallation and Ugo Rondinone’s clown series but also, to some degree, in the performance work of Vanessa Beecroft, is precisely what shatters the relation between a spectator and an object, a beholder and any other, can it...

  9. Chapter 4 Nothing to See?
    (pp. 141-178)

    One of the main points of contention separating the psychiatric and psychoanalytical approaches to depression (and to mental disorder in general) is the question of the symptom, its nature and value at the moment of diagnosis and its treatment. In both approaches, the symptom—the observable phenomenon that, in cases of illness, manifests or that enables the observer to detect a morbid state or evolution—belongs to the visible world, but only as a constituent of a wider phenomenon (a disorder). The understanding of what this visibility reveals, however, is substantially different in the two approaches. Whereas the prevalentDSM...

  10. Chapter 5 The Critique of the Dementalization of the Subject
    (pp. 179-202)

    TheDiagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, now in its revised fourth edition (DSM–IV–TR, 2000), is a system of classification of mental disorders that uses diagnostic criteria to identify mental disorders through the observation of clinical signs.¹ It classifies so as to be able to diagnose, even though the multiplicity and vagueness of its criteria in no way guarantee the efficiency of the resulting typology. Its alleged descriptive and atheoretical form of classification—one that does not apparently promote a particular theory, so as to be compatible with different recognized perspectives on mental disorders—has primarily been...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 203-234)
  12. Index
    (pp. 235-244)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 245-245)