Inciting reflection: A short manifesto for and introduction to the discursive reviewing of the arts
Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences
Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts,Technology, Education and Communications
Ihab Hassan’s words, published in 1975, continue to resonate today. How should we approach art? Can an artwork ever really fully be described by its critical review, or does its description only lead to an ever multiplying succession of terms? Michel Foucault spoke of the construction of modern sexuality as being seen as the hidden, irresolvable “truth” of our subjectivity, as that secret which we must constantly speak about, and hence as an “incitement to discourse” (Foucault, History of Sexuality). Since the Romantic period, the appreciation of aesthetics has been tied to the subjectivity of the individual and to the degree an art work appeals to the individual’s sense of self: to one’s personal refinement, emotions and so on. Art might be considered part of the truth of our subjectivity which we seem to be endlessly talking about – without, however, actually ever resolving the issue of what a great art work really is (anymore than we have resolved the issue of what natural sexuality is). It is not my aim to explicate the relationship between art and sex but to re-inject a strategic understanding of discourse, as Foucault understood it, back into commonplace, contemporary aesthetic criticism.