The contemporary idea of the “work of art” is paradoxically both widely used and often unexamined. Therefore, we must re-evaluate the concept before we can understand what the deconstruction of aesthetics means for thinkers like Jacques Derrida, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe. By examining their analyses of works of visual art and contextualizing their thinking on the matter, Martta Heikkilä asserts that the implications of the “work of art,” “art,” and “the aesthetic” apply not only to philosophical questions but also to a broader area. Instead of the totality represented by the historical concept of Art, poststructuralist thinkers introduce the idea of the radical multiplicity of art and its works. From this notion arises the fundamental issue in Derrida and the poststructuralist tradition: how can we speak philosophically of art, which always exists as singular instances, as works? In Deconstruction and the Work of Art: Visual Arts and Their Critique in Contemporary French Thought, Heikkilä shows that the deconstructionist notions of art are still influential in the discourses of contemporary art, in which artworks proliferate and the concept of “work” is open-ended and expanding. This book offers an introduction to the deconstructionist theory of art and brings new perspectives to the complex, undecidable relation between philosophy and art.
Martta Heikkilä is adjunct professor of aesthetics at the University of Helsinki.
Introduction: The Dissemination of Art
1. The Muteness and Blindness of Images: Deconstruction and the Work of Art
4. The Trait and Difference: Art between Form and Gesture
5. Words and Art: Exemplarity of the Work
Conclusion: The Complicated Liaison of Art and Philosophy
"Ce livre est la première étude d'ensemble consacrée aux rapports de ce qu'on nomme 'l'art' et de ce qu'on désigne comme 'la déconstruction.' Les rapports entre deux entités aussi complexes, dont les concepts se dérobent, ne peuvent qu'être eux-mêmes complexes. Ce livre les analyse de façon subtile et sur la base d'une information très solide. Il faut saluer le travail de Martta Heikila qui sera nécessaire à toute recherche ultérieure dans ce domaine.
This book is the first comprehensive study devoted to the relationships between what we call 'art' and what we designate as 'deconstruction.' The relationships between two such complex entities, whose concepts are concealed, can only be themselves complex. This book analyzes them in a subtle way and on the basis of very solid information. Martta Heikila's work, which will be necessary for any further research in this field, is to be commended."
"How does the 'work of art'…work? What is at work in this concept, where both terms remain so undefined? Focusing on the multiple relations between art and philosophy in Jacques Derrida’s thinking about the visual arts—and to a lesser extent, Jean-Luc Nancy’s and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe’s—this impressive book provides a long-awaited, in-depth discussion of how deconstruction—its critique of representation, of visibility, of naming, of the frame, and so on—transforms our way of thinking about the visual arts and of speaking about it. Martta Heikkilä’s study, which is both illuminative and thorough, gives us invaluable insight into how artworks and philosophical discourses encounter each other. Even more significantly, her book shows that art has always been a privileged experience of différance and spacing in Derrida’s philosophy."
"In this insightful book, Martta Heikkilä exceeds common discussions about deconstruction and art, bringing the work of art into presence. Following not only how deconstruction meets art beyond representation, but also how artworks provoke philosophical thoughts, the author gives place for a thought of art that departs from the work done by art in thinking sensibility. It is a book that dares to look at art in work and shows in inspiring ways that the meanings of artwork are rather traces than presence, traces that demand a work of thought of the sensible spectator. In this book, art at work encounters philosophy also at work, showing how art expands philosophy when the limits of form and conceptuality touch each other, opening up the unforeseen of a thinking-feeling."