Proximate Difference in Aesthetics: Jacques Derrida and Institutional Critique examines interconnections between the texts of Jacques Derrida and works related to Institutional Critique in art. At a juncture between philosophy and art, texts by Derrida such as “Différance,” “Parergon,” “Economimesis,” and “Force of Law,” and works by Marcel Broodthaers, Michael Asher, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Fred Wilson, Louise Lawler, Andrea Fraser, Maria Eichhorn, and Cameron Rowland reveal shared investments in questions around the archive, the institutional frames for art, and the collision of aesthetics, economics, and the law. These juxtapositions lead to insights not only into the relevance of Derrida’s work to contemporary aesthetics, but also into how the approaches of Institutional Critique offer a way of thinking through issues raised by Derrida’s texts. In being against traditional aesthetics, Derrida and the artists under consideration brush up against the foundational premises of the institutions of philosophy, aesthetics, and art, creating productive frictions that expose not only the foundational fictions and premises of their respective fields, but also an alternative means of approaching philosophy, art, and aesthetics. The small differences that Derrida and these artists open up through their practice radically reframe ways of thinking about their respective institutions, fields, and traditions.
K. Malcolm Richards is associate professor and Chair of the Graduate Programs at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
Introduction: Proximate Differences
Chapter 1: Derrida Avant la Lettre
Chapter 2: Parergonal Parasites
Chapter 3: Inhabiting Inhibiting Institutions
Chapter 4: Haunts, Hauntings, Hauntology
Chapter 5: Something from Nothing
Chapter 6: Restitution in/of the Legacies of Institutional Critique
Derrida studies and art theory will receive a salutary jolt from Richards’s rigorous parallels when he puts in conversation Derrida and artists like Duchamp, Broodthaers, Asher, Eichhorn, Haacke, Ukeles, Lawler, Rowland, Wilson or Wodiczko; to their specific practices, terms such as “différance,” “hauntology,” or “parergon” immediately add depth, insight, and contour. Thus a different picture of Derrida emerges, less the nihilist philosopher than a conceptual artist who explodes philosophical archives from Plato, Kant, and Heidegger in order to promote and renew institutional critique.
Proximate Difference in Aesthetics reveals an unseen relationship between Jacques Derrida’s philosophy and the Institutional Critique. In this thought-provoking book, Kevin Richards provides the reader with a fresh understanding of both Derrida’s philosophy and the Institutional Critique, particularly their mutual attempts to destabilize the traditions and conditions that shaped the ontological foundations of their respective fields. In this original book, Kevin Richards insightfully underscores the transformative—yet overlooked—implications of Derrida’s philosophy in the field of visual arts.